Saturday, October 15, 2011

You don't want to be trapped inside with me sunshine. Inside, I'm somebody nobody wants to f**k with do you understand? I am Charlie Bronson, I am Britain's most violent prisoner.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Nicolas Winding Refn is an amazing director. This was proven to me two years ago when I watched the Pusher films (good films if you ever get a chance to watch them) and it was again proven to me earlier this year with Drive (my pick for Best Film of 2011). But now having watched Bronson, a film I've rented through Netflix a few times but never actually watched but have been meaning to, I can easily say that Refn knows exactly what he's doing behind a camera and he is brilliant at that. His use of colors (which is especially interesting since he is colorblind), the way he sets up the camera and plays with different angles he makes any film better.  

Then again it helps when you have such an amazing cast, especially Tom Hardy whose career should have skyrocketed after this film was release. Granted most people know him now from his work in Inception and the Warrior (as well as the upcoming Batman film) but Hardy has been around for a while and this film, much like Hardy, flew under the radar with barely a least in America. I'm willing to bet there has been some definite controversy in Britain and other countries, or at least you'd think considering this is a film about "Britain's most violent prisoner." But what do I know? All I know is Bronson is one twistedly funny and dark film that could very well be called the Clockwork Orange of the 21st century. 

The film is the semi biographical story of Michael Peterson who has become better known by his fighting name "Charlie Bronson" which he got from the famous action star Charles Bronson. He had a fairly normal upbringing but liked to fight. He'd fight in school, he'd fight in the street and got in trouble with the law a few times. But fighting isn't really a bad thing from where he's from. So eventually he gets a job, settles down and has a kid. But as a man who loves to fight and loves the attention he gets from fighting, he decides to up his game and rob a post office. This lands him in jail and once there he decides he wants to become famous. But not famous for, he wants to be known as the most violent and dangerous prisoner Britain has ever seen. So every chance he gets he fights the guards. He fights and fights and fights. He's obviously bonkers but he's almost so bonkers he's sane. He's like Batman's Joker in a lot of ways: crazy but fascinatingly sane about the whole thing. 

The whole story is told from Bronson's perspective, with Bronson narrating the whole thing in two different settings. In one setting he is just standing in a dark room with a light and the other is a full on stage production. I was never sure if this was real or all in his mind but it was fascinating how it would switch back and forth between the different settings. The film keeps you on your toes. Just when you think you are going to get settled in, it turns on you and switches directions. In a way this could be bad for some because it does jump around a lot, but for me it kept things interesting and I was engaged from beginning to end. It also helps the film is as funny as it is serious so for every serious moment you get a funny moment and vice versa. Very clever writing there.

Besides the direction, probably the best thing about this film is Tom Hardy. He IS Bronson. Every nuance, every twitch, every mannerism, he has it in spades. One minute he is a violent lunatic, next he is a quiet reserved man and then boom he comes out and he is a clever, sarcastic dry witted man with plenty of jokes. Hardy's almost schizophrenic approach to Bronson only helps make the character more dynamic and you root for him, even though he is doing terrible things and is obviously out of his mind. Hardy's Bronson is never boring and if you remember one thing about this movie, you'll remember him. The rest of the acting is fine but is engulfed by Hardy. Even if the scene belongs to someone else he somehow steals the show without even having to blink an eye. His being there is enough to steal the show. That's REAL charisma. 

On a side note I have to point out that the soundtrack and score to the film is amazing. Almost as amazing as this guy's dancing:


Bronson is definitely a polarizing film and I can understand it may be a little too out there or extreme for some but I absolutely loved Bronson. Hardy is fantastic, Refn is an amazing director, the music is great, and I loved everything about this movie. Is it perfect? No but it's definitely one everyone should check out.


Friday, October 14, 2011

All for one and one for all!

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Alexandre Dumas probably had no idea when he was writing The Three Musketeers that it would ever be adapted into a film like this. Granted he had no idea what film was in general but you get the idea. Many Musketeer films in the past have tried to emulate the book to a tee, or at the very least stay within a reasonable continuity that could do the book some justice. Paul W.S Anderson saw the book, flipped through a few pages to find a female badass character (it can't be an Anderson film without his wife Milla Jovovich now can it) and then tossed the book behind his shoulder and said "F**k it I'll make it up as I go." Or at least that seems what is most likely considering the new Three Musketeers movie is one of the most ludicrous, stupid, over the top, confusing films that I've seen in a long time and defecates on Alexandre Dumas' grave. And while there is a lot of negative things to say about the film, honestly I didn't hate it. In fact for all it's stupidity it was at least entertaining and tongue in cheek enough that I could somewhat respect what Anderson was going for here.
The plot follows the three musketeers Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans). After a failed mission in which they are betrayed by a freelance assassin named Milady (Jovovich), they are put out of commission and spend most of their time drinking and getting into fights. They seem content with this until a brash, cocky, arrogant son of a musketeer D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) shows up and causes a fuss, which gets their blood flowing again. Soon after D'Artagnan shows up and starts hanging around the Musketeers, they get knee deep in a conspiracy that is led by Milady and an evil Cardinal (Christoph Waltz) who want an all out war between France and Europe (led by Orlando Bloom) which will ultimately end with the Cardinal somehow becoming the leader of France. Now it's up to the Musketeers and D'Artagnan to stop this before it's too late.

It's actually a fairly straightforward plot and besides Anderson's knack for putting in irritable cliffhangers at the end of all his movies now, the film pretty much resolves itself in its little over 100 minute run time. There isn't too many scenes of pointless dialogue and for the most part the action is always moving. Anderson knows how to make an action movie, even if the movie itself isn't all that great. The writing is littered with one liners that, while cheesy, contain some chuckles and for the most part the film doesn't take itself too seriously. In a lot of ways I look at this film as a satire or an action comedy rather than a straightforward action film. Characters chew the scenery, face palm moments happen once a scene, and I swear some pieces of the film are lifted from other films of its type.   
The acting, for the most part is actually quite decent, although it's hammier than a Christmas dinner. You can tell all three of the Musketeers are enjoying themselves and when an actor is having fun, the audience tends to have fun too. You will probably groan a lot (I know I did), but Macfadyen especially knew how to win me over when it mattered. Lerman though is a bit of a weak link as his humor and attitude come off more arrogant and cocky rather than funny. I realize that is the kind of character he is supposed to be, but if I want to punch you repeatedly every time I see your face, you may want to pull it back a little. Also the females, sans Jovovich, are all criminally underwritten and D'Artagnan's love interest Constance comes off as wooden and stilted. Juno Temple tries to liven things up a little as the Queen of France, but doesn't have enough screen time to really accomplish anything.

The villains are a mixed bag of crazy ham but all have this over the top giddiness (at least Bloom and Waltz do) that makes them almost Bond villain esque in nature. Waltz definitely steals the show though with some great near fourth wall breaking moments ("Is this the part where I'm supposed to laugh maniacally and reveal some sort of evil plan to you?") and chews the scenery like its candy. Waltz can out-villain anyone it seems nowadays. Bloom, for the short time he's in the movie, does well but comes off more Ziggy Stardust meets 30s mustache twirling villain rather than actually evil. And Jovovich is Jovovich. Basically imagine Alice from Resident Evil but doing all her stunts in full collared Victorian garb. Silly, but impressive nevertheless.
The action is aplenty in this film with slo-mo fight scenes (a trademark of a Paul W.S. Anderson film), swordplay and explosions/destruction but to Anderson's credit he didn't abuse the slo-mo as much as he has in the past. In fact he has started incorporating a little fast motion too. It's all quite over the top and ludicrous (air ships, automatic cannon guns, flamethrowers) but it's fun and I was certainly entertained.  The 3D is impressive too for what it is (really adds to the big sword fights and the slo-mo scenes) but if you have a choice go 2D.

It's nothing like the book, full of ham and cheese, over the top, stupid and features some meh acting, but overall Three Musketeers should be looked at as a comedy, or a guilty pleasure at least. It has plenty of action, everyone is having fun, Waltz is Waltzing the s**t out of his role, and it's so stupid it treads into awesome territory. If you go in with an open mind you might enjoy it, just don't expect an Academy Award winning film.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I have an idea for a movie starring me as an action hero

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

To my artsy film friends I will deny his very existence but if I'm going to be completely honest I just have to come right out and say it: I like Dax Shepard. I don't know why and really I probably shouldn't but to me he's just one of  the funniest people alive. I've seen every film he's in and even if I hate the film, I usually love him in it. So in theory Brother's Justice, a film that's basically an hour and a half of Dax Shepard playing himself trying to sell a film, should be amazing right? Well sadly no. While Brother's Justice is certainly funny in some parts, the overall film breaks the cardinal rule of documentaries, whether they be real or fake: you can't be boring. And for every great, hilarious moment in this film, it's rife with boring, awkward moments that almost made me press fast forward on my remote.
The film, like I briefly mentioned in the intro, is the documented account of Dax Shepard trying to sell a movie pitch called "Brother's Justice" to every major Hollywood studio or executive he happens to have contacts with. The pitch is never fully explained, and seems to change with every time he tells it (in fact at one point he asks for money BEFORE giving the pitch), but the basic idea is that Dax and (insert person here) play martial arts action heroes fighting crime. The people he visit seem interested at first, until Dax reveals he plans on playing the movie straight. For those who don't know that means he wants to do the movie seriously and NOT as a comedy. That doesn't bode well for the people since Dax has, up until that point, always did comedies and had no action movie experience whatsoever. Dax then spends the majority of the film trying to prove the people wrong by reinventing himself as an action hero.

On paper this film sounds funny. In reality, it's spotty. Dax has some great moments of his signature dry humor, especially when he's giving the newly modified pitch or going off on other actor friends, but the rest of the time his humor seems forced, flat or downright cruel. His buddy/producer is actually funnier than Dax most of the time because he isn't trying as hard to be funny. But where the film shines in it's humor is with it's celebrity guests like Tom Arnold, Bradley Cooper, Dave Koechner and Ashton Kutcher. Each play themselves, only totally exaggerated. You can tell they love to let loose like this and some of the improv between them, especially Tom Arnold and Dax, is fantastic. It almost makes up for a lot of the mistakes.
The film is fairly quick and only drags in some of the unfunny parts of the film. You can tell Dax was trying for the throw jokes against a wall and see what sticks method and the pacing of the film tends to lend itself to the humor more often than not. One thing I'll say though, if you don't like the film itself, the mock films that he does throughout the film are flat out hilarious and are worth watching if nothing else. Think Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder.

If you like Dax Shepard or any of the aforementioned buddies that show up in the film or if you like to see a little insight into how a film comes to be (or at least pitch to production) then this film is for you. It's not the best film and Dax does miss more than he hits, but it's a fast paced film and worth a watch if nothing else is on.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Death Doesn't Like To Be Cheated

 Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

The Final Destination series and I have had a long, twisted relationship. The original one was one of the first horror (as well as R rated) films I ever saw. Even though I winced at a few of the deaths, I knew I had watched a classic and to this day the original remains one of my favorite horror films. Then the second one came out and when it was released on video I watched it and while I enjoyed it at first, upon repeat viewings I found myself liking it less and less. Yes the pile-up is cool and some of the deaths are ingenious. Yes it's nice that there is such a huge callback to the original one but it seemed almost inadvertently comical and too over the top for me to fully embrace. I will still watch it when it pops up on TV every now and again, but I'd rather just dust off the original and watch that instead.

Then the third one came out. That's when I started to realize something that every kid in the 80s who grew up with Freddy and Jason realized: it doesn't matter how much effort you put into your slasher film, if your kills are cool, people will come. The third one boasted some of the best deaths but as a film itself it lacked greatly. It was gory to the point of being cheesy, the characters were mind blowingly thin at best and besides maybe Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character, I could have cared less if they all died. Not to mention the writing was more hammy then a Christmas dinner.
Then The Final Destination came out (because in 2008 all sequels needed a "The" at the beginning to confuse people) and boy was I pissed. It was the first one I could actually go and see in the theaters and also the first one to embrace the then still growing 3D market. And I did see it, in 3D no less and afterwards I just sat there dumbfounded as to how a film series I grew up and appreciated could go from brilliant to garbage in the span of four movies. I mean the novels were pretty good and well written, why not just adapt those? Is it really that hard to make a good Final Destination. It's not that the death's were bad in TFD, it's just sad when your movie's best moment involves guts going through the pooper and into the drain. The writing was worse than the third one and really the film was just death after death after death. I don't care how many people you kill, just give me a good movie. Is it too much to ask?

I figured they would release the fifth one eventually and when I heard the news I was anything but surprised. Before I saw the trailer I thought "How can you dig the series into an even deeper hole?" and sighed as I clicked play. After the trailer I was shaking with excitement. Fifth films are just in this year it seems. They got a totally new director, some decent but fairly unknown actors and a writer who has gotten better the more work he's done (after TFD he wrote the Nightmare on Elm Street remake). Not only that but it seemed like they put more effort into the film, not in just the deaths but in the story line and character development. That and they brought back Tony Todd. Any movie with Tony Todd is automatically made better. For once I was genuinely excited for a Final Destination film.

So how was it? Well I'll tell ya: it's the best sequel of the bunch and is a close contender for the best in the series. It does have it's shortcomings and an Oscar movie FD5 is not, but for what it is it is amazing.
The story follows Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto), an office worker at a paper company (insert The Office joke here) who works part time as a short order cook with hopes of someday becoming a renowned chef like his boss. He gets offered an apprenticeship in Paris and this causes his long time girlfriend and fellow employee Molly (Emma Bell) to break up with him because she doesn't want to get in the way of his career. Sam is devastated but doesn't have time to sulk as his buddies Peter (Miles Fischer) and Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta), along with his demanding and rude boss Dennis (David Koechner), office womanizer and all around creeper Issac (PJ Byrne), fellow employee Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) and intern Candice (Ellen Wroe) all pile on a bus heading for a mandatory office retreat. While on the bus they stop at a bridge that's getting construction done and Sam has a premonition that the bridge will collapse and they will all die. And like all the previous films before it, he freaks out and convinces people to get off the bus before the bridge does in fact collapse.

You can probably guess from there how the rest of the film goes but unlike the other entries in the series, they put a lot of detail into the storyline of the individual characters. Sam dealing with his break-up with Molly, Molly trying to figure out her feelings for Sam, Nathan dealing with an employee who gives him constant crap ect. You feel like you get to know most of  the characters as the film goes on. You care about these people. Adding in the elements of "Kill or be Killed" and bringing back the Police/Feds investigating the bridge and subsequent deaths also add to the story. My only gripe is that some of the dialogue can be a bit heavy handed in it's delivery or come off as unnatural. Also the "Kill or be Killed" element is there but I felt it could have been better explained or have more depth. It feels slightly like an afterthought. I appreciate it being there, but still. I will say though that the film has one big twist in it that more than makes up for some of the writings downfall. It's damn near Hitchcockian it's so well done.
As for the acting it's quite good actually. D'Agosto, Bell and Fischer are all quite good and bring a lot of emotional depth and character to their roles, Fischer especially. Koechner and Byrne are mostly there for comic relief but they don't feel forced and actually DO generate some pretty funny lines. Escarpeta, Wood and Wroe all have smaller parts but play their parts well despite their size and all feel believable as their characters. The acting certainly isn't Oscar quality but it's well done and I appreciate horror films with good acting in them.

Now onto the deaths and the 3D effects. That's what a lot of the people who see the movie really care about. Well  I can tell you the 3D effects are some of the best I've seen in a long time (no wonder since the film was SHOT in 3D and was directed by one of the people who worked on Avatar) and really do add a lot to the film without feeling gimmicky. The deaths are phenomenal in their build up to the money shot but some of the kills themselves leave a little to be desired. That said they do a good job at being not overly gory and some of  them actually feel like they could really happen. Sure some laws of physics and other rules may not apply but they feel more down to earth than before. The 3D is best utilized in these scenes too. Blood flies, hints and clues accentuate and the red herrings always stick out enough that they make you uncomfortable.
There is only one problem with the 3D and it's my only serious gripe with the film: the opening credits. They are done in a way in which a glass pane shatters with every name and it's shattered by a corresponding death from the series. The glass and the object then shoot out at the audience. Now it's cool at first and it's fun to point out some of your favorite deaths as they come at you, but they are dragged out way too long and by the end you feel like you just sat through the opening crawl to Alone in the Dark. Yes, they are that slow. But in a weird twist however, the ending credits are some of the best 3D end credits I've seen in a while and are a great nod to the fans as well. Makes me kind of wish they would have switched them. Oh well.

Overall Final Destination 5 is a great entry in the long running series and is certainly the best sequel if not a close contender for best. Not only that but it's a good horror film in it's own right, is well acted, written and shot. I really do want to see this film again. And I want to buy it when it is released in stores. I haven't had the urge to do anything remotely close to that since the original, so that should tell you something. If you love horror or love the series than check this out.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We're takers love, that's what we do...take

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Intro: I want to know who green-lit this picture. I really do. Actually, no, I want to know who cast this film. I want that person fed to llamas as quickly as possible. I can get the whole urban bank robbers getting chased by cops thing. The story has been done to death and done much better in other movies but it's still a genre worth revisiting if done right. But the casting in this film is downright awful. Besides maybe Idris Elba and Matt Dillon, nobody on the screen at any time had any reason to be there. None of the other people in the movie can act, or at least act in this movie and they do nothing more than make me want to tear out my hair. Add in some of the stupidest dialogue I have ever heard and some of the most bang-your-head-against-a-wall inducing plot turns and you have this steaming pile of crap.

Plot: Boy I wish I could tell ya because the film does a poor job of giving us one. The basic outline is a group of skilled bank robbers are setting up for a big heist and two detectives are trying to hunt them down. All the while the robbers have to deal with a deadly former friend and co-worker who may or may not double cross them at any time. The plot is Swiss cheese with the amount of holes it has, not to mention the absolutely terrible logic some characters use. You'd think some of these characters had mental illnesses. The dialogue is asinine, pedantic and speaks to the lowest common denominator. At one point it just turns into Flava Flav hype man yelling for five minutes. Either the writers gave up or realized nobody would care about the film at this point.
Pros: Explosions, shoot-outs and chase scenes are always nice. Matt Dillon and Idris Elba at least try.

Cons: Everything else. The plot, the acting from everyone else, the pacing, the ending, the dialogue...this film just fails on almost every level. 

Final Thoughts: Unless you have a gun to your head you have no real reason to watch this movie. Watch Heat or another movie that doesn't make robbery films look stupid.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Captain, I wish to report a mutiny. I can name fingers and point names.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Ah the Pirates of the Caribbean films. What a relationship we have together. The first one was a fantastic and memorable film that hold sentimental value as the last movie my grandfather watched with me before he died, the second was my first midnight film and my first giant anticipated disappointment and the third one was a confusing mess that only got worse the more and more I watched it. Despite the second and third films downfalls I still openly admit that I like the film series, if nothing else than because I love pirates and I was looking forward to the inevitable sequel that was to come.

And what do you know they made a sequel. Big surprise I know. And this one is without Bloom and Knightley, directed by Rob Marshall and loosely based on a book. Big changes to a series that has so far only been loosely based on a Disney theme park ride, but changes I think for the better. Bloom and Knightley (as much as I like them separately) were a big part of what I didn't like about the first three, Rob Marshall is great at big, epic, flashy films and the films needed a more centralized story as the other big part I didn't like about the first three was how confusing it got the longer it went on. And these changes DID end up helping the movie because, while not as good as the original, On Stranger Tides is a giant leap forward for the series and a good sign of things to come.

The story of course follows the adventures of Jack Sparrow but this time he is searching for the mysterious and elusive Fountain of Youth, which he claims to know the whereabouts of. Problems arise though when the King of England (with Barbossa as captain), Spaniards and Blackbeard all want the fountain as well. Jack ends up "teaming" with Blackbird, partially because he is totally insane and powerful and partially because he still has feelings for his daughter Angelica (who he happened to date and ditch many years ago...something she didn't appreciate). Their task: find a mermaid, get her tears, get the chalices of Ponce de Leon and travel to the mysterious island at which the fountain is apparently located.

The story is surprisingly good considering the previous two films. It's still a long movie (although much shorter than the last one) but it's more focused, better paced, and a lot easier to follow than previous two. There are a few plot holes here and there and the writers took a great deal of liberties with the material it was based on (loosely doesn't begin to describe it) but I can remember everything that happened in the movie and can explain it without having to put a lot of disclaimers or notes in between. Most of the main characters are well developed and you really start to care about some of the other non Jack and Barbossa related characters. It's also quite action packed as well which is great for a summer blockbuster like this.
The acting is mostly good across the board with only a few bumps here and there. Johnny Depp IS Jack Sparrow, down to bone and you either love it or you hate it. I love it so he was really easy to love. Same goes for Rush. Hot off The King's Speech (which makes his role all the more funny in a way) Rush is as talented as always and really seems to love playing Barbossa. Penelope Cruz as Angelica and Ian McShane as Blackbird are quite good as well, Cruz being sassy and surprisingly understandable for once and McShane doing what he is (in my opinion) best at: playing a bad guy. He is devious but you love him all the more for it. Most of the supporting cast is fairly good but certainly forgettable and get totally swallowed up by everyone else. I can't remember any one supporting character over another, something that kinda bums me out.

Also I have to say, Disney has now made me afraid of mermaids. Thanks a lot Disney. My first crush was Ariel and now I know all she wants to do is drag me down to the abyss and eat my face. *Sigh* But then again who would have thought mermaids could be evil?
Overall On Strangers Tide is a much better, more focused, mostly well acted film that is entertaining from beginning to end. If you don't like Jack and Barbossa you will obviously hate this film and it does put your butt to sleep with its long length but it's action packed and entertaining summer fun that gives me hope for the series.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Hamptons are like a zombie movie directed by Ralph Lauren.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Because I am a man who hangs out a lot with his mother, has plenty of female friends and is somewhat of a masochist, I tend to see almost every romantic comedy that comes out every year. Usually they are abysmal to tolerable in quality and, besides a few exceptions, tend to all be cut and paste from the same romantic comedy Madlib. And at each movie there is at least three previews of more romantic comedies coming later that year, all of which start to blend after a while. But like the good son, friend and masochist I am I see them and then review them for you. Otherwise I don't live up to my mantra.

I'm going to be honest with you when I say that Something Borrowed was at the very bottom of my list of films I wanted to see when it first came out. I like Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinski well enough and Kate Hudson can be tolerable in small doses, but from the previews alone it looked like the same love triangle (possible square) that we've seen a hundred times before. But because my friend I went and saw this with refused to see Thor that evening, I begrudgingly bought tickets for Something Borrowed and prayed it would be decent. And oddly enough, it wasn't half bad. It's about as typical as you get in terms of romantic comedies but there is some charm about it that kept me from hating it.
The story follows four friends Rachel (Goodwin), Ethan (Krasinski), Darcy (Hudson) and Dex (Egglesfield). Rachel is a shy but sweet girl who has been friends with loud and flirty Darcy since they were little kids. Ethan, the sort of sarcastic voice of reason among the group has been friends with Rachel and Darcy almost as long as they have but no romantic feelings (or at least any that Ethan will admit) have emerged between the three of them. Rachel meets Dex while attending law school and during a casual date, Darcy meets Dex and starts a relationship with him, despite Rachel obviously having feelings for him and, as of the beginning of the film, are engaged.

At Rachel's 30th birthday party, Darcy has a little bit too much to drink and takes a taxi back to her and Dex's place. Dex and Rachel stay back (Ethan left around the same time as Darcy) and eventually take a taxi together. While in the taxi Rachel confesses to falling for Dex in law school and next thing you know they wake up in Rachel's apartment together. With the wedding approaching quickly, what are Dex and Rachel to do? Do they tell Darcy at the risk of losing her or hide it and try to make it work?
The story is your typical "Love triangle relationship/affair" story but there's something oddly charming about it. You can predict everything that happens in the movie at least twenty minutes before it actually happens but there is enough legitimate humor, interesting development and solid acting that you can mostly overlook it's predictability. It certainly doesn't add anything to the genre and has no real reason to exist, but for 112 minutes (trust me it sounds long but some romantic comedies are much longer, or at least feel longer) I was entertained. Even if you hated this film, the pacing of the film is brisk and never feels boring. I can only think of one scene that needed to be shorter. The acting is actually quite solid for the most part. It's not great or memorable by any means, but it certainly gets the job done and the main leads are all charming and funny enough that you can relate and feel for them. Out of the leads though, Goodwin and Krasinski are probably the best.
Something Borrowed is another production line romantic comedy that we've seen a dozen times before but it's funny, charming and genuinely interesting for the most part. If you or your significant other want to rent a simple, feel good romantic comedy, you can do a lot worse than Something Borrowed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Aright listen up! The guys we're after are professional runners...We find 'em we take 'em as a team and we bring 'em back. And above all else we don't ever, ever let them get into cars.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

The Fast and Furious series and I have had a rough relationship. I enjoyed the first one (if nothing more than I enjoy fast cars and action scenes), hated the second one, kinda liked the third and was meh on the fourth. I fully realize these will never be Oscar worthy films (and if that day ever comes I will eat my hat) but getting bogged down by useless and sometimes confusing narratives, trying to get more emotionally out of Paul Walker and not enough action seems counter intuitive to a film called "FAST AND FURIOUS."

So needless to say I was slightly hesitant at the idea of a fifth one. The story seemed simple enough and bringing back a lot of characters from the series seemed, on paper at least, a good idea, but trailers can be deceiving and after seeing the trailer for the umpteenth time, I was nearly exasperated with the movie before having seen it. But since I go into a movie with an open mind I let all those pent up feelings go and tried to enjoy the movie. And surprisingly, I did. I really did. In fact this is hands down the best of the series. I've seen it three times and I still really enjoy it. It's simple, sleek, and pumped full of action with only enough story to warrant their doing what they're doing. My question? Why did it take until the fifth movie to get this right? Maybe 5 is the new 2 in terms of sequels. Who knows?
The story follows shortly after the fourth one as Dom (Diesel) is getting taken to jail for the multiple crimes he's committed. His sister Mia (Brewster) and friend (well on and off at least) Brian (Walker) break him out and they head to Rio to escape prosecution. While in Rio they get a job moving cars off a train but, like most action movie jobs, it goes wrong. They get away with the cars (specifically Mia gets away with a Ford GT40) but in the process one of the henchmen shoots and kills 3 DEA agents who were covering the seized merchandise. It so happens the cars belong to an evil drug lord named Reyes and he wants that GT40 for himself. Dom and Brian escape and go back to their garage only to find out that there is a chip in the car that contains all of Reyes' business on it.

Meanwhile a DSS agent named Hobbs (The Rock) is sent to track down Dom and Brian under the idea that they were responsible for the murder of the DEA agents, and not the henchmen (who happened to work for Reyes). Things hit the fan when Reyes' crew and Hobbs crew' descend on the garage but instead of splitting up, Dom, Brian and Mia decide to stick together because Mia is pregnant with Brian's baby. So they call up some old associates and decide that they are going to have one last job so that they can stop running and live happily ever after.
The story is great considering the kind of film it is. It's like a street version of Oceans 11 but with more cars and lots of things shooting, blowing up and sweating. Yes sweating. The Rock alone could fill a pool with the amount of sweat he gives. I mean look at the picture below...glowing with sweat. The film never gets bogged down, save for a few moments where Brian laments on not having a good father figure and worrying about the baby, but those moments are only sprinkled in throughout the movie while the majority of the movie is fast paced and exciting.

The writing, especially the dialogue is cheesy but in a good action movie cheesy sort of way. The Rock tries his best to outdo Seagal and JCVD with the amount of one liners he drops throughout the movie. The difference between the three men though: The Rock's are kind of badass. Maybe it's all those years as a wrestler, but he knows how to lay down a good line, or at least make a bad line sound better. Diesel and Walker do what they're good at and play to their strengths. Walker is mostly just a pretty face and doesn't try to have a ton of monologues or big emotional scenes, something that has bugged me in previous movies. Diesel on the other hand has AN acting chop of sorts so he gets to deliver the big speeches and the like most of the time. And it works when he says it. Diesel has a calm, soothing voice when he's at rest and so his voice can be very engaging to listen to. The rest of the cast is good but there's so many of them that it's hard to really to pinpoint  any of the side characters that really blew me away. They all had their moments, which is something not all movies can juggle.
Fast Five is surprisingly good, but maybe not that surprising because for once the series plays to its greatest strengths and irons out most of the problems that the other movies have. It's sleek, shiny, well shot, action packed and I enjoyed every minute of it. The series will never be more than action movie fodder for people who like their explosions with a little less robots but at least with this one they are aware of that and do their best to make it the best action movie fodder it can be.


Monday, July 11, 2011

I walked away from the greatest franchise in history, because I refused to go on at midnight. Here I am, on at midnight.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Ever since I can remember I have always loved watching Conan O'Brien. Not only was he a fellow ginger, but day in and day out he got more done in one day then many people do in a week. But besides a few rehearsal videos on his website and the occasional interview, we don't really tend to see a lot of what he does behind the scenes. We see the calm, cool, collected funnyman in front of the camera but we don't see the hardworking, stressed out man behind the scenes. A lot of work goes into hosting and co-writing a daily television show that's not only supposed to make people laugh but also inform people of that days goings on. And when the carpet was pulled from under him when he refused to be put on at midnight, he was forced to try to find something to do for the time he wasn't allowed to be on television. Because Conan can't stop, he won't stop.
The documentary takes us behind the scenes of Conan's journey away from the screen. During that time he went from city to city on his "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television" tour in which he did comedy, music, variety acts ect. Anything to please his fans who love his work. We see his writing process, his traveling, parts of the shows, basically every aspect that went into his life during that time. But it's not all sunshine and roses. Despite Conan constantly cracking jokes, he gets mad, well more cranky then mad but still mad, something we don't really see that often from him. He worries, he fusses, he's a perfectionist at heart and when there is so many aspects to pulling off a great show, it eats at him. But he has fun in the end and even the worst of moods is brought up by the people who love him.
This is a fascinating documentary and even if you aren't a fan of his you will love this documentary. Conan is very raw and human at times in this movie, and some of the moments where he lets his guard down in front of the camera are some of the best moments in the whole film. He's a man who puts on a smile day in and day out and yet you can see the cracks. But he loves what he does and that's why he keeps doing it. Rodman Flender does a great job of telling a cohesive story (from conception, to planning, to the eventual execution) and making everything feel organic. You feel like you are hanging out with Conan and getting to know the man better. Very little feels staged or fake. It moves at a brisk pace, and doesn't linger on any unnecessary moment. You breeze through this movie and before you know it, it's over. I wish it could have gone on longer.
Can't Stop is a revealing, beautifully done documentary on one of television's most beloved icons. If you love him you will eat this up, and even if you don't you will become a fan by the time the movie is over. Definitely one I plan on watching again and again for many years to come.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Your story may not have such a happy beginning but that doesn't make you who you are, it is the rest of your story, who you choose to be.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

For some reason, maybe it was because it was a busy time of the month or maybe I just HAD to see another movie week after week but I never actually had the opportunity to go see the original Kung Fu Panda when it first came out. Still to this day I have yet to see it, which considering how much I loved Megamind (another Dreamworks Animation film I didn't see until much later) is kind of sad. But lo and behold the people at Dreamworks Animation must have heard my sighs of disappointment because before I knew it a sequel was announced. Now usually I don't like to see sequels before having watched the original but because of the publicity surrounding the film and because of my playing of the video game cash in I already knew most of the goings on in the original film. Needless to say I wasn't going to be totally lost.

It was a 10:00 AM $5 dollar show and the audience consisted mostly of 2 year olds and grandparents (I opted not to see it in 3D which is probably why that crowd was there). Despite being so early it was still pretty packed so I shoved myself into a corner and reclined my chair and waited for the film to start. I expected it was going to be your typical family friendly fare but with some nods to adults, nothing special but not a waste of time. Surprisingly I thought it was pretty darn good. And for people like me who missed the first one, this film stands on its own two feet and provides a great story, regardless of whether you've seen the original or not.
In Kung Fu Panda 2, the story focuses around Po (Jack Black) trying to save the world from Lord Shen (played by the delightfully evil Gary Oldman). Lord Shen is a peacock who many years ago tried to turn fireworks into weapons (cannons and the like) so that he could be the ultimate ruler over all of China. One day he went to the soothsayer to check and see what his future holds and he learns that one day he will be defeated by a warrior of black and white. Assuming that's pandas (then again that fits the description) he wipes out all the pandas in China (or at least within a reasonable distance) and because of his actions he is banished. He doesn't take too kindly to that and vows that he will have his revenge.

Fast forward many years and Po, the hero from the original (and a panda), is still learning what it means to be the Dragon Warrior. His lesson for today: Inner Peace. Of course Po thinks that's easy but it turns out to be harder then he thought. Not soon after a village is attacked by wolves and all the metal is stolen. Po and the Furious Five almost won but because of a symbol on the wolf leaders shirt, he has a Vietnam-esque flashback that causes him  to freeze (it happens to be of Lord Shen annihilating his village). Po and co. soon learn that Shen has returned to destroy kung fu and it's up to them to stop him.
First off, KFP2 is a beautiful movie. The art design is beautiful and even wide landscape shots are almost as breathtaking as their real life counterpart. I give some major props to the animation studio for that. Add in a great soundtrack and the whole feel of the movie is really quite good. But that's just the feel. What about the story? The story is pretty good, if not a bit generic. The film doesn't take too many risks (I can't really fault them because 2 year olds probably don't want Inception), the writing is generic and predictable and it's a pretty standard hero tale that we've seen before at least a couple of dozens of times (and done quite better), but the film is still fun to watch.  It's familiar but friendly enough that you want to go on that ride again.

The acting is good although I will say everyone gets swallowed up by Black and Oldman. They eat up the scenery in every scene and unless you're paying attention it's hard to even notice the other A and B list actors who have come on to the project. Now that does definitely bum me out, as looking at the IMDB for it shows SO much talent (including a small JCVD cameo) but it really IS their film. Black is in typical shape as the over the top, emotional goofball that he always is and at this point you either love that or you hate it. I love it but I know a ton of people that don't. Oldman on the other hand is SO deliciously evil that every scene he's in draws you closer and forces you to watch it slowly unfold. Oldman has great control over his voice and is a very talented voice actor. Even though he's the villain, you may find yourself inadvertently rooting for him from time to time, just because of how awesome he is.
Overall Kung Fu Panda 2 is a generically told hero's quest but it benefits from having great visuals, good acting from Black and Oldman (sometimes to the detriment of the rest) and lots of action. If you have kids they'll probably love this, I say it's worth seeing if you're interested at all in it.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Shut up crime!

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

As an inhabitant of the great Pacific Northwest (WA), I've always had a love for Rainn Wilson. His work on the Office is nothing if not memorable and I've always wanted to see him have a big starring role that I could gush over and be proud of, almost like a "He's from here dontcha know" kind of moment. Well James Gunn, the guy who wrote Dawn of the Dead and created Slither has made that moment happen with the film Super. Now I doubt Super will catapult Rainn into instant stardom like superhero films have done for other actors but Super definitely shows off a side of Rainn we've never seen before and that's both good and bad.

Super is a conflicting film. On one hand it is this black comedy that deals with a man so fed up with criminals he decides to become a superhero, something that takes him a while to learn but on the other hand it is this really dark drama about a man who is at his wits end and has probably lost his mind. I mean Nathan Fillion is talking through the television to him. I think we are witnessing a man slowly go mad. So in that sense it's a film that never lets you get comfortable and while I appreciate that, sometimes Super is hard to swallow.
Frank (Rainn) is a cook at a local diner who claims that only two good things have ever happened in his life: marrying his wife and helping the cops out (that helping consisted of basically pointing and going "He went that way officer."). Well sadly one of those things is taken away when Jacques, this drug lord and all around douche (Kevin Bacon oddly enough) gets Frank's wife hooked on drugs. Frank's wife is already a recovering addict and is now in a state of constant high. Because of her basic inability to function Jacques makes the executive decision on her behalf that Frank and her are no longer together. No matter how much he begs, or throws himself on the car or threatens Jacques, he can't seem to get ahead. It probably doesn't help that they are loaded to the teeth either.

Soon Frank descends into darkness as he spends his time crying, mumbling to himself and watching Christian public access TV. One of the characters, the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) seems to speak to him and soon enough he is literally touched by God (Rob Zombie) and decides to become a superhero called the Crimson Bolt. It's not soon before a sadomasochistic comic store clerk named Libby (Ellen Page) decides that she has to join him as his sidekick Boltie. Armed only with a wrench, the Crimson Bolt protects the city from crime with the ultimate goal of getting his wife back.
The story is an odd one for me. The first half an hour are very engaging and very well told. But then it's not really until an hour and 10 minutes (into an hour and a half movie) that the movie gets good again. For a good 40 minutes the film is kind of in this constant state of limbo with where it's going. Part of it is this dark comedy with him going out trying to fight crime in the streets and then there are times where he literally sits and waits for something to happen, and we sit there with him. That or he tries to take on Jacques only to go down in flames in minutes. When Page's Boltie is brought in there's a little more energy but at the same time there is a lot more of the same. And there is also a weird sexual undertone between Libby and Frank and towards the end it gets really uncomfortable to watch.

Even when the movie gets better again it's still uncomfortable to watch. It's hyper realistic in what happens and in a way I applaud that for keeping the movie grounded in reality but some parts leave a bad taste in your mouth. It's also over way too soon and before you know it, it's over. And the ending is terrible. There is SOME closure but it's still bittersweet. And that could too be a part of the whole reality thing but still.
On the acting side everything is good. Frank is never really happy in the movie, and doesn't show much emotion besides anger, frustration and sadness but Rainn does his best and does a good job with what he's given. Page is good as well and you can tell she definitely had fun with her role. Bacon's Jacques is good but it's more of a caricature instead of a real character. It's the evil douche drug lord. We've seen it before and Bacon does it well. Everyone does well. Nobody blows anyone away and certainly not audiences (except maybe Fillion but he's more of a cameo) but it's competent.

Overall Super is an uneven movie with almost as much bad/weird as there is good. I suggest seeing it if you're interested but this hyper realistic, ultra violent and mostly uncomfortable and bittersweet movie might not be for everyone.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

"You should kill each others bosses." "Like Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train right?" "Yeah the Danny DeVito movie. That's a funny one.

 Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

This film, on paper at least, is a dream come true for me. Take the idea from one of my favorite Hitchcock movies Strangers on a Train (two people want to kill somebody so to keep from getting arrested they kill the other persons person), add in one of my favorite comedic actors (Bateman) and two of my favorite current television comedians (Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis), throw in one of the greatest character actors ever (Spacey), an underrated Irishman (Farrell) and a chick I've had the hots for since I was 10 (Aniston), mix them all together and put them in a comedy directed by the guy who made my favorite documentary of all time (Seth Gordon) and you got a film that was tailored made for me.

My personal bias aside I can safely say that Horrible Bosses (so far at least) is the best comedy of 2011. The humor is non-stop, the acting is brilliant across the board, everyone compliments each other, the story is silly and dark but never feels over the top or too macabre, and is one of those movies that I can see over and over and will still probably miss a joke. I dare someone not to have fun while watching this movie.
The story follows three guys who all have really terrible bosses. Dale (Day) is a dental assistant who is consistently  sexually harassed by his boss (Aniston) but can't get a job anywhere else because he's a registered sex offender (peeing near a playground at night). He's tired of being abused and blackmailed and won't give in to her advances due to him being engaged (and faithful). Kurt (Sudeikis) HAD a great boss but when he passed away his son, (Farrell) an out of shape, coke addicted sociopath who wants to run the business solely for the money, took over and is making his life a living hell. He's tired of sitting idly by and watching as a company that his father loved gets run into the ground. And there's Nick (Bateman), a man who so desperately wants a promotion but to do so has to go through his recently self-promoted (at Nick's expense by the way), verbally abusive boss (Spacey) who loves nothing more than toying with Nick.

All three men are tired of their bosses and one day decide they've had enough and want their bosses dead. But of course none of them are smart, cunning or intuitive enough to pull of such a deed so they get the help of Dean "Muthaf****r" Jones (Jamie Foxx in great form) who springs the idea on them of killing each others bosses. They think this is a great idea and decide to run with it. And, as you would expect, they suck at it, which makes it all the more funny.
We've seen this kind of story done before and arguably done better, but usually in a more dramatic light. The script is well written but definitely benefits from having it's cast not only be great at improvising but fitting the characters perfectly. Other actors could have made this movie over the top, cheesy or fall flat in some of its more subtly funny moments but having Bateman's dry wit, Day's high pitched overreactions and Sudeikis's charm and timing lift this script up to make it all the more better. The script is also hilarious but by now I think that goes without saying. There were times where I was near tears laughing so hard watching this movie.

On a critical note though I will say though that there were times during the film where I wish there was more time spread out between the different bosses. It's not that I don't love Spacey but I would have loved to see as much of him as I would Aniston and Farrell. But that's more of a personal taste thing and not really a knock on the film. As it stands the film flows quite smoothly, only hitting the occasional bump on the way to the end and really I wouldn't change anything. I loved it from beginning to end.
On the acting side I think the biggest breakout will definitely be Day. As a devout It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan I've been a fan of his for a while but I'd be willing to bet that a lot more executives will be ringing him up in the near future. Bateman and Spacey are old hat at this now and they do their best them throughout the whole movie. Bateman is the dry, deadpan voice of reason that gets laughs when you least expect it and Spacey is as shark like as ever being totally evil but at the same time totally awesome to watch. Sudiekis is definitely one of the reasons I still watch SNL and he is hilarious as ever in this movie. In fact I think he was funnier here then he was in Hall Pass. One aspect of his character doesn't really sit well with me (Sudiekis=ladies man? HAHA) but overall he's fun to watch. Aniston and Farrell really surprised me in this one. Aniston, who has kind of been struggling lately with her roles plays the nympho dentist well and seems to actually be having fun with the movie, which is always refreshing to see. And Farrell is barely recognizable in a bald cap and with so much weight added, but his toolish behavior is hilarious and it's nice to see him let loose a little.

I honestly couldn't have been happier with this movie. Ever since I saw the first trailer I had high expectations for it and those expectations were met and more. The acting and humor are perfect and while the story is something that has been done before and the movie doesn't bring any revolutionary new thoughts or ideas to how movies are made, it's fun, funny and it's one that I think will only get better the more I watch it. Hopefully you all enjoy it as much as I did.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Do you want to tell a cop about it? We're just like priests except we would tell everybody afterwards.

 Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.,

I genuinely thought I was going to love this film. My best friend, my family, my fellow bloggers and critics alike have seemingly fell in love with this movie calling it one of the best R rated comedies of all time. I even bought the poster in anticipation for what I thought was going to be this epic comedy that everyone kept telling me was one that I couldn't miss. So I went in on a Saturday morning, partially because it's cheaper in the morning and because I had plans later that night, and was prepared to be blown away. So what did I think?

I really hated this movie. I honestly can't see the appeal of it at all. I mean I love the cast and watch or have watched them all do comedy before really well but here I just found myself counting the holes in the tiles on the ceiling and checking my watch every five or so minutes (and by watch I mean phone). I mean it does have its really funny bits. Bits that are grab your side funny. Bits that should make me love the movie. But upon second viewing (I was forced to go again because people thought I was crazy) those bits weren't that funny anymore. They got a slight chuckle out of me but that was about it. Besides those bits though the film was excruciatingly boring, awkward and clumsy. Every time I thought I would start liking this movie, something really stupid (and not in a funny way) would happen and I would sigh in frustration. It's a shame too because I really wanted to love this film.
 The plot follows Annie, a thirtysomething who's life seems to be stuck in a rut. Her best friend Lillian is always in Chicago working, her bakery went under which left her practically broke, her relationships leave her feeling more empty inside then when she was before and she lives with probably the creepiest people to ever walk the Earth. One day Lillian reveals to Annie that she is engaged and needs her to be the maid of honor. At the bridal shower Annie meets the rest of the bridesmaids which consist of: Becca, a peppy, innocent girl that works with Lillian, the groom's abrasive and blunt sister Megan, her apathetic and cynical cousin Rita and Helen, the vain, petty, superficial wife of Lillian's groom's boss. Together they all go through a whirlwind couple of weeks, where things only seem to get worse before they get better.

Just writing the plot and reading it out loud to myself (a habit I always do) made me realize that I should have liked the story a lot more than I did. It's fairly straightforward in it's structure and it doesn't deviate from anything that we haven't already seen before. The problem I found though with the story was the bits I mentioned before and how the rest of the movie's pacing is handled. Yes they were funny the first time but they felt more like bits you would see on a comedy show instead of something in a cohesive movie. And when the bits weren't going on, 90% of the time I was bored out of my mind. The bits are spaced out too far and since this film is already over two hours long, it makes it all the more tedious to sit through. On top of that some of the bits don't work. There is one early on at the bridal shower which is basically a game of one-up between Annie and Helen. Not only was it not funny, but it went on for way too long.
 The film also really lacks any real bite. I know Judd Apatow had his hand in this film and even when he's producing his touch can usually be seen throughout but this time I couldn't really see it. I mean there is one gross out scene midway through the film involving a bridal store but otherwise the film is extremely tame in terms of an R rated comedy. I mean there are some surprising swears thrown in (only one of which works the other comes off as petty) and a pretty tame but funny sex scene but for the most part it feels like it could have been PG-13. Now I'm not saying the film has to be this swear every three second vomit fest, but look at Mel Brooks films compared to this. His films had so much more bite and pizazz that they still remain classics to this day. Besides a few lines from Megan, the film really lacks any memorable one-liners or memorable anything.

But there ARE positives in this movie and there names are Kristin Wiig, Chris O'Dowd and Melissa McCarthy. Even when the film is at its worst, Wiig keeps, or at least tries to keep, the mood light and tries to work off the others as best as she can. As an accomplished comedian her experience shines in this movie and her physical humor and mannerisms are undeniably charming. Sometimes not everything she does clicks and that just adds to my frustration as I'm watching but overall she does the best she can in this movie. But Wiig is definitely outshined by O'Dowd and McCarthy, who end up taking the film and running away with it. O"Dowd plays Officer Rhodes, the love interest of Annie and a State Patrol Officer and no matter how bored I was, he made the scene better. His dry Irish wit, his emotion he shows in some of the more heartfelt scenes and his charm are great and I really hope to see more from him in the future. McCarthy plays Megan and like I said in the previous paragraph, she delivers most of the memorable lines in the film. She's brash, rude, and abrasive but also very kind and compassionate. McCarthy plays the character perfectly and like O'Dowd I hope her star can only shine brighter.
In the end though I just didn't really like Bridesmaids. I won't argue with you if you did, because I can see how people would like this film, but to me it just fell flat on almost every level and was one of the more boring comedies I've seen in a while. There were some bright spots that kept it from being a total bust but those bright spots are like finding a needle in a haystack sometimes. I wanted to love this seemingly beloved comedy but that sadly will never be the case.