Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Underworld Awakening (2012)

“This day was bound to come!”

Directors: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
Actors: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Indie Eisley and Michael Ealy
Writers: Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J Michael Straczynski and Allison Burnett

My first 2012 movie for the year, and its Underworld Awakening, is this an ill omen of things to come? I mean I don’t hate the Underworld series, but I can’t say I’ve been totally into them. There has always been potential in the series but it’s never reached those lofty heights of awesome. So along comes this newest movie in the hopes of rebooting the franchise by bringing back the original starlet, and continuing the story into the future.

I think the wisest thing this movie did was keep the story pretty simple and just concentrate on the action. The action is crammed into this movie and it was pretty easy to go along for the ride. All the action was well shot, and it also made full use of the 3D technology. Hat’s off to Kate Beckinsale for being such an action presence in the movie. She along with Milla Jovovich are doing a lot for strong female characters. Oh and one last thing for the action scenes, they are pretty brutal which was nice to see. Selene is not screwing around in this movie.

Acting wise Beckinsale is fine as Selene, she hits the right notes of the character, and lends credibility. Stephen Rea is interesting as the main villain, and it was an unique portrayal of a villain. He gave more depth to the character than the story really warranted. Indie Eisley also came off pretty damn good as the character Eve. Normally child characters can be pretty damn annoying. Being too damn smart for their own good, or just being useless baggage. Thankfully Eve is both a scared little girl, and capable of helping at times. Overall the acting is not horrendous, but honestly with this movie you shouldn’t be expecting too much from it.

While the 3D is good, the special effects weren’t exactly great. Too many times the CGI looks like a computer game which was a shame considering the action scenes were well put together. Also the blue pallet of the film does drain the movie of a certain excitement, but then again it’s keeping with the look of the previous three movies. I do think there was some lost potential in the look of the movie, but then again this could of just been a way of keeping costs down.

The plot of this movie is bare bones and is only there to get from action scene to action scene. If you want a thrilling epic story then you best turn around. Also the more you think on the plot, the more questions that start appearing. But for a ninety minute movie I wasn’t too concerned, I was more enjoying the visceral experience. Still I do think the movie is cursed with having four script writers, it’s never a good sign, and the movie does reek of lack of focus. But at least, as I stated above, they kept the story simple which helps with driving over the holes.

If you like the Underworld movies then you should enjoy this movie. Personally I thought that this movie was best of the series, and it was a pleasant surprise as I wasn’t expecting much. If on the other hand, you don’t like the Underworld movies then just skip this offering, as there is nothing new here to win you over.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

“Soon you'll know us all too well, with my apologies.

Director: David Fincher
Actors: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig and Christopher Plummer
Writers: Steven Zallian

David Fincher is back with the feel bad movie of the season. I was very interested in what he would bring to this remake/adaptation. Naomi Rapace had left such an impression as Lisbeth Salander, it was going to be a hard job for whomever was going to take the role. So was the creative might of Fincher used to its fullest, or did it fail to deliver anything significant.

The first significant thing that Fincher delivers is a brilliant visual quality creates an ever present feeling of gloom. Truly an improvement over the original movie, but for a Fincher movie there aren’t as many camera flourishes as normal. I’m guessing that by toning down his own style, there was an attempt to truly concentrate on the atmosphere. However while I was still taken in by the visuals I wanted more of what Fincher normally delivers.

Acting wise we yet again have an improvement. Daniel Craig is fantastic as Mikael Blomkvist, and gives a nuanced performance. Blomkvist seems like a truly broken man desperate to find redemption. Rooney Mara excels as Lisbeth Salander and plays her much more down beat. Coming off more fragile, her sudden bursts of violence do jar, and are therefore is more impactful. Rooney also manages to create a more developed persona, and this fleshing out yet again makes the more incredible parts of the character stand out. All the other actors are just as good in their roles, but it’s truly Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara at the centre of everything.

Now we come down to the weakest element of the movie, and that’s the script. Now it’s a very serviceable script, and manages to fine tune the movie so it’s a lot smoother. A few plot elements are dropped but they were just convoluted to begin with. Where I was disappointed in this regards, was just a lack of added depth from Fincher. In all of Fincher’s movies there seems to be layers to delve through but in this case there’s just the plot. Considering the source material on offer there was a lot Fincher could have done, especially exploring darker elements. While this doesn’t trash the movie, it certainly makes this a lesser work of David Fincher.

On a more nit picky level, the music while good (I want to get the soundtrack) was only good by itself. In the movie it was too obtrusive, and sometimes wrecked the scene I was watching. Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor are a good team, but this was just a wrong call. Also I’m not sure what the idea behind the opening credits was but it’s completely misplaced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the best music video I’ve watched in a while, but it just sets the wrong tone.

If you’re after a stylish thriller then this is a good port of call. David Fincher gives us a solid film with some great performances, but when compared to the rest of his films there is something lacking. I’m not really sure if having this was a worth while remake, but we’re not poorer for it. Give this a try, just don’t expect too much.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 22

Colombiana (2011)

Zoe Saldana is slowly becoming the actress you go to for female led action movies. With Colombiana she had the movie solely on her shoulders and the results are pretty average. I’m not saying that this is a bad movie, but it’s just very by the numbers affair. We have a young girl who becomes a hitman, in order to get revenge on her murdered parents. The action is okay and honestly I seem to be talking myself around in circles. Saldana needs to find something more like The Losers as this at least had some character to it. Oh well I’m sure Avatar 2 will be big for her, even if it’s not really her but a blue cat lady.

The Burrowers (2008)

One of the biggest problems with horror is that it really gets stuck into trends. All genres succumb to this, but horror more than any other seems to love milking a good thing till its dead. Enter The Burrowers that manages to go over ground that is rarely tread except by franchises that have run out of ideas (it’s normally the wild west or space). The horror western is back and it is awesome. This movie was a joy to watch with some original monsters, and such a mean spirit that’s lacking in a lot of horror movies. Add to that some great casting and this movie just sparkles. If there is one thing that lets it down, it’s the special effects but even they don’t ruin the movie. Horror lovers should do themselves a favour and check out this movie.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011)

I’ve seen some people review this movie, and say that Conan O’Brien comes off a jack ass in the movie, constantly complaining about the fans that he has. Too me this isn’t Conan being a jerk, but a human being who loves entertaining people, but at the same time likes being alone with his thoughts. This documentary is an enlightening look at the man, and in particular looking at a hectic time in his life. Having left The Tonight Show in a storm of controversy, Conan puts on a show to not only entertain, but to keep those that stayed loyal with him in work. Fascinating, true to life and most importantly damn funny, those who like Conan O’Brien need to watch this movie.

Wizard of Gore (2007)

It’s been a month or so and I’m still confused by this movie. It’s not that I didn’t get the story, but in trying to make sense in its explanation I see several holes. Honestly I think this movie tries really hard to be clever and fails spectacularly. An exercise in style over substance that loses itself and seriously never gets a handle on its characters. As for the gore it is somewhat impressive, but it happens to those we don’t have an emotional connection with so there is no real impact. A highlight of the movie would be Crispin Glover who is just insane as Montag the Magnificent, and he also possess one of the most over stuffed crotches I’ve seen since David Bowie’s cod piece in Labyrinth. Overall though this is a movie with characters that are just flat, and it’s made worse by this pretension that pervades it. Give it a miss unless you are desperate to see some Crispin Glover.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Down, Down and Below

Working in a comic store, I’ve been afforded a unique perspective on the industry. The only way it could be better is if I wrote for the industry, but I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon. But I must say I’m excited to see what sells, what doesn’t, and what new comics are on the horizon. I thought perhaps that I would look at some of the comics I’m reading and would like to recommend. Also would like to mention two comics that are on the horizon and are getting me excited. So let’s begin.

Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo

The merry Marvel mutants have always been a risky proposition with me. Sometimes I dig the stories, other times they just don’t connect with me. While I’ve been enjoying Uncanny X-Force of late, I didn’t really need another darkish comic story with the X-Men. Also honestly these are not the X-Men I remember, or so I thought. Along comes this little gem and I’m having so much fun it’s ridiculous. Honestly this comic connects with the little kid in my head and I just hope this strong writing continues. Not only is the pace of the story energetic, and the script crackle with great dialogue, but hidden in the background are in jokes and just great little details.

Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

My goodness is this a great book. I touched upon it when I wrote my sum up of the new DC 52, but I need to hold it up again and try and pimp it hard. The story is slow in some regards, but in that good way. Things are bubbling in the back ground, a bigger story is fitting the pieces together, and it just makes me want to keep reading. Out of the new 52 this series has really embraced the mandate to write for both fans and new readers. Giving us the character we all love, and yet a story very accessible and new. But while I’ve said the main story seems to be a slow boil, there is action aplenty and never feels like a bore. More people need to get out there and read Wonder Woman.

Saga by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples

The writer of Y the Last Man (one of my favourite comic series), returns to comics with this story that’s being described as Star Wars meets A Game of Thrones. From what I can gather from the story, two people from warring factions fall in love and run away. Unlike other doomed couples, they survive and have a child who is the narrator of the story. The feel of the few preview pages seems like fantasy creatures in a modern age. Either way I’m excited and can’t wait to feast my eyes on the double size issue one.

America’s Got Powers by Jonathon Ross and Bryan Hitch

A while back there was a show called Who Wants to Be a Superhero. I see one big flaw with this show. No one has powers so the show is a little bit of a bust. That’s of course if they were all Batman. Still the idea of a reality show dedicated to finding out the new hero/team is an interesting one, and finally the idea is coming to comic this year with America’s Got Powers. But for something like this you’ll need someone who understands show business. Oh wait Jonathon Ross is a UK TV Host (check him out from Pen and Tellers Fool Us), well then that will do. I’m excited as both Ross and Hitch are looking at this as not just a mini series but world building with possible other comics leading off from this work. Take my money I’m in.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: The Muppets (2011)

“I can't deny that inside I am a muppet. Not a moopet!”

Director: James Bobin
Actors: Jason Segal, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and Jack Black
Writers: Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller

As a little kid I used to always love the nights I got to sit in front of the television and watch The Muppet Show. My parents even made sure to tape their own programs so the television would be free. The Muppets were an important part of my childhood and I was sad when they started to fade away into the mists of pop culture. But then Forgetting Sarah Marshall happened and a man stepped forward, showing he too was a child of The Muppets. One Muppet Rock Opera on Dracula later and Jason Segal was put into the position of writing a script for the new Muppet movie. So does this movie live up to fond childhood memories?

Short answer yes, long answer yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees. Everything that I loved about The Muppets is on the screen and it was a surprisingly emotional journey for me. As for new people coming to this movie, what they can expect to watch is such a happy movie. It wears its heart on its sleeve but never becomes too saccharine. The writing is strong and Segal and Stoller have managed to craft a story that fits perfectly with the other Muppet movies. There is a good smattering of nostalgia, character and meta jokes throughout.

All the actors involved are having a fun time. Jason Segal as Gary is perfect as the closest form of human Muppet. Amy Adams is sweet as Mary, Chris Cooper is great as the evil Tex Richman and shows a talent for rapping I never thought possible. Even all the celeb cameo’s work, and while they may seem shameless, that’s the Muppets. As for the Muppets themselves, all of them are pitch perfect and Segal tries to cram as many mini story arcs for the Muppet characters as possible. If you have a favourite Muppet then chances are you’ll see them in this movie. Hell I got to see Uncle Deadly in this movie, a Muppet I’ve loved since I saw the Vincent Price episode.

Visually the movie has some energy and there are more than enough visual gags thrown in for those that are eagle eyed. There was also some creative use of the camera which was surprising for a Muppet movie, but it did add a sense of modernisation to the proceedings. If there is one negative about this movie, it’s that there is a heavy sense of nostalgia hanging over everything. The session I was in, had a fair few children, and for them not everything hit. Me and a few other adults seemed to be getting more enjoyment from it. But there were still children laughing so at least this is a great family film.

Fan’s of The Muppets need to get out there and watch this movie. It’s one of the best Muppet movies, and a great way to start the franchise up again. For families this offers a great movie going experience that should make everyone happy. I honestly wish Australia got this movie last year as this would have been my number two of the year. GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 21

Remakes huh? This one word can make many a movie lover cringe and yell out to the heavens as if they were Charlton Heston. I too was guilty of the knee jerk reactions to remakes a while back, but thankfully with time and a little bit of personal growth I’ve managed to move past that. Do I still hate remakes? Well I still hate the idea behind remakes, but not the individual movies. One of my favourite horror movies is John Carpenters, The Thing, which is a remake, however it works. So not all remakes are horrid pieces of trash. However the laziness behind the idea of remakes is what drives me insane. I could go on but the topic of remakes has been floating about in the discussion boards I frequent, and of course I also watched a remake that got me thinking. So now my thoughts are done, it’s time to move on to the review.

50/50 (2011)

Well this movie appeared on my top list of 2011 so I’m sure most people know where I stand on this movie. Now this would be a hard recommend to people when you tell them it’s a comedy/drama about a man who’s just been diagnosed with cancer. So I want to address this to the people I didn’t convince with my top list of last year. You are honestly doing yourself a favour, grabbing this movie and giving it a watch. It’s a simple movie that actually gets in touch with the real emotions we all feel when faced with adversity and tragedy. I can tell you that the dark times I’ve had in my life have been tinged with both laughs and sadness and this makes this movie seem more true to life. If you are on the fence about this movie, please go and see it as it’s just a movie that really manages to reflect the world we all live in.

The Adventures of Tin Tin (2011)

With each progressive movie we are getting closer and closer to over coming the uncanny valley of motion captured movies. Spielberg puts on an informative class on how to do action and adventure in the CGI cartoon medium, and honestly puts Robert Zemeckis to shame for his efforts. The scary thing is, this is Spielberg’s first foray into this type of movie and you can just sense that he had a ball doing it. There is such a joy to this movie it’s infectious, along with top notch action sequences that are just unbelievable. With the limitation of camera movement out of the window Spielberg shows us why he is the master director. Add to that some top notch performances, in particular Andy Serkis who is king of the motion capture, and you have a family movie that is just fun.

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Now we arrive to the movie that got me thinking about remakes. In order to be fair I’m not going to compare this movie to the original. First off the positive. The acting is rather decent in the movie, sure not award winning but good. Mads Mikkelsen in particular held my attention as the warrior Draco, he was intense and honestly I wished he was the main hero of the movie, but alas it was not to be. Now to the negatives. This movie has rush job written all over it, as such I’m not sure if I should blame the creative team behind this movie, or studio interference. There seems to be entire scenes missing from this movie and it really does create a mess, as characters are never allowed to be clearly defined. But the biggest problem is how dumb it treats its audience. It over explains the simplest of things, things that don’t need explaining, but when it gets to the complicated stuff it dumps those explanations and instead throws an action scene our way so the audience doesn’t have to think to hard. I’m sure people will enjoy this movie, but this movie just drips with laziness on several fronts, and I’m just thankful the acting was decent.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

“You know, he's nothing like as slow witted as you've been leading me to believe, Sherly.”

Director: Guy Ritchie
Actors: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Noomi Rapace
Writers: Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney

When I watched the first Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes movie I left entertained but wasn’t chomping at the bit for more. Hell when BBC did its updated version of Sherlock Holmes I kind of forgot all about this movie as that was far superior. But I must admit with the announcing of two cast members I started to get a little excited. So let’s take a look and see if this movie is any good.

Hearing that Stephen Fry was cast as Mycroft Holmes and Jared Harris as Moriarty I was pretty excited. Harris is a great character actor and I really enjoyed his work in Fringe. As Moriarty he made me believe that this was the man that could match and in some cases beat Sherlock Holmes. There is a particular scene where he really manages to bring an intense display of menace. Stephen Fry is perfect as Mycroft and my biggest disappointment was that he wasn’t in the movie enough. As for the other newbie Noomi Rapace, she wasn’t given much to do. Weirdly her character was important to the plot, yet it’s treated as such a second hand thought sometimes.

Both Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law are comfortable in their roles and have a good buddy partnership. At times it almost seems like Sherlock loves Watson, with Sherlock seeming off put that Watson is getting married. It does add an interesting dimension, but I was far more into the interplay of Sherlock and Moriarty. Considering what the first movie did to develop the relationship, this was just going over old territory and could have been ditched to develop Sherlock and Moriarty.

Visually the movie has the normal Guy Ritchie stamp, and it really does culminate in a wonderful chase through a forest. After that things slow down a little, but I think it does lead to a finale between Sherlock and Moriarty which is satisfying. A few complaints were levelled at the Holmes vision in the last movie, while it returns in this movie, it is toned down and it still offers an interesting look into the mind of Homes.

Story wise is where it starts falling apart for this movie, while still very entertaining it does stop the movie from ever truly excelling. First off the Simza (Rapace) story line just doesn’t really work, as the entire things seems forced and just an excuse to put a female in the movie. Moriarty’s plan is interesting but for all the build up from Holmes it doesn’t really live up to the hype. Finally we come to the final one minute of the film. Of course I’m not going to spoil it but it pissed me off. I thought we were getting a perfect ending, or at least one that befits a Holmes tale that has Moriarty, and yet it really doesn’t follow through.

Overall the movie is an enjoyable romp, and I liked it far more than the first one. Fans of the first movie should enjoy this; even new comers should be able to pick things up quick as it does offer a good adventure during this time of year. But it never becomes a classic thanks to its writing, but then again popcorn movies can be a great piece of escapism.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Disgruntled Monkey's 2012 Movies He Wants To See.

Well with 2011 behind us it’s time to turn to the future. I must admit as we step upon the hallowed grounds of new movies, I am slightly nervous about the big movies of 2012. I guess 2011 really stuck the dagger in when it came to movies I was looking forward to.

But none the less, we can’t judge a movie till it has been seen, so away with you pessimism, may you drown in the unholy sea of off mayonnaise. Instead let us become optimistic and greet the new dawn. Oh and if there is any trailer out for the film I’ve put the link in the title for your clicking pleasure.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter:

I like vampires, I like the novel that this movie is based on and I also happen to like Timur Bekmambetov. To me this has a chance to make my jaw drop with the crazy visuals and kick ass story. Of course adaptations can be a treacherous business, but I choose to be positive about it.

While Cars 2 might have shaken some peoples view point on Pixar, I still have faith in them. Every now and then you need to make the purely money movie so you can fund your more dynamic movies. Brave just looks awesome, with a strong female character, and some great humour shown in the trailer, I’m hoping this has a big of an impact on me as Up or Wall-E.

First time I heard about this movie I wasn’t really on board, all I got of the plot description was five friends go to a cabin in the woods and bad stuff happens. Sounds like a pretty standard horror film. Add to that a script by Joss Whedon and I was wary. It’s not that I hate his work but sometimes the Whedon fanboys/girls are a little over zealous with how they sell his creative pursuits. All that was put to rest when I saw the trailer, looks like there is something interesting happening with the movie as it tries to subvert expectations.

High school friends get superpowers, but find with great power comes a sudden urge to do bad, bad things. A found footage film I must admit the trailer sold me pretty hard. While it may be found footage it seems to expand out with news reports and could possibly be a mockumentry. Either way I’m sold and can’t wait to see this movie.

Do I really need to go on? I mean this is Nolan, one of my favourite directors back into Batman mode and dealing with Bane one of my favourite Batman villains. It could have only been better if the Riddler was somehow put into the movie, but we can only dream. Everything about this movie looks bigger, and the impact could be massive if Nolan actually finishes the story the way he seems to be hinting.

Django Unchained:

Django a black slave is played by Jamie Foxx who escapes, gets trained how to kill by a german bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz, so he can rescue his wife from evil plantation owner Leonardo DiCaprio. This movie could only be better if it had Samuel L Jackson in it and was directed by Quentin Tarantino. Wait a minute, it does. Well hurrah for that. TAKE MY MONEY NOW.

Confession time, I kind of liked the first Ghost Rider. It had its problems but the look of it was pretty good and at least entertained me. However it looks like this sequel that should have never been is going to set everything right. From the trailer it seems Cage is striking the right balance of insane, humour and angst, while the directors are giving us crazy action. Do you expect any less from the directors of Crank?

From the people behind Coraline comes another dark tale for the kids. Norman is a young boy who can see ghosts, and soon he will have to deal with ghosts, zombies and adults in a race to break a curse that has taken grip of his town. Visually the movie excites me, and I think that we need more children’s movies that delve into darker territory. Also any trailer that uses Season of the Witch as its music choice, instantly gets two thumbs up.

Ridley Scott going back to the Alien universe, but instead of doing a prequel to his first movie, he’s trying to expand the universe the characters exist in. This is going to be really interesting, and with its ties to the Alien world I can see this becoming a back to back watch. The trailer that just came out really hit the right notes for me and looks like it could deal with some big ideas which is always great for science fiction.

I’m not a Kristen Stewart hater, but she’s never been in films that I’ve wanted to see, so colour me surprised when the trailer hit and I was drawn into this visually interesting world. We’ve seen reinterpretations of fairy tales before, and a lot have failed, but this just seems to have something going for it.

Oh look its Harry Potter and he’s all grown up. Hmm horror, yeah right, I’m sure this trailer is going to be nothing but eye candy for all the girls out there. (Clicks on trailer and after two minutes.) Holy damn is this trailer bloody creepy. Fine you win this round Mr Potter.