Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Rio – 96 min - G

Wow! This is A first for The Fat Samurai – a review of an animated movie. I truly enjoyed this film from many aspects: story, animation and performance. The performers did a wonderful job of bringing depth to the characters. This movie gets a green light from me. If you are looking for a family movie that everyone can enjoy, take them down to Rio. Well, the movie Rio not the actual Rio, Rio. The actual Rio might be great but the movie is cheaper and closer.

In Rio, macaw Blue (Jesse Eisenburg) and his owner Linda (Leslie Mann) are approached by Ornithologist Dr. Barbosa (Gracinha Leporace). Dr Barbosa tells them Blue is the last male of his kind and they need to take him to Rio to mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the last blue macaw female. They head to Rio but along the way Blue and Jewel are bird-napped. With the help of some local birds (voiced by Jamie Foxx, Will i Am, and George Lopez) they adventure across Rio to get back to safety.

Walking up to the booth and being informed that the next movie is Rio took me by surprise. I thought, “this should be interesting”. I have enjoyed animated movies in the past but since I have started really looking at movies for this blog I have observed so much more of the creation process. Reviewing an animated movie seems harder to me. I don’t just focus on whether it was a good story or how it made me feel, I look at films from a production standpoint. How a movie was performed and filmed are important to my review process. I spent most of the time watching this film with my ears, I enjoyed what I was seeing but I also focused on not just what was being said but how it was said. I think that most people who see a movie like this don’t truly realize how hard it is to sell a performance with just your voice. The cast was well chosen for the different feel of each of the characters they were portraying. Typically they complete all of the voice acting first and then have the animators create the scenes. This speaks volumes to how the animators created a life like image based on the mannerisms of the creature they are modeling infused with the actor’s inflection and performance.

The animators did a great job of modeling the movements of the birds. All of the characters in this film were done really well. Everything was does with such attention to detail, the smallest things helped give this movie a life-like feel. I did see this movie in 3D and they did a good job of not overdoing the in-your-face novelty that you sometimes see. I liked how they made some of the subtle things in this movie show in different layers. The scenes that took place in the jungle also benefited from the 3D effects. There were two scenes that I really appreciated the 3D, one was during the parade and I felt like the confetti was going to fall on me and in the long swooping scenes of flight over the landmarks of Rio de Janeiro.

This is the part of the blog that I usually talk about the crew, and how they shot the film, but in this case I am way out of my league. I have never really thought how much an animated movie also relies on camera placement and lighting. Even those elements are still very much a part of this process. It was hard for me to think of this movie like that. The Director Carlos Saldanha has brought us the Ice Age movie so this kind of film is nothing new to him. He has several people on his previous films working on this movie as well, so they do work well together. The sound track to this movie was also very catchy, I did want to go get a copy of it and many movies don’t movie me to get the sound track.

So the question I have for you on this post is what animated movie made you cry, This movie did not have any moment that made me cry but I know that Toy Story 3 had a few tear jerking moments as well as Cars, I know I know some stupid animated cars made me cry. When Lightning goes back at the end to make sure the king finished his last race. Snif, Snif gets me every time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Your Highness

Your Highness – 102 min –R

I thought the AC was on in the theater because I felt a breeze. As it turns out the breeze was coming from all of the sucking from the screen. There is not enough red in the world to express how bad this movie was. I am a fan of at least two of the performers, so I thought if nothing else, I could see past all of the poor aspects of this film and focus on them. No, I couldn’t. I ended up feeling sorry for them and wondering what tragic series of events resulted in them performing in this movie. Perhaps they lost a bet. I typically try and say something good about a movie even if I did not like it. So, let me think. Hum. Oh, I have one; I never have to see this movie again.

The story takes place in a fantasy world where there are two princes: Fabious (James Franco), the classic hero-type and Thadeous (Danny McBride), his lazy, stoner brother are forced to quest together when Fabious’s bride, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), is kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). On their journey they get some help from a fellow hero named Isabel (Natalie Portman). They stumble and bumble from one profane joke to the next without really doing anything. This film is one long string of vulgar jokes that focus on drugs, sex and other sophomoric hijinks.

This movie fails because of a poor concept. It all starts with the script, or stopped in this case. The ones to blame are Danny McBride and Ben Best. When writing crude humor it needs two parts, not just vulgarity but also cleverness. Giggling at your own fart jokes is not entertainment. The Director, David Gordon Green, has done some good stuff in All the Real Girls and George Washington. He has even worked with the stoner genre in Pineapple Express so it’s not like he is unfamiliar with this kind of subject matter, the only thing I can think of is that it’s the script. You can see from a production stand point where the cast and crew were really trying to make this work. The cast is giving it their all, but it’s hard to offset the complete lack of substance in the script.

I can see how this project got funding, if you add up the elements separately you might have a good product here. Some real named talent for the cast, a great crew in Tim Orr cinematographer, Craig Alpert for editing and Gary Freeman for art direction. So far so good we have a good crew and cast and having Gordon at the helm, looking good. Um, did anyone stop and read the script before setting off with the prize winning ensemble? I am guessing no.

I was only brought to this movie for Portman and Deschanel. I have liked their work in the past and looked forward to seeing what they do with this challenge. I ended up feeling bad for them. It was like watching someone tell a really bad joke and they are completely oblivious as to the depth of the embarrassment at its failure. They really had nothing to do in the film, each of them were nothing more than decoration for all they were given to do. What a shame. It’s like having a high performance sports car and never driving it, just park it and look at it.

I wonder sometimes as people are making movies do they see the train wreck they are on or are departments so compartmentalized that they don’t see the work adding up to failure? Or is it something that they can see but have no way of turning away from the enviable crash, so with no other option, they sell it for all they are worth. If you are going to Suck, SUCK BIG!!

This reviews question is around what your thoughts are on why this film failed? OR did you really like it? My apologies if you were unfortunate enough to have watched it. After we have talked about it let’s turn our back on this bad experience and never speak of it again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I now post to IMDB

See my review here IMDB ok, ok I know.. its a link back to here but I can now be found there as well as here, but I like you reading me here. I just like you reading me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Source Code

Source Code – 93 Min – PG-13

This movie is a modern thriller with the feel and tempo of a Hitchcock film. From the opening credits the sound track had a North by Northwest rhythm that had me excited to see this film. It starts off at a great pace and does not slow down until the end. It blended the tension with plenty of humors relief points and mixed in quiet a few emotional moments to give the viewer a full emotional journey in 93 minutes. Seeing this movie makes me believe in the magic of movies again. I get worn down with the canned and formulaic rehash of movies that a wonderful film like this is just want I need to build up my faith in the industry. Definitely take some time and see this movie.

The movie takes place on an eight minute loop right before an explosion on a train. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is sent back to eight minutes before the bomb goes off to see if he can find who set it. Stevens is a military pilot in a new program that lets him go back in time to live the life of someone else, he takes over Sean Fentress’s body as he was on the train when it blew up. In these short jumps back he has to find out who set the bomb and take this information to the future to prevent another explosion. There are hundreds of people on the train and he only has a small window to find who did it. With the help of Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) as his contact on the outside of his pod, he works to find a solution fighting two deadlines, the eight minutes he has in each jump and the ever passing of time outside the pod before the second explosion goes off.

The cast and crew did a stupendous job of building the right amount of tension and fun in this film. Some of the other members of the crew did a marvelous job of bringing this story to life. Michelle Monaghan and Jeffry Wright performed well and I appreciate the nod to the Quantum Leap-esque story line by having Scott Bakula play Colter’s father. Well done. The crew was led by Duncan Jones and as his third directorial project he shows great potential. I look forward to seeing more films from him. The story is from Ben Ripley another relatively new comer with only four projects under his belt. I really liked how Ripley did not cop out to stereotypes or pander to the fear mongers. It’s a fresh and exciting story. Jones and Ripley need to work together again they make beautiful movies together. Don Burgess was the Cinematographer and he has a great eye for setting the viewer right in the middle of the action. It’s sometimes hard to shoot a film on one set and make it as visually dynamic as he did. I think this crew and cast worked so well together they need to make another film.

One hallmark of a good movie is how much discussion it generates. There was a lot of rich conversation about this movie and the ramifications of what this technology would mean and how it fits into real quantum theory. We talked about what we thought the science probabilities were and the ethics of them. I recommend a good talk over pie at the end of a good movie, it makes the experience that much better.

Man! I truly enjoyed this movie. It was a beautiful gem that was a complete story and was well told. As much as I liked it I really hope they end this with just one perfect story. It’s fine as a one move event that needs not be explored or exploited with sequel after sequel.

This review’s question is going to have you watch the movie to answer this one. Please let me know what you truly think? What do you think happened to Sean Fentress? Please be as detailed in your response as you can. That was one question we could not answer after the movie, what do you think?


Insidious - 103m – PG-13

This movie relies on the subtle jump-out-and-scare-you style of horror film. There are many times when I saw the set-up to scare me. I knew they were coming and I still was taken aback by how well it was performed. They made me jump even when I was expecting it, which was very cool. The down side is that the thrill only lasted so long because of some poor choices in design and the movie lost me. This started as a suspense horror film and then kind of came off as a campy 1950 style horror matinée flick about halfway through. It only gets a yellow light form me.

We start off like many haunted house stories. Father Josh (Patrick Wilson), Mother Renai (Rose Byrne), two boys, Dalton and Foster (Ty Simpkins and Andrew Astor) and baby sister (who I can’t get a credit for) move into a creepy new house with moving things and strange noises. The family, unlike most horror movie families, decided to move out. In the new house all is well. Or is it? As it turns out it’s one of the boys who is haunted. We bring in some experts and fight back the evil surrounding the boy. Barbra Hershey plays Josh’s mother and she brings in her friend Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) a psychic who works with two ghost hunters Specs (Leigh Whannell) who is the films writer, and Tucker (Angus Sampson). The ghost hunters are really there to relieve tension in the movie. Unfortunately the main bad guy does just fine all on his own.

They did a good job of capturing the look and feel of some of the classic Vincent Price era hair-raising suspenseful horror films but I think it was a poor choice to have the demon look so much like another bad guy from the Lucas franchise. You know the one. Cough... cough DARTH MAUL cough, excuse me. Up until they showed the bad guy I was fine with the movie. There should have been someone from the art department there to stop that unfortunate mistake.

The film was directed by James Wan of Saw fame and this is a good example of him expanding away from the slash and splash horror film. I think with some more work he can expand onto more levels of horror. Aside from that “DM” bit it was a good film and well made. Leigh Whannell wrote this and is also a part of the Saw team. It’s good to see them experimenting with different flavor of horror.

The biggest problem with films in this genre is the misunderstanding that horror has to be in your face and explosive. Loud does not equal scary. It takes a master to make the film build slowly and let the viewer scare themselves. If you have brought the viewer along correctly all you have to do to scare them is something very small on screen. It’s those moments I savor in a horror film. An excellent example was in Independence Day. The shot where the camera focuses on the eye of the creature and all it does is open. Everyone in the audience jumped at that small action. It was fun on my second viewing to watch the reaction to it. Try this, if you have seen the horror movie already and know a scary part is coming up, turn and watch the audience jump in unison.

For this review I ask you what is one scene that scared you the most in a movie, I mean the most mind bending reality cracking scariest moments. One that stands out in my mind is from Signs when Mel Gibson is walking through the corn fields and with his flashlight we see a green leg step back into the corn. That freaked me out. What is your scariest memory in a film?