Friday, May 30, 2014
After advertising itself as a dark movie, the first red flag for me came when the official rating came out. I normally don't have a problem with PG-rated movies, but in this case I did because I was nervous that this movie would try to be a dark fairy tale and kids movie at the same time. This fear turned out to be my biggest concern. The movie had an identity crisis. It tried to appeal to adults by being dark, gritty, emotional and action-packed. But it was too scared to go too far. It would start a cool action scene, then it would cut away before it went too far. It started to get dark and ominous, but then it would immediately cut to a happy scene. If you want to be a happy kids movie, then fine. I can enjoy those movies. If you want to be a dark adults movie, then fine. I can also enjoy those movies. But pick one. Don't try to be both, because what happens is you end up appealing to none. Seriously. I was asking myself the whole time, 'Who is this movie intended for?' The easy answer based on the rating is kids. I'm not a parent, but I do have many nieces and nephews. I wouldn't recommend my siblings take their kids to see this. But it's not an adults movie either.
This leads right into the next point in that the movie had horrible pacing issues. It started off really slow and throughout the movie, there were several scenes that just dragged on. Then things just started happening. The events didn't flow well. The writing was bad. The script wasn't great. Things just happened and you as a viewer were just forced to accept these things. Then scenes were thrown in there that just didn't make sense. It was forced. One second Maleficent bursts into the castle and we have a super awesome evil Maleficent scene where she curses Aurora. The next scene she feels bad that the three fairies aren't doing a great job at raising Aurora, so this evil villain starts taking care of Aurora. What? I don't get it. One second you doom the girl for the rest of her life potentially and now you feel bad that she isn't being raised right? Nope. I don't buy it. These things continue the whole movie and are especially bad at the end where the whole finale of the movie is forced and rushed. It especially disappointed me because this movie had so much potential that is just thrown away.
Overall, this movie had a ton of potential that it just threw away. That said, I wouldn't consider it an awful movie. Sure, I had a lot of bad things to say about it, but I have seen a lot worse recently. I'm just very nit-picky with it because of how cool it could've been. I didn't like it as much as the somewhat disappointing Snow White and the Huntsman, but I did like it a lot more than Alice and Wonderland and Mirror Mirror, so it gets kudos there at least. It just didn't have the charm of Sleeping Beauty, spurred by the pacing issues, identity crisis and poor writing. I won't recommend you skip this movie because in my opinion that is an unfair recommendation. Different people have different opinions. But I will suggest to you to not pay full price for it if you do decide to see it. Find a matinee showing or a cheap theater. Or just wait and Redbox it. There are plenty of other good movies out right now that are more deserving of your time and money. My grade for Maleficent is a 6/10.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Looking at Adam Sandler movies, most of them have this same style of stupid humor that I just roll my eyes at. And I expect that type of humor every time I watch one. I don't like it, but I expect it to be there. However, the good Adam Sandler movies are the ones that go beyond this. They don't just drive the stupid humor to the ground the whole time, they add some heart and emotion into it. Yes, the stupid humor is still there, but it's not overbearing to the point where I think the movie is complete trash. Examples of this are Click, 50 First Dates, Happy Gilmore and The Longest Yard. I was hoping that Blended would follow the formula for these movies by adding some heart and emotion that I bought into. And it almost happened. About halfway through, there begins to be times in the movie where the two families start bonding and there are many potentially great moments. But then they get ruined by attempted comedy. The African band keeps showing up. Adam Sandler makes a dumb one-liner. A joke is made about Sandler's oldest daughter looking like a man. And those moments totally killed the scene. It was as if the movie was worried that it was being too much of a drama, so it forced comedy into and thus self-destructed.
Overall, I would say that if you like Adam Sandler's type of humor, you probably will enjoy this movie. Like I mentioned, I myself did have a few good laughs as well as a few moments where I felt happy inside. Because of this I hold to my statement that I have seen much worse from an Adam Sandler movie and thus the reviews from all around I feel are a little too harsh. At the same time, though, the movie shot itself in the foot too many times, thus preventing it from being as good as other Adam Sandler movies. So no, I can't give this movie a good grade, but you also won't see this on my worst movies of 2014 list because I have already seen plenty that are worse. In a crowded summer, I wouldn't recommend you put this high on your priority list, but if you've enjoyed Adam Sandler movies in the past, it may be worth a shot when it's cheaper and there's not much else to go see. I will give Blended a 6.5/10.
Friday, May 23, 2014
How does Days of Future Past pull this off? Time travel and alternate dimensions of course. However, it doesn't make a huge effort to connect to X3 or any of the original three for that matter. At the end of last year's The Wolverine, Xavier and Magneto show up to Wolverine, which confirmed my theory that they would be back. I did think this movie would spend time telling us how they came back. This didn't happen. In fact, it's almost as if we start the movie off in an alternate dimension without explaining at all how we got there. All we know is that Mystique in the past made a real bad decision that caused the sentinels to be created that end up wiping out a lot of mutants and humans. We start this movie in the midst of this disaster as if we are picking up where a previous movie left off. But there is no previous movie. I could've complained at this, but instead I just went with it and decided to see where it would take me. The ride I went on was rather exhilarating.
Overall, in watching this movie I was successfully able to ignore the original trilogy right along with this movie. Because yes, this is the X-Men movie that kicks the original trilogy right in the groin and establishes the X-Men story that everyone should care about with the characters and actors that everyone should care about. The acting by everyone was spot on. Newcomers were perfectly cast. The story was well thought out. The action in the movie was a ton of fun. Yes, this is the movie I was waiting for ever since I finished X3. And I couldn't have imagined a more perfect way of pulling it off. And based on reaction from everyone else, it's safe to say that this is also the X-Men movie that everyone has been waiting for. I feel very confident in saying that this is the best X-Men movie that has ever been made and thus adds to a summer of 2014 that has been on fire recently. Lets keep this going! I give X-Men: Days of Future Past a 9/10.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Now speaking of tragedy, what I really liked about this movie was the human aspect of it. There's a lot of movies out there that have epic battles in them and yet all they focus on is those epic battles. They don't focus at all on what's happening to the people around them. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Movies like this are enjoyable. But in Godzilla it's the other way around. The main focus of the movie here isn't on Godzilla himself. It's on the people around him. Thus this becomes less of a monster movie and more of a disaster movie. That I loved. And what made that work so well was the cast. There's a lot of big names in this movie, but the main focus in this movie is on two up and coming stars -- Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will know these two who have been as the twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in the upcoming movie event Avengers: Age of Ultron. Taylor-Johnson is known by some as the star of the Kick-A-- movies while Olsen is indeed the younger sister of the Olsen Twins Mary Kate and Ashley. I've been very impressed with Elizabeth. She is a great actress who is starting to overshadow her sisters. Her and Taylor-Johnson play husband and wife in this movie and both of them give knock-out performances that make me excited for their roles in Age of Ultron.
Overall, I am very pleased with how the summer of 2014 is turning out. And of course I am cheating a bit by adding Captain America: The Winter Soldier to this tally, even though it is an April release. Going into this summer, I was super excited about the line-up and so far it has been 3/3 with Cap 2, Spider-Man 2 and Godzilla. Let's keep this going! Yes, Godzilla is a movie I was super excited for. Yes, Godzilla has earned great reviews thus far. Yes, Godzilla lives up to the hype with both the trailers and the early reviews. Yes, Godzilla is one of the best monster/disaster movies I have ever seen. I am labeling Godzilla as a must-see movie that will certainly be one of the movies that will stand out when we reflect on this year in movies. I am awarding Godzilla a very strong 9/10. And that almost feels too low, but that's what I'm going with. Go see it! Now!!
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Going into Million Dollar Arm, I was actually really excited because Disney had been raving about this movie for quite some time. I'm happy to report that it passes this test with flying colors. First off, yes this is a movie that deserved to be made. And no, it's not just an ordinary event that was glorified. And while I'm at it, it seems pretty accurate to the actual events. This is a movie about a sports agent named JB Bernstein. He's in a pretty dire situation and needs to make a huge splash or else business-wise he is in a lot of trouble. Using Yao Ming's situation as inspiration, he decides to go on a quest to get the first Major League Baseball player from India. Just like all of China followed Yao Ming's journey in the NBA (he made the all-star team even when he didn't play most of the season because of fan voting in China), an MLB player from India would be equally as huge with how many people live there. With this idea in mind, Bernstein sets up the competition called the Million Dollar Arm, which is essentially a try-out where the top two throwers would get to come to America with the opportunity of trying out for an MLB team.
Is this a predictable sports movie? Of course. The events of this movie took place just a few years back and a quick wikipedia search can tell you all about these two players. But the point here isn't to throw a curveball at audiences. The main focus isn't even on telling the world about an extraordinary event that happened less than a decade ago. It's all about relationships. Bernstein is a single man that is all business at first. What he seems to have missed is that he's brought two human beings halfway across the world just to make a successful business move. These two Indian boys are still teenagers that have never been away from home, at least not so far away from home. They are scared, nervous, alone, and don't even know the language at first. This is an emotional roller-coaster for everyone involved and watching it unfold is touching and beautiful.
What makes this movie work is the performances from all the actors. It's a grand slam performance. Starting from the top, Jon Hamm plays JB Bernstein and if this movie came out in the fall, I'd say he'd be a good contender for Best Actor at the Oscars. It'd be a deserving nomination. Lake Bell plays the neighbor/love interest for JB. She does a fantastic job as the mediator between JB and the boys, helping JB come down to earth to treat the boys right. Finally, our two Indian players, Rinku and Dinesh are played by Indian actors Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal. These two are the stars of the show. From the very beginning, you become emotionally invested in them and their journey. You want them succeed. You cheer for them when they perform well. You are devastated when they slip up. You scream inside at Jon Hamm when he treats them poorly. You fall in love with Lake Bell when she takes them in. Sharma and Mittal are fairly new in the acted business; however, they are not unrecognizable. Sharma plays the lead role of Pi Patel in Life of Pi and Mittal shows up in Slumdog Millionaire. There's also other great performances in this movie from the likes of Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton and Tzi Ma, but this will suffice.
Overall, Million Dollar Arm is a movie that is a must see in my opinion. Yes, there are a ton of huge summer blockbusters in the next month or two that will all fight for your attention, but don't let this movie slip past you. If for some reason you find yourself tired of all the huge blockbusters, then this is definitely a movie that you should check out, because it will be a breath of fresh air. Even if you are not a sports fan, I think this is a movie that you will love, because like I said, it's all about the relationships in the movie as opposed to the historical sporting event that is portrayed. If this movie were to come out at the end of the year, I would think it would be the type of movie that contends for an Oscar nomination or two. It's that good. It will certainly join the ranks of all the great sports movies. My grade for Million Dollar Arm is a 9/10.
It's only been a day for Dorothy, but time lapse being different in Oz means it's been longer in Oz and Oz is in trouble. With Dorothy killing the two wicked witches, the field has become wide open for the latter witch's brother, the Jester, to take control of Oz. The Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man send a message to Dorothy that Oz is in trouble and transport her back. Before they can reunite, the three of them get kidnapped by the Jester, just like others such as Glinda. So now it is up to Dorothy to save her old friends, as well as all of Oz, from the Jester. Along the way she explores through new lands such as Candy Land and China Land and makes some new friends to tag along with her, which include Wiser the Owl, Marshal Mallow, the China Princess and Tugg the old tree (he lets them turn him into a boat).
First off it's important to know that this definitely has a targeted audience, that being younger kids. This wasn't necessarily meant for adults to flock to. Thus complaints such as poor animation and cheesy dialogue are things that I looked over a bit because I knew that the target audience wouldn't care. My little nieces and nephews are going to comment on the animation style of the movie. That said, I didn't think the animation was that bad. Sure, it wasn't Dreamworks or Pixar level, but it didn't bother me. It was unique and I quickly got used to it. I liked all the characters in the movie. Marshal Mellow, Wiser, the China Princess and Tugg were all charming and adorable. Hugh Dancy voiced Marshal Mellow, Oliver Platt voiced Wiser, Megan Hilty voiced the China Princess and Patrick Stewart voiced Tugg. They were joined by a great main cast of Lea Michelle (Dorothy), Dan Aykroyd (Scarecrow), James Belushi (Lion), Kelsy Grammar (Tin Man), Bernadette Peters (Glinda) and Martin Short (Jester). So this was quite the voice cast. It was also a fun story to follow as Dorothy journeyed through Oz to save her friends.
Overall, it was a long journey for this movie to come out and by the early box office numbers it appears that it will be a financial disaster. This really saddens me because it deserves to at least be a minor hit among family audiences. Yes, this is directed mainly towards kids, so if you do have younger kids in your household, I would call this movie a must-see at some point. But I also think that it is one of those kids movies that adults can enjoy as well. You may not walk out of the theater thinking that this is the best thing since the original Wizard of Oz, but you might just surprise yourself by enjoying it. I did. So ignore the critics, ignore the box office numbers that seem to be supporting the critics and give this movie a shot. It deserves your support. I give the movie an 8/10. And yes, I did like this better than last year's Oz the Great and Powerful.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Point I'm trying to make with this? Now that I've fluffed this up enough, I feel it's safe to say. The Amazing Spider-Man went true to the generally accepted comic book version of Spider-Man. At least one of them. The one where Peter Parker dates Gwen Stacy before he dates Mary Jane. As goes the comics, in the midst of a duel between Spider-Man and Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy gets killed. This made me nervous. Why? Because The Amazing Spider-Man cast Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. That movie made me fall in love with Emma Stone. And yet I knew that if they were going to stay true to this comic book, they were going to have to kill her. I did not want this to happen. But I knew it had to. And I was pretty certain that it was going to happen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, especially when Mary Jane was cast in the movie. However, shortly after casting Mary Jane, they cut her out of the movie. This caused me to let my guard down. We have one more movie before Gwen gets killed, I thought. Or perhaps they have seen how popular Emma Stone's character has become that they have decided to just keep her. Hopefully?
And now we move to the final battle. Electro. Peter has made the decision to stay with Gwen and follow her to London when suddenly all the power goes out. Electro has been freed by Harry Osborn (we'll get to him in a bit) and now Peter must stop him. But he doesn't know how. And this is where Gwen once again proves that she is the best superhero girlfriend ever. She is the one that helps Peter figure out a way to stop Electro. That is boss. Sure, Peter was the one who jumped in the Spider-Man outfit and defeated Electron, but Gwen was the brains behind the whole thing. And actually, at the end of the battle, Gwen's direct actions is what made Electro explode. She beat Electro. You don't get that very often. And that is why I love her. Quickly on Electro before I continue with more important things, is he the most important character in this movie? No. Could he have been completely cut out? Absolutely not. I loved his character arch. I loved Jaime Foxx' acting. I thought he was a really awesome villain, both in terms of how looked and how he fought. Him versus Spider-Man was fun to watch and the movie would've been empty without him because you know that Green Goblin is more of a teaser for future movies.
Moving on, up to this point I still was fully convinced that Gwen's time was not up. Her and Peter had just teamed up to beat Electro and I thought perhaps that's where they were going to end. Harry had messed himself up pretty badly, but I still felt he was going to come into play later. Then all of sudden he showed up in between both of them all decked out as Green Goblin. This is where I froze in terror. I was not ready for this to happen, but yet I knew it was going to happen. Gwen was going to die. Suddenly I shriveled up in my seat and the rest of the movie was like a horror movie for me.
But let's pause. I need to talk about Harry Osborn. We'll continue this in a bit.
Now back to the point where Green Goblin shows up between Gwen and Peter. I loved his reaction. When James Franco learned that Peter was Spider-Man, he was blind-sided and didn't know what to do because he didn't want to hurt his best friend but he wanted his revenge on Spider-Man. This time around, the reaction was opposite. When Harry made the connection, he didn't feel remorse. All he felt was extreme hatred and betrayal. And he acted immediately by killing Gwen. I think that was very well written and not only made for an extremely tense ending, but it also sets up for a great rivalry in the next couple of films. I hear a lot of people complaining that he was "shoe-horned" into the movie just like Venom in Spider-Man 3. I don't understand this at all. They spent half the movie building up Harry's story line. And while there wasn't much face-to-face combat time between him and Peter, we all know that he as the villain is going to play a huge role in the next couple of films. Poor comparison.
Now to the death of Gwen. Like I mentioned, I knew this was going to happen in this movie, but then I talked myself out of it. I didn't even catch the build-up, so when Harry showed up it was a complete shock to me. I was planning on preparing myself emotionally and mentally for this time, but when it did happen suddenly, I wasn't prepared. Thus I feel I had a huge part of me ripped out with no warning. It was devastating. I feel I still am trying to recover from this. I fell in love with this girl when Spider-Man fell in love with her and now that she is gone, I feel just as broken up as he did. It was an emotional ending for me as Peter stood at Gwen's grave and listened to her speech again. When a movie pulls at all my emotional strings like this, it deserves a ton of credit. Yes, I liked Electro. Yes, I liked Harry's story. Yes, there were a lot of things in the movie that I loved. But all of that pales in comparison to Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. A lot of people hated this movie and we call argue all the Spider-Man semantics in this movie all day long, but when push comes to shove, none of that matters. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone did so good and had such great chemistry that they could've single-handedly carried this movie on their shoulders and I would've still loved it. That's how well they did. And because of them alone and the emotional rollercoaster that I went on as she slipped through Peter's fingers and died is why I consider this the best Spider-Man movie yet. And I don't think the others are going to top it. Why? No Gwen.
Oh yeah. Sinister Six. They are totally setting up for that. It's not even a secret anymore. Wondering why Rhino happened? Sinister Six. We have Green Goblin and the man who I think is Mysterio organizing it at the end of this. We have Doc Oc and Vulture suits shown. Rhino starts it out. Lizard will be back. Despite getting killed off, the actor for Norman Osborn signed on for two more movies. Maybe Electro gets brought back? Who knows. But this is happening. And I want to be excited. But none of it really matters if they get Mary Jane wrong. No pressure...
What's up with them showing a clip from X-Men: Days of Future Past in the credits? It was cool, but I'm confused. I've never seen a different movie franchise advertised in the end credits of a movie. I know they are both Marvel, but X-Men is Fox and Spider-Man is Sony. Are they teasing a potential cross-over between X-Men and Spider-Man? Is Sony and Fox actually working this out? And if this happens, does that mean Wolverine and Spider-Man can finally be a part of the Avengers? What's the deal? Thoughts to this would be greatly appreciated because I have no idea why that scene happened.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
I have a lot more to say about this movie, but talking about all that requires me to throw out spoilers. Normally I'd just say for you to come talk to me about the ending, but this instance is one of those rare ones where I need to get my thoughts out in a blog post. However, like I said earlier, this specific blog post is one that I deem spoiler-free, so I am going to end this right here. Once you have seen the movie and want to hear my thoughts on the ending then stay tuned for my spoiler review for this movie. So with this post, I will leave by saying that I thought The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a beautifully written, beautifully executed and beautifully acted movie. I loved The Amazing Spider-Man as it was one of my favorite movies from 2012, but I think that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ups the ante and is thus a notch above the first. I give it a 9/10.
For my spoiler review of this movie, click here