Marter's Reviews

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:47 am

GrinningManiac wrote:also the "setup" of Setup is identical to the American remake of the Italian Job
Huh. You're right.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Dec 02, 2012 10:14 pm

The Love Guru
The Love Guru marks Mike Myers' attempt to step back into live action after the miserable Cat in the Hat movie. If nothing else, this film is better than that one, even if it's just about as forgettable. Actually, it might be more forgettable, if only because The Cat in the Hat probably mentally scarred more children than it would care to admit. This one probably won't have the same effect, although if you have an aversion to male genital jokes, you'll want to avoid it anyway.

Myers, who also produced and co-wrote the film, plays a man named Guru Pitka, who holds seminars on how to improve lives and whatnot. His goal in life is to become as well-known as Deepak Chopra, and to accomplish that, he believes that he needs to get on Oprah. He's about to get that opportunity, if he can fix the star player for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco). Roanoke had his wife (Meagan Good) leave him, and hasn't been able to play hockey properly since. So, the "Love Guru" is brought in to solve the relationship problems at the request of the team's owner, Jane (Jessica Alba), and if he can do so, Oprah will have him on her show.

Most of the film involves whimsical skits that only have vague connections to each other. It's kind of like watching Saturday Night Live, which I suppose makes sense considering Myers' background. Basically, anything that Myers wants his character to do, he will do, and if that doesn't make much sense, the character's nature is blamed for the lack of coherency. It works to some extent, although it grows tiresome after a while.

You can kind of see how low the film's aiming when it casts Verne Troyer as the coach of the Leafs. And if you just laughed, this movie is perfect for you and you should go watch it right now. Oh, and Justin Timberlake plays a French Canadian goaltender who stole Roanoke's wife, making the two rivals. And Ben Kingsley shows up as Guru Pitka's cross-eyed guru. And Stephen Colbert gets the most laughs of anyone, turning up as a hockey announcer who would never get a job with CBC but that's kind of the point, I think.

Myers is Canadian, and I'm sure he wrote the film with lots of love to his home country, but I'd like him to explain to me exactly why so much of the hockey aspect is wrong in this film. Each team gets one timeout per game, not multiple. Referees do not have the power to suspend players for upcoming games. And why, oh why, would Rob Blake be taking a face-off with 31 seconds to go in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals -- especially when it's a tied game? And was he not aware that overtime is a thing and that it happens if a game finished in a tie?

I have a feeling it was done in the spirit of satire, but that doesn't come across well in the film. Instead, it comes across as laziness that he hopes he will get away with because it's a film made for American audiences and most of them won't really care. But, then, I think about how many Americans would be interested at all in a film based around hockey players and hockey culture, and wonder exactly why they would be the target audience in the first place, especially with the financial trouble that many American hockey teams face.

Really, I think the only ones who would appreciate it are the big hockey fans out there. That's right, Canadians, this is a movie for you, even if the element you'll like has been chopped up a little. You'll at least get many of the jokes (that don't involve male genitalia), which isn't something that a non-fan could say. If you do like low-brow humor, then you'll probably like it regardless, but if you also happen to like hockey, you'll probably have a better chance of getting it.

So, yeah, I did kind of like The Love Guru, even if it's all over the place, doesn't really make a lot of sense, and feels rushed. But for a 90 minute escape from reality, it does the job well enough. I laugh quite a few times, I felt fine after watching it, and while I'll probably forget about it in a few days, it passed the time just fine. I wasn't really expecting it to do much more than that, and I don't really know why you would.

While Mike Myers doesn't exactly create an iconic character here like he did with Austin Powers -- or even Shrek, to a lesser extent -- he's likable here and you always want to see what shenanigans he'll get up to next. He's what drives the film, even if many of the supporting cast members are funnier. It was mostly the small roles, like Colbert's, that made me laugh the most. I don't want to spoil some of the cameos, but there are a bunch and seeing them will likely make you smile.

The Love Guru is a harmless distraction of a film that makes so little sense that it's almost worth watching for the train wreck that it is. It's funny, admittedly, but probably only that way if you like low-brow humor or if you're a hockey fan. I'm not exactly sure who the film is for, but I know that, for the most part, I did laugh, and I had a good time. That's not necessarily a recommendation, as it's not really well made, the characters have no depth, and there's nothing special about it, but for a 90 minute distraction -- look, it's an elephant!
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:42 pm

Gangs of New York
Gangs of New York certainly looks good. While I wasn't in New York during the 1800s, I felt like I was after watching this movie. It captures both the look and the feel of the era, and you should watch it just to spend almost three hours in this place. And, hey, this is supposedly based of semi-true events, so you'll be learning something in the process. Add on a couple of very, very good performances, and you have the makings of a good movie.

We begin with an absolutely amazing battle scene involving two gangs fighting for their right to survive in New York, sometime in the mid 1800s. The leader of one gang, the "Natives," is Bill Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), while the other, the "Dead Rabbits," is led by Priest (Liam Neeson). We get a touch of buildup, and then we see the battle. It's gruesome without being graphic, and it's visceral without being gory. It's also very thrilling and perfectly staged. Cutting wins, and we see the respect that he had for his fallen rival. The Dead Rabbits is forced to disband, leaving Priest's son, Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio), alone in the world.

Sixteen years pass, and Amsterdam returns to New York, seeking revenge. He isn't going to just go kill Mr. Cutting, though, presumably because that would be too easy. He decides instead to befriend him, infiltrate his system of trust, and then stab him in the back. Why? Because that's the only way that we can get to the point in America's history where conscription began to come about, because we need to have those opposed to the draft rise up and become rebels, making sure that the film is about something more than a simple revenge story.

Eventually, we do build up to a sequence of events wherein Amsterdam and Cutting finally get to settle their differences, and the rioters get their time to shine. After the prologue, this is the best part of the movie. It's also the end, and there are approximately two hours between these two points in time which need to be filled. Unfortunately, not all of that time is a worthwhile watch, leading to some boredom, some tedium, and a viewing experience that, at times, seems to drag on and on.

And it's not as if there wasn't room to cut. There's a love interest in the film for Amsterdam played by Cameron Diaz that could have been completely removed, shaving off 20 minutes or so, and the film would be better for it. Not only would we remove Diaz, which is almost always a plus, but we'd cut out an element that simply didn't work. Diaz and DiCaprio had no chemistry, there's little actual focus on the relationship, and it pads the film's running time -- which definitely didn't need padding.

A long movie is fine if the story and characters can justify that running time. If there's something here worth telling, then I'm fine with a film taking its 3 hours. But there are only three main characters here, only one of whom (Cutting) is actually interesting, and the story has been told before, better, and in a much shorter time frame. Sure, a slow burn as Amsterdam gets in close with Cutting makes it more plausible, but the magic of film would allow for that anyway.

With that said, for the most part, I didn't mind the length because of how stunning Gangs of New York is to look at. From the set design to the costuming to the cinematography -- everything is gorgeous. You believe that you're in this era, and you want to stay just to learn more about it. It's an amazing film to look at, and if all you want is eye-candy that's not all special effects, this is the film for you. Nobody does this kind of thing better than Martin Scorsese.

However, not a whole lot happens in those two hours in the middle of the film, and if you're hoping for some really fun moments, you'll be missing out. It's a mostly dialogue-driven film, and while that's not really a bad thing, the beginning scene sets our expectations up and then doesn't live up to them. The inevitable battle between Amsterdam and Cutting stars building as soon as the former arrives back in Lower Manhattan, but nothing actually comes of it for far too long. There aren't even many tense scenes in which Amsterdam is possibly going to be found out; he just goes about his business without any conflict for most of the time.

Daniel Day-Lewis is the star of Gangs of New York, even if he isn't the main character. He steals the show in every scene he's in, with the determination and screen presence that captivates. He's charismatic, yet evil, conflicted and complex, but with simple desires and ambitions. You understand all of this not all because of the script, but because of the performance turned in by Day-Lewis.

Gangs of New York is a movie that looks beautiful, has a few moments of brilliance, and has one tremendous performance, but also drags on and contains a pointless love interest that hurts it. It ultimately does overcome its flaws, thanks to how beautiful it looks and how it makes you feel like you're back in the 1880s, but if you're in the mood for a short dose of adrenaline, this isn't the film for you. It's a slow burn that's worth it only for the patient among you.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Katzenjammer on Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:24 pm

Review There Will Be Blood.

Pretty please?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:47 pm

I have done, a long while back.

Long story short: I wasn't too big a fan. Much of it was there for Daniel Day-Lewis to completely destroy -- not because it makes a compelling picture. It felt overlong, and while it was well photographed, it wasn't put together all that well. Pretty simple story, too. An actor's showcase without a whole lot more to carry it.

Yes, I recognize I'm in the vast minority here.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by GrinningManiac on Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:58 pm

I'm with you - I like Gangs of New York for looking at and for D-D-L or Diddle as I have just started calling him as of the seconds ago when I wrote that.

He's so cooooool. He revived a dead accent from the 1880s for the film, he learnt how to use knives, he tapped his FREAKING EYE with a SHARP KNIFE as an IMPROV. Badass.

DiCaprio is cool in Inception but I can't think of many films where I'm not aware that he's a sort of Orlando Bloom - a bit of a wussy, forgettable character that unfortunately always ends up in films with bigger characters - Aragorn, Captain Jack Sparrow n stuff - that outshines the already outshone character.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:15 pm

DiCaprio was really good in Blood Diamond. And Shutter Island.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:23 pm

Review that new movie about pie.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:56 pm

The Vow
Once upon a time, two sweet lovers, Paige and Leo (Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum) vowed that they would love each other through thick or thin, in sickness and in health, and all the other things that your typical wedding ceremony includes. A few years later, they were in a car accident, and she lost all memory of their time together, and of anything in the last half-decade, or possibly even longer. Brain trauma sucks, so now he has to convince her that she loved him, and help her re-discover that love.

Meanwhile, her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) are trying to bring her back home. For reasons she can't remember, she left home and hasn't spoken to them in years. But they don't care about that, just as long as she's on good terms with them now. She also is back on good terms with ex-fiance Jeremy (Scott Speedman), as she can't remember why they broke up in the first place. It's like she's back in her mid-20s, free from all of the decisions she's made in the past few years that she can't ever see herself making. That's got to feel kind of liberating.

That is, unless you're in Leo's role, in which case it would feel awful. He still loves her, but she's turned into quite the unlikable person. She's more prone to snapping, she doesn't even want to look him in the eye, and it's clear that she still loves Jeremy. But since he made the titular Vow, he's going to continue to fight for her. If Tatum was a good dramatic actor, this would be a character worth caring about. Unfortunately, he's not, and as a result, the character comes across as pathetic instead of devoted.

The Vow is a romantic drama, and fails in both aspects. The romance is unbelievable because the two actors have no chemistry and the writing is pretty bad, while the drama fails because one of the two leads isn't good at this sort of thing, and because the writing is pretty bad. Did I mention the writing? Well, it's pretty bad. Worse than using "pretty bad" to describe something three times in a row. There are so many cringe-worthy lines and the actors can't say any of them like they mean them.

There isn't much of a story, either. With a screenplay this thin, it's hard to keep your focus on the events on-screen. The two character do things that are frequently unrelated to events that came prior, and often repeat themselves. It's not quite as repetitive as another memory-based romance, 50 First Dates, but these people continue to say and do the same things that it's really hard not to check out. And it's also 104 minutes long, even though there's maybe an hour's worth of content.

The Vow also does what a lot of bad movies do when looking for a crutch: It bases its plot on true events. Apparently, there was a couple who actually went through what the characters in this film do. What I take from that is that at one point in time, one person lost his or her memory and that had an impact on his or her family and friends. All of the contrivances have probably been added by the filmmakers; it even says something similar at the end of the credits. But they can use the "it's real" defense if I want to point out how clichéd it all is if they want.

I can't think of a point in time where I wasn't bored. The only parts I enjoyed was when Tatum was trying to be funny, in large part because he can be. He's a decent comedic actor with his complete lack of genuine emotion and deadpan delivery, and when he tries to be funny here, it works. But this isn't a rom-com, as it tries to treat its subject matter with more respect than that genre might allow. This doesn't stop it from being clichéd and unoriginal, though.

The pacing is so slow, the actors don't seem to care, and nothing adds up to anything of value. I get that I'm not quite in the target audience for a release like this, but I don't actually see why anyone would enjoy this movie. There's nothing good about it. I can't see anyone taking a step back after it ends and thinking "Wow, that sure was a moving and inspiring motion picture." Okay, so its message is fine, but it doesn't come across well when you don't care whatsoever for the people delivering it.

None of the actors -- whether due to the lacking script or a lack of talent -- make us feel for their characters. Tatum and Speedman both have a complete lack of depth, while McAdams is too much of a jerk to be sympathetic. They're not complex people, either, driven by a single ambition that's as simplistic as it is human nature. They're all just so bland and boring that you hope for the couple to get back together just so that everyone, including yourself, can move on.

The Vow is dull, clichéd, boring, and poorly written. The screenplay is lifeless, the actors are dull, the characters are one-dimensional, and there is nothing in the film worth your time. Actually, there's a cute cat that's there for a couple of scenes. He looked like he could use some love. Maybe watch The Vow for the cat. Sadly, it was probably the most convincing acting in the movie. At least I thought that the cat was worth looking at. Cute, cute kitty cat.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:00 pm

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
There's a line in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance that perfectly encapsulates my thoughts about the film: "So, that happened." In the movie, it's used by Nicolas Cage as a way of playing off something that did, indeed, just happen, as he describes a story to some people. I use it because I'm still not entirely sure what just happened, but I'm almost positive I didn't dream it up. If I did, however, that's one weird dream and I believe a lengthy stay at the psych ward might just be in order.

Technically a sequel to Ghost Rider, Spirit of Vengeance picks up eight years later, partially modifies the way in which Johnny Blaze (Cage) becomes the titular hero, and then proceeds to completely ignore the film. If I was tasked with creating a Ghost Rider movie, I'd aim to draw as much attention away from the 2007 installment, too. That one, for those who are able to remember it, was an overlong and dull mess of a movie, one that had almost no redeeming factors. And, for a movie that came out in 2007, it looked awful, with some of the worst CGI I had ever seen coming out of Hollywood. All that for $110 million.

Apparently that film made enough money to warrant a sequel, so Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the collective genius behind the over-the-top (and cheap) Crank films were brought in. Nic Cage returned, too, presumably because he still needs the money, but also possibly because he genuinely likes the character. Either way, Cage and the Rider are basically the only connections to the previous film, while this one was only given about half the budget.

It feels to me like it's taking the James Bond approach, meaning that the character is just going on a singular mission, not one that directly relates to any of the events that previously took place. You know the character, sure, but he almost starts off as a blank slate each time, and just gets to go on another adventure. Blaze begins the film hiding out in Europe, staying away from everyone possible because if he does that, he thinks he'll be able to keep the Rider at bay.

That doesn't work so well with these types of characters, because we're watching the movie to see them, not some mopey human, so, soon enough, Blaze is given one last job: Rescue a child, Danny (Fergus Riordan), bring him to the church, and he'll have the Devil's curse taken away for good. Mr. Blaze can then live a relatively normal life, and if he succeeds and doesn't want to keep his powers, it means we, the audience, won't have to sit through another Ghost Rider movie. Everybody wins!

What results is a bunch of action scenes involving Blaze, Danny's mother, Nadya (Violante Placido), and a man who will eventually become Blackout (Johnny Whitworth). Oh, the Devil himself (Ciarán Hinds) gets involved, too, for reasons that go into spoiler territory, but mostly because we need a bigger bad guy to give Blackout his powers. Idris Elba gives Blaze his mission, and winds up playing a larger role later on. It's mostly Nic Cage's film, though, as he plays the antihero of the title.

I'm happy to say that, at the very least, this Ghost Rider looks better than the previous one. While the budget was trimmed in half, it quickly becomes clear why the team of Neveldine and Taylor were hired. They make good looking films on a budget. This time around, Ghost Rider actually looks like he's not made of PS1 quality graphics. If nothing else, it looks like a movie that could be released in 2012. The CGI is, on the whole, not bad, and a lot of detail went into it. The directors' signature style is here, too, so you're going to get a lot of odd camera angles and frenetic editing.

That doesn't really make it good, but at least it's not dull, which is pretty much the same thing you could say about both Cranks. It tells a much more simple story, introduces basic, archetypal characters, and is composed mostly of action scenes, and is campy as all get-out. It even gets in about three Nic Cage freakout scenes, which are almost worth the time commitment -- which is only around 90 minutes, instead of the 110 of the last film -- alone.

Honestly, I don't expect a whole lot more than this -- especially after the earlier installment -- so I can't exactly say I was disappointed by Spirit of Vengeance. I did have fun, and if that's all you're looking for, you should have a decent time here. How many films have Nic Cage awkwardly trying to be a father figure to the antichrist (spoilers!) in one scene, and then have him in an insane interrogation scene in the next? This one does, and that interrogation is absolutely hilarious and something that you must see. Someone will eventually post it on YouTube in a Nic Cage compilation (if they haven't already) and even if you don't want to watch the movie, find that scene.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has actors that are too talented to be in it (I'm thinking of Elba and Placido here), a script that gives us a reason for action scenes and nothing much more, and a committed, insane performance by Nicolas Cage. It's a campy, fun movie given to us cheaply by a tag-team of directors who know how to have a good time at the movies. It's not really good, but it's enjoyable and it looks pretty good, so if you want to see what an enjoyable Ghost Rider film could look like, this is the one you should pick. "So, that happened." Indeed, it did, and I'm actually kind of glad that it did, crazy at it is.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:52 pm

Moving McAllister
Moving McAllister is a rom-com road movie without a single bit of coherency or point. It's boring, clichéd, makes little sense, and gives you no reason to watch it. However, it does feature an interesting cast and is only 90 minutes long, which might make you have second thoughts about skipping it. That's the reason I decided to give it a look, and although I mostly wasted my time, it wasn't completely terrible -- just mostly so. Now if only it had something more than an interesting cast, or maybe a point.

The film stars Ben Gourley, the person who also wrote the film, as Rick, a law intern working his way up the corporate ladder. When his boss, Maxwell McAllister (Rutger Hauer), gives him an opportunity to prove his worth, he jumps at it. He has to drive a package and his boss' niece, Michelle (Mila Kunis), to California. And he only has a few days, as his bar exam is in four days. Equipped with a rundown truck and a schedule, the pair embarks on a cross-country trip. Along the way, they run into a bunch of problems that they'll have to overcome, and also build up their relationship to the point of rom-com tropes.

They also pick up a hitchhiker, Orlie (Jon Heder), who bonds instantly with the Hollywood-bound niece. You might think that this will make for a love triangle, but that never comes up. And Orlie gets ejected from the film early enough for him to not matter, so I had to wonder what the point was of his inclusion. To let Jon Heder do his slacker shtick again? Because people still find that funny? I'm thinking there was a reason at some point in the film's production, but something happened to render his character redundant.

Mostly, though, we just watch the characters stumble their way through several snags on their way from Miami to Los Angeles. Things happen without much reason, anything that Michelle wants to happen will, and Rick is mostly just along for the ride, although because he sounds exasperated all the time, you know he's not happy about the turn of events.

I think having Rick sound like that is supposed to make him endearing. We get that not everything is going his way, and that he has a schedule that needs to be kept and everything, but I found myself not caring. The whole premise of the film is showing us all the zany actions that people get into while on the road, so having a character so adverse to those antics makes him feel like a contrarian to the basic idea of the movie. It's like he's constantly fighting what Moving McAllister wants to show us, and that's not at all endearing.

Michelle isn't much better, if only because she's not at all a nice person. The attempt is made to present her as a free spirit, but she's mostly a commanding and manipulative individual. The first time we see her, she drugs Rick, delaying him. That trend continues throughout the movie. And whenever Rick ends up unconscious -- frequently, which is unfortunate -- he has very odd dreams. I'm sure there's a point to them, but I started checking out around the time the second one rolled around; they were boring and seemed out of place in a film like this.

There is some fun to be had with a few of the stops that the crew takes on their journey. Spoiling them would ruin the surprise, but there are a couple of times when I laughed simply because the film had the guts to go there. The events themselves were the fun -- not the characters, who are bland or unlikable, but the events, like when ... no, I'm not going to ruin it for you. Let's just say that they are more fun than anything else in the movie, and they only last for a few moments.

Much of Moving McAllister is spent inside the truck, allowing us to watch these two characters do absolutely nothing of interest. There isn't any chemistry between the two actors, they're both playing unlikable people, and whenever they're together, the film starts grinding to a halt. The movie needs random events to excite the audience, but they don't tie into the story except to bring the two characters closer together -- even though that doesn't feel like it's happening until the last scene of the movie when you go: "Really? They were supposed to be bonding? Huh."

It doesn't help that our leading man, Ben Gourley, is not a very good actor. If the role was given to someone else, something interesting might have been done with it. Unfortunately, he's one-note, only being the exasperated fellow who thinks the world is crashing down around him. Kunis provides the energy, but no depth, while Hauer is underutilized in the few scenes he's given. Finally, Jon Heder continues to annoy me in everything he's in.

Moving McAllister is a boring and clichéd road comedy crossed with a loveless and joyless rom-com. It stars a lead who has one note and one note only, jokes that don't go anywhere, and actors who don't appear to enjoy being in the same room with one another. The fun actors are given nothing to work with, the writing is tiresome, certain elements don't make sense, and the film as a whole just doesn't work at all. There are a couple of fun parts, but you have very little reason to give this flick a look.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:26 pm

Hitchcock
Hitchcock is certainly a film about a Hitchcock, but which one? Is it the famous director, Alfred (portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in a fat suit, prosthetic and an extensive makeup job)? Or is it perhaps about his wife, the woman behind the master of suspense, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren)? I'm leaning toward the latter, given that she comes away as the most celebrated figure in the film, more so than Alfred and even more than the film that is being made during its events, Psycho. Yes, this is a film that takes place during the events leading up to, during, and directly following Psycho, perhaps the most well-known of Hitchcock's films.

It is apparently not the best, with a recent poll placing his Vertigo as the best film of all time. But it is the one that comes to mind quickest whenever someone mentions the director. It makes sense to set a film around its creation, the challenges that were involved, and so on. What it comes across as is largely a DVD extra that could be titled "The Making of Psycho: A Dramatic Retelling." Perhaps it will be bundled with future home video releases.

The opening and concluding scenes play out like an episode from Hitchcock's television show, eerily put together. Anthony Hopkins does not stand before us, introducing us to the tale we're about to witness; it is Hitchcock, having risen from the dead, to host a movie about a select portion of his life. The makeup and costume job on Hopkins is phenomenal. He becomes the famous director, and will continue to do so for the rest of the film. If impersonations win Oscar nominations, Hopkins will have another one with this film.

Hitchcock does not portray its lead as a hero, or even as a terribly good man. He's out of shape, he drinks way too much, and he's lustful. The blondes he casts in his movies are fantasies to him, despite his marriage. We are captivated by him regardless. Not the film around him, but he, as a person, can make anything fascinating. This imperfect being created movies that wowed audience for decades, and he's here, on-screen, giving us a look into how his most famous work was created. There's something astonishing about this, even if it's not really Hitchcock doing it; it feels like him because of Hopkins' performance.

The film deals with both Psycho's creation and the tumultuous relationship between Alfred and Alma. Alma is the type of wife who takes care of her husband at all turns, but also wants to do something fun for herself. When another man, a writer named Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) comes along and gives her that chance, Alfred gets jealous and suspicious.

Alma, on the other hand, is just looking to have some fun. She gets a monologue late in the picture about how controlling Alfred is, and how she is his most loyal fan. Wouldn't you know it, she winds up saving Psycho. She is the true hero of our story. The film turns on a dime after this monologue, with the rest of the film taking a much lighter tone, and shining a light on Alma at every chance. Prior to it, it uneasily moves from darkness to comedy. It didn't know what to do with each scene.

That's kind of the problem here, isn't it? You go to see a movie about Hitchcock and you're almost expecting allusions and homages to his various works. Trying to bring those across, keeping in typical Hitchcock style, while also telling a relatively lighthearted drama leads to a lot of clashing, and the result is a mess. It simply doesn't quite work until it stops trying to mimic the man it's representing. There are even scenes where Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) appears as Hitchcock's hallucinations and dreams, representing his potential to do harm, that shift things further into the dark.

Not that anything's ever done with those scenes. The "evil" side rarely comes up, and when it does it's played off as comedy. The film is uneven and is never as sure of itself as it would like to be. It'll play out a scene, and then almost turn to the audience and go "... right?" as if it wants our approval. Hitchcock is based on Stephen Rebello's non-book about the making of Psycho; it should know what it wants to do and just go about doing that.

It's still worth watching, if only to see the transformation that Anthony Hopkins goes through in order to play the lead. He doesn't look exactly like Hitchcock, but it's certainly close enough to fool most people. And because his mannerisms are all so perfect, the slight parts of his face that aren't exact soon don't matter. Helen Mirren is also quite good as the under appreciated wife, although since Alma was not in the public eye as much, it's harder to judge whether she was a good representation of the real thing.

Hitchcock is a valiant effort but ultimately nothing more than a dramatic representation of what you'd find on a Psycho DVD. Anthony Hopkins is superb, really making you feel like Hitchcock has returned from the grave, and Helen Mirren gives the more emotional of the two performances, but the film surrounding them is tonal inconsistent and constantly awaiting our approval, as if it's never sure about what it's portraying. It's funny at times, and kind of scary at others, but it only hits its stride in the last 20 minutes or so, with the parts leading up to that feeling like something is off. It's admirable, and I think it's worth seeing, but maybe as a supplement after watching Psycho again.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:34 pm

The Evil Dead
A short time before The Evil Dead was created, director Sam Reimi along with star Bruce Campbell shot the short film Within the Woods, which convinced investors that the pair had the ability to create a low budget horror film. Given less than $400,000, they created The Evil Dead, and probably became best friends on the process, although reports on that one are unconfirmed. Regardless, Campbell is front and center in this film, and with Reimi at the helm, you can be in for anything.

"Anything" is just about an apt description of the events that unfold over the course of the film. The basic plot line is something you're going to be familiar with. Five young adults are going to a run-down cabin in the woods, across a creaky bridge, and isolated from absolutely everyone. They rented it for cheap, so their expectations aren't that high, but apart from things moving on their own and then suddenly stopping, it doesn't seem too bad. That is, until they find an odd book and a recording which recites some incantation that sounds kind of funny. Maybe it was Latin; I honestly don't care enough to look it up.

They're told that the book is called "The Book of the Dead," which would be reason enough for me to turn off the recording and head home. Curious, they play the recording even after it tells them that the incantations can resurrect spirits -- because who honestly believes that? -- and soon enough, the spirits of the dead are coming for them. One of the women is possessed, other nastiness occurs, and it's all kind of scary and kind of funny at the same time.

It's also very bloody, and if you don't like seeing copious amounts of fake blood being thrown at the characters, then you'll want to avoid The Evil Dead. This isn't a film for everyone, and if you really hate cartoonish violence and gore, then there are better films for you to see. You'll also probably want to put aside this one if you're hoping to be scared, as there are only a few genuinely scary moments, with most of the film being too silly to actually frighten. Sure, there are a couple of parts that might make you jump, but when the tone is so light, it's hard to take it seriously.

That's not to say that I think the intent of the filmmakers was to make a serious horror film, as if it was, they went about it all the wrong ways. The extreme camera angles, the aforementioned blood, the laughable dialogue -- it's clear that the film was aimed to be more of a comedy than a horror film. I mean, even the story is ridiculous when you get right down to it. You could argue that about many horror films, but they play it straight, whereas The Evil Dead winks at you while it's playing.

It does take a long time to get to this point, however, which is a problem. The first thirty minutes or so involve cheap fake-scares like the bridge kind of falling apart while they're driving over it, or a swing set that is having a little too much fun swinging by itself without any wind, and while build-up like this can work in some horror films, it doesn't work here. I was already tired of the film before anything major happened, and it was hard to get into it after the real horror starts. The film eventually won me over, but it took way longer than it realistically should have.

The characters are all underdeveloped, and apart from Bruce Campell's character, Ash, they could all be the same person. He only stands out because he's quite clearly the lead, and gets the camera pointed at his face the most frequently. They're all there to either die or be covered in blood from another person's death, and while they all serve that function, I can't help but wish that another character or two would have stood out. I can't even remember their names, as it's impossible to care about them once you realize their purpose.

The special effects are also terrible, although do you expect more from a film made in 1981 with a budget of under $400,000? I'm not saying that necessarily as a negative, as it helps with the whole cheesy aesthetic, but if terrible effects take you out of a film, then they might bother you a lot in The Evil Dead. Setting most of the film in the dark helps hide them, but there are certain parts that look so terrible that you can't help but laugh.

Perhaps the most impressive part about The Evil Dead is the camerawork, which is used in an unconventional way. Frequently it'll go into a POV tracking shot of some unseen force, or an extreme angle that's rarely used in most films. It actually draws attention to itself because of the way that cinematographer Tim Philo moves the camera around. But just watching the different shots is something that I could do for an hour and a half, and in the slower first third, that's what I focused the most on.

The Evil Dead is a good film that mixes scares and laughs fairly well. I don't think it's great, largely due to a lack of interesting characters and a very slow build-up before the excrement hits the fan, but once it gets rolling, it doesn't stop, and becomes very enjoyable. It's a cheap horror-comedy, but that helps it sell itself to us. If it's not taking itself too seriously, why should we? There's no answer apart from "we shouldn't" that I can give you.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:27 pm

Evil Dead II
Evil Dead II might have a number in its title, but it doesn't play out all that much like a sequel. It's more like a mulligan, like a remake of the first Evil Dead. In that film, a group of young adults went up to a remote cabin in the woods and unleashed the spirits of the dead thanks to an evil book. In this one, only one of the characters returns, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), and he is once again going to a cabin in the woods, isolated from the rest of the world.

He's joined only by his girlfriend, who jokes with him about the cabin while they're in the car, almost like they've seen the first film and are reminiscing. She dies soon enough, and much of the film is singularly focused on Ash. He sees a book, "The Book of the Dead," from the first film, a record player that recites some incantations supposed to resurrect spirits, and you can pretty much figure out where it's going to go from there. She dies, and he's going to have to fight off the evil spirits.

Ash has undergone a character change in this not-really-a-sequel to The Evil Dead. There, he was kind of a nerdy, reluctant hero. Here, he has decided to be the kind of cocksure man continuously spouting one-liners and having no problem going headfirst into danger. This is another reason why it's confusing to even call Evil Dead II a sequel, as the main character is completely different, even though he shares the same name and actor. Sure, the initial "why he is going back to the cabin in the woods after what happened last time?" question is jarring, but this is a much longer-lasting feeling.

Anyway, once the horror starts, it doesn't stop. Spirits are relentless, having nothing to lose in their quest to come back from the dead, and it's up to Ash Williams to take them all down. He's better prepared this time around, knowing where all the weapons are and figuring out quickly how to use them, and without unnecessary secondary characters to get in his way, he's totally ready for anything that the spirits will throw at him. That is, until secondary characters do show up, and the film slows down a bit.

It also becomes less humorous, which is a shame. The lighthearted tone is still there, but it just isn't as funny, for some reason. Early in the film, when it's just Ash alone with the spirits, there are many points where the insanity is so strong that it's hard not to laugh. Ash even has a couple of times when he has to laugh. The spirits are even laughing along with him! But once the secondary humans show up -- their collective purpose is to be killed or covered in blood -- the humor seemed to drain from the film.

Maybe the improved special effects were part of the problem. Much of the film is doused in effects, and they all actually look pretty good. The first Evil Dead had laughable effects, but because they looked cheap, it was funny to watch them. In this one, they're excessive and over-the-top, but they look fine so there's nothing to laugh at. You just get bored with the constant blood and gore that covers these characters, or the relentless spirits that should really just give up.

I appreciated in this film how the set-up for the premise doesn't take any additional time that it doesn't need. There are only about ten minutes before the spirits start attacking, and once they begin, they don't stop until the very end. It's refreshing after watching The Evil Dead and waiting over thirty minutes before the horror begins. In this one, we only have to wait those ten minutes, even though the film's running time is on par with its predecessor. You get more action and horror this time around, leading to a more enjoyable film overall.

The "bigger is better" approach to sequel making was taken here by director Sam Raimi, and the film is better for it. You get a lot of silliness, still, but there are some genuinely tense and thrilling action scenes scattered throughout. How many films have a character cut off his own hand and attach a chainsaw to it -- while also wielding a shotgun with his other hand? This one does, and if you can find me another, I'll be grateful.

Evil Dead II does feel overly familiar, largely because it's like a pseudo-remake of the first Evil Dead. Many of the set-pieces and plot points have been reused here, and there's a certain lack of freshness to the whole production. Yes, it's still fun, and you get more of the exciting portion this time around, but some of it was done better before. It really does feel like a redo of something that was somewhat successful earlier. Maybe an upgrade, using better special effects thanks to a larger budget. I guess it's the charm of the first film that's really missing.

Still, I enjoyed Evil Dead II more than The Evil Dead because of the way it moved quickly into the action-horror portion of the film. Because it's frequently entertaining, I tended to overlook some of the issues, like the lack of real characters and the rehashing of previous events, as I constantly had something thrown at me that would hold my attention. This is a bigger and better version of The Evil Dead, even if it was missing some of the charm that came from its lower budget predecessor.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:54 pm

Army of Darkness
At the end of Evil Dead II, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) was sent back to 1300 AD thanks to a time portal opened up after some words were said in some made up and funny sounding language. In Army of Darkness, he starts off right where Evil Dead II concluded, stuck in the middle ages and wanting a way out. This isn't his time, after all, even though he could rule the entire world if he wanted. After all, he brought with him a car, a chainsaw, and a shotgun. You might think that fuel and bullets would be a concern, but this is a silly action film, meaning those aren't even considered within the film.

After a couple of action scenes early on, the main plot line is revealed. The "Book of the Dead" from the first two Evil Dead films is back in this time period as well, and in order to return home, Ash is going to have to locate the book, say some funny words, and take it to the magicians. Or, I think the film calls them "wise men," but it doesn't really matter. The souls of the dead are back, and they're going to try to stop Ash from acquiring his MacGuffin of choice. There are also a couple of warring human factions, but that isn't terribly important at this point.

This is a far less scarier film than the earlier Evil Deads, which is kind of a disappointment. It's also less gory, and I'm kind of surprised that the film managed to earn an R rating. Stories say that the MPAA was mad at director Sam Reimi which is why the higher rating was given. I'm not sure how much stock I put into that, but if it is true, I can certainly see it being the case, as there's nothing here that warrants it in my opinion. There's only one scene with a copious amount of blood -- which comes from an off-screen source -- there isn't a lot of profanity, there's little sexuality, and the violence isn't strong.

I guess the gist of that is that if you're going into Army of Darkness hoping for the same type of film that the first two Evil Dead movies were, you might be disappointed. The humor is still there, although it's more campy and slapstick than before, but the scares and gore are all but gone. This is more of an action-adventure film than anything else, which is certainly a departure from the first two installments of the series.

I think expectations might be one of the reasons I didn't have a great time with Army of Darkness. I expected a film that would scare me a little, make me laugh a little, and make me a tad sick to my stomach. What I got was a lackluster action-adventure with lacking characters, boring action scenes and even fewer real characters than the last couple of films. Yeah, it'll satisfy those not caring about anything but non-stop action, but if you want anything more, or even what was delivered in the previous films, you'll probably not be the happiest once it comes to an end.

Most of Army of Darkness just bored me. The action scenes just weren't all that great, and because there were no real characters to root for, I found myself uninterested in their result. If Ash lost, I don't think I would have been terribly upset. In fact, I might have been happy as it means that the movie would be over. Evil Dead II didn't have the same type of soul that the first Evil Dead had, and Army of Darkness is even further removed in spirit from the first film. The humor was mostly gone, and instead, we just get a relentless flood of dull action scenes.

There are some kind of interesting developments throughout, including an Ash clone nicknamed "Bad Ash," which gave me a chuckle, as well as an all-out final battle against the titular Army of Darkness, but much of the film just has Ash move from place to place, slaying whatever gets in his path, and then moving on again. There isn't any time to waste, so there's also no time for character development, subplots, a supporting cast, or anything else that most films will contain. There is a single goal in mind, and it's a sprint to the finish to reach it.

The only possible interesting development that could have been included was in the character of Ash, but it never really comes up. Ash starts off kind of a jerk, treating all of the people he meets as "primitives," considering they're all from the 1300s and he's from the future. There are hints at him growing as a character, empathizing with them and becoming less of a jerk. But that doesn't really come to fruition and he stays the same throughout the entire experience.

Bruce Campbell is hilarious in the lead role, though, and has become the main reason to watch. It's overacting for certain, but it's so enjoyable and it fits with the overall light and campy tone of the series that it works very well. The rest of the cast fits into their medieval armor or demon makeup just fine, but the only one who stands out is Campbell.

I was disappointed by Army of Darkness. It wasn't at all like the first two Evil Dead films, and even after I accepted that, it just wasn't all that enjoyable. It focuses most of its attention on the action scenes, and they simply aren't very good. They're dull, lifeless, and carry little meaning. This is a film about a man running around, killing random demons, and trying to get a magical book, and it's boring. How does that happen? It's what happened here, and I did not have a lot of fun with Army of Darkness.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:35 pm

My Name is Bruce
How big of a fan are you of Bruce Campbell? I open with this question because unless you are a big fan, or if you enjoy a bunch of B-grade horror movies, you're not going to have a lot of fun with My Name is Bruce. I know that Bruce Campbell is a big fan of himself, though, as he directed, wrote, produced and stars in this film, which is about him. I thought at the start it would be very self-congratulatory, but it actually ends up making much more fun of the beloved star than one might initially think.

The film begins the way that many of these types of movies start. A group of kids decides that walking through a graveyard late at night would be a fun thing to do, so they do that and end up awakening a monster that had been asleep for a good number of years. The only one to survive is Jeff (Taylor Sharpe), who happens to be the biggest fan of Bruce Campbell. Meanwhile, the world-famous actor is wrapping up filming on Cave Alien II, and is essentially hating life. His birthday is also coming up, and his agent (played by Ted Raimi, in one of three roles), promises him something special.

So, when Campbell is kidnapped and taken to a strange town, which tells him he needs to slay the awakened monster -- the Chinese god of the dead, Guan-Di (James Peck) -- he thinks it's an elaborate birthday fantasy put on by his agent. So, he goofs his way through it, all while making self-deprecating comments about himself and the schlock he often finds himself starring in -- like, say, a B-movie in which everything is done as a joke: My Name is Bruce.

So, yes, it's another campy B-movie where Bruce Campbell is the lead. There's also a movie within a movie aspect that I won't get into -- see for yourself, as the film gets even sillier toward its finale -- but it's little different from most of his filmography. The only change is that Campbell chose pretty much everything within the film, and it also makes so many references in both plot and in dialogue to his previous works that you know it doesn't even attempt to take itself seriously.

You also have to be at least somewhat of a fan of these previous outings. Otherwise, you'll miss the line of in-jokes that populate our movie. The film's target audience is definitely narrow, and I can't help but feel if that's a problem. There are some attempts at jokes that don't have anything to do with Campbell's career, but they come across as juvenile, silly, easy, and not very funny. This is a film for fans and fans only, while everyone else should do something else with their time.

It's pretty much a critic-proof film, as all of the things that are wrong with it are likely intentional: The love interest (Kelly Graham) who has no reason to fall in love and changes personalities so frequently that she must have a disorder; the awful looking gore effects; a bunch of characters who are introduced for no reason other than to bring us exposition and then get killed; the monster's weakness, which is absolutely ridiculous; Ted Raimi playing potentially racist stereotypes; etc. A lot of those are problems, but they're done to pay homage to Campbell's filmography, and to cover up for the insanely low budget.

I thought it was funny, but, then I find myself enjoying these types of movies regardless of how self-referential they are. Often they're good for a laugh, largely due to the low budget, terrible acting, and so on that My Name is Bruce is mocking. Making it an intentional comedy, one in which the leading actor, who also wrote and directed the thing, is the main attraction and person being made fun of is a brilliant idea, and I found it hilarious.

Actually, the monster, Guan-Di, looks pretty cool for what it is. He's always in the dark, with some interesting lighting effects behind him and glowing eyes, which makes him look quite good. The majority of the budget probably went into creating him, sure, but it's a monster that actually looks better than some in the films on Campbell's resume. He's not original or interesting in anything but design, but all you need is for him to look cool, right?

Still, your entire ability to enjoy the film is going to be centered on whether or not you like Bruce Campbell or the genre of films in which he typically finds himself. For his part, Campbell is really good at playing himself, and the transformation from egomaniac to ... whatever he ends up as -- I'm still not sure -- is enjoyable. He's a funny person, too, and it makes sense why his fanbase is so large. If you find yourself in that cult, you'll be worshiping this film until Campbell makes a sequel.

My Name is Bruce is a self-deprecating film made by and starring Bruce Campbell, B-movie icon. For what it is, it's a really funny movie that makes fun of Campbell's entire career -- save for, perhaps, his cameos in the Spider-man films. It borrows plot elements from a lot of movies he was in previously, and it makes more references than it could if it wanted to include anyone not in the know. I had a good time, and if you're a fan of Campbell, you probably will as well, and should definitely see this movie.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Dec 12, 2012 7:44 pm

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Well, there's actually only one Ghost of Girlfriends Past, but the film's title does pretty aptly describe what's going to happen in the film. Those of you who pay attention at Christmastime will notice a play on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, although the film is using the story far more liberally than you might initially think. It's going to go through the entire three ghost storyline, just so that its main character, a "ladies' man" photographer named Connor (Matthew McConaughey), can learn a thing or two about being a real person.

Connor is no Scrooge, and is nowhere near as needy in the "redemption" category. He doesn't ruin Christmas for hundreds of people; instead, he just ruins the lives of every woman he meets ... at least until they get over him. He has a charm, a gift, to make pretty much any woman fall in love with him. But, given that he had his heart broken once in middle school, and thanks to some advice he received from his uncle (Michael Douglas), he disappears before feeling anything back. So he's a bit of a jerk, sure, and we understand that we're supposed to root for him, but it's hard to really hate him and then come around as he changes from "bad" to "good."

Indifference is what I felt for most of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, in large part due to McConaughey failing completely to sell me on his character. I didn't understand how he was charming -- he was more creepy than anything for the most part -- and when the transformation does inevitably come, I didn't buy it. He wasn't despicable enough to begin with, and he didn't really seem to have learned anything by film's end. It all seems artificial, and it's really hard to care about it all because of this.

Anyway, the story involves Connor going to his brother's wedding, seeing the girl he used to love, Jenny (Jennifer Garner), and then being visited by a threesome of ghosts. We have to learn everything about his past relationships, how his current ones are hurting people, and what will happen in his future if he continues down this path. Basically, he's going through A Christmas Carol, except it's not Christmas and there's no carol.

And you know what? Cast any good looking, charismatic, 30/40-something male actor in the lead, and you'd actually have a very solid movie. You know, I enjoyed it enough as it is, but if McConaughey wasn't in it, it probably would have been a whole lot better. There's such a thing as being too arrogant and too confident, and that's what happens here. He plays the surfer-dude that he usually does, and in no way helps make the film work.

But there are a lot of good elements to the film as well, and I can't say I had a bad time while watching it. The first thing to say is that, for a romantic comedy, it happily sidesteps a lot of the clichés that come from the genre. Yeah, unlike the vast majority of rom-coms, it isn't a clone of the template that has been made so famous -- instead it's just a clone of A Christmas Carol. It doesn't have any awkward meeting between the two leads, they don't fall in love and are separated by chance, and there isn't even a last-ditch run to the airport/train station/whatever in order to salvage things once and for all.

I'll grant you that the characters do fall in love, and there is one chase near the end, but it's different from the formula. The film is even self-aware enough to make fun of some of the clichés, as well as itself. While it's not exactly memorable -- I can't remember the specifics regarding these moments -- it does provide some light-hearted fun at the time. That's the same thing that can be said of the movie as a whole: It's not groundbreaking by any stretch, but it's enjoyable for the most part.

It also doesn't really fit the rom-com descriptor, considering it rarely has romance or comedy on its mind. Sure, there are some parts that are romantic -- it's centered around a wedding, after all -- but for the most part, it's focused on getting this character to learn a lesson. And while there are some jokes and comedic situations, most of the time, the film doesn't even try to be funny. Or when it does, like a time in which Connor tries to hold a wedding cake up while finding something to prop it up, it falls kind of flat.

This is also a film that, apart from McConaughey, features some fine performances. Leading the pack is Michael Douglas, in such a bizarre role that it takes a while to get used to him. But once you do, you appreciate him in it. Garner is energetic enough, while the bride and groom, Lacey Chabert and Breckin Meyer respectively, are fun to watch. The three ghosts, Emma Stone, Noureen DeWulf, and Olga Maliouk, are also enjoyable, even though the latter two get less time on-screen and far less dialogue.

Perhaps this movie will end up being a guilty pleasure of mine. I don't necessarily believe in such things, but if you do, this one would be on my list. I liked it. I thought it was charming, full of energy, and simply light-hearted fun. It avoided many rom-com clichés, even if it would have been better with a ... less confident actor in the lead role. Regardless, I had a good time with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and I can't not recommend it as a result, cheesy as it may be.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:56 pm

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson's follow-up and prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, comes to us as the first third of J.R.R. Tolkien's much beloved novel. For those who are keeping score at home, it covers from the beginning of the book until right after the Eagles appear. Hopefully that won't spoil anything for those who haven't been exposed to the novel. I don't believe it does, anyway.

The Hobbit begins just before the Lord of the Rings trilogy does. Directly before Bilbo Baggins' (Ian Holm) party, actually. Bilbo is recounting a story to Frodo (Elijah Wood), about a journey he once went on. There are two Lord of the Rings cameos that get out of the way right at the start. There will be a bunch more throughout. This tale is what we're going to focus on for the rest of the movie, taking place 60 years before the start of Lord of the Rings. Bilbo is now played by Martin Freeman, who fits perfectly in the role. Bilbo, at the behest of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a dozen Dwarves, is about to go on a little adventure, which will encompass the majority of a new trilogy of movies.

This might sound a bit odd at the beginning. The Lord of the Rings was a trilogy, with one movie dedicated to each book. The Hobbit is one book, and it's shorter than each individual Rings installment. Why does it get a trilogy to itself? Well, Jackson has decided to tell more than just Bilbo's story, including details that weren't found in the main book, but in the appendices -- and some stuff that he decided to make up and insert into the film to expand the universe.

There's not a ton of that in this first film, which plays for over two and a half hours, but presumably this is something we have to look forward to. This is a solid beginning, one that takes its time in establishing everything but because of the director's love of Middle Earth, it never drags. There was a clear point when the film could have ended -- the same time Fellowship rolled its credits -- but we continue on for another hour and it's completely exciting.

You can tell that this is a passion project for Peter Jackson. Every frame is imbued with love. Speaking of frames, An Unexpected Journey is playing in 48 frames per second (FPS) -- as opposed to the traditional 24 FPS of almost all other movies. The result is initially an uneasy feeling; this isn't what you'll be used to, and it takes some time to adjust. After some time, you don't notice it, or the 3D. It's beneficial to the film, as it creates less motion blur, a smoother picture, and an easier time seeing more detail, but it's not necessary to see the film in this way.

What we're given here is a really charming movie that feels a lot smaller in scope, despite the universe in which it takes place. You have a good idea, assuming you saw the previous Jackson trilogy, of what's going around in this world, and while you certainly get to see some of it, this is a more personal story. It's about Bilbo Baggins, these Dwarves, and Gandalf, who gets a much larger role here than he did previously. He's more the star than anyone else.

The Hobbit was more of a children's book than the Lord of the Rings were, and it shows through in this movie. The tone is far lighter, with a lot of comedic moments scattered throughout. This is actually a funnier movie than the majority of comedies released in any given year. There does lack a certain sense of danger throughout most of it, partially because the in-the-moment scenes are too jovial to be scary, and also because you know the outcome, at least, when it comes to the main characters.

Even if your only exposure to The Hobbit's story came in the form of the Lord of the Rings movies, you know that both Bilbo and Gandalf make it through. They're the only ones, save for the leader of the Dwarves, Thorin (Richard Armitage), who get any characterization. As a result, they're the ones you care about. Since they can't come to harm, the action scenes -- some of which have been added just for the movie -- it's hard to really feel the danger of the Orcs, Dwarves, or other foul creatures the company encounters.

To fix this, the secondary characters need to become important to us. They didn't in this film. Perhaps they'll develop over the course of the next two films, but speaking just for An Unexpected Journey, I couldn't even remember the names of any of the other Dwarves. They all have personalities, and I could list those if given some faces, but names or anything else wouldn't come. They are here for battle and to crack wise. That's it. It was more eye-opening just to see cameos from Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee -- all of which arrive to the film under the best framing, the most flattering light, and with a chorus of applause from the audience.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of a new trilogy of films set in Middle Earth. If you're a fan already, you've got more movies to look forward to, given how much fun this one is. If you're not, this would be a good place to start the series. This is a charming and funny labor of love for director Peter Jackson. It's action-packed -- more so than the book -- really humorous, and turns Gandalf into an even more impressive character, as Ian McKellen is given a ton of time to shine in the role. It might not be Lord of the Rings, but it's close and absolutely worth seeing.


Last edited by Movie Martyr on Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:44 pm

Monkeybone
I have never been shaken to the core as hard or as frequently as I was during Monkeybone. Here is a movie born out of dreams -- out of the nightmares of only the most imaginative and wicked-minded of people -- that has the power to grasp and terrify. There is before Monkeybone, and there is after Monkeybone. You notice a few minutes into the movie that this is going to be an experience that you won't soon forget. I know I'm going to have a hard time shaking it from my mind.

Monkeybone is a not a movie built on its narrative. In fact, the narrative serves to guide us from one creepy scene of images to the next, keeping it all together but never attempting to interfere. It's a slapdash plot, one that is so simpleminded so as to not draw attention from what's shown on-screen. It doesn't want to be complex, and if it was, it would ruin the effect. You think about motivations, about characters, and about the situation, and that takes away the focus from the visceral and haunting imagery.

Nevertheless, there is a small plot in order to appeal to everyone. Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser) is a cartoonist whose main property, "Monkeybone," is being turned into a television series. The creature of the title, so the legend goes, was brought into the world he lives in after his "master" had his first erection in middle school. Don't worry too much about that, although you can already start to form disturbing pictures in your mind. Monkeybone is a troublemaker of a character, but he's popular, and thus, so is Mr. S. Miley (get it?).

One day, after a celebration and an overload of merchandise, a car accident occurs which puts Stu in a coma. Despite his girlfriend -- to whom he wishes to get married -- working at a sleep institute, he is unable to be awoken ... at least, right away. This would be too easy. No, we have to follow Stu into a dreamworld, one in which his Monkeybone creature is real, and where most of the creepy imagery -- composed largely of puppets mixed in with some CGI -- is held. We don't spend forever here, but whenever we do, I was terrified.

Situations come to a boil, a couple of twists happen along the way, but it's all done to allow us more of this insanity -- this genius -- and, more importantly, to scare the bananas out of us. Bad pun aside, Monkeybone absolutely horrified me primarily because of those images that it presents. It's Burton-esque, assuredly, and you can see why: director Henry Selick was the director of the Burton-produced picture Nightmare Before Christmas. But there's something about this film that was even creepier, even scarier, than Selick's earlier films (which also include James and the Giant Peach.

I don't know if I can explain it. Sometimes these things cannot be described with words. All I know is how I felt, and that feeling is something that I both wish and don't wish upon anyone. I would hope for everyone to feel like this at least once, but at the same time, it's a horrible feeling. Just to experience it is both a blessing and a curse, and I'll be remembering Monkeybone for a long time as a result.

Perhaps its the mixture of CGI, of puppetry, and of clay-animation. It makes for an incredibly unique experience. Bringing all that together, and then adding in an almost sadistic sense of dark humor drew me in and wouldn't let go. Even when we go back to the real world -- through circumstances that I will not reveal but add a whole new level of absurdity -- that sense of humor prevailed. IT was the running theme, the tie between two realities. Juxtaposing real life with dream world was magically effective.

The characters do not exist to be deep; they're here to be interesting, and have to pull that off with only a few scenes. There are two "gods" in this dream world, Hypnos and Death, played by Giancarlo Esposito and Whoopi Goldberg respectively. They each only get a couple of scenes, but make their mark. A waitress named Miss Kitty (Rose McGowan) is in, perhaps, three scenes, but plays a pivotal role. Even Monkeybone -- at least, the claymation version of him -- only gets to appear a few times. He certainly manages to control the screen (and he's voiced by John Turturro, so you know he's at least going to be fun, if nothing else).

Sometimes, Monkeybone progresses too quickly for its own good. This is most noticeable in the beginning, when we're just trying to get our bearings, but it wants to progress. A few other gags are drawn out, and we either not fitting with the dark tone of the rest of the film, or simply weren't really funny. Its missteps are so few and ultimately don't matter, though, and the experience and tremendous impact it has the potential to leave all but make up for a few flaws.

Monkeybone is an experience like no other. It has the potential to make you laugh -- and often will -- but it also has the ability to chill you to the bone. It certainly did that for me. I was scared all throughout, thanks in large part to the mixture of puppetry, CGI, and claymation, mixed in with dark humor and sometimes juxtaposed against the real world. It shows Brendan Fraser's versatility as an actor, and while it's not a narrative-driven experience, it's something that you'll struggle to get out of your head long after it's done playing.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Sat Dec 15, 2012 2:57 am

Why does everyone think James and the Giant Peach was creepy?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Dec 15, 2012 4:23 am

'Cause from what I remember of it (although I haven't seen it for years and years), it was.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Akariking93 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 6:04 am

I came here to tell you your shit's weak because I assumed you'd be critical of the Hobbit.
I was wrong, we both agree 100% this time.

I am amazed. This is a glorious day. I felt like crying at the end when I realised I have to wait another goddamn year for the next movie, though ;_;
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:28 am

Why would you assume I'd be critical of it? I love the LOTR trilogy.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Akariking93 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:41 am

Because most critics hated it and I wasn't sure how you'd react to the 48fps, the length or the tone. Razz
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:44 am

It's still at about 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. So, not really most.

But I do get the point.

Honestly, it didn't even feel that long to me. Another movie that's coming out in a couple of weeks that might or might not be named Django Unchained feels way longer.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Akariking93 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:53 am

But it's lower on Metacritic, so bleh

It didn't feel long to me either. In fact, I'm going to see it again tomorrow in 2D 24fps just to see the difference.

Sad to hear that about Django Unchained but we don't really agree on Tarantino films too much, now do we? ;P
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:55 am

I don't remember what you think of Tarantino films, so yeah. (I like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds; I'm iffy on Jackie Brown and Death Proof.)

Django is still good, but could've have 30 minutes more taken out.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Akariking93 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 8:25 am

We're about the same but you didn't like Death Proof, if I remember correctly whereas I think it's one of his strongest.

And eh, it should be fun at least. I'm looking forward to it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Katzenjammer on Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:41 pm

Aw man, Jackie Brown is by far and away the best Tarantino film for me.

I find it's the only one I can watch again and again.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:45 pm

From Hell
From Hell is an uneven and overlong mystery film that works almost solely because of its atmosphere building. It does such a good job at reinventing 1880's London that I didn't often feel bored, even though there isn't a lot to take in when it comes to the plot. It's far more simple than you might think considering at one point you'll think that every character is a suspect in the murder spree that's going on, but not a whole lot happens and if it wasn't for the visuals, I probably wouldn't have had a good time.

The film begins by following the daily routine of a group of prostitutes in London in the year 1888. The main one is Mary (Heather Graham), because she gets the most camera time and will eventually serve as the love interest. They're harassed by their "protectors," and live each day in misery, poverty, and believe that things can't possibly sink any lower. That is, until one of them is murdered. Then things get serious enough to bring in a detective, a man named Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp). Another murder, and we have a serial killer on our hands: Jack the Ripper is the man we are looking for.

For those unaware -- somehow -- Jack the Ripper was real and killed a whole bunch of people over the course of a relatively small period of time. The killer was never caught, and while it's possible that more than one person was behind the murders, the name "Jack the Ripper" was given to whoever was behind them, regardless of who and how many people there were. From Hell is a fictionalized account of a detective's attempt to catch the killer(s), and is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.

Or, at least, that's what it wants to be. What it is really is a film that has its detective go from place to place, attempting to solve clues, and only at the very end does he actually announce that he wants to put a stop to Jack. He seems far more interested in just having work than making a difference, and has no trouble indulging in opium and drink late at night, completely knocking himself out. He sees visions here which he claims will help him solve the crime, but really, that seemed to me like a ruse.

Mostly, we just watch Abberline go from place to place, occasionally having prophetic, drug-induced visions. The person we suspect to be the killer changes from scene to scene, and about the only part of the plot that has any energy is given to the movie by the audience as we try to guess exactly who is killing all of the prostitutes. You get no prizes for guessing who it is, and you very well might not be surprised, as the killer isn't terribly shocking.

There's also a romantic subplot that likely should have been excluded as it slows things down and the two actors (Depp and Graham) don't have any chemistry together. You would have to change a few plot-related things around if you remove it, but you'd tidy up so much of the film and possibly give Abberline actual motivation that the improvements would be well worth the work. Sure, you might not stay true to the graphic novel, but the film diverges quite a bit from its source anyway, so it wouldn't really matter.

Admittedly, I did like looking at all of the visuals of the film. It's shot and crafted with style, and there is never a dull moment when talking about what you're looking at. Even the murders, as grizzly and bleak as they are, are quite pretty, too, assuming you aren't bothered by fairly graphic violence. You don't see a lot of the murders -- though you do see a lot of dead bodies -- but what you do see isn't pleasant.

London is wonderfully recreated, or at least, I assume it is. Whether this is how the poor districts of London looked like in 1888 or not, I believed that this is where we were. We get transported to another place and time, and I wanted to spend a while there. It's fun just to take in the scenery, even if not a whole lot is done with the somewhat unique location. This same story could take place pretty much anywhere and at any time, and not much would change. The only reason it's at this time and place is to tie into Jack the Ripper, in hopes of getting more audience members to watch because of the connection to the real life killer.

And if you are watching this movie because it features Jack the Ripper, and you want to learn more about the case, you're watching the wrong movie. While many of the names are the same as real life people, the film is not at all historically accurate. It's based off a graphic novel, after all. Sure, you can see where the filmmakers got their information and how some of the events could have happened, but don't go into From Hell looking for Jack the Ripper insights.

From Hell builds a strong atmosphere and is visually stunning, but without a strong plot or characters, it all goes for naught. It's style without substance, I suppose, and while it had all the tools to be captivating, it fails frequently because its lead character doesn't seem to do much, and because the plot is dull. Don't hope for insight in the Jack the Ripper case, either, as the film doesn't even try to be true-to-life. It's fun for the visuals, and is almost worth watching for those alone, but I can't wholeheartedly recommend From Hell.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Dec 16, 2012 9:50 pm

Death Race
Death Race isn't really a remake of Death Race 2000, even if that's what it has been frequently billed as. If anything, it's a prequel, or perhaps a reimagining, although the films feature similar premises: Both involve races that frequently result in death, and there's a character called Frankenstein in both of them. In the first one, there was a cross-country race in which the drivers scored points by killing everything in their path. Here, they're instructed to kill each other.

The lead is given to Jason Statham, although his strengths are barely used. When you think of Statham, you think about physically demanding roles in which he needs to beat the other people up. Here, he sits in a car and jerks from side to side a lot. He's playing the role of Jensen Ames, a recently laid-off steelworker who gets convicted of murdering his wife even though we know it was someone else, and that he was just framed. After being incarcerated, we learn that there's a race called "Death Race," and if you win five of them you are released. Fan-favorite "Frankenstein" has won four already, but unfortunately died. Ames can put on a mask and be Frankenstein, win the final race, and he'll be set free.

So, we have a basic idea, and then need to be introduced to the other racers, and the teammates of Mr. Frankenstein. The only other opponent of importance is Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson), as he's the only one that gets enough screen time to be worth mention. He's Frank's biggest rival, and was the one that sent the old Frank to his grave. Rounding out the cast is Ian McShane as Coach, Frank's head mechanic, Joan Allen as Hennesy, the prison warden who cares about the money she makes from the races and nothing else, and Natalie Martinez as Frank's navigator.

You, like the in-movie audience -- which apparently reaches 70 million viewers even though buying the entire PPV race costs $250, and in a downed economy, that's likely not possible -- are here for the races. Basically what you get to see are fast, armored cars driving around a track, always shooting at each other with machine guns, smokescreens, rockets, and so on. They ram each other, the actors grunt and jerk around, and eventually most of them die. A character mentions that mortality rate is 66%, but it's a lot higher than that.

I can see the potential here. We have The Transporter racing against the guy from 2 Fast 2 Furious. Both actors have previously played very, very good drivers, and seeing them pitted against one another could be interesting. And, truth be told, there are some fun parts in Death Race. It's just overly repetitive and too long to be wholly enjoyable.

I don't really understand how 70 million people would want to tune into the race, for one. If Frank had won four races prior -- we get a taste of the final lap of former Frank's final race -- then surely they must be getting bored. After the almost two hours that I watched, my patience was waning. And I didn't have to spend $250 for the pleasure. They would have. Granted, they get 100 camera feeds and hopefully none of the quick-cut editing, but watching cars bang and shoot can only be so fun for so long.

I guess I just didn't have as much fun with Death Race as would have liked. It's a pure action film with no real big ideas, social commentary -- surprisingly, actually -- or drama, and I just got tired of its non-stop, unrelenting approach. It wore me down, and I started to grow tired of it. If it had given me some time to breathe, I probably wouldn't have felt so indifferent to these races, but they all felt the same and since there wasn't anything special about them in the first place, I eventually wanted to stop watching.

The actors are all filled with determination and bad dialogue, which goes part and parcel with this type of movie. Statham isn't used well, even if he does get a couple of hand-to-hand fight scenes, Gibson just gets to yell a bunch, McShane barely gets any screen time, Allen is probably the highlight as our villain, and Martinez is there to look at because that drives up the ratings, the movie explains. None of the actors seemed to care all that much, nor did they even seem to be having fun.

What I liked best about Death Race was its warning it gives us before the credits roll. The races were done in an enclosed environment and you shouldn't try to do them yourself. Apparently, shooting at other cars and driving around as fast as you can while doing so is dangerous. I can't remember the last preposterous action movie to tell me not to try this at home, but I had to laugh for a minute after that message popped up on the screen.

Death Race is not a terribly bad movie, but it's not as much fun as it should have been. Watching the race -- the film's supposed high point -- gets boring after a while, as there is only so much shooting and banging that one can take before you realize that you're never going to see anything different. It's relentless, too, ensuring that you don't get a chance to breathe, or think. It can be enjoyed, I suppose, if you're fine with watching poorly edited racing footage for a couple of hours, but I grew tired fairly early on.

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