Marter's Reviews

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:22 pm

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
Because Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is so similar to the original, save for a few key differences, those are what a review of the film has to focus on. Do they improve the final product, or do they make it worse? Is the continuity affected by them? Why exactly is there a "Richard Donner Cut" in the first place? Problematically, some of these changes involve spoilers, so if you haven't already done so, I'd recommend seeing the theatrical cut of Superman II before reading this review.

The production of Superman II was tumultuous. The director of the first Superman, Richard Donner, was shooting the sequel at the same time as the first film. He was fired from the project after a reported 70% of the film was already shot. The new director, Richard Lester, mostly re-shot the entire film. The Richard Donner Cut, completed in 2006, uses most of Donner's original footage, combined with some of the theatrical version for continuity's sake.

The basic storyline is still the same. Superman (Christopher Reeve) winds up doing battle with a trio of superhumans with the same amount of power as him, led by one General Zod (Terrence Stamp). We have Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), reporter for the most important newspaper on the planet, trying to figure out whether or not Clark Kent really is Superman. And the ending still basically ruins the whole thing, except it does so to an even greater degree this time around.

Essentially, we get the same ending as the first Superman, except it negates the entirety of this one, not just the final series of events. To everyone but Superman, none of the events of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut happen. That's just brilliant. I mean, in the theatrical cut, at least all that happened was that Superman made up yet another power he previously didn't know he had. In this one, we're reminded that there's nothing in these films that Superman couldn't undo. It was annoying in the first film, but at least it wasn't used to negate a huge number of things. This time around, it seems like Superman could rewind time as far back as he wants.

A few other sequences have been changed, too. There's no terrorist attack at the beginning, which was a bit of a shame from my point of view. The Paris sequence was a fun way to open Superman II, but we don't get it here. Sure, it was all a way to break free the trio of bad guys, and it's accomplished in a much more efficient way here, but I found that part fun in the theatrical cut, so I would have preferred it be left in.

The biggest changes I noticed had nothing to do with major switches to scenes, or alternate takes being used. It was all to do with the pacing, and the amount of exposition and explanation. The Richard Donner Cut contains far less exposition, and is much more quickly paced as a result. Some scenes are missing that explained things in the theatrical cut, meaning if you haven't seen that, you won't fully understand what's going on during some parts. Why does Lois Lane want freshly squeezed orange juice, and why does Clark Kent know this? It's not explained in this cut, but it is in the theatrical version.

It's rare that you can say that something needs more exposition, but that's what I felt The Richard Donner Cut needed. Of course, it would have been impossible for some of that to happen, considering it was put together based on previously filmed footage shot over two decades earlier. When the scenario has been changed, new footage couldn't be shot in order to fill in the audience, most of whom would have seen the theatrical cut and would know what's going on anyway.

There are two parts of The Richard Donner Cut that I really appreciated. The first, and most important, is that Marlon Brando has been put back into the film. Whenever Superman was in the North Pole, talking to a hologram, it was supposed to be Brando -- playing Superman's father -- instead of whomever wound up in the theatrical cut. Brando had to be removed for legal reasons. He's back here, and while that's good in and of itself, it also allows for him to explain how Superman gets his powers back after surrendering them, a question I was left with in the theatrical cut. The second reason is far smaller, but it was the main point in Superman II that I noticed dated special effects. A flamethrower is shot at General Zod, and his psychic powers that redirected it looked really fake. It's been edited slightly here, but still looked as if it was done in the 1980s. It's a significant improvement to that one scene.

I'm sure there's some sort of balance that could be made between Superman II and The Richard Donner Cut that would be the best of both worlds. With this new cut come more problems, but also more improvements that make it worth seeing -- however, only after you've seen the original, so the gaps that the missing footage bring would not be as bothersome. The Richard Donner Cut might not be perfect, but it's fascinating to see what could have been, and it answers some of the questions that the theatrical cut left me with. If you liked Superman II, you definitely need to see The Richard Dinner Cut, just to say that you have.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:31 pm

Superman III
I suppose you have to at least give Superman III credit for switching things up a bit. This is a very different film in terms of tone, characters, and in some respects, plot. The only problem with all of this is that it ruined the good thing we had going. We had really impressive films with Superman and Superman II, while here we just have a silly superhero movie lacking in pretty much all areas except absurdity and cheesiness.

Here's the first major difference you'll notice: Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is barely in the movie. She appears in one of the first scenes, in which we learn that she's going on a vacation, and then she isn't seen from until the very end. The relationship she had been developing with Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), is absent from the film. Instead, Superman winds up going back to his hometown of Smallville and begins something new with his high school crush, Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole). Someone must have loved the letter "L." "Lois Lane," "Lex Luthor," and now "Lana Lang." That's fun.

Anyway, the villainous plot that Superman must eventually attempt to overthrow comes from a Luthor knockoff named Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn), who initially just wants to control the world's coffee supply, but also winds up wanting all of the oil, too. He's aided by a computer programmer named Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), and together they wind up causing most of the trouble in the film. Webster supplies the money, Gorman hacks the relatively defenseless computer systems all around the globe.

Meanwhile, Superman gets to do one new thing: he briefly turns evil. Yes, we get to see Christopher Reeve do something he hasn't previously done in this series: frown. For a good twenty to thirty minutes, Superman gets removed from his happy-go-lucky, good guy personality. That's another difference from the earlier films. It's kind of interesting, although not a whole lot is done with this idea. I wish it was taken farther, actually. He doesn't do anything that can't be reversed with a simple good deed -- or that "turn back time" thing that ended the first film, but doesn't get used in this one.

The tone of Superman III is very comedic. There's a lot of slapstick humor this time around, which is a change from the wit of the first two films. I missed their intelligence after sitting through this one. It just didn't work with these characters and their established continuity. These are not silly characters, or at least they haven't been through two films. Changing them now doesn't make sense.

There's also absolutely no emotional depth to the film. The relationship that Superman was building with Lois made us care about both of them. When Lois got put in danger -- because Superman was almost invincible -- it means there was something specific for us to want to see him protect. There was something very real that was threatened. Lana could have filled that role in this film, but the filmmakers essentially ignore her character once she's introduced, save for a few scenes where she requires Superman's help for something relatively trivial. She's more of an annoyance than a real character.

For the third film about Superman, it's weird to see such a prominent spotlight be placed on Richard Pryor's character, Gus. He almost gets as much time on-screen as Superman. He essentially represents what's wrong with the film. There's too much focus on comedy, too much focus on non-Superman related activities, and a massive misfire with most of the gags. The most ridiculous moment of the film involves him skiing down a skyscraper and coming away unharmed.

There's also a lot of laughs to be had at how vulnerable our superhero has become. A big missile is apparently enough to damage the impervious Man of Steel. You can accept other superhumans being able to hurt him, and if kryptonite is his weakness, that's fine as well. But when regular human technology starts becoming effective -- especially after it's well-established that Earth weapons can't harm him -- you know the filmmakers have gotten lazy.

About the only positive in the film is Christopher Reeve, and his continuing dedication to the character. Getting to see him stretch in the role was a nice change, and the fight scene he has with himself in a junkyard was good fun, even if it got repetitive by the end. Reeve seems to still be enjoying playing Superman, and as long as that's the case, the movies will still be, at the very least, watchable. Richard Pryor is a weak link, especially given how much screen time he was given. And Robert Vaughn's impression of Gene Hackman's villain from the first film left a lot to be desired.

Superman III takes much of what was good about the earlier Superman films and chucks it out the window in favor of a campier, sillier approach. It doesn't work nearly as well. The relationships have no depth, many of the characters serve little purpose, and previous continuities have been disregarded in favor of gags. Sure, it looks good and the action is fun, but I can't help but feel like the genius of the first two films has run out with this installment.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jun 12, 2013 12:32 pm

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is, as the title indicates, the fourth installment in the Superman film franchise starring Christopher Reeve. The first one was released in 1978, while this one is from 1987. I'd like someone to explain to me how the special effects in The Quest for Peace are worse than the ones in Superman. In fact, this film looks so awful that it looks like most of it was shot in someone's basement against a green screen. You notice this in the first scene. It prepares you for the disaster that is Superman IV.

It says a lot about the film that it's only 90 minutes in length. The previous three chapters were all either around or over the two-hour mark. This one is boring after the first half hour, meaning the final two-thirds will bring absolutely no excitement. One might think that seeing another Superman -- this one called "Nuclear Man" (Mark Pillow) -- fight against our caped hero would be fun, but it is nothing of the sort. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the film is that it will work as an effective sleep aid.

Superman (Reeve) decides early on in The Quest for Peace that the nuclear arms race should come to an end. He vows to rid the planet of all nuclear weapons once and for all, presumably unaware that people would probably just build more. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) villain of the first two film, is swearing revenge. He manages to create the aforementioned Nuclear Man, who will eventually get into a fist fight with the titular hero. That's about all these two superhumans can do: beat each other up with their fists.

There's also a subplot involving the Daily Planet newspaper becoming a tabloid entity, but that doesn't wind up mattering a whole lot. Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is here because she was in the last films; she and Superman barely share time together, and when they do it doesn't result in anything. She's no longer the potential love interest to the Man of Steel. There is no emotional connection between the two characters.

It's surprising how cheap Superman IV looks. Despite being released almost a decade after the first installment, it looks the worst by far. Sure, you could tell in the earlier films that the characters weren't really flying through space, or even through the city of Metropolis -- it's the lighting; it's always the lighting -- but at least there was an effort put in to try to make it feel as if it they were. Here, no attempt to disguise the fact that they're shooting in front of a green screen. It's like the filmmakers didn't care, as they figured a Superman movie would make money regardless of its quality.

The apathy continues when it comes to the actors. Christopher Reeve could carry the movie on his shoulders, but even he seemed tired by this point. Gene Hackman winds up being a lot less fun without Ned Beatty by his side -- Jon Cryer plays the goofy sidekick, and it just doesn't work. Margot Kidder, Jackie Kooper and Marc McClure are all back, but they all appear to be cashing in a paycheck.

The biggest problem here is that it's all so boring and easy. There's no originality, creativity, or even energy. Everyone is going through the motions, doing the bare minimum just to get by. The visuals don't look finished. The actors don't seem to care. The story doesn't make a lot of sense. Moments seem to be improvised just to get the writers out of a hole. Superman gains powers he never previously had -- although that's kind of consistent with earlier films, isn't it? And it's all so dull that it's hard to even keep your eyes on the screen.

It's not even the type of bad that you can laugh at and get some enjoyment that way. It's just too stupid and boring to enjoy in any way. At least, that's how it was for me. Maybe some of you will get a kick out of scenes like when Nuclear Man grabs a woman, flies her into space, and her body is perfectly okay with that. There's a reason that astronauts wear spacesuits, but according to this movie, they really have no need for them. You can breathe fine in space.

Even though Superman III wasn't very good, Christopher Reeve was a highlight. I figured that no matter how bad a Superman film got, if he was still good in the lead role, it would remain watchable. His enjoyment of the character would ensure that we continue enjoying it. If he was still having fun, it didn't translate to the screen. He looks bored most of the time, and the one sure thing wound up being just as bad as the rest of the production. Even Gene Hackman was bad in Superman IV. How does that happen?

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is an awful film. You are better off re-watching any of the previous Superman installments. Even the third one is significantly better than this chapter in the Man of Steel's film franchise. Nothing about this movie works. The script is awful, the acting is poor, the special effects are worse than they've been in any of the previous episode, and the whole thing is just so boring and uninteresting. There's no fun to be had here and no reason to waste your time or money to sit through this waste of film.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jun 13, 2013 12:41 pm

Superman Returns
It took twenty six years after Superman II, but the trilogy is finally complete; we now have a movie that is worthy of the title "Superman III." Of course, it doesn't have the same cast -- save for archival footage of Marlon Brando -- and it's called "Superman Returns," but for all intents and purposes, this is the film that should have followed the second feature-length Superman film. Thankfully, the actual third and fourth films have been completely ignored, effectively being removed from the continuity. It's for the best. Neither was really worth watching, anyway.

We begin five years after the conclusion to Superman II. Our titular hero, Superman (Brandon Routh taking over for Christopher Reeve), has left Earth in pursuit of tracking down any remains of his home planet, Krypton. He returns in one of the film's first scenes, resulting in a touching reunion with his adoptive mother (Eve Marie Saint). He decides to return to the Daily Planet, the main newspaper, to begin working as a reporter under his alter ego, Clark Kent, and in an attempt to re-establish a relationship with a co-worker, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), who herself now has a fiancé, Richard (James Marsden) and a son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu).

Of course, in the five years Superman has been absent, Lex Luthor (now played by Kevin Spacey), has escaped from prison and has begun to cook up a new scheme. Along with Kitty (Parker Posey, essentially playing the role Valerie Perrine did as Eve Teschmacher), he reclaims his spot as sole villain. Superman eventually has to face Lex, just like he did in the old days. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

The plot sounds like it's right out of the first film, isn't it? Once Superman returns back to our planet, it's very similar. It's quite the throwback, really. The good guy is clearly the good guy, the bad guy is clearly the bad guy, and after some build up, we get to see them go at one another. The first two Superman films had a lot of time building up to this climax, with only a few small incidents during that time. Superman Returns plays out exactly like that.

There are a couple of subplots, one twist that you'll see coming -- and even mentioning that there's a twist would be spoiling -- and a surprising amount of time dedicated to the characters. The film runs for 154 minutes, and while I was never bored -- near-perfect pacing is another thing returning from the earlier installments -- I can see some people coming away from it hoping for more action.

For me, the amount of downtime we spend with these characters means that whatever action we do get means a lot more. It's hard not to feel something near the climax of this film, even if the way we get there is a little bit contrived. Director Bryan Singer did make me do something that had never previously happened: he made me care about Superman. He made this character into someone more vulnerable -- at least, emotionally, if not physically -- in large part because the tone of this movie is so downtrodden; that's the one difference from the earlier films.

There isn't a lot of joy in Superman Returns. The sky is cloudy and rainy for much of the picture, and we don't get many jokes. Are we overcompensating for the slapstick and campy films that were Superman III and Superman IV? It's possible, but I think it's fitting given that this film slots in as the finale to a trilogy. Making it darker works because everything is at stake, and because the characters need to be taken in this direction. Characters have been hurt, and that's portrayed to us by the film's tone.

Much of the joy, from an audiences standpoint, at least, will come from the action scenes. I mentioned that there aren't many of them, but what we do get look spectacular. The earlier Superman films haven't aged terribly, but this takes it to a new level. You can really believe that the Man of Steel can fly. Warner Bros. spent a lot of money in the production of Superman Returns, and you can tell when looking at it. It has great special effects, and a very large scale.

It has good acting, too, even if I wasn't sold on either Brandon Routh or Kate Bosworth. Routh is barely given any lines of dialogue, and while he looks the part, he and Bosworth have little chemistry together. Bosworth wasn't bad in the role, but she's a good decade younger than Margot Kidder was in Superman II, despite this film taking place five years later. It's a bit of a miscasting, just in terms of trying to keep everyone looking similar. Kevin Spacey picks up wonderfully from where Gene Hackman left off as Lex Luthor, portraying the villain as even darker and more sinister.

Superman Returns, assuming you can see it as such, works as a fantastic finale to a trilogy of films. It is an effective drama, an enjoyable action movie, a showcase for special effects, and an appreciated return to form for the franchise. It's more emotionally engaging, even if it might not have enough action to please everyone. I really enjoyed this film, and I definitely recommend it for fans of the first two installments of the franchise.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:30 pm

Supergirl
After the box office success of the Christopher Reeve-led Superman movies, it makes sense for the studio to attempt to cash in on a similar property. In this case, it's Supergirl, who winds up being Superman's cousin. We don't see the Man of Steel in this spin-off, but his presence on Earth is noted. At one point in the production, a Reeve cameo was considered, but it was never filmed. His absence is explained with him going into space on an adventure that probably isn't exciting enough to be made into a movie.

Supergirl's plot has to work in an origin story for its titular character. It winds up using a MacGuffin, the Omegahedron, something that disappears from the planet of Krypton after some tomfoolery on the part of a couple of people. It winds up on Earth, so Supergirl (Helen Slater), travels through space in order to go back and get it. We're told that everything will shut down if she doesn't retrieve it in a matter of days. If I remember correctly from the father series, that time frame won't matter a whole lot because Kryptonian days equate to years on Earth.

Anyway, she comes to our planet, magically acquires the suit, and then decides to join an all-girls school, because when you have superpowers, what else is there to do? She befriends Lois Lane's sister, Lucy (Maureen Teefy), and uses her advanced brain to do really well in math class. This sounds a lot like the type of superhero movie you want to see, right? You want to see an extremely powerful individual hide her powers and go to school, I'm sure of it.

Okay, there's also a plot involving a witch, Selena (Faye Dunaway), who acquires the MacGuffin and uses it to do nefarious things like ... try to make a guy fall in love with her. She also eventually tries to take over the world, but it takes a good two-thirds of the film until this comes to fruition. In this time, we get maybe two action scenes of Supergirl saving random people, one of whom is Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure), the only character to appear in both Superman and Supergirl.

My point is that the film is pretty boring for a good chunk of the time. It runs for over two hours, and a significant portion of this time is spent on character development and other things you're not going to care about. This would be completely fine if, say, the characters were interesting or even deep, but they're coming from a comic book and they're not exactly going for high drama. This is a campier approach to a superhero, much like Superman III was. It's a shame, because if the tone was more in line with the first two Superman films, we might have had a good movie.

The direction and the performances seem to be at odds with the script. They want to treat the property like it's a joke, while it wants to be taken seriously. The result is an odd mixture, and doesn't work because of this tension. How can you take a film seriously if everyone involved doesn't want to. Superman got worse when it went for camp, and now Supergirl has started this way. How do the comic book fans feel about this? How do they like seeing their hobby being made fun of on the big screen?

When we do get some action scenes, they're not terrible. They can be fun, at least, when they actually try to be. There are points when the special effects look worse than the earlier Superman films, but for the most part, they look fine. The problem mostly comes from the inevitable comparison to Superman and Superman II, both of which contain more interesting action that looks better. This film hasn't topped them, and because of that, a lot of people are going to wonder what exactly the point is.

The entire production seems like a weaker version of a film we've already seen. It's the same type of story -- a lot of meandering until a climactic battle between the villain and the hero, with a couple of minor action scenes in the middle -- just with a lot less interesting people being involved. There's a reason that Superman is an icon and Supergirl is barely noticeable. He stands for something; she comes across as a cheap knockoff.

That is to take nothing away from Helen Slater, in her first feature length film role. She plays the character straight and stoic, despite the campy performances all around her. Now, does that make it a good performance in a bad movie, or an actor who couldn't take direction and decided to just do her own thing? I think that her performance in Supergirl would work in a movie with a straighter tone, but here it comes across as either the best thing or something so out of place that it further ruins the movie. Yes, it can be one or the other, each on polar ends of the spectrum.

Supergirl is not a good movie. It has competing factors for tone, meaning it can never decide whether it wants to be serious or silly. It has special effects that are sometimes good, sometimes not, and a lead actress who is either strong in a bad movie or out of place in a silly one. Either way, she stands out, but I can't decide if that's a good thing. It's still not a good movie, and if you have seen the first two Superman films, there's very little reason to watch this one.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Jun 15, 2013 2:00 pm

Man of Steel
If absolutely nothing else, Man of Steel is worth seeing because it looks fantastic. The director is Zack Snyder, someone who has never made a film that is boring visually. He is a stylish director and what he's done here is truly something that should be watched. The film made with those visuals isn't quite as impressive, but it's unlikely to disappoint too many people, unless you're looking for a cheerful, optimistic movie, because this is definitely not one of those.

Snyder's film begins with the destruction of the planet Krypton, which is how 1978's Superman began, too. We get to see more of the planet in this film, and we also learn why it will soon blow up. The Krytonians have used up all of their energy sources and tapped into their planet's core, which destabilized it and caused the inevitable explosion. I wonder if that's supposed to function as a warning to us watching the film? Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) have had a son and send him to Earth to save his life. This is the origin Superman needs and it's the one the film delivers.

The son, now given the Earth name Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), grows up and eventually learns that because of Earth's atmosphere, gravity, and the sun, he has superpowers on the planet inhabited by humans. He keeps them a secret at the request of his adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, respectively), although the plot will force him to reveal himself. Prior to Krypton's destruction, a man named General Zod (Michael Shannon) staged an unsuccessful coup and was banished. He's now back and looking for Clark Kent.

The reason for all of this is convoluted, not very interesting, over-explained, and also quite pointless. There's some discussion to be had at the idea of genetic engineering which might be interesting if the film did anything with them, but they function here as a MacGuffin so that General Zod -- likely the second most well-known villain of the Superman universe -- has a reason to track down our hero.

Primarily, the film should be viewed because it looks outstanding. The CGI is fantastic, the production design makes you gasp at how good it looks, the cinematography keeps things interesting, and the editing doesn't get in the way, even if there are far too many flashbacks which tell us information that we either already know or don't need. Visually, Man of Steel holds up against any other film out there, and should be heralded as something to strive toward. The DragonBall Z fight scene that closes it out, while too long, is perfectly crafted.

Unfortunately, the story is rather dull and drab, an it's really doesn't do much to separate itself from the other Superman films that we've already seen. Some moments feel like shot-for-shot remakes of Superman and Superman II. And while the film has more messages and themes than its predecessors, they're rarely a focal point; they are brought up but aren't important and could easily be overlooked.

Superman as a character can be boring. He's immortal and invincible, meaning those around him have to be the ones who are put in danger. In this film, it's the entirety of planet Earth, and those living on it, who are threatened. I think that works. The character has to choose whether his actual people, the Krytonians, or the people who welcomed him to their planet, the humans, should live. That element works. It's the subplots and needless explaining of how everything functions and is related to everything else that drags the film out and makes it feel three hours long.

There's no immediate sense of danger. The entire population could be destroyed but none of the human characters we meet manage to resonate. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is in the movie because making a Superman movie without her would be criticized. She has little reason to be here. Ma and Pa Kent exist to tell Clark how he should behave. Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and the other Daily Planet staff have extended cameos and nothing more. Everyone's so poorly written and paper-thin.

The action scenes, while exceptionally well-made, often drag on for too long. That's almost acceptable because they look so amazing, but they are a touch repetitive and as a result feel long. How long can you see two dudes punch one another while flying? Ten minutes? That's how long it feels like they do just that in Man of Steel. They look wonderful but when it's the same thing over and over again even something incredible can become dull.

Man of Steel isn't bad. It isn't terribly good, either, because its plot isn't good, its characters have no depth to them, and the way it over-explains points that don't matter makes it drag on and on. It's also not a whole lot of fun, as the tone is definitely downtrodden. But visually it looks amazing and if you need a reason to see it, its style is just that. In fact, I'd recommend seeing Man of Steel just because of how incredible it looks. And possibly for Michael Shannon's performance as General Zod, because it's a lot of fun to watch -- and the only fun in an otherwise pretty but drab movie.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Jun 16, 2013 2:31 pm

Get the Gringo
In fact, this setting is so fascinating that it works as its own character, far more interesting than anyone else in the film. That's not even a knock on them -- Gibson's flawed, yet kind character is just fine, for example -- but I just really got into this environment. Gibson's survival in this place is somewhat reliant on a child (Kevin Hernandez), who becomes his only real friend. There is eventually something that the pair of them have to do, but I'll leave that to be discovered by you.

This isn't as action-packed as you might have been led to think based on the trailers. Most of the film is about surviving in this environment. It's more of a drama than anything else for the majority of its running time. That's fine, and Gibson has never had a problem with playing this type of character, but if you're thinking it'll be action from start to finish, you'll be disappointed. This is more a thinking man's action movie. Think The American and you'll have a better idea of what to expect.

Get the Gringo is a slick, somewhat funny movie, too, which helps ease it along. Oh, its subject matter isn't at all pleasant to watch, but because it's well-made and has some funny moments, the time flies by. It's been trimmed to the bones, too, which is usually a good thing with a project like this. It plays for only 96 minutes, and that's just about the perfect length. Any longer and we might start to get bored. If it was shorter, we might wonder why things are happening, or we might lose some of our character moments.

The action that we do get isn't very good, mostly to keep the budget down and stop it from being as violent as Gibson's Passion of the Christ. Maybe that's a bit extreme, but it did seem like the too-fast moving camera and quick cutting was done to hide what would have been extremely graphic scenes. Maybe the fake blood or CGI budget ran out early on so they had to ensure we couldn't see anything. The drama is far more compelling than mediocre action.

Mel Gibson could probably play this role in his sleep, but he's not allowed to. If he slips, especially because he's the brain behind the film -- he wrote and produced the film, and the director, Adrian Grunberg, serves as his assistant director on Apocalypto, among other things -- he could completely vanish from the movies. He's already pretty far down. But he gives a convincing and gritty performance here, as he often does, and I would hate to see him leave cinema. Kevin Hernandez holds his own as the kid sidekick, too, although Gibson is clearly the star.

I don't know if Get the Gringo will turn Mel Gibson's career around, but for the controversial star, it's a valiant effort with decent execution. Inside this film is a well-crafted environment for a tale of survival and character drama, where the prison acts as a separate and ever-changing character. If you don't hate Gibson enough as a person to stay away from his films, and you really shouldn't, this is an attempt at a comeback that is worth a watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:28 pm

The Kings of Summer
Focusing on a trio of individuals, The Kings of Summer is a genuine and sweet movie which is filled with love and enough laughs to qualify itself as one of the better comedies of the year. That it does so with an innocent spirit and primarily focuses on three children is quite impressive. I really enjoyed The Kings of Summer and I recommend that you check it out, too.

The film begins with a couple of teenagers who are sick of their lives. The lead, Joe (Nick Robinson), has a father (Nick Offerman), with whom he doesn't get along. The father is abrasive, sarcastic, and speaks his mind, which leads to many hilarious lines of dialogue. Another boy, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), has parents who treat him as if he's still in the first grade. Both boys wish to be seen as more independent than their parental figures allow, so they decide to do what any intelligent person would do: run away from home and build a house in the woods where nobody will find them. They'll live off the land and no longer have to deal with the rest of the world.

They're joined by Biaggio (Moises Arias), a strange child who functions as the films "odd child," which is someone who will spout off the weirdest lines which often have no relation to what's going on at the time. The other two boys, best friends since forever, don't have the heart to tell Biaggio to go home, so they permit him to live with them. Soon enough, they're living their own lives, masters of nothing but their own well-being, and serving absolutely nobody.

Anyone who can get themselves into the mindset of a 12-year-old and can appreciate the desire for more independence will at least be able understand where these characters are coming from. That will allow you to enjoy watching them just go about their business in the woods. There are some sweet and some funny situations that occur, and seeing a film that treats its young subject matter with respect is something to admire. The Kings of Summer almost functions as a character study during the moments when its leads are in the woods.

Of course, the parents aren't just going to sit back and let their children go missing, so the parents, all of whom are played by comedians, attempt to locate their children. It's during these points when The Kings of Summer really shines. Because of the actors' comedic backgrounds, the dialogue and delivery in these scenes is absolutely hilarious. If the film had featured more of these moments, I wouldn't have complained, as they were the most enjoyable parts. They will make you laugh.

They also function as a nice contrast to the scenes in the woods. The film is far more dramatic when it's focused on Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio. They all have different ideas, complicated relationships, and it all plays out in an interesting way. Nothing that happens in the film is terribly surprising, but it's honest and I couldn't help but enjoy almost every moment. The only problem that these sections of the film suffer from is being very repetitive. Much of the film feels like filler and we go through the same thing a few times before we reach our conclusion.

The coming-of-age story, along with the outsider adult perspective, allows The Kings of Summer to appeal to everyone. If it didn't have a surprising amount of profanity -- which helps with that genuine feeling; how many teenagers nowadays don't curse incessantly? -- it would be something that I would recommend for everyone. The potential is there for people of all ages to take something from this film, whether they be the troubled child or the parent who is either too controlling or doesn't treat their child with the respect they deserve.

The reason it's all successful is that everything is so believable, even if the premise really isn't. How can three teenagers go live in the woods and actually survive? Somehow, The Kings of Summer makes us believe. The friendships, in both their highs and lows, feels true, and for a while you forget you're watching a fictional story and not a documentary about a trio of kids who decided to run away and become sustainable in the middle of the forest.

The actors are all good. In the lead role, Nick Robinson reminded me of a young James Franco -- even right down to having a similar smile. He's a charming and charismatic actor. As his friend, Gabriel Basso shows potential, even if his role is less important. Moises Arias is hilarious even if he seems to exist solely for comedic relief. All of the adults are hilarious in supporting roles, and I would have liked to see more of them. When names like Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Marc Evan Jackson and Megan Mullally are all in your cast list, you should use them to their full extent.

The Kings of Summer is a good coming-of-age movie. It hits all the right notes and feels completely genuine, which is important here. This is a very funny, very sweet movie, and I really enjoyed watching it. It has good actors and it has a story which will resonate with the majority of people in the audience. It suffers from repetition in its story, leading to a lot feeling like filler, but it's the enjoyable kind of filler that is really tough to hate.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:20 pm

Wall Street
I don't know many people that would call Wall Street a subtle movie. I don't know many people who would call Oliver Stone a subtle director, either. But what that man has done with this film is taking a fairly basic story and turned it into a critique of the back dealings in a capitalist society, filled with broad but interesting characters and enough content to occupy its two-hour running time. All in all, it's a success, even if it's a little silly at times.

The lead is a stock broker for a Wall Street firm, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), who has a hard enough time just getting by, let alone becoming a success. At the end of every business day, he calls the office of a very prominent business man, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), only to be told that they're not buying whatever he wants to sell. The persistence eventually pays off, however, and after doing something illegal, Bud becomes Mr. Gekko's new right-hand man, so to speak. They don't do a lot together, but they speak on the phone and they make a boatload of cash. The rags-to-riches story begins.

Of course, there has to be a downfall, and a villain, and a love interest (Daryl Hannah). It turns out that you need to be quite ruthless in the world where millions of dollars can be won or lost on a daily basis, and that's soon something that Bud has to find out. His father, Carl (Martin Sheen), works for an airline company, and is the prototypical working class man. You can see where the conflict is and how each of the older men in Bud's life fit into the critique here. Start to guess how conflict will occur. You probably won't be wrong. 

Each of these characters is easy. Bud is the impressionable man who gets charmed into a life that's not meant for him; Gordon is the charming, confident man who can turn on a dime if it means making more money; Carl doesn't care about money -- he just wants to be happy enough; Darien (Hannah) is materialistic and wants to be with the man who will provide her with whatever she wants. That's about as deep as anyone goes. The film around them is more important.

I didn't understand much of the technical jargon involved with Wall Street. People were buying and trading stocks and I was having none of it. It doesn't matter, though, because the reason behind it and the impact that a decision has is all made clear. That's one of the things that you have to appreciate from Stone in this film; even if you don't fully appreciate the way the ins and outs of the stock market work, you'll be able to comprehend why each action made by a character matters in the context of the film.

Money is all that is important to Gordon Grekko. That's the bottom line. It's not even about using that money, or even having it; he wants to win these exchanges just to have more of it. Acquiring the money is the goal. He has more than he'll ever need before the movie even begins, but in the first scene that Bud sees him, he fields a handful of pressing phone calls, ones that have the potential to earn or cost him millions. And the value placed on money is where Wall Street really has its fun.

There is no value placed on anything else in the movie, at least, from Gordon's perspective. It's all about the money. That is where the real critique is. That almost everyone, not just the incredibly wealthy, puts such an importance on money, regardless of the ramifications it takes to acquire it or the impact that doing so has on everyone else. Buy a company and then dismantle it, cutting a thousand jobs in the process? If it makes a profit, it would be done by more people than not. Or so the movie claims.

Where the film stutters is in doing absolutely nothing different from a basic storyline that you've seen before. Guy starts working his way up in the world, reaches the top, and then has to deal with that success -- often falling all the way back down again before finding a happy medium. That's not exactly what happens here, but it's close enough and you'll see pretty much everything coming way ahead of time. It surprises you in its subtext, but not in its narrative.

Charlie Sheen has the leading role, and he plays his character very stiffly. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- it allows him to often seem overwhelmed by the world he has entered -- but any emotional scenes, of which there are maybe two, don't quite work as a result. The real star is Michael Douglas, who is charismatic enough to really like, but devilish enough to hate. He has a sick charm to him that's infectious but at the same time evil. He steals the show in every scene he's in.

Wall Street isn't going to really turn any heads, but as a light social critique and a moderately proficient drama, it works. It has polar opposite lead actors, some slick dialogue, and definitely makes its point. Its story is basic and predictable, and any emotion falls completely flat because of the route Charlie Sheen took his character, but the film isn't really about these broad caricatures; it's more concerned with drilling its point home in an entertaining way. It succeeds at this aim, and is a fun watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:24 pm

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
This week in sequels to movies that people had forgotten about because they are over two decades old, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps comes to us. Did anyone really need a sequel to Wall Street? Do people even remember that movie. Money Never Sleeps is a 2010 release to a movie that, while good, wasn't exactly a smash hit back in 1987. At least the filmmakers made the right choice in having the only main reprisal going to Michael Douglas' character. Could you imagine a film following Sheen's character twenty years after the climax of the first film?

Douglas once again plays Gordon Gekko, who was the villain of the first film. He wound up in prison, we learn, and served almost a full ten years. No, he didn't murder anyone -- and he claims that a killer only gets five years, anyway -- he instead used illegal means to acquire money on the stock market. If you recall, money was the end goal of his entire life back in the '80s. He's been softened, and so has Oliver Stone's movie. It's no longer all about the money, or the social criticism.

The new lead character is the young Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who essentially does the same thing that Charlie Sheen's Bud did in the first film. He works as a trader at an investment firm. He's dating Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan), a woman who doesn't speak to her father, even now that he's out of prison. Why, if she hates him and his type so much, would she date someone exactly like that? I have a feeling I know what Freud would suggest in this case, and that's about the only thing I can guess, too.

A great deal of the film involves Gordon attempting to get closer to his estranged daughter. It doesn't at all matter, so don't even begin to worry that it will. Nothing matters in this subplot, and trimming it would have so desperately helped the film's overlong running time that we might have wound up with a genuinely good movie. Instead, we get a mediocre one that spends far too long on something that's about as interesting as watching the ticker go by when you have no stake in it.

The main plot, which is actually worth watching, involves Jacob attempting payback at a rich man named Bretton James, with the help of the senior Gekko. Bretton is blamed for causing the suicide of Jacob's old mentor (Frank Langella), so Jacob wants to put him out of business, despite not having the skill set for such a job. With Gordon's help, maybe, just maybe, it will be possible. You have to give Stone credit for at least trying something different with the story; a retread and updated version of Wall Street would have been an easy way to make some money.

There never seems to be much risk in Money Never Sleeps. These people are all rich even when they're "broke," and seeing people sit around in nice suits mumbling technical jargon isn't that interesting. In the last film, we had an up-and-comer in Jacob's spot, and he actually had things to lose. Jacob loses his job and even tells Winnie that he's probably going to be broke, but that just never really happens. He then gets hired seemingly the next day.

Some of the sharpness is gone, too. These characters are all really smart, and they show that at times, but the dialogue is just kind of plain. You would think that these people would be able to have more interesting conversations, but it seems like they've been put through a filter, dumbing down everything that they say and think so nobody will feel left out. I didn't always understand the complexities behind the stock market in the first film, but I understood the reasons, which was good enough.

This time around, while the jargon is still there occasionally, there's little motivation behind it other than the simplest of reasons. And the character interactions, while sometimes interesting, fail to do much more than generate a mild curiosity. There's no depth to them or their relationships to each other. While I didn't care about anyone in Wall Street, either, at least there was enough there to think about. This time around, they're all surface-level examples of what could, potentially, be fascinating.

Michael Douglas is still very fun to watch in the role he played 23 years earlier. His character is nicer, but still smart, sly, and charismatic. You like watching him. Nobody in the first film could match him, and nobody here can, either. Every time Gordon Gekko appears on-screen, you start to get interested. When he disappears for long stretches, all momentum is lost. Shia Labeouf and Carey Mulligan can't carry the load, and Frank Lengella's role is too short to ultimately matter, even if he's great in a small part.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps isn't a terrible film. Oliver Stone's failures still look great and are competently made. But there's none of the commentary that was prevalent last time around, which means it's a shallow film. The plot is a bit more complex, but without any sort of subtext, and with a terribly dull subplot involving a man trying to get back into the life of his daughter, it can't carry the film. Douglas is as fun as ever to watch, but the film around him isn't worth your time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:33 pm

Monsters University
Monsters University is a film that is absolutely worth seeing in theaters. I do not say this because of Monsters University, but because of the short film that Pixar has attached to it. That film is called The Blue Umbrella, and it is one of the most gorgeous things you will see at the cinema. Unfortunately for Monsters University, which already has incredibly high expectations placed upon it, this works against the feature.

Having the brilliant short film precede the feature means that after we see that, it's almost impossible to top it. The Blue Umbrella tells the story of the aforementioned blue umbrella, who is more cheerful and animated than those around him. He spots a red umbrella, and attempts to make contact with it. The rest of the short involves the other usually inanimate objects of the environment -- street signs, sidewalks, traffic lights, etc. -- attempting to unite these two umbrellas. It's a gorgeous film, with animation and lighting so impressive that there are times when you're not sure whether it's live-action or CGI. Judging solely based on The Blue Umbrella, we are not far away from photorealistic animation.

Monsters University, on the other hand, looks nowhere near as good, and doesn't tell a story anywhere near as sweet. Instead, it follows Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), as he attends the school of the title in hopes of becoming the "Scarer" that we see of him in Monsters Inc. We also need to see how Mike and Sully (John Goodman) become friends, as they start out this film not knowing each other before soon becoming rivals, not partners.

Yes, Monsters University is a prequel to Monsters Inc., and it has to set up everything so that the 2001 film can exist. Primarily, it does this at the very end, as it tells its own story and has a whole lot of characters which are not mentioned in Monsters Inc. It is focused on showing us a competition called the "Scare Games," which has different fraternities teaming up in an attempt to beat the others in a series of competitions. The winning team is declared the scariest in the entire school, and in this universe, that is a positive.

How many children are completely aware of what a fraternity is? The older members of the audience might know, but they'll also know how silly the film's version of the college experience is. It's like the film is too mature for the young children, but not mature enough for the older crowd. That begs the question: Who exactly is Monsters University for? And the only answer I can come up with is that it's for the studio to make a ton of money and be able to finance a project it would much rather do.

It's not even that Monsters University is bad. Even if its subject matter and the way it treats that is a bit odd, it's still a fast, flashy and funny  experience that is sure to entertain most people. It's not at all original, and it doesn't do anything that you haven't seen before, but as a colorful movie for kids, it's not a failure. It will keep eyes on the screen and give the parents a 90-minute break from having to look after their children. But it's not in the same class as Monsters Inc., or any of the really good Pixar films.

The animation looks terrible in comparison to The Blue Umbrella. That's part of the problem of having the short ahead of the feature, and not the other way around. You see one of the most beautifully animated films ever, and then you have to watch something that doesn't even approach that level. For those who care about animation quality, this will likely bug you for the next 90 minutes. There's only one sequence in Monsters University that comes anywhere close to The Blue Umbrella, and it comes very late in the picture.

There's nothing that Monsters University does that you need to see. It doesn't do a single thing exceptionally well, and it's so lightweight that you'll forget about it soon after it ends. It's a typical film where a group of misfits attempts to beat out the team of jerks who seem like they have no chance of losing. We saw this a few weeks earlier in 2013 with The Internship, and here the same story pops up again, except this time it's in the Monsters Inc. universe, and takes place in a college campus instead of Google.

It is kind of fun learning how some of the situations that happening in Monsters Inc. happened -- in particular, why Randy (Steve Buscemi) hates Mike and Sully -- and seeing a few cameos you won't expect is always enjoyable. It's these points in the film where you'll likely have the most fun. The competitions are all fun and good, but the jokes and surprises are what should bring in the most laughter.

If you really liked the two leads -- and not Boo, because she doesn't make an appearance here -- from Monsters Inc. there's a good chance you'll like Monsters University. It's not as good, but it's entertaining and moves at a good clip, so it won't bore you. Its function as a prequel really only happens at the end, and while it's fun to see how it sets up Monsters Inc., that's really its secondary purpose. It'll make you laugh and might excite you a few times, but it's forgettable and relatively bland. It's worth going to see it just for The Blue Umbrella, the short film that plays before it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:27 pm

Deception
For quite a while, I wasn't actually sure if Deception would live up to its name and become a thriller. After it was over, I learned that it did become a thriller but didn't live up to its name. This is a dull, predictable thriller, and only remains watchable because you hope to see it pull a fast one on you. I'm not usually for contrived and out-of-nowhere plot twists that are put in just because the filmmakers can, but if any film needed one, it was Deception. Unfortunately, that never happens.

It takes almost half the movie for the "thrilling" part of the movie to even begin. Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) is an auditor who works late at night to finish his jobs because, well, he has nothing better to do. A lawyer named Wyatt (Hugh Jackman) notices him one night, strikes up a conversation, and before you know it, they're best buddies. They're playing tennis together, hanging out every night, and so on. They're polar opposites, too. Wyatt is the outgoing, party guy, while Jonathan is reserved -- he's an auditor, after all; in the movies, that means his personality has to be like this.

Wyatt goes away on business, but unfortunately -- and not conveniently at all -- the two switch cell phones, completely by accident, I'm sure. Turns out Wyatt is on some sort of "list" where people call one another for anonymous sex. So, Jonathan now gets a dose of that. He breaks the rules, though, when he starts getting to know one of these people on this list, "S" (Michelle Williams), and at this point we finally get something almost resembling a thriller. Almost.

It all comes down to money and certain people not being who they claim to be, and if any of this surprises you, you probably don't watch enough movies. Right up until the end, you'll easily follow along, never being surprised for a single second. That is, except for one shot at the end that seemed completely ridiculous. Let's just say that if you had the chance to get away scot-free with $20 million in stolen cash, would you do so? Yeah, one character decides to not do that, which was the first and only surprise in the film.

The plot is so formulaic, yet seems to think it's so clever. It does everything without even a hint of irony, which would have been beneficial. It telegraphs everything so easily, especially if you've seen any similar film, that it can't surprise you. It needed a rewrite. It fails at a screenplay level, and then wasn't handed to a director who has the ability to take an awful script and make a passable movie, which is unlikely to happen in the first place.

It's not even that Deception is terrible. It's shot well, has some solid performances, and is slickly put together. It's just that, with this screenplay and level of predictability, it's almost impossible to make it compelling. How can it thrill me if I'm two steps ahead of it at every turn? It needed to throw a curveball every now and then, but it failed to do so. Right up to the final twist, I was always ahead of it. As a result, I was bored. Thrillers can't be boring. This one is.

I'm not even sure if it all makes sense. Perhaps it does, but considering how stupidly people have to act in order for the plot to function, I doubt it. Even if it does add up, it requires logical gaps by the characters for the narrative to conclude. Sure, you often have to suspend your disbelief in movies like this one, but it shouldn't be this obvious or difficult to do so. I shouldn't be noting as I'm watching it when characters do something so stupid or out of character, but I found myself doing it here.

It's because I couldn't find myself getting immersed. When I was drawn so frequently out of the movie -- due to it being too stupid, easy, predictable, or any number of things, really -- I found myself looking to other things to occupy my time. If I was wearing a watch, that might have been one of them. I did like looking at Deception, to be honest, and I think Dante Spinotti did a good job on the cinematography. But that's about the best thing I have to say about it.

Well, there's that, and there are the performances. Thanks to the charm of Hugh Jackman and the ability of Ewan McGregor, I actually found myself enjoying the movie when it was just them hanging out with one another. Before it wanted to be a thriller, when all it tried to be was a buddy film about two diametrically opposed personalities, I wasn't having a bad time. When it started to try to hard to entertain, that's the point when it started to cave in on itself. And once a cave-in begins, you're not going to be able to stop it.

Deception is a by-the-numbers thriller that gets worse and worse as it tries ever so hard to stay ahead of its audience by using outdated plot points and a lack of, for failing to find a better word, deception. It doesn't throw anything new into the mix, and while it was well-shot and decently acted, it has little to keep you entertained. The worst part is that it's not even quite bad enough to laugh at or put you to sleep. For a thriller, it's surprisingly boring, and it's definitely not worth your time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Jun 22, 2013 2:16 pm

School for Scoundrels
I've never found a Todd Phillips movie particularly funny. Most of them also have structural problems. School for Scoundrels fits into both of these categories. It opens with some promise, which only makes the final two-thirds feel like even more of a waste. If it had actually been about the "School for Scoundrels" of the title, perhaps it would have been worthwhile. It's wasted opportunity.

Roger (Jon Heder) is a loser. Or, more correctly, he's a step below "loser" on the totem pole. He pays the bills by handing out parking tickets -- which apparently pays well enough for him to drop $5,000 just like that -- he doesn't understand how to talk to, well, anyone, but especially his neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). He volunteers at a big brother program, but has had three children ditch him. He's given a number to call, at which point he is told to bring the aforementioned money to a certain location, and that's it. Apparently he's such a loser that he doesn't even understand the definition of the word "scam."

As it turns out -- because this is a movie -- there is no scam. There is a class taught by Dr. P (Billy Bob Thorton) about how one can better himself as a person. Presumably the class is only available to men, because there isn't a single woman in the class. Dr. P initially comes across as the type of drill instructor personality who might just be able to whip these lads into shape. At this moment in the film, directly following our introduction to Dr. P, I thought I might be in for something that's going to be really funny.

School for Scoundrels doesn't want to be about this classroom setting. It decides instead to have Dr. P set his sights on Amanda just to assert himself as the top dog. A battle of will ensues between the teacher and the student. Nothing fresh comes of this; they attempt to one-up the other a couple of times, all while not letting anyone outside of the classroom know that they previously knew each other. The "school" must remain a secret, presumably because nothing looks more sad than a grown man going to a class in order to gain more confidence.

The film isn't done completely removing itself from its initial idea, either. At the end, we get a slap-dash attempt at hammering in a rom-com. Or, at least, the ending to one. A character runs through an airport in hopes of getting to another character before he or she takes off -- and it comes down to the last second because that's how these things work. It's another change in direction that is very noticeable and doesn't work very well -- in this case because the rest of the film wasn't a romantic comedy.

I actually had fun for about the first twenty minutes of School for Scoundrels. It had everyone making fun of Jon Heder -- a generally good idea -- and it had a dark tone to the comedy. Later on, I didn’t even see it attempt a lot of jokes. There were some, but the sharpness was lost and it became more about the plot, which kept changing direction unnecessarily. The jokes got lost along the way.

The good critic would mention that School for Scoundrels is a remake of the British film from 1960. I haven't seen that film, but I recommend taking the chance on it over this one anyway. There's a very good chance it'll be more worthwhile. If it isn't, at least you can be a hipster and when your friends ask if you've seen School for Scoundrels, you can tell them that you say the British one, which many of them won't know existed. You can educate them! That alone is makes it worth the time, doesn't it? I mean, you like knowing things, don't you?

Is it this obvious that I'm already pretty much out of things to say about this version of School for Scoundrels? Oh! Right. Rape gets made fun of. Dr. P has a right-hand-man, Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan), a very large person with a deep voice. Apparently, he rapes people. So if you hate seeing that subject treated like the butt-end of a joke, there's another reason to dislike this movie. And it's not even like it's a one-time thing, either; it gets brought up three times, if memory serves.

Billy Bob Thorton works in his role. He's often a pleasure to watch perform, and seeing him take pot-shots at Jon Heder was a lot of fun. If the film was just that -- nothing more -- for 90 minutes, it would have been better. Jon Heder plays the loser well, too. He was Napoleon Dynamite back when that film was relevant (hint: it never was), so if you wanted to see him made fun of for twenty minutes, start up School for Scoundrels and turn if off after that time. You'll get some enjoyment out of that, at least.

School for Scoundrels is not a good movie after it changes direction, which is about twenty minutes in. It begins as a cynical movie whose target is Jon Heder's loser character. It ends as a romantic comedy that forgot jokes belong in comedies. Billy Bob Thorton is fun to watch when he makes fun of people, but that's about the only enjoyment I got out of it. Skip it and watch the original, if only to say that you've seen the original and unleash the hipster within. This concludes the first lesson of "School for Hipsters."
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:22 pm

A Sound of Thunder
Based on the 1952 short story of the same name, A Sound of Thunder is an awful movie about time travel and the consequences and dangers of doing so. It's set in 2055, when one company run by a greedy man (Ben Kingsley) sends people back 65 million years to kill a Tyrannosaurus rex that is going to die anyway with ice bullets that will then melt. The idea is that this will ensure that nothing in the past or present is changed, as they also walk on a path hovering above the ground, to ensure that nobody steps on anything.

Anyone heard of the butterfly effect? Well, you'll be unsurprised to learn that even the smallest event in the past can completely change the future. Step on a butterfly, for example, and all of humanity could be wiped out. Something goes wrong on one of these safari trips, and it's up to our heroes -- led by a doctor named Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) and a woman whose sole purpose is exposition named Sonia (Catherine McCormack) -- to fix whatever went wrong in the past, all while time waves alter the present. Apparently all of these changes won't happen at once, because the movie needs an artificial time limit, I wager.

Essentially, we're taking a very interesting premise and using it as the basis of an incredibly stupid action movie. After things start going wrong, all that happens is that these people go from place to place trying to figure out what caused the problem in the first place. All while being chased by some of the worst CGI creatures you'll see from a film with a budget over $50 million. It almost wants to be a mystery film, given how much effort it spends attempting to discover what's causing all of this.

The problem with that is that we see right off the bat that someone stepped off the path. The camera lingers on a single footprint -- why there would only be one is beyond me -- on the hovering path, so we know why. Trying to make us wonder and think about this doesn't work at all. That the characters even look at a recording of their journey and don't see that makes it infuriating.

Of course, stepping off the path isn't the only thing that happens. A butterfly also gets killed, in case you needed a greater connection to the butterfly effect. I spoil all of this for you now so that not even a mild curiosity will draw you to this movie. It doesn't ultimately matter, anyway, what happens, because the solution presented earlier on -- the only logical one: go back in time and stop the earlier safari before it begins -- means that it doesn't matter what happens afterward.

"But wait," I can hear you saying because you haven't seen the movie and maybe just read the short story once and are basing everything you know about A Sound of Thunder based on that. "There's totally a message to it, isn't there?" Well, yes. Yes, there is. It's "don't screw with time travel." I suppose one can also figure out that your actions now affect what happens in the future, but that's too deep for the film. Also, businessmen are greedy. There are so many fresh and deep ideas presented here that I don't even know where to begin.

This is probably one of the cheapest looking films you will ever see. Entire sequences look as if they've come out of a Playstation 2 game. The entire city in the future is sometimes made of CGI, and it's so poorly rendered that you have to wonder exactly where the reported $50-80 million went. It's like they got about halfway through creating the visuals and went "okay, that's enough of that," and moved on. To what, exactly, I'm not sure, but the visuals in this film don't look complete. Even the green screening is terrible. How, for a 2005 film, do you screw that up?

The first scene in A Sound of Thunder depicts a successful T-rex hunt. You'll have a good feeling of what you're getting into from this single moment. You'll see the awful dinosaur, the cheap looking costumes and set, the abhorrent dialogue, and you'll wonder how anyone looked at this and gave it the okay. It looks worse than several student films out there, and has about as much depth as a butterfly squished between two panes of glass and put on display at a museum. Scratch that, the film has less depth than that.

Just about the only fun you can have from a film like this is to laugh at it every step of the way. I was too bored and uninvolved to do that, but perhaps you will be able to. If nothing else, can we at least all agree that the hair piece put on Ben Kingsley is hilarious? Actually, if Kingley's character has been around for much of the second act -- he disappears for a long stretch, which was too bad -- the movie might have been more enjoyable. He at least would have been consistently funny, if only to see the Oscar winner fighting gorilla-lizard-bat hybrids.

A Sound of Thunder was a really enjoyable short story that you might have read in school. The movie adaptation is awful at every turn. There is absolutely nothing to involve you, nothing to make you think, and it doesn't even contain an enjoyable adventure. It's bland, looks awful, and will only be enjoyed if you can muster up the energy to make fun of it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:25 pm

Fever Pitch
Admittedly, there was no reason whatsoever to remake the 1997 film Fever Pitch, which was about soccer and took place in Britain. True, the majority of Americans are going to like a movie about baseball far more than one about soccer, so this one has far more box office potential, but in terms of general plot and themes, the films are essentially identical. They're also both based on the same source material, which in this case is a novel by Nick Hornby. It makes sense that they're similar.

Despite the differences in sports, neither film is truly about the event that takes place in a large stadium and consumes the thoughts of fans on a daily basis. They're about relationships and addictions, learning to let go or hold on, and about finding the right balance in one's life. The sport causes more tension that it ought to, and becomes one of the main sources of conflict, but it could easily be replaced with something else -- anything that takes up too much time for one of the parties in a relationship could serve this function, and it's for this reason that Fever Pitch seems very familiar.

It's usually work that fits this role. Someone spends too much time at the office, leading to the partner and possibly the offspring to feel neglected. That someone then has to either choose one or the other -- the family life or the working one -- or strike a balance to make everything work out, often giving up a promotion in the process. You have seen this film before. In fact, Fever Pitch has a character who does work incredibly hard to secure a promotion. It just never gets in the way of her real life. She's too smart for that.

Fever Pitch takes place in the 2004 baseball season, which you'll remember (or try to forget, if you're a Yankee fan), as the one in which a miraculous comeback occurred for the Boston Red Sox. The film takes place in hindsight, and never once tries to make you question whether or not the Sox will come back after being down 3-0 in the division series. However, because the characters don't know this, there's some dramatic irony to be had at their expense.

There are two leads. The first is the die-hard Sox fan, schoolteacher Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon). His uncle passed on season tickets, and he hasn't missed a game in the last eleven years. He meets a woman, Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore), during the off-season, and seems like the perfect man. It's only once the season starts that she learns just how important the Sox are to his life, and how big of a hurdle this addiction, for lack of a better word, will be to overcome.

To the film's credit, they try so very hard to make it work, and it seems for the longest time that they will. Fever Pitch seems to be building to the big reveal, where she'll dump him on the spot for being a manchild about the Sox, but then it doesn't go there. It feels real because of this. You can see their relationship going in either direction, and because each character feels like someone you've known, it feels genuine. It avoids romantic comedy pitfalls until the very end, and by that point, it doesn't matter; you're already hooked.

What makes the sports part of the story more interesting than your typical "overworked at the office" one is that (1) you know the outcome and (2) it can work as an inspiration to be perfectly juxtaposed against the conclusion to the romance storyline, regardless of outcome. If it's not a happy ending, then that's emphasized by the cheers of the crowd ad Ortiz his another walk-off home run. If it's a happy ending, then it's all the happier.

The film is very sweet, quite gentle, humorous, and not at all challenging. That's okay. Do you expect a rom-com to make you think? What it does is creates a couple of relatable people, puts them in a relationship, and lets them work out their troubles, one way or another. It's a touching and actually quite moving film, and it has a point, too. It does lose humor as it progresses, but I found that to be acceptable. It moves into more romance than comedy, and that's what makes it somewhat affecting.

I've never been a huge fan of Drew Barrymore, but she plays the working woman well in this film. Jimmy Fallon does his best work at the beginning, when his charming, nice-guy routine mixed with a keen sense of humor is used to woo the lady. In real drama, neither succeeds, but that's why it's a romantic comedy and not a drama. Different actors would have been cast if it was. It's worth noting that these are the only two actors and characters that matter; the film is about them, squarely about them, and while there are some supporting roles that get some screen time, they ultimately don't matter.

Fever Pitch is a good romantic comedy. How many times can you utter those words without a hint of irony or sarcasm? Maybe one in every ten? Twenty? By mixing sports with love, it creates a funny and touching movie. It places two very real character into a relationship and lets them work it all out for themselves. It feels genuine, it never lingers, it's harmless, and I had a good time with it. It's an unnecessary remake, but it's a good film and I'm perfectly okay with it existing. You should give it a watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jun 25, 2013 12:27 pm

Life of Pi
Even if you haven't read Yann Martel's Life of Pi, there's a good chance you've heard about the main story, in which an Indian teenager named Pi (portrayed in the movie by Suraj Sharma) is trapped on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger, and has to figure out a way to survive for many weeks without the help of anyone else. There's a bit more to it than that -- the novel is split into three sections -- but the part of the book that is best remembered and most often shared to people who haven't read it is the whole survival journey.

It makes sense that this part of Life of Pi, director Ang Lee's adaptation of the novel, is the one that works the best. The framework around which this story is presented involves the adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) telling the story to a novelist (Rafe Spall), from the present day. We begin and end in Pi's house, and the majority of the film is presented as a flashback. unfortunately, it takes a good forty minutes to get to the part where Pi is on the lifeboat, and this section of the film is painful to sit through.

Part of the problem is how preachy it feels. The entire story is supposed to make you believe in God. Fair enough. Have whatever message you want. However, hammering it home before we've even heard the story diminishes its effect. Continuing to state your point before you've done a single thing to prove it doesn't make us inclined to care or agree with you. The story can be the most incredible thing ever, but saying that while you're telling us some unimportant back story about our main character isn't going to do much of anything except bore your audience.

Anyway, yes, we do learn about Pi as he grows up, and it takes a dreadfully long time to do so. I think it might have worked better to mix in a bit of back story as Pi is on the boat -- we're told he has to keep his mind focused on something, after all, so memories could be exactly that -- although I get the thinking behind getting it out of the way right off the bat. That doesn't stop it from almost killing the picture right away, but persevere and you'll eventually get to the good part.

Once the ship goes down, Pi gets stranded on the lifeboat, and the only interaction he gets with another living thing is with Richard Parker, the aforementioned tiger, Life of Pi gets good. Really good, in fact. The visuals are astounding, the survival aspect of his journey is really compelling, and there's absolutely no preach to the proceedings. There simply is this boy and this tiger and Pi has to figure out a way to survive given this circumstance.

And then, once this story has come to a close, we get the final act. As I said earlier, we end in the house of adult Pi, who then begins the preaching again. The logic behind this preaching -- after a late-game "twist," if you can call it that -- is incomprehensible. Will the story make you believe in God? Maybe, but then the film (and book; this isn't a problem universal to Ang Lee's movie) ruins all of that. You witness something beautiful and wondrous, and then it gets thrown aside. Sometimes, these things should stand on their own. No more words need to be said.

It goes further than this. There's a completely unnecessary scene in which the novelist breaks down the metaphors presented, as if he's talking down directly to the audience, thinking that we're incapable of understanding what the film is saying to us. We get that, along with an already very viable preachy nature. It's too much. It significantly hampers the film. However, I don't think it harms it enough to make it something you should avoid.

The main reason you go to see this -- apart from seeing a beloved novel turned into a film -- is for the visuals. Even the bad Ang Lee films look gorgeous, and Life of Pi is no exception. In fact, it looks so good that you can forgive almost everything about it. The cinematography is breathtaking, the CGI is about as convincing as current technology permits, and every shot is so wonderfully framed. Just looking at Life of Pi is an experience to treasure.

The film also contains a strong performance from Suraj Sharma, playing the 16-year-old Pi. Sharma is a newcomer, and was a great pick. He's expressive, has a lot of range, and can go from fearsome to timid in a matter of moments. If the character of Pi wasn't completely overshadowed by Richard Parker, the tiger, he might get even more acclaim. The tiger was my favorite, though, perhaps in large part because seeing such a realistic tiger do all the things this one does is a wonder to behold, and something you won't see in any other movie.

Life of Pi is a mixed movie. For the majority of its running time, it's an intense, beautiful, awe-inspiring film about a boy and a tiger surviving together on a lifeboat. However, this is bookended by a preachy film whose logic isn't exactly sound, and whose characters are so unimportant that it's entirely possible to stop caring prior to, or after, the boy/tiger/boat story. Life of Pi is absolutely worth seeing for the middle section, but it isn't a complete viewing experience, which is unfortunate and is a problem directly from the source material.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:28 pm

Firewall
"Harmless" is a word often used by film critics to describe a movie that is definitely not great, but it's not bad enough to be a complete waste of time. If you need to kill a couple of hours, a "harmless" film will do the job just fine, if you have nothing else to watch, of course. Firewall is one such harmless film. You've seen pretty much everything in this film before, and it's not really any good, but it's not terrible enough to be placed in many "worst of" lists.

Firewall stars Harrison Ford as Jack Stanfield, the head of security at some big Seattle bank. He's married to Beth (Virginia Madsen), and together the couple has two children, Sarah (Carly Schroeder) and Andy (Jimmy Bennett). The reason to mention his family is that, soon enough, they're going to be put into danger. One day, "pizza night," burglars break into Jack's house, capture his family, and start making demands. Jack needs to figure out a way to steal from the bank for whom he works, and if he fully cooperates, he and his family will be let go without any harm done.

Does full cooperation ever happen in this type of film? I can't think of one where the hero goes "Yeah, okay," and then he and the villain are friends until the end. He's always looking for a way out, for a small slip -- something to gain an advantage and free his family. Of course, these attempts rarely work out. We need our big, risky heist at the end. That's always how these work, and it's one of the only things we can be sure of in this type of thriller. It's asking too much for Firewall to work against convention.

The bad guy is played by Paul Bettany, because putting someone with an English accent against our all-American family means that we will never have trouble telling good guy from villain, I guess. IT doesn't really matter, as Bettany's character leaves most of the dirty work to his lackeys, most of whom don't actually seem to care that much about this heist. That could have actually factored in at some point, but it never does because that might be interesting.

We go through the exact plot points that you'd expect from a movie like this one. Multiple failed escape or reasoning attempts all lead up to the heist at the end. There are a couple of twists, none of which will surprise anyone who has seen a movie in their lifetime, and everything is wrapped up way too quickly. Actually, at about the 80 minute mark I would have sworn we were right about at Firewall's climax, but then it goes on for another twenty minutes. Despite this, it still concludes too fast. It tacks on an additional location and winds up dragging itself out for too long to make this decision worthwhile.

Does the film hold up after closer inspection? Probably not, but this isn't the type of film that inspires in-depth discussion. I don't know if an .mp3 file is equal to the same amount of data that a bank number and password has, or if an iPod could take that data off a computer as easily as it does in the film, but that's kind of the fun, isn't it? You see some creative ways to get the problem solved, even if they wouldn't work in real life.

Thrillers don't need to be based around fact to be effective. What they do need to be is, well, thrilling. When you can stay ahead of the plot for the majority of the time the movie is playing, it's hard for that to happen. Not impossible -- some better thrillers are predictable but are able to overcome that because of strong characters, actors, or direction -- but very tough. Firewall has little to keep you interested, assuming you've seen this story told before. It will still pass the time, but it's really not worth it if you have other options.

Did I enjoy Firewall a little bit? Sure. Does that mean you should watch it? No. There are some films that I'll generally like, at least somewhat, regardless of quality or purpose. There's no real reason to watch Firewall when other movies do the same thing and better, but to pass the time late at night when you can't sleep, it works effectively at keeping you awake. And at the beginning, it's kind of funny, too. I wish that sense of humor was kept throughout.

Harrison Ford is and probably always will be fun to watch. I don't know if I buy him, at 63 years of age, in this kind of role -- it gets rather physical later on and you don't really see Ford doing much of that -- but because it's Harrison Ford, you can't complain too much. His character's family members get nothing to do, and Paul Bettany is a very uninteresting villain. Alan Arkin and Robert Patrick have small roles, with the latter's almost managing to matter before the film forgets about him and drops that idea.

Does Firewall work? Not exactly well enough to recommend, but enough that it won't exactly be unpleasant to watch if it comes on the television late at night and you have nothing better to do or can't find the remote. It's a generic thriller with a predictable plot and only one actor and character that genuinely matters. It has a few suspenseful moments, and it has a charm to it at the beginning (which is unfortunately dropped later on), and it isn't a complete waste of time. It's harmless.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:30 pm

Dead Ringers
A film that's probably far more horrifying for the women in the audience than the males, Dead Ringers tells the tragic tale of twin gynecologists. Both are played by Jeremy Irons, who does such a good job at giving each twin a distinct personality. Even without saying anything, you can almost always tell who is who simply because of the nuances he gives them. The way director David Cronenberg uses special effects to sometimes have Irons on-screen in two places at once is seamless.

Elliot and Beverly (Irons) are very smart, successful gynecologists. That path seemingly was theirs to take since childhood; the first scene of the film sees them asking a female neighbor if she'll have sex with them just because. They're fascinated with anatomy, and they're innovators in their field as a result. They also wind up having affairs with many of their patients, often switching place and without the patient being able to tell the difference. There's a sort of dark comedy running through Dead Ringers. Pitch black, and too subdued to really call the film a "dark comedy." It's more of a horrifying drama.

One of the targets for this switcheroo winds up being a "famous" actress -- which, considering the film takes place in Toronto, means barely anyone would recognize her -- Claire (Geneviève Bujold). She's too smart for their games, and Beverly winds up falling in love during this process. How does this play out? It would be spoiling to tell. It's also not the central focus of the film. That's the relationship and dependency between the two twins.

The twins act like a single organism. What one does, the other must do, also. The female, Claire, comes in the way of that. So do drugs. Seeing these elements attempt to separate an entity that must remain whole is a fascinating character study. The madness that takes place over Dead Ringers' final half is scary. Despite this, you can't bring yourself to stop watching. You have to see where this journey will take these characters, and whether or not they'll come out of it unscathed. You've probably already figured out whether or not that's the case, but the film has enough depth to it to make it worth seeing more than once -- or the single time if you've already come to the correct conclusion.

Dead Ringers becomes more like a nightmare as it progresses. Watching it is rarely an enjoyable experience, unless you're strictly appreciating it from a technical perspective. That unsettling and unpleasant feeling works in its advantage. You can understand exactly how these characters are feeling because of that. And because it's David Cronenberg, you know that you're gonna get some terrifying imagery.

Is it more subdued than many of his earlier horror films? Absolutely. We don't get a lot of gore, only a couple of gross-out scenes, and much more straight drama ... that becomes scary because of the situations surrounding it. Addiction storylines aren't uncommon, but this one -- involving well-off doctors who begin to "separate" into unique entities -- feels unique because of the circumstances leading up to it.

Twins make the perfect subject matter for a film like this one. Questions of individual identity -- especially when the swapping of places occurs -- are bound to be raised. But it's more than that. A dream sequence has Beverly attempting to cut a literal bond between the two using one of the deranged tools that he has invented for his practice. Dead Ringers can be taken in a number of ways, and it's for that reason that it deserves multiple watches, if you can get through it without puking.

It would all fall apart if Jeremy Irons wasn't near-perfect in the leading roles. He does an impressive job giving each twin so many unique features -- body language and facial expression alone allow us to determine which twin is which before he even opens his mouth, at which point a subtle change in the way he speaks is present -- that brainstorming must have taken a great deal of time. They do get blurred together as the addictions take more control of their lives, but that's intentional.

This is one of the best films David Cronenberg has done. By toning it down to a more human scale, focusing more on the characters than the spectacle, and still giving the audience a boatload of things to think about once it ends, he has crafted a wonderful movie. That is, if you can sit through it and not find it too off-putting to even think about it. Even if that is the case, and you told him that, he'd probably smile. That is a perfectly acceptable way to look at a film like Dead Ringers.

Dead Ringers is a fantastic film. What's it about? Twin gynecologists who swap places with one another in order to have sex with their patients, all while becoming addicted to any number of drugs and inventing tools for their practice that would be considered torture if they were ever used. If that doesn't turn you off the film, you'll probably appreciate it. It has things to say, it's unsettling, creepy, and genuinely creepy, and there's an undercurrent of black humor swimming underneath. It's a tremendous film and if you think you can handle it, I definitely recommend it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by PayJ on Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:54 pm

I've got that film sitting in my collection unwatched. Might have to see it now.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Pararaptor on Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:02 pm

Always remember the cover from the video store, for whatever reason.
Will give a look.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:29 pm

Office Space
Office Space is a film that's going to resonate with a lot of people, primarily those who either have been forced to listen to stories of the office, or have worked there themselves. This is a movie that does two things. (1) It satirizes what working in an office is like and (2) it portrays the characters working in said office as very sympathetic -- at least, as long as they're not part of the management department.

The lead is Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a programmer at a company named Intech. He doesn't do a whole lot of work while at the office, despite having a boss (Gary Cole) who constantly calls him in on the weekends and seems to exist -- at least from his point of view -- just to make his life miserable. Joined in his disgruntled attitude toward work is Samir (Ajay Naidu), the high-strung immigrant, and Michael Bolton (David Herman), who shares his name with the singer and hates it. That's his only defining characteristic, by the way, so don't expect anything more to come of that idea.

Characters having little to them is a consistent theme in Office Space. They're all stereotypes or everymen. I get it; the everymen are there so you can project yourself into their position, and the stereotypes are there because that way you can associate them with someone else in your life: a boss, a co-worker, that one waitress at the restaurant you frequent during your lunch breaks, and so on. This also means that the film doesn't have to take its time to develop them, and since it's a comedy, it can (presumably) put that time and focus into the jokes and funny situations.

That's fine, and if Mike Judge -- the writer and director of the film, who also wrote the shorts on which the film is based -- had done that, perhaps his film would have been a lot more enjoyable. Office Space feels like a collection of barely related shorts, which then decide to team up into a poorly executed caper plot. This idea comes out of nowhere and then takes over the rest of the film. It doesn't work and while it's the only "joke" that lasts for longer than a couple of moments, it's not one that deserved any time.

The first part of Office Space comes really close to working, and I actually found myself enjoying parts of it. We see the disgruntled office workers, we see what makes their jobs miserable, and then we get the revelation: What would happen if you stopped going when you didn't want to? This is funny, although it's unlikely to sustain an entire 90 minutes. I understand why something resembling a plot had to come along and ruin this.

As a result, we get this caper plot -- inspired by Superman III -- in which the workers decide to install a virus onto the company's computers which will result in them stealing fractions of pennies at a time, resulting in a few hundred thousand dollars after a couple of years. It can't go right, and it leads to one or two character revelations, but it's not actually funny, and all of the somewhat clever satire from earlier gets thrown out the window. Office Space loses its smarts and becomes boring.

Perhaps this is why things like Dilbert or Judge's own Milton are shorts. This premise can't make feature length without wearing thin or losing the original idea. When the film did seem just like a series of skits involving office workers who weren't too happy with their jobs, at least it managed to keep things funny and fresh. When it tried to become more like a movie, the air was completely let out of the balloon and Office Space came crashing down to earth. What starts as an enjoyable movie quickly loses all of that momentum and grinds to a halt.

There are a couple of subplots, too, although they're handled so poorly that they don't even come across that way. Peter starts up a relationship with Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), although the entire purpose of this is for someone to tell him that, yes, stealing is wrong. The entire development of their relationship is shown to us in a montage where they mostly just watch Kung Fu on television. There's really no purpose to it except for there to be one character with a conscience in the movie.

At least the actors are generally pretty good. Sure, they're essentially all cartoon characters, but since that's part of the joke, and it's done intentionally, I can accept this. Livingston is a strong everyman, and his reactions to many of the workplace incidents are quite humorous. Gary Cole's boss is by far the most enjoyable character in the film, as he's slimy and you can definitely see what he was going for. When he interacts with, well, anyone, it's really humorous.

Office Space isn't really a bad movie, especially because the first half is quite funny and smart, but the caper plot is such a huge misfire that it almost renders the rest of the film pointless. While the earlier portions felt more like small skits than a cohesive film, at least they were interesting, funny, and make a point. There are a couple of jokes later on, and the actors do a good job with the material they're given, but Office Space is ultimately not worth your time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by PayJ on Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:52 pm

I enjoyed office space. Certainly agree the first half is a lot stronger though.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Jun 29, 2013 2:24 pm

Torque
The funniest thing about Torque is that one of the two major forces in its creation wasn't sure of what was being made. The director is Joseph Kahn, who wants to have made a satire of films like The Fast and the Furious. Neal H. Moritz is one of the producers of the film, and the one the advertising refers to as "The Producer of The Fast and the Furious, S.W.A.T. and xXx." He seems to believe that this is another dumb action movie, and has tried to get it advertised as such.

What is it really? Probably something of a mix, which explains the confusion by the two men. They were each trying to get something different made, so elements of each have wound up in the final cut. There are parts where it completely mocks its target, while there are others that follow in those films' footsteps, gladly taking the "dumb action movie" route. It's inconsistent, and while that doesn't make it unwatchable, it would have been nicer for there not to be this internal conflict. It would have made the action more enjoyable or the satire more biting.

The basic idea here is that it's Fast and the Furious, ramped up to 11, and with motorcycles instead of cars. The lead is Cary (Martin Henderson), and he is essentially against the entire world in the film. He's always being chased by someone, whether it be rival gang leaders (Ice Cube and Matt Schulze), his girlfriend (Money Mazur), or the FBI (Adam Scott and Justina Machado). He was absent for a long time, after he found himself in possession of a ton of drugs, but he's returned to clear his name. This is further complicated when a man ends up dead and Carey is blamed, despite having both an alibi and proof that it was someone else.

Torque is absolutely insane. It's highly stylized, action-packed, and has so many amazing ideas that I probably would have been okay if it was just a straight-up action movie. Joseph Kahn shows some spark here that makes me think he could easily do an action movie without a brain in its head and make it incredibly entertaining. Torque, as it is, winds up being quite fun.

There are a lot of chase scenes, most of them done at very high speeds, and because they're on motorcycles instead of being inside a car, the whole thing feels just a little more dangerous, mostly because you can't just have the camera mounted on the dashboard and all you're looking at is a person's face. In order to film this way, the camera has to show at least something outside of the vehicle, and it has to follow the motorcycle around. It's more difficult filmmaking, plain and simple, and it also makes the action scenes more exciting.

I can't begin to describe some of the things that you see in this film. Remember how Equilibrium had "gun kata"? Torque has "bike fu" -- kung fu on motorcycles. And the two participants are Monet Mazur and Jamie Pressly, so I'm not sure who would complain about watching that scene. Is it ridiculous and over-the-top? Absolutely, but so is a lot of the film. This is only one of many moments that will have you audibly declare "no way!" Suffice to say that I really enjoyed the action in Torque.

However, there's more to the film than that. Or, at least, the intention is that there's more. I'm not sure how much of that came through in the finished product. You can see some of the attempts -- the line "I live my life a quarter-mile at a time" from The Fast and the Furious is made fun of directly, a sign reads "cars suck," and the action is sometimes so silly that you can't possibly take it seriously -- but so much of Torque plays out just like a dumb action film that those small bits of insight come across more as flukes than as genuine criticism.

And that's too bad, because if you're looking for them, you can see what Kahn was doing with his film. Whether it was studio/producer interference or that there is only so much one can do with this idea before the film starts to stop being fun is something likely never to be revealed, but I can certainly see the attempt. Credit is due for the idea; it's the execution that's somewhat lacking, even if the film remains really enjoyable for its brief (84 minute) running time.

The acting is actually better than you'd expect from a cheesy B-movie such as this. Martin Henderson doesn't have to do anything in the lead role, but he's charismatic and I liked watching him. Ice Cube isn't a good actor, but he's suitable as the leader of a rival gang. Adam Scott is taking the film the least seriously, despite playing the part that requires the most composure: an FBI Agent. The women just have to look good, and it would have been better to see more done with their characters. "Their roles are satirical," the film would claim. Fine.

Torque walks an uneasy line between straight-up dumb action movie and a satire of that very genre, and while it doesn't really pick a side, it does the former very well and while the execution of the latter wasn't completely successful, I'm inclined to be forgiving. When most of the film is this fun, any additional thought is bonus. That Torque thinks about anything other than stunts is a bonus in and of itself. I heartily recommend this film.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Jun 30, 2013 2:15 pm

Hollywoodland
If you've heard of Superman, you've probably heard of George Reeves. He played the character in the 50s television series Adventures of Superman, but died at the age of 45. The official cause of death was suicide, but there was always the prevailing thought that it might have been murder -- accidental or otherwise. Hollywoodland is based around Reeves' life, both leading up to the shooting, and after, as it's investigated by a private investigatory named Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), who is in the middle of battling his own demons.

Simo gets the majority of the screen time, although we get many flashbacks -- some of which happened in real life, a few that have been created for the film, and some that are speculative; they might or might not have happened -- of George Reeves, here portrayed by Ben Affleck wearing a fake nose, and looking quite similar to Superman. Reeves wasn't a terribly complicated man, as far as the film is concerned, but he did have two women in his life whom he loved dearly. The first, a married woman named Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), whose husband was the general manager of MGM (Bob Hoskins), and a fan who eventually becomes his fiancée, Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney).

We learn all of this through Simo's eyes, as he discovers more about Reeves' life. He tries to put all of the pieces together by uncovering clues, interviewing the people with whom Reeves associated, and logically trying to piece it all together in his mind. As he does so, he winds up learning much more about his own life than the one he's supposed to be figuring out. Hollywoodland reveals itself not to be a study of or an attempt to solve Reeves' murder/suicide, but a character study of the detective taking the case.

There are many parallels in the two stories that we watch throughout the course of the film. Both Reeves and Simo wanted everyone else to see them as larger than life and both had more than a couple of family issues. The only question is whether or not Simo will learn from his case and change things around in his own life, or if he'll, possibly, wind up the same as Reeves.

This all takes place in a very impressive recreation of 1950s Hollywood. In the Reeves timeline, which begins in 1951 and progresses until 1959, when he died, everything is stylized, but still appears authentic. The allure of the stars is there, and it all feels so attractive. As time moves forward, it becomes more "real." Grittier, less charming, and so on, right up until Simo becomes a chronological part to the story. It's a smart trick used by director Allen Coulter, and one that adds to the overall effect.

What was a bit of a relief to see is that Hollywoodland isn't interested in attempting to solve or even insinuate what its thoughts are about the situations directly leading up to Reeves' unfortunate death. It presents three plausible ways in which he died, and allows the viewer to make up his or her own mind. The film is a character study of Simo, anyway, so this makes sense, but it's not a preachy film even in its smaller parts. After all, nobody is certain what exactly happened to Reeves, so the film trying to make a statement about it would be foolish.

It also makes for one heck of an enjoyable mystery film. It's slow-paced, but always engaging. Simo -- who is a fictionalized character based on several real people -- is dropped into this world of people who existed in real life, and gets to interact with them, get to know them. It's fascinating, especially whenever the flashbacks seem to lead straight into a situation he's facing in his present life.

There are two leads in the film, one for each of the two stories. Adrien Brody gets the most time on-screen, and also has the more challenging role. He's a broken man investigating the case of a man whose life parallels his own, to varying degrees. He has to portray the turmoil of discovering this, and also undergo a fairly large psychological shift by the time the film comes to a close. Mix in hitting rock bottom, and you've got yourself a challenging role. He pulls it off effortlessly.

Affleck fares better than he usually does in portraying Reeves. The film doesn't present him as all that complex, but Affleck at least looks and sounds the part, which is about all that matters. He gets to play off his co-stars more often than not, anyway, and with a beautiful woman in the form of Diane Lane or Robin Turney at his side, it's sometimes not really necessary for him to be great. His best aspect is that he's charming and charismatic, and he milks that for as long as he can in this role.

Hollywoodland is a film of questionable enjoyment, but rarely one where the quality is the suspect. It's a solid mystery that quickly turns its B-story of a troubled investigator into the main one, opening up as a character -- not case -- study. It ultimately works, in large part because of the parallels between the two plots, the way the world slowly looses its style as the timeline progresses, and because of how good Brody is in the role. And you won't see a finer representation of 1950s Hollywood anywhere, especially with only $14 million to work with. I quite enjoyed Hollywoodland, and definitely give it a recommendation.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jul 01, 2013 4:35 pm

End of Watch
It took writer-director David Ayer two directorial failures before getting it right with End of Watch. Here, he's finally made a great crime movie. That seems to be his fascination and muse: he wrote Training Day and Dark Blue, and moved on to direct Harsh Times and Street Kings. Not to say that any of those movies were terrible, but with End of Watch all of the effort he put in has finally paid off. This is a fabulous movie.

There's no overarching story here. We're instead given what's essentially a ride-along with a couple of cops. Each is given as much screen time as the other. The one who drives the police car is Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), while the other one is Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal). They are very good friends, and you will become aware of that over the course of the film. The two actors have great chemistry together, which certainly helps, but their interactions with one another really sells it. We alternate between seeing them drive around their district and being involved in life-threatening situations.

The first thing that you'll notice about End of Watch is the way that it's filmed. It's feels a lot like a found-footage movie; most of the shots are taken from cameras either held or clipped onto someone in the film. Brian is taking a film course in his spare time, so he's often got a handheld camera. He also clips a camera to his shirt, and also gives one to Mike. Finally, we get dashboard shots, both facing forward -- giving us potentially nauseating car chases -- and inward, where we see the partners goofing off while driving around.

We also get some handheld shots from the "villains" of the picture, a street gang that goes around causing havoc and is built up for most of the picture as the baddies. Why they're filming -- and why their boss, who's supposed to be an incredibly savvy man, would let them -- isn't made clear, but you can forgive that because the movie wouldn't quite work if we didn't see some things from their perspective. Sometimes, we do get more traditional cinematography, although it's still handheld and very shaky, so it blends in very nicely.

I'm not often a fan of this shooting style. It frequently gets used to cover up for a low budget (this one was made for $7 million) or a lack of talent. Here, it helps make the picture feel authentic. We feel like we're really there, and all of the awful things that happen over the course of the film -- there are many -- come across as very real. It's very infrequently that I'll have to turn away from the screen when watching a film, but there were a couple of times during End of Watch where I had to do just that.

This is the type of buddy cop film that other filmmakers should look up to. It puts so many other moves in the genre to shame simply because you can believe in it. The characters all feel real, the situations seem like they could really occur, and you become immersed in this world as a result. There's so much depth to the relationships that you genuinely care about these people. When the climax rolls around, even if you have a good idea as to how it's going to play out, you're going to feel something. I was surprised how much I cared.

Part of the problem that a lot of these films have is tone. Many are too light to take seriously or too dark to be any fun. End of Watch has a perfect balance between depravity and levity. Yes, you see terrible things take place while riding along with these people, but you also get to see the light moments, both in the car and in their personal lives. Each man has a woman in his life (Natalie Martinez and Anna Kendrick), and while the women don't play a large role, they provide even more humanity to their cops.

End of Watch also brings into the spotlight racial conflicts, gang wars, the relationship between different police officers, and quite a bit more. While it's not really a "thinking" movie, it does raise some issues that might just stick in your mind for a while after it ends. Of course, it wouldn't be effective if it didn't feel authentic, which is why that point is so key in making the film work as well as it does.

The lead performances are also important. Jake Gyllenhaal has always been a good actor when he chooses meatier roles, and here's one that's as meaty as they come. Michael Peña has been one of the more underrated and underutilized actors working for quite a while now, and it's great to see him get a chance to shine with this film. The villains -- the main gang -- sometimes wind up going over-the-top just a touch -- mostly in the way that f-bombs are used as a substitute for both spaces and punctuation in their dialogue -- but they seemed plausible enough to not draw attention away from the film.

End of Watch is how you do a gritty, realistic buddy cop movie correctly. It is the best of its ilk in years, and essentially becomes one of the new gold standards. It feels authentic, it packs an emotional and intellectual punch, it contains fantastic acting, and its handheld shooting style doesn't act as a detriment. It is exactly what you want from this type of film, and it is absolutely worth a watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jul 02, 2013 3:31 am

Wreck-It Ralph
Despite being relatively deep in the gaming scene, it took me quite a while to get into Wreck-It Ralph. Perhaps it's because all of the cameos and references are front-loaded, or maybe because world-building takes up pretty much the entirety of the first act, but I really wasn't digging what the film had to offer. And then, by the time the titular character reached a sugary riff on Mario Kart, I was hooked. I had bought in, and I was completely engrossed. Wreck-It Ralph won me over.

The basic idea here is that Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) is sick and tired of being treated like a bad guy. He's in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix, Jr., where he destroys the building which needs to be fixed by Felix. It's a simple title, and has lasted in the arcade for 30 years. Thirty years of doing the same job has taken its toll on Ralph, so he has decided to travel to other arcade cabinets -- the game characters are sentient and can do that in this universe, which is pretty awesome -- in order to become the hero he has decided he wants to be.

After a brief venture into a shooter game, Hero's Duty, he winds up inside of a kart racer called Sugar Rush, helping a "glitch" character named Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) attempt to win a race that will allow her to be used by a player character. Unbeknownst to him, he's released a deadly virus that is quickly multiplying, and has also trapped both Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) and the lead of Hero's Duty (Jane Lynch) inside of Sugar Rush. Oh, and there's something just a little funny about Sugar Rush, as if some of the characters might be hiding something. I'm sure that won't amount to anything. Wink.

In all seriousness, there is quite a lot going on, all of which will wind up coming up right at the end. It leads up to an incredibly action-packed climax. When so many things need to be concluded -- and the filmmakers are smart enough to not leave these types of things unsolved -- you know you're in for quite the finale. Wreck-It Ralph definitely delivers on that promise.

Not only is it filled with action, but it also contains some very well-developed characters. It works almost as effectively as a drama as it does at anything else, and I can't help but admit that I was close to tearing up during a couple of the moments. I say that not because it was particularly sad, but because it's so sweet for most of its running time that you feel such joy when things go right and quite a bit of sadness when it doesn't seem like things will go the characters' way.

Both of the main characters are just looking for some form of acceptance. But there's a lot more to them than that, and when their relationship develops, it feels quite natural. Yes, I'm aware I'm talking about video game characters from games that aren't even real. That's how well they are presented to us. It makes everything feel so much more important, too. When you care about these people, it matters to you when their lives are put in peril.

The world in which the film takes place is also quite interesting, even if it isn't really used to its full potential. You have all of the video game characters that Disney could license in one central hub, and all they get used for are some quick cameos. After seeing Wreck-It Ralph, imagine the finale with a whole bunch of other video game characters, too. I can only imagine how fantastic that action scene would be. Still, the idea is intriguing and if sequels get made, it would be a fun premise to explore further. You don't even need Ralph to be the central character when there are so many other potential games to take a look at.

I have only two problems with Wreck-It Ralph. The first is that anyone over the age of twelve will see pretty much every turn it takes from a mile away -- save for one nice surprise near the end that ... doesn't wind up amounting to much and was kind of disappointing, to be honest. It all still works because of the characters, but a bit of divergence from the land of cliché would have been appreciated. The second is that it's not really all that funny. It has moments of real laughter, and I'm sure others will find it funnier than I did, but I didn't laugh a whole lot.

Still, you can take the gorgeous visuals, strong characters and pretty good voice acting, throw in some fun cameos that both new-school and old-school gamers will be able to recognize, and you have the formula for a successful movie. I really did enjoy Wreck-It Ralph. It's a film that will hold up on second viewings, and will perhaps benefit from them. You have the world built for you on the second journey, and you can build an even bigger appreciation for the little touches. Wreck-It Ralph is a film that wins you over with its charm, its sweetness, and its genuine enthusiasm for its subject matter. Whether you're a young child looking for a fun, family adventure, or an adult wanting a nostalgia trip that also winds up being a very enjoyable story, I can definitely recommend this movie. It was a great deal of fun, and I absolutely think it's worth watching. It might take a bit of time to fully get into, but once you're in, you're in for a good ride.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:29 pm

By the way that was review #1000, so I'm taking a month-long break from posting reviews. It'll start up again on August 1.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:00 am

Noooo.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:22 pm

2 Guns
Of all the movies of Summer 2013, I didn't think that both the funniest and most action-packed would be 2 Guns, but that might wind up being the case. This is one of the silliest movies of recent memory, and works especially well because of that fact. It reminds me a lot of 2004's Cellular, which is just so ridiculous that I couldn't help but love watching it. And in some ways, I did love watching 2 Guns. I smiled and laughed during it more than any other movie this year.

That isn't to say that 2 Guns is a great film, but it's definitely entertaining. It has a certain charm to it and by the time it kicks into high gear, it turns into something that is absolutely insane and almost has to be seen to be believed. With the absurd and convoluted plotting, the interesting relationship dynamic between its two leads, and the over-the-top silliness to its action scenes, I can't help but feel like this will wind up as one of the movies of the summer that is actually worth watching, and considering the lackluster year that it has been, that's a good thing.

The plot revolves around two individuals. The first is Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington), an undercover DEA Agent. The second is Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg), an undercover Navy SEAL. The opening scene has them robbing a bank together. Neither knows that the other is working undercover. Through events far too complicated and time consuming to relay, they both wind up being betrayed and hunted down by one of many groups of people, because money stolen is a good enough reason to kill good people.

Seriously, not only does the film have Mexican drug lords chasing down our heroes, but it also has the CIA and rogue Navy SEALs. And you better believe that the climactic showdown involves all of them, all while money rains down from the sky and bulls run rampant while guns are a blazing. If you're not laughing by this point in the film, you clearly don't get what director Baltasar Kormákur was going for. That, or he didn't know what he was going for. Either way, the result is something that you can't take seriously but you can definitely have fun with.

The film then has Bobby and Marcus teaming up in order to (1) take down the various groups, (2) acquire the money and potentially give it to one of the groups vying for it and (3) save the girl, Deb (Paula Patton), because saving the girl is important to all action heroes. There are twists and turns -- many of which you'll see coming but some which are so ridiculous that you won't -- along the way, and the film moves at a brisk pace, lest you start to become even slightly bored.

And, you know what? It actually has a little bit of intelligence to it, even if it's hidden underneath all of the insanity that comes from the plot and its execution. There's a bit of insight into corruption in certain agencies -- brought out most clearly in a cameo by Fred Ward -- as well as a couple of things to mention about the Mexican drug wars. I'm not going to say that 2 Guns is a smart movie, but it's not completely intellectually vapid.

A lot of the fun of the movie comes not only from the action scenes, which thankfully aren't loaded with too much CGI, but from the exchanges of dialogue between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Washington doesn't do many comedies, but his deadpan delivery worked well in contrast with Wahlberg's energy and far less serious demeanor. Some of their dialogue is hilarious, and they are what make 2 Guns more of a comedy than an action film. The parodical action scenes make it even funnier.

In addition to the two leads, there are some fun actors in supporting roles, all playing caricatures. James Marsden is the leader of the rogue Navy SEALs. Bill Paxton is a CIA Agent tasked with tracking down the money, and does so using ruthless interrogation methods. Edward James Olmos is a drug kingpin. They all get some great scenes, especially the last two. There isn't much depth to the characters, but I think that's intentional. And because of how over-the-top they are, that actually works to the film's advantage.

All in all, 2 Guns is one of the funniest and most enjoyable movies I've seen all year, and I recommend giving it a watch, especially if you're a fan of silly, over-the-top action comedies, much in the same spirit as Cellular, which is my go-to example of such a film. It has a twisty plot, ridiculous action scenes, good chemistry with the leads, funny dialogue, strong supporting performances, and is a good time as long as you don't take it too seriously. I think it's worth seeing.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:10 pm

Review Pacific Rim.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:44 pm

It's tomorrow.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:54 am

Gooide.

Also the Toxic Avenger. We've been waiting on that for too long.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Aug 02, 2013 4:55 am

It costs lots of money and therefore I still haven't bought it.

No, I'm not pirating it (not viable given internet speed).

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:43 am

Ever hear of the Adventures of Chris Fable? Somebody gave it to me there, probably one of the worst films I've ever seen. And not in a good way.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:18 pm

No, I haven't.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:23 pm

Pacific Rim
"Dumb fun" is about the best way that I can describe Pacific Rim. It doesn't have a whole lot of intelligence, and many scenes and lines of dialogue will have you placing your palm on your forehead, but when it comes right down to it, it's a film which is a lot of fun and I'd recommend seeing just for the spectacle of watching $200 million of the very best CGI depicting giant monsters and robots punching each other up.

In fact, if I have one complaint about the actual battles between the aforementioned monsters and robots, it's that they often do little more than punch one another. Sometimes there's more to the fighting than that, but it's rare and makes you wonder why, for instance, the Superpowered Sword of Doom wasn't pulled out earlier on. I suppose that goes back to the intelligence of the screenplay. It's true that there are some very interesting concepts included here, but most of them function not to do or say anything of importance, but to attempt to reinvent and hide clichés.

Take the central premise of how the robots are controlled. It's explained to us that they need two operators who must "drift" with one another in order to effectively pilot them. The more effectively they do that -- in which they link their brains and "act as one," so to speak -- the better a fighter they make. That allows the film to directly attribute character dynamics into its action scenes; if the pilots aren't in sync, then that's going to factor into the battles. It's too bad that this doesn't actually wind up being important.

In fact, in a later scene in the movie, when one character who hadn't piloted one of these robots -- called "Jaegers" in the film -- in years decides to suit up, he's asked how he will be able to drift with someone he doesn't know. His answer essentially amounts to "because I can." And then, off they go. But, hey, you're not going to a movie like this one to think, are you? You want to see skyscraper-sized monsters and robots fighting each other, destroying entire cities in their wake. You get that.

The story involves alien creatures called the Kaiju emerging from the ocean and destroying our cities. The nations of the world unite and build the aforementioned Jaegers, which are initially successful at beating back the aliens. But they keep coming, and start getting bigger. The decision is made to decommission the Jaeger program, and instead built a wall around the Pacific Ocean, even after we see a similar wall getting destroyed early in the movie. Logic isn't something world leaders can be expected to use, I guess.

A plan is cooked to stop the Kaiju from warping into our dimension. It involves using the remaining Jaegers to deliver a bomb and destroy the passage they use to get here. The main hero is a once-a-hero pilot named Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), who had his brother killed and his robot destroyed a few years prior. Now he gets brought back into action, teamed with a rookie pilot (actor hidden because of spoilers), and sent to assist in this mission.

Pacific Rim looks gorgeous. Some of the best CGI I've ever seen is in this movie. The Jaegers and Kaiju look about as real as they could. It's a really impressive technical accomplishment. The film is a spectacle, and is something that should be seen first on a very large screen with a strong sound system (read: the cinema). The fantastic score and sound design won't be nearly as impressive on a laptop or wherever you'll watch the DVD. This is the type of summer movie you should actually leave your house to see.

The film's director is Guillermo del Toro, a saint among film geeks. You can tell that he loves the material, and that he's not doing this movie just for a paycheck, which might be said about at least one other person who makes movies about giant robots. This movie is a lot more Hellboy than Pan's Labyrinth, meaning that there's not a lot to it on an intellectual level, but like the superhero movie, it's a lot of fun despite this.

You might be surprised not to see a whole lot of stars among the cast list. Names like Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman and Rinko Kikuchi are certainly known, but none of them are box office draws. Presumably this was done for a couple of reasons. The first is to keep the focus on the robots and aliens, while the second is to keep the budget down, allowing for more resources to be spent on the CGI, which is the focus. For what it's worth, Hunnam is really bland, Elba is great, Day is funny and has a manic energy which works well in contrast to the rest of the cast, Perlman is fun but is barely in the film, and Kikuchi reminds us that she needs more movie roles.

I liked Pacific Rim. It was fun. It was also nothing special, save for the gorgeous visuals and fantastic score. The monster fights are fun but not all that inventive, the characters are bland and the lead actor is flat, and there's nothing to intellectually stimulate you, save for finding all of the silly and stupid things found within the screenplay. But, you know what? It's dumb fun, and that's perfectly okay sometimes. This is one of those times.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:23 pm

Only God Forgives now pl0x?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:45 pm

Only Rod Forgives.


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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Aug 03, 2013 12:20 am

Hubilub wrote:Only God Forgives now pl0x?

 Don't think it got a theatrical release, and I like I said earlier, can't really pirate on this internet speed (not that I really would do that anyway).

Once it hits DVD, perhaps.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:16 pm

The Conjuring
Purportedly based on a true story, The Conjuring is a horror movie involving a ghost haunting a family. If that gets you excited, take a look at a list of horror DVDs and realize how often these types of movies have been done before. You're now likely to be less excited, especially if you've seen some of the titles listed. Now read the rest of the review so you can become hyped once again, because The Conjuring is one of the good versions of this story.

The film centers on a family who move into an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. It consists of the father (Ron Livingston), the mother (Lili Taylor), and five daughters (Shanley Caswell, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Hayley McFarland, Kyla Deaver). There's something weird about the house, however. A cellar was boarded up, the clocks all stop at 3:02AM, doors open and close by themselves, the dog won't enter it, and so on. Being set in the 1970s, the family has presumably never seen a horror movie, and thus decides to ignore all of these warning signs and just go on with life.

Eventually, they turn to the aid of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). This leads to a few scenes in which a couple of horror tropes are picked apart, but soon enough we find out that, yes, the ghost is for real, and that it will either have to be dealt with or it will kill. Scares ensue, and before you know it you're going to be digging your fingernails into the skin of the person sitting beside you.

What I'm saying is that The Conjuring is scary. There are some points where it completely misses the mark, and instead of scaring you it will make you laugh, but the majority of attempts land. And I'm not just talking about jump scares -- which startle, not frighten -- even though there are a couple that are well placed; the film is actually scary because of its atmosphere and feeling of there being a genuine threat. That, with the addition of good filmmaking, makes for a movie that accomplishes most of the scares it tries.

Atmosphere is something incredibly important in a horror movie. The tone has to be set early on, and it must be maintained in order for scares to be achieved. The Conjuring establishes its atmosphere right off the bat, in which the Warrens recount a story of one of their most fascinating cases, and we get to see much of what happened. It involves a possessed doll, and I will say no more because this short story is actually better than the rest of the movie, in large part because of its short length.

The Conjuring is a long movie, which is its primary problem. Perhaps it's just that the expectation of a horror movie is that it's 90 minutes, but The Conjuring seemed to play forever at only 112 minutes. Part of the problem is that there's only so much door slamming that one can take, and the film reached that quota about midway through. Many of the scenes involving the Warrens feel like repeats of both other movies and of earlier points in The Conjuring. When horror repeats to the same effect it loses a lot of its impact.

Another problem that it has is its use of stock characters. Nobody has any depth to them, and if you're going to ask me the first name of a single character whose family name isn't "Warren." The daughters are all indistinguishable from each other, and even the parents don't have much personality beyond (1) looking frightened and (2) "caring" about their daughters -- by which I mean they run when a daughter screams so that they, too, can be scared.

Still, when a film does such a good job of placing us in an environment like this one, really making us feel like we're there and therefore giving us a reason to be scared, I have to call it a success. I was frightened while watching The Conjuring. I jumped a couple of times. I was on the edge of my seat. And that's how you determine the success of a horror movie. And at this point, with so many boring horror films coming out, simply being scary is good enough, isn't it? It takes a fantastic film to be about something more; I'll settle with "scary."

Ultimately what you need to know is that The Conjuring is an overlong film with terribly developed characters, but its sense of tone and atmosphere, as well as its director's skill at creating scares and tension, allows for it to be a frightening experience. There's some repetition in its screenplay and a few scares that don't quite work, but in this day and age, I'll take a mostly successful, truly scary movie. This will probably wind up as the best horror movie of 2013, and if you like scary movies, this is one you need to see.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

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