The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

If This is to End in Fire, Then We Will All Burn Together!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)Fans of my reviews may remember that last year I was extremely upset by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I went into the movie unaware of the fact that Peter Jackson had split one book into three movies, leaving me angered over the fact that nothing had been resolved by the ending of the movie.  Going into today’s movie, I was aware but was perhaps still a bit sore about the perceived deception.  We’ll see how that worked out for this movie as I review The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, based on a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, adapted for screen by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro, directed and co-written by Peter Jackson, and starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aiden Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Manu Bennett, Cate Blanchett, Mikael Persbrandt, and Sylvester McCoy.

We still Hobbitin’, y’all!  Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) accompanies a group of Dwarves lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to try to recapture the Arkenstone from the Lonely Mountain where it’s kept by the dragon Smaug.  The Arkenstone will somehow help Thorin become a king again or some shit.  On the way, their time is wasted by a skin-changer named Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), some elves named Tranduil (Lee Pace), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and some Orcs.  Also, they meet Bard (Luke Evans) when they go to the cleverly named Lake-town, led by Stephen Fry.

If Thorin decided that he wanted to share his kingdom and he wanted to divide the Arkenstone amongst the other Dwarves, do you know how he would cut the Arkenstone?  With an Arken-saw!  I thought of that joke during the movie and, though I have told many of the people that I know read these reviews, I just want it to be available to cause pain throughout the entire internet.  As far as this movie goes, I again found myself angered by my expectations for it, but that anger was tempered with the experiences I gained from the first movie.  When I saw the first Hobbit, I didn’t realize that Jackson had split one book into three movies, leaving me angry.  I expected this movie to have me see Smaug desolated.  Turns out they mean the desolation CAUSED BY Smaug.  Youse is a tricky bitch, Jackson!  But going into the movie knowing the history of anger I had with the series allowed my expectations to compensate for it and I would say that I ultimately enjoyed the movie.  I still felt like there was a lot of wasted time with walking over mountains, stumbling through the woods, and conversations between Dwarves and Elves about the moon, and still don’t feel like there’s anything beyond a financial reason for this to be three movies, but it was still pretty entertaining.  Though he was a small part in the movie, I also appreciated the “skin-changer.”  Well, I guess it’s more accurate to say that I appreciated that they called him a skin-changer.  “Were-bear” would have sounded odd.

The look was good as you’d probably expect it to be, but there were some parts that didn’t feel like they held up as well.  Mainly parts of the white water rafting scene, and mainly just the parts of those scenes that appeared to have been filmed with a GoPro for some reason.  But I liked the scenes with Smaug.  Dragons are awesome.  And those scenes were visually spectacular.  Not just was the dragon awesome, but the constantly spilling gold coins added a level of difficulty to the rendering that I respect.  And Smaug looked scary as hell through most of his scenes, but I have to imagine that there was no way he looked anything but adorable when he was burrowing down into the gold where he was sleeping.  I imagine it looked like a little puppy burrowing into a pile of blankets with his nose.

The action was also pretty good in this movie.  I particularly liked the fat dwarf barrel fight because it was pretty funny and all of the fights involving Legolas and Tauriel because elven fighting is pretty awesome.  It’s like martial arts mixed with Hawkeye from Avengers bow and arrow action.

The cast also did find jobs in this movie.  I thought it was dangerous of this movie to add Luke Evans to the cast, though.  Not because I don’t expect him to be good, but because he is so easily confusable with Orlando Bloom, who was already in this movie.  Thankfully, Evans looks more like Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean and Bloom looks more like Legolas in this movie, so it was easy to keep them separated.  But his character didn’t give me any problems.  Other people in relation to his character did.  What the hell kind of logic is it to not pay attention to his ideas because his great great grandfather had a shitty aim?  Thank God no one that I know ever went to the gun range with my ancestors or I’d have even fewer people reading my reviews.

If the Necromancer in this movie had a puppy that needed to go to the bathroom, would it have to use the doggy door of Dol Guldur?  Sorry, that was another terrible joke I thought of that I wanted to punish you with.  The Desolation of Smaug was another good Hobbit movie whose greatest problem is the fact that I don’t feel that they need to be 3 (or possibly even 2) movies.  There is enough wasted time and side stuff that could’ve been cut out, but it still looks great, has some exciting action, and a great cast.  So I’m still going to recommend you watch this movie, but I personally won’t be purchasing a Hobbit movie until they come in one package.  I would’ve given this movie series enough money by then.  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug gets “I merely wanted to gaze upon your magnificence, to see if you were as great as the old tales say” out of “I did not believe them.”

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Casa de Mi Padre (2012)

Let Him Die.  He’s Missing a Hand Anyway.

Casa de Mi Padre (2012)Friendboss Josh was starting to feel neglected recently because I hadn’t reviewed anything he had requested in a very long time.  Obviously he wasn’t paying attention to my recent reviews or he would’ve realized that I barely have done anyone’s requests recently.  I’ve been busy, forgetful, and disinterested!  But I’m trying to get back into them, and I figured the best place to start was with the request of one of my best friends … and also the one that’s been hounding me and I might be able to get off my back with this review.  And then I can get back to getting him onto his back.  YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYIN’?  Anyway, Friendboss Josh requested that I review Casa de Mi Padre, written by Andrew Steele, directed by Matt Piedmont, and starring Will Ferrell, Génesis Rodríguez, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Pedro Armendáriz, Jr., Nick Offerman, Efren Ramirez, and Adrian Martinez.

Armando Álvarez (Will Ferrell) es un ranchero que cuida para el rancho de su padre en México, aunque su padre parece odiarlo para algo tan pequeño como accidentalmente matando a su esposa (y madre de Armando) cuando él era joven.  El hermano de Armando, Raúl (Diego Luna), devoluciones al rancho un día con su nueva novia Sonia (Génesis Rodriguez), que causa problema porque ella cae en amor con Armando… y porque ella revela que Raúl ha sentido bien a un traficante y está en la guerra con el señor de las drogas peligroso, Onza (Gael García Bernal).

How about that, people?  Was that paragraph made hilarious by the fact that I had some website poorly translate it into Spanish?  …No?  Well then what’s the deal with this movie?  I felt like I was missing something while I was watching this.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never seen the type of movie this seems to be trying to spoof, but I can’t say for sure.  It would makes sense for why Josh would like it because (as a Mexican) I believe he probably watched nothing but movies and TV shows like the ones this movie was spoofing until he learned the English language at the age of 23.  I felt like this movie was a funny idea, but it never got much beyond that for me.  This movie would’ve made a hilarious trailer, or even a great 5 minute short on Funny or Die, but that joke wore thin in a feature-length movie.  I imagine that the people involved in this movie fell in love with their own idea so strongly that they just never stopped believing in it, whereas I started to nod off in the middle of the movie, which is especially bad because I needed to pay attention just to know what was going on because I had a movie to read.  The moments that I actually found amusing in this movie were pretty sparse.  They went for some comedy in awkward moments a few times (a strategy I have seen work in the past) such as the awkwardly long laugh in the beginning of the movie, or the scene of the girl trying to get on the horse, but they weren’t particularly funny awkward moments.

I would say the most amusement I got out of the movie came from some more visual gags.  They did a lot of jokes in the movie that were intended to make it look like it was a real film that was not paying enough attention to things like continuity, or how poorly their props were made.  Some of these moments were when Armando went to pick up the real calf and it turned into a fake one that wasn’t even the same color, the really fake looking backgrounds in some scenes, the scene where Armando and Sonia were fake riding fake horses and someone would wheel a plant by behind them, the terribly fake miniature of the exterior of the bar (complete with Hot Wheels cars parked out front), the sex scene with Will Ferrell and the mannequin, and (my favorite) the scene where you could see the reflection of the crew in the DEA Agent’s aviator sunglasses with the guy eating a donut against the wall to the side.  There was some amusement to be had in these scenes, but not really enough to justify how many times they went for that same joke.  Of course, the scene where some chick gets shot in her titty at the wedding was some good comedy.

The cast in this movie caused no real complaints from me.  They did fine jobs with material that just didn’t work for me.  If Will Ferrell didn’t speak Spanish before going into this movie, then he deserves some praise for his commitment to learning it.  And he deserves some praise for how hard he seems to commit to his character.  He never really goes for any overt comedy with the character, but Will Ferrell can be funny as a straight man, without going for any jokes too hard.  The funniest thing I’d say he did in this movie involved how bad he was at rolling cigarettes.  There was a scene where they pointed it out that I didn’t find particularly funny, but the scene where he was just rolling a cigarette as he was having a conversation with his friends and he did it so poorly that the tobacco was falling out the end of it in his mouth amused me.  Beyond that, I don’t have much to say about anyone else in the movie besides that they did fine jobs.  And that Génesis Rodríguez is sexy as hell.

I was disappointed to find out that I didn’t really find Casa de Mi Padre particularly amusing, but I also can’t say that I didn’t expect it.  I knew this movie would be hindered by the fact that I had to read the movie for no good reason and that it would have to work hard to overcome that.  It had the potential to overcome it, but nothing in the movie really made me laugh besides a few silly visual gags of intentional continuity mistakes.  The movie wasn’t painful to watch, but it WAS a comedy that didn’t make me laugh so I don’t think I can recommend it for a watch.  Maybe if you’re fluent in Spanish, or if you have a vast experience with telenovelas, you will find something in this movie that I missed.  Casa de Mi Padre gets “Stay away, or I’ll beat you with these hands!” out of “If you were smart, you would know that you are dumb.”

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0027 – UNLV Fall of 2013 Review


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Dead Rising 3 (2013)

Welcome to Los Perdidos

Dead Rising 3 (2013)I’ve played all of the games in today’s series before but have never been nearly as into them as everyone else seemed to be.  And no, I’m not talking about the Grand Theft Auto series.  I think I’ve already written that review.  Though I’ve never been a fan of this series, I found myself extremely excited to purchase this game on day one.  Why is that?  Because it was one of two games I intended to buy for my brand new Xbone!  And it was the only game I was going to buy that was exclusively on said Xbone.  We shall see how that worked out for me as I review Dead Rising 3, developed by Capcom Vancouver, published by Microsoft Studios, and including the voices of Andrew Lawrence, Shelby Young, Valorie Hubbard, Daniel Roebuck, Kirk Bovill, Juan Gabriel Pareja, and Veronica Milagros.

Ten years after Dead Rising 2 and Capcom is satisfied with using the same story again with different characters.  Mechanic Nick Ramos (Andrew Lawrence) is in Los Perdidos, California, trying to survive a zombie outbreak with a few other survivors named Dick (Kirk Bovill), Rhonda (Valorie Hubbard), and Annie (Shelby Young).  But their survival has a timer on it as they find that the government has decided to write the city off … with a nuclear bomb.  The group decides they need to use this time to repair an airplane they found and get out before the bomb is dropped.

When looking at the very few release titles for the Xbone, the two games I was most interested in were Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome.  Ryse was said to be the game that best showed the power of the system, but it fell off my radar because it was said to be too repetitive.  Dead Rising was supposed to be not leaps and bounds above current generation games in visuals, but was supposed to be fun.  And it was, but story certainly had nothing to do with that.  It’s a very basic story, one I feel like I’ve already lived at least twice in the Dead Rising series.  There’s a zombie outbreak and you have about 6 days to escape.  They have a couple other things going on like a few relationship things and a government conspiracy, but nothing that was shocking.  I guess I found it shocking that one of the characters in the game throws up when a guy’s intestines are thrown against a window, but only because of the failing logic involved in a guy being squeamish about gore when he spends his days surrounded by the walking dead.

Visually, the game does not stun as I had hoped it would as my guide into the new generation of video games, but I suppose you can find the power of the Xbone if you really look for it.  The amount of zombies on screen at any given time is what shows off the processing power of the machine, and all of these zombies look at least a little bit different.  But the fact that it seemed to be a more stylized look instead of trying to look uber-realistic hindered me from being impressed by it at first glance.

The real reason to buy this game is because of the gameplay.  It’s a lot of fun.  It’s pretty mindless fun as you may have come to expect from a hack-and-slash game, but it is fun nonetheless.  I think I had the most fun with the crafting system.  It’s really pretty deep.  You can make a ton of stuff in this game by collecting and combining even more random items, but I found myself just picking the few items I particularly liked and sticking with that.  I really liked how effective the electrical hammer was.  And, though it wasn’t nearly as effective, I felt obligated to carry around a lightsaber at all times.  How could I not?!  And there were tons of collectibles and random events to encounter around the map, but I found myself resenting the time constraints of the game.  I understand how the 6 day thing relates to the story, but I want to play around in the world and collect stuff.  Why would you want me finishing your game so quickly anyway?  It should be considered an insult to say you can beat a game in 10 hours.  Most games add things like collectibles in hopes that you’ll spend more time playing and getting the feeling that you got your money’s worth out of the game instead of trying to force you to rush though the game.  I also didn’t enjoy the multiplayer aspects.  I was running around in the game and some random dude decided to jump into my game without my consent because I hadn’t gone into the settings and disabled that.  I don’t want someone up in my Kool-Aid like that!  Especially not if him joining would stop my game in its tracks for a minute while I wait for them to join!  So I quickly turned that off and went by to my self-imposed isolation.  Just the way I like it.  I also wasn’t a fan of the way Xbone seemed to try to rip off Sixaxis from Sony.  When a zombie grabs you, you can shake your controller to get them off.  And it works as well as Sixaxis ever did … which is to say not very well.  I hope it doesn’t become a thing with the Xbone, but it’s still a minor gripe.

I only got about half of the achievements in this game before I stopped playing it in favor of Assassin’s Creed IV.  I may go back and clean up a few more that I was close to.  They’re mainly just a lot of collecting, leveling, and killing.  Killing 100,004 zombies takes a while.  Everything else seems attainable, depending on how hard Nightmare mode is.

Dead Rising 3 is the best (and only) Xbone exclusive I’ve played.  Unimpressive story and graphics that only impress with the amount of zombies the system can have on screen at any given time are overridden by the good old fashioned fun of cutting your way through an ocean of zombies with a weapon you made from a sledgehammer and microwave.  If you purchased an Xbone, this is probably a game you should have for it.  Dead Rising 3 gets “Local Hero” out of “Them’s the Facts.”

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R.I.P.D. (2013)

Damn.  I Don’t Know What Eyes to Shoot You Between.

R.I.P.D. (2013)As the end of the year approaches, my standards dip dangerously low as I try to round out my films of 2013.  I could dislocate my shoulder with how hard I shrug in front of a RedBox while saying, “Fuck it!”  I knew about today’s movie while it was in theaters and even considered seeing it there.  Even though the movie looked like crap, it had a bunch of people I liked in it so I figured it was worth a chance.  We’ll find out if it was as I review R.I.P.D., based on the Dark Horse Entertainment comic by Peter M. Lenkov, written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, directed by Robert Schwentke, and starring Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, and Marisa Miller.

Two Detectives named Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) steal some gold they found during a drug-bust, but Nick is having doubts.  Bobby is not.  So much so that he kills Nick when they go out on a bust to keep him from returning the gold.  Instead of just dying as his face hit the ground from 3 stories up, the world freezes around Nick until he’s sucked up into an anus in the sky.  He wakes up in an interrogation room with Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), who invites Nick to join the Rest In Peace Department, a police force dedicated to the capture of the escaped dead that live among us.  Nick is immediately partnered up with Roycephus Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges) and sent out to the streets, where he soon finds out that the gold he stole is part of a set that the dead are trying to use to reverse the flow on the giant Sky Anus that swallowed him before.

This movie was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.  It was actually fairly enjoyable.  I don’t feel like any of that really comes from the story as that was pretty basic.  I guess that’s a strange thing to say about a movie with dead policemen and a plot to pink sock a Sky Anus, but I’m sticking with it.  I’m also sticking with my decision to use “pink sock” as a verb.  I guess it’s more how they get there that’s pretty basic.  “We’re new partners and we don’t get along.  We found this gold and there’s something weird about it.  The boss is trying to get in our way, but we’ll go after it anyway.”  There’s really no mystery to it.  They find the gold and turn it in and then the guys upstairs just explain it all.  If it were an action movie, a subpar story would be much more acceptable, but it seemed more this movie’s intention to be a comedy.  It didn’t land the humor nearly as much as it tried.  Most of the successes felt like it were sold much more by the delivery than the joke itself, such as the moment when Proctor bit Roy’s beard and he said, “She billy-goated me!”  If you’re not laughing right now, it’s because it wasn’t that funny of a joke on the page.  It needed Jeff Bridges to pull it off.

The main thing I noticed about this movie visually is that it felt like it really wanted to be Men in Black.  Quasi-dark and quasi-funny.  There was a good amount of action in the movie, but not a whole lot that struck me as particularly cool.  I did really enjoy Roy’s showdown scene, though.  I also laughed really hard when the construction vehicle got stuck in the wall above the Spear of Jericho (or whatever they called it), but not for a reason that was positive for the movie.  It was just so obvious of a setup for how they would eventually defeat the Spear thing that it was laughable.

I think the performances in this movie were what elevated it beyond its station.  I typically like Ryan Reynolds.  He’s usually funny and always easy on the eyes.  I even liked him in Green Lantern.  That movie wasn’t his fault.  Of course, Ryan Reynolds was definitely overshadowed by Jeff Bridges.  If you liked Bridges’ portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, then you’ll find much more of the same in his performance in this movie.  And if you didn’t like his performance in that movie then I request you make sweet love to a rock or something prickly.  Mary-Louise Parker is just great in general.  She’s super cute and super funny.  I should like one day to place a baby inside of her.  And these three actors also had great chemistry between each other.  The new partnership friction between Reynolds and Bridges was well-realized, and the sexual tension between Bridges and Parker was mined for some funny moments.  Enough to make me forgive Bridges for laying his mack down on my woman.  Kevin Bacon was also in this movie!  …That’s all I got about that.

R.I.P.D. was much better than I expected.  It would be difficult for it not to be.  There was nothing special in the writing or the action, but I think the cast made the movie much better than it would be on its own.  Their chemistry and quality made this movie easily watchable, but they could not fix the movie enough for there to really be any reason to watch it.  You can, but you don’t need to.  R.I.P.D. gets “I think you’re smelling what I’m selling” out of “One of them coyotes, he made love to my skull!”

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Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Now Don’t Lose Your Temper.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)The final assignment seemed like this Film Criticism class’s last push to make me appreciate older movies that are generally regarded with high esteem.  Such movies have commonly been a sticking point for me.  I typically find black and white movies too visually disinteresting and I don’t typically find the sense of humor involved with such older movies meshes with my own.  But I can only assume there was a reason this movie was picked, and I’ll find out as I share my feelings about Bringing Up Baby, written by Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde, and Robert McGowan, directed by Howard Hawks, and starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, May Robson, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald, Fritz Feld, and Virginia Walker.

David Huxley (Cary Grant) is a paleontologist trying to mooch some money from Elizabeth Random (May Robson) via her lawyer for funding for his museum.  While on the golf course with him, David encounters a troublesome woman named Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) who starts causing trouble in his life almost immediately.  Not the least of these problems is the fact that she’s the niece of Elizabeth Random and trying to get the money for herself.  Probably the most of the problems is the fact that her brother sent her a leopard from Brazil, and she’s roped David into helping her with it.

Just to get it out of the way early: I did not like this movie.  I found myself desperately grasping at what could have made it popular in the first place.  To me it just seemed like a series of stupid, unlikely, and ridiculous scenarios leading to an equally ridiculous final revelation of the movie.  The subplots of this movie involve a brontosaurus bone, a tame leopard, a feral leopard, and one million dollars just in case someone doubted my claim that the story was ridiculous but I also hesitate to call a movie ridiculous just because it involves coincidentally having not one but two wild cats in the same town.  I do live in Las Vegas, after all.

The main part of the story was a love story, but it wasn’t one I was ever able to get on board with.  Susan just becomes randomly fixated on David and that evolves into love somehow, but this love expresses itself in the form of random pestering and annoyance.  Not all of it was intentional on her part; much of it came as a result of her not paying attention, such as the stealing of his ball on the golf course and the stealing of his car.  But at a certain point she started doing these things intentionally just to get David to follow along with her schemes.  She calls him to help her deal with the leopard even though he has no expertise in such matters and tricks him into joining her, later revealing that she’s inexplicably fallen in love with him sometime in their first couple of disastrous meetings.  Even worse, though Susan had done nothing but annoy David since they first met, he somehow fell in love with her because of it!  I’ve seen ridiculous love stories in movies before, but this one would be a contender for the top.  Movies back then always loved to have a happy ending so they couldn’t just have them part ways at the end, but one thing they neglected was that the ending wouldn’t be nearly as happy for David’s fiancée.  I don’t know why they wouldn’t just remove that part of the story completely.  David didn’t need to be engaged.  It just served as another appointment that Susan was keeping him from.

This movie was attempting to be a comedy, but most of that was lost on me.  I’m not particularly susceptible to slapstick comedy, and the majority of this movie’s attempts were just that.  I guess I got my fill of such attempts at humor in my youth watching Americas Funniest Home Videos.  But I would imagine that even the people that enjoy that type of humor might find that affection tried by this movie.  They do it too much, to the point where it seems diluted.  Every attempt that Susan and David make to walk seems to be a failure.  She trips while talking on the phone with him, he trips when getting out of a cab, she trips while setting the leopard free, etc.

Though there wasn’t much in this movie I found myself appreciating, there was some wordplay that I enjoyed.  The particular instances that come to mind were the conversation between Susan and David on the golf course when he points out the circle on the ball and she says that it wouldn’t roll very well if it wasn’t a circle, the part where she says he picks the weirdest places to play golf when he’s in the parking lot, and the part where she says she can’t get out of the apartment because she’s got a lease.  I do appreciate some clever wordplay and some of these worked for me in the movie.  It felt like they tried for it much more than they succeeded, but they did have some good ones.

Not all of the dialogue was great, unfortunately.  When David accuses Susan of saying anything that comes to mind, I felt like that was a statement on the dialogue of the movie itself.  No one in this movie seems to have a thought or perform an action without expressing it verbally.  When David drops his hat, he doesn’t need to stand back up saying that he dropped his hat.  We know.  We saw you drop it.  We saw it on the floor.  We watched you pick it back up.  When David is feeling stressed out by the situations that Susan is getting him involved with, we are already well aware of that as well.  It wouldn’t have made for much of a movie, but I feel like a lot of the scenarios these people got themselves into would’ve been alleviated if they would just shut up and listen for a few more seconds.  If Susan would’ve shut up, David could have gotten his ball back … or his car for that matter.  They could’ve explained the situation with the leopard to Aunt Elizabeth to avoid that whole mess.

My roommate was a big fan of this movie, and when I brought the movie up to him one of the first things he mentioned was the chemistry between Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.  I don’t know if I felt the same way.  Individually I didn’t like their characters and I wasn’t even that fond of their performances.  Grant’s nerdy guy character was a little too on the nose and over the top.  I assume they wanted the audience to find Hepburn quirky and charming, but I mostly found her irritating.  There was one moment when I found her overwhelmingly adorable though and that was the moment right after she broke the heel of her shoe.  It wasn’t quite enough to break my first impression of her, but it was really cute.

I guess the last thing that needs to be talked about is the director, Howard Hawks.  I don’t know if I’d be comfortable saying that he qualifies as an auteur.  I think I’d probably have to have seen more than one of his movies to really know if I can see a distinct voice from the director but since he wasn’t credited as a writer of the movie, I don’t know if I would say he had complete control of the vision.  He may have had a vision, but it was for someone else’s words.  I read his section in The American Cinema but I don’t really think even that makes him out to be an auteur.  The section seems to try to glorify the fact that he doesn’t really attempt to do anything new or special, but that he has his own style and just sticks to it.

I didn’t find myself particularly fond of Bringing Up Baby.  I could deal with a story that was a little too ridiculous if it backed that up with some good comedy, but the greater majority of this movie’s attempts at comedy were just random pratfalls.  There were a couple of funny moments of wordplay, but you would first need to wade through nearly constant babbling from the cast of the movie that needed to express their every thought and action verbally in case the audience had chosen the wrong direction to point their seat while watching it.  I couldn’t even really get behind the performances from Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, whose characterizations were too on the nose and annoying for me to find but a few moments of passing affection for them.  Thankfully for this movie, it’s already regarded as a classic and has generally favorable reviews, so it will get by without the recommendation that I just can’t bring myself to give it.  Bringing Up Baby gets “In moments of quiet, I’m strangely drawn toward you” out of “There haven’t been any quiet moments.”

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Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Any Fool With a Dick Can Make a Baby, But Only a Real Man Can Raise His Children.

Boyz n the Hood (1991)I suppose the theme for my last week of my Film 100 class is “Make Whitey Feel Bad” because the last two movies we watch are Boyz n the Hood and Do the Right Thing.  I’m okay with it because my friend Forty had requested one of these movies so I can kill two gangbangers with one drive by, as it were.  But the problem I have with reviewing this movie is the same problem I had when I reviewed Menace II Society.  First, I want to avoid seeming racist.  Second, both of these movies spell their titles poorly.  Thirdly, I feel like I’ve already seen this movie because I’ve seen Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.  Well let’s see if I like Boyz n the Hood better without the jokes, written and directed by John Singleton, and starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Angela Bassett, Nia Long, Tyra Ferrell, Redge Green, Dedrick D. Gobert, Alysia Rogers, and Baldwin C. Sykes.

A ten-year-old kid named Tre Styles (Desi Arnez Hines II) gets into a fight at school.  Because of an agreement he had with his mother Reva Devereaux (Angela Bassett), he must now go and live in Crenshaw with his father Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne).  Here he reunites with some of his childhood friends … who are promptly taken to jail for stealing.  Seven years later, Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is an upstanding citizen with good grades and a job, Ricky (Morris Chestnut) is now a star running-back with aspirations of getting a scholarship, Doughboy (Ice Cube) is in and out of jail, and Chris (Redge Green) is confined to a wheelchair from a gunshot wound.  Though things seem to be going well for Ricky and Tre, it’s hard growing up in the ‘hood … or so I am told.

I feel like I’m not the right audience for this movie.  I’m not saying I didn’t like it.  It was a very poignant movie.  But I’m so very white and I really don’t like dramas.  I don’t understand the compulsion to see a movie that will make you sad.  I know these kinds of things happen!  I just don’t like to think about it!  But the movie does seem to successfully capture the danger of that kind of life.  It’s exciting and suspenseful and sad most of the time.  I wouldn’t say it always makes sense to me, but as I said, “I am so very white.”  It’s not going to be too easy to draw from my own personal experiences in order to fully relate to this movie.  I still don’t understand Reva’s motivation for sending Tre to live with Furious.  First of all, this mother fucker’s name is “Furious.”  That seems like a bad idea right away.  I assume he’d have a temper that could perhaps have earned him this moniker, and I’d also assume that this is an awful name to give to a character.  Secondly, I don’t understand how the appropriate punishment for getting into a fight in school is to make your kid go live in the deeper, darker ghetto where he will be even more surrounded by bad influences and have to fight even more just to survive.  I got the feeling that Reva just thought that Tre was a drag and was too much of a distraction for her to get her career and learning on so she pawned him off on his father so he could be out of sight AND out of mind.  It turned out okay for the most part as Tre learned his lesson well from someone that turned out to be a pretty good influence for someone named “Furious,” but even he almost made the wrong choices at the end of the movie.  I also didn’t agree with everything that Furious said.  Most of it would at least lead Tre in the right direction while still being motivated in what I would call a bit of crazy racism, like his whole monologue about liquor stores.  I agree that the people in this neighborhood should stop drinking and killing each other all the time.  That’s a pretty easy idea to get behind.  But maybe we shouldn’t be blaming the white man for all of this as if it’s some crazy white man conspiracy to keep the black man down.  Maybe instead blame the people in this movie that are scarcely seen without a 40 in their hands.  Putting a liquor store there isn’t a conspiracy so much as it’s just good business.

The greater majority of the performances in this movie were worthy of applause, but I never really got on board with Cuba Gooding Jr.  First of all, he never looked like a 17-year-old.  I would say early 30’s at best.  He did some of the sad moments well in the movie, but I was not a fan of his reaction to what happens to Ricky.  Him walking into Brandi’s house and doing some shadow-boxing struck me more as goofy than convincing.  I thought Laurence Fishburne did a good job throughout the movie, but not a good enough job that I’m going to call him “Larry Fishburne” as he is listed in the credits.  He should feel happy that I didn’t call him Morpheus as we all know I want to.  I also liked Ice Cube in the movie while simultaneously hating his mom, played by Tyra Ferrell.  Yeah, he didn’t always (or usually) make the right decisions in the movie, but I put the majority of the blame on her.  She was a rotten bitch.  As was that black cop guy.  Bernie Mac’s character in Don’t be a Menace to South Central wasn’t even that much of an exaggeration for how confusingly racist this guy was.

Boyz N the Hood was a movie that I can call a good movie based on most of its quality, but not one that I feel like I’m really meant to relate to that much.  I didn’t grow up anywhere near this kind of thing really, but it is a very interesting and informative watch.  I would feel confident in saying that everyone should watch this movie.  Whitey can feel bad for themselves, people that don’t live around this kind of thing can get an interesting glimpse into a world they typically prefer to believe doesn’t exist, and the people who do live in this world can get some positive messages from a man named Furious that might help them get out of that world.  Stopping that kind of violence is a worthy cause, even if the white man must be blamed for most of it.  Boyz N the Hood gets “Stupid motherfucker!  Don’t you know you can catch that shit from letting them suck on your dick?” out of “That’s what we’re here to celebrate, right?”

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The Conversation (1974)

What a STUPID Conversation.

The Conversation (1974)I thought that I would’ve been able to get far more reviews out of my Film Criticism class than I did.  It was a class where I watch movies and write about them, for God’s sake!  How could I not just take my assignments and add a few more penis jokes and release them to my readers?  I’ll tell you how: because most of the movies we watched were boring and pretentious.  I didn’t even want to talk about the boring, black and white movies that we had to watch from week to week.  How would you all want to read about them?  The movies that I did choose from this class to review for you guys were the least pretentious.  And also they were in color.  Perhaps that’s how I judge pretention: strictly based on the color palate.  Well let’s see if I liked it as I review The Conversation, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, and Teri Garr.

A surveillance expert named Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) has been tasked by The Director (Robert Duvall) to record a boring conversation between two people (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest) about Christmas shopping or some shit.  He edits the tapes with his colleague Stan (John Cazale) and goes to turn it in to The Director, only to find that he’s out and he would have to leave it with his assistant Martin Stett (Harrison Ford), which was not part of their agreement.  So he keeps the tapes until he can meet with The Director as agreed, and he decides to go to a convention for surveillance gear.

Does it sound like nothing happens in this movie?  That’s because it doesn’t.  At least it doesn’t until the very end when some big reveals are dropped, but without spoiling the big reveals of this movie I can only really talk about what sounds like a really boring movie.  The movie was not what I expected it to be.  When it opened I thought it was going to be about snipers because they were watching people through a scope.  It turns out to be about surveillance.  And more specifically, the surveillance of two people having a boring conversation.  I assume this is to be a metaphor for the audience, who will spend ¾ of this movie watching people have boring conversations and wondering what the point is.  If I wasn’t watching this movie for a class, I would’ve checked out at about the halfway point … and it would’ve been my loss.  It ends really strong and exciting.  I didn’t see the first reveal (the reason that the two people were being recorded) coming, and I didn’t see the second reveal (the actual subject of the conversation) coming.  And the way they handled it was very exciting and suspenseful.  It finally made the movie feel like it was worth watching, but it takes so long to get there I don’t know that I’d actually recommend it.  You have to sit through a lot of boring to get to a reason to like the movie.

The performances were all great, so at least the people that are into that sort of thing will have something to watch for most of this movie.  Gene Hackman was great, but the movie never really required him to stretch his acting chops until maybe the end.  I did think it was a little weird that he was a surveillance expert at a conference for surveillance gear but thought nothing of it when that douche bag guy slipped a pen into his jacket.  They make microphones around that size, don’t they?  Oh well, probably not worth thinking about.  Also, Robert Shields played a mime in this movie and I got to wondering: Is a mime’s sole purpose in the world to be annoying?  It seemed to be the mission of this mime in the beginning of the movie.  I’ve never heard of anyone that likes mimes so how is it ever a job anyone takes?  And speaking of annoying: what was the deal with the guy waiting outside the phone booth that started tapping on the door the second he arrived at it?  The world doesn’t move at your schedule, asshole!  This is how lines work!

The Conversation is a good movie that I don’t feel confident in recommending because, to people like me, it requires far too much patience to reach the point where it’s worth the wait.  Nothing seems to happen in the movie until the last 15 minutes of the movie, when the movie reveals itself to the audience and finally becomes worth the 100 minutes you’ve already trudged through, but you must still sit through those 100 minutes to get it.  If that sounds like something you’re able to do, or if you just want to see Gene Hackman being pretty great, then I would recommend this movie.  Otherwise you can skip it.  The Conversation gets “I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder” out of “This conversation is over.”

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0026 – Xbox One Review


WATCH REVIEWS HERE!  YouTube  OTHER JOKES HERE!  Twitter  BE A FAN HERE!  Facebook  If you like these reviews so much, spread the word.  Keep me motivated!  Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!