Marter's Reviews

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:15 pm

@Marter: Threads is great, it's best described as a docudrama. Totally fictional, presented as real, but not in a Spinal Tap way.

Another great film in that genre is The Battle For Algiers.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:29 pm

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
19 years after the previous film detailing the events in the life on Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), Kingdom of the Crystal Skull shows up, expecting to pick right back up where the last movie left off. Except for the fact that, yes, Ford is older, and yes, that two-decade gap in time has been accounted for. Indiana Jones is old now, and if you expect him to be as exciting and lovable as he previously was, you're going to be disappointed. He has changed in his old age.

We learn near the beginning that Jones, archaeologist and college professor, won more medals in WW2 than most men. Perhaps that's why he's changed. War does that to people, after all, and I figure that, if Ford wasn't as old as he is, a film about Indy's adventures in war would be very enjoyable. He fought against the Nazis twice before, anyway, but not in any traditional war setting. Oh well. Jones eventually gets captured by some Soviet agents, and is forced into a military hangar to find a chest containing ... something. You see a hand, but that's about it.

Indy escapes, because he needs to in order for the movie to progress. He's eventually drawn into the adventure of his lifetime (or so the film wants you to believe), after a young kid, Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), calls on him for help. Mutt's mother, Mary, has been captured, and she apparently told Mutt to find Indy because he can rescue her. Surprise of all surprises occurs when we find out that "Mary" is short for Marion (Karen Allen), the love interest from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the strongest female character in the series so far.

So, we have Indy, Marion, Mutt, and a crazy man named Harold Oxley (John Hurt), at some point looking for a crystal skull, and at others looking for the lost city of El Dorado. It's a race against time and the Soviets -- the latter led by a woman named Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) -- with one action scene following another. The breakneck pacing of previous films is attempted here, and while it's mostly successful, it feels as if something is missing.

That something is the humor that pervaded through the previous installments. It is more in dabs and blotches in this film, not spread out very evenly. There are a couple of really funny points, like when Indy and Marion meet up again, but for the most part, it's strictly an action movie relying mostly on the chase scenes and any nostalgia that you have left for the series. 19 years is a long time, and if you watched The Last Crusade in theaters and hadn't seen it since, you can easily be forgiven for no longer caring a lot about the series.

The thing that I didn't like was what the crystal skulls ended up being. I don't want to spoil it -- and observant viewers will figure out what they are of really early on -- but I found the subject matter kind of stupid. The Indiana Jones movies have always been at least partially grounded in realism, even if they did have supernatural elements. What happens here is silly -- yes, sillier than a man surviving a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge -- and it's a bit tough to buy into the premise the film presents to us.

Another issue I had with it, which was the main problem with the first film but to a greater extent here, was that the characters didn't seem to have too great of an impact on the proceedings. If Indy and company decided to take a break and let the Soviets go through with their plan, not a whole lot would change. While Raiders only had this happen at the very end, about half of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels this way. It's hard to get involved when nothing is being impacted by our main characters.

Something else that didn't quite work was the way that the filmmakers try to set Mutt up as the new Indiana Jones. I get that Harrison Ford is older now, and that he probably can't carry many more films -- and Hollywood needs a film franchise like this because it's a money maker -- but Mutt wasn't a well-developed character, and, worse than that, he's played by Shia LaBeouf, who is nowhere near the actor or screen presence that Ford is.

Speaking of Ford, he picks back right where he left off in the last film. While he's a couple of decades older, he's still quite believable as an action hero. The jokes about his age make for most of the humor of the movie. There were a couple of points where it's obvious that Ford wasn't performing the stunts, but for most of the time, it seems like it's him. He and Karen Allen continue to have strong chemistry, and Blanchett makes for an interesting and icy cold villain.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is still a fun film, but it's missing a lot of the enjoyment that came from previous installments. It has lots of action -- and Harrison Ford still works well in the role -- but much of the humor is missing and the subject matter is less believable than the other ones. It relies very heavily on nostalgia, which isn't a great thing when the last movie was made 19 years prior. But if you're a fan of the series, you're still likely to enjoy it -- just don't expect it to be as good as any of the first three movies.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Sat Jan 05, 2013 1:00 am

Review A Serbian Film.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Komrade Kharloth on Sat Jan 05, 2013 1:10 am

I imagine it would be 'fuck you xandus' repeated 300 times.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:56 pm

An Invisible Sign
Assuming you've even heard of An Invisible Sign -- and really, what reason is there for you to have? -- it's probably because you've seen the trailer. I want you to forget about that, as it completely misrepresents the film that I'm talking about here, and if you base your expectations on it, you'll come away sad, in large part because this isn't the quirky, happy movie that the trailer -- and, indeed, the opening scene -- promises. This is a darker film than you expect, and if you're not ready for it, it has the potential to hit you quite hard.

Filmed in 2008 but shelved until 2011, An Invisible Sign stars Jessica Alba as a young woman named Mona, who, at a young age, made a deal with the universe: If it -- God, or whatever -- would fix her father's unexplained mental illness, she would give up everything she enjoyed forever. No tasty food without ruining it, no movies, no music; even if she kissed someone, she'd have to rinse her mouth out with soap afterward. She's now a loner since she decided to stop having friends, and because of this personal decision, she's finally getting kicked out of her parents' house.

Soon enough, she has become the teacher of an elementary school, teaching math because numbers are the only thing that bring her comfort in the world. She lied about finishing college, but that matters little in the grand scheme of things. School is hard, she learns, but eventually finds herself adored by some of her students, including a young girl named Lisa (Sophie Nyweide), whose mother is sick with cancer.

The heart of the story lies with this little girl, who reminds Mona of herself when she was young (and played by Bailee Madison in flashbacks when the film thinks it's important that we see things from when she was much younger). This girl's life is tragic, and it alone is enough to break some hearts. I know that thinking about it now makes my eyes water a little. And seeing Mona completely unable to deal with it, while also seeing the girl's perseverance -- it's something that the trailer does not prepare you for.

There's more to the film than just this, as it's only one way that its message about becoming okay with who you are is going to get through. There's a subplot involving a neighbor (J.K. Simmons) who wears a number with a necklace on it representing how well he's feeling on a particular day -- you know he's sad if he's wearing a 2, but if there's a 15, he's in a good mood -- and a romantic subplot that's completely one-sided given that Mona isn't looking for any happiness; she still thinks that her father will be okay if she doesn't allow herself even one iota of joy.

It's all trying to say something and send a message, which is important, but it's such a drank and sad experience that unless you want to watch a depressing movie, you'll want to watch a different movie. It's not a message that's rare in the movie world, so I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding a happier one. This one definitely isn't for everyone, and while it approaches melodrama at times, I didn't feel like I was ever being manipulated by the story events.

This would all fall apart if it weren't for some pretty good actors, and while I know Jessica Alba gets her yearly Razzie nomination and is generally considered a pretty face and nothing else, she can be good when she commits to a project and the majority of the hate is undeserving in my opinion. Here, she dulls herself down as much as possible (while trying to capture Zooey Deschanel's "quirky" look, to mixed results), and carries the film with her acting, not her looks. While this might not be a career changing movie, it's something that many people need to see in order to convince people that Alba is fine (or go watch the couple of seasons Dark Angel got).

Holding her own as well is young Sophie Nyweide, whose character has had life throw frank knuckleballs the whole way through, but she keeps trucking on. Child acting isn't supposed to be this good, folks. She shows and evokes emotion, and you really feel for this child thanks to the performance and the situation that the writing presents her with.

When An Invisible Sign doesn't work, it's when it feels like nobody is helping themselves, when the characters frustrate us by doing things that make no sense, when the 96 minute running time makes it feel like we're in too big of a rush, and when the other third grade children get speaking roles, because they're so bad, especially compared to Nyweide. That might sound like a lot, but it doesn't really add up to much when I think about how involved I found myself in the story and how much it made me feel.

An Invisible Sign isn't for everyone. If you aren't in the mood for a dark and sad -- yet still occasionally quirky and funny -- movie, then you'll want to put it aside and watch something happier or funnier. But if you're willing to invest, or if you want a movie to prove that Jessica Alba isn't deserving of all the hate (and really hasn't been for a while, in my opinion), then you'll want to give An Invisible Sign a watch. It's a good movie that you might not have ever heard of, and it's worth the time it takes to sit through it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:46 pm

Highwaymen
Highwaymen is a brisk, quick adrenaline shot of a movie. If it also happened to be great, then I would recommend it. It's ultimately a fine and harmless film that won't take much time out of your life to sit through, but it's also so thin in content, so juvenile in its writing, and so lackluster in other areas that I'm not sure if it's worth the 80 minutes that it takes to sit through. It's not exactly bad, but there are far better uses of your time than watching it.

We begin with a prologue, showing how a man, Rennie (James Caviezel), watches his wife get killed in a hit and run incident as she was crossing the street after buying cherries -- or perhaps it was some other fruit; who really knows? We then fast forward a few years later, when the same unknown driver involved in the hit and run decides to pick a new target: Molly (Rhona Mitra) and Alex (Andrea Roth). Molly survives -- and it's revealed that her parents died in a car crash and that this is the second one to happen to her -- while Alex is killed. Rennie then kidnaps Molly, tells her his back story, and we're getting ready for a final showdown between two teams: The unknown driver and Rennie/Molly.

That's basically all there is to the plot, save for a couple of tacked-on back stories and other attempts at character depth. Rennie wants revenge, obviously, although why Molly eventually tags along is anyone's guess. Once the driver is revealed, we learn that he is a tad sympathetic as well, considering his physical condition. There's also a traffic investigator played by Frankie Faison who plays a minor role in the developments.

It's kind of nice to see an action-thriller that isn't at all reliant on special effects. Cars hit cars with frequency, but apart from one crash that made me laugh out loud -- a car was sent flying 20 feet into the air after being hit -- I was never taken out of the film by the effect work that was done. All of the crashes felt real, whether they were or not, and you appreciate that you stay in the film instead of thinking about what went into staging a particular scene.

Unfortunately, the car crashes are just about the only things that Highwaymen can be praised for. The rest is either a mess, too brief to be noteworthy, or simply poor. The plot feels contrived and basically nonexistent, the "tragic" pasts given to the characters are silly and didn't help give them depth, the dialogue made me want to slap the writers for thinking the audience is this stupid -- if you hope for any subtlety, you'll be very disappointed -- and the actors were one-note archetypes.

Writers, tell me something. How frequently do you want to have characters refer to each other by name? You need to find a balance, right? You want the audience to find out the person's name, and you want them to remember the name by re-introducing it every now and then. That helps the audience out and also makes it feel at least somewhat realistic. Highwaymen has characters refer to each other by name whenever possible. It gets laughable after a while, and is only one instance of the film lacking subtlety.

James Caviezel did not sell to me the fact that his character wanted revenge. I understood it from a narrative perspective, but whenever I saw his face, I thought that he might just want a burger instead. That's about as much determination as I saw from him. Mitra showed a bit more emotional range and can play the victim card fine, but I didn't understand her character and a victim was all she was -- there was no transformation even though, from a narrative perspective, she should have changed.

The only performance I enjoyed was from the driver whose actor I won't reveal. While he's given a very limited role, physically, he seemed to be channeling Anthony Hopkins' Dr. Lecter for most of the time he was on-screen. That was actually enjoyable to watch, and he seemed to be the only one having fun with what's somewhat of a silly premise, if you really think about it. "Serial killer goes on hit and run spree while mailing news clippings about it to the husband of only one of his victims, who, in turn, drives across the entire country seeking revenge." Yeah, that's silly.

What Highwaymen really needed to do was embrace how silly it was and become a more enjoyable B-movie instead of taking everything so seriously. There are few smiles, no charm, and the experience isn't as enjoyable as a result. That's a tone problem, and comes straight from the director, Robert Harmon, whose only real notable release was The Hitcher. If only this film had been as good as the '80s cult classic.

Highwaymen is sparse, far too serious, and thin in pretty much every aspect. It's tolerable and it has some enjoyable scenes -- like the car crash that sends a car flying twenty feet in the air -- but overall isn't really worth your time. The script hasn't heard of the word "subtle," the actors are one-note, the plot is thin and can't carry even the 80 minutes that the film plays for, and the tone is all wrong. While Highwaymen has its moments, it's not worth the time it'll take you to find it, let alone giving it a watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Mr. Wiggles on Sun Jan 06, 2013 11:39 pm

Have you seen American History X yo?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:49 am

Nope.

I know I should do, though.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Mr. Wiggles on Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:56 pm

I think so too. I assume you have seen it then?

I think it's become by new favourite film of all time. It's soooo sooo deep.

Also, after you have seen it read how much they cut from the script? Completely changes the dynamics of the film ENTIRELY!

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:06 pm

Rocket Science
Rocket Science is a film that starts off predictably enough, but before you know it veers into "why?" territory before concluding before you even know what's happened. It's a "quirky" independent production from newbie director Jeffrey Blitz, and is -- at first, at least -- about a stuttering student named Hal (Reece Daniel Thompson) who is hand-picked by his high school's top debater, Ginny (Anna Kendrick), to be her partner for all upcoming debates. Obviously, he'll have to overcome his affliction in order for that to happen.

The story takes a left turn at the midway point and never looks back. I appreciated that. So often these types of productions take a risk like this one and then backtrack on it by the end. Not Rocket Science. This film reckons that once it's made a decision, it has to stick by it for better or for worse. The result if not necessarily an easy or even terribly interesting watch, but one that I almost have to recommend just because it's trying something different.

I wish I could explain to you what that turn is, but that would be spoiling. Suffice to say that it involves betrayal from one party, and that the reason behind it is only kind of explained by the end. We're still wondering why this character performed this action, as the justification behind it was superficial at best. That kind of gives the illusion that this dramedy is more thoughtful than it initially appears to be. That it can have secrets that we won't figure out makes you think it might somehow reveal them if you look hard enough.

I don't think that's the case, but perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, or it might just be a case of them not existing -- motivation hidden because the characters don't need a good reason to act. They're teenagers, after all, and once we get past their basic desires, it makes a little bit of sense to see them be selfish or do whatever it takes to achieve them, because the empathetic part of the brain hasn't fully developed yet. Or that might just be giving the film too much credit. I'm not sure.

Make no mistake in thinking that this won't still be a coming-of-age story, but the way it arrives at that conclusion is much more subdued than most films in the genre. You don't see the character arc follow a traditional or predictable path; you just know that, in the end, everyone has learned something, even if you're not entirely sure what that is. I'll tell you what doesn't happen: Hal doesn't magically have his stutter under control by the film's conclusion. And I was perfectly okay with that.

Even saying "I was perfectly okay with that" should tell you something about the film. It went in directions I liked and fit the characters, even if I didn't know as much as I would have liked to about them. Sure, maybe I wanted to see Hal discover that he can totally overcome any obstacle, but that he doesn't do that actually makes the movie better. It's more believable, which fits in with what Blitz is aiming to do, which is make a depiction of an absurd, yet still real, life.

Some of it goes over the top. There are too many weird and quirky supporting characters just for the sake of having the film be that "odd" movie. A couple has therapy sessions by playing musical instruments together; a speech therapist is so incompetent that you can never understand how he got a job in the first place; a kid has such a fixation with undergarments that he has no problem asking if another character would want to see them upon first entering his house, and so on. It somewhat negates the truth behind the movie.

Hal feels like a very real person, which is another rarity in movies like this one. We understand that he's lovestruck and that his desire to win the debating championship has given him a false sense of confidence. We get that he's trying to work out of the shell to which he banished himself due to his stutter and general shy personality. He's awkward and has a ton of flaws, and it makes him feel genuine. Why does everyone else feel fake? Because they're all trying to be too weird to take seriously.

It might be that he's also one of the better acted characters in the film, as Reece Daniel Thompson does a very believable stutter -- in combination with the character's other traits. Thompson might give the stutter a bit too much time in some instances, leading to the feeling of "come on, already," but then you realize that this is exactly how it feels for people who suffer from a stutter. Anna Kendrick is also very believable as the intelligent, fast-talking debate partner. Everyone else is too silly to take seriously.

Rocket Science is a movie that would have worked better had it not tried to be so "indie." It wants to find its niche by being "different" and quirky, and in doing so it takes away some of the truth and authenticity to its story. It could have been an affecting drama about a kid and his stutter, but this effort is undermined by the weirdness of the majority of the supporting characters. The two leads are good, the main character feels genuine, some of the lines are really funny, and I appreciated how it stuck with its decisions instead of trying to backtrack on them to be pleasing. Rocket Science is a pretty good, independent production, and I think it's worth a watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:55 pm

The House Bunny
Sitting through The House Bunny, I found myself laughing more than I expected to. My expectations were so low after seeing the trailer that I didn't think I would enjoy the film at all, but there were, in fact, points in time when I was having a bit of fun. The majority of the laughs come from Anna Farris, who has the lead role, mostly because of her (sad) dedication to the part. If it had been someone with less charm or desire, The House Bunny would be a total dud. As it is, it's just kind of bad.

The film begins with Shelley (Faris), a Playboy Bunny, telling us the story about how she got to this point in her life. An orphan, she was hated by everyone as a child, but eventually became pretty and was adopted by Hugh Hefner, I guess. It's rather unclear and doesn't matter. She loves life there, but on the day after celebrating her 27th birthday, she is given a letter from Hefner telling her to get out of his house in the next two hours. Now homeless, she winds up becoming the housemother of a sorority house, that's about to be shut down due to a lack of pledges.

The reason for the lack of pledges is that the members of the Zeta house don't understand how to lure in the opposite sex, as they are book smart and therefore lack any social skills. Shelley is the opposite, and you can probably see how this is going to go. Shelley will teach them something in hopes of saving the house, they'll teach Shelley something so that she can try to become the boyfriend of a guy named Oliver (Colin Hanks), and everything will hopefully work out for everybody else.

Of course, there are a couple of obstacles that are going to get in the way, but those are necessary to create false tension. This is a light, fluffy rom-com, and nothing truly threatening can happen in it. The best you can hope for are some funny lines and maybe some sweet moments. Admittedly, there are a couple of each scattered throughout, but not enough in order to make the film a worthwhile watch. The PG-13 rating doesn't help matters, either, as it basically eliminates the thing that makes Playboy, well, Playboy.

This is a film that did need an R rating, simply because its subject matter demands it. I get that not much of the film takes place in the Mansion, and that most of it is fine with the PG-13, but when your lead character is a Playboy Bunny, what rating do you think the movie should have? It simply doesn't make sense for it to be rated PG-13, and it also ensures that the dialogue sounds incredibly cheesy. I kept wondering if people really talked like the characters in the movie, and the answer I kept giving myself was a resounding "no."

While the story is as clichéd and predictable as you'd expect, it still feels like it moves at too quick of a pace. Once Shelley dresses up the girls, their personalities are instantly transformed. When the revelation occurs that they're no long themselves and therefore bad people, it doesn't feel realistic because they didn't actually progress as characters; they were replaced by different ones.

And it's not even like this film had the bare minimum running time. It plays for just under 100 minutes, and a considerable amount of that time is taken up with fluff. Giving us actual character moments would have made later turns and revelations believable instead of laughable. The "villains," another Bunny and the leader of another sorority house, are jokes, getting too little screen time to matter, and being about as sinister as the little kid who takes the last Oreo. The former's subplot doesn't even get a real conclusion; it just kind of ends and then we're supposed to be happy that it is over.

I like this general story arc, and if something more was done with it, I might have enjoyed the movie even despite its clichés. I couldn't look past how formulaic it was, though, even if I did laugh a handful of times. I was happy that it didn't go down the generic rom-com route, because it would have been intolerable had it done so. I also smiled a touch when it ended, but I think that was more due to the fact that it was over and I could move on with my life.

Anna Faris is the only reason that this works. She is completely dedicated to the role -- at least, what the PG-13 rating allows her to do with it -- and is believable as a ditzy blonde. There are some enjoyable secondary performances in the supporting cast, too, particularly the ones given by her Zeta housemates. Actors like Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Katherine McPhee, Kiely Williams and Rumer Willis all show up here, and even Hefner brings us a couple of scenes -- they're not good, but they are there and perhaps bring some credibility and realism, if that's what you'd call it.

Admittedly, there are some fun moments and the whole thing is harmless enough that I can't see anyone really hating on The House Bunny, but there isn't enough here to justify watching it. It takes an incredibly clichéd storyline and does nothing important or memorable with it, and unless you're a big fan of the cast, I can't think of a reason to watch it. There are better movies with the same story, and they aren't hampered by a PG-13 rating like this one is.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:57 pm

Kalifornia
Kalifornia is a film about coincidence and about clashing personalities. It isn't especially good, in large part because of its second half, which drags, but the characters makes it worthwhile. Here, we get together Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes, put them in a car, and decide to let their caricatures of characters have at each other for a feature length film. Conflicting personalities and lifestyles are abound, and, eventually, something bloody might happen considering one of these people just so happens to be a serial killer.

That's not a spoiler, by the way, as Pitt's character, Early, kills a couple in the film's opening scene. It's just that two of the characters -- and perhaps Lewis' doesn't know it, either, as she's so blissfully unaware of everything -- have no idea that he kills people in his spare time. Presumably, they'd know the signs; after all, they are creating a book about famous killers in American history. Brian (Duchovny) writes and Carrie (Forbes) takes the photographs. They plan a cross-country trip, with the destination being California.

However, they don't have enough money for gas and lodging, so they decide to post a random flyer advertising a couple of free seats in their car, assuming someone else will split the bill. Here is where Early and Adele (Lewis) come in. They have recently been evicted from their trailer park, and have decided that this will be the best way to get away. Early's on parole, but when has that ever stopped someone from leaving the State? They don't actually have any money, but don't worry: Early has a plan, and yes, it involves murder.

Early won't be killing either of our well-off characters, though. Not yet, at least. All of these people actually end up bonding a little, despite a slightly rocky start. The scene in which the characters first lay eyes on their counterparts is hilarious -- dialogue like "let's just keep on driving and leave them on the street" is abundant -- but for some strange reason, they all end up becoming tentative friends, even though something is slightly off about all of them.

The tender scenes, like when Early and Brian go out to the bar and Adele and Carrie get to paint one another's nails and talk, are the most interesting. Getting to learn more about each of these people, seeing their similarities and differences, and seeing how disdain turns to understanding -- all of that is a lot of fun. These are all entertaining characters filled with depth and complexity, even if they do, at times, border on cliché.

They overcome these clichés because the actors are all very strong, because the writing is solid, and because the story takes a few slightly unexpected turns, ensuring that you won't always know exactly what's going on. It's still not terribly surprising, but there are a few surprises that keep you on your toes. And because all four of the lead actors give their character more than is perhaps deserving, there's always something to keep an eye out for. Pitt is definitely the star, presenting us more than a white-trash killer, which is what the character starts out as.

When Kalifornia began to lose me was after the inevitable reveal to Brian and Carrie that Early was, in fact, a serial killer. Things just got silly after that point. There was some bloodshed earlier in the film, but nothing that came close to what occurred after all of the characters are aware of the situation. I began to grow tired and wanted a conclusion. The running time, which is just under two hours, doesn't help much. We could trimmed twenty minutes and had a more effective film.

See, the characters all develop as much as they're going to before the reveal. Afterward, our touching and tense road movie turns into a fairly generic thriller. The shift in tone isn't too jarring, but trying to draw it out for almost an hour becomes tiresome. It takes a very sharp screenplay and a lot of talent for that to work, and we don't quite get it here. Don't get me wrong: I believe this is a skillfully created film, but I don't think that the right decision was made in regards to its second half.

It's almost difficult to look past just how much coincidence is required in order for our story to happen. Two people are researching serial killers. They post a random ad looking for people to ride along with them to California. A serial killer and his victim girlfriend happen to be the ones to find the ad. Just how does that happen? Sure, it would make for one heck of a story, assuming you found out and lived through it, but considering the advertisement was posted at a college and there was no real reason for Early to even be at the college, it's a stretch.

Kalifornia is a good film, although it's only really entertaining for its first half. After everyone becomes aware that a serial killer is in the pack, we lose interest and I found my interest waning. The performances and the characters brought out because of these performances held my attention and kept the film watchable. I just wish it maintained the good start that it got off to, or shortened its second half to ensure that it doesn't feel like it's dragging on.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:54 pm

Gangster Squad
It's only the second release week of 2013 and already we have a strong contender for "most inconsequential film of the year." Shot and edited without any idea of how to make it exciting, written like what a 12-year-old might think a tough gangster movie would sound like, and looking surprisingly modern for a period piece that takes place in 1949 and is "inspired by true events," Gangster Squad is a perfect example of mediocrity hitting the big screen.

In fact, the only interesting thing about this movie is how it came to be released in January and not in September like was originally planned. As many of you will note, the Aurora shooting spree took place, and was a tragedy. In Gangster Squad's trailer, the titular squad shoots up a movie theater. Thinking that keeping that scene in would be rather tasteless, the studio pulled back the release date and re-shot portions of the film to have the big shootout take place somewhere else. They then scheduled a new release date of January 11, 2013, instead of September 7, 2012.

Perhaps it's just the cynic in me thinking this, but if the film was any good, why would it get released in January, which is the dumping ground for bad films? If the studio had faith that it was great, surely holding it back another couple of months would have been the right thing to do. My theory is that they knew this wasn't going to be anything special, or even good, so it was dumped in January, even despite its cast of stars and surprisingly large budget of $75 million.

The basic idea of Gangster Squad is that a group of LAPD Detectives got together and formed a team whose goal it was to stop the gangsters who threatened to take control of Los Angeles. The villain is a ruthless man named Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), a former boxer who pays off anyone who gets in the way of his "business dealings," which are illegal. Nobody can touch him, everyone thinks, but since we know the film is about the titular squad, we're pretty sure that he can, at the very least, be upset, if not fully removed from the equation.

The gang: John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), a family man and our protagonist/narrator; Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), a ladies' man and nothing more; Rocky Washington (Anthony Mackie), someone who really hates heroin; Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), the fastest draw in the Wild West -- seriously, he sounds like he's from the 1840s, not the 1940s; Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña) a rookie cop nobody takes seriously because he's Mexican; and Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), another family man and the one tasked with listening in to a bugged television set.

Does that not seem like some sort of dream cast? Throw in Nick Nolte as the police chief who orders John to do this and Emma Stone as the love interest for one or possibly more of the characters, and you're talking quite a strong group of actors. It's just a shame they had to go and make this, such a lifeless, bland, uninspired movie. Did we really need a soft-remake of The Untouchables? That's really what Gangster Squad feels like.

Much of the problem comes from the director, Ruben Fleischer, whose previous feature-length work is made up entirely of comedies. He did Zombieland, which was a lot of fun, and 30 Minutes or Less, which was not. He does manage to inject Gangster Squad with some genuinely funny moments -- the best of which involved a knockout blow which failed in its target; you rarely see that in non-comedies at the cinema -- but most of the time he feels completely wrong for this material. He doesn't seem to "get" the feel of this type of movie.

There is no depth to any of the characters. The dialogue is so cheesy and unfitting that it feels like it was written by someone who maybe watch a gangster film once in high school and is trying to remember what the characters sounded like, there's more slow motion than in a Zack Snyder movie, but used without any purpose. Seriously, there's a shootout late in the movie that is done entirely in slow motion and it accomplishes nothing -- especially when you know that none of the main characters will die.

Despite the overuse of slow motion, the action scenes are still cut together in such a way so as to not allow you any idea of who's doing what to whom at any given moment. There's even a car fight, but since all of the characters look similar and the cars are the same models, you never know what's going on. The same is true of the fist fights -- the climax is one, which is to be expected, and is the only decent action in the entire film -- and many of the shootouts.

There's nothing to Gangster Squad. Under the gangster movie surface, it's an empty, hollow movie, and there's absolutely no reason to watch it. You trudge through it, hoping the payoff will be worth the almost two hours of your life that it takes to finish -- and it feels a lot longer than that -- and you won't get that. The Untouchables exists so this film doesn't have to. It has an attractive cast and some touches of humor, but Gangster Squad is a cheap knockoff of one of what used to be one of the most reliable genres around.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:02 pm

Reign of Fire
Reign of Fire is quite possibly the saddest movie one could make about fire-breathing dragons. Here is a movie where smiling is considered a sin, and where every line must be delivered with the utmost urgency and seriousness, lest the dragons catch wind of happiness and decide to ruin someone's day by attacking. If perhaps a joke was told or camp was used in order to lighten the mood, maybe Reign of Fire would be enjoyable. But, no, there's no joy to be had in this film, which weakens the final product.

At some point a while back, a construction worker opened up a hole in which a dragon had been sleeping for centuries. It, in turn, decided to turn Earth into an apocalyptic place. Sure, it was aided when the humans decided to start dropping nuclear bombs like it was going out of style, but essentially, a lot of dragons woke up and started eating everyone. Resistance attempts were unsuccessful, and there are now only a handful of survivors, who stay as hidden as possible so as to let the dragons once again go into hibernation. If there's no food, they go to sleep, it would seem.

The leader of one of these groups is Quinn (Christian Bale), who was only 12 years of age at the time of the awakening. He was one of the first people to see the dragons, actually, although he managed to survive its attack, somehow. He leads these survivors with his best friend, Creedy (Gerard Butler), and they do their best to stay alive. Stay hidden, only venture out for food, that sort of thing. After we see them fight off one dragon, which shows us how dangerous the beasts of lore are, the plot really kicks into high gear.

A group of Americans appears, which is odd considering we're in Europe and nobody can fly because dragons occupy the skies. They're led by a man named Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), who claims that he's killed dragons before. Eventually, it's decided that if they kill one dragon, the leader, the dragons won't be able to reproduce. So that's the plan, and by this point we're already an hour into the movie and nobody has been won over by the film.

I didn't know it was possible to make a film about dragons fighting against the last few remaining humans this dreary and boring, but that's what director Rob Bowman has done here. There are plenty of action scenes where humans fight dragons, but there's never a sense of danger, and there isn't much of a fight put up. I think there are only two battles in which a dragon is killed, and both of them end anticlimactically. They involve humans running around, shooting at the dragon and either missing or doing little damage, and then one blow ends it.

The dragons did feel vicious and terrifying -- one of the early scenes involves a dragon completely decimating a group of people before reinforcements are brought in -- but not much death befalls the people, and the important characters never feel like they're in any danger. It's like watching a villain with the aim of a drunk archer. Sure, once in a while the training will pay off and the arrow will go where he wants, but most of the time it'll be laughably off the mark.

They're rendered with the very best special effects, though, so they're a wonder to look at in the few scenes we get to see them. The idea is that the less you see of them, the scarier they'll be, so we don't actually get to see a lot of the dragons. And even in the scenes where dragons appear to wreck things, they fly by too quickly to get a good glimpse of them. Or it'll be too dark. There are only a couple of times we really get to appreciate how much work was put into them.

Most of the problems I had with Reign of Fire came from the tone. We're not going to get a straight-up action movie, so there are a lot of moments when we have to listen to people talking and planning. If there had been a hint of them realizing just how insane the situation they're in, or if they stopped and laughed for a minute, maybe I would have enjoyed Reign of Fire. But it's so dark, so damp, so depressing, that I don't know how you can watch it and feel good. Dragons rising out of the ground and destroying Earth is sad, sure, but it's also fantastical and amazing. The second part is never explored.

Christian Bale is a good actor, but he's given nothing here to sink his teeth into. I suppose it says something about everyone involved that, for the most part, they're acting against a villain that isn't really there and keeping a super-serious straight face while doing it, but there is no depth to anyone's performance. McConaughey is laughable when attempting to be a tough guy, especially when he tries to boss Bale's character around.

Reign of Fire is a dark, depressing movie about fire-breathing dragons. The tone is completely wrong for this type of film, and it's for this reason that it doesn't ultimately work. Having lackluster action scenes and not giving us many good looks at the dragons is part of the reason, but I think the whole bleak outlook on the story is the main reason. If you're hoping for a fun movie involving dragons, stay away from this one. If you're looking for one to put you to sleep in a bad mood, maybe give it a look.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by GrinningManiac on Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:02 am

I just read your review of the Hobbit again, having seen it.

Thank you. It was a brilliant read and summarised why I enjoyed the film. I was having a problem because I recognised faults with the production and I could articulate them quite well but overall I couldn't quite explain why I still really, really liked it. You nailed it. I feel more comfortable now that I'm not just kidding myself that I enjoyed it.

But I hope to God they do something about the dwarfs. They're just THERE and there's too many of them to film a scene cohesively.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:07 am

Thank you! And I'm happy you also enjoyed the movie.

I agree with you on the dwarfs. And I doubt anything will be done with them. I might be misremembering the book -- I read it in, like, the third grade or something -- but I don't recall there being many character moments for each of them. It is Bilbo's story, after all, so I can kind of see the scope and focus being kept so narrow. But, if that's the case, they really shouldn't be there at all, which is more a problem with the source material than with Jackson's adaptations. Hopefully he'll do something interesting with them, and give each one at least one or two moments to shine, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:55 pm

The Wicker Man
The most surprising part about The Wicker Man is that it has a couple of very interesting cameos scattered throughout. Aaron Eckhart is there fairly early on, and James Franco and Jason Ritter show up right near the end. The appearances by these actors actually made me pay attention, and if more cameos would have been thrown in during the second act, I might have been entertained throughout. Unfortunately, that's not the case at all, and instead we just have to sit through a routine thriller for most of the time.

The film stars Nicolas Cage in a drearily unimpressive role. He's a policeman named Edward who, in the opening scene, sees a woman and child get hit by a car and explode, even though their bodies are never found. He takes time off from his job as a result, as he's suffering from depression and hallucinations. Soon enough, he receives a letter from his former fiancée, Willow (Kate Beahan), who explains that she moved back home and that her daughter is missing -- and nobody can help her except Edward, because we wouldn't have a movie otherwise.

Of course, he heads to the island to help her out. It's here where things get kind of weird. The island, which is technically part of the state of Washington, doesn't function like we would assume. It's very misandric, with men being subservient to women, used only for breeding purposes. The women all identify each other as "sister," and the bees are everywhere. Edward, allergic to bees, doesn't like this. All of the residents are also very reluctant to help, and as Willow warns, they're lying to him at every turn.

This is all supposed to be scary. This Wicker Man is a remake of the 1973 British film, and in that one, the island was kind of scary. There was a religious aspect regarding the main character and his Christianity and the island inhabitants' Paganism, and you genuinely feared for this guy's life. You didn't know how far the strangers would go to dissuade him from finding the child, and the odd rituals and general habits were kind of creepy.

Here, they're silly. The film has been stripped of the religious aspect in favor of including a battle of the sexes which goes nowhere. There's no real reason for anything that happens on the island apart from it trying to be kind of creepy. But it doesn't ever really scare or even creep you out. The only marginally scary moments come from whenever the bees get involved, but I only felt that way because they appeared to be under some sort of mind control, always targeting the exposed skin of Edward even if he did nothing to provoke them. They acted more like wasps than bees, and as most of you know, wasps are not to be taken lightly.

Oh, right, Ellen Burstyn gets second billing despite only appearing in a handful of scenes in the film's second half. She's in the Christopher Lee role, here playing a character named Sister Summersisle, who is treated like a deity. She's a cartoon character, really, and while she's kind of funny, I think the filmmakers were going for more of a subdued menace which didn't come through. When she first has a conversation with Edward, she's supposed to be slowly building our suspense, like she might leap out at him at any moment. But I was laughing more frequently than not.

Everything in this movie is so dry and dull that it's hard to sit through. It's not even that it's particularly uninteresting or terribly made -- it just doesn't have a shred of originality or intrigue that helps keep your attention. Most of the film just has Nic Cage moving from house to forest to house, sometimes in the daylight, sometimes at night, rarely ever actually accomplishing something or discovering a clue. It takes him more than half the film to figure out something that was pretty much told to him.

And then there are these flashbacks that end up leading nowhere, as well as a "twist" in the middle that raises at least one question that never gets answered. I gave up. The Wicker Man wore me down, and by the end, I was watching just to get through it. I've been told that the ending is supposed to come as a shock, and while it is a twist, I thought it was fairly predictable. I'm being jaded, probably, but I don't see it being that much of a surprise to a large portion of the audience.

Not even Nicolas Cage, an actor who frequently brings a lot of energy to roles that might be better if they were subdued, can ignite The Wicker Man. He's dull and wooden here, save for in one scene that was cut from the theatrical release and only reinserted back into the DVD. For the rest of the picture, he can't even gather enough energy to appear like he's caring. Whether this was a paycheck movie or director Neil LaBute just wasn't doing a good job at coaxing a strong performance, we'll probably never know, but we can see a lifeless Nic Cage for 90 minutes if you watch The Wicker Man.

Contrary to what you might have heard, I don't think The Wicker Man is worth watching. I've heard people describe it as fun movie because it's so bad, but from where I'm sitting, it's just dull. It has lifeless performances, a stock plot, and two twists which barely matter, one of which actually hampers the film. There isn't any fun to be had here, even though it's competently made. Go watch the original instead, and let this one be sacrificed to the movie gods.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by GrinningManiac on Sun Jan 13, 2013 1:59 am

Y'know what's a brilliant Dumb Movie?

Reeker 2

It tries to be so clever with such strange plot things

Plus a cockney with his face missing peeing nonchalantly on a briefcase of money is not to be sniffed at.


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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:37 pm

Ghost Town
Ghost Town is a romantic comedy with Ricky Gervais in the lead role, here playing Bertram, a dentist who hates everyone else currently alive on the planet. They tire him, they irritate him, and he's sick of all of them. After a routine colonoscopy results in his temporary death, he starts being able to talk to ghosts, too. So, not only does he have to deal with all of those living individuals, but he also has to listen to ghosts who can't so easily be ignored. That sounds just terrible, and I could really empathize with him at this point.

One ghost in particular decides to haunt him. We see his death in the film's opening scene, where we learn that he's cheating on his wife with a younger woman, before promptly getting hit by a bus. His name is Frank (Greg Kinnear), and he has decided to try to get Bertram to make sure that his wife -- whom he still loves despite being unfaithful to her -- stops seeing Richard (Billy Campbell), her new beau, because he believes that Richard will steal her money and ditch her, despite having no reason to believe this.

With the promise that all the other ghosts will stop harassing him if he does this one favor, Bertram starts chatting with Frank's wife, Gwen (Téa Leoni), and the two eventually hit it off, leading to a generic rom-com storyline. The only difference is the ghosts can pop in and out as they please, and Bertram is going to have to learn a little something about living before Gwen will accept him. The ghosts have unfinished business on Earth, Bertram can finish this unfinished business if he stops being so selfish, and you can probably see where this will eventually lead.

The jokes are what make Ghost Town funny enough to be watchable. Having Ricky Gervais, a funny person, play the straight man, while having all of the humor still come from him, works better than you might expect. I loved the deadpan delivery, and I enjoyed watching him in pretty much every scene. He doesn't work particularly well as a romantic lead, but perhaps that's part of the jokes as well.

What I didn't enjoy was the transformation from the snarky, narcissistic individual to whatever he ends up being at the end. I appreciated what Bertram was at the beginning of the film, and didn't really see much of a reason for him to change what he had been doing. He had a routine, he seemed fairly happy with what he was doing, and he didn't need other people. Was all that done to mask some inner pain? Probably, but the film doesn't dive too deeply into this. He changes because he finds love, presumably, but since this is a romantic comedy, how deep can that love truly be, especially because some circumstance will break it up in the middle?

Unfortunately, the whole ghost aspect goes without much use for the majority of the film. Sure, Greg Kinnear's character shows up every now and then, and he can say whatever he wants because only Bertram can hear him, but all of the other ghosts feel superfluous until they force Bertram to develop as a character. That's their only reason for being there, and they come and go without much reason.

They're a crutch, essentially. They can show up and provide some laughs as Bertram tries to avoid them, or they can make him develop as a character. That's it. They don't feel like an organic part of the story; they feel shoehorned in. I almost think it might have been better just to have one ghost, the Kinnear character, which would make his situation more unique, and remove the forced elements. That might have helps with the pacing, too, and kept the film to a crisp 90 minutes in length.

I think the funniest moments involved Kristen Wiig's surgeon, as the scenes where she trades dialogue with Gervais are really enjoyable to listen to. They're all long takes, too, which leads me to believe that there was a certain amount of ad-libbing going on. That's fine, as both of them are talented comedians, and often times, that type of improvisation works really well in these types of films. So, yeah, if Kristen Wiig is fun to watch in a movie, take that as a recommendation, I guess.

However, despite it being fairly humorous, it's still a clichéd rom-com, and if you're tired of those, this one isn't so magically good that it'll make you forget about all of the tired tropes it's using. All of the clichés are here, the standard formula is used, and I found myself growing tired of the plot soon after it began. You can see where everything's going as soon as it starts, and while there are definitely some funny moments, I couldn't help feeling that it would have been funnier had it not been a romantic comedy.

Ghost Town is funny, but it's also clichéd and occasionally boring. If you enjoy rom-coms, this is one of the better ones, but if you're not a fan, it won't change your mind. Ricky Gervais is good in the lead role, playing the straight man doing funny things, but is less than believable as a romantic lead. Still, I laughed a fair bit and I can't deny that Ghost Town was, for the most part, enjoyable. I can't give it a heartfelt recommendation, as it's still a romantic comedy, but it's a pretty good one that I had fun with.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:17 pm

When a Stranger Calls
I can't think of a single decision that went into making When a Stranger Calls that was the right one. Let us count how many ways the filmmakers went wrong. (1) This is a remake of a 1979 film of the same name, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't follow the original at all. (2) It's a PG-13 horror movie, and I think we all know what that means by now. (3) The trailer for the film gives away the only real twist, which you'll probably guess very early on anyway.

(4) The lead actress, Camilla Belle, who plays a teenage babysitter named Jill, is so wooden that it's impossible to think that she's ever scared. (5) All of the other actors are just as wooden and therefore are not at all believable when giving us their dialogue. (6) The film plays out like it wants to be a parody, including as many horror clichés as it can, but then plays every scene completely straight; it has Belle and the other actors do the stupidest things that all horror movie characters are seemingly forced to do, and there isn't a single hint of irony in the delivery.

Take, for instance, a scene in which Jill's friend, Tiffany (Katie Cassidy), comes over to the house that Jill is babysitting -- for no real reason, obviously -- and when she leaves, she acts completely freaked out, as if she knows she's in a horror movie. The wind is blowing, oh dear! Jill also acts freaked out at the smallest thing, and doesn't even think about things logically or like a real human being would. It's like they can hear the (7) overbearing score that alerts them that a jump scene or fake jump scene might be coming around the next corner.

(Cool The plot involves Jill wandering around a house for 65 minutes, doing nothing of interest, answering the world's busiest home telephone where a man asks her ridiculous questions like "have you checked the children?" The rest of the plot, which has been given away in the trailer, involves running around the house slightly more frantically. (9) There are a few subplots mentioned, but they're all forgotten about or ignored afterward.

I especially liked how we're introduced to Jill as she's sprinting around a track, trying to run a couple of laps under 24 seconds. She doesn't, but later in the film, when she has and is using a timer, and has to sprint, she doesn't use it. It would have actually made the earlier moment matter, but instead it's just ignored. And it only would have taken a couple of seconds to add this on. It's lazy writing, really, kind of like how the situation with her maybe-boyfriend never gets resolved (10).

Even the (11) aspect ratio is wrong for this material. We spend about 90% of the film in a gorgeous house which the filmmakers attempt to make scary. Claustrophobia almost seems to be setting in with our main character, and we'd almost like to feel it too -- except for the very wide aspect ratio which never allows for that. (12) There are also a couple of slow motion shots that are used to no effect, (13) quick cutting which should give the film a frantic feel but instead makes it laughable, and (14) cinematography that seems to constantly be panning in order to reveal something ... but never does.

(15) Oh, and it's not at all scary, and not at all thrilling. There are a couple of attempts to build up suspense, mostly through the score and as much darkness as you can realistically get away with, but it never builds to anything more than a jump scare. Once you realize that the film falls into a pattern (16) -- phone call, wandering around the house, jump scare -- which you will probably do quite early on, there's nothing that the film will throw at you that can be scary. You know it's just another jump scare involving a cat or the very terrifying ice cube maker in the refrigerator.

(17) Even those responsible for lighting -- or maybe this was a post-production mistake -- seemed to be half-asleep. Jill heads to this house at what I'm guessing is around 7:30 at night, considering that the parents say that they have an 8:00 dinner reservation. It's not yet that dark, as it's summertime. Fast-forward what seems like hours, and the outside shots show us that it's really dark now. Then, fast-forward more time, and it's magically become lighter out. And then it's dark out again. Thankfully, this only happens one time, but it's just silly to see that nobody noticed that during production.

Even the house, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful thing ever, looked bland and cheap (18). The rooms aren't populated with much furniture, the lights automatically turn off when a character leaves the room, meaning that the rooms all feel isolated from one another, and I could have sworn there was some noticeable green screen in a couple of scenes, although it might have just looked that way because of how vacant these sets felt.

We're at 18. Are there more? I don't doubt it, but I'm tired of counting. Maybe I've been too harsh, and some of the marks against the film should be rolled into one, but does it matter? The point is that there isn't anything good about When a Stranger Calls. Actually, there was one interesting shot in which Jill runs around the house, zooming from room to room, and we don't cut away until she stops. That made me appreciate that there is a little bit of talent from at least one member of the production crew. Most of the cinematography is just bland, though, so maybe it was just a stroke of luck.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:47 pm

Review Smiley.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:01 pm

The Michael Gallagher flick?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:55 pm

The Lucky Ones
The Lucky Ones is one of the good road movies. Sure, you know pretty much exactly how it's going to end as soon as you're introduced to its characters, but it's sweet and heartfelt nonetheless. Formulaic and has a bunch of problems due to its adherence to formula, of course, but that doesn't stop it from having a moderate emotional impact on a viewer, as well as giving anyone watching it a pretty fun time. While the three lead characters are all Iraq war veterans, they have a pretty good sense of humor which keeps things enjoyable for all, despite all their problems.

The basic idea is this: The three soldiers return home with a plan and a dream, and soon find out that not is all as it was and should be. Their first obstacle is a power outage, causing the delay of planes at the airport. They decide to rent a car together, having met earlier while flying back to America. We have Fred Cheaver (Tim Robbins), a veteran of many years who just wants to see his wife and son; Colee (Rachel McAdams), who got shot in the leg and had her boyfriend die in her arms, who just wants to return his guitar to his family; and there's T.K. (Michael Peña), who was struck by a piece of shrapnel in a very sensitive area, causing it to no longer work. He hopes to go to Vegas and hire someone to "fix" it.

There are problems with all of these plans. Cheaver's wife wants a divorce and his son needs $20,000 in 3 weeks or he loses his spot at Stanford. Colee is living in a dream world, having never met her boyfriend's parents but assuming that they'll love her and take her in as their own. T.K. has some sort of past history with something, and also has an odd relationship with his fiancée. You'll find it all out as the film moves along.

As we progress from state to state, the tensions flare, the problems get larger, and before long, it seems as if nobody will ever live happily ever after. You understand at this point that this is how road movies work; the speed bumps presented allow for the character growth which will hopefully allow these people to overcome their problems.

You know how road movies work, or if you don't, you will by the end of this one. All of the notes that are required are hit, and all of the tropes are used. If you're looking for a film with a unique plot, The Lucky Ones isn't it. However, if you're looking for a movie with strong characters portrayed by good actors, then you might just like this one. These characters and performances are so strong that you forget the film's flaws for the majority of its running time.

These are layered, deep characters, all of whom have many things they have to worry about. By the end of the film, you hope that everything will work out because you care about them. They feel real, and you want them to succeed because they don't feel like caricatures; they're real human beings. The writing is sharp and doesn't often make them speak in clichés, and the actors are all very good, which makes the characters feel natural. You get sucked in by the performances and forget the film's problems until it concludes.

However, after it's over, you start to think it over and realize it's nothing particularly special. The plot is all formula, it's too long (just under two hours), many of the scenes don't relate to the plot at all and appear just as filler and to give us a bizarre look at America and its reaction to soldiers, and much of the comedy falls flat. During the film, I didn't care. It's only looking back on it that I feel this way, and I certainly don't hope to dissuade anyone from seeing it due to these issues. It overcomes them, but you might be left with a somewhat bad taste in your mouth if you think about it for too long afterward.

Many contrivances and too-unlikely-to-just-be-coincidences are abound, but I was okay with them while watching The Lucky Ones. You make a note of how silly these situations are, but you pass it off as just that: Silly situations. They're harmless and end up telling a good story, so why bother complaining about them? Because you're a cynic, that's why. And you know what we do with cynics 'round these here parts? Nothing. That's what.

I liked seeing how everyone in America reacted to these soldiers, though. Perhaps the funniest moments came when our war heroes would make a stop in a place and get treated a different way from the last one. If director Neil Burger wanted to give us a portrait of different areas of America, then he did a pretty good job of that. It's a little touch, sure, but it's an important one that elevates The Lucky Ones above a generic road movie.

In the end, The Lucky Ones is definitely worth the time it takes to watch. It isn't anything special, really, but it feels like it is in the moment. After it ends, you might start to think back on the experience and realize its problems, but as you're enjoying it, you're really enjoying it. It takes three people, puts them in a car and gives them a lot of problems to deal with. Formulaic, sure, but it makes a good movie here, in large part because it provides a nice perspective on America, and because of the strong performances by the lead actors.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Akariking93 on Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:21 am

Oh hey, Matt, just came here to tell you how much I hate you for your best of list and how I get the feeling you almost did it to piss me off, so here I'm going to go around telling everyone Scorpion King 3 was shit and to burn all copies while saying the greatest movie everest is The Man with the Iron Fists.

Okay not really but seriously here, how could you put Django just at #10 and The goddamn Hunger Games above it? ;~;
I won't even go into discussing Pitch Perfect, either. Saw it your recommendation and I felt like eating my dick off would be preferable.
Nothing against you, of course, but could thou explain thyself?
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:44 am

It's entirely possible that my slight disdain for Django comes from the fact that not only was it too long and definitely missing Menke's assuredness in keeping Tarantino's self-indulgence to a minimum, but our screening was delayed by an additional 45 minutes, meaning I was in a theater for 3.5 hours to see what wasn't anything special. It was good, and that's why it still gets a mention, but it could have done what it did in two hours and would have been far, far better.

Keep in mind that I'm also not the biggest Western fan in the world, and I really didn't like Foxx's complete apathy throughout the entire film, whether that was on purpose or not (I think it was, but it didn't work for me).

Meanwhile, The Hunger Games actually had some emotion and passion behind it. While its action wasn't great, the reason behind that action was more powerful than Django "Rescue the Princess" Unchained. I felt something with Hunger Games, while with Django the only thing I felt was moderate boredom (and some good laughs, I'll give it that credit).

Django was still good, I'd like to emphasize, and when I catch it again on home video, there's a good chance I'll like it more. That's usually how it is with Tarantino films and me. But I considered not even including it on the list.

I don't care if you didn't like Pitch Perfect. I loved it. I would like to hear why you didn't, but you've already said you won't get into it. You hate most under-30 actresses, so that's working against it in the first place. You, I'm assuming based on most of the times we've talked about music, hated the soundtrack. Fine. I would rewatch it 10 times before seeing Django once more (and probably will have done by the time Django hits home video). And Pitch Perfect had more emotion behind it than Django, too.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:38 am

2012 felt like a shit year for movies anyway

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:42 am

You didn't put Moonrise Kingdom on that list ye bastard

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:59 am

I didn't see Moonrise Kingdom. And 2012 was a far superior year to 2011.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:15 am

Doh. I would accept this as an excuse had it not been for you having seen The House Bunny.

And yes, 2012 was much better than 2011. The only film from that year I remember fondly is Drive.

God I love drive.

Drive Drive Drive.

Drive Drive Drive Drive Drive

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:19 am

The thing is, my sister owned The House Bunny and therefore I didn't have to do anything extra to see it. Moonrise Kingdom, on the other hand, is more difficult to find for $2.50, which is what I usually by DVDs for. When I finally find a copy on DVD, I will get it and watch it.

Drive was really good, I'll agree. 2011 had a few other good films, like 50/50 and Moneyball, but it was a far weaker year (IMO) than 2012.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:22 am

I have a DVD copy of Moonrise, pretend that we are neighbours and that you came over to watch it and just download the thing

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:24 am

It comes on the movie channel on February 23rd.

So I'll just watch it then.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:28 am

Fair enough.

You people and your morals and principles

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:31 am

More that my internet is currently semi-broken and I sometimes can't even watch YouTube videos at the moment without letting them load for a while.

Which is really weird, because my internet has been pretty good for as long as I can remember. We had someone here to check it and they said they need to come back to fix something. Nobody has the time to be home to let them do it during working hours, so it'll be a little while before that can happen.

And also morals and stuff.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Akariking93 on Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:40 am

@Matt: My brain is so full of fuck at the mention of Hunger Games having more emotion than Django.
Of course, it's not some emotional rollercoaster of a film but... dude, Hunger Games was just pure saccharine coated silliness aimed at teens XD

Still, I won't argue with your opinion at all. It's your opinion. I'm just fucking around when I say it pisses me off. I still don't really get the appeal of either films; Hunger Games or Pitch Perfect. I understand the former more than the latter only because I didn't get any joy out of hearing an acapella rendition of top 40 songs. Especially Miley Cyrus. >.>

I guess I understand it for you because... you like teen idol music and Anna Kendrick. Both of those things I can't stand. Also, I don't mind actresses under 30 at all. I just think most in mainstream films get by because of their looks and not talent. *glares at Jennifer Lawrence and her tacky ass comment at the Golden Globes*

Anyway, no I just don't really like films like that. Django would probably be my #1 if I did a list like that. Debated on it myself doing a best/worst of but I couldn't think of 10 truly awful movies I saw this year. Most were more or less disappointing than outright bad. If I had to though, both Jennifer Lawrence movies that came out this year would be in the top 10 worst >.<
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:55 am

http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2012/04/whats_wrong_with_the_hunger_ga_1.html

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:20 pm

@Jules: I don't think Hunger Games is an emotional rollercoaster either, but I at least felt something while watching it. That's more than I can say for Django, is all.

Pitch Perfect was not at all -- not at the beginning, at least -- about the music. It starts out, like its lead character, completely cynical regarding the a cappella thing. The first half of the movie is making fun of its entire premise. And then as its lead starts to appreciate everything that goes into it, and starts to actually enjoy it, the idea is that the audience will, too. It gets to have its cake and eat it, too, to steal a phrase. At least, that's how it was for most people. You're the second (out of about 20) person I've talked to about it who didn't like it. Of course, liking the music does help, but I went with someone who hated the music and still really enjoyed the film.

Re: Jennifer Lawrence. I'm assuming you mean the "I beat Meryl" dig. It's a line from a movie. First Wives Club, to be specific. It was a joke.

@Hub: The first point was that Rue was black in the movies and therefore it was wrong. Rue was also black in the book. I'm not sure why that point is even a thing. I had to stop reading after that. Maybe the article wasn't meant to be serious. I dunno.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Mr. Wiggles on Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:32 pm

There was no first point. She remarked on racists then identified herself as subliminally racist and then just said a lot.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:04 pm

@Marter & Wiggles: Did you both just stop reading after section 1?

It's an article about how contrary to popular belief, Katniss is far from a strong female character, as she is continuously robbed of agency throughout the book/film.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:05 pm

@Wiggles: Okay. That makes more sense. I had to skim because I had to leave for class. XD

@Hub: Yes. See above.

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