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>> 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...


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