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!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Movie Review: The World’s End (R – 109 minutes)

A Cornetto is a delicious UK ice cream treat.  I would compare them to Drumsticks here in the states. 

What do they have to do with this movie?  Almost nothing, except that The World’s End is the third movie in the “Cornetto Flavour Trilogy” by Edgar Wright, featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.  The name comes from director Wright slipping a cornetto into each movie.  Shaun of the Dead features a strawberry Cornetto – mimicking the movie’s bloody theme:

Hot Fuzz features the blue-wrapped original Cornetto – to mimic the police uniforms.

And The World’s End features a mint – green Cornetto – to mimic the alien theme.   Of the three movies, Shaun of the Dead is still my favorite, followed closely by Hot Fuzz, and that puts The World’s End in number three. 

The World’s End features Pegg as Gary King, a hopeless alcoholic who suddenly realizes in therapy that his life will never get better than that one night after graduating high school when he and his four best mates attempted the “Golden Mile”, a pub crawl featuring 12 pubs, and having a pint at each.  They never finished that night, so Gary decides to get the group back together to try it one more time.  Each of the other members of the group are more than a little irritated at the suggestion, as they now all have respectable lives and jobs.  One by one, he convinces them, and they head back to their old hometown.   For the first few pubs, they are successful, then things start to go awry.

And by go awry, I of course mean that they learn the town has been taken over by alien robots who encourage the group to be ‘replaced’.  From that point on, the movie becomes a flurry of drinking, robot-battling, emotional friendship discussions, and a large final climatic face-off with the head of the alien ‘Network’. 
Wright is a very good comedic director, who also has the ability to shoot crazy big action sequences on par with Michael Bay – or at least on par with Brett Ratner.  The difference in Wright is that he can also tell a good story with plausible depth.  This movie could be over-the-top and completely ridiculous, and don’t get me wrong, in some places it is.  However, it also has some beautifully tender moments that delve into the friendship between the main characters.

The advantage to any movie like this is the real-life friendship of the cast (also, I love the fact that the filmmakers named each of the characters with the last name that reflects their role in the group):

Simon Pegg plays Gary King – the most outlandish of any of Pegg’s characters.  He looks bizzare with black hair, but plays the refusing-to-grow-up King with commitment.  He is more talented than any of us realize, and someday will be amazing in some Oscar-y type drama.  However, in the meantime, we get to keep enjoying him as new Scotty.
Nick Frost plays Andy Knightley – and is very straightlaced and buttoned-up until finally getting loose with Gary.  It is very interesting to see him play this character.  He keeps mentioning to Gary that he hasn’t had a drink since ‘the accident’, and when they finally have it out over that issue, it’s a scene that reminds you how good they both are.

Martin Freeman plays Oliver Chamberlain who (spoilers) is the first one of the group to be absorbed and replaced.  He’s fantastic, from the Office to Sherlock, get on this guy’s bandwagon.

Rosamund Pike plays Sam Chamberlain providing two Die Another Day connections in this movie as Pierce Brosnan also shows up as the former guidance counselor from the school.  She is strong and capable and does a good job as the only woman central character in this male-driven movie.
Paddy Considine plays Steven Prince who gets to compete with Gary for the affections of Sam, Oliver’s sister.  He has some good moments, including driving a car through a hole in the wall at the Hole in The Wall pub.

Eddie Marsan plays Peter Page and gets one fantastic scene where he beats up the bully that picked on him in school.  He also begins to doze off while some serious exposition is happening.
I thought this movie was very entertaining, and I did enjoy it.  It just so happens that I liked the other two movies more.  I think this one, like those, will grow on me with repeated viewings.  There are many, many, many in-jokes and references.  The fence gag always cracks me up – and that’s one of the obvious ones.  There are several subtle references to the other movies, as well as the fact that Gary’s opening monologue about what happened the first time they tried the Golden Mile almost perfectly parallels what happens to them the second time.  I really like Edgar Wright as a director (he could be the only person to get me excited about an Ant Man movie), and I love watching Pegg and Frost play together.  This movie is fun, fast, and entertaining. 
7 out of 10;  Gained points for the fence gag, lost points for the end of this movie being the start of the TV show Revolution (I felt like the epilogue made no sense, what is Gary doing?  Roving from town to town with his blank buddies, randomly attacking pub owners?  Maybe I missed something.)  Gained points for the first fight with the robots in the bathroom, alternately exciting and hilarious.  Lost points for the twins, and for one of them putting on the other’s legs as arms – creepy. 
Bonus Video 1:  Edgar Wright’s non-Cornetto Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: epic and fun.

Bonus Video 2:  Pegg + Frost as the droids you were looking for.

Bonus Video 3: The honest trailer for Pegg's Into Darkness

Bonus Video 3:  Cast interviews.

Monday, August 26, 2013

2010 Year in Review

Here's another blog entry from an older random places.  I was going through and cleaning up those places and found this entry on the best/worst of 2010.  So here is some more flashback nonsense! Incidentally, my total for this EW list was 13, so this was one of my better totals in terms of Oscar movies.  Enjoy!

Once again, Entertainment Weekly (it, SyFy, and SI are the only magazines I need – I don’t read newsy ones, I get all my news from the Daily Show and BBC Nightly World News)  has published their list of the top 25 movies you need to see before Oscar Night.  With the Golden Globes this Sunday and the critic’s choice awards airing this week, it’s time to throw some unsolicited opinions out there. The ceremony takes place on Sunday, February 27 – so get your formalware ready.  This year I have seen 6, with immediate plans to see 3 more of them, either I’m getting better at seeing award movies, or the movies are getting more tolerable. 
 Here once again is their list followed by my list.  By all means, feel free to comment, agree and disagree – just my opinions after all! 

EW List:
1.  The Social Network – David Fincher directed Facebook origin story.  Haven’t seen it yet, seemed unnecessary to see it in the theaters, but will see it as soon as Netflix delivers it.
2.  The King’s Speech – Tom Hooper directed typical British based-on-a-true-story award movie.  Colin Firth is supposed to be excellent, as is Geoffrey Rush, who can do this and The Warrior’s Way in the same year.
3.  Inception – Christopher Nolan directed movie of the year, despite Leo.
4.  The Fighter – directed by David O. Russell and starring Marky Mark and Christian Bale – SI claims it is now the best boxing movie ever made – and one of the best sports films ever made, try to get past the super-thick Boston accents.

5.  Toy Story 3 – No thank you.  Supposed to be excellent, but I really did not enjoy the others, so this is a no for me.
6.  True Grit – a western good enough to make me break my Cohen Brothers ban – also features the best old west dentist ever, “I have relieved him of his teeth, but I will entertain offers for the rest of him...”  “...But we need shelter.”  “Well, I have my bear skin.”  Fantastic, doesn't mean that I will see any other Cohen Brothers movie.
7.  Black Swan – a movie talked about enough I broke my Darren Aronofsky ban (he director the Fountain - the worst movie I have ever seen). – worth it?  Did I like it?  Did I hate it?  Well, I saw it….about all I can say.  Natalie Portman should win Best Actress for it.  The rest – creepy, bizarre, weird, disturbing, insane…you should see it?  

8.  The Kids are All Right – Annette Benning and Julieanne Moore and Mark Ruffalo, didn’t see it….
127 Hours – Danny Boyle attempts to follow up Slumdog Millionaire by trapping James Franco under a rock...Something we've all wanted to do at one point or another.
9.  Winter’s Bone - An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.  That sounds terrible (Jennifer Lawrence is really young and will probably be nominated).
10.  The Town – from the acclaimed director of Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, yes that Ben Affleck), a gritty Bostony thriller – great top to bottom.  Affleck is great, Renner is great, and John Hamm is great.
11.  Rabbit Hole – Life for a happy couple is turned upside down after their young son dies in an accident.  Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in a movie that seems to be made for the Awards Season.

12.  Another Year – A look at four seasons in the lives of a happily married couple and their relationships with their family and friends.  It was written by Mike Leigh, and that’s seriously all I know about it.  How random is that?  It sounds really boring.
13.  Get Low - A movie spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party... while he was still alive.  Robert Duvall and Bill Murray.  Nothing about this interests me.

14.  How to Train Your Dragon – my favorite animated movie of the year, followed closely by Despicable Me
15.  Blue Valentine – I don’t like Ryan Gosling (young Hercules) and I really don’t like Michelle Williams (the blond from Dawson’s Creek) so, no thank you.
16.  Biutiful – I let Pursuit of Happyness spell that wrong because of my love for Will Smith, but no way am I letting this pass.
17.  Animal Kingdom - Tells the story of seventeen year-old J (Josh) as he navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and the detective who thinks he can save him.  Austrailian movie, sounds a bit intense for me.
18.  Waiting for “Superman” – Documentary about the public school system.
19.  Alice in Wonderland – Tim Burton and Johnny Depp – do you need to know more than that?  Oh wait, this time the pair took their crazy to 3D.
20.  The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo – the Swedish one, not the upcoming American version.  I read the book - and man, did I hate it.  I expect that I will hate the movie too.
21.  Inside Job - Takes a closer look at what brought about the financial meltdown.  I am not familiar with this - even though it stars Matt Damon.

22.  The Illusionist – wasn’t this a magician movie with Edward Norton and Jessica Biel that came out opposite the Nolan, Jackman, Bale Prestige a few years ago...Apparently this is a different one.
23.  Tangled – Disney’s latest princess.  This time with 3D hair!
24.  Burlesque – there’s at least one musical a year – why not one from  Cher and Xtina?  Featuring Stanely Tucci.

My Personal Opinion of the best of this year:
1.  Inception.  Thank God for Christopher Nolan…from Memento and the Prestige which are brilliant non-linear movies, to re-inventing the Superhero genre with Batman Begins and the Dark Knight the man has yet to make a bad movie.  He promised us he would make another Batman if we let him spend a year making a “truly original” movie, not based on a book – or a remake – or a sequel, something a little tough these days.  Inception is that.  It is hands-down the movie of the year.  Visually amazing, fantastically directed, beautifully acted….it’s everything movies should be and almost never are.  Easily the best movie of the year, hopefully will be rewarded as such.

2.  Tron Legacy.  I remember seeing the original Tron and being amazed at it.  It supposed a future in which mankind would be completely dependant and intertwined with computers and other technology.  Crazy, right?  It doesn’t really hold up anymore – remember special effects when we were young weren’t all that great (tempus fugit) and this sequel/update really makes use of today’s technology to produce something truly beautiful.  Okay, the story is average, but I could watch three hours solid of the light cycle or light jet sequences.  Jeff Bridges loved the first one so much  that he kept his original costume and was super excited about doing this one, both his role and playing himself 35 years younger which was both parts awesome and creepy.  If Disney is looking to update other gems they have in their past catalogue, please, please update Forbidden Planet.  That story is fantastic…and with today’s effects, and if some one re-wrote the role of the daughter (it was made in the 50s, so she’s insulting to today’s women).  Come on Disney….
3.  Expendables.  Everyone forgets that Sly Stallone wrote both Rocky and Saturday Night Fever…and that Rocky won the Oscar in 1976 for best Movie.  Now, I’m not claiming the Expendables was brilliantly written, but it did acknowledge the superpumped unreal action movies from the 80s that so many of us loved.  Sly talked to all his friends from the 80s and tried to get all of them in this movie…JCVD said no, Wesley Snipes said no, Segal was shooting Machete – but lots of others are in this movie.  The plot is thin, but you don’t need it…you’re seeing it for the action sequences and the ‘splosions.   And let’s be real, you’ve always wanted to see Jet Li fight Dolph Lundgren.  Hooray, and thanks Sly.
4.  the A-Team.  My brothers and I used to get in trouble during the summer for watching reruns of the A-team during the morning when we should be outside or doing chores.  But come on, that show was awesome…that theme music, the do-gooding, the montage in the middle where they built whatever they needed, busting Murdock out of a mental hospital, tricking B.A. onto a plane…loved it.  This update by Joe Carnahan (Smoking Aces) kept all the original fun, but made it bigger and slicker, and had great casting! 
5.  Predators.  So that’s four movies out of the top five that are here because they remind me of things I loved in the 80s.  And yet Inception is number one for being original…hmm….I honestly thought this was great – Robert Rodriguez produced a slick prequel/sequel depending on your timeline, and it echoes the original movie really wonderfully – also, more Topher Grace makes everything better.

6.  How to Train Your Dragon.  An animated movie in my top ten?  What the what?  This was one of the best movies of the year – fantastic in the theater in 3D with a great simple story.  I’ve always loved dragons – so maybe I’m biased, and seriously – Scottish Vikings?  Why not hire the Skaarsgaard family to do the voices?  Or just make them Celts?  But whatever, that aside…I loved it!
7.  Date Night.  Tina Fey is my hero – Steve Carrell is big time funny…take two Second City alums and give them a good funny story – excellent.  Add in Marky Mark as shirtless helping guy, awesome.
8.  The Town – From the acclaimed director of Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck).  I loved this movie – the writing was good, the acting was good, and yes, he’s a great Director!  Jeremey Renner is good at crazy as he proved in the Hurt Locker last year.  A great straightforward thriller.

9.  Salt – say what you will about Angelina Jolie – she makes a good female action hero.  I thought this movie was very good, very intense and actually had a twist I did not see coming!
10.  RED – there is nothing better than Bruce Willis in an action movie, no matter the age, and that’s the point of this movie.  Fantastic.  John Malcovich does great crazy and Morgan Freeman is actually in this, not narrating.  The only bad spot was whats-her-name from weeds, who could have been replaced by someone better…and thank goodness for Karl Urban.
11.  Despicable Me – Loved this one too….can’t remember the last year that had two animated movies I loved.  This one just missed the top ten, because honestly, the thing I loved most about it was the minions…could watch them for hours…the story was good, and voices well done…but watching the minions in the shopping center was the best part.
12.  Iron Man 2 – Not as good as the first.  But the first one was over and beyond amazing, so this one was pretty good….Love Don Cheadle, and RDJ does a good job of following Stark down his darker path…

13.  Unstoppable – so, let me get this straight…it’s two hours of an out of control train?  Yes, but, Denzel, Chris Pine, directed by Tony Scott, trust me…it’s really really good!  I was literally on the edge of my seat!

14.  Faster – better than you think!  The Rock – I’m sorry, Dwayne Johnson, gets out of prison and sets about getting revenge for his brother’s murder.  Sometimes, simple is better, and this is top notch.  “Any questions before you’re released?”  “Where’s the exit?”

15.  the Other Guys – Mismatched partners always makes for classic funny if done right. This was just plain good funny.  Who knew Marky Mark could do funny?
16.  Takers – okay, I’m prepared to be argued with on this, it wasn’t great, but I’m going to give it points for Idris Elba (yum), Hayden Christiansen’s hat, Michael Ealy’s eyes, Paul Walker’s intensity, and Chris Browns 3 parkour lessons.  I will take points away for T.I.’s accent.  Yes, I know you’re from Atlanta, but come on…I don’t understand what you’re saying.

17.  Losers – again, points for Idris Elba.  The saving grace of this movie was the interaction between the guys…charming and funny and Chris Evans, who almost steals the movie.  

18.  Legion – Paul Bettany stars as a fallen angel protecting a baby from God’s wrath.  Two hours of a few people stuck in a diner in the middle of the desert – old school scifi madness.  Simple and cool.  Also Kevin Durand as the angel Gabriel with bulletproof wings, nice.
19.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt 1 – darker, scarier, deeper, better done.  Can’t wait for the final one.
20.  Resident Evil 4.  No, it wasn’t good, but I loved it.  Paul Anderson returns to direct for the first time since the original, after which he married Milla Jovovovovich.  There’s nothing better than slick looking zombie movies, and in 3D to boot?  Sweet.  Plus, Wentworth Miller and Boris Kodjoe.

Bottom of the Year!
1.  The Tourist:  The definition of wasted potential…Everyone in the movie looks bored.  It had a twist ending I figured out 5 minutes into the movie, and no action sequences whatsoever, which is not how it was marketed.  Paul Bettany attempts to save it, but he fails…It’s just awful….terrible.

2.  Robin Hood:  How bad is Russell Crowe to make you miss Kevin Costner’s acting in Prince of Thieves?  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Prince of Thieves, but my favorite Robin Hood was the Disney animated one.  Honestly, seeing how this was the first time Crowe reunited with Ridley Scott since Gladiator – I was excepting much, much more.  Too long, weirdly directed, strangely acted, and pretentious.  Points for Kevin Durand as Little John, but not many.
3.  Cop Out.  Oh, Kevin Smith…I’m a fan of yours, but this movie was just terrible.  It was disconnected and could not find it’s theme and Sean William Scott was very annoying.   And I don’t buy Tracey Morgan as a cop, in any universe.

4.  Skyline:  Could have been so cool, but wasted all the potential.   If there are cool aliens invading…don’t keep us in an apartment with characters we hate for half the movie.  Also – they’re just after our brains?  No alien race with superior technology is coming here to take our brains.
5.  Clash of the Titans.  Have to admit, I was excited about this; I loved the old one, and with new technology and effects, should be awesome, right?  Wrong, totally changed the story, and didn’t look as cool as I wanted, also, stop showing the Kraaken in all the previews, now I’m bored by it in the movie.  I did like the look of mount Olympus, where the gods do some arguing. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

2008 Year in Review

Before I had this blog, I posted reviews in random places.  I was going through and cleaning up those places and found this entry on the best/worst of 2008.  I thought I would share as some fun flashback friday nonsense!  Incidentally, I have only seen three of the list the EW said to see.  Enjoy!

You all know how i feel about movies....here is the list (according to Entertainment Weekly) of the 25 movies you need to see before Oscar night....and just for fun, I've added the length of each: 

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: 165 minutes (yikes!) 
2. Slumdog Millionaire: 120 minutes 
3. Milk: 128 minutes 
4. Frost/Nixon: 122 minutes 
5. The Dark Knight: 152 minutes 
6. Doubt: 104 minutes 
7. Revolutionary Road: 119 minutes 
8. WALL*E: 97 minutes 
9. The Wrestler: 105 minutes 
10. Gran Torino: 116 minutes 
11. The Reader: 122 minutes 
12. Rachel Getting Married: 113 minutes 
13. Vicky Cristina Barcelona: 97 minutes 
14. Changeling: 141 minutes 
15. Tropic Thunder: 107 minutes 
16. Happy-Go-Lucky: 118 minutes 
17. The Visitor: 104 minutes 
18. I've Loved You So Long: 117 minutes 
19. Frozen River: 97 minutes 
20. Nothing But The Truth: 107 minutes 
21. Man On Wire: 94 minutes 
22. Synecdoche, New York: 123 minutes 
23. The Duchess: 105 minutes 
24. Defiance: 137 minutes 
25. Austrailia: 165 minutes 

There it is. I have to admit, as of right now, i have seen a grand total of 2 of these movies:  Dark Knight (hands down best movie of last year) and Tropic Thunder. That's even less than i saw last year. I'll see a few more this weekend, definitely Slumdog Millionaire, probably the Wrestler...not Gran Torino - Clint Eastwood as an old, grumpy racist? Not interested. Maybe I will see the Changeling, but I've never heard of half of these...and Man On A Wire is the documentary about the guy who tightrope walked from one of the towers of the world trade center to the other. They made a documentary about that.  At least it's the shortest one on the list. 
That being said, here is my list of the top 20 movies that I think you should see from last year.  
  • 1.  The Dark Knight - as I said, hands down the best film of the year.  All the performances were amazing: Bale was incredible, but rightly and unfortunately overshadowed by Heath Ledger, in the single most amazing performance I have seen this year.  It elevates this movie from "comic-book movie" to seriously well-crafted film.   
  • 2.  Iron Man - as oppositely light as Dark Knight was dark, and yet still miles from mindless fluff.  Witness the re-relevance of Robert Downey Jr. Hey, comic book movies can be intelligent as well as incredible action pieces! Since when did Jeff bridges become an amazing villain? 
  • 3.  Hellboy 2: The Golden Army - In case you haven't heard me say this yet, Guillermo Del Toro is the new definition of adult fairy-tale film-making. This movie is visually beautiful, action packed, quietly charming, features Doug Jones in three roles, and has the best version of a Barry Manilow song ever.  And, just in case you missed Pan's Labyrinth last year, rent that now.  It is one of the best pieces of work I have ever seen. 

  • 4.  The Incredible Hulk - fabulous, not as fabulous as iron man...but fabulous none the less.  I don't like Edward Norton, but he was perfect as Bruce Banner.  This movies rights all the wrongs of Ang Lee's Hulk mess, and really gets me excited for what Marvel has planned next.
  • 5.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall - funny all the way through, but with heart.  Really R-rated, crass heart! 
  • 6.  Tropic Thunder - Just this side of too far.  And in some cases, on that side of too far.  It's a really funny take on big time actors who take themselves too seriously.  RDJ nails every bit of his crazy in this, which is perfectly balanced (and kept from being way too insulting) by Brandon T. Jackson.  And, holy crap!  Tom Cruise in this movie! See it just for him! 

  • 7.  Quantum of Solace - Daniel Craig in one more movie away from me going, "Sean who?" in terms of James Bond.   I know, that's blasphemy! But I'm still nowhere near going, "Roger, who?" Craig is fantastic, and intimidating as Bond, I just hope that in the next one he'll be more fun. I really miss the fun pieces of Bond. 
  • 8.  The Bank Job - a nifty little caper movie based on a true story.  Hey, can Jason Statham really act?  Or does this just happen to fit perfectly into his wheelhouse?  Either way, it's entertaining. 

  • 9.  Death Race - well, if Statham can't really act, he can always rely on amazing B-grade action movies that require him to be shirtless and drive fast cars.  Seriously, how many car-driving movies will this dude be in? 
  • 10.  Cloverfield - some people got nauseous on the single hand held camera work, I thought it worked great for this monster flick, although I did catch myself trying to peer around corners to get a better view of things.  Giant monster attacks New York City! We run with our video camera! Fantastic, and yay, T.J. Miller! 
  • 11.  Vantage Point - not many people liked this movie, but I did. I thought it was interesting and fast paced. 
  • 12.  Hancock - yes, Will Smith is as good as his hype, but this movie is not the straight-up comedy it was marketed as.  I think that's why it wasn't as well received as it should have been.  It's got more depth to it, an interesting ancient Greek subplot, and will remind you how great Jason Bateman is. 
  • 13.  10,000 B.C. - admittedly, not a great movie, with all kinds of plot holes, etc. but, visually, a herd of stampeding woolly mammoths, a saber-tooth cat, building pyramids...that was all cool! 
  • 14.  Eagle Eye - a decent thriller in which Shia La Boeuf runs from ....something? Very exciting, but I figured the bad guy out pretty early on. 
  • 15.  Jumper - Hayden Christensen continues to try to prove he's more than just the embodiment of the dark side.  This movie is not great, but pretty visually interesting.  Diane Lane has an interesting part that I wanted more information from, Samuel L. Jackson wears a crazy wig, and Jamie Bell steals the whole movie. 

  • 16.  Baby Mama - Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in a charming comedy! 
  • 17.  Meet the Spartans - a spoof of 300.  I love spoofs, and I love Kevin Sorbo.  Turn off your brain for this one and just enjoy the stupid. 

  • 18.  Zack And Miri Make A Porno - how can a movie with that title have that much heart? Kevin Smith, that's how. It's dirty as hell, and it's funny as hell.  Justin Long steals every scene he's in.
  • 19.  Twilight - This is not on the list because it's good.  It's on the list because I had a blast going to see it with my friends and making fun of it loudly in a theater full of rabid tweens!  The experience puts it on the list.  Be warned, the movie itself is terrible! 
  • 20.  Indiana Jones and The Space Aliens, I mean Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls - I'm not sure this goes on the list.  It really wasn't good.  I think I am giving it a pass just because it's Indy.  And Karen Allen was awesome.  

That's what I liked; now, here is what I thought were the worst movies of the year. 
  • Untraceable - Easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen, on the list with The Fountain, The Brothers Grimm, and The Mod Squad reboot.  Holy crap was this bad.  Anything that starts out by torturing and killing a kitten....if I ever encounter anyone who was cast or crew for this movie i will greet them with a punch to the throat.  I'm talking to you Diane Lane. 
  • P.S. I Love You - you know, you can make a good chick flick...so why was this one such crap? Apparently Hillary Swank is only good in heavy duty Oscar cry-a-thons. This was painful to watch.
  • Babylon A.D. - not only was this movie crap, it was crap that was poorly shot, poorly acted and made no sense. 

  • Max Payne - again, maybe the marketing department's fault.  This movie is not nearly as cool as the commercials/trailers made it look like it would be.   
  • In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.  Statham was really busy this year.  This is a terrible movie directed by the king of bad movie making - Uwe Boll...in which Matthew Lillard did just chew the scenery, he devoured it.  Ron Perlman plays medieval Ron Perlman, LeLee Sobieski plays a witch/princess, Kristanna Lokken lives in a tree, Burt Reynolds is bored, and Statham's character is named Farmer.  I'm guessing 85% of the budget was spent on Ray Liotta's wardrobe. 

  • Semi-Pro - A Will Ferrell R-rated basketball comedy set in the 70's that could have been so great, but was just tired, slow and boring.  On the upside, you get to see Woody Harrelson play basketball again, but you spend the whole time waiting for Wesley Snipes to show up.
  • Wanted - I hated this movie so much.  I felt like it spent the whole time yelling at me: "look how cool this movie is! We're so cool!  You're not cool like us!"  Shut up, Wanted, just shut up.
  • How To Lose Friends And Alienate People - too long, too cheesy, and not funny.
  • Transporter 3 - Seriously, a lot of Statham this year.  There are scenes from this that would go on the good list, but the whole movie goes on the bad list. 
  • Rocknrolla - same problem....some good scenes, but not enough to make the whole movie good. Ironically, this is a Guy Ritchie movie, but did not have Jason Statham in it.  Hard to believe, although, clearly he was very busy!

Looking forward to even more movie magic next year! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Movie Review: Elysium (R – 109 minutes)

South African writer director Niell Blomkamp released District 9 a few years ago.  If you didn’t see it – stop reading and go rent it now.  It was amazing.

Let me clarify that “amazing”.  It was smart, slick, well directed, well-acted, had great effects, creepy, weird, somber, and more than a little upsetting.  A giant spaceship arrives to hover over Johannesburg, then appears to break down, stranding the crew inside who are then treated as second-class invaders by the local populace.  The story is very smart, and has some really big over-arching themes that run through the entire movie.  District’s 9 theme is segregation, racism, and class-wars, fitting to come from a South-African writer/director - so of course, it feels very close to a serious apartheid discussion.  
That same tone fits Blomkamp’s new piece, Elysium, except this time, the theme seems to be immigration and class-wars.

Max is a regular guy in the distant future where earth as become a third-world planet.  Over populated and polluted, it can barely support those live on it.  The super-wealthy have left the planet to live on a huge orbiting space station called Elysium (it’s similar to the SkyHooks over Coruscant if you’re familiar with them – except it’s an orbiting space station, not an attached super-fancy house).  They have personal med-bays that eliminate all diseases, giant houses, huge lawns, and fantastic swimming pools.  Occasionally the director of homeland security (or some department like that) has to shoot down ships of people from earth who are trying to illegally land on Elysium to take advantage of the medical treatments, and general nice-ness of the place.  Max is a newly reformed car thief who is just trying to keep up with his job on an assembly line.  There’s an accident at work, he gets hit with a massive dose of radiation (in the future we’re using massive doses of radiation to make robots?), and will die in 5 days.  Unless, of course, he can get up to Elysium with a valid citizenship tattoo and make it to a Med-bay.  That sounds fairly simple, but he also has to deal with a couple of criminals, his Elysiumian boss Carlyle, a vicious South African mercenary, and his childhood sweetheart’s sick daughter.

This movie is smart and fairly fast paced (kudos on the run-time, just about perfect).  It is somber and somewhat depressing with some fantastic action sequences mixed in.  It does feel very much like District 9, which is a good thing.  The story is fascinating, and feels very much like it could happen any day now.  The believability is upped by the great cast:
  • Matt Damon is always more talented than you think he is (check his villain in School Ties again).  I have always preferred him in action movies, and he does a great job in this.  His portrayal of a guy who really just wants to stay on the right path makes sense.  Once he gets hurt, he focuses on making himself better, and has no interest in ‘saving the world’ even when that opportunity presents itself.  Damon is fairly quiet and understated, letting the movie move around him.  I was very impressed with him in this.  Not sure about the shaved head though.
  • Jodie Foster plays Delacourt, the aforementioned head of Elysium-land Security.  I have to say, of everyone in the movie, I was the least happy with her performance.  She seemed to be very wooden, which might have fit the character, but often seemed awkward.  Also – she seemed to be doing an odd accent that didn’t really make sense.  Maybe it was an Elysium-ese accent?  I suppose no one could argue her choice there.
  • Sharlto Copley, who seems to be Blomkamp’s muse (he was fantastic and creepy and off-putting in District 9) is crazy and creepy and off-putting in this.  He plays the mercenary who is hired to go after Max once Max accidentally steals something he should not have.  There is a bizarre scene in which half of Copley’s face gets blown off (seriously) and his cohorts giggle about how pissed off he’s going to be about that once he wakes up from his Med-Bay stay.  I didn’t need the close up of half his head.
  • Alice Braga plays Frey.  I last saw her in the under-rated Predators, but she was also in I Am Legend and RedBelt.  She is tough and feisty, and determined to get Max to save her daughter, even though he’s really only looking to save himself.  She doesn’t have much to do, but she certainly is capable in the scenes she’s got.
  • Diego Luna (Contrabnad, Milk, The Terminal and Y Tu Mama Tambien) plays Julio, who seems to be Max’s only friend.  He’s all about picking Max’s brain for car-stealing tips (you live in junk pile, why steal a car?  Who is using them and who else is buying stolen cars?)  Luckily, he happens to be hanging out in the street (or the path between two junk piles) when Max stumbles home after his accident.  Lucky again – he also knows how to get Max in to see the one guy who can help him get up to Elysium.
  • Wagner Moura’s Spider is that guy.  He’s running all the illegal Elysium-jumping and helps Max out by getting him the citizen tattoo he’ll need to activate a Med-Bay as well as that crazy Exo-skeleton suit that will help make him super-strong to fight any random mercenaries he encounters.  I may be wrong in this, but it felt like all of his dialogue was ADRed, or dubbed in.  It drove me a little crazy every time he showed up and his words didn’t quite match his mouth.
  • William Fichtner  steals as much of this movie as he possibly can as the super-fancy  John Carlyle.  He’s a man who lives on Elysium, but works on earth and travels back and forth in the fanciest little pod ever.  He also sports several of the decorative scars (or maybe tattoos? Some sort of marking) that the Elysium residents have taken to giving themselves.  That was fascinating, but never mentioned.  Keep an eye out for it when watching the movie.  Fichtner is great – always.
  • Faran Tahir, the man who should have been the Mandarin, plays President Patel.  He seems to be in this movie mostly to be yelled at by Jodie Foster.  He does a pretty good job of that.

The movie is fascinating, somewhat original, and really well-done.  I can’t call it entertaining and certainly not fun – it was too somber for that.  I did enjoy it, but will probably not watch it again, and that's the same way I felt about District 9 - although I felt like that was way more brilliant.
8 out of 10 – Gained points for Fichtner, he always results in points.  I think the only points the Lone Ranger got were because of him.  Lost points because of the half of Sharlto’s head I had to look at.  Gained points for the robot police.  Lost points for the robot police randomly beating people.  Gained points for those weird decorative tattoos or scars that Elysiumians have, but then lost points for not talking about them.  Gained points for how fancy Elysium looks!  I’d love to live there.  Lost points for making me realize I would not be able to afford it, and would have to live on the junk pile left on earth.
Bonus Video 1: Predators – I enjoyed this movie, even though many did not.  Alice Braga was very cool, and Laurence Fishburne plays crazy.  I mean, really crazy.

Bonus Video 2:  the A-Team.  Copley less creepy – but still crazy as “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock.  I could do with another one of these.   I suppose Rampage is too busy humping female reporters (seriously, that happened on camera), Neeson’s too busy preventing things from being Taken (yes, they’re supposedly making another one), and Cooper is too busy being pompous and pretentious.  Oh well.  You can watch old episodes of the TV show on Hulu-Plus.

Bonus Video 3:  Dogma – the best Kevin Smith movie?  And the one with the most Matt Damon, when they were still Ben-n-Matt.

Bonus Video 4:  Euro Trip – the best Matt Damon cameo, and there have been a lot.  This one is a little Damon and Kristen Kreuk.

Bonus Video 5: Cast Interviews.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Movie Review: The To-Do List (R – 104 minutes)

The teen-sex comedy is a movie gimmick that has been around almost forever.  There were plenty of them in the 80s, and then American Pie in 1999 re-vitalized the genre for a new generation.  I’m sure you have your favorite; there are plenty to choose from.  Of the recent ones (Private Resort is my favorite 80's one, and yes, because of Johnny Depp), I find Euro-trip (2004) to be the most absurdly hilarious. 

The majority of these, and probably the top 10 you can think of, center around young high school boys attempting to get laid.  That’s the formula, its’ worked up to this point, it’s not going to change anytime soon.  Writer/Director Maggie Carey (who is married to Bill Hader) makes her feature film debut with this, the To-Do List, and tells the teen sex-comedy from a completely female viewpoint.  It’s not 100% original, but it is rare, and it is funny.

There is the good news that almost everyone in this movie is over 25 years old. There is not really any nudity, but there is graphic discussions and actions.  The plot is simple, valedictorian Brandy Klark has her life completely planned out.  She has graduated and has everything in order for college.  She then realizes (or is convinced by her friends) that she is nowhere near sexually experienced enough for college.  She makes a to-do list of sexual exploits, and sets out to use the summer between high school and college to check everything off that list.  This involves her summer lifeguard job, her best-friend-who-wants-to-be-more-than-friends Cameron, her two crazy best friends, her boss at the pool, and the guys who work at the pool.  Hilarity ensues. 

And I mean it when I say hilarity ensues.  Look, this movie is dirty, I won’t lie to you, but I also found it charming and hilarious.  Brandy handles her list like any other task to be accomplished in her life with a very business-like attitude, which of course goes well until people start to find out about the list.  The cast is great, and really seems to be having a fun time throughout the entire picture.
  • Aubrey Plaza plays Brandy at a few notches above her bitter, angry character from Parks and Rec.  She tackles every scene in the movie with no sense of shame, and with a genuine search for experience.  Her delivery is mostly flat, but at this point, that seems to be her trademark.  And it really does work perfectly for this.
  • Johnny Simmons plays the poor doormat best friend Cameron.  I did spend most of the movie trying to figure out where I had seen him before until I realized he was Young Neil in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  By the way, if for some reason you haven’t seen that yet, rent it now.
  • Bill Hader plays pool manager Willy, who Brandy has to teach to swim, and learns some things from (although not much).  He is always funny, and is surprisingly understated in this.
  • Alia Shawkat basically plays Maybe Funke – just in a different environment.  She’s the bolder of the two best friends, and works at the local Big Bun fast food joint.  Sarah Steele plays Wendy, the other best friend, who also works at the Big Bun and has one of the best running gags in the movie by insisting that they get together to watch Beaches, which does have a great payoff near the end of the movie.
  • Scott Porter plays local heartthrob Rusty Waters, who Brandy falls for at a graduation party because he’s singing and playing a guitar.  Then of course, he ends up working at the same pool as she does for the summer.  His character could have been very two-dimensional, but Porter actually gives him just enough bits of business to make him entertaining and have a soul – not much of one, but it is there.
  • Rachel Bilson plays Brandy’s older sister Amber, which threw me a little because it seems like Rachel Bilson is younger than Aubrey Plaza, but whatever.  She’s the sexually experienced one in the house, and Brandy goes to her for advice now and again.  She’s dating a hippie of sorts, played by Adam Pally, who doesn’t get nearly enough scenes.
  • Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Duffy and Donald Glover plays Derrick.  These are two smaller roles, and basically just serve as other guys in the film, but both of them are good enough comedians to give their small characters something memorable to do.
  • Andy Samberg has basically a cameo as Van, the singer of a grunge type band.
  • Connie Britton and Clark Gregg play Mr. and Mrs. Klark.  They are both very funny and it’s hilarious to see Gregg do something non-Coulson-y, and by that I mean having sex with Connie Britton in the backseat of a mini-van.
All in all, the movie was good, by no means great, but solidly funny.  I had a good time watching it.  I will say that I went to the movie with a group of my girlfriends, and we enjoyed the whole thing and had a great time laughing at it together.  However, there was a surprising number of older men there watching the movie – each of them alone, weird.  Also, the movie is set in 1993.  I graduated high school in 1994, so honestly, the timeline should feel familiar to me.  Most of the music was correct, but I felt like some of the fashion and extras were a little 80s.  That’s a small thing to pick on, but it stuck out.

6 out of 10:  Dirty, funny, enjoyable.  Gained points for the suds prank they pull on the other pool.  Lost points for the ‘Caddyshack’ bit in the pool.  Gained points for having D.C. Pierson in it!  Lost points for D.C. not having any lines.  Gained points for the Wind Beneath My Wings moment.  Also Gained points for the skorts bit.  I had a couple of pairs of those.
Bonus Video 1:  Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Bonus Video 2: Sex Drive from 2008 – another funny teen sex comedy.

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews