Michael Night’s Hiatus Recap of ‘Reviews’

As I talked about in my review of Thor: The Dark World, I wanted to go back to late July when I stopped reviewing due to my internship and quickly let you all know what I have watched from the year 2013 since then. The following range from totally awesome to slightly disappointed, so take a look at the five following films, from earliest to most recent!

Identity Thief (2013)

Identity Thief (2013)

From the director of Horrible Bosses comes a movie that is worse than Horrible Bosses, but it isn’t terrible. Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is the victim of identity theft, thanks in large part to his unisex name. The perpetrator of the crime is Melissa McCarthy, who has been stealing identities for a long time. But when Sandy’s credit starts to tank, his super-important job and his welfare are in jeopardy, so he goes on a mission to find who is responsible (since the cops have jurisdiction or whatever). It has some funny moments, mostly because Bateman and McCarthy’s characters are polar opposites and that usually is a recipe for comedy. There are some uncomfortable moments as well, so you have that to deal with. Horrible Bosses was better, but this was passable. (6/10)

The Call (2013)

The Call (2013)

I saw the trailer for this WWE Films production a long time ago, and was actually pretty interested in it. It looked pretty suspenseful, and at times it could be. Halle Berry plays Jordan Turner, a 911 operator that is haunted by a breaking and entering call gone horribly wrong. Jordan broke a rule and it was possible that her gaffe cost a girl her life. When the victim’s connection to 911 is lost, Jordan calls the phone back, but that alerts the criminal to the whereabouts of the young girl. Next thing you know, she’s captured and is murdered. Whoops. Years later, Jordan has a new job with the operation, but has to take the reins once more when a new hire loses her cool. Turns out that the call she steps in for is very familiar and involves the same criminal, so she makes it her mission to stop this creep once and for all. The premise is cool, using the sort-of helplessness of a phone call to drive the intensity and the use of energy is heavily reliant on this vehicle. But when the phone call is over and it becomes a detective movie with the shaky Berry being a vigilante, the movie goes flat. And the ending… wow, in my opinion it was terrible and made zero sense. I don’t highly recommend The Call, but if you are bored and want something easy, you could give it a try. (5/10)

Pacific Rim (2013)

Pacific Rim (2013)

This was my most enjoyable experience at the movie theatre this summer, even with Iron Man 3, Thor, Now You See Me, and This Is the End completely awesome too. I loved Pacific Rim a lot, and it was one of the best definitions of a popcorn flick. The plot was simple, but not stupid. The acting was fine for an action movie, and definitely passable. The action was WOO! OH MY… DID YOU SEE THAT?? SO COOL! A movie that hearkened back to the monster movies of long ago, Pacific Rim was a movie I could just sit back and be captivated by the sheer size of it all, and just smile and enjoy it. It wasn’t perfect, but I remember smiling thoroughly during it and just having a great time. The colors for most of it were pretty dull, and I thought they missed an opportunity to capitalize on potential toy deals by making the Jaegers different colors. The monsters (Kaiju) were very interesting and they varied, like there were different species of them. And one other thing that I just remembered is that, at the beginning of the movie, they do a good job of setting it all up so it is not confusing either. I highly recommend it. (9/10)

The Wolverine (2013)

The Wolverine (2013)

Remember when I said my range of movies ended with disappointing. Yeah, it’s this one. So, full disclosure, I was never the biggest fan of Wolverine. He’s cool, and sometimes he can be bad-ass, but this series is definitely wearing on me. I know, that’s crazy to hear, the huge fan of superhero movies is getting a little tired of Wolverine movies. I thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was pretty terrible, introducing and swiftly burying some of my favorite heroes in Deadpool, and especially Gambit (terrible movie regular, Taylor Kitsch). The Wolverine brings our grizzled hero, once again played by Hugh Jackman in all of his Australian, raspy-voiced goodness, to Japan, where he seeks a cure for his powers. An old friend he saved in World War II says he can give him freedom from his “curse”. My big problem with this movie though was that it just felt too distant. As far as my opinion goes, X-Men movies are fun because there is that team dynamic. To me, Wolverine needs the X-Men to be fun, and he was all alone. Noticeably, painfully, all alone. Jackman did a great job, but this movie dragged so much in places that it is hard to carry something like this. I remember there were some cool action scenes, and I will give credit to the film because I could feel that Wolverine was, in fact, not invincible, so there were some tense moments. But for as good as Wolverine can be to some, there was no way he could put the 2-hour movie on his shoulders and sustain it. Oh, and POINTLESS ROMANTIC SIDE-PLOT. (6/10)

Cloudy Meatballs 2 (2013)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)

This movie was also a little disappointing, but I still enjoyed it. The original was just so funny and so much fun and clever, that I think a sequel was D.O.A. Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and his friends have moved to a new place since Swallow Falls was buried in food. However, the island is not forgotten. When one of Flint’s boyhood idols, Chester V (the very funny Will Forte), hires him at his Live Corp Company,  he learns that his food machine is still churning out food, and creating food-based creatures on this island. It is up to Flint and his pals to save the day once again. One thing that stuck out to me: dozens and dozens of food puns, once again. The original was so successful because we were not familiar with the jokes, the feel of the characters, or the timing of the comedy. The directors, different than the originals, go with the theory “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. But things sometimes felt too familiar and recycled. But don’t get me wrong, it was still cute, had some funny moments, and was definitely creative once the gang reaches the food jungle. I would recommend it though, especially if you like animated comedies. (6/10)

I also saw, in this span: Transporter 3 (2008), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Jack and Jill (2011), Starship Troopers (1997), and The Aristocats (1970). I thought this of these movies: Boring and bad, a classic with some goodness mixed in, BLECKKKKKHHHH!, bad, but funny in a silly, supposed to be bad way, and a cute Disney classic.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) ‘Review’

Thor The Dark World (2013)

For a limited time only… Michael Night’s Miscellany is back! I couldn’t help myself from taking a beat to review Thor: The Dark World since I finally had a bit of time to do so. It has been so long, I feel like I need to reintroduce myself or something! I won’t, but for those of you who have followed me in the past, I will say, Yes, I am still alive and wanting to blog! My job, like I said before, keeps me from doing so. But when a superhero movie comes out, you know I will be there to quickly review it since I am a sucker for the genre and everything that goes with it.

Before I plan to go see superhero movies, this one included, I tell myself not to listen too much to what the paid critics have to say. Many of them are tired of the genre, tired of the action, and they are craving more intellectual fare. While I long for a superhero movie that breaks away and somehow captivates all audiences, there is nothing wrong with a good action-packed popcorn flick that lets me just enjoy myself and not worry about work or whatever else is weighing on my mind.

Thor: TDW is one of those movies:  Entirely obvious, pretty cliche’, but filled with interesting characters, some good (albeit monotonous) action, and some funny moments too that Marvel movies seem to do so well. While watching this movie, it actually reminded me somewhat of this summer’s Man of Steel, with an alien race invading the hero’s homeland, and said hero being– well, invincible. It has been documented that I am not a big fan of Superman for this reason, and Thor is sort of that way in this movie too. Sure, he got some cuts and scrapes and things like that, but I never really thought he was in any danger, especially in the climax that resembled a scene from Man of Steel. 

This is where I usually tell you a little bit about what is happening, although narration at the beginning of the movie clues you into what is going on pretty much immediately. The Dark Elves from long, long ago are looking to possess something called aether (or AEther, or something… my girlfriend and I can’t decide which way it should be spelled, because in the movie they capitalize but Google…… ahem… I digress), a source of power that will bring the universe back into darkness, just the way they like it. Their leader, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), is the big baddie in this movie along with his army of the Accursed. Thor is good, Asgard is all back to normal (if you saw the first Thor, which you should, it was a bit broken), Loki is imprisoned after the Battle of New York, and our human characters are all happy and still working on their science stuff. We all know Thor by now (Chris Hemsworth), and he is still all-powerful, and he is still very much infatuated with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who is on Earth. But of course, not everything is going to go all smoothly. The movie is pretty science-fictiony, so you can watch the movie to hear all their jargon, but Jane ends up being infected by the aether, and now Malekith is awoken and wants it so he can rule the Universe (of course!). So it is up to Thor and his allies (including Loki (Tom Hiddleston)), along with Jane and her scientist pals, to save the day!

Thinking about it now, there are a ton of  characters! The rest of the movie is pretty straight-forward, but contains more action than the original, probably because there was a change in directors. Kenneth Branagh did a great job in what was probably a slightly-smarter Thor, but Alan Taylor (some episodes of Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and The Sopranos) definitely brought the action that everyone craves. I have to agree though, the action was pretty fun, considering there were a lot of likable characters. The Dark World is not by any means amazing, but it has that same fun feel that Marvel movies have had recently. Performances by Hemsworth and Hiddleston definitely help, and if you are like me and can’t get enough superhero movies, this one is for you. If you are tired of superhero movies, there is not really anything here to change your mind.

So that does it for me for now. If I am up to it tomorrow (Sunday) I may do a quick post outlining the 2013 movies I have seen since my hiatus with some brief reviews. Until next time!

State of the Blog Address

Hello all my viewers, or whoever reads this at all. You may or may not have noticed that I have been very quiet as of late. Fortunately for my savings, career, and happiness (but unfortunately for my blog and a lot of my free time), I started a very rewarding and fantastic internship with my hometown Detroit Lions this week. It is in line with what I went to school for, and it is not a typical internship where I am fetching coffee and filing papers. I have a very hands-on position, and it is right up my alley and I am so blessed to have it. I could not think of anything else I would rather do in terms of my career choice. But when it comes to watching movies, I either do not have the time or the energy to watch them. I am sure none of you have been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for my next review, but I felt like I should explain my silence. If I find the time or energy, of course I will update, but it is just being done much less frequently. Perhaps this will give me a chance to compile some more Top 10 lists (as I can write a bit every so often, then upload it all at once). But in the meantime, my dream career of sports photography is of the utmost importance.

Keep on being awesome, all my viewers!

Michael Night

Admission (2013) ‘Review’

Admission (2013)

I am the kind of guy that enjoys a good rom-com, or just romantic movies in general. For the most part, they’re feel-good movies, and while the situations and outcomes may be highly idealized, it does not matter to me… because I am a Cancer, and apparently that means I have a romantic side and that my emotions are usually on the high or low end of the spectrum. This is all alleged, as I do not follow my horoscope every day, but that is what I have been led to believe. Aside from romantic films though, I really enjoy romantic-genre films that are much more complicated, such as (500) Days of Summer and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In other words, I like romantic movies that more or less paint a more realistic picture of a normal life (science fiction excluded, of course). This movie… is not the latter. Actually it is not really a romantic movie either, as much as it paints itself to be one given the poster you can see above, plus everything else I had heard about it which was not a lot.  Admission is not only about admitting someone else into your life, in more than one way here, but also about admitting things about yourself.

My quick synopsis of Admission would be: A Princeton admissions officer’s life gets very complicated when a gifted child comes into her life by way of a guy who is trying to help, and she has to decide whether or not to jeopardize her job to help him. The movie is set up about as simply as most romantic movies are, as well as most wacky sitcoms. Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan, the admissions officer who is all about cleanliness and has been doing the same job in the same place for nearly 2 decades. She also does not like kids, so she has never had one of her own. She meets John Pressman, the founder of a new school for young and incredibly gifted kids…… no, not the X-Men. He is played by Paul Rudd, and for all intents and purposes, he is the opposite of Portia: His school is also a farm, so he does not mind getting dirty, and he has not lived in the same place longer than a few years.  He loves kids, obviously, and even adopted a kid from Uganda and together they travel from country to country to help people that are less fortunate. I’m not saying Portia is evil and John is good, because it is much grayer than that. There are complications, as there are in all romantic movies. It would not be interesting unless there was some.

John loves to get involved in people’s lives, and he reveals to Portia quite the bombshell, which I will not spoil here. But then the rest of the movie is less about the romance between Portia and John, but more about Portia and her past. I am sort of glad that this was not fully a romantic comedy about getting Tina and Paul together, because it was rather weak in that department. The two of them were the most enjoyable to watch when they were at ends, not being all lovey-dovey. The chemistry was lacking between the two of them, but since that was not the main quest of the film, I suppose I will let it slide. However, since some people probably went into the movie thinking that was what the movie was going to be about, I can see how that might be a disappointment. The rest of the movie was kind of interesting, but it just seemed kind of… ordinary. The situation is definitely interesting, but the delivery just felt empty. I think this may be because it was a situation that not a lot of people can relate to. With (500) Days of Summer, there have been people of both genders that can relate to chasing a love you thought was there, or trying to make something work, only to have it fail in the end. With Eternal Sunshine, I think there have been many people who either try to hold onto their greatest love, or would do anything to get back to that person. With Admission, the situation is not very broad, and while we may relate to the overall theme of admission, the exact situation of the film is exactly that– exact. I could not relate to Portia, I could not even relate to John, and I do not know many who could because of their over-the-top personalities.

And perhaps I am missing something. I have been known to either overlook or completely miss certain themes of a movie, either on purpose or by accident. I missed the obvious fact in Brave that Merida didn’t need a man to be happy, probably because I was distracted by my dislike of the film. I have probably even over-qualified a movie because I found the situation a lot of fun, such as in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. All I am saying is that I am not perfect, but I do have to go with my critical gut. That is why I personally do not listen to all the critics I read, and I would rather my viewers make judgments of their own. Am I discrediting myself? No, I think I do an okay job informing my audience with a simple “Should you watch it or should you avoid it” mentality. But I just had to admit something about myself, much like this movie might want you to do. Perhaps I was thinking too narrowly, and the overall theme of admission does not have to pertain to the situation in the film, but just to our own experiences. But with that being said, Admission is still just sort of plain. Personal admissions aside, that can all be done after watching the film, and while watching it, it is hard to relate to a character I have little in common with. The romance does not have a lot of chemistry, and there are not a ton of laughs that do not offset the greater number of uncomfortable moments within. So I would just say watch Admission with caution, but maybe you will find the reveal a little more great than I did.

P.S. Sorry about the slight rant above, but I felt like admitting a little (wah wah wahhhhhh).


Despicable Me 2 (2013) ‘Review’

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

It has been awhile since I watched the first Despicable Me, but I remember that it pretty much had two different plots going on: it was basically a competition between two dastardly villains, Gru (Steve Carell) and Vector (Jason Segel), but his three girls start to change him from such a mean guy into a nice guy. Yet, there was still a strong driving force to the movie, and it was done very well because the competition between the villains was very funny, and it was very different. I remember enjoying it, and I enjoyed this sequel as well, but it was by far a very different movie. There was no one despicable in it, but there was enough cute to make it something worth watching, but I can see how someone who loved the original may be turned off from this grand switch in tone. But if you’re watching it for the Minions, then you won’t be disappointed.

Yes, the original was very cute too, because the children were meant to counterbalance the silly action, but there was that driving force for Gru in that he wanted to steal the Moon, but his change in personality due to becoming a dad for his girls made it an obstacle that not only made sense in terms of the plot, but made it more interesting. Despicable Me 2 does not exactly have a strong driving plot, and instead has several mini-plots that no doubt are there to hold the attention of even the most hyper children. The trailers show that Gru is hired by the Anti-Villain League in order to stop the plans of an unknown criminal, since he knows how other villains think. Unfortunately, the AVL is actually kind of disappointing. They had the opportunity to have some fun with it, but we only see two people from the League, Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), and Lucy Wilde (the very funny Kristen Wiig). Wiig was definitely the highlight of the film for me, as she seems to be the most charismatic of anyone, and has a lot of silly moments that some people may see as annoying, but Kristen Wiig does such a good job that I do not see it that way. Lucy is assigned to help Gru as they go undercover in a shopping mall to catch the criminal that is presumably there.

It becomes apparent early as well that Gru’s kids probably need a mom. During Agnes’ birthday party, the fairy princess Gru hired fails to show up so he has to put on a dress and play pretend for a little bit, which is silly and makes for an “Aww” moment between Gru and Agnes, but it shows that a woman would have worn the dress better instead of long-nosed Gru, especially when an annoying friend keeps trying to set Gru up with her friends, always unsuccessfully. So there is always that romantic side-plot in mind during the movie, so really this movie is a lot like the first one: there are some villains, and there is the cutesy part too, right? Well… the action is so weak and uninteresting that the plot is really all about Gru’s relationship with Lucy, as a partner and someone he fancies, coupled with more Minions than you could shake a stick at. Minion-centric scenes take up around 10 minutes of the runtime, which may not seem like a lot, but that is a lot of time with that gibberish dialogue and silly antics, which again is cute and great for the kids, but I would have liked to see something more like the first movie where there is definite thought going into the action of the movie.

The end of the movie sort-of has some action, but ends so weakly and abruptly that it barely registered. The other villain was kind of funny, but nowhere near as cool as Vector from the original, and while the search for him feels complicated, it becomes pretty obvious who the AVL are looking for. But that is kind of the problem as far as the action plot is concerned: The creators wanted to keep the identity of the villain a secret, so we do not learn his motivation for why he is being evil. There are ways around this, but by the time we learn about him, the movie is nearly over. So like I said in the beginning, DM2 is a lot different than the original, but does that make it worse? Well if I wanted to sound like a critic that wanted to feel good about himself, I guess I could call it “unfocused”. There is just a LOT going on during this movie, and it jumps from place to place with very little concern for a strong central force, especially if you are like me and thought that the movie was going to have traces of the original in it. But if I want to step back and look at it for what it is, it is still sort of a weak. It has plenty of cute moments, and some great silly moments… I found myself laughing out loud a few times. For kids, the scatter-brained movie will hold their attention, and I can say with certainty that my girlfriend found it very cute and she loved it (she did not see the first, and I did not know that before we went to see DM2). So I can see both sides of the argument, but for an animated movie, you could still do much worse. The jokes (for the most part) stayed away from toilet humor, and there was some charm from the characters, but I suppose I just wanted more, since there was nothing despicable about it.

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) ‘Review’

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

Oh goodness. Well, it has been awhile since I have even watched a movie. Mostly between acquiring a job and catching up on some television shows, I just did not really go to the movies, nor rent anything. And starting around my birthday (which is in two weeks from today :D) I will have a second job that will certainly keep me even busier. So my blog posts may be a little more rare, but rest assured there are still a lot of summer movies I plan on seeing. On the 4th of July, my girlfriend and I watched a couple of movies with her dad. The first was 2012’s The Raven starring John Cusack, and since I am already way behind on reviews and I do not want to review three in one day, I will just say that it was underwhelming. If you want to know what I thought in detail, let me know. But in any case, onto the main course.

Jack the Giant Slayer was the next in a line of movies that are based on fairy tales, following Snow White & the Huntsman and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. From the very start, I knew that I was going to be in for a rough ride with this one. First of all, I was not super interested in seeing it, so my expectations were low, and then… oh, wow… that opening five minutes. Jack was directed by Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men movies, Superman Returns, and will be directing the newest X-Men movie as well. I really hope he does not do it terribly. The movie starts… oh, wow, I mean wow… Obviously I am being sidetracked by trying to think of a word to convey the barf-inducing, side-splitting-ly terrible graphics that accompany the movie’s prologue. Young Jack is being told the story of the war between the humans and the giants, or at least a fairy tale of it, and how a great king used his crown and magic beans to banish the giants back to their home between heaven and earth, reachable by a beanstalk, of course. This is shown in a cartoon that makes Sonic 3D Blast for the Sega Genesis look like a gosh-darn masterpiece. When the people involved with this money could use their money to make a hoard of giants look intimidating, gross, and pretty good… I have to ask why they did not throw a little more money to that opening piece? I was dying of laughter at how bad it was. Maybe they wanted it to look like a storybook drawing done in a 3-dimensional style, but that would not even be a good excuse to say why it looked the way it did. So needless to say, the movie was off to a bad start for me.

Jack grows up into Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class, Warm Bodies) and we learn his dad who showed him the cutscene (that would make a flip-book of a stick figure doing a somersault look Oscar-nominated) passed away and now we lives with his mean uncle. And that is kind of where the story of Jack and the Beanstalk starts: Jack goes to market with his horse and cart and tries to make some money for their lousy farm, but gets tricked into buying magic beans, etc. His story of not being responsible draws a parallel to the kingdom’s princess, Isabelle (played by Eleanor Tomlinson), who is very much like Aladdin’s Jasmine that wants to get out of the palace but her daddy the King Ian McShane forbids it. She escapes the palace, hides from the rain in Jack’s farmhouse, and a bean accidentally gets wet and up goes the beanstalk with Isabelle inside while Jack falls from it trying to save her. (He doesn’t die, or else the movie would be short, WAH WAH WAHHHH).

So that is the movie’s premise: Save the princess from the top of the beanstalk where the giants are. Jack goes along with Elmont the knight, played by Ewan McGregor and he was pretty funny in the role, for sure. Also going up the beanstalk are some other soldiers, and the king’s chief advisor, Stanley Tucci (who is always amazing, if not campy). Hmmm… a chief advisor to a king… who do you think the villain is besides for the giants? Don’t worry, this is not a spoiler, as it is shown that he is evil from his first scene. With a movie written this poorly, I don’t think they could make an alien look like a surprise in this movie. Anyway, for as much as I am bashing the movie, it picks up after that cut-scene (that makes a Lite Brite ‘drawing’ of a garbage can on fire look like it should be in the Louvre) and has some good moments. The acting is not very good, and there is an overload of CGI, but there is some tension when the giants show up. Bill Nighy supplies the voice of the giant’s leader General Fallon, and all of the giants actually look pretty cool. The main ones are lazily named “Fee, Fye, Foe, and Fumm” but that is besides the point. So will Jack and the King’s men save the Princess and get rid of the giants once and for all? Watch and find out.

Or don’t watch, you wouldn’t be missing much. The movie is not all that good, and it begins terribly (as I have mentioned) and it ends with the most unneeded “sequel bait” in recent memory. Based on the fact that Jack just barely made one-third of its estimated budget, it lost a lot of money and it will (probably) not constitute a continuation of the franchise. Nicholas Hoult as the lead had his moments, but was sometimes so bland it hurt, and same goes for the princess as well. The seasoned actors, however, had some great moments, and there turned out to be some fun moments too. So watch it with caution, and if you are like me, just keep in mind that it gets better after the opening cinematic (which makes anything I do… well, it is still better than anything I can do.)

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) ‘Review’

Oz Great & Powerful (2013)

I thought about making Hansel & Gretel and this movie a two-for-one review, but I wanted to make sure I touched on both equally without skimping on the details. Oz the Great and Powerful is the prequel to the classic Wizard of Oz and shows how the wizard got to the wonderful land in the first place. Just to lead off, Oz looks very beautiful, and it looks as fantastical as I would expect. The CGI sometimes becomes a little overpowering, but for a world like this I suppose that is just to be expected. Sam Raimi takes the helm (Spider-Man series), and he is used to worlds such as this, along with big characters and some pretty grand techniques for storytelling if my interpretation of that superhero series is accurate. While Oz was a lot of fun to watch and see how the wonderful wizard came to be, something just felt missing in the grand scheme of things and it felt a little empty overall.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a fun time watching this movie as well. The movie starts back in Kansas, and I don’t know what it is with that state but their tornadoes always seem to have some magical properties. This time it sucks up a carnival magician named Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, or Oscar for short, and he is played by James Franco with all of the narcissistic and slimy qualities a con-man like him would possess. He has a greedy smile and a greedy soul to complement it, yearning for money and women more than being a quality person. But for whatever reason, he is sucked into the tornado and transported to Oz where he meets a number of characters, and like the original some of them have links to people that he knows from his real world.  He meets a flying monkey that he quickly uses as someone to carry his bag named Finley, who represents his former partner Frank, both of them played and voiced by Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State). Braff’s voice was always fun to me, so his role was perfect, especially because it brings me back to his role in Chicken Little as well. He also meets three witches, but at the beginning we are not sure who is the good witch and who is bad, except for Glinda because we all know that she is the good one, and is played by Michelle Williams (Shutter Island, My Week with Marilyn). Oz also meets Theodora (Mila Kunis) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and is asked by them all to save the land of Oz from the unseen Wicked Witch.

There are some funny moments and lines, some great-looking shots and CGI, and there is some fun to be had, especially in the climax of the film, but something about Oz just does not feel magical enough. Something about the length of the movie and some maybe unneeded scenes (the movie runs at 2 hours, 10 minutes), or maybe there just is not enough heart in it, but it feels lacking. It was fun finding out how the whole thing started, and it does a good job of linking to the 1939 classic, but maybe it just did not feel momentous enough. The Wizard of Oz was full of magical feelings, intrigue, and a bit of suspense because of the obstacles Dorothy and the gang ran into, but Oz and his merry band of misfits have a pretty easy shot to their destination, and just by mere coincidence and deception does an enemy rear their head. Also, the movie’s main obstacle is showing how Oscar tries to get over not being such a selfish jerk, and he just does not feel charismatic enough to carry the movie on his own. Franco does a good job portraying what I thought the carnival magician would be like, but one person trying to carry a whole movie is tough. Again, the movie is fun, but it felt more empty than magical. Oz the Great and Powerful is fine, and I might even watch it again because it has some good moments (the climax especially was a lot of fun), but yeah, it does not have the staying power that I believe the classic has. The acting is good, the world looks beautiful, and you could have some fun, but do not expect a classic-in-the-making.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) ‘Review’

Hansel & Gretel (2013)

Earlier this year I watched Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and was sorely disappointed by it. So much so that I did not even write a review of it here, because it was just boring and too long. The dialogue was dripping in dramatics, and if you weren’t listening to the lead’s monotone voice, you were watching his wooden acting. Thankfully, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was just a lot more fun than the other supernatural slaying movie, due to its over-the-top violence and not taking itself too seriously. I was never hoping for an amazing movie, but I at least wanted it to make me laugh or smile or something, unlike Honest Abe. I have to say that these candy-munching orphans did me proud.

The poster above says “Classic tale. New twist”, but they do a good job of  somewhat sticking to the meager plot established by the Brothers Grimm, but the director and writer, Tommy Wirkola, made it his own by shaping the character’s lives to make it more interesting instead of being a couple pudgy German kids. (My mind always drifts to a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs is confused by the pronunciation of Hansel). Anyway, Hansel and Gretel are taken away from their home by their father for an unknown reason and abandoned, although the father does not seem happy about it so there is more at work than simply being a jerk. The siblings are drawn to a candy-coated house, and just like the tale most of us know, they are trying to be fattened up for the witch to eat. But the duo is a lot more powerful than the witch thought, and they use their ingenuity to destroy the witch and make a name for themselves, up to the point we join them as adults and they are trying to help a town that has a bit of a witch problem.

Hansel is played by Jeremy Renner who has become more increasingly popular after movies like The Town and The Avengers, and his younger sister Gretel is played by Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Prince of Persia). I love the acting of these two, because at times they actually act like siblings, teasing each other and the like. The script is not very good, but it is at least not taking the situation seriously. It is riddled with great one-liners and some foul language, my favorite being from Renner: Hansel and a sort-of witch hunter in training, Ben (Thomas Mann) come across a candy house, when Hansel says “Don’t eat the fucking candy”. It just made me laugh because it wasn’t like the movie was trying to be bigger than it was– it was just an entertaining, over-the-top slayer flick.

One thing I want to remark about is that Hansel and Gretel are not invincible, and they actually spend a good amount of the fights on the defensive rather than just annihilating any witch that crosses their path. For an action movie, I understand if you want your heroes to completely destroy the opposition, but I had more fun watching them be human. I always get bored when the hero never has a scratch on him (i.e. The Marine or almost any Steven Seagal movie). Plus, it all pays off in the end for a pretty awesome final sequence. Yes, the movie suffers from basic acting, sub-par writing, and sometimes the choreography is a little shoddy, but I still had plenty of fun with it! Hansel & Gretel is only about 80 minutes long, has some funny dialogue at times, and some action that ranges from alright to great. So for the run-time, Witch Hunters is definitely a fun popcorn flick with friends.

Pulp Fiction (1994) ‘Review’

Pulp Fiction (1994)

I told you that the next in my line of “What? You haven’t seen this yet??” movies would be even bigger than the last. That’s right, I had never seen Pulp Fiction before this week, and I cannot give you a good reason why. Maybe it was because I was not allowed to see it when I was younger even though my parents really liked it, but that would not explain why I had not seen it when I grew up. Maybe I just kept forgetting to watch it, deciding to watch other movies instead. Well if that was the case, I am ashamed of how many years went by without me laying my eyes on this amazing film. This is probably one of my instant favorites, and there are so many reasons why everyone should watch it.

Two years after Tarantino’s debut film, his amazing writing skills are on full display here. Pulp Fiction is a collection of stories that are intertwined, related, and all of them bursting with colorful characters, great acting, great monologues, along with a mix of questions that really make you think, along with the few bizarre pieces of “What the hell am I looking at?” that make his stories so attention-grabbing that it becomes one of those instant classics. And I can tell that just about everyone loves it, since it is currently in the Top 5 of the imdb.com Top 250. It was nominated for seven Oscars! And while it won only one (for Tarantino’s original screenplay, of course), that does not diminish the power and amazingness of Pulp Fiction.

Seemingly at every turn there was something to just utterly love about it. From the great cinematography, to the excellent acting in which three were nominated for Oscars, to the amazingly vulgar, but thought-provoking dialogue that filled the scenes, I reacted as though I had never heard of this movie before. With every gunshot I didn’t see coming, to the twists and turns of how the stories were woven together, I just always had a smile on my face from how much I was enjoying it. The movie itself was nominated for Best Picture (l. to Forrest Gump) and I think in any other year, PF could have walked away with more hardware (The Shawshank Redemption was also nominated that year). But everything about this movie was just, wow, how great!

I have never seen Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, or Uma Thurman better, Jackson especially was really great. The amount of lines that I recognized from being anywhere near pop culture was high, showing just how much of an impact this movie made. I know that Pulp Fiction is definitely in my Top 10 movies of all time list, one that does not exist, but when I think about how much I enjoyed it, I know it deserves it. I know this was not much of a review, per se, but I think most of you knew just how great it already was. So I just wanted to share how I was blown away by it! If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor, sit down, and watch these awesome stories for yourself.

Monsters University (2013) ‘Review’

Monsters U (2013)

For my 16-month anniversary with my girlfriend, we decided to go and see Monsters University, since it would be fun, most likely cute, and she wondered how they would paint sororities and fraternities in the monster’s universe. But mostly because it looked like a nice movie to see. MU is the second of three Pixar movies that are based on an existing movie. It would be easier to say sequels, but obviously this one is a prequel, since it shows how our heroes from 2001’s Monsters, Inc.  became the best of friends. However, things were not always so civil between our green and blue leads.

Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) always wanted to be one of the monsters that supply energy to the entire world, and that of course is being a “Scarer”. He was set on going to the titular university ever since “Frightening” Frank McCay (John Krasinski) told him it was the best place to learn how to be the greatest Scarer. While he worked his tail off to get to there, another monster rode the legacy of his father in order to be one of the best by default. Of course, that was James P. Sullivan, or Sulley, of course (John Goodman). This of course leads to one of the many obstacles present in the film: the know-it-all versus the popular kid. They learn that they both exceed and falter in different aspects, so they will have to work together to become the top Scarers in the school, and to not flunk out.

MU is another Pixar film that plays it safe, and keeps it fun and simple. The world looks very gorgeous, and I could tell the animators were working overtime because of the variety and plethora of styles of monsters that existed. They throw in one of the many easy lessons that kids can learn, mostly involving not judging books by their covers and things of that nature. While I feel like I am downplaying it a little bit, I want to stress that MU was a lot of fun to watch, and I was more invested in it than, say, Cars 2. While Cars 2 took a supporting character and focused all of their energy on him, involving lots of dumb jokes that are of course used on one of the most annoying characters I know, MU knows that its focus has to be Mike and Sulley, and building their bromance from the beginning. Thinking back to Monsters, Inc., I think there may be some continuity issues about the friends’ genesis, but I still think doing it this way was a lot more interesting. All of the tropes and feelings of college were there, from rush weekend, to the different clubs, groups, and the occasional look at student life (such as a four-armed monster holding three cups of coffee during finals week), the audience for this could just as well be adults who want to think back to their own college lives, and see how things are done in a monster’s world.

So yes, the movie was pretty simple; it is your basic buddy-comedy, coming-of-age story, but it sure was colorful and creative, especially the fun series of contests that comprise most of the picture. The supporting characters were fun too, and surprisingly consisted of some pretty big names, including Helen Mirren as the very creepy Dean Hardscrabble, a mix between a dragon and a millipede. YUCK! Steve Buscemi returns as Randall Boggs, and we see how he fits into this prequel as well. There are so many awesome actors in supporting roles that I want to list them all, but I feel like I would just keep talking and talking. Check the “tags” or imdb if you want to see the full list, but needless to say I found it very entertaining. Monsters University was definitely a step-up from the sub-par Cars 2, and hopefully Pixar’s next sequel, Finding Dory, captures all of the fun, but I would love to see an upgrade on the heart that we have come to expect from the animated powerhouse. Perfect for kids and adults alike, I am sure you will have a roaring fun time watching these monsters survive college.