Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve - 118min – PG13

This movie is like listening to a story from your favorite uncle. You have heard it 15 times before but out of respect you let him tell it again. You give non-committal “Huh” at just the right points but you are really not engaged in the story. New Year’s Eve is really a lot like Gary Marshall’s earlier holiday film, Valentine’s Day. That one took place in Los Angeles and this one is in New York. I fear that his next project will be Arbor Day in Lebanon, KS. As much as I am a fan of his body of work this one only rates a red light. Sorry, Uncle Gary.

New York has a huge cross section of people and different feelings on the holiday that is the focus of this film. The movie gives us the sampling of those views spread over six different groups of people. With so much going on, it’s hard to really get behind any one story. You have spectacular cast with some really big names like Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Jon Bon Jovi and Josh Duhamel, to name a few. Each one represents a different demographic of The Big Apple and we see them deal with life during that time of year in which we look at the past and hope for the future.

The plots weren’t bad, but it was just nothing new. The various elements seemed deliberately trying to make a quota with the heart strings. Have a military element? Check. Dying man? Check. Grinchy character that changes his view? Check. An affair to remember reference? Check. Heartfelt message of how we should all get along and look forward to a new year? Check. A bunch of plotlines from the 70s that we can rehash into a film about a holiday? Unfortuntaly, check.

The main issue I have with this film is it tries to make the emotional connection with too many people. They are trying to make the people of New York the focus of the film bit too large a cross section to capture accurately. I could not really get in touch with any of the characters. There were some gems but overall, it was a long walk for the same old pay off.

They try and make it a hook film with some misleading story elements and bring you to a conclusion that you were not expecting but it’s more of a neat trick than a really good story. The pacing of the film was choppy as it had to jump from person to person. If they cut out some of the stories and focused just a few of them it would have been easier to get behind some of them. Gary Marshall has directed some of my favorite movies. One film of his that I love is Nothing in Common. I loved that film. His better films have been ones that you would not give a second look. This one should not get a first look.

Resolved to not read any Spoilers this year? Warning they are here!!!

The only part that got be laughing was in the trailer, the scene when Seth Meyers is taking Jessica Biel way and telling her, “come on honey, nobody wins when pregnant women fight.” I laughed out loud at that part. It was nice to see him away from the SNL News Desk. The other part was when Penny Marshall asked the waitress if she was an actor. That was harsh but funny.

When Hilary Swank and Josh Duhamel don’t meet up when the film leads us to believe they are supposed to. Was a good switcheroo but not enough to make the film any better. I was very glad that I did not see that coming. Everything else was very predictable.

Some notable side characters that were bigger than the role called for. Cary Elwes was a doctor and was on screen for like a minunte. Alyssa Milano also took a bit part. I wonder if this was a bucket list requirement for each of them. Do a Gary Marshall film? Check.

I find it interesting that the entire population of New York in New Year ’s Eve will all stop and give attention to Hillary Swank explain why the ball is not dropping. Yep. Everyone in New York will stop what they are doing for an update. They are well known for their orderly behavior.

This movie was trying to get you to stop and think about your life vis-à-vis the New Year. What other films have made you look at your life in a different way?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – 158min – R

This is a very harsh movie. I enjoyed the overall film but I was very disturbed by some of the content. There are scenes in this movie that consist of brutal rape, and some extremely horrific murders. Usually I am not a fan of gratuitousness in film, but in this case the violent acts define the characters and the world they are in. If you go see this, be ready for a film that does not hold back on any of the visceral elements. This is a green light film but consider yourself warned if you go to see it.

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), an investigative journalist and his research assistant Lisbeth Salander (Roomy Mara) are looking into the disappearance of a girl from over 40 years ago. The main story is mesmerizing but the cast of characters is at times hard to keep up with. The investigation surrounds a huge family and you need a program to keep people straight. It helps that Mikael posts pictures of people up on the wall and we can see how they relate to each other. Lisbeth is a strong character not just anyone can bring her to life. Mara does a great job of stepping out of the image of all the other characters she has played.

The story starts out slow but picks up the pace and takes you for an incredible ride. Toward the end it loses its rhythm and it feels like it’s trying to cram in another storyline. It does an adequate job of resolving all of the elements in the film but sacrifices some of the ancillary plot points for the sake of time. The elements that they shorten are done better than the original version. This is a great job of storytelling even with the rushed nature.

This story has started out as book and has been done on film by Niels Arden Oplev in 2009. This version is helmed by David Fincher. Fincher is a really good storyteller, and does not spare the viewer when it comes to telling the hard facts about a story. He also does good job of taking you to horrific scenes but does not delight in it. He is very clinical about the events that he is creating. When I was in the theater I was really angry with the characters but that’s the point. The senses are not glorified in this film they are a part of the story that can’t be ignored.

Warning Spoilers!!!! Investigate them by clicking here!!!

There is a very graphic rape scene, even as Lisbeth getsto exact her revenge it’s still very hard to watch. I think it was particularly unsavory because the abuse is by someone who is abusing his authority over the situation. The predator gets his in the end (no pun intended) but I wondered if it was overdone. In retrospect you need to see that to truly define Lisbeth true strength. Yorick van Wageningen played the abuser well and that was hard to see. He was in The Way as a great guy and this role is completely opposite. It’s a testament to his acting ability.

The best part of the film is where the team realizes they are dealing with a serial killer and not just a missing girl. That Oh My God! moment is well played and it’s the part that got me more involved in the story than the backstory of the characters.

One thing this film does better than the first version it deals with the loss of Lisbeth’s first social worker. You can tell there was genuine rapport being built and that loss added on to the fact her next one is an abuser. But they showed us everything and did not just tell us they were close. When we see her waiting with the gift, it tells us everything.

The last moments in the movie where she is starting to come out of her shell and has this imagined relationship building with Mikael. You can see how hurt she was when she realized he did not see their relationship in the same way. That was the saddest part in the film for me. I really feel for her. She is a strong woman character and she does not need anything from anyone. Regardless, I find myself wanting to protect her.

What scene have you found hard to watch but it was necessary for the film?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked – 87min – G

I remember when I was a kid and this was popular. I guess all things are new again. This is the third of the Alvin movies that have been made. It’s a blend of live action and computer animation. The story is cute and will engage kids of 5 and younger but I did not think it needed to be on the big screen. This was a movie that was fine on a straight to DVD release. A mix of pop music and funny life lessons about family that only rates a yellow light.

Alvin and his friends are going on a cruise to attend an international award show. They get into typical Chipmunk shenanigans on the cruse and in a series of events they get swept off the ship and land on an island. Dave (Jason Lee) and his arch nemesis, and previous Chipmunk manager, Ian (David Cross) inadvertently join forces to rescue them.

The majority of this movie takes place on an Island and focuses on how the roles are reversed; Alvin(Justin Long) is the one planning and making the grownup choices to look out for his friends. Simon, who is normally voiced by Matthew Gray Gubler, gets bitten by a spider and alters his personality and Simon thinks that he is Simon (pronounced Semon) now being voice by Alan Tudyk. Theodore (Jesse McCartney) is the youngest and really sits on the sideline in this episode. They work together to survive and also sing many popular songs that fit into the storyline.

The director (Mike Mitchell) has an eclectic résumé , ranging from Sky High to Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. This is a very kid’s movie and I would not have pegged him for this film. He has some done some younger work but this seems to be on the very young side.

I am not really impressed with the overall film, there is nothing wrong with it but there is also nothing right about it. Writers Jonathan Aible and Glenn Berger have written some engaging stuff like Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs Aliens, I don’t see that same level in this film, I suspect there was a formula that they had to stick with and perhaps not give the freedom to explore new aspects of the characters.

Warning Spoilers!! Only Alvin Entourage members click here!!!

I loved the castaway reference and how Jenny Slate really threw herself into the role. I can imagine that it’s hard to perform with animated coworkers but she did not seem forced or out of place. I freak’n lover her for that. She is a great performer and I don’t get tired of watching her.

There are also a trio of girl Chipmunks: Eleanor (Amy Poehler), Jeanette (Anna Faris) and Brittany (Christina Applegate). They are really just around to provide more merchandising options. They did not really add anything to the story at no fault to the performers but this was just a distraction to the main story line. Just as a side question when you lose a dance off to a chipmunk do you immediately kill yourself to regain some sort of honor or is there some other ritual that cleans the taint from your soul.

Jason Lee is someone who I really admire for his diversity of roles. He has really grown into a well-rounded performer. He has come a long way from the first film I saw him in. He has become someone I look forward to seeing what he is doing next. His performance of Dave is kind of how I would imagine my dad would react to the shenanigans that Alvin does.

Do you go to see kid movies even if you don’t have kids? I want to this movie because it was showing next, but I have been known to go see a kid’s movie sans kids just because I want to entertain the kid in me. Have you?

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – 117min – PG13

My skin sparkles in the sun. I have no pulse. I am a member of the undead, a vampire, because this movie sucked the life out of me. I am an empty shell. Please, someone stake me and end it all. I know it would be easy to lay the smack down on this film. It’s an easy target for some verbal abuse, and God knows it needs it.

This is a bad movie on so many levels that I don’t know where to start. The problems don’t lie with the odd vampire mythos or the strange politics between the vamps and the wolves and their West Transylvania Side Story rivalry. It really boils down to this being a very bad story filled with lackluster performances brought to you by attractive but not very engaging performers. A blood red light for this painful spiral into mediocrity.

The movie is the first part of the book of the same name. Making the financial choice to break the story into a two parts might work for Harry Potter, but in this case, it’s just a great way to keep working this drivel. They took this kind of film making right out of the Harry Potter guide for milking a fan base.

It’s the wedding fans have been waiting for. After the other movies that focused on the building tension between Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart), we now see the union between the living and the undead. Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the werewolf with a yen for Bella, has to sneak in to the wedding because of the rift between the wolves and the dead ones. There are threats between Edward and Jacob and the two exchange stern looks. We get on with the happy occasion and try to overlook the poor attempt at tension.

After the nuptials Edward whisks Bella off to a remote island off of the coast of Rio where they spend their honeymoon. This is where things go from romantic to creepy in about 30 seconds. We start with the couple in an embrace under a full moon in the ocean, and end on a complete wreck of a bedroom with a bruised Bella in a daze in the morning.

It almost reminded me of the wake up scene from The Hangover movies. Bella:“What the hell did we do last night” Edward:“Why do you have a Tyson facial tattoo”. That would have been better than what really happened – creepy and uncomfortable post-domestic abuse bliss. Why is this abuse romantic? What message is this sending to the young people watching this? Or is this part for the grownups? Nope we are back to the creepy no matter how you slice it.

That this night results in a supernatural pregnancy sets up a fight between the werewolves and the vamps. The werewolves want to kill this abomination and the vamps want to keep it. It’s odd that both of these super powerhouses do a full on battle royal and no one seems to get hurt. Come to think of it, all of this fighting in the movie and the only one showing any damage is Bella from the honeymoon, and the audience for having to watch it.

What I am stunned at most is how director Bill Condon got this gig. He is known for some really good work like Chicago, Gods and Monsters, and Dreamgirls. I would like to ask him how this movie was brought to him. Is he a fan of the series? Did he lose a bet? is someone holding his family hostage until he completes the work on these films?

Spoiler Warning!!! Bah why bother.

I am not hiding the spoilers on this film, because it’s not worth it. I
figure if you are a fan you would have turn to a different blog by now, and if you are are not a fan and you are not going to see it so it does not matter what I say.

So in the film we get some glimpses of vampire super speed. Where does he use it? How does he apply this to his real life? He packs bags really, really fast. I had to belly laugh at his flash imitation packing to go home. I know they were aiming at a scene where Edward is worried about Bella and wants to get her out of there fast. If you own your own island and it’s such an emergency just go home, now flash out of there. Why wait? You can get more clothes when you get home. Why show us that Edward is going to be handy with the honey “do” list.

The movie ends with the other vampire tribes or councils, covens, whatever you call a gaggle of vampires. They get wind of the birth and they give us a hint of what the next movies going to be about. Do we need to continue the story? I guess people need to finish out their contracts and also Condon’s family won’t get released until they have a part 2. I have a title suggestion for it, Twilight, meh part 2.

The one attempt at symbolism is the birth of Bella’s baby and the birth of her new life. That can mirror the new life of motherhood and the new life of her half human and half undead baby. Ok I am grasping at straws here to try and find something redeemable or thought provoking in this film. The only thoughts that this movie provoked in me were ideas of going to watch a good movie. I wonder if The Way is still showing?

The only question I have is why? Anyone out there? Can you explain it to me? If you are a fan and I pissed you off, please try and enlighten me or tell me off. Why do we need to have to have these films? Is it that I have not watched the other films? Is this not a series that you can jump into at the end??