Friday, December 12, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Cruel Intentions 2 (2000)

As a direct-to-video prequel to the 1999 original, most will go into watching this film with a lot of doubts. And while it does abandon a lot of the tone from the original to become more of an American Pie type of film, it gives a realistic setup to where we see Sebastian and Kathryn in Cruel Intentions. None of the actors are the same, but they aren't terrible. In fact, Amy Adams is quite impressive given the poor script. The only problem is that this version of Kathryn is openly evil and not as undercover about it. Robin Dunne, who plays Sebastian, gives us a more likable character, but provides nothing of the same charisma as Ryan Phillippe's portrayal of the original.

I compare this film to the straight-to-DVD American Pie: Band Camp. It's entertaining, but not the exact same. It's more aware of itself as a film, and at times feels like a Dawson's Creek episode--which it acknowledges once or twice.

Although many may not like the twist ending, I think that it concludes an interesting backstory as to how Sebastian got to be so wicked and conniving in the original film.

Cruel Intentions 2 steals a lot from the original, but also provides some more jokey dialogue and shock value--hence the American Pie type film. The jokes miss a lot of the time and are usually set up very blatantly.

The plot might move a little slow and it may be low budget, but it's not a complete waste of time if you're a fan of the original.

Twizard Rating: 59

Quick Movie Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

After watching Sin City, you itch for more. The only thing is, you want something to build upon from the last movie. In fact, there's not a whole lot that we're left hanging with after the first film, so we trusted Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez to come up with some new way to connect the two films. The only satisfying link to the first movie is the story of Nancy defeating Senator Roark, which doesn't come until the last 10 minutes. The rest of it, although individually engaging, would have served better as a series of shorts as they added nothing to the last movie. They all keep you entertained, but you could have done without them--save the gambling storyline with Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt), which is pretty fun and equals the type of things we love from the first film.

The timeline is a little fuzzy, as we're unsure why certain events are happening before and certain events are happening after. I know it's a sequel/prequel, but now the deceivingly simultaneous events of the first film is thrown off with our revelation that the stories in this film overlap. It becomes even more confusing when several characters from the first film, unbeknownst to me, get recast with new actors. Also, I would have liked to see the Salesman get included and developed in this movie as he wasn't explored enough in the first installment.

The stories didn't interlink as well as they did in the 2005 film, and the ending wasn't as satisfying. At the end of the first, you're left wanting more. Here, you don't really feel like it calls for a second viewing.

You have to love the underlying tone of these films. Here, you enjoy seeing Marv get explored more because he's such a great character. He represents a time where people went out of their way for strangers and even risked their live for them.

In Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, the acting is just as good, and so are the aesthetics. I'm not saying that this movie wouldn't have been a fun stand-alone film, but as a fan of the first movie I wanted a little bit more "sequel" in this second installment.

Twizard Rating: 74

Quick Movie Review: A Merry Friggin' Christmas (2014)

You might look at the reviews for this film and think that this is going to be a really terrible Christmas movie, but it's really far from it. The reviews make it seem like a so-bad-it's-funny type of film, but it's actually entertaining in its deliberateness. I actually laughed quite a lot. I tried to find the good in this movie and found a lot of it. It could have been better script-wise, and by allowing the presents to have been seemingly lost and magically arriving under the tree would have been a better twist.

Although I liked the film and would watch it again, it could have been a lot better on the technical side. The timeline doesn't make much sense. You're never sure where they are in their 4 hour trek between Illinois and Wisconsin. They abruptly appear certain places crossing the same paths with people multiple times in different cities. It's just confusing if you try to rationalize it. This, along with carless continuity errors in the script, and you have a nitpicker's dream.

Also, they never settle on a set theme. They sort of go back and forth seeming to forget which direction they want to go. It plays the "Santa is real" game, but then sacrifice its full potential for a "just stop stressing and everything will work out" message, all while trying to mend Boyd and his father's relationship--a plot culmination that somehow got neglected amidst everything else.

Joel McHale plays Boyd well, who is a very relatable character in many respects. Clark Duke is also very good as Boyd's younger brother, Nelson. However, Robin Williams and Candice Bergen don't bring much of anything to their roles--especially chemistry with each other. And since when did Lauren Graham become such a bad actress?

With a little more pedantic attention this movie would have appealed to even the harshest of critics. But there are some very funny in-jokes and scenarios that kept me laughing, and I appreciate the messages that come across. I can see this movie becoming somewhat of a cult film in the future.

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: Predator (1987)

Throughout much of the first half of this movie you start getting the feeling that it's gonna be one of those films where the plot gets stretched way too thin and it becomes a yawnfest. While the former is still true, the latter goes away as soon as we get our first encounter with the monster. From then on we are wide awake and become invested in the outcome, while Predator turns into a pretty decent action-suspense film.

However, much of the dialogue is laughable and every time Arnold opens his mouth you have to shake your head.

Besides the impressive special effects and costume design, all of this film's points come from the second half when the action starts rolling, as the Thomas brothers aren't too competent at writing narrative.

Twizard Rating: 64

Quick Movie Review: Home Alone (1990)

Every once in awhile, we will get a Christmas film that becomes synonymous with the holiday for us. Each person has their own. My two are The Santa Clause and Home Alone. Most everyone I know loves the former, however Home Alone might not be for everybody. Some say it's corny, silly, and ridiculous. Honestly, I think it holds up pretty well for a film that's 25 years old. We were more tolerable of idiotic characters back then, and somehow when we watch a film from those years we become more tolerable again. Home Alone may walk a fine line between family entertainment and crudeness, but that's what makes it unique. Growing up in the '90s, this film wasn't bad enough to have my parents restrict me from watching it like they did with The Simpsons, but it wasn't The Brady Bunch either. Although it involves a family that shows complete disrespect towards each other, it does provide reverent family lessons that can be taken with us. It teaches us how to forgive--albeit too easily in Kevin McCallister's case--and it teaches us that facing our fears helps us to grow.

If I were Kevin, I wouldn't have really missed my family at all. I feel like the first 20 minutes that we see his family interact with him are a pretty good indication of how they treat him all the time. The amount of terrible parenting decisions and enabling that occurrs is enough to make the audience hate his family and NOT want them to come back. In fact, the only reason why he misses his family is because his life is on the line and he just wants some familiar faces. We forget that they are terrible and he has no business missing them. He would have done just fine with Old Man Marley keeping an eye out for him.

The movie is full of plot holes and laughable head-scratchers, and the adult characters all use the same word bank. The events in this film are all pretty ridiculous, but hey! It's 1990!

I have a blast watching this movie and never stop smiling when it's on. It's a really fun film, and the music is perfection! Love it or hate it, you always wished you had the chance to rig your house like that.

Twizard Rating: 90

Friday, December 5, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Penguins of Madagascar (2014)

In a similar fashion of A Million Ways to Die in the West, this film spews joke after joke, so there's always something to grasp on to. However, the jokes here are all of the same taste and keep the film at a consistent tone throughout. They don't really talk down to the kiddies either. I found that the humor was much less juvenile than expected--more Shrek-esque.

However, the overlying premise is based on something that would never happen--they wouldn't keep getting rid of an animal in the zoo just because he suddenly got demoted to the second most popular animal. It's a plot hole that is easily cracked by adults, although kids won't realize or care.

Although it stretches the plot pretty thin, it's hard to tell with all the jokes coming your way. It moves along briskly and keeps your attention throughout, and at least it's not 2 hours long!

In a world where good kids films are getting rarer and rarer, we find a good one that the parents won't mind watching either. As the Madagascar films get better with each new installment, Penguins of Madagascar follows that trend.

Twizard Rating: 87

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)

As funny as 2011's Horrible Bosses is, Horrible Bosses 2 is even funnier. The jokes are more consistent and the comedy shows no restraint. It continues its skit based comedic style, and instead of having a story that they squeeze jokes into, the jokes and story go hand in hand. In a comedy, this is what you want.

As for the rest of the film, the story is not as easily paced as its predecessor. In the first movie the events all fit together to feel like one big event--similar to Reservoir Dogs. In the sequel, there are a few more plot points, so the story becomes a little more intricate, thus the narrative more unorganized. But because the tone is so consistent, its slightly uneven pacing is forgiven.

If you're a fan of the first, you won't have to worry about typical sequel problems with this one. The plot is very creative and doesn't feel forced. And it's the same exact type of comedy here, but more of it. 

Twizard Rating: 83

Quick Movie Review: Cruel Intentions (1999)

Looking back on this movie, it holds up really well. It may have been deemed mediocre in 1999, but in 2014 it's better than many similar films we get nowadays. It narrates itself well through a plot which is, in fact, quite intricate and could have been complicated if executed incorrectly. Fortunately, it moves briskly along the plot points and never leaves us confused or anxious.

The only criticism I have with this film is the speed at which Sebastian and Annette fall in love with each other. It's almost too quick to be believable. It's not obvious, but for the over analyzer, like myself, it seems odd. Nonetheless, you can't get mad at this movie because of its alacrity--otherwise it would have been likely to be weighed down by unnecessary scenes. The ending was a little too "big" for the tone of the film, but I didn't hate it. You want to see Kathryn get what's coming to her, and she does. However, it would have been more effective and believable if it turned out that Sebastian was really alive in the end, driving away with Annette.

The acting is impressive and it's fun to look at. Cruel Intentions lives up to its name in the best way possible.

Twizard Rating: 90

Quick Movie Review: Whiplash (2014)

As a lifelong musician who went on to receive his bachelor's degree in music, this film hit home with me. Not only was it a really well done movie, but I found myself laughing at every little nuance of our world that was, for the first time, revealed on screen. It acts as a long-deserved glorification of the musician and the hours of practice that we spend at home practicing our craft. It also touches upon so many ideas and struggles that we have to constantly deal with. The belittling comparison to athletics in this film is one that I have always had an issue with. So much attention and money is shelled towards sports--something that people are less likely to become successful through than music. When music is a tool that is more useful, people scoff at it and give it no attention. Those of us in that world know its importance, but getting the "normal people" to understand that is almost useless. If someone gets to be starting quarterback they are worshiped and bragged about, but when someone earns first chair saxophone it usually just warrants us a simple pat on the back as if we were just getting an A- on an algebra test. Luckily I had parents that were extremely enthusiastic and supportive of my music endeavors--always bragging about what I have accomplished. That's why the only thing in this movie that I can criticize is Andrew's dad's negativity towards his son's music career. It doesn't make sense that his dad would pay for and support Andrew in music academy, but then go on to tell him that he would never play at the Lincoln Center. It was the only thing random and out of place in this film. It caused unnecessary tension between the two characters. But that scene doesn't warrant dismissal altogether. It may also be one of the most true and honest parts of this movie. People are praised when they are said to be going to college to play football, but when I tell others that I am a music major, most people's response is "Why?" or "So, what are you going to do with that?" When in reality, I am unbelievably more likely to get a job in my industry than an athlete is in his or hers. But because sports are deemed as cooler, nobody cares. Whiplash touches upon and pokes fun at these typical ideals, which makes the film all the more great. But perhaps the one thing in this movie that I can relate to the most is having an instructor eerily similar to that of J.K. Simmons' character, Terence Fletcher.

In high school I was in jazz band that started every morning at 7am. And if I wasn't tuned up and ready to go by 7:00 exactly, my teacher would start the rest of the band while glaring at me the entire time as I was frantically trying to get everything setup. This was me almost everyday. I felt like he hated me because he thought that I didn't care enough to get there on time and that I was ruining his valued rehearsal time. Little did he know, I did everything to make it to rehearsals and performances on time. I sped through lights, rolled through stop signs, and probably almost hit several pedestrians at times. But honestly, it had nothing to do with caring about not wasting his time--I just didn't want to get yelled at. Honestly, I didn't care as much as everyone else. I should have, but I didn't. That's where Miles Teller's character and I differ. I had other things on my mind--girlfriends, my social life, sleeping. Throughout high school we had a weird relationship. He would always scold me about things while the rest of the band would sit there in an awkward silence thanking the Lord that it was me and not them. Much like when we, much like in this movie, would sit there for 10 minutes while our teacher would yell at the drummer for not being at his tempo. The scenes in this film almost exactly replicated what happened in our rehearsals. It was almost funny, but you wouldn't dare laugh. There was a genuine fear that he placed in all of us. He and Fletcher shared the philosophy that belittling and humiliation helped to motivate. In a way, they're right. It's just not for everybody.

I practiced my parts at home for bare minimum--an hour every couple of days. I was 2nd chair tenor saxophone the entire time. One time we had a jazz competition and I forgot all of my music. To this day it was the most nervous I have ever been. There I am, in the front row, 6 feet from my teacher, and I was pretending to play an entire folder of music. Some I could bare through off the top of my head, but most I had to improvise. It was a real test of how well I knew the music. A test that I failed. I'm not sure if he knew what was up with me. To this day I'm convinced that he did, but just let me suffer through the agony rather than saving me the humiliation by making me sit backstage. If I had practiced, I wouldn't have needed the music to begin with.

He had lost his voice a few years before I got there, but I'm not sure how. We always speculated it was because of his yelling, but we never really knew. He was a stickler for everything and none of us understood it. We feared him, but also respected him at a high rate because he did what no other teacher had, or will, ever do--go to extremes to make sure that we never satisfied for mediocre. Doing music in college was the last thing I ever thought that I would do. I have him to thank. He put me one step ahead of the game and taught me that music was just as meaningful as sports--if not more. He hated playing at the football games because he thought that such a beautiful thing as music shouldn't pander to a silly thing such as high school football. He had his ideals set. We didn't understand at the time, but his passion for the art transcend to me all these years later.

My teacher wasn't as extreme as Terence Fletcher in Whiplash, but he was definitely on my mind the entire time I watched this movie.

As for the film, it was fantastic. It features great jazz, and equally as good acting, and the story never drags. It's a must watch for anyone who was ever in an ensemble.

Twizard Rating: 99

Quick Movie Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

There's a fine line between dark comedy and creepy. Nighcrawler walks that line with conviction, and it's completely believable. Jake Gyllenhaal helps its believability--never once going too much over the top. When the movie is over you have to remind yourself that it was the same guy who plays the charming pharmaceutical rep in Love and Other Drugs. I thought he was fantastic in Prisoners, and he stepped his game up even more with his performance here.

It's beautifully shot and properly paced. There is one scene, however, that is slightly tonally jarring. Near the end when Nina (Rene Russo) awkwardly submits to Lou (Gyllenhaal) after he gives her the last video, it just seems slightly out of line for her character. It was too abrupt for me.

You have a difficult time liking any of the characters, although the direction is good enough that we end up rooting for Lou the entire time only realizing towards the end that we probably shouldn't have been. And then we feel weird about it.

The social commentary regarding the media is smart and real. Although it may get lost in everything around it, it gets the job done for the audience, the entire time lying right below preachy, which is a good place to be for a film of this nature.

It may be unrealistic at times, but the performances and the direction don't allow you to harp on it that much. As the ball keeps on rolling, we gradually get to see Lou spiral out of control even more than when we first see him at the beginning of the film. You won't like the main protagonist, but you can't deny that it's a really well-made film.

Twizard Rating: 95

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Horrible Bosses (2011)

While having the benefit of never being predictable, its lack of depth hurts itself. It's one of those movies that will make you laugh a lot, but you never ever feel for the characters past the fact that they have terrible bosses. But fortunately for the film it's at its best when its chaotic. The first 20 minutes are the slowest part, but picks up a very steady pace after that. At that point, you don't really care about depth, you just want to laugh. 

The talent is great and the farce is fun. If you don't overanalyze this movie, you'll have a good time watching it. And it just gets better with continuous viewings. 

Twizard Rating: 84

Quick Movie Review: Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

Much of the surprising depth that graced 1994's Dumb and Dumber is missing here. Of course we didn't have that naive '90s charm, but the humor seems randomly scattered rather than strategically placed. Although the original may have just been a vessel for giving us a ton of humorous situations, it never felt like a sketch comedy show or a rapid fire of gags. 

The chemistry between the two leads is still there, but the identity of the writers doesn't seem to be. They play more to the concepts, rather than the characters on the screen. Many of the jokes aren't a reflection of the characters' dumbness, just humorous concepts. To me, the film is funny as a stand-alone comedy, but as a sequel to one of my favorite comedies, it doesn't exactly do the trick. The style and tone differ greatly from the first installment. It's just not quite as smart. The lines aren't as quotable and the gags rely too much on gross-out laughs. It feels more like a project to make the writers laugh at their own jokes. 

In the original film, the entire foundation of the movie is based on stupidity--the fact that the Harry and Lloyd don't know how the world works. Here the situations aren't naive-stupid, just adolescent-stupid.

Although, we have to realize that as beloved as the original movie is, it's not without imperfections. But the jokes don't make the story seem obsolete like this one does.

The bits don't fall flat every time, but they feel a little more Seth MacFarlane-esque than desired. But it also has to do with the fact that we simply are no longer a society that welcomes slap-stick comedy with open arms--let alone 110 minutes of it.

I'm not one of the many people who hated the Dumb and Dumber prequel, and I think that I may have liked it a little more than this one simply because it attempted, although not perfectly succeeding, to mimic to style of the first film.

Humor has transformed a lot over the years. Not just humor, but what we expect from humor. It's more improv-based now, and honestly Dumb and Dumber was ahead of its time in that sense. But instead of relying on the natural talents of their two leads, the writers decided to contrive every idea on the screen to the point where you feel like the actors don't just get to do their thing. 

In aiming to be more adult than the original, ironically the humor ends up being more juvenile. Dumb and Dumber paved the way for many films after it, but we have to realize that movies such as American Pie and Superbad have come out since then, and their influence may have guided the hands of these writers in exchange.

It's missing a little bit of the charm from the 1994 classic, and for fans of the original you may be disappointed, but I would recommend you watch this movie out of loyalty to the first. It's not THAT bad.

Twizard Rating: 68

Quick Movie Review: Dumb and Dumber (1994)

It's really hard to be objective about movie that I grew up watching and loving. But while Dumb and Dumber may have its faults, it's really a great movie and speaks a lot about where we were humor-wise in 1994. Jim Carrey was just starting to blow up and buddy films were at the forefront of the comedy world. 

The charm of Dumb and Dumber is purely organic and comprises of a perfect sum of its parts. I was watching the "uncut" version of this film once and have to admit that I didn't like any of the added/extended scenes. It leads me to realize that this is one of those movies that you can't add to or take away from. If you touch it at all, it deteriorates its quality. 

Although I can watch this movie as is, I can admit that it has its slow parts. The end of the 2nd act it can get sluggish, and the plot finally catches up with itself in the 3rd act as it ties everything together. The runtime can be slimmed down a bit, while the plot stretches quite thin in order to make room for more jokes.

But the charisma of this movie doesn't necessarily come from the script. It comes from Carrey and Daniels themselves. Their respective individuality--yet similarity--strikes a chord with fans of this film.

Having watched this movie dozens of times I can say that it may not be perfect, but I can't imagine it any other way--nor would I want to.

Twizard Rating: 89

Monday, November 24, 2014

Quick Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

We were fooled. Don't act like you didn't see it coming. Quit being oblivious and biased. This movie is really bad. It's boring. I should have known from the opening title where it says "Mockingjay Part 1". There is no hunger games. The games are over. The action is over. I just was hoping for a good story at least. I was hoping for ANY story. 

This is the most shameless attempt to make double the money on their franchise finale. Studios wonder why so many people pirate movies, but it's because they mess with us like this. It's atrocious of them. The events could have been "accomplished" in less than an hour--and I'm being generous. But no, it was 2 hours and 3 minutes. And you know they had to make it at least 2 hours, because if it was any shorter it would have been too blatant that they were making it into two separate movies just to make more money. But instead they decided on making us wait until the movie was over to confirm that fact. 

I wrote in my notes, "slow moving first act." I soon realized that the entire movie would be like this. But I was hoping for at least a nice twist at the end maybe, but that didn't happen either. Nothing happened in the whole movie. We just sit around watching the characters move about the screen while we occasionally check our watches. There's little-to-no suspense, there's no action, and there's barely even any humor. The political commentary about democracy isn't even consequential anymore because we obviously agree in favor of it. There isn't any internal conflict for the audience to mull over. 

At least if you found The Hobbit boring, you loved being enveloped in their magical world with picturesque landscapes and interesting creatures. With the Hunger Games' world, you have a dystopian future containing nothing of desire, and by the end of this movie you're gonna want out.

And I can't blame the director. He was just dealt the hand that the studio gave him. They need the extra billion dollars. 

You'll hear good things from fangirls, but don't be suckered in to this one. Rent it. 

Twizard Rating: 53

Friday, November 21, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Heathers (1988)

At first glance, this surreal dark comedy may be too weird. However, you have to understand what it's trying to do. It's not for everyone, but Heathers is an engaging and honest commentary on how society eats up tragedy, which creates a chain reaction that sends others searching for that same attention. It shows that suicide may not always be an escape from life, but a longing for love and appreciation. While criticizing our culture, it also sympathizes with adolescents who are constantly lost and confused. It poses the food for thought that we vicariously kill each other. 

The script isn't perfect, but the narrative is close to it. I love films where you never know where they're going. And this one is far from predictable. The character study on Veronica (Winona Rider) is fun to watch within itself. She goes from thinking she gets it to actually getting it--and it's convincing the whole way through. 

My greatest wish of this film is that the chemistry between Slater and Rider had been better. Much of the time it's unbelievable and it hinders the effectiveness of their eventual fallout. 

Like I said, this movie isn't for everyone. It's very weird and if you're looking for a typical black comedy, this isn't it. This aims a bit higher than just pure entertainment. It's surreality can push it into seemingly inhuman territory, but Heathers is far from it.

Twizard Rating: 85

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Showgirls (1995)

Nomi is watching Cristal from the audience for the first time. She mimics some of Cristal's hand motions perfectly. She gets it! I'm excited! …Those are the types of transparent notions that this film is hoping to pass along to its audience. The aspects of Showgirls that are most laughable aren't the things on the screen, but the blatant expectations of the filmmakers that what they present will evoke certain emotions from us. This is why there is no shortage of drama in Showgirls. It's induced at every possible moment, constantly trying to make us react--like a soap opera…or a Tyler Perry film. 

But exploited drama isn't the only cancer in this movie. Besides the distractingly jarring and clanking dialogue, the most annoying aspect is Nomi herself. She's so fragile and bipolar, like the crazy girl your friend dated while you questioned why he stayed with her for a year. Her emotions are so up and down that it becomes annoying and almost insulting to her gender. The character is written as though she is supposed to have a chip on her shoulder, but then she has the confidence of an olympic athlete. She is our main protagonist, yet she's so unlikeable that you're not even rooting for her. In fact, you don't know who you're really rooting for at all--I guess the ending?? None of the characters' motives make any sense and are ridiculously inconsistent. Nobody is set in stone. Even Molly, the only one who doesn't really do anything wrong, sees her best friend and trailer-mate (who apparently she doesn't  know very well) obviously going down a bad path and barely makes any effort to give her support of any kind.

Regardless of everything I've said so far, it's a pretty entertaining bad movie. There's actually a good overarching story here, and if you stick it through, you'll actually appreciate the ending. It might even inspire or teach a lesson now and again. I heard someone say that Showgirls is like the Cocktail of dancing movies. Although I don't like it as much as I like Cocktail, I don't hate this movie. There's something about it that keeps you watching. They wisely (and annoyingly) make you wait until the end to find out about Nomi's past. It all ties in nicely by the time the credits roll.

Twizard Rating: 62

Quick Movie Review: Interstellar (2014)

This may perhaps be the best sci-fi film I have ever seen. The cast is great, the narrative is perfect, and the technicals are breathtaking. It also serves as a post-apocalyptic movie, and may just be the best pick from that genre as well. It makes all of the scenarios seem so realistic, thusly making its point hit closer to home.

Sure, Interstellar has its share of imperfections. There was little backstory on how earth got to be so dystopian, along with not establishing what year it actually is. And of course, the plot holes in the film are countless. But with a film of this magnitude, a few plot holes that take deep-analytics to uncover are expected and accepted. However, the only thing that I nitpicked about was the lack of attention and concern about Cooper seeing his son upon his final return. He immediately asks about his daughter, but never once asks about his son, or if he's even alive. This bothered me a little, but was only a minute detail at the end.

But among all of these issues, the biggest problem is that the concepts in the film may be a little too deep for about 90% of its audience. The script is incredibly wise and smart, and the lengthy runtime is necessary, but in the last 30 minutes the audience has to really be on their toes because it gets very abstract and heavy with information.

You can complain all you want about the given scenarios, but within the universe of the film, things were pretty tight. With really good movies, it's hard to write a review without sounding like the distribution company paid you, but this really is a fun film to watch. It has all the elements of a perfect sci-fi, and much like Children of Men, it places it in the reality of our own backyard to get us to look at the film as an actuality, rather than just a metaphor. 

We want movies that answer "what if?" and when we see that question resolved in a way that's gadget-free and with relatively the same technology that we have right now, it feels like we get the actual answer. You're not getting tricked or cheated with phony set pieces and overly futuristic devices. There's something so satisfying to watch this movie and feel like it could potentially be "based on a true story" with a little stretch of the imagination.

Twizard Rating: 100

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Big Hero 6 (2014)

big hero 6
When writing a script you're not supposed to be too vague, but you're also not supposed to be too obvious by not letting the audience figure things out for themselves--especially the obvious things. But this film loves to reiterate the apparent. The dialogue is painfully bad, and even corny a lot of the time, and unfortunately these mistakes aren't obvious enough for most critics who have been blinded by a Disney film to see that this script is below par. Usually Disney does a really good job of not dumbing down its dialogue for kids--or to kids--but it definitely fails at that here. That's not to say that many of the scenarios and much of the humor haven't been written to appeal to both young and old. In fact, this movie did a good job of making the adults laugh too.

Also speaking of the negative, this film has a hard time with character consistency. These consistencies are vital for invoking emotion when needed and for giving our heart a tug when something sad or moving happens. The archetypes feel forced and the script veers away from certain characters' tendencies for the convenience of a given situation. This, along with a couple of nitpicked plot holes, should be a writer's nightmare. For instance, it takes Hero (a genius) 30 minutes of screen time to suspect that Alistair Krei was the one that stole his technology--the most obvious initial candidate to be the masked villain--when it takes the audience 30 seconds to start suspecting it. I understand that they stall Hero's suspicion in order to prevent the audience from ruling it out right away as a decoy, but it doesn't help my issues with the script. Although Disney has outdone themselves in the art and effects departments, it seems like they cut corners in revising the screenplay.

I will say that Baymax is the absolute highlight of this film. Without him this film would have suffered a lot, and it's easy to say that because the premise wasn't revolving around him necessarily. (Meaning, they could have hypothetically made a film called Big Hero 5 that would have made it into the can). This movie's entertainment value increases rapidly once we establish Baymax as a permanent figure in this film.

The story is nicely paced and moves in the right direction for pretty much the whole film, I just think that it could have underwent some more rigorous rewordings in the writing department.

Twizard Rating: 79

Friday, November 7, 2014

Quick Movie Review: John Wick (2014)

Going into this film I thought it was going to be something original. However, nothing I saw really made me say "wow". I know critics and audiences love it, but I can't see why. I can see if they liked it, but LOVE? It's nothing we haven't seen before--especially if you've seen Taken, or recently The Equalizer. And after seeing those other 2 movies, this one feels really boring and lifeless. Much of the time we are left just watching Mr. Wick (Keanu Reeves) fly about the screen taking out villain after villain in a very ordinary (albeit well-choreographed) fashion. Our minds wander and we are getting anxious for the plot to thicken even though it never does. And although we actually do care about the title character, he goes to extremes that make you question if his motives justify his bloodthirsty tirade. While there's no aspect of the film that makes me hate it, it proves to be quite mediocre and nothing more.

With this coming out so soon after The Equalizer, one can't help but make comparisons. The script wasn't as good in John Wick, but it's also a tighter and less porous story. In this film we stop remembering why we care half way through it. It's an interesting premise to begin with, but then it falls into convention.

If I can say anything good about John Wick, I will say that its style is pleasing. It's campy and surrealistic--almost like a comic book or a graphic novel. Similarly to Taken, it's not weighed down by an overly complicated premise. It doesn't quite feel like John Wick got the redemption that he was seeking in the end of the movie when he finally catches and kills Iosef, leaving us feeling like this may all have been a waste of time. But then you question whether or not all of this killing that he goes through for his car and his dog is really worth all of this trouble in the first place. Did he even get his car back? 

I'm glad to see Reeves can still hold his own in a blockbuster film, but I just wished that I had liked it a little more. Despite my own criticisms, it isn't a bad movie--it just isn't a great one.

Twizard Rating: 65

Quick Movie Review: St. Vincent (2014)

St. Vincent is a very enjoyable movie. It has its faults, but it's easy to like. It has a likable cast all around, and only seems flawed when you overanalyze it.

There is some wavering in the depth of Vincent, with his innate traits shifting ever so slightly throughout the movie. Not developing, but wavering. Where the director wants him to be a unpleasant, he's unpleasant. Where the director wants him to be desperate and lost, he's desperate and lost, but when he wants Vincent to be confident and responsible, he's confident and responsible. Maybe it says something about the depth of the character, but I personally think that it's a small flaw in the script. It's not enough to dock it a lot of points, but it offsets the overall tone of the film slightly.

But in the end you realize that this movie says more about the Oliver's empathy and ability to see beauty in the beast. He sees this and wants to share to everyone who Vincent is so that they see him like Oliver sees him. It's touching and sentimental, but a little manipulative on the director's part. But I suppose that any sort of complaining regarding this would be too nitpicky--even for me. All this stuff doesn't make the movie less-than-good, it just makes it not perfect.

The finale is when this film really draws you in and you have no choice to surrender your emotions towards this man who is being honored. Although he hasn't changed, you've changed and you learn to ultimately love him.

Overall, it satisfies our needs and succeeds at its goal of making us give those who are ugly on the outside the benefit of the doubt. It's a good movie.

Twizard Rating: 88

Quick Movie Review: Dracula Untold (2014)

Going into this movie, I was excited. Excited because I love origin stories. I mean, I figured that it wasn't going to be amazing, but at least I would be entertained with a unique background to a well-known character. And I was loving it. It wasn't perfect, but it was turning into a pleasant surprise much like 2010's Predators did. It has a nice theme, a likable title character, and an interesting premise. It also wisely made the audience wonder for the entire film if Dracula was going to fail his challenge or prevail.

And then something happens. It's the moment you see his wife falling to her death. Honestly I actually thought that he was going to make her drink his blood so that she would continue to live--a decision I would have been okay with. But instead he kills her to regain his own strength, which is now permanent, instead of saving her by just giving her the same "three day challenge" that he underwent--which, by the way, was forgotten about once the 3rd act hit.

It decides to throws its theme out the window in the last 15 minutes and Dracula seems to have no motives whatsoever, which deprives this film of being powerful at all, becoming a directionless contradiction. I haven't watched a movie in a long time that is so unsure of its own theme. It's like the last 1/4 of the movie had a different writer. And to top it off, there are a couple of easily avoidable plot holes. For instance, why is it necessary for Dracula to turn all those people into vampires? He is powerful enough to defeat the army alone. Also, the idea is that when the subject drinks his blood, he or she has three days to resist human blood, or else the vampire whose blood he or she drank ceases to be a vampire anymore. That doesn't happen. At all. I think the writers forgot to edit the last 15 pages of the script. 

Dracula ends up losing his son anyway, which was the exact fear that catalyzed him seeking those powers to begin with.

I gave this film as high of a rating as I did because I actually was really liking it up until the 3rd act. But ultimately, it proved to be directionless.

Twizard Rating: 70

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge (2001)

As opposed to the first installment, which had a much more meandering pace, this one moves along quite nicely. The premise is well conceived and has a much better structure. 

But with a more appealing narrative comes more distracting plot holes. Why would they ever take a bus to Halloweentown when they can just walk through a portal every time. Also, some problems could have obviously been solved earlier, but weren't addressed in order to stretch the script to fill the runtime. For instance, if Gort had told them much earlier about his time portal it would have saved Luke and Marnie all that trouble trying to find a way to get back to the future. And then you introduce the time-travel element, which has no set of rules whatsoever, avoiding all explanation as to how the characters are defying the laws of physics. As a pedant for these kinds of details, I found myself getting a headache from a movie that is really easy to follow.

Of course we have to realize that it is a film targeted towards young adults. Although it's not without a porous script, it's more engaging than its predecessor and much funnier too. It's a bigger and better movie, and closer to what the previous film should have been.

Twizard Rating: 82

Quick Movie Review: Idle Hands (1999)

It's Halloween time, so I've decided to watch some Halloween films of the non-scary variety. Idle Hands may not be a terrible movie, but it's also not all that memorable. There doesn't seem like too much of a purpose to it all. 

Reminiscent of the Evil Dead films, this film subtly sprinkles comedy over the horror, but still doesn't invoke many laughs. But as nostalgia, we can look back and somewhat appreciate this film for what it is. It serves as a nice addition to the cult halloween movie genre.

It's seldom laugh-out-loud, and it's also not terribly quotable. However, the cast is fun to watch and it's far from boring. Idle Hands is so goofy that it just works.

Twizard Rating: 74

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Dear White People (2014)

The subject of race is often met with bias in one direction or the other. Not racism necessarily, but topics involving race and the tensions between races. Being from an area that is extremely diverse, I can't relate to some of the examples displayed in this film. I grew up around people that don't exclusively hang out with their own race, and where many were colorblind when it came to choosing their friends. My 2 best friends are Asian-American and black. My girlfriend is of Mexican heritage. I suppose that I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who didn't bring to my attention our differences, nor did they probably even think about it, but I know that the majority of the country isn't this lucky. It's just that some instances in this film come off as unrealistic to me. If all this stuff really does happen, then I can see how this movie would be effective. 

This film involves the upper-middle class and how racial tensions affect them specifically. While the setting is highly essential for proving points, it's also a hinderance. I should have brought a dictionary to the theater. The target audience for this movie may not understand a lot of the vocabulary. The verbiage is a quite highbrow and quick-delivered for the intents of the movie. That aside, the script is very self-aware and smart. It knows what its doing and saying at all times. And when it tries to be funny it succeeds.

This film does well what so many other teen and college movies don't--it doesn't overindulge in self-importance of the kids' lives. For one, it's because there is an importance of the topic being discussed. But it also doesn't portray the students as having all the answers and doing it all on their own. Each character makes mistakes and each character says things that make a lot of sense. It's a really honest film. 

Dear White People handles a heavy topic surprisingly well and does a good job of remaining unbiased and not telling you what to think. Even though you want it to sometimes, you realize that no one has a definitive answer, and the only solution is to look at the world with colorblind eyes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Halloweentown (1998)

The 1990s. Back when children's television was at an all-time high, child actors weren't hired for their looks, and Disney Channel Original Movies didn't talk down to kids. In 1997, Disney rebranded their TV movies under the Disney Channel Original Movie marquee and their style of films also changed. They started featuring younger kids as main characters and had them dealing with their own issues. In 1998, Disney released their 5th DCOM, Halloweentown. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but as a kid it invoked our imagination. The script is full of wit, and the talent here is really impressive too--especially the lead actress, Kimberly J. Brown, who went on to also star in another DCOM, Quints. Debbie Reynolds is also fantastic here as the adventurous and crazy grandmother that every kid wants. 

Being a really fun live-action film for kids, Halloweentown doesn't come without its faults. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy on occasion, and the little brother's cynicism and the mom's stubbornness get tiresome after awhile. Also, as great of a movie this was as a child, as an adult I realize that the concept is underutilized. There's this magical place that we still dream about as grownups, however we're left wanting to see more of this world. Much like Back to the Future Part II when we get enveloped by futuristic Hill Valley to the point where we can fill in the gaps in our minds. With Halloweentown there are too many gaps to fill in that we don't really feel like we've experienced this universe enough. Don't get me wrong, I still can appreciate this film as an adult. The sets, the costumes, the few buildings that we do see are great. But it would be ten times more entertaining if we got a little more. In theory, Halloweentown is amazing, but we leave feeling cheated. I guess that's why they made 3 more movies.

It's easy to just say that the plot was stretched too thin here, but that's saved for movies that have concepts that can't be expanded upon. With Halloweentown it's more of a case that the plot simply wasn't as thick as it should have been. Because it should be able to get stretched for days and days and never even show signs of thinning. Let's just hope that they fix this in the sequels.

Basically, as a kid, this film is exactly what you want. Watching as an adult I just yearn for it to reach its potential. 

Twizard Rating: 76

Quick Movie Review: The Judge (2014)

The biggest complaint that I heard with this film is that it's full of cliches. I have to disagree somewhat. Yeah, sure, I know that it's the typical father-son drama where the dad never had time for his son and all that cat's in the cradle stuff. But when it comes down to it, this film goes far beyond the typical courtroom drama. It's full of surprises and twists that are slowly and carefully exposed along the course of the narrative. The first act takes its time, but never drags. It doesn't rush to reveal the plot all at once, saving things for later and not spoiling us with all the details right away. But then it gets really interesting when you don't see it coming. 

While I'm praising it, the acting and writing were phenomenal. Robert Downey Jr. commands your attention with his presence on screen, and his troubles with his father and his family are believable. It's also really funny at the right times without ever becoming irreverent to the point at hand. 

It's well-paced and deceivingly flawless. You're never able to predict the outcome. It remains mysterious enough to not make it predictable. Is it wrong that this movie gives us what we want? What we need? It makes points but never hands us our opinions on the characters. And it never tells us whose side to pick. Sure, it may be cliched at parts, but it's thoroughly enjoyable and leaves us feeling something a lot rarer than what we've been getting at the movies lately--which means, by definition, that it is in fact the opposite of cliche.

Twizard Rating: 96

Quick Movie Review: Fury (2014)

At first they were displeased with him and thought he would bring them down, but at a moment these 4 guys realize that Norman makes them better. Meanwhile, Norman learns a lot about himself and what he's willing to do. And then it all comes full circle in the end with a moment of compassion show by a German soldier. 

It's always best to judge a film off of how well it serves its own purpose. Fury gets its point across well. It wants to show the rawest and most realistic form of war. It also wants to peak through the curtain to the other side. It was brilliantly executed here.

I also love the camerawork and direction that this movie has. It doesn't waste too much time with shaky-cam in order to make it seem like more is happening, and you're always sure of what's going on. Every time a shot is fired, you know who is shooting it. There is a very human aspect to all of the combat.

There's no bit of this film that I don't like and enjoy. With great action sequences and memorable scenes, Fury serves its purpose of showing us the positive and negative impact that war had on the individuals immersed into it.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: The Boxtrolls (2014)

Visually, this The BoxTrolls is next-to-perfect aesthetically. As far as the content of this film is concerned, it's entertaining and intriguing. However, it's not always laugh-out-loud funny. Charming would be a good word to describe it. It makes you smile a ton and has its fill of memorable characters, but there just aren't a whole lot of memorable scenes. You also can't help feeling like the plot is being stretched too thin, as there isn't a whole lot that happens in this movie, and the runtime is still pretty short. Sure, much of it is used to establish setting, but it could have definitely ended sooner. The final "battle" scene dragged on for too long.

The visuals create a perfect world for itself and I commend it for its beauty, I just wish it was a little more memorable. However, it is rewatchable, which counts for a lot and will, in turn, etch it into my head easier.

Twizard Rating: 88

Quick Movie Review: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014)

Steve Carell is always likable and where Jennifer Garner is meant to be funny, she is really funny. And while this film isn't amazing, it's also fairly entertaining. If you can get past the slow set up, the slapstick is pretty fun. However, there are a few screaming plot holes, and some of the minor characters who are contributing to this bad day can get annoying with their unrealistic behaviors. But the main cast was all really impressive, and a few bits had me laughing out loud.

The premise isn't stale by any means, but nothing crazy enough happens in this movie that will get talked about after the day is over. But it's a really good kids movie if nothing else.

Twizard Rating: 78

Quick Movie Review: Not Another Teen Movie (2001)

The thing about spoof movies of this sort is that it might make you laugh, but they are hard to warm up to. They sacrifice depth for humor. And in this movie's case, there isn't even a whole lot of genuine laughs. There aren't even a whole lot of one-liners. Although some of the subtle details are clever and it does have its moments. A lot of scenes will even make you smile at the good points that they make, but unless you are watching this with a group of friends, it's not really going to satisfy.

The worst part is that the cast is actually all really good. The talent here is better than even the above-average spoof movie.

It's not terrible, but it's not urgently rewatchable either. However, some of the subtle details are pretty clever and it actually does have its moments.

The cameos are great and it gets a lot of things off of its chest, but Not Another Teen Movie still won't make you realize anything new about the films that it's spoofing. I mean, in hindsight this is one of the better spoof movies that we've ever gotten, but there aren't a whole lot of good ones to choose from. It's definitely no Airplane.

Twizard Rating: 59

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Quick Movie Review: 10 Things I Hate About You

Taking pages out of John Hughes' playbook, 10 Things I Hate About You falls just short of cliche as we forget that much of what made Hughes' work so clever was that it invented its own cliches--as this film does. While it does subject to the usual idiot adults and predictable plot, there is a lot more depth here than the average teen comedy. 

Although the chemistry between the leads and their respective partners is impressive, I did ask a little bit more from director Gil Junger. While I know he is more familiar with the world of television, I still expected him to pay a little bit more attention to minute details--which resulted in a bit of sloppiness from time to time. 

The script has its ups and downs comedically, but as a whole this is a fun and enjoyable movie. It doesn't rely on one-liners to carry the weight of its humor and it doesn't waste time with subplots. 
But although the laughs slow down at times, there aren't really any eye-rolling jokes. And wisely, there are hints of self-satire carefully scattered throughout. 

With a killer soundtrack and clever bits, you tend to forget that the premise isn't groundbreaking. You have to judge a movie based off of its rewatchability, and this one is definitely one that I would watch again.

Twizard Rating: 86

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Walk of Shame

If you can withstand the first 20 minutes you're in for a fairly good farce comedy with some subtle humor on the side. Our film begins with a montage of inorganic imitations of famous viral news bloopers that would be pretty funny if they had showed the actual clips, since none of them exerted the same spontaneity as the originals. It then shows Meghan Miles (Elizabeth Banks) at the end of the montage having a similar "mess-up" involving cats acting uncontainable while she attempts to tell a news story. The movie continues through another 20 minutes setting up what I am now expecting to be a less-than-decent experience. Her boyfriend leaves and she doesn't get the job she's been wanting, so she goes out with her party-animal friends to a club to meet guys. This is all cliche as can be. She goes back to a guy's place, and after a romp with him she wakes up in the middle of the night and receives a call from her producer informing her that she actually did get the job if she can show up to the station the next afternoon. She goes outside and her car is towed but she can't find the name of the tow company. She then comes across some really annoying characters that are not willing to help her out as they think she is a hooker. I'm cringing. The rest of the movie continues as she attempts to get to the tow yard and ultimately, the news station. Throughout the whole ordeal these cops are trying to catch Meghan, who they think is a hooker starting all kinds of trouble. 

This is a case of a film that I would not personally hail as a great movie, but one that i would watch again (but maybe fast forwarding through the first 20 minutes). Everybody in the film is pretty good with one exception--Elizabeth Banks, who doesn't give it her all as she mopes around the whole movie allowing everyone else shine around her. She's not believable as a news anchor either. I know this film is supposed to target her fans especially, and if you're one of them, then you've come to the right place. I personally watched it for Kevin Nealon, who was great. The direction was also a tad bit sloppy in the details department. The script is not all that great as far as depth and meaty dialogue goes, but it provides a few unexpected laughs. It actually starts having some pretty good moments about half way into the 2nd act. My biggest complaint from the last 2/3 of the movie comes from the characters, such as the cops or the lady at the impound lot, who are conveniently placed in these types of movies just to move along the plot. I absolutely hate it when comedies have characters that are unrealistically stubborn in order to create a roadblock to prevent the protagonist from achieving his or her ultimate goal. 

It's not a crazy outrageous comedy like The Hangover or anything like that. It wants to be raunchier, but seems to hold back at times--which works, if it didn't see like it wanted to be raunchier. It's almost exclusively rated R for language. However, once you get past the setup it becomes a pretty entertaining movie. It's not a good film by any means, but definitely enjoyable for the viewers who aren't as picky. I'd personally watch it again.

Twizard Rating: 67

Quick Movie Review: Gone Girl

This film is anything but formulaic. Rosamund Pike is phenomenal, and Ben Affleck's blinking is minimal as he is at his absolute best. David Fincher keeps you on your toes, and the script is thrilling and smarter than its own good. You don't know who to root for or who you dislike more until it hits you like a ton of bricks. Very few films can justifiably jerk your emotions from one side to the other with such grace and necessity. You don't usually see the bad guy become the good guy so fluidly. 

It's so fun how the film plays on its satire of gossip in the media and how the public ignorantly passes it along. You end up smiling because you and the film share the same sentiment. But it's not until the end when the movie just doesn't satisfy your need for apologies all around towards Nick (Affleck) from the public and his friends who ridiculed him. However, it does it so that we don't forget about Nick's faults amidst his wife's psychopathic development. He was a bad guy too--and catalyzed all of these events. And i guess it also accurately displays how our society would, in turn, handle being wrong too. 

Admittedly, some of the symbolism is a little less subtle as the 3rd act is introduced. But if it was omitted, there would be something missing tonally. 

I wonder what Nick's side of the story is from before he cheated on his wife. Did she cheat on him first? It leaves you wondering.

With the ending a little rushed and a few plot holes and details that might leave us scratching our heads (e.g. the police checking the security videos at Desi's house) Gone Girl's is too entertaining and though-provoking to hold it against it. It's a near perfect movie and ridiculously entertaining.

Twizard Rating: 99