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TANGLED (2010)

>> Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's a pleasure to get tangled up in this Disney flick.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your long hair! Words that ring through all our heads, no doubt, when we remember the fairy tales we grew up with. In fact, aside from Goldilocks and the Three Bears and those silly Hansel and Gretel kids, Rapunzel was one of the fairy tales I remember most. I don't know if it was easy to read or what the reason is, but it's there - engrained in my memory.

In Tangled, the tale sinks its talons into my memory deeper still. For the first time though, not as words on a page or pictures in a book. But as a charming, fun, whitty and quite aesthetically pleasing adventure.

The film starts off in the usual fairy tale manner - a long time ago, in a land far, faw away, etc. That's all there, of course, to set up Rapunzel's backstory and how she ended up in the tower. In the original fairy tale it's because the witch who took Rapunzel from her parents (as a punishment), put her in a tower to simply keep her from the outside world. With Tangled, it's more or less the same, save for the fact that Rapunzel's (Mandy Moore) long hair is long because once cut, it loses the power to heal and keep the witch, named Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), young. Believe it or not, the backstory is set up quite nicely; and in a way that has an old school Disney air to it - which was nice to see after the disapointment that was The Princess and the Frog (2009). I don't care if it was Disney's return to classic animation and fairy tales - I just wasn't into it.

Eventually the handsome prince, or in this case, a thief named Flynn (TV's Chuck lead, Zachary Levi) finds Rapunzel's looming tower. He climbs up to and inside the tower using arrows to scale the side of it, in an affort to hide from the authorities that are chasing him. That's where he meets Rapunzel, who eventually coerces Flynn into taking her to the kingdom to see where the lights in the sky come from (one of the only mysterious views she has from her window). The lights are floating lanterns released by the town every year on Rapunzel's birthday, to honor her memory after she was kidnapped eighteen years ago. Flynn reluctantly agrees and the two begin their journey. Throw in several musical numbers (some memorable, some not) and a few wacky characters, and you have the first CG movie released by Disney that has successfully married old school Disney style with new school CG and 3D technology.

The biggest problem Tangled has (and it's barely a problem really), is that it may borrow a little too much from old school Disney. Certain mannerisms and the way Mother Gothel moves may remind you of Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989). Flynn is undoubtedly inspired by Aladdin and Rapunzel is definitely reminiscent of most other Disney princesses. One can argue that this is all an omage compliment of the young animators, putting a little of the films they loved as kids into their very own Disney movie.

What I loved most about Tangled, however, was just how funny it was. It was random, it was clever, it was a shining example of just how Disney has modernized their humour - and it works wonderfully! The way the jokes played out in this film, reminded me a lot of Meet the Robinsons (2007), in the sense that it knows today's audience are smarter and quicker - and comedy has evolved to that level as well. Physical humour doesn't hold up as well as it used to in the animated classics we all know and love. Today, it's about wit, charm and obscurity - that's what Tangled embraces and I loved it.

I am giving Tangled an open door. Despite it's overuse of classic Disney cliches, one can argue it wouldn't really be a Disney flick without it. I will say that it falls apart a little at the end as the obligatory romance blossoms and the characters are forced into their happy ending. The film was far more enjoyable at the beginning when it wasn't worried about getting to that inevtibale, romantic, fairy tale conclusion. As aformentioned though, these are little problems that I'm only nitpicking on. Don't let it hold you back from going to see this film, especially in theatres. While the 3D doesn't blow your mind (as it rarely does), it's a nice way to get lost in the Tangled world - which is very pretty to look at and quite vibrant.

In the original Rapunzel, by the way, at the end of the story, the prince accidentally pierces his eyes as he falls on thorns and spends years walking around blind trying to find his princess. Disney didn't include this ending. Not sure why, but I suppose they do have they standards...

*Stills courtesy of Walt Disney Animation Studios


SKYLINE (2010)

>> Friday, November 26, 2010

Has anybody ever told you that your eyes light up a room?

The thing that got me excited to see Skyline was the relatively original imagery I'd seen in the trailer. It had a distinct and original look to it. More specifically the image of thousands of people flying through the air, being sucked up into a giant alien spacecraft seemed wholly entertaining. Now, that's what got me to see the movie, it's not what made me dislike it.

Skyline focuses on a group of people in Los Angeles who wake up early one morning to discover that aliens have invaded their fair city - and yes, I'm aware I could insert an immigrant joke here, but I won't because I have tact, even if Skyline doesn't. Glowing blue lights that shoot out from the ships have the hypnotic power of drawing people towards the light, making them oblivious to the fact they're about to get Hoovered. Thousands fall victim to this ploy, minus a few who realize what's going on and look the other way.

If there's one thing to be said about Skyline's alien species, it's that they're quick and efficient. If you succeed in hiding from them the first time around, another one will be back later on to find you. Whether or not it's the giant kind that stands five stories tall or the smaller ones that fly, it seems you're doomed. Of the few that realize something is going on as events unfold, is a small group of friends (which includes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's (2003) Eric Balfour) who are stuck on the top floor of an LA high rise apartment building. That apartment building, by the way, is the biggest problem Skyline has. Well, one of the biggest problems.

Now, I don't hate the idea that an entire movie may take place in an apartment building. Quarantine (2008) did well with a similar premise, and I really liked it. What I don't like with Skyline (aside from the shotty acting and poorly written scenes) is the fact that this movie spends far too much time sitting around trying to avoid spending it's $10 million budget in five minutes. To do that, it gives us lame arguments between Balfour's character, Jared, and his girl, Elaine (Scottie Thompson). We also get another weak back story for Jared - this time with his best friend Terry (Scrubs' Donald Faison). In fact, the only redeeming quality about Skyline is the last five minutes. It's the only part of the film I actually enjoyed as it introduced an intriguing and relatively original idea. I won't say how it ends here as even though the movie was bad, I hate spoilers.

I'm giving Skyline a closed door. If it's lucky enough to get a sequel (which I highly doubt) then maybe check it out. Even on DVD though this won't be a very good watch. The first hour and half should have been five minutes long and the last five minutes should have been an hour and a half long. While I'll recognize the fact that the special effects are actually pretty good, a movie comprised of a few cool shots that doesn't have a good story to back it up - is still a bad movie.

*Stills courtesy of Black Monday Film Services



>> Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No seriously, Harry. This time your life really IS in danger.

This being the first of the Harry Potter movies I am reviewing, I will say I have been pretty pleased with the way the movies have gone so far. Ever since seeing the first one on DVD, I've been able to see the last five in theatres and never felt it was a wasted trip. The movies have always been entertaining and, thankfully, as the years progressed and as the children matured, so did the look, the feel and the themes of the movies.

Deathly Hallows is no different. In fact, it's probably the best of the series this far. Although there is an epic doom constantly looming that creates a very haunting and exciting atmosphere for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and pals, what I really appreciated was that Deathly Hollows took it's time in all the right ways, and really allowed us to appreciate the characters for who they are and what they've been through. This includes them really growing up and facing the facts; realizing that tiffs may happen and friendships may end; that those close to you may die and that sometimes, should the circumstance allow it, you just need to dance.

In this chapter, we catch up with Harry as he continues right where he left off in The Half-Blood Prince (2009), searching for the horcruxes, which are mystical objects spread throughout the world that contain pieces of Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) power. The magic world is recovering from Dumbledore's death, and some are even profiting from it. As usual, Voldemort is on the hunt for Harry Potter with his trusty band of evil goons - which now includes Severus Snape (the always enjoyable Alan Rickman) and Harry's schoolmate Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), following in his diabolical father's footsteps.

There's a certain patience that Deathly Hallows has that the others didn't. This may be because it was split into two movies (with the last half coming out next summer), or it may simply because the filmmakers realized that it's the quiet moments that can say the most. An outstanding example of this is when Harry and Hermione (Emma Watson) go the town Harry was born in and visit his parent's grave. That extra minute the camera rests on Harry's face allows us to see his pain, and see where his real motivation lies within reference to his journey to kill Voldemort.

If there's any problem with Deathly Hallows, is it's exclusivity to only those that have seen all of the prior Harry Potter movies. As a mild fan I appreciate this, but if I was someone who got dragged along and this was my first Potter experience, to say I would be lost and confused would be an understatement. There is a lot of reference to past films, including props, unfinished journeys (Harry's search for the remaining horcruxes), histories and characters that show up here and there without much explanation for who they are. Is this really a valid criticism? Yes and no. I'm not saying we need a 'Previously on Harry Potter' thing prior to the film - you're either a fan or you're not. However, even for someone who's seen all the movies prior to Deathly Hollows, I found it difficult to recall what the crew was talking about at times. But again, this is a minor thing in my eyes.

I am giving Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 a wide open door. It's a film that's near perfect and sets up the finale in an excellent fashion. It does what it was supposed to do and more. There's a love the filmmakers had for this film and have for the series that radiates from the screen in a way never before seen in a Harry Potter film. Evidence of this was clear when the studio announced that due to it not being up to standards, this half of the film would not be released in 3D. One of the biggest movies of the year has the opportunity to be in 3D and it backs away? Hollywood may be learning it's lesson when it comes to gimmicks people. There still may be hope, after all...

For a more detailed telling of the experience my friend Luke and I had seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), check out the post he wrote here.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


DUE DATE (2010)

>> Monday, November 15, 2010

JK, LOL, HI - hop in.

To say that I've enjoyed Robert Downey Jr. as an actor is an understatement. Noticing him first in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and than again in Iron Man and Tropic Thunder in 2008, I began to really like and appreciate his very recognizable acting style. In Stepbrothers (2008), Dale and Brennan get to know each other by asking off the cuff questions. One of the questions they ask each other is "Alright, if you were a chick, who's the one guy you would sleep with?". They answer John Stamos simultaneously. My answer would be Robert Downey Jr. So, it's no surprise that I would not only look forward to seeing Due Date, but that I would also enjoy it.

Due Date is a buddy comedy about a man named Peter (Downey) who is on his way from a work excursion in New York to his home in LA, where his wife is having their first child. As soon as he gets to the airport he begins to have problems at the hand of a chubby, bearded, permed hair fellow named Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). First Peter's chauffeur loses a door as he's parking (due to Ethan's drunk friend who was dropping him off). Then Peter's bags get lost (due to Ethan inadvertently switching them curbside), and finally Peter is kicked off the plane because Ethan won't pipe down about terrorists and bombs and they both end up on the No Fly List - and since Peter left his wallet and ID on the plane, he is left with no other choice than to hop in with Ethan. Peter does so hesitantly.

That's when the Odd Couple-esque adventure begins, as the two have only three days to get across the country to be there in time for Peter's first child to be born, C-Section style. If you thought the problems at the airport were bad, you`re in a for a few more (and hilarious) doozies. No need for me to go any further. All I could think think to do is talk about the funny situations they get into (including a few decent scenes with Jaimie Foxx and Juliette Lewis) and doing so would be the equivalent to seeing all the funny scenes in a movie while watching it's trailer.

Now obviously we all know Galifianakis from last year`s The Hangover, which was pretty good, but not nearly as funny as a lot of people made it seem. He does his same kind of clueless schtick in Due Date, and it works for the most part. I cite the moment where Ethan and Peter are standing at the edge of Grand Canyon, and Ethan asks Peter "Are you sure it's not man made? I could have sworn that's what I heard...", to which Peter replies "Perhaps you're thinking of the Hoover Dam." Then (because the funny guy always has to get the last word), Ethan deduces "No, I'm not thinking of the Hoover Dam - everybody knows that was built by the Pilgrims!". What a lot of people may find surprising is that Due Date is just as much Downey's movie as it is his bearded co-star - even if Galifianakis is the face publicly associated with the film. Scenes like the one I just mentioned don't work if you don't have Peter constantly telling Ethan to be quiet, shut-up or to stop jacking off in the car.

In short, I am giving Due Date an open door. In the end it has enough heart to weigh against the comedy, and enough shock humour to weigh against the heart. It's a good mix of all. Downey and Galifianakis make just as good a pair as any, and Peter's quick witted, sarcastic attitude plays well off of Ethan's childish nature and bumbling naivety. It's just as funny a movie as The Hangover (which will be it's obvious comparison), and looking into Galifianakis's eyes it's a no-brainer that he's going straight to the top - to the point where you know he'll be playing a pedophile in some Oscar nominated drama in the next five years. You never know - he did handle that baby pretty well in his last film. JK. LOL. HI. Hop in.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


SAW 3D (2010)

>> Tuesday, November 9, 2010

At the risk of sounding like I enjoy hanging out at a playground, I recommend you see Saw.

I first watched Saw (2004) when it came out on DVD. I liked it enough and was intrigued by the idea of fighting for your life, like, really fighting for your life in an effort to appreciate it more and live it to its fullest. It was amusing enough but only semi-stuck with me until Saw II was released the following year - at which point I was more or less hooked.

What I've always enjoyed about the Saw movies was similar to the enjoyment I got from watching serialized TV shows like Lost and Heroes. It was neat to see a question (introduced early on) become a mystery that was unanswered until much later. It was even better when there was evidence the filmmakers knew what they were doing from the beginning. I didn't hear of this being the case until Saw III hit theatres in 2006 - that apparently there were going to be "about seven" and they were already written out. I also really relished in the fact that being a horror fan, as a cohesive series, Saw never required the usual (and quite tedious) explanation of how the bad guy came back in the next one. Although I will never have fond memories for a horror series as much as I do Halloween (1978), I will say Halloween's sequels had become quite tedious and unorganized after the second in the series, Halloween II (1981).

So you can imagine my excitement when I was on the brink of seeing the last of the Saw series, Saw 3D. How would it end? What secrets lie within the chambers of this gorefest? Will the 3D be somewhat visually interactive? Also, will is suck? Alas, I found out the answers to all these questions.

Saw 3D starts out with an interesting premise. There are two guys stuck in a glass (and seemingly unbreakable) box in the middle of a very public center. It seems a girl is also in the box, but she is just as helpless. I won't get into the details of the trap itself as although it's not complicated, it's hard to explain without a visual - but the basic idea is that only two of the people in this trap can survive. What happens is pretty entertaining, if not gruesome. This is a Saw movie though, so you don't expect much less. Why I say it's interesting though, is because although this public thing is one time dillio in the movie, it seems they were onto something that could have made a much more interesting film. Normally in a Saw film you have these people who have gotten themselves into a sticky situation, but it's always in some old warehouse or abandoned building. The idea that an entire Saw film might take place in the public eye where other people are present and the victims are still helpless, though - now that's something that I would have liked to have seen.

However, after this little public fiasco, we find ourselves directly following the end of Saw 6, where Jigsaw's protege, Mark (Costas Mandylor) is on the hunt for Jigsaw's widowed wife, Jill (Betsy Russell) - who decided to turn Mark in once her feeble attempt to kill him failed. Mark won't give up easily, either and sets up Jigsaw traps one last time - for more than just the group of people directly involved.

Now, there was a lot of talk prior to the release of Saw 3D that maybe there would be some visually interactive shots it was in 3D. The tagline for the film afterall, was "The traps will come alive". Save for a few kind of neat shots, I'm saddened to report this was not the case. The closest I felt this film got to the level I wanted it to (as far as the 3D was concerned), was when a woman's face was getting closer and closer to spikes that would impale her eyes and mouth, and we got to experience her looming point of view. I also embarrassingly enough ducked a couple of times when guts where flying at the screen. Beyond that, although the 3D was okay, it certainly didn't make or break this movie - at least not to the point where they couldn't have simply titled it Saw VII.

Now, if I were to rate Saw 3D by itself, I would give it a closed door. Frankly, the gore was a little over the top - in the sense that it was awfully fake and although it did it's job and made you cringe, it also made you roll your eyes. The plot was just okay but was disappointingly familiar, and by the end of it all it was ultimately forgettable.

However, I am giving Saw 3D an almost honorary open door. The reason for this (as contradictory as it is) is because I've thoroughly enjoyed the series as a whole, and as aforementioned have appreciated the formulated and serialized storyline. Saw 3D is not just another part of this series, it is apparently the end (even if I doubt that fact very much). Since I have not reviewed any of the movies prior to this one, I feel as a send off and part of the saga it works and deserves to be in our good graces. Everybody knows what Saw is, and as an indie film that turned into the biggest horror franchise of the decade, I respect it. This may not be a film (or a film series, for that matter) for everybody. So I'm not saying this film is a must see. But for me, and for any other horror fans out there, I would recommend checking out the Saw series if you can. Despite it's commercial appearance, it's actually quite a creative and enjoyable series.

*Stills courtesy of Twisted Pictures



>> Saturday, November 6, 2010

I'm blue, dum, dum, dee...

Will Ferrel has treated us over the past decade to a lot of memorable characters. While Ferrell seems to always play the same kind of character (naive, silly and childlike), he also has the ability to play things as a real straight shooter - as is the case with movies like 2006's Stranger Than Fiction, which I really enjoyed. Even if he hasn't fully yet taken to the Jim Carrey and Robin Williams route of playing 'so serious it's spooky' roles, he does somehow seem to find his way into many different roles for the same type of character.

For example, the character we see in Elf (2003) is not much different than that in Anchorman (2004) or Step Brothers (2008). It all deals with childhood adolescence and stubbornness, akin to and old man being stuck in his ways. 'Now' means 'now' and if it turns out to be otherwise, a tantrum ensues.

In Megamind, it's no different. This time however, the tantrum is, surprisingly, much darker than arbitrarily shouting "Son of a nutcracker!" and moving on. Ferrell plays Megamind, a blue-faced, kind-eyed outcast who came to Earth from his home planet in a journey not unlike that of Superman. The difference being that Megamind came to Earth at the same time as another extra-terrestrial, Metro Man (Brad Pitt) - who actually is, well, more like Superman, While Metro Man has everything given to him and soon becomes humanity's favorite saviour, Megamind immediately lands in a prison and is forced into a life of evil. Problem is, Megamind was never really that good at being evil - in fact he only decided to be evil after being rejected by peers, teachers and pretty much everyone else (which would make anyone blue in the face, I imagine).

As the years progress, nothing changes between Megamind and Metro Man. Metro Man always wins and gets the girl, meanwhile Megamind goes back to jail. That is until one day when Megamind succeeds in one of his evil plans and actually destroys Metro Man. Soon Megamind begins to get everything he's ever wanted (as nobody on Earth is powerful enough to stop him), and that's when we see something quite surprising - Megamind begins to realize that without the good doings of Metro Man to challenge him, he lacks purpose. He becomes a depressed, bored loner who starts to face an identity crisis.

Although I wish not give too much away, beneath the cartoonish, silly front of Megamind I was surprised to find an underlying layer of more adult themes. Watching the film revealed a lot of truths about the uncertainties many people face when they're not sure if they are doing what they should in life - including the opportunities a lot of us find ourselves forced into. Megamind deals with his particular crisis by transforming into different people to get what he wants, including a relationship with reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), as well as an apprentice in Ritchi's cameraman, played by the always pleasant (if not overused) Jonah Hill.

I always find it relatively interesting going into a movie, and walking out knowing I'm remembering something about the film that may be the farthest thing from what I'm supposed to. In this case, I may be over-analyzing Megamind, putting themes in there that aren't. In a lot of ways there was an original air surrounding this film, one that seemed to be hidden behind 3-D entertainment made for children. I felt a similar thing walking out of Despicable Me (2010).

Megamind gets an open door. In the end it's funny, occasionally witty and Will Ferrell adds a lot of fun to what is sure to be a lot of ad libbed lines. I also wanted to mention the performances of David Cross and Brad Pitt, who play Minion and Metro Man, respectively. They are more or less what you expect, but considering each of them are capable of carrying movies on their own, it's nice to see them not overstay their welcome. With movies like Avatar (2009) and The Smurfs (2011) surrounding this film, I guess the obvious thing to take note of, is that blue is cool, and so is Megamind.

*Stills courtesy of Dreamworks Animation



>> Monday, November 1, 2010


If you don't know what Faster is, I'll give you the plot summary as outlined on

An ex-con (Dwayne Johnson) sets out to avenge his brother's death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, however, he's tracked by a veteran cop and an egocentric hit man.

Now, I don't care if it's a typical storyline or if sounds like something we've heard of or seen before. There are plenty of great movies out there that aren't 100% original. Whatever. The reason I refuse to see Faster this month (or any other month for that, matter) is because the dialogue and the way the story line plays out will undoubtedly be unoriginal. Although it may contain some cool action (well, it better), and even though Dwayne Johnson has finally taken a break from his Disney career (save for The Other Guys), lines from the trailer like "Sermon's over..." are of the things that make eyes roll. It's feels as if I'm watching a trailer that looks like it should have preceded Tropic Thunder (2008).

Keep in mind, I'm not saying some people won't enjoy Faster, I can see the appeal and it has all the right ingredients to make some movie goers go gaga - muscles, cars, guns, rebellion, etc. So, don't let me hold you back. I'm just saying with movies like Due Date, Megamind, Morning Glory, Skyline, Unstoppable, Harry Potter, Love and Other Drugs, The Next Three Days, Tangled and (maybe even) Burlesque coming out this month, you have a near unprecedented choice of other films to see besides Faster. But should none of them sway you, Faster will be in theatres November 24th, and the Wal-Mart $5 bin same time next year.


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