I Am Number Four Review

February 23, 2011 at 7:11 pm (Movies)

“I Am Number Four”? More like “I Am Number Snore”! Who didn’t see that joke coming? February is known for being the trademark “hit or miss” season for the movie industry, historically giving us duds like Jumper while also knocking it out of the park with some new classics like Martin Scorsese’s brilliant “Shutter Island”. It was this time last year that Shutter Island was released and that the film did impress me so much, which only makes it hurt that much more painful when we get a half-hearted adaptation like “I Am Number Four”. First off, I just wanna make it clear I don’t care that it’s based off a novel. Much like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, the film has to work on its own as a film before an adaptation. The movie tells a story of an alien species that are endowed with special powers called “legacies”. One by one each of the 9 super-powered beings are being picked off by an evil group of alien assassins, and our story follows #4 trying to survive on Earth and through the perils of high school. Aw shucks, it sure is hard being a teenager that has undefined superpowers, dealing with your tumultuous romance with your gorgeous stalker, a 1980s style school bully, not to mention the assassins on your tail, especially when almost none of it is wrote in a competent way. What can this guy do exactly? Who cares! Why are they trying to kill him? Who knows! Do any of these characters have any personality at all! Not at all! Not that any of that information is necessary, no, not at all. Maybe it would be best if I covered what I did like about it first. The film is marketed as a hardcore sci-fi/action film, which is like seeing an oasis in the middle of a desert for February movies. I Am Number Four delivers somewhat on this front, serving up one huge, 20 minute action set piece at the end (host of 90% of the trailer shots) that almost makes up for the drought of action through the first hour and a half. There’s a lot of zany stuff going on and there’s even some more sci-fi-esque gun and swordplay. While there are these spectacularly fun and great looking effect shots here and there that justify the big time budget, for every big set piece there’s at least three less-than-stellar action sets that didn’t do too much for me. Maybe it’s the shaky cam, maybe it’s the awkward lighting, or maybe it’s the fact there’s about a thousand cuts in there that make it close to impossible to follow, but that action wasn’t really engaging enough to keep me in tuned. If there’s any way you can just pay $2.50 for the last 1/4 of the movie, I could recommend the movie much easier.

The performances in the film are also pretty uninspired and and most of the time cruelly underwritten. Timothy Olyphant (FX’s Justified) pops in as 4’s guardian, and while the guy doesn’t have a lot of leg room seeing him on screen is a sight for sore eyes compared to some of these other film school dropouts. Alex Pettyfer (#4) almost destroyed my soul watching the movie. Having been rumored to have been a prima donna on the set of the film, he brings virtually nothing to the table in terms of charisma, charm, confidence, or heck, even personality. He’s turning in less of a performance as “John Smith” and more of the best portrayal of cardboard I’ve seen in 18 years of my movie going life. It’s like watching a young Hayden Christensen convinced he’s the new Andrew Garfield. Dianna Agron who plays the romantic lead in the movie might just be topping Kristen Stewart for blandest love interest of this very young century, seemingly speaking in slow motion 90% of the time. Callan McAuliffe plays the “sidekick” of sorts to #4, and totally knocks it out of “average” park. The most unintentionally hilarious performance though comes from Jake Abel as the high school bully, who I can only makes it seem like he thinks he’s playing “the bully” for the first time in cinematic history. Now that that’s out of the way, we can move on to the film’s biggest flaw, the story itself. Where to begin? I’ll admit, while it’s not a total train wreck, and the film is enjoyable enough from start to finish to enjoy on a Saturday night, there are a few writing tinges that tripped my critical radar. It should be noted the movie is written by Smallville alums, which is pretty telling by a lot of the movie’s sequence of events. The story structure, mythology, character development, etc. is all set up like an awesome NBC pilot, and maybe that would’ve been a better option, but that doesn’t necessarily work when you stretch development that was originally over 22 mins to over 2 hours, especially when a sequel isn’t guaranteed. The name of the game here is consistency. While we see this #4 character on screen and are shown a few times what he’s capable of, we’re never really told what these powers of the “#s” really are exactly. For all we know he’s invincible and can talk to plants, and without a clear ground rule as to what his powers are it loses its punch, leaving us guessing what exactly he can do up until and past the final frame. One thing that did bother me about the writing itself was that the characters themselves, brought to “life” by the actors, never really have any personality. What we know about them is just what we’re told. This guy’s the nerd, this is the girl he likes, this is the bully, this is the boss, this is the bad guy, the character never really shows us anything to support that, and there are even times you feel like their actions contradict what we “know” about them (the nerd in this movie is one of the least nerdy characters I’ve ever seen). The script just throws that information at us like some sort of first draft slingshot. I’m all up for shallow characters in fast paced action romps (heck I’m a Michael Bay fan just as much as the next guy), but I honestly don’t know if I could describe any of the characters as more than “mysterious”. It’s high school, your life isn’t that complex and perplexing, trust me. The only thing mysterious about my high school career was how I was able to get accepted into my four year institution home. The characters in the film might as well be wearing name tags that say “Nerd”, “Bully”, and “Hero” written in bold letters. While it might sound picky, the villains of the film are also absent much of the movie, and whenever they show up you almost forget what they’re there for. One thing in films that either bothers me or I never notice has to be plot holes, and there are a few in #4 that leave me scratching my head at how they could’ve slipped under a writer’s radar. As I kinda went over earlier, the film does follow a teenager trying to live a disguise and go under the radar to avoid government suspicion or get killed by what looks and sounds like Voldemort’s cousin that stuck his head in a microwave. Basically it’s like the story of Spiderman in Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spiderman, it’s simple, don’t get noticed! However, for no reason at all, #4 has a really hard time with keeping under the radar.He hates the authority coming from his school and even his guardian played by Olyphant, even if it means putting the lives of everyone he knows and loves in danger. There’s a scene in the film where #4 and his girlfriend are on a hayride at a local harvest festival, that in one of the worst safety measures ever leaves the riders in the middle of the pitch black woods to “find their way back”. Anyways the psychotic school bully and his Karate Kid-inspired thugs attack them, and #4 without thinking starts using his flashlight-esque powers that just so happen to emit bright light to take them all down. This is the “pinnacle” moment that his girlfriend realizes he has superpowers, but it’s also the moment NOONE ELSE NOTICES HE HAS SUPERPOWERS. Not even the bullies, who are beaten senseless with them, say anything to rat the guy out. One of their fathers is even a cop, and yet no one bothers to point out to others he has powers. Heck, and you’d really think bright lights and screaming in the middle of a festival would find it’s way onto YouTube. Happens all the time I guess? There’s also, without spoiling anything, a last minute rescue during the big attack that could just top the fridge-nuking from Indy 4. To top it all off, at the end of the movie when we do meet the awesome #6 played by Teresa Palmer, who happens to have laser swords and nightcrawler-like powers, it’s not so much “that’s awesome!” as it is “why did I have to sit through 1 1/2 hours to get to this, why couldn’t the whole movie be about her?” It’s like making a whole movie about the training of Robin, and Batman shows up unexpectedly at the end and destroys all the bad guys for Robin. I Am Number Four is a bad movie. It’s not a terrible movie, heck it’s fun enough for a Saturday night if you can get past the awkward writing. Unfortunately the writing is stale, the performances don’t help anything, the dialogue is cumbersome like it’s being performed through a funnel, and by the end of it all you kinda wish this undeniable attempt at “Spiderman meets Twilight”  had a little bit more impact.

2 out of 5

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Oscar 2011 Nominations

January 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm (Movies)

With the ceremony almost a month away, the nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced today. James Franco and Anne Hathaway are going to be the hosts for the ceremony. This is the second year that ten films were nominated for the coveted Best Picture, and aside from one or two snubs (cough *Chris Nolan for Best Director* cough) (at least it’s not as bad as The Blind Side getting nominated last year) it’s a pretty satisfying list of nominees that will set the stage for an entertaining ceremony next month. The King’s Speech led the pack with 12 nominations, and The Social Network and Inception both held 8 each. Black Swan and True Grit also held a respectable amount of donations as well rounding out the rest of the pack of Oscar front runners. I’m also a little bummed out both Shutter Island and The Town, two phenomenal movies, were shut out aside from a respectful nomination for Jeremy Renner’s awesome performance in The Town (arguably the best part of that film, but interestingly enough was the front man of last year’s Best Picture winner). Also, although I loved Jeff Bridges performance in True Grit, his nomination here is no more than a simple nod since there’s no chance he can win after winning last year. Here’s the full list of nominees, the bold-ed nominees being my own personal predictions for the year.

  • BEST PICTURE-Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
  • BEST DIRECTOR-Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), David O. Russell (The Fighter)
  • BEST ACTOR-Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jessie Eisenburg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), James Franco (127 Hours)
  • BEST ACTRESS-Annette Benning (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR-Christian Bale (The Fighter), John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS-Amy Adams (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY-Another Year, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY-127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
  • BEST ANIMATED FILM-How To Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Toy Story 3
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM-Biutiful (Mexico), Dogtooth (Greece), In a Better World (Denmark), Incendies (Canada), Outside the Line (Algeria)
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY-Exit Through the Gift Shop, Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo, Waste Land
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT-Killing in the Name, Poster Girl, Strangers No More, Sun Come Up, The Warriors of Qiugang
  • BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT-The Confession, The Crush, God of Love, Na Wewe, Wish 143
  • BEST ANIMATED SHORT-Day & Night (The one from before Toy Story 3), The Gruffalo, Let’s Pollute, The Lost Thing, Madagascar a Journey Diary
  • BEST SOUND EDITING-Inception, Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, Unstoppable
  • BEST SOUND MIXING-Inception, The King’s Speech, Salt, The Social Network, True Grit
  • BEST ART DIRECTION-Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY-Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit
  • BEST MAKEUP-Barney’s Version, The Way Back, The Wolfman
  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN-Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, The King’s Speech, The Tempest, True Grit
  • BEST FILM EDITING-Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network
  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS-Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Hereafter, Inception, Iron Man 2

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Top Ten of 2011 (PREDICTION)

January 2, 2011 at 10:54 pm (Movies)

So I heard about this trend on a podcast the other day and I thought I’d give it a try. 2011 is a semi-big year for films, and there are a lot of sink or swim moments coming up (I’m looking at you Thor and Captain America). That being said, I’m going to pick out what I think my Top Ten of 2011 list is going to be now based on what I’ve seen/heard or feel about upcoming films, and a year from now I’ll be able to check back and see how I compared. Hopefully I’ll be able to laugh at it, or be 100% right and discover I have psychic abilities.

10-Paul-After a lukewarm trailer I’m a little cautious about this one, however I feel like it’s going to surprise me. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are writing this road trip comedy about two guys (themselves) discovering an alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) that puts them on the run from the FBI, so I have a very strong feeling like it’s going to become a cult classic but perform disastrously commercially speaking. I don’t think it’s going to blow me away, but at the same time I feel like the #10 spot is a good place to call it.

9-Cowboys and Aliens-One of the biggest dark horses of the year, I feel like Jon Favreau’s newest film will definitely find a certain audience and stick with it. That being said, I feel like I’m the perfect example of that audience. I have no doubt I’ll love Favreau’s newest movie, and it very well could rank higher on the list than at #9, but this feels like a pretty safe bet.

8-Super 8-See what I did there? Super 8 looks like it’ll be the critical darling of next summer mainly because no one has any idea what it’s about. I’m usually a fan of J.J. Abrams’ stuff (Cloverfield is still one of my favorite horror films ever), and the inclusion of mastermind Steven Spielburg definitely doesn’t hurt it.

7-Sucker Punch-While I honestly can’t wait to see this one in theaters this Spring, the fact that I have no prior experience with the source material is a little bit alarming for me. Whereas with Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Watchmen, and 300 were all films that had prior treatment/guidelines, Sucker Punch is something completely born in Snyder’s mind. That could result in a film that lets his creative juices seep all over the place and give birth to a cultural mish-mash that blows peoples’ minds, or result in “a little too much” for the eyes and ears. Time will tell.

6-Your Highness/The Hangover 2/The Sitter-I’m lumping these three together because A-One or more of them could suck (although I’m definitely seeing all three in theaters) and B-The few that don’t suck will probably still be lumped together at the end of the year unless one really stands out and deserves to be separated (or even be #1, who knows). Your Highness is being made by the team behind Pineapple Express, The Hangover 2 is sure to be a hit, and The Sitter stars Jonah Hill, so I’m immediately sold. I am prepared to laugh (hopefully WITH the film).

5-Hugo Cabret-When a film gets branded with Martin Scorsese’s name, my ears immediately perk up with interest. His involvement with The Departed and last year’s incredible Shutter Island made them both fantastic movies, and I can only begin to imagine how great this next movie can be. Let me set the stage for you. High Concept Visual Style + Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen + 3D + Christmas Time. This is the one to watch for me in the latter half of next year, and has a HUGE chance of pulling one of the higher spots when it’s all said and done.

4-Crazy, Stupid, Love-I’ll admit I’m a sucker for romantic comedies. One of, if not my favorite in the mushy-gushy brand of films is Steve Carell’s 2007 hit Dan in Real Life. While a lot of my friends make fun of the film and me for liking it because it is considerably slow and not a lot of funny stuff happens in it, there’s something about the pace and subtlety of the comedy that warms my heart. So when Steve Carell is hired onto another romantic comedy much in the same vein, you better believe it pops up on my radar. It’s almost guaranteed a spot.

3-The Green Hornet-With less than two weeks away from this film’s release, I can very soon tell you if there’s any chance this one might end up this high on my list. For my money, I have a feeling like it will. I love the fact that Michel Gondry is peppering in his visual flair, I love the fact it’s a bromance written by Rogen, I love the fact that Waltz is the bad guy, everything about this movie is pitch perfect on paper, and I cannot wait to see it in action. Films that start off the year with a bang (like Shutter Island) usually have a great shot at staying high on the list through the year.

2-The Muppets-What more is there to say about this project other than the fact than it’s the freaking muppets coming back to the big screen in a holiday release starring and being written by one of the funniest guys in Hollywood that perfectly “gets” the humor of the muppets. There’s no better person for the job. In fact, he wrote one of the best puppet-themed sketches in the past few years with Dracula’s Lament. If you haven’t seen it yet, Youtube it immediamente. If this film sucks or is bad enough to not warrant being on this list, either there were a ton of great movies next year or I’m going to stop watching film.

1-The Adjustment Bureau-Whenever I first saw the trailer for this movie early in 2010, something about it jumped out at me. Matt Damon (who was one of the leads in my favorite film of 2010, True Grit) is starring in it while wearing a cool looking fedora in the trailer, along with a lot of cooler-looking old guys in trench coats. It’s a high concept drama about a man having to confront an “adjustment bureau” that oversees the way the world works. They’re threatening Matt Damon’s character’s overall thread of life if he continues to go after this one girl he’s not “destined to be with”. If it lives up to its potential its setting with its lofty romance and high concepts of the “fate of the universe”, it’ll be worth the wait and a guaranteed #1 hopefully. But if not, it’ll be one of the bigger disappointments of this year.

So this time next year, I’ll pull up this post and compare it in my actual Top Ten of 2011 post, and see where I stood. Honestly, I don’t think I did too poorly. I feel like most of these films will still be in the list by the end of the year, it’s just the order I’m concerned with. Only time will tell though. As an addendum, here are a few “black horses” for the year with some films that look promising but I didn’t see as “Best of the Year” likely. Happy movie going in 2011!!

Dark Horses of 2011-

  • Rango
  • 30 Minutes or Less
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom
  • Take Me Home Tonight
  • The Dilemma
  • Source Code
  • Hall Pass
  • Green Lantern
  • Captain America
  • Thor
  • Water for Elephants


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The Top Ten Films of 2010

December 28, 2010 at 12:15 am (Movies)

It’s that time of year again. 2010 has been a year of some pretty awesome films, a handful of “ok” movies, and a slew of awful ones. Here’s my Top Ten List for 2010, along with a few other awards.

1-True Grit-Seeing the trailer for the Coens’ True Grit my expectations skyrocketed, and I was almost certain there was no way the film would live up to them. While the movie isn’t the fast-paced pedal to the metal Western some of the TV spots make it out to be, it’s still a perfectly made Western with a handful of moments that will stay with you for a while. Jeff Bridges, Barry Pepper, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Hailee Steinfeld all commit 100% to their performances with impressive results, which accompanied by a “couldn’t get any better” script and cinematography, make this one a film for the ages. I would say it’s the best Western of the past decade, but it has some fierce competition from No Country for Old Men from 2007. Considering that film is also by the Coen Brothers, that really says something about these filmmakers. While it was an incredibly hard decision to make, True Grit is a film I can’t quite describe. Much like Inception, I can only point you in the direction of the nearest theater so that you can go see this modern masterpiece. On your way home, rent Inception, and you’ll have the perfect day of movie-going experience. Inception gave me goose bumps, but True Grit is very much a “wow” film, and on top of being a perfect western, I can’t ignore it as the best of the year.

2-Inception-When a film like Christopher Nolan’s Inception come along, it becomes a cultural phenomenon on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Whenever the film was shown at my college in October, you could just feel the buzz in the air. For weeks on end there were hundreds of debates as to what the film (and more specifically its ending) means, and many marveled at the performances, phenomenal practical effects, and a creative story that will not soon be forgotten. There will always be those that find something to hate with greatness like Inception and a lot of Nolan’s other work, but films like Despicable Me and Alice in Wonderland are made just for them. It was an incredibly hard decision deciding between True Grit and Inception as my favorite of the year, and they’re both phenomenal films. In fact, they’re probably going to be interchanged a few times in the years to come. While True Grit is right now my favorite of the year because of its obvious lasting effect and darn fine filmmaking, Inception is a film that I’m going to continue to remember just because it made me think. Inception isn’t my second favorite film of the year just because of the long list of things Nolan nailed right on the head, what the film means for the science fiction and creative community, not just because of the late night debates I’ve had with others about the film, but the effect the film has and will continue to have. Years from now Inception will remain a milestone for the independent filmmaker’s great creative idea that they think will never get made, will be the basis of a few hundred movie nights with the guys, and overall will be a darn fine milestone of ground-breaking storytelling.

3-The Social Network- Who would have thought that “The Facebook Movie” would be one of the best films of the year? Maybe that’s part of the reason David Fincher’s The Social Network is such a darn fine film. It’s almost like a dream film, putting one of the best filmmakers of our time on what was one of the most potentially awful projects out there. My hat goes off to Jessie Eisenburg, Andrew Garfield, and especially Armie Hammer for bringing their A-Game, and the crew behind the camera going full force with the phenomenal dialogue/script, design, and overall cinematography to make this a film for the ages. Many of us went into “The Facebook Movie” with our doubts, but by the time it was all said and done Fincher and his team made one heck of a compelling film that’s going to be hard to forget.

4-Scott Pilgrim vs. the World- Although it was one of, if not the biggest box office bombs of the year, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World deserved far more credit than it got. There’s something about Edgar Wright that it seems American audiences have trouble latching onto. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are two of the best action/comedies out there, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a fine addition to Wright’s small filmography. Michael Cera is one of the many “love him or hate him” actors out there, but I find myself firmly planted in the former category. The film is immensely watchable and thoroughly entertaining, has a sense of humor all it’s own, and earns it’s place on my end of the year list by just how much fun it continues to be. I could definitely say I’m in lesbians with this movie.

5-Shutter Island- Shutter Island was firmly planted as my number one pick of the year until the summer, and just thinking about the film now I continue to marvel at it. As many know there’s one huge twist at the end of the film that changes the film’s entire meaning, and to my benefit, I had no idea it was coming. I was floored by the monumental twist, and it benefits the film each and every time I re-watch it. Any other film would rely on the twist alone, but Martin Scorsese fills his film with flourishes of filmmaking prowess. There’s a gorgeous design to the costumes and sets, a well-developed script to back it up, and a number of deeply disturbing moments that only continue to increase in impact. When it comes to twisty thrillers, they don’t get any better than this.

6-Get Him to the Greek-There are films that make me chuckle, and then there are films that make me cry in laughter, almost falling to the floor. Get Him to the Greek fits into the latter, and it’s one of the few films of the year I made the point of seeing twice in theaters, something I rarely do. I’ve been a fan of Jonah Hill since Knocked Up, and it’s awesome to see him play a completely different character as the “straight man” to Russell Brand, who’s never been as funny as he is as Aldous Snow. The music is hilarious but still catchy, there’s a huge laugh every 5 minutes, and by the end of it all your heart feels very full seeing these characters at work. Maybe it was the crowd I saw it with, but I can’t ignore any film that entertains me as much as Get Him to the Greek did.

7-Toy Story 3/How to Train Your Dragon 3D-Although these are two very different movies; I felt it was appropriate they share the same spot on my list. Toy Story 3 shattered the third-movie-in-a-trilogy curse and simultaneously proved Pixar was the master of the game. All of the characters we knew and loved returned after 11 long years with a tear-jerking, hilarious masterpiece that exceeded all of our expectations. I can only hope they Disney doesn’t run the franchise into the ground. How to Train Your Dragon 3D is DreamWorks Animation’s best film since Shrek, combining a great story and a handful of breath-taking flight scenes. Getting to see Toothless take flight in the theater a few months ago was a once in a lifetime experience. Even seeing the movie without the 3D the film still holds up, which is just a testament to how incredible this film is. Both films are monumental for the two studios, and thus they share a spot here.

8-The Town-The Town is a film full of tense gunfire and fierce interrogations, but part of what makes the film so great is the fact that the moments where there’s not a single firearm present are just as pulse pounding and riveting. Jeremy Renner, who broke out last year for role in The Hurt Locker, is unstoppable in his performance in the film, and it’s going to be a real crime if he’s snubbed from the Oscar’s. If you love heist films and fast-paced action, The Town is the film for you. If you love romances with a cloak of macho action, The Town is the film for you. If you’re in the market for a fascinating, well-made action/drama that does a thousand things right, The Town is one of the films that you’d be a fool to miss.

9-Kick-Ass-Although it did differentiate a little from the comic, Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Kick-Ass was a surprisingly great movie, and even beat out one of the biggest budget films as the best superhero movie of the year in my book. The style of the world and how Vaughn uses color is really something to see, and Nicolas Cage uses his crazy powers in the way they should be used as a character that really is insane. Chloe-Grace Moretz also got her head start in this film by slicing a few heads open as Hit Girl. The moments of action are amazing; they’re some of the best-choreographed pieces of work I’ve ever gotten to see in my movie-going life. It’s hilarious, truly exciting and surprising at how audacious it can be. I can’t wait to see more from this director and this awesome crew.

10-Due Date-I got a chance to go see this one again with my family on Thanksgiving, and that’s when it really sank in that this really was one of my favorites of the year. Robert Downey Jr. gets to show off his comedic muscle and Zach Galifianakis only continues to impress. It’s a worthy successor to the Steve Martin/John Candy classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and kept me interested from start to finish, just waiting for the next big moment. On second viewing the film’s emotional moments also work a lot better, even bringing me to tears a few times. It’s surprising how heartwarming this raunchy comedy can be at times, and other times, you’re just glad to be a part of this hysterical buddy road-trip story.

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True Grit Review

December 27, 2010 at 12:21 am (Movies)

If you had asked me a month, maybe even a couple of weeks ago what my favorite film of the year was going to be, without hesitation I would have said Christopher Nolan’s Inception. I knew that Tron Legacy and True Grit were coming up, and I had a feeling that the latter had a good chance of making my top ten or even my top five, but I had no idea it had this great of a chance. In fact, it might just be giving Inception a good run for its money. This is one of my favorites of the year, and with a flawless script, unrivaled performances, cinematography beyond compare, and unsurpassable action to boot, it’s what I and many others might call a perfect film. The film takes place shortly after the Civil War in the Mid-West, where Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a 14-year-old girl out for revenge for her father’s murder by the coward John Chaney (Josh Brolin), enters a dangerous world of murder and betrayal in order to avenge his death. She enlists the help of Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a frequently inebriated and trigger-happy marshal, and local Texas Ranger Labeouf (Matt Damon) who is out to bring Chaney in dead or alive for his own reward. Few films are blessed with casts like True Grit is given to work with here. A lot of Oscar buzz is going around about newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and it’s well deserved. The best part of her performance isn’t just how she reads her lines or how she could very well be the best cinematic role model for pre-teen girls in the past decade, but just how she fearlessly takes on Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, two acting legends, throughout the movie. Steinfeld plays the part to perfection, reading each line in such a fluent way it seems like she was born to do it, and excellently complimenting the Coens second to none interchange. Made all the more amazing by the fact she’s a first-timer, anything less than an Oscar nomination would be a disgrace. Steinfeld’s performance on its own would make the film, but she’s accompanied by a surplus of awesome performances. Matt Damon does a grand job at playing the part of Labeouf and carries some of the movie’s best comedic moments, and Josh Brolin (with what screen time he’s given) gives the role of John Chaney all he’s got, infusing humor and an often times darker, scarier, quick-to-violence side to his character. Barry Pepper, who’s been known for smaller parts like in The Green Mile, is 100% unrecognizable as Ned Pepper, the disfigured leader of Chaney’s gang. This best way I can describe the guy is the film’s Darth Sidious. He’s literally behind every evil deed of the film. From the first moment he steps on screen the combo of the actor’s demeanor and the script lets evil ooze out of each of his pores. Even in his first few seconds of screen time when you’re not quite sure who he is or what he’s up to, you know he’s the embodiment of evil, and you’re just wishing for him to get on the wrong end of Rooster Cogburn’s six shooter. Speaking of the one-eyed marshal, Jeff Bridges’ performance for the film was the main draw to bring me into the film, and it’s the acting glue that not only holds the film together but also puts it over the top. Jeff Bridges brings so much experience to the part to give Rooster Cogburn a 100% genuine feel. There’s not a second that you doubt anything that comes out of Cogburn’s mouth. His at-times incomprehensible drawl did cause me to miss a few things that he said, but he carries so much of the film’s action and drama on his shoulders so perfectly, it’s impossible for me to explain how brilliant his performance is. There are also a number of smaller roles thrown in seemingly just for fun by the Coens. Even though they’re 3-5 minutes (at most) at a time, it’s almost like a time trial to see how rich of a character they can create.There are films that I can enjoy based off how technically proficient the film is or how well the films works as a comedy or an action film. It’s rare that a film works perfectly as both like True Grit. Back during the development of the film the Coens encouraged the cast to not watch the original John Wayne film, and having seen small pieces of the original, it obviously benefits the movie, as it’s almost an entirely different feature. The script is one of the main things about the film that really sets it apart. Just hearing Rooster Cogburn and Lucky Ned or Labeouf and Ross exchange dialogue is one of the film’s most entertaining aspects by a long shot. The Coens wrote the film in such an engaging and beautiful way it’s almost Shakespearean. The old-timey dialogue gives you such an indication of the world that they live in, something incredibly rare to see in a film. Just like in the Coens’ modern classic No Country for Old Men, my favorite film from 2007 and a Best Picture winner, it has that true Coens vibe, deftly mixing wit, surprising humor, and at the same time each and every line benefiting the story in some way. Each conversation, with a couple special scenes in particular like the “pony deal” at the beginning of the film, can be as exciting and genuine as 3/4 of this past summer’s biggest action scenes. I love this script so much I want to read it to my kids as a bedtime story. Complimented by the first-rate script, the film’s pacing is considerably adept. The movie starts a little slow, but after the first 20 minutes takes off with each scene either ending in an instantaneous gunshot or some capacious discovery. The film also looks exceptional. Each and every one of the scenes has either a pain-staking level of detail in it or looks as if there was no better location for the shot. The towns, the cabins, not to mention the costumes of the characters, all have a remarkable look and feel to them. Although it sounds minor, there are also a few camera angles and neat ways that the Coens frame a shot that’s definitely unexpected. There’s one shot that’s seen briefly in the trailer in a snowy wood that’s one of, if not the most impressive shots of the year. As if the script and cinematography that dances on the border of perfect wasn’t enough, the movie also works on an astounding level as a hardcore action film. Westerns sort of catch a bad name, as most of the time you either do it really well or no one will remember it ever existed. Plus, it’s pretty darn hard for one to make any money at the box office, thus discouraging studios from making them. 3:10 to Yuma and the previously mentioned No Country for Old Men are two Westerns from the past decade that set a standard for greatness. Much like how the Coens shot their action in No Country for Old Men, True Grit has some out of this world moments of action. Like No Country, there are a few moments of action you don’t see coming, shocking you by how quick it starts and just how quick it’s over. These are some of the film’s most terrifying moments mainly involving Rooster’s itchy trigger finger, and it’s hard to shake. The other moments where the film utilizes suspense work entirely, rest assured you’ll be on the edge of your seat. At its heart though, True Grit’s a Western through and through, and it’s never afraid to show off its guns, literally. Unlike a lot of other films each time a bullet leaves the chamber it really means something, and each action set piece is meticulously constructed and gloriously executed. There’s one massive shootout at the end that, without me spoiling it, puts one main character’s life in danger many times, and I was on the edge of my seat throughout hoping they were ok. Obviously based on my reaction you can tell it’s easy to get attached to the characters thanks to the superb writing and time taken to build each of the three main characters, along with the film’s message as to what it really means to have “true grit”. It’s also surprising how funny this movie is. While by no means would I call the film a comedy, a lot of the scenes including Rooster Cogburn’s drawl and inherent racism, how he interacts with others including Labeouf, and Mattie Ross’ boldness with the most frank of adults is hilarious. As I start to close here, I can only hope this film finds a huge audience. As I’m writing this, reports have already come in for its Christmas weekend haul, and it’s definitely been a successful weekend pull, practically making its budget back in 5 days. While the film is a little mis-marketed (it’s not as much of a fast-paced action film as the trailers make it out to be), it’s still a unbelievably great movie deserving of your support. The Coen Brothers’ True Grit is a very special kind of movie. It’s not often you get to see a film that perfects the writing, cinematography, and action that blend so well with this genre, only making it better. I honestly couldn’t imagine True Grit being any better than the final product we were given, and I can’t wait to check it out again. Just when you think the film’s done enough, the Coens keep pulling back curtains. There’s always another inspiring piece of dialogue, another dramatic moment that makes you think, or a 1 vs. 4 shootout that’ll make you want to rise to your feet. True Grit is in part a comedy, in part a Western, in part a drama, in part a revenge story, but in all parts it’s one heck of a perfect film. There’s just so much to love here, and if you’re a cinematic prodigal, True Grit might just make you love movies again.

5 out of 5

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Tron Legacy Review

December 24, 2010 at 11:11 am (Movies)

This time last year, almost to the day, James Cameron’s Avatar was released to fantastic reviews and an accolade of awards, leaving just as many viewers saying “meh” as there were praising it as “the best movie of all time”. I’ll admit I was one of the viewers in the middle. It’s not a bad film, in fact its visual flair and ambition are the best things about it, but it’s not a film I would consider a front runner for Best Picture, an award it came very close to winning. Avatar was a film I left the theater pleased with, but unlike Avatar, Tron Legacy (arguably this year’s Avatar) is a film I truly can’t wait to see again. Remarkable visual design, a strong direction including some strong action set pieces and a memorable story make for a film that I believe will stand the test of time and be a film I get to show my grandkids some day. The film takes place a long time after the original Tron, where Neil Flynn (Jeff Bridges/Star of the Original Tron) has been missing for some time, and no one’s quite sure why. Some say suicide, some say he just ran away from his company’s problems. Almost 20 years later, his son Sam Flynn (Garret Hedlund), is led back to his father’s old arcade, and through a series of events becomes trapped in The Grid, his father’s own creation. Entering the virtual world, Sam soon realizes the world isn’t quite what his father originally envisioned. CLU, one of Neil’s creations, has overtaken The Grid as a dictator, and has forced Neil into hiding. The performances in the film range from the surprisingly good to the reanimated corpse with soul-less eyes creepy. I can see how many would strongly dislike Garret Hedlund’s performance in the film, and to be honest, it’s a hard performance to describe. It’s almost like Sam Worthington’s physical demeanor with the accent and physical demeanor of Jack Nicholson. I personally dug the way he interpreted that character, but at the same time he generally sticks to the basics throughout the movie. Olivia Wilde as Quorra, Neil’s assistant, is fun to look at, and does the best she can with the script. There were a lot of possibilities for the character and Wilde is obviously a talented enough actress to pull it off, but what time she is on the screen she’s one of the film’s best surprises. Michael Sheen has another equally complained about performance in the film, but I can honestly say I enjoyed him while he was on the screen, even if his character came off a little bit as an after thought. Jeff Bridges plays both protagonist Neil Flynn and the main baddie CLU. Much like Wilde he’s not given much by the script so he’s left scrambling a little, but you can’t complain when an actor as talented as Bridges is bringing dude-isms and a respectable performance to his role. For CLU the visual effects team pulled a “Polar Express” and made the character 100% CGI, including the face that is supposed to look like a 30-year-old Jeff Bridges. In the context of the bright and flashy it looks great and it’s almost unnoticeable, but there are a few times (especially when compared against obviously real actors) that it comes off a little unsettling. For the most part, the characters of the film are either simple enough to be just purely enjoyable or are two-dimensional on purpose. I respect the idea that they’re really just exploring the idea these people really are just acting two-dimensional because they’re programs and don’t know any different, but at the same time I would have appreciated a little more thought put it into them and their back story. What back-story is given though (whether it’s on a couple of characters or the film itself) is done it a well enough way that makes it respectably approachable to both and old fans alike. Whereas a lot of people nag at James Cameron’s Avatar for being a re-tread of Dances with Wolves or Fern Gully, Tron Legacy tells what I consider to be a more interesting/original story, if not equally flawed. I loved the concept of Sam having to save his father from his own creation, CLU, and that father/son dynamic, while not really fleshed out, was a neat idea that oddly enough I connected to. I would be lying if I said my heartstrings weren’t tugged at during the film’s big finale.There’s also something about the idea of an Internet world that’s been stuck in time for almost 30 years. The people of the world are barbaric in nature, and it’s easy to think of The Grid as an 80s society stuck in time with a hit of neon shot into its veins. Needless to say, none of this is really given to the audience; it’s all my interpretation. Once again it comes back to the films more ambitious than its script will allow it to be. By the ending credits it’s pretty clear that the film was sort of rushed into production, especially in the writing department. The writing is by far the film’s biggest weak spot, in fact it almost feels like, in a rush to get the film made, they went ahead with the first few ideas they had for a script in a first draft. I can almost imagine the writing room. “Hey, right here we should put in a light cycle chase, and over here we’ll put in a big neon airplane and a fight inside of a club, that would be so rad!” There are a handful of plot holes that are kind of hard to ignore, there are lines of dialogue that come off just painfully in desperate need of cutting, and a rewrite could and should have been in order.

But who has time to focus on plot holes or poor writing when there are so many pretty lights flashing on the screen!? Obviously if you’ve seen any of the trailers or posters, you can see that the film has a phenomenal artistic design. There are basically two colors in the entire film, blue or orange; Blue represents the good guys, and orange represents the bad guys. All of the sets that look like they’ve been drowned in neon blue look fantastic, and the costumes (especially some of the more daring designs of CLU’s and Neil’s capes/gowns and the sirens that assist Sam) obviously got the more focused end of development, and it becomes the film’s defining aspect. The film is so gorgeous as it was becoming apparent that the film was drawing to a close, it was hard to accept the fact I was going to have to leave that world. I’d only be retreading ground if I spent too much time praising the film’s 3D. Maybe this will explain it well enough. Better than most films, but not How to Train Your Dragon masterful. It even goes to benefit the film’s four major action pieces, without a doubt the film’s finest moments, which utilize both the 3D and the Visual Design in a commendable way. In retrospect it’s odd that the film is basically structured as action, action, exposition, action, and then action, but each of the main action set pieces are equally terrific. Even during the long stretch of action in the middle there’s always that looming threat of a big action scene waiting to (and many times eventually) happening. The light cycle chase alone is worth the price of admission. It’s especially amazing that all of the fantastic action scenes are all paced and set up in such a great way by a first time director. This guy has a great hold on how to shoot, choreograph, and successfully make action scenes interesting, and I can’t wait to see more from this guy. Daft Punk (who make a cameo in the film) put together a terrific score for the movie that you’ll have stuck in your head for a long time. When you start to compare Tron Legacy to many other recent live action Disney tent pole films (National Treasure 2 for example), it’s actually a pretty nice addition to the repertoire. It’s fun, short, and both kids and adults can enjoy it. Most importantly, it leaves plenty of opportunities for Disney to make money off of it. Count me in. If the sequel(s) to this one were half as entertaining and twice as well written, I’d be there for the film-opening weekend and first in line for the rollercoaster and/or gift shop. Where Tron Legacy slips up in its script and a handful of underdeveloped ideas, it perfectly executes what great things can come of 3D technology and a few awesome ideas in the creative field. I can give it a solid recommendation for any family looking for a generally pleasing film after all the presents are unwrapped, which should mean even more considering the infamously steep 3D surcharges. It may not have met its full potential, but it’s definitely a strong start to what could very well be Disney’s “next big thing”.

4 out of 5

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The 19 Days of Christmas Recommendations-Day #19-Underrated Recent Christmas Movies

December 7, 2010 at 6:06 pm (Weapons of Mass Enjoyment)

Okay, I’ll admit I forgot about a Christmas countdown this year. A couple of years back I did a countdown of the Top 10 Christmas films, one year I counted down the top Christmas songs, and now, although quite frankly I’m a little dry on ideas, I’m doing another countdown, simply giving 19 Christmas-themed recommendations to hopefully make your Christmas a little bit better. Obviously I’ll be starting today and running through Christmas Day. Hopefully I’ll be able to still post a recommendation on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but don’t hold me to it. Today for my first recommendation I’m recommending two underrated Christmas comedies. Last night my university had a screening of the Will Ferrel Christmas classic “Elf”, and while it is by no means underrated (it’s one of my favorites to this day, and it’s one of the few movies I can watch over and over again), it reminded me of two other films that don’t quite get the respect they deserve in my book. The first is Fred Claus, a 2007 comedy starring Paul Giamatti and Vince Vaughn. The movie did pretty well financially, but was lauded by critics, who said the movie was “A slew of talent is wasted in this contrived and overly sentimental Christmas film…” according to Rotten Tomatoes. I, on the other hand, love the movie, even though I haven’t gotten to watch it in a while. It is by no means a perfect movie (it’s not the most well-made film ever and the romance is kinda sloppy), but when it comes to good-natured and well-intentioned comedies, Fred Claus is propelled quite a bit by both Vaughn and Giamatti’s charismatic and fun performances. The other Christmas film I’ll recommend is the 2008 more adult Christmas comedy, Four Christmases. I actually remember vividly when this one came out, and I recall one of my high school teachers saying she hated it. However when I got around to renting it last Christmas, I had a great time with it. I laughed quite a bit, I connected surprisingly enough with the movie’s message (although it was a little on the nose), and I really liked how they executed the idea of the four different Christmases they had to go to. It was neat how they structured the film around it, and they built up some really fun comedy set pieces thanks to it. (Tim McGraw and Jon Favreau wrestling Vaughn is probably my favorite part of the movie.) Once again, the movie’s not perfect, it has its flaws, but like a lot of Christmas movies, people just hold too high of a standard. If your family is having a movie night this Christmas, or you’re looking for a great gift, you could do a lot worse than these two very enjoyable Christmas films. In fact, I’m gonna have to rent these both as soon as I get home for the holidays…

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Down with Munn, Up with Bailey!

December 7, 2010 at 12:13 am (Television)

One of the shows I don’t talk about too often on here just so happens to be the show I watch the most. G4TV’s Attack of the Show is consistently entertaining, even if some of their sketches are a little hit or miss. Covering the tech world, the best in viral videos, interviewing new movie stars, and reviewing new DVDs and Games with the help of X-Play host Adam Sessler and Film Junkie Chris Gore. There’s so much the show covers, fully encompassing the motto “The One-Stop Source for all the Stuff You Care About”. Recently however former co-host Olivia Munn began appearing less and less on the show as more and more movie and television roles came up for her, and pretty soon it seemed like she was done with the rinky-dink nerd show. No offense to Munn, she was fantastic on the show, but it was disappointing to see her appearing less and less. The question soon came up as to who was going to replace Olivia, as it became more and more apparent they were trying out different hosts. Some of them were pretty awful, but others were great potentials (Haislip and Bailey). On tonight’s show, recurring guest host Candace Bailey (who got her start on Nickelodeon oddly enough (she’s stalking me)) has been announced as the new co-host for the show. It’s awesome to see such a spunky, funny, cute, and charismatic co-host to adapt Olivia’s shoes and make the part her own. She works perfectly with Kevin, and I can’t wait to see what happens for the show when a new look and new layout of the show comes in on January 11th, 2011. Check out the show, weeknights at 6:00 Central on G4TV.

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Who’s That At the Door?!

December 7, 2010 at 12:01 am (Television, Video)

Although I’m usually not a huge fan of late night talk shows, I can’t resist the off-beat humor and “in your face” attitude of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Airing weeknights on CBS from 11:35 to 12:35, I highly recommend you give the show a look. Craig is often defying the standards of the regular late night talk show, incorporating puppets, improv music videos, awkward silences, harmonica playing, and even a robot sidekick into his show. Below is one of the samples of my new favorite part of the show, where Craig welcomes a special guest.

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Mr. Parker, Van Atter, and Another Goblin? Oh My!

December 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm (Movies)

In an interesting bit of casting news, Peter Parker’s parents, along with a second villain, have been cast in Marc Webb’s Spiderman reboot. To recap, Andrew Garfield of course has been cast as Peter Parker, Martin Sheen is going to be Uncle Ben and Sally Field is going to play Aunt May. Dennis Leary (pictured at the very bottom set on the left) of Ice Age and Rescue Me fame is going to play the father of Gwen Stacy, who is being played by Emma Stone. Rhys Ifans has been confirmed to play the Lizard, and Chris Zylka (pictured two over from Leary) has been rumored for some time now to be locked in for the role of Flash Thompson.

Campbell Scott (Music and Lyrics, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) (pictured left) will play Peter’s father, and Julianne Nicholson (Law and Order, Ally McBeal) (pictured middle left) will play Peter Parker’s mother. It’s being reported that the parents won’t play a huge role in the film, but possibly in a prologue or a flashback of some kind. The next casting bit is where things get interesting. Irrfan Khan (The Bad Guy from Slumdog Millionaire) (pictured middle right) has been cast as the film’s second villain, Van Atter, and Annie Parisse (Rubicon, National Treasure) (pictured right) will play his wife. For those unfamiliar with the comics (like me), Van Atter is one of the scientists at Oscorp who is tested with one of the preliminary Green Goblin serums. The formula isn’t anywhere near perfection, and it ends up mutating Atter and turning him insane, morphing him into the Photo-Goblin.

Now while I’ve been a full supporter for Webb thus far, this casting bit throws me on my head just a bit. First off, just as a disclaimer, it’s not confirmed that Khan’s character Van Atter is going to become the Proto-Goblin, but it is confirmed he is going to be a villain and he is going to be playing Van Atter. We’re also not sure if it’s going to be a matter of if Van Atter will be a full-fledged villain like Lizard, or have a smaller part more like what Chris Nolan did with Scarecrow in The Dark Knight. Assuming they don’t go the route of the Photo Goblin, the actor did a great job in Slumdog Millionaire and I’d love to see him stretch his legs here. If they did go the route of the Photo Goblin, although I’d still love the actor and would be happy they’re introducing a lesser-known character, I’m not sure if I see that going well. While it may be easily confusable for Norman Osbourne from Sam Raimi’s Spiderman, it seems to me like it may be an awkward way to introduce Oscorp, and possibly leading up to the Green Goblin in a later film. Or maybe Webb doesn’t even plan on doing the Green Goblin and he just wants to get that plot thread out of the way with a side villain here, I could see that easily happening with great success. Either way, as long as Webb’s getting his due creative freedom here and they don’t over cram it like so many superhero movies have been doing lately, I feel like Webb’s risks here with the characters might just pay off. And honestly, as long as all future goblins aren’t in snowboarding gear, I think we’ll be ok.

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Why I Love “Blazing Saddles”

December 3, 2010 at 5:47 pm (Movies, Video)

(Warning-Some offensive language, including a few uses of the n-word. They’re not using in the offensive way though, Mel Brooks was making a statement when he made the film.)

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Me and Mr. Phirman

December 3, 2010 at 4:26 pm (Weapons of Mass Enjoyment)

Ok, so I’ll admit this isn’t a huge deal, and it’s not like I got to meet the guy, but this is a site dedicated to my thoughts, and this just so happens to be one of those thoughts. The other day I was working on my project for my Development of American Music course, and I decided that I was going to use Mike Phirman’s single “One for Them and One for Me” as one of the tracks for a playlist that I was going to play for the class. The assignment was to play 10 songs that mean something to you, and that was one of the first few that came to my mind. So just joking around I tweeted about using his song and included his name. This ensued in a brief back and forth that is still sort of going on. Like I said, it’s not like I had coffee with the guy, but it was cool to actually get feedback from an artist that I definitely respect (he’s played with Weird Al before, and he’s a recurring guest on my favorite podcasts). Below is the actual “conversation”.

@jakewilbanks-It’s a good day when I get to use a @phirm song for my presentation in American Music class.

@phirm-“!” Which of my songs is “presentable”!?!

@jakewilbanks-haha I’m using “One for Them and One for Me” for my playlist assignment, have to cite why the song is important, any insights?

@phirm-Why is it important? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?! It was only recorded in the UNITED STATES, THAT’S ALL!! #itsactuallynotthatimportant

@jakewilbanks-And that good sir, is what sets it apart. It’s an awesome album btw, really enjoyed it. #semiimportantretorts

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Review

November 25, 2010 at 10:58 pm (Movies)

I’ll go ahead and clear the air here; I’m not the biggest Harry Potter fan in the world. Not to say I don’t like the films or the books though. I saw the first two films whenever they came out in theaters, and I remember seeing and really enjoying the fourth film. Until now I’ve not seen either the 5th or the 6th films, and I’m not a big reader, so none of the books ever really caught my eye. I can also say that I’m not the biggest fan of the latest installment in the Harry Potter series. The newest film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the David Yates-directed penultimate volume in the Harry Potter film series. The final result isn’t a bad film; in fact it definitely has and will please millions of fans. I, on the other hand, have never been a fan of films in which nothing happens and it seems like things are just being dragged out as long as possible. Much like the past 6 films, the talented cast reprises their roles. Daniel Radcliffe, who has come to define the role of Harry Potter, does a perfectly fine job, and Rupert Grint will hopefully get more film roles outside of Harry Potter thanks to an exceptional performance here. Emma Watson is easy on the eyes, and has her moments from time to time. Ralph Fiennes, playing he who must not be named, is suitable although he’s not really in the film all that much. Also, although I’ve not been the biggest fan of her in the past, Helena Bonham Carter does a fantastic job as one of Voldemort’s evil henchwomen. She cackles and sneers as one of the film’s few shining moments. Although some of the performances are exceptionally great, other times the movie takes itself a little too serious. I get that that’s the general tone of the series and the books, but it’d be nice to see Yates take more light-hearted liberties like one particular disguise scene early on more throughout the film. At times the seriousness of the set pieces and characters came off a little bit as laughable. By far the biggest drawback of the film is the fact that there’s little to nothing happening through a majority of the movie. Now understand, this isn’t some angry fan boy whining because I didn’t understand the movie or what was going on, I followed the movie 90% having not seen the previous two films or read any of the books. It’s safe to say that 90% of the film is exposition, and 70% of that 90% exposition is needlessly slow or could have easily been cut from the final product of the film. I respect the ideas that are being presented and the way that they’re advancing the story, but did it have to be in such a dull way? It almost feels like the movie should be called “Harry and Friends Go Camping!” because that’s where we spend a majority of our time; in the woods. While the introduction of this grand story might be grand in concept, in execution throughout the film little to nothing happens. Even when something perked my interest and I was starting to get involved with where the story was going, it was delivered in such a drawn-out manner that I couldn’t help but realize the whole film feels like 7 sentences of story stretched over 3 hours. Not only is that a little bit of story stretched out a lot, it means a lot of that previously mentioned “dull momentum” isn’t much more than filler. Sure that’s great for the fans and all to have two different movies to “enjoy”, but it’s even better for Warner Bros. considering that instead of $1 Billion they’ll get $2 Billion. Overall, although I was interested in the chunks of fine storytelling found here and there, there’s an unbelievable amount of material here, filler and plot elements alike, that should have been cut to benefit the overall movie. Maybe the concept of one film instead of one camping trip movie and one action-fest summer film isn’t such a crazy idea. Although that seems like a lot of nitpicking, I’m not quite done yet. Although it’s nowhere near the structural mess Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender”, there are a few elements here in Deathly Hallows structure that rubbed me the wrong way. While I do understand that’s sort of the point of a Part 1, there’s really not a huge sense of escalation until the final 5 minutes when the cliffhanger comes in. The first 30 minutes move quickly and tackle a lot of material fast, and the next 2 hours sort of go with a whimper. It almost works in a backward sense compared to a regular film, in that it goes from a climax to a consistently slow slew of “discovery scenes”, where things get slower and slower until the movie peters out with a final, quick action piece. Although I do appreciate certain elements being presented here, and it definitely gives that Empire Strikes Back feel by the end of the film, one of my best friends put it best by saying the entire film is a first act, and it never really starts. It knew what it wanted to be (besides a cash-grab), but it just doesn’t know how to get there. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can say that there are parts of Deathly Hallows Part 1 that I did like. Much like I said earlier, it’s not a bad film in the slightest. What few action scenes there are (towards the beginning and right at the end, if you’ve seen any of the television spots you’ve seen every action moment in the film) are well made. There’s some great staging, a lot of fun elements going on at once, and for once I didn’t have as much trouble taking the wizardry action seriously. There’s one forest chase right at the end that, although short, is a lot of fun to watch. Also, some of the actors and a good amount of the set pieces have a great style. The special effects look fantastic, even though some of the basic effects on Voldemort’s nose and the later appearance of Dobbie didn’t look quite right. All of the costumes look spectacular, sets like the Ministry of Magic and Voldemort’s “Evil Lair” look phenomenal, and a few of the actors there much like Carter clearly were made for their role. To close things up here, I feel like I can put my feelings best when I say that Harry Potter 7-1 isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just really uninspired. I don’t think you can really argue that Warner Bros. and the rest of the crew aren’t trying to make more money by splitting this final chapter in half. In case the past weekend’s box office gross wasn’t evidence enough, the film’s beyond dull pacing and excess of both plot and needless exposition should convince you. There are things that I liked about the film, and I have all the respect in the world for people that stayed awake through the whole thing when they saw it at midnight last week. However, Harry Potter 7-1 plays it far too safe, trusting in their fans’ eagerness to see this final chapter a bit too much, and the end result is a film that drags its feet too much in anticipation of the sure-fire box office breaker that’s coming in June 2011.

3 out of 5

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Morning Glory Review

November 19, 2010 at 11:21 pm (Movies)

Walking out of the new Rachel McAdams comedy “Morning Glory” with a frown on your face, saying you hated the film, is the journalistic equivalent of punching a puppy in the face. I’m not talking about a gentle shove or a thump between the eyes, I’m talking about a full-power punch right between the eyes. Now while that’s a blunt analogy, I feel like it’s a great description for how loveable this film really is. Backed by some solid writing, a fun cast, and a stellar take-home message, Morning Glory may not be the best film I’ve seen this year, but it has to be some of the fiercest competitors for “Biggest Smile Throughout”. Rachel McAdams plays Becky, a woman whose career has always been her first love. After getting promoted to the big leagues as the lead producer on a network morning show, she quickly realizes she may have bitten off more than she could chew thanks to a diva of a co-host (Diane Keaton) and begging a veteran host (Harrison Ford) to cooperate with her. When it comes to ideal casts, you can’t really beat Morning Glory. Diane Keaton, although she can come off a little annoying to some, embraces that part of her character and gets a number of laughs in the film. Ty Burrell, who stars in one of the best comedies on television right now Modern Family, appears in a brief spot as the perverted former co-host of Morning Glory. It’s sort of a shame we don’t get to see more of him in the film. Jeff Goldblum plays a bit of a villain in the movie but it’s still classic Goldblum, and Harrison Ford is the film’s mastermind. It takes a few scenes to warm up to his gruff nature, but once you learn to laugh at his deadpan one-liners and love his “Yeah, I used to be Indiana Jones AND Han Solo” demeanor, you’ll perk up in your seat every time he walks into the frame. He’s like the uncle everyone wants. Patrick Wilson has a small role in the film as Becky’s love interest, and while he doesn’t have a lot to work with his character could have been a lot worse off with lesser-talented actors. Rachel McAdams, being the lead in a romantic comedy, is the glue that holds it all together. It’s admirable and oddly coincidental seeing how much work she puts into a character that’s putting so much work into her own job. She’s got the charm, she has that ability to make you care about her character, she definitely has the looks, and she definitely has the funny to make even the films lowest moments round off nicely. An exceedingly peppy soundtrack compliments the movie. Paolo Nutini, an artist I’ve been following for a couple of years now (hoo-rah for indie cred), has his single “New Shoes” put into one of the movie’s first scenes, and Natasha Bedingfield’s “Strip Me”, along with The Weepies’ new single created for the film work perfectly in the film. Thanks in part to the great soundtrack, the film has a consistently upbeat pace to it. It almost works like a hybrid of a movie with all the elements going on. One moment you may have an oh-so timeless romantic comedy montage set to a pop song, then a series of visual gags or a great joke/one-liner or two, or a strong dramatic moment (often times molded by hand by Harrison Ford), there’s always something to fall back on. There aren’t too many dull moments during Morning Glory, and the film benefits from it greatly. There’s a wide variety of events going on here and it makes for one of the most fun viewing experiences out there, not because of death-defying visuals like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World but because it’s a really well-written film. The writers weren’t afraid to take advantage of the “diverse world” of morning broadcast, taking the characters from location to location quickly, and loaning itself to the at-times lightning quick nature of the film’s events and dialogue. The pacing isn’t the only thing quick and diverse, as I said earlier the movie has a strong sense of humor. Rachel McAdams peppiness brings a lot to the table, Diane Keaton is a strong contender, and Harrison Ford, delivering a lot of his lines through gritted teeth, is something to be seen. There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in Morning Glory, there’s one montage about 1/2 way through the film that had my theater doubled over in laughter. J.J. Abrams produced the film, and the guy’s been on a bit of a role including his involvement in the phenomenal Cloverfield and last year’s genius blockbuster Star Trek reboot. That being said Abrams footprint is evident. The opening shot is oddly interesting, and the lens flares that divided some fans are sporadically present. Coming from a guy that was a fan of them in Star Trek, it’s a nice little treat that will largely go unnoticed. There are also a number of great shots that take advantage of some beautiful locations and gorgeous set design. As I start to wrap this up, it’s nice to see that Morning Glory had such a sweet message to it all. I won’t spoil it for those of you at home, but it’s something that I could personally relate to, which was a nice touch. I’ve always been a fan of optimism in the work place and putting your best foot forward to accomplish your task with a smile on your face, and seeing that put on film was interesting for me and added that extra layer. Harrison Ford’s character is, throughout a majority of the film, a curmudgeon, so seeing him share his words of advice from his own tragedy (that we see in the trailer) and coming around to Becky as her “mentor” is the film’s best moment, and therein lies a lot of the movie’s heart. Heart is definitely something this movie has a lot of. It doesn’t do everything perfectly, but it’s suave combination of emotion, message, and sharp humor alone make it a film that shouldn’t be missed. Heck, the lone fact we get to see Harrison Ford wear an apron and share cooking recipes is reason enough to see the film.  The film also has a really “cute” ending to it all, wrapping up all the plot lines in what seems like an other-worldly layer of “cute”. It was also fun to hear a gasp and a re-assuring “awww” in a few scenes of the closing montage. All in all, it’s hard not to walk out of Morning Glory with a smile. If there is anything wrong with Morning Glory, it’s that it’s a little uneven, more specifically at times with its tone. There are some moments that are a little too awkwardly handled to be funny and then there’s the rare dramatic moment that takes a little too long to sink in. It kills me to not give Morning Glory a 5 out of 5, but even with a 4, it’s an absolute recommendation to see it, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. At times Morning Glory comes off a little bit of a dark comedy, other times it’s a broad comedy, and yet at other times it’s a romantic comedy. To a casual viewer though or to someone like me just in the market for a great feel-good comedy, there’s nothing quite like Morning Glory. It’s funny, it’s smart, there’s a lens flare or two, and by the end you’ll have an unshakable smile and a special place in your heart that’s been filled by Morning Glory.

4 out of 5

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Cowboys vs. Aliens Trailer

November 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm (Movies, Video)

From Jon Favreau (Director of Iron Man, Elf) is an adaptation of the comic series “Cowboys vs. Aliens”, starring Daniel Craig (James Bond) as a mysterious stranger into a western town. He’s harboring a unique alien weapon on his arm that makes him an instant fugitive in the town, and is being chased down by one of the local marshalls (Harrison Ford). Soon they have to team up to take down the mysterious alien force.

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