Archive for james franco

Spring Breakers

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 25, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez) have been best friends since grade school. They live together in a boring college dorm and are hungry for adventure. All they have to do is save enough money for spring break to get their shot at having some real fun. A serendipitous encounter with rapper “Alien” (James Franco) promises to provide the girls with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for. With the encouragement of their new friend, it soon becomes unclear how far the girls are willing to go to experience a spring break they will never forget.

What people are saying:

“If Michael Mann was to take a lot of hallucinogenics and shoot a Girls Gone Wild video, it might look something like this” 4 stars

“…this attractively fizzy pic may be a shock to the system for fans of teen queens Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, but remains pretty toothless titillation by its writer-helmer’s standards” 2 stars

“Korine’s story is a searing indictment of today’s hedonistic, nihilistic youth, and his script is loaded with sharp, telling dialogue that exposes the rotten moral cores of its characters.” 4 stars

Spring Breakers tries to be more than the typical party movie, and that is admirable, even if it doesn’t always work. The movie has a pretty strong social commentary and satirical vibe that is fascinating to watch. The characters are interesting enough and the standout performance in the movie is the one given by James Franco. I thought the movie starts off strong but really fizzles out at some point in the middle. The movie’s structure also feels somewhat repetitive at times and I was exhausted by certain parts of it. Some scenes like they’re a bit too over the top but I think it just comes back to the tone the movie is going for. It’s a movie made with a lot of energy and is unlike anything else this genre has seen before and for the most part its a good thing.” 3 1/2 stars

“I didn’t expect to hate this film as much as I did, I watched it not expecting much, and well…that’s exactly what I got! Sure the film looks good and the girls looked hot in their bikinis BUT! The acting was horrific apart from surprisingly.. Selena Gomez. I love James Franco but not in this movie, he looked stupid, was very repetitive ( in fact the whole film was) he sang a Britney Spears song and gave sexual pleasure to a couple of guns (very strange) All in all this has to be one of the worst films I have ever seen.” 1/2 star

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The Interview

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dave Skylark, host of the talk show Skylark Tonight, interviews celebrities about personal topics and gossip. After Dave and his crew celebrate their 1,000th episode, they discover that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a fan of Skylark Tonight, prompting the show’s producer Aaron Rapoport to arrange an interview. Aaron travels to rural China to receive instructions from Sook Yung Park, a North Korean propagandist, and Dave accepts the task of interviewing Kim.

CIA Agent Lacey proposes that Dave and Aaron assassinate Kim using a transdermal strip that will expose Kim to Ricin via handshake, facilitating a coup d’état; they reluctantly agree. Upon their arrival in North Korea, one of Kim’s bodyguards discovers the Ricin strip and chews it, believing it to be gum. Lacey airdrops two more strips from an UAV and Aaron smuggles them into the palace.

Dave spends the day with Kim, playing basketball and partying. Kim persuades Dave that he is misunderstood, and they become friends. While driving a tank, Dave discovers that Kim loves the song “Firework” by Katy Perry. At dinner, the bodyguard exposed to Ricin has a seizure and inadvertently kills Kim’s other bodyguard before dying. The next morning, Dave feels guilty and discards one of the Ricin strips, then thwarts Aaron’s attempt to poison Kim with the second strip. After a dinner mourning the death of Kim’s bodyguard, Dave discovers Kim’s malicious character and that the nearby grocery store is merely a façade.

Aaron and Sook confess their attraction to each other; Sook reveals that she despises Kim and apologizes for defending the regime. Dave, Aaron, and Sook form a plan to break Kim’s cult of personality by causing him to cry on air. During the internationally televised interview with Kim, Dave addresses increasingly sensitive topics and challenges Kim’s need for his father’s approval. Kim retaliates and appears to have overturned the conversation, but when Dave sings “Firework”, Kim cries uncontrollably and soils himself, ruining his reputation. Sook and Aaron seize control of the broadcasting center and fend off guards trying to halt the broadcast.

Kim shoots Dave, who survives due to a bulletproof vest under his shirt. Dave, Aaron, and Sook regroup and escape the presidential palace, hijacking Kim’s tank in order to get to their pickup point. Kim boards a helicopter and pursues Dave, Aaron, and Sook with the military. He orders that North Korea’s nuclear missiles are prepared for launch, but before he can issue the command, Dave destroys the helicopter from the tank, killing Kim. Sook guides Dave and Aaron to an escape route, and they are rescued by SEAL Team Six members disguised as North Korean troops. Back in the US, Dave writes a book about his experience, and North Korea moves toward becoming a democracy with Sook as interim president.

REVIEW:

Remember at the end of last year when it seemed as if we were going to go to war with North Korea. That wasn’t over nuclear weapons, sanctions, or someone getting assassinated. All that drama, which to me sounded like junior high squabbling, to be honest, was over this film, The Interview. Surely a picture that nearly causes countries to go to war is a great feat in cinema, right?

What is this about?

When a TV host and his producer score an interview with Kim Jong-un, who’s a fan of their show, the CIA asks them to assassinate the dictator.

What did I like?

Journalistic satire. When was the last time you actually watched the news? I think it was high school for me, excluding weather and sports. Fact is, with the so-called “fair and balanced” news channels squabbling like school children about which side it right and wrong, you can’t tell what is news and what isn’t. This is why you can get more informed from John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Hell, I dare say you can get more useful info from watching E! That is exactly what this film is satirizing, in a way. Think about if one of those talentless hacks over there were to score an interview with someone like Kim Jong-Un or the guy in charge of Saudi Arabia, I can’t think of his name offhand. Talk about a coup!

Seth Rogen. Seth Rogen is the fat, funny guy. His career has been built off of this schtick, but sometimes he does play the straight man. I do believe this is the best I’ve seen him in that role. Maybe it is because James Franco is such a failure at comedy, but Rogen nails the seriousness of this character, while still being able to bring some funny here and there. Maybe he should look into doing some non-comedy roles just to test it out. Judging by this, he may have found another genre that will work for him.

Kim Jong-Un. A ruthless dictator is not someone who can easily be impersonated, right? In theory that is the case, but nobody said anything about making the guy a parody, similar to how Team America: World Police did with his dad. I’ll be honest with you, the way Randall Park played this guy (up to a point) would make anyone want to hang out with him or let him rule their country.

What didn’t I like?

Action. The last act of this film plays out a bit like a war film. That would be fine it that was what this was or even if this was an action comedy, but this is just a comedy, so why the action? The control room stuff didn’t cause any problems for me, but when they got in the tank and started dueling with the helicopter, as it were, I have to take issue with, mainly because this whole scene doesn’t fit with the rest of the film, came out of nowhere, and seemed to put in here just so James Franco could drive a tank while listening to Katy Perry. WTF?!?

Poops. As expected with these two, you get lots of “frat boy” type humor. After the fist 10 minutes or so, I knew what kind of jokes I would be privy to the rest of the film. What turned me off, though, was how they insisted on bringing up “peeps and poops”. Seriously, poop jokes are funny maybe once in the right setting, but to keep bringing up the same thing is not going to make it any funnier, even if the guy (Kim Jong-Un) actually “sharted” in the interview proving the rumor about him wrong.

Thought process. I really have to question the reason why this film was made. It isn’t like we are on the friendliest of terms with North Korea, so why make a film where the CIA masterminds an assassination attempt on the guy? There is no way in which this was going to end up not causing some kind of ruckus, and as you saw at the end of last year, this film did everything but start WWIII!

Final verdict on The Interview? Well, it is above average, I’ll give it that. I said when the Sony leaks and controversy first happened that it was probably some sort of publicity thing. I still stand by that statement, to an extent. This film was helped out by all that publicity. You know what they say, “No publicity is bad publicity.” I commend the filmmakers for taking the risk, but maybe this was just too big of a risk. Instead of North Korea, maybe they should have used a country that doesn’t hate us as much…Canada, maybe? HAHA! Seriously, though, while I wasn’t a fan of this flick by the time it finished, it did keep my attention throughout, there are some good parts, and I did laugh a few times. Do I recommend this? No, but if you do watch this, it won’t hurt.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Homefront

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

DEA agent, and ex soldier, Phil Broker (Jason Statham) sees his quiet family life turned upside down when his path crosses with a band of drug traffickers, led by Gator (James Franco), a meth kingpin

REVIEW:

I’m in a bit of a rush today, so I need to be sure to finish Homefront before I need to be heading out the door. As a big Jason Statham fan, I am always looking forward to his films, but lately they haven’t been as impressive as they could/should be. Hopefully, this outing will return him to form.

What is this about?

When ex-DEA agent Phil Broker is widowed, he moves with his 10-year-old daughter to a small town in pursuit of a quiet life, but he finds his dream destroyed by a murderous drug trafficker, Gator, and his gang of meth-making thugs.

What did I like?

Action. One of the reasons we all love Jason Statham is because he kicks ass and takes names. We get a plenty of that in this film, even though he does try to not fight everyone in the small redneck town (not too far from where I’m from, as a matter of fact). Seeing Statham back in action, breaking bones, leaving guys bruised and bloodied, and doing so without really getting riled up about it reminded me of The Transporter franchise, which some would say are his best films…at least the first two.

Franco. James Franco has had an interesting career playing a variety of characters, but he really hasn’t played a sadistic, meth dealing, evil mastermind like he does in this film to my knowledge. I appreciate the guy is stretching his wings and doing something different. True, he shines in the stoner roles he normally is cast in, but he is more than capable of playing bigger and better roles, such as this one, the reluctant antagonist.

Writing. Believe it or not, this is a film that was written by Sylvester Stallone. Statham takes the material and really makes it pop. While this has all the makings of Stallone’s film, just with Statham in the lead, he does manage to make it his own and with a pretty solid cast to bring this story to life on the screen. The script leaves you wondering what is going to happen in the end, especially when an alternate element, not spoiling anything, comes in and tries to get revenge. The way all this is accomplished is quite impressive, especially for someone who I really didn’t know was a screenwriter.

What didn’t I like?

Surfs up. Remember in the early 2000s when everyone was so in love with Kate Bosworth? Ever wondered where she disappeared to? Well, she turns up in this film as a strung out, meth head, redneck who is the mother of the boy whom Statham’s daughter beats up in the playground. Apparently, this chick is a bit unstable. So much so, that the sheriff has to come to the school when she does to make sure she doesn’t do anything rash. In a previous meeting, she apparently threatened the principal. Nothing against Bosworth, but it just seemed as if this wasn’t the role for her. The way they were describing her, I expected someone a bit more detached from reality, not to mention the effect meth would have had on her looks. Bosworth didn’t portray these things to me, personally.

Can I get a laugh? As I was sitting here watching the events of this film play out, I was hoping for some comic relief, but didn’t really get it. On first appearance, one would think that Omar Benson would have played it, but that was not the case. As a matter of fact, the only real funny moment in this flick is the wig Statham is wearing at the beginning of the film. For me, I need comic relief to break up the seriousness. I’m not saying this needed to turn into a comedy, but a couple of light jokes would have been nice.

He started it. The bodies pile up, a mother is shot by her brother, a kitten is stolen from a little girl, a marriage is strained even more than it already was, Wynona Ryder pulls a swerve on James Franco that just makes things worse, etc. All of these things happen because one little boy was bullying Statham’s daughter on the playground. Yes, she did kick his ass, but had they just let this go, there wouldn’t have been any of these problems. If ever there was a case for not bullying, this is it, as you can see it snowball from those actions.

Final thoughts on Homefront? I think this is a film that is underrated. It dug Wynona Ryder and Kate Bosworth out of whatever hole in the wall they had been hold up in. The action is bad ass, the story is decent, and the subplot involving the biker gang (which seems to be forgotten until the second half of the film) isn’t horrible. Do I recommend this flick? Yes, while the film has its problems, it is enjoyable. Give it a shot sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

This Is the End

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jay Baruchel arrives in Los Angeles to visit his old friend and fellow actor Seth Rogen, who invites Baruchel to attend a housewarming party hosted by James Franco. At the raucous party, many celebrities and others drink, do drugs, have sex, and commit other hedonistic acts. Baruchel is uncomfortable being around many people he does not know well—including Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, and Emma Watson—so Rogen accompanies him to a convenience store for cigarettes.

Beams of blue light from the sky suddenly carry away several store customers. The frightened Rogen and Baruchel flee to Franco’s home amid explosions, vehicular crashes, and mass chaos, but find the party undisturbed. The partygoers scoff at Baruchel’s account, but rush outside because of a powerful earthquake and see the Hollywood Hills on fire. A large crack opens in the earth, and Cera, Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Martin Starr, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, Jason Segel and David Krumholtz are among those killed. Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Hill, and Robinson survive, and learn that the largest earthquake in California history has struck Los Angeles. Believing that as famous actors they will soon be rescued, the five take inventory of the available supplies, including food and water, various drugs, and a revolver which Franco had kept from Flyboys. They set up a ration system, board up the doors and windows, and await help.

The next morning, Danny McBride—who, unknown to the others, crashed the party and fell asleep—wakes up first. Ignorant of the crisis he wastes much of the supplies, and disbelieves the others’ accounts until a desperate outsider seeking aid is decapitated in their presence. The men pass the time by taking many drugs and filming a homemade sequel to the 2008 film Pineapple Express, which most of the group had appeared in. Tensions rise, however, due to various conflicts, including Jay and Seth’s growing estrangement, and the others’ skepticism of Baruchel’s belief that the disasters might be the Apocalypse the Book of Revelation predicts.

An armed Emma Watson returns and reports mysterious animal noises. Due to a misunderstanding, she quickly leaves, taking all of the drinks. Robinson is chosen to travel outside to the cellar for water, but is frightened by something monstrous. The group successfully reaches the water, but McBride’s boorish behavior results in much being lost, and the others decide to evict him. McBride tries to kill the others with the revolver but fails as the gun is fake, for use as a prop; he then angrily leaves the house.

Robinson’s experience causes him to believe in Baruchel’s theory of the Apocalypse and that the blue beams have, as part of the Rapture, taken good people to Heaven. He volunteers to explore a neighboring home for supplies with Baruchel. Hill, angry at Baruchel for his theory, is raped by a male demon after secretly wishing for Baruchel to die. Now demonically possessed and supernaturally strong, Hill chases Franco and Rogen while Robinson and Baruchel flee a demonic bull. The group subdues Hill, but during an exorcism attempt a fire destroys the house and Hill’s body, forcing the four outdoors.

Regretful for the mistakes in his life that kept him from Heaven, Robinson volunteers to sacrifice himself so his friends can escape a large winged demon. The plan succeeds but, unexpectedly, Robinson is taken in the Rapture because of his good deed, giving hope to the group. When cannibals led by McBride capture the men, Franco similarly volunteers to sacrifice himself. Although the plan succeeds and a blue beam begins to take Franco, his taunting sneers to McBride cause the beam to vanish, and the cannibals eat Franco. As Satan prepares to consume Rogen and Baruchel, they reaffirm their friendship and await death. A blue beam suddenly strikes Baruchel, but Rogen’s presence prevents him from reaching Heaven. Rogen sacrifices himself to save his friend, and just before death is also taken by the Rapture.

Robinson, now an angel, welcomes Baruchel and Rogen. He explains that Heaven is a paradise where any wish comes true. Jay wishes for the Backstreet Boys, and the film ends with the band performing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” for a raucous heavenly party.

REVIEW:

Remember back in December when everyone was thinking the world was going to end? Well, how do you think celebrities would have handled that if it would have actually happened? In a brilliant bit of writing we get to find out in This is the End.

What is this about?

Playing themselves in this witty black comedy, Seth Rogen and a bevy of Hollywood notables are stuck together at a party when the apocalypse dawns. In typical celebrity fashion, the trapped stars bicker rather than bond in the face of doom.

What did I like?

Truth. As Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel are leaving the airport, they get into a discussion about what is real and what isn’t. The highlight of this discussion is gluten. Why gluten? Well, as we all know, 5 or so years ago, no one said anything about being allergic to the stuff, but now you can’t go anywhere or watch any commercials without seeing something about the stuff. Even the pet food is without gluten now!! Thank you Jay Baruchel for informing the public how stupid they are to be falling for this crap!

Caricatures. The cast is the current “frat pack” of movies today, but the interesting thins is that they aren’t playing characters, but rather themselves. Well, let me take that back. They are playing exaggerated caricatures of themselves. For instance, we all know Michael Cera as the quiet guy who would never do anything wrong and Jonah Hill as the loud asshole. Well, Hill is playing himself as a quiet guy, much like he has been in many of his latest films and Cera is being the antithesis of what we expect him to be. He’s drunk, smoking pot, have sex with girls at the party, telling everyone to suck his dick, etc. Brilliant doesn’t begin to describe how awesome it is seeing him do something outside of the comfort zone.

Emma unchained. Also playing against what we know them as in sweet little Emma Watson. Well, she’s not exactly sweet here. The stereotype of British actresses as foul-mouthed smokers. Well, Watson is just that, and then some. On top of that, she is dead sexy! Ugh! Why can’t I get over the fact that she’s not little Hermoine Grainger, anymore?

What didn’t I like?

Improv. I appreciate that this whole film seems to be just some friends hanging out with each other ad-libbing some naturally funny stuff. However, the fact that this is a full-length, feature film with them doing this is cause for a little concern. Surely, they could have scripted something better to tie in with the plot.

Reunion. Before all hell breaks loose, pardon the pun, we get a scene with Cera, Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Yes, the boys from Superbad were back together. Apparently, I’m not the only one that felt this should have been something more than just them ribbing on each other. Maybe they’ll get the idea and we’ll see them in a film together again.

Effects. One would think that you could use some really cool special effects to end a film like this, especially since we’re dealing with end of the world stuff. Demons, hellfire, rapture, and all the like should look totally awesome, and yet, I felt like I could have created something better when I take a crap. Such a shame, really, because it really brings the ending down and the final scene doesn’t do much to help it, unless you’re into it (I won’t spoil what happens.)

Many people have listed This is the End as one of the funnies films of 2013. Quentin Tarrantino even has it as one of the best films of the year. What do I think? I was cracking up in the beginning, but the humor either lost some of its punch or just wore on me as the film went on and I just didn’t find it funny anymore. Par for the course with today’s comedies, I’m afraid. Still, I can’t argue that this is one of the funniest films of the year. It remains to be seen where it will rank with everything else this year, though. I highly recommend it to anyone that wants a laugh and is curious to see how actors would handle something that their money can’t get them out of.

4 out of 5 stars

Oz the Great and Powerful

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1905 Kansas, Oscar Diggs (James Franco) works as a barnstormer and a small-time magician in a traveling circus. As a storm approaches the circus, the circus strongman (Tim Holmes) learns Oscar has flirted with his wife and goes to attack him. Oscar escapes in a hot air balloon, but is sucked into a tornado that brings him to the Land of Oz. There the witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) finds him and believes him to be a wizard prophesied to overthrow the Wicked Witch who killed the king of Oz. En route to the Emerald City, Theodora falls in love with Oscar. They also encounter the flying monkey Finley (Zach Braff), who pledges a life debt to Oscar when the latter saves him from a lion.

On reaching the Emerald City, Oscar meets Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora’s sister, who is skeptical of Oscar being the foretold wizard. Evanora tells Oscar that the Wicked Witch resides in the Dark Forest and can be killed by destroying her wand, the source of her power. Oscar and Finley are joined en route to the forest by China Girl (Joey King), a young, living china doll whose home and family were destroyed by the Wicked Witch. The trio reaches the forest and discovers the “Wicked Witch” to be Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams), who tells them Evanora is the true Wicked Witch. Evanora sees this with her crystal ball and manipulates Theodora against Oscar by showing him together with Glinda, saying he is trying to court all three witches. She offers the heartbroken Theodora a magic apple she promises will remove her heartache, which Theodora eats, transforming her into a heartless, green-skinned Wicked Witch.

Glinda brings Oscar’s group to her domain of Oz to escape Evanora’s army of Winkies and flying baboons. She confides with Oscar that she knows he is not truly a wizard, but believes he can still help them stop Evanora, and provides him an “army” of Quadlings, tinkers, and Munchkins to do it. Theodora enters Glinda’s domain and angrily reveals her new, hideous appearance to Oscar before threatening to kill him and his allies with the Emerald City’s well-prepared army. Oscar despairs that his army cannot defeat the Wicked Witches, but after telling China Girl about his exploits, he realizes they can fight using prestidigitation.

Glinda and her subjects use an automated army of scarecrows blanketed by thick fog to trick the Wicked Witches into sending their flying baboons through a poppy field that puts the baboons to sleep. However, two baboons manage to capture Glinda, who is brought to the city square to be executed. Meanwhile, Oscar infiltrates the Emerald City with his allies, only to seemingly abandon them in a hot air balloon loaded with the king’s gold, which Theodora destroys with a fireball. Oscar then secretly reveals himself to his friends, having faked his death. Oscar uses a hidden smoke machine and image projector to present a giant, holographic image of his face as his “true” form, and a fireworks display to attack and intimidate the Wicked Witches. Evanora fearfully hides in her castle while Theodora flies from the city on her broom, unable to hurt the “invincible” wizard. China Girl frees Glinda, who defeats and banishes Evanora, destroying the Wicked Witch’s necklace that hides her true, crone-like appearance before she is carried off by flying baboons.

The film concludes with Oscar, now king of Oz, using his projector to sustain the belief that he is still a powerful wizard and keep the citizens of Oz united against the Wicked Witches. He also presents gifts to his friends: Master Tinker (Bill Cobbs), who helped build his machines, receives a camping-tool jackknife; Knuck (Tony Cox), the grumpy city herald and an ally of Glinda, receives a mask with a smiley face; the long-suffering Finley receives Oscar’s friendship; and China Girl accepts her friends as her new family. Finally, Oscar takes Glinda behind the curtain of his projector and kisses her.

REVIEW:

Recently, there has been a string of films that have taken classic tales and reimagined them as dark and modern, that is not to forget those God-awful remakes Hollywood keeps shoving down our throats. Oz the Great and Powerful does not fall into that trap, but instead goes the prequel route, which wasn’t a bad choice considering how much of a sure backlash and uproar there would be had they even mentioned remaking that immortal classic, The Wizard of Oz.

What is this about?

In this prequel to The Wizard of Oz, circus magician Oscar Diggs is magically transported to the Land of Oz, where he deals with three witches and uses his illusionist skills and resourcefulness to become the wizard the residents have been expecting.

What did I like?

Know your history. For those of us purists out there, fret not, there are plenty of homages to the original. Take for instance the way this film is shot. It starts in black and white (yes, i know the original was more of a sepia) then, when we are in Oz, it goes into full color. A character has the last name of Gale, just like Dorothy and she is wearing a gingham dress. We see a flying monkey, the scarecrow’s face, a lion that runs away, etc. Basically, everything they could fit in there that wasn’t ties up in legal mumbo jumbo, they found a way to stick it in. Also, it should be noted, that many of the cha

Out-Burton Burton. In my review of Frankenweenie, I mentioned how Tim Burton went back to what made him such a great filmmaker in the first place. Well, apparently, Sam Raimi took notes from him, as well, because this is just as good, if not better than what we expect from Burton. The brilliant, vibrant colors pop on the screen as the imaginative characters take center stage.

China girl. All the reviews of this film I’ve been reading have been praising the little china girl. I’m going to join that group. Not only is she a great, emotional, relatable character, but her design is fascinating to behold. The back story they gave her is sure to touch even the most hardened of hearts.

3D. For some reason, the theater where I went to see this today didn’t offer a non-3D option for seeing this. Normally, I’d be all up in arms about the lack of the option, as I am no fan of 3D. To me, it is just a gimmick for studios and theaters to charge even more than they already do just for a pair of rental sunglasses (which is all those things are, really). Having said that, I do believe this is the first 3D film that I’ve seen since the resurgence of the technique that really takes advantage and does it right. It isn’t too much, nor is it distracting. As a matter of fact, there were a couple of times when I actually dodged. That, my friends, is how you do 3D!

What didn’t I like?

Romance. No, I don’t have any issue with the wizard’s romance with the witch sisters, as that leads to some animosity and makes for good reasons for villainy. However, it is his relationship with Glinda that I call into question. Never is it implies anywhere that the two of them had any kind of love connection, but somehow the filmmakers decided it needed to be there…at the very end of the film.

Witches. While these three actresses, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams are very talented in their own right, they didn’t really work as witches for me. First, Kunis just seemed more like a fish out of water than when she’s voicing Meg on Family Guy and let’s not even mention that gaudy hat. Weisz felt like she was holding back. It was as if she wanted to just be your stereotypical, insanely evil witch, but they wouldn’t let her. Personally, she seemed like she was trying to be Azkadelia from Tin Man (another Wizard of Oz film). Finally, there is Michelle Williams, who came off as rather bland. Also, I picture Glenda being this being or pure innocence and I didn’t quite get that from Williams, perhaps that chick that plays Snow White on Once Upon a Time…Gennifer Goodwin, would have been a better choice.

Wicked. The actress who ends up turning into the Wicked Witch we all know just doesn’t cut it. Part of it has to do with the way that they had her made up, the other part was her acting. It just didn’t become of a Wicked Witch that would turn eventually become the evil being we come to know. Also, where is Elphaba and Nessarose? Maybe there were some legal issues with Wicked, too, since they just (finally) greenlit it to become a film, but Theodora and Evanora. Those names sound like they were just randomly pulled out of thin air.

Oz the Great and Powerful is probably the best new film I’ve seen this year. As a matter of fact, I think it is the only new film I’ve seen this year. With that said, while watching this, I felt underwhelmed, much in the same way I did after watching Alice in Wonderland. That isn’t to say this is a bad film, it just may have been overhyped. I can’t help but think that this was made not as a way to tell us the story of the wizard, but to soften audiences up for a forthcoming remake of The Wizard of Oz down the line. They did green light a sequel Monday, after all. That being said, I did like it and give it a high recommendation, especially for those that are looking for something to take the kids to go see.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist at biotechnology company Gen-Sys who has been trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and is testing a new gene therapy drug on chimpanzees. The drug, a modified virus, mutates the chimpanzees, giving them a human level of intelligence. A female chimp who believes her baby is being threatened goes on a rampage and is shot by security guards. Will’s boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) subsequently orders chimp handler Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) to euthanize the remaining test chimpanzees. Franklin cannot bring himself to kill the baby chimp and instead gives him to Will, who takes him home to raise.

Will’s father Charles (John Lithgow), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, names the baby chimp “Caesar”. Caesar (Andy Serkis) has inherited his mother’s high intelligence and develops quickly. One day, after he frightens the children of their neighbor, Hunsiker (David Hewlett), and receives a cut on his leg, Will takes him to the San Francisco Zoo where primatologist Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto) treats his injury. Will begins to take Caesar on excursions to the redwood forest at Muir Woods National Monument, but after an encounter with a family’s German shepherd, Caesar begins to resent his status as a human “pet”. When Caesar questions his identity, Will tells him that his mother and eleven other chimps were given “medicine” and that the reason for his intelligence is that the drug affected him while still in the womb. Caesar becomes more aware of his biological identity and begins to view himself as different from his human family.

A desperate Will tests a sample of his cure on his father. At first, his father’s condition improves, but eventually his immune system fights off the virus and his dementia returns. Confused, he attempts to drive Hunsiker’s car, thinking it is his own, and damages it, causing Hunsiker to lose his temper. Caesar witnesses the confrontation and attacks Hunsiker. He is subsequently removed from Will’s house by authorities and held in the San Bruno Primate Shelter run by John Landon (Brian Cox), where he is treated cruelly by the other apes and the chief guard, Landon’s son Dodge (Tom Felton). Caesar escapes from his cell and frees a gorilla kept in solitary confinement. With the gorilla’s assistance, Caesar gains dominance over the other apes by beating the sanctuary’s alpha chimp.

Will creates a more powerful form of the virus to resume treating his father, and Jacobs clears its testing on chimpanzees, which further increases their intelligence. However, unbeknownst to the scientists, it is fatal to humans. Franklin is exposed to the new virus and begins sneezing blood. Attempting to contact Will at his home, he accidentally infects Hunsiker, and is later discovered dead in his apartment. Will attempts to warn Jacobs against further testing but when Jacobs refuses to listen, Will quits his job.

After Charles’ death, Will bribes the elder Landon into releasing Caesar into his custody, but Caesar refuses to leave. He later escapes from the ape facility on his own and returns to Will’s house, where he steals canisters of the new virus and releases it throughout the cage area at the facility, enhancing the intelligence of his fellow apes. The apes put an escape plan into motion. Dodge attempts to intervene, leading to a fight with Caesar. Caesar shocks Dodge by shouting “No!” at him, and later kills him through electrocution. The liberated apes storm the city and release the remaining apes from Gen-Sys, as well as the entire ape population from a zoo.

The apes force their way past a CHP blockade on the Golden Gate Bridge and escape into the redwood forest. Jacobs, aboard a helicopter, falls to his death after the helicopter crashes and one of the apes kicks it off the bridge. Will arrives and warns Caesar that the humans will hunt them down, and begs him to return home. Caesar tells Will that he “is home” among his fellow apes. The final image shows the apes climbing to the tops of the redwood trees, looking out over the San Francisco Bay.

In the post-credits scene, Hunsiker, an airline pilot, arrives at work, infected by the virus. The camera pans to a filled flight-status display board, then fades into a stylized flight map animated with blooming trajectories implying the worldwide spread of a global pandemic

REVIEW:

Skeptical is not the word for what  originally thought of the notion of rebooting the great Planet of the Apes franchise. This whole idea of rebooting stuff is offensive and just goes to show that Hollywood can’t come up with their own ideas to save their lives! That point aside, this turned out to not be half bad.

If you’re not familiar with the original movies, they basically are about the Earth being run by primates with very few humans surviving, or something close to that. This film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, apparently seeks to inform the public how it was that the apes took over, or at least start to take over.

It would appear that this all started with a formula that was meant to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but through some greedy corporation trigger happy guards. Unbeknownst to them, though, the “crazy” monkey they killed was doing nothing more that protecting her child. A child that was born with the drug in his system, and would go on to be raised by the doctor who created the drug. I don’t need to tell you that this all leads to things that aren’t so good, do I?

The most impressive thing about this film isn’t the story, but rather the motion capture, an art form that many are lobbying the Academy to create an award category for, and who can blame them, after this impressive showing. Sure, we’ve seen some great performances using this medium before, but this is the first time I believe we’ve really seen it at this magnitude. There is something to be said for this artistry and the mastery that Andy Serkis brings to the table when he is being “captured”.

I loved how this is a film called Rise of the Planet of the Apes. For the most part, they were the stars, too. Isn’t that the way it should be? Such a shame the Transformers movies were so hell bent on the human rather than the robots. This film goes to prove that just because you have humans in a film doesn’t mean they have to be important. Lord knows this could have very well gone into some doe-eyed love story between Franco and Pinto, but didn’t. The only real human emotion we got was the love for Caesar and a hint of sadness with the care and death of the father.

The cast really isn’t anything to talk about. They do their lines and get out of the way, allowing the apes to take center stage. However, it should be noted that Tyler Labine is capable of doing a serious role and keeping his clothes on, unlike in A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. Also, Tom Felton has started to make a name for himself away from Draco Malfoy, but it appears he’s just destined to be the villainous type of character actor, if this is any indication.

In conclusion, while I am not a fan of rebooting a franchise when they could have very well just have come up with some original idea, this is actually a really good film. The story is deep enough and there weren’t any plotholes that were glaring enough to be mentioned. While there probably could have been a bit more heart in it, it should be remembered that this isn’t a drama or kiddie film, so there really is no need for such theatrics.

Final verdict on Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Well, it has moments of greatness, mostly involving the apes. The fact that it lets the apes be the stars rather than forcing the humans down our throats is a huge plus in my book. The violent streak by the monkeys also really sells how they feel slighted by the human race and are out for blood. This is just a really good film that should definitely be seen by all. I highly recommend it, and then when you’re done, check out the original films.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Your Highness

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Thadeous (Danny McBride) and Fabious (James Franco) are the sons of King Tallious (Charles Dance). They are both warriors, but Fabious is dashing and skilled whereas Thadeous is lazy and ineffectual with both an inferiority complex and poor track record in quest taking. While celebrating his latest victory over the evil sorcerer who has been ravaging Tallious’s kingdom, Leezar (Justin Theroux), Fabious reveals the virgin Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) he freed from a tower and wishes to marry her. Though he is made the best man, Thadeous skips the wedding after overhearing Fabious’s Elite Knights, led by Boremont (Damian Lewis), talk about him negatively. But the wedding is then crashed by Leezar, revealing himself to be the one who placed Belladona in the tower before spiriting her away. Returning to the castle with his servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker), Thadeous is forced into joining Fabious on his quest to rescue Belladonna.

Visiting the perverted Great Wise Wizard, the brothers learn that Leezar is attempting to fulfill a prophecy of a warlock having intercourse with a maiden when the two Moons converge, impregnating her with a dragon that will allow him to take over King Tallious’ kingdom. To destroy Leezar, they are given a magic compass that would led them to the fabled Sword of Unicorn which is located with a labyrinth. On the way there, after finding that Fabious’s slave Julian has been reporting to Leezar of their progress, the brothers learn that Elite Knights are also serving the warlock and escape from them alongside Courtney. While collecting themselves at a river, after his brother sends his mechanical bird Simon to tell the king of the Elite Knights’ betrayal and request reinforcements, Thadeous, Fabious and Courtney are captured by nymphs under their leader, Marteetee (John Fricker), who imprisons them at an arena where Fabious kills off Marateetee’s finest warrior. In retaliation, Marteetee summons his hydra-like familiar to kill them.

However, they are rescued by Isabel (Natalie Portman), a warrior that is seeking revenge for her father’s murder at Marteetee’s hands. Later that night, as Fabious and Courtney leave them for the mood to set in, Thadeous learns that Isabel is also after Leezar for the slaughter of her brothers before accidently revealing their quest and the compass to her. The next day, the party learn too late that Isabel stole the compass from Thadeous and ran off. Finally infuriated of his brother’s selfish behavior as they arrive to a village, Fabious decides to find the Sword of Unicorn alone as Thadeous and Courtney go to a tavern, where they find Isabel and steal the compass back. But finding that his brother has been captured by Leezar’s men, Thadeous wins Isabel over as they join forces, entering the labyrinth where they encounter a minotaur. Getting separated from the others, Thadeous retrieves the Sword of Unicorn and, after a test of worth, slays the minotaur as Isabel used a panflute to soothe the monster as he was about to rape Courtney. A changed man, proudly wearing the minotaur’s severed penis as a trophy necklace when unable to get one of the beast’s horns, Thadeous and his group make their way to Leezar’s castle and free Fabious while giving him the Sword of Unicorn. As the others kill off Julian and Boremont’s men along with Leezar’s mothers, Fabious then uses the Sword of Unicorn to end Leezar’s life before he isable to rape Belladonna, saving the kingdom.

After their victory, the heroes go back home, but Isabel goes on another quest. Fabious and Belladonna marry as Thadeous retreats to his bedroom to masturbate before going to bed. There, he is approached by Isabel, who reveals that she has fallen in love with him. However, for them to have sex, he must first slay the witch that cast a spell on her, locking her in a chastity belt. Though he was not in the mood to go out, Isabel’s suggestion to cuddle convinces him to go on a new adventure.

REVIEW:

Your Highness is one of those films that I just didn’t know what to think of when it was initially released. I passed on seeing it in theaters because it didn’t look like something worth wasting $8 to go see. I still hold to that, but this does make for a decent rental.

I won’t beat around the bush. If you’re coming into this film thinking you’re going to get some sort of epic medieval masterpiece, then you will be supremely disappointed. Your Highness comes off as nothing more than a bunch of frat boys playing around with what they know about the era and some _____ (insert recreational drug here).

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but apparently critics seemed very turned off by it. I often wonder if, in order to become critics, they had to get a stick shoved far up their ass, because it seems as if the only film they really love are the kids that audiences don’t really get excited over, and yet something like this, which is not meant to be anything more than entertaining, they treat like it was a pox on civilization.

*AHEM*

Sorry for the little rant there, but I get so frustrated when I read the things critics say about films that obviously aren’t meant as anything more than mindless fun, which is all this is.

Now, I mention the frat boy mentality this film has. The humor of this film is mainly centered around lewd and crude humor. For goodness sakes, at one point in the film, a Minotaur’s penis is cut off and Danny McBride wears it around his neck.

What is odd about this film, though, is save for one scene near the middle with naked women, there is nary a bare breast to be seen. The tone this film set leads one to belive you would see more. If anything, they could have put Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman is traditional Renaissance corsets, but I guess they wanted to focus more on the men, for some reason.

Speaking of the girls, this was released after Portman’s Oscar-winning role in Black Swan. Some have criticized her for it, but if you’ve watched her career, then you know she’s very versatile and this is much lighter faire than playing a ballerina on the verge of insanity and anorexia. All that said, she does a real good job in this role, but are we really surprised.

I do have to criticize Zooey Deschanel, something I never do, though. She seems rather wasted here, not to mention the fact that her personality doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the whole “damsel in distress” thing. Then again, maybe I’ve been watching her sister too long on Bones and now have them confused. Either way, I think she should have gotten more screentime than just a couple of scenes. Although, the possession, or whatever that was supposed to be, was qite…um…different.

The plot of this film is filled with all types of whole, and yet, they aren’t really detracting from the story, except the thing about the two moons and dragons or something like that. Not really sure where they were trying to go with that, or if I just missed something, or what the deal was, but it left me scratching my head.

Finally, the special effects in this film are two-fold. The first is the creatures. While most of them look like rejects from Narnia, the Wise Wizard looks like he came straight from Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, or some other Jim Henson film.

The next part is the special effects laden final act. Now, if you’ve seen many of the summer blockbusters in the last few years, then you know that they almost all rely solely on effects for the big climactic battle.

I think that was the idea here, but it just didn’t work the way they wanted it to, mainly because of how the characters were developed…or rather not developed. Still, it was a worthy attempt, I’ll give them that.

Your Highness is not a film for everyone. The humor lies in its crudity, so if you can’t handle that, you won’t find this film funny. Having said that, somewhere past the middle it stops being funny and just goes into this weird autopilot mode until the final scene. I enjoyed this film, and while I think nothing really needs to be changed, there are some things that could be altered to make things better. That point aside, I wold highly recommend this to all that aren’t easily offended by frat boy-type humor.

4 out of 5 stars