Archive for February, 2013

27
Feb
13

Nature Calls

Nature Calls is a comedy centering on two polar opposite brothers, Randy (Patton Oswalt) and Kirk (Johnny Knoxville), the great outdoors, a scouting trip and the many felonies and misdemeanors committed in the process.  Sounds like a fun time, but it’s a bad outing for everyone, including the audience.

The plot is simple and straightforward.  Randy is an overzealous scout leader in the process of planning the yearly outing for his troop, which consists of sleeping overnight in tents in a church parking lot.  However, preparations for Randy’s excursion are disrupted when the boys decide they’d rather spend that time at a sleepover at Kirk’s house.  Randy, not good at taking disappointment, decides to take matters in his own hands and kidnaps the kids, taking them on a real wilderness adventure.

Nature Calls is an odd feeling film. It has the mood of an extended unfunny Saturday Night Live skit.  It’s almost as if they decided to just gather a group of supposedly funny actors, turned on the cameras and let them improvise to their hearts content. Some of the scenes were unnecessarily long as if to try to fit in another funny line.  Unfortunately, most of the lines aren’t funny and instead comes off as annoying and really odd.

It’s amazingly short with only a 79 minute running time.  Perhaps the film would have been better if it had been a tad longer and allowed for some kind of character development. On second thought, it probably wouldn’t have helped because everyone except Randy, is just downright obnoxious. Rob Riggle wins the prize as the most unlikable in a film filled with unpleasant characters.  Other than Randy, everyone is basically playing a cardboard cutout of a character.  The only attempt to really try and give the characters any real personality was in the ending montage of the film, but it’s way too little and way too late.

These characters are just so incredibly angry for whatever reason.  Most of the dialogue is said while yelling and screaming. It got to the point where I was actually surprised when someone said something without their face bright red and veins popping out of their neck.  What do these people have to be so made about?  They weren’t the ones that wasted an hour and a half of their life watching this poor excuse for entertainment.

Nature Calls could have been good with much more disciplined direction, a much tighter script and better casting.  On second thought, it fixes those problems and the films probably still pretty bad.  Do yourself a favor and rent John Candy’s The Great Outdoors instead or you know what, anything else on cable is better than Nature Calls. 

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25
Feb
13

21 & Over

21& Over is the new film written and directed by the same guys that wrote the Hangover films.  Now, you’re probably asking why that little bit of trivia was worth mentioning.  Well, it’s important for a couple of reasons. First, if you’ve seen either of the Hangover films, you’re more than familiar with the plot and set up of the films. Just in case you haven’t the plot of both films is as follows: A night out, in a relatively unknown location, for a group of close knit friends to mark a special occasion that’s accompanied by chaos and mayhem.  Also, if you’ve seen either of the Hangovers, you’re familiar with the characters and their varying personalities.  Now, imagine a movie with similar characters and situations, but this time in a college setting and you have 21& Over.  This time, however, the filmmakers forgot to add even remotely funny or interesting material.

21 & Over, as its title suggests, is about a group of friends three friends converging on a college campus to celebrate a 21st birthday.  The three friends agree to a quiet night out with one or two drinks as the character turning 21 has a medical school interview bright and early the next morning.  As you can guess, what follows is an evening accompanied with parties, booze, few inhibitions, and even fewer coherent thoughts.

As much as I visit the theater, its just inevitable to come across a bad, unfunny film.  Some of the time I knew it was going to be terrible, but I have never sat through an entire comedy and never laughed, never even smirked, until 21& Over.  The theater was also very quiet for the most part.

One character spouts constant nonsense and the vocabulary of most characters in the film consist of mostly four letter words.  This is supposed to be funny and sometimes it does work, but here the characters are unlikable and annoying.

The story has been seen over and over before.  College kids out on the town for a night of heavy drinking and everything goes from bad to worse and then everything comes together in the end, but there is absolutely nothing new here.  Nothing.

For the life of me, I don’t know why 21 & Over received a theatrical release.  The acting, story, writing, everything screams of a straight to video release.

20
Feb
13

Snitch

No one enjoys being proven wrong, right?   Whether it’s an argument with your significant other, a dispute at work with your boss, or the Facebook timeline, where you spend hours debating some trivial topic for the entire world to see, no one relishes being proven incorrect.  But, believe me or not, sometimes being wrong isn’t all bad.  And I can name an instance where being mistaken won’t result in spending the night on the couch, job loss, or a lost virtual buddy.  By this time the anticipation must be mounting to an almost unbearable amount as you sit on pins and needles waiting for the answer.  The Answer:  an expected unsatisfying trip to the theater, which is instead, met by a rather enjoyable experience.

And the new Dwayne Johnson flick, Snitch, is a great instance of me being wrong at the theaterAs high as my expectations were for Identity Thief  to be good, they were equally as high for Snitch to be bad, perhaps more so.  Going in, I had Snitch pegged for just another typical Dwayne Johnson film with a weak, see through story, where the bullets fly endlessly.  However, what we have with Snitch is a well concocted story, with fully developed characters.

Snitch at its core is a story about the love of a father for his son and how far he’s willing to go to protect his child.  John Matthews’s (Dwayne Johnson) son lands himself in prison for accepting and attempting to distribute narcotics.  Even with this being his first offense, federal minimum sentencing law is ten years in prison.  Desperate to save his son from spending ten years behind bars, John Matthews makes a deal with an ambitious federal district attorney (Susan Sarandon).  He helps deliver known members of a Mexican drug cartel, the drugs, and the money and in exchange, she’ll significantly reduce his son’s sentence.  What follows is entertaining and a surprisingly thought provoking look at the war on drugs.

The film succeeds on many levels.  First, even though its rated Pg-13, it has a feel similar to Training Day in terms of tone, characters, and setting, but not as good on any level.  The characters are well drawn and feel like actual people instead of the cardboard cutouts these films generally produce.  The script is unique and intelligent for a film of this genre.

The downfalls of the film are few and far between, but big enough to keep it from being really good.  First, Dwayne Johnson is becoming a better actor, but when the film calls for an emotional reaction, he’s just not able to deliver.  The emotional scenes between him and his son do not work because the Rock just isn’t at that level yet.  And Benjamin Bratt as the drug lord is rather laughable.  He’s not intimidating in the slightest and comes off as a joke, badly miscast.

Snitch is surprisingly an entertaining time.  It had potential to be really great, but its drawbacks were big enough to hold it back.  However, if you find yourself at the theater any time soon, Snitch is definitely worth checking out.

18
Feb
13

Oscar predictions

Glitz. Glamour. And more celebrities than a bad Garry Marshall film.  The Academy Awards; Hollywood’s biggest self-congratulatory night of the year, a night filled with long drawn out speeches, inexplicable winners, and little golden men.

By this time you’re probably more than familiar with the  nominees and have seen tons of Oscar predictions.  Well here’s my prediction for what’ll win and then what should win.  And the Oscar goes to….

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  •   Argo
  • Beasts of The Southern Wild
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook

 What will win: Argo   What should win: Argo

 

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  •  Armour             
  • Django Unchained
  • Flight
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Zero Dark Thirty

What will win: Django Unchained   What should win: Zero Dark Thirty

 

Directing

  • Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
  • Michael Haneke –  Armour
  • Ang Lee – Life of Pi
  • Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of The Southern Wild
  • David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook

Who will win: Steven Spielberg     Who should win: David O. Russell

 

Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams – The Master
  • Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt- The Sessions
  • Sally Field – Lincoln
  • Jacki Weaver- Silver Linings Playbook

Who will win:  Anne Hathaway     Who should win: Anne Hathaway

 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Alan Arkin – Argo
  • Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
  • Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
  • Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained

Who will win: Tommy Lee Jones       Who should win: Tommy Lee Jones

 

Best Actress

  • Naomi Watts – The Impossible
  • Emmanuelle Riva – Armour
  • Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
  • Quvenzhane Walls – Beasts of The Southern Wild
  • Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook

Who will win: Jessica Chastain          Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence

 

Best Actor

  • Denzel Washington – Flight
  • Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix – The Master

Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis           Who should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

 

Best Film

  • Armour
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Lincoln
  • Django Unchained
  • Life of Pi
  • Argo
  • Les Miserables
  • Beasts of The Southern Wild
  • Zero Dark Thirty

What will win: Lincoln                       What should win: Argo

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know what you think.

17
Feb
13

A Good Day To Die Hard

 

 

Dictionary.com defines the word action as the process or state of acting or of being active.  One could also make the argument the word action is defined as John McClane, the wise cracking New York City cop with the profane catchphrase, and the Die Hard franchise.  From the franchise that made Bruce Willis a mega star and produced four previous films, we now have number five, A Good Day To Die Hard.

A Good Day To Die Hard begins with our hero on foreign lands for the first time, Russia, to check up on his son or for “vacation” as he mentions ad nauseam.  After several loud explosions and a prolonged car chase sequence, father and son are reunited.  We soon learn Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) works for the CIA protecting Russian citizens with secrets important to the US.  John McClane tags along for the ride and mayhem inevitably ensues.

Anyone who’s seen any of the four Die Hard films has a good idea of what to expect. They expect to see explosions, property damage, John McClane fighting the bad guys against enormous odds and to hear that famous phrase uttered.  And for the most part that’s what you get, but A Good Day To Die Hard is the weakest in the franchise for many reasons.

First, Bruce Willis has proved time and again he’s capable of carrying a film.  I’m not sure why John McClane needs a partner.  Having the son present takes the focus off John McClane – a major reason the films have been so successful.  This may be a factor why Willis phones in his performance.  He doesn’t seem into the character and is just going through the motions.

The script is poor.  The story is flimsy and hard to follow with so much double crossing; we’re not sure who’s a bad and who’s a good. Also, some of the action sequences are clearly CGI and very poorly done, particularly the last major sequence.

I could go on and on about reasons not to watch A Good Day To Die Hard, because there are plenty. But let’s be honest, it’s Die Hard and John McClane, so its better than most of the crap out now.

 

17
Feb
13

Identity Thief

 

One of the most frustrating things about attending a screening is coming in with high expectations and then not having those expectations met.  We’ve all been there; we’re shown a film’s trailer months in advance of it hitting the multiplex as it either heightens or diminishes interest in the film. The trailer for Identity Thief was one that heightened expectations, but trailers only get butts in the seats and then the film either meets, exceeds or subverts our expectations.

Unfortunately, Identity Thief is another example in a string of recent films that failed to deliver the goods.  Identity Thief has comical, talented and in McCarthy’s case, Oscar nominated leads. The plot is unique and relevant, especially in today’s ever increasing credit and debit card society.  And based on his previous work, Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief also has a seemingly capable and talented director.  Needless to say, everything was present for what should have been a fantastically entertaining dark comedy, but it missed the mark.

Identity Thief is a comical look at how stealing someone’s identity affects all facets of their life.  Bateman is passed over for a promotion at his job and decides to join several of his colleagues to start their own financial firm.  While the new firm is conducting their background on Bateman’s character they learn he’s wanted for fraud and several other charges in Florida.  The only problem is he’s never been to Florida.  So, to get his life back in order he ventures off to Florida to catch the criminal (McCarthy) and bring her to justice.

The script is the film’s biggest downfall without question.  It started off promising, introducing us to the Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman), the upright family man in Colorado and Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Melissa McCarthy), the compulsive over spender in Florida.  Soon after that the wheels start to come off and it descends into a slapstick version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, going for the easiest, most simple laugh possible.  For example, at one point a snake crawls up Bateman’s leg and wraps around his neck.   The script’s predictable, formulaic, and cops out for a touchy  happy ending.

Don’t get me wrong, Identity Thief isn’t a bad film or a terrible film. Instead, Identity Thief is a decent film, when it could’ve and should have been so much better given everything it had at its disposal.  Identity Thief is just another unfortunate case of unmet expectations.

 

17
Feb
13

10 Best of ’12

Best of

2012 gave us some truly great films, some really terrible down right awful films and everything in between.  And so here is my list of the best films of 2012.

 

10.  Safety Not Guaranteed – A quirky, independent film with a creative plot, talented cast, and superb writing.  The less than stellar ending is the only reason its not higher on my list.

 

9. The Bourne Legacy – Jeremy Renner steps in for Matt Damon and the film doesn’t miss a beat.  The story is fast, intelligent and the action is everything you want and expect from a Bourne film.

 

8. Ted- A raunchy, profane comedy about a teddy bear that magically comes to life and a 30 something slacker.  A nonstop, laugh fest that was the best comedy of 2012.

 

7. Safe House – Nonstop action, an intelligent script, and great performances from Washington and Reynolds make Safe House one of the best this year.

 

6. End of Watch – Great story, inventive camera work, and an anything can happen feel make this a must see film.

 

5. Flight – Denzel Washington’s performance as an alcoholic pilot is truly a treat to witness.  Kelly Reilly is terrific as his drug addicted confidante. Take this Flight.

 

4. Silver Linings Playbook – Terrific, funny, heartfelt story about real people dealing with real issues and how they cope.  Jennifer Lawrence shines and steals the show from Bradley Cooper.

 

3. Skyfall – Not normally a fan of Bond films, but thoroughly enjoyed this one. Daniel Craig is excellent, but Javier Bardem as the villain is a scene stealer.  Excellent, smart story, and a great homage to past Bond films.  See Skyfall!

 

2. Lincoln – Daniel Day-Lewis gives another Academy Award winning performance as the 16th President.  Writing and story are terrific, Tommy Lee Jones is great as Thaddeus Stevens. Lincoln is nearly perfect.

 

1. Argo – Without a doubt the best film of the year!  Everything about this film is perfect, the performances, story, and the pacing.  Nothing else even came close to matching Argo.




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