Saturday, January 21, 2012


For having such an awesome cast, Haywire sure is a lackluster movie. And unlike the similar recent film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the performances here do nothing to elevate an otherwise sub-par flick. Pretty disappointing, too, coming from Steven Soderbergh, who has a history of doing good things with exceptional ensembles.

Speaking of Soderbergh, I should mention that I went into this not realizing who directed it, but thinking that it really felt like one of his films. Low and behold, as the ending credits rolled, Soderbergh's named appeared on screen. So it definitely has the same style as most of his other works, and even has the same kind of odd musical choices that was present in Contagion, a choice that I'm still not certain exactly how I feel about it. But if you're into his work, then you may very well enjoy this movie more than I did. But me personally, it just didn't do much for me.

It took forever and a day to actually pick up and start being interesting. In the meantime, I was seriously considering just walking out, because I was not a fan of what we got. The first 20 minutes or so we don't know anything. The movie tells us nothing. We just hop from one unexciting action scene to the next, where the characters look more like they're casually jogging around the city as opposed to taking part in intense chase sequences. But the movie gives you no reason at all to care about these initial action scenes. Not to mention that I felt all of the fight scenes came across as rather silly, which didn't exactly help matters at all.

Pretty much, it's not until around the time that Michael Fassbender tags out of the movie that things finally pick up. Basically, our main character, Mallory, played by Gina Carano, is a private contract agent whose been double crossed and is out to set things right and exact revenge. And it's once this double cross happens that the movie finally gets going. It starts off with a rather impressive scene showing Mallory just walking through the city streets, until she realizes she's being followed. This pursuit was shot really well, and is probably my favorite part of the whole movie, though it's not without its own share of unintended silliness as well.

Concerning the cast, I suppose I can't complain about anyone's performance necessarily, other than maybe Bill Paxton, who may as well be reading his lines right off the script through most of the movie. But everyone else did fine, if nothing really noteworthy. And I suppose Gina Carano was pretty good, if a bit too inappropriately smiley-faced throughout much of the movie. But she's got such a beautiful smile that I can't rag on her too hard for that!

The character interactions is where this movie starts to crumble a bit. A lot of the relationships in this movie just feel very forced. For instance, Gina Carano and Channing Tatum's random hookup was an eye-roller. There's no buildup to it, and it doesn't have a lick of relevance to either the plot or their character development. Just completely random. And the random civilian who Mallory forces to drive her is just way too cool with the situation he's found himself in. He should be freaking out, yet he's calm as a butterfly. And not five minutes pass before the two fully and completely trust one another, which I just had the hardest time being able to buy.

But overall, I suppose this wasn't entirely a bad movie. I'd say it was okay, though it gets off to a really rough start, and a lot of the character interactions just feel so forced. Some people might be able to enjoy the fight scenes, which are shot in a more realistic manner than one might expect, but I was never able to take them too seriously. They all just felt so silly to me, which took me out of the movie. But eh, the more the movie progresses, there is some good to be had here, especially the ending in particular, which was quite satisfying.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Retro Reviews

Hey, did you check out the new link on the sidebar? It's a list with links to all the movie reviews I've written to date. And as I was compiling this list, I decided to go rummaging through my old blog to see if I couldn't dig up a few of my reviews that predate this blog. So then, here's a handful of "retro reviews". They're not exactly my best quality stuff, and a few of my opinions have changed slightly over the years, particularly those concerning The Dark Knight and Revenge of the Sith. But even so, it's still kind of interesting to go back and see what I thought of these movies at the time and how I rated things back then.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
(originally posted May 22, 2005)

Just saw Episode III tonight. Holy shit, this movie was awesome! I think this may very well be the best Star Wars movie made! I'm not even exaggerating, it's that good! The dialogue is poorly delivered at times, but that's the only problem I had with the movie, and it's something that was a problem with every Star Wars movie, so I can't really hold that against it. This movie just ruled, though. It was just full of pure emotion, and despite the fact that I knew the ending going into it, it just sucked me right in anyways. And some of the fight scenes were just wicked. The action in this movie was top notch stuff. By far and away better than Episodes I and II, and I think it may very well be better than IV, V, and VI as well. Great stuff here, and a great flick to kick off the summer. George Lucas finally got it right with one of these prequels!

(originally posted September 6, 2006)

The 2006 movie of the year is Crank. Without a doubt, this movie is the best thing to hit theaters since Star Wars III. I was hooked from the first time I saw the trailer for this movie. Some people said this looked like it was gonna be The Transporter 3 based on the previews, but I had never seen any of those movies, and was never really interested in seeing them either, so I can't really make the connection myself. But unlike the Transporter movies, the previews for Crank had me very interested. "My name is Chev Chelios, and today's the day that I die." That line in particular caught my attention the first time I saw the trailer, and the more I looked into the movie, the more awesome it seemed, and the more I had to see it for myself. I went in with high expectations, and not only did this movie deliver, it somehow managed to surpass what I had expected of it.

Just non-stop adrenaline pumping action from start to finish, there's never a dull moment here. And not only is this movie filled to the brim with bad ass action scene after bad ass action scene, it's a visual feast for the eyes as well. Many unique filming techniques are used here, which compliments the fast paced, and sometimes messed up mood of the movie very well. Not to mention there is some awesome music choices here. Hearing Refused's "New Noise" in particular was a pleasant surprise, and a perfect song that fit this movie well. The story's kind of simple, but going into a movie like this, I don't need, nor necessarily want a complex story. And Jason Statham is absolutely awesome here. He played the part of a frantic vengeful hitman on the verge of death perfectly.

This movie is absolutely fantastic. If you haven't seen it yet, then what the hell are you waiting for? Go see Crank! Now! Do it! Go go go go go!

Underworld: Evolution
(originally posted December 28, 2006)

Kate Beckinsale, the hottest woman in the world, has never looked better, and for those of you who've seen the original, get ready to fall in love with her all over again. This is the Underworld sequel about an ongoing underground war between vampires and lycans. I felt that this movie was pretty much on par with the original, not really better, but not really any worse, either. Where the original was set more in an urban environment, this one changes the scenery a bit to a more old time middle age type setting, and the change works quite well. It prevents giving us basically the same movie all over again, instead giving us a fresh perspective in the story that picks up right where we left off in the last one. Evolution is filled with beautiful action scenes and an interesting story that'll make you want to go back and rewatch both movies again.

Jackass: Number Two
(originally posted December 28, 2006)

I haven't laughed so hard at a movie since Bad Santa. Rarely will I consider a comedy one of the top movies of the year, however this year, Jackass: Number Two just has to be added. This is a genuinely hilarious movie that's even funnier than the original, though it's also a helluva lot grosser, too. Watch it with a group of friends, and get drunk!

(originally posted December 28, 2006)

I hadn't seen a Saw movie until about a month before this movie released. I had originally just shrugged the whole series off as just another horror series, but once I finally watched Saw II, I instantly fell in love with it. I had never seen a movie quite like this before, the brilliant twists, the sickening traps, how everything just ties together almost perfectly, the Saw series had immediately become my favorite series in the horror genre, and I had to see Saw III when it came out.

Sure enough, it met my expectations, and is possibly the best in the series, with some of the best twists and torture games yet. The ending to this one I felt was more messed up than anything else I'd seen in either of the other movies, and it's also one of the best twists in the whole series. I love how they continue to tie everything together throughout all of the movies, and not just the current one we're watching, making the series as a whole feel important. Apparently there's a Saw IV scheduled for next year, though with the way this one ended, I'm not quite sure how they can do another Saw movie. Still, it's already a must see movie of 2007.

(As it turned out, Saw IV sucked.)

V For Vendetta
(originally posted December 28, 2006)

I couldn't stop hearing people talk about this movie all year long. And finally, the day after Christmas, I managed to watch this film for myself. It was so good that I just had to watch it again right then and there, and so I watched it a second time. And upon that second viewing, I had confirmed to myself that this movie was in fact everything that I'd heard it was, and then some. It caught me off guard how much this movie exceeded my expectations for it, and I think it may even be not only the best film of 2006, but the best comic book film to date as well, topping even Spider-Man and Batman Begins.

There's just so many brilliant scenes and quotes in this movie that I've continued to play in my head over and over even when I'm not watching. And the transformation that we witness the various characters go through is just stunning, in particular the beautiful Natalie Portman as Evey, who still looks hot even with a shaved head. Hugo Weaving as V shows more emotion behind a mask throughout the entire film than most people do without one. And his story of vengeance against the corrupt government, and his revolution for a new free world will stick with you and make you think like no other movie this year. V For Vendetta is one of the best movies I've ever seen. I can't recommend this movie enough, and I can't believe it took me this long to finally see it myself. If you still haven't seen V For Vendetta, don't wait any longer.

(originally posted January 18, 2008)

So I saw Cloverfield today, a movie I've been hyped about since the first teaser played during Transformers. I was very pleased with what I saw, as this movie met most of my expectations. The whole movie is filmed in Blair Witch style, so it's obviously not for everyone. And while some people thought this a questionable way to film the whole movie, I loved the concept. I think we've pretty much seen every other way to see a big monster movie like this, and this was the freshest way left to do this film. The opening scenes in the movie do drag on a little, but once the action starts, oh, it's good!

The movie is one man's tape documenting the evening, which originally started out just being a going away party for Robert Hawkins. During the party, we're introduced to our main characters who we'll follow through the movie, which is being filmed by Rob's best friend, Hud. The party doesn't go so well for Rob, as he and the girl that he loves, Beth, don't exactly end things on the best of terms on Rob's last night in the city. That's when the shit hits the fan.

Once the monsters start to wreak havoc (there's more than one here), we follow our cast as they, along with the rest of the city, try desperately to evacuate. One voicemail later changes their plans though, as Rob receives a call from Beth that disturbs him, so he decides that he's gotta save her. That's the basics of the story here without giving too much away. So in the end, Cloverfield is a love story, but it's a damn fine one I feel.

The acting is believable for the most part I felt, though there are times where things get a bit cheesy. The action is where it's really at though. There are some absolutely awesome scenes here. It is slightly annoying at times watching with the camera shaking so much, but I think it does add to the overall effect. And yes, you do see the monsters quite a bit throughout the film, and even get quite a few very clear shots of it. But I'm okay with that, as otherwise my curiosity would just be driving me batty if we never got to see them.

Overall, this movie isn't for everybody, but I really enjoyed it myself.

The Dark Knight
(originally posted July 18, 2008)

Initial Reactions:

I struggle to think of another movie I've been more hyped to see in my life. For over a year now, the most anticipated movie I've been looking forward to has been The Dark Knight. There was absolutely no way that I wasn't gonna see the midnight showing for this one. Batman Begins was one of my favorite movies ever, and possibly the best comic book movie I've seen. It set the bar high for the sequel, and as such I went in with high expectations. For the most part, I think it met a lot of those expectations, though I'm not entirely sure at the moment just how great I think the movie really was. I certainly enjoyed every minute of it, though that's not to say it was perfect.

The one thing that caught me off guard was the length of the movie. This is a long one, a lot longer than I expected. It honestly feels like two movies merged into one, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out if that was in fact the case here. It works in that instead of giving us only half a story we're treated to a complete film, though in particular with the second part of the film, certain aspects of it feel cut short, if a bit rushed at moments.

Those certain aspects, to be more specific, are the Two-Face portion of the story. We have a similar effect here going on that we witnessed last year with Venom in Spider-Man 3, in that we have a new major villain introduced late in the story, with not a whole lot of time to really get to know him. This is where if given his own film to star in as the main villain, like I think was likely the original intent, then he could have had a lot more time to completely flesh his character out. Instead, his character comes off a bit one dimensional, and then it's over. I suppose it's useless hoping that they went a different rout here though, and if nothing else at least this gives us a complete story instead of making us have to wait another couple of years.

As for our other major villain, lets just say that there is absolutely no competition here. Heath Ledger completely blows Jack Nicholson's Joker out of the water. This guy stole the whole damn show quite frankly. A completely sadistic, chaotic psychopath, whose only real motive is seemingly the amusement he gets out of seeing everything around him crumble down. And I loved that we didn't get an origin for him here too, his bullshit origin stories he kept wanting to tell everyone had me floored. It'll be interesting to see how they deal with this character in later installments since, while Ledger's dead, the Joker's still alive at the end. I suppose they'll just say he was locked up though.

One thing that kinda got on my nerves here more so than it did in the first movie was the way Christian Bale talks as Batman. His gritty voice sounds so forced. Other than that though, another good performance here from Bale as well. The fights and the action sequences were a lot easier to tell what was going on this time around compared to Begins. And the story told, as I said before, was very enjoyable. Though, there are moments where things seem to be a bit too extravagant, if not convenient, if that makes sense. Despite it's flaws though, in the end, everything comes together in one complete package, and I left satisfied for the most part. I'll likely see it again, though with the length of the film fresh in mind, it probably won't be nearly as soon as I originally thought it'd be.

Updated Reactions, July 24th, 2008:

Upon further reflection and a second viewing, I've come to the conclusion that, despite its flaws, The Dark Knight truly is an absolutely phenomenal movie. The best Batman film to date, and the definitive comic book movie released thus far. If ever there was a comic book film that could be described as epic, this is that film. Seriously, so many other great films in the genre really just pale in comparison after watching the latest Batman flick. I really never even realized, for instance, just how campy the first two Batman films of the original series, Batman and Batman Returns, were until after watching this movie.

Earlier I complained about the way Two-Face was used in the film. While I still feel to a degree that the character had the potential to carry a future Batman film as it's main villain, I can accept his portrayal as being more of thematic importance to the movie over character importance. Either way though, Aaron Eckhart did a brilliant job as Harvey Dent in the film, and deserves some praise of his own among all of the well deserved Heath Ledger love running rampant.

I honestly can not recommend this movie enough. With as many records as it's broken there's a good chance that you've already seen it yourself, but even so, go see it again. And if you haven't seen it yet, well then what the hell are you waiting for? Believe in the hype on this one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Second Annual Maddie Awards!!

It's awards season, folks, and you know what that means! That's right, it's time for the Second Annual Maddie Awards, celebrating the new year in fine cinema, without any of the obnoxiously long and drawn out acceptance speeches! As some of you might not remember, Season of the Witch walked away with top honors at last year's not-so-public ceremony. But who's gonna win this year? Lets find out! So then, without any further ado, This is Madness presents to you the 2012 Maddie Awards!

First up is the Maddie Award for Best Actress. And the Maddie goes to...

Kate Beckinsale - Contraband
2012 Maddie Awards - Best Actress

The always gorgeous Kate did a wonderful job in the new movie Contraband, where she plays Mark Wahlberg's wife who just so happens to also be named Kate! She gives us a tremendous, passionate performance, where she proves herself to be a strong role model for her children, and a supporting wife who just wants her husband to come home and stay out of trouble.

And moving onto the next award, the 2012 Maddie for Best Actor goes to...

Mark Wahlberg - Contraband
2012 Maddie Awards - Best Actor

Marky Mark delivers the goods yet again in the new movie Contraband. Here, he's a man who's cleaned up his life, but now he's gotta clean up after his idiot brother-in-law, regretfully returning to the life of crime. If you've seen one of his roles, you've seen 'em all, and he's just as good here as he ever is! He acts with an aura of confidence that just commands your attention in this intense performance.

And now, it's time for the big one, the 2012 Maddie Award for Best Picture! And the Maddie goes to...

2012 Maddie Awards - Best Picture

I bet you didn't see that coming! But without a shadow of a doubt, no other new movie this year deserves this award moreso than the new movie Contraband. Starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale, this is the story of a man dragged back into the life of crime in order to protect his family. This movie takes a fairly mundane story that we've all seen before and manages to make it interesting again.

It's a tense movie that's actually a whole lot better than it looks. It's an engaging experience from the get-go, and director Baltasar Kormákur keeps things moving at a nice, steady pace all the way to the end. There's always something exciting going on, and the movie knows just when to throw some good twists and turns at us. We, as an audience, constantly find ourselves on the edge of our seat wondering how these characters are gonna get out of the next mess that they find themselves in.

And the performances are good all around... well, okay, Giovanni Ribisi is pretty awful, but even his bad acting can't bring this ship down. I mean, it's Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale for crying out loud! And besides, as if that wasn't enough, J. Jonah Jameson appears in the movie as the ship's Captain, which more than makes up for Ribisi's questionable casting!

So yeah, I had a good time with this one, and that's why I'm proud to award Contraband the 2012 Maddie for Best Picture!

So that's it, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoyed yourselves, and just drop me a message in the comments section if you'd like to know the winners for all of the categories that we didn't have time to cover in this post! Thank you so much for joining us, and goodnight everybody!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tangled: An overdue review, and a rant against 3D

So in 2010, Disney gave us their 50th feature length animated film, Tangled, their version of the story of Rapunzel. Now, going into this thing, I wasn't necessarily expecting much. You see, the marketing for this movie was a complete and total disaster. They put together trailers that made this look like something straight out of the worst kind of Dreamworks animated movie (though to be fair to Dreamworks, they've improved significantly since then).

As it would thankfully turn out, not one single scene that appeared in the god-awful trailers for this movie is actually in the finished film. No, despite what the marketing would have you believe, this is Disney at their finest. It's right up there with classics such as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King in terms of quality. A true return to form for Disney.

In this movie, we follow the young girl, Rapunzel, and the dashing thief, Flynn Rider, as they both chase after a dream. Rapunzel just wants to escape from her tower and see the lanterns that always light up on her birthday in person. Flynn, on the other hand, is only interested in riches, but finds himself forced to escort Rapunzel before he can get his hands on his prize. The two leads are a joy to watch on their journey. Rapunzel is so wide-eyed and excited, seeing the world for the first time in her life. Yet she's also conflicted at essentially betraying her mother's wishes. And Flynn is so cocky and arrogant, yet so charismatic that you can't help but like him, no matter how much of a douche he initially is.

But moreso than our leads, the supporting characters are what really bring this film to life. Rapunzel has a pet chameleon, Pascal, who is just awesome. He just makes the perfect facial expressions that just brighten up every single scene he's in. And Maximus, the horse, is an absolute riot. Drawn in a much more classic Disney style, he has a tendency to act more like a dog than any horse we've seen, and he just oozes out personality as he valiantly hunts down Flynn Rider. Such a delight these animal characters are!

As for the villains, they're really quite interesting as well. Mother Gothel, the old woman who stole Rapunzel as a baby and raised her as her own, can be so nasty, and yet, at times, genuinely caring as well. She's so wickedly passive aggressive to Rapunzel. But then, where she could have easily just locked up Rapunzel in a dungeon or something, she instead lets her have run of the tower, and even makes special trips to bring home surprises for her. It's clear that, somewhere during their time together, a genuine bond had formed between the two, which serves to make their later encounters in the movie that much more interesting, and that much more intense. But other than Mother Gothel, we've also got the Stabbington Brothers, who are awesome if only because their names!

The songs in this thing are all also quite great, and ridiculously catchy. "Mother Knows Best" is pretty much the anthem of passive aggressiveness, and "I've Got A Dream" is such a fun little tune that'll be stuck in your head for days. "I See The Light" actually got nominated for best original song, and deservedly so. It's such a powerful song, and really delivers a strong emotional gut check. Truly one that's up there with the best of classic Disney tracks.

Rapunzel and Flynn's journey is a magical one that embraces the classic Disney formula. Yet it's not afraid to poke fun at its own tropes, and is filled with tons of fun moments. There's action and adventure, singing and dancing, love and betrayal, the works! It's a fantastic journey filled with wonder, and it's presented in a beautiful style, mixing the classic Disney look with modern 3D animation.

Now, the first time I saw this movie was in a 3D showing. I left the theater fully satisfied, though it wouldn't be until I rewatched it again a few months later on DVD that I would see just how stunning this movie actually is. Watching this movie on home video was an entirely different experience, and one that elevated this movie from just a really good Disney movie, to something that was truly special. And I didn't know what it was that made such a drastic difference, until I did my write-up on Tangled in my War Horse review. There, I explained the emotional impact this movie delivered, an impact that was missing when I saw it in theaters. Or, more specifically, when I saw it in 3D.

You see, during the big emotional scenes, the 3D version distracted us from the emotion, focusing instead on the spectacle of the 3D effects, which took away from all of the raw emotion on display. I still enjoyed the movie in 3D, but it wasn't until I saw a 2D viewing of the movie that I was able to see just how amazing this film really is. Without the 3D there to distract us, I could safely say that this is the absolute best movie I saw in 2010, something I wasn't able to say beforehand. And coming to this realization is just one of the bigger recent examples of why I refuse to support 3D in movies. Every time I've seen a movie in 3D, it's either added nothing to the movie, or in some cases, detracted from the movie. And considering the inflated ticket prices, it's just flat out not worth it, in my experience.

But anyways, like I said, despite the 3D, I still enjoyed the movie quite a lot, and especially so without it. So ignore the atrocious marketing this film had, this is classic Disney at their finest. The story is lovely, the characters are a blast, the animation is beautiful, and you'll be singing the songs in your head for some time after the credits have finished rolling. So if you haven't checked it out yet, then what are you waiting for? Go see Tangled!