Monday, 19 December 2011

In the Loop Review

I heard about this movie on Twitter.  Someone I follow asked about good movies and someone tweeted this as a recommendation.  I investigated and saw it was a UK comedy that was nominated for a writing Oscar.  Being who I am, I had to see it.  And I also felt that Karl would like it.  While I think he enjoyed it more than me, neither of us was disappointed.  The easiest way to describe this film is it is what would have happened if Ricky Gervais had made the West Wing.  It has such a good mix of subtle and in your face humour that you find yourself at least smiling all the time at the situations.  But you also really have to pay attention because the entire film is very dialogue based.  There is little to no reliance on physical or context humour.  Everything in the movie seems very plausible.  It is really what would happen if the British and US governments were run by a bunch of smart asses.

Overall, this movie is very sound technically.  I already mentioned it was nominated for an Oscar.  And, given its reliance on dialogue, the writing has to be rock solid to hold the viewers' interest.  It is also very well acted.  From the main characters to the ones that are only on the screen briefly, they all provide strong performances with nobody really standing out and dominating.  It is very much an ensemble piece. That makes it seem even more real because the characters are all supposed to be "behind the scenes" members of the government.  Sadly, though, in trying to capture the realism, they decided to go with shaky camera work in an attempt to make you feel like you are moving with them.  When will film makers realize that this simply does not work.  The viewers' eyes cannot anticipate where the camera is going to move and adjust accordingly like it does in real life.  The only result is irritation and nausea for most people.

But, that's really the only drawback of the film.  See it.  It is a very well done piece of intelligent humour.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Review

I knew what I was getting into.  While I'm not really upset that I saw it, I do wonder why I took the time.  I knew there was going to be gratuitous drug use, profanity and sexuality.  After all, it's Harold & Kumar.  I knew it was going to have no basis in reality for the same reason.  But, I was expecting more legitimate movie making (plot, acting, writing, etc.) than I got.  The third Harold & Kumar is not much more than a Christmas themed Jackass 3D with blatant crap flying at you (literally and figuratively).

It's weird because both Kal Penn and John Cho are very good actors.  But here, they just didn't seem to have the same chemistry or drive to perform that they did when they went to White Castle.  Almost everything that Penn said seemed really forced and the reluctant Harold seemed more indifferent to getting involved in most of the antics than adamantly against them like they were developing the character to be.  It seemed to bleed over into the supporting cast as well because there really isn't a good performance with the exception of Neil Patrick Harris.  His performance is right up there with what he did in the first two.  (Although I didn't care for the Jesus scene.  But that wasn't his acting.  That was the fact that it is a topic that I draw a line at for entertainment personally.  I have no problem with having it in a movie but how you portray Jesus on screen is a fine line with me.  But that is 100% a personal opinion and I realize that everyone is different with that.)

In addition to NPH, I will say that there are two good things about this movie.  First, Waffle Bot was funny.  Second, The Danny Trejo as a child character was good for a laugh.

But even without the Jesus scene, I would still emphatically say do not see it.  It's just really bad.  I normally have no problem with the drug use and raunchy humour in movies.  But it has to be done in a clever and interesting way (like Pineapple Express or the first Harold & Kumar movie).  This was just phoning it in.

Tower Heist Review

Tower Heist is a movie that has a hard time deciding what it wants to be.  Throughout the whole film, there is never really any consistent theme developed.  It starts out as a movie that seems light hearted but has the potential to get quite serious and dark quickly.  Then, Ben Stiller bails Eddie Murphy out of jail and it goes into a very dialogue based comedy involving those two and the core thieves.  My brother Karl pointed out that it almost became a buddy comedy which was a very apt description.  Then, it finally becomes the comedic heist movie that it was advertised as.  This inconsistency is really the only drawback of the film and it is far from enough to diminish the viewer's enjoyment.

The rest of the film is really quite solid.  The dialogue writing is very good and it is delivered through some very strong timing from all of the actors.  The ones that really stand out though are Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick and Michael Pena.  Murphy normally has a tendency to be either really on or really off with his hyper-speed line delivery.  In Tower Heist, he is on and he has a very good chemistry with Ben Stiller.  Broderick was a perfect choice for the geeky, soft spoken and timid character who comes out with the occasional line that makes you laugh out loud.  But (and I was very surprised by this), Pena steals just about every scene he's in.  He's one of those actors that you recognize but never really stands out.  This is by far the best work I've seen him do and, to me, it was very memorable.

The story writing and development was really decent for the most part.  For a lot of the movie, it seemed actually quite plausible that this could happen.  Then, it derails through some theatrics and plot twists that make it lose a bit of credibility.  It's pretty important to the plot and wasn't advertised in any of the marketing so I won't give away specifically what it is but I can say it has to do with where and when they find out where the money is hidden (anybody who knows anything about heist movies can't complain about giving that much away).  Again, it isn't enough to take away from the entertainment value of the movie.  But it does go back to the inconsistency of the film.

However, inconsistency notwithstanding, see it.  While it isn't the best heist movie or even comedy out there, it definitely delivers superior value for your money and time.  It is worth it for the comedic timing and interaction of the characters.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Muppets Review

When I reviewed Muppets From Space back in May, I said that people who work on Muppets movies always look like they are having fun.  That holds true for this one except they look like they're not only having fun but having the time of their lives.  It would also explain the sheer number of high-profile cameos.  I think everyone in Hollywood should want to be in a Muppet movie.  To me, it would be like guest voicing on an episode of the Simpsons.

In retrospect, when I watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall and saw Jason Segel singing with a Muppet-like vampire doll, I should have known that this would eventually follow.  And, knowing some of Segel's past work and seeing him on How I Met Your Mother, I should have expected his weird, weird nature to come through like it did.  Because the Muppets have that zany "forget reality" nature as well, I did expect this to go in that direction.  I didn't expect the level of surrealism that Segel brought to it though.  Combining the odd nature of both the Muppets and Segel's mind creates a synergy of comedy that is just terrific.

Basically, it's this: the Muppets haven't done a show in years and Segel and his Muppet brother get them back together for a telethon to save the Muppet Theatre from the evil Mr. Richman (played very well by Chris Cooper.  Although I could have done without the rap number.  But, given that it is a surreal Muppet movie, I can let it pass).  Given that we haven't seen the actual Muppet Show in many years, this is a great way to bring them back into the popular consciousness.  Almost everything in this movie is meant to bring the viewers' minds back to a nostalgic state.  I liked that about the film.  Rather than just write a movie about the Muppets (which would have been good in its own right), Segel decided to blatantly make it a piece that makes us want to relive some parts of our childhood.  Because of that, it leaves us wanting more.

Being a Muppet movie, you are supposed to suspend reality in your own mind before sitting in your seat. After all, it involves people talking to puppets.  On the surface you may think something like, "it's a ridiculous story and the acting was bad."  But it has to be that way.  Because many of the characters are puppets, the film needs to be written more into what their world would be.  The acting also needs to be more over-done.  When you do these things, you bring the two realms closer together and the viewer has an easier time relating to the Muppets and kind of forgetting that they are not actually humans.  If you take that attitude going in (which most of you probably did or will do), you get a delightful, two hour movie where you just can't help but laugh and have fun.

Definitely see it!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Larry Crowne Review

I can honestly say that this movie, more than any other, was marketed truthfully.  Many times, you see ads and trailers for a movie and then, when you go see the actual film, you think you're watching something completely different.  With Larry Crowne, there are no surprises.  The marketing advertised it as a feel good, get a second chance and find yourself movie and that's exactly what it is.  While I wouldn't say it's brilliant or anything like that, it is adequate.

As usual, Tom Hanks is decent.  While not his strongest performance, there is really nothing bad about it.  And, while I'm not a Julia Roberts fan, she is decent in it too.  In fact, overall, the acting is OK.  I did have a beef with some of the characters though.  While I felt we were supposed to be focused and interested in the development of Hanks' and Roberts' characters, there was a little too much quirkiness in the secondary ones.  This really draws your attention away from the point of the film.  On the flip side of that, it is that quirkiness that leads to the main character development.  While I'm not sure how you would go about fixing this, it is a contradiction that I didn't really feel worked to its full potential.

Honestly, I don't know what recommendation to give this one.  It isn't a movie that will blow you away even though it has some very good actors.  But if you like Nia Vardalos' work as a writer, you may enjoy it.  I'm glad I watched it but have no desire to see it again.  So, when I get that feeling, I usually say see it and judge it for yourself.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Undercover Brother Review

Let me start out by saying that if you critique movies based on the quality of acting, directing, cinematography, special effects, writing, etc., you will not like this movie.  From that standpoint, almost everything is bad.  The plot is a ludicrous twist on those mid-range James Bond movies where the hero and his organization is ridiculous and the evil organization is even more ridiculous.  Basically, Eddie Griffin is trying to save African American culture from being set back fifty years through a mind control drug administered through a chain of fried chicken restaurants (yeah, it's that weird).

But the thing is, it's supposed to be what it is.  After all, Eddie Griffin is the star.  That, in itself, should indicate it was never intended for Oscar consideration.  They didn't set out to make some groundbreaking movie just to end up with crap.  They set out to make an over the top comedy and, when looked at in that light, they ended up with a hit.  I will say that, even though the formula worked, some of the acting is so bad that it is still difficult to watch.  Most of the peripheral characters (White She Devil, Smart Brother, Mr Feather and his sidekick), while decently inspired for the film, are brought to life in such an awkward way that is sometimes difficult to watch.  But, for the most part, the over acting adds some comic element.

There are two performances that do stand out though.  First, Neil Patrick Harris as the token white guy is really good.  He plays the geeky, stereotypical white guy well and when his character starts to empathize with the Brotherhood's plight, he transitions even better.  But the best performance by far is from Dave Chappelle as Conspiracy Brother.  He steals absolutely every scene he is in.  Almost every line is perfectly written for him and he delivers each one with terrific timing and comic inflection.  I still laugh every time I think about the 'Atomic Core" button.

See it.  It's an hour and a half of mindless fun that delivers laugh after laugh.