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!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Movie Review: Alex Cross (PG13 - 101 minutes)

Alex Cross is a character created by author James Patterson in 1993's Along Came A Spider.  He's an African-American psychologist and police detective.  He's made it to the big screen at least twice before in Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, portrayed both times by Morgan Freeman.
These movies were entertaining crime drama/thrillers.  The current re-incarnation or re-boot of Alex Cross attempts to be an entertaining crime drama/thriller.
Going in expecting this movie to be terrible (hey, that's what I heard), I was surprised in that it wasn't as terrible as I thought it was going to be, but it still wasn't great.  It doesn't help that the product placement is so heavy handed that at times the movie feels like an hour and a half long Cadillac commercial - look at this long, loving shot of the killer's sharp Cadillac CTS-V performance sedan as he pulls up and parks!  Also - the movie is shot on location in Detroit, which gets mentioned over and over again. 
Tyler Perry steps into the shoes of Alex Cross in this version and does a capable job playing the doctor/detective.  This marks the first time since he started making movies that he is in a major starring role (that cameo in Star Trek didn't count) in a movie he didn't write/produce/direct/edit/market/own/shoot in Atlanta/etc.   Can you imagine - Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry in a Tyler Perry movie, Alex Cross; directed by Tyler Perry.  I'm teasing, his movies are not quite like that, but they do get close!  Cross and his elite cop squad are homicide detectives in Detroit (check out the Cadillacs they drive!), they encounter a murder that leads to a conspiracy involving a wealthy businesman (he arrives in a Cadillac!) and a hired hit man/pyschopath (look at his beautiful Cadillac!).  As they drive their Cadillacs from placing to place attempting to guess at the killers next move, Cross's family gets caught in the crossfire (maybe his wife should have left town in a Cadillac!), and he is forced to question his moral and psychological limits.
Harvard grad Director Rob Cohen is best known for the fast and the Furious (he has a really long relationship with GM and using their vehicles - so the Cadillac/Detroit thing does make sense), Dragon Heart, Daylight, XXX, Stealth, The Mummy 3 and is currently prepping another Vin Diesel XXX movie.  He does a decent job with this movie, yes the Cadillacs could have been a little more subtle (hell, Heineken paid for almost all of Skyfall and we really only noticed it once in the movie), but on the whole, it's shot well - with a few notable exceptions.  When Cross and his team are discussing the original murder, and Cross develops his profile of the killer, he inexplicibly turns toward the camera and away from Ed Burns while he slowly describes what the killer in thinking and how he operates.  The music comes up in a odd swell, that should have just increased the tension of the movie, but really made me wonder if Perry had forgotten there were other actors in the scene.  An odd directing choice to be sure, not overwhelmingly weird.  Except that it happens again, during an intense phone conversation between our villian and our hero, Matthew Fox finishes a sentence by turning directly into the camera.  Odd, because he's alone on a roof at the time.  Then he drives off in his Cadillac. 

One other directing choice that I disagreed with is during the hand to hand combat sequence at the end - the camera switches to very jumpy hand held, with strange slow motion pieces thrown in.  These do not enhance the action in any way - and the effect had not been used at all up to that point, which really made it feel out of place.
The cast of this movie does a good job:
  • Tyler Perry again proves he certainly can do things that are not necessarily his own pieces.  He is a good actor and will really only get better over time.  To be honest, I wouldn't mind him doing another Alex Cross movie, I think that this could develop into a strong franchise.
  • Edward Burns plays his partner and best friend, Tommy Kane (who in the books is named John Sampson - at least, they seem to be the same character).  Burns is always entertaining (if you haven't seen Confidence - rent it now) and plays the supporting role here with ease.  The friendship between the two of them is relaxed and believable.
  • Rachel Nichols plays Monica Ashe, the third member of their detective unit.  I had previously seen her in Alias (that weird last season) and GI Joe.  She's capable in this, but doesn't have a lot to do.
  • Giancarlo Esposito, who of late has been amazing on Breaking Bad and Revolution, plays a local Detroit hood who runs a car dealership (there's lots of Cadillacs and other GM cars in the dealership shots - plus Cadillac wall decor).  He is the 'bad man' Cross turns to for help when beginning to question how far he will go to solve this case.  Aside from having one of the most fun names to say (go ahead and say Giancarlo Esposito out loud a few times... then Benedict Cumberbatch, then Chiwetel Ejiofor - what I wouldn't give for them all to be in a movie together) he's a great actor and fun in the little scene he has in this movie.
  • Jean Reno plays the french businessman who has an amazing plan to re-vitalize Detroit.  He may or may not be the killer's next target, so Cross and team have to figure out how to protect him while he goes from meeting to meeting in his Cadillac.  He's good (see the Professional if you haven't - but don't bother with the Godzilla remake) but doesn't quite seem to fit in this movie, but maybe that's the point.
  • John C. McGinley plays the police chief, which seems to involve a lot of barking orders and standing with hands agressively placed on hips - you know, like every movie police chief ever.  He was great in Office Space and on Scrubs and is fine in this, but again - not a ton to do.
  • Carmen Ejogo plays Cross's wife - spoiler alert - she doesn't make it.  But that's necessary to give Cross the push towards stepping out of bounds to catch the killer.
  • Cicely Tyson, who has been in many Tyler Perry movies, plays Nana Momma - Cross's grandmother, a character from the books.  She's playing a character you've seen her play before, but that's fine, because she's good at it.
  • That brings me to Matthew Fox as Picasso - the psychotic, hitman for hire.  Fox lost a ton of weight for this role and really, really - I mean really - commits to it.  I'm not sure that level of committment was necessary.  He stands out in the movie, but not necessarily in a good way.  He's crazy, but the performance is so over the top, that you're more annoyed by him than you are scared of him.  He certainly succeeded in creating a memorable character, though.  And again, he drives a really nice Cadillac (seriously, at one point he turns on the radio in the car and it's playing a song with a lyric about Cadillacs - I couldn't make that up if I wanted to).
All in all, certainly not terrible, but certainly not great.  Entertaining enough if you really like Cadillacs, Detroit, creepy-thin Matthew Fox or crime-drama TV shows.
 5 out of 10:  Lost points for the non-stop Cadillac references. I get it - you're in Detroit and Cadillac gave you money for the movie - enough!  Gained points for the PG13 rating.  I so appreciated it with this movie...in an R movie, the killing, maiming, and murder would have all been amped up to a level I have no interest in seeing.  Lost points for Matthew Fox being just too much.

Bonus Video 1:  Giancarlo Esposito has been in many Spike Lee movies - in fact, he was Buggin' Out in Do The Right Thing:
Bonus Video 2: In Case you are unfamiliar with the rest of Tyler Perry's work - here is a very funny example!
Bonus Video 3:  Kenan Thompson as Tyler Perry on SNL: "I own Atlanta!" Hilarious.
Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews and behind the scenes footage!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Movie Review: SkyFall (PG13 - 143 minutes)

James Bond was created in 1953 by Ian Fleming, and the first novel was called Casino Royale.  Bond was the ultimate British Spy.  If you are interested in the backstory of Fleming's creation, including his first idea for the spy's name (Peregrine Carruthers), here's the wikipedia link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_bond .
Bond was so dashing and adventurous, it was inevitable that he would make the jump to film.  And so, in 1962, Dr. No hit screens, featuring a young and dashing Sean Connery:
We have officially hit 50 years of Bond movies - with 23 official Bond films (that doesn't count 1983's Never Say Never Again - as that was not an official movie).  Honestly, they're all entertaining.  My personal favorite Classic Bond is Roger Moore (I feel like the movies from Dalton backwards are the 'classics' and from Brosnan forwards are the 'modern' Bonds), and my favorite movie was 1973's Live and Let Die.  Moore's first Bond movie, where he brought a lighter, more sophisticated Bond to screen than Connery's.
In terms of the more modern Bonds, my favorite has to be GoldenEye with Pierce Brosnan.
Daniel Craig (previously best known as "that hot dude from Tomb Raider" and "that dude from Layer Cake") took over in 2006 with Casino Royale, the book that started it all, and brought us a grittier, more realistic Bond.  Gone were the smarmy sacastic quips, the easy-going martinis, and Q's gadgets.  Also missing was the sense of fun that all Bond movies had.  Casino Royale and it's 2008 follow-up/sequel Quantum of Solace, gave us Bond during his first missions, before he developed the personality that made the older movies fun and that made him, well, Bond.  Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes starts to bring that sensibility back to the Craig movies.
Craig seems more at ease than ever in this latest entry.  His Bond goes up against a more defined Classic Bond-style villian than the last two films have had.  Javier Bardem's Agent Silva is a betrayed MI6 agent with a major grudge against Bond's boss M.  Silva has stolen a secret list of all undercover agents in the field (how many times have we seen that particular plot device now?) and threatens to reveal all their identities until given what he wants, which seems to be an apology from M?  Bond gets caught up in Silva's quest for revenge.  Honestly, there's not much more to the plot than that.  Bond investigates all sorts of beautiful, exotic locations while attempting to discover who is behind this plot.
Sam Mendes (previously best known for American Beauty, which I hated) begins to bring back the sense of fun to this newer Bond.  You can tell he was a fan of some of the older movies, and is thrilled to be directing the 50th anniversary Bond movie.  Having been so turned off by American Beauty that I have not seen any other movies by Mendes (Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, Away We Go), I was not sure he would be able to direct what is essentially an action movie.  To my surprise, he does a very good job; the action sequences are fast and slick - with the camera at a decent distance for any hand to hand sequences (when it's too close, we can't see anything!).  The opening fight on top of a moving train is astounding, and a great way to open this movie.  Being that Mendes is excellent at character-study dramas as well, there is the correct handling of the characters in this movie and their relationships to each other; for example the relationship between Bond and M is clarified beautifully, with M clearing Bond for duty despite the fact that he failed all his re-evaluation exams - and the touching moments near the end of the movie.  To Mendes's credit, there are also several scenes that are beautiful enough to be stunning still shots; Bond's entrance to a floating Macau casino being just one of these.
The cast is filled with familiar faces:
  • Daniel Craig as Bond:  Craig is one of those actors who will get a little grumpy on you, not on the level of Harrison Ford grumpy, but a little grumpy.  In Skyfall, he seems to truly enjoy being Bond, and really has an ease with the character that we have not seen him display before.  He does drink one martini, and does introduce himself, and does battle a bad guy in a pit filled with Komodo Dragons; you know, back to Bond basics.
  • Judi Dench as M:  This Bond movie is really more of an M movie.  The villian's main motivation is getting even with M, Bond just happens to get in the way.  Dench is fantastic as always as M fights her 'strongly suggested retirement' from MI6.  She's tough and sassy and is a treat in this movie.
  • Ralph Finnes steps in as Mallory - a representative of the ministry strongly suggesting M move on.  He steps up towards the end of the film, becoming someone Bond can rely on - and helps to set up the next movie in spectacular fashion.
  • Javier Bardem's Agent Silva is creepy, weird, and off-putting.  In short, the perfect Bond villian.  The only drawback is that he's not really trying to take over the world as previous classic villians are, he simply wants revenge, and doesn't care if he has to take over the world to achieve that goal.  He stated he's always wanted to be a Bond villian, that his favorite was Jaws, and you can feel his passion for the project in his performance.
  • Naomie Harris is someone I first saw in 28 Days Later, and is always good.  She plays another MI6 agent, Eve, whose last name is revealed at the end of this movie - again, setting up for the next one spectacularly.  She continues to be Bond's partner for the majority of this movie, while questioning her readiness for field work.

  • Albert Finney steps in briefly towards the end of the movie in a fun cameo-syle performance.  He's great, but I think almost everyone I've talked to has mentioned how they wished that was Sean Connery instead. 
  • Ben Whisaw plays the new Q, and gives Bond some grief about his age and his gadgets, which is fantastic if you're a fan of the Bond movies, because Q was always reminding Bond to bring his gadgets back in good condition!
  • Berenice Marlohe plays the most typical Bond-girl role in this film.  She's exotic and deadly when she first appears, but then quickly becomes an example of how twisted and powerful our villian is, so her character is rendered somewhat meaningless.
This movie, more so than the other two Craig Bonds, fits with the cannon of other Bond films.  The end of this one could almost role smoothly into Dr. No.  I love the final scene where M asks Bond if he is ready to get back to work.  Craig is signed for two more, so we know he is, and I cannot wait.
8 out of 10.  Gained points for finally giving us another Q - hooray!  Lost points for Bardem's denture-type appliance, ick. Gained points for the car with the red button.  Lost points for destroying the car.  Gained points for M's office at the end, from the coat rack, to the weird material on the door, to Moneypenny - so awesome!
Bonus Video 1:  The song is by Adele, and it is fantastic:
Bonus Video 2:  There are so many great Bond movies that honestly I want to put all the trailers here, but let's be real - that is 23 movies.  So here's Goldfinger, widely regarded as one of the best:
...and here's Octopussy - widely regarded as one of the worst, but one of my personal favorites!  Features Maude Adams as Octopussy, who previously played a Bond girl in The Man With the Golden Gun - and remains the only actress to play two different Bond girls in two different Bond Movies (useless trivia for you).
Bonus Video 4:  Cast Interviews!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Man with the Iron Fists (R - 95 minutes)

There are many many bad martial arts movies out there.  I fell in love with them in the 80s, but they gained popularity in the early 70s as the "kung-fu movie" became a trend and gained popularity - beginning with the stateside rise of Bruce Lee in 1971.  As with other pure action films, most martial arts films mainly action and fight scenes, with minimal plot and character development.  Martial arts were still fairly new in the United States, and these roles were played by actors who are real martial artists - in addition to accenting their skills with wirework, springboards, and trampolines.  The majority of the early films were dubbed (poorly) into English and broadcast on weekend TV, in Kung Fu Theater, or Black Belt Theater.  My favorite is Enter the Dragon - from 1973...basically the beginning of the American infatuation:

The members of the WuTang clan (  RZA, GZA, Method man, RedMan, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck,U_God, Masta Killa, and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard) used to get together and watch these films together, leading them to use the 'kung-fu' mentality in the foundation of their rap group.  Several members had been acting on and off for years, and RZA (Robert Diggs) decided to write and direct a tribute to the kung-fu movies they loved. 

He had been working on a script for four years with his friend (and director) Eli Roth.  His first cut of the film was four hours, but Roth convinced him to cut it down to 95 minutes:  a much more reasonable length for this type of flick.
In the small Chinese town: Jungle Village, there are several different animal-themed clans vying for power (lion, wolf, hyena, tiger, rat, spider, etc.).  The emporer sends a shipment of gold through the village, asking Golden Lion, the respectable head of the Lion clan to protect it.  He is ambushed by his second in command, Silver Lion - who steals the gold for himself, and then must fend off Golden Lion's son: the X-Blade, a rogue British Soldier, the head of the local whorehouse, and RZA, the town's blacksmith who is simply trying to raise enough money to run off with his lady love.  That's the simple version, but there are different little twists and turns and interactions.  It's bloody, brutal, crazy, over-the-top, and really entertaining.
I think that the RZA will develop into a good director.  He does a decent job with this movie, and my main complaint is that I wish the fight scenes were filmed further back.  All the actors do their own fighting, I would have liked to see the fights completely, instead of the choice the put the camera right into the fight.  The scenes and sets are beautiful and colorful, and the movie does bring back the feel of those movies from the 70s. 
The cast is fantastic and really seem to be enjoying themselves:
  • RZA plays the aforementioned blacksmith, and is absolutely a better director than an actor, at least at this point.  He plays it smart in that the blacksmith is quiet and stoic for the beginning of the movie, and doesn't have much emoting to do until his backstory is revealed.  He's fine, not great, but fine.
  • Rick Yune (a former hedgefund trader on Wall Street) plays Zen Yi - the X-Blade, who boasts a suit of blades that pop out from various areas.  He enters the fray to avenge his father Golden Lion.  He's the typical good-guy, determined and honor-bound.
  • Russell Crowe is so much better in this than I have seen him recently.  He met RZA on the set of the Next Three Days (rent that - it's good) and agreed to be in this despite only having 10 days of availability.  He looks like he is having a blast playing the rogue British soldier, who may or may not have a secret agenda.
  • Lucy Lui is playing a character very similar to her character from Kill Bill - but again, looks like she is having a great time.  She requested the fight she has with Cung Lee's Bronze Lion, to demonstrate her character's fighting skill.  She plays the madam of Jungle Village's whorehouse, who also may or may not have a secret agenda (there's a lot of secret agendas in this movie).
  • Cung Le plays Bronze Lion and is a multiple champion in various martial arts championships. He has almost no lines in this movie, and is really here for the action. 
  • Dave Bautista from the WWE plays Brass Body, a character who seems to have a brass body.  This makes him almost impervious to damage...unless of course, a character remembers a particular kung fu lesson about pressure points in a flashback...  Dave is suprisingly good in this and has a great ease on screen.  I hope that he does more movies after this.
  • Jamie Chung plays the blacksmith's love who is, of course, working in the whorehouse as the blacksmith raises enough money to free both of them.  She has little to do, but is better in this than she was in SuckerPunch, or...I liked this so much more than I liked SuckerPunch (I hated that movie).
  • Byron Mann plays Silver Lion and absolutely runs away with this movie.  He looks like he is having an amazing time playing the main villian.  He is equal parts funny and frightening in his pursuit of the gold and is the perfect character for this movie.
If you are in any way nostalgic for the kung-fu movies of old....go check this out.  You'll have a good time.  It delivers exactly what it promises and a whole bunch of fun.  I look forward to more directing by RZA, but maybe not more acting.
7 out of 10.  Gained points for Dave - really good!  Lost points for all the blood and guts - ick.  Gained points for the lack of PTS - which I was really expecting in this! 
Bonus video 1:  Game of Death trailer - where the yellow jumpsuit really came from:
Bonus Video 2:  My favorite ninja movie - American Ninja 2!
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews!
Extra Bonus: our Podcast review of this movie:  http://hesawshesawfilm.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/the-man-with-the-iron-fist/

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Movie Review: Flight (R - 138 minutes)

We have descended into the time of year where the summer blockbusters are finally moving out of theaters, the halloween horror movies are shifting on - and the Festival Circut/Award Films start hitting the theaters.  These are movies that the film companies release late in the year (November/December), sometimes after they have been back and forth through some of the film festivals and are now entering 'wide release'.  It usually makes for a boring November/December movie-wise (thank goodness for SkyFall!); if you are into the big, loud fun popcorn movies like I am. 
Robert Zemeckis has not made a movie with live action people in it since 2000, when he released Castaway - which, in case you had forgotten, was almost three hours of Tom Hanks trapped on an island with a volleyball - or - a really amazing character study with a background of survival through difficult circumstances.
Between then and now - Zemeckis was tooling around with attempting to make computer animated movies look as real as possible, with Beowulf, the Polar Express, and a Christmas Carol.
That brings us to 2012, and Zemeckis's new piece, Flight.  In the same way that I would describe Castaway as almost three hours of Tom Hanks alone on an island with a volleyball; I would describe Flight as almost three hours of Denzel Washington drinking and driving the people around him crazy.
Flight is the story of a somewhat-broken down commercial airline pilot, 'Whip' Whitaker (Denzel Washington), who miraculously lands a plane after a malfunction and saves a great many people.  However, during the investigation of the crash, his background of drinking and drugs comes to light. 
I found this movie difficult to describe at first.  It was marketed as a bit of an event movie, with some humorous parts.  I definitely should have known better - do not trust the marketing of films this time of year (for the record, the new Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook is definitely not a RomCom, despite the marketing for it).   This is not an event movie, it's not a comedy, it's not really a drama, it's not really a recovery movie - it absolutely is a character study; similar to Castaway.  Zemeckis does an amazing job directing everyone in this movie, and there will absolutely be some Oscar nominations.  I did have some issues with bits.  During the entire opening of the movie where we are introduced to Denzel's character, Nadine Velazquez (best known as Catalina on My Name is Earl) is completely naked for the scene.  I have pointed out in the past how much I dislike PTSs.  This wasn't even that - at least in a dumb action movie, I can accept a PTS.  This was a naked chick for 10 minutes that made no sense, did not advance the story, and did not prove a point - and thusly - annoyed me immensely.  There are also several scenes setting up Kelly Reilly's character that involve her visiting her dealer on a porn movie set and shooting up - all before we have any idea why her character is in the movie.  Again - these pieces serve to establish character, but for me personally, I could have done with less...just less of the seediness of these characters.
In terms of the cast, almost everyone was brilliant:
  • Denzel will absolutely be nominated for his performance as Whip.  He portrays a functioning alcoholic who is very aware of his problem, but does not consider it a problem.  You know he did an amazing job, because when I saw this movie, the theater was full - and every time his character reached for a drink - every single person in the theater groaned in dismay.  This is proof that the audience wanted to be on his side, and was disappointed by him - a statement that he was doing a great job as an actor.  And yes, spoiler alert - he has a 'happy' ending (meaning he finally gets some help with the drinking).
  • British actress Kelly Reilly plays the heroin addict who eventually circles into Whip's existence.  As I said, I could not figure out why we were seeing her story in such detail until she did encounter Whip at the hospital.  She helps to ground his character, but not completely, and was very good in the movie.
  • Tamara Tunie, who is often on Law and Order SVU, plays a flight attendant who is very familiar with Whip and his foibles.  She plays this character just right - someone who wants to do the right thing, but is torn because of her years of loyalty and friendship.  It's a minor role that is really well done.
  • Bruce Greenwood plays the representative of the pilot's union who comes to visit Whip in the hospital and help guide him through the investigation as it progresses.  He has been great in many things lately - he voices Batman in a few animated movies/shows (when Kevin Conroy is not), and was great as Captain Pike in J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot.  He is really good in this as someone who is Whip's friend, but is well aware of his troubles.
  • Don Cheadle steals the scenes that he is in as the lawyer representing Whip and the pilot's union.  He is cutthroat and direct, wiping out the toxicology report that shows Whip was intoxicated during the crash.  He plays the role straightforward and understated.
  • John Goodman is barely in this, but is so watchable and entertaining in the scenes that he is in - between this and Argo, he should get a best supporting actor nomination from one of them.  He plays Whip's neighbor/friend/dealer and is the most over-the-top character in the movie, providing the only comic relief in an otherwise very heavy movie.  He was also with Denzel in Fallen, and incidentally Cheadle worked with Denzel in Devil in a Blue Dress...that has nothing to do with this review - it's just an interesting bit of trivia that might come in handy at another time!
Objectively, this is a really well crafted, fantastically acted, well written film.  Personally, I hated it.  It clocks in at almost 2 and a half hours, which is way too long for any character study, in my opinion.  It's super long, and a bit depressing, and emotionally draining.  So, in short (too late) well done, but not my cup of tea...hell, not my cup of any beverage.
4 out of 10.  Lost points for far too many close-ups of Denzel.  Yes, he's good looking, but he's also 58 now, the camera doesn't need to be that close.  Lost points for the excessive drinking and drug use - I know, I know, that's what the movie's about....Lost the rest of the points for Nadine being naked in the beginning - I have no interest in seeing that.  Gained one point for Denzel's butt, he tried to compensate for the naked chick in the beginning, which I appreciate, but as stated...he's 58 now.
Bonus Video 1:  Remember Don Cheadle on Fresh Prince of Bel Aire?
Bonus Video 2: Bruce Greenwood and Neil Patrick Harris...If you haven't seen Batman: Under the Red Hood - you really should.
Bonus Video 3:  Virtuosity - far and away my favorite Denzel movie, far far and away my favorite Russel Crowe movie.  From 1995 - cheesy and entertaining:
Bonus Video 4:  Red Carpet Cast Interviews!