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.”

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?!

Advertisements

Pacific Rim (2013)


Today We Are Cancelling the Apocalypse!

Pacific Rim (2013)When I saw my first trailers for today’s movie, I confess to having no real interest in it.  It seemed like a big, dumb action movie directed by a person who has a fairly low percentage of movies that actually interested me.  But when the movie finally came out, I heard a lot of glowing reviews for it, most notably for me from my roommate Richurd, who saw the movie and lauded its fantastic action scenes.  Even though that only supported my idea that it was a big, dumb action movie, it did intrigue me.  When my friend Forty then proposed the idea that we go see a movie, it instantly became my primary suggestion.  Especially since nothing else of interest was out at the time.  Let’s see how it went as I review Pacific Rim, written by Travis Beacham, co-written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, and starring Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Diego Klattenhoff, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Clifton Collins Jr., Ron Perlman, Ellen McLain, and most importantly Max the English Bulldog.

Sometime in the near future, an interdimensional rift opens up on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, releasing giant alien monsters called Kaijus onto the people of Earth, especially those living next to the ocean.  Instead of deciding to move away from the beaches, Earth decides to build giant robotic suits called Jaegers to battle the monsters.  The strain of controlling the Jaegers is too much for any one person’s mind, so they develop a system wherein two people that are mentally compatible can control the suits as one.  Two such pilots are Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and Yancy Becket (Diego Klattenhoff).  On one of their missions, a particularly nasty Kaiju rips into the helmet of the Jaeger, pulling Yancy to his death.  Raleigh takes a couple years off to cope.  Eventually, Raleigh’s former commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) shows up with his pretty Asian lady Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to try to tempt Raleigh back into his Jaeger for one last ditch effort to close the portal and seal the Kaijus away once and for all.  In order to keep the movie interesting, things don’t go exactly as planned.

I was definitely right about this movie being a big, dumb action movie, but it is a big, dumb action movie in all the best ways.  I’m going to break from standard RRS protocols and talk about the action of the movie first because, let’s be honest, that’s the reason to see this movie.  And it definitely makes the movie worth it.  The action is fantastic, and never that far away.  The movie is visually fantastic, and it definitely doesn’t seem like they took the easy way out on any of it.  It’s probably hard enough to create a giant monster fighting a giant robot, but just to kick that up a notch you’re going to have it take place in the middle of the water?  While it’s raining?  And have to deal with all the water physics on top of the rest of it?  Well, they pulled that off successfully, but certainly focusing so much on the visuals of the movie would make other things in the movie – such as the sound – suffer from neglect, right?  Nuh-uh!  The sound effects really made the punches feel epic.  They really captured the feeling I’ve felt so many times in my life while watching giant robots fight giant monsters.  Basically, this movie seemed fully aware of what it was.  It wasn’t going to bother with the story, so let’s have this action be over the top.  One of the Jaegers uses a freighter ship like a baseball bat!  I would have to say, part of my brain took issue with this.  They do not build ships that well!  Haven’t you seen Titanic?  Just the front half of that thing lifts up and it splits in half!  But this one is going to not only survive being dragged down the street, but also be sturdy enough to smash against a monster’s face a few times?  I did appreciate that, when that stopped working out for them, that Gipsy Danger was able to go all Voltron and pull out a sword like the one Ivy carries in Soul Calibur.  And I would say I definitely did NOT appreciate the gag they pulled with the kinetic balls.  It was corny and it made my kinetic balls hurt.  And though it was cool to watch in the movie, I would say that I would definitely recommend against headbutting while in the Jaegers.  You guys live in there!  But they did it and it worked out well for them, so it’s okay.

The story is fairly basic.  It’s not bad, but there’s not a whole lot to say about its quality.  I guess what I would say about it is that the story successfully filled the spaces between giant creatures punching each other.  One of the bigger issues I took early on in the movie is that the government was trying to get rid of the fairly successful Jaeger program in exchange for a continuously failing “giant wall” program.  That’s your big fix?  When we first see the wall, it’s introduced with a Kaiju busting right through it.  Good call, government.  It’s not like you’ve ever built anything that’s already running that the Kaiju’s cannot tear through like they’re made of toilet paper.  And that can also punch back instead of just hoping that the Kaiju’s get bored of your drab walls and go home.  One thing I liked about this movie is how being in each other’s brains as Jaeger pilots helped eliminate the need for exposition.  Characters don’t really need to find sweaty ways to throw in their back story when we can just jump into their brains and watch it happen instead.

The performances all succeeded.  They did not blow my mind, but they did great for what was required out of them for the movie.  Charlie Hunnam carried the movie pretty successfully.  He made a good hero, but he’d make a really shitty doctor.  I base that almost entirely on the fact that he decides he needs to check the pulse of one of the monsters after defeating it and thinks that the best way to do that is to shoot it in the chest a few times.  It made me really nervous later when one of the human characters might have been dead, but I think someone else decided to take over and used the tried and true fingers to the neck technique.  Rinko Kikuchi also did a good job carrying her part of the movie.  I got irritated at Idris Elba in parts of the movie, but it may have mostly been because he was the authority figure and I’m such a rebel.  It may also have been when he said that Raleigh and Mako weren’t physically compatible enough to run a Jaeger together.  Are you kidding me?  Nature made them physically compatible, if you know what I’m saying.  WINK WINK!  He did win me back at the end when he delivered a speech that felt like it was right out of Independence Day, basically just exchanging “Today we celebrate our Independence Day” for “Today we’re cancelling the apocalypse.”   Not because it was a particularly riveting or well-written speech, but because I like Independence Day.  Charlie Day was pretty entertaining in the movie, and I definitely agreed with what I had read about him doing his best Rick Moranis impression for parts of the performance.  I also found it amusing when he barely escaped death when the baby Kaiju strangled itself with its umbilical cord.  He was saved by SIDS!  Not so bad after all, is it?  I did find his partner (played by Burn Gorman) annoying more often than not, and not just because he did the worst job of miming typing on a keyboard that I’ve ever seen.  He basically just slapped it with his open palms a few times and decided that he had successfully programmed something.  I also thought Robert Kazinsky did a good job in the movie, but his character was far from likeable.  That’s what he was going for though.  He was to this movie what Val Kilmer was to Top Gun.  Basically just the hotshot asshole rival of the hero of the movie.  As much as I liked the cast of the movie, I think one performance stole the show for me: the English bulldog named Max.  I had been warned about his presence before seeing the movie and, with the recent loss of my own English bulldog, it may have been painful to watch.  And it kind of was, but you cannot really be sad while looking at one of those faces.  I would actually consider him to be the hero of the movie.  I mean, you need something to fight for in these movies, right?  What better to fight for than one of those smushie faces?!

Pacific Rim was basically what I expected it to be, but all of those things were amped up to the point of excellence.  The story was negligible, but not bad.  And the performances were all great, but not mind-blowing.  What really sells this movie is the action, which is huge, frequent, and exciting.  That and the English bulldog.  And because of those things (and mainly the bulldog), I am definitely recommending you get to a theater to check this out.  You could wait to get it on BluRay, but I feel like you cannot possibly have a home theater setup in your home that would match the scale of the movie.  Pacific Rim gets “Where would you rather die?  Here, or in a Jaeger?” out of “Fortune favors the brave, dude.”

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?!

Mama (2013)


A Ghost is an Emotion Bent Out of Shape.

Mama (2013)I was very excited to get back to the theaters recently. Actually, at the time of writing this, I WAS happy to get back to the theaters about two weeks ago. When I saw Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, I was able to make it a double feature. But I didn’t find a great amount of talent in the theaters. I really wanted to see Zero Dark Thirty, but Hansel & Gretel’s run time cut too deep into the start time of that movie to make it. But there was another movie that tickled my fancy. That’s probably a little too gay of a way to say that, but it was true. I did not expect much out of this movie based on what little I knew about it. I knew only two people involved with the movie. One of the producers of the movie has made movies that have not impressed me with their story, but always had a great visual style to them. And one of the actresses was in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty. That has nothing to do with anything. But let’s see how it turned out when I went to see Mama, based on story by Andres Muschietti who also directed and co-wrote, co-written by Neil Cross and Barbara Muschietti, and starring Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, and Hannah Cheesman.

During a financial crisis that apparently happened in 2008, a man named Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) overreacts a tad by killing his business partners, his estranged wife, and kidnapping his two children – 3-year old Victoria (Morgan McGarry) and 1-year old Lilly (Maya and Sierra Dawe) – taking them on a drive to an abandoned cabin where he’ll probably kill them too. Before he gets the opportunity, something grabs him, pulls him out of frame, and kills the bejesus out of him. Also arguably a bit of an overreaction. Five years later, Jeffrey’s brother (who is also him), Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau again) is going broke searching for them. His search crew finally stumbles across the children, still alive but almost entirely feral, and now being played by Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse. After a psychiatric rehabilitation, the girls’ doctor, Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) suggests that the girls live with Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain). But there’s a problem. The girls seem to have manifested a protector that they call “Mama” … OR HAVE THEY!?!?!?

I kinda liked this movie, but that may also have been mainly because I had just seen Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. This movie was better than that one, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a good movie. Just good by comparison. With time, I find that I’m getting better at predicting my feelings about movies as my movie-watching wang becomes more prodigious. Turns out, when I see Guillermo del Toro’s name associated with something and I instantly assume I’ll be unimpressed with the story but find the visual style pretty interesting, it’s a pretty safe assumption. It’s not bad, but it’s also nothing special. It’s a ghost story two feral kids. I think one of the biggest points of contention I had was that I never understood Mama’s motivations. I realize that she was the ghost of a crazy person, but shouldn’t she appreciate the people that were taking care of the children that she loved? I understand the possibility that Mama would get jealous that the kids were liking the living family better than the creepy ghost lady, but why would she try to kill them when they were treating the kids well? I also didn’t understand the people that acted like they shouldn’t be a little bit cautious around the kids. Sure, the kids are really young, but even young kids can pick up a knife and stab someone to death in their sleep. And, since they were feral, they probably wouldn’t even realize that killing these people in their sleep was wrong. That’s just survival to them. I also didn’t understand how Annabel was so against the kids. I would’ve though those feral kids were rad! They’re like tiny, female Wolverine’s!

The visual style of the movie was very effective. That is all. Moving on.

As with many movies, I don’t pass a lot of judgment on the performances. They all did really good jobs. What I do take issue with more often is the characters themselves. Jessica Chastain did a good job, and I was happy to see her looking Goth because she’s much more attractive with visible eyebrows. But I was also disappointed that she wasn’t a more likeable character. She really didn’t want anything to do with these kids. That probably stemmed from her trying way too hard to be a badass rocker chick. This was cemented for me when we heard her answering machine message. It was like, “Hey, this is Annabel. I’m not here. Leave a message or whatever. Then fuck yourself. Party on, Wayne.” It’s the sign to me that neither Chastain nor the writers of this movie are rockers in the slightest. I also liked Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse as the feral girls. They did cute and creepy in equal degrees of quality.

I enjoyed Mama, but I’m also aware of the fact that it wasn’t that substantial. It was just super passionate about being mediocre. The story was nothing special and the characters were hit and miss, but the people playing those characters and the art director did a great job. I cannot really recommend this movie for purchase or viewing in the theaters, but I’d get behind recommending a rental. A dollar at RedBox is right up its alley. Mama gets “What’s under the bed?” out of “Leave a message after the beep. Fuck you. Beep.”

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?!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)


Every Good Story Deserves to Be Embellished.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)I had a perplexing amount of trepidation when it came to choosing to see today’s movie.  I don’t really know what it was though.  I had very much enjoyed the other three movies directed by the director of this movie and based on the books by the same author, but seeing that today’s movie was released did nothing to inspire me to see it.  So how did I end up watching it?  Complete dumb coincidence.  I went to the theaters with an intention to make it a double feature and, when I left the first movie and checked the show times for the next movie, it happened to be exactly the time this movie was starting.  That either had to be a sign from the heavens or just some random coincidence.  Well nothing else really struck me as worth waiting around for, so I got my ticket and sat down to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, based on a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, written for the screen by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro, directed by Peter Jackson, and starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, 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, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Sylvester McCoy, Andy Serkis,  Ian Holm, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Elijah Wood.

The kingdom of Erebor is overrun by the dragon, Smaug, drawn to their kingdom by the gold they’ve amassed, and destroying the town of Dale on the way.  The king’s grandson, Thorin (Richard Armitage), is one of the survivors of the attack.  Later, the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) brings a party of 13 Dwarves, including Thorin, to the house of an unsuspecting Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in hopes of getting Bilbo to join their mission to reclaim Erebor.  He refuses at first, but Gandalf appeals to his adventurous side and the group embark on their quest.  Along the way, they encounter Trolls, Orcs, Elves, and tales of a necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch) in the fortress Dol Guldur.

This movie made me very angry, but I suppose the bulk of it is my own fault.  I probably should’ve found out something about this movie before going in, but I went into it with no more information than I had before I even knew the movie was a possibility.  I had seen the cartoon a long time ago, and I guess I assumed that Peter Jackson was able to fit the entire story into one three hour movie.  The book was only 310 pages, and I figured one minute per page was not necessarily out of the question.  Peter Jackson, on the other hand, apparently felt that it needed to be made into its own trilogy somehow.  The other thing I knew about the original movie was that a big part of the movie was the dragon, Smaug, so I also figured this dragon would be in this movie at all!  When this long ass trudge of a movie was about 20 minutes away from finishing, I was wondering how they were going to complete the Smaug storyline so quickly, not knowing that it was not their intention to finish that story in this movie, or even to involve that story.  It wouldn’t have felt as bad if I felt they filled their movie appropriately, but a lot of it felt like wasted time.   The numerous side missions that they embarked on as they headed to the mountain made me realize why these Lord of the Rings movies are 12 hours a piece.  Also contributing to that is Jackson’s apparent love for scenes of people walking.  That joke from Clerks 2 now has some more ammunition after this movie.

All that being said, there were a pretty good amount of things that were done right in this movie.  It surprises no one to find that this movie is a visual delight.  We’ve seen that out of Jackson at least three times already.  I would say that it occasionally felt recycled as some of the scenes of the Dwarves running over mountaintops looked exactly like similar scenes of the Fellowship of the Ring running over mountaintops in the first three movies.  It’s generally completely epic in scale, but even the smaller details are impressive.  I thought the pale Orc’s prosthetic arm was too scrawny and not intimidating the first time I saw it, but then I realized that it was kind of badass when I realized that it was actually shoved all the way through the stump of his forearm.  And I liked one of the really epic scenes (that also technically had no real story impact at all) where they were going through the mountains and the mountains kind of got up and started punching each other (not a joke).  I liked this because it kind of felt like I was watching a God of War level.  The action (when it happened) was usually very well done.  I especially liked the Dwarves’ escape from Orc Mountain.  The humor of this movie was mostly lost on me, being mostly slapstick or as simple as, “This one Dwarf is fat!  Isn’t that hilarious?!”  They did have a couple of moments that worked really well, though, such as Gandalf’s story about the creation of golf.  I couldn’t blame them too much because this movie felt like it was almost trying to be a children’s movie, but it also felt like it was a little too slow and dark in parts for the younger audience.

The cast does a mostly fine job in this movie.  I really like Martin Freeman, and he was able to bring a good deal of comedy with small mannerisms in his performance.  He also got a few moments of true badassdom near the end of the movie, which I didn’t necessarily expect out of Bilbo.  Ian McKellen is Ian McKellen.  No point even bothering to say that dude is awesome.  I did think he was generally used as a sort of deus ex machina during the movie, disappearing for long stretches of time and popping in at the last minute to save the team when Tolkien may have written himself into a corner.  “We’ll just keep amping this scene up more and more until eventually everyone is at the mercy of a group of Trolls and there’s no hope for salvation.”  “Then what?”  “Uh…Gandalf…?”  “…It’ll do…”  I didn’t take issue with Sylvester McCoy’s performance of Radagast the Brown, but I did generally feel as if all of the time I spent with that character was a waste of my time.  If all parts involving him were dropped out of the movie, no one would notice.  And the movie would be about a half hour shorter.  And he did the shittiest job of leading the Orcs away from the Dwarves.  He brought them on nearly intersecting paths with the fleeing Dwarves like 20 times.  How about this?  If you want to lead a group away from another group, go in the opposite direction.  Try that out next time.  I also appreciated that they had reappearances from every character they could logically fit into the movie.  Elijah Wood is in this for a little bit, Hugo Weaving comes back, Cate Blanchett returns as that overly creepy Elf chick, Christopher Lee pops in for a bit, and Gimli is technically in this movie as well, but only because his father Glóin is one of the Dwarves and I assume Gimli was in his balls somewhere.

I found myself a little bit embittered by some of the things in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but overall I’d say it was a pretty good movie.  It’s way too long and it felt like they wasted too much time, even though they apparently felt that the story could not be contained to one (or even two) movies, but the epic scale and great action (when it happens) make it passable.  So long as you’re more patient than I am and go in knowing that the stuff you might know about the Hobbit don’t actually happen in this movie, you should be fine seeing it in theaters.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey gets “True courage is not about knowing when to take a life … but when to spare one” out of “A dark power has found a way back into the world.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)


You Won’t Be The First Pig I’ve Gutted!

Time for another request from the long list of movies requested by Fabio.  This time he really showed his roots as a Mexican (or whatever the hell he is) by requesting a movie that was entirely in Spanish.  It was also a movie that was easy for me to get a hold of since I already owned the movie on BluRay, but it was curious because the case was still wrapped in cellophane.  I had no recollection of the fact that this movie was in Spanish before I started watching it.  If I had remembered that, I probably would’ve put it off until I could have gotten some Taco Bell.  It just seems right.  I know that I bought this movie on BluRay because I remember it being a visually glorious movie, but I’m not sure why I never opened it.  Did I not like the movie?  If so, why’d I buy it?  It’s not like I haven’t done that before, though.  Having no other memories of this movie, I was a little nervous going in because I had a feeling the explanation was that I didn’t care for the movie.  But I had to find out, and you can find out as well as I review El Laberinto del Fauno, more commonly known as Pan’s Labyrinth, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, and starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Ariadna Gil, Doug Jones, Maribel Verdú, Álex Angulo, Manolo Solo, César Vea, Roger Casamajor, Frederico Luppi, and Pablo Adán.

In 1944, in a post-Civil War Spain, a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is traveling with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to an outpost run by her new stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi López).  On the way to the outpost, Ofelia finds a large insect that she randomly decides is a fairy, either because she loves fairy tales or because she loves crystal meth.  When they arrive at the mill, the insect leads Ofelia to an ancient labyrinth in a nearby forest, but she’s stopped before she can enter by one of Vidal’s maids – who also is working as a spy for the rebels – named Mercedes (Maribel Verdú).  She returns later that night and finds a faun (Doug Jones) that tells her she’s the reincarnated Princess of the underworld, Moanna.  He gives her three tasks that she must accomplish by the next full moon to prove that she has not become too human since her reincarnation.  She tries to accomplish these tasks while Vidal is trying to root out the rebels while Mercedes and Doctor Ferreiro (Álex Angulo) is trying to help them, and Carmen is having difficulties with her pregnancy.

I’ve decided that the reason I had not opened this movie is not because I didn’t like it.  It’s because it’s fucking depressing.  But it is indeed a good movie.  It’s one of the most depressing fairy tales you can find.  The kind a mom that hates you would tell you in your childhood.  But really it’s your fault.  She had such a good figure before you tore out of that vagina.  The darkness of the fairy tale is shown alongside the darkness of a small scale war story, and maybe even a little bit of family drama mixed in there.  The war story is fairly typical, just being your usual army versus rebel situation with a just as common situation involving a spy.  The family drama is pretty typical too, mainly being about the new stepparent that the old kid doesn’t like.  But the addition of the fairy tale takes all commonness out of the equation.  That’s when Guillermo del Toro’s psychosis really displays itself.  It’s colorful and a visual delight to behold, but also pretty demented.  You’ve got stick bugs that turn into fairies and scrawny creatures with loose skin and eyeballs in his hands that bites their heads off.  I like the story of this movie just fine, but I’ve always said about Guillermo del Toro that you can say the story isn’t that good, but you can never say they lack imagination.  And they’re usually pretty brutal too.  Early on in the movie, there’s a scene where Captain Vidal bashes a dude’s face in with a bottle that reminded me a lot of a similar scene from Irreversible, where the bottle was exchanged with a fire extinguisher but being able to see the effect of every strike was the same.

All of the performances in the movie were great.  The actors all did a great job, but the most praise goes to Ivana Baquero as Ofelia.  That little girl tugged at my heartstrings on more than one occasion, but her character got on my nerves on occasion.  First of all, what about this giant stick bug makes you think “fairy”?  I work with people that are more like fairies than that.  BOOYAH!  That joke is just for my coworkers.  I also got irritated with her when she went into the area with the guy with eyes in his hands because they gave you one simple rule and you ignored it.  Were those two grapes so satisfying that you just had to have them, despite the warning you were given, the creepy monster sitting in the room, and the fairies trying so desperately to stop you?  When has there ever been a story when someone would completely ignore some divine, magical being’s one rule just to eat a piece of fruit, only to later find out you’re naked and you get kicked out of Eden?  I’ve confused myself.  I also really liked Maribel Verdú as the tough but scared, fierce but compassionate housekeeper Mercedes.  Sergi López was somewhat one-dimensional in his role, but most villains are.  It’s a tough sell to add layers and risk you feeling compassion for the person you’re supposed to hate, but I actually did feel a little twinge of sadness for him in the interaction between him and Mercedes about what she would tell his son at the end of the movie.  Ariadna Gil was also good as Ofelia’s mother, but most of her role just required her to be sickly and bed-ridden.

I found out today that the reason I had purchased Pan’s Labyrinth on BluRay but refused to open it was not because it was a visually appealing bad movie, but because it was a visually appealing vaguely depressing movie.  But it’s still a good one.  2/3 of the story is somewhat typical, but that last third is so full of imagination and creativity that you have to really think about it to figure that out.  The look is fantastic all the way through, and often gross and creepy, but it’s all amazing to behold.  And the performances, especially by Ivana Baquero, are all fantastic.  This is a good movie, worth a purchase for sure, even if you never open it because it’s too sad.  Pan’s Labyrinth gets “Your spirit shall forever remain among the humans” out of “Last night, a fairy visited me.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)


Where’s Hell Boy When You Need Him?

I was inspired to watch today’s movie by … uh … it being on Netflix.  That’s all it takes sometimes.  I’ve done quite a few review requests lately and felt like I needed to do a little something for me.  That doesn’t really explain why I decided to watch this movie though.  I didn’t have any super strong need to see this movie, but it did pique my interest.  I don’t know if it was the director that was attached … because it wasn’t directed by who I thought it was.  He just presented it.  Though I’ve not always been a fan of this guy’s movies, I am usually intrigued by his artistic direction.  So I said, “What the hell?  I’ll give it a go.”  Then I sat down and watched Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, written by Matthew Robbins and Guillermo del Toro, directed by Troy Nixey, and starring Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Garry McDonald, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake, Nicholas Bell, Edwina Ritchard, and Alan Dale.

A long time ago in Providence County, Rhode Island, Emerson Blackwood (Garry McDonald) has lost his mind.  You can assume this much based on the fact that he kills his housekeeper (Edwina Ritchard) with a hammer and chisel in order to offer her teeth to the tiny creatures that live in his stove.  But it turns out he might not be that crazy.  The tiny creatures have taken his son into the bottom of the fireplace and take Blackwood for trying to offer them adult teeth.  In what is supposed to be the present day, people are using Polaroid cameras for some reason.  They’re using them to take pictures of a young girl named Sally Hirst (Bailee Madison) who has been sent by her mother to live with her father Alex (Guy Pearce).  The pictures are being taken by his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes).  Sally gets right on top of being a little mopey bitch and shunning Kim’s attempts to get close to her.  In the house, the tiny creatures awaken in the ash pit.  Sally stumbles across a window that looks into the basement, causing Alex to find the basement door, hidden by a false wall, much to the chagrin of one of the workmen, Mr. Harris (Jack Thompson).  Sally gets really interested in the ash pit, to the point of removing the bolts that held the fireplace door shut.  Then shit starts going down.

I found this movie to be completely underwhelming.  It’s an interesting enough premise for a horror movie, but they never land on the scares.  I feel like it suffers from the same problem that most horror movies suffer from: that CG allows them to show their creatures.  I know nothing of the original movie this movie was based on, but I know that the little creatures that pestered the people of the house were mildly creepy at first, but you saw them so many times throughout the movie that they completely lost their ability to scare and just wound up being a slight step up in freakiness than some really annoying rats.  And without scares, it must rely on its story to be interesting, but it can’t really live up to it.  It’s basically just a movie about ruining the idea of tooth fairies for any kids unfortunate enough to stumble across this movie, that hadn’t already had the idea of the tooth fairy ruined by The Rock or Larry the Cable Guy.  Then there’s a pretty typical little kid being tormented by something supernatural, but no one believes her, as well as some stuff about the stepmother-type figure trying to win over the daughter that blames her for her parents’ problems.  Nothing’s completely shocking and it mostly turns out exactly like you expect.  But there were also a lot of things that bothered me.  At one point, Alex says that Kim would be a terrible poker player because she’s “been ironing that shirt for hours.”  Yeah, that’s a big tell, when you start ironing a shirt at a poker table.  I understand that you were TRYING to say that she was doing a poor job masking her concern, but your statement did little to convey that.  One of the bigger issues I took could be forgiven, but follows with something I can’t.  I can get behind Alex and Kim being too stupid and curious to think there was probably a reason that the basement door was not only locked, but they put a wall up in front of it.  Without that curiosity, there would be no movie.  What I cannot condone is the douchebag groundskeeper, Mr. Harris, being so clearly aware of why it was sealed up and refusing to say anything.  They probably wouldn’t have believed your tales of fairies that eat teeth living in the stove, but you could’ve tried.  At least you were the first one punished for your silence.  Then you have the next annoyingly stupid curiosity on the part of the little kid.  When I was a kid of her age, there is no way I would open up a stove that was conspicuously tightly sealed because I heard creepy voices inside calling my name.  I think I’d have the opposite reaction and would try to pour cement in there.  The kid can’t be blamed completely, as she was only really able to loosen the bolts and the creatures were able to unscrew them from behind … somehow.  I would really like to try to see how easy it is to unscrew bolts from the inside, because I get the feeling it’s nearly impossible after a certain point when you can’t grip them anymore.  And, if the fairies had this ability, why did they not do it earlier?  But the kid is also pretty stupid.  When she’s given the teddy bear that says, “I love you,” she disregards it as stupid.  Later, when the fairies are manipulating it and it’s still just saying, “I love you,” she asks it if it can talk.  It could talk before, you daft git!  The ending of the movie was also a bummer.  At first, it was kind of sad what happened.  Then, it was just stupid.  I guess the nicest thing I could say about this movie is that it’s only an hour and nine minutes.

The look of the movie was fine enough, but I found myself being a bit disappointed.  It’s mainly due to Guillermo del Toro’s involvement.  I thought he was the director of the movie, so I expected, if nothing else, it would be a visually striking movie.  I wouldn’t say I like his movies, but I like how they look.  When this movie had none of that to it, I was bummed out.  It’s a pretty basic looking movie.  It’s thankfully not as dark as you might expect a movie about creatures that are injured by light to be.  Well, technically, they acted more irritated by light.  It’s not the kind of movie that’s overly graphic; I can only think of two occasions in the movie that are actually brutal.  One was when Mr. Harris is attacked by the creatures with various tools, such as a utility knife and a screwdriver.  The second was less bloody, but bothered me more.  It was when someone’s leg gets pulled back really hard and snaps backwards.  As someone who’s broken their leg before, it made me uncomfortable.  There was also a point in the beginning when you could hear the scraping of the chisel Lord Blackwood had on the housekeeper’s teeth that made my skin crawl.  Beyond that, you just see the creatures too much and they lose their effect.  And their constant whispering irritated me fairly quickly.  Imagine an entire movie about Harry Potter speaking in Parseltongue.  Losing the effect of the creatures left them to try to go for cheap scares, like the drawn out scene of the girl looking under the sheets, but I’ve seen that kind of scene before and we all knew what was going to happen.  I think there was a ghost movie that did the whole sheet thing and had some ghost feet in there.  Wasn’t scary then either.

I can’t think of any performance in this movie that really worked for me.  A great deal of that responsibility is due to Bailee Madison.  She wasn’t a particularly bad actress, but her character was such a little bitch for the first half of the movie.  It’s probably not a popular belief system, but I am all for kicking a little girl in the throat for being a little snot like that.  Too far?  I’ll reel it back.  She did get on my nerves terribly bad.   I got the feeling that, if Katie Holmes had gotten to name her, she would’ve been named Surly Cruise.  Yeah!  I stayed up all night writing that joke!  Katie Holmes’ character didn’t bother me that much.  She seemed a little dumb at first, but was thankfully the first one to start believing the kid.  I always find myself getting annoyed with the parents when they act like everything the kid’s saying is horseshit even with all the signs to the contrary.  Speaking of which, Guy Pearce!  That was my description of his character in the movie.  The actual parent was just waiting to yell, “You’re full of shit,” every time the little girl started talking.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark made no impact whatsoever on my fear of the dark.  First of all, I don’t like being told what to do.  And second, it wasn’t very scary.  There was no suspense, no chills, and the creatures may be unsettling on the first viewing, but lose their steam pretty quickly as you see them about as much as you see any other character in the movie.  The premise is interesting, the delivery is not, and I found the majority of the performances irritating.  Not the worst movie, and at least it’s pretty short, but there’s no good reason to watch it.  Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark gets “Turn off the lights” out of “Don’t tell me you believe this.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Puss in Boots (2011)


Is It True That a Cat Always Lands on It’s Feet?

I take no shame in the fact that I have never cared for the Shrek series.  They never worked for me, and I could not be swayed by the accolades showered upon it by the majority of the people I’ve spoken to about the series.  Regardless of my aversion, they still managed to crank out four of the things, all of which dropped in quality exponentially with each release.  The second Shrek movie introduced a new character based on an older fairy tale, and one that gained popularity due to the character’s cuteness.  When they finally felt that they had drained the life out of the Shrek series, Dreamworks found a way to get a few more drops out of the series by taking that character and giving him a spinoff.  Let’s see how that went in my review for Puss in Boots, written by Tom Wheeler, Brian Lynch, and Will Davies, directed by Chris Miller, and starring the voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Sedaris, Billy Bob Thornton, Constance Marie, and Guillermo del Toro.

Before the time when Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) met Shrek, he had a few adventures of his own.  The most notable is when he teamed up with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and his old friend from their orphan childhood Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis).  Puss and Humpty had a spotty past.  As Puss was becoming the hero of their small town, Humpty was getting into trouble.  It escalated until Humpty tricked Puss into robbing a bank with him, leaving both to lives as outlaws, a title that followed Puss around, even though he left Humpty to his fate with the guards.  Seemingly reformed, Humpty manages to talk Puss into joining him and Kitty in their quest for the magic beans that will lead them to the Golden Goose, with the promise that the goose’s golden eggs will be used to pay back their small town for what they stole so many years ago.  Their first step is to acquire the magic beans from Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris).

Anything to do with Shrek still fails to hit home with me.  This was a cute movie, and one that kids will probably love, but it doesn’t have very much to offer adults.  The story is fine enough.  There’s a whole story of redemption, adventure, and betrayal, and you probably won’t see parts of it coming.  The problem was that the comedy wasn’t really there, and the action was toned down and spread out.  Most of their comedy was vaguely slapsticky for the kids, but they rarely ventured into something for adults.  One attempt they made was a joke about “golden eggs” in the beginning, and indicating towards someone’s balls for it.  This was okay for adults, and probably over the heads of kids, but it was only vaguely funny.  The most comedy I found in the movie was based around Puss acting like a cat.  When he started chasing a light around, trying to catch it, it was both cute and amusing in the same way as it is when my cats do it.  And by that, I mean that I get bored after 30 seconds and kick them to make them stop acting retarded.  You can’t catch light!  I am so intellectually superior to you!  They had a couple action scenes, but ruined a couple of them with strange choices.  After a rooftop pursuit, Puss finally catches up with the masked cat that ruined his heist and, to settle the score, they start a dance battle.  He’s carrying a sword, y’know?  I won’t spoil it for you by saying who got served in this fight, but someone should’ve gotten skewered instead.  There were a few other hit-and-miss action scenes in the movie, but the good ones were too short and the others were just missed opportunities.  There’s also a lot of set up to a gigantic, scary creature called The Terror that ends up being pretty disappointing.  I understand that their choice to make the creature not as scary as they built it up to was their choice, but it was kind of a buzzkill.

The cast performed well, but were also fairly disappointing.  I don’t really understand the choice to take people like Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek and turn them into cats.  The bulk of the appeal for those two people is their looks, so taking that away makes me lose my interest.  They did a good enough job at it, but I’d rather just go watch Desperado.  That way, I can see Salma’s boobs.  The biggest disappoint for me was Zach Galifianakis.  Zach was one of my favorite comedians long before everyone else jumped on board when he did the Hangover (Hipster statement), but he seemed to not be allowed to be funny in this movie.  Most of his comedy is probably stuff that could not be included in a kid friendly movie, but his character in this movie either attempted comedy with a couple of really bad puns, or occasionally with some physical humor that really had nothing to do with him.  He performed the character well, but I wished they would’ve let the funniest person in this movie be funny a little.  Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris performed their parts well also, but weren’t in it very much.

I can’t say that I really expected that much going into this movie.  I knew it was a kid movie, and I knew that it would have similarities to the Shrek series that never interested me, but I give these things a chance.  The story was fine, but the comedy flopped, and the good performances felt wasted.  Your kids will probably like this – as they’ll probably like anything with moving shapes that fall down occasionally – but you might get bored by the halfway point.  You can skip this movie.  Puss in Boots gets “It ain’t over-easy!” out of “You have made the cat angry.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!