Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mirror Mirror review; let's hope the OTHER Snow White movie is better

Since both trailers debuted, Mirror Mirror played second fiddle to Snow White and the Huntsmen for me.  But, I kept an open mind and decided to give the movie a shot at an early screener.  Mirror Mirror is of course the live-action retelling of the classic story, Snow White.  Lily Collins won the role of the pale faced princess, Armie Hammer plays the dashing prince; and the lovely Julia Roberts plays the evil queen.  The movie was directed by Tarsem Singh (Immortals).

What I liked about the film:
The Design/Costumes
The set pieces in the film are very impressive.  You can tell a bulk of the budget went to making beautiful sets for the actors to work in.  The costumes were just as impressive.  Every actor looked great on screen.  The costumes helped to mold the actors into their character.  Ready for this; my favorite part of the movie was the opening credit animation!  Visually stunning and artistically done, it reminds me a lot of the animation in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.  Kudos!

What I didn't like about the film:
A very short list of likes should foreshadow the rest of this review.  Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwards holds a VERY special place in my heart.  It is the first movie I ever saw in a theater.  As a 5 year old little boy, I was blown away.  The story was fun, exciting, scary and emotional.  It took me to a place I would spend the rest of my life wanted to return to... movieland.  Mirror Mirror has an awful excuse of a story.  The evil queen is really the evil step-mother.  Snow White is cast out of the castle, only to join the 'band of giants'... the dwarfs.  The evil queen tries to marry a prince to help her financial dilemma.  Ouff.  I don't want to say anything else, the story was stupid.

Where's the originality?
The movie had little to no originality.  If, and I do mean IF, you're going to remake, reboot, redo, whatever you want to call it... if you're going to remake a film, bring something new to the table.  21 Jump Street is a prime example of the RIGHT way to do it.  Mirror Mirror is not.  There was nothing new except some minor variations to the story and new names for the seven dwarfs.  I did however like the way they wove the dreaded apple into the film.  Clever, but too little too late.

I liked one actor/character in the entire movie... the hilarious Nathan Lane.  He plays the queens loyal, albeit abused, servant.  In a completely packed theater, made up of both children and adults, he was the sole provider of laughs in the movie.  Literally, I did not like a single other character.  To be fair, the actors tried.  Roberts was her wonderful self, and played the role as sincerely as she could.  Hammer too played the part with sincerity.  The stand out is Lily Collins who is downright wrong for the role.  If she doesn't get us to even like the character, why would we care what happens to her?  The last thing I will say is, I didn't buy there was ANY chemistry between Collins and Hammer.

The Director
This guy amazes me.  Movies like The Cell and Immortals prove he can direct a visually stunning film; and we got just that with Mirror Mirror.  But all three of those films lack any true story telling.  All three had unlikable characters.  There's more.  The editing, pacing, score, everything about this man's choices was bad to me.

The Verdict:
Dear lord, I haven't seen a cheesefest like this since the 1960's Batman television series.  This version is so campy, again, it's a pointless remake.  If you're going to remake a movie as beloved as Disney's animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it better be damn good!  I don't have anything else to say.  Except... I hated this movie.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Casa De Mi Padre review; either the dumbest, or most clever film in years

I am a huge fan of Will Ferrell.  Since his SNL days, he's been in one comedy hit after another.  The latest effort may take people by surprise.  Why?  Because Casa De Mi Padre is all in Spanish.  Yes, even Ferrell recites all his lines in Spanish.  The film is mostly a spoof of international films, and a satire that plays off of many stereotypes.  Ferrell plays Armando, brother to a Mexican drug lord.  When a feud with a rival drug lord begins, the comedy begins. Lets go!

What I liked about the film:
The Actors/Characters
I've already expressed my Ferrell fondness, but there are a ton of great actors in this film. Diego Luna plays Ferrell's drug lord brother.  Many will remember him as the hopeless romantic in The Terminal.  In this film however, Luna is hilarious.   He plays to every stereotype of a drug lord in movies.  Big sunglasses at all times, the facial hair, and he smokes ALL THE TIME.  Great material here.  Efren Ramirez (or Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite as he will forever be typecast), is one of Ferrell's sidekicks.  Adrian Martinez is the other sidekick in the film; he and Ramirez have some great scenes with Ferrell.  The three sing a hilarious song in the film that i cant seem to get out of my head.  It's important to note though, the sidekicks were not in the film NEARLY enough in my opinion.

The gorgeous, Genisis Rodriguez, from last year's Man On A Ledge is the female lead.  She is Luna's fiance.   Even though it is a comedy, she has a ton of emotional scenes.  And it doesnt hurt that she is so beautiful.  There also some great performances for supporting characters.   Gael García Bernal plays the rival drug lord and Nick Offerman an America DEA Officer.  Albeit small roles, the two pull it off with style.

The Parody/Spoofs
'Casa' parodies a lot of western/international films from decades ago.  A few quick examples.  As the villain drug lord, Bernal is always smoking a cigarette.  To be EXTRA intimidating, he lights up two separate cigarettes and smokes them at the same time.  He really pulls it off in a way that you cant help but laugh.  There is another scene with Ferrell and his friend where, purposely, you can tell the backdrop is a painting and not the mountainside they're supposed to be at.  Last example: there were a couple times where, again on purpose, the editing is wrong.  We can see just a few frames from a scene that occurred earlier in the film, then it cuts back to the correct spot.  Those kinds of spoofs really made the movie one of the most clever I've seen in years.  It goes downhill from here.

What I didnt like about the film:
Everything Else
You probably thought I really enjoyed the film based on what youve read so far huh?  Unfortunatley, not so.  The story is abismal.  Andrew Steele wrote one of the most generic, cluttered scripts I've ever seen.  Its so unorganized, that is was hard to overlook.  Director Matt Piedmont doesn't help matters either.  There are problems with the pacing and the tone.  The format of the movie, especially the Spanish, hurt the movie overall.  There could be no real improvisation.

The Verdict
It was more dumb than clever
I did not like the movie at all.  It was just dumb overall and had so little originality to it.  Sure the actors did well with what they had to work with, and the spoofs were clever.  But there still has to be a good story, an arc of some kind, and there just wasn't.  Do you think I'm alone in my dislike for the film?  I'm not.  Forget the 46% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  I had the luxury of watching an early screening.  These are free mind you.  I lost count after 10+ people walked out of the theater within the first 45 minutes.  Not good.  I don't think the movie is going to make much money at all.  But it is a Ferrell movie, so we'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Brave, Frankenweenie, Men in Black III & Neighborhood Watch trailers

Visually, Brave looks amazing!  After all, it IS a Disney Pixar film, it's supposed to look amazing right?  It's a pretty straight forward Disney plot though; the princess doesn't want to be a princess and I'm sure a love interest will pop up somewhere along the line.  I'll still be among the first in line to watch this one (and hopefully forget about last year's Cars 2).

Friends with Kids review; a heartfelt comedy about modern day families

It's amazing how times change.  And one of the best things about movies is, they change with the times.  A few decades ago, movie stars didn't even share a kiss on screen.  Now?  Well, yeah.  Movies also redefine family as the times change too.  In comes Friends with Kids, redefining what a family is in today's society.  It's an independent film, written, directed and starring Jennifer Westfeldt.  The premise is simple.  Westfeldt and Adam Scott play best friends who don't have children.  All of their friends have kids and they're feeling a little left out.  So they decide to skip all the complications of a relationship and marriage, and have a child as friends.  Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
The Actors
This film is a character piece.  Westfeldt turns in an amazing performance.  She is a strong, yet vulnerable woman.  She is independent, yet seeks the love a man.  She is a great mother, but needs Adam Scott's help in raising their child.  Adam Scott has perhaps the biggest character arc of the film.  He stars by being a womanizer who doesn't really know what it means to love a woman.  He does an amazing job portraying someone who is confused and conflicted.  It's almost as though we see him deciding between what his mind, and what his heart are telling him.

Westfeldt and Scott have an amazing chemistry together.  We, the audience, have no trouble believing these two characters could be best friends.  The two actors play off of each other very well.  No surprise, Westfeldt and Scott share the best scenes in the movie as well.

The movie is made up of a ton of great stars.  The "friends" in the title are made up of: Jon Hamm (Westfeldt's real life boyfriend of 15 years, and co-producer of the film), Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox and Edward Burns.  A lot of those names look familiar?  Well 4 of them stared in last years blockbuster comedy, Bridesmaids.  The actors are terrific, and mostly because of the writing and their characters' story arcs.

The Writer/Director/Story
There have been plenty of movies focused on "unconventional" families.  Hell, one of them even stars Madonna for God's sake.  And television shows like "Modern Family" showcase the change in the word family.  What sets Friends with Kids apart is it's amazing script.  Westfeldt has written a wonderful, simple, relatable story for all to enjoy.  The dialogue is perhaps the best part of the movie.  It was believable and reminded me of the heart in another great comedy, Knocked Up.  What made that movie so great was it stayed grounded in realty, as does Friends with Kids.  It never felt like a sitcom, or drifted towards obsurd situations.  Another thing worth noting is how rich every character is written in the film.  They are all interesting, different and worth being in the film.

What I didn't like about the film:
Let's Talk
A minor complaint I have: nothing really happens.  Most of the movie involves Westfeldt and Scott, or the entire group, sitting around a kitchen table talking.  As I mentioned above, the dialogue is wonderful, so it's more than ok.  It's also important to note, this is an independent film, and the budget may not have allowed for more than what was shot.  I will say there were a few unnecessary scenes that did nothing for the overall story.

The Third Act
The script is very good; again, it was believable and relatable.  However, the third act needed some tightening up.  There is definitely a resolution for our characters, but it felt forced.  There is a quick montage that is supposed to explain a few hook-ups and break-ups; and it needed more to get us to our climax.  I wouldn't discourage anyone from watching the movie because of it, but it's worth noting.

The Verdict:
Family with a ton of heart
Needless to say, I really enjoyed this film.  Westfeldt has turned in an amazing script that everyone will fall in love with.  It's not going to have slapstick comedy, so don't go in expecting that.  It's not going to have any physical comedy either.  It reminded me a lot of Dan in Real Life in that it is a character piece that stays grounded in reality.  The tone was perfect despite the pacing and run time.  If you have time, I would definitely recommend checking out this great film.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

First look at Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger

Talk about drama behind the scenes of a movie.  The Lone Ranger project was announced by Disney over a year ago.  This is of course the remake to the 1930's TV show.  Almost from the beginning, Johnny Depp was attached to star and Gore Verbinski was set to direct.  The two worked on the 'Pirates' movies in the past.  The movie was then canceled due to a ridiculous budget.  After everyone involved was willing to take a 20% pay cut, the movie was back on track.

Armie Hammer was cast as the Lone Ranger; Johnny Depp will play Tonto and William Fichtner will play the villain.  Filming has begun, and this is the first official image.  What do you think?  I know it's not much to base the whole movie on, but it's something.  I love what they did with Depp's make up and costume, and Hammer's looks good as well.  Can't wait to see more from the movie.

Elle Fanning in talks to play Sleeping Beauty opposite Angelina Jolie, in Maleficent

Maleficent is having a long journey to the theater.  Just to remind you, this is the live-action Sleeping Beauty remake.  Angelina Jolie has signed up to play the titular character.  Robert Stromberg will direct.  And now, we could have our 'Beauty'.  Super 8 co-star, Elle Fanning is up for the princess.  Elle is of course the younger sister of Dakota Fanning.

I love this news.  Unlike Lily Collins in the Snow White remake, Mirror Mirror, Fanning is a proven actress with a ton of talent.  Despite how young she is, her performance in Super 8 conveyed a ton of emotion.  I hope this deal is done and she's on board.  This could be great.  We'll let you know when it's confirmed.

Chronicle director is up for the Spider-Man spin off, Venom

A few weeks ago I got a chance to see Chronicle and loved it!  Almost everything about it was great.  The film was directed by Josh Trank, who at the time, was only 26 years old.  The film was a critical and commercial success.  It developed a lot of buzz during its run, and a loyal following.  Needless to say; the success of Chronicle has opened many doors for the young director.  Sony Pictures has taken notice.

Trank has began talks to direct the Spider-Man spin off, Venom.  This is great news for fans of the anti-hero character.  Trank could bring a vision and direction to the character that could make him more than just a B-level comic book character; similar to what Jon Faveau did for Iron Man.  There is one thing I'm curious about though.  With the reboot of a Spider-Man film, I wonder if they'll incorporate Trank's Venom into future sequels.  Sony would be wise to take a page from the Marvel handbook of making films, and keep all the characters in the same film universe.  Either way, only time will tell.  Here's hoping Trank officially signs on!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Guest Review: Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Hot on the heels of the first post comes the…second post.  You can tell I’m a writer.  This time the movie was easy to see because I could bring my kid.  In fact I took the kid, the wife, and the mom (mine) all out to see The Lorax.  Here are a couple things to note before we get started.  One: I never fully judge a movie until after I have seen it.  I know this is not some kind of major prophetic idea but my reasoning is that there is no universal standard for judging a movie.  I try to see what the movie wants to be then see if it succeeds.  I mention this because Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is not the typical animated kids movie that we have been getting lately.  It doesn’t work the same way Shrek and the Toy Story films do.  In short this movie is not very funny.  Not unless you are high or seven.  I dare not speak more, quickly to the review!

What I liked about the film:
The animation on this one is great.  There were some really great scenes with bizarre Seuss-like products that will always make us smile.  The design of the main town and all of the fun plastic trees were a solid part of what made the movie work.

The Writer/Story
Of course the main story was written by Dr. Seuess but the screenplay was penned by the team that brought you Despicable Me, Hop, and (this one surprised me) The Santa Clause 2.  It surprised me because I am frankly amazed that anyone from the Santa Clause movies, beyond the first one, have been able to get work.  Looks like the economy is really turning around, thank you oh gods of money.  While the speaking parts of this movie worked fine they were not up to the standard of other recent animated works.  There were little jokes here and there but not for the parents.  This one was just for the kids.  Not just entertainment-wise either.  This flick got a little preachy.  The Seuss book is a little preachy too but this movie pushes it further.  The basic story of cutting down all the trees is bad and in the music of movie we hear darker messages for the kids.  The Once-ler sings a song about how it’s ok to hurt the trees and then rhymes that line with “when you’re helping the economy”.  Now I’m as lefty as most of the actors out there but even I felt like this went out of bounds a bit.  Anyways.

The Director 
Co-Directors who also worked on Despicable Me were along for this one too.  In this area I thought the whole thing looked great.  In fact this is where most of the jokes came from.  Little sight gags to poke at this or that character and background jokes of people getting smacked by random things is always fun for kids.  I just wish there had been more for the grown-ups.  Grandma fell asleep ten minutes in and didn’t wake up until the credits.  She leaned over and asked “What’d I miss?”  I honestly told her “not much.”

The Actors
This is another area where the film stumbled.  Not because the cast was bad but because we have all gotten used to the cast being full of great performances by recognizable voices.  I was able to pick Ed Helms out as well as Danny Devito, but I had to IMDB the villain.  Turns out it was Rob Riggle, meh.  The one holdout in this category was Betty White and as per her contract with Satan no one is allowed to say anything bad about her sooooooo…

What I didn't like about the film:
The Music
While the songs and melodies were altogether ok, many of the lyrics became overly preachy and classless.  The story is already full of tree hugging hippie rhetoric and then when we throw some occupy wallstreet stuff in there too it just gets over the top.  This is a bummer too because the guy who did the music, John Powell, is fresh off his Oscar nom for the song from Rio.  Although to be fair how much of an accomplishment is it to be nominated in a category that only had two nominees?

The Verdict:
It’s just ok.  But if we are being fair and comparing it to all the other great animated features being made lately then we have to call it crap.  My parents would say “it’s cute” which in my mind makes it crap.

Contributed by Ben Weddell.  Creative Director of Aberrant Behaviors, Chico, CA.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Guest review: Wanderlust

This is my first post on this site and I think it’s important that you know my qualifications for writing on a movie blog. I am what you call an indoors type of guy. While many of my friends have grown into well rounded adults that enjoy lives of working hard and having outdoor excursions with friends on the weekends I have shielded myself from such activities. As such I am almost painfully pale. I have whatever the opposite of a sunburn is. That’s how much I love watching movies.

What I liked about the film:
The Writer/Story
Wanderlust is written by David Wain, and he is awesome. If you do not yet share this belief then go watch all of his other movies or stop being stupid. The writer of “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Role Models” seems to ride the line between normal life and complete absurdity with an ease that lulls you into states of normalcy then gives you an ice cream headache of weird. It’s highly enjoyable. This story had maybe one cliché in it. It has to do with communes and married people and that’s all the ruining of the movie I’m going to do. All in all a fun but not great story that will feel familiar to many people in the pre-middle age portion of life.

The Director
Wain was also the Director but it’s harder to evaluate him here as much of the film was obviously improvised. Paul Rudd gets the best scene in the film in a blaze of improvised glory that is so good I could type out the whole thing here on the page and you would still want to go and watch him do it. Yeah, that good. So I guess I will say the direction was good in that it didn’t get in the way of the actors and their own amazing performances.

The Costars and Cameos
There is a section for actors just below this but seeing as this is a comedy the smaller roles can often steal the film. While many of the one line parts in this movie are wonderful none of them can stake a claim to stealing the film. The most impressive performances come from two comedy partners who have recently launched a great sketch show on Comedy Central. Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele. They aren’t on screen together at all during the film but they are both excellent in their own right and Peele has some amazing material that shows up in the blooper reel after the credits.

The Actors
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston play the leads with Anniston once again dusting off her old Rachel schtick. She has started to remind me of Zoolander in that no matter how many different kinds of characters she plays they all look the same. “ BLUE RACHEL”. The rest of the cast will look familiar to comedy fans as it is full of great actors who have appeared in other Wain films and tv shows. The only one who was hard to spot was Joe Lo Truglio who is naked throughout the film and has a beautiful penis.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Sitcom Feeling
The movie does start to feel like a very long sitcom at some points. While it is a sitcom of the highest quality it is still a sitcom. The plot felt a little stale and by the end you can see the plot twists before the forks appear in the road but for a comedy it does a more than adequate job.

The Verdict:
I loved it
Very funny movie, and when it comes down to it I am not looking for much more than that from a comedy. Also Justin Theroux is now awesome. Check the date and time and notate that in your journals.

Contributed by Ben Weddell.  Creative Director of Aberrant Behaviors, Chico, CA.