The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013): Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, and the late, great James Gandolfini all star in a "comedy" about magicians, friendship, and Las Vegas.
Can you say cash grab? When I say that the best part of a movie with the stars I just listed is Olivia Wilde, you know you have a cash grab movie for everyone else involved. So...I decided I would do some background on the director/writers involved in this movie, just to try to comprehend this travesty. This movie was the director's (Don Scardino) debut into the movie industry. Before Wonderstone he directed a bunch of 30 Rock episodes, some Law and Order, and a lot of scattered single episodes of TV shows. So I can forgive him for this. He's inexperienced, and he's handed all of these movie stars and just didn't know how to handle them. However, it wasn't so much the directing that was terrible as much as the writing. This movie is so lazy with its jokes and dialogue. So I decided to investigate the men who wrote this screenplay. I was shocked at the results. The writers had done mostly TV shows, but did do one movie before this. That movie was one of my personal favorite comedies of recent memory, Horrible Bosses. How these writers went from something as raunchy and outlandish as that to this steaming pile of crap is beyond me.
Let's talk about everything that's wrong with this movie. First of all, the characters. Every single one of them is either an asshole, (Carrel, Arkin. and Gandolfini) or they are about as stupid as can possibly be. (Wilde and Carrey) Carrel is the lead in this train wreck, and his character arc makes no sense at all. He starts the movie out as an asshole, but then in the middle of it he sits down and is like, "I don't want to be an asshole anymore." and completely turns his personality around in a night. No major event triggers this, he just has a complete 180 on a dime for no reason. In short, I did not buy his redeeming story for a second. And then, of course, immediately after he becomes this new and improved person, Olivia Wilde's character, who Carrell had treated like an absolute jerk and object and thus she should've been staying far away from, instantly falls in love with him. Like seriously? After treating her like crap for years all he has to say is I'm sorry and suddenly she wants to sleep with him. Man if it were that easy I'd have it made by this point. And then the exact same thing happens with Buscemi's character! Talk about lazy writing. And that's not even to mention Carrey's character, who is this completely unrealistic pain-sufferer-magician (I have no idea what they are actually called) who has it out for Carrell's character for absolutely no reason whatsoever. And then he defeats himself at the end when the writers finally decide that he does something that will have physical consequence. Not spending an entire night on a bed of hot coals. Not holding his urine for 12 freaking days. Not eating hundreds of pieces of candy and turning himself into a human piñata and ultimately spits back out the candy. No! It's drilling a hole in the side of his head. That's where we are going to draw the line.
Speaking of lazy, let's talk about cash-grabs. This movie is so painfully that. I would even go so far as to say that Steve Buscemi was forced to be in this. I have no idea how, but man he is making fun of this movie because he was so horribly corny in his acting. Even Gandolfini was completely wasted in this, simply playing a rudely generic big business tycoon type of role. Honestly, it was to the point that I forgot that he was in this and only remembered so when I checked IMDB before writing this. To be fair, that's probably what he wanted. The only person who showed up in this movie and put any effort into it whatsoever is Olivia Wilde. She is actually quite good in this, and is the only reason this movie is not a 1/10 for me. Although her dialogue is pretty silly, she executes it quite well. This is literally the only thing good about this movie.
A few more notes. One: this movie is about magic. There's no secret here. By the way I'm going to do some spoilers here, so just be warned. But seriously if you want to watch a magic movie go watch Now You See Me. There are more laughs in that action/suspense movie than in this comedy, with some exhilarating magic sequences. But whereas the magic in Now You See Me only becomes unrealistic in the final act, with everything up until that point being explained logically, almost none of the magic is explained here, with the exception of the final last trick. Which is the definition of unrealistic. It's a trick where they make the audience "disappear" from the casino theater they were in and "reappear" in some chairs outside of Vegas overlooking the skyline. I mean explaining the stupidity of this trick is not even worth my time. The final note about this is that I don't know who this movie is for. On one hand, the whole premise of the movie and the overall plot would definitely imply that it's for children. But then there are jokes in it that are very vulgar, including dropping the "f" bomb. This would certainly not be for children. As a result, I can't really recommend this movie to anybody. Not that I would anyway but it's premise doesn't appeal to teens and up but it's jokes are definitely not for kids. So....do yourself a favor and stay away.
The Critique: a steaming pile of dog turds. That's it.
The Recommendation: avoid like you would a steaming pile of dog turds. Unless if you like Olivia Wilde. Then you'll feel good for her when she's the best thing about a movie with A-list stars.
The Verdict: 1.5/10 Crap Crap Crap Crap
Prisoners (2013) Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this mystery-suspense thriller filled with twists and turns.
First of all apologies from my end for the lateness of this review. My Saturday was insane and as a result I did not have an appropriate amount of time to formulate my thoughts for this review. But....better late than never right?
This movie was fun. A lot of fun. It is a classic who-done-it flick, with a lot of twists that are quite impressive and (for the most part unpredictable. Additionally, it is masterfully acted. This is without a doubt the best part of the movie. Honestly, if you are a fan of movies, I would strongly recommend seeing this for nothing else but the acting. There is a clinic on this in here somewhere. Jackman and Gyllenhaal were great, but the man who stole the show was Paul Dano. If you are asking yourself who Paul Dano is, watch There Will Be Blood. That was one of the most memorable acting performances I've seen in recent memory. And he was just as memorable in this movie, despite being in darkness for a large portion of the movie. Certainly blew Ryan Reynolds in Buried out of the water. Sorry Ryan. My biggest problem with this movie was its length. It is waaaaay too long at 153 minutes. And there's a completely unnecessary and unbelievable and forced FOURTH act. I really wish that they had not even included this ending. Which is a shame because I saw reviews of critics praising the ending but man I just didn't see it at all.
Honestly, there's not a lot to say here. I don't want to spoil anything, because the whole purpose of a who-done-it flick is to not know what's happening. It is well written, with a lot of great themes prevalent throughout the movie, despite being rather formulaic in its events. It is well acted, with everyone showing up and putting in great performances. It's pretty memorable, but it is definitely not going to show up at the Oscars. Still, I would recommend it.
The Critique: a classic and fun who-done-it. Overlong and mostly lacking memorability, it is still a good way to spend 150 minutes.
The Recommendation: If you like mysteries, you will LOVE this movie. If you like acting, this movie is a clinic. If you have no interest in either, you probably aren't reading this review.
Where to see it: seeing it in a movie theater did not add to the experience. Redbox or Netflix will work just fine.
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
This is the End (2013): a collection of some of the funniest actors in Hollywood star in a movie about how famous actors would deal with the Rapture.
Ok so I LOVE THIS MOVIE. This is one of my FAVORITE comedies of the last 5 or 10 years. Let's be real....this year has been an absolutely terrible year for comedy. From the too safe (We're the Millers) to the too far (2 Guns) to the downright insulting (Grown Ups 2) this year has had very few bright spots comedically speaking. But one movie has stood out above the rest. Well...two. But we aren't talking about The Heat here. This is the End is incredibly smart, it takes its premise very seriously, it's perfectly mixed between improv and writing, and....it is incredibly hilarious. I've said in previous reviews that as long as a comedy is funny, I can forgive it's other missteps, but when a movie funny AND well-written, it is 100x better of an experience. PLOT DOES MATTER PEOPLE. Even in comedies. And the plot of this is very engaging and at points borderline emotional. Honestly this movie's plot is better than a lot of movies I've seen.
Ok acting. As I said this movie is a who's-who of Hollywood, having an incredibly great lineup of stars. Ready? James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Rihanna, David Krumholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kevin Hart, and Channing Tatum all show up here, and every single freaking one of them have something funny, smart, and memorable to contribute. On top of all of that, there is one of the craziest cameos I have ever seen at the end of the movie. A cameo that I didn't mention in that previous list. Incredible, I know.
Ok statement paragraph. So I'm using the word smart a lot. I know this is a weird word to use to describe a comedy, but it honestly does best describe This is the End. Smart comedies are by far the best type of comedy in existence, and when you stumble on one of them....you know you have something special. Ok I'm going to use movie examples to explain the use of this word. In Grown Ups 2, a lazy, disgusting excuse for a comedy, there is a scene where all the guys have a car wash to raise money or whatever the hell they are doing. Of course they have a sensual car wash scene where they are all spraying themselves and in short shorts, just like a typical bikini car wash scene but with dudes. In a smart movie, this scene could be a great satire about how girls are asked to do these crazy sexual scenes that objectify themselves in various movies, but instead it's just a really ugly gay panic scene. To the contrary there is a scene in This is the End where they take in Emma Watson and Jay Baruchel points out the fact that she is one female surrounded by six dudes. Obviously the conversation awkwardly leads into a sex/rape conversation, and while everyone gets upset at Jay for bringing it up, Emma obviously hears the worst part of the conversation. So, what does a smart movie do when they bring up rape as a joke? They have the female who is in the context of the conversation come out in a position of POWER and own all the guys having the conversation. It turns into one of the funniest points of the movie. Additionally this movie is smart because all the actors in it recognize that a persona has come to surround them because of their previous roles, and they fully embrace these personas. Danny McBride is a jerk, Jonah Hill is a kiss-ass, Jay Baruchel is the socially awkward guy, and so on.
To sum it up, this movie is absolutely brilliant in every way. It even takes its premise very seriously. There are definitely points of this movie that are borderline scary, as our Hollywood icons deal with things like demons throughout the movie. One of our stars even gets possessed, which leads to an obvious Exorcism reference. This is probably the laziest joke/scene of the whole movie, but the possessed actor definitely keeps even this lazy moment funny. Overall, this is a comedy that I will remember for a long time, one which I will not mind seeing again and again.
The Critique: A smart, serious, and (of course) hilarious take on how Hollywood would deal with the Rapture. One of the best comedies of recent memory.
The Recommendation: KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN. This movie is EXTREMELY vulgar. And, if that isn't enough to discourage younger audiences from watching, it would definitely be too scary for younger viewers. 17-40 for sure. This movie will also be too vulgar for the older crowd too.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome
The Bling Ring (2013): Sofia Coppola's recounting of the infamous Bling Ring, a group of teenagers who are obsessed with robbing famous celebrities.
Ok so...man I don't know how to feel about this movie. Hopefully as I express my thoughts I will become more certain of my feelings, but right now I am lost. First of all, the concept is very interesting. There are a lot of ideas in this movie that really got me thinking. For example, how would the outside world respond to the Bling Ring? Would they be viewed as a Robin Hood-like group? I mean after all they are stealing from the rich and famous. Taking one of their 10,000 pairs of shoes....the rich and famous don't deserve that, right? Or, how would this experience affect those involved emotionally? Would their thrill of stealing bubble over out of Hollywood celebrities into the general population? Why are all these famous celebrities leaving their house unlocked when they go on long trips? Would their desire for a specific article of clothing or something begin to separate the group as it happens throughout various robberies? Why are they doing this in the first place? How do they justify stealing in any way, shape, or form? All of these are questions brought up in the movie, but NONE of them are answered in any sort of detail whatsoever. The Sofia Coppola style of directing is present here, and it is majorly detrimental to the film and its ideas. Her style is as such: I felt at all times detached from the situation, like I was simply watching a series of events unfold in front of me while simultaneously not learning anything about the characters' motivations in the process. The entire group was interchangeable, even the guy. By the way I think the guy was gay, because after all he has all these gorgeous women around him and yet makes no effort to get with any of them. This point is unimportant though so I'll move on.
This is one of those movies where poor writing (also done by Sofia Coppola) really brings down the acting here. It's a shame because the actors in this all put in pretty good performances, with Emma Watson obviously leading the group. I know it's now a few months ago, but this and This is the End both came out in the same week. Watson is trying desperately to get rid of the Hermione Granger persona that surrounds her so she can become successful. Personally I think she is far too beautiful and talented to get lost in Harry Potter but that's irrelevant. Her character is the closest any of them get to a story arc, and yet it is still pretty bad. None of them are likeable, and none of them are redeemed or better because of this experience. As I said this felt like I was just watching a series of event unfold before me and nothing more.
This movie is repetitive. MAN is it repetitive. They go into like 5-10 different celebrities homes, and, with the exception of one, were all shot the EXACT same way. That one however....that one was pretty awesome. I don't recall who's house they were breaking into, but the shot was taken in one single long wide-shot of the house from the outside as they go inside and do their thing. This and there's a moment with a gun that created a rather significant amount of suspense and tension are the two most memorable scenes in the movie. However these 5 minutes of film can't save the other 85 minutes of borderline garbage. Oh ya I've figured out how I feel about this movie. I didn't like it. The only other cool thing about this film is that the scenes that involved Paris Hilton's house were (apparently) shot in Paris Hilton's real house. And they are all choreographed pretty well to give us a feel of how celebrities live. Not that I would ever want to have a shoe room with 10,000 pairs of shoes or a stripper pole but that's just me.
The Critique: a conglomerate of good and bad. Bad writing, bad directing, good acting, and good choreography all mixed into one. But the writing and directing overshadow the great potential of this film. Sorry Frances Ford Coppola, but maybe you should give your daughter some directing lessons....
The Recommendation: if you want to see how the 1% lives, you might have enough material here to keep you interested, but that's just about the only people who might find this film interesting.
The Verdict: 3.5/10 pretty bad
The Dark Knight (2008): Christian Bale returns to Christopher Nolan's Batman saga to take on The Joker. (Heath Ledger)
There's no secret on this. I love this movie. One of four perfect 10s I have over the last 13 years. And almost everyone in the world has seen this movie so I'm gonna keep this one short because I'm only writing it out of fanboyism and not because of my love of movies. So why is this movie one of the best movies of recent memory? Well....let's not start with the acting. We'll get there. How about the them? Ok..... So this is arguably the darkest superhero movie ever made. And I love this movie for it. Honestly this movie is so dark that I don't really think of it as a superhero movie. I just think of it as a movie. And man does it benefit because of this. The movie saves itself from having to make grand leaps in its story in order to get to where its going which many superhero movies do, including the former and later in this trilogy. Particularly the later but we aren't talking about Rises are we? No. This movie grounds itself in realism throughout, creating a thrilling and believable villain in the Joker and a believable fall in one of the movie's primary characters. Can I spoil? Yes I can. Harvey Dent's transformation into Two Face is far and away the best transformation we've seen in a movie. It is freakishly believable, unlike the comic book-like transformations we've seen in movies like Batman Forever.
Ok enough exposition about things other than the acting. Let's talk about the acting. This is one of the best written movies of recent memory which in turn creates one of the best acted movies of the past 25 years. Everyone puts in stand-out performances, from Christian Bale as Batman to Michael Cain as Alfred to Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. Even Maggie Gyllenhall puts in a great performance as Harvey/Wayne's female interest. And then there's Heath Ledger. From the first unforgettable moment we see him as The Joker, he dazzles. To the point that it is the single best acting performance I have ever seen unfold before me on a screen. Now is that me saying it's the best performance ever? Hell no. There are 1000s of movies I have never seen, and I do not know what is contained within. But from what I've seen, this role takes the cake. He is threatening, unpredictable, scary, and intimidating. There are so many words to describe this character and him as an actor. It is unfortunate that it also cost him his life. As a result, Nolan has decided to honor his memory by not revealing anything on how Ledger actually got into the role past what he said in interviews before he died, as well as there was no mention of him at all in Rises. I wish I could learn more about this performance, but I will probably have to wait quite a few years before the Ledger family decides it's appropriate. That's what I got here. A fanboy review of The Dark Knight. Maybe one day I'll write a real review of it.
The Critique: Brilliant writing, acting, and cinematography all come together to create a masterpiece and the best superhero movie to date.
The Recommendation: A must-watch for anyone who hasn't already seen it. And if you have seen it, it is certainly worth watching again.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
Insidious Chapter 2 (2013) A direct sequel of the original, Chapter 2 picks up right where Chapter 1 left off, with the entirety of the original cast returning to find out the truth about who is the lady in gray? Sound interesting and haven't seen a trailer? Check it out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBbi4NeebAk
So I liked this movie. I liked it a lot. Something to say right off the bat: I STRONGLY recommend seeing the first one before you see this one. You will feel lost throughout this movie if you try to just jump into this story. So throughout the review I will compare the two. It would be impossible not to do so. By the way I'm not sure if you caught it before but I said story. One of my main complaints against the first one was that it did not have a very coherent story. Well, they do a far better job with the story this go around. There are some plot holes (like, and this isn't a spoiler because it's pretty vague, but what happened to the baby in the ENTIRE second and third act?) but they are far fewer this time around. So that's good. Another cool thing about this movie is that it has a very unique and interesting concept. To quote IGN's review of Chapter 2, this movie is not afraid to explore its mythology. It explores many of the points that the first movie brought up, as well as the consequences of the final scene of the original. (Remember what was in the picture at the end?) What results is a slightly more believable movie, but the side effect is a far more predictable movie. The suspense and scares are created through the ol' fashioned 'don't open the door!' type scares as opposed to 'what is gonna happen next?' which is a far scarier scare. I don't think that's grammatically correct but whatever. From what I have heard, The Conjuring does that second scare very well. I bring this up because James Wan directed both of these movies. Because of this, the critics are struggling to not compare the two because this is Wan's next horror flick after that. Fortunately for me though, I don't have to because I haven't seen The Conjuring! Yay!
Brace yourselves: here comes my brief Patrick Wilson plug. This is my man-crush. He is so talented and gorgeous, and I have loved everything he's done thus far in his young career. And this is quite possibly the best performance I have ever seen from him. There were times when, at the height of the scares surrounding his character, I had to remind myself that it was Patrick Wilson I was seeing on screen He was so good!!!!! Oh right, there were other actors in this as well. Rose Byrne is great too. She is an extremely underrated actress. Barbara Hershey puts in a good performance, as well as the "comedic relief" ghost hunters. They had several very funny exchanges. That's another thing this movie has going for it: there's more comedy to offset the suspense. But Wan found the perfect balance here to ensure that there's comedy to ease the tension, while simultaneously not having the comedy become a distraction. But overall, the acting is great. Everyone takes this movie's concept very seriously, and it shows on screen. One thing that was sorely missing to me though was that the score. In the original the score brought something terrifying to the movie, and Tiny Tim's Tiptoe through the Tulips was and still is one of the best song selections in a movie in the history of mankind. That was a joke at over-exaggeration if you couldn't tell. But it was a great element of the original! Here however, music takes a backseat. Tiptoe through the Tulips does not make an appearance in the film at all, despite showing up in almost every piece of advertising. I was kind of shocked by this.
Still, at the end of the day, you go to a scary movie to be scared. And this movie certainly delivered in that aspect. So, as I discussed in my review of the original, I can forgive some of the plot holes this one contained. I was just glad to see that there were fewer of them. In short, if you are a fan of Insidious 1 you will enjoy Insidious 2 just as much. Or more, in my case. And if you were on the fence with Insidious 1....this one will probably win you over. It was a fun time.
The Critique: a fun, scary horror flick with a rather interesting premise. One of the best horror films of the last few years. Excluding The Conjuring.
The Recommendation: this is a bulletproof plan to cuddling guys, so take advantage of it! Also any horror fan or Insidious fan will find themselves right at home with this movie.
Where to See it: the movie theater is the place to go for this one. There is nothing like being scared with a room full of people.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
Now to try to figure out how to sleep....
The Social Network (2010): The long-awaited story on the origin of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
I LOVE this movie. I think a good word to describe it is this: a materspiece. Honestly I would say this movie is one of the greatest of our young generation. David Fincher ...and Aaron Sorkin come together and mesh as well as peanut butter and chocolate. Sorkin's witty dialogue filled with metaphors and analogies goes together perfectly with Fincher's meticulous OCD-like attention to detail. The cast of up-and coming stars is perfect in this movie. Led by one of my personal favorite actor, Jesse Eissenburg (nominated for Best Actor and were it not for Colin Firth and his brilliance he wins it IMO) plays a young Mark Zuckerberg and really nails it with the persona of this man. But the real performance in this movie is Armie Hammer. He steals the show as the Winklevoss twins. He somehow brilliantly plays two characters with totally different emotions and personal agendas and pulls it off in STUNNING fashion. The technology required to pull this off is phenomenal as well. He, Andrew Garfield (as Eduardo Saverin) and Justin Timberlake (as Sean Parker) all put in spectacular performances. The pacing is perfect with the movie seamlessly blending in the litigation room scenes with the story. A very difficult feat to pull off for sure, and Fincher does it so perfectly I cannot envision this movie without those scenes. Additionally, the score (which won an Oscar for Best Original Score) is brilliant and fitting for this movie. The composers, Nine Inch Nails members Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross, create new and unique sounds that really set the tone for this movie. Hands Covers Bruise is one of my personal favorite movie themes.
Let's take a quick moment to talk about Armie Hammer shall we? People need to realize what the buzz in Hollywood is about this man. The roles he plays are so diverse. J. Edgar, Mirror Mirror, and even the bust that was The Lone Ranger...he was the best part of those movies, without a doubt. On top of that, he is an absolutely gorgeous individual. He is the male version of Anne Hathaway, but far less known. Les Mis needs to be made again so he can play Hathaway's character.
I cannot say enough positive things about this movie. If you haven't seen it yet and are reading this (on Facebook) immediately go to your nearest library and check it out. Or Red Box. Now! I will say one thing against the story. Very minor statement as you'll see by my score but you have to go into this expecting a STORY. This is not the scientifically accurate reenactment of how The Facebook came to be. It is really the story about two best friends and how the next big thing tore them apart. If you go into it expecting that, you will certainly not be disappointed. One of the best movies of our generation.
The Critique: A masterpiece. One of the best movies of the last 10 years. Flawless in every way.
The Recommendation: A must-watch for anyone, regardless of whether you use Facebook or not.
The Verdict: 10/10
Les Misérables (2012) In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever. That is the IMDB synopsis, not my own words.
Ok I feel like I need to open this by saying I love the musical. Unfortunately I have never seen it in person, but the music is some of my favorite music from a musical out there. I Dreamed a Dream, Do You Hear the People Sing? and One Day More are 3 must-listens for me whenever I get in a musical mood. Which happens a lot. So please keep that in mind as I say that I really do not like this movie. Why? Well, my good sir, (or madam) I will tell you why! Several reasons: first of all, this movie is shot in a disgustingly horrible manner. Tom Hooper, who jus directed The King's Speech, makes his return to the screen with Les Mis . Unsurprisingly, he brings that same style of directing to this. It works in The King's Speech, however it does not work here. Not only does it not work here, but it crashes and burns spectacularly with the exception of one scene, which, if you've seen the movie or know anything about it at all you know exactly what scene it is I am referring to. I'll get to it later. But using uncomfortably close headshots throughout the movie just doesn't work in a musical as grand as Les Mis. It works brilliantly to create the intimacy of The King's Speech, but NOT HERE. And when it's not uncomfortable head shots, we get these these HUGE wide shots of Paris or wherever they are at that point of the movie. Why can't their be a medium ground? Why can't we have typical dialogue style shots? Guess we'll never know. My next complaint: Amanda Seyfried. She is hopelessly out-acted by Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne, who I know very little about. Also she can't hit some of her notes. I know they are impossible notes for almost anyone to hit, but if you can't do it, please take it an octave down. It was painful to hear her sing those notes. This isn't my only complaint against her. She was in Mamma Mia as well (for better or worse) but she was pretty awful in that as well. Final complaint: Russell Crowe. Ok everyone who knows me knows that I don't like Crowe to begin with, but he was grossly miscast in this movie. It's comparable to seeing Alec Baldwin in Rock of Ages. Well, a lot of the actors in Rock of Ages shouldn't have been in Rock of Ages but that's besides the point. But he's a guy who's in the movie musical more because he's a recognizable actor as opposed to his musical talent. To appeal to the common folk. Seriously? Les Mis isn't going to appeal to the "common folk" regardless of whether Crowe is in it or not so might as well get someone who's actually qualified to be Javert to play him.
Ok those are my complaints. Unfortunately that paragraph is going to be longer than this one, which is about what I liked. First of all: Hugh Jackman. He was spectacular in this movie, fully engrossing himself as Jean Valjean. He kind of starts out absurdly strong then slowly gets weaker as the movie progresses, but it's like going from phenomenal to just great. So not much of a fall of here. Next: Anne Hathaway. Yep. I Dreamed a Dream is without a doubt the best scene of the movie, and also without a doubt the best single scene in a movie of 2012. I feel safe saying that. In that scene, everything Hooper does works. And it brought me to tears. But the credit goes to Hathaway here for making the single 6-minute long head shot work. That scene is all her. Did it deserve an Oscar? Well personally I say no but clearly I'm in the minority because she did win it because of this single scene. Of course the other major problem with this is that this scene is about 15 minutes into the 158 minute movie, so the rest of the movie cannot live up to this scene. The other thing I like about this movie is action sequence. There's only two real action scenes but they were shot and choreographed really well. Finally, I also liked Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the comedic relief, (no surprise here....Helena Bonham Carter is one of if not my single favorite actress right now) and Samantha Barks, who plays the character she played in the movie in the actual musical as well. I am glad that they did this. But can I just say that Marius is silly for picking Amanda Seyfried over her? No offense to Seyfried but man is Samantha Barks beautiful.
To wrap it up, this movie is defined by the I Dream a Dream scene. This one scene is worth the price of admission. The problem is that when it's done it's back to the same old crap from Hooper for another 2+ hours. And in my opinion it gets really hard to watch as time goes on. Not even the fantastic music could save this for me. One final note: apparently there was on-the-set singing in this, but in my opinion this didn't really add anything to the movie. With the exception of I Dreamed a Dream, obviously. If this scene isn't in the movie, it's probably about two points lower for me. You know what? Two different verdicts coming up.
The Critique: A great musical shot in an unbelievably uncomfortable and distracting way. Overlong, too grandiose, and poor acting mixed in with some great acting. I hate to use the word mess but that's kind of what it is.
The Recommendation: if you are going to see it, you already have. If not, I would not recommend it.
The Verdict: With I Dreamed a Dream: 5/10
Without 2.5/10 so that's an average of 3.75/10 somewhat bad
Oblivion (2013) Tom Cruise is BACK! This time he plays a character named JACK! Because he's never played a character named Jack before. IN A WORLD (you just said it in a dramatic voice-over style right there) where a major alien invasion has occurred and thus destroyed the earth in the ensuing war, Jack and his lovely partner, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are left on the planet to repair drones before joining the others on Titan, one of Saturn's moons. But Beech (Morgan Freeman) has other plans and shows Jack the TRUTH! AOSIFJAWEOIFJA!!!! Sound like something that would interest you? Check out the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmIIgE7eSak
Ok I can sum up this movie in one sentence: A big budget sci-fi movie that forgot to hire writers. The movie really looks beautiful. It takes place in (what's left of) New York City, and the movie certainly makes sure to show us some of the major landmarks of NYC in its destroyed state. Really everything about the movie is beautiful. The setting, the vehicles, the guns, the scenery, everything. The budget of this movie was clearly spent on this aspect of the film. Where it was not spent, however, was on the story. It is a cliche story, with almost nothing fresh and unique to bring to the table. There are so many movies that this movie steals from, ranging from 2001: A Space Odyssey all the way to The Matrix. Even Top Gun is present as Tom Cruise is really playing space Maverick. Deny it all you want, but you know it's true. And Morgan Freeman is Morpheus too, who shows Jack the TRUTH about what's going on in this post-apocalypse world! And the problem is that the movie approaches its story in a way that it doesn't think that the audience doesn't know what's coming. You know where my issues really reside? It acts like its concept is fresh. If it delivered itself in a way where (and this is the movie talking mind you) it's like, "Ya, we know this story has been done a thousand times." it would be a lot better than it is. But that is an if. And it will always be an if because the movie talks like this: "OH MAN! BET YOU DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING HUH??? THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE CALLED THIS MOVIE OBLIVION. THEY SHOULD'VE CALLED IT.....ORIGION" (I'll see myself out)
Anyway, the acting is ok in this movie. I have no respect for what Tom Cruise does with his life outside of movies, but man he is a movie star. No one can deny that. He brings his (should be) trademarked charm into this movie, and it's a lot better because of it. If you hate Tom Cruise, just watch Knight and Day. That should change how you feel about him. Oh and Morgan Freeman....oh Morgan Freeman. He's been in several movies over the last few months, yet in none of them has he stood out. These are cash grabs for him, plain and simple. I think you have to go all the way back to Red in 2010 to find a movie where Freeman puts in a standout performance and looks like he's actually trying. But can you blame him? Every famous actor gets to that point in their career when they cash-in on their success. They have to pay the bills right? Leave money for their grand kids etc? So I don't hold it against him. The two female leads are pretty forgettable as well. Overall, this is Cruise's movie and that's it.
We have to talk about the soundtrack. They took the Daft Punk in Tron: Legacy approach and had M83 do the score for this film. I love M83, so I have to be happy about this. I will say I like the concept of having musicians creating scores, but they still aren't as good as the composers of today. However the main theme (at the end credits) featuring singer Susanne Sundfør is without a doubt my favorite movie theme from the summer and is one of my favorite songs in general as well. If you haven't heard it, check it out at the link above. But you don't go to see a movie for the score. Well maybe if John Williams did it but that doesn't count. You don't go to a movie for the scenery either. It's cool to see 90% of the Empire State Building covered by dirt but that's only cool for a minute. You go to a sci-fi movie to get engrossed in a good fictional sci-fi story. And this movie didn't do it for me.
The Critique: What did I say before? Right. A big budget sci-fi movie that forgot to hire writers.
The Recommendation: It wasn't a terrible way to spend two hours, but there are definitely better sci-fi movies out there. Heck just from the summer I'd recommend Elysium before this one without hesitation.
The Verdict: 4.5/10 slightly below average
Insidious (2011) A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose son in a realm called The Further.
So...horror movies. They are a thing. I think horror movies in general need to be viewed very similarly to that of a comedy, in that if it scares you, you should be expected to forgive the plot holes within. Because I have struggled to find a horror movie from the past 5 to 10 years that is a phenomenal movie as well as being scary. Now granted the horror industry is in a major recession right now, as the genre struggles to find original ideas and instead has gone cash-grabbing with Paranormal Activity 17 and Saw 43 among others. Obvious exaggeration, but you get my point. However, every once in a while a new horror movie comes in and revitalizes the genre. Paranormal Activity 1 did it, and in retrospect I think Insidious at least came close to doing it as well. Also, even though I haven't seen it, I've heard The Conjuring definitely did it as well. I need to see this. Anyway, Insidious. The plot to this movie is all over the place, ultimately leading to a totally unbelievable third act that makes no sense at all. But, the third act is where the creepiness of this movie really comes out, even if it is in completely illogical fashion. I'll give you an example: the main villain in this is a Darth Maul-style demon. It is very sinister and creepy, and definitely has some good scares for it. We see his "hangout" in act 3, and with Tiptoe Through the Tulips playing in the background, we see all these incredibly creepy toys/tools that he owns, and it is really chilling. Then we see the demon himself using a grindstone to sharpen his nails. HIS NAILS. Are you serious? It took me out of the creepiness and just made me laugh at the movie. Must be a female demon right?
Let's talk about other things. The score. More scary movies need to use this type of a score. The only thing that was an actual song/music was Tiptoe Through the Tulips. Do yourself a favor: go and search this song on YouTube. It is so fitting in this movie, and almost single-handedly brings this movie up a few points. Well and the instrument score. Which is a simple yet very effective "banging" during the scary points of the movie. I loved it. Now the acting was ok. I love Patrick Wilson. I have a massive man-crush for him. But he is very forgettable in this movie sadly. No one steals the show. Which is the case in most horror movies that revolve around more than one person. Doesn't mean I didn't like the acting. It was just very meh.
Overall, this movie is scary. It gets the job done there. But man it's story is a plot holes galore-fest. So, if you are looking to cuddle with your girl as she's terrified throughout a movie, Insidious is certainly the way to go. Definitely more so than the original Paranormal Activity. But if you are looking for a horror movie with an actual plot, I would stay away. One final thing: I can't help but wonder what could have been with this movie. The budget was $1.5 million, and if it had even $1 million more to get some good writers and a bit more makeup and CGI, this movie could've been infinitely better. It does make me excited for Chapter 2 though. The director, James Wan, is coming off of the hugely successful and critically acclaimed The Conjuring, and has a bigger budget this time than the first time around. Yay! But we'll see if they can actually create a decent story after the ending of the first. It doesn't really set up for a good sequel in my opinion. But thats just me. Anyway....
The Critique: a typical horror movie of recent years: good scares, bad plot. And Tiptoe Through the Tulips.
The Recommendation: guys, remember the cuddle session comment? Ya watch it for that if nothing else. If you want a plot though....I will keep hammering this on the head because this plot is as confusing as a politician's speech.
The Verdict: 5.8/10 Above average (if not for Tiptoe Through the Tulips...probably around a 4.5/10)
Iron Man 3 (2013) Robert Downey Jr. returns in the (probable) finale of the Iron Man trilogy and thus the beginning of Marvel's Phase 2! This time he takes on the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley)
So this is a fun movie. One that I enjoy watching a lot. It's one of the better super hero movies out there. Sadly, however, that is not saying much. This movie does try to tug at your emotions with several scenes, but in my opinion it just doesn't get there, and thus I spent a lot of time wondering where Iron Man was as RDJ found himself. This was the entirety of act 2 btw. But that's not to say that act 2 is weak. It is fairly decent for most movies and did have some good moments, but Iron Man 3 is not most movies right? When you go to an Iron Man movie, you want to see Iron Man. Am I right?
I don't mean to sound like I am bashing the movie, because after all once RDJ does find Iron Man again this movie is SO MUCH FUN. Seriously. The plane sequence (which is in the trailers) is one of the coolest set pieces I've seen in an action film in a long time. It is without a doubt the best scene of the movie. And the final battle is a lot of fun to watch as well. And RDJ and Gwyneth Paltrow are once again outstanding together, as they have great chemistry. Rebecca Hall is gorgeous and mysterious, and Guy Pearce is menacing, and Ben Kingsley is just overall scary and fantastic. But man do they really have some paper thin plot points. For example, there's a big plot twist in the movie (which I'm obviously not going to spoil) that I didn't even remotely buy when it occurred. You'll know it when you see it. I'm still questioning it. As I understand, a lot of comic book Iron Man fans were up in arms over it, and I can see why. It's a cool point in the story that you don't see coming, but you mostly don't see it coming because it makes no sense at all.
Guy Pearce is in this movie. Did I mention that? I love him. You should go watch LA Confidential right now and see why. But it's a damn shame because his role is essentially the generic bad guy. He does a lot to sell it (as usual) but he really isn't given much to work with. And his motivations are ridiculous and illogical. Not to mention the minions don't make any sense either. They are so villainous yet at points we see videos of them before they became evil trying to do very noble things. Like return to active duty in the military for example. Why did they become so evil? Nah! I guess it's not important.
One final thing: I have no problem suspending belief in a movie. But when I am expected to, I have one rule: the movie must follow the rules that it itself creates. Guy Pearce's character and what he can do does NOT follow the rules that the movie creates in any way shape or form. And thus I had a HUGE problem with him and his entire physical state. To the point that it kinda took me out of the whole movie at various points in the final act.
I know it seems like I'm bashing this movie, but I still had a lot fun. Oh and I haven't even mentioned the kid. I love the fact that RDJ addresses the kid like he would any adult, and does not baby talk him. Major kudos to the writers for that decision. But in the
end, this is a mostly mindless super hero action movie with a bit more emotional ground than most. That's it. Oh and that's the critique too because it does sum up the movie and I'm lazy when it's 3:15 in the morning!
The Critique: A mostly mindless super hero action movie with a bit more emotional ground than most.
The Recommendation: basically for those who like comic book movies/action movies only. Might be enough emotion in it to pass it off as a "chick flick" but good luck to you on that one, man.
The Verdict: 6.5/10 pretty good
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