Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (R - 105 minutes)

Abraham Lincoln was our 16th president, born February 12, 1809, and assasinated April 15th, 1865. He successfully led his country through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union while ending slavery, and promoting economic and financial modernization (wikipedia Lincoln link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_lincoln). 
He was also, according to the historical fantasy by Seth Grahame-Smith, an avid vampire slayer. 

"Historical Fantasy" is a new wave of fiction in which authors take mythological and fantastical creatures and incorporate them into actual historical events.  If you can let go of reality enough to go with the premise - they are really fun!  The precedent of the Abraham Lincoln faux-biography is that the writer is delivered the lost journals of Abraham Lincoln, which detail his interactions with and slaying of Vampires.  I am currently halfway through the book, and am enjoying it. 

It would be inevitable then, that a movie would be made.  My last favorite Abe Lincoln cinematic adventure was as a piece of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which I highly recommend, in case you haven't seen it - or haven't seen it in a long time.  Because most of us remember that Joan of Arc is Noah's wife.

ALVH is produced by Tim Burton (don't worry, it doesn't look like any of his others stuff, and Johnny Depp is not in it) and directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who last offered us Wanted, which was slick and stylized, and super pretentious, and I hated.  Not his fault, I hated the graphic novel too.  The movie looked good - but I still hated it.

Bekmambetov and Grahame-Smith worked together to deliver us this visually exciting piece of Summer Popcorn Movie fun.  If you can get over the hurdle of Abe Lincoln hunting vampires while attempting to end slavery and the civil war, you'll enjoy this.  Although, admittedly, that is a very large hurdle.
The story, well, does it even matter?  Abe's life is changed as a boy by a vampire attack and he vows to spend the rest of his life destorying them.  Along the way, he self-educates himself into a lawyer, then runs for office, meets Mary Todd, becomes President, and ends slavery and the civil war.  Incidentally, the vampires want slavery to continue, because they are using slaves as easy food. 
The visuals are very fun, and like I said, very stylized.  There is a great deal of blood and guts, but done in a very stylized video-game way that is not very 'real', but looks better on screen.  There are some action sequences I have never seen before (always something tough to do):  a fist fight on horseback during a horse stampede, and a fascinating train sequence.  Also, the effects on the vampires' eyes were really interesting, and looked great - I have never seen anything quite like that.  I did see it in 3D, and loved it.

In terms of casting, the movie was perfectly cast. 

Benjamin Walker plays Abe, and does a really good job.  This is Walker's first major role and he does a really good job.  He does look like Abe, and is 6'3",  so 1 inch shorter than Lincoln truly was.  He wears the hat well, spins the axe well, and really gives a personal touch to the historical icon.
Dominc Cooper, last seen as Howard Stark in Captain America adds a touch of vampire knowledge and angst as Abe's friend Henry.  Cooper is very watchable and does a great job.
The wonderful Anthony Mackie plays a character unique to the movie, Will Johnson, who was Abe's childhood friend, and stays by his side throughout his life helping him fight vampires the whole time.  Mackie is always good, last in Man on a Ledge, and he absolutely stole The Adjustment Bureau.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Mary Todd - a little more kick-ass in the movie than in the book, which I really enjoyed.  She was very good, in a completely different way than her take on Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim.
Jimmi Simpson, who is another one of those actors who is always, "that one guy from that one movie, you know..." is very good as Abe's other friend Speed.
Marton Csokas, who I will always remember as Borias from Xena - but who pops up in a lot of good movies was big time scenery chewing in this as one of Abe's first vampire encounters.
Rufus Sewell has his oily, good-looking, arrogant persona in full effect as the head villianous vampire, Adam.  He slinks through the movie attempting to get all the pieces in play for his ultimate goal and is really terrifyingly evil.

All in all, I really really enjoyed this movie.  Be forewarned - it's not historically accurate!  It is also not going to win any oscars.  It is, however, a really fun, big, summer popcorn fluff movie.  I have heard from several people that it does not follow the book (I'm still only halfway through the book), and that they miss some things, and the book did not have as many large action sequences.  It was also getting terrible reviews, which I think really helped my viewing of it.  I went in expecting nothing, and was very pleased by the result!
8 out of 10!  Gained points for that slick sideways silhouette of Abe in the hat coming through the door...awesome and badass.  Lost points for skipping his first girlfriend, Poe, and the other pieces of the book that weren't there (I didn't really miss them!).  Gained points for the great vampire eye effects, and the silver twist, and Mary's final shotgun piece, awesome.
Bonus Video 1:  the report from Bill and Ted, yay!

Bonus Video 2: A little more historical fantasy for you!
Bonus Video 3:  Cast and crew interviews!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Movie Review: Rock of Ages (PG13 - 123 minutes)

I am unashamedly a fan of the hair-bands of the late 80s and early 90s.  I love Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Def Leppard, Warrant, Poison, etc.  I thought Lita Ford was the coolest.  That being said, I was really looking forward to the film version of the play Rock of Ages.  I had missed seeing the stage production when it was touring, even though I had wanted to see it.  Interesting, considering that for the most part, I hate musicals and plays.  I just don't get it, and I'm really not into them.  But, because I loved this music so much, I wanted to see it.  Here's a clip that was performed on the 2009 Tonys to give you an idea of what the play looked like:
In the play - a girl from Oaklahoma and a boy from the city meet while pursuing their Hollywood dreams.  There are some serious story detail discrepancies between the play and the film.  The plot synopsis for the play can be found here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Ages_(musical) in case you are curious about the differences.
The movie version was supposed to start production in 2010, but ran into some hurdles and has finally come out.  It is directed by Adam Shankman, who you may know as the best judge on So You Think You Can Dance.  I love him on that show, he's exceptionally genuine about what he likes, doesn't like, and his overall joy in regards to great dance.

He's actually directed a lot more movies than you think:  The Wedding Planner (2001 - a J-Lo movie I actually didn't mind!), Walk to Remember (2002), Bringing Down The House (2003 - I saw this because Michael Rosenbaum was in it - he owes me money, it was terrible), The Pacifier (2005 - I saw this because Vin Diesel was in it - he also owes me money, but it wasn't as bad as you think), Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005 - I saw this because Tom Welling was in it, and Bonnie Hunt is always awesome), Hairspray (2007 - I didn't see this because it was a movie based on a play that had been based on a Jon Waters movie.  No thanks), and an Adam Sandler movie I actually liked, Bedtime Stories (2008).  he has been a choreographer for much longer, working on such films as  Weekend at Bernie's 2, Heart and Souls, Don Juan De Marco, Tank Girl, Congo, the Relic, Boogie Nights, and the second best Buffy episode of all time, Once More With Feeling.

That brings us to this current version of Rock Of Ages, which finished third in it's opening weekend, behind two films that had already been out a week.  It has a very limited audience, and it may not perform well over the long run.
The plot remains similar enough to the play, small town girl and city boy (go ahead, start humming Journey's Don't Stop Believin') meet and fall in love through the decadence of Sunset Strip Rock Clubs in 1987.  It is very much a musical, the story does not matter much, it's essentially the filler between big musical numbers. 

The casting is interesting with this movie. 
The two leads, Julianne Hough (formerly of Dancing with the Stars and current country music singer (?) and Diego Boneta (apparently a former mexican television star with singing background) are okay, but pretty bland.  Constantine Maroulis, who played the lead on Broadway shows up in a cameo, which was enough to make me wonder why he wasn't playing the lead.  I have been told that the answer is that he is too old at this point.
Russell Brand is very natural, he looks like he fits right it, and he already has rock star hair, why is he wearing that terrible wig? 
Bryan Cranston is in the movie as the mayor - and is completely underused, and his character has some scenes that make no sense. 
Mary J. Blige plays the owner of the strip club that Hough's character has to end up working at in order to make ends meet.  Mary J. instantly reminds you that she is an amazing singer...her acting, it's passable, but not great. 
Catherine Zeta Jones was born for musicals and steals this one in a similar way to the way she stole Chicago.  She looks completely at ease with all the muscial numbers, even if her character's twist was completely transparent. 
Paul Giamatti is perfect as the oily record producer/manager.  Creepy and a little bit evil.  Check out Kevin "big sexy" Nash as a member of his security team (why?).
Alec Baldwin does a decent job, but honestly, is completely miscast.  He just feels like he doesn't fit in this movie.  Dee Snider played that role on Broadway briefly and could have easily done it in the movie.  It also could have been done by Sebastian Bach, who shows up in a brief cameo and also has broadway experience.  Either of those two would have made so much more sense. 
That brings us to Tom Cruise.  And yes, everything you've heard and read is true, he is the best part of this movie.  His over-the-top portrayal of crazed, drugged, ego-inflated rocker Stacee Jaxx is impeccable.  He is incredibly watchable every time he is on screen, and his singing voice is actually pretty good.  However you feel about him personally, you just cannot argue with that level of committment.

So, if everyone was decent, and I loved the music, why am I so ambivelent about the movie itself?  I'm not sure, it was just okay.  I did like the music, but honestly, a lot of those songs came out after 1987, which is fine, and shouldn't matter too much.  The scene in which Boneta's character goes through a brief sellout and is forced to enter a boy band made no sense to me, as boy bands came into true being in the mid 90s, and were no threat to hair bands.  Grunge music killed the hair bands, it would have made so much more sense to have him sellout to one of those, but I think that's a plot point from the play.

All in all, it was just okay.  Nothing to get excited about, great music, average acting, lame story. 
6 out of 10.  Gained points for Tom and his codpiece.  Yikes.  Lost points for Cranston's paddling, weird.  Gained points for the incredible pole dancing, seriously.  Simultaneously gained and lost points for the cameos...it just made me want those guys in the movie more.

Bonus Video 1:  My favorite hair band song of all time, just Lita Ford, not technically a band...but you know what I mean...

Bonus Video 2:  Second Favorite hair band song of all time...I have to stop typing so I can headbang to this...I was so in love with Sebastian Bach it's embarassing...but in my defense, he's a huge comic book nerd and has a copy of SpiderMan #1.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast and crew interviews...yay!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus (124 mins - R)

Really good science-fiction is actually pretty rare.  There is plenty of entertaining science-fiction, and some terrifying science-fiction, and some terrible science-fiction, which has become an entire sub-genre of its own, thanks to the amazingly cheesy B movies of the 50s/60s, and the current re-invigoration of them on SyFy on Saturday nights.  This past saturday featured the terrible genius that was "Jersey Shore Shark Attack".
Then of course, you have the much more rare excellent science-fiction.  These feature Lush filmmaking, incredible effects, great acting, and brilliant storytelling based in just enough science that you get completely swept up in the fiction part.  There are many directors that are well-known for this:  George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott.  Scott is responsible for several incredible sci-fi pieces (Blade Runner, Legend), as well as some incredible non sci-fi pieces (Thelma and Louise, GI Jane, Gladiator, Kindgom of Heaven, American Gangster).  His first major movie, however, is my favorite of his, and one of the greatest science-fiction movies of all time - the original Alien from 1979.
What makes Alien so impressive is the relatively simple story - the claustrophobic feel of the sets, and the absolute terror of a foe that seems to be undefeatable.  The movie also help to establish the number one rule of creature-movies:  do not reveal the creature in it's entirety until three quarters of the way through the movie.  Our imaginations will run wild with what we think it looks like - then blow us away with something amazing near the end. 

Honestly, I could go on and on about the Alien movies, the general mythology of the series, how outstanding the creatures are - how much I love the AVP movies (yes, I have no problem being alone in that opinion) - how the original creature design was based on sketches by Swiss artist/writer H.R. Giger, etc.  But, as this review is supposed to be about Prometheus, I will digress...

Here's your trivia information that will help you win a contest someday - Prometheus was the name of one of the titans who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, allowing us to begin to be civilized.  He was punished by being chained to a rock for eternity where an eagle would come and peck out his liver daily, it would grow back every evening, so it just went on and on like that.  You get to set him free in God of War 2 if you make it that far...

Ridley Scott had been teasing everyone for quite some time with his - "it may or may not be a prequel to Alien" speeches and I can now confirm - it absolutely functions as a prequel to Alien.
The movie begins with two doctors discovering an ancient cave drawing that is the same as other drawings found in other civilizations that had no contact with one another.  Humans gathered around and worshipping a larger being who is gesturing to a specific constellation.  The doctors locate the constellation, and set out to find what they call "engineers" - they engineered us.  Several cryo-slept years later, the crew of the Prometheus including one 'artificial' (robot) touches down on a planet, near some structures that are clearly not natural ("God doesn't build in straight lines").  They enter the structures, the robot, David - figures out how to open doors (because, why wouldn't he have figured that out while he was awake the whole time the others slept through traveling).  This allows them to view a holographic recording of the large previous inhabitants clearly running from something.  They find the body of one of them outside another door - decapitated.  David opens that door too - they find and bag the head.  They also disturb the atmosphere in an altar-like room featuring several vases, and the large stone head that has been the main marketing piece for this movie.  All hell proceeds to break loose.
The cast is passable - only a few of them are important. 
The original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Noomi Rapace pretty much carries the piece as Scott's trademark 'strong woman' role.  She does a very good job as a doctor who's faith is beginning to conflict with her scientific discoveries. 
Logan Marshall-Green plays her co-worker and significant other.  This is the first thing I have seen him in, and he's certainly decent, but also a little forgettable. 
Idris Elba plays the captain of the ship - Janeck, who is the most likeable character.  He plays a concertina once owned by Stephen Stills and sums up the reason for everything they find on the planet in once sentence that comes a bit out of nowhere.  I think he's right, but how did he figure all that out?
For some unknown reason, Guy Pearce plays Weyland (it's only the Weyland corporation in this, they must not have run into Yutani yet).  He's wearing so much old age makeup he's unrecognizable - so why cast him?  There must be a plan for that in another movie, right?
One of the two main standouts for the second week in a row is Charlize Theron.  She plays Vickers, who rivals Paul Reiser's Burke in terms of company-owned tools.  She is really terrific in this as the woman who is the money behind the expedition looking for the payoff and profitability.
The second standout is Michael Fassbender as David. He is incredible as the robot and plays him with an even stillness that is plain creepy.  He easily rivals Ian Holme's original robot Ash in terms of general off-putting not-caring about the humans, but also mangages to bring in some of Lance Henriksen's Bishop in the pleasant blandness of simply wanting to serve the humans. 

The practical makeup effects on the giant alien "engineers" is pretty impressive.  The sets are amazing, and yes, you finally get to see where the space jockey from the original Alien came from, and why he's in that seat.
The movie, once the action begins, does move well, and is scary without the terrifying claustrophic feeling that Alien had.  After all, here they have an entire planet to be terrified on, not just the one ship.  They do spend an awful lot of time running through scary tunnels in the dark - and that will creep anyone out.  At 124 mintues, I did feel like it was far too long.  As good as Fassbender is, there were far too many shots of him standing around, styling himself after Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, and shooting baskets while riding a bicycle (what?).  There is a lot of time dedicated to reaction shots.  I don't mind long, lingering shots of sets - let's give the set designers their due - but I could do without the extended scenes of the characters looking at those sets. 
I have read that some people feel it raises more questions than it answers.  I felt that it tied everything up very nicely, but I sure did read between the lines to come to that conclusion - and it absolutely did leave things open for a sequel, or a seprequel?  See it - it's really well done, and even if you've never seen Alien (what's wrong with you? how could you not have seen that?) - you'll enjoy this.
8 out of 10.  Lost points for some of the confusing characteristics of the ooze in the vases.  It did what to this guy, but what to this other guy?  Gained points for Fassbender's creepiness.  Lost points for Idris Elba wearing a shirt for the whole thing...he couldn't have been shirtless for at least one scene? sheesh.  Gained points for Dr. Shaw having a Napenthes growing in an upside-down container in her quarters. I have one in my house - guess I'm all set for the future!
Bonus Video 1:  Trailer for Aliens, which I actually prefer to Alien, mainly because Ripley becomes truly kick-ass, and Jeanette Goldstein is awesome, and has one hell of an awesome name :)
Bonus Video 2:  Blade Runner trailer - I know it's a sci-fi epic, but to be honest with you, I have yet to make it all the way through it!  shhh...don't tell anyone that!
Bonus Video 3:  Here's some fun Prometheus interviews and such...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman (PG13 - 127 minutes)

The original tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was included in the first Brothers Grimm publication of collected stories that was released in 1812.  The story was dark and frightening, and was "cleaned up" in later children's story collections.  Here's the wikipedia link to the original story page, it sums it up pretty nicely if you're interested.
The story was first brought to the screen in 1916 in a silent movie called "Snow White", and then made most famous with Disney's first full length animated feature in 1937, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves".  The Disney version was not the first one to name the Dwarves, but it was the first one to give them names based on their characteristics.
Earlier this year, Tarsem released his "Mirror Mirror", which I chose not to see.  I don't like Julia Roberts, I don't love Phil Collins enough to support his daughter, and my jury is still out on Armie Hammer.  Tarsem's movies are usually visually brilliant, but nothing I heard about that movie made it look good, and I have yet to see/hear a truly positive review of it.
I may check it out when it gets Netflix-able. 
That brings us to the directorial debut of Rupert Sanders, Snow White and the Huntsman.  This version sticks much closer to the original dark and scary Grimm version than most of the other screen versions.  It is rated PG13 - and I wouldn't recommend bringing kids.  There were several kids in the theater when I went, and I definitely heard one of them telling their parents they were scared, there were also some crying. 
In this version, Snow White is born a princess, after her mother, the queen, wishes for a child with "skin white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as night".  Her mother dies when she is still young and her father remarries Charlize Theron's Ravenna.  Ravenna then murders the king and locks up Snow White and with the help of her creepy albino brother (played by Sam Spruell)decimates the kingdom in her quest for eternal youthand beauty.  She routinely checks in with her magic mirror to verify that she is the "fairest of them all".  On the day Snow White "comes of age", I assume that means turns 18, the mirror tells the queen that eating Snow White's heart will make her permanently young and beautiful.  Snow White escapes - the queen hires the Huntsman to go after her and bring her back.  He has a change of heart, the two go on the run, meet a village of scarred-face fisherwomen, and a group of dwarves (there's 8, apparently Disney has the propietary rights to "seven dwarves", so no one else can have that number).  The queen stalks them, gives Snow the poisoned apple, and she "dies".  The huntsman and the dwaves get her to a neighboring Duke's castle, who's son (Prince William, played by Sam Claflin) Snow used to play with as a child.  He kisses her, nothing happens, the huntsman kisses her, she wakes up and suits up and leads the army into battle against Ravenna.
Kristen Stewart is fine as Snow White - in all honesty, she has almost no lines.  She spends most of the movie breathing heavy while looking concerned or uncomfortable. 
Hemsworth is developing into a better actor and looks to have a great career in front of him - also - he's really good looking, that never hurts, plus between this, Avengers, and Thor 2 - which might be next year already - the guy is set for life.
Claflin's prince doesn't have a lot to do - but he's fine in what he does.  He seems to mainly exist as a 'red herring' to the Snow/Huntsman relationship.  The only other thing I had seen him in was the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie where he fell in love with the mermaid.
Spruell is crazy weird as the queen's brother.  He is really creepy, and pompous, and shifty - enough that when his comeuppance comes (and it does come), I was cheering inside my head.
The dwarves are all played by regular-sized actors, and the choice was made to use CGI and other effects tricks to make them look small.  An interesting choice, because there are plenty of smaller actors, but perhaps the director wanted a specific actor for each of them?  Who knows, I found it a little distracting, but there are some wonderful actors as the dwarves:  Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Harris and Brian Gleeson.  It also struck me as strange that with that calibur of actors as the dwarves, that the dwarves didn't feature as much as I expected them to.  They have a few major scenes, and are excellent in those scenes, but were a bit underused.
The true star of this picture is Charlize Theron - I don't think I'm surprising anyone by saying that, you can tell from all the trailers.  She is scary and vicious and over-the-top and chews the hell out of the scenery.  All of which plays into one fantastic villian performance.  I'm not sure I've ever seen her play "the bad guy", but she should do it way more often if she's going to do it this well.  She reminds me of Hudson Leick's Callisto (big props to you if you get that reference), menacing and blond!
In terms of drawbacks of this movie - I would say that any time I wanted to complain about things, I could attribute it to having a first time director.  The movie is a little choppy and disjointed, some of the shots are strange, and Kristen Stewart's mouth is open the whole time.  The Whole Time!  And for someone with teeth as odd as hers, that was maybe something the director could have mentioned.  The visuals were great, if sometimes ill-fitting.  It was enough to make me want more from Rupert Sanders and it did make me think that he has great potential as a director.
See it - on the big screen, but maybe don't pay full price!
7 out of 10.  Lost points for all the dead or dying birds...there are a ton of birds in this movie.  Gained points for the troll - it was cool.  Lost points for Stewart's central incisors, sorry.  Gained points for the white hart - it was awesome.
Bonus Video 1:  Charlize's Aeon Flux - it wasn't good, but it was interesting...plus, you know Martin Csokas, yay!  It's the last movie of hers that I can think of that I was excited to see.
Bonus Video 2:  Dark Crystal trailer...pieces of Snow White and the Huntsman reminded me of the Dark Crystal...not sure I can figure out why.  Big gothic set pieces maybe?  It might be worth checking out the trailer again...

Bonus Video 3:  SWATH (new abbreviation) interviews in front of a castle!