Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: Tangled

Grade: B-

After her mother received the healing powers of a magical flower, Rapunzel was born with those same healing qualities transferred to her long blond hair. Mother Gothel was using the flower to stay young forever and when she discovers that if you cut the hair off, it turns brown and will never work again, so she decides to kidnap the baby princess and lock her away in a tall tower that is hidden in the forest forever. Almost 18 years later, a thief by the name of Flynn Rider scales the tower in an effort to find a place to hide and ends up being held captive by Rapunzel. She strikes a deal with Flynn for him to act as a guide and to take her out of the tower and travel to where the floating lights come from that she sees every year on her birthday. Along the way, Rapunzel has the greatest adventure of her life and discovers the truth about the world and herself.

Tangled is a charming and cute family movie. The animation is beautiful and the writing, for the most part, is pretty fun and entertaining. I have to admit that for making a full length kids movie about the tale of Rapunzel, the people at Disney made a pretty good movie. The movie is filled with laughs which really make the movie worth watching. It also has a ton of heart and has some very touching moments. However, there are some downsides as well. To start, it seems as though at the last second Disney decided this should be a musical so rather than writing songs it seems as though they just had the characters sing the next couple of their lines. The songs in Tangles are extremely cheesy and really are pretty bad when you get down to it. Also, there is a certain creepy factor that went along with the story for a while. You don’t find out how old Rapunzel is (about to turn 18 conveniently) until towards the end of the movie and for some reason, with that long blond hair and the way she acts, I felt as though she was maybe 14 years old, so to watch her fall in love with a man who seems to be in his mid to late twenties, and vice versa, seemed a bit weird for most of the movie.

Mandy Moore (Because I Said So, American Dreamz) does the voice of Rapunzel. Seeing as 90% of the singing in the movie is done by Rapunzel, this was pretty good casting. Moore did a pretty good job with this voice work and even though the songs were bad, her voice was really good. Zachary Levi (TVs Chuck) does the voice of Flynn Rider. Levi was very fun, funny and enjoyable in this role. He had all the right voice inflictions at all the right times. The movie also features the voices of Donna Murphy (who sings probably the worst song in the movie), Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Paul F. Tompkins, and more.

Tangled is a great movie for a family outing. The kids are going to love it, especially the girls, and the parents will find plenty of enjoyment as well. It is a great Disney movie that is unfortunately tainted by bad music. Thankfully the music isn’t so bad that it takes enjoyment away from the movie, but I really wish they had left it out.

Great quote: “Frying pans! Who knew, right?”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: 127 Hours

Grade: A+

The true story of Aaron Ralston, a mountain climber from Colorado, who decided to go canyoneering one weekend in Utah without telling anyone where he was going. While hiking and climbing through a canyon, he was working his way down into a crevasse when a boulder became dislodged and crushed his arms against the canyon wall, trapping him there, with less than a liter of water and the equipment he had, mostly ropes, a light and a cheap multi-tool. Over the next five days, Ralston examined his life and begins to imagine things due to the condition he’s in, and documents the whole thing on his handheld camera. Finally, he realizes that he has the strength and will to live and decides to take drastic measures in order to free himself from the boulder, scale a 65 foot wall and hike over 8 miles until he finds help.

A truly amazing movie. Everything about this movie is simply amazing. The story is awe inspiring, the writing was great, the direction was great and the performances were fantastic. Danny Boyle (Sunshine, Trainspotting) did an incredible job with 127 Hours, one of his best movies yet. One of the best parts about this movie is that you really get the feeling of claustrophobia that Ralston must have been going through during this situation. He is pinned in a very narrow section of the canyon and Boyle used a lot of tight shots and close-ups to show this and get that feeling across to the audience. He would also do something interesting and mix those claustrophobic shots with wide panoramic shots of the surrounding area, which were beautiful, but showed just how isolated he was. This movie really has a great style and the climactic scene where Ralston cuts his arm off (I’m not spoiling anything, this is why the movie was made) is disturbing but extremely well done.

James Franco (Milk, Pineapple Express) plays the lead, and practically only, role in the movie, Aaron Ralston. Franco keeps proving himself over and over again as one of the greater actors of this generation. His performance as Ralston was spectacular and one of the better performances of his career. He really did a great job showing the torment that Ralston was going through in those 127 hours that he was trapped, showing how Ralston began slipping into insanity, of sorts, while trapped, and of course his performance during the climactic scene and the end of the movie was just amazing. I really hope that he gets some recognition from his performance in this movie because he truly deserves it. The movie also features some performances by Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Treat Williams, Clémence Poésy and Kate Burton.

This is one of the must see movies of 2010. As I have said, everything about it is just amazing. It is also one of the best “will to survive” stories I have ever heard. It is great and I recommend that everybody try to get out to see this movie. Yes, the scene where he cuts off his arm is intense and disturbing but it is also brief, so don’t let that stop you from seeing it.

Great quote: “Don’t worry, I’m only a psychopath on weekdays and today is Saturday, so…”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Grade: A+

The adventure continues in part one of the final installment in the Harry Potter saga. Voldemort is growing in power and strength. He now has control over the new minister of magic and no one is safe. Harry, Ron and Hermione have decided not to return to Hogwarts, but instead go on a perilous journey to find and destroy all seven of the evil Horcruxes, the key to defeating the Dark Lord. However, the trio doesn’t really know where to begin, so they spend most of their time trying to come up with a plan to find and destroy the Horcruxes. With the world in increasing amounts of danger, they set out on their task, but Voldemort and all of his Death Eaters are searching for Harry Potter. Will they accomplish their task in time?

Deathly Hallows part 1 is probably the best in the Harry Potter series so far. This movie is the darkest, most bleak and most tense movie of the series as well. It is filled with excitement at every turn and manages to through in a few laughs here and there as well. It is a very well balanced movie that flows very nicely and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. The visuals in the movie were great. There were many scenes in the movie with great scenery. The battles were very fun to watch. Really just everything about this movie was great. The story was very gripping and there were some pretty terrifying moments. This is not the 11 year old Harry Potter running around having fun with his new friends anymore. This movie fully deserved it’s PG-13 rating, it is pretty terrifying and, at times, somewhat violent. It definitely has some more mature themes to it than its predecessors. The director, David Yates, did a great job with this movie and I can’t wait to see the final installment next July.

I really enjoyed the overall style of the movie. As I said before, it is dark and bleak. In one scene, you see a group of workers inside the Ministry of Magic putting together pamphlets on the “dangers” of muggles and muggle born witches and wizards. The pamphlets look a lot like something you would have seen during the Red Scare when the government was warning people against communists. Similarly, there is an interrogation scene shortly after that is very reminiscent McCarthy’s Un-American Activities Committee from the Red Scare as well. This all really helped portray the overall tone of the movie, which is of course fear.

The movie stars, of course, Daniel Radcliff as Harry Potter. Radcliff keeps getting better and better with every movie. He does a great job of portraying the characters inner torment and his love for his friends. Emma Watson returns as Hermione. Watson does a fantastic job in this movie. I feel that her character showed more emotion than any other in this movie and she played the part perfectly. Rupert Grint is back as Ron Weasley. Grint did a pretty good job with the character, it’s nice to see this character maturing a bit more and gaining some self confidence finally. Ralph Fiennes (Red Dragon, Clash of the Titans) plays the evil Lord Voldemort. Fiennes is an amazing actor and brings his A-game to this role. Voldemort is finally given a significant part in the story and Fiennes does his best to make the character as powerful, menacing and intimidating as possible. The movie also features great performances from Bill Nighy, Bonnie Wright, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Helen McCrory, Tom Felton, Timothy Spall, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, George Harris, Natalia Tena, David Thewlis, John Hurt Evanna Lynch, Rhys Ifans and Imelda Staunton.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 is an absolute must for any Harry Potter fan. If you haven’t seen any of the movies, now is the time to watch the first six movies just so you can experience this one. It is fantastic. The movie, of course, leaves you with a huge cliffhanger and I can’t wait until part 2 in July when we can all finally finish the series.

Great quote: “Dobby didn’t mean to kill. Dobby only meant to maim or severely injure.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: Conviction

Grade: A

Betty Anne Waters and her brother, Kenny Waters, were about as close as a brother and sister could be growing up. One day, in 1983, Kenny was arrested and convicted of murder then sent to jail with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Betty was the only person who believed that Kenny was innocent and vowed to find a way to get him out. She is a mother of two, but spends all of her free time finding ways to help Kenny. She finally decides to get her GED and go to law school herself in order to free her brother. Along with the help of Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project, she finally succeeded in her goal and Kenny was released from jail after 18 years.

Conviction is based on an incredible true story and is an extremely well made movie. The writing is spectacular and really makes this movie an emotional watch. The direction was pretty good and really just everything about it was great. The make-up that they used on some of the actors, to show either their aging or to get them in character, was amazing and sometimes makes it hard to believe that it is still the same actor. Conviction is easily one of the best movies of the year and is probably on its way to a couple Oscar nominations.

Hilary Swank (Amelia, Million Dollar Baby) plays the lead role of Betty Anne Waters. I’m not usually a fan of hers but I do have to say that she was really good in this movie. Swank really pulled off this character very well and it is probably the best performance I have seen her give. Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2, Choke) plays the role of Kenny Waters. Rockwell is an extremely, extremely talented actor who I don’t feel gets the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, after this year, people will be more familiar with him. He gives an incredible performance as Kenny Waters, one of the best performances of the year. Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, TVs The Riches) plays Abra Rice, a fellow classmate of Betty Anne’s who decides to help her with her case. I have always liked Minnie Driver and I’m glad to see her in a movie like this, she did a great job. The movie also features great performances by Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis, Peter Gallagher and more.

Conviction is an incredible story of sibling love and is a truly inspirational movie and story. I feel that this movie was extremely well done and I hope it goes on to get some recognition. It features some of the best performances of the year.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Jackass 3D

Grade: F

All faith in humanity is lost.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Skyline

Grade: F

In Los Angeles, a couple old friends are getting back together for one of their birthdays. After a long night of partying, everyone passes out only to be woken up by mysterious blue lights. These blue lights wake up most of Los Angeles and draws people towards them like a moth to the flame and disappear. The next day the blue lights return but this time alien crafts begin to appear and begin to suck people up by the thousands. It’s an alien invasion and weird alien creatures, large and small, are roaming the city taking any people they can find and seem to be indestructible. A small group of people band together in order to survive and maybe even try to fight back against the strange aliens.

Wow, that is really all I have to say. I saw the trailer for this movie and was intrigued by it but my expectations were about as low as they can get, and Skyline didn’t meet those expectations. It is amazing to me how bad this movie is. Much like I predicted from the trailer, it seems that the makers of Skyline blew their entire budget on special effects then hired second and third rate actors and ignored story, plot, believability, science and everything else. The movie looks spectacular and very realistic, but that is about it. The acting and writing was absolutely terrible. You know how when you watch a movie, specifically horror type movies, and you can just tell who is going to die because the character is a douchebag of some sort and is just asking for it? That is every character in the movie. I hated every single character in this movie, they were all simply bad people. This movie is also completely unoriginal, stealing bits and pieces from War of the Worlds, V, Cloverfield and a dash of Independence Day. I mention that this movie ignores science because once you find out why these aliens are here, I personally think, knowing what I know about biology and evolution, that a creature like these could possibly exist. Lastly, for now, the ending of this movie is absolutely horrible and will make you leave the theater with hatred in your heart.

The movie stars Eric Balfour (The Spirit, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) plays the lead character, Jarrod. Aside from looking like a male Sarah Jessica Parker, he is a terrible actor and I kind of hated his wussy, dumb character. David Zayas (The Expendables, TVs Dexter) plays Oliver, a manager of the building the group is hiding in. When you first meet Oliver, he seems like a nice character, but after the invasion, he becomes a huge jerk and you want him to die. Scottie Thompson (TVs NCIS?) plays Elaine, Jarrod’s girlfriend. This is the only somewhat decent character in the movie, but you still never really care for her. The movie also features bad performances from Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed and Neil Hopkins.

Skyline is a very good looking movie but is very painful to actually watch and sit through. On top of being a bad movie, I can almost guarantee that we will be seeing a sequel. Seriously, do not watch this movie, and if you absolutely must, wait for DVD and rent it from Netflix or at Red Box.

Great quote: “We need to go to the top floor, it’s the safest place to be.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Unstoppable

Grade: C+

In Pennsylvania, a couple of rail yard workers accidentally let an unmanned train lose on a main track. This train is a half mile long and is towing many cars loaded with combustible fluids and toxic chemicals and is heading towards the city of Stanton, Pennsylvania, which has a raised curve that the train will surely derail on, possibly wiping out the city. While the rail company is trying, and failing, to come up with a good idea to stop the train, a young conductor and a veteran engineer decide to chase down the train on their lone locomotive in a drastic attempt to bring the runaway train under control and bring it to a top before it decimates the town.

Unstoppable is inspired by true events, but I wonder how much of it is true because I think some of the events of this movie would have been all over national news but I never heard a thing about it. This movie is pretty entertaining, but really not that great. Tony Scott (Top Gun, Déjà Vu) has a talent in this movie of making a little bit of action, seem like a lot. For instance, there is a scene where they say that the train is going about 20mph but the camera work and everything makes it seem as though the train is going about 80mph. The movie also seems to have something against Pennsylvania State Patrol as they are all portrayed as complete idiots in this movie.

Denzel Washington (The Book of Eli, Inside Man) plays the role of Frank, a veteran engineer with the rail company. Washington was great, as he always is, playing this character. He had a quick wit and really showed the characters determination to stop this train. Chris Pine (Star Trek, Smoking Aces) plays Will, a new conductor, fresh out of training. Pine did a great job and continues to improve as an actor. He really helped make this movie enjoyable. Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Clerks II) plays Connie, an employee at the rail company helps encourage the two to ignore the company and stop the train themselves. Dawson was great as usual in her role, maintaining a nice balance of drama but throwing in some witty lines here and there. The movie also features Kevin Corrigan, Kevin Dunn, Ethan Suplee, T.J. Miller and more.

Unstoppable is a fun and exciting movie, but I feel it also has many faults. As is said, even though it seems action packed, after you watch it you will think about it and realize not much really happened.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: Megamind

Grade: A-

When Megamind was just a small baby, his parents launched him off the planet in small rocket while their planet was being destroyed, as did a family on a near planet. Both rockets ended up on Earth in Metro City. The other boy grew up to become Metro Man, savior of Metro City. Megamind, on the other hand, grew jealous of Metro Man’s popularity and became his sworn enemy. Over the years the two fought over and over, usually after Megamind would kidnap the beautiful Roxanne Ritchi. One day, Megamind finally accomplishes his goal and manages to kill Metro Man and take over the city. Now with Metro Man out of the picture, though, Megamind becomes bored and begins to concoct a new evil plan to save him from his boredom. At the same time, while in disguise, he begins to fall for Roxanne and question his way of life.

Megamind is a very fun take on an old story of superheroes and their nemesis. This movie answers the age old question “What would happen if the villain actually won?” Well, the answer harkens back to the conversation Batman had with the Joker in The Dark Knight when the Joker says “I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” It is really entertaining to watch Megamind run around the city after he finally wins but then getting bored at the lack of excitement because he has nobody to fight.

Megamind is a very fun and entertaining movie to watch. It manages to be consistently funny throughout, throwing out gags and jokes left and right. It is also a ton of fun to keep an eye out for all of the Superman references, of which there are many. One interesting aspect of this movie is its soundtrack. It consists of many bands and songs that I think it’s main demographic won’t know or recognize. It consists of songs by AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N’ Roses and George Thorogood. The songs fit in the movie really well though and make it that much more fun.

Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, Stranger Than Fiction) voices Megamind and is hilarious in the role. Ferrell really manages to bring this character to life and make him fun and entertaining. One of the more entertaining things about the character is the random words that he would mispronounce. Ferrell really helps make this movie what it is and I don’t think it would have been the same without him. Tina Fey (Date Night, TVs 30 Rock) does the voice of Roxanne Ritchi. Fey is always funny and does a great job with the role in this movie. David Cross (Alvin and the Chipmunks, TVs Arrested Development) does the voice of Minion, Megamind’s best friend. I’ve always found his funny and he really did a great job with the voice of this character. Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading, Ocean’s 11) does the voice of Metro Man. I am a huge fan of Pitt’s but it really wasn’t necessary for him to do this voice. The character is hardly in the movie and he doesn’t have the most recognizable voice, in fact at times I think he sounds more like George Clooney. The movie also features the voices of Jonah Hill, J.K. Simmons and Ben Stiller.

Megamind is a fantastic kids movie but it’s another one of those great ones that adults can love too. I know I really enjoyed this movie and would watch it again. I really have to recommend this movie to everyone, it is just plain fun. As a note, in terms of seeing this in 3D or IMAX 3D, it was ok in these formats and it's up to you if you want to spend the extra money on these formats, but the film plays just fine in standard 2D.

Great quote: “Coming up: Are you ready to be a slave army? 10 things you need to know.”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: Due Date

Grade: A-

Peter Highman is a high-strung father-to-be who is on a business trip in Atlanta. He is on his way home to his wife in Los Angeles, who is pregnant and could give birth any day, when he runs into a man by the name of Ethan Tremblay, who manages to get the both of them put on the no-fly list. Now Peter has no wallet or any money and must find a way to travel across the country in a couple days so he can be home in time for his child’s birth. Ethan offers Peter a ride across the country and he reluctantly accepts. Ethan proves to be more trouble than he’s worth as he is very annoying, very dumb and keeps getting them in increasing amounts of trouble and almost gets them killed a couple times as well.

I have been excited about this movie for a while, when I heard that Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover, was making a road trip comedy with Robert Downey Jr. and Zack Galifinakis, I knew this had the potential to be comedy gold. I am happy to report that Due Date does not disappoint. This is easily one of the funniest movies of the year, I was laughing from start to finish. There are some great gags in the movie, one of my favorites is when Peter Highman punches this annoying kid and teaches him a lesson. The comedy just never lets up, which makes me happy because more and more comedies these days are only funny for the first half then gets serious for the rest of the movie, not Due Date. This is one of the best road trip/buddy comedies ever.

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) plays the role of Peter Highman. He is absolutely perfect in this role. His delivery of his lines in spot is spot on, he plays high-strung very well and he delivers his lines with perfect comedic timing, simply hilarious. Zack Galifinakis (The Hangover, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) plays the role of Ethan Tremblay, an aspiring actor. Galifinakis gives funniest performance to date in this movie. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but he was just so perfect in this role, again with great timing and delivery. What really makes this movie work though, is how well these two play off each other. While both actors and characters are funny in their own way, they are side-splitting hilarious when they are together. I was curious as to how it would work out, but this is one of the better comedy pairings I’ve seen in a long time. The movie also features Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, Danny McBride, RZA, Matt Walsh and more.

This is definitely one of, if not flat out the funniest movie of 2010. If you are looking for some good laughs, you will find them in Due Date. I was afraid that this was going to be one of those movies where all the funniest stuff was in the trailer and the rest was going to be disappointing, not the case at all. The movie contains much funnier stuff than what’s in the trailer, and the stuff in the trailer manages to stay funny and at times be funnier than it was in the trailer when you see it in context of the movie.

Great quote: “I’m sorry we drank your father.”