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

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quick Movie Review: Friends With Benefits

Now, it's only natural to compare this movie to No Strings Attached which came out a few months before. Honestly, they are both good movies. However, I think that Friends With Benefits is a lot funnier and slightly more enjoyable. While I thought that the script was stretched a little too thin in this one, it has a much more relatable themes and is more fun altogether. But although both films are worth a watch, No Strings Attached is a little smarter and suffers less from cliches.

While I'm still not a huge fan of Timberlake's acting, the rest of the cast was tremendous and there's no denying that his chemistry with Kunis is near-perfect. This may be the sole reason to root for a happy ending at all. Because honestly I couldn't have felt more detached from their fates.

In slight attempts to make fun of itself, Friends With Benefits doesn't offer us anything terribly unique plot-wise, but it's truly a sum of its parts. In the long run, this is one that you're going to be rewatching before the other.

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: Nymphomaniac Volume 2

With the "journey" finished, I don't like this film any more than the first installment. No character is liable, except for maybe Joe's father, and Joe can only seem to like and empathize with those who she can relate to herself. She's selfish. Finally at the end she seems to become friends with the old man, whom she knows nothing about, because he listened to her. But that all ends when she kills him. Lars Von Trier want you to love Joe so badly, and it's evident in the script. After every action she is seen as the good-guy in the end. And you have the old man who keeps telling her that she's not a bad person and keeps justifying her mistakes, when in fact she isn't a good person. But I suppose, at least, the audience sees that a little better this time around.

But the film makes some better points politically and socially,  as the first film was more commentary on science and mathematical theories. The script was just as smart, but this film was just as hard to watch as the first. And I still wish they had revealed more about her mother and what caused Joe to be who she is.

Overall, there is no reason to watch these films more than once for even the biggest of fans. I watched it because I'm a Shia LaBeouf fan, but that is all.

Twizard Rating: 61

Quick Movie Review: Nymphomaniac Volume 1

It's hard to particularly like this story so far because it calls for a very acquired taste and it hasn't resolved much of the conflicts yet. For those that do not understand film and are just looking for entertainment, you will quickly find this movie boring. It plays mostly with metaphors and uncomfortable/unrelatable situations. There is a lot of depth, but not exactly specific to any one character in particular. Meaning, there isn't much difference between characters--they seem to all be written in the same way. With that said, the script is very smart and very aware of itself and what it's saying. But I think that it serves more as a philosophical challenge than an entertaining film. I'm not getting much out of it myself, but it definitely keeps the brain moving. However, some of the logic that the two main characters conclude to is very arguable and faulty on occasion even though the narrative is unique and the metaphors are interesting.

As interesting as it is, we haven't yet delved deep enough into the actual reasons WHY the main character has her addiction. We know that her mom is a "you-know-what", but to what degree? And with its purpose being to reject religion, it comes off as very preachy if I do say so myself.

While the acting is fantastic, this film is a little too drawn out and I keep forgetting that it's only 2 hours, as it feels more like 3. And now I must sit through the second volume.

Twizard Rating: 61

Friday, October 3, 2014

Quick Movie Review: The Equalizer

From the first 30 minutes or so, I'm thinking that the script is really going to have a lot of depth. But that all changes after that. It goes from a writer's film to a editor's film. Granted, a really good editor's film. There's nothing original story-wise, but it's a really fun movie! I might sound crazy, but it was reminiscent of Home Alone at times. You see his process when defeating the bad-guys instead of just leaving it up in the air as a mystery.  It's kind of like Home Alone meets Taken. Although it isn't AS ridiculous and silly as Taken tended to be. The main character is just as invincible, but at least the body count isn't usually unrealistic. But at least Taken isn't 131 minutes long.

With that said, the script leaves some details abandoned as it concludes, and it doesn't tell too much backstory (which can be a good thing for some viewers). You end up realizing that this movie is just a really gory genre film. The concept isn't terribly unique, but it's a pretty good take on that concept. It's highly entertaining, and although it's long, I didn't want it to end.

Twizard Rating: 85

Quick Movie Review: The Drop (2014)

The Drop is a really good movie, but what else can you expect if Tom Hardy's in it? It may be slow sometimes, and eventually you may find yourself asking for clarification, but the acting here helps encourage you to not want to look away. The depth of Hardy's character is ridiculous when you take the time to think about it. The pacing is consistent and tied together with the music creates a film that keeps your attention. You never quite know any character until the climax--then it all hits you like a ton of bricks. It's amazing. And it's impressive on a technical scale as well.

It never takes itself too seriously and Hardy is charismatic as ever. And while it doesn't break new ground as far as the crime-drama is concerned, it's perhaps one of the best servings from that genre that we've seen all year.

Twizard Rating: 97