Monday, November 17, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To Review

Dumb and Dumber To
Directors: Bobby and Peter Farrelly 
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden 
Original Release Date: November 14th, 2014

            Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have each had long and hilarious careers in comedy films.  When they came together in 1994 for Dumb and Dumber, a dynamic duo of idiocy was born and a classic title in their pantheon.   I have not seen the “sequel” Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd but I’ve heard some very, very bad things about it as it does not even feature the two stars.  But now here is a proper sequel in Dumb and Dumber To, and it has just about as much stupid fun as the original.
            Set in today and featuring a visibly aged Lloyd( Jim Carrey) and Harry( Jeff Daniels) the movie shows how their lives have changed since then like any good comedy reunion.  And considering these two knuckleheads are well… dumb and (dumber) that means nothing has at all.  The source of the film’s humor, and credit to its stars, is that our two heroes still act as goofy as they once did.  Time hasn’t caused them to mature even 0.000001% and that’s totally alright.  There’s some small, and funny , references to the first film but otherwise it’s a wild new ride.
            The mission these two find themselves on this time is that Harry is dying of a failed kidney (don’t worry it doesn’t get even closer to being “dark” though there’s some jarring bits of melancholy that luckily don’t overall distract from the laughs)  and needs a donor from a relative. It just so happens that he has discovered he has a long lost daughter.   Lloyd joins him as they journey across the country and get involved with many many silly mishaps.
            The movie is funny enough on their own but filling supporting roles this time around are Laurie Holden as the mysterious Adele and Rob Riggle as twin brothers Travis and “the Captain.”  They aren’t exactly showstoppers but offer a nice complement to the Carrey/Daniels, especially Riggle who has some great lines. 
            The movie manages to have a surprisingly decent plot mixed with hilarious moments that must be seen first hand.  The stakes are raised from the first film, and there’s even some minor action.   But  there are some gross-out low brow poop jokes as well. It’s a shame that it seems they felt forced to include such eye-rolling (because of how many there are)  jokes like that in order to “up the ante” and compete in today’s film market.
            The movie is best when it’s embracing it’s best asset: Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels acting very stupidly.  The “reunion” plot line gives it a charming vibe which sets it apart from the first one, but the great jokes are in smaller number. Still a decent watch however if one doesn’t mind dumb fun. 7.3 out of 10

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Big Hero 6 Review

Big Hero 6
Directors: Don Hall and Chris Williams
Cast Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr, TJ Miller
Original Release Date: November 7th, 2014
            Big Hero 6 is interesting because its place within Disney’s pantheon can be viewed in two ways.  On one hand it’s the next step for a studio which has redefined itself through CGI brilliancy in films such as Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, and Frozen.  But also it represents the very first time that the mouse company has used a work by its subsidiary Marvel Comics in an animated motion film that does not bear the “Marvel Studios” name.   Their first animated superhero is another breath of fresh air for the studio which constantly is surprising.
            The movie is based on a semi-obscure part of the Marvel print universe but aside from the basic premise, the city of San Fransokyo, and the character names everything else has been swapped out by Disney for a new tale.  In an alternate world’s future Hiro (Ryan Potter) is  a young boy and  robot inventor who competes in underground bot fights while being scolded by his older brother; role model and brilliant student himself Tadashi (Daniel Henney).   As with any Disney film the parents are out of the picture as they live with their Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) and Hiro seeks to prove himself to the local university after a tour from his brother.
            The cast of characters, once again like Disney’s track record, are strong.  The titular team is made up of overwhelmingly adorable yet somehow action capable robot Baymax( Scott Adsit who’s robotized voice blended with brilliant animation flow make him the best part of the  movie),  bubblegum incarnate via personality and powers Honey Lemon(Genesis Rodriguez), risky and cool hoverskater Gogo(Jamie Chung), cautious energy blade wielding Wasabi (Damon  Wayans Jr) and lastly the other comedic highlight comic book obsessed Fred (TJ Miller who has some of the film’s best lines too.)   The writing between the characters makes one feel like they are really a team. Sure it can be a bit over saccharine but it gives the movie a sense of joy and fun.
            This sense is also found through the amazing visuals. Each passing release by Disney has brought them to rival if not even risk succeeding what their peer Pixar does for lush visuals. The world blends the universes of Asia, the United States, and an optimistic take on the future to form a perfect backdrop for a pop art adventure like this. The addition of 3D to my experience was worth it as well.
            The movie has some emotional moments of course but aside from that the story won’t blow anyone’s minds.  It’s an adventure propelled by its sharp animation, funny characters, rousing score, and more action than usual (considering its superhero roots) that accomplishes what it sets out to and much more.   You’ll come to see Baymax do silly things, and you’ll leave going “ooh” at the fun moments and outrageous lighthearted atmosphere. It won’t change the conventions of the genre but what it does prove is that Disney should borrow from Marvel more often since it works this time. 8.4 out of 10

Friday, November 7, 2014

Interstellar Review

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon 
Original Release Date: November 7th, 2014
            Christopher Nolan knows no bounds. He’s created films which are out of order, which contain deep webs of twists and theories, turned Batman into a trilogy of epic dramas, and made dreams cool.  With all these realms conquered it only made since for him to go to the final frontier of space science fiction. Interstellar is Nolan’s first foray into the realm of science fiction, and it can easily be said that the combination is a match made for the stars.
            The world of the film starts incredibly depressing and dark.  At some point in the far future the planet Earth itself is dying. Crops are going extinct and resources are so few that anyone who is not a farmer or has the aptitude for college is viewed as useless. The world has forgotten about technology as its clinging on for its dear life.  Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former astronaut raising his kids in the dry dusty farmlands of dystopian Midwest America.  Nolan’s attention to detail even in these scenes would make for a fascinating gritty film on its own but it is of course only the barest tip of the iceberg.
            Circumstances soon lead to Cooper being sent on a mission into the depths of space, alien worlds, and even places which are indescribable.  One may infer that they have a full sense of the film from trailers but the way it unfolds is fantastically surprising. Nolan makes us feel as if we are a member of the crew with Cooper and his peers.  That’s the strength of any Christopher Nolan film in that no character is underutilized.  An exceptional cast has been assembled. McConaughey’s Cooper is nuanced, tenacious, and compassionate in his motives.  Anne Hathaway’s Amelia Brand brings intelligence and critique to the mission.  Even less seen crew members Romily (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) get their moments to shine through action and dialogue. Michael Caine, Jessica Chaistain, Casey Affleck, an unexpected Matt Damon, and surprisingly even Topher Grace bring quality to their roles but to say who they are exactly would ruin the surprise.  There’s also the brilliantly sarcastic voiceovers of the cool geometric robots in the starship crew of TARS(Bill Irwin) and CASE(Josh Stewart), and a minor but funny spot by John Lithgow as Cooper’s father in law Donald.
            In fact each character has at least a notable modicum of intelligence as the film requires more cerebral thought of any of Nolan’s prior work. Scientific terms are flown around nearly every few minutes which may overwhelm some viewers but luckily it’s presented for the most part in a way that’s digestible. As mentioned earlier it’s as if the viewer is immersed in this world so whether it be Cooper drawing a diagram or someone explaining a formula it usually makes sense but not always.  Some of the “scientific” elements can become overwhelming at times even then especially near the chaotic end which involves the science of a black hole.
            Immersion and atmosphere are two of the absolute most key words that embody Interstellar.  I had the pleasure to view the movie in IMAX format and I absolutely recommend it.  This is a movie meant to be viewed on a proper massive screen. No matter how one sees it, the vistas of the cosmos and alien worlds that are visited are like actual photographs and paintings come to life.  This is a damn beautiful movie and the amazing thing is that Nolan has managed to make the effect work whether it be at the half hour mark or 2 and a half hour mark (it’s a long and at times slow burner but worth it).   This is complemented by an amazing ethereal score by Hans Zimmer of piping organs and electronics.   There is a power that emanates from Interstellar and after exciting the room after viewing it you will have an ache of excitement over your body since it will have felt like YOU were the one who went to the void and back.  The visuals are of such high quality that it has me questioning if Nolan himself went to space to film this.
            It’s not perfect though but is almost there.  This may be because I am comparing it to Nolan’s astonishingly impressive pedigree, but the story and twists within felt less shocking that in other works by him.  A couple moments which are meant to be massively shocking feel less impactful because of over extensive foreshadowing to them.  If a risk is mentioned as being a possible risk, there is no reason for the character to react in that way when it ends up happening. You’ll know what it means when you see it.  The 85% mark of the film or so is also handheld semi-messily as there is repition of a certain revelation over and over again a few more times than it should have been. It’s a convoluted bit in an otherwise solid dramatic narrative.   There’s also the fact that what’s going on the decaying Earth is much less interesting than what Cooper and crew face in deep space. Switching between the two perspectives brings some jarring moments.
            Overall however Interstellar delivers on the potential a Nolan/sci-fi collaboration promised. His trademark quality production and direction, visual and aural magnificence, and exciting set pieces are all present.  A large and great cast delivers an intense emotional storyline.  It can be a bit much to take in at times, but that’s what the exploration of space is all about. We are specks in a mysterious universe and Interstellar showcases what dangers and wonders that can bring. 9.1 out of 10