Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

Hello and welcome, Internet!

**Minor spoilers abound**

I just had the pleasure of seeing David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo twice in a row.  Yes, twice in a row.  There aren't a ton of films that I would be willing to do that for.  For some background, I've seen the original Swedish film twice and its first sequel once, but have never read any of the books.  During my first viewing it was immensely difficult for me to separate myself from the original.  I kept trying to compare plot beats and dialogue.  Its not that I wasn't able to enjoy the film; its quite the contrary.  However, I feel that my second viewing opened my eyes further, not only allowing me to pick up on things that I missed the first time around, but it also allowed me to distance myself from what I remembered and appreciate what Fincher brought to the table.  And he brought a lot.

One thought that was on probably everyone's mind was how can Rooney Mara live up to, or even top Noomi Rapace's portrayal of the tormented and intriguing Lisbeth Salander?  Mara not only lived up to any expectations I had, but also blew them out of the water.  Mara plays a different kind of Lisbeth.  Both start out distant and withdrawn, warped by extreme trauma at the hands of their new guardian.  After their respective introductions to journalist Mikael Blomkvist (this time around played wonderfully by Daniel Craig) is where the two portrayals begin to diverge.  Rapace remains distant and withdrawn during the course of their investigation, making love to Blomkvist seemingly to satisfy some carnal urge mixed with a touch of trust.  Mara's Lisbeth's walls begin to slowly crumble during the investigation, falling down almost completely during the extended post-resolution epilogue.  We see a few scenes of her interacting with Blomkvist in intimate and affectionate ways that the original film didn't even go near.

The rest of the cast is absolutely terrific.  Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist with a strong sincerity...I was able to connect with his character and sympathize with him.  Stellan Skarsgard is fantastic, as is Christopher Plummer.  The overall dynamic created by the Vanger family is palpable and real.

Dragon Tattoo, at it heart, is a crime thriller.  Except in this film the crime occurred over forty years ago.  Again, it was highly difficult to separate myself from what I already knew, but Fincher and writer Steven Zaillian craft a story that stands apart from the original.  Key plot points are shifted around in the overall timeline of the film, with certain elements streamlined, while others are expanded upon.  Entirely new scenes are added with some being removed altogether.  Without getting too spoilery, several elements of the case itself were altered, including the main reason Henrik Vanger hired Blomkvist in the first place.  A very large portion of the epilogue has been changed, namely revolving around Lisbeth and Blomkvist's interactions and relationship.  The ending they chose is a smart one; it will allow us to come back to our characters in a convenient manner for the sequel(s).

A David Fincher film has certain qualities that distinguish itself from all others.  Dragon Tattoo is no exception.  The cinematography is immaculate.  The change in lighting and color palette when switching from the 1960s to the present is an inspired choice.  With flashbacks it can be easy to get lost in the timeline (this year's J. Edgar fell victim to that), but with the juxtaposition between the grey/drab modern color set and the bright/vivid 1960s scheme one can easily identify what period they're in.  This film has myriad scenes that left a lasting impression upon me and are highly memorable.  Fincher does not shy away from any of the more uncomfortable scenes presented in the original.  Rather, he embraces them and uses them to effectively motivate and shape Lisbeth, allowing her to regain her power over herself directly and indirectly.  Directly via her confrontation with her new guardian, Bjurman and indirectly by participating and helping to solve Bomkvist's investigation.  We often hear about her troubled past but these few scenes allow us to get but a small glimpse into what Lisbeth has had to endure almost her entire life...and how it has shaped her.

To say that I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be an understatement.  It is one of those rare remakes that takes the source material and presents it in such a manner that its predecessor can be all but forgotten in the process.  I consider both films fantastic in their own right.  Fincher's version delves a bit deeper into certain back-stories and offers up connective fiber that the original lacked.  This film is not for the sensitive or squeamish.  Very violent and brutal acts are captured onscreen with a visceral quality.  Some films include graphic sexual content for seeming shock factor (Antichrist is one that jumps to mind immediately), but Dragon Tattoo melds it into the plot and allows us to get a better grasp on one of the main characters.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a must-see and a damn good thriller.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a supremely entertaining and well-executed film.

The Bearded Bullet is off to debate whether or not he should watch The Girl Who Played with Fire again..

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Retro Review: Gone Baby Gone

Hello Internet!

*Warning: Minor spoilers abound!*

Boy do I love a great thriller.  Lucky for me Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone is one of the best I have ever seen.  Somehow this fantastic 2007 film slipped past me for all these years.  I absolutely loved Affleck's sophomore effort, 2010s The Town, and decided to check out his debut film.  Needless to say I was absolutely blown away by every aspect of this well-crafted crime thriller.

To call Gone Baby Gone a crime thriller feels like an disservice to the film.  At its surface GBG is about a missing child and the private detectives hired to assist the Boston Police Department in searching for her whereabouts.  GBG goes way further into the rabbit hole than that basic plot.  As a matter of fact that specific plot line seems to have been wrapped up not halfway through the film's sleek two-hour run time (only to have been brought full-circle by the finale).  A great thriller keeps you guessing at every turn and GBG does it effortlessly.  The narrative is not nearly as straightforward as it seems; at the surface the relatively simple missing child plot turns into a kidnapping story mixed with corruption and conspiracy.  Its truly a sigh to behold and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen from scene to scene, let alone how the film was going to conclude.  I may not exactly have liked how the narrative played out but that's part of the mystery of these types of films.

Affleck has quite a knack for crafting real characters in a real world.  In both of his films both the pro-and antagonists feel very, very real.  Gone Baby Gone has one of the best ensemble casts I've ever seen on film.  Every single actor embodies their character and makes me forget that Amy Ryan was Michael Scott's love interest on The Office, that Titus Welliver was The Man in Black on Lost, or that Casey Affleck was one half of the always-arguing brothers in the Ocean's films.  I could do that for every actor in the film.  Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan - all are absolutely fantastic.  The supporting cast is excellent as well.  All of these characters interact in a very real world. 

I felt dirty after watching GBG.  I could feel the grime and dirt of the slums of Boston.  Just as in The Town the setting of the film feels like a character in and of itself.  And not necessarily because of the cinematography (which was great as well) but by how the characters speak and interact.  You get a very real sense that they have grown up around each other and, especially Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan's characters, know their way around the city and its seedy underbelly.

As you can tell I am in love with Gone Baby Gone.  I had virtually no expectations going into it, besides the fact that I loved The Town so much.  It truly is a well-crafted thriller with a winding narrative that'll bring you along for the ride and keep you guessing.  I suppose for the eagle-eyed viewers out there you may be able to pick up on certain clues or seemingly throwaway lines that could key you in to the final outcome...but I find it quite doubtful.  I cannot recommend this film enough.

Gone Baby Gone is a truly fantastic film and deserves to be seen.

The Bearded Bullet runs off to practice his Bahstan accent.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Review

Greetings, Internet!

The Bearded Bullet is here to provide his thoughts on the sequel to 2009's smash-hit, Sherlock Holmes.  To say I was a fan of Guy Ritchie's original is quite an understatement (it was 8th on my top-ten list of 2009).  The original oozed coolness, mixed with intellect and intrigue.  Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock, paired with Jude Law's Watson, made for a great duo, riffing off of each other with witty banter and excellent dialogue.  This year's follow-up is one of those rare sequels that is better than the original.  All of those great qualities exhibited in the original return but are turned up to ten.

I could talk at length about my love for this series so I'll try to keep it brief.  The cast is back and as great as ever.  Downey continues to impress as the quick-witted Holmes.  Jude Law's Watson is sharp as ever, still trying to keep Holmes in line while trying to start a new, married, life.  Introduced into the mix is the shadowy antagonist behind the original film's events, Professor James Moriarty.  Moriarty is played quite effectively by the amazing Jared Harris.  His work as Lane Pryce on Mad Men is one of my favorite aspects of that show.

Harris is an excellent foil to Holmes' detective efforts, driving him to obsession and near-madness in his efforts to expose Moriarty as the villain he is.  Moriarty is one of those rare villains that can challenge our heroes at every step intellectually and physically.  GoS shares themes of the great sequels (Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight), in that our protagonists aren't always one step ahead of the villain and aren't always successful in their endeavors.  Holmes takes quite a beating during the course of the film, both physically and intellectually.

The other new additions to the cast include Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry.  Rapace is the wily gypsy, Madame Simza, whose brother is caught up in Moriarty's scheme.  Fry plays (quite brilliantly) Sherlock's brother, Mycroft.  Mycroft is just as witty and fast-talking as his brother but lacks the suaveness of Sherlock.

I won't get spoilery with regards to the plot itself, as half the fun of these films is trying to figure out what the villains are up to.  What I will say is that the story is quite engaging, but can be confusing at times.  GoS is a film that will benefit from multiple viewings, both in terms of story but also dialogue.  As with the original, the dialogue can be very fast-paced and if you aren't accustomed to Ritchie's other works you might be a bit lost.  The two Sherlock films are definitely his most mainstream work but they still provide enough of a challenge to make them interesting and worthwhile views.

The original's climax involved Sherlock providing exposition that clued us into what was going on and neatly summed up the film's events.  Game of Shadows plays with this formula, bringing us along for the ride as Sherlock unravels Moriarty's plot.  Don't get me wrong, there is still a bit of Holmes dropping knowledge on us, but its done in a more fluid manner.

I'll wrap up my review with the insanely good action scenes.  The original film had two major fights in which Sherlock used his high intellect and observational skills to foresee the outcome of a fight.  The sequel has several of these instances, but they don't always play out as Holmes sees.  Again, the screenwriters play with our expectations while blowing them out of the water.  Ritchie is a master of using slow-motion and speed-ramping to great effect.  One sequence has our protagonists being chased through a German forest (as seen in the trailer) with explosions abound.  The scene is filmed brilliantly and with great clarity.  It is one of my favorite moments from any film this year.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows isn't perfect but its a damn good time.  The film's intelligence can also be its curse; if you get lost during the ride the film will swing back around and pick you up before the finale.  I recommend seeing it twice if possible to assist in picking up things you may have missed the first time.  Fans of the original should most definitely see this stellar sequel.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a thrillingly fantastic experience.

Bullet out.

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol Review

What is up Internet?

I'd like to start off by saying that (gasp) I've never seen any of the previous MI films.  I don't really have a reason as to why...they all came out in a time where I wasn't very much into films.  That said, I was still incredibly excited for Ghost Protocol following the still-excellent trailer.  I'm a sucker for a great trailer cut to a great song (Eminem's "Won't Back Down" in this instance).  Adding to the excitement was the fact that MI4 is Brad Bird's live-action directorial debut.  All of his previous efforts were incredible animated films: The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille.  There were quite a few points at which I was truly amazed that this was his first live-action effort.  MI4 is one of my favorite films of the year and is a truly incredible experience.

Front and center are the amazing action set-pieces Bird constructs and masterfully captures on screen.  Without getting too spoilery, several sequences set in Dubai, in and around the Burj Khalifa hotel have me getting excited just thinking about them.  Word is that Tom Cruise insisted on doing all of his stunts, including climbing and and running down the Burj.  Its insane.  Very few films have caused as much of a physical reaction in me as MI4 did.  And it happened several times.  The camerawork and cinematography are absolutely gorgeous.  I'm a fan of long takes and this film has some great ones.  There's an amazing shot of a high-end party in Mumbai that seems to never end.

The performances overall were quite good.  I'm a fan of Tom Cruise and he is excellent in MI4.  Simon Pegg adds some well-timed humor to the mix as one of Cruise's new team members.  Jeremy Renner is a great addition and deserves to have more meaty roles (like he had in this film) in the future.  He's definitely one of Hollywood's most underrated actors (despite back-to-back Oscar nominations for The Town and The Hurt Locker).

One of my chief complaints with the film is the choice of the villain.  The team's foil, Hendricks, is played by the great Michael Nyqvist.  He's absolutely incredible in the original Millennium Trilogy and I'm very glad that he's getting roles in bigger-budget domestic films, but its seems that he's already being typecast as an Eastern-European villain.  In this year's awful Abduction he was the chief antagonist and had very little screen time or good dialogue.  The same goes for this film.  He seems like a lesser Bond villain and deserves a meatier role.  His character's motivations were mildly interesting but there just wasn't much for him to do.  By the end he and Cruise's Ethan Hunt are embroiled in a classic spy-film fistfight to the death.  I'm not saying that Nyqvist isn't menacing, but I can't really buy that he could go toe to toe with Hunt.  The same was present in 2008's Quantum of Solace.  There is absolutely no way that Dominic Greene could last in a brawl against Daniel Craig's Bond.

MIGP is by far not a perfect film.  Despite amazing action and set-pieces, the script asks us, the audience, to make several logic jumps and assumptions.  Where did the crew get their disguises for the Kremlin?  How does Ethan just know every extraction location and hidden weapons cache in Moscow?  Despite being disavowed by the American government, how does the crew get around?  Wouldn't their passports be flagged?  Credit cards deactivated?  Jason Bourne had a helluva time getting around Europe throughout his trilogy.  As seen in the trailer, Hunt's crew was being blamed for a bombing of the Kremlin.  If this is true the CIA would stop at nothing to find these people and either terminate them or lock em up in prison.

Despite all of that I had an absolute blast with Ghost Protocol.  I can forgive all these minor grievances because of the amazing spectacle put before my eyes.  After seeing this film I have a very strong feeling that Brad Bird will have an amazing career in Hollywood with non-animated films.  Or he can go back to animation - as long as he makes great films I don't care either way.

A quick note:  I saw MIGP in both digital and film formats, in Imax.  I highly recommend the digital Imax.  At this time the film hasn't yet released in regular theaters so Imax is the only option.  A good portion of the film was shot in Imax and it shows.  The picture clarity is astounding and breathtaking.  Definitely worth the ticket price.

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol is an insanely good time at the theater.

The Bearded Bullet is out.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises Footage Impressions (Spoilers)

Salutations, Internet!

**Spoilers abound for the first footage of The Dark Knight Rises**

This evening I saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (quite a fantastic film) with the first eight or so minutes of The Dark Knight Rises.  To those of you who know me I am quite the Batman fan.  Rather a Christopher Nolan-Batman fan.  I discovered Batman Begins in 2007 (I had been on a forced film hiatus for several years) and immediately fell in love with the world and characters Nolan brought to the screen.  To put it simply, Nolan classed up the joint.  With the reveal in the final shot of Begins of the Joker's card, my anticipation for The Dark Knight began to build.  July 2008 came and I saw The Dark Knight (after having built a Lego version of the tumbler whilst wearing my Joker shirt).  I was speechless after the credits rolled.  To this day The Dark Knight remains my number two favorite film of all time (Saving Private Ryan being number one).  I've been talking, reading, and thinking about The Dark Knight Rises ever since July 2008.  More spy photos and videos have come out of TDKR's production than I've ever seen on any film.  I and two good friends had the fortune to actually be extras in a scene for the film, shot at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field.  It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  So needless to say I have very high expectations for Nolan's trilogy-ending epic.

Perhaps these high expectations are what left me a bit wanting after seeing the first footage tonight.  The gist is that some CIA dudes are picking up a Russian scientist (the viral campaign plays directly into this) from someone..who has captured three mercenaries that were trying to get to the scientist.  One of the mercs is Bane and bad stuff happens.  The plane is boarded by bad buys and Bane escapes in dazzling fashion with the scientist.

What I liked: Its new footage.  I was amazed at the staging of the scene and the practicality involved; Bane's crew attached cables to the outer hull of the small plane and had their cargo plane pitch upward, causing the wings to tear off the small craft.  The men blow off the tail of the plane and rappel down into it.  At the end Bane blows the cables and the plane falls away from them with him and the scientist attached to the cable.  Everything looked very, very real with little noticeable CG.  The music was great, with the slow tonal build that culminates in Zimmer's classic Dark Knight score..then blends into the distinctive chanting that is featured in both the teaser trailer and the first official trailer.

What I didn't like: Bane's voice.  You can't understand or hear what he's saying.  This has been a huge contention amongst those who have seen this footage.  In Pittsburgh it was incredibly difficult to hear what he was saying to us..but that was coming out of loudspeakers.  He speaks in a very thick eastern European accent and his mask muffles his voice greatly.  I have all the confidence in the world that this will be fix via ADR and perhaps Nolan didn't want us clearly hearing what this badass villain is saying.  I didn't really like the editing of the moves at a very fast pace with a lot of quick cuts.  The dialogue wasn't very good either.  When one of the men mentions a masked mercenary the main guy proclaims "BANE?!" in a goofy way.  There were bits of clunky dialogue in both films, namely the lines "We'll be like turkeys on Thanksgiving!" and "Have a nice trip, see ya next fall," but I hope this is a single case and not a trend.

When seen in context, in front of the whole film, I may end up loving it (I very much probably will)..but I just can't help but feel underwhelmed.  I much preferred the first real trailer that is now attached to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (also a fantastic film).  I'm 110% confident that I will love The Dark Knight Rises when it comes out next July..I just hope that my expectations aren't too high...

Bullet out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Muppets Review

What's up Internets?

I just saw The Muppets.  I'll admit, I'm not the world's biggest Muppet fan.  Actually, I never really watched the Muppets at all.  Just never got into them.  I wasn't really that interested in the prospect of a new film, that is, until I found out that Jason Segel was writing and starring in it.  Alongside Amy Adams.  Then the trailer came out and I was sold.  Then all of the amazing parody trailers were released (The Piggy with the Froggy Tattoo was brilliant) and I was even more sold.  I had no idea going into tonight that I would be watching a virtually perfect film, complete with myriad song and dance routines.  The Muppets is absolutely incredible.

I could talk at length about this film but I'll try to keep it short.  The Muppets nails everything perfectly.  The comedy, while of course geared toward a younger audience, ascends to pure genius that us adults can appreciate.  Very few films break the fourth wall or as quite self-aware and self-referential as The Muppets.  I was consistently entertained by the fantastic musical numbers and choreographed dance sequences.  There is one particular song in the middle of the film that was pitch-perfect in terms of comedic brilliance and character development.  The story, while nothing revolutionary, is so simple and straightforward that I'm confident even the most inept movie-goer will be able to follow.

Its no secret that the Muppets franchise has been dormant for years and the storyline runs perfectly parallel to real-life events.  Jason Segel pitched the idea of a new Muppet film out of his life-long love of the franchise.  The studio gave them a greenlight and here we are today.  The most brilliant part is that the film actually addressed the fact that the Muppets have been gone for so long that they have all gone their separate ways and must reunite to stop an evil oil tycoon (played awesomely by Chris Cooper) from destroying the Muppet studios.  And Chris Cooper raps.  Yes.  That's what I said.  THE Chris Cooper spits rhymes like its his day job and it is glorious.

If you can't tell by now, I loved absolutely everything about this film.  Jason Segel and Amy Adams were terrific as the main human characters.  They both have some excellent, fourth-wall-breaking lines that were genius.  I must also make mention of the myriad guest many awesome people show up in this movie (so I won't spoil it!) - some for just a scene, but others for a bit more.

If you are a fan of the Muppets you must see this movie.  If you are a fan of anything remotely funny, entertaining, heartwarming, or just plain awesome then you must see this movie.  I challenge each and every one of you to NOT smile or laugh at least a billion times during this film.  I don't think it can be done.  If you don't enjoy a healthy amount of silliness in your films then this probably isn't the movie for you...but just go see it anyway.

The Muppets is transcendently brilliant.

The Bearded Bullet is out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breaking Dawn Part 1 Review

*This review contains full spoilers.  You are warned!*

Greetings, Internet!

This evening I had the "pleasure" of seeing the fourth film in the Twilight "Saga," Breaking Dawn Part 1.  I'd like to begin this discussion by giving a bit of background with regards to my "relationship" with the films (see what I'm doing there??).  I haven't read a single sentence from any of the Twilight books.  To be honest I had never heard of the franchise until the first film was about to release...and after having seen all the films so far I have absolutely no desire to read them.  I saw two of the films at their respective midnight releases and the other two a bit after.  Those two midnights were the absolutely worst movie-going experiences I have ever had.  The first film was, for me, barely watchable.  The second, mildly better.  The third, completely pointless.  The "characters" end up in the same place essentially in both the second and third films.  I think its safe to say that I wasn't necessarily chomping at the bit to see Breaking Dawn Part 1 (BD1)...and now I've seen it.  And frankly, I'm much more than underwhelmed.

I have much to say about BD1 but I'll try to not rant as much as some of my other reviews.  I'll start with the overall plot.  I won't go into explicit detail for the sake of boring you all (I'm sorry...its just so hard to make fun of these films).  The first half of the film deals with Bella and Edward's wedding and all of the "emotions" Bella is going through.  Frankly I was bored and frustrated during this first half.  The pre-wedding set-up was fine, as was the ceremony itself.  They just existed.  They sat there on screen and gave me no real reason to feel any emotion.  I hate to be picky but the couple's vows were too short.  These two are SO in love, yet they rush right to the end.

Jacob shows up late..oh wait, I forgot to mention the part where he childishly runs off into the woods, all angry-like, after receiving his wedding invitation.  He made sure to take his shirt off first.  Why does he take of his shirt?  Why not his pants?  Jeans are more expensive than $5 K-Mart shirts.  What am I missing here?  The Hulk (pardon my French) don't give a fuck when he hulks out.  Shirts, purple pants, the Hulk doesn't care.  Why does Jacob?  He loses a nice pair of jeans, boxers, socks, and shoes every time he transforms.  But those shirts are just toooo valuable to lose.  But I digress.

I thought I said I wasn't going to rant....anyway, they get married and bang.  This "sex" scene was built up to be like, I don't know, earth-shattering.  There wasn't anything PG-13, let alone sexy, about this so-called "sex" scene.  I'd be totally okay showing this to a young child.  They'd probably have no idea what's happening, and the same goes for us.  Barely any moans, definitely no thrusts, but there was stuff getting ripped up.  Which we see in the morning.  Afterwards.  Boooooring.  I was given no reason to think that this was "the greatest moment of my (Edward's) life."  Then Bella mopes some more, as does Edward.  "Waaaa I gave you some bruises now I won't have sex with my wife."  Puh-lease.  Bella didn't give a crap about a wrecked room or some bruises.  She wanted her man (finally).  And now he doesn't want to touch her!  Seriously?!  And apparently Edward has Superman sperm because he magically gets her preggers.  Which isn't supposed to happen.  They rush back to the medical care of Carlisle and the Cullen clan to deal with the pregnancy.

At this point I actually kind of started to care and enjoy some aspects of the film.  Jacob is still moody and whiny.  Edward is still moody and sad.  Bella...looks like death.  The vampire baby is literally sucking the life out of her and by the end of the film she looked so terrible that I thought I was watching Lord of the Rings.  There were definitely plot issues peppered throughout, but the second half was fairly enjoyable.  There were things that I wish would've happened differently, or not happened at all, but it is what it is.  Vampire half-breed is born, Jacob gets all up in some werewolf's faces, and Bella comes back to life just before the credits.  Just as I assumed.  It was alright.  Not exactly terrible..but not really great.  There are worse films out there (Beastly and Jonah Hex, I'm looking at you).

Onto the acting itself.  Its bad.  Its  You'd think after four directors and four films the actors would, I don't know, have changed?  When one looks at the Harry Potter series of films the children obviously aged over time but so did their acting abilities.  Every film contained increasingly good acting.  The Twilight series does not.  Kristen Stewart is just as bland as always, Robert Pattinson is just as...bland as well, and Taylor Lautner is just as pouty and whiny as he's ever been.  Obviously these are reflections of the source material, but damn.  The first half of the film is pretty hard to watch in terms of acting.  Line delivery is stilted and emotionless.  I suppose Bella is going through a lot emotionally..getting married, consummating her impending marriage, becoming a bad-ass (oh wait, there aren't any bad-ass vampires in a series about vampires) vampire...but she always just seems to have a blank stare on her face, even when she is smiling.  Look, these characters really haven't changed over the course of the films.  They're pretty much the same they were from the beginning, and unfortunately the acting itself follows suit.  When almost the entire supporting cast is better and more enjoyable to watch than the three leads, you have a problem.  I will say that Taylor Lautner's performance in BD1 was better than his in this year's Abduction.  Definitely no Oscar noms for this crew...

I'd like to touch briefly on the CG in the film.  To be honest I felt that the werewolves looked the best of the series, with a good bit a screen time devoted to them psychically conversing and fighting.  The final showdown of Cullens+Jacob and two cronies vs. all other werewolves was pretty enjoyable to watch.  However, the scene itself takes place at night and thusly the action is kind of hard to follow at times.  The CG throughout the rest of the film, with regards to vampire super-speed, was a mixed bag.  Edward speeding around the bedroom packing up in Rio was pretty good but the rest really wasn't.  There's a nighttime scene just before the consummation which features Edward and Bella in the ocean.  The whole thing was just...odd.  Either I saw the worst implementation of green screen (as Ed's walking to the ocean) in film or that's just how the ocean looks at night.  Overall the CG was passable at best.

I guess that really sums up all my feelings about the film.  I really didn't like the first half at all.  I was bored.  Not invested at all.  After the pregnancy came into play I actually found myself able to have a bit of enjoyment.  Overall, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is not a very good film.  The acting is atrocious, the plot mediocre, and choice of music was very distracting.  Waaaay too many songs with lyrics and not enough instrumental.  Then again when an instrumental piece is introduced its played for too long and drew me out of the experience enough to comment about it.  If you are a Twihard then you'll eat this right up.  This film isn't for me.  Transformers, Star Trek, Batman, Watchmen..those films are for me.  And I understand that.  But at the end of the day not a single Harry Potter film is intrinsically bad.  The same cannot be said for the Twilight franchise.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 was...mediocrely watchable.  And a bit boring.

Bearded Bullet out.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Immortals Review

What's up Internet?

Be warned:  This review contains minor spoilers.

Full disclosure:  I've seen Immortals four times already.  Usually I write my reviews after the initial viewing; multiple viewings can and tend to change one's perspective on a film.  Honestly I was just too lazy to write a review previously..but I am finally sitting down now.  I liked Immortals a lot.  Yes, it has its flaws (predominantly script and plot-related), but its one hell of a visual blitzing of your corneal passageways that will (hopefully) leave you wanting to see more.

Let's get the negative stuff out of the way.  If you're coming into Immortals looking for a rich, deep narrative with character development and forward-moving plot development (and even simply adequate dialogue), well, Immortals is not the film for you.  The story is fairly generic and really doesn't offer up much in the way of twists or unexpected events.  The characters are fairly run-of-the-mill swords and sandals types - the arrogant, roguish side-kick, the mute monk, the super-attractive virgin oracle.  The only truly stand-out "character" would be Mickey Rourke's King Hyperion (more on him in a smidge).  The dialogue is mediocre at best; that said, the actors do their best with the material they are provided.

The plot is a combination of things we've all seen before; reluctant hero must get a bad-ass weapon to stop the ultimate bad guy.  Add some Greek Gods (specifically Zeus, Poseidon, and Athena) to the mix and there's your story.  There's obviously more to it but again, nothing really surprised.  Director Tarsem Singh decides to show the audience one of the last scenes first (as part of the oracle's vision) and proceeds to move towards that outcome throughout the film.  A more ambitious decision would have been to have the film's events alter the final results so that we don't exactly know what is about to play out.  Without getting too spoilerish, the idea of the oracle's vision becoming corrupted after she loses her virginity (which, surprise, does happen - props to Frieda Pinto's obvious butt-double) could've interestingly played out if the events that were to come to pass were somehow affected by her losing her virginity.  In summation: neither the characters or the plot were terrible, they just weren't great.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest I can start to gush over Immortals.  I'll start with the stand-out performances of the film.  Mickey Rourke is one of the most fascinating actors to watch on-screen.  He consistently transforms himself for his roles (most recently in The Wrestler, The Expendables, and Iron Man 2), and Immortals is no exception.  His King Hyperion is truly a villain that I loved to hate.  He is deliciously evil and brutal; Hyperion has no qualms about straight-up killing his men if it serves his ultimate goal.  Because of the poor overall character development persistent throughout the film, we get but just a glimpse into the madness and forces that drive this man.  His quest is rather predictable and bland, but perhaps a stylized flashback to a key event in his life (that we get a small description of) would've helped to frame his motivations more clearly.  Henry Cavill's Theseus is also screen-grabbing.  To be honest, this was the first time I had seen Cavill on the small or big screen...and I absolutely dig this guy.  He's charming and witty when he needs to be and brutal and ruthless when he's called to act.  There are specifically two scenes in which the rage and passion that drives his character bubbles to the surface and were a real treat to behold.  After much skepticism I can say, without a doubt, that he can most definitely pull off Superman/Clark Kent.

Now the visuals.  Damn.  Immortals is a visual masterpiece; every frame and scene packed with gorgeous scenery and lasting imagery.  While most of the vistas contained the now-typical green screen, the sets, for the most part, felt very real.  The digital effects throughout are quite astounding, from Theseus' small village cut into the side of a mountain, to just about any scene containing the gods.  The gods.  I could watch the gods fighting for the entire two-hour run time.  Because of Zeus' rule that gods cannot interfere with mortals in their godly form, we only get to see them in action twice.  Regardless, those two scenes are absolutely fantastic and rival some of the best in the genre (300, I'm looking at you).  Singh's use of speed-ramping and slow motion are expertly done...and produce fights that are extremely brutal and gory.  A good fight scene allows the viewing audience to clearly tell who is who and what is happening; while the fighting amongst humans is prone to this flaw, when the gods get in on the action everything is quite clear whether slow-mo is being implemented or not.

Immortals is definitely not without its flaws; the script (specifically the dialogue) is a quite lacking, as is the general plot and story.  That said, Immortals is truly a visual powerhouse, one whose images will stay with you long after the credits role.  A quick note on 3D - I saw the film in 3D (all four times) and quite enjoyed it.  While nothing revolutionary, its adequately complements the on-screen action and adds just enough to make it worth the extra dollars.

Immortals is pretty entertaining (but won't really force you to think).

Bearded Bullet out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Rum Diary Review

Greetings, Internet!  Last night I had the chance to check out Johnny Depp's latest film, The Rum Diary.  I would like to start off by saying that I am unfamiliar with the work of Hunter S. Thompson, nor have I seen any other films that are based upon his work.  That being said, I thought TRD was...interesting, with hints of brilliance and moments of pure hilarity, capped off by an unsatisfying finale.

The biggest props have to go to the two main leads: Depp and Michael Rispoli.  Two great actors putting in two great performances.  The likability and mystery of these two characters help to ground the film and allow the audience to get in their corner.  Depp's character, Kemp, is offered a job at an ailing newspaper in Puerto Rico in 1960.  The territory is portrayed as a mix of the wealthy minority and the poor majority.  Echoing today's political sentiments, the wealthy individuals (including the always-great Aaron Eckhart) are portrayed as money-grubbing profiteers looking to exploit the land for what they can, then move on.  Depp begins writing horoscopes and pieces on the booming bowling alley craze sweeping the area, but soon ends up in Eckhart's camp, tasked with spinning a commercial take-over of a nearby uninhabited island.  There's a lot going on in the film..and you have no idea what to expect next (one of my favorite aspects).

Puerto Rico is a mystery not only to most of us, but to Depp's Kemp as well.  We get to experience the exotic land through his eyes and witness the debauchery and partying lifestyles of the time.  One of the film's best scenes involves an unknown narcotic..dispensed through eye drops.  Its very memorable and quite funny.  The Rum Diary is probably one of the funniest films of the year, perhaps (un)intentionally.  Giovanni Ribisi is amazing as a Nazi-loving, always-drunk, ex-coworker and sometimes-roommate of Depp and Rispoli.  He steals the show with his drunken ramblings that lead to some memorable moments and quotes.

While I was, for the most part, entertained throughout, the film dragged quite a bit in the middle portion; not much was happening plot-wise and scenes seemed to languish for eternity.  Several times throughout the film I was tempted to check the time to see how much was left.  This two-hour film seemed much longer.  My other big complaint was the lack of a resolution(s).  Several story lines were built up throughout the film, with them all seemingly leading nowhere.  The film ends, in my opinion, abruptly with some pre-credit text explaining future events.  The events that were built up, specifically in the end of the second act, lead to absolutely nothing..and left me wanting more.  I understand that this film is most likely staying true to the source material, but I can't help but feel the anti-climactic nature of the final moments leave me wanting.

Despite my complaints I enjoyed The Rum Diary.  Seeing Johnny Depp without makeup, for once, was quite a treat.  If you are a fan of Depp, or enjoy pseudo-dramadies than I recommend you check it out.  If probably will be bored.

The Rum Diary was pretty good.

Bullet out.

In Time Review

If you have the time to see In Time, you should see In Time.  If you don't have the time to see In Time, then you won't be missing your time.  The number of times I said "time" right there is a representative exaggeration of the amount of times the characters say "time" in In Time. I can't stop.

Anyway, In Time exists in a distant future (I think?) where currency is time, not money.  Everyone has a green, glowing clock on their left arm letting them and the world know how much time they have left to live.  Everyone ages till they turn 25, then the clock starts.  Everyone is born with a year to live, while most people in the ghetto live day-to-day.  That's probably the most effective part of this world and the film itself.  The idea of waking up, knowing that you only have hours or minutes to live is quite unsettling.  You could say that its a cop-out, but In Time uses this premise quite frequently to boost tension within a scene.  Things get all the more serious when you see that there's only seconds left on the clock.  In this future, you can give time and take time by grabbing another person's right forearm.  Here's my beef with that - there are many instances in the film of someone taking time from another..and the second party does nothing to stop it.  You can just walk up to someone sleeping, put your arm underneath theirs and take their time, all the way to death.  Seems like society would break down pretty quickly..don't get me wrong, there is plenty of crime and criminals running around heisting time from people, but its just seems too easy to take someone's time.  We don't go around giving our money to people on a daily basis.  There is such an interesting world here, but the logic unfortunately doesn't fully hold up under scrutiny, and isn't really explored.

I thought the performances were alright.  I quite liked Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.  And who doesn't like Cillian Murphy??  The script itself is what's lacking, though.  A few too many "time" jokes were peppered throughout the early dialogue: "Hey, play some poker with us"  "No thanks, I don't have the TIME to play poker any more."  It gets quite annoying after a does Alex Pettyfer.  I haven't shared my opinions on this guy yet, but I cannot stand him in anything he's done.  He's an annoying asshole in this film and doesn't change my unfavorable opinion of the guy.

Despite all the negatives I've brought up I enjoyed In Time.  The concept and world are pretty interesting; a lot of tech is pseudo-retro.  Cars look straight out of the early 90s, but hum with future-tech.  There are "time zones" to keep the rich separated from the poor.  With all of this there is quite a heavy underlying tone and message; the government helps to keep the rich, rich and the poor, poor.  Those living in the ghetto live day-to-day, with death in the streets, while the rich live lavishly with hundreds, if not thousands of years on their clocks.  The message is pretty heavy-handed but didn't necessarily detract from my enjoyment.  I think most of us have grown accustomed to a bit of political preaching in modern films.  Overall, I was able to overlook most of the glaring flaws and plot holes (how did JT and Amanda get back to the ghetto after he kidnapped her?) and had fun with this movie.

In Time is kinda cool.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 Review

Greetings Internet!

I feel that I must begin this discussion with a smidge of background info.  I am not generally a fan of horror films (I don't like to be scared), although I will still see them.  Just like the Asian Scottsman in that Starburst commercial, its a bit contradictory.  I saw both previous Paranormal films in theater at midnight screenings, with a packed audience.  I feel that this trilogy is best seen amongst a group of people.  While frankly terrified by both previous films (again, I'm a sissy), I feel that Paranormal Activity 3 is the scariest, and quite possibly the best film in the trilogy.

I'm going to try to not spoil much for any of you who haven't seen the first two films.  PA3 is a prequel set in 1988.  We get to see the sisters from the first two films as small children, living with their mother and her boyfriend.  Being set in 1988 meant that video surveillance equipment and/or a plethora of easily-accessible video equipment would be tough to come by.  How the film handles this is fairly believable (the boyfriend is a wedding videographer).  The build up is pretty much following the path laid out by the first two films, with footage toggling between daytime and nighttime.  This is not necessarily new territory being tread here; much like the recent The Thing prequel, PA3 borrows heavily from the first two films in terms of set-up.

Where PA3 differs is in the quality of the scares.  I'm not afraid to admit that I was absolutely terrified throughout the film.  My eyes were constantly darting across every frame trying to find something moving or making noises.  The way the story is told is quite compelling and good use is made of the two girls.  The quality of the physical effects is quite impressive; there were plenty of shots and scares that left me not only terrified but also questioning "how'd he do dat?"

In terms of story PA3 does a fairly decent job at leading into the two previous films.  Some questions were answered while others were raised.  Again, I don't really wish to spoil anything for any of the trilogy.  Ultimately these films aren't, at the their core, story-or-character-driven.  You see the Paranormal films to be scared.  I will say that the family in this film is quite likable; I really didn't want any negative to befall them.  While the male character in each preceding film was, let's face it, quite douchy, Dennis (the boyfriend) is quite charming and easy to get behind.

As you can probably tell I'm a fan of Paranormal Activity 3.  I recommend it for those of you who enjoy being scared, or were simply fans of the first two films.  If you didn't like those there really isn't much here to change your mind.

Paranormal Activity 3 is terrifyingly rad.

The Bearded Bullet afraid to sleep.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Retro Review: se7en

I have finally had the opportunity to sit down and watch David Fincher's 1995 film, se7en.  Needless to say I absolutely loved this film.

I feel that there is very much to be enjoyed - that said, if you don't enjoy psychological thrillers with a healthy does of gore and twisted murders then this isn't the film for you.  Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are a joy to watch.  Their dynamic is highly compelling and at times what you've seen before...but there is just something special to how Freeman sees the world and how his work and life in New York had jaded him over the years.  We get a small glimpse into that during the excellent diner scene with the gorgeous Gwyneth Paltrow.

To say that this film is stylized is quite an understatement.  Every scene is just dripping with character and oozing grime.  I felt dirty after watching this film.  In part due to the gruesome crime scenes depicted throughout the film - again, each very stylized with a specific purpose (per the killer's overarching plan).  If you're even more behind the times than I am I won't spoil who the killer is..but it was quite a fantastic performance to say the least.

This is one of the most tense and intense films I've ever seen.  Very few films make me physically react in my seat the way that this film's climax did (127 Hours and Drive are two recent examples that come to mind).  I feel that this is one of the best aspects of se7en.  Fincher draws you in with spectacular characters, a gripping story, and an enthralling setting, that by the end I couldn't wait to see how the pieces of the puzzles fit together.

If you enjoy stylish, neo-noire crime dramas, I highly recommend se7en.

se7en is unequivocally radtastic.

Bearded Bullet out.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Thing (2011) Review

Whaaaaat up Internets?

The Bearded Bullet is here to review The Thing, which is a prequel to....The Thing.  The title unfortunately mimics (see what I did there...) the un-originality of the plot.  But really, how could a prequel that takes place days before the original film be that much different?  The answer lies in the middle.  The Thing faithfully sets up events that transpire in the OG Thing, while delivering a somewhat-satisfying story.

I'll try not to get too spoilery (for those who haven't seen the original), but the new Thing follows the Norwegian team that discovered and unfortunately unearthed the "thing" that ultimately ends up terrorizing them and eventually the American team in the original.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character is a paleontologist brought to the dig site to help excavate the frozen specimen.  The plot of the film unfolds pretty much how you would expect it to; "thing" thaws, terrorizes the team, paranoia is had by all, a test is developed to check for aliens, "thing" kills lots of people.  Despite the somewhat predictability I had a blast with the new Thing.  I enjoyed the characters and especially the set-ups for what comes in the original film.  Being able to spot things that Kurt Russel will find in just days made me cheer in my seat.  Fan service is definitely paid during the credits of the ends exactly where you think it will.  And I was completely okay with it.

I feel that I must make mention of the music and the visual effects in this new Thing.  The original Thing used the same tonal notes over and over again to add and build tension within a scene; the prequel also uses music to enhance a scene (as most horror films do these days), but perhaps not quite as effectively as the original.  The visual effects, for me, were not on par with the original's.  1982's The Thing featured absolutely incredible practical effects for the chest-busting, tentacle throwing, head-splitting aliens - and it stills holds up today.  The 2011 Thing uses pretty much all CG for the alien action.  Its pretty decent, but can't compare to the rawness of practical effects.  Why does Guillermo del Toro (and Ridley Scott with Prometheus) tend to use as many practical effects as possible?  Because they look fantastic and are more believable than digital effects (in most cases).  Much like the reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street, specifically the Freddy-coming-through-the-wall scene, the original film's practical effects add a level of intensity and believability to a film about a 100,000-year-old alien.

While The Thing may not break tradition or really try anything new, I can say that if you are a fan of the original The Thing, I recommend you check this out.  The story is actually still enjoyable, as are the new characters the viewer is introduced to.  I had a lot of fun with this movie.

The Thing (2011) is pretty cool.

Bearded Bullet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Real Steel Review

Hello again, Internet!

Real Steel has...real heart.  One wouldn't necessarily think that after hearing the premise:  In the future (around 2027) human boxers have been replaced by human-controlled (via a touch-screen controller) robot boxers.  The original story was written in 1956, called "Steel" and involved a similar premise.  This incarnation, however, wraps the robot boxing around themes of family, abandonment, and ultimately redemption...which is what makes this movie great.  The Transformers series offers giant, complex robots fighting one another with human counterparts standing by the wayside (of which the audience ultimately my care little about).  Real Steel too offers large (1,000+ lbs.) robots fighting one another, but there is an emotional core to the film that allows the audience to relate to the characters and experience their emotions along with them.

Grounded at the center of the film is the relationship between father (an always-great Hugh Jackman) and son (Dakota Goyo).  Abandoned by his father at birth, Dakota's Max has to learn to live with a father he has never met and isn't ready or willing to take care of him.  Max comes along for the ride and is thrown into the down-and-dirty world of underground robot boxing.  Their on-screen relationship develops, changes, and grows over the course of the film, to the point where you are really cheering in their corner by the end.  Evangeline Lilly (Lost's Kate) does a good job as Jackman's on-again-off-again girlfriend and landlord.  She's able to talk to and interact with Max in a way that Jackman's character can't and doesn't know how.

I was really quite impressed with the digital and practical effects used in Real Steel.  All of the robots we see on screen were actually built and were partially animatronic; if a robot was walking or fighting performance-capture (the same used in Avatar) was used to track the robot movements.  Everything else was practical.  There really is very little difference between practical and digital effects; the robots seem very real, and very powerful.  One can feel the intensity and strength of the mechanized punches being thrown; metal flies, fires break out, limbs are torn off.  There is a different type of brutality on display here, one that couldn't be seen in such fighting-centric films as The Fighter and Warrior.  In this future world, crowds want spectacle and utter destruction.  Robots allow for that to happen.

Real Steel is ultimately a feel-good, family story that happens to revolve around sweet robots fighting one another.  I really don't have much negative to say about Real Steel - just go check it out!

Real Steel is rad.


Drive Review

Greetings Internet!  The Bearded Bullet is back with a review for what I consider to be the best film of the year so far: Drive.

Nicholas Winding Refn's (Valhalla Rising, Bronson, The Pusher trilogy) latest directorial debut is a fine piece of art; if you are looking for a fast-paced action thrill ride you'll have to look elsewhere (perhaps this year's excellent Fast Five?).  The simplest distillation of the plot is such: Ryan Gosling's Driver (his name is never given) is a stunt-driver by day and getaway-driver by night.  He gets involved with some pretty ruthless individuals over a heist-gone-wrong.  That's the basic plot, but there is much more to this film than just a heist.

Most commonly emotion, feelings, and thoughts are expressed through dialogue, and of course, through an actor's portrayal of said feelings.  Refn slows down the film to focus on the non-dialogue; long scenes and takes of the main characters (Gosling and Carey Mulligan) staring/looking at one another/ into the distance.  I really appreciated these scenes in a summer dominated by bombastic action films.  Long pauses and silences give you time to think, and more importantly, figure out what the characters are feeling or going through, rather than being told.  Gosling's Driver is one of my favorite characters to have been on screen in a long time.  He doesn't say much, but when he speaks there is purpose to what he says.  Same go for his actions.  He is quiet and serene until the situation demands for him to act, and act he does.  Judging by the way the Driver dresses, talks, and acts, it would seem that he consciously decided to personify the type of action star he is standing-in for during his day job.  The dialogue he delivers before each heist reinforces this sort of, persona, that he has taken on.  It almost seems as though he is acting in his real life.

Paired brilliantly with the slow, purposeful dialogue is insane, intense, thrilling action sequences (of which, I say, I wish there were more of).  Refn shows a mastery at staging and executing action set-pieces where the audience can clearly see what's happening.  If you don't particularly enjoy or are offended by extreme violence, Drive is not for you.  That said, the film as a whole is absolutely fantastic.  The editing, cinematography (amazing shots from within Gosling's car), acting, story, and importantly the soundtrack/score was incredible.  1980s-style synth-pop tracks are peppered throughout the film - if you pay attention to the lyrics the songs fit perfectly.

Drive is a plodding, methodical drama with splashes of intense violence and amazing action.  Fantastic performances and an amazing soundtrack put Drive above all other films (so far) in 2011.

Drive is unequivocally, immensely, Radtastic.

The Bearded Bullet drives off into the sunset...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: Initial Reaction

Greetings Internet!

I just saw HPDHP2.  I have very mixed feelings about this film.  Hence, my review will be forthcoming, perhaps after a second viewing.  But I will still share some thoughts.  If you don't want to know anything, I'd stop here.  While my thoughts may not be rife with spoilers I'd still recommend caution.

So....I very much enjoyed Part 2.  I can't help but feel that I overhyped the film in my mind to the point that nothing could live up to it (a fear that I have for The Dark Knight Rises).  Overall the film is very, very good..but there were key scenes that bothered me and editing issues that I felt hindered the experience.  There are bits of Hogwarts that we haven't seen in any of the previous films, and big things happen to or around them; the set-up, pay-off partnership didn't quite present itself in Part 2.  Don't get me wrong, there was plenty that I liked.  There were plenty of "oh !#!%" moments for me but I can't help but feel...I can't quite describe it.  Perhaps after furthers viewings I will be able to compile my thoughts cohesively.  My initial reaction is that Part 1 is superior to Part 2 but we shall see...

But please, please go see this film.  It is overall quite spectacular to behold.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Retro Review: American Psycho

Whaaat up Internet!

American Psycho.  It took me quite awhile to actually sit down and watch this movie.  I don't know why exactly - I had heard from many sources that it was quite good and lo and is.  I was actually quite thrilled by it in terms of performance and story.  Let's just say that Christian Bale is absolutely incredible in the role of Patrick Bateman.  The only true word to describe him is psychotic.  He's charming, funny, intelligent...and demented, twisted, vengeful, and full of pure contempt.  And its glorious.  There's some pretty insane stuff going on story-wise but I don't want to spoil anything for those who have taken longer than me to see it.  I'll just say that Bale is a Wall Street money man who has a very dark, demented, serial killer side.  While Bale shines as the lead, he is bolstered by a great supporting cast: Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, and Willem Defoe are all fantastic.

I really don't have anything negative to say about American Psycho.  I enjoyed every second and loved watching the insanity unfold before my eyes.  If you enjoy psychological thrillers and slasher films you will probably enjoy it quite a bit.

American Psycho is Radtastic.


Retro Reviews

Greetings and salutations, Internet!

I watch a lot of movies.  Not only new releases, but I also have a vast collection of DVD and Bluray that I dip into on an almost a daily basis.  While most reviewers and movie sites give you their thoughts on the latest and greatest that Hollywood has to offer, few divulge their thoughts on the films of years' past.  I was thinking of posting reviews of non-new-release films that I watch in my leisure time.  I'll label these "Retro Reviews," where "retro" does not stand for old, but rather for "retroactive."  Think of these as the reviews I would have written had I seen these movies when they were released (many of which I actually did catch at launch).  I think I may start with American Psycho..

The one, the only...The Bearded Bullet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

I'm going to start off by saying that I enjoyed both of the former Transformer's movies..the first more so than the second.  If you haven't seen it yet, you can check out my thoughts here.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (T3) is a ridiculously intense action movie.  If that's what you're looking for, you'll probably love it.  T3's action pieces are truly spectacular, with outstanding CGI work and some incredible camerawork.  Michael Bay has refined his action chops over the course of this trilogy and his handiwork absolutely shines in T3.  The replacement of Megan Fox with model Rosie Huntington-Whitely is a welcome change, as she instantly has more charm and character than Fox's Mikaela ever did.  Despite only meeting her for the first time in this movie, I actually bought Sam's and her relationship and it felt very real.  The main cast of the first two movies is back, both humans and Transformers.  Several new Autobots and Decepticons add to the already cool roster, with a handful of fantastic cameo performances from fantastic actors adding to the human element.

If you are looking for deep character development you won't find it here.  If you've seen the previous movies you should know what you're getting into.  While nothing is truly Oscar-worthy (except the visual effects and sound design) I feel that this is the strongest of the trilogy.  Its the funniest, most coherent (story-wise), and overall funnest of the three.  Yes, haters will hate..there are some minor plot holes and things that might leave you scratching your head, but at the end of the day I had a lot of fun with T3.  It is probably one of the best pure action films that I've seen in a very long time.  The third act is almost breathtaking in its scope and sheer insanity.

3D note:  I saw T3 twice, both in Imax 3D.  I'd highly recommend that combination to anyone who is okay with ponying up the extra dollars.  The crispness of the digital projection with this level of CG is absolutely gorgeous.  The 3D for the most part is subtle but effective.  It ranks, for me, in the higher-echelon of 3D films.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is unequivocally Radtastic.

The Bearded Bullet is rollin' out!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Priest 3D Review

Whaaat up Internet?

Priest.  I started out with high hopes after seeing the first trailer.  I've never read the comics so this was a fresh take for me.  I was intrigued by the visuals and the holy/vampiric stuff going on.  Then I saw more footage...and was bombarded by promotional ads and clips and looped commercials on the TV at work.  As the weeks passed my anticipation dropped, along with my expectations.  Apparently that was a good thing because I really enjoyed Priest.

Priest is Daybreakers meets Unforgiven meets Equilibrium.  Yes.  A futuristic alternate Earth where battle-trained (by the church) "Priests" fight sightless vampires (that aren't human) that either kill or "turn" humans into "familiars" who serve as their slaves.  Phew.  There's quite a bit going on in Priest..which actually is a good thing.  It could have very, very wrong, but the performances and impressive green-screen visuals were quite entertaining.  I dug the feel of Priest...the atmosphere.  Its almost always fun to watch vampires get beat up by holy weaponry - mini cross throwing-stars hidden in a bible, a metal cross that becomes a redunk knife-dealy.

I was overall entertained by Priest, but not blown away.  It clocks in at a nice run-time and doesn't really stop to bore the audience.  The acting was in general pretty good (even Cam Gigandet was tolerable) and the pacing kept the action flowing.  I'm sure fans of the source material may feel different but I liked what I saw.

Side note: the 3D aspects of Priest weren't great, but they weren't terrible either.  If the choice is given, I'd go 2D to save some money.

Priest 3D was meh.


Bridesmaids Review

Welcome, Internet!

I really enjoyed Bridesmaids.  The simplest way to describe it is The Hangover with women..but its not quite that.  Its more a romantic comedy with a ridiculous amount of comedy.  I think it may very well be the funniest movie I've seen since The Hangover (although The Other Guys is up there..).  The women that comprise the main and supporting cast all turn excellent comedic performances, with Melissa McCarthy absolutely stealing the show.  Almost everything she says and does (even in the background of shots) is laugh-enducing.  There are several scenes that gave me a headache from laughing so much.

I really don't have many complaints about the film; there was one or two scenes with awkward editing.  The movie's pacing falters a bit in the third act - most of the Apatow productions drag toward the end of the film.  Other than that the characters were likable (except for Rose Byrne but you aren't supposed to like her) and worked well as an ensemble, especially real-life-friends Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. So far critics love if it makes enough money I'd love to see a sequel.  Or at least a new film with these actresses.  If you enjoy raunchy humor mixed with a bit of a romantic flavor then definitely check out Bridesmaids.

Favorite quote(s):
"It's coming out of me like lava!"
"All I'm saying is that I had a friend with tape marks on his ass"
"I own six houses..and just the other week I bought an 18-wheeler because I can"

Bridesmaids is Rad.


Review Changes

Hello Internets!

I know that I haven't posted many reviews, in part because I'm too lazy to actually write them.  Therefore, I'll be shortening the length of my reviews (unless its something big like Harry Potter for Batman).  I'll tell you what I think and that's it.  I'm also changing my review scale from 1-5 to a word system:  Radtastic, Rad, Meh, Woof, and Double Woof.  I may also make up words to fit certain movies.  I know, pretty sweet, right?

The Bullet.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Year That Will Be 2011

Hello Internets!

Its been awhile since I've posted anything, and considering that summer is just around the corner I thought it would be remiss of me if I didn't discuss this year's kick ass summer movie schedule.  For me, 2008 still stands as the best year for movies in recent memory; specifically summer 2008 has dominated in terms of quality films.  Summer 2008 gave us such films as:
Iron Man
Speed Racer
Indiana Jones
Kung Fu Panda
Incredbile Hulk
Hellboy 2
The Dark Knight
Step Brothers
Pineapple Express
Eagle Eye

Yeah..summer 08 was pretty stacked.  It was a exceptional year for nerds and comic book fans alike.  Iron Man introduced us to the modern Marvel movie pantheon, setting up the Avengers film that just began shooting not but a week ago.  Kung Fu Panda remains to this day one of my favorites animated films of all time.  Ironically enough we are poised for its awesome-looking sequel in mere weeks.  Incredible Hulk was a really fun action movie..adding to the new Marvel mythos.  The Dark Knight still stands as one of the best films of this generation; Christopher Nolan took a story about a man who dresses as a bat to fight crime and turned his Batman films into intricate character-driven dramas.  The Dark Knight  stands as an amazing crime drama..elevating the comic book genre to new heights.  Hellboy 2 is another amazing sequel, if not a highly underrated one.  Step Brothers and Pineapple Express are two of the best comedies of the decade and will make you still laugh after multiple viewings.

Can 2011 top the great year that was 2008?  I kinda think so...
Pirates 4
Hangover 2
Kung Fu Panda 2
X-Men First Class
Super 8
Troll Hunter
Green Lantern
Cars 2
Transformers 3
Harry Potter 8
Captain America
Cowboys and Aliens
The Devil's Double
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
30 Minutes or Less
Apollo 18
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Our Idiot Brother
The Debt

I mean, seriously?  In terms of comic book movies alone this year brings Thor, X-Men, Green Lantern and we're getting major nerd-friendly fair like Super 8, Troll Hunter, Transformers, Harry Potter, Cowboys and Aliens and Apollo 18.  Yes, this year and most others are "plagued" by sequels.  I don't really care if what I'm watching is original or a sequel as long as its good.  After the summer is over I'll revisit this list to see what actually held up and what didn't.  Judging by this list, I'd say that we're in for a great summer!

My most anticipated films of 2011 (in descending order):
Harry Potter
Super 8
Cowboys and Aliens
Hangover 2
Green Lantern

What say you Internet?  Are you pumped for 2011 like I am?


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Bullet Has Returned

Sorry Internet!  I know its been awhile since I've reviewed anything..but that's about to change!  Within the next few days many new reviews will be posted!


Friday, January 14, 2011

The Green Hornet Review

Greetings Internet!

I’m sorry about how long its been since my last review...but I’ll make my triumphant return with a discussion about the absolutely incredible The Green Hornet.  For a film that’s gone through development hell, with multiple incarnations since the mid-90s, the end product is visual overload in all the best ways.  Part bad-ass action movie, part buddy-comedy TGH exudes a special kind of frenetic energy that keeps the pace brisk and the audience consistently entertained.  More than once was my jaw on the floor at what was flashing before my eyes.

The Green Hornet’s story follows a relatively well-trodden path for most super-hero and comic book movies.  The main character (Britt, played by Seth Rogen) goes from a boy with a very non-nurturing childhood to a man with daddy issues, culminating in a crime-fighting bad-ass with an even more bad-ass partner (Kato, played by John Chou).  The major twist to this familiar hero story is in how the protagonists go about their crime fighting; they pose as villains but ultimately act as heroes.  With this methodology the pair are able to take down Los Angeles’ crime population with the facade of eliminating their competition.  This is a fairly simple, straightforward plot with just enough twists and turns to keep the viewership interested; a simple story can allow the phenomenal action sequences and overall stunning visual flair stand out that much more.  A complicated plot can be a blessing and a curse; if the audience diverts their attention to deciphering what is happening, there is opportunity for nuances in the film to be missed, of which The Green Hornet has plenty.  The simplicity of the story allows the viewer to sit back and bask in the genius that is Michel Gondry.  Gondry pushes his incredible filmmaking style further down the rabbit hole the TGH; the Kato-vision fight sequences are absolutely stunning, as is a how’d-he-do-dat epic car chase that seems to last forever (which is a very, very good thing).

Seth Rogen continues his string of excellent comedic performances with The Green Hornet.  This is a very funny movie.  There were very few heavily-dramatic moments in the film, usually capped with a great one-liner to pull us back into the happy place in which this film lives.  And that’s the way it should be.  For this type of hero movie a straight dramatic tone would just not fit; a film about two men wearing green masks driving in a James Bond-style Chrysler Imperial needs to have a comedic overtone.  Writers Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who also teamed up for Superbad and Pineapple Express) did a fantastic job of melding action and comedy into a marriage of pure awesomeness.  Add in Gondry’s visionary skillset and you’ve got a film that works on so very many levels.
I would be remiss to conclude this review without mentioning Christoph Waltz.  He was absolutely phenomenal in Inglourious Basterds, and he continues his trend of greatness with The Green Hornet.  Waltz plays a great villain; despite his somewhat un-menacing stature he is a ruthless mobster who controls all of the crime in LA.  He does whatever is necessary to maintain his position of power..did I mention that he carries a custom-made double-barrel handgun??  His deadpan delivery makes his already-hilarious dialogue even funnier.  This man needs to be in every film, immediately.  Please, Sam Mendes, cast Waltz as the main villain in Bond 23!!!

If you couldn’t tell, I absolutely loved The Green Hornet.  It is quite the ride from beginning to end.  While delivering one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a long time, Michel Gondry has pushed the envelope on visual effects and the use of 3D to augment a film.  I’m not exactly the biggest fan of 3D films, but when used subtly adding in the third dimension can really enhance the viewing experience.  The Green Hornet’s use of 3D will impress you more than it will annoy you.  Clash of the Titans, this is not.  If you enjoy action-comedies The Green Hornet is a must-see.  If this is any indication on what is to come in 2011 I predict that I’ll be a very happy nerd.

The Green Hornet: 4/5

The Bearded Bullet