Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Rise of the Guardians" Dreamwork's Holiday Avengers

Going against other big name films at the box-office is always risky. There's a chance that each new film released will reach its own large demographic and everyone wins regardless of the final rankings, but there's also a chance that everyone will see that one franchise film-and who can blame them. Sadly, that happened to DreamWorks Animation's Rise of the Guardians. Years from now, it will be looked back on as that film people should have seen on the big screen and a holiday classic.

Rise of the Guardians is about the eternal battle between good and evil, and the soldiers in this battle are Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman, The Easter Bunny, and their new recruit Jack Frost, against Pitch Black: Creator of Nightmares. Both sides need the belief of children to exist and do their jobs, so both sides fight to make sure kids belief in them. That believe comes with it's own reward as it allows The Guardians and Pitch to spread either joy or fear in fantastic ways.
This film tries to go deep into what it means to be one of these landmark figures that kids idolize, but only scratches the surface of what that means, leaving the rest up to the interpretation of kids watching the movie.

Their aren't many character's in this film, and that's the way it should be. When dealing with all of the holidays coming together it's easy for small cameos to come up, and quickly become overwhelming. Instead we are treated to a lot of great one-on-one moments with the people we've been introduced to (another reason this film is like Marvel's).
Rise of the Guardians focuses on Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a mischievous little trouble maker who just likes to have fun. The role of being a guardian is thrust upon him without warning, but he's ends up being a fast learner. Jack gets the most screen time and has a lot of great moments with each Guardian. I'm almost certain that all of the actors in this film recorded their lines together because the chemistry between everyone is phenomenal.

Since this is a DreamWorks film, people can expect nothing less than stunning visuals. Stunning action, set pieces, scenery, character design, the standard of Hollywood CGI films. Honestly though, that standard is really only guaranteed by the computer. Without designers coming up with this stuff, this film could have looked like a glossy video game-repetitive environments, characters, and everything else. Instead, any number of details could pop out to someone during any scene.

Two of my favorite scenes in this film involve how the Easter Bunny gets all of his eggs painted for easter, and a contest of who can collect the most teeth for The Tooth Fairy. Both scenes show how much fun these filmmakers wanted Rise of the Guardians to be, as the character's are constantly, comedically bouncing off each other while doing their tasks.

My only problem with this film is their may be one or two loose ends story-wise, and on the surface-it is a real basic story. And what I mean by that is, the trailers (and this review) make it look like a lot less than it really is, so please check it out for yourselves.

Rise of the Guardian's: 4/5 Stars

Rise of the Guardian's is a Dream Works Animation film that stars Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, and Jude Law. It was directed by Peter Ramsey, adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire, and produced by Guillermo del Toro

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

I will always say this movie came out too soon (it's been almost five years and two months to the day that the Raimi trilogy came to a screeching halt). I will always compare this film to that entire trilogy, as well as the comics and tv-shows, and I will always say this is one of the best reboots since Batman Begins.

Marc Webb's Spider-Man does everything it can to both differentiate itself from and pay homage to the Spider-Man stories that came before it, to great effect. The origin story many of us can recite in our sleep has been given some flexibility and is actually able to start, and keep, the film going at a brisk pace. In this universe Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has not gone to college yet, has not met
Mary-Jane Watson, and is still in reeling from the disappearance of his parents. Also he has to fight a very large Lizard...finally.

The film sets itself apart by trying to reinterpret every familiar moment in past stories, and creating new scenarios or ways to put that moment on screen. It all works well because it does maintain a very fresh feel to it. The performances behind the film are also fresh, and pretty wonderful all around. Andrew Garfield has made Peter and Spider-Man his own by stripping away some of the confidence the spider bite should have given him, and replacing it with the feeling that not much has really changed for the newfound superhero, and I mean all that in the best possible way. Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy is a great foil for Garfield as they have great chemistry together, and Stone is put through the ringer as Stacy goes through her own significant changes throughout the film.
Finally, Rhys Ifans Dr. Conners/Lizard is very different than any of the Lizards before him. He's not a family man, he seems pretty far from being in he late 30s or early 40s, and he's very much in control of his actions. Instead of being a mindless monster, which could have easily happened, the Lizard is a very strong, very smart mastermind. And the only thing I found weird about him is that he didn't have the elongated jaw The Lizard is known for.

Visually this film is the definition of the word eye-candy with great moments Spider-Man swinging through New York in first and third person views. Everything is done very quickly, but very smoothly too as you can see every impossible feat of acrobatics in full view.

I couldn't find any real faults with the film other than some of the romantic elements between Peter and Gwen could have been played a little faster, and a few questions have been left for the sequel, guaranteeing that I'll come back for more

4/5 Stars

Friday, June 1, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

"Snow White and the Huntsman" is the second film this year to turn the fairytale of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" on its head, and the first one I've seen, since I missed "Mirror, Mirror." So while I am missing one basis of comparison, I think I've seen enough other films I can use to draw comparisons, as "Snow White and the Huntsman" doesn't offer a lot of new things. What it does offer is great performances by two of three major stars, Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman and Charlize Theron as the evil queen Ravenna, and a good performance by Kristen Stewart as Snow White. These performances don't make up for a film that typically feels jumbled, senseless, and long and boring.

"Snow White and the Huntsman" is about how Snow White escapes from prison and is then hunted by the queen and her army because taking her heart (the same way Mola Ram takes hearts) will grant the queen eternal life, youth, and power. She employs the huntsman, who quickly joins Snow White anyway, and they trek back to the kingdom and meet a lot of weird creatures, like a troll, ravens, a stag, and a few dwarfs, along the way.

To fill the unnecessary two-hour runtime, the journey is full of several set-pieces and scenes that range from great and short (such as the troll scene) to just filler (the scene with the stag, which features a sour ending). A few puzzling moments are why did the queen let Snow White live in the first place, when she is clearly cold-hearted enough to kill her as a child? Why is a horse conveniently available when needed? Why can't I remember key scenes in this film? There aren't many. Honestly, the film started out strong and I wanted to see it in the first place, and it's not as jumbled as you may think it is. But the more it went on the more disappointed I got. I kept analyzing it, and not in the way I like to. It wasn't, "what's going on in this scene and these characters?" It was, "what the hell am I watching, this is weird." My main problem is all the characters and situations were underwritten (by Evan DaughertyJohn Lee HancockHossein Amini), except for Hemsworth and Theron, so I didn't give a damn what happened.

The production value, effects, and behind the scenes work on this film all looked great to me, but it's all wasted on a weak script and weak film. Other than that if you still see it, enjoy the fight scenes, it's all there really is.

2.5/5 stars.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Primal Fear

This 1996 film, directed by Gregory Hoblit, is about the defense of an alleged murderer and the trial he and his defense attorney face. The defendant, Aaron Stampler, is played by Edward Norton (in his stunning debut). His lawyer is Martin Vain, played by Richard Gere. Also included in this film, written by Steve Shagan and Ann Biderman (based on the book by William Diehl), are Laura Linney, as the prosecutor Janet Venable, and Frances McDormand, as psychiatrist Dr. Molly Arrington. And while all of these performances, as well as the writing, are strong, they are brought down by several filmmaking quirks and bad choices.

Norton and Gere are the standouts in this film as they bounce off of each other very well. You can sense a relationship developing between them that assists in twisting the story in the right direction. Gere truly believes the innocence of all of his clients, and goes above and beyond for them. Whenever he thinks he's being lied to or misled, he's very quick to take it personally, and remind his client's what is at risk.
Norton goes deep into character as the alleged killer. He's plays Aaron as a scared man who has just kind of whirl winded himself into the worst possible situation. He's been accused of murdering a priest, a man who had saved his life, and his only life-lines are Gere and McDormand.

The problem with the film is it is shot as a film. What I mean is there are some unnecessary camera angles and music cues. This isn't a frequent problem, but a critical one, as these things happen during critical moments of the film (thankfully not the most critical moments).

Other than that there is still the story. The time spent leading up to the trial are very well done as you try to piece together what has happened yourself. There are ideas of conspiracy and unethical business practices to take into account, and it ties into the murder itself very nicely and seamlessly. This is the prime reason the film will keep you guessing because you will doubt yourself repeatedly, and I loved that about this film. 

I give this film 4/5 stars, and I' m very upset that I have to give the vhs back to the library- two days late. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Family Guy "Forget-Me-Not"

Family Guy has been in a decline for the last couple of years. The problem is that for every original or surprisingly intelligent joke, there are several instances of them going back to recycle bin in the worst possible way. Those ways are, at the very least, animating blood because the writers think innocent dead things are funny, and the increasing stupidity of Chris and Peter. This episode featured a mix of the good and the bad, as Peter, Joe, Quagmire, and Brian wake up, with amnesia, in a deserted Quahog.

The stupidest thing about this show now is the plot holes because even for a show like Family Guy there is a limit to how dumb is too dumb, such as the gang not figuring out who they based on reading tweets, and no one figuring out that Peter's newspaper picture was a prop. In real-life, or a better cartoon, these issues wouldn't have even been issues.
The other problem is the lack of character development. Is it wrong to want character development from a show like this? I remember the episode after Peter said he would cut back on drinking, he came out of the Clam hammered, it's ridiculous. This time we get what should be something of an important moment between Peter and Brian, but next week I'm sure Peter will kick Brian's ass in a non-cutaway. It's just a problem the writers and producers should worry about if they want to attempt to hit the 500+ episodes of "The Simpsons," or just not make people angry they decided to watch Fox on Sunday.

What didn't save this episode, but helped, was the fact that a lot of the jokes were good this week. My favorites were the return of "Surfin' Bird" and Who Else but Quagmire, the tour of Quagmire's house and Joe thinking he's a stripper. Other great jokes were Stewie's cutaway about the girl's best friend and the final moments of the episode after the amnesia is explained.

In all, this episode is at least worth re-watching if you can ignore the worst of what Family Guy has become. The whole series isn't terrible yet, and hopefully before it's booed off the air, things can magically turn around for the series.