Friday, December 31, 2010

Bottom 10 of 2010

For every up, there is a down. 2010 has been a year of terrible films. Thankfully, I never saw most of them, but I have seen some really disappointing ones.

10. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

It's sad really. This film could have been great; it has the perfect story for a sequel, a passionate director, and an all-star cast who could definitely pull this off. Unfortunately, Money Never Sleeps suffers from lazy writing and fails to deliver any emotional connection or entertainment.

9. Shrek Forever After

What started out as a fun-loving, fresh, new take on the fairy tale genre has aged into... well, a big, stupid, ugly ogre. This fourth (hopefully last) enstallment in this long-lasting series is just as unfun and unfunny as the third and stands to show us that Hollywood has become a stubborn jackass.

8. Step Up 3D

Let's face it, the Step Up franchise has never been about being good films as much as it's been about showing off sweet dance movies, but when you charge money for that, it's just a crime. This film lacks logical dialogue or actual human soul and the "character development" and "drama" is pushed on you at the end. If only the movie had been as good as it 3D.

7. Nanny McPhee Returns

With her return to the big screen, Nanny McPhee brings with her a gassy crow, her magical walking stick, and all types of noisy, boisterous mischief and not in the good way. This film uses up most all of its magic trying to be fun and in doing so, scimps out on story or development of any type. The good nanny should have stayed away.

6. Dear John

More like "Dear God!". This cheesy, chick flick is filled with so much sappy romance that I could taste syrup. Nothing exists as entertaingment here and it spends all of its time trying to get you to cry and by the end, the only tears it was jerkin' from me were ones of bordem.

5. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse


It's rare when a girly, teenage, fantasy novel turned movie pulls you into the story and makes you feel like you're emotionally connected with each character. It's even harder still to find one that has such terrific preformances and amazing script. Yeah, that is a rare thing. Guess we're going to have to keep looking.

4. Grown Ups

Adam Sandler puts out a great raunchy comedy every once in a while, but Grown Ups is not one of them. Screwball antics, grossout gags, and harsh jokes make up this buddies comedy. It's pretty much the same stuff in any other Adam Sandler film only not funny and nothing worth your time.

3. Clash of the Titans

Just when you though Sam Worthington's terrific acting streak was on hiatus, he comes back playing our hero Perseus, who journey's all over to save his city. Speaking of the hero's journey, this entire film made me feel like I was going through katabasis. Terrible acting and terrible writing make this terrible remake.

2. Skyline
When your movie relies heavily upon special effects and you only have a budget less than that of Adam Sandler's Grown Ups, and you only have enough left over to hire Donald Faison, a few B actors, and one setpiece, why would you still want to make that movie, especially after reading that script?

1. The Last Airbender

M. Night Shyamalan has had some big failures these past few year, but man this one is a doozy! There  is no story here, character development is zero, the action is boring, the expensive special effects are bad, the acting is terrible, the script is a disaster, and most of the names keep being pronounced wrong throughout the movie. I cannot wait to not see the rest of the trilogy when it doesn't hit theaters. Here's hoping that Shyamalan has better luck in 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

2010 was a good year for movies. Now, I haven't seen every movie 2010 has to offer, but of the ones I have, these are my top 10.

10. True Grit

I'm done playing pretend. The 1969 version of this movie isn't anything difficult to top; however, the Coens have crafted something beautiful out of Charles Portis' story. With awesome camerawork, a funny script, and a terrific job by its all-star cast, True Grit is one of the best remakes I have seen in recent years.

9. Catfish

I have seen only a few documentaries this year, all of which were good films; however, Catfish takes the cake. What starts off as what seems to be a thriller quickly takes the shape of something much more interesting. After seeing this film, I walked away with my mind completely blown. The less you know going in, the better it will be.

8. Hereafter

Clint Eastwood has put out some of the best movies of the past few years and Hereafter is no exception. Eastwood's gorgeous cinematography makes this one of the most visually stunning films of the year and the cast clicks perfectly to also make this one of the year's most emotionally satisfying films.

7. The Ghost Writer

Every few years Roman Polanski puts out a movie, some great, and others no tso much. The Ghost Writer is definitely a great one. The roles were cast perfectly, the script is smart, and the camerawork is brilliant. Everything comes together just right to make this contemporary thriller one of 2010's best.

6. How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon is one of the most prominent and most lovable films of 2010; it combines adventure and humor with a great cast and great storytellers and presents it in a way that kids and even adults can enjoy. Not to mention the best 3D of the year.

5. The Social Network

David Fincher's The Social Network is definitely an Oscar contender with a crazily witty script courtesy of Aaron Sorkin. The amazingly talented cast is lead by my pick for surprise preformance of the year, Jesse Eisenberg. This film is one for the ages.

4. Black Swan  

Darren Aronofsky perfects his vision in this incredibly dark and incredibly grotesque psychological thriller. Aronofsky's work behind the camera combined with pitch perfect preformances from the cast and subtle special effects combine to create this perfectly disturbing, yet beautiful, work of art.

3. Inception

There is no question that Christopher Nolan is a master filmmaker. He knows how to manipulate the camera in a way that fits his vision and tells his story perectly. Inception is the result of a lot of deep thinking, perfect casting, beautiful cinematography, fast paced action sequences, and a highly intriguing story.

2. Mother

Not all great movies come out of Hollywood. Just watch Mother and you'll see what I mean. From the amazing preformance by Hye-ja-Kim as Mother to the perfectly dark tone of the well-rounded story, this Korean masterpiece is better than most American films this year.

1. Toy Story 3

They say big things come in small packages and that couldn't be more true for Pixar's latest and greatest. These toys are some of the most beloved characters in all cinema history and they mean just as much to the kids who grew up with this series as they do to Andy. This beautifully rendered film has more emotional payout and heart to it than most, if not all, live action film this year and bids a touching fairwell to, undoubtedly, one of the greatest trilogies of all time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Co-Review with Alex K: Black Swan

Everything about Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is a good movie. There is a high level of craftsmanship from how intentionally claustrophobic the camerawork is to the special effects which felt natural and not overwhelming; however it is the acting that made this movie great.

Natalie Portman gives an enthralling performance as a young ballerina struggling to obtain perfection in her new found role as the lead in Swan Lake. Mila Kunis works opposite Natalie Portman as the new girl aspiring to take the lead. These ladies play well off each other and make each other's performances feel more genuine.

Aronofsky  perfects the tone of a horror/ psychological thriller in Black Swan with all the blood and "gotcha" moments; however, these things are only minor components to the overall feeling of the movie. To say this is a dark film would be an understatment. There is so much that goes on that, by the end, the audience is just as depressed and craized as Natalie Portman's character and that, within itself, is the true beauty of the film.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: True Grit (2010)

In today's society where entertainment now consists of "What can we recycle and make the most money off of", there are good adaptations and there are bad ones. The Coen Brother's take on True Grit is definitely not a bad one.

True to form, the Coen Brothers continue to startle us with surprisingly successful bounds into new genres, constantly expanding their horizons with every new film. The brothers take on Westerns with their remake of perhaps one of the most notable films in the genre- ever, and prove that there is nowhere they can't go.

With such a classic film,  the cast and crew couldn't have bigger boots to fill; however, one of the greatest things about the Coen Brothers is that they didn't try to fill them, instead, they fashioned their own pair. Now I do not know exactly how much originates itself from the book, but it is obvious that the Coens have put a little bit of themselves into this project, from their darkly humored script to intriguing camera shots, and it makes this film all the more fun.

The cast works magic in coming together to bring the Coens' script to life and speaking of bigs boots to fill, Jeff Bridges does a wonderful job in the role that won John Wayne his Oscar, with a hilarious accent to boot. Matt Damon gives another great preformance, providing a lot of the humor for the film. Josh Brolin, though brief his appearence may be, does a terrific job and makes every minute of his preformance enjoyable. These may be the three big names on the movie's poster, but it is Hailee Steinfeld who steals the show and should, at the very least, get the nomination.

However, when you compare True Grit to other great Coen films such as Fargo or No Country for Old Men, it doesn't shine as bright. The story, though not originally Coenesce, still feels a little exhausted even after all these years, which leads me to ask why the Coens picked this movie to remake in the first place. Even the witty banter between characters is sometimes hard to make out under all those raspy accents and overall, this film just seems to lack that Coen Brothers sheen.

Though not their best work, the Coen Brothers have successfully breathed new life into an old, western classic thus proving that even on an off day, their work can still go toe-to-toe with the best.

See it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: TRON: Legacy

At first, Jeff Bridges vs. Jeff Bridges sounds like some crazy, awesome trip. Now add light cycle battles, Olivia Wilde, and the fact that it's all in 3D. What more could you possibly ask for, right?

Well, to start, some decent character development would be nice. Outside of Jeff Bridge's Kevin Flynn, character development almost doesn't exist. Sam Flynn was orphaned as a child, gets trapped inside his father's crazy game, has to fight to stay alive, falls in "love", and, by the end, never seems phased. Don't worry, he's not the only one; almost every other character remains static throughout the film which provides for a nice dose of  yet another boring Disney movie.

However, lack of character development is just a symptom of Tron: Legacy's overall affliction. Lazy script writing is what really plagues this film. Sure this film is not entirely boring, but nothing in this film is brought to its full potential. None of the characters were developed as well as they could have been, the cheesy dialogue gets cheesier as the movie progresses, and towards the end it becomes quite apparent that the writers started running out of ideas and after 28 years, this sequel should be better.

So what are some good things about this new TRON? Well, fans of Jeff Bridges will likely be brought back to the days of "the Dude" as Kevin Flynn ends many of his lines with "man" or "dude". Other than that, the 3D is actually quite good. Nothing is "in your face", but the 3D does add depth to the scenes that were intended for 3D viewing. Also, the soundtrack by Daft Punk is pretty freakin' sweet.

Sadly, the 3D itself is no reason to rush to the theaters. But like I said, TRON: Legacy is not entirely boring and will provide enough entertainment if you're not doing anything on a Friday or Saturday night.

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Narnia is once again in need of rescuing, but this time only two of the Pevensie children answer the call. Does this mean that Voyage of the Dawn Treader is only half as magical?

Of course not. Though as off as things may seem at first, the loss of elder siblings Susan and Peter does not at all take away from the story. Watching the youngest of the Pevensies grow up is just as much fun as it was with the High King and Queen.

Actually, this third enstallment fits comfortably into the big shoes left behind by the previous two films. All the action, adventure, and magic is still there and it all comes together nicely in such a way that makes this movie both fun to watch and emotionally satisfying.

I bring up emotionally satisfying because this film has more emotional payout than any of its predecessors, making this movie feel even more worth it in the end. C.S. Lewis expresses many life lessons throughout his series, making the moral of the story just as important as the story itself and that comes through in this film through the interaction of the characters themselves and each character's individual development.

Though The Voage of the Dawn Treader may feel stranded during a few scenes, it always finds its way back on track. This film raises the bar for Narnia movies to come and is worth the voyage to the theater.
See it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review: Catfish

Earlier this year David Fincher's The Social Network brought us the history of the online social juggernaut Facebook while Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's documentary, Catfish, examines both the positive and negative roles it can have on users' lives.

Much like Exit Through the Gift Shop there is much speculation as to whether or not this documentary is legit, but once again the moral outweighs the verifiable facts of the story. There is so much to take away from this film that it feels gratifying just to watch it, even if the story isn't all that interesting, and it is.

What starts off as awkward, online relationship quickly develops into something way more interesting. As we follow these young filmmakers on their journey to uncover the truth, things start becoming more clear and the film asks a lot of questions of what it truly means to "be" somebody in this day and age.

Another awesome aspect of this film is the total shift in feel. What starts out as a surefire thriller quickly takes the shape of a more serious yet benevolent story of both admonish and forgiveness. It does this transistion so well that even if you're looking forward to the thrilling sensation, you cannot be let down by the end result.

What is the end result? Catfish stands out as a jewel of modern documentary filmmaking and should be relished by this social networking generation.

Definitely see this film.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Final Word: November

Here is the final word on the movies I saw in November.

Megamind: Rent it.

Due Date: Rent it.

Skyline: Skip it.

Winter's Bone: See it.

Secretariat: Rent it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I: Rent it.

Tangled: Rent it.

Grown Ups: Skip it.

Coming this month, look for my reviews of Tron: Legacy, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit, Black Swan, and possibly The Tourist and Faster.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Circle Tme Review: Grown Ups

Have you ever had to spend an uncomfortable weekend reuniting with people you never even wanted to see again in the first place? Yeah, Grown Ups is kinda like that.

Sure they are all grown up and have their own families now, but Adam Sandler and company are far from "grown up". Sandler has made a name for himself as Hollywood's manchild, appearing again and again as grown men who are very immature. Sure it was funny in the beginning, and every once in a while he manages to rekindle his old spark, but when he keeps headlining in crap like this, with all his money and talent, it's hard to take him seriously.

What's even more disappointing is the lack of humor. With the comedic talent of Kevin James, David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and Sandler, this movie should be funny, or at least that's what they try selling it as. There is almost nothing here worth a chuckle let alone your time and money and when this motley crew is laughing, it's always at some gross joke made at somebody's expense.

Let me just save you the time and sum this movie up in one word: lazy. There is so much comedic potential here and Sandler spoils it with his same old grotesque gags.

Save your money and skip it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

In Memory of Leslie Nielsen

Yeah, I know that I am a day behind everybody and by now I am sure you all have heard the terrible news. Leslie Nielsen passed away yesterday due to complications of Pneumonia. He was 84 years young.

Leslie Nielsen will probably be remembered best for his roles as Dr. Rumack in Airplane! and Detective Frank Drebin in and the Naked Gun films. Nielsen is famous for taking his seemingly serious roles and playing them in such a way that became iconic, comedic gold. He had a way of taking a completely terrible movie and making it funny and entertaining (such as Superhero Movie).

Leslie Nielsen also appeared in movies such as Creep Show, the original Prom Night with Jamie Lee Curtis, and brought his comedic genius to films such as Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and the last two 'Scary Movies'.

Leslie Nielsen, you will be missed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Tangled

Well, if this is it and Disney really is closing the book on musicals and fairy tales, then they definitely did not save their best for last.

Now I don't mean to be so harsh on the newest edition to the Disney-Princess family, but this all seems oddly familiar. Some guy just happens across a beautiful, young lady, they have to fend from an evil, non-blood related mother, they fall in love, and then live happily ever after. I'm sorry, but is the Disney-Princess formula ever anything different? Disney has done this over and over for the past 70 years and yes, in the beginning we like them, maybe even loved them, but by the time Disney got to Tangled, their 50th animated movie, things just became too predictable.

And following the Disney tradition, everybody sings in this movie. Disney trashed the original script for this movie, started over, and even brought back Alan Menken (fammed Disney song writer) to pen the music. Sadly, it sounds like Menken got lazy here because outside of the first tune, the songs lacks enthusiasm and entertainment. 

Also following Disney tradition, the 3D here was pretty bad. Everytime I bring up 3D, I talk about How to Train Your Dragon and the depth the 3D added to that movie, well no depth was added to this film. In fact, there were parts where the 3D actually hurt my eyes and everything became blurry during a couple of scenes.

Outside of its flaws, Tangled is still enjoyable, if only a little bit. So if you've got nothing to do this holiday wekend and you want to keep the kids entertained, this movie will do the job. I just can't promise that you will also be entertained.

Rent it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

Harry Potter is the boy who lived... through seven books and eight, count em, eight movies. If you ask me, he proabably should have lived through one less film.

Yeah, I know, you Potterheads are probably thinking, "But Jordan, they needed to split this book into two movies so that they could fit everything in." Maybe so, but even while I was walking out of the theater I heard even the most loyal of Potter fans say "They didn't need to add this or that in." Can you imagine that: six movies and the Potterheards are disappointed because they didn't add enough in and now they're upset because there's too much? Maybe I was wrong about Detroit Lions fans being the hardest to please. But I agree. This movie was a little too long and I definitely felt it (or maybe it was just the fact that it was 2:30 a.m. by the time I walked out).

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy most aspects of this film. I liked the way the film was put together. All the cuts are precise and all the camerawork is beautiful. However, I think the preformances are the best thing about this film. We have grown up watching these young actors develop and settle into their roles and we have come to appreciate their skill more and more with each enstallment. Emma Watson, especially, gives a standout preformance in this movie.
Sadly, however, I felt as if though this part one suffered from what most intervening films suffer from in trilogies; it spent most of its time building us up for the next part that it drops its sense of story and leaves us with a lot of action and a lot of humor. Unfortunately, most of the humor gets dropped by the second half. At some points of this film I got a sense of "Okay, so where are we and what are we doing here?" that really lost me. Also,  There was no explanation of what the horcrux was or what significance it had to Voldemort and I could have done without the cheesy, romantic triangle subplot. Sure it had to come at some point, but it was not done well.
Sure all the Potterheads will enjoy this movie, that goes without saying, but I, however, think that DH1 is  a pothole in a road leading to a very successful climax for this franchise.
I say rent it, even though you will probably skip right over that and just pre-order the blu-ray, you Potterhead.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Secretariat

That's right, it's time to saddle up for yet another race horse movie. Don't worry, this one doesn't star Tobey Maguire.

Disney brings us the impossible true story of Secretariat, the greatest race horse of all time who won the 1973 Triple Crown with record-breaking times. Now, I only bring up Disney because this is definitely a Disney movie; it's an upbeat, family movie, which takes away from the drama and when you add that on with the fact that everybody knows how this story ends, it takes away everything this movie could have been.

Along with that, Secretariat does tend to get stuck in the mud during a few scenes; not a lot goes on and it starts to feel too familiar, even cliché. Even throughout the movie things feel like they're missing, so when the end hits there doesn't feel to be much of a payoff.

Even with a Disney-backed production and a few missing elements, the preformances, along with fairly interesting camerawork, do make this movie worth seeing, though I don't advise you to run to the theater.

Rent it.
Even so, this movie is still filled with great preformances. Diane Lane is great as Penny Chenery, the horse's owner. John Malkovich is hilarious in his role as Lucien Laurin, the French-Canadian trainer who never really trains. We get a lot of scenes with Malkovich cussing people out in French and it is some pretty entertaining stuff. Though, I am disappointed with the decision to cast Dylan Walsh as Penny's husband. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: Skyline

Sure strange lights may be discending upon the city of Los Angeles, but what's stranger still is that people (including myself) are paying money to see this film. I mean, you can find cheesy alien thrillers on Syfy.

Okay, maybe it's not exactly as cheesy as something you would find on Syfy, but only the special effects save it from that. With a budget of $10 million and most of it being spent on special effects, these aliens do look pretty cool and why shouldn't they; directors Colin and Greg Strause have worked as special effects supervisors for all the special effects-heavy movies within the past two decades: Titanic, Terminator 3, The Day After Tomorrow, Constantine, Fantastic 4, X-Men: The Last Stand, 300, AVP:R, Jumper, The Incredible Hulk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2012, Avatar, The Book of Eli, Iron Man 2,the upcoming Gulliver's Travels, and many more?

However, special effects alone do not make a good movie (we learned this from Avatar). There is virtually no story here. As we would find with any Syfy flick, here we just have a group of partiers fending for their lives from some aliens (much like Cloverfield except not as good). Following one alien-thriller cliche after another, most of this movie feels like they just took scenes from Independence Day, District 9, and Cloverfield, edited them together and dubbed over the top (and they kill off the black man first for good measure).

 The acting was terrible. Nobody seemed interested in their roll and I am pretty sure that the casting call read something like this: "In need of anybody. We blew all our money on special effects, so as long as you can run around and scream, you're good."

There are so many things wrong with this film that I can't count them on my hands. Nothing works here and it's all been done before. In fact, the only part I wanted to see in this movie got cut out by the ending. This movie SUCKS and I do not reccommend it for anybody at any point in their lifetime.

Please, for the sake of your grandchildren, skip it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Tale of Two Sequels

It's true that both Kung Fu Panda and Cars are two of the most successful computer animated films to come out of a decade that was dominated by computer animation, and the two  juggernauts pioneering this relatively new industry are Dreamworks and Pixar.

With successful films like Antz, Shrek, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, the original Kung Fu Panda, and recent hits like How to Train Your Dragon, and Megamind, it's no question that Dreamworks Animation can produce good, quality films. So when Kung Fu Panda hit theaters, it was no shocker that it became a megahit, grossing $20.3 million its opening day and $60.2 million within its opening weekend alone. Kung Fu Panda went on to grossing over $631.7 million worldwide and became the highest grossing animated film of 2008, beating out Pixar's Wall-E financially.

Not only did Dreamworks' megahit bring home the bacon, but it also won over the hearts of minds of children and critics alike. Racking up an 88% on the Tomatometer, I think it's fair to say that most people really like this movie, but how will the sequel do?

Kung Fu Panda 2 is set for a release date of May 27, 2011. Will the sequel make more money like a good sequel is supposed to do? Will those people who didn't like the first movie not show up? Will that hurt the movie financially? And how will this sequel hold up against Pixar's next movie, also a sequel?

Pixar is well known for putting out one hit after the other, both financially and critically. Cars grossed over $60 million its opening weekend and went on to gross over $244 million worldwide, only making a profit of a little over $120 million. Nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature, Cars did not win a single one and even though it opened to mostly positive reviews, many critics agree that it doesn't live up to Pixar's best like Toy Story or Finding Nemo.

Cars has not been Pixar's most lucrative movie, so the fact that they are choosing to follow their most successful movie (Toy Story 3) up with is a sequel to it surprises me. However, I trust Pixar and I think this will be an interesting follow up.

Set for a release date of June 24th, 2011, can Cars 2 change the mind of all those negative Nancies? Will it become the highest grossing animated film of all time? Will it redeem the franchise and win the Oscar for Best Animated Picture?

Now this wouldn't be any fun if I didn't guesstimate which movie will do better. Hold on, let me think..... Hmmmmm...... No, no.......Maybe......No. Hold on, I'm still thinking... Okay. I have it now. I am assuming that Kung Fu Panda 2 will do better financially, but I predict that Cars 2 will do better critically. Why? Eh. It's just a hunch.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Circle Time Review: Winter's Bone

It's been a while since I last had an installment of Circle Time and for that I am truely sorry. But let us not dwell on past sorrows, but look towards the bright future. Here's Winter's Bone.

To say this movie is good, in my opinion, would be a gross understatement. Throughout this year, I have seen only a handful of excellent films and Winter's Bone definitely makes that list.

Jennifer Lawrence is terrific as Ree Dolly, a seventeen-year-old Missouri girl who has to support her two younger siblings and a sick mother after her father goes missing. Soon after his disappearence, Ree soon finds out that her father has put their house up for bond and that it will be claimed by the city if he does not show up for his scheduled court date.

What starts out as just another mystery film quickly develops into something much more intricate and interesting. Now, what's so great about this film is that it does this so well. The story flows along smoothly and nothing feels out of place; writer-director Debra Granik really knows her story and she tells it very well.

The other thing that makes this movie great are the preformances; virtually everybody does a nice job here. As I said earlier, Jennifer Lawrence is terrific as the lead and John Hawkes is wonderful as the crazy uncle who scares everybody. Isaiah Stone and Beth Domann also do nice jobs as Ree's kid siblings who must learn to fend for themselves.

One of my favorite things about this film is that there is so much thought behind it and so much depth to everything that is going on, yet it still manages to feel simple. Sure you have to piece together the puzzle, but it doesn't feel like work (not that doing that kind of work is ever a bad thing). I never felt overwhelmed by anything that was going on.

For it's naturally flowing story, great preformances by it cast, and seemingly simple nature, I say go out and get this movie.

Definitely see it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

50th Post Anniversary: Due Date

Pack your bags because Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis are heading off to Los Angeles in this funny, yet superficial, unlikely buddies film. Road trip!

Let's just put it out there: this movie is funny. It works Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis' unique chemistry together in a way that will definitely keep the Friday night crowd entertained, which is very important to a rod trip movie. However, I was expecting this movie to be great and it falls short of that.

Here are my problems with this film: With four writers, each experienced in writing comedies, this script should have been funnier than it is. Include Todd Philips in on that and I , much like Michelle Monaghan, was expecting great things. However, unlike Michelle Monaghan, I was let down at the end of this movie. Too much of the comedy here is dark humor.

There was not much to these characters. We never learn much about Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) other than he is aspiring to be an actor and he really misses his father and when Peter Highman (Downey) tries opening up to Ethan, the emotional bridge between the two is broken when Ethan starts laughing, which is supposed to be funny, but instead it makes us feel bad for laughing.We never get that emotional payoff scene where the two characters really connect, it sorta just happens out of thin air towards the end of the movie while we are left wondering "Wait... why is Robert Downey Jr.'s character suddenly being nice to Ethan?".

By the end of the movie, I really didn't like Peter; he  is a jerk, punching a little kid, spitting in a dog's face, cussing out Ethan, ditching him at a rest stop, almost leaving his father's remains on the side of a freeway, and in the end makes you wonder why his wife is with him in the first place. All this makes it difficult to feel glad for the guy in the end. Sure this is all funny, but, again, it makes us feel guilty for laughing.

If you like laughing at other peoples' expense then you will thoroughly enjoy this movie, but outside of all the inhumaine slapstick, there are still enough laughs for me to reccommend it for when it hits blu-ray and DVD.

Rent it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why I Like the Transformers Movies

Yeah, that's right. Laugh. Go ahead, get it all out of your system. I like the Transformers movies. People often laugh at me for it, but I like them. I like them, Sam I Am.

Reason 1: Transformers is freakin' awesome. Everybody loves action and giant robots punching each other in the face; it's the perfect mix. Transformers was awesome in the 1980s and now that all those kids are all grown up, they just wanna see what they knew and loved as children on the big screen. These movies are perfect for that because they follow the material well. Yes, the material is over the top and "out there", but who does over the top better than Michael Bay?

Reason 2: Just because Michael Bay movies consist of nothing outside the realm of explosions and hot babes, doesn't mean he's not good at it. He knows how to moves the camera to tell his story, even if his story lacks depth and a decent script, but who walks into a Michael Bay film thinking "Gee, I hope this is an emotionally stirring movie that wins an Oscar for anything at all"? Just because it's simple, doesn't mean it's bad. He's no auter, but Michael Bay is good at setting the mood, that is, only when the mood revolves around something getting destroyed and Transformers is all about destroying stuff- always has been.  

Reason 3: It's just fun, people. I wish that everybody would just stop taking these movies so seriously. Who cares if it's just Shia LaBeouf running around with a mcguffin while things are getting blown up? That's how the cartoon was. Besides, it's at the very least entertaining ( and I do mean "at the very least).

So there you have it. Those are the reason why I like these movies. Oh, and by the way, another thing Michael Bay is good at doing is making millions of dollars at the box office. With the original Transformers making over $300 million worldwide and Revenge of the Fallen rakin' in more than $400 million worldwide, Michael Bay is putting up digits that you probably won't see in your lifetime. And what are you doing? You're sitting here, reading reasons why I like his Transformers movies. Ha! What a waste of time. Jokes on you, ya jerk.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Dreamworks' latest 3D animated film is a superhero movie not trying to be a superhero movie by being a superhero movie. Did you understand that or am I alone here?

After How to Train Your Dragon, I had high expectations for this latest adventure from Dreamworks, both in its 3D and overall quality of the film; however, its 3D is only okay. And much like its 3D, the story wasn't developed to its highest potential.

Sure the story here is original, sorta, but it isn't enough to completely change the superhero genre forever like it wanted to. Yes it had it had a few twists and turns thrown in there for good measure, but the overall story was predictable and it didn't feel much different than anything else we are used to seeing from this genre.

In a way, it tried so hard to be different that it ended up being the same thing, if that makes any sense.

But is this movie funny? Well, it has its laugh out loud (or "lol" for all you txt deficient readers) moments, but this movie could be much funnier if 90% of the funny scenes weren't blown on the trailers. With a cast like Will Ferell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, and Brad Pitt, I expected this movie to be much funnier than it is and a lot of the funniest moments were only funny because it's Will Ferell.

But this movie isn't toally void of emotion. About halfway through the movie something began to happen that I did not expect to happen- I started feeling feelings. Yes, that's right, I felt. Now maybe it's just me and I'm a sucker for a good emotional scene (which I am), but there is more emotional payback out of this movie than there is a comical one. Is that good? You have to decide that for yourself.

However, if you're a fan of 80's rock then you're in luck. Megamind is like an all 80's jukebox; with two AC/DC songs (even though one is from the 70's), Michael Jackson's Bad, Welcome to the Jungle by GNR, It's the End of the World as We Know It, and more.

Unfortunately, I think this movie may only become a classic among children. Its depth and somewhat emotional payout, in the end, were no match for the forces of predictable sotrylines and spoiled humor.

You can wait for the blu-ray. I say rent it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just for Screams: An Examination of Horror Films and Their Ridiculous Sequel Count

Horror films. Everybody loves the thrill of being scared. What's the result of this? They keeps us coming back for more- literally.
I don't think anybody would argue that horror films, more accurately "slasher flims",  put out more sequels than any other genre of film. So in honor of Halloween 2010, I have put together a list of the most recognizable horror films that, for the most part, owe their notoriety to their sheer number of sequels, prequels, and remakes. 

 The golden age of horror films was definitely the 1980s, and none of it would have been so if it weren't for John Carpenter's Halloween. Released in 1978, John Carpenter's original is, without doubt, the greatest installment in the series.

Shot in only 21 days, with a budget of only $300,000, this B-film started a revolution in horror. What is it you ask? The teenage slasher film. Shortly afterwards we had movies like Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street which all featured supernatural killers, both of which turned out ridiculous amounts of sequels.

Speaking of sequels, Halloween went on to produce seven more sequels which lasted on through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, each one continuing to add on to the mythology of Michael Meyers and effectively ruining the franchise. This, of course, not including Rob Zombie's two remakes in 2007 and 2009, which also did their part in turning the series into something unrecognizable.

Everybody loves Friday the 13th. We all love the mystery, the superstition, and, of course, the chopped up teenagers spread across cabin floors.

Originally released in 1980, Victor Miller, the original writter, admitted that he was riding off the success of John Carpenter's Halloween, taking the idea of a teen killer who can't be killed (teens being his target, not his age).

Shot in only 28 days, the original 'Friday' went on to succeed seven more sequels under the same name. In fact, 1988 was the only year in the 80s without an installment. Eventually Paramount sold the rights of the Jason Voorhees character to New Line Cinema, not the actual Friday the 13th name. New Line went on to put out three more 'Jason' movies:  Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X and the crossover film Freddy vs. Jason.

All together, Jason Voorhees has appeared in twelve films, including the 2009 remake of the first three. Now you take the number of teens he's sliced and diced in each film and add them up... That's a lot of premarital sex.

So picture this: You're standing in your shower, totally at peace, not getting your hair wet, not using any soap, just letting the water hit the bottom third of your body, the totally realistic way, and all of a sudden some crazy man-lady starts stabbing you! Well, that actually happened to Jamie Lee Curtis' mother.

Filmed from November 30, 1959 to March 1, 1960, this was Hitchcock's last feature film in black and white. Norman Bates and his derranged company ended up putting out two sequels, a prequel,  a television based spin-off, and a remake in 1998 starring Vince Vaughn. Crazy, right?

So what could be worse than a child murderer? A dead child murderer who continues to murder children through dreams. Well, in this case, nightmares.

Enter wise-cracking, Christmas sweater wearing serial killer Freddy Kruger. Brainchild of  suspense master Wes Craven, the script for the original was written in 1981 and "flew around" for three years until horror pioneer New Line Cinema picked it up.

When it was finally released in 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street was a hit, grossing over $25 million worldwide and spawning six sequels, the crossover Freddy vs. Jason, and a remake just released earlier this year. Up through now, Freddy has appeared in a total of nine films. If that doesn't scare you, Kruger was inspired by a hobo Wes saw staring at him through his window when he woke up one day, back when he was a 10 year old.

People in Texas are crazy. If you don't believe me, you can take it up with this guy.

Talk about a face only a mother could love. The Texs Chainsaw Massacre is the second movie on my list to be inspired by a series of grizzly murders by a flesh-wearing maniac who lived in Wisconsin (the other being Alfred Hitchock's Psycho).

This has been more of a generational story, one or two movies released each decade since 1974. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the eighth highest grossing horror franchise in America, only slimly beating out the Child's Play movies.

By the time Leatherface was done sawing up horny teenagers, the series had  three sequels and a remake in 2003 and a prequel in 2006. I guess prequels are what you do when you have run out of ideas but still want to milk a franchise.

"Hello, Sidney."

From the master of suspense himself, Wes Craven is known for many of his classic horror flicks and Scream is no exception. When it was released in 1996, it brought back the slasher film for the 1990s and even for today.

People fell in love with Scream for it's mock on all horror movie cliches and yet, it is a horror movie in itself. It's called a pastiche.

Scream eventually produced two successful sequels, one the year after, and the third installment came three years after the second, in 2000. Ever since it's original release back in '96, this franchise has continued to stand out among other horror flicks because of its self awareness and ability to mock everything it is while providing thrills and chills all the same.

But wait, there's more... a fourth installment, cleverly entittled Scream 4, is due out on April 15th, 2011. This one is said to play by the new rules of the new generation off horror cliches.

"If it's Halloween, it must be Saw". This catchy tagline has been used every Halloween for the last seven years.

When talking about endless sequels to horror films, you can't leave out the infamous Saw films of last decade. Filmed in a record of 18 days, the orginal film was intended for straight-to-video release, but became a premiere franchise after gaining positive reviews.

A premiere franchise is right. Saw was the most successful horror series of last decade and it's easy to see why- people keep paying the money to see people get hacked up by terrorizing machines and traps; enough to make a fan of blood and guts very, very happy.

Saw went on to produce a movie for every year since its original release. In total, that's six movies and a seventh one comes out today, in 3D none the less. It claims that it is the last one, but we'll see about that.

"Hi, I'm Chucky". This is probably one of the most chilling lines in all of horror cinema, simply because it comes from a doll.

Released in 1988, Child's Play was almost tittled Bloody Buddy. If you ask me, they both sound pretty scarry.

Everybody's favorite playtime doll, Chucky, has earned quite a name for himself. This "Good Guy" went on to scare us for two more sequels with United Artists, remaining faithful to his fans as the darker, scarier Chucky.

Eventually U.A. sold the rights of the characters to Universal Studios where Brad Dourif's signature voice would once again bring life into the doll. However, unlike last time, these two sequels would feature a much funnier, wise-cracking Chucky. Not many fans liked this decision.

Seeing is how my list is about ridiculous amounts of sequels, prequels, and remakes, it probably won't surprise you to know that a remake of the original is expected to be released sometime next year. This remake will star Brad Dourif (hopefully) and return Chucky back to his much darker roots. Golly gee!

All this and it still isn't over. As we speak more classic horror films are either are being remade or have sequels or prequels on the way, such as a sequel to the lastest Friday the 13th installment and remakes like Terror Train, Birds, and many more. Horror is an interesting genre that is definitely going to stay with us for as long as we exist; tapping into the deepest emotion that dwells within us all- fear. And these relentless sequels, prequels, and remakes are concrete evidence that fear never truely dies.

Thank you for reading and happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


It's been more than a decade since The Sixth Sense, but Matt Damon is just now proving that Haley Joel Osment is not the only one who can see dead people, in Clint Eastwood's latest film Hereafter.

He has been in the game for decades and Clint Eastwood is still putting out one quality film after another and Hereafter is no exception.

Starting off with one of the most interesting opening scenes I've ever seen in a movie, we are taken all over the world, following three different plotlines in a way that only Eastwood can. From beautiful landscapes to magnificent monuments, Eastwood works his magic beautifully to keep the three plotlines going all the way up to where they all come together for the climax; the energy never dies in one or another and everything keeps in tact very well.

Matt Damon gives an excellent preformance as George Lonegan, a man who believes that his gift to connect with the dead is more of a curse. Cecile De France gives an Oscar worthy preformance as Marie LeLay, a journalist who has a life changing experience after she dies. These two are among a cast of very talented actors and actresses who all give stirring preformances.

The script in this film is awesome. Not only does this script have to power to pull at your heartstrings, but it also radiates conflict of lost. "Is there a hereafter?" is not the question here, it is "how do we deal with the loss of our loved ones and how can we accept death as indevitable yet move on from that and live our lives happily?". Wether you believe in a hereafter or not, we can all learn a lesson from this movie and that's importnat for a successful movie.

The ending, however, is slightly disappointing. Clint Eastwood is such a talented filmmaker who understands what makes a story unique and yet the ending is so cliche.

When it comes right down to it, the predictable ending does not ruin the overall film. This is a very entertaining, very emotional film filled with talented actors; it has a great script, and a great director.

Hereafter is one of the best movies of the year. I say see it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Remember back in the good, old days when Hollywood used to give their inpatients lobotomies? I do. For all you softer, gentler moviegoers, here's It's Kind of a Funny Story, and it is.

For everybody who has seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Zach Galifianakis' performance as Bobby will inevitably bring back memories of Jack Nicholson as McMurphy. Sadly, I am not sure if that is good enough.

Unlike 'One Flew', however, this ward-based romantic comedy also tries serving up a fresh, hot bowl of drama on the side, with little success I might add.

Now it's not the cast or even the crew that are to blame for this mishap. In fact, Keir Gilchrist and Emma Roberts do a pretty good job here in their roles and Zach Galifianakis definitely brings the laughs. No, I believe the fault lies with the script. There are just not enough opportunities for drama to develop here because the film is too busy trying to be indie, with the hand-drawn animation and the teenage monologues/ flashbacks.

Now that's not to say that this movie isn't funny. It is. Zach Galifianakis is a brilliant comedian who has the ability to derive laughs from practical, totally unfunny situations and that is what most of the humor consists of in this film. However, when this film tries to be dramatic as well, it totally destroys everything this movie was going for.

Overall, this is a funny, entertaining movie that has the right heart, just not the right script. I believe that if Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck had focused more on the story and less on trying to be indie then this could have definitely accomplished everything it is desperately trying to be.