Saturday, April 26, 2014

Brick Mansions

Man, and here I was thinking Divergent was a stupid movie. My lord, the stupidity on display in that movie has nothing on the sheer ludicrous level of idiocy that's present in Brick Mansions. To be perfectly blunt, there wasn't a single brain cell present during the production of this flick, and I fear that I may have lost several brain cells of my own while watching this thing.

(Warning: stupid spoilers ahead)

In what I believe is supposed to be Paul Walker's last non-Fast movie, he plays, shock of all shocks, an undercover cop who is sent in to a closed off section of the city known as Brick Mansions in order to defuse a bomb. And along the way, shenanigans happen, and well known cold blooded murderers are left with Mr. Straight Laced Cop Paul Walker's support in their attempt to run for city mayor. Oh yeah, this shit gets stupid, but more on that later!

Also similar to Divergent in addition to its moronic writing, I also knocked against that movie for its unintentionally goofy use of parkour throughout. But, again, Divergent has nothing on the silliness of the parkour stunts put to work here in Brick Mansions. Now, to be fair to this movie, I did watch it only a week removed from The Raid 2 (which is, quite frankly, a masterpiece of action cinema), so watching this movie with that one still fresh in mind was a major disservice to it, and made it just that much harder than usual to take its action sequences seriously, where as if I were more distanced from The Raid 2, I might've been able to take it for what it was and appreciate it for being just some dumb and silly yet inoffensive action.

But even so, the action here is like this movie thought it was being so cool and so slick, yet these scenes are so oblivious to just how silly and impossible to take seriously they are. I was left chuckling all throughout, when I could tell that the intended reaction was something more akin to awe. Nope, the only awe-inspiring aspect this movie has to offer is the unfathomable depths of stupidity that it manages to delve to.

No, I really can't stress just how stupid this movie gets by the end, and after I walked out, I had trouble even attempting to describe to my friend the sheer amount of idiocy that I had just witnessed. I mean, pretty much until the big twist ending that flipped the movie on its head, I was willing to accept this as just a really cheesy but stupidly fun little action flick. But then the main villain, a drug lord played by the RZA, has a sudden and absolutely out of nowhere change of heart, as do each and every single one of his thugs working under him. And we're also suddenly supposed to buy them as being these heart felt "for the people" kinda human beings who are praised as genuine heroes that we, the viewer, are supposed to rally behind and support. All of this, as if we hadn't just spent the prior 80 minutes seeing these vile, awful people commit acts of cold blooded murder, kidnapping innocents for ransom, and on top of the rest of their drug-related schemes, actually threatening to level an entire city for money.

Yes, let me emphasize this for you, these are the heroes of this movie. And the movie even goes so far as to have Paul Walker, the good guy, have a turn around of his own and have their back in the end as well, supporting the drug lord RZA's run for mayor (no, I sadly wasn't joking about that before), and waving out at these thugs with a smile on his face as he drives by, as if they weren't just trying to shoot each other up all throughout the rest of this idiotic thing. I just... what? What?!

I still have a hard time really even thinking straight when it concerns this stupid freaking movie. Brick Mansions is unintentionally, unfathomably, unforgivably, and insultingly idiotic. So much so that I felt them paying respects to the late Paul Walker just before the credits rolled was actually kind of disrespectful coming after a movie such as this. Sure, Walker wasn't bad here, but my lord, if you want to see a good recent Paul Walker movie, for the love of god go see Hours instead. Nobody saw that movie, yet it was actually a genuinely good movie with a great performance from Paul Walker, which is far more than can be said for this shamefully awful thing.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Need For Speed

That's right, I'm about to be the guy who tears apart the universally lauded Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and then follows it up by praising the widely hated Need For Speed.

I wasn't originally intending to review this film, but after thinking on how little I've been reviewing movies as of late (which I could write a post about all its own), and how the last three movies to actually inspire reviews out of me were all negative, I figured I'd bring some positivity back to the site, and what better way than with a movie that I personally feel is one of the most fun and certainly the most underrated movie of the year so far.

After noticing its extended running time at a little under two and a half hours, I was a bit hesitant going into Need For Speed. However, as it turns out, the long run time is entirely unnoticeable, as the movie doesn't drag one bit, zooming by in a breeze. From start to finish, this thing is a blast to sit through, and gives those Fast and Furious movies a run for their money in this whole fast cars genre of action flicks.

I'm serious, too, I had more fun with this movie than I had at any of the Fast and Furious movies I've seen. This movie knows exactly what it is, and never tries to be anything else. The plot is a really simple revenge story, and one that exists to create as many excuses as necessary to keep our actors behind the wheel for as long as possible. I'd say at least 90% of the movie consists of driving, and boy are these scenes exhilarating.

I initially wondered how this movie would actually tie into the Need For Speed games, or if I was basically in for just another car flick that just used the license solely to cash in on the name recognition. However, the movie is surprisingly very faithful to the spirit of the source material, particularly the Hot Pursuit games. In addition to the high speed races, there's also several cop chases and the like in this thing that feel like they're pulled straight out of the games. And in the end, I'd say that this movie is up there among the better video game adaptations around.

What I also really appreciate is how this movie apparently insisted on orchestrating practical effects over CGI for a lot of the crashes and such throughout, and it shows. I don't mean to rag too hard on the Fast and Furious movies, because I do enjoy them for what they are, but let's face it, they are pretty silly, and at times are essentially cartoons, and the fact that there's so much obvious CGI in those things doesn't help their case. And I'm not saying that this movie doesn't get silly itself (the helicopter scene from the trailers is definitely the most "over the top" that it gets), but it's actually refreshing to know that all of those crazy stunts are actually happening on the screen, and you can really tell the difference.

As for the acting and all that, I really didn't have any objections there, either. I thought Aaron Paul made for a fine lead, and pretty much the whole supporting cast were all likeable as well. And Michael Keaton was just having a ball in this thing as the super enthusiastic internet commentator who organizes all of these "secret races".

Now, I did mention the running time before, and while I still think the pacing in this thing was surprisingly great, that's not to say that there aren't some scenes that probably could've been cut. Like the scene where a cop is chasing our stars through a gas station really doesn't end up feeling necessary at all in the end, and there's a streaking gag that ran just a little too long as well. So yeah, scenes like this coulda easily been cut to trim down the run time a little, but even so, their inclusion in the movie doesn't deter it too much anyways.

So yeah, I really enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It was completely entertaining throughout, always finding new ways to keep the constant driving thrilling and interesting. It may be based on a video game, but even as a pure car movie removed from its license, it still stands up among the best in the genre. I really don't understand all the hate this one somehow managed to generate, as, if you're a fan of the genre at all, then you'll find that there's a hell of a lot to appreciate with this movie.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I guess that hot streak that Marvel was on had to come to an end sooner or later. And given the title, I suppose it's fitting enough for such a hot streak to come to an end with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Bad joking aside, I honestly never would have expected the end to come with this movie, a movie that I was super hyped for due to how much I loved the first one. Well, this one didn't meet the hype, to say the least, and I'm disappointed to report that it's actually one of the weakest entries to come out of all these Avengers flicks to date.

Don't get me wrong, the movie isn't terrible. Certainly not as bad as Iron Man 2, at least. And all throughout, there's lots of little moments that really shine, mostly when things calm down and the focus shifts to smaller character interactions. Seeing Scarlett Johansson's character pushing Cap's buttons was pretty delightful, and the Cap's jabs he exchanges with newcomer the Falcon were among this movie's highlights. But outside a bit of fun dialogue in such moments, the rest of this thing isn't nearly so great.

In comparison, there's a moment involving Peggy, Cap's girlfriend from the first movie, that just feels completely forced and out of place. And, is it just me, or did the holographic council meeting give anyone else vibes of the Jedi Council? I dunno, not that it's necessarily a knock against the movie, but that did just sorta stand out to me. And taking that plus the plethora of Star Wars nods in Thor: The Dark World under consideration, can we expect to continue to see these nods to Star Wars in this post Disney-acquisition?

Tonally speaking, outside those few character moments mentioned above, this movie probably feels the least like a Marvel movie out of all of these movies to date. In fact, there were a number of occasions where I distinctly got the vibe that this movie was, for some reason, wanting to channel more of a Dark Knight tone instead (because that worked out so well for Man of Steel...), which, while not necessarily a bad thing, it did stand out to me quite a bit while I was watching.

But where this thing really fails big time for me is in the action sequences. And considering the sheer level of creativity that we got from the last Iron Man and Thor films, particularly in their action scenes, I was hoping for this movie to somehow continue that trend, but that was not to be. A lot of the fight scenes look like there's some interesting things happening, but yet they're shot so up-close and spliced together with so many quick cuts, it makes for a nauseating experience that's impossible to enjoy.

And as for the rest of this thing, well, for the most part, this movie ultimately boils down to being little more than a dull, boring, uninspired shoot-em-up. Seriously, there's not an inspired moment to be had here, and I was sitting there the whole time just waiting, dying for something a little more interesting that just more "shoot shoot, bang bang" to happen. But instead all I got were a bunch of action scenes that are quite frankly a chore to sit through, with their greatest aspect being the musical cues for when the Winter Soldier himself appears on screen.

So yeah, this one was a pretty big let down. I was a huge fan of the first movie, which, out of all of the first entries from the solo-Avengers flicks, is by far my favorite of the bunch. And considering how the last two Marvel movies did such a tremendous job in surpassing their preceding entries in every single regard, I supposed it's possible that I went into this thing with too high of expectations. But, alas, whatever those expectations may have been, they were not met, rather, I was met with what is actually one of the weakest Avengers movies to date. And, in fact, just for kicks, I'll go ahead and rank all the movies in order from favorite to least favorite to see how they stack up, and see how my ranking compares to your own:

Iron Man 3
The Avengers
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The First Avenger
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Iron Man 2

So there you have it, my thoughts that are sure to be in the minority as it regards the latest Marvel flick. And, also to note, at the end of this movie, only about 10 people actually stuck around for the after credits scene, which kinda boggles my mind. I mean, are people really still that oblivious, or, at this point, do they just not care? (Not that there was anything actually interesting at the end this time around, but still...)