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.