Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Thoughts

I am absolutely LIVID about Meryl Streep winning an Oscar (it was the worst possible choice) but other than that, mostly satisfied. Good wins in most of the other categories. I saw Hugo with literally hours left to the Oscars (no review, but it was alright). I stick by my statement that Alexander Payne is an unsung hero of modern cinema (anyone who can top Sideways deserves respect). Billy Crystal may be the 'safe' host choice, but at least he looks like he has fun.

That's it.

DVD Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

As with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, this movie was watched by the reviewer with Rifftrax included, and he would like to remind you that Jesus loves Rifftrax and so should you.

Right now, this all seems kind of pointless. Twilight, as a cultural movement is dying, everyone who cares knows it sucks and even internet snarkyness has begun to die down. Who honestly cares if I come out and tell you what you already know that, yes, this move is fucking terrible? Well I do, because I've been rather lacking in content these last few days, so away we go.

I'm not going to beat around the bush, not going to recap the plot, not going to bitch about the actors hate being there, the direction is flat, the CGI is laughable and the script can go straight to hell. Instead I'm going to tell you the two things that set this one apart. The first is this: This is the most padded movie since Birdemic. I'm not kidding. There are perhaps 20-40 minutes worth of actual event, that you'd need to include, in the movie and the rest is padding so they can split it into 2 movies and charge their fanbase twice. It's takes a full 50 minutes and change to get to 'Bella's pregnant' and someone who wasn't mercilessly padding with repeated shots and shitty emo songs could have done it in 20.

Oh that's the other thing that sets this apart: Now that Edward and Bella are married, they can dump the creepy abstinence metaphors in favor of creepy pro-life (or anti-choice as I continue to call it) metaphors. Apart from that, it's a run of the mill Twilight movie. I've made a habit of watching Twilight movies with the Rifftrax as they come out, which tend to be some of their best work, so I highly recommend that. As for the movie on it's own? Fuck that noise.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he'll never forgive this movie for putting him on the same side of an argument as Edward Cullen.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Second Age Reviews: Dr. No

I have been racking my brain (read: rereading my copy of Blood Meridian with Seinfeld on in the background and shut up) trying to come up with something relevant to say on the subject of Dr. No. I already reviewed Goldfinger just about a year ago, so doing Dr. No seems like little more than an opportunity to rehash my jokes and points from that. Did I already make my 'Bond is a rapist' joke? Yup. How about the point that all the issues that would eventually drag Bond as a series down were already here? Yup.

But I already avoided Psycho because I literally had nothing to say and The Room because I technically have an announcement to make about that (which should be up next week sometime) so I gotta say something. The biggest thing that I noticed about it on this recent viewing is that all of the cliches of the Bond films are already there, they're just played alarmingly straight (notably the very silly one of the villain sitting Bond down and explaining his, rather nonsensical, plan to him).

Aside from that, it's an alarmingly racist entry. Not in any 'I hate' kind of way, just in the absurd amount of stereotypes that get dragged out (I kept expecting the black guy to call Bond 'massa'). Oh and did anyone else notice that Bond doesn't do a whole lot to foil the enemy? He shows up, turns a wheel, has a 20 second fist fight and wins. Bam. Oh, and I'm pretty sure Bond is sterile from all that radiation.

But all those issues aside, it's a fun little entry. Bond is less an action hero in this one and more of a gumshoe. Indeed, there are maybe 3 actual action scenes, and the rest of the time Bond wanders around investigating and interrogating people, and Connery is still the best Bond ever. I suppose all the cliches wandering around the margins are because they couldn't figure out where they wanted to take the series at that point. So if you're in the mood for classic Bond, you can do a lot worse than Dr. No. I guess that's it.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he's pretty sure Dr. No's island is just the island from The Prisoner.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Oh that's it

You know, I try to lay off the Fox News Bashing. It's become apparent to me that it's essentially pointless at this point. Anyone who cares to know is aware of their agenda (they're not precisely subtle about it nowadays) and if you don't know, we won't be able to convince you otherwise.  Besides if they really NEED a verbal beatdown, Jon Stewart can deliver a better one than I can.

But you attack Studio Ghibli? The guys who made Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, IE two of the best animated films of ALL TIME? Over what, some silly environmental shit? Oh no. That shit does not fly my friend.

So yeah, go see The Secret World of Arietty this weekend. I'm seeing it Sunday (was already planning to) so my review won't be up till Monday (Sunday is Oscar Night) but it doesn't matter. See it just to flip them the finger and to support Studio Ghibli.

Don't see The Lorax though. That pattern of Seuss adaptation is NOT one we want to support. But we want to support Studio Ghibli.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Official 84th Oscars Picks

My computer was in the shop all weekend, hence why this post, which was SUPPOSED to go up Sunday is going up today. Also I should have some pics from Saturday's Emilie Autumn concert (quick version: SO. FUCKING. AWESOME!) up later. But until then: My Oscar Picks:

Best Picture:
Frontrunners: The Artist and The Descendants
Upset: Hugo
My Pick: The Descendants

Best Director:
Frontrunner: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Upset: Alexander Payne for The Descendants 
My Pick: Alexander Payne for The Descendants

Best Actor:
Frontrunner: Jean Dujardin for The Artist
Upset: Brad Pitt for Moneyball
My Pick: George Clooney for The Descendants

Best Actress:
Frontrunner: Viola Davis from The Help
Upset: Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs
My Pick: Viola Davis for The Help (it's the only one I've seen okay?)

Best Supporting Actor:
Frontrunner: Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Upset: Kenneth Branagh for My Week With Marilyn
My Pick: Jonah Hill for Moneyball

Best Supporting Actress:
Frontrunner: Octavia Spencer for The Help
Upset: Bernice Bejo for The Artist
My Pick: Bernice Bejo for The Artist

Best Original Screenplay:
Frontrunner: Midnight in Paris
Upset: The Artist
My Pick: Midnight in Paris

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Frontrunner: The Descendants
Upset: Moneyball
My Pick: The Descendants

Best Foreign Language Film:
Frontrunner: A Seperation
Upset: Footnote
My Pick: I have not seen any of the nominated films.  

Best Animated Film:
Frontrunner: Rango
Upset: Chico and Rita
My Pick: Rango

Best Documentary:
Frontrunner: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Upset: Undefeated
My Pick: None (I haven't seen any of them)

Best Original Score:
Frontrunner: War Horse
Upset: Hugo
My Pick: War Horse

Best Original Song:
Okay this one is cheating, so I'm not gonna announce an upset.
Frontrunner: The Muppets for Man or Muppet

Best Sound Editing:
Frontrunner: War Horse
Upset: Hugo
My Pick: Drive

Best Sound Mixing:
Frontrunner: War Horse
Upset: Hugo
My Pick: Moneyball

Best Art Direction:
Frontrunner: Hugo
Upset: The Artist
My Pick: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Best Cinematography:
Frontrunner: War Horse
Upset: The Tree of Life
My Pick: War Horse

Best Makeup:
Frontrunner: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Upset: Albert Nobbs
My Pick: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Best Costume Design:
Frontrunner: Hugo
Upset: The Artist
My Pick: Anonymous

Best Film Editing:
Frontrunner: Hugo
Upset: The Artist
My Pick: Moneyball

Best Visual Effects:
Frontrunner: Hugo
Upset: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
My Pick: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2   

Monday, February 13, 2012

DVD Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the stupidly long title of the Planet of the Apes is a text book example of a movie that's pretty good. It's got great CGI, some solid action scenes and a fantastic performance from veteran motion-capture actor Andy Serkis (who is essentially the best at motion-capture acting in the world right now). It's let down on the other hand by one dimensional human characters, a disappointingly blunt script and some of the softest science I've seen in a movie lately. All of that more or less averages out positive, so what can I say?

For the record, the plot is concerned with...some guy, I can't remember his name, he's played by James Franco. Anyway he's a scientist at some big corporation working on a cure for alzheimers, which is the disease people always go with because it gives them an excuse to make the animals supersmart. Anywho, the ape he's working on goes apeshit (ha) and his project is shut down, leaving only her child who has somehow absorbed the drug genetically (just roll with it). Soon the ape, Caesar is growing smarter and more independent and blah-blah-blah.

Yeah you can predict the movie literally two scenes in advance, or at least I can, yeah it's cliched and yeah it's hampered by it's desire to play homage to the original series (at least 2 famous lines get rephrased in what I'm officially calling Terminator syndrome). For example, the film consistently presents Caesar as the hero, which is easily the best idea the film has (the pound where Caesar ends up bears a disconcerting resemblance to an insane asylum). But it's hampered because we know that the apes will end up the villain if they decide to continue in the remakes (which also gets hinted at, trust me).

It has it's bright points. As I said, it's got some good action scenes, a memorable performance from Andy Serkis and some of the best CGI I've seen this side of Gollum. But the negatives outweigh the pros, with a long and repetitive 2nd act (which cuts into the very good 3rd act), a lazy script (both in the dialogue and in the 'too many coincidences' departments) and some heavily one dimensional characters. The actors are mostly doing good jobs, in particular Brian Cox, who can probably do his role in his sleep by now, and Tom Felton (also known as Malfoy) who looks like he's getting used to being typecasted as a villain now.

As I said, it's not bad. It's a good popcorn flick and, while this may be damning with faint praise, much better than Tim Burton's effort from 2001. So if you're in the mood for a good action film, this could be worth a rent. See you next time.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he's officially renaming this movie Douchebags Doom The World.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

DVD Review: Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen is a director I respect more than I outright admire or like. He's got a unique sense of humor, a good eye for direction and a habit of telling his stories in interesting ways. He's hampered, however, by a tendency to have his scripts be overly talkative, his occasional breaks of the 'show don't tell' rule and by his habit of treating his lead characters as personal avatars (which is exemplified whenever he decides to play one). And while this can lead his movies to occasionally annoy or exasperate me, it doesn't stop them from being good or even great, as is the case with Midnight in Paris.

The plot is concerned with Owen Wilson as Woody Allen (I'm sure the character was named something else, but shut up) who is visiting Paris with his mismatched fiancee and her conservative parents and come back, I know you can plot the entire movie out from that description, but there's more to it, I promise. I can't tell you what, because it's a spoiler, but this movie does do something interesting with the formula.

Apart from telling you that the story does indeed take a unique turn at about the 20 minute mark, there's not much I can say. The direction is fine, nothing on Manhattan or even Annie Hall but fine. The screenplay is where it really shines, balancing well written versions of already well known people (trust me on that) with an interesting story and a fairly intellectual subtext about the dangers of nostalgia (something I appreciate) and some great dialogue. All the acting is great, particularly Owen Wilson giving the best performance of his career to date and Marion Cotillard (IE, the wife from Inception). There's really not a lot to say about it beyond 'it's really good.' A worthy Oscar nominee if ever I saw one, so you really should see it before the ceremony.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and his local art theater was passing out cheat sheets for all the historical references in this movie when it was showing. And that just speaks for itself.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

DVD Review: The Ides of March

The major thing that drags The Ides of March has, ironically, almost nothing to do with the movie itself. The thing is, almost all of it's major characters are played by actors who appeared in other films this year, that are uniformly better. Ryan Gosling was in Drive, George Clooney was in The Descendants, even Phillip Seymour Hoffman was in Moneyball. And while The Ides of March is so so good, it's not quite as good as those.

The plot is devoted to Ryan Gosling as a high placed campaign worker, working for George Clooney's presidential bid. Okay, not TECHNICALLY presidential YET, as they're still in the primary stage. George Clooney's character is behind in the polls and they're desperately looking for a way to get him over the top. And that's when things start getting complicated. As with The Descendants, I can't tell you HOW they get complicated, but trust me.

Everything this movie needs to get right it does. The characters are well rounded and engaging, the script is well written and the direction, while nothing special is solid enough. The acting is great, particularly George Clooney is who is incredibly devoted to making this good (he both wrote and directed it, and his character plays out like his ideal politician) and Paul Giamatti in a small role.

It's let down by a lack of ambition and no real clear villain. Paul Giamatti is the closest thing the movie has to a physical presence of the conceptual villain (George Clooney's opponent in the primary) but both he, and the politician he represent, have far too little screen time to really count. And it must be said this movie is partisan and not shy about it (very few movies name the political parties of their characters these days, so this is actually a welcome switch). It didn't bother me, because I'm absurdly liberal, but if you're a conservative it might bother you. Overall though, I thought The Ides of March was quite good and if you're in the mind for a well made political movie, this one is definitely for you.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he'd vote for George Clooney. And not just his character.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Chronicle

Oh goddammit 2012. January and February are supposed to be shit months. How am I supposed to unwind from the stressful holiday months by tearing into terrible movies when you keep putting out good ones? It's quite annoying.

Ahem. The story is concerned with three teenagers who, while wandering off from a party, discover a cave and a thingamajig (technical term) that grants them telekenetic powers. The vast majority of the film is devoted to them testing their abilities and their developing personalities, and is presented found footage style (unroll your eyes).

And I do mean unroll them, it's actually a fairly unique and interesting presentation of found footage. It begins it's journey to being interesting by actually skipping the usual reason found footage is done, IE to hide crappy special effects or a low budget (or poor direction). Chronicle never goes that route, instead using interesting techniques (usually multiple cameras held by different people but eventually the characters telekenetically moving the camera around them) to actually show the events crystal clear, and actually use some good cinematography. It seems the primary reason behind the found footage aspect was to allow the characters to have little asides to the camera and to play fast and loose with continuity.

The script, while nothing Oscar worthy, is surprisingly sharp, combining clever dialogue and interesting characters. Okay so the character arcs are a little too telegraphed (you can tell from before the second act begins, who's going to be the hero, who's going to be the villain and who's going to get killed to show that shit has gotten real) but it all works really well, mostly because it's all assembled so well and the characters and their arcs feel so real. There's also some heavy subtext based around bullying and how it can psychologically affect a person, and I must say I can find myself understanding and sympathizing (yes, I was bullied in high school, contain your shock). I will say that these characters reactions to getting superpowers, while often childish and selfish, feel a lot more like how a real person would react to getting superpowers. I mean, not everyone who gets the power to fly is gonna want to dress up in colorful costumes and go beat up people right?

And the action, the action is fucking awesome. I can't tell you WHY it's so awesome, because that would be spoiling how the movie ends, but let me tell you, this movie has all sorts of fun with the way telekenisis can be used, both in combat and just in screwing around.

There are a couple complaints I have, nothing major but enough to keep it from surpassing The Grey. There are some very odd editing choices here and there, especially near the middle, mostly as a result of the found footage aspect. And while the 3rd act is epic and the ending is surprisingly affecting, the way it's presented seems to be setting up a sequel this film REALLY does not need.

Look as I said earlier, it's February which means that most of the stuff in theaters is probably going to be terrible. But here we have to really excellent films out this early in the year, and it'd be nice if they (and the upcoming Studio Ghibli film) could be nice sized hits, if only to act as a counterweight to all the other upcoming films that fill me with RAGE at their very existence (I honestly cannot remember the last time I was as angry at a trailer as I was at The Lorax). So this one comes HIGHLY recommended.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and if The Avengers can't live up to this movie's 3rd act, they're going to look very silly.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

An Experiment

Later today, or possibly early tomorrow, I'm going to try an experiment that I thought some of you at my blog might be interested in. I'm going to be rewatching Advent Children: Complete again (I like FF7, sue me) and I'm going to be tweeting my thoughts on it, with timestamps, as I watch it.

My twitter can be found here: jemas42. I'm gonna try to throw it on the side of the blog. This is just to see how well it works and how much I like Twitter.  Odds are it won't go as well as I want it to, but we'll see.