Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hugo review; I definitely agree to disagree with the majority on this one

We all know that Martin Scorsese is a genius behind the camera.  I have been a fan of his work, literally, my whole life.  I remember being "too young" to watch Goodfellas, but sneaking into the living room to watch it anyway.  I was rooting for him to get his first Oscar a few years ago for The Departed, and he did just that.  Now we can, fittingly, call him Academy Award winner, Martin Scorsese.  The gangster genre made him famous, but I never hesitated to think he couldn't handle a family film.  I was so confident in Mr. Scorsese I even watched it in 3D.

Hugo is a film about an orphan boy, played by Asa Butterfield, living in a train station in France.  He meets a toy maker Georges (Ben Kingsley) and his God daughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz).  An adventure ensues between Hugo and his young friend; all the while avoiding the train station manager (Sacha Baron Cohen) who threatens to toss back in the orphanage.  Hugo is the film, this is the review, let's go.  

What I liked about the film:
I could not imagine my life without film.  There have been tough times in my life where the movies were my escape.  I have always been one to 'get lost' in the story.  This movie is so obviously Scorsese's love letter to cinema.  I don't want to give anything away, so I'll be subtle.  Hugo is a huge fan of the movies.  He takes Isabelle to the movies for the first time, and she falls in love as well.  As Hugo's adventure unfolds, Hugo and Isabelle discover there is a lot more to her God father than she thought.  I'll leave the rest up to you to discover, but I loved the characters' passion for the cinema.  

The 3D
I have been very vocal on this blog about my hatred for 3D.  Movies like Avatar made me excited about the potential for the medium.  While movies like Tron: Legacy just simply made me mad at the gouging from the theater for the higher ticket prices.  Hugo lives in a train station clock tower; and the brilliant 3D captured it perfectly.  It places the audience in the tower with the other characters.  The camera follows the young boy through gears and belts and obstacles along the way as he winds up the clocks in the tower.  The 3D makes you feel the depth of the setting the characters are in.  It's never over the top, which was a pleasant and welcome surprise.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Story
Ok, so there was very little I enjoyed about the film; wow, that was even harder to type than I thought it would be.  To me, the story was very weak.  The movie couldn't decide what story it wanted to tell to be completely honest.  Is it the story of Hugo and his father?  Hugo the orphan, fighting to survive?  Hugo and Isabelle's story?  Hugo and Georges?  Arg.  In every 10-15 minute increment, it changes.  It's hard to describe this without giving anything away, so I'll leave you with this; I didn't like the story at all.

The Characters
Georges is a very intriguing character; but other than Sir Kingsley's performance, the rest was not up to par.  The child actors give decent enough performances, but their characters are never fully realized.  Butterfield has a few moments where he's about to show off his acting chops, but it's not enough.  And wow, Sacha Baron Cohen is asked to perform a slapstick shtick in a film that didn't match that tone.  The slapstick felt forced and as if it didn't belong in this movie.  

The Pacing
The first act is abysmal.  It is unbelievably slow.  When it starts to pick up, and we see Hugo and Georges work together, it suddenly and abruptly shifts its attention elsewhere.  The run time is 2 hours and 6 minutes (which is short by Scorsese standards), but it felt like a 3 hour bore.  I understand it is an adaptation, but I would have tightened the script and sped things up for the audience.

Family Film?  What Family Film?
This is being billed as a family film; fit for young and old.  Really?  A 6 year old is going to sit through Hugo and enjoy themselves more than Puss in Boots?  Or Arthur Christmas?  C'mon Hollywood.  This movie is for a nostalgic crowd who wants to remember the days when they were young.  The marketing is all wrong.

The Verdict:
Pass until the next Scorsese hit
Believe me, I know what you're thinking.  "But it received a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes".  I am well aware of this fact, and still defend my opinion.  Although aspects of the film and story were terrific, it doesn't mean it was a good movie.  I was extremely disappointed in the film.  I took away very little, even taking into account I'm a movie lover.  It's ok though; Scorsese will ride again.  Hopefully his next film will live up to the bar he has raised so high.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cool new Avengers banners

Pretty crazy that The Avengers wont be out for about another year; yet here are two all new banners for the film.      These are courtesy of /Film via Yahoo.  These are pretty standard issue posters right next to each other, but they're still pretty cool.  I especially like the poster of Mark Ruffalo above with a green hue to him.  Marvel is going to milk this thing until and well after its release.  Oh and one last thing... isn't Scarlett Johansson just ugly? ;o)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Julia Roberts' Mirror Mirror trailer, the OTHER Snow White movie

Just a few days ago the trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman premiered.  I was very impressed with the retelling of the original Snow White story.  I also mentioned that 'Huntsmen' was only one of three Snow White films being worked on.  The second?  Mirror Mirror, the Lily Collins, Armie Hammer and Julia Roberts starring film.  Check out the trailer below and my thoughts after.

Very different from the 'Huntsmen' trailer huh?  I must say I liked it.  The trailer obviously focuses on Julia Roberts' Evil Queen role.  We barely see Lily Collins as Snow White, or her 7 dwarfs.  It has a much more whimsical, humors tone to it than it's competitor.  I understand these are two very different films, but it's nearly impossible not to compare them.  And If I MUST compare them, I'd go for 'Huntsmen'.  Mirror Mirror feels too much like a live-action version of the Disney animated classic.  Which is ironic because there is a 3rd version about to start production from Disney themselves.  So what do you think?  Yay or nay on Mirror Mirror?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Snow White and the Huntsman trailer looks incredible

Snow White and the Huntsman is just one of three Snow White films soon to be released.  This particular film promises to be something very different.  Forget what you saw in the Disney animated version from your childhood.  He comes the new, bad ass Snow White.  My thoughts after the trailer.  Enjoy.

That's what I'm talking about!  I am normally not a big fan of remakes and reboots; but something like this is a total re-imagining of a classic.  Charlize Theron (Monster) looks spectacular as the Evil Queen.  I'm not the biggest fan of Kristen Stewart (Twilight), but she could be interesting in this one.  And then there's Chris Hemsworth (Thor) playing the titular Huntsman.  The special effects look top notch.  The world that director Rupert Sanders has created is mesmerizing.  We haven't even seen the 7 dwarfs yet.  With terrific actors like Ian McShane, Toby Jones and Bob Hoskins playing dwarfs, you know it's going to be an interesting take on the classics.

Barring some total derailment, the studio's got my money for this movie.  Anyone else?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tower Heist review; a lot of fun at the movies

I've said it before and I'll say it again; don't judge a movie until you've seen it.  I had an opportunity to see Tower Heist and I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and a slew of other great actors in an action comedy directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour).  Again, don't judge a movie until you've seen it.  No plot here, just opinions, so let's begin!

What I liked about the film:
The Cast
The cast of this movie is enough to make anybody laugh.  But they're very well thought out and everyone contributes to the story.  Ben Stiller is the ring leader trying to get back all the tower employee's pension funds, stolen by a resident (Alan Alda).  He asks for help from his brother in-law (Casey Affleck), along with Michael Peña, Matthew Broderick and of course Eddie Murphy!  The lead cast are the ones primarily planning the heist to steal back everyone's pension money, but the fun doesn't stop there.

The support cast is wonderful!  Téa Leoni plays an FBI agent, Gabourey Sidibe and Judd Hirsch round out an amazing ensemble cast of past and present funny people.  I was pleasantly surprised to find everyone had something to do; they weren't just there for the sake of being there.  Peña gets the best lines in the entire film, with Murphy a close second.  Murphy does what he does best, yell at the white characters, hustle to get by, etc.  Some of it was typical, but still funny nonetheless.

Oh you, Alan Alda you!  Alda is such a good actor.  At the beginning of the movie, we really want to like him, we really do.  But damned if he doesn't turn on a dime and make us want to hate him.  That takes acting chops which he has.  It was also a nice M.A.S.H. reunion with Judd Hirsh.  Nicely done.

The Story
A big difference between this film and the 'Ocean's' films is the story. With Tower Heist, it's very basic.  In the 'Ocean's' films, they show the prep for just about every aspect of the heist, they did not do that with this film.  During the actual heist, we see things being done for the first time, nothing that was prepped earlier.  It was kind of nice, it made us feel like it was all a surprise and kept us guessing as an audience.  The stakes are high for all the characters, so it was easy to let go and believe these "ordinary" people would do this.  I enjoyed it very much.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Coincidences
I understand when we go to the movie, we have to let our imaginations go a little bit.  But there are too many absurd coincidences in the movie to overlook.  Take for example the beginning of the heist.  The entire plan is about to go bad, but BY CHANCE, they sneak in a side door with 6 employees who aren't looking.  Just to get inside where 15-20 more employees aren't looking.  No, that doesn't happen.  Minor set back.

The Editing
A heist movie relies heavily on its editing.  Like I mentioned earlier, they don't tell us too much about the plan until it has been set in motion.  So the editing is crucial to the story.  It felt unfinished.  There were key scenes that should have been cut slower but in typical Ratner fashion, they were fast and frequent.  Ratner has been doing this alongside his editors since Rush Hour.  I can't say I was totally surprised.

The Score/Sound Mixing
It-was-terrible.  The score by Christophe Beck was terrible.  He wrote music featuring horns and acoustics that didn't belong in any of the scenes they were featured in.  The sound mixing was so bad, I asked my wife and other people in the theater if it was just me or was it way off?  They agreed, the mix was way off. I've watched movies all my life; I've seen movies where maybe a small part of the sound mix is off, but nothing like Tower Heist.  These may be small, petty things, but I think it's important to note.

The Verdict:
Much Better Than I Would Have Ever Expected
I have to be honest and say I didn't expect much from this film.  I went in with a negative mindset towards Ratner and his crappy movies of late.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed the Stiller/Murphy dynamic and look forward to Murphy hosting next year's Oscars!  The supporting cast was great, and important to key plot points.  There were obviously some technical aspects of the movie I didn't like, but nothing worth crying about.  Overall a satisfying movie that is worth checking out.