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>> Tuesday, November 1, 2011


It doesn't take more than one look at the now widely known and absurd trailer for Jack and Jill to know that by this point Adam Sandler is almost parodying himself. The trailer looks like it would have been something Sandler threw together as a skit back in his SNL days. Sadly, it's not. It's a movie the studio invested in and it's a movie that will get some play. People may almost want to see the movie that was 'so bad it's good'. Snakes on a Plane did it in 2006, Piranha 3D did it last year - will this be the year of Jack and Jill? It's hard to say.

What I do know is that I will be seeing it. And I will be reviewing it. Unfortunately as we near the Oscars it becomes harder and harder to find a movie you don't want to watch. Also, that weekend, it happens I'll be visiting my friend Luke in Medicine Hat, AB. I've never known anybody that has made watching a bad movie as enjoyable as Luke. As an example, I saw Rob Schneider's The Hot Chick and thought nothing good of it until I watched it with Luke. Now it's one of my favorite movies. Fact is, Luke has a way of sucking you into his enjoyment of bad movies with him and making you see why ridiculous is sometimes funny. It's hit or miss at times - if Luke doesn't like a bad movie (like 2007's Norbit), then you know it's really bad.

With Jack and Jill coming out the weekend I visit Luke, it seems like too good an opportunity to pass up. It is a 'watch with Luke' movie after all. And although I most certainly won't recommend it (we all can't know a Luke, after all), I will enjoy the pure ridiculousness of Al Pacino hitting on Sandler in drag. It's sad not because he wouldn't, but because he agreed to do it on film. Sigh... I miss Scarface Pacino.

If you want to risk falling down and breaking your crown, Jack and Jill opens November 11th.



>> Saturday, October 29, 2011



>> Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The first thing to be said about Contagion is that I highly recommend avoiding it at all costs if you're any kind of germaphobe. I don't consider myself a germaphobe at all - although (like most people, I hope) I wash my hands after using the washroom and before I eat, I pay no attention to how often I touch my face (Contagion states its a ridiculous 6,000 or so times a day) and I rarely pay attention to the fact I occasionally chew on my hoodie's draw strings. Coming out of Contagion I felt filthy. As the film progressed I became more aware of the people around me coughing, or sneezing. I nearly freaked out when a lady beside me sneezed and some of her spittle ended up on my hand. At that moment I recalled walking out of Super Size Me in 2004 delighted as the theatre staff handed out some healthy snacks in support of a better lifestyle. I was praying some staff would be standing outside of Contagion with free bottles of Purel. In the paranoia aspect, Contagion brought it's A-game. Other aspects of the film ranked a little lower.

For all those out there hoping to see a film with as much action as something like 1995's Outbreak, you'll be disappointed. The general population will probably get bored by Contagion's slower pace. For those of us that like dramas and can feel comfortable and patient enough to ride the slow beats, Contagion should serve you just fine. The biggest problem with a film like this (which is just under two hours long) is that the patience never really pays off. I don't remember there being a moment where I actually felt satisfied. I knew Contagion could have been the movie I wanted it to be, but it just never excited me as much as I felt it should have.

I've heard through various other sources that this film is the most realistic take on a deadly virus outbreak that's graced the movie screen yet - perhaps that was the problem. Everything more or less happened the way it supposed to and while the human population isn't turned into zombies or completely annihilated, it's hardly a happy ending. Contagion feels less like a whole movie and more like part of a larger story - or several half stories put together.

That stated, the acting is killer. More specifically due to outstanding performances by Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne and Jude Law. None of them get it wrong and all of them add realism to the story. Despite all the half-negatives I'm saying about Contagion, it still works. There may be problems with some pacing and character development, but it's still an interesting story. I don't for see anybody saying this is the best film of the year, nor is it the worst. It's right in the middle and ultimately I have to give it an open door. For all the more risky films like Contagion that don't quite hit the nail on the head, there are some that do. Besides, I'd rather have a world filled with mediocre movies than the one currently filled with 80% crap.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


APOLLO 18 (2011)

>> Sunday, September 4, 2011

I can't quite remember when I heard about Apollo 18. What I do remember is immediately being drawn to it simply because of the tag line - 'There's a reason we've never gone back to the moon'. Like most, I've often wondered why Apollo 17 was the last mission and, more poignantly, why we haven't been back since. So regardless of the fact that this was undoubtedly a fictional piece of work - I was intrigued by the premise, the story and the method of cinematography. Plus, being a fan of the Paranormal Activity films made me that much more interested.

Occasionally I would look to see when Apollo 18 would be released and honestly, I didn't even notice it was pushed back several times. My summer has been filled to the brim with films to anticipate, so this was just another one on the list. However, the fact it was pushed back to one of the least busy movie weekends of the year should have been a healthy indication that it wasn't testing well. Fool me once...

The basic idea behind the film (or found footage, I should say) is that the Apollo 18 crew were sent to the Moon on a secret mission by the Department of Defense. The goal was to set up some receivers and basic monitoring equipment for an unknown reason. After discovering a Russian lander a couple of clicks from their base, the two astronauts on the surface (and one in an orbiter up above) believe they've found the real reason they were sent. However, it turns out a Russian conspiracy wasn't the only mystery lying in wait - the other mystery is the premise for the film. I'm strictly against spoilers so let me say that the antagonist in Apollo 18 is so ridiculous that it seems to be the afterthought of a really bored 8 year-old. Unfortunately, this only sealed the fate with Apollo 18 for me. There were far more problems before anything decent even started happening.

I had bigger issues with the pacing of the film. I often found myself bored and it didn't take long for me to get tired of the shaky camera gag. Even then, when it did work, it was only when scarier moments happened - and they were too few and far in between. This is where you can tell the difference between Apollo 18 a film like Paranormal Activity. Apollo 18 did it's best to slowly build the suspense and create 'edge of your seat' moments, but it failed at even that. We can't forget this is a scary movie that people are expecting to see. When it's anything but, you're left wondering if maybe you should have seen Don't Be Afraid of the Dark instead. For the record, no. In fact, at this point I'm not sure anything lately has come close to as good a horror movie as I would like. Maybe Fright Night?

Apollo 18 sadly gets an closed door. Despite my love for outer space, the moon and horror films I can't really say you'd have the best of times at this one. Maybe it was the mood I was in, or maybe it was the fact I saw the film at 1PM vs 10PM. It really shouldn't matter anyway. For now I'll stick with zombies and ghosts to get my horror ya-yas out. What I will respect about Apollo 18 is that it did only have a budget of $5 million. Than again, Paranormal Activity was made for just $11,000. Ya, never mind. Shark Night 3D anyone?

*Stills courtesy of The Weinstein Company



>> Thursday, September 1, 2011


Okay, look. This movie doesn't really have a lot wrong with it that would suggest anybody should avoid it. It has Morgan Freeman and is about a sad, sweet little dolphin who gets it's tale chopped off by.... something. I'm pretty sure it's even a true story. So the question remains - am I a humanless monster?


But, with good cause do I not recommend this. Because without even seeing it, I can tell you a few things. It'll be a happy ending, there will probably be a dramatic dolphin death at the hands of somebody who will later change their ways and, oh yeah - it'll be the saddest thing anybody's ever seen and tears will rain down from God himself to wash over humanity's good nature and bless us all with the power of love. Girls will love this movie. PETA will praise this movie. Japan will hate it, but really - they would throw a harpoon through Ariel's head if they thought it could make good soup.

The point rests solely on predictability and cheesiness. I'm not even sure if the title Dolphin Tale is supposed to be a play on Dolphin TAIL. As in, the TAIL end of a fish. Maybe they realized the latter wasn't technically accurate? Who cares, though? There are far more interesting films to see this month, and that's what it comes down to. Also, I'm literally allergic to fish - this film would probably kill me. It's just too risky.

Dolphin Tale opens September 23rd if you're interested (in getting laid).



>> Tuesday, August 23, 2011

At the beginning of this year I found out that 2011 would break the record for most remakes and sequels in one year. I was aware of most of the sequels, but it's the remakes that have been taking me by surprise - both in quality and the fact that I didn't even know they were remakes. It was only slightly before watching Fright Night that I found out it had been done once before. In 1985 William Ragsdale teamed up with Roddy McDowall (known most for his Planet of the Apes roles) to conquer Jerry - a vampire. Once I knew about it, in preparation for this review, I found the original on Netflix and watched away. I wasn't disappointed by the film, nor was I profoundly entertained. I got a kick out of seeing McDowell perform sans ape and liked the storyline enough, but I felt it dragged and I was left underwhelmed.

Remakes as they go, always go in one of two directions. The first is that you end up with a shot-for-shot modernization of the classic that shouldn't have been touched in the first place. Horror films always seem to get revamped (small pun intended) and more often than not, in this style. I cite 1998's Pyshco remake and 2006's The Omen as prime examples. The other option is a reimagining, where you have a similar beginning and end but a different middle. Obviously there's variations and blends of this rule, but it's more or less the same. A reimagining though, isn't always good either (ie: Rob Zombie's Halloween). Fright Night, for the record, is a prime example of a reimagining.

Colin Farrell plays Jerry the vampire, a stranger who's just moved in next door to Charley (played well by Star Trek's Anton Yelcin). In the original, Charley is a sci-fi/horror geek who stalks Jerry until he finds out the truth. In this version, Charley is working very hard at being more socially acceptable in school and is later warned of Jerry's antics by his friend, Ed (played by McLovin himself, Christoper Mintz-Plasse). It seems a mutual friend has gone missing and Ed begs Charley to help him find their vanished comrade. After some investigation, more truths about Jerry come to surface and soon Charley finds himself in a head to head battle with Jerry to save his mom (Toni Collette) and his girlfriend (Imogen Poots).

I remember a time when I used to really hate Colin Farrell. I don't really remember why, or where I saw something to make me feel this way. I know I've seen him be an Irish prick on some talk show, where his real self shone through and I instantly put him in a class with Russell Crowe -douchebags who roam Hollywood thinking they're all that. Oddly enough, that changed for me after seeing Farrell in Horrible Bosses - when he was at his douchebagiest. But it showed a lighter side of Farrell to me and allowed me to experience just how good he could be. Fright Night is no exception. While some will argue this film belongs to Yelchin, there's a subtly in Farrell's performance that seals the deal for me. There's no ego attached to the fact that Jerry's a super cool vampire who knows he's probably going to bone your girlfriend. He just simply knows he's been around 375 years longer than you and has the experience to prove it. Nothing like respecting your elders, right? Or you know, wanting to plunge a stake into their heart.

Fright Night gets an open door. Despite some parts that seemed to move too fast (in definite contrast to the original), Marti Noxon (known for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series) delivers a solid script and some really witty moments (I couldn't place some of the dialogue patterns until after when I found out who wrote this adaptation). Even though it shares the same title as the original, this take on Fright Night feels like a different movie completely. It's fun and scary enough that if it's still kickin' around come Halloween, I recommend checking it out to get into the mood of things. Even before then, it's still worth your time.

*Stills courtesy of Dreamworks SKG



>> Monday, August 15, 2011

I will say despite the Final Destination series' many faults - one thing it never fails at is it's countless ways to build up suspense and make you cringe. Even when it comes down to something as simple as the potential to step on a screw - you may find yourself on the edge of your seat. That is, until you witness the most ridiculous death you've ever seen. Then you find yourself asking 'Really?!' - that and 'Why did I come to Final Destination 5?'.

The biggest error in the Final Desination films is unfortunately also it's biggest gimmick and plot point. The fact that right before this big event happens the main character gets a disturbing vision of the future. Be it a plane crash, a highway pile-up or a bridge collapsing, for some reason a vision always precedes the actual events. By the time I found myself watching the fifth one I began to wonder less about who was going to die and more about where the hell these visions were coming from. This idea has increasingly become more of plot hole that just doesn't make any sense. This is forgivable enough if you have characters and story you care about - but when the film even lacks that, all bets are off when death comes knocking at the door.

The expert in this film (every horror movie usually has one) states in inexplicable detail how to beat death. Previous ways include using new life to rewrite your 'contact' and beating your near-death experience to earn a place amongst the living. In Final 5, the coroner explains you have to kill somebody else to take their life force. Once again - really?! Not only that, but he says it in passing and the kids eat it up like crack. At no point do they question it - they simply go along with it.

But these are all things consistent throughout the entire series. Something that's not is the one piece of originality Final 5 had going for it - it's a surprise prequel. Now, knowing this information won't ruin the film for you, I promise. However, that's the biggest problem in this film. If you didn't like the last three films, you'll generally still admit the first one was original in it's attitude and execution. So, the idea that this film could potentially bring back the original feel was an intriguing idea when I thought back upon it. As a prequel there's potential to answer a lot of questions and introduce a new way of thinking about this whole 'death as an antagonist' thing. However, in Final 5 it seemed more like an afterthought for the filmmakers rather than a springboard for a reason this film needed to exist. Also, the fact this film is called Final Destination 5 and not The Final Destination like it's predecessor speaks volumes about the lack of thought and foreplanning that went into this series.

Final Destination 5 gets a big ol' closed door. As I said with the last one, I truly hope this is the final destination. Unlike a horror franchise like Saw, Final Destination is sloppy gore that doesn't connect well. It's unimaginative and predictable at this point and it might be time to put this series to rest - especially with it coming full circle as it now has. Besides, when it comes to using common deaths such as falling as a 'freak' accident - you're clearly running out of ideas.

*Stills courtesy of Newline Cinema


THE HELP (2011)

>> Friday, August 12, 2011

Every movie-goer likes an underdog, because every movie-goer likes to be inspired. Without a doubt, The Help accomplishes all this and more while continuing a theme from The Rise of the Planet of the Apes - one focused on civil rights. In this case though, it's one based on a true story. It's not a story that hasn't been told before, but it still amazes me when I watch a movie like this (that takes place only fifty years ago) and see just how far we've come in progressing racial equality. Unfortunately, fifty years has only made racism more taboo as opposed to obliterating it all together. Even then, it feels more like some people have just shifted their hatred to other races around the world.

The Help is based on the novel by Kathrym Stockett, with the screen adaptation by Tate Taylor - who also directs. It centers around Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), an aspiring journalist who finds herself doing a housekeeping column in a Jackson, Mississippi newspaper. Upon asking a friend's maid for cleaning tips, she finds out a lot more about what's going on between black maids and the white families they serve. The main maid in question is named Aibileen Clark, who is played by the wonderful Viola Davis.

Hesitant at first, Aibileen eventually gives in and begins to tell Skeeter her story. It only takes one call to the publisher of her dreams for Skeeter's idea to be tentatively picked up. There's a problem however, very few maids want to tell their story - even if Skeeter's attempt to share their inequality with the world is righteous. Especially when it comes to the ability for a maid to use a white family's toilet. As Skeeter states, the maids are allowed into these homes and are instructed to watch out for the children and essentially hold the ideal American suburban dream together. Yet, they have fewer human rights.

Along with the 'goodwill towards all mankind' message, a strong feature of The Help is the outstanding performances. Both Stone and Davis are pitch perfect and have a good chance at Oscar nominations, as does Allison Janney (who plays Skeeter's mother). The biggest surprise performance for belonged to Jessica Chastain, who plays a white woman who finds herself similarly outcast by the rest of the debutants.

The Help gets an open door. It's inspiring, touching and funny. Stone is at her best in this film and shows us what the cutie from Superbad can really accomplish. It makes me all the more hopeful for The Amazing Spider-Man next year (in which she coincidentally takes over Bryce Dallas Howard's role as Gwen Stacy). While at times The Help verges on something we've seen before, it never loses it's heart. It's that heart that keeps the film together, and keeps you caring.

*Stills courtesy of Dreamworks SKG



>> Sunday, August 7, 2011

There are far too few movies I go to, where in the end I actually walk out with a feeling that I'm better off for seeing it. Movies that come to mind more recently are Source Code, Limitless and The Adjustment Bureau. With the exception of Source Code, however, none has moved me quite like Rise of the Planet of the Apes just has. This is partially because I love movies - pure and simple. But any fan of any type of art will tell you that while you can love paintings, or music, or literature - that doesn't mean everything is spot on. The biggest reason though, comes from the fact that Rise is just really well done.

If you're familiar with the Planet of the Apes franchise, you know there's been six movies so far. The original Planet of the Apes was released in 1968 - an astonishing 43 years ago. After that came a weak sequel and then an intriguing transition film. The fourth film, titled Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, is the one this current film is a reboot of. While I liked Conquest, thankfully it can't hold a candle to the realism and power that lies within Rise. Don't get me wrong though, I know the influence the original series had and I respect that. For me, as a huge POTA fan nothing will ever beat the original and its comments on social acceptance and racism. It was a powerful film and will always be considered as such.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes all that was wrong with the old films and fixes it. What always bothered me about the originals was the lack of realism. This may be coming from the mind of someone who has come to both appreciate and hate CGI simultaneously, but Rise nails it. There wasn't one moment where I was worried the effects weren't carrying the story. The actors deliver the same. I felt James Franco and John Lithgow did brilliantly. Thought even they didn't bring their A-game nearly as much as Andy Serkis. Using the same technology they used in Avatar and King Kong, Serkis delivers a knockout performance as the lead revolutionary ape, Caesar. It's an odd thing to feel for a CG character as much as one does watching Rise. Rightfully deserved, though when your seeing such a powerfully emotional character arc unfold before your eyes.

To top it all off, you get a good few references to the old films as well as a few teasers for potential sequels (of which the second is already in talks). Some of the old references to watch for include seeing an old Charlton Heston movie on the TV in the background and the use of a few choice infamous phrases - more of a nod than a gimmick, thankfully. As for teasers, there's a scene in the midst of the credits not to miss as well as limited talk of a manned mission to Mars. The mission to Mars storyline seems insignificant at first, until a Newspaper article later on proclaims 'Lost in Space?'. It doesn't take too much to put together that those astronauts will likely face the same fate as Heston and his buddies did back in '68. Whether it's just a nod or not will be determined in years to come.

I've always felt that walking into a movie shouldn't require effort on the viewer's part. You shouldn't have to sit there and struggle to like a movie - the creative team behind a film is responsible for that. Few films are far from achieving this. They rely too heavily on special effects or action or big names to do the work (ie: The Smurfs). With Rise of the Planet of the Apes, they rely on the story. Shocking right? That a good story with heart can actually work every once in a while. Especially with this storyline as they could have easily resorted to a bad action movie. Not that it was awful, but Burton's remake ten years ago is an example of how this Rise could have gone from thoughtful to awful pretty damn quick.

I may be pleasantly optimistic at this point (coming off the high from Rise), but with talk of Andy Serkis getting an Oscar nod for his work in this Planet of the Apes adventure - perhaps we're not far off from a Best Picture nomination as well. There's still plenty of year left though, as we come into August with a bang, but this is one to definitely catch. Open door, all the way.

*Stills courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox



>> Monday, August 1, 2011


I never really thought too much about the original Spy Kids trilogy. I always thought they were so-so, even just as kids movies. After the last one came out I expected there wouldn't be anymore. Low and behold, it probably only took a one-word gimmick to get this film green-lit: Aroma-Scope. Yes, a basic scratch-n-sniff card to make the movie more interactive. Or, as they advertise it as - 4-D. Ironic, considering that time (the main plot device in the film) is considered the real fourth dimension.

The idea of 4-D brings to light just how unnecessary Spy Kids 4 really is. It also makes me question the casting abilities of somebody like Jessica Alba's agent - why she's in this and more recent films likes Little Fockers I'll never know. But really, I don't think this is a franchise that needed to be continued, or rebooted - or whatever. Even with me liking the idea of time manipulation (Clockstoppers almost did it justice), it's not enough to drag me to this most ridiculous of films this month.

If you're interested in shutting your kids up for part an afternoon, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World opens August 19th. Considering it's in 3-D though, you may want to save the $100 it'll cost you and just go get the little brats ice-cream or something and enjoy the rest of your summer.



>> Saturday, July 30, 2011

So, what do you get when you mix modern CGI with a classics children tail and the theory that if you can, maybe you should? You get a hunk of good intentions called The Smurfs. You also get somebody like Neil Patrick Harris to try and make it better. News flash folks, it's not NPH that does the writing - nor can his scrawny frame carry the weight of twenty years of childhood nostalgia and expectations. But then again - I'm not sure who could.

As more movies like The Smurfs continue to come out, a better idea comes to mind. Why not just leave well enough alone? Not only have the Smurfs told their numerous stories through the original show, but it's highly unlikely we need another 'wacky character caught in New York' story. Frankly, if you are going to make a Smurfs movie, why not keep it in the same environment that made the original so successful? Was there really no other story you could have told? Could there not have been more drug references? Did this have to be a kids movie when the generation it belongs to is now aged thirty or higher? I think if the studios wanted a film people would be raving about, they should have upped the ante here and made it more mature.

The basic story here is that The Smurfs are chased by Gargamel into a vortex that transports them to New York City. There the Smurfs meet Patrick (Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) who help them out by giving them a place to live until they can find their way back to the Smurf Village. Meanwhile, Gargamel is out to find them because, well, that's what he does. Also, he needs them so he can start up his own cosmetics company and take over the world - nope, I didn't make that up. But thankfully, the Smurfs will lend their helping hand to assist Patrick in coming up with a new ad campaign. One that'll undoubtedly represent his best wishes and intent - and not the interest of the people who are paying him (because his bosses are evil you see). Essentially, it's all a bunch of believe in yourself bullsmurf.

If there was any redeeming quality in this movie it was Hank Azaria who plays Gargamel. You could tell both him and Harris knew this movie was shit, so they decided to ad lib whatever they could get away with and have fun with The Smurfs. Yes, this movie is also kid friendly and colorful so I'm sure anybody under five may have a smurf of a time watching the film. Anybody with the brain of somebody a little more mature might giggle at some of the quips but will be bored by the unoriginal storyline.

I am giving The Smurfs a big BLUE closed door, because feeling blue can be a bad thing - despite the film's opening message. But let's be honest - there were very few people who knew this would make a good movie, even with the blue buzz around this thing. Although I've yet to see it, if you want a movie your child will cherish (especially if it's their first movie-going experience) I'd recommend Winnie the Pooh. From what I've heard, that's a movie to be proud of. New T-shirt idea: Go Pooh, Not Blue.

*Stills courtesy of Columbia Pictures



>> Friday, July 29, 2011

I heard about Cowboys & Aliens via a friend after last year's Comic-Con. Then I slowly heard about it through the various media outlets. One of the coolest things I heard was that director Jon Favreau had refused to do it in 3-D. Finally, a director (a good director, too) had found his creative voice and stood up to the man. When I finally did see the trailer I was more or less intrigued. That was about six months ago. Somewhere between that point and now I lost the fond feelings I had for Cowboys & Aliens. I don't know what it was, but by the time I eventually saw the flick, I was more or less displeased by the lackluster story flashing before my eyes.

There's been a lot of talk about the mixing of two previously un-mixed genres - science fiction and western. Of course, fans of the Joss Whedon TV series Firefly will promptly (and justly) disagree. The mixing of those two genres was the basis for the 'space western' as Whedon called it. Only difference here is that it happens closer to home. What made me want to see it the most was the nice mystery element the trailers set up. It was less about 'Why are the aliens (or demons as they're called) here?' and more about 'Why does Daniel Craig have that cool little thingy attached to his wrist?'. Unfortunately, neither answer is as satisfying as you might like.

Aside from Daniel Craig's presence (Robert Downey Jr. was originally slated to be the lead), we also get appearences by Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell and hottie Olivia Wilde (Tron Legacy). All of them do fine enough but I felt even their performances or roles were nothing to get excited about it. I felt very similarly when I was watching True Grit, a film this far too closely resembles. I kept on thinking 'So what?'. So what if this person dies, so what if that person gets hurt... and why the hell is that chick resurrecting out of the fire?! Yeah, that last one isn't True Grit, but whatever.

What I'm left wondering with Cowboys & Aliens is if the western genre is still alive and kicking? Is this a typical western movie? No, but western it still is. I always hope no genre is too dead to be brought back with a good movie, but the most recent good western I've seen is the animated Rango. At the very least it had the essence of the older western movies we all used to appreciate. Meanwhile, True Grit and Cowboys & Aliens exist for the wrong reasons in the wrong ways.

Cowboys & Aliens sadly gets a closed door. While I can appreciate the slight originality to it, I felt a lack of adventure and wonder. It's all very cool and ten years ago I would have loved this movie. Now though, it'll slip through the cracks and end up as a 'meh' movie when all is said and done. If you ask anybody about this film, you'll get a 'It's neat, but...' - and that's never a good response.

*Stills courtesy of Universal Pictures



>> Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Think about the possibilities. A friend with whom you could have unlimited sex and not get emotionally attached too. It seems, though, this is an impossible dream only imagined by the immature and the naive. But at some point, those of us who get older and find ourselves wedged in between that 'first love' and 'committed relationship' phase attempt it because dating has become a repetitive, cruel and exhausting joke. Sexually, this can be very frustrating. Girls - this is why guys are more likely to be found playing a game of pocket pool rather than dreaming of white knights and prince charmings. We know what we need and we know what we want (just not always on an emotional level. Justin Timberlake says it best in Friends with Benefits after Mila Kunis asks him what movies after the credits are like. He answers with one word: porn.

If you've seen Timberlake on SNL in the past couple of years you know he's not the N'Sync toting, boy band weirdo he once was. Instead, he's evolved into a very talented and funny actor. Mila Kunis, being raised on the sets of sitcoms also knows the value of wit - and together they're unstoppable. The first half of Friends With Benefits will blow your mind by how laugh out loud funny it is. From the opening credits on you'll find yourself either laughing (or cringing) at the 'funny because it's true' dating and sex commentary made by this talented on-screen couple. I've never been more pleased in a comedy.

But in typical Hollywood tradition, we have to learn some life lessons and more importantly (apparently), we all have to grow up some time. I believe there was easily enough material to make a movie entirely based on the 'f**k buddy' label, which made me even more disappointed when I found myself half way through watching something I'd seen on screen a million times before - and I didn't know why. Within Friends With Benefits there's a movie within the movie that stars Jason Segal and Rashida Jones as a couple of cliché romantic film characters who say every bad line imaginable. This fake film seemed earlier on to be a nice commentary of the cheese Hollywood has been bringing to the fondue party for the past thirty years. Unfortunately, I believe it was only in place to make one believe the ending of Friends with Benefits 'at least wasn't as bad as that other shit comedy the characters were watching'. But alas, I was watching another shit comedy. Having JT say he knows 'this is cheesy' or 'I know you wanted a movie moment, so...'. is just as bad and seems more of an easy way out than anything. Satire is no longer satire if it's - well, not satirical.

There is good though. Namely, supporting appearances made by Woody Harrelson and (even smaller) guest spots by Andy Samberg and Emma Stone. I feel all the characters and general idea (and maybe even the first sixty pages) were there from the get go and this is what sold it to the studios. I also wouldn't blame the writer of the film (Keith Merryman) if his original idea didn't involve all the mushy, cliché stuff at the end. Studios are unsurprisingly known for pressuring an artist for happy endings, stories about Alzheimer-ridden fathers and life lessons. It's not enough anymore that things are just funny - really funny.

Based on the first half alone though, Friends With Benefits won me over and therefore gets an open door. Like I said, the first forty minutes could have sustained the whole movie but doesn't. The plus - the last half makes it a good date movie and the perfect excuse to see Mila Kunis sporting nothing but her undies. Unfortunately we also see a lot (and I mean a lot) of Timberlake.

*Stills courtesy of Castle Rock Entertainment



>> Friday, July 22, 2011

Finally, it arrives. After a small post-credits teaser following Iron Man three years ago, the last movie in the pre-Avengers line-up arrives. Other films in that line-up have included Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk and the disappointing Thor. While The Avengers (scheduled to kick off Summer in May 2012) looks epic, is Captain America good enough to rally the troops and build up enough excitement to make The Avengers the success Marvel is hoping for? You bet it is, despite some of the imperfections.

A couple years back after Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk it was the hot topic to be speaking about 2011 in the series. People were wondering who was going to play Thor and Captain America and how the films would turn out. We all know the mess Thor was, but I have to say I'm pleased with the casting choices for Cap. I've always been a fan of Chris Evans (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Losers) so I'm glad to see him in a roll that seems to fit well. For a while, there was talk of The Office's John Krasinski getting the roll of the red, white and blue hero. I won't lie, I sort of rooted for him to take the lead at first. He's a charming guy and seems to have that 'rah! rah! sis boom bah!' American spirit that's needed for a roll like this. It only takes one viewing of Captain America though to recognize the movie would have been just ... weird with Krasinski in it.

In the opposing roll to Evans' hero, Hugo Weaving (Transformers, The Matrix) takes on yet another villain role as Red Skull - the Yin to Steve Rogers' Yang. Red Skull is said to be Hitler's right hand man, that is until he grows tired of Hitler's antics and decides to get really serious with the supernatural interest originally put in place by old Adolf himself. Red Skull uses a force he states was left by the Gods for man to find, also known as the cosmic cube (teased about in the Thor post-credits). His plans for the cube's energy are nothing less than that of taking over the world. Skull uses the energy to build tanks and guns, nothing completely unlike the futuristic weapons we would see in Iron Man. However, it seems the army is at its wit's end and doesn't know how to stop him. So, why not use Tony Stark's father, Howard Stark's (Dominic Cooper) genius and combine it with an experimental serum created by German scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (played perfectly by Stanley Tucci). The result is Captain America.

While it seems a lot of comic book to movie translations fail (I really, really hated Thor), I don' t think anybody will be really disliking Captain America. While it lacks the certain finesse that made X-Men: First Class such a good film, it offers a lot to those who have experienced the older Captain America movies (via an awful Broadway costume) as well as those that dig the comics. You also get some great hints as to a potential plot for The Avengers movie (stay tuned post-credits as usual) as well as some wonderfully done action sequences (when they're piratically done) -despite a slight overdose of cheese. The only part that threw me off were some of the moments where it was clear there was too much CG to make anything look real. It was mostly purposeful, but I wanted the movie to have that nitty gritty forties feel we're used to seeing in movies from that era. Especially when Captain America is riding his bike out of a building as it explodes - reminded me a lot of Machete-type of effects, or something you would see in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Thankfully, we're not subjected to it over and over. I will have to say, however, I was super impressed by the CG look of Steve Rogers' pre-buff mode.

Ultimately, Captain America: The First Avenger gets an open door. Unfortunately, it was one of the summer blockbusters I was looking most forward too and it didn't fully live up to expectations. I think a movie that takes place in that era had an opportunity to be something really special (and not only because the forties is my favorite decade). It could have channeled a number of feelings from that decade including film noir, but it didn't. As a popcorn flick and something to get you excited about next year's Avengers, it doesn't disappoint. The performances are fine and the running time sufficient. There's also a decent amount of humour mixed in with a love story that make this a borderline date movie. But I triple dog dare you not to get the theme for Team America stuck in your head at least once during Captain America. It's almost damn near impossible. America, f**k yeah!

*Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures



>> Friday, July 15, 2011

Last year a significant part of my early twenties left me for good - I was watching the series finale for Lost, wondering how I could possibly enjoy the summer knowing the fall wouldn't bring the return of my favorite characters. In 2002 when I graduated high school, one of the first DVDs I bought that summer was Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I've seen every movie in theatres since and despite the initial childlike nature of the films, I was always able to find the magic in them - at first in November, then increasingly as a summer blockbuster. As I matured, so did the films and their themes. Like most, I flip-flopped between deciding if Hermione (Emma Watson) would grow up to be hot (or not). Tonight, a significant piece of my last decade also left me for good as I bid farewell with Harry Potter and the Deahtly Hallows, Part 2.

Oddly enough, while I've certainly enjoyed the last seven Potter flicks (including the most recent one), I wasn't aware just how much I'd miss the series until I walked out of the theatre this evening. Say what you will about certain films, but the Potter series has been a world event almost every year for the last decade. Not only for myself (I've seen them with numerous friends), but for pop culture, literature fans, fantasy fans and of course the people involved. It's when you least realize it sometimes, that you find yourself saying goodbye to the ones that have been a small part of your life. As an extremely nostalgic person - this never comes easy.

If you've read the books you'll more or less know what to expect with this last hoorah. If you haven't read the books but have seen the movies - you, as well, will know what to expect. If you haven't seen the movies nor read the books, what the hell are you doing seeing the last film first? The trailers for Deathly Hallows: P2 state it all - "Only one can live". This is the final battle between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and it - is - epic. While I've steadily labeled every Potter film's successor as the best one to date, I'm pleased to say it ends in the same fashion - and it ends with a helluva bang (and a sort of bonus scene that was oddly disturbing and unexpected).

If you're like me and have grown to love and cherish the Potter series over time, you'll know the oddly emotional feeling of saying goodbye to Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry and Hermione. Each film has allowed us more and more of a glimpse into their lives and that of their families. There have been memorable moments and horrible losses. They've grown up to expect adventure and realize death and everything in between. And while they've shown us glimpses of the classes these three have had at Hogwarts, I started to wonder about three or four movies ago if they've ever actually made it to class. Sort of like when you watch The Simpsons and wonder if and when and how Homer actually goes to work. Not that one would watch the Potter films and expect realism, but it's just a thought anyways. What is real, however, is the sincerity that's present with final film like this one - from both the viewer and the characters. There are tough moments in Deathly Hallows: P2, moments that rival some of the better dramatic moments I've seen in Oscar films. If Lord of the Rings can walk away with an Oscar, maybe it's time Harry Potter does too.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 gets a wide open door - as does the whole series. I'll be going back to have a Harry-thon one of these weekends to revisit some of the older films. I guarantee you watching this final installment will make you want to do the same thing, mostly for sentimental reasons. In an age where sequels and reboots are the big thing, I can only say it'd be nice if this was the end. But, in twenty years I may change my mind as I'm sure writer and creator J.K. Rowling is already thinking of ways to bring it back in some fashion (which may explain the ending in DH: P2). But for now, it's been a pleasure getting to know you, Mr. Potter. I bid you adeau.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios



>> Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Straight up, I've always been a fan of Tom Hanks - both in public and film. In public he keeps to himself and seems more or less a humble guy. In films, he's not afraid to have fun and when he wants to be he's a damn good actor. When it comes to Hanks being a writer and a director, he also nails it. The two films he's helmed so far (That Thing You Do! and Larry Crowne) both are similar in that they're both innocent and mean well. You can feel the devotion and love for the projects that Hanks has from script to screen. While his projects aren't groundbreaking or wholly original, it's like spending time with the nicest guy you know - vs. the artsy one. I wouldn't be surprised if Hanks' next film was titled Can't We All Just Get Along?.

That theme is what makes up the majority of Larry Crowne, a film about a divorcee who gets fired from his job forcing him to find a new path in life. He meet cutes his teacher (Julia Roberts) at a community college after he enrolls to further his career. The funny thing about a film description like the one I just gave is that it could easily be both the romantic comedy it is, as well as an Oscar winning drama. The reason it's not the latter, I believe, is simply because Hanks wrote it and simply wants to make people smile. The reason it could be an Oscar drama (and at some points maybe should have) is because it deals with a lot of serious themes like the recession, job loss, middle-aged crisis and reinvention. It's a lot like About Schmidt that way - just less depressing (and less naked Kathy Bates).

Along his journey to a new romance and an adulthood education, Crowne gets a scooter to save on somr gas and runs into a 'scooter gang' at school, who are nice enough to help him along the way. The lead of the gang is played by Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Her roll is to help Crowne update his look and land the leading lady (who just happens to be in a loveless marriage). It's these type of relatively unrealistic circumstances that weigh the light and fluffy Larry Crowne down. If you can get past it though, you shouldn't find a problem having a lot of fun.

The truth of the matter is that like the character it's named after, Larry Crowne doesn't have a mean bone in it's body. It's a delightful, innocent and small film - especially compared to something like Transformers. Yet, a movie that costs hundreds of millions of dollars to produce pales in comparison to the lessons (both life-wise and thematically) one can learn from a film about a middle-aged man struggling to regain his footing.

Larry Crowne gets and open door. Hanks and Roberts are both so terribly charming you can't help but fall under their spell. Is it a funny movie like Bridesmaids was funny? Hell no. So for those of you looking for bathroom humour - look elsewhere. Is it the perfect movie for someone, or anyone really, that's going through a change in their life and needs a little inspiration? Hell to the double yes. Is it a bit hokey? Yup. Are there cliché and cheesy moments? Absolutely. Is it so incredibly lovable, and the perfect film to end long work week with? 100% confirmed.

*Stills courtesy of Universal Pictures



>> Sunday, July 3, 2011

This is my first Transformers review for my website and I can't express to you all how glad I am about that. We all know just how plain awful Revenge of the Fallen was, but we also know the first film in the series showed some promise (and not enough Megan Fox, winkity wink). As much as I think Megan Fox is a, well - fox, I also recognized immediately the poor thing couldn't act her way out of a student film. The replacement of her by the slightly superior Rosie Huntington-Whitely was the first step in making Transformers 3 a fresher film.

You'll find the effects are well done (as always) and the 3-D is still whatever (as it is in any movie really). The action however is much, much better and this could be for a number of reasons. The first may be that there is simply just more of it, and less of a love story between Sam (Shia LaBeouf) and his girl of the hour. There's also less of Sam's very annoying parents. We get it, they're the comic relief - we also had enough of them in the first one. You not only end up with more, but better action here. I didn't care much for the pyramid scene in Revenge of the Fallen and it's certainly trumped in Dark of the Moon by the battle in downtown Chicago. There's something insanely cool about the scene where that highrise was tipping over (or it may have just been my subconscious telling me to watch Inception again). This brings me to second reason the action is better - which is really just because it's so much more epic. If you don't think you'll enjoy a movie about a mechanical alien race, then you're there to see the special effects and action and this is the first Transformers where I felt satisfied.

As far as the story goes, I can honestly say you won't care. You may like the fact that Patrick Dempsey is in it (if you're a girl), or you may like the fact that there's less of that Sector 7 douche, John Turturro (if you're anybody else). It's the same old stuff and it's predictable for the most part. There's bad robots and there's good robots and there's girls and cars and explosions. Director Michael Bay may not be the finest filmmaker, but he did really seem to put more effort into Dark of the Moon and it shows by the time the credits roll. He took all of what worked in the first two and left out what didn't.

What's new in Transformers 3 is the Forest Gump-like history tie-ins they use to explain why it's called Dark of the Moon. It's actually quite impressive and reminded me a lot of what we saw in X-Men: First Class. Expect to see more of it (for a third time this year) in September's Apollo 18. Perhaps Hollywood is sponsoring the next Moon trip and wants to make sure it's numbers are good?

I'm giving Transformers: Dark of the Moon an open door. I hope it's the last one (my Transformers fan friend insists it almost has to be - due to original story restrictions). Plus, with Reel Steel coming out this winter we may have already had it with robot movies by the time the end of the world mosies along next December. But this movie is enjoyable at the very least, and you're rarely left wondering why LaBouef seems to be doing a better job quitting the franchise on national TV than actually promoting this thing.

*Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures



>> Friday, July 1, 2011


If you've ever read this part of my site this decision won't come as a surprise to you. If you've seen the trailer for Zookeeper this shouldn't come as a surprise to you either. This new Kevin James flick looks like a mess from start to finish. Last summer I tore in Vampires Suck stating that the filmmakers behind that mess (Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer) should never be given another dime again. If the 'people that brought you Paul Blart: Mall Cop' keep on with this kind of behaviour it won't be long until I boycott them as well.

Really, when it comes down to it you've see this movie before. Hands down. Be it in the form of Ben Stiller taking on a museum (the posters even look the same!), Eddie Murphy going crazy in Doctor Dolittle, Jim Carrey having a hard-on for the animal kingdom in Ace Ventura, or Rob Schneider literally having animal parts stuffed into him in The Animal, Zookeeper is just a different brand of shit that once again takes up valuable space on the screens in our theatres. I swear to God, if this movie does better than Super 8, I will have to seriously consider taking my own life.

For those of you who wanna snag some pick up lines from a gorilla and a monkey, Zookeeper opens July 8th. Or you know, you could just take a ball peen hammer to your privates...


CARS 2 (2011)

>> Thursday, June 30, 2011

Did I hate Cars 2? Nope. Did I like it? About as much (if not slightly more) than the first one. My friend Luke brings up an interesting point about this film. While it's obvious this film exists to cash in on merchandising opportunities, the reason the Cars movies work is because we all believe our cars to be personified. There's almost nobody out there that doesn't refer to their car or a vehicle (especially the ones we love) as 'he' or 'she'. So what's better than seeing a film like Cars 2 and thinking to yourself "Hey, I bet my minivan does think that way!"

Does that mean Cars 2 is without its flaws? No, not at all. But it is watchable if you can get past the idea that for some reason cars with no hands can somehow make buildings, write newspaper articles and dare I say - make babies? Best leave that story for a time when Disney runs out of enough ideas to make a film literally titled The Birds and the Bees. These flaws were present in the first one as well. If you accepted it then, you'll accept it with the sequel.

In Cars 2, two main characters stray from home - Lightning McQueen (Midnight in Paris's Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). They leave Radiator Springs behind for the sites of the world in pursuit of first place at the World Grand Prix. Sure enough, in front of the big shots Mater embarrasses McQueen leaving McQueen to push Mater out of the way and move on to 'more important things'. That's when Mater runs into spies Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). The spies mistake Mater for one of the most gifted spies they've ever encountered. If Cars was McQueen's movie then Cars 2 is certainly Mater's.

Now, the Disney/Pixar execs will swear a couple of things when it comes to Cars 2 (Pixar's most unnecessary film to date). One is that this film was made solely for merchandising purposes (they'll say it was made to appease the fans' demands), and the other is that this is more of spy movie than a spoof of a spy movie. The merchandising is whatever - Cars 2 cost Disney $200 million to make. While it'll easily make that back in ticket sales, a movie made mainly for kids essentially sells out the second it's pitched anyways. If the studios thought kids would want to sport Black Swan gear, we would see the same - art or not. So for those of you hating on this film for that aspect of it, get over your high sense of self and tell me you didn't want an Optimus Prime action figure in the worst way when you were eight. As for the spy part of it, that's something I wanted to discuss.

It's the 21st century, a spy film made today will have some air of James Bond to it no matter what. It's what made Austin Powers successful, and it will make Cars 2 successful. The thing they have in common? They are both spoofs of spy movies in some ways. While Austin Powers is more candid about it, Cars 2 still borrows a lot from the spy genre and therefore becomes a spoof. But let me be clear, this isn't a bad thing. Here it's used as a tool to send Mater on a wacky adventure and provide some comic relief.

For the entertainment value alone, I am giving Cars 2 an open door. The day that I can't recommend a Pixar film will be a sad day indeed. This one came close though. But there are enough jokes, color and pretty things to look at that while the adult in us may struggle with it a bit, the kid in us (or car enthusiast in us) will love it.

*Stills courtesy of Disney/Pixar


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