Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Far over the Misty Mountains cold...

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - (5 Stars)

After bringing to life the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy around a decade ago (really?), Peter Jackson is now finishing the work he started by bringing to life J.R.R. Tolkien's original Middle Earth tale, The Hobbit, to life. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in a planned trilogy (originally planned as only 2 movies) adapting the book, padded up a bit with extras from the Lord of the Ring appendices and other works such as The Silmarillion. What results is a more epic version of the beloved tale better incorporated into the mythos of middle-earth than the book itself.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"The Hobbit" is visually and thematically in line with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The book is definitely a simpler story than it's Lord of the Rings companions, but after writing, Tolkien did try to link them and Jackson is taking the next step by integrating the appendices and other source material to really make the Hobbit feel like a true precursor to the epic.

The film, apart from the fantastic visuals, also has excellent casting. Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo, the loveable, bumbling burglar. Although, for the sake of the movie (being part of a trilogy), Bilbo does step up his game a bit. Richard Armitage also shines as Thorin, the leader of the 13 dwarves that arrive at Bilbo's doorstep looking for the 14th member of their party. Of course, as usual, the returning cast also shine (such as Ian McKellan as Gandalf, and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo).

The main concern I had going into the movie related to the visual effects. For the previous movies, Jackson utilized lots of practical effects (extras and miniature sets). However in the Hobbit, the vast majority (if not all) of the creatures are CGI, as is most of the scenery. At parts, these effects are pretty obvious and slightly distracting, but the overall effect works.

Overall, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a great start to the second trilogy of middle earth movies. Peter Jackson does a great job of tying the everything together and tries his best to make it feel like a single, contained movie, but it definitely feels more like part of a whole, long movie. Just like with his previous Tolkien movies, Jackson does take some liberties with the source material in order to adapt the book smoothly for the screen, but does so with the same keen eye that made the Lord of the Rings trilogy such a wide success.
(166 minutes - Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images - 2012)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Flashback Quick Reviews: "My Name Is Toxic"

My Name is Bruce - (3½ Stars)

My Name Is BruceWho do you call if an ancient Chinese god of war shows up and starts killing off townspeople? If you're the small town of Goldlick, Oregon you call Bruce Campbell since he has experience with this sort of thing (or rather, his character Ash, from the Evil Dead movies, does). Bruce Campbell plays himself (although a bit more self involved), but everyone in town treats him as if he's a character from one of his B-Movies.

The movie has a good mix of humor (some slapstick, some referential to Bruce's past movies). If you're a fan of Bruce Campbell and B-Movies, this movie is definitely for you. If not, then "My Name is Bruce" will probably not be your cup of tea.
(86 minutes - Rated R for language and some violence - 2007)

The Toxic Avenger - (2 Stars)

The Toxic Avenger
Regular schlub Melvin is the mop boy at the Tromaville gym until some bullies force him out a window and into a vat of toxic sludge. Melvin begins to mutate and turns into The Toxic Avenger, bent on dishing out justice to those who pick on the little guys and cause trouble in Tromaville, including those responsible for his transformation.

Troma was the king of low-budget B-movies in the 80's, starting with "The Toxic Avenger" and its various sequels. They're well known for plenty of over-the-top gore, low brow humor and general B-movie campiness. "The Toxic Avenger" is no exception. I'm generally a fan of this type of movie, but "Toxic..." was just too much for me. The gore was definitely ridiculous (in a good way), but apart from that, the movie as a whole is pretty shallow.
(82 minutes - Unrated - 1985)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises - Why Do We Fall?

The Dark Knight Rises - (5 Stars)

After what most people dubbed one of the greatest Comic movies of all time in "The Dark Knight," Christopher Nolan has the challenge of coming up with an epic conclusion to his Dark Knight trilogy. Apart from just the challenge of meeting high expectations, Nolan had to make a different movie than he probably initially would have planned with the untimely passing of Heath Ledger (The Joker). However, despite these obstacles, Nolan still manages to go out with a bang.

 "The Dark Knight Rises" picks up 8 years after the events of "The Dark Knight" and finds a Gotham almost free of crime due to the deal Batman and Commissioner Gordon make. However, both men are still haunted by what happened and the choices they made. Now, a new threat has come to Gotham in the form of Bane and the Dark Knight decides it may be time to come out of retirement.

The Dark Knight RisesNolan has brought together quite the cast, managing to fill even the smallest role with someone fitting.Tom Hardy is especially impressive and intimidating as Bane and the ensemble in general give great performance, along with several of the newcomers to the series like Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a by-the-books cop working under Commissioner Gordon, and Anne Hathaway as the mysterious Selina Kyle. The holdovers from previous movie continue their strong body of work: such as Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Christian Bale.

The movie is pretty large in scope (and running time), but it is surprisingly well paced for a movie nearing 3 hours. Probably helps in part due to the structure of the story, similar to the Avengers in that it seems to have three distinct acts to it (I've given them nicknames which may be spoilery: Broken, No Man's Land, Rise). There's a lot going on, but as is usual with Nolan he starts by laying out all the pieces of the puzzle before the movie begins to put everything together.

"The Dark Knight Rises" brings the trilogy full circle in terms of plot, themes and even the visuals with plenty of references or nods back to the previous movies as well as continuations of the themes. The movie brings a close to Nolan's Dark Knight story in a way only he could and really makes it feel like a truly epic three film character story arc.
(165 minutes - Rated PG-13 for  intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language - 2012)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed - My Calculations Are Flipping Pinpoint!

Safety Not Guaranteed - (4 Stars)

"WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED."

Safety Not GuaranteedThis is the ad in the newspaper that magazine employees Darius, Jeff and Arnau are sent to investigate. Looking for a good story, the three reporters try to determine whether the man who placed the ad is serious, or just looking for attention.

"Safety Not Guaranteed" has an all-around good cast, which is important as the movie definitely places an emphasis on the character's journey over the end goal (although the end result is very satisfying). Aubrey Plaza doing her usual "weird girl" thing as Darius, the lead intern. Jake Johnson, who's gained attention from FOX's "New Girl," is her boss, Jeff. Rounding out the main group of actors is Mark Duplass as the eccentric Kenneth, who claims to be able to time travel.

Overall, the movie is a funny, unique movie that's part offbeat comedy, part missing piece drama (finding one's identity) and entirely entertaining. It's a movie that strikes a perfect balance between comedy and drama, an overall feel good movie (with a few surprises in store).
(86 minutes - Rated R for language including some sexual references - 2012)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Not so Honest Abe?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - (2½ Stars)

What if Abe Lincoln was not just one of the most revered presidents, but also one of the most prevalent vampire hunters in American history? That's what Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter posits. So before he was working on freeing the slaves, he was attempting to rid America of vampires. The movie is based on the book by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also wrote "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies").

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterNow my review may be slightly biased based on the fact that I've read the book (more than once), but I would figure. What worked in the book, an adherence to the historical facts of Abe Lincoln's life with vampire hunting shoehorned in where it could, is what they depart from in the movie. The strangest part of all this is that it was the author of the book, Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the screenplay for the movie. Apparently he wasn't too fond of his original work and decided to "generic" it up.

Overall, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter took an interesting, unique idea and made it a pretty generic, albeit visually entertaining, action movie. The "set pieces" (not sure how many actual, physical sets were used) all help to create aesthetically pleasing mood for the movie and Benjamin Walker does a decent job as our nation's 16th vampire hunting president, but the movie just comes across as underwhelming.
(105 minutes - Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality - 2012)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quick Review: The Campaign - The Choice is up to you...

The Campaign - (3 Stars)

The CampaignThe Campaign follows two North Carolina Senators battling for a seat and doing anything it takes to get elected. Will Ferrell is the brash, egotistical Cam Brady who is so used to running unopposed in his district, he basically does whatever he wants. After opinion shifts, The Motch Brothers (criminally underused Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) decide to back a new candidate: Marty Huggins (an effeminate Zach Galifianakis). So begins the mayhem.

The movie is solidly funny with plenty of laughs, but the comedy does tend towards the raunchy side so it may not be for everyone. Ferrell and Galifianakis are their usual comedic selves (if you like them, you still will; if you don't like them...why are you watching the movie?). Dylan McDermott is also surprisingly funny as Marty's campaign manager. Overall, a decently funny comedy to keep you in the spirit of /take your mind off the results of the recent election.
(85 minutes - Rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity - 2012)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Prometheus - It starts with a BLERGH...

Prometheus - (4 Stars)

The Alien series has been around since the original 1979 "Alien" and has had various sequels and spin-offs spanning the decades. Now Ridley Scott has begun to bring the circle back around with his long-gestating (pun completely intended) prequel of sorts. "Prometheus" is not a direct prequel to Alien, but rather takes place in the same universe which leaves it free to follow it's own story beats and not be a slave to what happened in the original Alien, but still have plenty of nods towards the "future" movies.

PrometheusFor this trip to the Alien universe introduced by Ridley Scott in the original, we find ourselves following an expedition to an uncharted planet where several scientist believe they will find the origins of the human species. Noomi Rapace plays the lead scientist, the strong female lead, and is joined by a diverse (and entertaining) cast of other scientists, engineers and crew. Most notable of the remaining crew is Michael Fassbender as David (an android). His acting is top notch, especially when he shows off David's penchant for imitating T.E. Lawrence (as portrayed by Peter O' Toole in the classic "Lawrence of Arabia"). Of course, once everyone arrives at the planet, things do not go as expected.

Prometheus is a visually stunning sci-fi horror movie. Full of intrigue, suspense and various alien landscapes, the movie is definitely fun to look at. It definitely nails the atmosphere of its predecessors, but with more modern effects. Prometheus actually blends a lot of practical effects with CGI, so it doesn't like watching a video game like some more modern CGI heavy movies. The movie asks a lot of questions, answers a few, and leaves more open. For me, this approach works as I have not built up years and years worth of questions from the previous movies waiting for answers. Others who may be expecting to be able to run down their list of questions they want answers may be disappointed.

My advice for enjoying the movie is to just sit back and take it all in. Don't sit by waiting for each and every thing to be neatly explained or answered: because it won't. But with how well done everything else is, that doesn't make the movie any less enjoyable.
(124 Minutes - Rated R for sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language - 2012)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween Quick Review: The Mummy (1932)

The Mummy (1932) - 3½ Stars

The MummyAfter discovering a sarcophagus with strange inscriptions on the inside and an unusual scroll, some British Archaeologists accidentally unleash an ancient Mummy bent on restoring his deceased lover to life. Boris Karloff (the original Universal's Frankenstein monster) stars/chews the scenery as Imhotep/Ardath Bey the Mummy.

The Mummy is classic in terms of the mood, characters and makeup. Overall, however, it is more of a retread of some of the other Universal movies in terms of the story (Dracula in particular, there's even a Van Helsing type character played played by the same actor who played Van Helsing in Universal's Dracula). There is also a very disappointing amount of time with Karloff in full Mummy makeup.
(73 minutes - Unrated - 1932) (Netflix Streaming)

The Avengers - Assemble?

The Avengers - (4½ Stars)

Starting with 2008's Iron Man, Marvel has been slowly and steadily building up their movie universe bit by bit, quite the bold undertaking when it comes to cinema. There hasn't really been anything similar to the approach (apart from simple sequels). The pay-off (literally and figuratively) arrived this summer in the form of the super team-up The Avengers. Bringing together the likes of Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow as Earth's mightiest heroes called upon to defend (and Avenge) against whatever threat we may face.

Marvel's The AvengersOut of the gate Avengers can get straight to the story since they don't have to really introduce the characters. With the movie clocking in at around 2 and a half hours, this is definitely a plus. It's always tricky making a team movie work, but Joss Whedon delivers. He's had plenty of experience with ensembles in both the comics medium (writing Astonishing X-Men) and TV/Movies (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly/Serenity). Delivering action and drama, along with the trademark Whedon humor. With the Avengers, we have  a team of larger than life beings who really don't work well together, but yet in order to "save earth," they have to. It's these character dynamics that really make the movie.

The Avengers balances each character quite well without focusing, for the most part, on 1 or 2 characters. Captain America and Iron Man do receive more screen time than the others, but it in no way feels like it's just their movie. One of the best aspects of the movie comes from the newest addition to the cast, Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk). Each other Avenger also has their share of the spotlight along with head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury and his right-hand man, Agent Coulson (who have both been popping up in some of the previous movies).

The scope of the movie is huge, which both helps and hurts the movie. There's a lot going on, and Whedon does his best to keep things grounded despite the other-worldly aspects, but it does sometimes feel a little effects heavy (which I suppose is to be expected with a super hero movie of this magnitude). The film does lag at points, but it also has three very distinct acts that  really help the overall pacing of the movie. Overall, The Avengers stands as the jewel in Marvel's "Phase One" crown, capping a great run of standalone movies. Hopefully the momentum can continue with its "Phase Two" movies coming out over the next couple years (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy) as they lead up to the eventual Avengers sequel.
(143 minutes - Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference - 2012)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chronicle - I Was a Teenage Super-Hero

Chronicle - (3½ Stars)
With the ever increasing amount of super hero movies out there, it's getting harder and harder to make an imprint on the genre. Chronicle tries its hand at making a mark by implementing a new, albeit getting a little stale, angle: found footage. I don't necessarily have an issue with found footage films if they are done right, but the found footage has to serve a purpose. For the most part, the found footage approach works. There are only a few times where it seems a bit forced (usually preceded by a character even asking, "why are you filming?").

ChronicleChronicle focuses on three High School students who inexplicably stumble upon a cave that bestows them with various abilities related to telekinesis. Andrew is a loner who's home life is far from ideal. His only connection at school is his cousin Matt, his ride. Andrew is then introduced to Steve, the popular guy at school that everyone likes, through Matt on the fateful day that they discover the cave. The movie follows them as they discover what they can do and what happens as a result of them using their new-found powers.

To borrow a tagline from another prominent super hero movie: "with great power comes great responsibility" and the trio in Chronicle definitely struggle with this as the powers lead to some divisiveness among the friends. Overall, Chronicle is an interesting and fresh take on the super hero genre with a slightly tired approach effectively portraying a more realistic approach to what might happen if teenagers were granted special powers.
(84 minutes - Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking - 2012) (Netflix)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Year So Far...

2012 (so far):

12 Angry Men - (4½ Stars)
21 - (3 Stars)
21 Jump Street - (3 Stars)
The Adventures of Tintin - (3½ Stars)
An American Werewolf in London - (3 Stars)
The Artist - (4½ Stars)
Bernie - (3 Stars)
The Big Lebowski - (3½ Stars)
The Big Year - (3½ Stars)
The Cabin in the Woods - (4 Stars)
Cape Fear - (3½ Stars)
Children of the Corn - (3 Stars)
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop - (4 Stars)
Contagion - (4 Stars)
Creepshow 2 - (3 Stars)
The Dark Knight Rises - (5 Stars)
Dirty Harry - (3½ Stars)
Drive - (3½ Stars)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - (4½ Stars)
Following - (4 Stars)
Friends With Kids - (2 Stars)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - (3½ Stars)
The Grey - (4 Stars)
Hatfields & McCoys^ - (4 Stars)
The Hunger Games - (4½ Stars)
I'm Still Here - (2½ Stars)
J. Edgar - (2 Stars)
Larry Crowne - (3 Stars)
Limitless - (2 Stars)
Lockout - (3 Stars)
Man on a Ledge - (2½ Stars)
Margin Call - (2½ Stars)
Midnight in Paris - (4 Stars)
Mirror, Mirror - (2½ Stars)
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - (4½ Stars)
Monsters - (3 Stars)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - (4½ Stars)
The Pirates! Band of Misfits - (3½ Stars)
Robocop - (3½ Stars)
Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville^ - (4½ Stars)
Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall^ - (5 Stars)
Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia^ - (4½ Stars)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - (4 Stars)
The Thing (2011) - (3½ Stars)
This Means War - (3 Stars)
Timecrimes - (3½ Stars)
Total Recall (2012) - (2½ Stars)
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil - (4 Stars)
We Bought A Zoo - (4 Stars)
What to Expect When You're Expecting - (2 Stars)
Young Adult - (2 Stars)

^TV Movie (Sherlock episodes are basically movies, so I'm treating them as it if you haven't already!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just Because I Haven't Posted, Doesn't Mean I Haven't Watched...


127 Hours - (4 Stars)
30 Minutes or Less - (2 Stars)
50/50 - (4 Stars)
The Adjustment Bureau - (4½ Stars)
All Good Things - (2½ Stars)
All-Star Superman - (3½ Stars)
Arthur Christmas - (3½ Stars)
Bad Teacher - (1½ Stars)
Battle: Los Angeles - (2 Stars)
Beastly - (1½ Stars)
Black Swan - (3½ Stars)
Bridesmaids - (3 Stars)
Captain America: The First Avenger - (4½ Stars)
Cars 2 - (3½ Stars)
Cedar Rapids - (2½ Stars)
Charlie St. Cloud - (3½ Stars)
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader - (3½ Stars)
The Conspirator - (4 Stars)
Conviction - (3½ Stars)
Cowboys and Aliens - (3½ Stars)
Crazy, Stupid, Love - (3 Stars)
The Debt - (3 Stars)
Despicable Me - (3½ Stars)
Dinner for Schmucks - (3 Stars)
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog - (4 Stars)
Easy A - (3½ Stars)
Everything Must Go - (3 Stars)
Fair Game - (4 Stars)
The Fighter - (4 Stars)
Flipped - (4 Stars)
Freakonomics: The Movie - (3½ Stars)
Get Low - (3½ Stars)
Gnomeo & Juliet - (2½ Stars)
Going The Distance - (2 Stars)
The Green Hornet - (4 Stars)
Green Lantern - (3 Stars)
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights - (3 Stars)
Happythankyoumoreplease - (1 Star)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 - (4 Stars)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 - (4½ Stars)
The Help - (4 Stars)
Hereafter - (2 Stars)
Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil - (2½ Stars)
Horrible Bosses - (3 Stars)
Hot Rod - (4 Stars)
How Do You Know? - (2½ Stars)
Hugo - (4½ Stars)
I Am Number Four - (3 Stars)
The Ides of March - (2½ Stars)
Inside Job - (2½ Stars)
Jane Eyre - (4 Stars)
Just Go With It - (3 Stars)
The King’s Speech - (4½ Stars)
Knight And Day - (3½ Stars)
Kung Fu Panda 2 - (3 Stars)
Let Me In - (3 Stars)
The Lincoln Lawyer - (3 stars)
Little Fockers - (2½ Stars)
MacGruber - (1½ Star)
Me And Orson Welles - (3½ Stars)
The Money Pit - (2½ Stars)
Moneyball - (4 Stars)
Morning Glory - (3½ Stars)
The Muppets - (5 Stars)
The Next Three Days - (3 Stars)
The Other Guys - (3½ Stars)
Our Idiot Brother - (2 Stars)
Paul - (3½ Stars)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - (4 Stars)
Poltergeist - (4 Stars)
POM Wonderful presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - (4 Stars)
Rabbit Hole - (3 Stars)
Ramona And Beezus - (4 Stars)
Rango - (3 Stars)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - (4½ Stars)
Romancing the Stone - (2½ Stars)
Salt - (3½ Stars)
Sarah's Key - (4 Stars)
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - (4 Stars)
Skyline - (1 Star)
The Social Network - (4 Stars)
Source Code - (4½ Stars)
Super 8 - (4½ Stars)
Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam - (3 Stars)
The Switch - (3½ Stars)
Thor - (4 Stars)
The Tourist - (2 Stars)
The Town - (2½ Stars)
True Grit - (4½ Stars)
Unknown - (3 Stars)
Unstoppable - (3½ Stars)
Water for Elephants - (3 Stars)
Win Win - (4 Stars)
Winnie the Pooh  - (3½ Stars)
X-Men: First Class - (4½ Stars)
Yogi Bear - (2 Stars)
Your Highness - (2 Stars)

Some of these were already covered on the site, just posted the whole list to make sure nothing was missed. More to come soon...