Saturday, March 30, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

All I wanted from this movie was some good ol' fashion dumb fun. Sadly, this movie only got so far as the dumb part. This was just bad. And I actually liked the first movie, but this new entry in the G.I. Joe movie franchise is really just unbearable. The actors aren't even trying, and even the action is just dull and monotonous throughout. Basically, this is pretty much "Going Through The Motions: The Motion Picture".

(Spoilers ahead.)

Now this is something I never thought I'd say, but they killed off Channing Tatum way too early. I was actually kinda digging the bro vibe between him and The Rock, but then, oop, he's dead. And that's that, all we're left with after that is The Rock and two of the most generic characters who offer little to nothing of substance to the movie. Oh yeah, and then Bruce Willis also shows up, basically to just pick up a paycheck and call it a day. Seriously, why was he even there? He wasn't even trying, and really, neither was anyone else, save for Jonathan Pryce, who's clearly having a ball playing the villain Zartan in disguise as the President of the United States. But everyone else is really just there. Now, in the first movie, I'm not about to call the characters deep or anything, but they actually had definable personalities to themselves, and the actors all appeared to be enjoying themselves. So why, then, would it be so hard to carry that over to the new movie?

But more than anything that was prevalent in the first movie that was so sorely missing here was the action. Or, rather, action that was actually fun. The action scenes were big and ridiculous and over-the-top in the first movie. Here, though, it's mainly just boring, uninspired quick-cut shoot-em-ups through the whole thing. There is a ninja fight on the side of a mountain that I was very impressed with. It was very stylishly put together and well choreographed, though it honestly felt misplaced with the rest of the movie. In a sense, it's almost like they had two separate movie ideas, one focusing on The Rock and his Joes, and the other on Snake Eyes and the ninjas, and they just kinda mashed the two together. And I can't emphasize the word "mashed" enough, because it's just a real mess they left behind, and there were a number of occasions, particularly concerning Storm Shadow's character, that probably should have been better fleshed out.

I mentioned before about the sudden death of Channing Tatum's character, but his isn't the only anticlimactic moment of the movie. The final conflict between Zartan and his nemesis ends just about as quickly as it begins, and it's sorta just like, wait, that's it? And then there's a scene, which they even show in the trailers, where they succeed in completely wiping London off the freaking map. And... it just sorta happens. And nobody even says anything about it afterwards, almost as if it wasn't that big a deal. Not to mention Cobra Commander, who just kinda wanders on and off screen at random, and doesn't really do anything of note, before randomly disappearing without a trace at the end.

But where this movie really fails is in the logic. Now, this isn't the kinda movie where you're supposed to go into it expecting anything less than absolute idiocy, but even with my low standards of stupid, this was unbearable. When they entered the underground bunker to arrest Storm Shadow and lock him up alongside Cobra Commander and Destro, and started explaining the physics behind the place, I had to keep mentally reminding myself to just keep my brain shut off for another hour or so. And tell me, if the Joes are supposed to be a secret military organization, unknown to the general public, why, then, is the President holding a press conference denouncing their status? Also, I'm pretty sure the world is still a bit screwed over after the way they went about disposing of all the world's nukes. And I could keep going with this, but those are just a handful of many more similar examples of absolute idiocy that my brain just couldn't handle.

And the thing is, none of that would have bothered me one bit if this movie at least backed up its idiocy with even the smallest amount of fun. That's one of the reasons I was able to appreciate the first movie so much, because, at the end of the day, it remembered to have fun. But this movie completely disregards that aspect, which means that all we're left with is just a dull, dumb, stupid movie. Really, you'd never know that they pushed this back by a year to apparently fix certain issues. If this is what we got after an extra year's worth of work, I'd hate to see how the original was supposed to be.

I lost braincells today, people, and I didn't even have any fun doing it! So just remember this, kids: Say "NO!" to the new G.I. Joe. This one's really bad, and now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers is the new overly stylized flick from Harmony Korine about a group of girls who take a trip to Florida for spring break and find themselves getting mixed up in a whole lotta trouble. I wasn't too high on this film myself, though it's littered with flashes of brilliance throughout that force home just how good it could have been had this movie been able to bring itself to not get so obnoxious with the editing.

The plot is very basic. Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine want to get out of town for spring break, but they don't have enough money. So one little robbery later solves that problem, and it's off to Florida they go, only to find themselves getting into more trouble and later arrested, only for James Franco to bail 'em out and get them involved in even more trouble. There's really not much to it, and honestly, there's probably about 30 minutes worth of actual substance here. Hell, this review is probably longer than the actual script for this thing. This could have easily made for a very powerful short film, but instead, they decide to drag things out and forcefully stretch the movie to 90 minutes by essentially just showing us the same things over and over and over again.

The movie constantly repeats the same images we've already seen, and continuously repeats the same audio clips over these images. Seriously, it was almost like watching Terrence Malick's version of Girls Gone Wild. The movie just goes overboard with the stylization, and never knows when to say that enough is enough. I mean, this could have easily made for a very powerful short film, but instead, they decide to drag things out and forcefully stretch the movie to 90 minutes by essentially just showing us the same things over and over and over again.

After the girls make it to Florida, the remainder of the first half of the film is basically just various scenes of kids going crazy at spring break. Girls are running around topless left and right, and everyone is running rampant on drugs and booze. It's cool enough at first, I guess, but after a while it's like, okay, we get the point. This segment didn't need to last for half of the duration of this film, it could have easily been condensed into a brief five minute montage. I mean, it's cool enough at first, I guess, but after a while it's like, okay, we get the point.

I oftentimes found the film to be rather disturbing, too. The movie encourages us to try and think of life like a video game and not worry about the consequences of our actions. Just do whatever you need to, even at the expense of others, just so long as you get what you want in the end. And these girls do exactly that, and in the end, sure enough, they really don't suffer any actual consequences for their actions. I just found this rather off-putting throughout the movie, and I'm really not sure what precisely we're supposed to take away from all of it.

But when the movie first really begins to come to life is after the girls get bailed out of jail by James Franco's character, Alien. This guy is just ridiculous, and Franco totally kills it in this role. Alien is a drug pushing rapper who's engaged in turf warfare with rival drug dealer, Gucci Mane. And Franco totally kills it in this role. He essentially plays an over-the-top white thug who's rollin' in riches and loves to let you know it, and lives the violent thug life with pride. You can seriously barely even recognize Franco here, he gets so into it. Franco totally kills it in this role.

I mentioned before how this movie has flashes of brilliance, and Franco is definitely one of those flashes. The others come in the form of a handful of scenes here and there where I actually found the filmmaking to be genuinely inspired, as opposed to being all artsy-fartsy and full of itself, like it is throughout the remainder of the movie. The initial scene where we see the girls robbing the restaurant was extremely well done, as we join their driver in the passenger seat and witness the robbery through the windows from the outside. And later on, after the girls gear up and get ready to join Alien in some pointlessly violent crimes throughout town, we see a montage of these crimes that's beautifully accompanied by Britney Spears' "Everytime". Seriously, this scene is just masterfully crafted, and so much more stunning than it has any right to be based on that description. If only the rest of the movie could have captured the same magic as those moments produced, then maybe this really would be the "masterpiece" that many are hailing this as.

I wasn't too high on this film myself, though it's littered with flashes of brilliance throughout that force home just how good it could have been had this movie been able to bring itself to not get so obnoxious with the editing. It's a really frustrating watch in this regard. But as good as some of these moments are, it's still not strong enough to make up for the rest of the crap on display here. As is, this movie is low on substance, but desperately attempts to make up with it with a whole lotta flash. I mean, this could have easily made for a very powerful short film, but instead, they decide to drag things out and forcefully stretch the movie to 90 minutes by essentially just showing us the same things over and over and over again.

Friday, March 15, 2013

St. Augustine Pirates

About a week or so ago, I overheard a conversation between my friends Rachel and Sharon. They were planning to set sail for St. Augustine, where they intended to become true pirates. Well, little did they know that at that moment, I had made plans of my own. And so, just as they set off, I stowed away aboard their ship, intendin' to go along for the ride in my own quest to become a true pirate as well.

It wasn't long before they discovered me, however, and they promptly threw me overboard to swim with the fishes in the freezing cold water. But when I made it back to land with this mighty fish in tow, the two had seen my worth and allowed me to join them in their quest.

Actually, I lied. You see, we pirates tend to do that. But they never did actually toss me overboard. No, what really happened was that I dove in willingly, swimming through the cold ocean purely for jollies. And while I was there, I decided that I may as well retrieve the biggest fish that I could find, and so I did just that and climbed back aboard, laughing a hearty laugh as they shivered in fear at my madness. No, they weren't to be rid of me, I assure you that, and they had no say in the matter, I can assure you of that as well!

So after they finally accepted me for one of their own, we continued forward towards our destination. And upon reaching land, we came across a street-

- that would lead us to that destination, that being The Pirate Haus Inn. The first thing we noticed upon entry of the Pirate Haus were the stairs, which were riddled with the lines of pirate songs.

And as we climbed up each step, we knew that we had arrived at the right place. We met with the Captain and told him of our intentions. He was uncertain of us at first, until I presented him with my fresh catch. He saw our potential then, and set us out on a mission to prove our worth, were we to be accepted as true pirates. And so, our first order of business was to drink to our new arrangement.

Now, I'm not entirely sure how we had managed to arrive at our tavern of choice, nor could I remember its name for the life o' me. But we had done such a good job of our first order that the remaining orders would have to wait for the morning. So on the next day, we were to arrive at the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, where we were to find 12 hidden treasures within.

Well, we made easy enough work of that, and fired off a few canons to signal our success, and then a few more, just for good measure! After proving our worth, we were branded with the mark of the pirate and sent off across the way to ransack the Castillo de San Marcos in the name of the Pirate Haus. The soldiers there put up little fight, recognizing us for true pirates and wisely stepping out of our way. They knew better than to tangle with our crew. So we pillaged and plundered the fort, and immediately made way to the San Sebastian Winery to celebrate. They, too, put up little fight, as we managed to drink the place dry without so much as a penny leaving our britches!

It was around this point where I must have gotten a bit tipsy, because, as we stumbled around through the streets after our celebrations, we happened upon this place waving their flag:

I could barely believe me eyes, but it was really there, like a treasure just waiting to be found by yours truly. And weren't it for my fellow crew to drag me out, it's like that I were never to leave that wonderful paradise.

So after a successful mission and even more successful celebrations, we had decided that our time here had expired. So, now true pirates, we three bade farewell to the city of St. Augustine and swiftly departed to new Horizons and new adventures, our black flag waving in the harsh winds of the cold sea...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Oz the Not So Great and Powerful

As it would turn out, Oz the Great and Powerful actually isn't all that great or powerful after all. It took me a while to come to this conclusion, but there comes a point when you realize that this movie really just doesn't work. And for me, that point is right around the time the Wicked Witch makes her first appearance.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Mila Kunis is decent enough as Theodora, and even though certain aspects concerning her character's romance with James Franco are forced, it honestly didn't bother me all too much. But once she makes the transformation into the classic green Wicked Witch of the West, she's honestly hard to watch. She's awkward and cringe inducing, and for all of the wrong reasons. She's trying to recapture Margaret Hamilton's performance from the original movie, but she just can't pull it off at all. And what makes matters worse is that the special effects when she's zipping around just look silly here. Seriously, they look even sillier than they did in the new Hansel and Gretel movie.

In fact, a lot of the effects in this movie are laughably bad, and the overall style the movie goes for just doesn't quite look right. The movie has a very artificial look to it, and scenes that are supposed to be mesmerizing and immersive just come off as forced as a result. The movie is just very ingenuine all throughout, and I think it just took me until the Wicked Witch herself showed up to see just how ingenuine this whole movie actually was.

Further forcing home this ingenuine feeling comes near the end when Oz fakes his death during the last stand against the Wicked Witches. His monkey pal suddenly starts crying for him, and I just couldn't understand why. Up until this point, Oz has proven himself to be a pretty terrible person. He's selfish and egotistical, and hasn't acted friendly towards the monkey at all. Basically, he's a dick, and everyone knows it, and the movie makes sure that we all know it. And in his last act before faking his death, he's lead everyone to believe that he's also a coward who's taken off to let them all fend for themselves. So then, knowing all this, why was the monkey crying over his death? I sure as hell don't know, but it was yet another obnoxiously forced and artificial moment in a movie filled with them.

So the effects are pretty bad, and the acting is pretty bad (seriously, James Franco should start seeking out more roles that require less screaming from him), and not only that, but the pacing is all out of whack as well. The movie is a little over two hours, yet it feels closer to two and a half or three. The movie could have easily been cut down to about 90 minutes, and perhaps making our visit in Oz a bit more brief would have worked to this film's benefit, rather than lingering on like it does and giving all of the crap plenty of time to settle in.

But even though I'm sorta tearing right into this movie, it wasn't entirely bad. There were certain aspects to the story that I felt were actually implemented pretty well. Like the original Wizard of Oz, once the magician Oz lands in Oz, he meets several characters who represent some of the people he had met in the real world, which I thought was a nice touch. I also thought it was pretty clever how the movie went about incorporating Oz's magical illusions as a means to battle the Wicked Witches' army. And I actually liked the little China doll girl quite a bit. She's easily the best thing about this movie, and the scene where Oz meets her and fixes her leg is probably the most powerful of the whole movie.

So I wouldn't say the movie was terrible, but it was pretty bad. It's an ingenuine experience with an artificial heart, and it lacks the genuine charm and whimsy that it's so desperately after. And coming out only a week after a much better family friendly fantasy in the form of Jack the Giant Slayer, I really can't recommend going out of your way to see this one at all.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer

Oh who are you trying to fool, Ewan McGregor? Your hair is totally the hero of this story!

So I went into this movie just looking for some nice dumb fun, and it certainly delivers on that. I honestly didn't expect much, but the movie is actually quite good, despite a few questionable decisions made here and there. Yeah, it's one of those where you probably don't want to think too much about it, but it's also easy enough to ignore its missteps and just enjoy the ride while it lasts.

The story sees a farm boy named Jack, played by Nicholas Hoult, as he accompanies the king's men in their quest to rescue the adventuring princess after she's propelled up a massive beanstalk and taken captive in the mythical floating island of giants. And once they get there, the princess' betrothed begins his plot to use the giants to reignite an old war against the human race. Yeah, the movie is filled with cliches, and yet, all along the way, there's a whole lot of fun to be had here anyways, and the movie grows increasingly exciting as the stakes continue to rise.

But despite those continually rising stakes, the movie does a good job of maintaining a light-hearted mood throughout. The movie never seeks to be this grand, super serious epic, which it very easily could have become. There's a lot of genuine laughs to be had, even in the heat of action. And the actors all seemed to just be having a lot of fun with their roles, especially Ewan McGregor, who just steals this whole movie, right alongside his fabulously ever-evolving hair.

Seriously, pretty much every new scene he shows up in, his hair has radically changed in a glorious new fashion. Now, I'd like to hope that these constant changes in style were intentional, though I honestly have my doubts about that. His hair just has a mind of its own, and they just rolled with it, I'm sure. And it was awesome.

The action scenes are really fun and engaging (though apparently not engaging enough for Jack, who oftentimes finds himself wandering around elsewhere whenever any of the big action is going down). Hell, there's essentially an actual tug-of-war between the humans and the giants near the end that lasts for well over ten or fifteen minutes, yet they manage to keep it from ever growing boring throughout. But there's also a few scenes that have me wondering how the movie got away with a PG-13 rating. Similar to the countless number of beheadings in The Hobbit, there are some brutal, yet casual death scenes in this movie. Giants will just be biting people's heads off like it was an everyday occurrence. Now, there's nothing really graphic about it here, though it is interesting how movies are getting away with this sort of violence without getting slapped with an R rating these days (though I'd honestly be really interested in seeing a legitimately R rated version of this movie!). I suppose that's just the way times have changed these days.

The CGI effects also look really good for the most part. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that the giants look real, but the movie was consistent enough with its visuals that there was never any kind of distraction between what's real and what's not. There are some really gorgeous shots in this movie, though, especially as they're climbing the beanstalk, and once they're traversing through the floating island. Not to mention anytime that Ewan McGregor's hair is featured (we really can't discuss his hair enough). So for the most part, this is a really pretty movie.

As I mentioned earlier, the movie does make a few questionable choices, though. For instance, the style they decided to go for with the prologue was just very odd. It's literally like watching a cut-scene from an old Playstation One video game. In a lot of movies these days, they go for a more traditional drawn animation style to play out their prologues, but the decision to go with such obviously dated CGI for the prologue just felt like a very odd choice to make. And then the ending feels similarly misplaced, jumping ahead to modern times and randomly ending the movie on the image of the modern world. It just didn't feel like it fit at all (though it did leave me wondering if they happen to get wifi on that giant island in the sky).

The editing in the beginning of the movie is also very off-putting. Before Jack and the princess actually meet, we get to see how much their lives parallel one another. And to show this, the movie cuts back and forth between the two essentially finishing each others sentences in entirely different scenes. Jack's uncle might say something, but then elsewhere, the princess' father will respond to something that sort of fits, so we'll jump to that and continue their conversation. It was cute when they did this during the prologue, but then they just keep doing this for about the first half hour of the movie, which quickly grew tiring. So I was very happy when Jack and the princess finally met one another and this obnoxious editing could finally come to an end.

But like I said, it's one of those movies where you probably don't wanna put too much thought into it. And despite these flaws, I really enjoyed this movie, and I especially enjoyed snarking at it all throughout, pointing out how the king doesn't quite think things through all the way, or how the cat was the only one smart enough to just say, "Ha! Fuck that," and dip. So it's not a perfect movie by any means, and it's book-ended by some questionable scenes, but everything in-between was honestly a lot better than I was expecting. And the theater I saw it with seemed to really enjoy it as well. It's a really charming movie (what is it with Nicholas Hoult starring in such charming movies lately?), so I'd say it's worth checking out. And Ewan McGregor's hair, tho!