Friday, June 29, 2012

Seeking a Friend For the End of the World Review

Hello, Internet (pretend I said that all depressed-like).  I am more than willing to give any movie a chance and Seeking a Friend For the End of the World (Seeking) was no exception.  I saw the trailer and more or less knew what I was getting into - a dramedy.  What I got was a whole 'lot of drama and not much comedy.  Not enough comedy to pull me from the immediate depression I found myself in from the first scene.

The premise is quite simple and an interesting set-up in which to stage a drama - an asteroid 60 miles wide will impact the Earth in just three weeks, wiping out all life whatsoever.  It is within this doomsday premise that we meet our main character, Dodge (the always-lovable Steve Carell), who upon hearing the apocalyptic news, watches his wife run away into the night.  This is the first of many examples of how people and society deals with the impending destruction of the human race (and was probably my favorite aspect of the film).  Dodge eventually finds himself with the pseudo-hippy Penny (Keira Knightley) and the pair set out on a road trip to find loved ones before the apocalypse.

I'll just come right out and say that Seeking is not an enjoyable film to watch.  It is not fun.  It is sad.  And it made me sad.  Very sad.  The premise is interesting enough but I suppose that I was expecting just a bit more comedy mixed in with the drama.  That said, there were a few parts of Seeking that I did enjoy.  Carell and Knightley are simply fantastic as the two leads; their journey from complete strangers to friends to lovers felt natural and was quite compelling.  I was brought to tears at least once because of this pair's chemistry and their believable performances.

As previously mentioned, I quite enjoyed the different reactions of pockets of society to the impending apocalypse.  Reactions ranged from rioting to the continuance of day-to-day activities (police officers still pulling people over for speeding).  One of my favorite sequences of the film involved a stop at a Friendly's-style restaurant that ended in a drug-induced orgy; definitely a more relaxed way to deal with death than rioting.  A beat that I found rather interesting revolved around contract killers; some people wished to end their lives before the asteroid impact.  Rather than commit suicide, which is considered a sin, individuals can hire someone to end their life for them.  In one particular instance the character in question (a relatively cool cameo) wanted to die not knowing when, where, or how.  In complete contrast to the drug orgy is a pilgrimage of sorts; our leads almost literally run into a convoy of immigrants on their way to the be baptized.  None of this is spoken outright; we get to see Dodge and Penny enjoying some of their last hours on the beach with happy people just living.  It was quite moving and very impactful.

Obviously there were moments that I enjoyed quite a bit in Seeking, but the overall tone of the film is quite depressing; yes, our leads are trying to find loved ones before the apocalypse, and there are funny and poignant moments to be had within that premise, but I couldn't help leaving the theater utterly saddened..  Seeking a Friend For the End of the World is a very good film, but its just not fun to watch or really all that enjoyable.  Watch at your own risk!

Seeking is an utterly depressing dramedy about the end of the world...without much by way of comedy.

The Bearded Bullet.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Review

Greetings, Internet!  My anticipation for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Lincoln) was stupidly high.  I mean, way higher than it should have been.  I suppose the main reason for this is the mash-up of an historical figure and time mixed with the supernatural.  History is kinda my jam, so this seemed right up my alley.  I had begun to read the book on which this was based last summer, but for some reason I never finished it.  And it didn't matter - I was hooked from the first trailer.

I have a lot to say about Lincoln but I'll try to keep it brief.  If you are looking for an emotionally engaging, thought-provoking summer action film, Lincoln is not the film for you.  It is indeed a summer action film but it is of the "dumb" variety.  I liked a bit about this film despite its lack of depth.  I felt like the performances were pretty good throughout; Benjamin Walker was quite good as the title character, in both his younger and older years.  I'm a huge fan of Anthony Mackie and enjoyed him in his small role - I wish he had had a bigger part to play as his character is really not explored at all.  Dominic Cooper does a good job as Abe's mentor, Henry.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead was just fine as Mary Todd Lincoln.  She didn't really do anything to impress me...but perhaps that was the material she was given.

The action in this film was quite a mixed bag.  At times it was a bit difficult to make out what was happening, or was just plain unexciting.  There were, however, several action set pieces that I thought were just pure baddassery.  Without spoiling too much it involved a battle on a southern plantation and a fairly spectacular train sequence.  I thought both had some cool visual flairs (I am quite the sucker for speed-ramping and slow-mo in general) and were quite exhilarating.

The rest of the film, including the narrative and pacing were more than lackluster.  To be honest, I was enjoying myself the most when Abe was doing his job - killing vampires.  I felt that the love subplot wasn't handled as well as it could have been.  The editing was at times just odd - it seemed that large swathes of time and narrative beats were axed from the film.  The pacing suffered from a lack of action in the second act.  Granted, that time was needed to build up the civil war plot line that would ultimately end dramatically in the third act, but the film just seemed to grind to a screeching halt.  And the CG.  Boy, the CG was pretty darn bad at times.  Whenever there was a wide shot of the Gettysburg battlefield it just looked kinda bad.  Granted, when the camera was up close and real actors were involved the action was fairly good.

Lincoln is parts disappointment and entertainment.  Much like this year's Battleship, I enjoyed Lincoln a bit more than I should have.  All I really wanted out of the film was some cool action set pieces...and that's pretty much what I got.  To use the phrase that everyone uses, I enjoyed it for what it was.  For now, I'm okay with the trend of relatively "dumb" summer action movies, because for every Battleship or Lincoln that we get, we'll also be blessed with Inception, The Dark Knight, or The Avengers.  And that's okay with least for now


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rock of Ages Review

Greetings, Interwebs!  I'm not gonna lie - I don't really see many musicals.  Or musically-infused films.  I watched Glee for a bit and was mildly entertained.  I actually love the musical episode of Scrubs and, of course, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog...but other than those they just aren't my thing.  I understand why people love them and that there's an audience for them and I'm sure those types of people will love Rock of Ages.  I'm just not one of them.  Oh, and if you care about spoilers I'd stop here - the Broadway show has been around for quite a few years so I don't see any problems with spoiling it here.  And honestly, the story doesn't matter all that much.

As I've stated many a time, I'm willing to give anything a chance.  Including Rock of Ages.  Part of me is glad that I did and part of me is not-so-glad.  I'll start with what I liked: the music.  I'm a late-80s baby, but my father listened to nothing but "classic" rock during my youth.  Therefore, I grew up with all of the music on display in RoA.  Twisted Sister, Journey, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Extreme (yes, I said Extreme).  Being a fan of classic rock almost guarantees that you'll enjoy this film at a basic level.  The problem is that most of these songs are performed just so-so.  I felt, at least in the beginning of the film, that the vocal performance were clearly dubbed in via ADR, and evoked memories of Glee (which, in this case, is a bad thing).  And that's fine...I suppose.  Again, I'm not as knowledgeable about this genre as others, but to me it seemed quite obvious.  That said, I did enjoy a few of vocal performances, with Tom Cruise's Stacee Jaxx stealing the show.

If there's only one reason I would recommend this film to someone (besides a love of 80s rock), it would be Tom Cruise.  He plays an almost-washed-out rocker (Guns N Roses front man Axl Rose was the inspiration - and it shows) who is about to break off into a solo career in an environment that is shifting ever-more to the rap/boy band scene.  To put it simply, Cruise is fantastic as Stacee Jaxx.  While his performance borders on over-the-top, I found him extremely entertaining and easily was my favorite aspect of the film.  His rendition of "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard was my favorite song - well, that and a version of Extreme's "More Than Words."  Those were my two favorites in a sea of awesome music.

I thought the cast was down-right fantastic.  The amount of acting talent on screen was insane: Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston and the aforementioned Cruise.  The two leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta were alright as well.  I enjoy Alec Baldwin no matter what he's doing - especially if he's the owner of an L.A. rock club with some rad 80s rocker hair.

Now on to what I didn't like: almost everything else.  While the cast was great, what they were doing was not.  Granted, I've never seen the Broadway play on which this film is based so perhaps the story is adhering to the source material.  That said, there really isn't much substance to the plot on a basic film level - and I understand that people won't be going to see this film for the narrative.  Its the music that matters.  And that fact comes through quite evidently.  The story, mid-western girl moves to L.A. hoping to become famous meets handsome wanna-be rocker, is well-trodden territory to say the least.  A sub-plot is thrown in regarding the closure of Baldwin's club and blah blah blah.  The story goes nowhere and hinges entirely on your caring about the two leads and their relationship.  Which I really didn't.  I'm supposed to believe that they're madly in love after like, four days?  Not buying it.  By the end of the film it seems that quite a bit of time has passed, when in reality its probably only days or a week.  There are plot lines that just get thrown out the window and forgotten when those were the bits that I actually cared about.  Personally, I could've done away with the romance completely and focused on Baldwin's club and Stacee Jaxx.  And there is just some plain weird stuff thrown in at times..

I have more to say but its not really worth saying.  On some levels, Rock of Ages is fantastic.  On a basic film level it fails quite hard.  I actually wouldn't mind seeing it again - mainly for the music and the awesomeness that is Stacee Jaxx.  He's probably one of my favorite characters so far this year.  If you're a fan of musicals then you'll probably enjoy Ages quite a bit.  Everyone probably should just go see The Avengers again.  Oh, and am I the only person who thinks that Julianne Hough's voice is sqeakily-annoying?

Rock of Ages is an entertaining musical...but not a very good film.

The Bearded Bullet.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Men in Black 3 Trimmed Review

Greetings Internet!  I saw Men in Black 3 (MIB3) several weeks ago, and simply put, was too lazy to put my thoughts on digital paper.  And that's odd, considering that I liked it quite a bit.  Leading up to the release I was skeptical to say the least; I had heard about production problems and that they began filming before the script was completed.  I am very happy to report that MIB3 blew away my expectations and ended up being an enjoyable little film.

In short, I loved pretty much everything about MIB3.  Its great to see Agents J and K back on screen together, even if it seemed that Tommy Lee Jones was phoning in his role (I know, one could argue the validity of that statement due to what's happening with the character).  I haven't enjoyed Will Smith this much since probably I Am Legend several years ago.  The performances overall were fantastic; Jermaine Clement, as Boris the Animal, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin were a true delight to watch.  Boris is deliciously evil and chews scenery at will.  Griffin, for me, was the best aspect of the film.  The character is incredibly original and fresh and just stole the show for me.  There is one scene in particular, involving him, J, and young K that almost brought me to tears with how simply breathtaking it was.  Oh, I can't forget about young K, played by Josh Brolin.  He doesn't imitate Jones, but he adds to the character in his own special way.

I was pleasantly surprised by the narrative in MIB3.  Coming out of the trailers all we knew was that there was time travel involving the death of K in 1969 and that J had to go back in time to stop his death and prevent an alien invasion.  Thankfully, there is so much more going on than that.  Yes, while that is the main thrust and basic premise of the plot there are more layers to it - the time travel aspect, for me, was handled quite well and was used to entertaining affect.  Going back to 1969, for an African-American male wouldn't necessarily mean the happiest of times, and I'm quite glad that the writers dealt with concept, if only for one brief scene.  They acknowledged it, had some fun with it, and moved on.  And I thought it was handled brilliantly.

I had way more fun with Men in Black 3 than I could have ever anticipated.  It was funny, smart, entertaining - and that's all it needed to be.  There are definitely worse times to be had at the theater than with MIB3.  If you enjoyed the original two, or are just looking for a decent action-comedy this summer, I recommend you check out MIB3.

Men in Black 3 is an entertaining summer action-comedy that knows exactly what it is.

Bearded Bullet.

Prometheus Review

Hello, Internet!  Ridley Scott's long-awaited return to the genre he helped define has come.  His latest film, Prometheus, was a closely-guarded production from the beginning.  Scott wasn't very forthcoming in interviews as to what exactly the narrative of Prometheus would be and what exactly its ties to the Alien franchise were.  What Scott was able to deliver, after being away from the genre that started his career for over thirty years, is a visual masterpiece and gripping science fiction drama that is not without its flaws.

I don't want to spoil anything here because part of the wonder of this film is not knowing anything about its plot.  I was afraid that the multiple trailers and TV spots were giving away too much - in some cases they did, as I was able to piece together the story from the images I remembered seeing, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised by what was on screen and how the narrative played out.  The basic premise is that two scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (played by the talented Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find cave paintings all across the earth that have a similar star pattern; an invitation from a higher form of life to come find them in the cosmos.  The two join a diverse and incredibly entertaining crew on board the Prometheus and arrive at their destination after two years in cryo-stasis.  And that's pretty much all I'll say.  The major theme of the film, and the major motivation of our two leads, is finding out where we came from and who created us.  Its quite an interesting idea and a through-line that carries most of the film.  Overall I felt the narrative was gripping and entertaining throughout; I was on the edge of my seat on more than one occasion.

Just about everything in this film just works.  The cast is superb.  For me, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender (playing the android David) are the two major stand-outs amongst a crowd of talent.  Fassbender plays David with a quiet intensity and inquisitiveness that was evocative of Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He is incredibly intelligent and lacks a soul, but is not above cracking jokes at the crew's expense.  I've enjoyed Rapace since the original Dragon Tattoo trilogy and her small role in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  I'm sure a lot of people were comparing her to the iconic character of Ripley from the previous Alien films.  Yes, while she is a very strong and capable female lead, she is able to stand out on her own and put in quite a performance.  There is one scene in particular that was gut-wrenching to say the least, and it all came down to Rapace's performance.

The rest of the cast, as previously mentioned, helps to round-out the film; Idris Elba is beyond entertaining at the Prometheus' captain.  Charlize Theron is the cold and calculating Weyland Corporation supervisor for the trip; she is actually quite menacing in her own way.  Guy Pearce is pretty fantastic as the aged Peter Weyland, with some very convincing old-person makeup (a step up from the sometimes distracting makeup in 2011's "J. Edgar").  The rest of the crew is a mixture of character types that was just plain fun to watch interact with one another.

Prometheus' visual effects, for me, are on a whole 'nother level then most of Hollywood.  At times breathtaking (specifically the intro to the film, during the opening credits) and others, downright visceral; Prometheus is a visual powerhouse that will set your corneas on fire with its dazzling effects.  I saw this film in IMAX 3D.  And I have to highly recommend it.  I thought the 3D was actually implemented very well; it wasn't too distracting and complimented much of what was happening on screen rather than detracting from it.  Just like in 2009's "Avatar," computer displays and holographic images just pop on screen with the inclusion of 3D.

I know I've pretty much gushed over Prometheus up to this point...but its not without its flaws.  For me, the one thing I loved the most I also hated the most - the narrative.  The film raises quite a few questions...and doesn't necessarily answer them.  Prometheus is the type of film that you have to piece things together on your own.  And I like that.  But at the same time I don't.  There are leaps in logic that it asks you to take and if you can't make them then you're probably going to walk away unsatisfied.  It took a post-film discussion to piece together many of the puzzles laid out over the course of the film.  Granted, I quite enjoy when a film sparks a meaningful discussion or debate, but in the case of Prometheus, I think it perhaps was poor storytelling that lead to the various discussions after the credits rolled.  The characters in the film itself don't really seem to know what's going on or why things are happening; therefore, we the audience aren't privy to the expository dialogue that usually accompanies on-screen events.  Certain things happen that just don't make sense at first, but with some thought they make perfect sense and are quite brilliant.  I don't know if most people will go that in-depth with this film.

A big deal was made about bringing Damon Lindelof on board to help write the script.  Lindelof was a show-runner and writer on Lost (one of my favorite all-time shows), a show (in)famous for its not-answering of questions...some questions that were prevalent throughout all six seasons.  Knowing that, its understandable that he wouldn't answer everything during the course of this film; in fact, there is quite an easy set-up for more films to bridge the gap between Prometheus and Alien.  And let it be clear that I'm not trying to make excuses; Lindelof now has a reputation for this and if you aren't willing to accept that, then perhaps you won't be as fulfilled by Prometheus as I was.

If its not obvious I loved Prometheus.  I am very glad that Ridley Scott is back in the science fiction realm (a sequel to Blade Runner is also in the works).  The film is a visual masterpiece that has a diverse and fantastic cast with some truly intense, nail-biting moments.  Its not your typical action blockbuster; in fact, it wouldn't use the word "action" to describe it.  Its more of a suspense/horror/thriller than anything.  So if you like any of those genres, or are a fan of the Alien franchise, I highly recommend you go see Prometheus.  In IMAX.

Prometheus is an incredibly entertaining scifi film that may leave some wanting for more resolutions.

The Bearded Bullet.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman Review

What is up Interwebs?  It seems that, for decades, Hollywood has been in a perpetual cycle; someone begins developing a project and then someone else begins developing a project that has the same premise or story.  This year's examples are the competing Snow White films.  Early this year saw the release of Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror - a film that I thought looked not even the least bit worth my time and avoided like the plague.  Its competitor, Snow White and the Huntsman (SWATH) took a much more realistic, gritty approach to the material.  I really dug the Lord of the Rings vibe that was present in the trailers and was quite looking forward to seeing it.  Unfortunately I came away from it with quite a few mixed feelings.

I'll start off with what I enjoyed about the film: the characters, imagery, narrative, and tone.  Overall, the acting in this film is quite good.  There really isn't a weak link the bunch, and that's including Kristen Stewart.  Everyone loves to hate on her for her bland portrayal of Bella in the Twilight franchise...and you all know how I feel about that.  I actually have no problem with her outside of Twilight and she's pretty good in SWATH.  Then again, when you surround yourself with incredibly high-caliber actors it helps to bring up your game.  Charlize Theron is fantastic as the beauty-obsessed Queen Ravenna.  Chris Hemsworth, in my opinion, needed more screen time.  I know that's odd to say considering he's with Snow White for almost the entire film, but I loved his character, The Huntsman, and in particular his comedic entrance to the film.  For me, the true standouts were the collection of incredibly-well cast dwarfs: Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost(!!), Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones.  I had no idea going into the film that the dwarfs would be populated with so many amazing character actors.  I kinda wish we had gotten an entire film just about the dwarfs.  They added just enough comic relief to break up the tension in this incredibly serious film.

The imagery in SWATH is astounding at times.  A lot of what I'm thinking of can be witnessed in the trailers: the slick design for Ravenna's mirror, the white liquidy stuff that Ravenna bathes in, the designs for the various monsters, specifically the bridge troll, and even Ravenna's magical army.  The visual effects, on the whole, were pretty good with only a few shots here and there that didn't quite look right.  Whatever visual tricks Rupert Sanders employed on the dwarfs worked to great effect; its hard to believe, after seeing this film, that none of the actors playing them are not little people.  Going along with the serious visuals is the narrative; SWATH is a very serious film.  There is very little humor present at all.  As previously mentioned, the dwarfs add a bit of welcome comedic relief, as does the Huntsman (at least in his introduction).

While I enjoyed almost all of the individual parts of this film, including the serious tone, something just didn't click for me.  And I honestly cannot put my finger on it.  When the credits rolled I kind of just went "okay, that happened."  Its incredibly frustrating that I cannot place what doesn't raise this from a film I enjoyed to a film I loved.  And all the pieces are there.  I suppose the biggest thing holding this film back are, in fact, the little things.  For instance, we don't get any explanations whatsoever regarding Ravenna's magical mirror or where it came from and how she knew to use it.  The aforementioned white-liquid bath she takes...there's no point or purpose whatsoever.  Out of almost nowhere we cut to her watching people outside the castle trying to collect some of this "water" in buckets...and then she takes off her robe and dips in the stuff.  Why?  What was the purpose?  Just to look cool?  If that's the only reason for this scene then they succeeded because the imagery is indeed cool.  But other than that there's no point whatsoever.  There are also a few jumps in logic that we are asked to make that I just couldn't.  The most glaring to me is that a journey that takes our heroes probably several days, if not weeks, to make is made by someone else in what seems like minutes.  And perhaps that's just poor editing.

What's most disappointing to me is the lost theme of beauty and how men take advantage of women.  Early in the film Ravenna gives a small speech to her new husband about how she was once married to a king and he probably would've discarded her in her old age - she goes on about how men want women when they're beautiful and fall out of love when they age.  Its quite an interesting notion and something I didn't think a film of this type would explore.  And I was right.  After she brings this up its never mentioned again, outside of her wanting to remain youthful for eternity.  I just thought it was an incredibly interesting concept that could've been explored quite a bit more than it actually was.

Perhaps I need to see this film again.  I enjoyed bits and pieces but the film as a whole didn't gel for me.  Maybe my hopes were too high?  Maybe its because I was a bit tired when I saw it?  I'm definitely willing to give it a second chance - there is enough that I liked about it to warrant another viewing.  If you're into fantasy/action films this will probably suit you well enough; it doesn't do anything quite spectacular but adds some cool new things to the story we've all heard time and time again over the years.

Snow White and the Huntsman is a fairly decent fantasy film that just didn't quite connect for me.

The Bearded Bullet.