Friday, December 28, 2012

You gonna die, I'm gonna die, we all gonna die. Just not today...

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

I often wonder how some movies get green-lit in Hollywood nowadays. I can understand wanting to adapt a novel, a video game or a comic into a film because it comes with an inherent fan base that will want to see their favorite characters put onto the screen. Sometimes it works (The Dark Knight) and sometimes it doesn't (The Spirit), but it will make money no matter what. Then there's Battleship, based on the best-selling board game that has graced our kitchen tables for over 40 years. Who thought this would be a good idea? Board games don't really come jam-packed with stories or characters and have rarely ever seemed like a good idea for films. The 1980s classic Clue worked because it had something to go on, but Battleship is just two people trying to guess where the other person's boats are. But Hasbro, Universal and Peter Berg obviously saw something since here we are with a Battleship movie.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Promise me you'll never go to Silent Hill.

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

Back in 2006 Christophe Gans and Roger Avary took a risk by releasing a film adaptation of the original Silent Hill video game. It took a lot of liberties with the original source material, the biggest being the gender swap of the main hero, but it was nothing if not ambitious and it certainly had its fans. I was definitely not one of them. The Silent Hill franchise has always had a place in my heart and while it wasn't as terrible as most video game adaptations tend to be, it fell short of any expectations I had and I left feeling disappointed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Even at my age, in my work... I haven't reached perfection.

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

Deep in the heart of Tokyo, in a place where you'd never expect it (in a subway station), sits one of the greatest restaurants in the entire world: Sukiyabashi Jiro. To the untrained eye it looks like a simple family-owned sushi shop but to everyone who has ever eaten there, they can tell you it is anything but ordinary. Run by Jiro Ono and his son (with another location also run by one of his sons), documentary filmmaker David Gelb takes a crew inside this 3 star Michelin restaurant so that we can get an idea of who the man behind the counter really is.
 Though regarded by many as the best sushi chef alive, 85 year old Jiro believes that his quest to perfect the art of sushi will never end. He dreams about it, spends almost every waking minute thinking about it and meticulously crafts every piece of fish as though it was Van Gogh painting one of his masterpieces. He loves his work, and deeply cares about it in ways that most people wished they could care about anything. The hard part, and one of his struggles, is dealing with what will happen after he dies. His son works diligently beside him, Jiro taking plenty of time to teach him and help him in whatever way he can, but at the end of the day Jiro will always be the master chef. He's a one of a kind and many believe that his son will never live up to his fathers reputation. Will Jiro's son ever surpass his father? Will Jiro's quest to perfect the art of sushi ever end? What of his other son, who runs a similar restaurant but in a fashion that is exponentially different than his father? These and more are questions we are presented with as the film goes on.

 Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a brief film, clocking in around 80 minutes, but even if it was longer David Gelb's impeccable pacing is some of the best I've seen recently (documentary or otherwise). It never feels rushed, most scenes, with the exception of maybe one or two, run perfectly and you can tell that Gelb was making this film for a broad audience, not just those who are used to documentary films slow, more deliberate pacing. The cinematography is great as well but I will say, see this film on a full stomach because even if you hate sushi, Jiro and Gelb make everything look delicious. It's food porn, but brilliant food porn. 
Jiro himself, as well as his son, are fascinating characters who are extremely passionate about what they do. You can see that they pour their heart and soul into everything they do. Jiro especially is fascinating to listen to because the way he describes everything, from making sushi to the art of sushi is intriguing and heartfelt. You feel his struggles and his hardships because you really care about him as a person. If you can get behind and care about the subject of your documentary then you've done a good job.

Love or hate sushi, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a brilliant documentary and one that should be enjoyed by everybody.

MY VERDICT: OWN IT (4.5 out of 5)

Friday, May 4, 2012

There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so that when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could.

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

After 12 hours of film building up the hype to a fever pitch, after countless years of development and writing, after all the marketing tie-ins that you could possibly throw into a product, it's finally here: The Avengers. Earth's Mightiest Heroes gathered into one movie to fight alongside (and sometimes against) one another in order to save everyone from certain destruction. Captain America (Chris Evans), the first Avenger and former poster child for the United States Army. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the demigod who fought his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and saved Asgard. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) aka Iron Man, the egotistical billionaire genius with a suit that makes him as powerful as any other hero. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) aka Hulk, a scientist fighting against a monster raging inside him. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) aka Hawkeye, the archer with a knack for never missing. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) aka Black Widow, the super spy who fills out a catsuit better than most could dream. And of course Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), the man behind it all who brings these people together. After all that has happened, does the film live up to the hype? Depends on which hype you're looking at.

You see there are two hype trains rolling down  the tracks right now. One is the hype that Marvel, Disney and the past six (yes I count the terrible 2003 Ang Lee Hulk film) films have established and the other is the hype that fans and critics have built after seeing the movie. These people are saying that The Avengers is the greatest comic book film ever and will vehemently bash anybody who even breathes in the wrong direction when it comes to this film. I only agree with one of these hype trains. Marvel has done a fantastic job building these worlds and establishing these characters and Joss Whedon and everyone involved does a brilliant job crafting an amazing film. But I hesitate to throw "best" at the movie only because while it's certainly the funniest, biggest and most action action packed comic book film I've seen, its only lacking area is in any true depth or sense of danger. Unless you've seen the previous films you might be a little lost on who most of these people are. The film does a good job re-establishing and reminding you of who most of these people are but most of the character development is saved for the heroes own film. In terms of danger, you never really feel like these people are going to fail, you know they will win at the end of the day. With some other films (cough Dark Knight cough) you aren't as sure and it takes some of the wind out of the film. 
 Nick Fury and SHIELD are in the possession of an unlimited power source known as the Tesseract. One day the Tesseract starts to act up and out pops Loki, who steals the Tesseract, enslaves Hawkeye and Dr. Selvig (from Thor), and levels the SHIELD base. Loki plans on unleashing an army and enslaving the human race because freedom, at least in his mind, is overrated. Fury decides that to restart the Avengers Initiative and gathers Iron Man, Black Widow, Hulk and Cap to go find and capture Loki. Along the way Thor joins them (although not without some initial disagreement) with the idea that he wants to take the Tesseract and hold his brother accountable for his crimes in Asgard. That's really all I can say without spoiling the rest of the film but needless to say a lot of things blow up, get shot and are destroyed. The action is intense, always a joy to watch and I found myself bouncing up and down with excitement on many occasion.

The story isn't anything we haven't seen before but Joss Whedon's lightning fast wit and impeccable pacing makes it all seem new again, or at least appear to. The film is split into two halves, the first half bringing everyone together and establishing the characters motives and major conflicts with the second half being an all out brawl in the middle of New York. It seems simple when you write it out but everything builds up well and by the time it does reach New York you are already as pumped as you'll ever be. Like I mentioned before there IS a lack of danger or any real threat since you know these guys will win in the end, but it's a well written film and unless you really think about it, you'll enjoy every minute of this film. Even the post credits scenes. Yes, there are two, so make sure you stay for both of them.
 The acting in the film is actually improved from the heroes previous films. Evans and Hemsworth both feel more comfortable with their roles and have grasped some more of the nuances of their character. Cap is still a straight arrow trying to adjust to living in the future, but despite his old ways he knows how to lead and you really feel for his character. Thor struggles with protecting Earth (and the woman he loves) from afar while also dealing with his brother who, despite being evil, is still his brother in the end. Stark is as snarky and egotistical as before but you can see that there is still a man underneath it all, especially now more than ever. Downey owns his role and if anybody stole the show, you can easily make the argument that it is him. Johansson's Black Widow and Jackson's Fury are also both improved with the real surprise being Johansson. Usually I don't care for her all that much but she does great with a more fleshed out Natasha and proves to be more than just eye candy in a catsuit. Jackson is Jackson...take it or leave it.

The two new additions, Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and Renner as Hawkeye, do well but Ruffalo is certainly the better of the two. He captures the hectic and almost neurotic nature of Banner better than Edward Norton and Eric Bana ever could and he has a heart and humor to him that makes him a joy to watch. He plays off everybody extremely well and his Hulked out self looks amazing. Third time is the charm I guess. Renner does well with Hawkeye but his role isn't really big enough to say much more. He's good, he does justice to the character but that's about it.
 Overall The Avengers is a wonderful, action packed blockbuster with brilliant writing, intense action, great acting, big laughs and is a joy for everyone whether you read comics or not. I hesitate to throw around the term best when it comes to this movie but you get what you paid for and more and you shouldn't leave the theater disappointed.

MY VERDICT: TOP FILM (5 out of 5)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I've been in resturants all night, all I got served was lead.

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

It doesn't really take a lot to sell me on a Jason Statham film. Is he kicking ass and taking names? Is he mumbling and chewing all of his words like a dog with peanut butter? Is he a hitman/cop/bounty hunter/guy in the wrong place at the wrong time who somehow knows martial arts? Is Neveldine&Taylor nowhere to be found on the film's production credits? Is it at least competently written? If the answer is yes to all (or at least a majority) of the questions then chances are I probably will go out and buy a ticket without any hesitation. Don't get me wrong, Statham is not my favorite actor and a majority of his filmography is nowhere near Criterion quality, but there is something enjoyable about watching Statham do that voodoo that he does so well. 
 In Safe, Statham plays Luke Wright, a former cop turned cage fighter who, after refusing to throw a fight, has everything taken away from him. He loses his house, his money and his wife is brutally murdered with the promise that anybody he ever befriends, helps or talks to will be murdered as well. While all this is going on, a 12-year-old Chinese girl named Mei, who has a knack for remembering things, is taken by the Triads and used as a walking ledger of sorts. She remembers all the numbers, locations and people so that they don't have to write anything down.

A year goes by and Luke is now homeless and on the brink of suicide while Mei is brought to America to be used for some business in town. Mei and the Triads are attacked by the Russians and after the Russians kidnap her, she soon escapes and finds herself wanted by every criminal organization and corrupt official in town. Luke sees what's going on and brings it upon himself to save and protect Mei from all harm and danger.

On the surface, Safe is a predictable, paint-by-the-numbers Statham film. It's nothing you've never seen before and it's certainly been done better. It bogs itself down with a ton of exposition and explaining and some of the dialogue is definitely on the cheesy/kitschy side, but in the grand spectrum of Statham movies, it's right down the middle. Statham does his usual shtick, so if you like what he does normally, chances are you'll like his performance in this. The other acting is pretty average but nobody besides Mei and Luke get a ton of development.
If it sounds like I'm being harsh, I'm not, I'm just pointing out what everyone probably already expected. Like I said before, "on the surface." But I decided to dig a little deeper than I usually do and pay attention to the movie from a technical side and this is where the movie surprises itself. Honestly I don't think it expected to be as well shot and edited as it ended up being. From a technical side this film is actually quite good and a step in the right direction for "typical Statham films." The soundtrack is appropriately placed and adds tension where needed, the sound design is Bourne quality with every gun and fist sounding heavy and hitting with the right bang or thud and the cuts/edits/cinematography are all hectic but controlled at the same time. It does things that a normal film goer wouldn't give a second thought to but re-watching Statham's filmography it seems leaps and bounds better than the established norm.

Overall Safe is a competently written and acted film that hits all the beats that Statham films have been known to do. Predictable, yes, but entertaining nevertheless. On a technical side, however, it shines as one of Statham's better shot and made films, even if the script and everything else makes the film just okay. If you like action films and you like what Statham usually does than you can do a lot worse in terms of films. Just don't expect the next Snatch.

MY VERDICT: RENT IT (2.5 out of 5)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

It's Like a Sasquatch, Only More Elusive, More Ferocious, and a Little More Greedy

OK, so I had this idea, to do a more weekly type deal and I decided on reviewing South Park. The new season has started and the fourth episode aired last night, with only three more left before the summer break.

Before I go any further:


Yes, I will be giving away all the details, so if you don't want to know because, for some asinine reason, you haven't watched it yet, stop reading and come back when you have.

Before I get into my review I just want to explain how you are supposed to watch South Park. Lately people have been getting this notion that South Park is some huge political or social statement every week. It's not. Not even a little. Sure, they may take ideas from what's going on and make it a part of their show, but it doesn't mean they are making a statement about that issue. Not at all. They're just making fun of it. Simple as that. So don't watch South Park as if it's some top news show bringing you all the latest insight on humanity. It's just a show about foul mouthed 4th graders who get into all kinds of trouble.

Now, with that said, on with review.

"Jewpacabra" is the 4th episode of South Park's 16th season. This season has been a blast so far producing some of the funniest episodes I've seen in a long time. Who can forget "Reverse Cowgirl?" This episode taught us that we have all been sitting on the toilet wrong. You're supposed to face the tank so you have a nice little shelf for your magazines. Then there was "Cash for Gold," that showed us the complex and idiotic loop of the gold selling and smelting business. Remember, "Whoever made the rhyme, did the crime." Then last week we were introduced to "Faith Hilling," this episode reminded us all that there are only three acceptable memes when posing for a photo: peace sign, bunny ears, and fake wiener.

This week's episode came just in time for Easter, which is this Sunday. It follows the exploits of Cartman as he tries to convince everyone that a beast called the Jewpacabra is real and is coming to suck the blood from all of the kids in town, on Easter Sunday, during the town's big Easter egg hunt. It starts with Cartman going to Kyle's house and getting a lesson in Passover from Kyle's mom. Of course Kyle is suspicious of Cartman from the get go because Kyle knows Cartman always has an ulterior motive, for everything he does.

Cartman is then charged (by himself) to find evidence that Jewpacabra is real. He enlists Butters' help to do so and they go into the woods to try and capture the creature on video. At this point they transform South Park into an episode of  Animal Planet's "Finding Bigfoot," which, as usual, is done with great accuracy. In order to find it they have to imitate the Jewpacabra's call. "No Christ! No Christ!" Butters eventually helps (he's terrified to death the whole time) by shouting, "I don't think Christ has any basis in reality!"

Cartman, after obtaining the footage he wants, takes it to the B.F.R.O. (Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization). This of course takes place after Cartman absconds to Nassau so he can ride a water slide at the Atlantis Resort and Casino. You know, the one that goes through a shark tank. Yeah, it's real.

So they get to the BFRO and inside are the folks from the show, albeit a highly exaggerated version of them. Which of course is hilarious because they portray these people as if they are just the dumbest people to walk the Earth. It would be prudent to mention that Kyle has a recurring line that goes, "To believe any of this you have to be either a liar or stupid." The fine folks in the BFRO are then ready to believe Cartman when he tells them it's a Jewpacabra. They then convince Cartman that it is real footage of the beast and that it will now be targeting him because of the footage.

Eventually, Cartman is used as bait to lure the Jewpacabra out and make everyone else safe. The BFRO folks track him down and identify him as a three foot tall bunny man. "Bobo" shoots Cartman with a tranquilizer gun and they all celebrate and try to go get their adventure on Animal Planet, bringing the gun as evidence of the existence of the bunny man.

While under the effects of the tranquilizer, Cartman has a dream where he is a little Egyptian boy during the days of the Biblical plagues. Kyle is there too, as Jew, naturally. Cartman can't understand why God would do all these horrible things to people and Kyle tells him that's how God works. Cartman responds, "You're wrong Kyle, God is not a dick!" Best line of the episode.

After waking up, safe in his bed, after a little help from a compassionate Kyle, he goes running into the middle of the Easter egg hunt as it's in full swing. He announces to everyone that they must accept Jehovah as their God and deny Christ.

So, after hating Jews all his life and even once or twice trying to eradicate them, Cartman has accepted Judaism as the one true religion. Now, it will be interesting to see if this lasts, or, if this is a ploy towards something bigger. You never know when it comes to Eric Cartman. You just never know.

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, just as I've enjoyed the previous ones this season. Season 16 is definitely off to a good start, this episode is just another strong one. Although, I will say the cast of main characters was quite small. It was mainly just Cartman, Butters, and Kyle. Stan didn't even have a line in this one. He was even only seen briefly when everyone was in line to sign of for the egg hunt.

Also, the parents weren't really involved either. I typically enjoy the episodes where the parents are more involved, especially Randy. Not saying that every episode should involve the grown-up, I'm just saying I like it when they're there. They tend to add that complete rube aspect to the story, a device to just completely ruin everything. Which usually works out pretty good.

The thing I think Trey and Matt and their crew do best is bring light to things we don't give much thought to. Like their one episode that uncovered the truth about Easter. Everyone always wonders how Easter came to be associated with egg laying rabbits and South Park explained it very well. "Jewpacabra" is no different, as far as when it comes to the Passover holiday.

I think one thing that a lot of critics do wrong when they watch South Park, is they take it too seriously. They sit down and watch the show and expect a huge social statement to be made. That's not what this show is about. It's gotta be watched with an open mind and a very open sense of humor. The only envelope these guys push is what they can get away with on cable TV, comedy wise. They've done a great job for 16.25 seasons and I can't wait to see what happens in the forthcoming episodes. It is 2012 after all.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

D Strong's Young Justice Show Summary (Reviews to Come)

Co-created by  Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti, somewhere between Justice League and the Teen Titans is where this current saga of  the new DC Animated Universe lies. Instead of focusing on the Big Guns of the DCU, this time around the attention is turned over to the teenage heroes and sidekicks of the Justice League members whom operate as a covert operation team for their mentors. In order to avoid any confusion or continuity questions between the plethora of DC animated series and direct-to-video animated films, its been specifically stated that Young Justice takes place on Earth-16, a place not too much unlike pre-reboot DC universe but with a few subtle and not-so-much differences. 

In the premiere episode we’re introduced to four well established sidekicks in this universe: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Speedy each of whom vie to ascend from mere sidekick status to full-fledged hero status, unfortunately its met with opposition from their respective mentors(Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow) and each of the young heroes reacts in their own way, Speedy in this incarnation is the eldest of these young heroes decides to strike out on his own from mentor Green Arrow and change his name to Red Arrow now operating as a solo hero. Still wanting to prove their worth to their mentors, the remaining heroes engage in a secret investigation of Cadmus headquarters. This leads to the discovery of  Superboy who is a clone of  Superman whom even he isn’t aware of. After the Superboy discovery and the revelation that Cadmus is engaged in creating living weapons called Geomorphs all of which are being manipulated by a mysterious group called The Light, the young heroes convince Batman to create a covert team to operate under his order on situations that the Big Leaguers would instantly be identified. By the end of the episode, a fifth member of the group is introduced-the ever so cute Miss Martian. The group’s headquarters is located within Mount Justice in Happy Harbor. 

What sets this show apart from the other DCAU shows is of course its dedication to character development and the fact that not everything will be solved at the end of the half-hour episodes thereby stretching some plots into an over-arching storyline. This series continues the Justice League Unlimited tradition of expanding the DC universe with cameo appearances from characters well known to the very obscure. Over 135 characters have appeared in the series so far (with more on the way!). Also, as to not be confused with anything that comes before or after, its established that Earth-16 is clearly in the early days of the super-hero renaissance. The characters are also somewhat altered yet familiar. The lineup for this series includes so far: 
 Robin/Dick Grayson - He is thirteen years old in this version and since he’s the Batman’s partner, the most experienced of the group. He shows signs of becoming a great leader in situations where field leader Aqualad isn’t present. 
 Aqualad/Kaldur ‘Ahm- He is the sixteen year old leader of the Young Justice squad and Aquaman’s partner. He possesses powers of Atlantean sorcery  which include super strength, durability, and discharge electricity through his hands. He’s elected leader of the younger heroes because of his level-headedness in perilous situations and his ability to efficiently deliver orders. This series marks the first animated appearance of the new African American version of Aqualad. 
 Kid Flash/Wally West- Is the super speedster of the group and partner of the Flash. Wally is pretty much the comic relief of the group and is one of the members who’d love more than anything to prove his worth to the mentor heroes. Wally first has a crush on Miss Martian which he eventually gets over, he also collects items from missions that he dubs ‘souvenirs’. Wally is the only member of the group who knows Robin’s secret identity and vice versa. 
 Superboy/Conner Kent- A sixteen-week old clone of Superman grown in the bowels of Project Cadmus, he only contains half of Superman’s kryptonian abilities: super strength, invulnerability, hearing and vision. Superboy’s demeanor is somewhat sullen and ill-tempered due to his reaction to the way he was created and rejection from Superman whom he wished to bond with. He recently discovered half of his genetic makeup is human and the shocking revelation of whom the donor is. 
 Miss Martian/M’gann M’orzz/Megan Morse- Martian Manhunter’s sixteen year old niece and inexperienced super hero. Like her uncle her powers include flight, telekinesis, telepathy, invisibility, and limited shape shifting. Megan’s rather na├»ve and upbeat personality was developed from watching earth television programming. She takes the form of the main character and catchphrase from the television program “Hello Megan!”. She and Superboy have developed a romantic relationship with each other, its also been shown recently that in her true form Megan is a White Martian. 
 Artemis/Artemis Crock- The most mysterious member of the group. Fifteen years old and like Robin is the teams’ other powerless member. She is adept at archery and her weapon of choice is a bow and arrow. Initially, she introduced herself  to the group as Green Arrow’s niece but Red Arrow knows the truth and admits that if Batman and Green Arrow still want her as part of the group, there must be a good reason. Artemis has yet to reveal her true back round to the team, especially the fact that her sister is the villain Cheshire. 
 Zatanna/Zatanna Zatara- She is the daughter of Justice League magician Zatara. She made recurring appearances in several episodes until the episode “Misplaced” where her father becomes the new Doctor Fate and this leads to her becoming the official newest member of the Young Justice team. Her powers, like her dear old dad lie in incantations spoken backwards. 

More heroes are expected to join the team in upcoming episodes and season two. So far the Milestone hero Icon’s sidekick Rocket has been seen alongside the group in promotional material as well as the current Blue Beetle and character Lagoon Boy from the somewhat related (and long canceled) Young Justice comic series.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

If you let me die in there I swear I will haunt you

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

Martial arts films seem to come fewer and fewer as the years go on. Gone are the days of Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Bruce Lee whupping people into next week and instead nowadays the closest thing we have is Jayden Smith in the Karate Kid remake. Sure we still get the occasional imported martial arts film over here, but most of those either go straight to video or aren't worth watching anyway. I was starting to give up hope in the genre but then a small Indonesian film by the name of The Raid caught my eye. It was being heralded at all the film festivals it was showing at and people were saying it was the second coming of martial arts films. More so it was being compared to (some even said it was better than) John Woo's classic film Hard Boiled and as an avid Woo fan I was even more excited to see if it lived up to the hype. Well after watching The Raid I can tell you that the film not only lives up to the hype but far exceeds my expectations.

In fact I'd go so far as to say it's one of the best action movies ever.
 The film follows Rama, a rookie cop who is assigned alongside a group of highly trained SWAT to take down a ruthless drug lord named Tama. Tama is holed up in a derelict apartment building and has surrounded himself with the worst possible (and considering how many probably the cheapest) criminals, thieves and other ne'er-do-wells to make sure that he is safe from anybody trying to take him down. Rama and the team sneak in undetected but their cover is soon blown and now have to fight their way out, or die trying. There's also a subplot involving Rama searching for his brother but really the story is just a means to an end. That's not to say the story is bad, it does it's job well and frames everything nicely, but don't expect an Academy Award winning screenplay out of this film anytime soon.

The real story lies in the many, many, well choreographed fight scenes that make up the bulk of the film. Each fight feels unique, well thought out and never left me feeling fatigued. A lot of times in a film like this there can be SO much action that it starts to become mundane and leave you wanting more. Not in this movie. Just when you think you have the rhythm of the fight down it throws you a hook and changes things up. The cinematography, sound mixing and editing enhance the experience, making each fight feel visceral, gritty and intense. Think Saving Private Ryan's beach scene but with cops and kung fu and you have the majority of the movie. I hate using this term but it really is edge of your seat exciting.
 The acting is hard for me to really judge. There's no real bad apple in the bunch, everyone delivers their lines well and makes you believe or care about their character, but the film is 90% action so there isn't really a whole lot to go on in terms of technique or acting abilities. They're good but where they shine is in their fighting. The training for this film must have been crazy because everyone fights SO crisply and cleanly that everything begins to flow after a while. It ebbs and flows effortlessly and everyone gets a moment to shine in the film, even if they get offed shortly afterwards. I will say though that Iko Uwais is a very convincing hero and it's really easy to root for him. Same goes for Ray Sahetapy, who plays Tama. You really get the feeling Tama is the pure incarnation of evil. There's no sugarcoating with his role.

Before I get to the overall I will say that Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) and Joseph Trapanese do an incredible job with the soundtrack. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Overall if you love action films you should watch this film, plain and simple. It's gritty, fun, exciting, entertaining, well choreographed, intense and all sorts of other compliments I could probably take days writing out. It's not the deepest film ever but if you are going into this film for its story, then you probably aren't its target audience. Worth your time and money for sure.

MY VERDICT: TOP FILM (5 out of 5 stars)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

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

I was always a bit of a book fiend growing up and I think that love of books first started with Dr. Seuss. Even though a lot of what he wrote he made up as he went, he was a brilliant storyteller who, most of the time, could give you a moral without needing to bash you over the head with it. He was clever, colorful and someone who, years later, is influencing people of every age. And because it is a tradition in Hollywood that if we write a book we need to somehow make it into a movie, Dr. Seuss's are an obvious place to go to. The early cartoons were brilliant and are still shown today, but Hollywood loves updating and re-doing so of course we've seen numerous iterations of many of his stories, the latest craze now being CGI animated films after two less than popular live action films. The first was the critically well received and box office smash Horton Hears a Who and now it's Dr. Seuss's ode to the trees "The Lorax."
 The story of the Lorax is split in two between the past and the present. In the present everything is plastic, polluted and fake and air is sold in water jugs to people who want fresh air. Most people are content and happy with the status quo but there are a few people who aren't happy with it, or at least they want to see some change. Ted (Zac Efron) is a 12 year old kid who fawns over an older girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift), who would love nothing more than to see a real tree. Ted, being blinded by love, decides to throw caution to the wind and search out for a tree. After getting pushed in the right direction he meets the Once-ler (Ed Helms) and that's where we see the past portion of the story. In the past, the Once-ler is an optimistic guy who wants to make it in the world by selling his new invention. To make said invention he needs to chop down the trees which provide the necessary tools to make the invention. After chopping down one tree though he meets The Lorax (Danny DeVito), a being who speaks on behalf of the trees and tries to make sure he doesn't chop down more.

The story bounces back and forth between the past and present and for the most part it's pretty seamless. Unlike a few films recently (I'm looking at you Iron Lady and J. Edgar), you usually know for the most part when you are in the present and when you're in the past. There's even usually a subtle pallet change in how things are colored when they shift back and forth (if you look for it you'll notice it). It's a well told tale, albeit slightly on the nose with it's message. Seuss knew how to use subtlety to deliver his message, not so much in this film, although that's on the screenwriters more than Seuss. The romance between Ted and Audrey, one sided as it may be, also feels a little underdeveloped and not totally fleshed out. Honestly besides Ted, Once-ler, The Lorax and maybe the villain, nobody is really all that fleshed out. We get glimpses but never really any full motivation for most of the characters. It's still enjoyable though and there are a couple good laughs spread throughout, even though this film really tries to go more for the kids. 
Therein lies one of my biggest flaws with the movie: tone. It can't seem to really figure out if it wants to be a kids film that appeals to everyone or a kids film that only appeals to kids. Some of the jokes, plot points and the choices in actors leans more towards the former but the lowest common denominator (like jokes for only the littlest of kids) jokes in the film and the songs (yes this is a musical) make it seem like the latter. The songs, save for one or two, are very bouncy, sing-a-long kid songs and for anyone over a certain age is basically torture. The other two are good for everyone but feel like they may go over the heads of the younger audience. See where I'm going with this? The Lorax has an identity crisis.

Where this film shines, and where I can forgive a lot of it's identity issues, is in the animation and voice work. The animation is vivid, lush, beautiful and quite possibly one of the best animated films ever. It's candy for the eyes and is amazing to look at. You can get lost in it's detail and I'd watch this again just to look at the animation. If nothing else, see it for the animation. The voice work also shines almost as brightly with Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, and Zac Effron giving really great performances. The first two especially really carry this movie and they do a wonderful job portraying their characters. You really care about them and want them to do well, even if their motivations aren't always the best.

Overall The Lorax is a good film that suffers from an identity crisis. It has amazing animation and voice work but can be a bit on the nose for some with it's message and has a problem figuring out it's audience. I'd say it's still worth seeing though.

MY VERDICT: SEE IT (3.5 out of 5)

Daddy, what did they do to you?

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

I've started to notice a trend recently and it's one that's been bothering me for some time: a film that is almost nearly impossible to review, or at least properly critique, without spoiling the film. Usually this means the film's big twist or ending is what makes or breaks the film but it also makes it hard to really describe the movie. The reason I bring this up, besides this being a nagging issue for me, is because your enjoyment of Silent House will depend on what you think of the ending. While I could (and will) nitpick some other issues, that's basically the core of it all. But I'll get to that when I get to that. First what is Silent House?
 Silent House is a remake of a 2010 Uruguayan horror film of the same name and both films boast being shot in one continuous take. Not to speak ill of either film, but I highly doubt either was shot in one complete take. Instead they both use clever editing techniques to portray the illusion that it's shot in one take. It's an interesting concept to say the least and I quite enjoyed it.

The story of the film follows Sarah, a girl in her early 20s (estimating it's never really established) who is busy doing repairs on a lake house along with her father and uncle. After a small tiff, the uncle drives into town and Sarah and her father are left to continue working on the house. Sarah gets distracted when a friend from her past visits briefly and after agreeing to going out later, she continues working. Things get interesting when she hears a noise and gets her father to investigate. At first things are fine but after another large thump, she finds her father unconscious and realizes she's locked in a house with someone who obviously wants to hurt her and her father.

That's really as far as I can go without spoiling anything. The basic plot doesn't move far beyond that and usually just involves Sarah going from room to room hiding and/or trying to escape. It's only in the last 10-15 minutes does the film radically change and I'll let you figure out whether or not you like it. Me personally? I enjoyed the story but I felt the ending was rushed, unfinished and left more questions than answers which left me with a slightly sour taste in my mouth. It's by no means terrible, as the ending is very reminiscent of Haute Tension, but it feels like it was changed at the last minute to make things more interesting. I'm not damning the movie because of the ending, but just be wary of what you're getting yourself into.
The acting is a mixed bag. Elizabeth Olsen has more talent in her pinkie than her sisters ever had and she is an actress who is definitely going places. She was brilliant in Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene and she's actually really good in this film as well. She could have played the scared heroine we have seen in dozens of horror films, but there is a quiet reserve and a will to survive that she portrays in her role of Sarah that keeps her from being just another heroine. She does have a quirky cry (which kind of bugged me), but otherwise she's amazing, especially considering how the film is made and it basically being a one woman show. Everyone else, however, is really bad, or at least all the people who have speaking roles. Both men are stiff and dull and it really shows when they are in a scene with Olsen as she makes them seem like cardboard cutouts in comparison.

Technically this film is brilliant and deserves a lot of credit for that. The "one shot" method (notice the quotes) is really well done and the edits are seamless. It really feels like it was done in one shot at times. There is also one scene I'd like to point out, as it will probably be in my favorite scenes list next year and it's really quite brilliant. At one point all the lights go out and all Sarah has to light her way is an old Polaroid camera. Each flash is intense and gets more so the longer the scene goes on. It's not a terribly long scene but it is gripping and almost made up for a lot of the flaws.

Overall Silent House is a film that is saved by Olsen and it's behind the scenes work. The controversial ending is rushed and poorly done, both men are terrible in their roles and it'll be very easy for many to write off this film because of those flaws. But I still say it's a solid film and worth checking out anyway. 

MY VERDICT: RENT IT (2.5 out of 5)

If you're going to take an R Kelly song literally why not "Trapped in the Closet?" Nobody broke their neck trapped in the closet.

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

Wanderlust is what I like to call a conflicted comedy. On one hand it's a stupid funny comedy about a couple dealing with their issues through a means that they aren't used to (in this case a hippie commune). On the other hand it's a spoof of said commune and all of hippie culture in general. When the film focuses on the former it's sweet, funny and a lot of fun to watch. When it's the latter, it's painfully bad for the most part. Where I'm having trouble is whether or not I should just write this film off as bad and move on, or take what was actually really good about this movie and focus on that and call this a decent, albeit flawed comedy. Really I think it's up to the individual viewer. Paul Rudd can save damn near any movie in my opinion but to some he can come off as a bit much (especially with one scene). But one man can't usually carry a whole movie can he?
The film follows George and Linda (Rudd and Jennifer "I can't get out of these damn Rachel roles" Aniston) who are a New York couple trying to get by. Rudd is a businessman trying to get a promotion and Linda is a jack-of-all-trades who's now focused on making an HBO documentary on clubbed seals. When both of these things fall through the cracks they decided to move in with George's brother, who runs a port-a-potty business. Before they get to his brother's house though they decide to stay the night at a bed and breakfast/hippie commune. They love how warm and accepting everyone is so much that after a few days with George's brother, they decide to drop everything and become members of the commune. Thanks to comedy writing 101 you can probably guess how well this goes.

It's an interesting, albeit done to death idea but the execution is a little wonky. When it focuses on George and Linda, as well as their budding relationships with Seth and Eva (Justin Theroux and Malin Akerman), two members of the commune, it's actually really funny. Seth is over the top and Theroux plays him with such crazed earnestness that he steals almost every scene he's in. Eva isn't given a whole lot to do besides being ogled at by George, but Akerman is funny nevertheless and is one of the funnier members of the group. Where the problem lies is in the other members of the group.

I love satire, don't get me wrong, but when the "(Insert type of movie here) Films" are more subtle than you are, you're doing it wrong. We get it, hippies get high, eat organic and have some weird sensibilities, we don't need that shoved down are throats over and over and over and over and over again. It gets old after a while and it stops being funny. Sure you'll probably chuckle at some of the more awkward moments, but overall these moments fall flat and are terribly unfunny, which is a shame since the acting from everyone is solid with no real bad eggs.
The film's biggest saving grace besides Theroux and the George and Linda plot is definitely Paul Rudd. He is one of the best straight men in Hollywood (and I don't mean orientation) and usually the weirder the situation, the better he tends to be. Even at it's least funny, he somehow finds something to latch onto to make it funny and try to make the scene better. Even when he's by himself he can be hilarious, as evidenced by the funniest scene in the movie where he talks to himself in a mirror. I hate to say that if he wasn't in this, then it would have been an utter disaster, but's true.

Overall Wanderlust is a film that suffers from satire/spoof overload, some bad writing, and a lot of dud jokes. Luckily thanks to good acting led by Theroux and Rudd, as well as an earnest and sweet storyline about a married couple and their trials and tribulations, this film isn't a total loss. I'd say it's worth a rental if nothing else.

MY VERDICT: RENT IT (2 out of 5)

Friday, March 16, 2012

21 Jump Street. What John Carter should have been(a good movie).


       Channing Tatum may one day be considered a great actor. Yes, he has been quite terrible. I’ve never seen those Step Up movies but they looked terrible and he looked terrible in them. He wasn’t very good I that overly self-indulgent film A guide To Recognizing Your Saints, a movie that is a director going “look at my childhood, I grew on the streets. In fact, it was kind of like Mean Streets only not as entertaining and nothing really happened except the boring things that happen in real life.” Even in GI Joe, a movie I actually quite like, I think he’s pretty bad in it. But when I saw a trailer for last year’s The Dilemma, it looked like maybe he’s learned. Maybe’s he’s learned that his calling isn’t being some hunky guy, it’s in being funny. Granted I never saw the film, it got horrible reviews but I heard he was funny in it. Two months ago, Haywire. He had nothing much other than a supporting role but he didn’t just do his duty, he was good. And now, 21 Jump Street he is what makes the movie. The fact is Channing Tatum is evolving, and if this rate of evolution continues, great things may happen. He’s already set to star in the next two Soderbergh films and if Soderbergh sees something in him, well, there must be something in him. Of course he was also in Public Enemies in which he was shot in the stomach by Batman before he had the chance to utter a single line.

    Jonah Hill on the other hand is someone I’ve only found moderately funny and unlike Tatum, has never shown any evolution. Somehow we know live in a world where Jonah Hill is an Oscar nominated actor. Jonah Hill. Oscar nominee. In a movie where he was just kind of just Jonah Hill. Kind of ruins the idea of being an Oscar nominee. I doubt Soderbergh would ever cast him in any thing, even as a comedic role. Now he’s sort of skinny Jonah Hill but still fat looking. Looks like he didn’t keep up with his Lypo. He’s sort of skinny but he’s still got a fat head. He’s like a white Al Roker.

    As a pair these too work, but it’s still Tatum that makes it. The basic plot: two young cops must go undercover in a high school to uncover a drug ring. I never watched an episode of the TV show, so I couldn’t say how faithful it is to the show. Yes, those cameos are here in the film. The two pretend to be two new students with Tatum’s plan to get in with the popular kids as he was a popular kid back in the day, but of course, he ends up becoming friends with the nerds. The dealer of this new drug HFS(Holy Fucking Shit) is played by James Franco’s brother Dave and sometimes in can be a bit distracting at how much he looks and sounds like his brother. Franco of course has a girlfriend, who is played not by a super hottie as one would almost expect but an actual regular attractive girl. Although that may have been done because, well she and Jonah have to get together.

    The basic structure of the film is like any buddy cop film, including the falling of the relationship between the cops. There is some quite decent action in the film that had me more excited than any of the action in John  Carter, but this film is working on lower expectations on the action which gives it a leg up. Although when people get shot, it’s the ever so horrible CG blood. It looks like a fucking cartoon.

    The Office’s Ellie Kemper and future mother of my children plays an Chemistry teacher who has a crush on Tatum’s character not as much is done with it. Instead she’s just kind of there as that one girl from Bridesmaids. Oh well. Rob Riggle plays a coach always carrying a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and does his usual stick which I always get  a kick out of but, let’s face it, Riggle doesn’t have much range. Ice Cube gets some nice laugh as the angry black captain or, I’m not actually sure what he is but he’s the guy they report to. Sadly though, Parks and Rec’s Nick Offerman/Ron Swanson is only in that scene that appears in the trailer. You can’t always win.

    Anyways, 21 Jump Street is just a nice funny action-comedy with plenty of R-rated humor and gay black kids getting punched in the face. Maybe not plenty of gay black kids getting punched in the face, but at least one.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

John Carter. Not the ER spin-off I was looking for.

    John Carter is less the next Avatar and more the next Prince Of Persia. Disney’s third attempt at making a new live action franchise post Pirates Of the Caribbean, the others being Prince of Persia and the Tron reboot-sequel Tron Legacy. Those two also didn’t fare too well, critically or financially. John Carter is a film that cannot exist in a post-Avatar world, at least not this soon. It doesn’t matter if it’s based on a book that inspired Avatar and came out 100 years ago. In fact, this is the second adaptation of A Princess Of Mars in just over two years. Asylum’s mock buster tie in for Avatar just so happened to be a micro budget version of A Princess of Mars. There’s a point where one should consider the fact that the movie they are making was already used as direct to video mock buster. But I don’t think Disney did that. John Carter was already in pre-production when Avatar came out and before Prince Of Persia and Tron: Legacy were released. Disney had three $200 million + live action, let’s be the next big franchise movies in production at the same time. I don’t think that’s a good business model, but then again, that’s just me. The problem is Disney is not consider with making movies with those films, but making franchises and that’s why they fail. Hopefully, with it looking like John Carter not doing so well with only $9.8 million on Friday, Disney will take some time off from attempting $200 million plus franchise starters. Oh look, The Lone Ranger is already in production. But at least the Lone Ranger has Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski, so there’s a chance of maybe it being the next big Disney franchise.

        John Carter’s story is not that special. It doesn’t matter if the book is 100 years old. That’s a book and this is a movie. Who cares about pissing off fans of the book series and changing shit? You’re gonna have to when 90% of the plot points have both been seen and seen better many times before in film. This is a film with the dual villains. The two villains that are kind of equal but when of them is sort of in charge of the other but the other has all the real power while the other has the magical power. Something like that. Mark Strong, playing the villain for the three time too many times, plays a Thurn, trying to control Dominic West, who has also played a villain several times before, and try to get West to fuck up Mars. Why? Well according to Strong in the film when he’s monologing to John  Carter, it’s because he’s immortal, but it turns out he’s not immortal, so why is he trying to destroy Mars? Because essentially there’s nothing better to do. Mark Strong is just a bored guy with magical powers who wants to fuck shit up but he doesn’t even really seem to care about that. I don’t get it either. Why does John Carter want to save Mars? Because for him, there is also nothing better to do. Actually, it’s really only because he wants to fuck some girl. Not exactly the best character motivations for a nice blockbuster.

    IS there anything good? There’s some decent action, the visual effects can be pretty great. That dog creature is really cute. And sometimes the relationship between John Carter and green Willem Dafoe is quite good but then sometimes green Willem  Dafoe is quite a cunt.
    In essence, $250 million down the drain. I’m sorry Andrew Stanton, but unlike Brad Bird, you cannot do live action.