The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013): Walter Mitty goes on a journey. A journey around the world to find a picture to go on the final cover of Life magazine taken by a legendary photographer. While this is happening....GET READY.....he finds himself. Bet you didn't see that coming right?
So....is it just me that I find it a bit pretentious when the director of a movie is also the lead of the same movie and has all the other actors in the movie tell him how awesome he is in the movie? Well that's what happens in this. Ben Stiller directs and stars in the secret life. And just about everyone else in the movie at some point or another tells him wow you're awesome! Or something along those lines. I was surprised at how much that took me out of it. But besides that, this is seriously the Ben Stiller midlife crisis movie. He gets to turn himself into the hero of the movie, and you are most certainly expected to root for him. And damn does it beat you over the head with it's "finding yourself" theme. HERE! FEEL EMOTIONAL. LEARN SOMETHING. The movie is pretty far up its own ass. It's sad.
So, here are the few positives. One, the movie is GORGEOUS to look at. Some of the best cinematography of the year. The movie takes place at various locations in New Zealand and Iceland, and Stuart Dryburgh does a phenomenal job to capture the beauty of these locations. One scene in particular has Stiller skateboarding through Iceland (I think) on his way to a mountain, and the shots there are absolutely breathtaking. I want to go to Iceland now. And this is virtually the only positive. Oh! The soundtrack was cool. Definitely continued beating you over the head with the "finding yourself" thing, but it was a very indie/Of Monsters and Men soundtrack. I like indie. And Of Monsters and Men. So I liked it.
Ok negatives. So....the acting was very subpar. The movie has a good cast. Stiller is leading the way but Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, and Sean Penn are great actors to complement, but only Sean Penn puts in a memorable performance. Of all of them. Stiller in a serious role doesn't really work. I'll take watching Tropic Thunder any day in his case. Next, the story is definitely overlong. But that's because it's a 32 page short story turned into a 114 minute film. And like I said, it's definitely too much about the theme. Every scene has something to do with the theme of finding yourself. Somehow. It's borderline amazing. But it's definitely a movie that is made for the holiday season. It's an unofficial Christmas movie. That's what we'll call it.
Now I'm not saying this is a bad movie. Well I kind of am. But I can definitely see how people will like this movie. And you might too. This movie just got too pretentious for me. And predictable. I literally called the ending about 15 minutes into the movie. I don't usually do that but it was so incredibly predictable that I just couldn't help myself. But still, if you like Ben Stiller or want to watch a movie that will give you the feels, I would recommend it. Otherwise your time is better spent elsewhere.
The Critique: The official Ben Stiller midlife crisis movie. Pretentious and self-aware, this predictable movie is nothing but a forgettable man-discovers-himself story. And thus is a very forgettable movie.
The Recommendation: if you want a movie with feels or really like Ben Stiller, check it out. Otherwise, go see American Hustle. Or Frozen if you are looking for a kids movie. So much better.
The Verdict: 3.5/10 Pretty Bad
Oscar Talk: Should get nominated for Cinematography. And maybe Adopted Screenplay.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013): Martin Scorsese's latest stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, and captures his rise on Wall Street to living the high life to his fall from prominence.
So....wow. So if you read my American Hustle review, one of the things I said was that that felt a lot like a Scorsese movie. That is, until I saw this. THIS is a Martin Scorsese movie. And hey! It actually is! Honestly this just might be the best Scorsese movie since Casino. In my opinion. Yes I'm skipping The Departed I know. And I loved The Departed. But this is better. Scorsese is one of the all-time greats. This is no secret. And from time-specific pop music, to some of the best voice-overs I have ever seen, to some of the best editing I have ever seen, the Wolf has reminded me once more why he is my favorite director.
So first off, the acting. If Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't win best actor, something is wrong. This is the best performance I have seen from him. Ever. So many great moments. Too many to describe. I will bring up one: the speeches. At several points throughout the movie, DiCaprio has monologues at his firm to get his gang of stockbrokers riled up. While every single one of them is an incredible monologue, one in particular stands out. That is when DiCaprio is trying to convince his stockbrokers to sell a stock of a company that he owned 85% of. (which is illegal, if you didn't know) There's an electricity in the air during that scene. This is without a doubt one of the best moments in cinema this year. Jonah Hill puts in a phenomenal performance as well. He is wild and unpredictable as Jordan's second-in-command, Donnie. And he is funny too. There's a surprisingly large amount of improv throughout this movie. Definitely the funniest Scorsese movie ever. Seriously, if nothing else watch this movie for DiCaprio's performance. And Jonah Hill. This is definitely the best performance I've seen from either of them. Will it win them awards? DiCaprio I'd say yes with relative certainty. Hill's got a lot of great competition so we'll see.
Next up, I have to talk about the voice-overs. Scorsese over the years has employed the use of voice-over narration in some of his classics like Goodfellas and Casino. Well, the voice-over narration here from DiCaprio is some of the best narration I've ever heard in a movie. Ever. So good that I have to mention it as a huge positive in the movie. A HUGE positive. Also Scorsese breaks the fourth wall at some points too at various points with DiCaprio and it works. So well. Just the flawless integration of having the narration become what's happening on screen is a craft Scorsese has been honing for years and he nails it here. This movie is just one of the best spectacles to witness in cinema this year. Oh and a great job with the pop music selection too. This is nothing new, but it was still a great thing worthy of mentioning. A lot of time was put into selecting the soundtrack.
Ok to move on from constantly praising Scorsese, let's talk about some negatives. First off, the movie was too long. It is one minute shy of three hours, and it definitely feels it. Scorsese probably could've cut out about 20-30 minutes of girls and drugs and the story would not have suffered. DiCaprio may have suffered but that's exactly why Scorsese didn't make any more cuts. The movie is really a character study on Jordan Belfort more than anything else. The other complaint I have is with the movie in general. It is crazy. Very similar to The Great Gatsby of earlier this year, except far more enjoyable. But still, it's about the parties and living the high life more so than it is about the illegal activities committed by Belfort. I was certainly hoping to see more of the illegal activities. But it is very provocative. VERY. That's the point. When you're living the high life you keep wanting more more more. Once you've snorted cocaine off a hooker's ass, what's next? Ten hookers at once? Then what? That's the whole point. It's a cautionary tale on the toll that greed can take on you. Not a tale about what Belfort did that got him in jail. Finally, I should mention that there is virtually no female influence in this movie whatsoever. All the girls here are here for the guys and their own pleasure. So stay away if you're a feminist. You will hate this movie from start to finish.
Overall, this movie is crazy as fuck. Like really crazy. Definitely worth the watch though. It is one hell of a ride.
The Critique: Scorsese and DiCaprio at their best. One of the craziest movies around, this is definitely in my top 3 best movies of 2013.
The Recommendation: VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK....drugs, sex, and alcohol are literally EVERYWHERE. This movie did flirt with NC-17. Actually the reason it didn't come out back in November was because Scorsese had to cut out a few sex scenes otherwise it was going to be rated NC-17. So buyer beware.
Rewatchability; Moderately High
Where to see it: Should definitely be seen in a movie theater. If you can.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome
Oscar Talk: Nominees likely include Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adopted Screenplay, Editing, Production Design
Die Hard (1988): Widely regarded as one of the best Christmas movies ever, Die Hard follows John McClane, officer of the NYPD, as he tries to save his wife Holly Gennaro and several others, who have been taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
Merry Christmas everyone! On this wonderful day of giving and happiness, let's talk about explosions, violence, and death shall we? And throwing people out of windows. That too! Die Hard! So basically everyone knows about this movie right? Ok so I'll keep this short. Besides it's Christmas we all have things to do. This movie is wildly fun. Sure it's premise is ridiculous, and time has not treated Die Hard all that well, but it's still a great ride. So many great one-liners (Now I know what a TV dinner feels like) so many great moments (Now I have a machine gun ho-ho-ho) just overall an incredibly fun movie. Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman have great chemistry as well. Actually this is one of Alan Rickman's best performance ever. Snape is terrifying as Hans Gruber, playing the character manically and unpredictably. It reminded me a lot of Gary Oldman in Air Force One actually. Wait, did I say Snape? Sorry.
We all know the negatives. The story is all over the place, with wildly exaggerated and unrealistic characters located throughout. Such as the Deputy Police Chief. And Harry Ellis. Not to mention several of the ways Bruce Willis stays alive (falling 10 stories just to catch an air duct with his hands with no physical consequences... what a boss right?) are pretty laughable. But they never got so outrageous that it took me out of the movie, so that's good. Still, overall this is one heck of a thrill ride.
So I'm gonna go eat food. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and thanks for reading!
The Critique: A wildly fun thrill ride, Die Hard is definitely an action classic. And you gotta love the Christmas theme, right?
The Recommendation: if you consider yourself a fan of action movies and you haven't seen this, you're wrong.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
American Hustle (2013): Loosely based on the Abscam scandals of the 1970's, David O. Russell's latest is a character study on the major players involved in the scandal, including Irving Rosenfeld, Sydney Prosser, Rosalyn Rosenfeld, FBI Agent Richie DiMaso, and then-Camden Mayor Carmine Polito.
Out of the Furnace (2013): When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn't follow through fast enough, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.
Feeling lazy here, so I just IMDB'd this one. So....I wanted to like this. There's a great cast here, and they all show up and perform outstandingly. Christian Bale is phenomenal as the older brother, Russell, as well as Casey Affleck as the younger brother, Rodney. Woody Harrelson was terrifying as the villain, Harlan. Oh man was he absolutely terrifying and unpredictable. Zoe Saldana, William Dafoe, Sam Shepard, and Forest Whitaker all do a great job as well, despite the fact that some of these guys are literally only in one or two scenes of the movie. Like William Dafoe. And Zoe Saldana. Actually the best scene of the movie is between Zoe and Christian Bale. It's a truly heartbreaking scene as the former lovers (in the movie) see each other for the first time in a really long time and Zoe tells Bale that he's pregnant with another man's child. It is a truly emotional scene and the best scene of the movie without a doubt, as Bale masterfully shows the forced happiness he has for her while having a lot of sadness as he realizes he's not going to win her back.
Now that I've pointed out positives, here are the negatives. The script is terrible. Ya. Terrible. As one of my favorite critics put it, this movie revolves around the themes of every Bruce Springsteen song ever written. Not badmouthing the boss just saying he's not a lyrical genius. The acting here is what makes it into an above average movie, despite the backing of a terribly-written script. Director Scott Cooper is definitely trying too hard to make a nitty-gritty drama about the working class and how hard they have it nowadays. Instead it comes off as very self-aware and honestly rather pretentious. There were some twists that I was not expecting, and some good ideas with fight clubs and such, but these were few and far between for me to really enjoy myself throughout the 116-minute movie. Too much unnecessary oh! Look at this hardship! Look at this poor house! And how hard it is to live like this! Too much of that. And everyone has to whisper too. Oh man I had to turn my volume up to max just to hear the movie. And then we get a fight club scene and IT'S REALLY LOUD AGAIN. Also for the record I'm not saying the working class doesn't have it rough. I have a lot of respect for the working class. We just don't need it shoved down our throat in a movie, you know?
So there ya have it. One of my shorter reviews I know. But honestly one of the reasons it's shorter is because it is pretty forgettable. Were it not for this documentation I would probably forget all traces of this movie in a month or two. Well acted, but poor direction and writing throw some potentially good ideas off the tracks. And I wanted to like this one too....
The Critique: too gritty for its own good, this drama is well acted despite the fact that it's poorly directed and has a poorly written script.
The Recommendation: If you like movies about the working class or Christian Bale or Woody Harrelson I'd recommend it, otherwise stay away.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 5.5/10 Slightly Above Average (just on acting alone)
Oscar Talk: I hope Woody Harrelson gets nominated for supporting actor, but I highly doubt it.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013): The previously unknown story about the creation of Walt Disney's classic, Mary Poppins, this movie follows the interaction of Walt Disney, Don DaGradi, and the Sherman brothers as they attempt to accommodate to the demands of P.L. Travers in the making of Mary Poppins. Oh and simultaneously you get a glimpse into P.L. Travers younger years and the inspiration behind the character.
So we are going to call this historical fiction. Keep this in mind. I won't spoil what happens in the movie, but what happens in real life is that Travers never liked the movie adoption of Mary Poppins. If anything she hated it. And there was a lot of B.S. surrounding Disney's attempt to create a sequel because she effectively prevented it. There were several characters made up, such as Paul Giamatti's characeter, which was Travers' driver. Point being is that this movie has a lot of fiction in it to make it an effective movie. Additionally I have no idea how true the Travers childhood section is, but I would guess that there was some creative liberties taken there as well.
With that in mind, I will say that this is a very good movie. The story is fantastic, with the creative liberties that were taken doing a great job to have a tear or two caught in my eye by the end. The score is excellent, with many reprises of classic Poppins' songs located throughout. Well directed, and well paced going back and forth seamlessly between the making of Poppins and Travers' childhood, this movie is my "official" dark horse for best picture because it is an outstanding movie, and Hollywood has a thing for handing Best Picture to movies that are about how tough it is to make movies. (Argo anyone?)
What is this movies strong point, however, is the acting. Emma Thompson is my current favorite for Best Actress in 2013. She was absolutely incredible as P.L. Travers. She has a tough assignment here, but she successfully makes you hate her in not adopting to what the Sherman brothers wanted to do while simultaneously loving her and appreciating the difficult position she was in. I also see a nomination for Supporting Actor to Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. For the first time in a very long time, I saw the character Hanks was playing, as opposed to Tom Hanks. For one of the best actors in Hollywood, it is very hard to do this. Hanks absolutely nails Walt Disney, making him a very human character, as opposed to just the greatest thing in the world. The supporting cast is phenomenal as well. Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, and Paul Giamatti all bring their A-game for the making of Poppins segment. Actually there's a great scene between Giamatti and Thompson which, in the hands of lesser actors, would have probably been very corny and unbelievable. Instead, they make it one of the most heartfelt moments of the movie. Giamatti and Thompson had great chemistry together as well. In the Travers childhood section, and I can't believe I'm about to say this, but Collin Farrell was brilliant as the father figure. I didn't know that he could be as diverse as he was, but man was he good.
Honestly I have very few complaints about this 125-minute movie. I guess one would be that the cutaways to the childhood were pretty predictable, but does that really matter? Ok here's the main one: was this movie really necessary? Almost all parts of this actually being a movie are made up. Take that away and there's really nothing here of substance. But most of Hollywood's "nonfiction" tales are historical fiction anyway, so who cares right? In conclusion....go see it. You will have fun. Even if you don't actually learn much about the making of Mary Poppins.
The Critique: a fun, enjoyable, and emotional story. Well directed and masterfully acted, this is definitely one of the best movies of 2013.
The Recommendation: If you like Mary Poppins, you should check this out. And if you are a fan of movies in general, you should definitely go see this at some point.
Where to see it: A theater doesn't add much here, so this might be the one this Hollywood season that you wait to see on DVD. But you need to see it.
The Verdict: 9/10 Amazing
Oscar Talk: Nominations for Best Score, Editing, Supporting Actor (Tom Hanks), Actress (Emma Thompson), and Picture. At least.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Um......so Bilbo and the gang return in this terrible cash-grab from Peter Jackson that sends us back to the world of Middle Earth as the clan makes its way to the Lonely Mountain. And there's a story line with Gandalf. And Legolas. Ya....story lines everywhere.
So.....I did not like this movie. There. I said it. Now I'm going to try to illustrate why I don't like this movie. Well....first, let me talk about what I liked. First of all, Smaug. He was amazing. Yes I have a thing for Benedict Cumberbatch, voice of Smaug. He did the facial animation as well. They did a phenomenal job here, like they did with Gollum in the first one, giving Smaug some great lines and making him truly terrifying. Best dragon in a movie ever? Well seeing as they make him terrifying and gave him a voice and personality, he doesn't have much to compete against. Toothless might have something to say there but whatever. It's not important. Another thing I liked was the cinematography. As always, Peter Jackson and Andrew Lesnie do a phenomenal job filming these fight scenes and capturing the beauty of New Zeala-I MEAN Middle Earth. There's a great singe one-shot while our party is being chased by orcs, on a river, and in barrels with Legolas and Tauriel (played by Evangeline Lilly....we'll get to her in a bit) jumping all around them and on them as they take down hordes of orcs. It's a 45-second or minute long one-shot that was definitely the coolest point of the movie. It most certainly took my breath away.
The problem with what I just mentioned was that it was a minute. Out of a COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY 161 minute film. Ya we are to the negatives now. So this whole series is a cash-grab. We know this right? I mean they are taking a 300-page book and turning it into 8-9 hours of cinema. And three movies. So are we just ok with the fact that it's a cash-grab? With An Unexpected Journey I was at least glad to be back in Middle Earth. Plus I liked the initial exchange between Bilbo and Frodo. And the exchange between Bilbo and Gollum talking in riddles was really cool as well. Something the first one had that this one is sorely lacking is that while it was clear that they were adding a lot to the initial story, which is Bilbo and the party heading to The Lonely Mountain to reclaim the dwarven kingdom that was once there, it never felt convoluted and bogged down. Yes it was slow but it never really felt all that unnecessary. In this one, you probably could've cut about 90-120 minutes of it and not lost anything in terms of the initial story. What does this mean? This movie is way too big for its own good. See Jackson at least recognizes that these are cash-grabs, so he's making these movies too big as opposed to too small. I'll give him that. But there are three full story lines in this one guys. And two of them are unnecessary. 100% unnecessary. Gandalf discovering that Sauron is a thing (which doesn't make much sense anyway because at the start of Fellowship he is dumbfounded by the ring and where it came from) and the whole Legolas-Tauriel-Kili love triangle are just completely unnecessary. I didn't care. I know Sauron is a thing from LOTR, so SPOILER! SAURON EXISTS! and Tauriel isn't even a real character in the J.R.R Tolkien universe! Oh let's talk about her. Yes she brings some emotion to the elves, and feelings and all, but she had WAY too big of an impact on the overall story. And I love me some Evangeline Lilly. She's a great actress. But this character did nothing to me but harm the story. Even if it's just the J.R.R. Tolkien extra-material stuff, SHE'S NOT A REAL CHARACTER IN THE UNIVERSE! She can be a badass and get Legolas to have some feelings, but that's it in my opinion.
I am definitely sounding like a Tolkien purist right now. And you know what? I'm ok with this. I read The Hobbit back in the day. I have been unable to read the LOTR books, but I do watch the extended editions of the movies every six months or so and love every second of it. Oh and Return of the King is my single favorite movie of all time. Yep. My number 1 favorite movie period. So I go into these Hobbit movies wanting and trying so hard to love them, but they are just so unnecessary! Like I could get maybe two movies here. Heck, I might even be ok with that! But three? No. NO! It's just too much extra and unnecessary content. Oh, and THEN there's the fucking ending! I HATED THE ENDING. I won't spoil, but think back to all of the endings of the previous four movies. Sure three of them leave the story unresolved, but have any of them left the story with an actual cliffhanger? No? NO THEY HAVE NOT. Really Peter? You're really gonna leave us with a cliffhanger? What a cheap trick to try to fill the seats and make as much money as possible for the finale. Wow.
In short, if you love LOTR, you will not enjoy this. If you don't, I'm not gonna recommend it either. I'm telling you guys, stay away. Hopefully the third one will be the best like Return of the King was, but this is without a doubt my biggest disappointment of this year. (Mark my words guys, it'll be number one when I draw up that list)
The Critique: over-long and unenjoyable, this cash-grab definitely has some great action scenes and interlude with Smaug, but about 100 minutes of unnecessary content keep this movie from being....well....enjoyable.
The Recommendation: the worst part about this cash-grab is that there's nothing that we can do. We are all going to see it. And it's going to make shit-tons of money, but I will say AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
Oscar Talk: Cinematography. I wanna put Martin Freeman up there for best actor, but the actual hobbit gets so much less screen time this time around, I would be shocked to see him get nominated.
G.I. Joe 2 (2013): Explosions! Mindless, pointless action! Hot girls for eye candy! What, were you expecting me to describe the plot here? Wait, PLOT? Hahaha! That's a funny word to associate with this train wreck.
That just about describes how I felt about this movie. You know what's sad? I have seen both of these movies. Not that part this next part: G.I. Joe 2 made more money than its predecessor. I know it's a summer blockbuster and is going to make money but STILL! That is sad. I was really hoping for a dud here because this means I'm going to have to complete the trilogy when the third one gets released in a few years. Who finds this movie enjoyable? Seriously? It is terrible in virtually every sense of the word. The action set-pieces here are dated. Already. The best thing about the original, the super suits leading to that whole chase sequence in Paris, is totally gone here. Not even mentioned. And that's not all. Only three members of the original cast are back: Jonathan Pryce, (the President) Byung-hun Lee, (Storm Shadow) and Arnold Vosloo. (Zartan) When Channing Tatum (the main character of the first one) is killed within the first 15 minutes of the movie in favor of Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, you know you are in for a pretty terrible experience. And that you are. The acting is generic, the story is very forgettable, (I'm struggling to remember it now and I just saw it 24 hours ago from when I wrote this review) and the action pieces are dated. To me it seems as though nobody cared at all about this during filming. It was a cash-grab from the beginning, and grabbing cash it did. You know, this is the kind of movie that looks down on the audience watching it. Similar to that of Red 2 and Grown Ups 2. We should not stand for this kind of thing. I'm serious! I am insulted by the fact that this movie made $375 million at the box office. This movie barely even stays loyal to the toys that it's based on let alone create a worthwhile experience for anyone. This movie is just a generic "betrayed by the people they trust" story. And believe me, there are far better of those out there. Like The A-Team for example.
I'm not even gonna waste my time with this movie to actually analyze it. It's not worth my time. And I just reviewed Anchorman 2 and am about to watch The Conjuring so I don't feel like spending a lot of time on this. About the only redeeming thing this movie has is that it has a final act where the action scenes within are a little bit enjoyable, but we are talking about 20 minutes or so of the movie's 110 minute runtime. Oh ya! It's definitely too long. But when it's not fun that is typically what happens. Seriously though. This movie is right down there with Grown-Ups 2 and Gatsby and Red 2 for the worst movies of 2013. STAY AWAY. Damnit. Ok I should I mention that there is a scene where these ninjas (including Snake Eyes) fight on the side of a mountain. It doesn't compare to the scene in Paris from the original, but it was a pretty cool scene. But past that there's nothing here this movie has to offer. So watch that scene on YouTube and don't put yourself through the rest of the movie.
The Critique: totally mindless and totally pointless action. There is no reason this movie should even exist.
The Recommendation: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE
The Verdict: 2/10 Terrible
The Conjuring (2013): Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are recruited by the Perron family to help them get rid of an evil living in their house.
Ok first of all HOLY SHIT. This movie is really, really, REALLY scary. Definitely one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. Honestly since my repertoire for scary movies is rather shallow, it is certainly the scariest movie I personally have ever seen. First off, I should say that in my mind, the rule of comedies also applies to horror movies. As long as the movie accomplishes what it sets out to do, which of course is to scare the crap out of me, I should be ready to forgive some of its faults. And there are quite a few here. So let's dive into it shall we?
So, acting. Director James Wan (also directed Insidious 1 and 2, as well as the original Saw) does something that you don't see too often in horror movies: he has recognizable actors play these roles. Patrick Wilson, (Insidious 1 and 2) Vera Farminga, (Source Code and The Departed) Ron Livingston, (Office Space) and Lili Taylor (Six Feet Under) all star and take this movie and it's subject matter very seriously, and ultimately allow themselves to be totally engrossed into their roles. Simply put, these are some of the best acting performances I've seen in a horror movie. Vera Farminga and Lili Taylor in particular are outstanding, and they really got me engaged in the final act of the movie. Well done to Wan for deciding to remove the Paranormal Activity factor of having nobodies play the characters to make it seem like it's real events. Which has never worked for me personally.
Story. Well, I was genuinely surprised at how good the story was. Sure there were holes, for example if you want to know why the birds are doing what they are doing you are going to be disappointed, but at the apex of the movie I was completely sucked into it and wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters, despite the fact that the creepiness and scariness of the movie was also at its apex by this point. Also there were absurdities everywhere at the apex too that would probably bother me more on repeat viewings but on the first viewing I was able to get past them. Obviously I'm not going to share them because most are major spoiler points but still, if you do watch this movie you'll probably be shaking your head at them too. But still a very enjoyable 112 minutes, even if I wanted it to be over as quickly as possible due to the fact that it is TERRIFYING. Also there's an entire second storyline involving an incredibly creepy doll that was very scary, but made very little sense to me in terms of what was going on in the primary storyline. However I would not be surprised if we see a movie by Wan dealing with this doll because Jebus was it creepy!
Finally, I should mention that Wan shoots this movie in an interesting and rather unique style. He did things with the camera, such as starting a shot upside down and then flipping it, or having a long single take scene showing the horrors of what was going on in different levels of the house, that were really effective. This gave the movie a bit of a supernatural feel. And the long one-shoots were absolutely genius. They gave you a second to think that you were safe from the horrors happening in the cellar just to go upstairs to a haunted closet and be right in the middle of more terror. Honestly I'm rather surprised Wan didn't shoot in this style for Insidious. Maybe he decided it wouldn't work in Insidious? I don't know. But it definitely worked here. So ya in conclusion, what we have here is one of the best horror films of recent years. Go see it if you haven't already and like horror. Even if you don't bring a girl over and watch this. It's not scary via gratuitous amounts of blood. Rather it's scary via the paranormal, which means she will be more willing to watch it. A sure way to cuddle guys. So watch it!
The Critique: well-paced, well-acted, and as scary as scary can be. One hell of a horror flick.
The Recommendation: guys if you want a cuddle session then this should be number one on your list. Also a must-see for all horror fans.
The Verdict: 8.5/10 between great and awesome
Anchorman 2 (2013): Ron and the Channel 4 News Team are back! This time, the gang finds themselves trying to gain traction at the Global News Network. Obviously, hilarious events ensue, full of one liners, outrageous improv, an interesting romance, and of course, Baxter the dog.
Boy have I waited a long time for this. First off, Anchorman is one of my all-time favorite movies out there. Why? Well, that is an excellent question my friend! It wasn't just the crazy one-liners, or the great comedic interlude between the characters that did it for me, rather it was because I actually care about these characters. I care about Ron, Brian, Champ, and Brick. So many comedies you could care less about the characters and its story, as long as it makes you laugh it doesn't matter is what I typically say, but that is not the case with the original. However this is just me personally, and I will say right off the bat that if you don't care about the characters in the first Anchorman, this movie will do nothing to change your opinion on them. Well maybe Brick but then again, how could you not like Brick? This movie follows a formula very similar to that of the original, right down to referencing itself at times. Sometimes this worked (Brian Fantana's cologne cabinet makes a very clever cameo) and sometimes they didn't. (The song was clearly forced. Funny, but not as natural and logical to the story as Afternoon Delight was.) But still, the movie was very enjoyable to me, and made me laugh all throughout its 119 minute runtime, particularly in an absolutely ridiculous third act.
So first of all, story. Now the rule of comedies I have will once again have to apply here, because the story itself is absurd. There were quite a few corners cut to get the plot from point A to point B, like the part where the gang gets into an incredibly violent Winnebago accident and then are totally fine in the next scene. But did you honestly expect otherwise? I still genuinely cared about the Channel 4 News Team this time around. I wanted to see them succeed against all odds. Oh, additionally there is a crazy romance here between Carrell's character and Kristen Wiig's character, who is of course very similar to that of Brick. This led to some of the movie's funniest moments, as Carrell and Wiig fumble through dates and just physical intimacy in general. I'd almost recommend seeing the movie just for this part. Actually Carrell gets a lot of screen time, and of course Ferrel does too, but the losers in Anchorman 2 are Paul Rudd and David Koechner, as they really don't get that much screen time. Which is unfortunate. The only other major complaint I will voice here involves Meagan Good's character, Linda Jackson, or the African-American boss. Her character made very little sense to me, and clearly seemed to exist just for the sake of the comedy. One second she hates Ron to the point that she beats him up, and then a few scenes later she wants to sleep with him. No middle ground, just straight from pure hatred to wanting to have sex. Wait what? But man was the dinner scene with her family funny. So again, the absurdity of this plot point is forgiven because it made me laugh.
So, acting. It is clear to me that this is not a cash-grab sequel. These guys, particularly Will Ferrel, clearly are just doing this sequel because they absolutely love playing these characters. And it shows, as most of this script is improv'd from everyone. Especially Ferrel. Harrison Ford didn't impress me as much as I was hoping he would, (he certainly does not have a funny side) but other than that all of the major characters are done very well. Right down to the absurd cameos in the third act. These cameos honestly make the scene in the original where all the news teams fight each other look like there were a bunch of nobodies in it. The fight scene in the sequel and the cameos within is without a doubt the best scene of the movie.
So there ya have it! I felt that this movie was hilarious. Not as good as the original but still absolutely hilarious. If you enjoyed the first you will most certainly have fun seeing the characters you've come to know and love back on screen. However if you didn't enjoy the original then you will not enjoy this one. Also it is a sequel. And yes it is Anchorman but I would strongly recommend seeing the original before this one if you somehow missed it. Some of the characters, particularly Veronica Corningstone, may make no sense at all if you watch this movie by itself. Well her motivations I should say. Ya. Veronica associating herself with Ron won't make much sense if you haven't seen the first one. But if you like comedies or the first Anchorman, go see it. This movie is right there with This is the End for funniest comedy of the year in my book.
The Critique: an absurd and fun comedy very similar to that of its predecessor. Well acted, good one-liners, and just an overall fun experience.
The Recommendation: Fans of the series and of comedies will feel right at home here. However if you don't fall into either of those categories approach at your own risk.
Where to see it: a theater viewing doesn't offer much here past laughing with strangers. This movie is not a visually stunning piece in case you couldn't figure that out.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
Oscar Talk: Ha. Oscar talk. Ready for ironic hashtag use? #RONBURGUNDYOSCAR2013
Frozen (2013): Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have FROZEN the kingdom (see what I did there????) in eternal winter.
IMDB is probably the way to go with most of these from now on, so I might just keep doing that. Even though the frozen part was from my comedic genius. Don't worry I'll be here all night. Ok if you haven't seen this movie and like Disney movies, GO SEE THIS NOW. Seriously. Stop what you are doing and go see it. Right now. In a movie theater. I'm not kidding. What we have here is without a doubt in the top 3 Disney-exclusive (thus excluding Pixar movies so don't bring any of them up if you disagree with this statement) movies to be released in the last ten years, and is the best Disney musical since Hunchback of Notre Dame in my opinion. One of my favorite critics claims since Beauty and the Beast but that is debatable. Point being, it is an absolutely phenomenal all-around movie, and the fact that Disney is not doing much to market this is absolutely criminal. I'm pretty sure Planes got more advertising than Frozen has, and they aren't even in the same city let alone same ballpark in terms of how good the movie actually is. Seriously Disney. You strategy here is bad and you should feel bad. And Planes 2 is not only announced BUT IT IS COMING OUT NEXT YEAR. If you have been living under a rock and don't know anything about animation that means THEY WERE WORKING ON THE SEQUEL LONG BEFORE THE ORIGINAL EVEN CAME OUT. Like they were working on them both AT THE SAME TIME. WHAT ARE YOU DOING DISNEY?????
Ok. Deep breath self. Now that I've ranted on the stupidity of Disney, let's talk about Frozen! First of all, some time was clearly put into animating this. It's so easy nowadays to go with cheap animation (which Disney is no stranger of....cough Planes cough) to push out a movie as quickly as possible. As the good animation gets better, the bad animation becomes more noticeable. However here the animation is GORGEOUS. I'd say the best I have ever seen hands-down. Including Pixar movies. Bold statement I know. There's just so much visual spectacle here to marvel at, and the animators knew it, because there are definitely several points where they give you a moment to just breathe it all in and adore how beautiful this movie looks. And the fact that cinematography is becoming an actual legitimate thing with animated movies is just scary. And this movie definitely sets the bar high with its cinematography.
Next up is the voice acting. Kristen Bell. She puts in one of the best voice acting performances as the lead I've seen in an animated movie in quite some time. And of course Idina Menzel as the queen was a brilliant decision too. It's both a blessing and a curse though because she simply blows everyone else away in the singing portions. And this is an animated musical, so there is a lot of singing obviously. She's in three songs I believe, and all three are the best songs here without a doubt because of her voice. And Let It Go is Menzel's solo which is likely headed for Best Original Song at the Oscars. And it's already stuck in my head. Of course that's not bashing any of the other music here. Christophe Beck (most notably known for the Broadway production's Avenue Q and Book of Mormon) is phenomenal here, putting in a soundtrack most certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination for best score. Back to voice acting. Now Bell and Menzel plus Josh Gad as the comedic relief (and he is hilarious) are really the only three memorable performances here. Yes it's a princess movie but the male characters are not fleshed out at all. But that's ok because Bell, Menzel, and Gad do plenty to carry the movie from a vocal standpoint. Gad even has a decent voice. I was impressed.
Finally, the story. Everyone can agree that so many Disney movies of late have become incredibly formulaic. This much is certain. And Frozen does follow the formula to an extent, but there are enough twists in here to make the movie feel fresh and original as well. Including a few twists I did not see coming at all. Which obviously means that I didn't see them coming because they don't make any sense, but I should forgive this because after all the movie is set in a world where one person has the power to change the entire country's climate from summer to winter. So there's that. Also the overall theme here is not one that you would expect. Like Monsters University and its "Even if you put your entire body, mind, and soul into something you may not achieve it, but that doesn't mean you can't be happy" theme, Frozen goes for an interesting and unorthodox one here, even though if I say what it is its a spoiler. So guess what? I'm not going to say it. Because I try to avoid spoilers whenever possible. But it's at the bottom if you care to know.
In conclusion, GO SEE THIS MOVIE. PLEASE. I don't know why Disney is sort of throwing this movie under the rug because it shouldn't. This should be a future addition to Disney's coveted Masterpieces collection if it gets some good publicity behind it. So go and see what all the fuss is about!
The Critique: A masterpiece of Disney Animation. Fun music, breathtaking visuals, and a (somewhat) original story make this movie the best Disney movie or recent memory.
The Recommendation: For the love of our dear baby Jesus, GO AND SEE THIS. Like ASAP. In theaters. It deserves to be admired at in a theater. In 3D too. I didn't see it in 3D but I wish I had.
The Verdict: 9.5/10 Damn Near Perfect
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Score, Best Original Song, (Let It Go) Best Animated Movie, (Sure-win I might add, unless if Walking With Dinosaurs is the best thing since sliced bread)
*SPOILER SECTION* (Theme talk time!)
The theme here is a good one: you don't necessarily need someone else to help save you. You can do it yourself. Unorthodox yes, particularly in a princess movie, but it also allows them to make the female leads into badasses. Seriously. The princess here are not damsels in distress. They are badasses. Like Brave is initially except they don't become damsels in distress. Well I guess the queen technically is initially but she becomes a badass by the end. So.....ya! Go see this. Please.
The Hunger Games (2012): Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister's place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.
Once again using IMDB. To be fair, I used it here more out of laziness than anything. Now I know that at this point everyone in the world has seen this movie, and that Catching Fire is probably going to be one of the best sellers of this Oscar season just based on recognition alone. And rightfully so. This is a well-written story, with many great themes located throughout. This is not Twilight. We do not have to sit here and question why this series exists much less why it's successful. Suzanne Colins deserves to be recognized for the story here, as it is a very intriguing one. So this review will probably be shorter than most, because I don't feel the need to go as in-depth as usual because this already has a good reputation preceding it. And the movie reflects this good reputation. I watched it with a friend who has read the book and said that the movie stayed very loyal to its source material. Only once or twice did I have to ask questions about the world, so the movie does a great job of making sure that those who know nothing about The Hunger Games do not feel lost at any point. Additionally I asked those questions primarily because I was interested in learning more about the world as opposed to being confused with what was happening. There's a great cast here, and they all take their roles very seriously, despite some very distracting makeup some of them had to wear. Particularly Stanley Tucci and his outrageous blue hair. I could not take that seriously, despite kind of understanding why it was happening in the first place. Even though Tucci himself clearly had a blast in this role.
And then there's Jennifer Lawrence. A (now) established A-list star, this was the second major role that she received in her very young acting career. Many forget that she was Mystique in 2011's X-Men: First Class. And then in her third major role she deservingly won an Oscar for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. Talk about rising to the top in a hurry. Plus it helps that she's absolutely gorgeous. But in here I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. That isn't as much an insult as it is a complement, in that I was surprised when all I got from her was good, as opposed to great. But she still does a great job to establish the main character here in Katniss, and she went through a very convincing story arc. However the rest of the characters here are not as fleshed out as they could've been. Elizabeth Bank's character particularly feels more like an excuse to put Elizabeth Banks in this movie than to actually have a legitimate character. Woody Harrelson is also kind of wasted here, as this movie really becomes about Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and their fight for survival. Yes I know that is what's supposed to happen since the movie is about the Hunger Games but when a movie that is initially so grandiose in scale suddenly turns into a very intimate experience in the second and third act it's borderline awkward. And that's not even to mention the very awkward and unnecessary kind-of-sort-of-is-it-really-happening romance between Katniss and Peeta. But my book expert agrees that this romance is entirely unnecessary in the books so there isn't much that the movie can do to make it better.
So that's about it. If you haven't seen these movies yet I would recommend it because there is an interesting dystopian post-apocalyptic society created here, even if the world itself really isn't given that much of a chance to develop. It's still very interesting. And it's cool to see the early stages of Jennifer Lawrence's career. I can't wait to see where this future Julia Roberts caliber star heads with her career. It will be fun to watch.
The Critique: A fun popcorn sci-fi flick. Well-acted, well-produced, overall good fun.
The Recommendation: If you haven't seen it do so simply to conform with the rest of society. You shouldn't be bored at any point.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
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