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.”

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Alien Resurrection (1997)


I’m the Monster’s Mother.

We’ve come to the conclusion of the Alien series, but not quite to the end of the movies that I’ll be reviewing that are like it.  I feel like the review series wouldn’t be complete if I neglected to review the film that finds out what happens when Aliens come up against Predators, which also means I should review Predator.  But that’ll come in the next couple of days.  Today is the final Alien movie, which I remember being fairly fond of for whatever reason, but Rotten Tomatoes still does not show this movie favor.  Who will be wrong?  Rotten Tomatoes, obviously, but I’ll write some words to explain why.  First, I’m awesome and always right.  Second, my review of Alien Resurrection, written by Joss Whedon, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and starring Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, J.E. Freeman, Michael Wincott, Gary Dourdan, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Kim Flowers, Raymond Cruz, and Leland Orser.

Since they killed Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the previous movie, we’re going to have to be introduced to our new protagonist of the Alien series.  That comes in the form of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) … wait … Cloning?  Oh movie…  You are the sillies.  Ellen Ripley has been cloned because humanity really wants to get its hands on the creature that seems to do nothing but kill them and her clone would have the queen in her chest.  They successfully clone her and remove the queen, but keep her alive for study because her DNA has been mixed up with that of the Xenomorph queen.  After a while, the crew of the mercenary ship called the Betty show up with a bunch of people in stasis for General Perez (Dan Hedaya), who wants to use the people as hosts for the aliens.  Unbeknownst to the crew of the Betty, their newest member and engineer Annalee Call (Winona Ryder), joined up with them to get onto the ship and kill Ripley and the alien menace, but she’s too late because the Xenomorphs have already escaped and gotten to what they do best.

I still like this movie.  It’s still not really comparable to Alien or Aliens, but it was lucky enough to follow Alien3, making it that much better in comparison.  Also, Joss Whedon wrote it, so it probably gets some love just for that.  Of course, I didn’t know that until this viewing and I still thought it was pretty good.  Once you get past the initial annoyance of the return of Ripley being based on cloning, you can let yourself enjoy the movie.  Sure, the cloning thing is a bit of an easy solution to a problem, but it also opens up for some things that I found interesting, like Ripley basically being a superhero with super strength, senses, and acidic blood.  It also opened the story up for some things that I didn’t dig on very much, like the hybrid alien.  Sure, it looked icky as hell, but the Xenomorphs are way scarier and far more badass-looking.  For instance, I’m going to be a little afraid of an alien with no nose and dripping white skin, but then I’m going to look down and see its tiny alien boobies that it has for some reason and I’ll probably be dying laughing.  And that’s not a good thing when the regular Xenomorphs look as awesome as they’ve ever looked in this movie.  They have never been constantly wetter.  The rest of the story kind of unfolds as you’d expect as this story seems like mostly Whedon’s love letter to the Alien series, but that also makes things less surprising.  One of the characters turns out to be a robot, the army in this one makes fun of the company for not being able to handle the Xenomorphs while making the same mistakes, Ripley’s going to win.  Not a whole lot of surprises, but it’s still got a lot of cool going on.  I liked the underwater scene where the group had to pass through an area underwater while being chased by a couple of Xenomorphs, for instance.  I also liked when one of the characters used the alien bursting out of his chest to kill someone.  And the way they defeat the last alien in the movie is pretty awesome, and extremely icky.  The way the Xenomorphs escape their captivity by sacrificing one of their own is also very clever.  I like when they make them smarter than your average monster, but I wasn’t that fond of the aliens pressing the red button that was once used to punish them to kill the soldier, as awesome looking as that death was.  It just doesn’t seem like their style.  They’re plenty good at killing without the use of buttons and liquid nitrogen.  Speaking of better ways to kill things, though I liked the emotional impact of the scene with all the failed Ripley clones, it seems like there are better and quicker ways to kill them than using a flamethrower.

Most of the performances were good in this movie.  I would say this is the movie where Sigourney Weaver brings Ripley to the full potential of badass.  She’s got superpowers and she knows it.  It’s kind of the opposite of how she was a badass in Aliens.  In this movie she never seems afraid, so she’s just a badass because she’s the toughest one in the room, where in Aliens she was just the toughest because she did what she had to even though she was afraid.  Still an interesting character though.  I also really liked Winona Ryder in this movie.  For my money, she’s never been hotter in any movie I’ve seen her in.  There’s something about that lady that is a little bit of alright.  Although her sexuality never really came into play in her performance.  Her performance was more about hating on someone for not being human, which is completely ironic given what we find out about her later.  I also liked Gary Dourdan’s character.  Sure, he did a lot of things that I’m sure the Mythbusters wouldn’t take kindly to, like crazy ricochet shots to kill people, but he was also pretty badass and had a great look as well.  I did get a little confused by his death though.  I mean, he just got a little acid burn on his face.  There was no reason he couldn’t grab back onto the ladder and live a little while longer.  There’s also no reason that he couldn’t survive the short fall into the water that apparently killed him for good.

Alien Resurrection was much better than Alien3, but still far inferior to Alien and Aliens.  The story is good once you get past the BS cloning thing, the look is good, the action is over the top and fun, and a lot of the performances are still solid.  It’s a somewhat acceptable end to the series, but of course I wouldn’t have minded another one.  But, at this point, they’d probably have to replace Ripley, and I don’t think I’m down for that.  It’ll do, I suppose.  Alien Resurrection gets “Ellen Ripley died trying to wipe this species out.  For all intents and purposes, she succeeded” out of “Must be a chick thing.”

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The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (2012)


I Will Rise Again, Like a Bad Idea

I’m extremely apprehensive going into this movie.  Generally speaking, sequels that get worse do so exponentially as the movies go along.  The Scorpion King was solid, number two was awful, so what could number three possibly be?  It doesn’t really matter, does it?  It’s been requested!  Eric wanted this movie reviewed, so I’m gonna do it!  Today’s movie has some big names in it, but ones that I have seen both in great movies and in complete shit.  It also has a WWE wrestler and a MMA fighter in it.  Now I’m nervous again.  Today’s movie is The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption, written by Brendan Cowles, Shane Kuhn, and Randall McCormick, directed by Roel Reine, and starring Victor Webster, Bostin Christopher, Billy Zane, Krystal Vee, Ron Perlman, Temuera Morrison, Selina Lo, Dave Batista, and Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson.

Mathayus (Victor Webster) is having a hard time dealing with the death of his wife, Cassandra (Kelly Hu), and also dealing with being played by three different people.  He gets through his days as a mercenary now.  Egypt is now divided into three kingdoms, ruled by Horus (Ron Perlman), Talus (Billy Zane), and Ramusan (Temuera Morrison).  Talus is looking to steal the Book of the Dead from Ramusan, and Horus wants to stop him from doing that.  Horus hires Mathayus and sticks him with a fat guy named Olaf (Bostin Christopher), just in case there was ever a time when people weren’t saying things.  They get to Ramusan and manage to stop a raid from Talus.  As payment, Ramusan offers Mathayus his daughter, Silda (Krystal Vee), to marry, but Mathayus must first rescue her.  In an attempt to rescue her, they are beaten to the punch by some ninja looking dudes that take Silda to the camp of Rebel leader, Cobra.  But they soon find that Cobra is actually just Silda, and she enlists their help in stopping Talus.  Meanwhile, Talus takes over Ramusan’s palace and retrieves the Book of the Dead, using it to summon three ghost warriors, Tsukai (Selina Lo), Agromael (Dave Batista), and Zulu Kondo (Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson).  Mathayus, Olaf, and Silda must work together to overcome Talus, his army, and his three mystical warriors to stop his campaign to rule all of Egypt.

Your plan backfired, Eric!  This movie wasn’t that bad.  Should you watch it?  Nah.  But after watching SK2, this one was actually a step up.  But, since I only watched SK2 in order to watch this movie, I guess you still did your damage.  The story of this movie is slightly worse than The Scorpion King, but it’s hindered a little bit by lack of fun.  In this movie’s case, it’s kind of intentional.  Mathayus is so mopey for the first 2/3 of the movie because of his loss of Cassandra and his kingdom that he’s got no time to be fun.  Around the end of the movie, it gets slightly more fun.  There are, of course, lots of things done in the writing that make no sense.  At one point, Mathayus and Olaf wake up to find out they are completely surrounded by tigers.  Their solution?  Walk away.  This could have been something cool.  Hell, it could have been SOMETHING.  Instead, it just served no purpose whatsoever in the movie.  The dialogue, on the other hand, is probably the worst that’s it’s been in this series so far.  Some of the regular exposition is fine, but their little “witty comments” are almost all loses.  When Mathayus and Olaf get robbed in the beginning and are beating up the robbers, he actually throws out “Crime doesn’t pay.”  When one of them falls in the fire and is running while on fire, he says “I’ll take mine rare.”  When sparring with Mathayus, Silda kicks him in the stomach and says “I take your breath away.”  And finally, when Talus is reaching his inevitable end, he claims “I will rise again, like a bad idea.”  Speaking of bad ideas: all of those lines.  And more, I’m sure.  The look of the film has it’s ups and downs.  For some ups: no shitty CG creatures.  They probably couldn’t afford good CG for this movie and so they didn’t do any.  They had some great settings, some impressive animals in the movie, decent enough fights, and the effects on the three ghost warriors were pretty cool.  They had another nondescript sword, but it was more tolerable because it wasn’t some super fancy mystical sword.  But it was a little tiny and not impressive.  Ladies?  There was also a scene where the ninjas attacked Olaf and Mathayus by jumping out of the water, and that looked pretty cool.  The problem was that they jumped out of the water that Olaf was peeing in a moment before, so dude basically just got piss all over him.  But some parts of the movie were filmed with something that seemed to be a handheld camera.  Handheld camera footage has it’s place, mainly in found footage type movies.  In most other movies, it’s just nauseating.  We’re trying to watch a fight, get a cameraman without Parkinson’s!

The performances are mostly okay in this movie.  Victor Webster wasn’t nearly as fun as The Rock was, but he was pretty good.  He was mostly brooding with a little bit of snark to him now and then, but all in all he was okay.  Krystal Vee was good looking, but delivered dialogue in a very wooden way a couple of times.  Billy Zane never really seemed like he was taking this gig seriously, acting pretty hammed up for most of his time, but he did have some parts where he was pretty good.  But when you pull off someone’s ear and start talking into it, I stop taking you seriously.  Ron Perlman and Temuera Morrison weren’t in the movie very long, but they performed their parts adequately.  Bostin Christopher, however, was in the movie a lot, and really worked on my nerves.  Not only was he a fat white guy that I imagine would get winded swinging a sword, but he also would not shut up.  He just kept talking and talking and not saying anything remotely interesting or necessary.  I know the Scorpion King movies have gotten into the habit of having someone around as “comic relief”, but you also have to make them funny.  Here’s the biggest shock of the movie: Kimbo Slice was actually good.  I don’t get it either!  You can kind of understand it from a WWE person like the Rock because they have to do a lot of talking at the camera, but from a MMA guy?  He had very little dialogue, but he had a great look for his part in the movie and I liked everything he did in the movie.  Add in some fiery red eyes and a flaming hammer and it works.  Speaking of WWE people, I was not impressed with Dave Batista.  From what I’ve seen of him in the WWE, he doesn’t do a lot of talking anyway, and he keeps that up here, but he didn’t work for me.  But he was better than Selina Lo.  She was really good looking, but very stiff in her delivery and I was thrown off by the fact that she would randomly scream in battle, but not when actually fighting people.  You can get by that by muting whenever she’s on screen.  Then it’s all good.

The Scorpion King 3 is far superior to The Scorpion King 2, but sadly both pale in comparison to the first movie.  The story is better, the dialogue is mostly awful, the performances are good enough, but some of the fights are good if you don’t get sick watching the shitty hand camera stuff.  But, even though this movie is better than SK2, you don’t need to watch it.  I don’t know why you would consider it, but you can stop it now.  You’re all set.  The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption gets “I’ll take mine rare” out of “I take your breath away.”

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Conan the Barbarian (2011)


Barbarian, I Don’t Like You Anymore

I felt a little bad about my review from yesterday.  In the Smurfs, I claimed that Hollywood was out of ideas and that it would be rare to see a new idea turned into a movie as opposed to remaking things from the 80’s and turning them shitty.  I don’t want to depress my audience, so I decided I would watch a movie that was a brand new idea.  This movie is Conan the Barbarian.  I feel this movie fits because there have never been comic books, games, and movies about this character before.  Conan the Barbarian was written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood, and Robert E. Howard (because more writers means more good and not that it was passed around in a desperate attempt to save it before the words “Fuck it” were used), directed by Marcus Nispel, and starring Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Leo Howard, Ron Perlman, Bob Sapp, Said Taghmaoui, and the voice of Morgan Freeman.

Way back in the day, a bunch of sorcerers got together and created a mask made from the skulls of dead kings and infused with the blood of their daughters.  The mask grants it’s wearer the ability to control the peoples of the world.  Except for the barbarians, it seems, as those guys kill the sorcerers and smash the mask, giving a piece of it to each barbarian leader to keep them seperate, secret, and safe.  A long time later, a pregnant chick gets stabbed in the stomach in the middle of a battle.  At her request, the leader of that tribe of Barbarians, her husband Corin (Ron Perlman), cuts the baby out of her so she can see him before she dies.  Halfway into growing up, Conan (Leo Howard), is showing signs of being a brave and strong warrior so his dad and him make a sword for Conan, but he can’t have it until he understands it.  Their village is invaded by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who is looking for their piece of the mask in order to use it to bring back his dead wife.  Zym’s daughter, Marique (Ivana Staneva right now, but Rose McGowan later), locates the piece, Zym kills Conan’s dad, and they leave Conan to die.  Instead, he gets big and buff and good at killing when he becomes Jason Momoa.  It should come with no great shock that Conan wants revenge on Zym.  Also, he has a love story with Tamara (Rachel Nichols).

This … is not a good movie.  I put ellipses in there in order to spread out the surprise for you.  Also, I found out while writing that that there apparently already was two Conan movies, a TV show, a couple of video games, and comic books, so this character isn’t nearly as original as I facetiously thought.  The story is pretty typical, the acting is pretty bad, and even the action is not that interesting.  You can accept bad acting and writing in an action movie if they’re fun, but this movie isn’t fun.  In comparing the story of this movie to the original (which I have seen, all of the sudden), parts of it do work better, but not enough of it.  I felt like the main bad guy’s motivations were better in this film.  In the first movie, Thulsa Doom is just motivated by power as far as I can remember, and is basically just killing random barbarian tribes to find out the mystery of steel or some junk.  That’s not a really solid idea to get behind. Wanting to revive your dead wife with pieces of a bone mask makes more sense.  Well, not more sense, but at least he had a motivation.  I did like the part about Conan being born on the battlefield, not just because it was the first recorded c-section, but because it gave a cool reason for Conan to be so good at ass-kicking.  It did kid of jump to him already being in shape with nothing in between, where the original made him a slave that got buff from pushing a wheel by himself and getting good at battle from being forced to fight to the death after his slavery.  Both of them work pretty well.  Of course, a lot of the things don’t work.  The dialogue, for example.  All of it.  The ones that got me the most are the lines delivered right before someone is killed, lines that should be all badass and sweet that instead didn’t make sense and deflate the audience.  One part was when one of Zym’s soldiers was trying to take Tamara from Conan and they got to talking about who has a claim on what.  Conan says “I have a claim to you” and the other guy asks “What claim is that?”  Conan responds “Death”.  …That doesn’t make any sense at all.  I realize you’re trying to say something like “I’ll kill you if you try to take her”, and you probably should have said that instead of something that made zero sense.  In the final battle between Conan and Zym, Zym actually has the gall to say “Barbarian, I don’t like you anymore”.  Them’s fightin’ words, Zym!  They probably cut out the part where he says “And you’re not coming to my birthday party no more neither!”  It was too brutal for the movie.  Probably the biggest problem I had with the movie is the title.  He’s not even really Conan the Barbarian!  Once he’s grown up, he runs a ship that lands and frees slaves, then drinks and fights in bars.  He’s more like Conan the Pirate.

The look of the movie is fairly lackluster as well.  The violence is fairly well captured with lots of CG animated blood and body parts removed from the body.  The part that makes it lackluster is that they didn’t seem to pay much attention to making it work.  Some of the computer generated things don’t match their lighting to the background and some of the green-screened backdrops are pretty obvious.  It seems as if they rushed the movie a little bit.  They had these sand warriors at one part that would pop out of the sand to attack Conan, then jump back down into the sand.  When they were CG, they weren’t convincing, but they were okay when they were real people.  It also didn’t really make sense because these sand guys would keep popping up behind Conan and he couldn’t do much to fight them, but there was also a set of stairs behind him that he could’ve climbed up instead of just standing in the middle of the sand they were using against him.  But he’s a barbarian, so he probably isn’t that bright.  They also tended to use a lot of slo-mo, but sometimes they used it in scenes where it didn’t really make sense.  Take, for instance, when he takes a step and the camera is close up on his foot.  That’s it.  He took a step and they made it slo-mo.

The acting was pretty bad here as well.  I was pretty uninterested in anything Jason Momoa was doing throughout the movie, which is probably not what you want out of your main character.  He had the look for it, and the physicality to pull off the stunts, but not the acting chops to make me pay attention.  Stephen Lang wasn’t that interesting either.  Both he and Momoa had this odd characteristic in their fighting scenes where they wouldn’t be engaged in battle but just posting up and taunting at their opponent where they would let out strange grunts like what you would hear when they’re actually crossing swords, but without the physical activity to accompany it, it just seems weird.  Rachel Nichols’ best feature was that she was hot and got her body double’s boobs out here.  She was cute in her performance as well, but the whole character could have disappeared with no great loss.  I prefer her in green body paint trying to have sex with Kirk in the new Star Trek movie.  Rose McGowan is USUALLY hot, but they really fucked her up for this movie.  She’s usually wearing clothes that are decently revealing, but they applied this thing to her head that extended her forehead as if she shaved her head in a line from her ears to the top of her head.  I’m usually down with some McGown, but I wasn’t here.  Ron Perlman was fine in this movie.  Also, I’m beginning to think that all of Hollywood has just agreed that Morgan Freeman is the universal narrator for any movie.

This is a movie that didn’t need to be remade, but I might be interested in a remake that sticks to the original but ups the ante in graphics and fight scenes.  The original movie still works, so you can only do it if you make it better.  No one told these people that.  They kind of fucked up the story, but not too drastically.  The big fuck ups were in the graphics and the performances, and perhaps the random, unnecessary grunts.  I definitely think you should watch Conan the Barbarian, but by that I mean the 1982 version.  The 2011 version gets “By Crom, this sucks” out of “I want your head”.

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Tangled (2010)


That’s a Lot of Hair

I really wish I went into these reviews with any foresight. When my friend suggested I review the movie Tangled, I knew she wanted me to review the animated Disney movie. After I watched it, I went to the interwebs to get the information I needed to write my review and found out there was another movie by the name of Tangled starring Rachel Leigh Cook. I was pressed for time this day so I was unable to do what I wanted, but I instantly regretted not having watched the other one. Not for the quality, but for the comedy. Unfortunately, I had no time. So let’s see how this much less amusing (to me) review of the animated Tangled goes, written by Jacob Grimm, directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, and starring the voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman, Jeffrey Tambor, Richard Kiel, Paul F. Tompkins, Tom Kenny, Fred Tatasciore, and the legendary Frank Welker.

A Queen becomes sick while preggers and her kingdom goes out to find a magic flower to keep her alive. It’s been kept secret by a greedy old broad that sings it a song to keep herself young. The soldiers find it and use it to save the Queen. The Queen has a baby with golden hair that will keep people young when the baby girl has the song recited to her. The old broad, Gothel (Donna Murphy), steals the baby and locks her up in a tower so she can be young forever. The downtrodden King and Queen send out lanterns on the baby’s birthday every year in hopes that the baby will see them. 18 years later, charismatic thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) steals the crown from the palace and is chased by guards to that very tower, where he is promptly clocked in the head with a frying pan wielded by the grown up Rapunzel (Mandy Moore). Gothel has forbidden Rapunzel to leave the tower, so Rapunzel hides Rider’s crown while he’s unconscious and uses it to bargain with him to lead her to see the lanterns she’s watched from her window if he wants it back. She originally wanted this as a gift for graduating out of jailbait status, but Gothel turned her down, so why not go to the cute guy with the same offer? At first, Rider is only trying to scare Rapunzel into chickening out of their deal, but eventually sparks of love show up. Gothel returns early to find Rapunzel gone and goes after her to convince her to return. And, since this is Disney, it ends in a really hopeless, depressing way.

In recent years, I have done all I can to argue with my friends in favor of classically animated Disney movies as opposed to computer animated Pixar movies. This has been pretty difficult as Pixar movies are so damned good and (at least recently) animated Disney has been either fairly lackluster or amazing movies with a 2 added to them being sent straight to DVD’s filled with suckitude. Watching Tangled, I found myself torn. Torn by the fact that this movie is a return to form for Disney, but at the cost of classic animation styles. A lot of the best Disney movies have been re-imaginings (or retellings) of classic stories, like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and now Rapunzel. And, from what I remember from the original story, this one makes a lot more sense. I guess, technically, the original story was just about kidnapping and some guy climbing hair, so that’s not that illogical, but it’s also not very interesting. The whole hair thing and staying young gives Gothel an actual reason to hold on to Rapunzel beyond something as simple as a grudge against her parents. And, as with the other Disney movies, they give their characters way more life and comedy than the original story allowed. Rapunzel was so cute and innocent, with a mastery of physical humor that made her character more than merely charming. Rider was fairly charming at first, but the true quality of the character was only revealed when he stopped with his facade. Gothel was not just evil, but grounded in ways that most Disney villains aren’t. Although women being overly obsessed with their appearances, even at the cost of the lives of others, actually is more common than I initially thought in Disney movies. I think that was the main motivation behind the Evil Queen in Snow White, but my memory is pretty foggy. All those parties in the 60’s have ruined my brain. The movie does kind of start with a big fuck you to the audience, but only if the audience is fairly gullible. It starts with narration by Flynn saying that he’s going to die within this story, which would be a very shocking and daring ending from a Disney movie, but no one should actually expect such a death will last. And, if Gothel wanted to keep that flower hidden so bad, why would she knock over the thing hiding it and not pay enough attention to notice it before the soldiers found the flower? Rookie move, Gothel. And the largest plot hole by far is that Rapunzel spends so much time alone in the tower baking but is still thin and attractive. Where do all those cookies go if not straight to her ass?

As a artist (of sorts) myself, I give a lot more credit to classic animation than to computer animation. Drawing a picture is difficult and time consuming, and drawing tons of pictures so that they will move when filmed is a million times that. Though I know it’s an exaggeration, I consider computer animation not much more difficult than what I am doing right now. It’s not true, I know, but my brain will not accept computer animation being more difficult, or even as difficult, as hand drawing. Because of this, Tangled bummed me out from the start. The fact that they did a great job with their animation made me feel much better, but my own biases kept me from enjoying it as much as I should have. That being said, the movie is beautifully animated, filled with colorful and gorgeous settings. They didn’t really go for realism with their characters (and who would want them to after Tron: Evolution), but they won with adorable, cartoony characters. First, can I say that animated babies are so much cuter than real babies? At least baby Rapunzel was. That’s right, parents! To hell with your babies! The animation style they use is amusing, with characters moving in an exaggerated, almost manga-esque style. When Rapunzel sees the lanterns from the lake, she doesn’t just realistically walk to the bow of the boat, she darts up there and climbs about the figurehead. It was adorable. Speaking of which, that little chameleon Pascal and the horse Maximus were both loaded with adorableness, although you have to wait for Rapunzel to meet Maximus and for him to start acting like a giant dog before you see his adorableness. As a little side note, I appreciate the ballsiness involved in not having Rapunzel tie up her hair until nearly the end of the movie. The easy way would have done that very early in the movie so they wouldn’t have to animate that hair all over the place, but they didn’t do that. Kudos for that.

I find that I really don’t have anything to say about the voice cast in this movie. It’s not that they did a bad job; quite to the contrary, in fact. They all did great. But, without them physically acting in the movie, I don’t really have much reaction to their performances. I give credit for their performances to the animators more than the voice actors. A voice actor can ruin it with bad acting, but I just didn’t feel overly impressed with the acting I couldn’t see. Except for Frank Welker, that is. You may not know that name, but you’ve heard him before. He usually doesn’t speak in the roles I’ve heard him do, but he’s legendary in the voice acting community for his ability to do any animal you need him to do AND give it personality. He did the “voice acting” for Pascal and Maximus. That guy’s amazing.

I assume you don’t suffer from the same biases as I do against computer animated movies. If that’s the case, you’ll probably adore this movie. With my present biases still intact – at least until extensive therapy fixes them – I still manged to really dig this movie, enough to purchase it immediately after viewing on BluRay. The story is classic Disney reinvigoration of an old fairy tale, the characters are charming and fantastically animated, and the voice actors do their thing. I just realized I made no mention of the fact that it’s a musical, and with good reason: because I didn’t hate it. The songs were nice and they fit nicely, so I didn’t hate it enough to pay it any mind. And since these reviews are all stream of consciousness, I’m not going to take that very sentence and move it up so that it seems I didn’t forget. I’m such a pro. I recommend Tangled, wholeheartedly. Tangled can have “I have made the decision to trust you” out of “Here comes the smolder”.

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!

Drive (2011)


Drive Sleepy

Today I headed out to the theater with my roommate to watch a movie.  I had not heard much about the movie beyond Ryan Gosling plays an assassin (which he actually doesn’t) and I made the assumption that there was to be some driving in this movie, based mainly on it’s title.  The movie was Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, and Christina Hendricks.

Drive is about an unnamed stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who works in a garage belonging to Shannon (Bryan Cranston) and also moonlights as a getaway driver.  He’s apparently really good at driving.  So good that Shannon goes to mobster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) to get financing in order to back the Driver and enter him into NASCAR.  Bernie agrees once he’s seen the Driver live up to his namesake and parallel park like no other.  Bernie’s brother, Nino (Ron Perlman), isn’t excited about his brother’s new business venture, but doesn’t pay it much mind.  Back at the Driver’s apartment (which is super shitty for someone with 3 high paying jobs), he starts getting close with his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio.  But then her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), comes back from jail to rejoin the family.  The Driver comes home to find Standard badly beaten with Benicio looking on.  He finds out that Standard owes protection money and was beaten because he refused to take on a job to rob a pawn shop.  The Driver agrees to help Standard with the job in order to get him and his family out of the situation for good.  The heist turns out to be a set up by Nino to steal a million dollars from the East Coast mob and Standard is killed.  Driver takes this opportunity to show off his other skills in killing people, but does not change his name to Killer.  I think that movie’s already been made.

For a quick version of the differing views between my roommate and I; he loved this movie, I fucking hated it.  But I’m the reviewer here, so his opinion can wait.  This movie moved so slow that I might have preferred a movie called PaintDry about a painter who moonlights as a painter and is the best there is at what he does.  And we watch that paint come to completion of it’s drying process.  There is a bit of a car chase in the very beginning where nothing really happens, so much so that I hesitate to even call it a car chase.  He gets spotted by a helicopter, then hides under a bridge and waits till it leaves.  He gets spotted by a cop car, speeds up a little, and hides in a stadium that’s just letting a game out.  After that, expect no action until about an hour into the movie when Standard gets shot.  In between, lots of awkward conversations between the Driver and Irene that move at about a sentence per minute.  When the action finally does happen, it’s somewhat exciting but usually brief, with a handful of really graphic deaths like stomping a man’s head to putty.  But this is one of those movies you see with a friend and ask them what they think afterwards and are completely shocked to find out they had the exact opposite reaction.  My roommate thought it was amazing.

This movie made a couple of odd decisions that pissed me off too.  (SPOILER ALERT)  And I say spoiler alert but I’d also feel pretty bad if you sat through this movie because of me anyways, but if you want to see this movie come back and read this after.  At one point, when the Driver has decided to take out Ron Perlman, he goes to the trailer of the movie set he was doing stunt driving on and grabs the mask he wears during the scenes; a creepy mask reminiscent of Michael Myers from Halloween.  But he didn’t use or need this mask!  All he does is drive up to the pizza place Nino owns and stands outside.  Then he wears the mask as he kills Nino.  But if you kill him on a beach away from everyone, why do you need anonymity?  And at the very end, the Driver kills Albert Brooks and leaves the million dollars with his corpse.  I know this is supposed to say something about the character of the Driver, but to me it says he’s a fucking idiot and the screenwriter is as well.  (END SPOILER)

The setting of this movie had me very confused throughout.  I could see that it seemed to be in LA, or at least somewhere very similar, and based on the cars being driven and the clothes Gosling wore (some really gay silver blazer with a gold scorpion on the back), I thought the movie was happening in the 80s.  The movie’s strange 80s-like soundtrack kept me thinking the same.  It wasn’t until about an hour and a half into the movie when I saw a stripper texting on an Android phone or something that I finally figured out this was supposed to be the present.  At that point I was probably more interested in the fact that I had managed to stay awake that long.  My roommate, however, loved the soundtrack.

The performances were the one good thing to the movie.  When Gosling wasn’t awkwardly talking with Irene, he was cool and calm in the most dire of situations.  The kind of badass character that I’d like to see in an action movie one day, and not so much in a pretentious art student’s version of an action movie.  Ron Perlman was probably at his least annoying in this movie.  Albert Brooks’ character was pretty awesome.  He was a very bad man that did very bad things to guys we liked.  I liked this for Albert Brooks.  I’ve never seen him play a character like this.  He was interesting every time he was on and, again, I think I’d like to see this in a good movie.  Bryan Cranston was also very good, but he typically is.  My roommate tells me that Christina Hendricks is famous from television, but I don’t know who she is and she left no impression on me whatsoever.  The problem with the performances is that I never gave a shit about any character in this movie.  But that’s not the fault of the performers, it’s the fault of the screenwriter.  Probably the director too, but he seemed more interested in throwing in unnecessary glory shots of LA at night than character development.  We don’t even get to know the name of the main character, for crying out loud.

When I left the theater, I looked on Rotten Tomatoes to find out if I was the only one who hated this movie.  I apparently was.  This movie received a 93% at the time I’m writing this.  I’m not sure if I just went into the movie with bad expectations or if this movie just sucked.  But since I’m the only one that hated it as far as I can see, my review is that you should see it and either agree with me or tell me why I should’ve liked it.  I give this movie a “Zzzzzzzzzzzz” out of “Wake up, we’re at Grandmas”.

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.