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Monday, December 31, 2012

REVIEW: Les Misérables

MOVIE
Les Misérables

CAST
Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 25, 2012

DIRECTOR
Tom Hooper

STUDIO
Universal Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 38 minutes





STARS
****








REVIEW:

As someone who wasn't expecting a whole lot with the big screen adaptation of the musical 'Les Misérables,' I have to tell you that I loved the living hell out of this movie.  This is director Tom Hooper's follow-up to the 2010 Best Picture winner 'The King's Speech,' which had a miniscule budget compared to the amount of money that went into this film.  Hooper wanted to do something different with this musical and that was to have the actors performing the songs live on camera rather than record the songs in a studio and come back two months later to lip-sync over the recordings, which is the first time a film had that done entirely.  That was such a smart decision because this gave the actors a chance to act while they were singing, and use the lyrics to express their physical and mental emotions as well as carry an incredible tune.  'Les Misérables' from start to finish is an enchanting, intense, and beautiful musical that will strike a chord with audiences everywhere if they can handle 5% of the film being dialogue while the rest of it is singing.

In the early 1800s, a man named Jean Valjean makes and breaks parole after being arrested and imprisoned for 19 years after trying to steal food for his nephew.  After claiming a new identity, the past begins to come back to haunt him just as things seem to be going Jean's way.  At the same time, a poor woman named Fantine is in critical condition after doing all she can to support her young child Cosette.  Seeing the world as an honest and kind person, Valjean agrees to take care of Cosette despite the fact that she would never be able to know of Jean's true identity and tragic past.  Did I forget to mention that the French Revolution was just around the corner?

It's easy to say a movie is well-acted when it's just actors yelling a lot and giving motivational speeches.  It's another thing to say when an actor delivers a great performance because of something that isn't just yelling and telling motivational speeches.  That is the case with the acting in 'Les Mis.'  Hugh Jackman is marvelous as Jean Valjean.  In every note he sings throughout the film, emotion pours out effectively and captivates any audience member who's watching or listening.  Anne Hathaway helps to get people to shed tears during her performance of 'I Dreamed A Dream,' which alone could win her an Oscar for her small role as Fantine.  Russell Crowe is great in the movie, though it is understandable how some may feel he's "miscast" for the role of Javert since people aren't used to hearing Crowe singing.  I personally thought he wasn't bad and did a fine job for what he could do.  The rest of the cast have pretty small roles, but everyone in those small roles, especially Samantha Barks and all of the little kids in the movie, were fantastic, and all did an incredible job in this film.

In my opinion, the best thing about the film was the directing job by Tom Hooper.  His decision to have the actors sing live on camera not only was a genius idea, but it also gave the actors freedom to add a depth of emotion to their characters while they're singing.  The added emotional impact from the live singing worked perfectly, making the audience feel what the characters were feeling during any moment in the film.  The fact that the music is good in the film just adds to the emotional impact.  Good isn't even the best word to describe the music in this film, because it was absolutely incredible.  Every song is catchy in its own way and helps carry the story along in a smooth yet visceral way.  I actually think that this film has the best musical soundtrack since 'Hairspray,' and that's coming from someone who has the 'Rock of Ages' soundtrack on his iPod.  I can't wait to get this soundtrack, or at least some of the more memorable tracks to listen to for days to come.

I am still shocked at how much I loved 'Les Misérables.'  The film has wonderful acting, the best musical soundtrack I've heard in years, and a sublime directing job from Tom Hooper.  I think that this film is miles better than 'The King's Speech,' and I loved that movie when I first saw it.  This is a movie that you'll either love or you'll hate.  It just depends on whether or not you A.) have seen the musical, B.) enjoy musicals, and/or C.) can bear 2 and a half hours of nothing but singing.  If you have seen the musical and don't like this film as much, that's understandable.  My mother, who has seen the original London Broadway cast live, enjoys the show and the movie equally.  I trust my mother on that, which makes me want to see the show so much more.  'Les Misérables' is not a happy movie for the most part.  It is though a compelling, enchanting, and magnificent movie musical that is easily one of the best movies of 2012.  Musicals can't get more engrossing than this one.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

The Big Wedding

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Oz: The Great and the Powerful


Zero Dark Thirty

Identity Theft

The Heat

Oblivion


REWIND REVIEW: Project X

MOVIE
Project X

CAST
Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper

RATING
R

RELEASE
March 2, 2012

DIRECTOR
Nima Nourizadeh

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 28 minutes






STARS
**1/4










REVIEW:

In general, party movies are supposed to be fun and entertaining while not going too over the top. 'Project X' looked like it could be this generations definitive party movie, like how 'Animal House was in the 70s. Unfortunately, only the first hour is fun and entertaining. I was even on the verge of giving the film 3 or even 3 and a half stars if it wasn't for the final half hour. What happens in the final half hour of the film isn't entertaining, rather it's frightening as hell. As a concerned brother/laid back teenager, I was appalled by the "climax" of 'Project X.' Even though the first hour is over the top and extremely vulgar and raunchy, I was entertained by the douchey characters and the awesome music the DJ was booming at the party. As soon as this one thing happens to the main character Thomas that affects this friendship he has, the film spirals downhill very quickly. The chaos becomes not only unrealistic and bat-s**t crazy, but it becomes a horror film of sorts from a parental perspective.

Teens in my school never act as big of dicks as the three leads are played out to be. I really wish I could recommend this film to even teens, but sadly I cannot. When a film can't please it's own demographic, that's really saying something. If it wasn't for the finale of the film, I would actually give 'Project X' a solid recommendation. But sadly, that last half hour is there, and the entire payoff of this small-get-together turned out-of-control-party is not a good one. 'Project X' is foul, cruel, and somewhat frightening and overall not worth watching even by teens late at night on HBO or something.  This movie isn't even worth checking out for the female nudity, which isn't that impressive to begin with.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

REVIEW: Jack Reacher

MOVIE
Jack Reacher

CAST
Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 21, 2012

DIRECTOR
Christopher McQuarrie

STUDIO
Paramount Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 11 minutes






STARS
***1/4








REVIEW:

Whether you're a fan of his personal life or not, there's no denying that Tom Cruise is a Hollywood superstar. That didn't stop a lot of fans of the 'Jack Reacher' series written by Lee Child to go bazerk when the 50 year old, 5' 7" star was attached to play the ruthless, 6' 5" soldier turned drifter in a movie called 'Jack Reacher,' based off the 9th book in the series entitled 'One Shot.' Not only did the height thing tick people off, but fans of the books believed that Cruise is too big of a star to play this iconic character, which they aren't wrong about. The thing that saves 'Jack Reacher' however is actually the charm and wit that Cruise brings to the character and to the film.  What could have been a standard action flick was actually a smart, witty, and intriguing mystery-thriller with a great performance from Tom Cruise.

PLOT (From RottenTomatoes.com)
Six shots. Five dead. One heartland city thrown into a state of terror. But within hours the cops have it solved: a slam-dunk case. Except for one thing. The accused man says: You got the wrong guy. Then he says: Get Reacher for me. And sure enough, ex-military investigator Jack Reacher is coming. He knows this shooter-a trained military sniper who never should have missed a shot. Reacher is certain something is not right-and soon the slam-dunk case explodes. Now Reacher is teamed with a beautiful young defense lawyer, moving closer to the unseen enemy who is pulling the strings. Reacher knows that no two opponents are created equal. This one has come to the heartland from his own kind of hell. And Reacher knows that the only way to take him down is to match his ruthlessness and cunning-and then beat him shot for shot.

This movie would not have been as enjoyable as it was without Tom Cruise.  He uses his sarcastic charm to entertain and engage the audiences in a fun ride.  This film is an example of just how awesome Cruise is as an actor.  There's a mystery element that's used in the film which actually makes it stand out from other generic action films out there.  The villains of the movie and the fact that a lot of the outcomes are predictable are the weakest points of the movie since they don't give a lot of substance and just deliver on the same old, same old.  Other than that though, 'Jack Reacher' is a fun and intelligent action-thriller with some laughs thrown in and a great performance from Tom Cruise.  Definitely worth seeing in a theater, but a home theater experience on a Blu-Ray player could work just as well for this movie.  Plus, it might make you want to look into the book series for which this movie is based on.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Iron Man 3


Oblivion


Zero Dark Thirty


Pain & Gain


Broken City


G.I. Joe: Retaliation


REWIND REVIEW: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

MOVIE
Journey 2:
The Mysterious Island

CAST
Dwayne Johnson,
Josh Hutcherson

RATING
PG

RELEASE
February 10, 2012

DIRECTOR
Brad Peyton

STUDIO
New Line Cinema (WB)

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 34 minutes






STARS
***









REVIEW:

When coming across a movie like 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' so late in the year, one forgets how many decent movies came out at the beginning of the year.  Movies like 'The Grey' and 'Casa de Mi Padre' are put to the side compared to other films in those same genres that came out later in the year.  'Journey 2' is kind of like that when it comes to the kid movies that came out this year.  The film is about a boy who teams with his stepfather, whom he doesn't get along with well, to discover "The Mysterious Island," a supposedly fictional island from a Jules Verne novel, in order to find the boy's long lost grandfather.  Dwayne Johnson headlines a surprisingly good cast for a film that, while stupid and really predictable at times, explores some interesting ideas and creates an intriguing enough story that it keeps the audience satisfied for an hour and a half. 

As someone who enjoyed 'Journey To The Center Of The Earth,' I was actually expecting this movie to stink, which is why I skipped this movie in theaters.  Luckily the screenwriters knew how to incorporate some cool ideas into a kids movie filled with some really stupid and some funny jokes, with some of the funny jokes using the 3D "pop-out" gimmick.  Even the actors knew how to approach this material, which was in a cheesy fashion.  As a kid's movie, 'Journey 2' is a great way to spend a rainy day, especially if you have a 3D television.  As a standard movie sequel, 'Journey 2' is a fun and enjoyable movie with some really cliched and laughable elements placed in throughout.  Not much else can be said about a movie about people finding the mysterious island that Jules Verne wrote about in the book 'The Mysterious Island.'



Sunday, December 23, 2012

MINI-REVIEW: Parental Guidance

MOVIE
Parental Guidance

CAST
Billy Crystal, Bette Midler

RATING
PG

RELEASE
December 25, 2012

DIRECTOR
Andy Fickman

STUDIO
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 45 minutes






STARS
***









REVIEW:

As Christmas comes around, families come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  It's also the time when Jewish families go out to the movies and get Chinese food afterwards.  Leave it to the director of 'Race To Witch Mountain' to bring a family comedy starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Marissa Tomei to the big screen just in time for the holidays.  The movie is about grandparents who try to bond with their grandchildren over the course of a week due to them not being very close to them, along with their workaholic daughter.  This isn't a movie that I don't think many were going to rush out to see, rather this would be a movie that families would go to since they've seen everything else and want to do something on Christmas.  Surprisingly enough though, 'Parental Guidance' is more than just the average family-comedy that comes out during the holidays.  The schmaltzy tongue-in-cheek sentimental crap is replaced with a heart that is relatable to and is really touching in the final 30 minutes.  If there is one family movie that's coming out this Christmas, I'm very glad it was this movie, because it surprised me greatly.

Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Marisa Tomei are all good in the movie.  The kids in the film are at first annoying, but then they start to grow on you and they become somewhat likable.  The story is predictable and cliched as hell, but all of that is made up from the second half of the movie since the emotional tension between the grandkids and the grandparents feels real, along with the situations the kids are stuck in.  It's not a great film by any means, but it is an enjoyable family movie and a perfect way to celebrate the holidays with your parents, siblings, and/or grandparents.  Plus, this film marks the return of actor Gedde Watanabe, also known as "Long Duck Dong" from the John Hughes classic 'Sixteen Candles,' which personally made me cheer in my seat since I'm a huge fan of that film.  There isn't much else to say about this movie in all honesty, other than the fact that it is enjoyable and fluffy entertainment.  If you want to take the family to see a movie during the holidays, 'Parental Guidance' is a good choice for entertainment, despite some really stupid jokes and a lot of predictable moments.



REVIEW: Struck By Lightning

MOVIE
Struck By Lightning

CAST
Chris Colfer, Allison Janney

RATING
NR (TV-14 on TV)

RELEASE
December 19, 2012 (VOD)
January 11, 2013 (Limited)

DIRECTOR
Brian Dannelly

STUDIO
Tribeca Film

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 24 minutes







STARS
***1/2









REVIEW:

There are those movies out there that have a reasonably good cast and a really good story but fall under the wayside of the movie industry due to the fact that they're not big releases. 'Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World,' 'Safety Not Guaranteed,' and 'Ruby Sparks' are among those movies that just didn't make it to a large audience. It unfortunately seems like it's going to happen once more, this time to a teeny tiny movie called 'Struck By Lightning.' The star and writer of the film is Chris Colfer, who's most notable for his role as Kurt on the hit TV show 'Glee.' The director of the movie is Brian Dannelly, who's most notable for his 2004 teen film 'Saved!' This film premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival and was never picked up by a major distributor like Sony Pictures Classics or Fox Searchlight, which means the film will have a very small run in theaters along with an On-Demand/Digital Download release that some may be able to find. That truly is a shame because 'Struck By Lightning,' despite the feel of a really small movie, deserved a bigger release and a bigger campaign helping spreading the word out to the public. This film is a true gem, packing in laughs, drama, and a realistic feel that ends (or begins, however you want to determine it) tragically.

High-school senior Carson Phillips just doesn't understand why his peers act the way they do and why nobody seems to be interested in things that he finds important. Many at the school hate him, or rather don't understand him enough to a point where they assume that hatred is the best label to put on. Carson is trying to go to the college of his dreams to he can get the job of his dreams, but he has to do something big in order to get the attention of the college. He decides to write a literary magazine since school papers (he's the editor of the school paper, which nobody wants to be a part of) don't fly with colleges much anymore. After a chance encounter in a boy's bathroom, Carson decides that the best way to get people, more specifically the popular kids of his school, to write for the literary magazine is to get some dirty news and blackmail students with what he has on them. Not much else can be said without spoiling some great things about the film.

With this movie, Chris Colfer proves that he's more than a courageous homosexual boy which he plays very well on 'Glee.' The movie plays less like 'Glee' and more like 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower,' in which the characters and the story are deeper and more relatable than the poster or trailer might suggest. The thing that I adore the most about Colfer's great script is that it doesn't have a happy ending. Well, not EXACTLY a happy ending, but it's hard to explain without giving a lot away, which I don't want to do. Not only does the script have some great realistic drama put in there, but it also has characters who all have their flaws, as well as some funny jokes in the first half. Colfer, along with the entire cast of familiar faces, deliver on great performances. The true star of the film though is Colfer's script because not only does it give off a clever and interesting story, but it also shows how great of a writer he actually is and how much potential lies within his unique mind.

Director Brian Dannelly has a knack for high school drama. This is only his second directorial effort after 'Saved!' and he shows that not only does he know how to accurately show the dramatic elements of a high schooler's lifestyle, but he also understands the teenage mind and uses that knowledge to help direct each actor in a way that feels real. Like 'Perks of Being a Wallflower,' this movie strikes (no pun intended) directly into the mind and life of a teenager and creates likable and relatable characters with situations that work out like how many things in life turn out: not good. Brian Dannelly and Chris Colfer are a dream team made in indie heaven, together making a movie truly worth watching. 'Struck By Lightning' is a true gem worth looking for On-Demand or on any Digital Download server, and definitely deserved a bigger distribution than what it's getting right now.





Tuesday, December 18, 2012

REVIEW: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: The IMAX 3D Experience

MOVIE
The Hobbit:
An Unexpected Journey

CAST
Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 14, 2012

DIRECTOR
Peter Jackson

STUDIO(S)
New Line Cinema (WB),
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 49 minutes





STARS
****







REVIEW:

9 years have passed since 'The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King' closed the successful trilogy with universal praise, lots of money, and 17 Oscars including Best Picture. Fans of the books and the movies have waited for the prequel book to the famous trilogy, entitled 'The Hobbit,' to finally hit the big screen after nearly 7-8 years in the making. Peter Jackson is again in the director's chair, and some of the original cast, including Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis, return to the world of Frodo and The Ring. Instead of the story being about Frodo, this story takes place 60 years prior to the events of 'Fellowship of the Ring' where we meet Bilbo Baggins, Frodo's uncle, at a young age. He is recruited by Gandalf the Grey to be the 14th member of a group of elves on a mission to defeat the vicious dragon known as Smaug. As someone who isn't the biggest fan of 'Lord of the Rings,' I have to say that not only did 'An Unexpected Journey' exceed my expectations, but I also happen to enjoy it more than both 'Fellowship' and 'The Two Towers.' This is the movie that fans of the series have been waiting for. It also happens to be one of the year's best movies.

It clearly shown throughout the movie that Jackson is a true fan of Tolken's books. Every character and creature look stunning and real. The 3D use and cinematography made me feel even closer to the world of Middle Earth than I ever felt watching the first three movies on DVD. The visuals used in the film look nearly lifelike. Despite these advantages to the look of the film, it seemed though that Jackson just wanted to film a lot of things so the film could run nearly 3 hours. The film tends to drag a bit in the middle of the film, which is kind of a shame because of how fast the first hour and the final 40 minutes fly by. I loved being in Middle Earth just as much as my friend, who's a big 'Rings' fan, did. Unfortunately I felt that there could have been things cut out to make this movie 20 minutes shorter than it was. That doesn't take away from the quality of the film though.

The casting choices in these films have always been perfect choices, and the casting in 'The Hobbit' continue that streak. Martin Freeman is excellent as Bilbo, plain and simple. Even though Ian Holm did a fine job playing the older Bilbo in 'Fellowship' and even at the beginning of this movie, Freeman makes Bilbo a character who we can both sympathize with and root for when he decides to go on the big adventure. I personally thought that Bilbo was a more likable character than Frodo ever was in the original trilogy. Overall, I can’t wait to see Bilbo take on Smaug in one of the future movies. Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis, and Cate Blanchett are among the cast members returning to the series, and all are great, particularly Serkis. The “Riddles in the Dark” sequence between Serkis and Freeman is the highlight of the film for me. There are no weak links present in this cast, even from the newcomers to the series.

Other than Freeman, the most notable newcomer to the cast is Richard Armitrage as Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the 14 members of the group. Not only is this character a bad ass, but he's also courageous, likable, and really cool. Despite giving Bilbo a hard time throughout the duration of 'An Unexpected Journey,' Armitrage makes Thorin his own character and someone the audience will want to root for in the next two films in the series. There are other newcomers to the series, like the other 11 members of the group that I haven't mentioned. Unfortunately for them they aren't given a lot of screen-time to be given any praise or enough praise to their characters, especially since some of them didn't even have lines of dialogue. As for Freeman and Armitrage, they are the perfect choices for their roles, and like I said before, I can't wait to see them in the next two chapters of this trilogy.

The flaws in 'The Hobbit' are so miniscule that they can be ignored all together. The acting is superb, particularly from Freeman, McKellan, Serkis, and Armitrage. The script, written by Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro, and Philippa Boyens, is filled with goodies that fans of the book will love, as well as things that moviegoers will enjoy, especially if they've seen the other three movies. Sure the film is nearly three hours long, but only one scene in the movie makes the audience feel the length of the movie. Everything else just flies by fairly quickly since you're just so invested in this journey. Thinking about this movie makes me like it even more than I did walking out of my IMAX theater. My theater didn't show the IMAX print in the faster 48fps, but I do want to see the film again in that format to compare the 24fps version and the 48fps. It might be best to first see the movie in 24fps so you can get invested in the story rather than be distracted by the oddness of the look of the film. Overall, I loved 'The Hobbit' just as much as I enjoyed 'Return of the King.' It's a funny, action-packed, fascinating, and magical experience worth seeing in 3D on the big screen. It's also one of my favorite movies of 2012, plain and simple.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

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(Exclusive 9 minute IMAX Preview)



Monday, December 17, 2012

REVIEW: The Guilt Trip

MOVIE
The Guilt Trip

CAST
Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 19, 2012

DIRECTOR
Anne Fletcher

STUDIO
Paramount Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 35 minutes





STARS
***









REVIEW:

It's kind of a rarity to find a movie that was made for a mother and a son to go see together. When I took my mother to see 'Rock of Ages,' in all honesty it was a uncomfortable experience due to the heavy sexual nature of that movie. When I took my mother to see the new Barbra Streisand comedy 'The Guilt Trip,' there was no feeling of being uncomfortable present at all. If you ever wondered what would happen if you went on an 8 day road trip with your mother, then this is probably what would be the outcome. As someone who wasn't very impressed with the trailers, I have to say that this movie was a pleasant surprise. This is a movie that is as funny and sweet as it is genuine and relatable. 'The Guilt Trip' might be overshadowed by other movies coming out during the holiday season, but it is definitely worth looking for if you want to spend some time with your parents.

Andy Brewster is a salesman for a new type of cleaning product that nobody is interested in investing in. His mother Joyce is an overbearing woman who tries to support her son in any way possible, even if that means calling him every 5 minutes the day of one of his sales pitches. When Andy comes to visit Joyce in his hometown of Newark, NJ, he notices that his mother is lonely and needs someone in her life. That's where Andy comes up with the idea to ask his mother to come on his cross-country road trip to San Francisco, CA, so they can have some mother/son time. Of course she accepts, because whose mother wouldn't want to go on a road trip with their son, and the arguing, bonding, and shenanigans ensue from there.

The best thing about this movie is the chemistry between Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen and the heart surrounding their characters. Seth Rogen, who usually plays a foul-mouthed, drug-inducing, obnoxious character finally plays a character that people with mothers can relate to. To all of the Jewish sons out there, Barbra Streisand will probably show some similarities to your own mother, or even grandmother depending on how religious your family is. Despite the fact that the two leads are Jews, only one Jewish joke is made, and the conflict between the two characters is highly relatable to mothers and sons everywhere. The performances are believable enough where you could fill yourself and your mother in the shoes of Rogen and Streisand, and the struggle between them was surprisingly written pretty well. In fact the script as a whole, while some of it was predictable, was sweet, funny, and touching in some ways. Not the greatest script ever, but I was pleasantly surprised by what was presented.

Not much else is left so say about 'The Guilt Trip,' other than the fact that this is the perfect movie for a son to see with your mother. The film is genuinely funny at times, the chemistry between Rogen and Streisand is believable and great, and the emotional aspects of the film hit and appear more than one would expect to in a movie like this. This is definitely a more enjoyable directorial effort from Ann Fletcher than 'The Proposal,' which I did enjoy quite a bit. Sure the movie has a predictable outcome and some of the jokes have been seen before in many other films, but it is a nice and sweet comedy to see. Seeing it with my mother was a fantastic experience to have, as she is a Streisand fan and I'm a Rogen fan. It's kind of the perfect mixture of actors that appeal to both the older generations and the newer generations. 'The Guilt Trip' is a satisfying comedy with a good heart and some great laughs. Why this didn't come out around Mother's Day is shocking since this would have been a perfect Mother's Day release.




Friday, December 14, 2012

REVIEW: Life of Pi 3D

MOVIE
Life of Pi

CAST
Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan

RATING
PG

RELEASE
November 21, 2012

DIRECTOR
Ang Lee

STUDIO
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 7 minutes






STARS
***3/4










REVIEW:

'Life of Pi' is not the typical 3D movie one would expect to see. It dives into themes of spirituality and religion more than one would expect from watching the trailers. This is a film from acclaimed director Ang Lee, best known for 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.' Lee took on the challenge of making this movie because, like 'Cloud Atlas,' the book that this film is based on was considered to be "unfilmable," meaning it was believed to be impossible to make this movie. Sure enough, Lee believed in this movie and got it made; shooting it in 3D as well, as he felt that was the only way to see this movie. It's easy to say that the 3D is great, which it is. The story and performance by newcomer Suraj Sharma and a CGI tiger, however, pop out more than the flying fish in a certain 3D sequence. 'Life of Pi' is a compelling, heart-pounding, and inspiring adventure story that makes you think about religion and life in all of its best forms.

Pi in the present is a man with a story to tell. It just so happens that a writer wants to hear his story, so Pi tells him the story of "finding god." The story begins when he is a young boy and trying to discover all kinds of religions, along with the animals in his family's zoo. When he's a teenager, his family decides to move out of India to try to start a new life and make some money, which means selling the zoo animals as well. Pi unwillingly goes with his family, and his fascination with sea storms saves his life as the boat he and his family travel on sinks, and he is the only survivor. Well, he's the only human survivor. A big tiger named Richard Parker stowed away on this little boat that Pi is riding on, and the rest of the story shows the bond of the characters and the journey Pi goes on to attempt to survive this terrible event.

There are only two actors to talk about when talking about acting performances, and they both play the same character. Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan play the younger and older versions of Pi respectively. Khan has been in some familiar roles in the past, most notably in 'The Amazing Spider-Man.' He does deliver a fine performance, but it's Sharma that delivers on the emotional impact of the film. This character goes through a lot of terrible things throughout the story, and he really breaks down at one point in the movie, so much so that my jaw was on the floor. He's not the greatest actor in the world, but it definitely is a brilliant first performance, almost comparable to the debut of Quvenzhané Wallis from 'Beasts of the Southern Wild.' There isn't a bad performance in this movie, but most of them, except for the two men playing Pi, are pretty small roles.

The visuals in this movie are nothing short of spectacular. The animals, including the tiger named Richard Parker, look nearly as real as a photo of a tiger, which is kind of hard to do these days. The other animals and the shipwreck scene looked outstanding, especially in 3D, and should be awarded for that. The 3D is used in such a way where the viewer feels like they're on this journey with Pi and Richard Parker, whether it's a good moment or a bad moment. My one complaint about the 3D is how the aspect ratio of the film was changed in one scene so the flying fish could pip out of the frame and look more like a 3D movie than it would with the bigger ratio. It reminded me of what films like 'Wrath of the Titans' and 'G-Force' did with their 3D, in which moments had things just pop out of the frame into the blackness of the wide screen ratio. It was a minor nitpick, but it did work to that scene's advantage. If there is one way to see this movie, it is in 3D. Seeing it in 2D won't serve the film justice, and that's something I've said a lot. Even Ang Lee said that this is a film that he envisioned in 3D, so do yourself a favor and see this movie in the third dimension if you're able to.

'Life of Pi' might not be a movie for everyone, but it is in a way an achievement of such. This "unfilmable" story is heart-pounding, suspenseful, and powerful throughout. The 3D helps the experience a lot, and the acting is great from newcomer Suraj Sharma. The religious aspect of the film isn't devoted to any specific religion, but it does hit any religious person right where it needs to be hit. The climax and ending of the film were especially powerful because it basically left it open for the viewer to decide what happens next, which I really admired. This is an emotional roller-coaster for families and kids older than 9 due to some intense moments. 'Life of Pi' is as eye-popping and gorgeous as it is powerful and engulfing. See this movie in a theater if possible.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Now You See Me

Parental Guidance

Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Oz: The Great and the Powerful

The Smurfs 2

Epic



REWIND REVIEW: Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope

MOVIE
Comic-Con Episode IV:
A Fan's Hope

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
April 6, 2012

DIRECTOR
Morgan Spurlock

STUDIO
Wrekin Hill Entertainment

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 28 minutes






STARS
***1/4










REVIEW:

People every year flock to San Diego to take part in the wonders of Comic-Con.  The panels in Hall H are legendary every year, always premiering footage for upcoming movies that you can't see anywhere else.  Documentary director Morgan Spurlock went to Comic Con back in 2011 to interview celebrities and cover the stories of 5 or 6 people's adventures in the legendary pop-culture event.  This documentary isn't perfect by any means, but it is an entertaining one nonetheless.  Sure the stories sometimes become a little too scattered around the place and things might be a little slow at parts, but 'Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope' is an entertaining look into the world of geek culture.  Plus the celebrity interviews are quite entertaining.  Not much can be said about this movie except for the fact that it is worth a watch if you have 90 minutes to kill.



Saturday, December 8, 2012

MINI-REVIEW: Holy Motors

MOVIE
Holy Motors

CAST
Denis Lavant, Édith Scob

RATING
Unrated

RELEASE
November 23, 2012 (Philly)

DIRECTOR
Leos Carax

STUDIO
Indomnia Releasing

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 56 minutes






STARS
***3/4








REVIEW:

Let me just start by saying that if you don't enjoy movies that will leave you as confused as you were watching the trailer, then 'Holy Motors' is probably not for you. This is a movie that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year where it took France by storm. After seeing the movie itself, I have the same question that everyone who has seen the film asked upon their first viewing: "What the hell did I just watch?" This is a movie where it's very hard to understand on the first viewing, so multiple viewings are required. I've seen this movie twice already, and I'm still wondering about certain things in the movie. It's hard to explain why the film is like that, since the plot of the film is easy to explain: a man with no past goes around France in a white limo every day dressing up in different costumes for "appointments" he has every day. This is a movie that starts out pretty straight forward, but then dives into different levels that toy with your mind and then leaves you out of the toy box for the night.

The film presents a powerful and spectacular performance by Denis Lavant, and some great work from actors Édith Scob, Kylie Minogue, and Eva Mendes. The visual style of this movie and the costumes are incredible, and the direction by French director Leos Carax is great. The thing that prevents me from giving this a perfect score is just that it toys around with your mind so much that you have no idea what to think of it upon the first viewing. I look forward to seeing this movie for a third time, since it is funny, dazzling, and strange all at the same time. There is a good amount of violence, sex, and male nudity in this movie, but that is only one tiny part of the weirdness of this movie. 'Holy Motors' will and should develop a strong fanbase in the future. If this gem is available to see in your area, it's definitely something worth a lot of your time. This movie will mess with your head, but it's good kind of messing around, since it will leave you wanting to watch it again. And again. And again.


Friday, December 7, 2012

REVIEW: Argo

MOVIE
Argo

CAST
Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston

RATING
R

RELEASE
October 12, 2012

DIRECTOR
Ben Affleck

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours







STARS
****








REVIEW:

As the Oscar race is heating up, it's time to catch up on some movies that I have yet to see that are being talked about and possibly going for all of the gold. The first film that I needed to catch up on was Ben Affleck's 'Argo.' Despite never having seen a Ben Affleck directed film before, this was a movie that I had been looking forward to for a while. It has an awesome concept for a movie, a solid cast, and is being directed by someone who hasn't directed a bad movie yet in Hollywood. After waiting nearly two months to see it, I'm happy to report that 'Argo' was indeed worth the wait. The first half hour might be a little slow, but that can be ignored as it's intense, funny at parts, smart, and features one of the best finales to a movie all year. There's a reason why 'Argo' is getting awards buzz, and that's because it's awesome.

The story starts in 1979 where many militants took 66 Americans hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Iran, but 6 of the Americans escaped before anyone noticed. With all of the papers within the Embassy shredded, it would take a while for the Iranians to find these Americans, who are hiding at the house of the Canadian Ambassador. After over two months of no plan whatsoever to get the 6 Americans out, a man in the C.I.A. named Tony Mendez comes up with a crazy scheme that could actually get the soon to be hostages out of Iran: Mendez poses as a Hollywood producer in Iran with his "production crew" to scout locations for a cheap science fiction fantasy adventure entitled "Argo." The 6 Americans pose as Mendez's crew, which would require extensive help in order to get them into their roles. With the help of two men in the movie business, Mendez creates a fake movie that would soon become one of the greatest classified stories in American history.

In all honesty, I don't think people are giving Ben Affleck enough credit in regards to his acting in the movie. His portrayal of Tony Mendez, while mostly subtle in emotion, is as gripping as the film's final 40 minutes. Not a lot of emotion is used by Affleck in this character, but he does have a couple of spots where the emotions shine. It's not as great of a performance as Alan Arkin in the film or any of the Best Actor contenders at this year's Oscars, but it is a performance that I feel people are overlooking due to his directorial efforts. Speaking of those, Affleck shows in 'Argo' that he is a master at his craft. This film clearly had the vision of someone who understood the material and knew exactly what he was doing. If Affleck gets nominated for anything, it's going to most likely be for Best Director, which he deserves without a doubt. I can't wait to watch 'The Town' and 'Gone Baby Gone' so I can compare the other two directorial efforts to this one.

There wasn't a single bad performance present in here at all. Even though I felt Affleck is not being given enough praise for his acting in the film, there were better performances in this movie. Bryan Cranston, aka the guy who has been in a lot of movies this year, is good in the film. The thing about him is that it felt that he was underused for the relatively big name that he is thanks to the TV show 'Breaking Bad.' The best performances in the film without a doubt were John Goodman and Alan Arkin. Both actors were hysterical in this movie, with Goodman playing the late make up artist John Chambers and Arkin playing Hollywood producer Lester Siegel. There's talk of Arkin getting nominated for his work in the film, but honestly I don't think he was great enough to be considered, despite being great in the movie. It's one of those nominations that I'll be happy about, but I just don't think he deserves it for this film. The rest of the cast for there small parts are all great, which overall sums up my thoughts on the entire cast: they're great.

The buzz for 'Argo' is well deserved without a doubt. The film might start off a little slow, but once it gets going I tell you it gets going fast. The 30-40 minutes of this movie is the most heart pounding sequence in a movie all year, and I sincerely mean that. Director Ben Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio have brought a suspenseful, hear-stopping, and sometimes funny thriller that doesn't need violence to keep its viewer on the edge of a seat. All of the Oscar buzz, while it isn't my favorite movie of the year, is well deserved, especially for Ben Affleck's direction. Plus, this film has a catch-phrase that I know will be quoted by many people for years to come. If this film is still playing in a theater near you, check it out before it's too late. 'Argo' is a film experience for modern history buffs and movie-goers everywhere. 'Argo'-see this movie right now!



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE: 

Admission

Stand Up Guys

Les Miserables

Zero Dark Thirty

Gangster Squad

The Great Gatsby

REWIND REVIEW: Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

MOVIE
Seeking A Friend
For The End Of The World

CAST
Steve Carell, Keira Knightley

RATING
R

RELEASE
June 22, 2012

DIRECTOR
Lorene Scafaria

STUDIO
Focus Features

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 41 minutes






STARS
****









REVIEW:

Of all of the movies of 2012, this is the first movie after 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' that moved me in such a way that it brought me to tears. 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' is a story of the end of the world occurring. Two neighbors, one whose wife left him and the other was dumped by her boyfriend, become allies in two journeys to succeed in seeing families and resolving relationships with old flames before a 70 mile wide asteroid hits the Earth and ends life as we know it. Unlike most apocalyptic movies, this film takes the subject material and sets it as a backdrop to a story of two broken souls finding one another. This is probably as realistic as any movie about the end of the world can get, but that isn't why I love this movie.

All of the actors, particularly Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, deliver great work in this movie, and show how good their dramatic acting can be. The story and script, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, are really good, with enough heart and laughs to satisfy anyone. Since everyone knows how the movie is going to end, (see the title for the ending) it gets even more emotional as we the audience start bonding with Carell's Dodge and Knightley's Penny. This is a film that I really look forward to watching again in the future. It's a shame that I missed this in theaters, but as Carell says in the film's final scene, "This is how it had to happen." 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' is this year's most underrated film, and overall one of 2012's finest. Seek this movie out when you get the chance; you might not regret doing so.



Monday, December 3, 2012

REWIND REVIEW: Safety Not Guaranteed

MOVIE
Safety Not Guaranteed

CAST
Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass

RATING
R

RELEASE
June 8, 2012

DIRECTOR
Colin Trevorrow

STUDIO
FilmDistrict

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 26 minutes






STARS
****







REVIEW:

Most science fiction tales require big budgets, huge stars, and a lot of CGI effects.  That's not the case for 'Safety Not Guaranteed,' a quirky little dramady about time travel that gave the people at Sundance something to talk about.  It stars Aubrey Plaza as an intern at a news source that volunteers to take project run by a character played by Jake Johnson to track down a guy played by Mark Duplass who put in a mysterious ad in a newspaper claiming to be able to time travel.  This is one of those films that not only is hip and fresh to this generation, but also tells a great story filled with heart and some laughs.  There's even some shocking moments in the film, one of them in particular has a heartfelt outcome.

As someone who wasn't a fan of the trailer, this is a movie that blew me away.  This is a movie that's great because of how clever things are throughout.  There are 1 or 2 subplots in the movie, yet somehow they don't drive away from the core story between Plaza and Duplass.  This movie won't be considered for any awards, which makes sense because this isn't trying to be an awards movie.  'Safety Not Guaranteed' is a feel good movie with great acting, an awesome script, and an ending that will surprise you.  If you happen to come around 'Safety Not Guaranteed' anywhere in your life, give it a shot.  I have a strong feeling that this movie will stay around for several years to come.  If you like hip movies that are down with this generation (I know I'm sounding like an old man) and involve time traveling, then definitely give 'Safety Not Guaranteed' your undivided attention if or when you come across it.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

REWIND REVIEW: Sound of My Voice

MOVIE
Sound of My Voice

CAST
Christopher Denham,
Nicole Vicius

RATING
R

RELEASE
April 27, 2012

DIRECTOR
Zal Batmanglij

STUDIO
Fox Searchlight Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 25 minutes






STARS
****






REVIEW:

Back in 2011, I got to meet Brit Marling, one of the stars of a small indie called 'Sound of My Voice,' after a screening of her other small indie movie 'Another Earth.' She clearly had the right attitude towards regular people and was a very kind soul to have the pleasure to be introduced to. Her performance in 'Another Earth' to me was incredible, which made me upset when this film wasn't released widely enough for me to check it out. Flash to now, and I saw/got 'Sound of My Voice' miraculously at Redbox when I saw it was there. After seeing this movie, I can honestly say that I was just as fascinated and intrigued by the movie as I was confused and polarized while watching it. 'Sound of My Voice' won't be seen by many, even if the film catches someone's eye in a store or something. It's kind of a shame, because this movie, with all of its fascinating ideas, well-written script, and talented cast, make 'Sound of My Voice' one of 2012's best hidden gems.

In attempt to make a documentary centering on cults, substitute school teacher Peter Aitken and his wife Lorna both get into a small cult led by a mysterious woman named Maggie. The thing about Maggie is that she claims to be from somewhere that's logically impossible to be from, and she has her followers believing every single word she spews out of her mouth. As Peter and Lorna get into the cult more, they start uncovering secrets behind Maggie's troubled past, while at the same time being drawn into the cult without even realizing. Their mission was to expose Maggie for the supposed fraud she is and free her followers of her grip, but Peter and Lorna might have gotten themselves into something that they didn't expect it to be.

There isn't a lot to say about 'Sound of My Voice' other than the usual shtick. The acting was great, especially from Brit Marling, who I still believe will end up being in something big someday. The script was astounding, especially in the end where it leaves you guessing and asking yourself "What the hell just happened?" The direction from first time director Zal Batmanglij was really good for a first time director. It's a true shame how this movie was just thrown into a really small limited run, then released on DVD six or seven months later. If you're at a Redbox or a Blockbuster machine on night and are looking for something that will really toy with your mind, then this is one I highly recommend. 'Sound of My Voice' is the best movie to come out this year that you have never heard of. I can't wait to check this one out again when I get the opportunity.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

REWIND REVIEW: Mirror Mirror

MOVIE
Mirror Mirror

CAST
Julia Roberts, Lily Collins

RATING
PG

RELEASE
March 30, 2012

DIRECTOR
Tarsem Singh

STUDIO
Relativity Media

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 46 minutes





STARS
***1/4










REVIEW:

There were two Snow White related movies that came out this year.  The one I got to see in theaters, 'Snow White & the Huntsman,' disappointed me greatly due to how epic and awesome it looked from the trailers.  'Mirror Mirror,' however, had a counteract effect.  This family movie, from visual director Tarsem Singh, I thought looked awful from the trailers and marketing.  After seeing the movie, I must say that I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  Sure the story is cliched and predictable, but the vision of Tarsem and the clever aspects of the movie help make this movie a much more satisfying experience than one would expect.  If one knows the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' then they might be surprised at the interesting spin this movie takes on.

It's not the best kid's movie of the year, but it most certainly isn't the worst.  The cast, aside from Julia Roberts, all give good performances, or at least tolerable enough performances.  There are some stale jokes in the movie, but there are also some pretty funny ones.  The visuals look stunning and pop right off the screen.  Even the story has an interesting twist that I was intrigued by throughout.  If your family is bored and has nothing to watch, then I would say try to find this title.  It's not as frightening as some fantasy kids movies are, but there are a couple of creepy moments.  At the end of the day, Tarsem Singh wins the "Best Snow White Movie of 2012" with 'Mirror Mirror."  Who would have thought that the crappier, dumber looking 'Snow White' movie would turn out to be better than the badass, epic looking one, despite the flaws that this film clearly presents?




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

REVIEW: Lincoln

MOVIE
Lincoln

CAST
Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
November 16, 2012

DIRECTOR
Steven Spielberg

STUDIO(S)
DreamWorks Pictures,
Touchstone Pictures,
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 26 minutes







STARS
****









REVIEW:

Something that some people might not know about Steven Spielberg's latest film 'Lincoln' is that this film has been in the works for over a decade. Different studios have been involved, different actors were up for the role of the 16th president, and other problems caused this film to be in the mere development stages for a while. Now the film is here, however, and I must say it was well worth the wait. I did an experiment on this film where I avoided all bits of footage from the film, including trailers and commercials, in order to go into the movie with a blank slate. Having seen the film itself, I am happy to report that my neglect of footage from the movie was worth doing, because what 'Lincoln' delivers is a powerful, compelling, and often funny look into the story of a man who happened to have been the 16th President of the United States.

It is January in 1865, and the Civil War is still going on, with blood and carnage spilled every day. President Abraham Lincoln wants to end this war, and he feels that the only way to succeed at doing that is to get Congress to pass the 13th amendment, which would abolish slavery and treat African Americans as equal individuals rather than pieces of trash. The thing about that is that many Americans are still prejudice and racist towards black people, and they care about that more than ending a war that's killing the fathers and brothers of families. Struggling with family problems of his own, President Lincoln must try to restore balance in the people, end the war that's tearing a nation, and find a way to keep his son from going off to war.

If there's a reason to praise the acting in this movie, it's for the performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones. It has been said that Abraham Lincoln did in fact have a high voice similar to what Day-Lewis brings to his performance as the 16th president. Personally I didn't have a problem with his voice at all, and even if I did that wouldn't have changed my feelings on his award worthy performance. Lewis brings a human side to President Lincoln, making him funny when necessary, charming throughout, and a man with a desire to make his vision become a reality. Of all the performances I've seen this year, this is the one performance where the actor took full control and made me believe that he was who he was portraying rather than me thinking "this is Daniel Day-Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln." It would be shocking if Lewis wasn't nominated for Best Actor at least. I can't say whether or not he deserves to win since I haven't seen all of the other Best Actor candidates, but what he brings to this role shows what real actors can pull off if they try hard. Equally as great in the film is Tommy Lee Jones' performance as Thaddeus Stevens.

The character of Stevens is shown to be a supporter of the 13th amendment because he believes in equal rights for African-Americans. Normally this would just be a performance with no conflict or emotion, Jones brings a lot of charisma and wit to his character. Not only is he hilarious in the film, but Stevens also owns in the courts and actually puts up a good fight for what he believes in. Again, I haven't seen all of the Supporting Actor performances this year yet, but if Disney can make a strong enough campaign, I think Jones can take it all this awards season. While the rest of the cast, including Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and James Spader, are all great in the film, the real reason to talk about the performances in 'Lincoln' is because of Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones.

Screenwriter Tony Kushner has done one other screenplay, and that was the 2005 Spielberg historical drama 'Munich,' which he co-wrote with famed screenwriter Eric Roth. Not only does this film accurately portray what struggles Abraham Lincoln went through in order to get the 13th amendment signed, but it also shows the president as a genuine human. There are some hilarious moments in the movie, as well as some brilliant stories told by our late president, in which all of them are rather entertaining to listen to. Even when some parts are slower than other moments in the movie, the superb acting and the great script help keep the audience entertained and paying attention. Kushner has written a movie that can be more entertaining and enjoyable for people of all ages rather than a boring old history lesson where we, the students, have tow jot down notes from Power Point presentations.

The greatest thing to say about 'Lincoln' is that this like other Spielberg movies, yet it feels right at home in there. The direction by the famed director is superb, and the cinematography by longtime partner Janzuez Kaminski, while mostly unnoticable, is stunning to look at. Even the score by John Williams, as subtle as it is, is fantastic. This is a movie that has everything someone could ask for in a historical movie: superb acting from all, a great script from a talented screenwriter, and the ability to keep one's attention even when it's slow. Having spoken to people my own age who have seen this movie, I can tell that this is a movie that will be shown in history classes for the rest of time. 'Lincoln' is a great film overall, which is the simplest thing to say about it. It is entertaining throughout, plus gives a great history lesson for all ages. This is, without a doubt, one of the year's best movies, and will go down as one of the highlights of Steven Spielberg's career.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Stand Up Guys

Hyde Park On Hudson

Gangster Squad

Zero Dark Thirty

Oz: The Great and the Powerful

Parental Guidance

The Lone Ranger



Thursday, November 22, 2012

REVIEW: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

MOVIE
The Twilight Saga:
Breaking Dawn Part 2

CAST
Kristen Stewart,
Robert Pattinson

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
November 16, 2012

DIRECTOR
Bill Condon

STUDIO
Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate)

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 55 minutes






STARS
***1/4









REVIEW:

Well, this is the moment that guys of all ages have been waiting for years: this marks the end of the worldwide phenomenon known as 'The Twilight Saga.' This series has been one of the more controversial ones ever since the first film came to the big screen all the way back in 2008. Four years have passed, and now this is the time where the male testosterone can rise up against the females and take the title of "fanboy" back to their homeland. Personally, the 'Twilight' films are a guilty pleasure of mine. Not because I actually consider them legitimately good films, but because they are fun to watch sometimes, especially with a screaming audience filled with girls. The thing that's surprising about 'Breaking Dawn Part 2,' however, is that it can be considered a legitimately good film once it gets past the 10 minute mark. Yes, there are extremely cheesy moments placed throughout the film, but this final installment plays around it's really stupid elements, can be pretty funny at times, and has a climatic battle sequence that will both shock and entertain those who are watching it. 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2' is, without a doubt, the best film in this four year long series.

Picking up immediately after 'Part 1' ended, it is shown that the emotionless Bella Swan has now become a vampire. She also has a half-human, half-vampire daughter named Renesmee, who can show people her memories. Life seems to finally be getting into place, with even Jacob creepily becoming Renesmee's watchful protector after he "imprints" on her as a baby. However The Volturi, the "leaders" of vampires, believe that Renesmee was bitten as a baby rather than being born as a half human, half baby breed. The Cullens need to come up with a plan, so they get vampires from all parts of the world to come and try to help persuade the Volturi into actually believing the truth about Renesmee, before they're all beheaded.

If people keep complaining about the acting in these films, then they don't understand that the performances in these movies aren't supposed to be great. Kristen Stewart, for the first time in the series, actually shows some convincing emotional moments in this movie. For example, the audience gets to see Bella get angry with a certain someone because of a certain something. The moment is funny, and luckily it was supposed to be funny. Robert Pattinson has a couple of humorous moments in here as well, but he does overall give a good performance as well. Taylor Lautner even knew how to point out the flaws and stupidity of his character Jacob, which included a scene of him taking his shirt off that might be the funniest moment in the series. The rest of the cast, including Michael Sheen and Billy Burke, all has their weird and funny moments in the movie, just like the three leads. That's really all that can be said about that.

Melissa Rosenberg has written every single script in the 'Twilight' series thus far. This is the first time where the script actually isn't all about the "I love you" and "you are my forever" lines that had to be spewed by the actors. Instead, the script addresses how stupid a lot of the elements of the movie, like how Jacob "imprinted" on Renesmee at the end of 'Breaking Dawn Part 1,' really are, and actually makes fun of certain situations going on in the movie. Having not read the book, the twist at the end of the movie actually came as a complete surprise to me. It's one of those twists where you'll either love it or you'll hate it. I am in the group of people that actually liked the twist a lot. Without giving it away, it basically says to the audience "be careful with what choices you make in certain situations," which I admired. While it's not the most well written script out there, it certainly is a great script in 'Twilight' standards, and is a lot funnier than one would expect. ]

Aside from pretty poor scripts, the visuals in the 'Twilight' films were never great. While the werewolves look considerably better than they ever have, a lot of the other CGI effects look awful. When the audience sees baby Renesmee for the very first time in the movie, I swear the CGI creation looks so fake that it makes the E-Trade baby look like a work of art. Even when the vampires get beheaded, while cool, it looked pretty laughable. Speaking of beheading, the filmmakers actually got something right and made the big climatic showdown between the Volturi and the Cullen's team was actually really fun to watch. Main characters surprisingly get killed, and some of the beheadings were actually pretty badass. Despite the visuals being as mediocre as they've always been, the final battle is actually really cool to watch.

The 'Twilight' movies have never been great ones, but they always have been enjoyable to me. 'Breaking Dawn Part 2' isn't a great movie by any means, but I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't enjoy myself while watching it. The script plays with the ridiculous ideas that have been carried throughout the series. The actors in the film were clearly having a fun time making the movie, and it shows in their performances, which are considerably better than their performances in the other movies. Director Bill Condon shows here that he wanted to give Twi-Hard's the ultimate 'Twilight' finale, and that's what is indeed given. If you're not a 'Twilight' fan and are dragged into seeing it by someone, just go into it not expecting something great and chances are you'll have a fun time. This is a great example of what a cheesy modern B movie should be like: a film that doesn't take itself seriously but delivers on some cool action. 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2' is the best film of the series, plus ends it in a way where I respected the series a little more than I have before. As long as we all know that sparkling vampires and shirtless werewolves with six-packs should never be taken seriously, you should have a fun time watching the movie.




PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Playing For Keeps

World War Z

Beautiful Creatures

Oz: The Great and the Powerful

Les Misérables


The Mortal Instruments: 
City of Bones


Warm Bodies


The Heat


The Host


Now You See Me



Monday, November 19, 2012

REVIEW: Rise of the Guardians 3D

MOVIE
Rise of the Guardians

CAST
Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin

RATING
PG

RELEASE
November 21, 2012

DIRECTOR
Peter Ramsey

STUDIO(S)
DreamWorks Animation,
Paramount Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 37 minutes







STARS
***1/4








REVIEW:

Despite featuring Santa Claus as one of the prominent characters in the film, 'Rise of the Guardians' isn't one's typical holiday movie. Based on William Joyce's 'The Guardians of Childhood' book series, this film tells about how four of the mythical creatures of our dreams, including the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, were chosen by a "man in the moon" to be the protectors over all of the children in the world. When the Boogeyman comes to destroy all children's beliefs in mythical beings, The Guardians recruit the reckless Jack Frost to help restore order and make kids believe in them. As a fan of DreamWorks' movies, this film was a bit of a letdown. However thanks to a surprisingly dark tone, a well-conceived storyline, and the best looking animation of the year, 'Rise of the Guardians' is a fun and sweet animated movie that kids will enjoy more than adults, but adults will still get a kick out of it.

All animated movies have a great voice cast, and 'Guardians' is no exception. Chris Pine is a very likable actor, but his voice just didn't fit the character of Jack Frost very well. It seemed like it would have been better if they had gotten a teenager to play Frost rather than Pine, who has a pretty deep voice. I liked him in the film, but his voice just didn't feel right. Alec Baldwin dons a fantastic Russian accent as the beefy Santa Claus. This is a more badass Santa than one would remember, and I liked how he wasn't just a jolly old fat man.

Hugh Jackman's Easter Bunny has some humorous lines in the film, as does Isla Fisher's Tooth Fairy. Both are equally good in the film. Jude Law I thought had the best vocal performance in the film as Pitch, the Boogeyman. Even when you're able to sympathize with the character, Law is able to still make him a creepy and sinister villain, and I liked that a lot. The best character in the movie though is the silent but awesome Sandman. He is given some great comedic timing, plus is a really cool character in general that's a part of a cool twist in the film. The voice cast overall was very good, but not quite up to the standards of other animated voice casts.

Animation wise, this is the best looking animated film of the year, hands down. Every shot in the film not only looked unique and superb, but the 3D has great depth of field and makes the audience feel like they've been immersed into this gorgeous world. There are a fair share of pop-out 3D moments that will have little kids saying "wow" out loud like how all little kids do, but they are just as fun to watch as a teen and an adult. Even if one doesn't care for the movie that much, it's hard to deny how stunning the visuals look throughout the movie, especially when the characters travel to the other mythical spots where other characters live. See the film in 3D if you can, because this is one of the few times where a good movie also has stellar 3D to go with it.

My main problems with the film were in the film's script. David Lindsay-Abaire, who is best known for the 2005 animated flick 'Robots' and the 2010 drama 'Rabbit Hole,' is the one who adapted the 'Guardians' book series to the big screen. While the ideas he brought to the screen were really fascinating and cool, and the dark undertone he brought to the film is something to be admired for, the actual lines of words that he wrote for the characters needed a bit of work. While the film is darker than many of DreamWorks' other animated romps, this movie featured really kiddy and childish lines that had to be read by the talented voice actors. Most of the film's jokes weren't that funny, but the little kids in my screening ate them all up. There were some jokes that made me laugh, but overall most of them just felt bland. Plus the film falls into the "animated-drama" cliché that's been done too much ever since animated movies were created, as well as having some pretty predictable parts squeezed in there. It is a decent script, but if the lines of dialogue had been better and cleverer, then the film might have a higher rating for me.

'Rise of the Guardians' is a fun and enjoyable movie overall. The voice cast is good, the story and its ideas were great, and the animation from DreamWorks looks spectacular. What's so brilliant about the film is that it's a movie that could be watched for any holiday and it would still have the same impact on you every time. Despite Santa being in the film, this isn't a straight-forward Christmas movie, rather it's a movie about the mythical heroes of our dreams protecting the children of the world. That alone should be celebrated since there are too many Christmas movies out there, and there should be more movies like this, where the holidays are mixed together. Since your kid's will probably force you to take them to see this, don't hesitate. It's not as great as 'Wreck-It Ralph,' but it's not as horrible as 'Ice Age: Continental Drift.'  Despite some of its flaws, 'Rise of the Guardians' is fun, deep, and sweet family film that's worth the 3D surcharge if you have the money.  It was a good run for Paramount and DreamWorks, but I wish they could have ended off their deal with something better.



REVIEW: Red Dawn

MOVIE
Red Dawn

CAST
Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
November 21, 2012

DIRECTOR
Dan Bradley

STUDIO
FilmDistrict

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 33 minutes






STARS
**









REVIEW:

There are action movies like 'Skyfall,' for example, that succeed at being smart, fresh, and entertaining all at the same time. There are also movies like 'Red Dawn' that try to copy cat many other generic action movies and make it feel like it's 2 hours rather than 90 minutes. This film was supposed to have been released back in 2010, but the bankruptcy of MGM studios caused this film, along with many others, to be pushed back from both release and even being made. Now that it's here, it's sad to say that this film was a letdown. Sure it's a fun movie to watch, but there are more flaws than good things presented here. 'Red Dawn' started off fun, but ended with leaving the viewer wishing for something more.

Life is good for many in a small town in Washington. Jed and Matt Eckert are estranged brothers with a dark and traumatic past. Jed is on vacation from the Marines while Matt is the hotshot quarterback of his high school football team with a cute girlfriend by his side. On a morning of quiet and peace, the North Koreans, out of nowhere, decide to invade America and take the country hostage. Using his army skills, Jed helps Matt and several others who were able to escape the Koreans to fight to take back their home. Under the name "The Wolverines," Jed and Matt start up a rebellion that soon breaks word across the country, making them the most dangerous heroes in the country.

Since many of the cast members in this film have done many other roles after this film, one could expect that their acting wouldn't be as good as it is at this moment in time. Luckily, the acting is better than one would expect. Chris Hemsworth, who is best known for playing the superhero god 'Thor,' pulls off a great American accent and does a fine job in the movie overall. Josh Peck, best known for the hit Nickelodeon show 'Drake and Josh,' also gives a decent performance in the movie. He isn't the greatest actor on the face of the earth, but I would be lying if I said I thought he was horrendous in the film. 'The Hunger Games' star Josh Hutcherson, along with the rest of the cast, were highly underused and almost served no purpose to the film whatsoever, except to be the bait of the Koreans. Jeffery Dean Morgan is the best of the supporting cast, but he's only given about 10 minutes of screen time which is upsetting since he does have talent in there. The cast is fine in the film, but if you're going to see someone other than Hemsworth and Peck, you're bound to be disappointed.

The worst thing about this film by far was the script. While newer action movies tend to be smart and have interesting plots going on, 'Red Dawn' suffers from not only having poor dialogue throughout, but also is a very generic movie. There's a reason why this was supposed to come out in 2010, and the feeling of this film being dated is most certainly there. Had this come out in 2010 when this was supposed to, maybe I would have enjoyed the film more because it's just a stupid but fun action movie. But other than one scene towards the end that came completely out of left field and was really cool, the script is just as generic as any sci-fi, action, or thriller from the 2000's decade can be. There's too much talking in the woods and not enough cool action sequences. Plus, way to go for whoever thought of the product placement idea in the film, because it had to be the single worst use of product placement I've seen all year, which is saying something. Overall, if you're going into this movie looking for a smart action film, go see 'Skyfall' instead.

This is a film that could have been so much more than what it overall was: a generic, stupid, forgettable, but sometimes fun action movie. Sure the cast was fine for what their roles gave them to do, and the action sequences were really cool to watch on a big screen, but this film brings nothing new to the table, along with having a very unsatisfying ending that left me wanting a lot more. I guess the filmmakers were trying to set up for a sequel, but honestly what's the point? This is the type of movie that someone would find late at night on SyFy or some channel like that, and watch it with a bunch of friends for the heck of it.

The movie feels a half longer than its 93 minute run time, which is never a good thing. 'Red Dawn' could have been so much better than what was delivered. Re-shoots are supposed to help a movie, not make it worse. It's even easy to tell what scenes were re-shot or not, since Hemsworth wasn't involved with the reshoots. Despite a decent cast, some fun action sequences, and a surprising twist that made me appreciate the film more until it ended abruptly, 'Red Dawn' is just another remake blowing in the wind that doesn't have any impact on anything whatsoever.  It's probably good that this movie is a forgettable one, because that means it won't hurt the careers of the talented actors present in here much.