Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Knights of Badassdom Review

Knights of Badassdom Review
Directors: Joe Lynch

Cast Headliners: Ryan Kwanten, Summer Glau, Peter Dinklage, Steve Zahn

Original Release Date: Febuary 11th, 2014

            The topic of live action roleplaying, or “larping” is often mocked in films. One can think of some of the funniest of from the comedy Role Models, a way many of us heard of this hobby. Knights of Badassdom attempts to answer that mocking jest of this pastime with a form of “playing it straight” and “being true to the fandom”, or so director Joe Lynch has claimed when promoting the film.  Does it succeed? Well, it sort of does.
            The main reluctant hero of the film is Joe, played by Ryan Kwanten of True Blood fame who I’m very certain was chosen more for his infamous dashing looks than his talent.  He is a mechanic and metal singer.  An harsh breakup leads him to joining the weird and wacky world of larp through his friends Hung (Peter Dinklage) and Eric(Steve Zahn).
            Dinklage is no doubt the star of the show. He is an expert larper and quite skilled at combat. His stoner attitude and combat machismo are totally unlike any other role I have seen him in, and the few times I did laugh were when either he had lines or when Steve Zahn’s Eric mage character was being stupid.  However, without spoiling it too much both are extremely underutilized.   Compared to Joe, and yeesh the many other “witty” characters they stand apart.    It feels almost like an insult when certain events cause a certain one of them to be gone.
            Sure the world of imaginary elves and dragons has its laughs when contrasted to fun loving folks, but the tone is what kills the film.   As with its promotion of the “Hung” character being the focus there is a flaw of extremely deceptive marketing.  One might expect a nerdy larp experience, but what is inside is more…. I don’t even know. A greasy amalgamation of comedy, parody, playing it straight, horror, and drama.  It’s all over the place in every aspect.  Summer Glau as love interest Gwen is about as deep as a cup of pudding.   Joe barely ever changes as a character and stays in his old way, but that’s not a good thing.   Sure there’s some action and laughs, but it is in small amount.
            Joe Lynch’s previous works have been either horror films or metal music videos for the most part and it definitely shows here.  The special effects are cheap, the cinematography is rough, and there’s a half-baked punk aesthetic to it all including one of the most generic loud metal scores I’ve seen in my day.   It seems like he literally made it in the park by his house in a few weekends, but perhaps this was intentional. It has taken over three years to come out on a straight to dvd release and I hear many cuts were made which is unfortunate. Maybe in those cuts were all the good scenes because there is little of that here.    There are certain redeemable factors to it, since the very idea is unique.   I’ve mentioned “horror” already but how this fake fantasy becomes a reality is one interesting thing to be seen.   An potential viewer might be the semi-specific market of a hardcore Peter Dinklage fan, but be warned that this is waaaaay not a  Game of Thrones.   Come for the larp plot and cast, but know it’s only an hour and 20 minutes for a reason. It is dragged out past its welcome.  5.65 out of 10

Oscar Predictions: 2014

Hello folks, special note here.   In what will become an annual tradition, here are my thoughts on the upcoming Oscar awards.  In each case, I will list nominees for the most major categories/ones I care personally about, then both say who I think will win, who I want to win, and why for each.  Let’s begin:

Best Picture
-          American Hustle
-          Captain Phillips
-          Dallas Buyers Club
-          Gravity
-          Her
-          Nebraska
-          Philomena
-          12 Years A Slave
-          The Wolf of Wall Street
Who I Predict:  I think it will be 12 Years a Slave, for both its ensemble cast and topic.  The Academy LOVES dramatic portrayals of racial tension as seen in past years
Who I Want: Captain Phillips, because it is a great film with stellar acting from both its famous lead and its amateur extras

Best Director:
-           David O’Russell , American Hustle
-          Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
-          Alexander Payne, Nebraska
-          Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
-          Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Who I Predict:  I can see Cuaron winning for his special techniques used in the film. Of course, since I see 12 Years a Slave winning, McQueen would not be far behind
Who I Want: Scorsese, for making a stellar film right up there with his classics

Best Actor:
 -  Christian Bale, American Hustle
- Bruce Dern, Nebraska
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
- Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
- Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Who I Predict: I would say McConaughey, so much buzz is flying around about his turn in that film and award prospects, and such a movie would not surprise me
Who I want: DICAPRIO, for the love of arceus.  He can be an incredible actor, and has been snubbed for many years.  Of all people without an Oscar,  he deserves it most. Now is maybe his best chance yet at getting it finally

Best Actress:
-          Amy Adams, American Hustle
-          Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
-          Sandra Bullock, Gravity
-          Judi Dench, Philomena
-          Meryl Streep, August Osage County
Who I Predict: Hmm, I would say perhaps Sandra Bullock. Her performance is one of the best highlights given over that film and in those cases it’s a strong sign
Who I Want: I’ll have to agree with Bullock.

Best Supporting Actor:
-          Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
-          Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
-          Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
-          Jonah Hill,  The Wolf of Wall Street
-          Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club
Who I Predict: Abdi seems like a near lock for Phillips, much buzz and newcomers are often appreciated
Who I Want: Fassbender, in any situation.  He is incredible
Best Supporting Actress:
-          Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
-          Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
-          Lupita Nyong’O, 12 Years a Slave
-          Julia Roberts, August Osage County
-          June Squibb, Nebraska
Who I Predict: I am not really too sure, perhaps Julia Roberts as I’ve got a vibe
Who I want: Jennifer Lawrence of course, america’s sweetheart

Original Screenplay:
-          American Hustle
-          Blue Jasmine
-          Dallas Buyer’s Club
-          Her
-          Nebraska
Who I predict: Nebraska, seems like a likely choice
Who I want: Her, as this lovely film deserves mention and recognition

Adapted Screenplay:
-          Before Midnight
-          Captain Phillips
-          Philomena
-          12 Years A Slave
-          The Wolf of Wall Street
Who I predict: 12 Years a Slave, it’s going to critically wreck house as it has so far
Who I want:  The Wolf of Wall Street, as its script is stellar

Best Animated Film:
-          The Croods
-          Despicable Me 2
-          Ernest and Celestine
-          Frozen
-          The Wind Rises
 Who I predict: Frozen, as it is a critically acclaimed Disney darling
Who I want: The Wind Rises, to honor Miyazaki’s last film work

Best Score:
-          The Book Thief
-          Gravity
-          Her
-          Philomena
-          Saving Mr.Banks
Who I predict: I would say Gravity on this one, seems a likely award
Who I want: Saving Mr.Banks, because it fits

Best Cinematography:
-          The Grandmaster
-          Gravity
-          Inside Llewyn Davis
-          Nebraska
-          Prisoners
Who I predict: Gravity, seems a sheer lock for its visual fidelity
Who I want: Inside Llewyn Davis, good old Coen Brothers

Best Costumes:
-          American Hustle
-          The Grandmaster
-          The Great Gatsby
-          12 Years a Slave
-          The Invisible Woman
Who I predict: 12 Years a Slave, seems likely
Who I want: The Great Gatsby, certainly a great visual style

Best Visual Effects:
-          Gravity
-          The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
-          Iron Man 3
-          The Lone Ranger
-          Star Trek Into Darkness
Who I predict: Gravity, because unfortunately as cool as the other films in this category are , the Academy doesn’t appreciate “true cool” and so often chooses a film which has won many other things
Who I want: The Hobbit “part 2”, of the films here I feel as if it was the most aesthetically pleasing and awe-inspiring, especially the dragon wow

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Lego Movie Review

The Lego Movie Review
Directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Cast Headliners: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman 

Original Release Date: Febuary 7th, 2014

            Legos are probably one of the best types of toys ever.  If one follows the instructions, they can re-create scenes and things from favored movie/comic/other worlds.  Even more exciting is that they are customizable.  Slap any combo of bricks together and you can make something to call your own. Imagination is the only limit.   The Lego Movie does this amazing franchise justice and shows what the power of imagination can do. Because it is so much more than mere bricks in a computer generated film.
            Emmet, voiced by quintessential average joe Chriss Pratt, is a construction worker in the Lego City. It’s a clever stereotype of our world, with its expensive coffees and daily hustle and bustle.   It’s ruled over by President Business (Will Ferrell) who at first seems mostly genuine but he is quickly established as an nefarious evil mastermind.  He is perfect for this character The characters are all so great in this, something I knew to expect as a fan of Lego media.   There’s the humble Emmet, the cool Wildstyle (Elizabeth  Banks) ,  an crazed 1980’s era space astronaut Benny (Charlie Day),  an fairy cat unicorn Unicat (Allison Brie),  wise sage Vitrivius (Morgan Freeman, of course he’s a god-like character),  cyborg pirate Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), and….. Batman (Will Arnett).  Each is brimming with personality and good moments. How do these various odd people come together?
            One of this movie’s strengths is its mash up of several different Lego worlds.  Like 2012’s Wreck it Ralph, Emmet’s calling as “The Special” transports him between various dimensions.   There’s the basic City,   the Wild West, the Castle medieval era, and so much more. There is an incredible amount of cameos and surprises, both from visual sights to celebrities, that it really is a multiple times must see.  You can tell a lot of heart went into these jokes.  The Batman riff’s are especially great. He’s made into the jerk character you always might of thought of him as.   The humor provides constant chuckles from both its zaniness to its 4th wall breaking intricacy and allusions. It really can be enjoyed by all ages, since it is so well made. There is something for everyone. One certain cameo segment almost makes the movie worth seeing alone.  Like….oh my.
            It’s not just the mash-up factor of Legoes. The visuals are revolutionary.  The CGI emulates what real physical toys look like quite amazingly well.   The stop-motion style resembles those on YouTube, but on super steroids.  At times it feels like the directors built acres of sets out of legos and moved in close with a camera.  It also seems like at times that is true, with a few live action props seamlessly blended in.  It is mind boggling how they were able to achieve this unique look.
            There is some really great laughs, visuals, and adventure but what really makes The Lego Movie important is its messages.   It could have been just fine as a silly adventure, but the surprises do not just come in the form of cameos. It has an surprisingly deep meaning to its plot which makes itself known in the last segment.  It’s almost a bit of a jarring shift from the rest of the movie. However when it starts to sink in it blows your mind.  Overall it has some great lessons about individuality, imagination, and courage through the whole film. It’s not often I can say this about a CGI movie and especially a Lego movie, but this one made me laugh often, made me awed, made me tear up, and even made me think deeply.  As they say so much in the film, everything is awesome (about it). 8.7 out of 10