Monday, December 29, 2014

My Top Ten Movies of 2014

Here we are again, at the end of a year. My personal life has had some crazy ups and downs, and films were a big part of that. Here's a ranking, and this list is by what i personally liked more, and if something major isn't on here, I likely haven't experienced it sorry but hopefully
sooner than later.  Without further ado:

Top 10 2014 Films:

1.) Birdman, for its amazing acting and mind blowing directing/production
2.) Gone Girl, for one of the biggest twists and performance surprises in recent memory and a insanely gripping plot
3.) Guardians of the Galaxy, for showing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be amazing even when it's not on Earth and being the best "Star Wars" since the OT
4.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, for some deep emotions, cool actions and monkey mania
5.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for showing what a traditional superhero film can be and offering amazing pacing/action
6.) Interstellar, for amazing visuals and music with a ponderous plot that make one feels as if they went to space themselves
7.) The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies, for being a epic end to the Tolkein movieverse with action and emotion right up there with the best ones in the franchise
8.) The Lego Movie, for showing that everything is awesome when you're living the dream/ Morgan Freeman and Bionicle in the same film
(Her would be a #9 but was released technically at first in 2013)
9.) Snowpiercer (this was too but was in Korean before its 2014 release), for a fantasticly unique world/ art design , sweet action, and even some feels
10.) X-Men : The Days of Future Past, by being a fantastic continuation to the old/new cast storylines and offering tantalizing possibilites for the future

Honorable 11 to 13s:
- godzilla
- the interview.
- the giver

The Interview Review

The Interview
Directors: Evan Goldberg/ Seth Rogen
Cast Headliners: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park
Original Release Date: December 24th, 2014
            When the initial premise of the next Seth Rogen / James Franco combo movie came out, it seemed like a dumb if sure fire comedy romp.  The Interview simply can be summed up as the two comedians portraying friends Dave Skylark (Franco) and Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) who are given the chance to interview Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) but are tasked by the CIA agent Lacey ( Lizzy Caplan) to kill him during it.  Yes, that’s THE real North Korean leader who is their guest/target and so the simple prompt simultaneously caused both a fun film and a real world cyber warfare crisis.
            It’s a strange world we live in that these two have affected politics and international relations. But the movie of which this all started… is it that bad?  Well, it is blatantly a mocking parody of the Asian nation. But that’s just a major theme in a field of parodies.  The movie actually features a surprising amount of time NOT in North Korea, and these segments are great with the heroes’ show Skylark Tonight, fun pokes at entertainment journalism and obligatory Rogen/Franco film celebrity cameos included.
            Once the plot moves to Pyongang, it ends up being a very typical comedy like the others from this team.  Franco takes the main focus this time and is hilarious as the often na├»ve Dave. Rogen is equally good as Aaron as well. They aren’t exactly breaking out of a box but they deliver.  Because the central cast of characters is so intimate, including the ones listed above and Diana Bang as North Korean communications head/ love interest for Aaron , there is some great character interplay.  The main characters have many great scenes like “smeagol to his precious. ” Without spoiling the film’s best twist and funniest scenes, the material with Kim and Skylark are amazing. Park does a wonderful job, managing to appear like the real person while bringing a new comedic perspective to his role.     And of course there’s some epic action spiced in as well.
            The movie is dumb at parts, but that’s to be expected. Repeated jokes and ones that fall flat are made up for by its scenes of brilliant inanity.  Some segments drag on but the film’s two hours go buy quickly because of the amount of laughs.   While certainly offensive to the despotic country, it’s nothing TOO obscene.   It’s a pretty solid victory not only for America but another win to the long line of Franco/Rogen buddy comedies. 8.35 out of 10

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies Review

The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies 
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast Headliners: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly
Original Release Date: December 17th, 2014

            It’s hard to believe that this time has finally arrived. Not that this is the third Hobbit film of three parts or that a adaptation of the novel even came out in the first place. The bittersweet realization is that The Hobbit:  The Battle of Five Armies represents the likely end of the works of JRR Tolkein on the big screen.  With such big circumstances come big expectations, and this film bites off an insanely massive amount. But can it handle that “bite”, or is it more than it could chew? Like Samwise Gamgee’s bread in the Two Towers, there’s a satisfying soul to its few traits resembling the old. But this isn’t Sam’s era, this is Bilbo Baggin’s.
            Bilbo (Martin Freeman) shared the most screen time with the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch)  in the last film but when it comes time for the final showdown with the beast he can only join his companions in looking on in terror as Lake-town is destroyed.   This segment wraps up the dragon storyline with great spectacle. Although it perhaps would’ve been better suited and felt like more of a resolution last go-around, one can see why it was put here as it makes for an exciting start to the film.
            A trend which can be felt many times through these newer films in director Peter Jackson’s repertoire is that there are great things but they get lost or underutilized with the massive amount of other things happening.  Freeman’s Bilbo maintains his charismatic charm but because of the large amount of action and smaller perspectives his actions come across as having little importance. The same reduced presence goes with the ever brilliant Gandalf played for a finale by Ian McLelllen, though viewers should know he has many more awesome adventures ahead in the age of Frodo..
            Peter Jackson creates a tale here that more or less makes sense to the audience but because of the massive cast it’s hard to empathize with some of them because of the angle placed on others.  Thorin (Richard Armitage) gets a great arc focusing on the madness  of suddenly obtaining control of Smaug’s treasure but  some of the other dwarves in the company get no lines at all. It’s also interesting that Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel ( Evangeline Lilly) are made arguably the most important characters in the story when their characters weren’t even mentioned in the original novel. And this prequel trilogy has gotten its own Jar Jar Binks in “comic relief” scenes featuring Alfrid of Lake-town.  While his humor is a nice change of pace and makes sense for a work that is meant to be ligher in tone than the Lord of the Rings; it can be said in those films that Jackson gave equal time and importance to the (even larger) cast.
            But what is that’s pushing these characters aside and causing distruption? Well, this is the movie’s strongest suit. When a film has the word “battle” in its name it’s expected that there will be a large amount of battling. Large doesn’t even begin to cover how much there is.  Once the various factions come clamoring for Smaug’s gold it nearly doesn’t let up until the final minutes of the film.   This may be a detraction to some but in my personal opinion I can’t complain about these scenes. The orc and troll combat in the sieges reminds me just why I loved the Lord of the Rings franchise in the first place and it captures a feeling similar to the great battles of Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith just like those. I think that the siege of Dale will be regarded as one of those great scenes as well.
            The avalanche of action and intense cries would be nothing if not also for visuals to back them up.  Peter Jackson has put full effort into driving home the spectacle, and everything looks gorgeous especially when viewed in IMAX3D.  Some of the models are a bit curious such as when Legolas does “elf-tricks” (of which now have reached Fast and the Furious levels of wacky but are located in a much better franchise than those)  or the fact that Dain Ironfoot (Billy Connolly)  is an entirely CGI creation even when the rest of the dwarves are live action.  But these are minor spots in an otherwise breathtaking set of locales and fight sequences.
            These moments of either adrenaline or shock (from their extreme levels of weirdness) are also interspersed with some true dramatic emotion.   The material between Thorin and Bilbo is the best, and of course the movie has some tearful losses.  It does a nice job ending the movie as opposed to the multiple endings from Return of the King which aids its snappy 2 and a half hour runtime (the shortest of the Hobbit films) and when the final credits roll it has quite a impact.    While  the book might have not needed to be split into three different parts, it has allowed us to see things which would never have been on film from the Tolkein world such as the material with Gandalf and his White Council.  Hardcore fans, myself included, have been wanting to delve more into those subjects through media more and it delivered past our expectations.  For the others, for people who just know the movies, it serves as a great  if perhaps slightly inferior companion to the series which put Peter Jackson and so many other actors on the map.   There’s been some high ups and low downs overall but there’s been some amazing times across the franchise.   May you sail peacefully into the Grey Havens,   the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film franchises!!  9.1 out of 10

Monday, December 1, 2014

Horrible Bosses 2 Review

Horrible Bosses 2 
Directors:Sean Anders
Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudekis
Original Release Date: November 26th, 2014

Horrible Bosses 2, this time there’s some bosses. But this time they are the bosses!   Nick   (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are back and this time they’ve decided to open their own franchise.  Dealings with newcomers    Burt and son Rex Hanson ( Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine respectively) go south and so the crew creates a plan get their money back.
            This simple premise leads to a simple plot but it’s the jokes that matter.  The comedy is just as great as the first one and arguably is even better as it ramps up the insanity.   If a moment existed in part one, its been given steroids in this.  Day steals the show as Dale as he has some of the films best gags but his two peers are great as well. 
 Chris Pine is a wonderful addition to the crew as archetypal rich arrogant jerk.  He has great chemistry with the rest of the cast and fits the insanity of this world.   The person who is underutilized is Christoph Waltz as he is in more of a serious and bit part, which is a shame since he has great comedic potential.
 Familiar faces return in Jennifer Aniston’s nymphomaniac Dr. Harris, Kevin Spacey’s  now-imprisoned  David Harken, and  Jamie Foxx as “Motherfucker” Jones.  The former mean bosses are really fun in their all to brief appearances. Luckily Motherfucker’s  role has been increased and he has some of the funniest scenes of the movie.  
The all star cast and plot get a bit jumbled at times with it just being a lot to handle. But laughs are in store for  a silly crazy time that’s even better than the first  with some great writing and wacky situations.  7.5 out of 10

The Hunger Games : Mockingjay Part 1 Review

The Hunger Games : Mockingjay Part 1
Directors: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson
Original Release Date: November 21st, 2014

            The Hunger Games franchise has appeared with its third entry already.  The original novel was relatively lengthy, and so thus in a combination of “doing the original justice” as well as corporate money seeking this is the first of two halves in Mockingjay Part 1.  While delivering some great buildup, its existence as only a prologue brings some challenges yet also a few benefits.
            This is a series of cliffhanger after cliffhanger, and so after the last film ended with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) in a rough condition, and then in this wakes up in a similar form and place.  It’s been a breakneck ride, but this time the “games” are gone entirely and there is only WAR. Well, the slow political build up to war.  Katniss and her other friends have been brought to the deep underground District 13 with its  own set of new characters.
            These include their leader President Coin (Julliane Moore), head of security Boggs (Mahersala Ali) and the return of Plutarch (the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman) amongst others.  While Hoffman offers some solid words and scenes, the new characters all feel  just kind of “there”.    The presentation of this new faction is bland after the interesting main heroes of the past installments
            Lawrence still inspires as Katniss….most of the time.  Some dialogue is rousing as ever, while other times there is a repetition of her drama. We get it; she has stress and misses Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).    It’s interesting to see the path each take and the growth they go through whether its Katniss’ ascension to rebel hero or Peeta’s slow decline into tortued induced insanity from the vile President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
            Some of this may seem tantalizing, but its dragged down but just too dang much of it.  They stretched the dialogue heavy part of the novel even further, which logically leads to more dialogue.   They had also promised more action scenes but what comes through is brief and anti-climactic. Most criminal is that the only action sequence from the novel, when Katniss and crew take down some bombers, is actually shorter than the original. 
            This leads to a overall film that is quality but too sparse. The anti-climax in the end is so much to the point of dis-taste.  The good characters, visuals, and fast pace is around from the past installments but only in brief moments instead of sweeping epic movements.   This is a ok if underwhelming experience. But now that the slow part is out of the way, here’s hoping the conclusion makes up for the mistakes of this and delivers all climax.  7.85 out of 10