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Saturday, December 31, 2011

REVIEW: The Descendants

MOVIE
The Descendants

CAST
George Clooney,
Shailene Woodley

RATING
R

RELEASE
November 16, 2011

DIRECTOR
Alexander Payne

STUDIO
Fox Searchlight Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 55 minutes





STARS
****










REVIEW:

If director Alexander Payne, well known for films like 'Sideways' and 'About Schmidt,' decides to come out of a six year long hiatus and make a film starring George Clooney, then expect it to be in the running for many top awards. That is the case with the new film 'The Descendants,' but the only difference is that this film doesn't disappoint on any levels. Clooney plays Matt King, a lawyer whose family owns a huge, yet untouched 25,000 acre area in Hawaii on the island of Kaua'i, and he is the sole owner of the land. His family wants to sell the land, but he's too frustrated to even think about it. What's stressing King's life much more is that his wife is in a coma and his oldest daughter has made a complete mess out of her life. King is trying to cope with the fact that his wife's coma will never be lifted when his oldest daughter shares a very disturbing secret: his wife was cheating on him with a man of real estate business. Ever since the film's premiere at the Telluride Film Festival back in September, non-stop praise has been circling this film and the love has been ever growing. For those who have been on the fence on whether or not this film lives up to the hype, take it from this 14 year old that it certainly does. You will laugh, and you will just feel your heart sink to your stomach. 'The Descendants' is a marvelous dramedy that has the power to captivate anyone who goes to see it.

George Clooney will without a doubt get a lot of awards consideration in the next 2 months. His portrayal of a father still piecing together why his wife would cheat on him feels both authentic and real. There is only one other Clooney film I've seen in my lifetime and he had nipples on his suit. This man deserves some serious award recognition for his performance, maybe even a win. Sure Brad Pitt's narcissistic baseball manager performance was great, and Jean Dujardin's entirely silent performance is fantastic, but Clooney is the only actor this year whose character can make you feel bad about the way you've treated people in your own lives. If any actor can do that to me, then they have my support during awards season.

The real shining star of this movie is Shailene Woodley, who plays Clooney's messed up daughter Alex. I went into this film with an open mind on her because I have never seen a single episode of the show that made her famous, 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager.' After this film was over, the first thing that came to my mind was indeed Woodley. It's not because she's attractive, (although she is, I must say) it's because her performance is so damn good. There has been Oscar talk for her performance in this film, and my god is it well deserved. Her character in the film resembled the anger and frustration every teenager has when they're struggling not just with family, but with personal things as well. She is the perfect yang to Clooney's ying, though it all does turn around in the end as expected. Woodley is what I like to call the Hailee Steinfeld of 2011, which means that she has all the potential to win the Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, but unfortunately won't because of age discrimination. Still, her performance in this film feels so real and authentic, and on top of it all is sublime.

This film is a great example of when an entire cast, both lead and supporting, are all fantastic in their parts. A newcomer named Nick Krause plays Alex's mysterious boyfriend Sid. There are moments in this film where you will just stare in shock at what is pouring out of this guy's mouth. You'll wonder to yourself, is this guy an asshole or just a hopeless idiot? That is why the character works so well for the film, and somehow everyone turns to actually like him in the end. Beau Bridges plays one of George Clooney's cousins on the Hawaiian Islands, and he is very good in the 2 scenes he's in the film. Judy Greer is in the movie for three scenes, and she too is very good. Matthew Lilliard, Shaggy from the live action 'Scooby Doo' movies even makes an appearance for one scene, and he surprisingly is really good. Overall, everyone in this film add up to a fantastic ensemble cast, which happens to be run by George Clooney and his fantastic acting chops.

To be fair, I have never seen any Alexander Payne films before, so this was my first go around with his work. Luckily I made the right decision to check this movie out for many other reasons. It's that time of the year where people start pointing fingers to what films will eventually win the top prizes at such ceremonies as the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards. For the past couple of months, I have been rooting for 'The Artist' to take home all of the gold when February comes. After seeing this movie, I'm not entirely sure what should be declared the best movie of 2011 in the end. This is a poignant, funny, and irresistible movie that has the ability to hold an entire audience's attention for two hours, despite a couple of slow parts. It's not the happiest movie or the funniest movie you will ever see. Hell, it's not even a movie for every audience out there. However, the talent of the actors, along with Payne's visceral and real vision of a typical Hawaiian life sucks you in and makes you think about the problems going on in your life. (If there are any) For a truly authentic and real experience at the movies in 2012, you may want to go with Alexander Payne’s ‘The Descendants.’ If you come out of this not having any reflection on your personal life, do you even have a conscious?


 

PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

W./E.


Safe House


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


A Dangerous Method


Being Flynn






Tuesday, December 27, 2011

MINI-REVIEW: New Year's Eve

MOVIE
New Year's Eve

CAST
A bunch of Oscar winners,
A bunch of other actors

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 9, 2011

DIRECTOR
Garry Marshall

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures,
New Line Cinema

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 57 minutes




STARS
**1/2









REVIEW:

There's a moment during the ending (blooper) credits of 'New Year's Eve' where Carla Gugino pulls from Jessica Biel's open cervix a Blu-Ray and DVD copy of the 2010 ensemble rom-com 'Valentine's Day.' While this was indeed the funniest part of my experience when seeing this film on Christmas Eve with my family, I saw this as a metaphor of what this film really was: a sequel to 'Valentine's Day.' In this ensemble flick, directed by 'Valentine's' helmer Garry Marshall, a crap load of stars are all in NYC celebrating, well, read the title it's not that complicated! Half of the people from the last film are actually in this, believe it or not! To be honest, going into this I was expecting something just so stupid and terrible that I would be aching to get out of the theater ASAP. However I stuck to my critic instincts and stayed in my seat. As shocking as this may sound, 'New Year's Eve' is not a terrible movie. On the contrary it is a very stupid film, with some of the oddest twists and the dumbest clichés I've seen all year.


This movie has good actors and bad actors who all do their jobs just fine, despite their performances being over the top most of the time. This film is also filled with some of the most common clichés you'll ever see in a movie. There is even a sequence (I kid you NOT!) where Lea Michele (the 'Glee' chick) starts singing a song and Bon Jovi (on the other side of NYC) starts singing the exact same song to the same tune. I even whispered to my sister during that scene "I didn't know we were watching an episode of 'Glee,'" because that's exactly what that scene could be called. Actually, this movie rips off a lot of other movies but makes it in a way where it's sort of touching and kind of funny. There are even these romantic twists at the end of the movie that made absolutely no sense at all, yet they were somewhat interesting. The one thing from this movie I can still hate on is the makeup on Abigail Breslin and Michelle Pfeiffer, which looks horrendous. They're stories suck, but it's the makeup I'm ripping on. Other than those things, this movie is hard to put a mark on, so let me put it to you this way: 'New Year's Eve' is the dumbest, yet funniest crap I've seen in 2011.

Sure everything going on was stupid as f***, but I had a decent time and enjoyed hearing my family laugh. Prestigious critics were meant to hate this movie, because they were nitpicking it throughout. I was even nitpicking it for quite some time. Then my brain turned off, and I had a decent time. This movie will soon be forgotten by many, but at least I had some fun and enjoyed it much more than 'Valentine's Day.' Nothing is smart about 'New Year's Eve,' but audiences will sure enjoy it for what it's worth. I tried to hate the crap out of this film, but it was kind of hard for me. Don't worry; this is not going to be on my top 10 of the year. I liked it enough to not hate it entirely. The fact that this is better than 'Valentine's Day' alone should interest people. However if you do see this movie, please don't see it on New Year's Eve, because that would be just so stupid on all levels.







PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Extremely Loud
and Incredibly Close

One for the Money

The Vow

Gone

What to Expect
When You're Not Expecting

The Lucky One

The Five-Year Engagement





Monday, December 26, 2011

REVIEW: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

MOVIE
Alvin and the Chipmunks:
Chipwrecked

CAST
The Chipmunks/Chipettes,
Some Funny Comedians

RATING
G

RELEASE
December 16, 2011

DIRECTOR
Mike Mitchell

STUDIO
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 27 minutes






STARS
*1/2









REVIEW:

There are kid oriented movies, and then there are films like 'Hop,' 'The Smurfs,' and most recently 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.' These are the types of films that are called kids films, but they are really used to make audiences dumber and get a whole crap load of rotten cash. I can admit that I liked the first 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' movie, having some fun music, decent humor, and three likeable characters. In 2009, I sort of liked 'The Squeakquel,' but now I can see that it is one hell of a horrible movie. It's now the end of 2011 and audiences are being "treated" to what's probably going to be the final film in this now trilogy, 'Chipwrecked.' Just how bad is this movie you may ask. Let me put it to you this way: my 10 year old sister fell asleep for half of this movie, and it's less than 90 minutes long! This movie is better than 'The Squeakquel,' but this is still a bad film. People of Earth, why are you paying for these dumb films when you can be going to see better family films like 'The Adventures of Tintin' and 'We Bought A Zoo?' 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked' is a bad family film, and just another example of how dumb audiences are getting, as well as how stupid studios can be to get a little bit of money.
Those Chipmunks must do nothing but make terrible movie references, with only little kids or dim witted parents actually laughing at them. 'Indiana Jones,' 'Cast Away,' and 'James Bond' are among the many movies to get ripped to shreds by these helium sounding fur balls. It's hard to watch movies you really enjoy get beaten to the punch by the tiniest rodents that will ever grace the silver screens of the world. Every time someone would talk to a basketball with a face, or say a stupid line like "My Precious," I scratched my head and whined to my sister about the reference. Well she got annoyed by my whining, so it all worked out in the end. Isn't that what big brothers are for? It wasn't even just the movie references that annoyed me; the songs that they sang were even more dumb and unnecessary. They sing songs from 'Vacation' to 'Whip My Hair' ("Tail" in this situation) and they were all so annoying. There is even a scene where these three snobbish ladies pick up a dance fight with The Chipettes. What else more is there to say about that? Cheap rip offs of great songs, terrible movie references, and horrendous jokes are what to be expected in this mess of a film.

If the humans in these 'Chipmunk' films can actually take talking/singing chipmunks seriously, then the entire world should believe that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are real beings. I get that kids are supposed to believe that these are real and likeable characters, but what is the point? Alvin you know is going to screw the fudge up, Simon will be the smart one, and Theodore is the cute one. Don't expect a lot out of The Chipettes, because they're the feminine versions of The Chipmunks. I never thought about this until now, but I just realized that The Chipmunks and The Chipettes are the reason why 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians' and 'Jersey Shore' exists. If you're a kid out there reading this and don't know what those shows are, GOOD! Don't even look them up unless you expect your mom to put a huge "dunce" cap on your head. Theodore I do give props to for making me hang my lip out and say "Aaaww" to the screen. Other than that, The Chipmunks and Chipettes are the most annoying animated creatures to ever be put into a bad movie series. Speaking of bad animated characters, the live action characters were just as annoying.

Jason Lee is not a good actor when it comes to standing next to a bunch of animated creatures. It's like Ben Stiller taught Lee how to overreact all the time, and he called that "proper acting." Every time a line spewed out of his mouth, my head started throbbing and my soul was getting pissed off. I'm sure Lee is a funny guy, but what was his agent smoking when he signed a three movie contract with a bunch of animated rodents. The same thing goes with series baddie David Cross, who is now a washed up producer still looking for revenge. Cross was actually the best thing to come out of this movie, yet at the same time I felt bad for him. In a recent interview, Cross stated that his Chipmunk contract is up and there are no more Chipmunk films to come with him in it. This is a step up for every actor who's in this movie, because this series is awful.

Of all of the actors in this film who are awful, SNL alumni Jenny Slate gets my award for worst actress of the year. She only lasted one season on SNL, and I hope her abilities in this film aren't the proof. After all, she did write and star in the highly acclaimed 'Marcel the Shell' YouTube videos. She apparently is trying to spoof Tom Hanks' character in 'Cast Away' (see why the movie references suck?) and she combined that with a psychotic woman hungry for money. To be honest, I think she might have been on a lot of drugs during the making of this film, which explains her mediocre acting. I bet she is a very funny person, but being in a 'Chipmunks' movie does not help with that. Overall every actor who graces their face in this film should feel bad that they were involved with this series.

The man sitting in the director's chair this time around is Mike Mitchell, who directed 'Sky High' and 'Shrek Forever After.' I liked both of those films in some way, but he has seriously gone down many notches for directing this smelly piece of crap. Nothing in this movie is intentionally funny at all. In fact, all of the funniest parts to me were funny because I felt bad for everyone who was involved. There are so many better family movies out there, yet kids like to see this crappy series, as well as other CGI/live action hybrid movies. How do you think 'Garfield' even got a sequel back in 2006? That's because kids aren't critics. They would enjoy seeing pixie fairies get blown to bits by the smurfs, and that would be considered a "kid classic" when they're 38 years old. 

I understand that this movie wasn't made for my audience demographic, but neither was 'Winnie the Pooh' and 'Kung Fu Panda 2.' See my riff here? Of all of the intentional kid’s movies this is by far the dumbest one to have come out. At least 'Mr. Popper's Penguins' had Jim Carrey to hold on to. (But that still didn't help that awful movie) If you want to take your kids to a movie before 2011 is up, don't go to this one. 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked' is an unholy mess that will have anyone over 8 squirming in their seats or as sound as a cloud. My sister and I are the living proof of this, so do I have to say much more?

 


PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Star Wars Episode I:
The Phantom Menace 3D


The Lorax


The Pirates:
Band of Misfits


The Three Stooges


Mirror Mirror


Madagascar 3:
Europe's Most Wanted




Friday, December 23, 2011

REVIEW: War Horse

MOVIE
War Horse

CAST
Jeremy Irvine, Joey the Horse

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 25, 2011

DIRECTOR
Steven Spielberg

STUDIO(S)
DreamWorks Pictures,
Touchstone Pictures (Disney)

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 26 minutes





STARS
****










REVIEW:

I've been telling many of my acquaintances that 2011 may be the equivalent to 1993 for director Steven Spielberg. Not only did Spielberg win Best Visual Effects at the Oscars for 'Jurassic Park' in '93, but he also won Best Picture for the acclaimed holocaust drama 'Schindler's List.' Replace 'Jurassic Park' with 'The Adventures of Tintin,' and replace 'Schindler's List' with 'War Horse,' based on both the 1982 British children’s novel by Muchael Morpurgno and the 2007 Tony Award winning play. 'War Horse' tells the story of a horse originally named "Joey" by his owner Albert, who is sold to fight in World War I in 1914. The film depicts both the horse's journey over Europe throughout the war, and, in the film's final 70 minutes or so, Albert's struggle to fight in the war and possibly get Joey back home. Only three movies this entire year had me on the edge of crying in my seat, and this one had me on the edge of bawling my eyes out! 'War Horse' is Steven Spielberg's return to his true form after his average works (except for 'Catch Me If You Can') from the previous decade. This is a triumphant movie that deserves to be seen by all generations.

Let me just tell you now that the sole character of the film is Joey, the horse.  No human in this film has a bigger role than the horse (played by two horses actually) himself.  In fact, the only other character in this movie who has the most screen time at the biggest part with Joey is Albert, played by newcomer Jeremy Irvine. Irvine is fantastic as Albert, despite coming off with a shaky start. The first time you see Albert, you sort of get the impression of him as being this eager teen who loves to follow baby Joey around. It's when his dad buys the horse that you see the true emotion of the character and how in love he is with the horse. Don't expect any awards to come for Irvine, but he does have the potential to really go the distance. As for Joey the Horse, the two horses they used for him are great. I think the Oscars should create an award exclusively for animal actors, exactly like the Palm Dog at Cannes. Joey the Horse is not even in the leagues of Uggy the Dog from 'The Artist,' but the horses playing Joey are able to give us the same emotions as any A-list actor could in a heartfelt performance. Anyone who goes to see this movie will undoubtedly fall in love with Joey and cry when he gets himself into peril. These two leads give audiences a love story to root and cheer for.

It's hard to really say who is the sole supporting actor to Jeremy Irvine and Joey the Horse, because the cast in this film acts more as an ensemble rather than depicting main leads from supporting actors. The ensemble cast includes David Thewlis of 'Harry Potter' fame, Tom Hiddleston of 'Thor' fame, and the always great Emily Watson. All of the supporting players are fantastic in this movie. Each character in this movie was properly designed to care for Joey and guide him to safety. Yes, that even includes the Germans he was with for a time. My favorite of the ensemble cast was a teen actress named Celine Burkens. I saw her as being the exact opposite of the persona of Hailee Steinfeld's Mattie Ross in last Christmas' surprise smash 'True Grit.' Burkens plays a sweet, angelic girl who wanted to care for Joey and the friend that accompanies him. I would have liked to see more of her character, as well as her grandfather who's played by French actor Niels Arestrup. Still, the entire ensembles of both German and British background all help this story come full circle for Albert and Joey.

I doubt many realize how important photography is in both films and pictures. You have to have the right exposure in order to make a picture something magical and worth as my photo teacher says "hanging on your wall." The cinematography in this movie is spectacularly gorgeous. Every single frame of this film is shot so beautifully that they might as well be called pure works of art. I even whispered to my father in the middle of this film "this movie looks so beautiful." The final 5 minutes of the film are shown to the audience in all reds, yellows, and oranges that I at first thought was a problem with the film reel. Then I realized why the last 5 minutes were shot that way, but I can't exactly share it because it goes into spoiler territory. Going back to what my photo teacher said, I would put about 80% of the frames of this film on my wall, because nobody can shoot a movie on such a wide and visceral scale than longtime Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kamiński.

Going back to the ensemble thing, there wasn't exactly a main character (apart from Albert and Joey) rather than an entire ensemble of people who become in contact with this extraordinary horse. Joey goes from Albert to fight with the British in WWI, and then he goes to the Germans to fight in the war, and so on. I felt that this was a very smart story technique because it showed us the audience both sides of the war from the point of view of Joey the horse. Spielberg showed us that each side of the war has a reason for fighting, and each side may not be as evil as you'd think. Both the British and the Germans were fighting so they could win WWI, not because of prejudice or anything like that.

In some ways this is a message to all people fighting for something in the world: you can always befriend an "enemy" despite personal differences in culture or life in general. I haven't seen the play of 'War Horse, nor have I read the 1982 book, but let me tell you that the film is structured so it plays out like several short stories taking place during WWI and stars Joey the horse. It kind of reminded me of the acclaimed book 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' which was also constructed like many short stories. I have no idea whether the book or play played out like it did in the film, but for me this was the strongest thing about the film, because we're able to view the stories of several different characters and how Joey changes their lives.

Christmas has a lot of competition when it comes to movies. You have highly anticipated films like 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and 'The Adventures of Tintin,' as well as lesser known flicks like 'We Bought A Zoo' and 'The Darkest Hour.' Of all of those films coming out, none of them compare to the emotional power of 'War Horse.' You don't need heavy gore to show the intensity of a situation, unlike 'Dragon Tattoo.' You don't need cutesy comedy to satisfy an audience for over two hours, like 'Zoo' does.  You also don't need a corny and unnecessary use of 3D, unlike the other two movies. All you need in order to fully enjoy this movie is an open mind, a properly positioned butt in your movie theater seat, and the willingness to cry in certain scenes.

The cast in this film is phenomenal, the script and story could not have been written better, the cinematography is award worthy, and the editing helps the short stories flow into each other with grace. I cannot stress to you how in love I am with this movie. I keep telling my buddies at school how great this movie is, and they just say in sarcasm, "Oh yeah I would really go see a movie about a horse." To them I say you're missing out on something great. If there's one movie this holiday season that both resonates and stays true to your heart for days after seeing it, that film is Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse.'





PREVIEW YOU PROBABLY WILL SEE:

John Carter




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

REVIEW: We Bought A Zoo

MOVIE
We Bought A Zoo

CAST
Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson

RATING
PG

RELEASE
December 23, 2011

DIRECTOR
Cameron Crowe

STUDIO
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 4 minutes





STARS
***1/2











REVIEW:

Cameron Crowe, the director of films like 'Jerry Maguire' and 'Almost Famous' has made a family movie about a one father's dream to give his kids an authentic American experience by purchasing and running a zoo. At first it may seem like a crazy idea, especially considering the fact that Matt Damon is the star of this film aimed for kids 8 and older. Luckily this is one of those rare occasions where the odd combinations of adult filmmakers/stars that are put into a family film make something magical. 'We Bought A Zoo' is a great film for families and teens alike. There is sweet-as-corn comedy, heavy/believable drama, and a charm that pulls you in by the end of the first hour.  Everything about this film makes you feel warm inside, yet also makes you teary eyed during some of the dramatic moments. This film is coming out around Christmas time, and has some pretty heavy competition from kids films like 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked' and 'The Adventures of Tintin.' Luckily it probably will gain some strong word of mouth from audiences who attended the special November 26 sneak preview screening which will help boost ticket sales. If your family can't find a single good movie out when Christmas arrives, then 'We Bought A Zoo' is the perfect ticket to spend money on.

Everyone in this movie is at their A-game here. Matt Damon plays the father figure of this film very well, knowing when to bring in harmless comedy and when to really be ticked off at his 14 year old son, played by the equally great young actor Colin Ford. The chemistry of the father and son stings of electric friction throughout the movie, but luckily brings it down to a mellow sunset towards the final 25 minutes. Scarlett Johansson I would say is the least intriguing of the all-star cast, but she is still a very good love interest to Damon. The best actors/actresses of the film all come from the surprisingly stellar supporting cast.

Thomas Haden Church is simply hilariously awesome as Damon's divorced brother. Church is the true comedic relief in this movie, with almost every single bit of dialogue shed by him resulted in my screening's audience bursting into laughter. A personal favorite character of the movie is Matt Damon's daughter, played by the sweet, charming, and hilarious newcomer Maggie Elizabeth Jones. She has some of the best lines in the entire flick, as well as the clichéd job of saying the film's title about two times. (Damon says it in the second to last scene) Elle Fanning is great as always playing Lily, the love interest of Colin Ford. While she isn't as tough as she was in 'Super 8,' Fanning brings a sweet girl-next-door type of character whose innocence really gives off a charm to the story. John Michael Higgins is a great and very funny villain as the snooty inspector that has no faith in the zoo at all. Everyone else in the film, while their parts are small, all add something special to this wonderful movie.

Cameron Crowe has made a very personal story with this film, despite the events in the movie actually based off of Benjamin Mee's real life purchase of the Dartmoor Zoological Park in South West England. Crowe actually co-wrote the script with ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, so it’s actually proven right there that he really brought this story home. And why wouldn’t he? The cast all play their parts perfectly, with Damon and Church possibly being able to get Actor and Supporting Actor nominations if the Academy really looks at this film throughout the month of December. Those with heavy hearts may shed a few tears because of the fights Damon and Ford have with each other throughout the two hour running time. While this is being advertised as a family film, I would say leave the kids 6 and younger home mainly because of the intensity of some of the situations. (plus the fact that your kids would find out that the Easter Bunny doesn't exist.)

It's going to be very interesting in seeing how well this movie does during the Christmas season because of all of the competition coming out during that week. However since some of the holiday films have a large chance of disappointing audiences upon release, this may be the best film to check out. Sure it’s a mostly clichéd Hollywood story, plus they say the title of the film in the script three times, but this movie is solid entertainment. Overall, 'We Bought A Zoo' is a charming, funny, and seriously fantastic film that deserves at least some award consideration. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go give my dog a great big bear hug. Oh yes ladies and gentlemen, this IS one of those movies.


 

   



PREVIEWS I DOUBT YOU'LL SEE
WHEN THIS MOVIE OPENS:

Extremely Loud
and Incredibly Close


A Thousand Words




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

REWIND REVIEW: Caddyshack

MOVIE
Caddyshack

CAST
Chevy Chase,
Rodney Dangerfield

RATING
R

RELEASE
July 25, 1980

DIRECTOR
Harold Ramis

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 38 minutes






STARS
***










REVIEW:

Well this may come as a shock to some, but I have never seen the 1980 golf comedy 'Caddyshack' before. Not that it was my parents fault or anything. Actually it kind of was their fault, as it was the MPAA's fault for rating this movie "R." It wasn't until two weeks ago that my parents actually bought the DVD of it, along with two other "R" films, to let me check out for my own teenage viewing experience. Getting back to the film, 'Caddyshack' has been considered by many to be the greatest sports comedy of all time. The question that is presented here is, does this 14 going on 15 year old care for this comedy classic. I want to start that off by saying that in my opinion 'Caddyshack' is NOT the greatest sports comedy of all time. I even don't think it's the greatest golf comedy of all time. ('Happy Gilmore' holds that special title in my heart) Before people get all snippy with me about this, I want to point out that I think 'Caddyshack' is a very funny movie. With all of the racist jokes, screwball factors, and (giggitty) ladies in this film, 'Caddyshack' is a film for any man's fantasies. I would probably tolerate watching it again, but it surely wasn't a perfect comedy.

The thing I was really disappointed about came from the actors. Sure their comedic timing was spot on in many of the scenes, but I want to let you know now that every big star on the DVD cover of this movie is just a supporting player. Chevy Chase in my opinion is one of the funniest comedians to ever walk the Earth, so it made me sad to see him in this movie for just over half of it. Even Rodney Dangerfield was in it for about 30-40 minutes. Luckily Bill Murray, another favorite comedian of mine, was able to deliver the movie's best scenes when he's stopping at nothing to catch the dancing gopher in the ground. The real story of the film revolves around this teenager who's trying to get into college but doesn't have the money for it. This story of course all goes cliché with some evil old dude trying to sabotage Dangerfield's plan to change up the Country Club and keep it in control. The kid is Michael O'Keefe and the old asshole is Ted Knight. I felt that this story was both unnecessary and stupid in what could have been about a bunch of old guys in a country club. Is it too much to ask for three of the 80's funniest men to have more prominent roles in a comedy? There was one advantage to the Knight/O'Keefe story, and that is Cindy Morgan. Giggitty Giggitty Goo!

For all of the concerned parents out there who aren't sure about letting their teenager see 'Caddyshack' because of its "R" rating, just let them watch the movie. There's nothing wrong in it, other than one small "f**k" and some sets of boobs that are shown in the middle of the flick. Really there is no reason in today's standards that this should be an "R," unless the MPAA is still strong on boobs in a PG-13 flick. If I were to rate it, I would give it a good PG-13 for language, sexual content, and nudity. Classics like 'Airplane!' and 'Titanic' are able to pull off a PG and PG-13 when showing boobs, so why couldn't this? Parents, please don't worry about your kids knowing too much about sex before college, because I, a freshman in High School, am learning about abstinence, the types of sexual pleasures, etc. This is a perfectly fine movie for kids 13 and up, though I don't know how scarred they'd be if they were watching it with a parent or grandparent.

Is 'Caddyshack' a funny movie? Absolutely. Are Bill Murray and the Dancing Gopher the best characters in the movie? Hell yes! Should 'Caddyshack' be considered one of the funniest movies of all time? I don't think so. It has funny moments without a doubt, but the lack of screen time for the comedy legends is very dismal, and the main story bored me quite a bit. For the "classic" that it is, I'd say check out 'Caddyshack' if you can. You will laugh, and your teenage son or daughter will also laugh a couple of times. I wish that this movie could have been raunchier and had more jokes, rather than this version which I swear to you feels "TV edited" compared to the stuff that's thrown at us these days, like 'The Hangover' and 'Bridesmaids.' Overall, 'Caddyshack' is a good comedy that didn't fully satisfy my comedic appetite. I hope I can watch this movie in 10-15 years and find more out of it. For now, I'll just leave it at saying 'Caddyshack' is good, but not a classic by any means.





Monday, December 19, 2011

REVIEW: The Adventures of Tintin 3D

MOVIE
The Adventures of Tintin

CAST
Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis

RATING
PG

RELEASE
December 21, 2011

DIRECTOR
Steven Spielberg

STUDIO(S)
Paramount Pictures,
Columbia Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 47 minutes






STARS
***1/2









REVIEW:

The last time Steven Spielberg brought a directorial project to the big screen was 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' back in 2008. I'm one of the few that enjoyed 'Indy 4,' but others loathed it so much that Spielberg himself apologized for it. Three years later, the director of classic films like 'E.T.' and 'Close Encounters' is bringing an old Belgium comic book to theaters in spectacular 3D/motion capture fashion. This series was called 'The Adventures of Tintin,' and this film goes under the same name. This series of books is extremely popular in many parts of the world, but it really never got its way around here to the US. In fact, Spielberg was notified about the 'Tintin' books when a reviewer of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' back in 1981 compared 'Raiders' to 'Tintin.' So 30 years have passed since then, and Spielberg is finally bringing 'Tintin' to the States.

This movie has been playing in every other part of the world for about two months, so the question is if it can do solid business here in America and be enjoyed by those who have never even heard of this series before. The answer to that question is yes, it will be enjoyed by Americans. Sure this isn't among Spielberg's many classic movies, but it is still an enjoyable and fun ride that will have people laughing, thinking, and staring in awe at the spectacular 3D. 'The Adventures of Tintin' may not be the best animated movie of 2011, but it sure is one of the better Spielberg movies of the 21st century. Note to George Lucas, this is what 'Indy 4' should have been.

Tintin is a British newspaper reporter/crime solver with his loyal dog Snowy always at his side. One day at a flea market or something, Tintin comes across a mysterious ship called "The Unicorn" and he decides to buy it, despite warnings and offers from two different strangers. All of the sudden Tintin gets whisked away from his normal life and into the hands of a madman who for some reason is looking for other versions of this ship. Apparently there was a treasure hidden in "The Unicorn" for centuries and the clues to find it are in these mysterious ships, so Tintin sets out on a worldwide exploration to find the treasure and discover the quote on quote "Secret of the Unicorn." Tintin is accompanied also by Captain Haddock, a drunken captain who knows more about "The Unicorn" than he even realizes.

Motion Capture hasn't exactly been perfected to the fullest yet. Robert Zemekis started using it with all of his most recent films, like 'The Polar Express' and 'Monster House.' Unfortunately the technology eventually bit Zemekis on the butt after the 2011 stinker 'Mars Needs Moms' failed to resonate with anyone. In fact, the only times in the past decade where motion capture was used to perfection had Andy Serkis playing a role wearing the motion capture suit during filming. 'Avatar' was also able to revolutionize both the 3D and motion capture technology back in late 2009. Spielberg made a very smart choice using motion capture because he could both shoot the film as if it was a regular adventure movie, and recreate Herge's drawings to make them look true to the comics. It's because of today's technology that this film thrives with vibrant colors and eye popping visuals. Spielberg was also smart to shoot this movie in 3D. While sometimes the movie looks flat and more like a 2D film than 3D, that is all made up for in the action scenes and landscape shots that suck you into this magical world that only a true artist can think of. You don't have to experience 'Tintin' in 3D, but you won't be disappointed if you do.

A motion capture movie involves more than just an actor recording sound from a microphone. Really what happens is that the actor/actress playing a character has to put on a special suit and get green dots glued to their face, and they act out what a character is doing as if they were filming a live action movie. In order to perfectly execute this, you need the right cast of actors to pull off the part. Jamie Bell, who's most notably known for his child role in the film 'Billy Elliot,' plays Tintin. Bell is great playing Tintin, knowing to have the optimism of any great adventurer and the mind of any great crime solver. Even though you can barely recognize Bell because he looks exactly like Tintin, there is nobody out there in this day in age that could possibly play Tintin. The same goes for Captain Haddock, played by the motion capture master Andy Serkis.

Serkis is on a ball this year, even still getting Oscar buzz for his portrayal of Ceaser in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes.'  With Haddock, Serkis is able to play something I don't think we've seen him as before: a likeable, drunken ship captain.  The combination of the talented Serkis, the magic of motion-capture, and the personality of a hardcore drunk (Jack Sparrow, anyone?) alone guarantees an awesome time thanks to an extraordinary actor.  Daniel Craig plays the antagonist of the film Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, and he's good I guess.  Sure he was a cool villain, but there was just something about Craig's performance that didn't fully suck me into his character.  I did want to see more of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost bumbling duo Thomson and Thompson, who had screen time for 10-15 minutes.  Still they had their moment and they did what they had to do, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

People everywhere have been having many problems with the storyline, which involves things like vengeance, pirates, and ancestry.  Honestly, I didn't mind it at all.  The purpose of the story is to turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride. I get that the story was very clichéd and predictable, but adventure movies are supposed to be clichéd and predictable. The writers of the screenplay are Steven Moffat, (first time film screenwriter) Edgar Wright, (director of 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World') and Joe Cornish. (director of 'Attack the Block') While the script could have dazzled us more like Wright and Cornish's previous films have, but they do help make the film a lot of fun, and something we've never really seen before. To the fans of Wright and Cornish's previous movies, the closest thing you'll get to their style of filmmaking is a twisted mirage scene taking place in the desert, which by the way looked awesome in 3D.

While this animated epic isn't in the leagues of 'Raiders' or 'Jaws,' 'Tintin' is certainly better than 'Indy 4' and 'Hook.' The cast is perfectly cast, the story had its moments but was still fun, and the 3D was good but passable. It's going to be very interesting to see how well this movie is received here in the US, because I doubt many kids in the country know who or what 'Tintin' is. Sure it may appeal to kids and adults, but the question that lies is: will this film make any money here? I think that if families are interested enough, then this will do decent business here. The only warning I'd give to parents is that kids under 9 are bound to squirm in their seat once or twice. Still, this is a fast, fun, and sleek family movie that could be the perfect introduction to 'Indiana Jones' for kids. There are talks of a sequel to this film if Paramount and Sony get their budget back and more. Well they already got the budget back from the rest of the world, so put me on board for a sequel to this flick. 'Tintin' is a fun movie, so check it out with your friends or family and have yourself a great time when you travel into timeless Europe.




REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

MOVIE
Sherlock Holmes:
A Game of Shadows

CAST
Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 16, 2011

DIRECTOR
Guy Ritchie

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 9 minutes





STARS
***








REVIEW:

Who would have thought that 'Sherlock Homes' would get a sequel? I didn't think that at all, but I'm sure glad Warner Brothers decided to bring Robert Downey Jr. back into the iconic role that really helped Downey become a superstar again. Jude Law and Rachel McAdams (in a 10 minute role) both return for more action and more wittiness from the genius/notorious detective. This time, we have Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander) in her first English role, and Jared Harris as Holmes' most notable nemesis, Professor James Moriarty. Being a fan of the 2009 film, I was more than excited to see what director Guy Ritchie could do next. Unfortunately, the turnout here is that 'A Game of Shadows' is not as good as the original, despite some solid acting, cool action scenes, and a fantastic final 10 minutes. 'Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows' is a disappointing sequel, but it is still solid fun.

The best part of the 'Sherlock Holmes' films will always be Robert Downey Jr. Like Tony Stark in the 'Iron Man' films, Holmes is a narcissistic genius who only wants to defend the world from evil madmen. Anyone could have made Sherlock a kooky yet brilliant investigator, but Downey brings it up to the next level with some very funny jokes, a "let's get going" attitude, and a charisma that keeps both audience members and the characters in the film on board. Nobody has played Sherlock better in years. Jude Law is also good as the loyal but annoyed as hell Dr. Watson. Watson may just be the faithful sidekick to the much more interesting Holmes, but the writers of the script have made Law's Watson an awesome partner in crime who's involved in a spectacular action sequence on a train. Rachel McAdams also returns for the film's opening 10 minutes, but is disposed of seconds before the film's title shows up on screen. McAdams was actually pretty good in the first, so it's sad how she is barely used in this film at all. Luckily, the series' newcomers are very good and a true surprise.

I have never seen the Swedish 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' film, nor have I seen the entire trilogy or will be seeing the David Fincher adaptation. With that said, it should probably be guessed that I have never seen a film with Noomi Rapace in it, since this is her first English speaking role. Rapace plays a gypsy who may have the answer to Moriarty's evil plot. While she's not as exciting and fun as McAdams was in the 2009 film, Rapace is fun and cool with some decent acting chops and a badass action persona. The same goes with Jared Harris' James Moriarty, who is basically the exact opposite of Holmes, but equal in every way. Harris is not as cool and mysterious as Mark Strong's character Lord Blackwood; Moriarty is a much more devious character who is so intriguing that even his conversations with Holmes can send chills up your spine. The female sidekick and villain may not be as good as the ones in the 2009 movie, but Noomi Rapace and Jared Harris own their characters enough to be acceptable successors.

There isn't much of a plot in this film at all. If there was, then I didn't quite understand it very well. The summary of this film is the following: confusion, explosions, intrigue, and Robert Downey Jr. I wish there was more of a story in 'A Game of Shadows,' but this is a fun enough sequel to check out on the big screen. The visuals are spectacular as they should be in a big budget Hollywood film, especially in one scene involving the three main leads running through the woods. I know people who liked this new one much more than the first one, but I also have friends who saw this one and prefer the first one over the new one. Still, this is a fun big screen popcorn flick that will have people begging for more. Plus a new trailer for 'The Dark Knight Rises' is shown before every print of this film, so that's always awesome. (The 7 minute prologue is shown with the IMAX release of 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, not this film sadly)






PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

The Grey


 John Carter


The Hunger Games


Battleship


Men in Black 3


Rock of Ages


Jack The Giant Killer


The Dark Knight Rises







Sunday, December 4, 2011

REVIEW: Hugo 3D

MOVIE
Hugo

CAST
Asa Butterfield,
Chloë Grace Moretz

RATING
PG

RELEASE
November 23, 2011 (LIMITED)

DIRECTOR
Martin Scorsese

STUDIO
Paramount Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 6 minutes





STARS
****








REVIEW:

There is a character in Martin Scorsese's new 3D kid flick 'Hugo' that says "movies are where dreams come to life." I've never thought about film that way before, but I now believe that statement after seeing this movie. 'Hugo,' based on the 2007 children's novel 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret,' tells the story of a young orphan named Hugo who runs the clocks in a French train station. His father died in a fire, and his uncle is a drunk, so he's basically living alone. Hugo's father had found a mechanical figure called an automaton prior to his death, and Hugo believes that this machine has a message from his father inside. Things get more complicated for the boy as he stumbles into the life of a cranky toy shop owner with secrets of his own, and his courageous goddaughter whose only desire in life is to go on an adventure. The experience I had with the film was the equivalent of a kid's first trip to the circus. 'Hugo' is pure cinema magic, with the pixie dust to this high flying spectacle of a fairy tale added by everyone and everything in this film, especially the immersive 3D.

Scorsese really knows how to make a film with an incredible cast in mind. Everybody in this movie play their parts of both comedy and drama flawlessly. Asa Butterfield, the young title character, is magnificent showing both the trauma and joy of being a young kid with a big mind. His kid co-star Chloe Moretz of the movie 'Kick Ass' is amazing as she always is. Moretz's character Isabelle resembles that adventurous side in all of us that wants to break out and try something new, and I love to see that in these types of films. The true acting chops in the film belong to the legendary Ben Kingsley, who's portrayal of the toy shop owner/ supposedly forgotten filmmaker Georges Méliès is highly worthy of a Supporting Actor nomination, maybe even a win this year.

The true surprise of the cast to me came from a man who has never been afraid to expose everything he's got. Sacha Baron Cohen delivers the best performance of his career as the bumbling yet devious station inspector who has a knack for finding orphaned children and sending them, well, to the orphanage. He may be bumbling and falling over to make little kiddies laugh, but Scorsese made a very smart decision casting him as this character. The rest of the small parted yet amazing supporting cast, including Emily Mortimer and Christopher Lee are all great for the parts they play, which sadly are very small for how huge of actors they are. The cast adds a whole new dimension to what could have been a slapstick dud by Mr. Scorsese, metaphorically just like how the 3D does.

3D hasn't been used so perfectly since the one that started it all: 'Avatar.' Come to think of it, this movie has better use of 3D than the landmark James Cameron flick ever did. At first 3D was supposed to be an experience when things pop out of the screen and into your eyes. Now these days Hollywood has treated it as a gimmick, filming almost anything in the third dimension whether it's necessary or not. Scorsese was smart to shoot this film in 3D because the audience is able to get themselves sucked into this fantastic world of fun and terror, despite the occasional object that flies at the audience. 3D is supposed to swallow you into the world you paid $20 to see, and this movie not only does that, but makes you believe that you are there with Hugo. I swear to you that 'Hugo' is something you have to see in 3D, despite having to shell out a few extra dollars for the goofy glasses. If you check this movie out in 2D, you will not have the same experience as you would in 3D.

'Hugo' is a triumphant 3D family flick with adults and cinephiles probably liking it more than younger audiences. The little ones will be entertained by the slapstick humor of Baron Cohen, as well as the side story between an older couple and a tiny dog. Adults and cinephiles will be entertained by the film's huge heart and Kingsley's magnificent and somewhat heartbreaking portrayal of Georges Méliès. Anyone else who is over the age of 10 will enjoy this movie because inn some ways they can relate to any of the characters in this movie. You could be an adult like boy who can take care of yourself like Hugo, or you can be a sheltered person who wants to seek adventure like Isabelle. Whatever age you are, you shall find something to like in this film.

'Hugo' is more than just a family film: it's a film for everyone. Take your friends; take your family; take that neighbor down the street who you really don't care for that much. 'Hugo' deserves a larger audience than it's currently receiving, and I hope that families/adults find this movie somewhere during the holidays and check it out. For the true cinephiles out there in the world, do a double feature with this (in 3D!) and 'The Artist.' Two movies about the history of cinema: the greatest movie theater experience you may ever have when it comes to knowing something about really old films.





PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

The Adventures of Tintin


Star Wars Episode I:
The Phantom Menace 3D


The Lorax


The Pirates: Band of Misfits


Titanic 3D


The Amazing Spider-Man