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!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Movie Review: Captain Phillips (PG13 – 134 minutes)

Paul Greengrass has a reputation for making exceptionally realistic, intense, action thrillers.  He did The Bourne Supremacy – which re-invented action movies, United 93, and the Bourne Ultimatum.  When I say that the Bourne Supremacy re-invented action movies, let me clarify.  His action hero was understated, and his action was up close and personal.  He uses a lot of hand-held non-steady-cam work in order to make the audience feel that it is part of the action.  Some people love this, “I feel like I’m in this fistfight!”, and some people don’t, “All this shaky camera action makes me nauseous!”  I tend to be in the second group.  I would prefer you back the camera up and let me see every inch of your carefully crafted action sequence, as opposed to the three inch close-ups between punches.

His trademark intense style is perfectly on display with Captain Phillips.  Actually, it fits perfectly well with this movie.  It is based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips, who was captaining the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama as it shipped supplies around the horn of Africa in 2009.  It was hijacked by Somali pirates, and he was kidnapped to be held for ransom, to then be rescued by Navy Seals.

Greengrass’s style fits the story beautifully as it builds in intensity during the course of the movie.  We see Phillips prepping for his journey and saying goodbye to his wife.  We also see the Somali pirates decide who is going on their mission, and prepare to hunt for a ship to capture.  The two stories run parallel until they converge on the ship as it is midway through its route.  As Phillips and his men notice the pirates and follow all their anti-pirate drills, they dissuade the pirates once, but they return and board.  It is a bit mystifying how four pirates in a speedboat could hijack a large shipping freighter, but this movie does a good job of explaining it. 

 Muse (the lead pirate) and his crew take over the ship as Phillips instructs his men to hide in the engine room and shut down the ship.  Muse then insists on finding the crew, leading to a very tense situation in the engine room that results in Muse being taken by the crew while Phillips is held by the rest of the pirates.  He tries to get them off the ship into the lifeboat, but the plan backfires and the four pirates take off in the lifeboat with Phillips.  At this point, the Navy shows up, and the final standoff begins. 

The tone is amazing, and the tension builds to an almost exhausting point.  The movie has a similar feel to Argo last year.  It’s absolutely an Oscar-bait film, but it does have moments where it plays like an action movie – making it one of the more watchable Oscar-bait items out there.  It does have a small cast, but those it in are fantastic.
  • Tom Hanks – well, there is no doubt that Hanks has become one of the best actors of this generation.  His portrayal of Phillips is apparently spot-on, and his progression through this story is amazing.  He maintains his calm in the face of danger, and always puts the safety of his crew first.  I greatly appreciated Hanks’s non-verbal performances in this movie, especially near the end of the movie where he is trapped in the lifeboat with the pirates.  He keeps trying to talk them down, knowing that the Navy will not be as forgiving.  His devastation at the end result is only outdone by his final breaking moment when he realizes that he has been rescued and is safe.  It’s an amazing performance, and he will certainly be nominated.  Whether or not he wins depends on whether or not the voters can get over the horrific-ness of 12 Years a Slave to reward the brilliance that is Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance.

  • Catherine Keener makes almost a cameo performance as Phillip’s wife.  They have a discussion in the car as to whether or not their kids will be okay in the world they are growing up in. 

  • The four Somali actors playing the pirates, Barkhad Abdirahman (Bilal), Faysal Ahmed (Najee), Mahat M. Ali (Elmi), and Barkhad Abdi as Muse are all fantastic.  I loved learning that all four of them are from Minneapolis (which has one of the largest populations of Somali immigrants in the country) who went to open auditions to see what would happen.  

  • Barkhad Abdi’s performance is especially haunting, and yes, he absolutely should be nominated for supporting actor.  His eyes are exceptionally expressive, and for someone with no prior acting experience, he was amazing.  He did have many scenes where he does have to go toe-to-toe with Hanks, and he does pull it off.  In particular, the scenes near the end, where Phillips is telling Muse he has to turn back, and he finally looks at Phillips to tell him that he has come too far to turn back – his face reads a perfect sense of hopeless desperation.

  • The actors that play the rest of the crew on the ship, including Michael Chernus (Shane Murphy), David Warshofsky (Mike Perry), Corey Johnson (Ken Quinn), and Chris Mulkey (John Cronan) are many actors you have seen before, but for some reason in this movie – they all look more natural than I have seen previously.  They all did well, and were impressive in the smaller roles they had.

  • Max Martini who pretended to be Australian in Pacific Rim plays the Navy SEAL commander who takes over the situation and solves it in the most business-like manner possible.  Remind me never to cross a SEAL.

All in all, it’s well worth the viewing.  It is a bit long, they probably could have cut a half hour from the prep-time, but the sense of tension and claustrophobia is well maintained.  The movie is a success, it is exceptionally well-crafted and supremely performed.  I am not sure I would call it entertaining or enjoyable, but it is really well done.  The movie was based on Phillip's book - so by all means, check it out if you want to know how authentic the movie is.

7 out of 10 – Similar to Argo.  Lost points for the length.  Gained points for the tension.  Lost points for never really explaining Khat – which is what the Somalis were chewing.  It is a flowering plant native to the horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.  It has been chewed as a social custom dating back thousands of years.  It contains a monoamine alkaloid called cathinone, which is an amphetamine-like stimulant.  It is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria.  In 1980 – the WHO classified it as a drug that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence (although less than tobacco or alcohol).  And now you have learned something, be sure to bring that up at your next dinner party.  “Say, did you see Captain Phillips?  I found the portrayal of the khat-addiction of the pirates very interesting.  Oh, you don’t know what Khat is?  Let me explain it to you.”  I’m sure that will make you a hit at any party - you're welcome.

Bonus Video 1:  Argo – in case you missed it last year – check it out.

Bonus Video 2:  Tom Hanks in the Money Pit – one of my favorite old Hanks movies.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Movie Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (PG13 - 119 minutes)

The first Anchorman, the Legend of Ron Burgundy, came out in 2004.  Yes, hard to believe, but that move is 9 years old already.  It essentially allowed Will Ferrell to play a character that was perfectly suited to him:  The pompous, over-confident, 70s news-anchor Ron Burgundy.  If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it in a long time, watch it again – it’s funny.

In the first one, Ron and his news team, weatherman Brick Tamland, reporter Brian Fantana, and sportscaster Champ Kind, struggled to accept the introduction of a female co-anchor, Veronica Corningstone.  The movie is fairly hilarious, and is exceptionally quotable.  “I’m kind of a big deal.”  It was directed by Adam McKay, whose collaborations with Ferrell go all the way back to Saturday Night Live.  He also directed Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, and most recently, The Other Guys – all of which are equally quotable and silly.

The Anchorman Sequel finds Ron and Veronica now married and living in New York, where they co-anchor the news, exactly where the previous movie left off, now in the early 80s.  However, the prime-time anchor is quitting, and has decided that Veronica will replace him, and that Ron will be fired, because Ron is terrible at his job.  Ron demands Veronica choose him or the job, she chooses the job, and he leaves.  Dejected, Ron heads back to San Diego, where he drunkenly works at Sea World, until offered a job at a new station – prepared to try something never done before – 24 hour news.  He re-assembles his news team, and they set out to get decent ratings.  The ploys that they come up with in order to get ratings during the graveyard shift, well...you can draw your own conclusions about what the movie is trying to say about 24 hours news stations.  I will leave that entirely up to you!  
That’s really all you need to know about the plot.  After all, you’re not going to see this movie because of the plot, you’re going for the laughs, and believe me, there are plenty!
  • Will Ferrell plays Ron again, and yes, while the marketing campaign for this movie seems to have been all-emcompasing, it’s well worth it.  He’s in top form again, and if you can get by his bottom teeth (they are terrible), he is hilarious in this role.  Again, it’s the side characters that make the movie funny, and I found there to be less Ron and more of them in this one, which I appreciated.  In case you missed the marketing blitz that Ferrell was on for this movie (I really don't see how that would be possible), Burgundy showed up in several Dodge commercials, anchored an entire newscast in Bismarck, North Dakota, did a bit on ESPN, and opened the Curling Olympic trials:

  • Steve Carell plays Brick Tamland, who really is dumb.  There’s just no other way to say it.  Carell plays him just right, making him sweet and stupid, and loyal to his friends, instead of a one-note dumb joke.  Yes, there are jokes about how dumb he is, but there is always the underlying tenderness.  They made a smart move in this movie in bringing in Kristen Wiig to play a co-worker that Brick falls for.  And yes, that bit about him worrying that his legs are gone is as funny as you think.

  • Paul Rudd is always great, and he’s great in this.  Brian Fantana had been making an excellent living taking photos of cats when Ron comes to collect him.  He commits 100% to all the nonsense happening around him, and is hilarious.

  • Dave Koechner who was on SNL just as will Farrell was arriving, plays Champ Kind, who is really a horrible person.  He has opened a fried chicken franchise in San Diego and has been working there when Ron comes to collect him.  Koechner is always someone I prefer in moderation, and he’s at just the right level of crazy in this movie. 

  • Christina Applegate returns as Veronica Corningstone.  She and Ron have a 6 year old child, and she starts dating a psychologist after she and Ron split.  This is really just an opportunity for Greg Kinnear to show up and act silly as the psychologist, but I certainly appreciate it.  Applegate gets a little more to do in this, which is nice.  She is an exceptional comedienne (I really liked Up All Night), and in the first one, really played the ‘straight guy’ to all the crazy characters.  In this one, she gets to have some moments of her own.

  • Meagan Good, who was also in Think Like a Man and Deception on TV, stars as Linda Jackson, the no nonsense boss of the team at the new 24 hour news station.  She’s funny, but one-note, not that anything more is required of her.  She’s really pretty, and while she doesn’t get a chance to be hilarious in this, I hope to see  her in more comedies.
  • James Marsden continues to remind you how underrated he is by playing Jack Lime – Ron’s competitor at the station, and the anchor for the primetime news slot.  Marsden is hilarious whenever he’s allowed to be, and the best parts of him in this one are his non-verbal reactions.
  • Josh Lawson plays Kench Allenby, the Austrailian mogul who is funding the station.  He gets some pretty funny flip-out sequences.
  • Dylan Baker – the original Dr. Curt Conners – plays Freddie Shapp, the guy who recruits Ron and team into this new setup.  He basically plays off Ferrell, but does a good job at that.

There is another large news team fight in this one, and it tops the scene in the first one, which I have to say, was my favorite part of the first one.  Unsurprisingly, it is my favorite part of this one.  The amount and quality of the cameos has been raised, and it is well worth the price of admission just for that sequence.  Brick gets his trident again, and ups the stakes by having a ray-gun from the future.

All in all, the movie is exactly what you expect.  It’s a dumb comedy, and should make you laugh most of the way through – especially if you enjoyed the first one.  This one is more of the same, and in this case, that’s a benefit.  Something else that I really appreciated is that the final version of this movie used almost none of the jokes that you saw in the commercials.  Usually with a comedy, especially one that is this heavily marketed, you have seen all the funny parts in the commercials.  It looks like the majority of those were all from an earlier cut, because almost none of them were in the final cut.  Smart.

7 out of 10.  Gained points for Marsden, Lost points for Champ claiming that bats are “chicken of the cave”, gained points for Lawson’s complete Australian nonsense when he first shows up.  Lost points for the slow motion Winnebago crash, which was funny and disturbing.  Gained points for the “let’s all get perms!” moment.  Lost points for the shark subplot – what?  Gained points for the news-team fight, particularly the teams from the history channel, the up and coming all sports network, and the entertainment news.  Awesome.
Bonus Video 1:  The news team fight from the first.  And I do mean it when I say the one in the second is even better.

 Bonus Video 2:  Stranger than Fiction.  In case you forgot about this movie, you should check it out.  Proof that Ferrell is better than you think.  Also, he brings her flours.

Bonus Video 3:  The cast on the Daily Show

Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie Review: Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug (PG13 – 161 minutes)

I gave the first Hobbit 6 out of 10.  It looked beautiful, but it went on way too long, and there just wasn’t much that happened. 

The company of dwarves showed up at Bilbo’s house, sang a bunch, set out to regain their homeland (home-under-mountain-land?).  They encountered a squad of Orcs led by Azog, the white Orc, who seemed to be hunting them at the request of a necromancer, who was gaining power.  Gandalf met with Saruman and Galadriel, who both let him know helping the dwarves was silly.  The River elves let them go, they encountered some Goblins, and Bilbo won a ring from Gollum in a game of riddles.  They eventually made it about half the way to the mountain.  That took just shy of three hours.

This second piece also clocks in at just shy of three hours, 19 minutes shy as opposed to the 11 minutes shy of the first one.  More happens in this one, or at least, the action seemed to be almost continuous.  The dwarves and Bilbo and Gandalf are running from Azog and the Orcs. 

They hide in the house of Beorn, who is sometimes a bear, and sometimes a man – but either way, doesn’t like dwarves.  As it turns out, he likes Orcs even less, so he helps them on their way. Azog is called away to serve the necromancer at Dol Guldur, and turns the hunt for the dwarves over to Bolg.  They head toward the forest, and Gandalf quickly heads off to investigate the tombs of the Nazgul with Radagast, telling the dwarves and Bilbo to stay on the path through the woods.  Sure enough, they lose the path and end up getting attacked by giant spiders.  If that isn’t enough to make sure you never leave another path ever, I don’t know what is.  Bilbo uses the ring, which is starting to corrupt him (and call out louder to its master) to help free the others. 

The wood Elves show up, including fan favorite Legolas and new addition Tauriel.  The elven King Thranduil imprisons them, and offers Thorin a deal, but he refuses, based on a grudge from long ago.  Thranduil reminds him how Elves are practically immortal, and locks him up.  Bilbo again uses the ring to set them free and they escape in a bunch of barrels, while chased by both Orcs and Elves.  One of the company, Kili, is shot with a poisoned Orc arrow during the escape, which is fortunate because Tauriel has developed a bit of a crush on him, which is unfortunate because Legolas has a bit of a crush on her.  Bam! Love Triangle! The elves interrogate an Orc to determine their plans.

The group encounters Bard, a man from Laketown and barter for transport to Laketown.  They get there, encounter the Master of Laketown, and negotiate to be let go to approach the mountain.  Gandalf discovers the Nazgul are risen (the ring-wraiths) and that the necromancer is actually Sauron.  He imprisons Gandalf as Azog leads the Orc army towards the mountain.  Half the group of dwarves heads to the mountain, and the other half stays in town while the orcs invade.  Legolas fights them off while Tauriel sees to Kili’s wound.  Meanwhile, Thorin sends Bilbo into the mountain to get the Arcenstone, because apparently you can’t be king of the dwarves without it?  Bilbo goes in, talks with Smaug the dragon, who is still in there, because – as you know – dragons love gold.  The dwarves come in, and battle the dragon, really just pissing him off enough that he takes off towards Laketown, promising to bring them death.  Then you get credits and an amazing song by Ed Sheeran.

Three main pieces, and it does move way better than the first.  It’s very entertaining, and it looks great. 
  • Ian McKellan still plays Gandalf, and plays him the same way – which is very reassuring.  It was interesting watching him face off with the rising power of the Necromancer.  I’m not sure how he will escape from being held prisoner in time for the next movie, but he is constantly escaping capture, so I guess we will see.

  • Martin Freeman continues to play young Ian Holm and is great.  I did find myself continuing to say, “stop putting the ring on” to the screen, to no avail.  Also – I really enjoyed his interaction with the dragon at the end, very entertaining.

  • Richard Armitage plays Thorin, who gets progressively more arrogant and stubborn as this seems to go on.  He believes he has the right to be King under the mountain, and will do anything to make than happen.

  • Ken Stott plays Balin, who is one of the only other dwarves to get their own identity.  He’s the old wise one.

  • Adian Turner plays Kili – worth mentioning because he’s the one who flirts with the elf in this one.  Also – he was just in Mortal Instruments as the werewolf, and is still the vampire on the UK Being Human.  He’s swiftly attempting to play all the different fantasy characters.
  • The other dwarves are played by Graham McTavish (Dwalin), William Kircher (Bifur), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Stephen Hunter (Bombur), Dean O’Gorman (Fili), John Callen (Oin), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), Jed Brophy, (Nori), Mark Hadlow (Dori), and Adam Brown (Ori).  I honestly cannot tell you which is which, they are almost indistinguishable.  To the point, I was a little shocked when they head out to the mountain from Laketown, and Thorin makes the decision to leave Kili behind because he’s injured, another dwarf says, “you can’t leave him behind”, to which Thorin reminds this one that he’s Thorin’s nephew and will rule one day (what?), and this dwarf says that he belongs with his brother – who I assume is Kili, but I have no idea.  I don’t recall ever seeing that particular dwarf before, but I’m sure that is not the case.   It’s not really anyone’s fault, there’s just too many damn dwarves in this movie.

  • Orlando Bloom steps back into the extreme wig and attitude of Legolas.  He’s exactly the same as you remember, except this time he’s all about Tauriel.  The action sequences are great, and it’s interesting to see Bloom in the same role years later.

  • Evangeline Lilly does a great job as Tauriel – and I can say that because she’s not a character in the book – so we’ll just assume she’s fantastic as this character.  It’s interesting that they added her.  I assume they did it because there are literally no other female characters in this entire movie (okay, Bard has two daughters, but they’re useless). 

  • Lee Pace was without question my favorite part of this entire movie.  He plays Thranduil with all kinds of woodland elf attitude.  He was fantastic, incredibly watchable, and really made me even more excited for Guardians of the Galaxy. 

  • Benedict Cumberbatch plays both Smaug and the Necromancer.  Let me tell you this, it’s a performance capture dragon, so that dragon is very much Cumberbatch, and it’s amazing.  It’s one of the best dragons I’ve ever seen on screen (my favorite dragon movie is Reign of Fire).  It’s also far and away the talkiest dragon of all dragons.  Once Bilbo wakes him up, he does not stop talking.  I’m not complaining, he was really interesting, but jeez… “My teeth are like swords, my claws are like spears…”  On and on and on.  Clearly he’s been beneath the mountain for far too long with no one to talk to.  I will not get into the absolute insanity of the proposal that dragons love gold (why? What are they doing with it?  Is there a dragon society somewhere that exists totally on a gold- based currency system?  And if so, what are they buying?  And that’s clearly not the case, because it’s not like Smaug took the gold back to someplace, he is just sleeping in it.) 

  • Mikael Persbrandt plays Beorn the Bear, or Beorn the Man, whichever he decides.  He was hairy and tall.  I don’t know if there’s more about this character in the book or not, but he was interesting and somber while he was on screen.
  • Sylvester McCoy plays Radagast the Brown again.  He’s got one scene in this, so I guess he’s great?  He still has that awesome sled pulled by jackrabbits.
  • Luke Evans plays Bard the Laketown guy.  I am thinking he will be key in the next movie.  In this one, he alternates between helpful and gloomy.  He’s much the same in this as he was in Fast 6 – so maybe he’s a bit one-note?  I’m excited to see where he goes.

  • Stephen Fry and his very, very crooked nose play the Master of Laketown with Ryan Gage’s Alfrid as his henchmen.  They are a grotesque combination of terrible and seem to be running Laketown into the ground – or the water in this case.  He plays the citizens just right, siding with Thorin over Bard in terms of arming the dwarves and sending them on their way.
  • The stunning Manu Bennett plays Azog, however, you cannot tell how stunning he is as a white orc.  Go back and watch Arrow, if you haven’t been, and be amazed by how exactly he looks like Deathstroke in the mid-season finale.

  • Stephen Colbert is supposedly in the Laketown sequence, but I missed him.  I did however catch Peter Jackson in his cameo appearance.  In fact, he’s the first person you see on screen.

All in all, I really enjoyed it.  It was still way too long, but I didn’t notice the length nearly as much.  In terms of 3D and the special frame-rate, I saw it in the 3D and it was beautiful, but honestly, it would be beautiful without it.  For some reason, I checked out on the spider sequence.  I’m not sure if it was the effects, or the spiders, or what.  Aside from Lee Pace, which I loved, I really enjoyed the barrel escape sequence. It was about 15 minutes of pure action and I was amazed by every single moment of it.  I loved the Cumberbatch-y dragon as well.

7 out of 10 – Really really good, just not yet fantastic.  But at this rate, the next one could be fantastic.  Gained points for the dragon, but lost points for him being all about gold.  Gained points for the barrel sequence, but lost points for the spider sequence.  Gained points for Lee Pace. 
Bonus Video 1:  Reign of Fire:  Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey and Gerry Butler tackle Dragons in London.  It’s awesome.

Bonus Video 2:  Arrow, get on this show – it’s so good.

Bonus Video 3:  Pushing Daisies – time to Netflix this show.

Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews

Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Review: Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (PG13 – 130 minutes)

I and a couple of close friends have made a point of seeing all the silly tween movies based on young adult book series.  We usually wait until the movie has been out a few weeks, then go to see them to make fun of them.  We planned that in advance for this particular tween movie.  We went after it had been open, and sat in an empty theater to get ready to laugh.  A young mother with three young girls came and sat directly in front of us.  We got up and moved, not wanting our comments to upset any fans.  Apparently that was not good enough, because halfway through the mother got up and walked over to us to ask us to keep it down, as her girls were “really into it”.  I wanted to say, “but we moved away from you so that we could talk, and we came weeks after it opened so we could talk,” but I didn’t, we just tried to keep it down.
In any case, here’s an unbiased review of this movie.  No, wait, that’s not true.  Here’s a completely biased review of this movie – operating on the bias that all tween movies are dumb and a little insulting.  At least this one is better than the Twilight series (though not by much).

Clary Fray is a New York City teenager living with her mother.  She begins seeing a strange symbol repeating in various places.  This worries her mother and her mother’s friend (boyfriend?) Luke.  While out at a nightclub with her nerdy friend Simon (who is totally into her, but she totally just likes him as a friend, and totally has no clue he’s into her), she sees a skinny blond dude kill another dude, but the killed dude doesn’t just die, he sort of disintegrates.  No one else sees anything.  Clary’s mother Jocelyn is abducted at her house by Pangborn and Samuel (two goons).  She does manage to leave a message for Clary warning her about someone named ‘Valentine’ (who could that be?) then drinks a potion, which knocks her out, so that she can spend the rest of the movie in a coma (presumably to fit in with her Game of Thrones shooting schedule).  The message clearly states to not come home, so of course, Clary immediately goes home to be attached by a demon-y sort of dog thing.  Jace (the blond from the club) shows up to slay the dog and get Clary to fall for him.  Jace tells Clary he’s a ShadowHunter (of course he is), which is a warrior who hunts demons.  This is not nearly as cool as being a Rogue Demon Hunter (“What’s a Rogue Demon?”). 

Jace tells Clary that her mother is a famous ShadowHunter, so together they visit Madame Dorothea, who happens to live downstairs and also happens to be a witch.  Using a beautiful set of hand-painted tarot cards that were painted by Clary’s mother (hey, I wonder if that will come into play later?), she tells Clary and Jace that the two goons are looking for the Mortal Cup (it’s one of the Mortal Instruments that were given to the first shadowhunter by the angel Raziel).  Simon pops back up at this point, able to see Jace now, but not thrilled about that, because after all; he can’t compete with Jace’s cheekbones because he wears glasses. They head to Luke's bookstore where the goons are interrogating him for the cup. 

They narrowly escape this encounter and head to the Shadowhunter hideout, which is called the Institute.  Clary and Simon get to meet Jace’s buddies, siblings Alec and Isabelle Lightwood as well as the Shadowhunter leader Hodge Starkweather.  
Hodge believes Clary's mind holds the secret Mortal Cup and instructs Jace to take Clary to the Silent Brothers in the City of Bones. 

The Brothers probe Clary's mind and uncover a connection to Magnus Bane, who is the High Warlock of Brooklyn.  Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec and Isabelle meet Magnus in a nightclub, because in addition to being the high warlock, he’s also a big time club-kid who is not wearing pants.  He reveals that Jocelyn had him block the Shadowhunter world from Clary's mind.  

At this point, Simon is kidnapped by vampires (seriously Simon? Come on!) and taken to their lair in a nearby hotel (hotel, not cave or underground tunnel), the group go to rescue him but are outnumbered. Werewolves  intervene and save them, because they have a truce with the Shadowhunters.  Wow, this is really getting complicated. 

Back at the Institute, Clary shares romantic evening with Jace in their mystical greenhouse, ending in a kiss. Simon takes this inopportune time to finally tell her the truth about how he feels.  Clary downplays how she feels about Jace to pacify Simon, which of course pisses off Jace.  Bam!  Love triangle!  

Clary, while moping, realizes the Mortal Cup is hidden inside a tarot card painted by her mother; because her mother had the awesome power to hide 3D things in a 2D setting.  That would be so convenient!   The group returns to Madame Dorothea's apartment to retrieve it.  Unfortunately, she has been replaced by a demon sent to steal the Cup.  Alec gets wounded and Clary retrieves the Mortal Cup. 

The group returns to the Institute (there is so much traveling in this movie!) and Clary hands over the Mortal Cup to Hodge.  He betrays them (twist!) by summoning Valentine Morgenstern (Morgenstern? And where was he? He just saunters out of a portal!) and giving him the cup. Valentine reveals he is Clary's father (another twist!  Except that by this point you totally figured that out already) and wants her to join him.  

She escapes through a portal that takes her to Luke's bookstore.  Luke, a werewolf who was trying to project Clary and her mother (twist number 3!), confirms that Valentine is her father and says Clary had a brother called Jonathan (twist number 4!).  He and his werewolf pack return to the Institute with Clary to fight Valentine, who has summoned an army of demons through a portal he created. Simon and Isabelle close the portal with help from a repentant Hodge, who sacrifices himself. Meanwhile, Magnus Bane (in a robe, but with pants this time) arrives to heal Alec, and Clary and Jace fight Valentine.  

Valentine picks up on their feelings for each other, and in a truly dick move, tells Jace that he’s the long missing Jonathan, and therefore Clary’s brother.  That’s obviously not true, but they believe it.  Valentine pushes this a little more to get them to join him, but they refuse. Clary pushes him through a portal which Jace destroys.  Jocelyn is rescued but remains in a coma at the hospital, where Luke watches over her. Clary gives Simon hope to find love elsewhere, but not with her and heads back home to use her new-found powers to repair the apartment (when did she get cleaning powers?), but then Jace appears, confessing he needs her and wants her to return to the Institute. Realizing she belongs in the Shadowhunter world, she goes with him.  Oh, and I think they still think that they're siblings.

This complicated mess is directed by Dutch director Harald Zwart.  He did the Karate Kid remake (which I still maintain should have been called the Kung Fu kid), and Agent Cody Banks, so he’s good at the tween stuff.  The cast is capable, and in terms of the kids, more pretty than talented, but that’s fine for this type of flick.
  • Lily Collins stars as Clary, and while it’s cool to have a female protagonist, she starts a bit useless.  More useful than Bella, but less useful than Katniss.  Hopefully she gets more badass as the stories progress.  Collins was in the Mirror Mirror from last year, ironic, considering that Kristen Stewart played the other version of Snow White from last year.  She’s just fine, and really uses her giant eyes to her advantage in this movie, being generally surprised and shocked most of the time.
  • Jamie Campbell Bower – who was in Twilight as one of the Volturi (the little blond one) – places Jace.  He’s far too model-pretty and delicate to be taken seriously as any kind of warrior, but the tween girls really seem to be into frail, feminine looking dudes.  I can’t figure that out, but, hey, they’re still young.
  • Kevin Zegers, who has been on Gossip Girl and played “Josh” in four different Air Bud movies (four!), plays Alec Lightwood.  He’s not too bad, I guess all those Air Bud movies can help build your skill.  There was a really interesting character bit where Clary realizes that Alec is in love with Jace and calls him out on it – which I found impressive for a tween story, but that was never brought back into play.  Maybe it’s developed more in the book?
  • Jemima West plays Isabelle Lightwood, and she’s supposed to be the badass shadowhunter who will teach Clary how to be badass.  Again, she’s a little delicate for all that, but she does a decent job.
  • Robert Sheehan plays Simon, who actually does have cheekbones to rival Jace’s, but you know, he’s wearing glasses, so Clary can’t take him seriously as a love interest.  He gets to be the comic relief for most of the movie, and does a decent job.  The scene where the vampires kidnap, torture, and string him up as a trap for the others was a bit intense for what is essentially a kids’ movie.
  • Godfrey Gao plays the pantless Magnus Bane.  He was very entertaining, and I’m tempted to read the book to learn a little more about his character.  He basically got all the exposition, but kept it interesting.
  • Lena Headey plays Jocelyn, and adding this to Game of Thrones, and Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Dredd – she’s starting to develop a consistent questionable mother trademark.  She’s great, and interesting, so it’s a bit of bummer that she spends most of this movie in a coma.
  • Aidan Turner plays Luke.  You can sort out the irony on your own of him playing the Vampire on the UK Being Human with his being the werewolf in this movie.  In case you’re thinking he looks familiar but you’ve never watched the UK Being Human – it’s because he’s currently one of the dwarves in the Hobbit movies, Kili.
  • The omnipresent French-Canadian Kevin Durand plays yet another Sci-Fi heavy as one of the two goons.  He played the goon heavy in I Am Number Four as well.  The other goon is played by equally omnipresent French-Canadian Robert Mallait, who you probably remember as the big dude from Sherlock Holmes, or the big dude in 300, or the big dude in – you get the idea.
  • CCH Pounder – who will always be my Amanda Waller, despite Pam Grier also playing her – plays the downstairs witch, Dorothea.  She didn’t have much to do in this, but the scenes where she is possessed by a demon were entertaining.
  • Jared Harris (the son of the late Richard Harris - who sang McArthur Park and was Dumbledore #1) plays Hodge.  He was recently the screen version of Moriarty in the RDJ Sherlock version.  I always remember him as the creepy dude from Resident Evil 2, so I knew not to trust him in this.
  • The best part, and I mean the absolute best part of this nonsense is Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine.  He’s crazy, and has been for a long time, and I feel like the director on this just let him go.  He chews up every bit of the scenery in this movie, completely reveling in his terrible hair extensions and questionable dialogue.  He goes way too big, and it’s very entertaining.  You should be watching his new Dracula show on NBC.
Honestly, I had a really good time watching this, not because it’s good, but because it was so terrible, and easy to make fun of – and for the most part, it seemed to embrace its own level of campy-ness.   So, it’s awful, but I loved it – that makes sense, right?  The good news (good news?) is that the budget for this movie was $60 million, and it made $76 million, so hooray, you’ll be treated to The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes next year.  It’s currently in pre-production, with the majority of the cast returning.  Hopefully Clary has been putting in the work at the Institute, and will return as a super-powered ShadowHunter.  Check it out – it’s worth the giggles it will give you, but please don’t pay for it.  It’s better than Twilight, but not as good as the Hunger Games or Percy Jackson.  Oh, and I have started reading the book, so I'll let you know how that goes.

6 out of 10:  Gained points for the insanity that is Jonathan Rhys Meyers and his leather pants.  Lost points for me not believing any of the main cast are athletic enough to be warriors of any kind.  Gained points for CCH Pounder.  Lost points for the cheesy romance scene in the greenhouse.  Lost points for having too much plot, if this is what they included, what did they leave out that was in the book? 
Bonus Video 1:  The Tudors, Rhys Meyers barely contained as Henry the VIII.

Bonus Video 2:  Bend it Like Beckham – a better movie for young women, but still starring Rhys Meyers.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews