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John Carter

17 Apr

It has been all too long since I wrote words to contribute to this page. I guess for one reason or another, I just haven’t found the inspiration to write, though I have viewed plenty of films. Well, after two red bulls, a protein bar and half a line of coke, I think I’ve found the inspiration. Bring it on.

Side note: I might be joking about the coke.

John Carter

Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel Princess of Mars, John Carter is the third most expensive film ever produced. Disney really swung for the fences with this one. It opened to mediocre reviews (51% on rotten tomatoes) and disappointing box office results (at least for a film that cost $250 million to make). So is it worth your time and money?

According to this overly critical film fan, yes. Maybe not an amazing film that you will want to watch over and over again, but I think it’s worth watching at least once. Anybody who likes science fiction at all can find a way to at least enjoy the film. The effects are quite impressive, as one would expect for the amount of money they threw at this flick. Also, I found the main characters to be engaging and likeable enough. They are created rather broadly without much in the way of nuance or subtlety, but I didn’t think any of them were done poorly. The action (mostly) is reasonably well done and I did ultimately find myself enjoying most of the movie.

Most.

Because there are a great many weaknesses, some more egregious than others. There are a number of times where it is quite obvious that the guy who directed this movie (Andrew Stanton, one of the head honchos for Pixar) has never directed a live action flick before this one. Why do I say that? Most of the scenes that involve CGI ships running around and shooting each other are very well done and very interesting to watch. The action scenes that involve two characters hitting each other or swordfighting were not particularly well shot. A lot of shaky cam and poorly constructed shots that looked like they were framed very poorly.

Also, the film draaaaaaags in the middle.

BUT.

For all my overly pretentious nitpicking, I liked John Carter. If you enjoyed the live action Disney movies that they mostly did in the 80s and 90s that were big dumb action movies (The Three Musketeers, The Rocketeer, etc) you will probably find this movie to be a worthwhile use of 2 hours and 12 minutes.

73/100

Post-script: Fun thought for people like me who know entirely too much about pop culture: John Carter when he is transported to Mars has exceptional strength and jumping capabilities due to the fact that Mars has lower gravity than Earth. The book Princess of Mars was written in 1917. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster wrote their first Superman comic book in 1932. Part of the reason that Superman is so powerful on Earth is that his body is designed for life on Krypton and the difference in gravity, the type of sun and whatnot results in him being, well, super. Both Siegel and Shuster were avid science fiction fans, so odds are very high that they had read Princess of Mars. Given that they did obviously borrow from other sources when they wrote Superman (even the name is derived from Ubermensch, a term used by Nietzche), it’s not that crazy to think that the book Princess of Mars and this story contributed at least a little bit to the creation of Superman.

Just a thought.

For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-man.

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The Muppets

11 Dec

At long last, another Muppets movie graced the silver screen.  Coming to the rescue of a creative property that has been struggling for relevance since the passing of its creator is, oddly enough, Jason Segal, who stars in and co-wrote this revitalization of the Muppets.

So what did I think of this movie?  I loved it.  Then again, I did grow up with the Muppets, so the nostalgia factor was through the roof for me.  And in many ways, I think that anybody’s enjoyment of this move will be directly tied to their history with the Muppets.

For instance, if you really liked the Muppets, you will love this movie.

If you were indifferent to the Muppets, but like musicals, you will find this movie enjoyable.

If you are pretty much anybody else, wait for it on Netflix, if at all.

The humor of this film is very much in line with what the Muppets have always been, while still feeling fresh and new in a few different ways.  The cameos were all perfect, including one extremely unexpected cameo during the best musical number in the movie.  The dialogue is sharp and witty, and I found myself laughing throughout.  The story was extremely relevant, and the humor works on several levels.  The musical numbers were a joy as well.

If I had to find a flaw, the fourth wall jokes started to wear a bit thin by the third act, but luckily the movie wasn’t trying to rely too heavily on them.

But even that wasn’t too bad.

Ultimately, I loved this movie to death, and I highly recommend it.

94 out of 100.

For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-Man.

Avengers Bet

11 Dec

It has come to my attention that some of my readers don’t like that I often include spoilers in my blogs, even though I consistently throw out alerts.  Please allow this opening paragraph to serve as a warning that several spoilers are going to be discussed in this post, and that if you continue to read beyond this point, you are not allowed to complain.  There.

So next year, The Avengers is coming out in theaters, as directed by nerd-Jesus Joss Whedon.  Something occurred to me as I was watching the new trailer for the movie:  somebody is going to die.  Not like extras and civilians, one of the main characters is going to bite the dust.  They have to.

Why do I say that?

Joss Whedon’s history, that’s why.  Good ol’ Joss has a way of crafting amazing, loveable characters who are 3-dimensional and that you really care about, and then killing them.  Prime examples:  Serenity and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog.

In Serenity, the pilot of the ship is Wash, who is easily one of the funniest characters in the show.  He has several great moments, and is a ton of fun.  But in Serenity, he unceremoniously perishes.  You also have Shepherd Book, who is a pastor.  In addition to being a very interesting character, he serves as a moral compass for the Captain, without being overly pushy.  He’s the voice of reason in the midst of chaos, and even gets some of the best lines in the show.  And by the end of the movie, he’s pushing up the daisies.

And then we have Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, a fun 45 minute movie that Joss Whedon wrote and directed with a few friends during the writer’s strike back in ’08.  He gives the lead a love interest named Penny who is a fun, loveable caring person, who you really grow to love as the movie progresses.  And guess what?  SHE. $%#*ING. DIES.

So it should go without saying that one of the main six characters in the Avengers is going to kick the bucket.  Let’s evaluate everybody’s chances.

 Tony Stark/Ironman

Chances of survival: 100%

Explanation:  Without Ironman, the Avengers would never have been greenlit.  Hell, before Captain America and Thor this year, the only successful films that preceded The Avengers was Ironman 1 and 2.  He’s the face of the franchise, and there’s no way they’re killing that off.

 Steve Rogers/Captain America

Chances of survival: 90%

Explanation:  I really don’t think that they’ll kill off somebody as iconic as Captain America, but he’s just a bit more likely to buy the farm than Ironman.

Thor/Thor

Chances of survival: 90%

Explanation: Same as above, but also because they already have Thor 2 greenlit.

 Bruce Banner/Jolly Green Giant/Hulk

Chances of survival: 70%

Explanation: While they probably won’t try to make more Hulk movies (the studio lost money on both), his character is popular enough that they would probably want to keep him around.

Scarlett Johansen as Black Widow

Chances of survival: 50%

Explanation: She only had a small role in Ironman 2, but it looks like she’s going to get a lot more screen time in The Avengers.  Given that she doesn’t have a film franchise, her chances of survival are diminished, but I really don’t think that Joss Whedon has the brass ones to kill off the only chick in a movie that is otherwise quite the sausage-fest.

 Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye

Chances of survival: 10%

Explanation: He looks like he’s going to be amazingly bad ass, but he doesn’t have any standalone films and somebody’s gotta shuffle loose this mortal coil.

So yeah, I formally placed a $5 bet with Attebiz the other day that somebody will run up the curtain and join the choir invisible.  He’s doubting me.  We’ll see how this goes.

When Who an Actor is Helps Tell the Story

19 Nov

Most of you reading this probably wonder what the hell I mean by that title.  I have some ‘splaining to do.

One of the (few) difficult things about being a Hollywood actor is that if you ever find any measure of success, you will be typecast.  If you’re good at playing a particular character and it’s marketable, the corporate overlords at Hollywood will be damned if they’ll let you play anything else.  Whether it’s Bruce Willis playing a cop, Zooey Deschanel playing a quirky girl or Nicholas Cage playing somebody with bad hair, if it sells a ticket, it will get done to death.  And trying to break the typecast doesn’t usually pan out.  I mean, sometimes you’ll get something like when Jim Carrey played the male lead in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and really held his own.  But then it didn’t work out too well for Jim when he played the main character in The Number 23, which was a mind bogglingly atrocious film.

But every so often, you’ll get a movie where who an actor is outside of the film aids in the telling of the story.  It’s extremely rare, but there are a few of them out there.  At least enough for me to put together one measly blog.  Let’s have at it.

Matthew Broderick in Glory

Glory was a phenomenal movie, but Matthew Broderick didn’t have that much to do with how amazing it was.  That’s mostly thanks to the acting of Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.  For those of you who don’t know, Glory is about the first all-black regiment to fight for the Union in the Civil War.  Denzel and Freeman both play their characters brilliantly, and the scene the night before the regiment goes into battle for the first time still moves me every time.

But enough about them, what point am I getting at here?  Matthew Broderick plays the Colonel (I think that was his title) in charge of the regiment.  It was extremely hard to take him seriously in this movie.  Seriously, you have two of the premier black actors in Hollywood delivering Oscar worthy performances, and you put Ferris freaking Bueller in charge of their regiment? Really?  But then I thought about it.  In Glory, Broderick’s character is 25, and some talk is made of how young he was to be in charge of a regiment already.  Combine that with the fact that many of the black men in the regiment didn’t want to be led by some rich white kid who looks like he’s not old enough for the mustache he’s trying to wear.  So most of the characters in the movie would have a difficult time taking him seriously as their commander, just like I was having a difficult time taking him seriously.

That breakthrough helped me create that much more of an emotional connection with an already brilliant film.

Dane Cook in Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks is a rather well crafted and hopelessly underrated character study of an upstanding family man who has a dark streak of being a serial killer.  He does it to get a rush, literally just for the “thrill” of it.  But he doesn’t enjoy it.  He just can’t stop.  In my ever so humble but definitely right opinion, this is Kevin Costner’s best movie.  As much as I like several of his other flicks (Untouchables was great and Field of Dreams is a classic), I’ve always had to admit that Costner is not a very good actor.  BUT, against all odds, he nails it with this movie.  He underplays the character brilliantly, and there were several scenes that required him to have a very oddly particular mood or expression, and he handles it deftly.  So who else stars in this flick?  William Hurt, who’s career is in its twilight but is still a phenomenal actor, and Demi Moore, who is one of the more talented leading ladies in the business today (even if her movie selection is always the best).  So we’ve got Costner, Hurt, Moore and who else?

Dane Cook.  As in the screeching comedian.  Que?

Oddly enough, he was PERFECT for this movie.  Why?  Without going into too much detail to avoid spoilers, Dane Cook looked like he was in over his head working with such great actors, which is in many ways a reflects of what happens in the movie.  The circumstances that Cook’s character get into, he is completely out of his depth.  I won’t say much more other than that you should really watch this movie.  It has some pretty aggressive nudity and some very violent deaths, so just be aware of that.

Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in Heat

As Mr. Goodkat said in the beginning of Lucky Number Slevin, “There was a time.”  There was a time when these two men could do no wrong.  Pacino and DeNiro were acting powerhouses, from The Godfather movies to Taxi Driver to Scarface to Raging Bull, these two hit it out of the park with every single movie they did.  But they never shared any screen time.  Even though they were both in Godfather Part II, they never shared any screen time.

Then came Heat.  In my opinion, the best heist movie ever.  It turned the heist movie formula on its head, starting the movie with the heist and then showing the repercussions, what happened after.  What did the characters do with their money, how did the police investigation go, loyalties are tested and we get to see cop Pacino try to track down DeNiro.  Watching the battle of wits play out without the characters interacting just added to the tension of an already amazing film.  And then, at the end, (without giving too much away) there is one scene they share.  It’s executed perfectly for the characters, for the situation and for finally seeing these two masters of the craft share the screen just for a scene.

And then Righteous Kill was made, which was mostly an awkward reminder of how great they used to be and how far they have fallen.

Oh well.

And by the way, go to Family Video and rent these three movies.  Now.

For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-Man.