Author Archives: wes

“Clash of the Titans” Movie Review

Movie poster for "Clash of the Titans"The original “Clash of the Titans” wasn’t exactly a master piece, this often gets lost in translation by the adoring fans. For it’s time perhaps it was something amazing, but growing up I only saw bits and pieces of it and never had any real attachment, so to me that creates a lot of room for a remake to come in and do something great. Greek mythology leaves so much space to explore that you would think there’s minimal room for misfires, of course you’d be wrong.

Why you’ll like this:
Lots of big computer generated effects; includes some Greek mythos

“Clash of the Titans” takes place in ancient Greek times, primarily in and around a city called Argos, where the people have become arrogant and no longer see the gods as a necessity to their life. Unfortunately for Zeus and the other gods they need the prayers of humans to live, this hubris triggers the gods to warn the city that they require a sacrifice, either the king’s daughter or the entire town will be devoured by the Kraken monster. This sets in motion the discovery of Perseus that he is the demigod son of Zeus, and he takes the journey to find a way to defeat the Kraken.

The movie opens by laying the ground of how the humans and gods’ relationship works, then it promptly jumps to old men cursing the gods, “Oh drat! How long will I tarry with the gods?!” I half-expected Shatner to be around the corner yelling for Khan. While the original film wasn’t a cinematic tour de force, the remake sure could’ve stolen more than the title, starting by taking the motivation for Perseus’ journey. In the 1981 version he has instantly fallen in love with Andromeda, the princess whose life is in peril, so he risks life and limb to save her, aided by his loving father from above. Here, everything is backwards, not only does Perseus not care about Andromeda, but once he knows who his father is he hates him, and that bitter attitude is swallowed by Zeus likewise. So, the motive for defeating the Kraken is vengeance for what the Kraken’s master (Hades) did to Perseus’ family (killed them). This sets up a weak parallel at the beginning and end of the film, weak indeed.

What also made the original interesting was the idea of Perseus coming into his identity as the son of Zeus, owning those powers and gifts as a means to get what he desires most, love. However, the “updated” release decides that Perseus desires to disown his demigod status and do everything as a man, as if that’s an option anyway, and is driven by his rage that the gods have killed all that he ever loved. In fact, from a story-logic perspective this film seemed more intent on not clashing titans, but force-feeding the notion that the gods rely on us and not us on them, an anti-religious sentiment to be sure, but at least make it watchable.

Every character involved was built out of plastic, one-dimensional filler that you see in most big-budget Hollywood action films. You can practically hear the marketing team writing the script, “Oh, we need a few comedic brutes who completely don’t fit in with everyone else but they’re all brawn and break the tension with silly one-liners, that’ll fill the demographics out nicely.” I guess it’s a bit much to ask that tension actually be created through good dramatic underpinnings, where the action matters because I care about what’s at stake, not because I want to see a cool spinning sword slice a limb off. Of course, that would also require that the effects aren’t rubbish as well, seeing the interaction between man and CGI was painful and beyond believability. And I didn’t even see it in 3D, which has been slammed as a massive money-grab failure.

Why you won’t like this:
Poor story, characters, set-design and Sam Worthington in a skirt

So, the characters and dialogue was awful, the effects poor, the story existed only in the still hearts of cash registers, but at the bare minimum is it too much to ask that at least the set-pieces themselves don’t feel like a sound stage?? Every scene felt like it was built in someone’s garage. Poor effort all around. Maybe someone will do another remake that includes humans that I believe as people and care about whether they live or die. In fact, this review has given it far more attention than it deserves, “Clash of the Steal Your Money and Leave You Without a Genuine Experience”, sounds more fitting.

1.5 out of 5 Stars.

Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos
Director: Louis Leterrier
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.
Release Date: April 2, 2010

“Iron Man 2” Movie Review

"Iron Man 2" Movie Poster“Iron Man 2” is everything that “Iron Man” was, and a whole lot more. I’ll be honest, I was a bit timid about how this was going to turn out, from the look of the movie trailer it was starting to look like the wit was going to be a bit more campy than the original. Seriously, that was my big fear, the humor. To me, that was the glue that held the entire film together so the thought of it being this technical marvel but having jokes that fall flat worried me a bit.

Why you’ll like this:
Builds perfectly on the first Iron Man; awesome action; witty

“Iron Man 2” picks up right where the first one left off, with Tony revealing his identity to the world except we see it through the eyes of Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) as he’s coping with his own set of Russian issues. The film takes a lot of crafty turns and is solidly based in story, never letting the action become explosions just for the sake of it, for the vast majority of the film it’s about the story and characters, so that everything that takes place actually means something to not only this film but to future films set in this universe (hint hint: Avengers).

So yeah, the humor. Perfect! There’s tons of witty one-liners and scenarios, and Robert Downey Jr. once again owns the screen. Honestly, even though the rest of the characters that are developed are perfectly cast and executed (if you don’t appreciate or know about Sam Rockwell yet: first, shame on you, but second, hopefully you’ll begin to appreciate this master actor), but I have to say that any time away from Tony Stark made me wish for him to return to the screen. It’s just great acting and storytelling going on here.

The action was serious heavy metal. War Machine lives up to the hype, it’s a shame that Terence Howard wasn’t apart of this film, but Don Cheadle came in and completely owned it. It’s hard to pick two better actors for Rhodes, and they both deserve their due. The other action stars deliver some great scenes and they all mean business, that includes not only Rourke, but Johansson as well. She nailed her action sequences admirably, even though in a Q&A Favreau confided that she doesn’t purport herself to be a very athletic person, but clearly she has a work ethic and desire for perfection. So much so that apparently she dyed her hair black before her first meet-and-greet to even discuss the part. Now that’s desire! So Bravo Miss Johansson, and she’s still easy on the eyes too, so there’s all kinds of awesome being delivered there.

The cast itself deserves a note. Anytime you have such a strong cast to work with, one that includes heavyweights like Robert Downey Jr., Rourke, Cheadle, Rockwell, Garry Shandling, Samuel L. Jackson and still some other A-Listers, well, it can’t be easy to work them all in easily and fluidly, but Favreau is really intriguing me more and more as a director. We’ve always known that his acting was aces, but seeing him direct has become something I get really excited about since he’s only just begun directing feature films and looking at everything he’s done I can’t find a feature I didn’t enjoy. I hope he’ll continue to challenge himself and put story & characters first over effects and payouts, and judging by the way he speaks about film I get the feeling I have nothing to worry about. Very excited to see “Cowboys & Aliens”, but also his own spec scripts come to the screen.

Why you won’t like this:
Not too dramatic; a tad silly at a couple points

My only real gripe about “Iron Man 2” is that it left me wanting far more. Particularly the action scenes, they felt like they were cut about four or five minutes short, especially the grand finale. It just felt a bit like, “Wait, we were just getting warmed up! That’s it?”, but what does happen onscreen is still a fantastic spectacle worth the wait. I’m in eager anticipation of the next Iron Man, hopefully it’ll be Iron Man-er than its predecessor since that’s what Favreau has accomplished here, and that is no flimsy feat.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau
Director: Jon Favreau
Genre: Action
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 4 min.
Release Date: May 7, 2010

“Taking Woodstock” Movie Review

"Taking Woodstock" movie poster“Taking Woodstock” brought home the experience of the 1969 cultural phenomenon without ever seeing a single on-stage musical performance. Based on the memoir “Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life” by Eliot Tiber, the film follows Eliot as the central figure responsible for bringing the three day concert to the small town of Bethel. The concert was slated to take place in Woodstock, but the locals had it shut down and in steps Eliot into water way above his head.

Why you’ll like this:
Coming of Age; great cinematography; hippies teaching love

There has to be something ironic regarding a movie that is set in the historic concert of Woodstock yet it never shows a single Woodstock performance, unless you count the local band “Hairy Pretzel” performing “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, which I don’t, valiant though their effort may be. “Taking Woodstock” is largely about Eliot (played by Demetri Martin) growing up and experiencing the world for the first time, stepping outside all of his responsibilities of being the President of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce, running his parents’ hotel and being a generally reliable think-tank of goody goodness. Woodstock changed all of that for him as he witnessed the freedom that the first mega national concert brings.

I loved how the presence of the event is ever-present through the variety of personalities that show up. You have cops being peaceful and friendly, and beatniks mixing with the residents, particularly the transvestite Vilma (Schreiber) connecting with Eliot’s father, a great juxtaposition of personalities. There was a lot of authentic feels to the film, the entire land seems overrun with cars and hippies and filled with the desire for peace and an end to the Vietnam war. Ang Lee brought a genuine texture and I felt like I definitely witnessed what the inner workings of Woodstock probably were. There’s also a few obligatory scenes such as sliding down the mudhill and nude bathing in the lake, as well as a ton of visual references from videos and pictures which I’m sure I would’ve picked up on more if I really knew anything about Woodstock outside of a few movie references.

One scene in particular will probably play in my mind periodically and it involved Paul Dano, Kelli Garner, our main character and a few drops of acid. I’ve never used a hallucinogenic before, but I imagine the way Lee portrayed it is probably exactly what it’s like. Colors bleeding into one another and slightly swirling together to form slightly new images. A simple and effective way to show a unique experience induced by drugs.

Why you won’t like this:
slow moving story

“Taking Woodstock” is never in any rush, because there’s really no specific grand scene or memorable climax. I think it’s meant to be a lot like Woodstock itself, just a gradual experience you slip in and out of before you know it, just go along for the journey. I think one of the final lines summarizes it best in response to Eliot asking what happens next, “Everybody’s gotta chase the money right? Everyone’s probably going to sue each other, but that’s cool. We’ll figure it out.” Perhaps the aftermath should be the sequel, I’d line up for that one too.

3 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy
Director: Ang Lee
Genre: Drama, Coming of Age
Rating: R (nudity, sexual content, drug use, language)
Running Time: 2 hr.
Release Date: August 28, 2009

“Kick-Ass” Movie Review

"Kick-Ass" film poster“Kick-Ass” took a baseball bat upside my head and did some major ass-kicking! What a refreshing, original take on the superhero genre. A kid in New York decides he’s tired of reading comic books and decides to be a superhero himself, en route to this new lifestyle he meets a man who dresses as Batman who has trained Hit-Girl, his 11 year-old daughter to be the fiercest of them all.

Why you’ll like this:
Bloody comic book-y action; well shot; plenty of fight scenes

Quite a clever film, it takes on the perspective of an average kid that feels largely unnoticed except by his small circle of friends. “Kick-Ass” does a great job of feeling very authentic by building a genuine title character, you see how he’s a kid tired of being ignored by the cute girl and that he thinks being a superhero can change his world. The other smart move taken is by allowing Kick-Ass to be smeared in his first outing, and he gets creamed in a fairly epic style which takes away any notion of this being a kid-friendly Spider-Man film. No, it’s indeed a dark edgy take on teenagers taking on the underbelly of New York City.

The action is executed incredibly well, kind of the opposite of the Bourne films, shot in a way that let’s you follow what’s happening while putting a polish in the editing room, it’s lightning fast but really fun. Superhero movies are nearly always PG-13 to capture the young teen crowd so I was really happy to see this go more in the direction of “Watchmen” or “Ninja Assassin” in that it’s bloody and death is a certainty. There’s a specific moment where they actually switch from this being a fairly edgy take to a full-on violent escapade.

My only actual conflict with this movie wasn’t that it had a little girl doing extremely violent things with knives and guns. Nope. My sole beef lies in the the soundtrack. Apparently Matthew Vaughn is a big Danny Boyle fan, hey, so am I, so I’d prefer it if he didn’t lift all the freaking music from his films. Namely “Sunshine”, it was incredibly distracting to me that I couldn’t hardly even focus on all the beautiful action going on because it felt like a beat-for-emotional-beat lifting from Boyle’s films. My assumption is that Vaughn tracked the movie with those cuts in it and as often happens with these place-holders he fell in love with it just that way and decided to use it. Awful awful decision, be creative enough to find some obscure band to use or even take the time to hire a freaking composer to create something entirely unique for your brilliant film. It’s a tragedy to resort to this, as the rest of the film picks funny unique tracks to complete a moment but then hijacks Boyle. That really hurt this movie and I hope he’ll change it out for the DVD release. Yes, it’s that big of a deal to me, and if you’ve seen “Sunshine” or “28 Days Later” then perhaps you’ll appreciate the soundtracks as much as I do, because Boyle is a visual and auditory genius in compiling his films so seeing it used like that rubs me raw.

Why you won’t like this:
violence with little kids may be disturbing

Acting-wise, the performances were all spot-on. Nic Cage playing super-proper father/daughter went over quite well for me, which is largely thanks to the rest of the cast putting on great performances, because without that then the Big Daddy and Hit-Girl routine would probably come off as rather poor acting when it’s anything but. If you like R-rated action with some blood then this is definitely the film for you, there’s tons of action sequences and they all deliver. The humor plays well and the story develops at a natural pace and leaves you with an easy storyline to pick up in the next film. Let’s hope it kicks our ass soon.

4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicholas Cage, Chloe Moretz
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Genre: Action (Comic Book), Comedy
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.
Release Date: April 16, 2010

“Kick-Ass” took a baseball bat upside my head and did some major ass-kicking! What a

refreshing, original take on the superhero genre. A kid in New York decides he’s

tired of reading comic books and decides to be a superhero himself, en route to this

new lifestyle he meets a man who dresses as Batman who has trained Hit-Girl, his 11

year-old daughter to be the fiercest of them all.

Quite a clever film, it takes on the perspective of an average kid that feels

largely unnoticed except by his small circle of friends. “Kick-Ass” does a great job of feeling very authentic by building a genuine title character, you see how he’s a kid tired of being ignored by the cute girl and that he thinks being a superhero can change his world. The other smart move taken is by allowing Kick-Ass to be smeared in his first outing, and he gets creamed in a fairly epic style which takes away any notion of this being a kid-friendly Spider-Man film. No, it’s indeed a dark edgy take on teenagers taking on the underbelly of New York City.

The action is executed incredibly well, kind of the opposite of the Bourne films, shot in a way that let’s you follow what’s happening while putting a polish in the editing room, it’s lightning fast but really fun. Superhero movies are nearly always PG-13 to capture the young teen crowd so I was really happy to see this go more in the direction of “Watchmen” or “Ninja Assassin” in that it’s bloody and death is a certainty. There’s a specific moment where they actually switch from this being a fairly edgy take to a full-on violent escapade.

My only actual conflict with this movie wasn’t that it had a little girl doing extremely violent things with knives and guns. Nope. My sole beef lies in the the soundtrack. Apparently Matthew Vaughn is a big Danny Boyle fan, hey, so am I, so I’d prefer it if he didn’t lift all the freaking music from his films. Namely “Sunshine”, it was incredibly distracting to me that I couldn’t hardly even focus on all the beautiful action going on because it felt like a beat-for-emotional-beat lifting from Boyle’s films. My assumption is that Vaughn tracked the movie with those cuts in it and as often happens with these place-holders he fell in love with it just that way and decided to use it. Awful awful decision, be creative enough to find some obscure band to use or even take the time to hire a freaking composer to create something entirely unique for your brilliant film. It’s a tragedy to resort to this, as the rest of the film picks funny unique tracks to complete a moment but then hijacks Boyle. That really hurt this movie and I hope he’ll change it out for the DVD release. Yes, it’s that big of a deal to me, and if you’ve seen “Sunshine” or “28 Days Later” then perhaps you’ll appreciate the soundtracks as much as I do, because Boyle is a visual and auditory genius in compiling his films so seeing it used like that rubs me raw.

Acting-wise, the performances were all spot-on. Nic Cage playing super-proper father/daughter went over quite well for me, which is largely thanks to the rest of the cast putting on great performances, because without that then the Big Daddy and Hit-Girl routine would probably come off as rather poor acting when it’s anything but. If you like R-rated action with some blood then this is definitely the film for you, there’s tons of action sequences and they all deliver. The humor plays well and the story develops at a natural pace and leaves you with an easy storyline to pick up in the next film. Let’s hope it kicks our ass soon.

4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicholas Cage, Chloe

Moretz
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Genre: Action (Comic Book), Comedy
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.
Release Date: April 16, 2010

“The Losers” Movie Review

Movie poster for "The Losers"“The Losers” did a little bit of winning, more than the normal losing I imagine they’re used to anyway. Based on the comic book of the same name, Peter Berg teamed with James Vanderbilt to write the screenplay that Sylvain White (director of such hits as “Stomp the Yard” and “Trois 3: The Escort”) directed, the film is based on a small U.S. Special Forces unit that is betrayed by their CIA handler Max, leaving them for dead and with no other choice than to team with the mysterious “Aisha” they set out to uncover the identity of Max and clear their names.

Why you’ll like this:
funny; fun characters; semi fun action

I haven’t read the comic book, but I can easily imagine the dialogue was nearly verbatim, because the obvious point of the entire film is to just have fun without ever taking anything too seriously. In fact, the very first scene that introduces Saladana’s character Aisha makes absolutely no story-sense, she pretends to try to hook up with Colonel Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) which ends up in a rather sizable fight sequence resulting in plenty of damage only to have the end of the scene reveal that she’s just there to help and poses no threat at all. That certainly isn’t the only off-putting plot point, but once you let go of the idea that this is supposed to cleanly connect dots then the fun can begin.

The comedy is pretty entertaining, at least when it involves Chris Evans and Columbus Short, everyone else is rather mediocre, including Jason Patric. Patric’s comedic line reminded me (strangely) of the police detectives in the early “Spawn” comics, hey, I said it was strange. However, Evans’ “Jensen” and Columbus Short’s “Pooch” deliver some really great chemistry and strong performances with comedic timing and showcase some depth of talent. The rest of the cast doesn’t seem as focused on the laughs, but still manage to add to the overall fun outlandish atmosphere.

The other character in the film seemed to be the locations. Whether they actually shot it in every single spot isn’t relevant, but every scene took place in a new terrain ranging from Dubai, Bolivia, Mexico, Miami and Los Angeles and surely several others I’m not thinking of. I definitely liked the constant switch of scenery, which was constantly under attack by our lovable losers, which brings us to the action. There’s a good deal of it, though you never really feel the main characters are ever in danger it does fit the requisite 5 explosions per 20 minutes of run-time.

Why you won’t like this:
throwaway plot points; not very thrilling or serious

There’s a couple things I can take away from seeing this action movie: 1) I got some good laughs and enjoyed decent action; 2) I will have entirely forgotten this movie by tomorrow. The reality is that this movie will not leave a mark on me, even though I’ll be able to reference another point on how Chris Evans is a fantastic actor, but outside of that I don’t imagine looking forward to another viewing or recommending this to a friend over “Kick-Ass”, that’s where it ultimately loses out.

3 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Jason Patric
Director: Sylvain White
Genre: Action
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.
Release Date: April 23, 2010

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” Movie Review

"New Moon" movie poster“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” is the most inventive and clever romantic vampire comedy I’ve ever seen, oh wait, it isn’t supposed to be a comedy is it? While nominally better than the first installment, this film is only missing a better script, director, budget and actors in order to make it something worthy of any small accolade that isn’t a Razzie.

Why you’ll like this:
Gothic story of forbidden love; teen drama; good photography; easy to follow story

This sequel picks up where “Twilight” left off, or at least it’s supposed to, the time-line throws me off when Jacob (Taylor Lautner) shows up and Bella (Kristen Stewart) acts as if she hasn’t seen him in a decade. So I guess there was a summer break between the last credits rolling and the opening of this. “New Moon” opens with Bella having a nightmare (oh so cleverly foreshadowing the film’s final sequence) and waking up next to her “Romeo & Juliet” book which I’d revolt against the idea of pitting itself in the same territory as Shakespeare if a billion other awful movies hadn’t already done the same. The movie, much like its predecessor, only has one single topic it covers: Edward leaving Bella. That’s it, that’s all, just stretch it out for 2+ hours.

As far as this being marginally better than “Twilight”, I will say that watching Bella and Jacob together wasn’t quite as over the top gag-inducing as her and Edward. Of course that’s a product more of “her” (the “writer” Stephanie Meyer) wanting us to not fully buy into that romantic storyline. That’s my way of saying I’m “Team Jacob”, but if there’s a “Team Burn Every Twilight Book and Poke My Eyes Out With a Quill” then I’d like to join their side. This movie feels more like a low budget show on The CW thanks to the poor effects and general lack of character arcs. Which brings me to…

Note to Stephanie Meyer: A Character Arc is the growth of a person from the beginning of the film/book and the obstacles they encounter that cause them to change for the better or worse. Not a single character has any resemblance of growth or change, everyone is static and lacking direction in their life. The only person remotely in danger of actual growth is Jacob who discovers his werewolfness which makes him a tad volatile and prone to violence in his pursuit of protecting Bella. Now Bella is the most unflinchingly bland character in the entire universe of Twilight, she started as a hapless loner in the first film and has blossomed into a codependent narcissistic idiot who can only desire you if you’re unavailable to her. Way to grow up there Isabella, true love is Obsessive Love, isn’t it?

Why you won’t like this:
Poorly developed vampires and werewolves all love an emotionally stunted girl; bad visual effects

For the sake of finding a positive in the land of “True Blood” leftovers, I will say that I liked the soundtrack. Pretty much every part that I found myself interested was centered around a good record playing. Maybe this should be turned into one long music video, minus the poor visual effects. Wait, sorry, I almost went all “Bella” on everyone, I couldn’t possibly expect the entire universe to respond to my wants and wishes, lest someone mistake that for good drama.

2 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene
Director: Chris Weitz
Genre: Romance, Drama, Fantasy
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 10 min.
Release Date: November 20, 2009

“The Back-up Plan” Movie Review

Film poster for the movie "The Back-up Plan"“The Back-up Plan” is surprisingly not awful, oh wait, yes it is, but I liked it better when it starred Hugh Grant and was called “Nine Months”, oh wait, no I didn’t. A fairly cookie-cutter romantic comedy where Jennifer Lopez is the smoking hot girl who can’t find a man (please tell me where these women are), just add an unborn baby to the fray.

Why you’ll like this:
If you like typical J.Lo fare; silly to-the-point romantic comedy

“The Back-up Plan” stars Jennifer Lopez as Zoe, Zoe wants a baby because she’s getting older and has yet to find Mr. Right so in the opening scene she goes for an artificial insemination and after leaving the doctor in the chipper-est of moods she runs into “Stan” (played by Alex O’Loughlin) who gosh-darn-it-all looks to actually be Mr. Right in the flesh. Let the outrageous jokes begin along with the life altering relationship. Yawn.

I can’t to claim that I’ve seen Alex O’Loughlin in anything, but he was a very nice surprise here. He performed pretty well and knew how to deliver a line and had an interesting character overall, I imagine he’ll be a dramatic talent if given the opportunity. To my surprise Anthony Anderson also gave me a few laughs, his normal approach often comes across as forced and cliche, but his minimalist delivery went over quite well. JLo is JLo, playing up the cutesy routine the entire time, relying on very dated material that requires dog grunts and flatulence.

The relationship itself makes no sense! You have Stan running out at every turn and Zoe sitting idly by hoping against hope that he isn’t gone, and then suddenly from left field Stan is making a valid argument and she tells him “If you want out there’s the door” to which he exclaims “I hate it when you always do that!”, uhhhh, what?? There is absolutely no discernible character arc for either one, instead opting for flimsy exposition wherever they can fit it in. The end scene even felt lifted straight from “Cocktail”, not that the rest was running on unbeaten paths.

Why you won’t like this:

Gross-out bathroom style humor and generally uninspired comedic attempts; unfathomable romantic storyline

This film was wholly unoriginal, where characters aren’t revealed by scenes, instead they’re written to fit into a scene. The humor either falls flat or is something that heavily depends on the audience’s appreciation for over-the-top antics such as an all-natural childbirth with lots of gross-out tactics and hysteria. If this is all that Jennifer Lopez has left in her tank (I actually like her and hope she goes back to dramas or more clever scripts) then I hope she has a better written Back-up Plan.

1.5 out of 5 Stars.

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin, Anthony Anderson, Michaela Watkins
Director: Alan Poul
Genre: Romantic, Comedy
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.
Release Date: April 23, 2010

“Twilight” Movie Review

Film poster for "Twilight"“Twilight” is about as well thought-out and subtle as a wrecking ball to the face. I put off seeing this film for as long as humanly possible, because I knew at some point I’d be forced to watch it which means I shouldn’t be forced to sit through repeated viewings if I’ll just wait til it’s inevitable. And for the record, I went into this with a completely open mind, as I do with all movies, but was the wait “worth” it?

Why you’ll like this:
Teenage romance; good score; lovey-dovey youthful drama

Based on the novels by Stephanie Meyer, “Twilight” is about Bella (played by Kristen Stewart) who has moved to Washington and falls for the outsider Edward (Robert Pattinson), who is a vampire, albeit kind of the vegan version. (I’m trying to cram as many “V” words in this to make it more interesting (at LAST) for myself as possible. Fine, I’ll stop.) Verily, Edward is actually both her savior and her doomsday device since he repeatedly reminds everyone who will listen that it’s really really really hard to resist biting Bella on the neck and not draining her life.

I’m not sure if the writer’s had short term memories or if they thought this was supposed to be a sitcom where everyone announces their feelings at least in a five minute loop. “OH! It’s been ten seconds, let’s remind everyone that Bella is helpless and that Edward is the only emotionally undeveloped 100-year-old man.” Oddly, one of my bigger complaints is the lack of logic given as to why these vampires are even parading around as High Schoolers in the first place. That seems rather unintelligent to throw themselves in with a bunch of adolescent kids and hope no foul situations ever arise, because kids are known for their responsibility, so let’s hang out where they’ll never find us.

It’s not that there was nothing about the film to gravitate towards, I did like the score and there were a few good actors actually delivering some lines. Namely Peter Facinelli, Anna Kendrick and Ashley Greene all turned in respectable performances. I normally like Kristen Stewart, I liked her in “In the Land of Women”, “Adventureland” and “Into the Wild”,  but here the drama was laid on way too thick, and I did get a chuckle out of the “angel wings” behind Edward during their first encounter in the science lab. I don’t particularly care for the excuse “it’s High School drama, what do you expect?”, because “Friday Night Lights” is a fantastic teenage drama where it’s realistic, there’s a vast number of storylines permeating and yet they still act like teenagers.

Why you won’t like this:
High degree of corniness; not a well-structured drama; some poor acting

Again, this is definitely on the tolerable side of bad teen chick-flicks (I shudder to think of what the intolerable side is), but it’s incredibly unimaginative in terms of characters and motivation (I dream of dramas where emotions live on faces and in actions, not in words); the approach is not slick and never even attempts to treat the audience with any degree of intelligence, the effects are shaky *at best* (that baseball scene was ridiculous) and there is absolutely no thought towards subtext and layered story-telling. “Harry Potter” was made for sub-teens and surpasses this work in every area imaginable, and you can only blame the source material for that. If you want a vampire saga with any hint of depth then I would recommend HBO’s “True Blood”, it’d eat Stephanie Meyer’s heart out.

2 out of 5 Stars.

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli, Anna Kendrick
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Genre: Romance, Drama, Fantasy
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 2 min.
Release Date: November 21, 2008

“Good Will Hunting” Movie Review

Movie poster for "Good Will Hunting"“Good Will Hunting” is a deep well of acting, story-telling and character drama, and I like that. Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as a launching vehicle for their budding careers, the film follows Will Hunting (Damon), an MIT janitor and general lower class hoodlum as he’s discovered to be a stellar-genius. In order to get him out of jail Gerald Lambeau, a math professor, convinces a judge to release him to the professor on condition of therapy, the therapy leads to a relationship with Sean (Williams), the therpist with close ties to Professor Lambeau.

Why you’ll like this:
Excellent drama; great acting and developed characters

Remarkably, the initial cast that the studio desired was Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, but sometimes you just have to be grateful for what you get and I’m thankful for being introduced to Matt Damon, Cole Hauser and Casey Affleck. What? Oh, right, Ben is there too and does a good job here, but his career has been less than awesome. “Paycheck” anyone? My favorite character in the film has to be Morgan, played by Casey Affleck and he brings home an exceptionally strange role that cracks me up even thinking about some of his dialogue and actions.

Filmed in Boston this movie has an authentic feel and brings a genuine texture to the life of Will as we journey with him and his roughneck friends. This is the very connection that Sean builds on with Will, because he’s also from the rough side of Boston, so where Will was able to ridicule and break down other therapists Sean was able to see through the antics to see the source of all the hurt and reason with him in an area that Will isn’t able to outsmart him: life.

“Good Will Hunting” is a very intelligent film and clearly written with the thought of complex characters in mind. The banter between the friends drives home the level of comraderie they all have while Will is able to set himself apart from unwitting outsiders using his IQ as a weapon, or his fists if all else fails.

Why you won’t like this:
Emotionally heavy content

In terms of pure character-driven plots I’m a huge fan of what “Good Will Hunting” brings to the table, it’s filled with thoughtful portraits of realistic people, but not so heavy handed that you’re in a constant state of fear for what may happen next. An actor’s movie for sure, which makes sense since it was written by two of them, and they did an excellent job.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck
Director: Gus Van Sant
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hr. 6 min.
Release Date: January 9, 1998

“The 40 Year Old Virgin” Movie Review

Movie poster for "The 40 Year Old Virgin"“The 40 Year Old Virgin” is the coming out party for Judd Apatow after working on under-appreciated shows “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared” and hanging in the folds of Hollywood as a writer with credits ranging from “The Larry Sanders Show” to “Celtic Pride”, okay, the latter maybe not such a good highlight. Teaming up with the relatively unknown Steve Carell and other up-and-comers Seth Rogen and the long overdue Paul Rudd, Apatow delivers a comedic film with a romantic underbelly.

Why you’ll like this:
Great story with a good message; lots of guy-humor (but not schticky)

Steve Carell plays Andy, and he has a secret: he’s a virgin. His bigger issue seems to be that he’s a nerdy loner who lives his life inside his geeked out apartment. All that is destined to change after he starts getting in good with his coworkers and over a poker game they discover his virgin secret and soon everyone in the company has their advice on how Andy can get a little action, but Andy is trying to balance his new found friendships with holding out for that special someone.

This film took me by surprise with the balance of genuine characters blended with a high degree of vulgar guy humor. The jokes run quickly with lots of guy-banter, particularly when Rudd and Rogen start hammering each other with gay jokes using their honed improv skills and will be used by unevolved men all over America. Carell delivers a high degree of comedy himself, not only in teeing up jokes for the other players but by his innocent nature in both guy-culture and on the dating scene.

I loved that the moral of the story wasn’t that Andy was missing out on sex, but that his friends were able to learn something from him in that he had something worth saving for the right person at the right time. In our culture virginity is often a dirty word that is looked down upon, so tackling that subject with comedy and revealing the romanticism behind the anxiety of it is a welcome turn when delivered with such a thorough examination of those who are living diametrically opposites sides of the lifestyle.

Why you won’t like this:
Immature/foul jokes (read: crude sex talk); not National Lampoon’s style humor

This work alone has earned heapings of praise to Judd Apatow and launched actors Carell, Rogen and some others into the limelight. Apatow’s crew is sure to be around for a while, hopefully he’ll continue to innovate and never lose his dramatic touch. Either way, this has quickly become one of my absolute favorite comedies, so much so that when I think of movies I’d take on my deserted island, this would certainly be one of the ones I had to have, because it’s rewatchable and covers a deep array of characters and topics. If you like comedies without over the top antics, where laughs are derived from seasoned pros delivering a line with a straight face then this is for you, you’ll come for the laughs and stay for the story.

5 out of 5 stars

Starring: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Judd Apatow
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.
Release Date: August 19, 2005