Sunday, February 9, 2014

Admission (2013) - Review

I often have these actors that I just can't resist.  Call it a mancrush or whatever you like, but hey, I won't deny that I find Paul Rudd absolutely charming!  Though he gets leading man roles pretty regularly, I notice that he very rarely gets the credit for his movies' successes.  All of I Love You Man's credit went to Jason Segel, Dinner for Schmucks went to Steve Carrell, and sadly I think everyone was too surprised by Our Idiot Brother not being a comedy to appreciate his stellar performance.

Point is: Rudd gets shafted a lot, even when he's the anchor to a lot of movies.  The average moviegoing audience tends to remember the over-the-top sidekick-y character, but I personally have a fondness for the "straight man", as it were.  And yes, Michael Bluth IS one of the best Bluths.  And while Tina Fey gets a little more credit, she often fills the same straight woman role--the sarcastically endearing 'sane' one.

So really, the two are perfect opposite each other.  Both are immensely likable, and as this movie shows, they have a pretty solid chemistry as well.  If only this ordinary rom-dram-com had a good script.  The awkward comedy scenes work well enough; both leads are unmatched at taking a bland-on-paper moment and turning it into something genuinely laughworthy.  But the movie just isn't very interesting in premise or execution.  Granted, they may indeed be the book's fault from which the idea is taken, but I digress.

There's nothing wrong with it, per se, it's just kind of... there.  There are some amusing moments and a couple of cringeworthy moments and ultimately it just kind of craps out from a lack of ideas.  It's not something I'll probably ever watch again, but if you accidentally rent it at Redbox while searching for the Justin Long classic, Acceptance, then go ahead and watch it.  At least this one doesn't have Lewis Black.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Argo (2012) - Review

People have an insane amount of hate for Ben Affleck.  Or they used to, at least.  I don't really understand why; the guy is a pretty solid actor.  I mean sure, he's been in some garbage.  Gigli is unfathomably bad, but it's not really Affleck's fault.  He's also in some early Michael Bay nonsense, but again, hardly Affleck's fault.  Daredevil's bad, but again... you get where I'm going with this; he doesn't deserve the hate is what I'm saying.

But in 2007, with the film Gone Baby Gone, Affleck fell back into the public's good graces when people started recognizing his talent as a director.  This success continued in 2010's The Town and in 2012's based-on-a-book-based-on-a-true-story Argo.  It really is an interesting story; a CIA operative goes undercover as a Hollywood producer to save some hostages in Iran during an embassy takeover.

The film is a bit slow, preferring to take its time developing the elaborate cover in detail, rather than focusing on the suspense of the situation.  In fact, there's really little to no suspense at all; it's definitely more of a drama than a thriller, and that's what I find really interesting about the movie.  Most directors would have played up the danger aspect of it, but aside from the opening sequence (and one near-miss at the end), there's not a lot of suspense.  It really is about Affleck and his team building up this enormous lie from the ground up, and it's oddly compelling to watch.

Proving that he has chops as a director, Affleck has managed to wipe away any and all bad vibes with the moviegoing public, despite the recent uproar of Affleck being cast as the new Batman.  Chances are that won't go too well, but if it doesn't, all the man has to do is direct a couple more good films and he'll be right back on top again.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

John Dies at the End (2012) - Review

I have David Wong (of Cracked.com fame)'s book, John Dies at the End, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.  But if it's anything like the film, then it's probably a quirky, somewhat campy novel full of intriguing ideas about drugs, monsters, and parallel dimensions.  Featuring a cast of mostly unknowns (and Paul Giamatti), the film is confusing, full of abrupt and nonsensical plot elements that fly at you like the gif birds from Birdemic at every turn.  It's a freaking blast.

I don't really have a lot to say about this one because it's a bit too insane for me to even describe.  Starting with a nonsequitur joke/riddle about an axe, the film keeps a tone that straddles Lovecraftian Eldritch horror with goofy humor throughout its entirety.  But this odd mix of tones should come to no surprise of fans of Don Coscarelli, the writer and director of this adaptation.  His previous work in the Phantasm films and Bubba Ho-Tep prove that he has chops in the surrealist horror/comedy department.

Anything that talks about parallel dimensions is automatically cool.  While I'm not strictly a sci-fi geek, I must admit that the concept is something I think about way more than I should, and it certainly opens up a lot of interesting philosophical questions, which are always fun.  And this movie is chock full of dimensional-hopping shenannigans, unspeakable Cthuloid creatures, and a great sense of humor to boot.  The acting is solid and surprisingly self-aware for such an unknown cast (and again, Paul Giamatti), but never to the point of annoyance.

If there's any fault, it's that the movie is a bit too abstract and confusing (which is probably recified a bit in the book without the limitations of an hour and a half running time), bouncing around from scene to scene with virtually no explanations, and the exposition given is almost Scott Pilgrim-y in its flippant, yet admirable desire to ever-so-slightly knock on that fourth wall.  Despite these minor shortcomings, it's a fun and odd little movie that should be watched by any fan of the horror/comedy genre.



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Young Adult (2011) - Review

That's one tagline that can't be undid, Diablo Cody
The rite of passage known as "growing up" is something that has always confounded me completely.  So many are eager to start their lives, become responsible, etc, and I've always struggled with it.  I don't necessarily believe that you have to subscribe to the traditional notion of adulthood (wow so hipster cool, bro) but this movie is a sad and depressing tale of someone who takes avoiding responsibility to an extreme.

Charlize Theron's character Mavis is a young adult fiction writer and a young adult in personality (GET IT?), and the story tells of her despondent return to her hometown to rekindle her former love with the always entertaining Patrick Wilson.  Along the way she connects with equally losery Matt, played wonderfully by Patton Oswalt and deals with a downward spiral of depression as she hopelessly tries to recapture her youth.

This movie is written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, the pair behind Juno, which I do like.  However, the script is much tighter and less "hey look how ironically hip I am, homeskillet diggity dog" from Diablo Cody as she manages to create a very realistically damaged pair of main characters that are actually interesting.  The acting is great all across the board and the whole film has a much darker feel than the duo's previous attempt.

Young Adult is one of those indie-ish movies that's kind of hard to watch because it feels a little too real, less manufactured than the average dramedy.  Tonally, it reminds me a lot of Paper Man and Our Idiot Brother; there's a fair bit of comedy there, though essentially all of these films are about extremely troubled main characters with some pretty severe psychological conditions.  In that sense, it's a bit too real, but it's a great take on the subject, even if it is a bit depressing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) - Review

It's pretty well-known by now that I'm a huge Sam Raimi fanboy.  Get out of here with your Amazing Spider-Man BS, I'll take the classic Tobey trilogy ANY day of the week.  And I don't think there's a single person in the world that hasn't seen the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz.  It's one of the greatest movies of all time.

But how does the prequel hold up?

Honestly, it's pretty entertaining.  I'd hesitate to call it good, because it has way too many flaws to even try to match the original.  First of all, Oz looks terrible; the visuals are straight out of Burton's awful Alice in Wonderland.  Secondly, the characters are all over the place and some of the acting is a bit too... Disney?  I'm looking at you, Tony Cox.  Seriously, does anyone like that guy?

There are some things to love though.  The opening twenty minutes in black and white that take place in Kansas are nigh perfect.  James Franco is fantastically hammy as the smug womanizer lead, and like every great Raimi movie, Bruce Campbell is in it (although NOT as much as he should be).  Lastly, Raimi's directorial style shines through in some places with even a couple nods to Evil Dead's cinematography, which is never a bad thing.

I haven't rewatched this movie since seeing it in the theaters, and I don't really have any desire to.  Does that make it a bad movie?  I don't really think so; I just find it to be a one and done kind of movie.  I'd still recommend a rental, as it is good fun while you're watching it.  Just don't expect a classic like the original.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Dark Shadows (2012) - Review

When I finished this movie, I walked away with three major thoughts:  Maybe Tim Burton will soon realize that you can't just throw Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter together and expect it to work, man, every movie with the word "Dark" in the title is complete gargbage, AND what was I thinking?  Oh God, what was I thinking?

I'm not really sure, but whatever I was expecting, it sure wasn't... this.  This movie is beyond irritating; it's sort of like if you took the Addams Family movies and sucked any and all entertainment value out of them.  I'll be the first to admit that I've never watched, nor do I care anything about the source material.  But this Johnny Depp-plays-a-wacky-off-color-character schtick is getting old.  Hey, at least he's not an offensive racial stereotype in this one.

Whoever wrote this script deserves neither the five seconds it would take to look it up on IMDb nor this twenty-six word sentence devoted to them.  It's strangely bad; almost feeling like a "Movie" Movie at times, except instead of bad Johnny Depp impressions ala Epic Movie, they actually got the real Johnny Depp.  Or some extremely convincing replica.

This confused mishmash of a movie plods along with no real direction until the "climactic" battle scene at the end.  Yep, I'm sure Supernatural is reeeeally jealous of your CGI, guys, nice work.  The sad thing is that there is some actual talent here.  Depp is fine when he's on-point, Chloe Grace Moretz is completely wasted as basically a punchline at the end (which isn't funny, for a nice little bonus), and...  Eh, I kind of hate all of the other actors now for their work in this movie.  Except Alice Cooper.  You keep on rockin', buddy.