Monday, December 31, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 169min - PG-13

I went to see this movie on Monday of last week and I just got out of the theater to write this review. It’s that long. Let's be clear on my feelings for this movie. I truly enjoyed the incredibly long, long ride. It takes liberties with the story much like the last films, but I enjoyed them. There were a few parts I didn’t care for but I am going to talk about them in the spoiler section. For its length and its use of a higher frames per second incorporated with the 3D presentation I say it is a win. This movie gets a green light from me. Yes it’s a long film, yes Peter Jackson is very proud of the sweeping landscapes of New Zealand, AND yes he is a good storyteller.

This movie starts off right at the morning of Bilbo Baggins's eleventy-first birthday party. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is working on his story and Frodo (Elijah Wood) is still young and unaware of the massive quest that awaits him. Bilbo reflects on all of the history surrounding his journey. This story is told in correct order instead of the information we gather along the way we see the historical events before Bilbo’s journey even begins. I usually go into a breakdown of the film and only talk about the highlight that on might see in the trailer. This time there is so much other stuff that I can’t spend the time talking about it. A good way to explain it is with this example from the book. When Bilbo and the dwarves meet back up after they are separated by the Goblin ambush, Bilbo says he burgled his way out, the dwarves say they had to fight their way out. We see both sides of the story and that’s what takes up a lot of time. When Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is off doing Wizardly things we see what he is doing

Andy Serkis brings Gollum back to life and does a wonderful job with his vocal and physical acting is outstanding. I know they put him in a suit and his actions are what we see with the Gollum body. We see him a lot more menacing this time around. He is still broken into two parts, but the evil part of him is far more powerful and extremely creepy. However the scene where Bilbo spares him is a very well done scene.

The company of Dwarves is great casting. All of them seem to be perfect fits. The one that stands out has to be Thorin (Richard Armitage). He does a good job of balancing the stubbornness with the wisdom of a kingdomless prince. He does have a kingly air about him. The other honorable mentions are Balin (Ken Scott), Fili (Dean O’gorman) and Kili (Aidan Turner). The rest of the dwarves kind of blend together. I felt like Gandalf trying to keep track of them in a fight or while they moved or any time they were together really.

Peter Jackson made a few changes to the format of 3D and using 48 Frames per second. This gave the movie a more lifelike feel. In some of the better crafted scenes this was great it was like watching a play, but the down side was that at times it was very apparent that this was a mixture of CGI and real life. When the screen is more lifelike it’s harder to blend the two and it was a bit distracting at times.

With the additional elements in the story they broke the arch off at a great point. I think this is set itself apart for the previous versions of the Hobbit; Peter Jackson makes the story his own. I weighed the length against the quality and say it’s a good trade off and look forward to the other installments.

Warring Spoilers!!!! You have to have signed the dwarves contract to see them!!!!!

Ok, I have a problem with Radagast (Sylvester McCoy). He was a very long walk for at least this point in the story, very little payoff. I know he is the one who warns us of the evil that is rising but he was incredibly distracting, I could not take my eyes off the cackling of bird crap that was on his face. Every scene he was in I could not pay attention to what was going because of the facial decoration.

There is a lot of walking in this movie, at every turn the dwarves and hobbit are running there stubby legs across the New Zealand country side. Don’t get me wrong it’s beautiful countryside but there could have been some cuts made there. The journey does not take Gandalf as long actually he is taller…I mean a wizard, he moves magically.

Azog (Manu Bennett) the albino orc is a bit of a stretch to include in this picture. I can see where you would add him but not as a requirement for this film. It was again something that could have been removed and not harmed the story any.

My parting thought is what do you think the motivation for breaking it into three films was? Money grab? Overly long story telling? Or has Peter Jackson become so powerful that no one tells him no

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol – 120min - NA

I did not take in a movie this weekend because I went to this thing called a “PLAY”. See before there were movies people would put on a movie… err play, and it would be just like a movie only in really high definition. The down side of this medium is that it only happens in real time and only in small increments. So you will not be able to see the wonderful event that was presented in the town of Greely, Colorado by The Stampede Troup. I am going to make this the first installment of a different kind of review. I was so moved by the excellent performance that I thought I would expand into live productions on this blog. Besides, it was what was showing next. I give the cast and crew a green light for their presentation of this holiday classic.

In case you have no idea what this story is about I will do a quick recap. It’s Christmas and the main character is Ebenezer Scrooge (Noel Johnson) is a money lender; a cold hearted miser who has absolutely no joy in his life. His long dead partner, Marley (Andrew Sands), speaks from beyond the grave and warns him that he has squandered his life away and his afterlife is going to really suck. Marley tells him he will be visited by three sprits to show him the error of his ways. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Sami Harter), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Scot Ganon), and the Ghost of Christmas Future (Mike Shackley) each shows Scrooge how he has lost his way morally. Scrooge sees the error of his ways and mends his life and vows to keep the Christmas spirit in his heart all the year long.

The Smoke machine effects and door knocker transformation scene was good but they were secondary to the outstanding performances and dedication to the story. The settings and scene composition would rival any big screen production. An excellent example of this would be the scene in which Scrooge is brought to his old school and we see a lone students desk and a very young Ebenezer (Josef Dunn) looking forlornly at it. All he does is stand there and look at the desk but the way they blocked the scene blended the past and the present so well that the silent young Ebenezer provides an unspoken explanation of how this man has grown so dower and cold hearted.

Another outstanding scene is later in Ebenezer’s life he is in his yearly twenties (Zane Garcia). He is breaking up with the love of his life, Belle (Bailey Sande). She has come to the realization that money and success rule Ebenezer’s heart and he has no place for her. It is heart-breaking to see and Sande performs it with sorrow and hopelessness. She still loves him, but she also knows he will never love her as much as he loves success. Garcia also played Fred, Ebenezer’s nephew, who truly loves his uncle and really feels sorry for his situation. He tries to reach his uncle every year and does it with true charity in his heart.

You could tell that the cast had a love for this story and it was brought to life in the hearts of the performers and laid bare for the audience to experience. The Director (Diane Cays) obviously created an environment where the performers felt free to own the roles they performed. I have seen this show before and am well aware of its themes but I have to say that this production opened my eyes to a number of elements that in previous viewing seemed to escape me. It could be that I have seen it over and over again, but I think this cast has breathed a new life into the story that other renditions seemed to have glossed over.

I really wish everyone could see this play, it was exceptional. I would strongly suggest that everyone look into local theater companies and give them a chance where ever you are. I know it is odd for a movie critic to suggest you go see something other than a movie, but there are some wonderful and magical events happing all the time right there at your fingertips. They are not the big budget productions but the actors and crew who put them on play it as if it were. You are really missing out on a shared experience with the performers if you never go and see a play.

Look in your local paper and stop by a show for a change. If you are in Denver you can look at the Denver Post Theater Page for local performances.

My last question is going to be, what have you got to lose by going to a play, the movies will always be on Blu-Ray or On Demand. Plays are unique one-time events that you get to share. Why not go see one this month?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Life of Pi

Life of PI – 127min – PG

I read this book and was enthralled with how good the story was. When I heard it was going to be a movie I was relieved it was going to be directed by Ang Lee. I love his cinematic eye and his story telling. (I didn't care for his version of the Hulk but that’s a review for another time.) I made it a point to see this movie because I enjoyed the book. Because of the stunning visuals there are parts of the story that drag but I still give it a green light as it’s an excellent survival story.

Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) and his family own a zoo in India and while transferring all of the animals over to North America the ship sinks. Pi makes it to a life raft and so do some of the animals. He is now alone on a boat with a zebra, orangutan, and a hyena. There is also another survivor, Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. The story explains Pi’s method of survival for not only his existence but his faith as well. The story is recounted to us by Pi as an adult (Irrfan Khan) while he entertains a writer (Rafe Spall) who is looking for a new story to write.

This is a very religious film without focusing on religion. Maybe the better description would be spiritual film. The central topic of the film is faith and having that faith tested. It’s nice to see a movie on this subject and not be a sermon. I am having a hard time recalling another movie like this that does not overpower the entertainment with a thump of the message from the pulpit.

Many films have a hard time balancing between message and entertainment. Some have been made by one organization or another and you their message of recruitment or degradation of thither beliefs is very thinly veiled. Or, these films are so watered down that they lose their way in trying to be palatable to more than just their own demographic.

Ang Lee does a wonderful job of making the movie seem mystical -- in part to give the viewer some of sense of PI struggling to hold onto sanity. It gives the viewer a new set of eyes to see reality. A man completely removed from everything finds comfort in the simplest things, like a small bit of shade. Pi struggles with the environment and his own mental well-being by keeping busy. The tiger is his way of staying focused on tasks instead of hopelessness.

I love how Yann Martel interwove three religions into one character, in this way people are more likely to identify with the main character. It embodies the essence of a person with faith dealing with very troubling times.

Warring Spoilers!!!! No more than 30 people can safely click on this to see them!!!!

The story takes place in three parts. Part one: set the stage. Explain all of the characters and where they come from. Part two: explain the events of what happened from two points of view. Part three: give the viewer ample opportunity to think about what happened and what they would do in similar circumstances. I would have loved to have a conversation about what other people thought of the movie. This seems like one that would spark a lot of conversation because each viewer can take away something completely different.

I like how Pi’s father is a logical, driven man. He sees no use in religion and finds it a waste of time, but he tries to get his son to believe in something instead of believing in everything. Faith can be a defense mechanism in times of great peril. A person with faith can weather hardship. I think it’s important to note that PI was a very intelligent person who had faith as opposed to a person who only has faith and nothing else. It was Pi’s intelligence and faith that allowed him to survive.

The duality of the stories that Pi told is the main focus for me. The struggle with the tiger is reminiscent of the struggle within us. We have to keep our inner beast under control. I can see the primal urge to panic is an ever constant struggle in that environment.

Obviously Pi has never seen a tiger mark his territory before, Ick. I saw that coming. At least his mouth was closed.

WWPD what would PI do? Or more to the point what would you do in his shoes…err boat?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph - 101min – PG
It’s very good to get back, I have another two weeks of classes but I couldn’t wait any longer. I am BACK BABY!!!!

I went to go see Wreck-It Ralph. Having spent most of my young life in either a movie theater or an arcade how could I pass this movie up? This movie spoke to me on a several levels and I do give it a green, but it was defiantly on the cusp of a yellow and a green. This is a kid focused film and it had some elements for adults but I noticed the balance was off from other family films. The message was delivered with a heavy hand and the story elements directed toward the adults were few and far between. I did notice the length of the film so it did not keep my attention.

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is a bad guy in a video game called Fix-it Felix Jr. the other characters from this game alienate him. In order to prove that he is more than just a bad guy he jumps games and tries to prove that he is more than his label of “bad guy”. Felix (Jack McBrayer), the hero of the game, goes in search of his gamemate because without the wrecking guy the game is in danger of being turned off for good. Ralph tries his hand at some of the other video games and meets Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) from a first person shooter named Hero’s Duty and a glitch racer named Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) from the racing game called Sugar Rush. While helping others, Ralph learns that he is not defined by the job that he does. A bad guy is what he does its not who he is.

I was under the misconception this was a Pixar film. It’s not. It is a Disney Animation Studio Film. The technical quality of story is high, but the balance for family members was slanted more to the kids than everyone. The one thing I can count on from a Pixar film is the focus on a great story that everyone can enjoy. I did enjoyed myself but I was defiantly not the target audience. I had a blast with the nostalgic game of spot your favorite arcade game characters, but it did not go on long enough to carry me through the movie. I enjoyed “Paperman” the cartoon Short at the beginning of the film more than the main movie.

Rich Moore directed this film and he is no stranger to the animation genre. His credits have Simpsons and Futurama among others that cater to the more mature viewer. In his attempt to swing more to the middle of the spectrum he overshot just a tad. This also may have been pressures from the studio to keep it cleaner and family friendly than what he is used to. I would say this is a great time for kids and an ok time for adults.

WARNING!!! Spoiler Alert!!! Only people with a high score click here to see the spoilers!!!!

Alan Tudyk does a great job as King Candy/Turbo Bug monster. He has such a great range with his voice and his characterizations that I had no idea it was him until I looked him up. He completely snuck up on me.

I thought the love interest was a bit much to add into the film. It added length but not really substance to the film. It really should have stayed focused on Ralph and his journey, and having Felix and Calhuon start a relationship did nothing to further the story along.

One nit-picky thing, this movie was set in an arcade, and you had arcade game bad guys at the meeting, why was Mario’s nemesis Bowser at that meeting? If all games communicate through the power system of the Arcade why would a console game character be there?(Ok shutting up now.)

*Update* My corrections department (my wife) has indicated that Vs Mario Brothers was an arcade game that featured Bowser as the boss bad guy. Ok!!! picky –nit retracted!!!

What was your favorite Arcade game growing up and did you see it in the movie?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rise of the Guardians - Guest Review

Rise of the Guardians - 97min - PG
by C. L. Cadwallader

This is not a movie I was looking forward to. I had never heard of the books on which it was based, and I had seen only one short trailer. I get nervous when the celebrity voices of an animated kids movie are touted as the primary draw. If I want to see Chris Pine or Hugh Jackman, I'll go see Star Trek or Real Steel. In an animated movie, I want to see the right voice for the part - not big names. But, we needed some good family entertainment, and had already seen Wreck It Ralph, so Guardians was the choice.

It was a good choice. Rise of the Guardians delivers on all fronts. It's one of those rare films that pleased the whole family - from the 10-year-old to the parents and even the sullen teenager who hates everything. I'm giving this one a big green light for all ages.

The movie opens with narration from Jack Frost (Chris Pine). He is remembering how The Man in the Moon chose him as a winter spirit - but he doesn't know why. He has no purpose in life. He spends his time creating snow days for children and playing winter games in a world that doesn't believe he exists. Cut to North, aka Santa Claus (Alec Baldin). While prepping for the next Christmas, he receives a visitation from Pitch (Jude Law) - the spirit of nightmares who was thought defeated hundreds of years ago. North gathers the other Guardians together - Sandman (a mute who communicated with magical sand images), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman). The Man in the Moon informs them they will need to add a new Guardian to their number in order to defeat Pitch - none other than young Jack Frost. What follows is an exciting and heart-warming adventure that touches on the nature of childhood, belief and heroism while not ever descending into the realm of the "After School Special" to deliver its message.

I found this movie to be thoroughly entertaining. It has inspired me to get the Guardians of Childhood books by William Joyce for my own 10-year-old son. (Honestly. They're for the kid. Stop looking at me like that.)

Parents should be aware that for very young children, Pitch might be a bit too scary. I wouldn't say he's any more frightening than Scar in The Lion King or Sid's toys in Toy Story. If your child is old enough to handle that level of darkness, they should be OK in Guardians.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Skyfall - Guest Review

Skyfall - 143min - PG13
C. L. Cadwallader

I love James Bond movies. I watched "For Your Eyes Only" at least a dozen times on HBO when I was a kid. It hooked me on Bond and I've stayed hooked. I am not ashamed to say that I can find something to like about every single Bond movie from "Dr. No" forward. I like Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Brosnan. I even like Timothy Dalton.

Above all these movies and actors that I have enjoyed, Daniel Craig's performance as Bond in 2006's "Casino Royale" ranks #1 in my book. "Skyfall" is Craig's third turn at Bond, and he continues his portrayal of a harder, more visceral secret agent for the 21st Century -- more reliant on basic bullets and brains than snazzy devices from Q and witty repartee. Here we see a Bond who is far from invulnerable. He's suave and tough of course he rocks a tuxedo like no one else, but if you cut him, he bleeds. "Skyfall" goes out of its way to show us Bond as a person -- someone with a past who exists in a dangerously real world. I give it a green light as an exciting and entertaining continuation of a series I hope to continue seeing for decades to come.

In the traditional Bond cold-open "Skyfall" shows us Bond and his young female protégé chasing a lost computer hard drive through Istanbul. The chase ends when Bond is shot and presumed killed by friendly fire. Bond returns to action when an attack takes out MI-6 headquarters. His quest to find those responsible leads him to Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI-6 agent with a serious axe to grind against M (Judi Dench). In the meantime, M has problems of her own, in the form of MP Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) who thinks she no longer has what it takes to run a 21st Century intelligence operation.

Every performance in this movie is top-shelf. Daniel Craig is as smooth and tough as ever. Judi Dench is terrific as a woman born to be tough, but with just the right touch of sentiment and humor. Javier Bardem is creepy, brilliant and diabolical like the Bond villains of old. And how can you go wrong with actors like Ralph Feinnes and Albert Finney supporting roles?

If there was one thing to criticize about this movie, it would be the 143 minute running time. The third act drags on a bit while we set up for the inevitable final confrontation. Once we got to that fight though, I forgot about checking my watch (and breathing at times) and went along for an action-packed ride worthy of any Bond film.

Long live Bond. When is 24 coming out?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Looper - Guest Review

Looper - 118m - R
by C. L. Cadwallader

Several months ago, I saw a teaser trailer for an upcoming Science Fiction film. It looked like a low-budget film from a writer/director I had never heard of, a young actor I was only mildly familiar with, and maybe an appearance by Bruce Willis. I thought it looked like an interesting concept, but I kind of forgot about it after seeing the first teaser trailer.

The movie was, of course, "Looper." The young actor was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who I look forward to seeing more of, and the appearance by Bruce Willis was an action-packed co-starring role. "Looper" is a rare breed: a thought-provoking action movie with a tight script, great acting and white-knuckle tension that you will be talking about for days afterward. On the Fat Samurai scale, this one gets an enthusiastic green light.

The movie takes place in the near future. The society in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Joe has grown up is a sad, dangerous, dirty place. He is a man without a future, but he doesn't care. The future is tomorrow. Today, he is one of a group of highly paid assassins called Loopers. They are paid by the mafia lords of the future to kill people sent back in time from thirty years in the future. They murder hooded victims by day and party all night. The name Looper comes from their final task, their big payday – they kill their own future selves, "close the loop" and retire. When it comes Joe's turn to close his loop, things do not go smoothly. Old Joe, in the form of Bruce Willis, escapes and things get complicated.

Another director might have used old person make-up and cast Gordon-Levitt in a dual role, or CGI and tried to use Willis for both parts, but either of those would have been obviously fake (see "Tron Legacy" or anything where they try to make a young person look old.). Having two actors playing the role might have been a risk, but it works fantastically in this movie. Gordon-Levitt had the help of contact lenses and some prosthetic make-up to look a bit like a young Bruce Willis, but what really sold it were his mannerisms. He has obviously studied Willis. He moves like him, and even smirks like him when being lectured by his boss (Jeff Daniels).

My advice to viewers is not to analyze the time travel premise too closely before the end of the movie. It needs no more analysis than the premise that the best plan a race of intelligent machines can come up with is to send an assassin back in time to kill the rebel leader's mother – for four movies. Just accept it as fact and watch the movie from there. It's not the time travel that makes the film. It's the characters and the richly drawn but thoroughly disturbing world they inhabit that make the move everything it is. "Looper" is one of those films you should just watch and enjoy. Then go back to the beginning and do it again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


It is with great sadness that I have to say we are going to put “What is showing next on Hiatus” I have started back to school and with all of the commitments of life work and such I am unable to spend any more time on this blog. As the great Arnold said “I’ll be back”. I will return once we have some time to free up to go back to the movies.

I will still be blogging about movies on my other blog Movies IMHO. I will continue to go through the list of movies that every movie lover should see. This is one of the only lists that Roger Ebert has created and said needed to be seen to talk about movies with an educated understanding of the medium. I am going to continue to write the Movies 101 articles so I will still keep in touch via that outlet.

My focus of study is news journalism with a minor in cinema. So I am working toward fulfilling my goals of becoming a movie review critic.

I will still keep a presence in Facebook and twitter and look forward to continue to talk movies with you on line.

-Jon Rutledge
Fat Samurai Reviews

Friday, August 24, 2012


Pixelschatten – 85min – N/A

I started this blog to write about movies that surprise me. What Is Showing Next is dedicated to the simple act of just seeing a movie. No matter if it’s good or bad, having an experience that gives you something to think about is the point. You can get enjoyment from reflection on how much you enjoyed it and to bag on how bad a film was. With this gamble you see a lot of bad movies; Pixlschatten is one of those rare occurrences where you get to see this art form in its purest and most beautiful sense. This movie takes a slice out of a person’s life and we see a pivotal moment where a choice changes everything. We see the ramifications of those choices and enjoy the journey. This is a green light film.

Pixel (Ben Gageik) is young blogger in a small town and his blog was well known as the go-to spot for all the information on the cool crowd and what parties are happening. His circle of friends move on with their lives. His roommate Lutz (Adrian Thomser) is tired of the teasing he gets, his Girlfriend Suse (Zora Klostermann) is upset at all of the personal details that get published to the blog. Pixel sees life advancing for everyone except him. So he posts something that changes their lives forever.

The cast brings to life the charters with honesty and genuine feeling. They seem very comfortable in their roles and are completely engaging. The story is told from Pixel’s point of view in a Citizen Cane-esque format that puts us into the story. We see the blog posts happen without having to read them so this gives us a better feeling or what the blog posts are about. We are included in the events so we know what has transpired.

The other element to the story is the chorus of people in the comments section that bring their perception of the events. They have a good feeling of how comments sections are full of people who contribute to the topic and some are distracters. The mix of live action and the overlay of comments capture the experience of online communication.

Anil Jacob Kunnel Wrote and directed this film the idea was inspired when a local contest hosted by the German equivalent of PBS known as the ZDF asked for story submissions. The station hosed a contest where people voted online for the stories they liked most and the winner received funding for the production.

I think that big studio productions can learn something from this independent film. The true value of a movie is in the richness of the story, and well developed characters. Way too many movies are now all bout the eye candy and not about anything worthwhile. I don’t know who said it first but “a simple story well told” is personified in this film.

Warning Spoilers!!!!! Schauen Sie weg, wenn Sie nicht wollen, Spoilers zu sehen!!!

Caro’s(Caroline Suren) obsession with Pixel borders on the creepy. Her segregation from the group toward the end I viewed as her friends trying to hide the secret that Pixel was gone and shield her from the problem of how they carried on in his absence.

Pixel’s courage to break away from his life is astounding, but it does make me wonder what he is doing with his life. I know that he is not the focus of the film but what the blog’s effect on his friends was the main point. But you spend time with the character it does make one at least think about how he is doing.

I say this on YouTube with the CC turned on. The comment section of the films was so quick at times it was hard to read, I would like to see this dubbed in English. I think it would play well.

If you had someone else paying for the production of a movie what story would you like to tell the world?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne Legacy – 135min – PG-13

If you were a fan of the previous films, don’t get sucked into watching it because it has the same name. I was expecting an action, adventure spy thriller and what I got was spy movie that was very slow paced, and had long stretches of exposition and set up. It felt like the writer/director (Tony Gilroy) was setting this up to be an origin story to base another three films on. With out of sync pacing and a story that seemed disjointed and out of place for the established universe, I felt lost at times and begin to wonder why I even care about the characters on the screen. This movie does nothing for the franchise and could have been skipped. This is a red light film.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is on a training mission in the wilds of Alaska, he doing training maneuvers so he is trying to complete and is fighting the wildlife and weather to accomplish it. The Agency is working to erase the Bourne project and everyone connect to it before a possible leak occurs. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) is a troubleshooter in charge of cleaning out this operation and preventing a scandal. Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weiss) is working on the drugs that were used to give the Bourne agents their super powers. Ok, there are no super powers but it does enhance them to higher than normal human reaction and thought. I am glossing over a lot of story here but it’s really hard to put so many story fractions into one short synopsis.

The story does incorporate some elements from the third movie. It’s hard to follow at times but from some of the people I have talked to even if you did see the third one, the connections are so faint that it almost doesn’t make any difference in clearing up the convoluted story line.

I have no issues with any of the performances. It really was the writer's fault for not giving them a better story to work with. Edward Norton was brilliant as a broody guy who scowls in a control room. Rachel Weisz gives a great performance of a brilliant woman under the stress of being taken out of her element, and Jeremy Renner is now my favorite action star. This movie was like a short sample of his prowess in this kind of film. He did a good job in Mission Impossible 4 but he really shines as the main character.

Tony Gilroy has lots of checks in the win column. He has a well proven track record as a story teller, his work on the previous Bourne movies to his work on Armageddon and Michael Clayton really highlight his skill. This is one that I think is a failed attempt to develop more of the universe from the previous films. The best description I have to explain what this movie feels like is developing Cross as a new player in this universe. It feels like they went out of their way to tell a lot of back story so the next one can kick right off into action. I just hope that he has not lost his audience in this gamble.

To indicate how slow this film is, I was at one point noticing that people were yawing during the film. I started counting as they became more entertaining than the movie. There were 25 yawns from about half way through the first half of this movie. I started to write my review in my notebook before the film was over, I was completely ungripped.

Spoiler Warring!!! No yawning beyond this point!!!!!!!!!!

Cross made a big show of hiding his meds and then going to the other agent saying he was out of meds. I have had long conversations on why he did this; some people say that it was a ploy to put himself into a position of submission with the person he was in contact with. You want the audience to talk about your movie but you don’t want them to spend all of the great talk time sorting out what your characters motivations are.

The other issue is that Cross and his pursuer, Byer never meet, and the impact of the message of "No more" on the mirror lost something when the main bad guy gets the message through a camera. I as a viewer wanted to have them meet, and they never did.

All of the action scenes were in the trailer and I think that was what lead me to believe this was an action film. Not so much really it’s just one long set up for a possible trilogy. When are they going to invest in a tripod for these films? Does every shot need to be on a not so steady cam? Even the meeting rooms where everyone is sitting down?

Movies seem to be made as one-shot gamble, rarely do they plan a story arc that spans over two or three movies. Do you think they should change that and really designate films as onetime stories or moves that you know are going to be done over several films?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Campaign

The Campaign – 85min – R

What better time to have a movie about a political race than right now? Unfortunately people are so tired of the political back and forth that seeing a move that lampoons this real life event just does not get enough steam. Sure, there are some truly funny parts but the overall tone of the movie is so over the top and contrived that it loses something in its delivery. This movie barely gets yellow light vote from me. It needs to have a recall election of the story and just focus on the things that make it funny.

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is a senator and has been for a while because he runs unopposed. His campaign manager, Mitch (Jason Sudeikis), has an easy time every election year -- just keep Cam out of trouble. Two evil CEOs known as “The Motch Brothers,” Glenn and Wade (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) , see an opportunity to bring their sweat shop from overseas and place it in Cam’s district to save shipping cost. They set up a gullible Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to run against him. The Motch brothers hope to put a puppet in power to give them access to DC regulators. They hire Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) to run Marty’s campaign. The race is on and no trick is too dirty.

My biggest problem with this movie is that there are no likeable main characters. The only one that I like is Mitch and he is only a side character. Cam is a dirt bag and embraces it. Marty is way over the top in his oddities and I found him annoying. The Motch brothers are slimy and completely despicable. I know this is a comedy that thrives on being overly absurd in its lampooning of the political process but there was no one to feel for.

Jay Roach is an interesting case study, his comedies are good the first go around, his stories get diminishing returns the more sequels that he does. Austin Powers was good, but the sequels were more of the same and did not grow the story any. Meet the parents is another example of how a great first movie does well and the second one was less impressive and lets not talk about the third one. This time his first go at this story was lacking more in the writing than the execution of the film.

I have to say that a little part of my soul dies every time I laugh at the baby getting punched. I just can’t help myself. it was a very funny bit and an excellent call back to that same baby with a shiner toward the end of the movie. They also did a very sloppy job of editing the film. There were continuity errors in many scenes. It was a mess of shots kind of thrown together. For instance they had a character with their hand up waving in the close up and then the long shot their hands down. The dialog indicated that no time had passed. Sloppy

Warring Spoilers!!!!!!! Only members of the election staff are allowed past this link. !!!!!!

Even in a comedy, the plans of the bad guys need to make sense. The Motch brothers are completely absurd in their plan. They seem to forget that they really only have to apply pressure on Cam and they can get what they want. If the came in and supported him from the start he would have been in their pocket and everything would have been fine.

Another note on the poor editing was the nipple slip scene. Guys, if you are going to have a partially bare nipple in the shot, realize it’s going to be the focus of the audience. In the first part of the scene it was barely showing, and then it would slip lower, then higher and lower with each edit. I was focused on it, err Distracted, I mean distracted by it, really the edits were that distracting, /Blush……/Whistle

Cam giving up his seat to Marty was completely out of character. He did not have enough time to develop a soul to actually truly warrant the selfless act. I would have him win, keep the seat and then take on the Marty honesty shtick and hire him on as the chief of staff. Motch brothers get screwed, people have a sappy feel-good ending and the characters stay true to their nature.

What is your favorite political move?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Total Recall

Total Recall – 118min – PG-13

If you were to take DNA samples from Blade Runner, I,Robot , Minority Report and the original Total Recall, splice them together with a dry political plot and give the filmmaker a lot of money you get today’s version of Total Recall. It felt like a studio gave a fan boy a big budget and he made a blockbuster level fan film. There are many flashy effects and action parts interspersed with long stretches of back story to carry you along. Now from a sci-fi action standpoint it does what it advertises, but overall it’s a yellow light.

The movie starts out with an injured Collin Farrell in a hospital trying to escape with a mysterious woman (Jessica Biel). SNAP he wakes up in bed. He is Douglas Quaid, a factory worker that has been having this reoccurring dream for a long time. He is married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale), an emergency responder. They live in a hovel of an apartment and barely scrape by. Life is getting Douglas down and he is having trouble sleeping because of the dreams so he goes to a place called ReKall to have some memories implanted to numb the pain of a bleak existence. It turns out he has already had his memory altered and his attempt at changing his memory triggers a police raid that kicks off a poorly paced action movie.

The differences from this and the original are primarily two main changes. First off, no Mars and no mutants, it all takes place on Earth. The world has gone through a war and the planet is completely unlivable except for two locations: Great Britian and Australia. The second is Lori Quaid is no longer shot in the head as she tries to convince Douglas to choose reality. She is a highly trained operative that chases Douglas throughout the movie. It's good to be married to the director.

Len Wiseman, who is famous for his Underworld franchise, directs this movie like a love letter to all the sci-fi movies that he has ever loved. He elbow pokes the viewers in the ribs with his heavy handed call backs to the original movie. I have a sore spot from where he hit me and giggled ”See that? See what I did there?”

The science in the movie is flawed and the political plot line is stale but the action is top notch. If you enjoy the genre and don’t look at the in-between parts, it does do well as an eye candy film. The hover cars and the robot chases are good. Bokeem Woodbine is way under-used as the factory worker buddy who warns Douglas off of Rekall. He has plenty of untapped potential and they missed out on giving him more to do in this film. He could have been much better than a Sharon Stone stand in.

Bill Nighy brings his “A” game like always but this time they only gave him a small part. John Cho also has a bit part, but owns what he has.

Spoiler warning!!! Only deep cover double agents that have been brain washed beyond this point!!!!

Ok, I am a fan of breasts and I have no problem with someone having three of them. I found no reason for them to throw in a three breasted prostitute in this film just because they had one in the other film. The reason she had three in the other film was because of the mutations. There were no mutants established in the story so there was no reason she was there. But she did look nice. I am not giving up my man card.

Having the main character start out in the “dream” laid down the groundwork that this was not real and the dream was reality. There was absolutely no doubt that the life he was living was a cover and his choices did not leave the viewer questioning anything he did. In the original you were left with a question of was it real or not?

Having a pipeline that connected Great Britian and Australia was way too much of a stretch for me. They started off with that gem of a hurdle to try and get past. Then having the humongous elevator to get from one side of the world to the other was just silly. Especially the scene where they shifted gravity. It looked cool, but I would have been pissed off if a person’s coffee mug or their car keys, or a book floated around and hit me in the head on my morning elevator ride. Seriously why are there objects floating around the cabin, are all these people new to this trip? Did no one hear the foreshadowing announcement that said gravity is going to shift?

What Philip K Dick story would you like to see on screen or do you think they should rehash Blade Runner next? 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Watch

The Watch – 101Min – R

I so wanted this movie to be good, it has some really talented actors in it but unfortunately it fell flat. I was hoping that a great alien comedy in the style of Shaun of the Dead was on its way and it turns out to be more of a long infomercial for Costco from the Sci Fi channel. The main problem was that the trailer takes all of the wind out of the funny parts of the movie. I appreciated some aspects of the movie but overall it’s not worth the time it takes to get to them. In hoping that this movie was at least a yellow light it disappointedly falls squarely into the Red light category. Too bad movies don’t have as flexible a return policy as Costco does, because they need their money back. No questions asked.

Evan (Ben Stiller) is a manager of the local Costco. He spends his time making sure that his life is full of activities because he incredibly involved with his community. One of his employees dies a gruesome death and he now makes it his personal mission to find the killer. He organizes a neighborhood watch and gets three other interested parties. Franklin (Jonah Hill) a police academy wash out, Bob (Vince Vaughn) a mostly single dad who has a kick-ass man cave and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) the token black guy in Evans personal goal of having one of every race as a friend.
They set about looking for the killer and uncover an alien plot to build a transmitter under the Costco and bring in an invasion force. The boys work together to stop the invasion and still work on personal issues in their lives.

The movie falls short on delivering one clear story. The characters are fighting the huge invasion and also distracted by their own lives. The time it takes to fully develop the secondary stories takes away from the main plot line and doesn’t give us any insight into the motivations of the characters, which I think is the only reason they were added.

Akiva Schaffer has made me laugh with his work on SNL and other projects but this one somehow seems to be lost in its own need to belabor the story with long stretches to get from one funny bit to another. The funny parts don’t string together in a way that tells a good story.

Richard Ayoade is one of the funnies actors I have seen in a long time, he has an excellent grasp of the straight man and his comedic timing is spot on. Vince Vaughn is doing what he does best being the loud guy that has no filter to check to see if he should be saying what he is saying. This time they added some personality to him as a caring father and it works really well. He is loud rude and a bull in the verbal china shop but it plays well.

Ben Stiller seems to be just walking through the parts and not focused, he lost his stride on the string of Focker movies and has not gotten it back yet. Jonah Hill does not do anything new, he has an edgy character but he only delivers the lines like he did on every other character he has played.

Spoiler Warrning !!!! Only humans beyond this link!!! Click here to see the spoilers!!!!

Evan is not a likable character, he is keeping from his wife that he is sterile. She is trying everything to make sure they have a baby and he keeps her in the dark. Bob is right that he needs to tell her but this subplot does nothing for the story other than paint Evan as a jerk.

 Bobs relationship with his daughter was great, dysfunctional but great. It worked for the character and made Bob’s brashness bearable because his heart was in the right place.

The guest appearance by the Lonely Island crew was funny and again they are obsessed with their dicks. I should have known that as the director of this movie, Akiva would have made the penis the weak point of the aliens. I have never been a fan of dick jokes, and if you are going to use them at least make them witty.

What do you want from a comedy? What movie have you wanted to be good and it turn out not to be.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises


I have seen the movie The Dark Knight Rises and planed on giving it my full attention in the review. With the events of last night at the film’s opening in Aurora Colorado, a suburb of Denver, I now need to explain what I have been seeing around this movie’s release.

Friday night at 12:39 a.m at the Century 16 in Aurora, Colorado a lone gunman entered a crowded theater through the emergency exit and launched an incendiary devise into the theater and then entered and begin callously shooting into the crowd. There were 12 fatalities and 59 people wounded.

At the time of this article was written we still don’t know the reasons behind the attack, we have a name of the suspect in custody but he is not worth mentioning. His actions have made a hole in the lives of so many people that the reasons for his motivations are unimportant.

This has moved many people to think about what is important today. Political parties put away their barbs, Warner Bother studios has pulled all of the ads for the film and canceled a red carpet event. There has been an overwhelming feeling of respect for those suffering today. Everyone is re-examines the thing in their lives and it causes people to think. I want to look at this entire event from start to finish.

The move is great. It is an excellent end to this trilogy that paved the way for hero films to have a realistic feel and gave us a new model of how these films should be seen. I hope gone are the days of campy action and cartoonish imagery. This is a movie that is best viewed on an IMAX screen. It was filmed with that intent and to fully appreciate its scope and sweeping images anything smaller would diminish the feel. I have some more technical notes on the film but they have to take second place to what is a larger issue here.

Many have been waiting for this movie for a while; the success of the previous films gave the fans something to look forward to. People anticipated that this movie would leap past any previous box office record. Primarily because of the fans who love the character this movie was based on. There are a number of fans who have devoted a lot of time and energy into their passion for this character.

On July 16, 2012 a long time movie reviewer Eric d. Snider posed on Rotten Tomatoes (RT) the following review of the film. “The dark Knight Rises is easily the most disappointing batman film so far- and I’m including Schumacher’s Batman & Robin in that statement.” This comment started a tirade of rude, hateful and truly evil remarks from the fan base. Most of them were focused on Eric and his audacity to not like this film. It is odd that they immediately admonished him for stating his opinion of a move they have not seen.

The tricky part was he had not seen the movie either. He posed that on RT to prove a point. His point was that people have used the anonymity of the comment section of that and other websites to spew any vile, discussing, hatful thing that pops into their head. Movie critics who give a negative review of any film are often subject to much of this abuse. The link to his full review gave a full explanation that he was only posted to make a point.

Another reviewer gave an authentic review that was not glowing but also not overly negative; it was well written and had some legitimate gripes about the film. The hate comments and abuse came rolling in. So many abusive comments were posited that RT had to shut down the comments section for that movie. RT’s editor in chief Matt Atchity posted this letter in explanation. The Dark Knight Rises -- This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

The next observation I have is the attempt by some in the mainstream media to use this movie to try and angle their own personal agendas and siphon off attention from this big block buster movie. Rush Limbaugh tried to imply a correlation to the villain in the movie to a company that a political candidate Mitt Romney was once affiliated with and insinuated that the Obama campaign was using this as a tactic. "The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date has been known, summer 2012, for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, what-ever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?"

He then went on to explain what he thinks of people who are fans of the batman franchise. "A lot of people are going to see the movie, and it's a lot of brain-dead people, entertaining the pop-culture crowd. And they're going to hear 'Bane' in the movie and they're going to associate 'Bain' and the thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, not Bain Capital, Romney and Bain that these people will think back to the bad man." Limbaugh later clarified his comments saying "I never said that the villain was created by the comic book character creator to be part of the 2012 campaign. I said that Democrats were going to use it, which they are." From the Telegraph

None of the examples I mentions above are the cause of one man’s horrific actions. No one is to blame for this incident other than the suspect. We need to never try and angle this tragedy to suit our own needs, or to further our own causes. This should never be used as example as to why this should be banned or that is what caused this. I never want to see this used as ammunition to prove that we all need to change our lives because of one man who is broken.

I think the biggest thing that saddens me is the fact that in a few weeks this will be a footnote in people’s minds and the news media will make this one other event to call back to if anything else happens like this anywhere else.

Once we have completed the due process of law, attended our wounds, paid homage to those who lost their lives, worked hard to put our lives back together we need to let this moment pass and be buried with those who tragically lost their lives. Don’t misunderstand me we will never forget, it will never be the same but we need to go on and continue to live.

My thoughts are with those who were directly affected by this tragedy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - 101min - R

When faced with the end of all human existence it’s hard to find humor. This movie did its best to find some form of funny in this bleak setting. There we some chuckles but overall I could not shake the dark overtones of “it all does not matter because we are all going to die.” It is very hard to get emotionally connected to people that are doomed to die. What’s the point? This is a red light story with a few yellow light scenes but it’s really not worth the journey. It’s all so depressing.

We open the movie with a news cast telling us that earth’s last hope has blown up and the 70 mile wide meteor is going to hit us and wipe out humanity. Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife Linda (Nancy Carell) are listening to the report in the car, when she hears the news there is no hope she bolts out of the car and runs off into the night. I should have taken this as a hint and done the same thing.

Dodge has no aspirations and no desires other than carry on with his mid-life crisis of not knowing what to do with his life and going to work every day. People all around him are taking one gigantic last fling and going out with a bang. He is still trying to find a meaningful connection. Is it honorable to be looking for love in a world that has gone mad and now indulges every little whim and throws common sense to the wind? I found him to be a wet blanket that has absolutely no direction.

He finds a connection with Penny (Keira Knightley) who is a free spirit who has broken up with her boyfriend (Adam Brody). Together they go and try and find Dodge’s ex-girlfriend and in return, he promises her that he can get her to an airplane that will take her to see her parents.

I was so looking forward to this movie. It had so much promise. It left me completely numb because of the magnitude of the catastrophe. It’s hard to make a connection to the people in the movie because I have no idea what I would do if I were in that same situation.

I found myself wondering what I would do if it were real, and that was a distraction from the movie. I had no connection to any of the characters on the screen. I saw nothing to represent what I would do. I would head off to the highest spot on the earth that I could get to and watch the final fireworks show.

Lorene Scafaria wrote and directed this film and one reason I was looking forward to it was because I loved her previous work (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist). I think she did herself a disservice by picking such a downer setting. Her characters interact well, and she has a gift for capturing very tender moments between them but I could not get myself motivated to care. Seriously, they are going to die in the next few minutes so why am I going to feel happy you found true love.

Spoiler warning!!! THEY ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! oops should have saved that for below the link!!!!

One of the truly phenomenally stupid things that Dodge does is to put Penny on the plane and let her go. There are more seats on the plane. He should have gone along with her. You love her and you’re going to die in a few hours why the hell are you not telling her? This was one of the truly frustrating things about this character. You absolutely have nothing to lose. Just get the most out of life for the last few weeks of your existence.

Martin Sheen plays Dodge’s father. He does a wonderful job. He makes a contact with his estranged father and they have a genuine connection and a resolution before they die. This was a great scene that I think fit nicely in this kind of film.

You only have two weeks to live before the world blows up, what do you do?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man – 136Min – PG-13

I have been anti reboot for a long time. Spider-man’s origin is well known and we don’t discover anything new. Even if the third movie should have never been made, they do not need to start fresh. However you should know that this was a really good film. It took some of the mistakes in the first films and started fresh with a more traditional storyline from the comic books. They modernize the story but kept the spirit of the elements true. They convinced me that a reboot was a good idea, and worth a green light.

I am not going to go into a full synopsis, here are the high points. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has a crush on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Her mentor, Doctor Connors (Rhys Ifans) is working with cross species genetics. Peter lives with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and his Aunt May (Sally Fields) because his parents were mysteriously killed. Peter digs into his parents' past and meets up with Dr. Connors who worked with Peter's father. Peter gets bitten by a lab spider and gets super powers. Peter and Dr. Connors work out a formula that gives Dr. Connors a hand (pun intended) and he inadvertently unleashes the creature known as The Lizard.

This does a complete reset of everything from characters to story elements. They take their time to fully develop the characters. I felt the time dragging but I was still entertained that was a new movie watching experience for me.

Using the Avengers model of dedicating the first film on origin gives you a leaping off point for more films that jump directly into the action. The two most important changes are the use of the web shooters to highlights the intelligence and creativity of Peter and Gwen Stacy as Peters love interest like the original story.

Sally Fields as Aunt May is new because she is not silver-haired old bitty but a modern update to the old frail Aunt May of previous stories. She is a strong and supportive character and is someone who will be interesting to watch as the series progresses. We all know what happens to Uncle Ben but having someone as charming as Martin Sheen take on the role made me dread the inevitability of what has to happen to make Spider-Man who he is.

It feels a bit of a cheat to have a British actor playing an American hero but he does an excellent job. He captures the adolescent elements of the character and makes him an endearing teenager that is just learning that with great power comes great responsibility.

Emma Stone does a great job of giving Gwen life. I am impressed with her diversity of characters. Looking over her filmography she has taken a number of teenager roles but each of them is so different. I enjoy watching what nuances she brings to her characters.

Spoiler Warning!!! Don’t get caught in the web of spoilers under this link.!!!!

This origin story had two very poignant lessons to be learned that help build the hero we know as Spiderman. The death of Ben gives Peter the drive to right what he did wrong. The death of Captain Stacy gives him the knowledge to keep his identity secret. The second message comes not a moment too soon, because he seems to walk around a lot without his mask on.

When the web shooters don’t work because he is under water or when the Lizard destroys them is awesome. I am glad they finally went back to the origin on this because it gives Spider-Man a limiting factor. He had to use his considerable intelligence to outwit some of his opponents.

I loved the fact that Peter was a kid thorough this entire movie. He did not change into a brooding personality to compensate for the loss of his uncle. He was constantly an adolescent through the entire move. I love the air parkour that he did through the city. I think I was the only one but I liked the first person perspective of the swinging from building to building.

What Spider-Man villain is your favorite, and why?

Friday, June 22, 2012


Brave – 100Min – PG

Pixar does something new with their first feature focusing on a female lead character. Brave gives the Pixar studio another notch in its win column. They do not disappoint when it comes to the pains taking detailed world of medieval Scotland. From a technical standpoint this movie does an outstanding job of bringing to life these animated characters in a very fluid, lifelike smoothness. The 3D Aspects of the film do a good job of keeping the in your face shots to a minimum but deep in the forest and ruins add a depth that is exquisite. However the story is just ok. It does not pull out the same level of emotion as previous films did. Despite the average story it’s well worth a look and earns a green light.

Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a young princess and is forced into marriage by Elinor (Emma Thompson), her mother, the queen. There is a tradition that each family send their eldest son to complete for the right to marry Merida. Merida’s father, Fergus (Billy Connolly), brings together three families to compete for the right to marry his daughter. Merida defies her mother and as first born of her family she claims the right to complete for her own hand. Merida’s defiant act causes a rift in her family and the Kingdom. She confides in an elderly wise woman who turns out to be a witch. With the old woman’s help Merida changes her fate and her mother into a bear. Together they work together to try and undo the spell and repair the damage to the peace among the families.

There seems to be no end to the wonderful things technical feats this studio can do. I really enjoyed watching the realism of the hair and fur of these characters. They did a wonderful job of bring to life the lands scape and the people in this world. The directing team of Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell seem to all share the same focus on making these visuals for this film really special. What really socks me is that this team also wrote the story. How can a team of such talented people only bring forth an average story? Steve Purcell’s previous work was about animated cars that moved me more than this story about real live people did. All of them seemed to be more focused on showing us a fantastic setting then telling us a good story.

With the average story and all it does break new ground as it focuses on a female lead character who is strong and passionate and completely loveable. The story does focus on how important family is and that communication and understanding are the most important things in families. Heck it made me want to pull my bow and arrows out of storage and go down to the range and fire off a few rounds.

Spoiler warning!!!! anrheithwyr o dan y ddolen hon!!!!

Go to google translate to translate this phrase

I loved how the three brothers did not need any voices. They were very Harpo Marx-esque: completely expressive and completely silent. Nice touch and it would be hard to give them a voice that did not take away from the expressiveness. Even as bears they were well-played.

I loved how well they portrayed conversation between Merida and her mother. They were not speaking to each other and they edited it in such a way so it was seamless between them. It was a tad frustrating that all of this could have been avoided if they would have had that conversation for real. But it would not make for a good movie. Hummmm lets think about this, a Disney movie where the kids and the parents live and get along. Yawn.

I liked the connection of the legend of how the Kingdom was fractured and Merida’s same circumstances. It’s her work that mends the fracture on both story fronts. It was really well constructed but the story lacked a sense of sprit.

What do you think of Pixar’s new direction of strong female lead? Does she work as a lead, if not why?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed – 86min – R

This movie is one that most people will probably overlook. It’s a shame because it is such a wonderful film. I enjoy getting surprised by a film that has more to offer than you think. I really love the journey of a story that is well told. This movie takes you through an exploration of a journalist and his interns on a hunt for the person who has written this personal ad. “Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED”. The film gets a green light for several reasons the most important is that this film is not what you think it is.

Jeff, (Jake M. Johnson) a magazine journalist, is looking for the story surrounding an odd personal ad. He takes with him two interns Darius, (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni). They go to Oakview, California to find Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the author of the ad, to see if it was a joke or if this crackpot really thinks he can travel through time. They stake out the post office box and find him and try to insert themselves into his life to get more information. During the investigation Darius is used as a way in, and works to gain his trust. She starts to have feelings for him, and has to confront him on this crazy idea to try and bring him back to reality.

The director (Colin Trevorrow) and the writer (Derek Connolly) have worked together on one other project. As a relatively new director Trevorrow has huge potential. He does a wonderful job of taking this story and building likable characters. They build the tension in the story while still keeping it grounded in reality. At no times does this feel like a science fiction film. Even with the time traveler elements in the story the viewer really only sees this as a story about looking into a person’s life to see why they do the things they do. Connolly does an excellent job of keeping this story focused on how people interact and how they are brought together in life.

What I love about movies is how they can take us completely by surprise. I knew nothing about this movie when I went to see it. I happened to see a trailer for it and it made me interested in the film as far as I wanted to know more about the person who placed the ad. The creative team has made an outstanding picture out of average people. You feel the real nature of the people we see on screen and in that mindset we experience something completely original. 

Warning Spoilers!!!! You have to take “Time” to see these spoilers!!!!!!!!

I was completely gobsmacked when he went back in time. I was so not expecting that. I really was set up to be disappointed by reality. I was pretty heartbroken by the fact that Kenneth was going to have his dream taken away and was going to have to face the fact that he was just a crazy person. AND HE FREAKING DID IT!!! Great end to the movie. I was completely relieved that he was not crazy. It’s a testament to how well they created the characters that we felt so much for them.

I think that Jeff’s sub-plot of hooking up with his high school girlfriend was a distraction at first. I know that is a very real life feeling that people have but did it progress the story? There are themes of going back in time and changing the past: Kenneth wants to save his girlfriend’s life, Jeff wants to get that youthful feeling back. Past regret is a driving force for these characters that allows Arnau to live a moment in life he normally would not have. I can see the underlying message of "seize the day," but I think it gets lost.

Aubrey Plaza does a wonderful job of approaching the subtle depth of Darius. She is so intriguing as her character and completely enthralling in such a delicate way. She was great at relaying the problems with developing a relationship based on a lie. She showed us the gut-wrenching guilt that builds as your connection with the person you are lying to grows. Marvelous performance.

What event in your life do you want to go back and change, and would you?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman – 127min – PG-13

We seem to be in a Snow White phase. There are two movies out that focus on the raven haired maiden and her adventures. This version takes a more realistic approach to its filming and keeps a balance of fantasy and faith as its main message. One of the biggest concerns with this film was the performance of its star, Kristin Stewart. Her work in the Twilight series has been brought into question by lots of different people who either hate or love that franchise. It was great to see her in something that had a little more strength as a character. I give this movie a green light for its stunning cinematography and its great execution of mixing personal faith within a fantasy world.

Thanks to the Brothers Grimm, we are familiar with the German fairy tale about a faire maiden named Snow White (Kristin Stewart) who is far more beautiful than her evil step mother the queen (Charlize Theron). The queen sends a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) into the dark forest to kill snow white. Snow is befriended by eight Dwarves who are named Muir (Bob Hoskins), Beith (Ian McShane), Gorth (Ray Winstone), Coll (Toby Jones), Duir (Eddie Marsan), Quert (Johnny Harris), Nion (Nick Frost), and Gus (Brian Gleeson). This is where the movie takes a different turn. They join forces with group of locals who oppose the queen and use Snow White as a rallying point to start a revolution and usurp the queen.

This movie does a wonderful job of mixing the imagery of evil as dark and gruesome and horrific contrasted with imagery of good as beauty and wholesomeness and purity. The director (Rupert Sanders) is really new in the role as director and he shows huge potential as a storyteller with this debut film. What I like best is his ability to blend in so many subtle details into the story. For instance there were small things about the queen’s wardrobe and style that had something dead mixed into every scene she was in. His eye for the cinematic background was also exceptional. He has these very stark, dreary and muted villages that are under the queen's control and pockets of resistance to the queen’s power are painted with bright vibrant color and full of life.

On the strong female character front, this movie does a much better job of showing a strong role model for young women. Snow gives a stirring speech, saying follow me because I am the only one who can kill the queen. She reminded me of Joan of Arc front of the fight in armor, army at her back. Out of all the Snow White movies out this year this one is defiantly my favorite.

Spoiler Warning!! Take a bite out of these spoilers if you dare!!!!!!!

The prayer that Snow White said at the beginning of her escape was interesting. I did not think that they would go so far as to blend in the Lord’s Prayer with the fantasy setting of fairies and the spirit of nature. They did a great job of showing the spirituality of Snow White without giving us a sermon on how her faith kept her sane.

The love triangle between the huntsman, Snow White and the prince (Sam Claflin) was very apparent but they did not belabor the point that there were feelings amongst all three of these characters. This speaks volumes to the excellent story telling on Rupert Sanders part. He knows that his audience understands what’s going and gives us room to explore our own feelings about the relationships we see on the screen.

I know in movie terms there are some times in a battle where you have to show how bad things are and let the bad guy look like they are winning. There was much too long a pause in the final battle, to let the CGI shard monster have its way with the fodder that followed Snow into the queen’s tower. I would have loved to see Snow come in and the Queen starts something up and Snow runs her through before she has a chance to get the spell off or let the nasty creature loose. But that’s just me.

What Grimm story needs to be done next? What is your favorite?