Monday, August 19, 2013

Grown Ups 2 Review

Grown Ups 2 (2013) Review

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris, Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Taylor Lautner

WARNING: This review contains mild spoilers to Grown Ups 2. This would matter if I was recommending this film, but I’m obviously not so if you for some reason really want to see this film, skip this review. If not, enjoy what happens when I get REALLY angry.

This review could just be me writing the sentence “this movie fricking sucks” over and over again and it would still sum up this movie PERFECTLY! America, actually anyone who paid to see this movie, American or not, I hate you for making this a bigger hit than Pacific Rim. I watched this through the use of…. other things (don’t judge me I can’t get to the theaters at the moment and Youtube had this up for weeks) so I’m not part of the problem, but apparently a lot of people are, since it’s made over a hundred and seventy-two million dollars worldwide as of writing this. Goddammit. Guess what people: WE ARE ONLY SPURRING HIM ON! Like I would get it if this was high quality stuff, but no IT’S GODDAMN GROWN UPS 2! ....Sorry I’m just really pissed off right now. All I have to say is thank you Adam Sandler for making my little quote in my Incredible Burt Wonderstone review correct.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I said in my review of that film that I have no hope in PG-13 comedies. I just don’t. This movie makes my non-existent shred of hope for that genre disappear. This movie not only makes me hate comedies but the film industry and the movie viewing audience in general. There are a lot of great, original scripts that should be produced, but since we go to terrible sequels and remakes, they don’t get made. Hollywood believes that we want more of this schlock because we pay to see them instead of original films and so because we pay for stuff like this, they make even more stuff like this. The circle of movie pre-production ladies and gents. And so because most people paid to see this, making it number 2 at the box office on its opening weekend, we are going to keep getting terrible films like this. I just hate it, I HATE IT! And since this blog exists, I can now vent my anger with you. ENJOY!

So what’s the plot you ask? Well there barely is one. It’s pretty much a collection of rejected SNL skits that just weren’t bad enough or dumb enough for Movie 43. It follows Sandler’s Lenny, James’ Eric, Rock’s Kurt, and Spade’s Higgins on their kids (yes even Spade’s illegitimate supposedly 13 year old child) last day of school and their “hilarious” antics that involve a schizophrenic bus driver, Shaq pretending to be a cop, a giant group of idiotic frat boys lead by Jacob from Twilight, and so much more useless junk before a big impromptu 80’s theme party that pretty much brings every single character in the film and then some into one “hilarious” situation. Just writing that lame synopsis made my fingers burn.

Writing does not get lazier than this. Really none of these plots matter! At all! There’s an itty bitty subplot where Kurt, who works at a cable company apparently, waits until 4 so that he doesn’t have to install cable at his mother-in-laws house. What was the point of this? Absolutely nothing! No wait, there was! It was so that we could see her going to the door with her pants down because she is coming from the bathroom! Isn’t that funny? Ha ha ha, yeah if you didn’t think I was being sarcastic, then I really need to work at being obvious! The jokes in this film are lowest common denominator to the max. We get jokes about, but not limited to, burping, sneezing, and farting in rapid succession, a man trying to fix an ice cream machine filled with chocolate soft serve looking likes he is taking a crap, a deer urinating on both Adam Sandler and his masturbating son, a masculine woman probably having a penis, a pervy janitor making woman at a gym stretch in provocative ways, a young child having the IQ of a peanut, grown men jumping off a cliff naked while a college party is going on, a man dressed as Boy George making out with who he thinks is another man but is really a dog, and a while man dressed as and impersonating Flavor Flav. Gbuefboefbybb UGH! PEOPLE FIND THIS FUNNY?!!!!? EVERYONE ON SET THOUGHT THIS WAS FUNNY??!!! YOU HAVE TO BE…..again I’m sorry. My rage is overtaking me and I haven’t even gotten to the cast! Oh the cast…oh the cast….

I’ll admit this: when it comes to big, dumb action films like Michael Bay films I kind of get why big names like Mark Wahlberg sign on. They make big bucks at the box office and raise their statuses as marquee movie stars that can bring in large grosses. When it comes to Adam Sandler/Happy Madison films though, to me it TARNISHES the reputations of those involved. For example, Anna Faris, a kind of funny woman in my opinion, has been stuck in terrible rom coms like What’s Your Number? since she starred in The House Bunny. And Dana Carvey, who was great on SNL, hardly has a career now because of The Master of Disguise. That’s just my opinion, I’m probably wrong but really WHY ARE HALF THESE PEOPLE SIGNED ONTO THIS FILM?! Just excluding Sandler, James, Rock, Spade, and Lautner, this cast includes Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Nick Swardson, Jon Lovitz, Cheri Oteri, Tim Meadows, David Henrie, Patrick Swarzenegger, Steve Buscemi, Shaquille O’Neil, Steve “Stone Cold” Austin, China Anne McClain, Ally Michalka, Alexander Ludwig from The Hunger Games, most of the male cast members  from the past 10 years of SNL (minus Bill Hader, thank god, and possibly Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis, I forget), and that’s only the ones I can remember! Most of those names are either part of Sandler’s “crew” or D-Listers that aren’t getting much work, so whatever, I get it, they need the jobs, but I expect so much better from Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Alexander Ludwig, Steve Buscemi and the SNL guys. Seriously, how much did they get paid? Tell me, I need to know how much these people got that sold them on this lousy script.

Now for the characters or there for the lack of actual characters. Out of all of Sandler’s films this one feels the most like his buddies just doing stupid stuff on camera while they laugh and count their paychecks. The “problems” that these characters face are barely issues. Lenny has Adam Sandler problems: he’s a big-shot former (I think it wasn’t really explained that well what he did now) Hollywood person (again don’t remember) and his hot wife wants another kid, that SURPRISE is going to happen no matter what he thinks. Kevin James….has mommy issues? I don’t know, he adds nothing, but at least the fat jokes aren’t happening every 5 seconds in this one. Chris Rock’s wife forgot their wedding anniversary…which is barely mentioned after one scene. David Spade’s son is spending time with him for the summer and he is scary as hell. Ok I’ll admit I laughed a little bit at David Spade, something you’ll only ever hear me say when I watch The Emperor’s New Groove, and his son. The fact that his son is almost a foot taller than him and looks like Thor if he grew up in the bad part of town was kind of funny. Other than that I laughed at no one else. No one else left an impression on me so I can just continue with this review. Actually wait, one more thing. I just really need to ask this: why on earth is Nick Swardson getting shoved down our throats so much lately? I haven’t seen his stand-up yet but judging by the atrocious performances he gave in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Just Go With It, Bucky Larson and this film, he is not even good enough at Sandler standards.  He is like the 2 Chainz of comedies: he is terrible and yet he keeps showing up. Just please GO AWAY!

Is there any saving grace here? Well, I laughed at a few jokes. I liked David Spade’s subplot and I laughed when while doing his driving test, Rock’s son is believed to be driving under the influence and Steve Buscemi, his driving instructor, takes off only 5 points, something I would never usually laugh at but since I was stressed about getting my license at the time, that kind of made me chuckle. That’s it! Ugh, these jokes are just horrible, so horrible that I need to make another paragraph about it. Someone filmed clips of this film while at their theater and everyone was laughing their asses off at the dumbest things. Everyone was laughing throughout the party scene and when Spade is ruining town by rolling around in a tire and even when Taran Killiam, aka the hot one from the current SNL cast, was licking soap off of a car window in the car wash scene. Do you see why I hate movie goers now? The writing here…well I don’t think there’s a script for this film. I am now convinced that this was just a little vacation for Sandler and his friends where they could dick around and make bad jokes. The little subplots and jokes here and there that do work are shot down at point blank faster than the Roadrunner. Cheri Oteri’s little subplot about her being in love with Sandler was funny for a second, like I giggled when she said that she dated him in grade 6, but then they ruin it and make it so stupid. Honestly, they had some jokes with great set-ups, like Rock’s anniversary disaster and Oteri’s obsessive crush, but they either get forgotten or ruined immediately and that’s the biggest problem with this film: what they pass off as “comedy” is dumb and when there is a shred of good material, they dumb it down so that the masses will understand it. Dammit this just makes me mad…..however I’m not going to scream since, well, I have something to say.

Adam Sandler: I used to like you. I think that The Wedding Singer is brilliant and you can actually kind of do dramatic work, which is pretty rare for a comedian. BUT it is stuff like this that makes me forget that you have talent. What you and your brand are doing is wasting film by making crap like this that you’re going to keep making since people see it. Nothing pains me more than when someone who I know has talent lowers themselves because more people will see it. You know how many people would love to see a comedy on the level of The Wedding Singer or Billy Madison again? Or how many people loved Hotel Transylvania because it was both funny and heartwarming? Or that people are catching on since That’s My Boy did fail at the box office? Films like these are just hurting your fans and hurting your reputation. I don’t know if I can stand anymore of this because really all this is is a giant sell-out for everyone involved that is going to make its budget back no matter what and you know what, IT IS ANNOYING. Nothing would make me happier than to see a good Happy Madison flick that is funny and heartwarming without coming off as obnoxious or aimed towards the type of people who love Honey Boo Boo. I know most of these people can do so much better and hopefully they get more work or have better material to work with. For now, I have to call it as it is and say that this is one of the worst films I have ever seen. It’s not the worst one, Mirror Mirror and The Green Hornet are so much worse, but it is terrible. All I have to say now is this: Adam Sandler, please come back. Please.

~Indie Princess

Ranked #1: Pixar From Worst to Best

Growing up, I loved the Walt Disney films. I idolised Ariel from The Little Mermaid and watched that movie every day, my family owned dozens of Disney animated films that I watched on a regular basis, and my favorite thing in the world was Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. However, my first film that I ever saw in theaters wasn’t a pure Disney film but from a studio derived from Disney: Pixar. 10 years later, I still clearly remember going to the theater with my mother and younger sister to see Finding Nemo. Everything from waiting in line to get tickets to the lights going down and even the popcorn box that little kids get with a still from the shark bait ho-ha-ha scene is still cemented in my mind. Being a little girl and seeing the wonder of a movie like this on a giant screen for the first time brought so much enchantment to me, and with the announcement of Finding Dory, along with the release of Monsters University, the prequel to another Pixar film that had an emotional grasp on me growing up (although a slightly different one,) it made me think about my opinions on the other Pixar films.

Pixar is (or at least used to be) the king of animation. Winning Oscar after Oscar, earning tons of critical praise, and most of their films being labeled classics. It, to me, is a perfect subject for my first installment of Ranked. As for all of the “Pixar’s reputation is being ruined with every new film while Disney/Dreamworks is coming back and possibly taking its place” assumptions, all I have to say is that I kind of agree but hopefully Inside Out (or whatever the movie about the inside of a girl’s head is called) brings it back to form (I know The Good Dinosaur is next on Pixar’s slate of releases but I could care less about it until the trailers out. Also screw Planes, I know it’s a strictly Disney spin-off/rip-off, but it’s a spin-off/rip-off of Cars so I’m still calling it out.) However, no matter what I’m still going to enjoy their films. I love Pixar and Disney and Dreamworks and most of the other animation companies (especially Laika) so as long they keep making quality films then I’m happy. Now enough with the rambling, let’s begin with the first installment of Ranked: Pixar Edition.

*Note: Along with my future installments of Ranked, my opinions on these films will be kind of short and maybe sweet, depending on what movie.  If you want to know more about my opinions of these films, you can find my past reviews (right now only of Monsters University) and future reviews somewhere else on my blog. Enjoy.

Haven’t Seen: Brave and Cars 2
Let’s start off with ones that I haven’t been able to create a logical opinion on. I have avoided these two like the plague because of the hatred/outrage that has come from both critics and fans. When a Pixar film ends up on a top 10 WORST list, you know your opinion is not going to be a nice one, and since there was a lot of fan outrage that Brave ended up winning best animated feature at the Oscars this year when Wreck-It Ralph (which I did see) was clearly superior, my weariness for a possibly overrated film has gone into overdrive. So for those reasons, I have not seen them and won’t be ranking them today.

11. Cars (2006)
 It was a cute film growing up but now all I can think of when I see it is "why?" I feel like this was an obvious gimmick just to sell toys with a tired storyline that has been used a thousand times before and will be used a thousand times in the future, but this time with zero twists in it to make it fresh and new. The characters are one-dimensional and bland, although only Mater annoyed me to no end. Overall it’s a typical kid’s flick that is obviously meant for young children and certainly did not deserve a sequel.

10. Wall-e (2008)
I never really got why this is considered one of Pixar's crown jewels and held up so highly as a masterpiece in both the animation and overall film world. I found it boring and mundane, with a shoehorned in plot about the evil Hal rip-off and the hammered in messages about keeping the earth clean and staying healthy. The only bright spot was the relationship between Wall-E and Eve, but the second half basically pushed it aside. Maybe now I will enjoy it more than I did when I was 10 but truly I have no desire to see it again.

9. Ratatouille (2007)
While I also don't understand Ratatouille's success, it makes a lot more sense than Wall-E. It was definitely a risk with stunning animation that mixed the realism of The Incredibles with the cartoonish factors of most Pixar films with a non-human protagonist, a gorgeous setting usually only found in French animated films, and complex characters you would most likely find in a dramatic Oscar-bait film, not an animated kids film. The problem though is that like Wall-e, it’s boring. It’s a film that if I do watch it, I need to drink something caffeinated beforehand so I don’t fall asleep. Unlike Wall-e, though, the pros at least make up for a larger part of the cons, but not much more.

8. Monsters University (2013)
I know, I know, I gave this film a four star rating BUT compared to the other 8 films listed, it’s a mixed bag. I have an entire review of this and since it is the only one of these films I have reviewed, I’ll keep this even briefer, but all I can say is that like Cars, it is definitely a more kid friendly than say the aforementioned Wall-e and Ratatouille. Does that make it bad? Well no, it has its moments of wonder that most Pixar films have and while it doesn’t live up to the original, it’s still fun with an amazing final act. However, its clichés and focus more on kiddie humor is its downfall, along with a certain reptilian monsters lack of development and misplacement in this film (yes I’m still pissed about that.) It’s the freshest in my mind of all these films, but it still crumbles compared to what’s coming up.

7. Toy Story (1995)
So like a few Pixar films on this list, this film scared me to death as a kid. Sid and his mutant toys gave me nightmares and like a lot of films that scared me back then like Harry Potter or The Muppets Wizard of Oz, I swore not to watch it. My impression of it now is blurry since it’s been years since I saw it in full, but it’s good for a first attempt. I’m not going to comment on the animation since it was the first computer animated film ever but the characters and story were great. It would be higher if I had seen this film a little while ago, but I have to base it on my knowledge from years ago and with that said, while it isn’t the best, it is a really wonderful film.

6. A Bug’s Life (1998)
I’ll admit it: I loved this movie growing up and I still love it now. I love bugs and bright colors and having them combine was the best thing ever for me as a kid. I know it’s one of the lesser Pixar films but to be honest, out of all the Pixar films, this is my biggest guilty pleasure. It’s a cute film! Really, when it comes to it, it is a film I love to see in repeat viewings, the animation is stunning, and the characters, especially the circus bugs, are great, if a little cliché. What lands it at number 6 though is that it is very childish. I know it’s a kid’s film but Pixar has shown a lot of maturity with films like Up and Finding Nemo and after Toy Story, this does look like a weak follow-up to many. However, to me it is fun and entertaining and I love it.

5. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Unlike the original, Toy Story 2 was a thing of beauty to the younger me. For starters, there was no toy baby head walking around on mechanical spider legs to give me nightmares, so it won me over faster than the first. Second, there was finally a character, a female character, I could love as much as my other childhood icons, Ariel and Kermit the Frog, something I didn’t really find with Woody and Buzz at the time. And finally, something I still love today, the story was something I could latch onto better than the one in the first Toy Story. There’s just this charm in Toy Story 2 that makes me come back and back again. Woody and Buzz are more fleshed out than they already were, which kind of seems impossible since they were so well-thought out in the first one, the animation looks so much better and while the humans still look wonky, everything else is just great, and most importantly, it is just a fun and sweet movie, just like the first one, except, at least to me, elevated to another level.

4. The Incredibles (2004)
Here’s another shocker: I hated this movie as a kid. I remember coming out of the theater bored and disappointed. It was a long movie and I just wasn’t into superheroes at the time, so I guess it was understandable.  I still can’t believe I use to not like this. I watch it every time it comes on TV, I love it that much. It really is the best superhero movie not based on a comic book. I can’t imagine this being a live action film, something Brad Bird originally wanted the script to be. It belongs only as an animated film, and it is a great one at that. The characters are perfect in the flawed, realistic kind of way, the script is witty and smart, and the animation is eye-popping and gorgeous. If it wasn’t for the running time, which still kind of bugs me today, and my bias towards other films, this would be higher than the number 4 spot but for what it truly is, it is an almost flawless film. All I have to say now is Pixar, if you have to make any more sequels, please, PLEASE make one for The Incredibles. You will make a lot of fans, including me, very happy.

3. Toy Story 3 (2010)
For anyone raised on Toy Story or Pixar for that matter, Toy Story 3, the hopefully final film in this franchise (don’t screw this up Pixar), was something that would bookend their childhood. We start off with Toy Story and end with Toy Story 3, and to be honest, despite not really loving the first one, the films got better and better as they went on, leading to this masterpiece. This is what I kind of wanted the first Toy Story to be. If only I had known that I would be getting to see that very film in theaters years later. I love this movie to bits. There is never a moment where boredom starts to set in, the twists and turns here are brilliant. All of the characters, new and old are at their bests, especially Woody. The emotional impact in this film is phenomenal, completing the cycle that Toy Story set in motion: the love you have for your toys even when you get new, shinier ones, making way for new toys to play with and love, and finally being able to move on and give them up for whatever reason so that someone else can have those memories. Hopefully this is the end, not because then I would never see another Toy Story, but because then something extremely close of a perfect trilogy is complete and untouched by something like an unneeded sequel, something that Toy Story 3 is most definitely not.

2. Up (2009)
If the first 10 minutes of this movie was just it, then this movie would be my number one. I still cry at those 10 minutes, starting from the part with Ellie and Carl at the doctors (something that confused me when I first saw it but I now sadly understand,) and to ending when we cut to present day. That opening is one of the bests in my opinion. This film has a heart of gold with many tearful moments and scenarios that will connect with the viewer. It does the perfect balancing act of being a kid’s film that is also geared for adults. I find it interesting that out of all the possibilities, the second Pixar protagonist was an old man, but that creativity is what I love about Pixar, they think outside the box with their films and this is almost the epitome of that creativity. My only reason it is not number one is that, like Toy Story 3 and The Incredibles, I am biased towards my number one choice but despite that, I still find this a flawless film and one of the many Pixar films that I believe will be regarded as classics.

1. Monsters Inc. (2001) and Finding Nemo (2003)
One enchanted me when I was little; the other scared the living daylights out of me when I was little. Now, being almost an adult, they both are some of the most creative, beautiful, and well-made animated movies, let alone movies, I have ever seen.  Everything about these films are insanely perfect, from their characters to their visuals to their re-watch value.
 I’ll start off with Finding Nemo; as I said in the beginning, this was the first film I had seen in theaters. That connection may make me a little biased, but for good reason. It is an extraordinary film. The friendship between Marlin and Dory is hysterical and well-thought, especially since unlike most male/female friendships in film, they don’t end up becoming more than friends which is pretty great. More important though is the relationship between Marlin and his son Nemo, which is handled extremely well. If Up gives us a great view of a friendship between two unlikely people, then Finding Nemo gives us a great view of a relationship between a father and son who are completely different. Marlin’s persistence is incredible and shows just how far that any parent would go to make sure their child is safe. The visuals are the best I have seen from Pixar and story is well-paced and done well. When people say what their favorite Pixar film is, most of the people I know have said this and I can completely understand.

Now for Monsters Inc. Oh Monster Inc, how you have damaged me. I was terrified of this film because, well, I was and still am scared of everything, and for a while I just could not watch this film. Nowadays, it is the one Pixar film that I watch over and over again. My love for this film is indescribable. This is the funniest of all the Pixar films, with almost all of the jokes hitting its target, especially when coming from the voices of John Goodman and Billy Crystal. The characters are three-dimensional and wonderful and their designs are brilliant. The monsters are all well-designed and the visuals, while not as great as the ones in Finding Nemo, are still beautiful to look at, especially the chase scene in the door vault. Most of all, the friendships between both Sulley and Mike and Sulley and Boo are great in their own ways. Even without the prequel, Mike and Sulley’s friendship seems real, like they have been friends for a while and even though you don’t see it, you go with it because they are portrayed perfectly as best friends. Better yet, the friendship between Sulley and Boo is sweet and seeing how far a usually terrifying monster will go to return a little girl, something he initially is scared of, is heartwarming. On my list of favorite films ever, this is nice and cozy at the fifth place spot and I don’t see it moving anytime soon.

Overall, my favorites are my favorites because they showcase what Pixar does best: making films geared for kids but that have a great payoff for the older audience members. My hopes for a better future when it comes to Pixar films stay a little brighter whenever I see those two films, hell whenever I see my top 5/6 favorites, and hopefully that soon happens so that I can be proud to say that Pixar is the best with no doubt in my mind.

What is your ranking of the Pixar films? Any hate you want to throw my way for not putting Wall-E or Toy Story 1, 2, and/or 3 as number 1? Tell me in the comments and I hope to see you around some other time. Enjoy my other reviews and I will have more up soon. Thanks and bye!

~Indie Princess

Monday, July 8, 2013

Update: July Reviews, Ranked, and Hello Russia!

First of all, hello reader! It’s been a whil..ok it’s been a week but still hi! I would first like to say thank you to the 100 and so people who have checked out this blog. I really thought no one was going to look at it for a second but knowing that 108 people have is awesome. I love it though that this week alone most of the traffic from this blog is from Russia. I just find that amazing. Hello anyone from Russia who is reading this! I know nothing about Russia honestly, but I do know that it is the largest country in the world, that the first man to journey into space hailed from there, that Saint Basil’s Cathedral is there, and that Tilda Swinton was/is currently there. That’s good enough for now!

So I am here to update anyone who wants to know about what I am currently working on and what will be posted over the month. If you don’t really care or are new to my blog, then scroll down and read some of my reviews and ignore this. But if you do want to know, then sit back and enjoy my ramblings.

I am currently aiming for about 6 more reviews this month. Right now, here are the film’s I am hoping to review Looper, Spring Breakers, Billy Madison, Con Air, The Place Beyond The Pines, and The Prestige. Looper is the next one that will be up. It will be up sometime this week, along with possibly my review of Spring Breakers and a ranking of the Pixar films I have seen (which I’ll talk about in a moment.) Along with those 6, I am probably going to see a movie in the near future so a review of either Despicable Me 2 (ugh) or Grown Ups 2 (infinity ugh) will be up when I see it. Also, as I will say in my Looper review, I attempted to watch The Three Musketeers from 2011 and I, to put it lightly, could not go through another hour and a half of torture, but I will attempt to watch it again and get through so that I can review it. The other 5 films that I will hopefully see and review that I probably won’t get to until they come out on DVD or, in the best case, August are Pacific Rim, The Heat, World War Z, R.I.P.D, and The To-Do List but if I do get to them, they will also be up.

Now, I am also staring another thing besides my movie reviews. I will start doing a little thing called Ranked where I will be ranking the films of a certain actor, actress, director, or studio from best to worst (at least the ones I have seen.) My first one, which will be about Pixar, will be up sometime after my Looper and/or my Spring Breakers review so hopefully you will check it out when it arrives.

gain, thank you for reading, I really appreciate it. Hopefully you keep reading and enjoying my reviews. Also, if you want, request some movies for me to review, that would be great! Thanks for sticking around through this update and I hope to see you back soon. Bye!

~Indie Princess

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Impostors Review

The Impostors (1998) Review

Starring: Oliver Platt, Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina, Tony Shalhoub, Lili Taylor, Campbell Scott

They truly don’t make movies like this anymore. All you need to know to make this statement true is this: one of the first lines in this film is “You stole my death.” I mean, name one movie that spends the opening credits in complete silence with a slapstick fight that feels like it was pulled straight from a Marx Brothers routine, or a movie that introduces events through title cards, or even an ensemble film that actually gives every major character in it a moment or more to shine? The answer is The Impostors, a late nineties indie comedy from Stanley Tucci in his solo directorial debut. This is a gem of a film: quirky, unexpected, and best of all, funny. How this film has slipped under the radar is mystery, although I can guess why: The Impostors, in all its hilarious glory, is not a movie for everyone. Its sense of humor is one that would not satisfy those who find Grown Ups or Knocked Up or any film of those sorts funny. The sense of humor here is one that feels strange at first, with its offbeat comedy that feels like it belongs in a film from the 20’s than one made less than 20 years ago, but for those who give it a chance, they will be rewarded with something unforgettable. There’s no gross out humor, no fart jokes, no jokes that are aimed to offend (unless you get easily offended by characters portrayed as either terrorists, in some aspects of the word, or suicidal nuts), but it still gives off a warmth that so many movies now a days lack. It’s funny, it’s charming, it makes you care about character’s that would be used as poorly written comedic devises in mainstream comedies, it’s suspenseful, it’s fearful, it makes you laugh, gasp, and clap, it’s joyful, it celebrates love, life, and death all at the same time. It’s a hidden gem in all sense of the word.

Let’s start off with the plot. The story follows best friends Arthur, played by Stanley Tucci, and Maurice, played by Oliver Platt, two failed actors who do whatever than can for a performance. They do some knife play in an outdoor café, they audition for a play directed by Woody Allen, and they pretend to play good customer/rude customer with a bakery owner in order to get some pastries. None of these work for an abundant of reasons: Maurice steals Arthur’s “death,” the director’s wife takes her money out of the production, and Maurice, playing the rude customer, ends up protecting the baker after Arthur takes his bit too far and instead of pastries, gets tickets to a performance of Hamlet starring Jeremy Burtom, played by Alfred Molina, an overrated actor in their opinion. After getting in a scuffle with Burtom at a bar and being branded as criminals, they hide in a crate to get away from police. When they wake up the next morning, they find out they are on an ocean liner set for Paris. There, they must not only hide from Burtom, but also stop a New York couple posing as francophones from killing 2 of the richest passengers on board AND stop the first mate from blowing up the ship. Along the way we are introduced to several quirky characters, including the perky activities director, a German steward who is aggressively in love with her, an aging gay tennis player, a suicidal lounge singer, a broke widow looking for a rich husband, her depressed daughter, and a veiled queen.

Where do I begin? First off, unlike ensemble comedies of late, like Valentine’s Day and Tower Heist, each character, no matter how big the role gets their moment to shine. These little sub-plots are formed throughout the film and as they all come together, they never felt shoehorned in. Yes, there was at least one (the romance between the captain and the veiled queen) that made me think “when and why did that happen?” but the rest, from the couple’s plans to off the widow and a shriek to the romance between the activities director, Lily, and Marco, an Italian dectective who is sent to find Arthur and Maurice, feel natural and supported. The main plot in the film though is how Arthur and Maurice are going to save everyone on the ship, and with everything going on it would get pushed aside in other films. This is not the case here. Maurice and Arthur;s storylines stay the central parts of the story. While they are included more in the first half of the film, due to the fact that none of the other characters are introduced until they end up on the boat, even when all of these subplots are introduced, the friendship between Maurice and Arthur and their plan to stop the deaths of not only 2 people, but an entire ship of people is still in the forefront of the film. You care about these characters and their friendship even though you know barely anything about them. You don’t know how they met or how they became friends, their lives before the events in the movie, how they have gotten to this point in their lives, their past relationships, or even their last names…and yet you still care about them. They are really likeable characters who you route for throughout the film. Unlike the friendship in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (a film I would kind of like to forget,) when something bad happens (which I won’t spoil) I got really upset because the characters are written so well that you don’t want what happens to be real. Their antics are great and their final plan in order to stop the crooks is great. I cared for the well-being of most of the characters and the downfall of the others, something that is rare for me to feel. The jokes barely ever fall flat. The sense of humor is a mixture of dark and out-there, going out with a literal bang with a very ambiguous ending that left me laughing and wondering “what the hell just happened?” There are several great jokes here that had me laughing my butt off, from Meistrich, the German steward, saying that killing a man is really not that hard to the lounge singer sobbing his way through “The Nearness Of You.” Even the jokes that break the fourth wall, something I usually despise in comedies, work perfectly, especially the one during the end credits that had me in stitches. It’s a comedy, that’s for sure, and it is not shy with saying that it is one.

Now for the characters. Arthur and Maurice are great characters with established personalities. They are both motivated in the beginning to become successful actors and in the second half to stop the ship from being blown to smithereens. Tucci and Platt are great in their roles with very honest and hilarious portrayals. If I continued on about them, I would just be repeating myself so I’ll move onto the rest of the characters. Alfred Molina is at his douchiest as the pompous drunk that is Jeremy Burtom. Playing a character that I have seen compared to John Barrymore, he is a very unredeemable character who overreacts to an injury the two leads didn’t even cause. He isn’t a likeable character, but Molina does great work making him a funny character. Some of his lines are just perfect for the character that is being portrayed; stuck-up, arrogant, and totally full of himself.  He is a great villain. The best character and portrayal of their character though has to be from Campbell Scott as Meistrich. Oh my god is this guy funny. As the German steward I mentioned earlier, he has so many great moments and lines, the most memorable being,  “You are a wild beast and I must tame you.” Every time he was on screen I was cracking up and made an already great film even better. The rest of the cast is brilliant. There’s Billy Connoly, in all his awesomeness, as Sparks, the openly gay tennis player who has a great moment as he chases down Oliver Platt in drag (don’t ask), Lili Taylor as Lily, the activities director that helps Maurice and Arthur out throughout the film, Dana Ivey as Mrs. Essendine, a widow who is desperate to find a rich husband (the term drop dead before they he/she gets here gets a brand new meaning), Steve Buscemi as the suicidal lounge singer with the most ironic name in the film (the suicidal guy is named Happy. Let that sink in for a moment..), Hope Davis as Ivey’s depressed daughter Emily who ends up falling in love with the equally depressed Happy, Tony Shalhoub as Voltri, the terrorist on board who, in one of the creepier moments of the film, dry humps a bed to sound of his lovers voice, Alison Janney and Richard Jenkins as Maxine and Johnny, the murderous pair of lovers, and Matt McGrath as Marco, the detective on board who is also vying (in his case successfully) for Lily’s love, who also spouts one of the best lines in the film. There is not a weak link the cast and everyone gives performances that are near to extremely perfect.

The only other thing that I need to talk about is something that I don’t usually talk about. It is the subject and message the movie is most trying to convey. The thing about this movie is that it’s not truly about one thing. It is a comedy but it spends a lot of time on the subject of love and death. The final line in this film is “To life and it’s many deaths.” The ending is extremely ambiguous, with the outcome of the character’s, at least in my opinion, a questionable one. If you exclude the main plot (the friends trying to stop the murders of 2 characters and the bombing of the ship,) death is handled a lot in this movie. For starters, Happy attempts to kill himself at least 4 times in this movie, Emily’s father is recently deceased and it has affected her and her mother in very different ways, and one of the main characters is apparently killed in one scene. One of the more poignant of quotes in this film comes from Emily, during the scene when her mother is discussing her husband’s death and she, in her corner of the room, deadpans, that “We don’t find death. It finds us.” The angle of how death affects us and how it makes us react is one I found interesting. However, there is the theme of love as well. Everyone seems to have a love interest in this film, except for the two leads: Miss Essendine spends most of the film looking for a, for a lack of a better term, sugar daddy, Lily and Marco are infatuated with each other throughout the film, with their conclusion being a sweet but hilarious one, Meistrich spends the time he doesn’t spend looking for the stowaways aggressively hitting on Lily, Sparks hits on Maurice several times when he is both in and out of drag, Happy’s suicidal tendencies are because of his wife, who left him for his agent, Emily ends up falling in love with Happy because just like her, he is obviously depressed, Maxine and Johnny are extremely in love, so in love that they will kill to give themselves a great life, and one of Volti’s motivations for blowing up the ship is so that he can be with his love, Regina. Another poignant quote here is from Happy, who tells Emily when she begs him to not want to die that people are afraid of several things, but that people should fear love because “Love is real and it is terrifying. If you are going to be afraid, be afraid when someone says I love you.” That is also a true message: love is a very scary thing but as the character’s storyline progresses, they learn that you have to face their fears. While love is scary, like all of your fears you must face them. On the other hand, death is something that will affect everyone someday in their life and how we react to tragedies sets in motion how the rest of our lives will go. I don’t know what is the message of this film, but both of these theories are ones that could fit to this movie very well.

I haven’t seen a movie this good since Perks of Being a Wallflower (except maybe The Place Beyond the Pines, but I’m still digesting that one.)  Comedies nowadays are not as good as this (at least the ones I have seen.) You care about the characters, you never see the next twist or turn in the road, the jokes are always coming, and overall it’s an extremely interesting film. I will be wondering for a while why this film isn’t considered a classic like Groundhogs Day and The Big Lebowski, but then again I already know the answer to this: this film is not one that will satisfy every comedy fan. We are used to films with over-the-top humor that is more about what the characters do than the characters themselves. Your average moviegoer would probably hate this movie, with its title cards and satiric comedy of performers from the 20’s to 40’s and 6 minutes of silence at the start. Really, the reason many people have not seen The Artist (another great movie) is because it is completely silent until the very end. Not many would stick around after The Impostors opening credits and if they did another part would leave because this movie has a sense of humor that not many would like. But you know what I say? See it. See a hidden gem that so many would just skip over. I give kudos to Stanley Tucci (who I forget to mention also wrote this movie), Oliver Platt, and the rest of the cast and crew for making a great work of art.  It truly is something you need to see for yourself. If you are interested in seeing this (which I highly recommend you do), look it up on Google or whatever search engine you use and try to find it. Give it a try and who knows. Maybe you will love it.

~Indie Princess

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Burlesque Review

Burlesque (2010) Review

Starring: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Kristin Bell, Julianne Hough, Stanley Tucci

Guilty pleasure: something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. That, my friends, is the exact feeling I have when I think about this movie. Why, WHY do I like it so much?! It uses the same old plot clichés we have seen done a million times before! It has character archetypes like “the small town girl with big town dreams” and “the sass but wise mentor” and “the bitchy rival!” It stars Christina Aguilera and Cher for god’s sake! I should not like this! I know a lot of people didn’t like it: 36% from critics and a barely fresh average of 63% from users on Rotten Tomatoes, it didn’t even make its budget back, and it was so bad that people believe that one of its stars bribed the Hollywood Foreign Press for a couple Golden Globe nominations. It’s not even good in a campy way or in the way people find films like Moulin Rouge enjoyable (note to self, watch Moulin Rouge.) So…why do I like it? The again, people like The Green Hornet and Mirror, Mirror and I hate those films with a fiery passion so I’m not THAT weird…right? RIGHT?!

First off, the plot. The film is about Ali, a small town girl living in a lonely world, who takes a midnight train going anywhere. Sorry couldn’t resist, but it’s true! It’s like the writer listened to “Don’t Stop Believing” and thought “hey let’s make THAT the basis of the story! Except change the train to a bus and anywhere to LA since no one takes trains anymore and who doesn’t want to follow their dreams in LA?” Anyways, she heads to LA where she ends up working at a Burlesque house creatively named “The Burlesque Lounge.” There she meets an assortment of colorful characters, mainly Tess, the stern but loveable boss lady and Jack, the bartender who ends up becoming a love interest. She soon climbs her way to the top of the dancer pool with her amazing voice and both she and Tess must save the club from being shut down.

Yep it’s THAT story again. Actually scratch that, this film doesn’t have a set storyline, just a mish-mash of side plots that go no-where that form into somewhat of a vanity project for Aguilera. It isn’t a “make it to the big time” story because while she does become the star of the show, Ali does not become a star elsewhere like she planned on doing. It’s not a “save the bar” story because the conclusion to that arc is so simple that they could have just done that and their problems would have solved. It’s not a story about love because the love triangle, if that’s what you would like to call it, is shoehorned into the plot to add more conflict. It’s not a rivalry story because the rival is barely in it and the only mean things they do to each other are talk behind their back and stop the music while they are performing. Oh and say that the other’s a man. Can’t forget that! And finally, it is barely a musical because the songs are spaced out as such: 2 songs sung at the start, a bunch of lip-synced songs, Christina Aguilera doing her thing for 4 songs straight with a little bit of filler, a Cher song and another Christina song before the story kicks back in, and then a song at the very end (along with one at the end, all of which I will get to later.) To me, a musical consists of more than 2 characters singing the song so I feel that while it has songs, it’s more of a lengthy Christina Aguilera music video. So if it’s not any of those, then what is it? Well, it’s Burlesque! That’s all I really can say. It’s not a very structured film but the weirdness of it all fascinates me. It doesn’t do everything right, with some elements like the rivalry between Christina and Kristin Bell’s character hanging from the waist side, and the script is weak and gives nothing to some great actor’s, but it is an odd little journey into the world of burlesque dancers. Despite my fascination with it though, the story and script is the weakest part of the film.

Now as for the cast….well the film has a very impressive cast. Sadly the weakest link is its star. Christina Aguilera is a great singer, better than I will ever be, but when it comes to her as actress… she’s ok. She’s not a putrid as fellow singers turned actresses Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, and Taylor Swift, but for every good moment she has, there is another 3 moments that range from “that was terrible delivery” to “please never act again!” While I am not a fan of her off screen persona, being one of the many not liking the fact that she and her giant fans will be returning to The Voice, her voice is something to envy while her acting is ok, but not terrible. Cher, one of the most successful singer/actresses ever, is pretty good as Tess. She brings a lot more to the table than Aguilera, having won an Oscar and all, and she still has got the acting talent she had in the 80’s. Her singing voice and lip-synching aren’t great though. Her big solo in the middle of the film is terribly dubbed and the ending of her first song looked extremely lip-synched. The rest of the cast is impressive. Julianne Hough, as much as I hate her being pushed so far into the pop culture world (thanks for that Seacrest), actually does well in her small role. Cam Gigandet, aka James from the first Twilight, is cute and while he isn’t the best actor, he has some good moments. Eric Dane….got on my nerves but I don’t expect much from Dr. McSteamy. Alan Cumming is barely in the film and I don’t know why he is part of the top billed cast, but his little routine in the middle was funny. The best part though is Stanley Tucci. Come on its Stanley freaking Tucci! While his character is similar to the one he played in The Devil Wears Prada, he is hilarious and brings a lot of warmth to the film that if it wasn’t there, then it would be unwatchable. As for Kristen Bell, she has her moments but some of her scenes, especially her big confrontation with Cher, are just terrible. Kristen, I like you, you are making me believe in love again, but please never try to play a bitch again.

The music is the only other bit I should talk about because it is marketed as a damn musical. I like a lot of the songs, but I will begin with the ones I disliked: The Beautiful People, Guy That Takes His Time, and Something’s Got a Hold on Me. Something’s Got a Hold on Me is the very first song of the movie, a cover of the Etta James song of the same name. It felt very unnecessary to me. What did this song add to the film? Sure it introduces Aguilera’s pipes to the world but really it could have just been cut so that when Aguilera sings for the first time during Tough Lover, we to would be in awe, just like the rest of the characters. On the plus side, though, it made the sample from Good Feeling even less original. Guy That Takes His Time is a nice jazzy number in the part of the movie I like to call, “Christina Aguilera’s decides to be different performers for 20 minutes straight.” Here, she pretends to be Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Etta James (again), and my personal favorite, Austin Powers! Yes, at the end of this song, she is completely nude but they cover her breasts and pubic region with a drum stand holding two drums and a cowbell. If you haven’t seen the second Austin Powers movie, you will have no idea why this is a reference to anything. The song is nice, that’s for sure, but is ruined by the cartoon sound effects used during the performance. It wasn’t needed and if they were gone, I would have really liked it better. And finally, my thoughts on The Beautiful People…..ugh, why?!  It feels like the producers needed a song for the end credits and someone came up with the BRILLIANT idea of sampling a Marilyn Manson song. Yeah, burlesque dancers and Marilyn Manson fit PERFECTLY together……...oh right, that happened. In all seriousness though, this song does not fit into the film. A sample of a song about making it to the top or being a star would have worked better than a song that references the Will to Power. Making it a upbeat BPM version is just unnecessary. I really could have been fine without it existing. As for the rest, they range from ok to great. I found Cher’s first song, Welcome To Burlesque, fine. It was catchy but there could have been a lot more to it. Express (the Madonna portion of that 20 minute time) is also a catchy number but lacks the grandiose level of memorability that I felt But I’m A Good Girl and Show Me How You Burlesque had. It felt like a standard pop song that you would hear on the radio in between a rap and bubblegum pop song. Bound To You is a nice ballad with a good set up (even if it completely steals from Cabaret) but compared to the power that is You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me, it lacks. Finally, the most mediocre is Tough Lover, another Etta James cover, that never quite got my attention and ran with it. When you start off a song with Aguilera belting her lungs out before going into a jazzy song, it just doesn’t fit. Now for the good ones: But I’m A Good Girl, You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me, and Show Me How You Burlesque. But I’m A Good Girl, the Marilyn Monroe of the group, is a sultry number full of bounce and lightness, Aguilera’s falsetto working perfectly as she proudly states, “I am a good girl.” Show Me how You Burlesque is the showstopper and it is the song that I have listened to over and over again. It’s jazzy, it shows off Aguilera’s pipes, and the theatrics of the number are ginormous, complete with a giant sign reading “Burlesque.” But it’s You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me is the one that brings the house down. The ain in Cher’s voice is evident and as she belted the final chorus, I couldn’t help but think, “oh my god” It is the best song from the soundtrack and the film.

So, let’s see why I enjoy this movie so much. The characters are archetypes, but Cher, Hough, and Tucci are pretty good, especially the latter. Some of the songs are horrid, but the songs I love, I love with a passion. The performances are fun and I was invested with the romance until Jack turned out to be a lying jerk. And well, it’s a fun film. So why do I like it so much to give it a four? Well, all I have to say is that it is my guilty pleasure. No one knows why they like guilty pleasures, unless it’s The Room because the reason you like The Room is because it is so hilariously terrible. That’s just the thing with guilty pleasures: you feel guilty for liking them. People don’t consider movies like Leprechaun, Grease 2, Con Air, or in some cases Moulin Rouge good because they ARE good; their good in the way that makes you wonder what has lead you to this.  In the words of the Nostalgia Critic’s Moulin Rouge review: guilty pleasures: everybody has a few. Sure this movie isn’t perfect, far from it. But it has a charm that just makes me like it. Does that make me a bad person? You be the judge….

~Indie Princess

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) Review

Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini, Jim Carrey

Oh PG-13 comedies, how you have scorned me over the years. Sure, the genre has given the world Pitch Perfect, Easy A, and the highly underrated City Island, but you have also given it All About Steve, The Green Hornet, and almost all of Adam Sandler’s film of late. Really, is it that hard to make a funny comedy while staying away from excessive uses of profanity, gore, or, something the MPAA loves to hammer down on, nudity or sex? Well hey! Maybe The Incredible Burt Wonderstone can give me some hope! Look at the cast: Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin. Those are some big names in comedy. What could possibly go wrong with them on board? Weeeelll….a lot. A lot can go wrong.

The premise is pretty much the Will Ferrell movie Mad Lib. (insert famous comedian) plays (insert weird character name), a powerful/famous/big-time (insert odd occupation) who (insert bad personality trait) He is on top of the world when (insert something that hinders them) causing him to fall from grace. He must learn from his mistakes and win the (insert event that will give him back his power), along with the help of (insert love interest) and (insert miscallanous sidekick/role model/etc.) Pretty much if you filled in the plot of Burt Wonderstone into this you would get the following result: Steve Carell plays Burt Wonderstone, a famous magician who is a complete dick. He is on top of the world when a new magician, Steve Gray, steals his audience, his partner, Anton, leaves him and the act, and he gets fired from his job performing at a big hotel. He must learn from his mistakes and win the contest his former boss is holding to decide which magician will headline at his new hotel with the help of his assistant Jane and his idol Rance Holloway. Hijinks ensue!

Yeah if you have seen Blades of Glory, Semi Pro, or any of Will Ferrell’s other films from the 2000’s, then you have seen this movie before. You will know what will happen as the movie progresses, that’s how cliché it is. Sure, the magician angle is pretty original. The homages to street magicians Criss Angel and David Blaine in the form of Jim Carrey’s character and to old school magicians in the form of both of the Steve’s characters are cool. And even some of the tricks are cool (specifically the Hangman trick at the beginning of Burt and Anton’s show.) But we’ve seen this all before. Guys a jerk, he falls from grace, he has to redeem himself, lather, rinse, and repeat. But of course what a comedy lacks in originality has to make up for with great jokes and heart? Yeah no. I chuckled a few times during this movie, mainly whenever Jim Carrey came on screen and the 3 jokes I counted that take a shot at Steve Buscemi’s character’s looks (Side note: I’m sorry for laughing at that, please don’t kill me Steve!) but most of them fall flat on its face. As for heart, well there is some at the end but most of the time any heart or likeability is sucked away by Carrell’s characters ego. It has its moments, sure, but the ones that hurt the movie hurt it badly.

Now for what is going to be my favorite part of this review: ripping into Steve Carell’s character. I am not a fan of Steve Carell only because he doesn’t seem like a likeable person in real life. When I watch interviews for other comedians like Will Ferrell, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, and even Adam Sandler, I think “they seem really cool and down to earth. I would love to hang out with them.” Carell, on the other hand, doesn’t. I don’t know what makes me dislike him so much but for whatever reason I just find him unlikeable. However, this does not stop me from watching his films. I’ve only seen this and Dinner for Schmucks, and even though it’s a mediocre at best film, I liked him in it. In Burt Wonderstone, though, he is SO UNLIKEABLE. His character is a complete jerk and not even a likeable jerk. You never sympathise with him. When he loses his best friend, you don’t care. When he loses his job and suite, you don’t care. When he ends up broke, living in a cheap motel and working at an old folks home, YOU DON’T CARE. There is nothing redeemable about this character and Carell does not help a bit. If maybe he made Burt likeable then we could have been invested in his story. But no, we get a jerk who is a jerk for no reason and who only goes through a change cause the script calls for it. The rest of the cast, while they are more likeable than Carell’s character, don’t have much either. Steve Buscemi, one of my favorite actors, who plays Anton is barely in it and when he is, he doesn’t add anything. He does a good job and it is refreshing to see him play a nice guy for a change but anyone could have played that role. Olivia Wilde is likeable as Burt and Anton’s assistant but while she too does a good job, she adds nothing and is only there to serve as the mandatory love interest. Alan Arkin, who plays Rance Holloway, is good in his scenes (I’m just going to state he that that’s going to be a recurring theme for this paragraph) but he is barely in it and adds nothing (another recurring theme). Even when *SPOILER ALERT* his character has a freaking stroke, it doesn’t serve anything to the plot, we never see how he recovers from it so that he could participate in the ending, and it just disappears after the scene is over. The late great James Gandolfini is in this movie (what ended up being his last film before he died) as Burt and Anton's boss, but he is only there to serve as part of the conflict. And as for Jim Carrey….well he’s the best character in this film. Every time he was on screen I laughed and then cringed because his character is nuts, then laughed again. Sadly though he is barely in it. Hopefully Kick Ass 2 helps him get the comeback he deserves (even though his latest twitter antics may hinder it.)

As I said before the jokes are hit and miss. The first third of the film I laughed a lot, mainly because the jokes worked with the situation and it didn’t (usually) go for a cheap laugh. However, as soon as Anton leaves, it became boring and unfunny. Some jokes worked well (specifically when Alan Arkin asks Jim Carrey “What the f*ck is a dream-reality?”) others are just lame. There were some good scenes during the last 2 thirds (especially the one where Burt and Jane, Olivia Wilde’s character, are walking down the Vegas strip talking about their lives growing up as magicians) but others are cringe worthy (mainly the hot coals scene and when Burt and Anton reunite. Fake, over-the-top crying never made me cringe so much.) With that being said, I liked almost all of the tricks in the film. The Hangman trick at the beginning is incredible, it was interesting seeing how the sword through the box trick worked, and most of Jim Carrey character’s tricks, especially the first one with the card, were frightening. No wonder his character’s nickname was the Brain Rapist. The ending tricks for both Jim Carrey’s Steve Gray and Burt and Anton (which I won’t spoil) are great. Steve Gray’s made me cringe until I couldn’t feel my shoulders, and then laugh at the aftermath. As for Burt and Anton’s it was something that would amaze me if it happened to me in real life. It was a great trick that deserved to be the final trick of the film.

Now I am not asking much when it comes to comedies, especially PG-13 ones. I am not a huge fan of gross out humor so seeing a good comedy without it would be great! TV seems to have gotten it right, with some of my favorite shows being Arrested Development, Portlandia, and Raising Hope. All I want is for a film to make me laugh because really, nothing is worse than an unfunny comedy, except maybe an not scary horror movie. After seeing the trailer for this, I hoped to god that this wouldn’t disappoint but sadly it did, only getting a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, making around 22 million at the box office, and getting beaten on its opening weekend by The Call. Now, 3 months after its release, my instinct was kind of right. It’s enjoyable at best, cringe worthy at its worse, the actors, even if they have little to do, are good, the jokes that work work, and if you can get past the oversized ego of its title character, it does a good enough job. Maybe someday it will become a cult hit with a big fanbase or a film that will get a lot more attention on Netflix, but for now it is what it is: a sometimes funny film, other times a waste of time. It’s a good enough watch if you feel like having a lazy day or you’re sick and you need to shut your brain off, but it isn’t something I would watch again. You win this round comedy hell….

~Indie Princess

Man of Steel Review

Man of Steel (2013) Review

Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue

Let me start off by saying that I am more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan. I’m saying this just so if any DC fans find this and write comments like “You just don’t get it!” then they will know that I do, at least to some extent. While I have only seen 2 DC movies (this and The Dark Knight Rises) and 2 Marvel movies (Thor and The Avengers), I own both Batman: Arkham City and Injustice: Gods Among Us, I own a bunch of DC comics, and my favorite superhero is Batman. I just find the DC universe more intriguing than Marvel. Marvel to me seems more kid-friendly, especially with their movies, while DC is dark and gritty. Nothing wrong with that! BUT, when it comes to the film adaptations of these comics, my thoughts on them are mixed.

If you exclude Man of Steel, Thor, out of all of them, is the best, then The Dark Knight Rises, and then The Avengers. Yes, I’m part of the minority that dislikes The Avengers. I just find it extremely overrated and I have no idea why it is held in such a high regard as “the best comic book movie ever!” Now, I am one of the dozens of fanboys/fangirls who freaked out every time a Man of Steel trailer popped up online. I desperately wanted this movie to be a success, critically and financially. I wanted it to kick The Avengers ass at the box office and be considered a great comic book film just like The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and the second X-Men movie. My excitement grew as the premiere drew nearer and nearer. I watched the live premiere from New York, got my Superman shirt ready, and read/watched as many reviews as possible. However, I was shocked to find that it wasn’t doing as well as I thought it would. The film was certified rotten at 56% percent on Rotten Tomatoes, most of the reviews I read/watched said it was disappointing, and it was considered more a typical action movie than a great comic book movie. After I saw it, I loved it. Then I thought about it more and more and while I still like it, I now recognize its many, many flaws.

Let’s begin with the plot. It’s the basic origin story. Protagonist goes through an experience that defines who they are (Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman is sent to Earth, finds out he is from a different planet), decides to use their abilities to help the world, a villain emerges to take over the city and/or world (General Zod comes down from space with his cronies to capture Superman and turn Earth into Krypton 2.0), protagonist and villain battle, etcetera.  The script feels like a rehash of what The Dark Knight was. Judging by the fact that David S. Goyer, the writer of the Dark Knight trilogy, also wrote this, that conclusion seems a lot more plausible. The difference though is that from what I’ve heard, The Dark Knight didn’t have the final 40-60 minutes become a ginormous action fest. Just like almost every other reviewer, I disliked how time that maybe could have been spent on developing these characters was spent destroying Smallville and Metropolis. I never cared for the characters because the script spent so much time throwing as much as action as possible at the audience. It felt like it was trying too hard to wipe the fact that Superman Returns had barely any action. And even when there isn’t any action it was SO boring. I left twice during the film because I just needed to do something better with my time. The Dark Knight Rises did that at times, but it never made me feel like leaving. To add to this, there are so many over-the-top moments and dialogue that just feels out of place. The only reason I actually thought about sticking around  and not waiting outside for my sister and her friends for the next hour and a half is because Michael Shannon was in the movie and I wanted to see how he did (I’ll get to that later.) However, there were some good moments, specifically the opening at Krypton. You know how when writing books your opening line has to be able to hook the reader in? Well, if the opening scene to Man of Steel was a novel’s hook, then I would have continued reading. Just like how Monsters University’s third act effected my rating drastically, the opening scene here is the reason that I gave this film another half of a star. I didn’t mind the tornado scene as much as other people did and some of the action is pretty good, even if it was excessive.  Overall, despite some good moments, the story and script is the second weakest part of the movie.

Acting wise, to me the film doesn’t have ok performances: there are only good performances and bad performances. Henry Cavill as Clark/Kal/Supes was forgettable. I remember nothing about him because, like all of the actors in this movie, he has no character to inhabit. Maybe if there was more of a character then Henry could have shone, or maybe he is just not a good enough actor. I haven’t seen any of his other work to know this so I can’t really judge on that criteria but I can say that out of all the actors, he wins the award for most forgettable. Who wins for the blandest actor? Amy Adams. I am not a fan of her work. I haven’t seen any of her Oscar-nominated roles, but judging on Enchanted, The Muppet Movie, Leap Year, Julie and Julia, and now Man of Steel, she to me is a very overrated actress. Lois Lane could have just been removed completely from the story and no one except Superman extremists would have cared, partly because of her performance. Lois Lane is spunky, always wanting to get the scoop no matter what. Adams plays her as another bland damsel in distress. She isn’t Lois Lane; she is really Mary Jane Watson from the original Spider Man films. To me, Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner were the best actors in this film. Jor-El and Jonathan Kent are the perfect father figures that Superman needed: wise, brave, and willing to give up everything just so their son is safe. Every time they came on screen, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did, considering that the last film I saw Russell Crowe in was Les Miserables and I suffered through half of Waterworld. They were the MVP’s to me. Someone else who also surprised me in a good way was german actress Antje Traue, a relative unknown who’s only other notable credit is in Pandorum. She almost stole the show from Costner and Crowe (side note: that kind of sounds like a wine to me) as Faora, one of Zod’s cronies and the best out of all the villians. She was intense, intimidating, and everything Zod should have been. Please Hollywood, put her more movies. I would appreciate it very much if she didn’t float off into non-existence. Speaking of someone who I hope doesn’t float off into non-existence, let’s talk about the reason I didn’t make an escape plan out of the theater, Michael Shannon. I was hoping that he would do great in this film and while he probably has a bright future in Hollywood (if his current number 11 spot on the IMDb starmeter and list of upcoming projects says something,) I don’t think he was fantastic. Yes, he was intimidating (seeing Zod’s viral message to Earth on the big screen, in the dark no less, was scary as hell) but there were moments when his performance felt so cartooney and over-the-top. He was good, but compared to Traue, he wasn’t the best villain he could be. The rest of the cast also is either on one side of fence or the other. Diane Lane and Christopher Meloni did their jobs well, while I found Laurence Fishburne incredibly bland.

I haven’t seen anything of Zack Synder’s, mainly because I’m not allowed, but I will admit that at times the direction was good. There were some pretty well directed scenes (especially the opening, which I will forever be gushing over) but then others where he needed to say something. The visual effects were, like the direction and story, good in some scenes and others looked like they belonged in a video game. Really, most of the elements of the film were good in certain scenes and other times terrible. It’s a flawed movie and its bi-polar sense of wanting to succeed but usually failing. The only element that doesn’t do this is the character development, because it is none existent. There is never a moment where I thought “I hope *insert name here* is ok” or “I can’t believe that happened to *insert name here*” because these characters never go through any changes. You don’t care about these characters and seeing this happen in a script by a screenwriter who wrote the damn Dark Knight trilogy, where it makes you care about what will happen to a guy dressed as a bat, is really upsetting.

Now, just to warn anyone who hasn’t seen Man of Steel and hasn’t heard any of the spoilers to this movie, first of all I applaud you for that, and second please skip this paragraph because I am spoiling the end to this. What happens is Superman breaks Zod’s neck in order to save a family. That’s right; a superhero that doesn’t kill and has a high moral code kills the villain. When I first saw it the first thing I thought was, “why didn’t he do that before?” and that was it. I didn’t have a problem with it, I just moved on. As I watched spoiler videos for Man of Steel, though, did I realize how out of character this was. While I do read DC comics, I don’t read Superman comics, only Batman and some miscellaneous ones from other superheroes. I never knew that Superman didn’t kill until I watched those videos so I didn’t have the same reaction as hard core fans did. Frankly, I still don’t. I feel like if I was in that situation and had to choose between letting an innocent family die by laser eyes or snap the neck of someone who wants to turn the place you have lived your entire life on into a new planet, killing everyone on it, I would do the latter. I know it’s not something that I should be saying but it’s my honest opinion.

So the big question now is why on Earth did I give this movie 3 and a half stars when I clearly ripped it a new one in this review? Well, while it has flaws, I still liked it. Everything except the characters had their moments, the opening was fantastic, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, and Antje Traue made the movie extremely enjoyable, there were some really nice visuals, and overall it was a good action movie. Is it as good as The Dark Knight Rises? God no. Is it as bad as my opinion on The Avengers? No. It’s in the middle of the road for me. It wasn’t the movie I wanted but when it comes down to it, it’s the movie we got. I have to forget the hopes I had for it and judge it by what it is and while it has problems, what works works. All I have to say is that if Zack Synder and David S. Goyer do come back for the sequel, they better bring their a-game because we need another great trilogy to sit alongside The Dark Knight. Even if this installment wasn’t incredible, just remember this: Batman Begins lead to The Dark Knight. Second time has to be the charm.

~Indie Princess

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Monsters University Review

Monsters University (2013) Review

Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, Peter Sohn, Charlie Day

I am not one to watch entertainment talk/news shows, specifically those that run stories on the most irrelevant of celebrity news like Entertainment Tonight. However, bored and having nothing else to watch, I decided to watch The Insider, now titled OMG Insider for some reason. Why does this relate to Monsters University? Well, one of the stories covered was the box office, where Monsters University was #1. One of the anchors, whose name I do not know and don’t feel like researching, stated that he saw it and that, in a very annoyed/condescending voice, “it was cute.” It bugged me that all he could say was that it was cute. Nice would have worked, or sweet, or even good. I just felt that cute wasn’t the word that could describe what many have said is a step in the right direction for Pixar.

Then I actually saw the movie and well…I do have to agree on some terms with him. Cute is a good word to describe Monsters University. Not that that makes it bad, far from it. While it doesn’t delve into edgy territory until the surprising third act, Monsters University is a cutesy children’s film that does its job: expand on the Monsters Inc. world and give a better in sight on how two of Pixar’s most popular characters, Mike and Sulley, became friends. The easiest questions to answer are: does Monsters University surpass the original? and should it be considered one of the studios masterpieces along with the Toy Story franchise, The Incredibles, and Wall-E?, both of which can be answered with a no. But one important question that needs to be answered is this: is Monsters University a sign that Pixar is no longer the animation studio to beat or that Pixar, after a mediocre film that many detest and a sequel that nobody wanted then and now, is on its way to a comeback? Luckily for us and the studio, the answer is the latter.

The plot is simple. Set 10 years before the events of Monsters Inc, the story follows Mike and Sulley during their freshman year of college. Starting off as bitter enemies, they must work together to get back into the scaring program at Monsters University by winning the Scare Games, a series of events that test the scaring abilities of the fraternity’s and sorority’s at MU,  with their fraternity Oozma Kappa, a frat filled with the rejects of Monsters University. A plot many have described as “The Internship with monsters” and “the monster version of Revenge of the Nerds,” the plot seems to be one seen before, although with a few tweaks.

Pixar’s first prequel, the movie did a nice job with telling the story of Mike and Sulley’s friendship. Many have complained about the sequel-itis the film presents us (since Mike did mention that they knew each other in elementary school at the beginning of MI), but in my opinion the film completely erases that, making it feel like they truly did meet in college. It does feel by the book at the beginning, not taking many risks with the plotline and giving us the story that we expect. However, the third act becomes a new film entirely. The third act was something of a wonder and felt like an experts course in how Pixar has become one of the animation greats. Each twist in it enhanced the film, with its horror monsters homage and unexpected change of events at the very end. If it wasn’t for the third act, the film would have ended on a predictable and mundane note, but that one turn of events made the movie for me.

Everyone in the voice cast is brilliant. John Goodman and Billy Crystal, despite both being in their early to mid-sixties, easily slide back into the roles of Sulley and Mike, albeit their younger versions. Most of the film I never thought “Oh that’s John Goodman/Billy Crystal’s voice,” making it feel like it hasn’t been 12 years since the original came out, as if nothing has changed. Helen Mirren also does great work as Dean Hardscrabble. It didn’t feel out of place, like many celebrity voice castings of recent memory, and her voice fit perfectly with the winged, centipede-legged Dean. Besides John Goodman and Billy Crystal, the only returning cast member that is worth mentioning is Steve Buscemi as Randall, known as Randy in this film. Despite having very little to do (which I will touch on later), Buscemi is great, as he is in most of his voice work. The rest of star studded cast, including Nathan Fillion as the pompous jock Johnny, Aubrey Plaza as the gothic Greek Council president, and Charlie Day as OK member Art (who gives us one of the most quotable lines in the film), is phenomenal, especially coming from Day, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Peter Sohn, Joel Murray, and Julia Sweeney as the rest of Oozma Kappa and the mother of one of the members.

Character wise the film did well. Not many characters get much character development, save Mike and Sulley and the transformation of the OK frat from weak underdogs to impressive scarers, but the characters we want to route for are likeable and the changes Mike and Sulley go through do build a strong foundation for the film. Some characters actions (mainly a prank on the Oozma Kappa members involving glitter, teddy bears, and an obvious reference to Carrie) are questionable to say the least, but they don’t detract that much from the story. However, my biggest problem character wise was how Randall fit into the story. Randall is my favorite character in the original and being both a Randall and Steve Buscemi fan I was excited about him being in the prequel. After seeing the trailers and reading several message boards, I expected a lot more than was given. The friendship between him and Mike is barely explored, there’s no explanation to why he was chosen to be in the rival frat, and the way they set up the rivalry between him and Sulley is lazy with just one line before *POOF* he’s gone from the film. Many have complained about Randall’s lack of motivation in MI (which I can agree on to some degree) and there was potential for a great side plot that would have not only given some explanation as to why he is the way he is, but also would have connected with a lot of people.  Pixar could have given a better reason for his detest for Sulley than a throwaway line.  

Other than that, there is not much that I can say that isn’t a rehash of what other reviewers have said. The movie is beautiful to look at with bright, bold colors that appeal to the eye of those young and old. The story and writing, while it does borrow a lot from other movies, is very good, keeping the heart of the original while adding more to the Monsters Inc. mythos. The winks to the original and cameos from characters from the original that aren’t Sulley, Mike, and Randall are perfect. Hearing the music from specifically the garbage block scene brought me back to my childhood and seeing a cameo from a certain slug brought a giant smile to my face. There are some good jokes, but for anyone over the age of 9, possibly 10, many will fall flat. I saw the film in a packed theater with several kids and I didn’t hear many giggles, let alone a ton of laughter, throughout the movie. I can only remember a few spots where everyone collectively laughed, the only time the theater burst into laughter was near the end during the last OK meeting. There aren’t any tearjerker scenes or scenes that will make you cry, which is actually kind of refreshing for me. The last Pixar movie I saw was Toy Story 3 and the one before that was Up and now everytime I see the begnnning of Up or the end of Toy Story 3, I burst into tears. Pixar movies, along with most animated films, tend to add a big sad moment and it has become a bit cliché to me, so seeing Monsters University, the prequel to a film with a pretty good sad moment near the end, trade in tears for laughs is great.

I had high hopes for Monsters University. Monsters Inc. is not only my favorite Pixar film, but also one of my favorite movies, and due to the disappointment Cars 2 was and how outraged fans seemed to be over Brave’s recent best animated feature win at the Oscars, Pixar desperately needed a good movie to get them out of the phase they were in. I never expected it to be better than Monsters Inc, just expand on its universe. Most importantly, I wanted Pixar to be at least start making their way back to their title of best animation studio. Yes, the film has serious character development issues, along with some jokes that fall flat and characters that could have had a better reason to be in the film, but it also has a great voice cast, great character development and pacing for both Mika and Sulley and their friendship, and a third act that solidified the film as more than an underdog story. While I don’t find it the best out of Pixar’s roster or it’s sequels, but it isn’t the worst and it gives me a reason to say something that I have been hoping to say for a very long time: welcome back Pixar. 

~Indie Princess