Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tron Legacy Review

Hello again Internet!

Tron Legacy is the sequel to the 1982 cult classic, Tron, directed by first-timer Joseph Kosinski, starring relative newcomer Garrett Hedlund, always-amazing Jeff Bridges, and the ever-gorgeous Olivia Wilde.  Reprising his role from the original is Bruce Boxleitner, whose calm and collected nature is oppositely mirrored by Michael Sheen's dividing performance.  The original Tron is known for its then-mind-blowing visuals; it featured more than fifteen minutes of computer-generated images (quite a lot for is time).  The sequel, while not as forward-thinking as its predecessor, features some absolutely incredible and original sets and is an amazing example of how well 3D can work in a film.

The story in Tron Legacy is the first of a triumvirate of excellence that makes it one of my favorite films of the year.  Legacy picks up twenty-plus years after the original, with an M.I.A. Kevin Flynn leaving his son, Sam, to be cared for his grandparents.  Sam grows up without his father, who would tell Sam wondrous stories about the amazing things that he and his digital companions, CLU (played digitally by Bridges as well) and Tron (also played digitally by Bruce Boxleitner) accomplished within the Grid.  We learn that Sam wants little to do with Encom, stopping by once a year to prank the board of directors.  A strange page from Kevin Flynn's office at his abandoned arcade draws Sam in to investigate.  Its at this point that Sam is digitized into the Grid and main thrust of the story ensues.

The plot itself is simple; Kevin is stuck in the Grid and Sam sets out to help him return to reality.  Without giving away too much I felt that there was an very heavy Star Wars vibe throughout the film.  There were shades of various aspects of the saga, from the empire/emperor to the rebel alliance and the force.  Its this simplicity that makes Tron extremely accessible.  Avatar made over one billion dollars by having amazing visuals and a simple story.  While Tron will most likely not make as much money as Avatar, it shares those same qualities that make it quite good.  Good vs. Evil is something that everyone can get behind; there are clear heroes and villains with a very clear end goal for both parties.

The second of the three amazing aspects of Tron Legacy are the visuals.  The vast majority of the film takes place in the wondrous world that is the Grid.  The sun-less Grid is brought to life with the amazing contrast of colors exhibited in the original.  You can always tell who is good and who is evil by the color of their suits and identity discs.  Blue/green/white vs. the evil yellow/orange.  In a film that is quite dark with fast-paced fights and chases its quite easy to tell each faction apart from one another.  The aforementioned light cycle and light jet chases were quite spectacular as was the fight in Castor's (Michael Sheen) night club.  There is never a dull moment in Tron Legacy; even during action-less dialogue scenes there is always something for your eyes to ogle.  Legacy is easily one of the most visually impressive films this year and a definite treat for your eyes.

The final piece of this awesomeness puzzle is the overall sound design of the film.  The soundtrack, produced by the techno duo Daft Punk is absolutely amazing, blending orchestral and electronic together in a symphony of greatness.  The score fits the film perfectly, from Sam's evasion of the police in the beginning to the incredible techno beats thrown at us during the night club fight.  While I absolutely loved the soundtrack, at times it felt a little too Dark Knight/Inception-esque (same as Harry Potter).  Accompanying the soundtrack was the great sound design.  The sound effects throughout the film were quite spectacular, with bass so strong I could feel my pant-legs vibrating.  Major props go to the Skywalker Sound team for creating such strong sound effects to complement the stunning visuals throughout Legacy.

I feel that I must touch on the performance of the cast as well; I loved everyone in this film.  Jeff Bridges was great as the aged Kevin Flynn, with hints of "The Dude" shining through, Olivia Wilde turned a great performance going from confident bad-ass to a doe-eyed girl enamored by Sam exhibiting child-like enthusiasm.  While I quite enjoyed Garrett Hedlund as Kevin's son Sam, I can't help but feel that the effects of the film's conclusion on Sam didn't show through.  He seemed to accept what happened with little emotion.  The two performances most film goers will be discussing are Michael Sheen as Castor and the digital, young Jeff Bridges as Clu.  I personally very much enjoyed Sheen, who provides viewers with an over-the-top character that was in complete contrast to everyone else in the Grid.  Its never revealed what his program was and why he acted and talked the way he did but I loved it nonetheless.  Leading up to the film's release there was much negative buzz surrounding the digital re-creation of the young Jeff Bridges. I'd say that it worked about 90% of the time; there were only a few instances where the effect didn't really seem right.  In a couple of years I can see that technology really coming to the point at which it will be very difficult to distinguish between real and digital humans on screen.

Tron Legacy is a very exciting and stunning film in almost every aspect; your eyes dazzled by the amazing visuals, your ears pounded by the terrific soundtrack, and your mind treated to a simple good versus evil storyline with great camerawork and fast-paced action.  If you haven't seen the original it would be easy to jump in with this sequel and be perfectly fine.  I highly recommend Tron Legacy to anyone who likes fun, action-filled films with interesting characters and impressive visuals.

Tron Legacy: 4.5/5

The Bearded Bullet

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Transformers: Love It or Hate It

Hello Internet!

I figured I'd branch out and start talking about movie-related stuffs rather than relegate myself solely to reviews...and today I came up with a great topic: Transformers.  Today saw the release of the first teaser trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon (set for a July 1st release).  I really dig the trailer; it has an awesome vibe and I'm quite a sucker for alternate-history content in movies.  If you haven't seen it yet, I'd suggest you check it out even if you didn't like Revenge of the Fallen all that much.

And that brings me to the main thrust of this post; despite the let-downs of Revenge of the Fallen, I'm still pretty stoked for the third entry in the series.  The first Transformers was a really fun, dumb action movie with fairly shallow human characters, interacting with their giant, robot counterparts (that were equally shallow).  Despite these under-developed characters I was still able to relate to them, and really enjoyed watching their unfolding journey with the Autobots.

Revenge of the Fallen came two years later and didn't fair as well as the original.  The story was a bit too similar to the first, with a race between the two factions to get to a goal (the all-spark, and an energy-collector thingy in Egypt, respectively).  The acting was on par with the original (not great), but Megan Fox seemed as dull as ever and Sam's new love interest, Alice, was completely wasted as a character.  Add in the racially-stereotyped twin autobots, the complete waste of Arcee, juvenile humor (Wheelie humping Megan's leg and the testicles on Devastator to name two), quick resolution of the story, and a confusing plot and you have a movie that just didn't work all that well.  The only aspect of the movie that I really dug was the action; I will never tire of giant robots smashing each other to bits.  The forest fight with Optimus taking on multiple decepticons is really, really cool.

With the second movie disappointing almost everyone on the planet, I'm sure that more than a few will be quite hesitant when it comes to the final act of the trilogy.  I'm more than willing to give it a shot, not only because of my predisposition to try anything, but because of the promising teaser trailer.  Yes, trailers are and can be deceiving but I'm trying to stay positive with this one.  It seems that Michael Bay has acknowledged the mistakes and missteps that occurred with Revenge and that he has set out to correct them with DotM.  What say you, internet?  Are you willing to give the third one a chance?  Maybe you really enjoyed RotF.  Please feel free to share your opinions below!!

I'll leave you with a parting thought:  Why did Jetfire have a cane and a beard?  Machines don't age..and when he became the SR-71 he would've had to have had a cane then..

The Bearded Bullet

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Next Three Days Review

The Bearded Bullet's Review of The Next Three Days.

The Next Three Days (TNTD) is the latest film from director/writer Paul Haggis (Crash), starring the always-fantastic Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks, with Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, and Brian Dennehy making great appearances as well.  TNTD is an emotional roller coaster of a film, both for the characters and the viewers.  At times I was wholly engaged, sympathetic for the plight of Russell Crowe's John Brennan, while others I was frustrated by almost-always-on-the-trail federal agents.  Despite my frustrations, I had an overall fairly enjoyable time with TNTD.

Russell Crowe's John is a tormented man; his wife, Lara, is serving a life sentence for a murder she may have committed.  John is tasked with taking care of their son, Luke, while trying desperately to prove his wife's innocence and free her from prison.  The film takes place in Pittsburgh, PA, one of my favorite places on earth.  I was immediately drawn in not only by the setting, but by the characters as well.  From the beginning we're introduced to a very much in-love Brennan couple, with a child they love equally as much.  Very early in the film Lara is whisked away by the FBI, with little or no indication as to why.  One of the strengths of TNTD is the beauty of the unfolding plot; throughout the film bits of details surrounding the murder in question are dropped and hinted at.  It isn't until the very final scenes of the film that we fully put the picture together.

The strongest part of The Next Three Days is the plot itself; the story doesn't focus on whether or not Lara killed the woman in question, but rather John's escape plan to break Lara out of prison.  As seen in the trailer, after exhausting the legal system John turns to a more illegal method of freeing his wife.  Its this unwavering devotion to his wife, regardless of her true innocence, that allows the viewers to connect with John and feel that he could really exist, despite the extreme lengths to which he goes.  TNTD is very much the mirror opposite of this year's Conviction (with regards to plot), and is a breath of fresh air into the prison drama scene.

While the plot is the strongest part of TNTD, it is unfortunately also the weakest.  Without giving too much away, by the time the events are going full-throttle, and John is putting his plan into motion, a pesky FBI agent is hot on his heels.  The agent is behind John at EVERY step, figuring out EXACTLY what's going on.  Either he's the greatest detective in the world or just the luckiest.  More probable is that screenwriters Paul Haggis and Fred Cavaye needed to build in more tension than was already present.  I love a good tense action film, with monumental stakes on the line, but in TNTD it seemed that there was tension for tension's sake.  Even if the FBI agent wasn't so close behind John, the mere events of Lara's breakout would have provided enough for the viewers to sink their teeth into.

For the most part I enjoyed TNTD; while highly frustrating during the second half of the film, the conclusion and the events of the escape itself more than make up for the missteps in the plot.  Mix the films Taken, Edge of Darkness, and Conviction into a blender and you'll get The Next Three Days.  If you enjoy great acting, an engaging plot, and a tension-filled escape thriller then you'll most likely enjoy TNTD.

The Next Three Days: 3.5/5

Monday, November 29, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Review

The Bearded Bullet’s Review of The Deathly Hallows: Part 1

I couldn’t pick any better film to review first than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (DHP1).  Its no secret that I’m a huge Potter fan (this past summer I and two other Order members took a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) so I’m going to try to keep this review as unbiased as possible.  I’ve grown up with the franchise in both book and film incarnations.  The film series is one of my absolute favorites.  I’ve looked forward to each successive film with eager anticipation and DHP1 is no exception.   In fact, the only other film that surpassed my anticipation this year was the outstanding Inception.  For me, the wait was well worth it; I absolutely loved DHP1.

Directed by David Yates (films 5-8), the story picks up very shortly after the events of the sixth film, The Half-Blood Prince.  Harry is on the verge of turning 17, making him an adult in the wizarding world; a time at which his mortal enemy, Lord Voldemort, is free to attack him (any magical protection afforded Mr. Potter dissipates upon him turning 17).  Harry and his companions, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, must set out on their own to hunt down and destroy the remaining Horcrxues; relics that contain a part of Voldemort’s soul.  Only upon the Horcuxes’ destruction will Harry be able to finally confront and defeat the man who murdered his parents.  

This film marks a departure from the formula of the previous books and films; this time around the crew is on their own, without the comfort of family, friends, and Hogwarts itself.  Very early on they are thrust out into the cruel world that is ever more crashing down upon them as Voldemort and his Death Eaters pursue them at every step of their journey.  The story is much darker than the previous films; death and pain is more present than ever in DHP1.  Without spoiling much, there are several emotionally heavy scenes that will have even the most hardened moviegoer holding back tears. The pacing of the film is quite brisk despite the somewhat-dragging source material.  The at-times long-winded camping scenes that populate the vast majority of the book move by quite quickly in the film adaptation; the trio move from set-piece to set-piece with outstanding transitions that help to give an amazing flow to the film.

If you are a fan of the book then you will undoubtedly notice all of the changes/additions/subtractions screenwriter Steve Kloves (all other Potter films except Order of the Phoenix) made to JK’s original story.  I personally separate the books from the films with regards to story changes; I try not to get hung up on whether or not the film was 100% faithful to its written counterpart.  I try to enjoy the film for what it is, and I was completely fine with the changes that were made to the story (for fear of any spoilers I’ll refrain from providing examples).

Overall this is perhaps my favorite of the Potter films.  The acting from the main trio was their strongest of the series, with the supporting cast fantastic as always.  Despite having very limited screen time, many of the power players from the previous films (Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes etc.) turn very strong performances.  There were actually very few scenes or lines of dialogue that I had any issue with; in fact, only one line felt out of place and didn’t make much sense in the context.  The editing and cinematography were top-notch as always, expertly displaying the grand vistas the trio trek across throughout the film.  After six films with incredible practical and visual effects its hard to believe there are any tricks left, but the effects team from DHP1 continued to impress; key scenes included the chase in the beginning of the film and a thrilling escape from a group of snatchers toward the end.  The camera work outside of the vista shots was spectacular as well.  There were several instances of what we like to refer to as “circle cam.” The scene with the multiple Harrys and the close call with the snatchers in the forest are excellent examples of the coolness of the circle cam.

The emotional tone of this film differs from the previous entries in the series.  Since the trio is on the run with little hope or guidance, an ever-present sense of despair and loneliness hangs over the film’s proceedings.  There are several bright spots in the darkness; while not as funny as the other films (Half-Blood Prince especially) there are plenty of the great lines that will make you chuckle and remind you of the journey that these actors and characters have gone through over the years.  The bits of humor are drowned out by some excellent dramatic scenes and performances from the main cast.  The source material called for these young actors to step up their game and in my opinion they fully delivered; they’re asked to portray jealousy, rage, anger, joy, despair, pain and they pull it off with aplomb.  There are a few key deaths in the film, one of which I feel wasn’t paid enough time to - as a result the character in question seems to accept what had happened quite quickly.  Per the plot one could argue that there was not enough time to lament the incident but more time could have been given to what occurred.  

As you can tell I am quite fond of Deathly Hallows Part 1.  I feel that the film exhibits a mastery of character, cinematography, visual effects, emotion, story and tone that mixes together for a great movie-going experience.  Unfortunately one of the weaker aspects, for me, was in the music department.  Alexandre Desplat’s score is quite effective at times, but seems almost non-existent for most of the film.  Yes, I heard the score playing throughout most of the film but none of it was nearly as memorable as John Williams’ score or even some of the score from the last few films.  The piece that plays at the beginning (eerily Dark Knight/Inception-esque) and at the conclusion of the film are quite strong and worthy additions to the Potter pantheon.  Overall I have very few complaints with Deathly Hallows; there really isn’t anything of the nit-picky nature.  If you are a fan of the series or enjoy great films with great characters, a fantastic story, and amazing visuals you absolutely must see this film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1   5/5

My Name is Greg. I Watch Movies.

For those of you who do not know, my name is Greg, and for those of you who missed the title of this blog entry, you may find it surprising to know that I enjoy movies.

I have always attempted to watch a wide variety of movies in both the theater and while at home. Sometimes we want to be challenged by a film which questions the way we look at the world and how we live our lives (The Seventh Seal is one my favorite films in this regard), and sometimes we simply want to sit down and watch something relatively mindless but entertaining which requires little engagement on our behalf (Airplane comes to mind at the moment). Sometimes we want to watch something romantic (Casablanca), and other times we want to watch something which is guaranteed to bring tears to our eyes (Big Fish, please!). Films to me are the most powerful form of media because of the wide range of emotions one can experience during a single viewing.

Watching movies is one thing, but reviewing movies is a completely different animal, altogether. I've always found that good movie reviews written by talented movie critics (Roger Ebert remains the greatest in my opinion) include two important elements: a discussion of the relevance of the film to the lives of audience members (or to the reviewer) and an interpretation of the efficacy of the choices which were made by the crew in the course of creating the movie. I hope to strive for excellence in both these regards in all of my reviews.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

This is the Bearded Bullet

What's up Internet?

This is Kyle, one half of Two Guys, One Movie, and one fifth of The Order of the Nerd.  As the group to which I belong indicates, I'm a huge nerd and I'm super cool with it.  I manage a GameStop store, which means that I love video games; while gaming and selling games are my profession I share a general love of all things entertainment-related.  Games, movies, TV, you name it and I probably consume it.  As mentioned in the inaugural post, I absolutely love cinema; over the last couple years my consumption of movies has increased incredibly.  I'm averaging about 70-80 unique movies each year.  That number does not include ALL movies I've seen in that year..just the movies released within that year.  I'm super big on checking out all new releases, regardless of what others think and say.  I'm pretty easy-going in that respect; I'm willing to give almost anything a chance.  I'll watch just about anything, from Catfish and The Girlfriend Experience (probably unknown to casual film-goers) to blockbusters like Transformers or Prince of Persia.  While on the topic of hit franchises I have a couple favs.  Harry Potter, Star Trek, James Bond, Batman, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings top my list.  I'm generally a fan of most genre and nerd-friendly fair, most notably comic book and video game adaptations.  Some of my favorite directors include Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, Jon Favreau, Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, JJ Abrams, Ridley Scott, and Clint Eastwood.  Not surprisingly, a large portion of my favorite films come from said directors: The Dark Knight, Saving Private Ryan, 300, Star Trek, Casino Royale, the LOTR Trilogy, Star Wars (original trilogy), Inception, Gladiator, Hellboy 2, Fight Club, The Prestige and Wedding Crashers just to name a few.  As you can see I enjoy a wide variety of films, which I believe gives me a unique perspective with regards to reviewing the movies that I watch.

I feel that its important that I give a shout-out to the best theater in central Pennsylvania: Penn Cinema.  I view about 99% of all of my movies there and absolutely enjoy going there, especially to their new IMAX screen that recently opened.  If it weren't for the awesomeness that is Penn and its great staff (Mike and Kenny, you guys are awesome!) I'd have to travel to inferior locations to see the movies that I love.  With all that being said, I'm not quite sure how our reviews will mentioned before, please bear with us while we figure everything out.  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!  I hope you enjoy or opinions!

Kyle/Bearded Bullet

Welcome to Two Guys, One Movie

Hello Internet!

Welcome to the newest movie review blog on the web!  We're HUGE fans of all things cinema related and after many years of watching various manner of films we've decided to put our thoughts down on digital paper and feed it to you, Internet!  Between the two of us we see the vast majority of new releases, large and small, good and not-so-good.  While not watching new releases we spend most of our free time diving into our extensive DVD and Blu-Ray collections.  Please bear with us while we work out our review processes and iron out the kinks.  Feel free to give us feedback and share your opinions!  We're here to share our thoughts and spark lively debates!

Greg and Kyle