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Tag Archives: 2012

Review: ParaNorman (2012)

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ParaNormanRemember when Tim Burton made great movies with a fantastic sense of dark comedy and heart? Well those days might be over (Exhibit A: Dark Shadows), but don’t fret. There are still plenty of the like out there.

Norman can see things that no one else can. Like Sixth Sense stuff. Yup, Norman sees a lot of dead people in his already dark town of Blithe Hollow (known for a witch trail). But after a 100 year-old curse threatens the city Norman and his weight challenged friend Neil, must take on the goblins and ghouls to protect their town.

Forget animated, or stop motion. ParaNorman was one of the best zombie movies I’ve ever seen: period. First off, technically, the film is a joy to watch and the animation is completely mesmerizing. Secondly the voice talent is superb with Kodi Smit-McPhee and Christopher Mintz-Plasse leading the way. But it’s more than a few laughs and get technically sound movie. The movie takes the familiar but old and distant Salem witch trials, and makes them human, heart-breaking even. Funny, smart, and sweet? Watch your back Burton.

My Rating: A

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyHobbits, wizards, dwarves, New Zealand….we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Peter Jackson decided that 3 Lord of the Rings films wasn’t enough and proceeded to decide that neither one or two movies would be able to adequately cover J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The result is An Unexpected Journey, the first in a trilogy taking place 60 years before the events of the LOTR trilogy. Nothing wrong can happen when doing three prequels to an already adored trilogy, right George Lucas?

The Hobbit is the tale of 12 dwarves, 1 wizard, and 1 hobbit attempting to reclaim the homeland of those dwarves at the Lonely Mountain. The reason this isn’t easily done is due to a dragon named Smaug. A lengthy intro explains all of this, so don’t worry. Of course then we get shot into Fellowship of the Ring territory, with Ian Holm’s Bilbo Baggins and Frodo (Elijah Wood) only to get sent back to the time when Gandalf (Ian McKellen) asks the young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to join in on an adventure. An hour or so of the movie passes by and we finally get on our way. Of course, the group led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), has plenty of hurdles to overcome, including rock giants, cave trolls, and those pesky Orcs. With the decision to make this a trilogy we only get the beginning of the journey, but there is plenty more to come.

My chief concern going into the theater was that each scene would drag on forever. After all, this was originally going to be one movie. Combine that with the fact that An Unexpected Journey is 170 freaking minutes long, I would say that I was warranted in my concern. For the most part, it wasn’t too much of an issue. Yes, most scenes tend to run a tad too long, but the beautiful imagery is enough to keep you distracted. And what beautiful imagery it is. Rivendale most stood out to me, and we get several camera shots that we haven’t seen before. And Gollum! I could watch that creature forever. It is absolutely stunning how much they have improved him since the original trilogy. Absolutely mind boggling. My finally verdict however eventually comes down to this: haven’t we all seen this already? Yes, the story and most of the characters are new. But it just seems too familiar. Hopefully it can improve along the rest of the way.

My Rating: B+

Review: Skyfall (2012)

Well, it’s all come down to this. I’ve gone through 6 James Bond films in the past 2 days, to prep for Skyfall. Surprisingly, it isn’t Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace that fit best with Skyfall, but rather the classics during the Connery and Moore days. Fair warning: spoilers abound below.

Skyfall starts out with the usual chase scene; what you’re used to in the Craig era. This chase soon leads to the alleged death of Bond, at the hands of a fellow agent. Begin typical Bond intro. Enter Bond with woman, enjoying his “death”. Of course, he does return, only to find M (Judi Dench) on the verge of being forced into retirement and a crazed mad man (Javier Bardem) hacking their system, blowing up MI6 HQ, and leaking the identities of undercover agents. All in a days work for 007, right?

I was extremely nervous going into the theater. After all, I hadn’t heard anything but rave reviews about Skyfall in the entire week leading up to seeing it. It began, and the opening chase scene was on par with Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The title sequence was just as good. Craig was typically good, Dench top notch, per norm. It was all in all a good Craig/007 movie. Then comes Javier Bardem’s Silva. Much like Heath Ledger’s Joker brought The Dark Knight up a whole notch, Silva did the same for Skyfall. He’s ten times more intimidating than the previous Craig-era villains, is only after one thing (revenge), and has the usual Bond villain deformity. The man is scary. What’s scary is that he isn’t after dropping a nuclear bomb, or taking over the world, he only want to see M die.

Another reason Skyfall was particularly mind-blowing for me was all of the throwbacks. We get 3(!) new regulars, some of which haven’t been seen in a decade or more. Q (Ben Whishaw) was my personal favorite. If you remember the old Desmond Llewelyn days, you remember that he and Bond always had an interesting relationship. He was always older than Bond, but never afraid to let him know what he thought of him. Now, with a younger Q, the dynamic changes, but the same relationship is there. Also, what about bringing back the DB5? Ejector seat and all?

Overall, as you can tell by the length of this post, this is now my new favorite Bond film. While it does lag, and the last sequence of events seems a bit out of place, I respect Sam Mendes trying to take the series in a new direction while still honoring the past. An absolute treat to watch.

My Rating: A+

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Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

Honestly, 21 Jump Street was already a dud in, not only my mind, but it a lot of people’s before it’s release. Remakes aren’t doing so hot right now, I practically hate Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill is kinda skinny. Then it was released, people were pleasantly surprised, and I am writing this review. Now that we’re up to date, let’s get going.

Tatum’s Jenko and Hill’s Schmidt went to high school together. Jenko being the popular jock, and Schmidt being the nerd. After a few years, they find themselves both trying to become police officers, only to be assigned to bike cops in a public park. Eventually, they find themselves on the brink of unemployment when they get assigned to 21 Jump St. to go undercover as high school kids to find the person behind a new drug circulating. The two men get the usual culture shock in the technology driven world of 2012, and struggle to keep their usual archetypes.

21 Jump Street is surprisingly clever. It isn’t afraid to wink at the audience and play on the usual expectations. I was shocked at the comedic ability of Tatum, and along with Jonah Hill, the two make a great comedic duo. It can be crass at times, but it does bring several legitimate laughs. Dave Franco shows that he’s not the only Franco who has some acting chops, graduating from his TV work. Comedies are always hit or miss with me, but 21 Jump Street was a sure hit.

My Rating: A-

Review: The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

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The Five-Year Engagement has some of my favorite television actors in it. You have Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother), Alison Brie (Community), Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation), along with one of my favorites, Emily Blunt. I think I might just see myself in a long term relationship with this movie. (yeah, I know that was forced).

Tom (Segel) and Violet (Blunt) are blissfully in love, and in an awkward turn of events, engaged. However, after some fooling around, Violet’s sister (Brie) is pregnant thanks to Tom’s idiotic best friend (Pratt). Soon, they are the one’s getting married, having kids, and starting their lives. On the other side of things Tom quits his job to follow Violet’s academic endeavors and things are never the same. The wedding is continuously pushed back until its breaking point.

There’s no doubt there are some fantastic comedic actors in this film. There are even plenty of laugh out loud moments (more than the trailer). Even the Segel-Blunt dynamic is completely on-point. The downsides are still there though, some of which might be intentional. For one, it felt as though it would never end (much like the engagement). Obviously we are as tired of waiting as the characters. Secondly, Five-Year Engagement is very jumpy in its editing. Some jokes are ending too abruptly, while others are lingering for way too long. As much as I wanted to like it, The Five-Year Engagement just wasn’t satisfying for me. Maybe I had too high expectations, maybe it’s just not a great movie.

My Rating: B-

Review: This Means War (2012)

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Most romantic comedies are predictable. The rom-com-action flick, This Means War, while having an outstanding cast, is no different from any other “attractive person has to decide between two attractive candidates” movie.

FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are as good as friends as you can find. Also, they happen to work for the CIA and bond over chasing baddies. FDR is the perpetual ladies man, complete with a bachelor bad I do not believe to be structurally accurate. Tuck, is the hopeless romantic, who’s relationship with his ex-wife and son are strained apparently because of his cover job of being a travel agent. Their relationship is put to the test when, surprise, Reese Witherspoon’s Lauren comes into the picture. She meets Tuck, falls in love, then happens to run into FDR, who persuades her to go on a date with him. It’s a neck and neck battle, with each agent using government funds and equipment to check in and deter the other person.

Ultimately, the movie is hinged on Lauren’s decision between FDR and Tuck. Spoiler alert, I figured it out 15 minutes into the film when Tuck shows some softness to her ex. From that point on, I knew exactly where the plot was going, and the ride wasn’t as fun knowing that. Obviously all 3 actors know their stuff (Sweet Home Alabama, Star Trek, Inception, etc.), but this really didn’t need to be made by any of them. I thought after Bronson, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises, that Tom Hardy could do no wrong. But it was me that was wrong. If you can watch the first part of this movie without figuring out the finale, go ahead, maybe it’ll be fun for you. If not, turn it off. It’ll probably be better imagined in your head.

My Rating: C

Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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So that’s that. The Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy is complete. It’s made the director a superstar, Christian Bale into an icon, and Batman memorable again. This is the final chapter.

The Dark Knight Rises follows 8 years following the events of The Dark Knight, which included the death of Harvey Dent. Now, Dent is considered a hero, while Batman a villain responsible for the death of Dent. The only people who know the truth are Bruce Wayne (Bale) and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). Also thrown into the mix is a young cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who might just know more than everyone else. Soon enough Batman is forced out of his “retirement” due to a force growing from the depths of Gotham and led by the monstrous Bane (Tom Hardy).

Like many third acts before it (Transformers, Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean), The Dark Knight Rises has an extended running time to fit all the action in. Unlike those previously mentioned (mainly the horrific Spider-Man 3), TDKR is never dragging or overstuffed with action. Instead of taking a step back every time we see a new face (Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gordon-Levitt), we take them as part of the Gotham world and it flows seamlessly. Instead of Catwoman/ Selina Kyle being a question mark (after all, who was 100% satisfied with that choice?), she turned out to be one of the glowing highlights of the film. Sure Bane had a weird voice, but it fit with his anti-establishment getup. Everything, from the insane set pieces, to the score, to the Batman himself was perfect. It wasn’t quite a Batman film as much as it was a Bruce Wayne film. All of which makes the first time he dons the suit in the film all the more chill-inducing.

In my own humble opinion, TDKR isn’t going to have the following of The Dark Knight. However, it was the ending we deserved, not the one we necessarily wanted.

My Rating: A

Review: Mirror Mirror (2012)

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I’d been hearing about Mirror Mirror since the beginning. I was excited when I heard Tarsem, one of the most visually impressive directors was doing a Snow White movie. I was nervous when I heard Snow White and the Huntsman was going up against it. And I was upset when both trailers came out. Yes, it is a kids movie plain and simple, with no enjoyment for the older.

By now you should know the basic premise. Evil Queen is ruling, step-daughter is rightful ruler, but locked up. She escapes, taken in by 7 dwarves and fights the power. Also, there is a prince involved.

Where should I begin? The weird love triangle between Armie Hammer, Julia Roberts, and Lily Collins separated by many years of living? The Saturday morning cartoon sound effects? The “did they really do that?” teeth sparkle? Any way you look at it, Mirror Mirror is pretty horrible. One of the most blaring problems was the sets. If you look at my favorite Tarsem film, The Fall, the sets are beautiful. This time around, we get the same patch of trees over and over again. The humor is juvenile, the romance is creepy, and the finale makes you happy (because you lasted through).

My Rating: D+

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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With Hollywood always out for an easy buck, the question of “How much time do you need for a reboot?” isn’t really asked all that often. And when you have in your hands a commodity that will always sell well (in tickets, toys, apparel, etc.), you’re gonna try you’re hardest to keep said commodity front and center. So, 10 years after Sam Rami directed Spider-Man and just 5 years after Toby Maguire donned the suit in Spider-Man 3, we have the team of Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield enter the scene.

It’s the same old story, with a few twists. High-schooler Peter Parker (Garfield), isn’t the nerd or the jock, but one of the countless ones that doesn’t even get a genre of student. His parents died several years earlier due to some shady circumstances. Parker, the epitome of teen angst now lives with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). While snooping around the Oscorp lab that his father’s friend and co-worker works at, he is bitten by a enhanced spider, and yadda yadda yadda, you know the deal. Some differences are made from the original when the villain is shown to be Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) , aforementioned pal of Papa Parker. In an effort to regenerate his lost arm, he is transformed into the Lizard. Oh, and there’s also daughter of Police Chief,  Oscorp intern, and love interest of Peter, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

Let’s start from the top. In my own opinion, Andrew Garfield is the perfect choice for Spider-Man. He has the realistically awkward social life but transforms into the quick-witted, web slinging, Spider-Man when he is in costume. Garfield only caps off a great cast which includes Sheen, Field, and Stone. The off-camera chemistry the two leads apparently have off camera, carry onto the set, making them electrifying on film. Sheen gives the stern but proud Uncle to a tea, and you can feel Aunt May’s pain during the events that unfold. And come on, can you pick a better man in uniform that Dennis Leary? Although Rhys Ifans did a good job as Dr. Connors/The Lizard, I feel that his character was kind of one dimensional. Yes, he is missing an arm, but he doesn’t have the emotional drive such as Doc Oc and his wife or the Green Goblin being Parker’s best friend’s dad. Still excellent cast.

The story is slow at times, but never lost my interest. Obviously, we’ve seen most of the origin story, but Marc Webb and company needed to put their mark on that plot. The special effects are extraordinary. We finally get the scope of Spidey’s antics, seeing the danger of possibly falling 100 stories, or the grand size of these buildings. If you’re planning on waiting for it to come out on Blu-Ray or DVD, don’t. The Amazing Spider-Man deserves to be seen on the big screen. It doesn’t have the humor as The Avengers, but Spider-Man isn’t really playing the same game. His movie’s have their own style and need to be judged for that. Take away the Sam Rami/ Tobey Maguire trilogy, and the film world would be abuzz about this film. Let’s not let comparisons ruin this great movie.

My Rating: A

Review: Brave (2012)

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Cars 2 was a dud. But it is Pixar, so you have to give it a chance. So, the question is can Pixar return to their former glory of Toy Story, Up, and Wall-E? Or is the first female lead in the animation studio, only going to be selling toys to red-headed girls?

Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is the Princess, forced to choose her eventual husband from the first born of the other kingdoms as dictated by tradition. Being the strong willed, heroine type, she refuses to do so, disobeying her family and entire reign in the process. A witch, er woodcarver, offers Merida the  chance to change her mothers thinking, and Merida jumps at the chance to do so. However, in order to not ruin the movie, I won’t indulge any more details about the plot. Needless to say, things don’t go smoothly.

First things first: It was better than Cars. Whew. Now that that is out of the way, here is my ultimate review. It was good, but isn’t Pixar good. I had read that it was filled with more slapstick humor than any other Pixar film, and they were correct in saying so. The problem is, after Up, Wall-E, and the like, I hold Pixar to much higher standards. The sentimentality is still there, but isn’t as powerful. I will say it is one of the funniest animated movies in recent years, and is definitely one the whole family can enjoy.

My Rating: B