Brave

Rating: Wait to rent it.                                                                      

Unfortunately for Pixar we have been spoiled by, well, Pixar.  With movies like Up, Toy Story 3 (Or 1 for that matter) and Wall-E the bar for animated features wasn’t just raised but thrust upward into the midst of every other respected genre.  Then in 2011 Pixar made the sequel to Cars, the aptly named Cars 2, and it wasn’t very good.  People freaked.  Did Pixar lose its touch?  Are they out of ideas?  What is wrong with this company?  WHOA! Slow down turbo.  They made one not brilliant movie.  Chill out!  Despite this, Pixar had to respond to the negative thoughts.  They had two options.  Blow our minds, which is quite difficult, or make an all around good, albeit safe, movie.  Brave won’t blow your mind.  It is an all around good movie though, but it just felt a bit “safe” to me.

The setting for this movie, which is beautiful, is in a pre dark ages Scotland.  At least I think this is what they were going for, it never really said specifically.  Either way, the story centers around Merida, the first born of a royal family, and daughter to Lord Fergus and Lady Elinor.  Merida has grown up to be anything but a lady herself, much to the dismay of her mother.  Instead she would rather shoot arrows and go on incredible adventures to daring places.  Her and her mother never seem to see eye to eye.  Once Merida is of age her father puts out an offer to three neighboring clans that their eldest sons may compete for her hand in marriage.  Merida is outraged that she is being forced into this fate, defiles the competition by showing up her suitors, and ends up running off to the woods.  There she meets up with a witch, and requests a spell that will change her mother, and thus change her fate.  The witch complies but I mean come on, she’s a witch.  Merida gets a spell, or more of a curse, that is more than she bargained for.  The rest of the movie follows Merida and her mother as they try to undo the spell and grow in their relationship along the way.  They enlist the help of Merida’s three little brothers.  They are mischievous triplets and offer most of the comedic relief for the movie.  They actually are quite entertaining.  While Merida works with her mother Lord Fergus attempts to quell the other three clans, who are upset at what has happened.  The interactions between Fergus and the other clan leaders are also quite humorous and entertaining.

Overall the story was solid, but like I said it just felt safe.  Instead of a cool new concept I felt like I was watching just an old folk tale turned into a beautifully animated movie.  Also the message of the movie seemed unclear to me.  They were going for “you can always change your fate” which is a solid message.  But it came across more as, “if your mom is being a b**** just curse her and all will work out in the end.”  A couple of the people I saw it with said they got a bit emotional at times, which really surprised me (and I tear up during things like Undercover Boss), but they were quick to inform me that I just didn’t understand because it really was a mother/daughter story.

The movies biggest strengths came from the animation and the voice acting.  Both were done superbly which is to be expected from Pixar.  The attention to detail with regards the animation was flawless.  The voice actors all did a good job adding true dimensions to their respectful characters.  Overall it was good fun, but waiting to see it won’t do anyone any harm.

-Gish

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ted

Rating: Worth at least a rent                                      

In all honesty, I went into this movie with low expectations.  I saw the red band trailer and figured it was going to be a raunchy, over the top movie looking to shock for laughter.  The trailer led to it, and I figured that Seth McFarlane finally had the freedom to do things he can’t get away with on TV.  Don’t get me wrong, I think McFarlane is hilarious, but for some reason I figured even with the ridiculous MPAA breathing down his back he would try to push the envelope as much as possible.  I couldn’t have been farther off.  Was it a bit raunchy at times? Sure, but not more than any other R rated comedy that comes out.  And on top of it, McFarlane managed to come up with one of the better written stories of the summer.

If you don’t already know, the movie is about John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg) and his best friend Ted.  Ted just happens to be his talking Teddy Bear.  When John was a kid he didn’t have many friends so he wished for his Teddy bear to be able to talk.  The wish came true, and Ted was a national phenomenon.  But like any other fad in our country Ted quickly became old news, and he and John grew up.  They still live together though; I mean they are thunder buddies for life after all.  The difference now is that Ted is no longer a cute, cuddly friend, but an adult, pot smoking, inappropriate bear.  John is also dating Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) and she is a tad over the immaturity that John gets from hanging out with Ted.  The main focus of the movie is John trying to maintain his friendship with Ted, while not losing Lori.  Also there is this really creepy guy and his child who want to own Ted like a toy.  When I say creepy I mean it, this guy played the creepy part really well…a bit too well.  They play a major part in the second half of the movie, but I won’t say too much to spoil anything major.  There was ridiculousness throughout with Ted being inappropriate, John’s fascination with Flash Gordon, cocaine use, and Joel McHale as Lori’s douchey boss.  Despite the ridiculousness the story really came together.  Surprisingly well.  It even had some genuinely touching moments between many of the characters.

I thought that both Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis did a great job playing their parts.  They were funny when needed and convincingly serious when needed.  Joel McHale was good as a jerk, (you really wont like him) and as I said before Giovanni Ribisi was genuinely creepy as Donny.  McFarlane is no stranger to voice acting so playing Ted was no issue for him.  At times it sounded like his own voice (think Family Guy’s Brian) and at times a bit more like Peter Griffen.  Either way, an inappropriate talking teddy bear is pretty funny.  It also led to one of my favorite fight scenes in a long time.

Overall I thought the movie was solid.  I’ve seen better movies, but I’ve also seen way worse.  With not much coming out before July 20th (I heard there is supposed to be some big movie coming out that Friday?) I would say it’s worth heading to the theater for.  If you want to save your money it is worth at least a rent.

Have fun with it.

-Gish

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Rating: Catch it on TV…Give it a rent if there’s no other option. 

This movie faces a few problems.  One of them is that it isn’t very good.  Another is the assumptions people will make about it.  I have found that when it comes to movies people tend to assume a movie will be like “this” or like “that” based on the previews or the title.  If these expectations aren’t met people don’t like the movie whether it is actually good or bad.  Half of the people going to the theater are thinking, “Nice!  A ridiculous over the top action movie…with Abe freaking Lincoln!”  (This was me).  The other half are thinking, “Ooooh vampires!  I love vampires, like that one time when Edward was trying to save Bella.”  No…just no.  About ten years ago, before Teen Paranormal Romance was a section at Barnes and Noble (I’m not making this up), vampires were blood thirsty killing machines that didn’t sparkle in the sun, or fall in love with humans.  This movie understands that.  Unfortunately though, for both parties entering the theater, neither expectation will be met.

I give the movie two stars.  One for a solid opening and exposition, the other for a surprisingly strong finish.  Unfortunately during the hour in the middle it got confused.  The middle of the movie was a fairly boring mess that couldn’t decide what kind of movie it wanted to be.  It had tones of super hero movie, action movie, period piece, war movie, and old school monster movie, all with very dark tones.  It was too much and none of it was done all that well.  It just never came together for me.

As I said before, the movie does start pretty strong.  A young Abe Lincoln is introduced to vampires at a young age when one attacks his family.  As he grows older he makes it his mission to destroy vampires, mostly out of vengeance.  He then meets an interesting man who is willing to teach him how to hunt, fight, and kill, these monsters.  The training then commences he learns how the handle a silver axe like a champ and is given several hunting assignments.  These hunting scenes are all fairly entertaining and actually quite bloody (remember, it’s a VAMPIRE movie).  After this the movie loses its way a little.  They start to create the larger threat of vampires, and incorporate vampires with the actual story of slavery.  The movie gets bigger at this point and Abe is given his real foe, Adam the vampire (yeah…I didn’t think it sounded very sinister either).  Here it was slow and clunky and boring.  Then all of a sudden we got to a climactic finish on a train, which brought my attention back in.  The best action, dialogue, and story takes place here.  I don’t want to spoil much else so I’ll leave it at that.

All of the actors played their parts well, but none of the performances were overly memorable.  Benjamin Walker was solid as Abe Lincoln, but didn’t really have to learn his intricacies as is the case in a lot of biographical movies.  This is because it’s not actually a biography.   Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, and Jimmi Simpson were all ok as Abe’s friends, even if their roles were a bit predictable.  Rounding out the cast were Mary Elizabeth Winston and Rufus Sewell who like the rest were just Ok. The visuals steal the show from the actors, but even some of the cool visuals seemed forced into the movie rather than actually have a rhyme or reason.

Overall the movie was just OK.  It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t that good either.  I think it tried to be a little too ambitious and take itself a little too seriously, which didn’t work here.  The idea, and title, are cooler than the actual film.  If I was you I would wait until they show it on Presidents Day on TV next year.

-Gish

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Moonrise Kingdom

Rating: See it in theaters                                                    

Let me start by saying I love Wes Anderson movies.  Whenever I watch one of his movies I find myself laughing or chuckling harder than anyone else watching it with me.  His dry humor just gets me.  That being said, I really enjoyed this movie.

This movie had adventure, explosions, daring rescues, lightning, and precariously placed tree houses (all done in Wes Anderson style obviously), but at its heart it was a fun, quirky romance.  The movie takes place on the New England island of New Penzance in the 60’s.  The island is home to miles of walking trails, a small camp which houses the Khaki Scouts, several rivers, a small town, and not much else.  It serves as the perfect setting for this movie’s melancholy, humor, and story of childhood.  Think back to when you were a child and the world was still fascinating yet confusing.  Some kids were weird just because, and you had a crush on that one special member of the opposite sex.  Everything seemed way more complex than it was, and each day your adventures were only curbed by the limits of your imagination.  Anderson managed to capture all of these elements of childlike wonder into one terrific story.

The story begins with an inspection on the Khaki Scout grounds, lead by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton).  The inspection goes fairly well but for one big problem.  Sam Shakusky has flown the coup.  The other campers don’t seem too worried about him because he is not very well liked, and is considered emotionally unstable.  Across the island, the Bishop family realizes that their oldest child, Suzy has gone missing.  It probably doesn’t take a genius to realize the two are together.  We find out they met a year earlier, are in love, and running away together.  The rest of the movie follows these two as they adventure through the island, learn more about each other, and try to escape from literally every other character in the movie.  Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward do a fantastic job as the twelve year old fugitives, and genuinely make you believe they care for each other (as much as a twelve year old can).  By the end of the movie I was truly rooting for them.

The supporting case in this movie was phenomenal.  Mainly because of Andersons genius ability to take huge name stars, have them work well together, and not let them steal the show.  They all do a fantastic job playing their parts, while allowing their younger counterparts to steal the show.  As stated before Ed Norton plays the scout master/math teacher Ward.  He is loyal to his scouts almost to a fault, and is one of the few adults who you actually root for in the movie.  The other main protagonist adult is Captain Sharp, played by Bruce Willis.  He is the police officer trying to track the children down.  He is kind, caring, and even a bit dopey at times.  The cast is rounded out by Bill Murray (more on him later) and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents, Tilda Swinton as Social Services, and even Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel show up.  They are all great.

I said I would come back to Bill Murray.  There are some duos on Hollywood whom I feel need to take a break from working together.  These guys for instance.  This is Bill Murray’s sixth movie working with Wes Anderson, and I don’t think the friendship should ever stop.  Their comedy styles just click, and are hilarious every time.  Its subtle, dry, dark humor and I love it.  This movie is no different.  Bill Murray is not in the movie a ton but when he is it is great.

Overall this movie will take you on a great, loving adventure back to childhood.  Wes Anderson’s ever unique style is present, and adds to the fantastically filmed movie.  The actors are great, the story is great, the style/look is great.  I think just about anyone will enjoy this movie.

-Gish

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Men In Black 3

Rating: See it in theaters.                                              

Most prequels come within a few years of their predecessors, have high anticipations, and even higher expectations.  With ten years since the last Men in Black movie, MIB3 is more of a welcome and pleasant surprise.  Quick quiz; what year did the first Men in Black come out?…Answer; 1997.  Feel old yet?  The original movie was quirky, fresh, creative, and something new.  Fifteen years later the second sequel doesn’t feel as fresh and new, but it was still quirky, creative, and all around fun.

If you never saw the second Men in Black, don’t worry, you don’t need it.  (It wasn’t great anyway).  This third movie starts off with the infamous Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escaping from an alien prison, and swearing revenge on Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).  It turns out that in the late 60’s K put Boris, a Boglodite hit man, in prison and implemented a shield to forever keep Bogladites away from Earth, eventually leading to their extinction.  Because of this, Boris travels back in time to kill K before he can put Boris away and implement the shield.  Agent K then disappears in present time (because he was killed in the past) and a Bogladitian? invasion of Earth commences.  That probably sounds like a lot of spoilers but I swear it is all in the exposition.  Somehow Agent J (Will Smith) is the only person who remembers the original reality (where K didn’t die) and realizes he must travel even farther back in time than Boris to erase the alternate past and return it to the original one.  That all happens in about twenty minutes; the rest of the movie is about J trying to fix the past, and it is quite entertaining.

Two things that have always been a staple in the MIB world are the cool looking aliens and gadgets.  The threequel doesn’t disappoint in either of these offerings.   The single wheel cycles are cool looking but I also couldn’t help but think about Mr. Garrisons “It” the entire time they were on screen.  It was also interesting how they portrayed “modern” technology, such as jet packs, that the MIB Corporation had from the 60’s.  There didn’t seem to be as many crazy looking aliens but the ones that were on screen were pretty interesting and done well.

All of the acting was solid, but Josh Brolin stole the show.  His portrayal of a young K was phenomenal.  I literally forgot that it wasn’t Tommy Lee Jones on screen at points.  The voice, the quirks, the whole demeanor, it was flawless.  Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Emma Thompson (Agent O) all played their roles well, and kept my interest the whole time.  Jemaine Clement did a good job being the goofy yet intimidating Boris, but one my favorite character was Griffin played by Michael Stuhlbarg.  He was an alien who was strangely calm and cheery, but had a really interesting ability.  He was able to perceive alternate realities in the 5th dimension.  As a physics teacher, I was extremely intrigued by this.  Quick physics lesson…As humans we are able to perceive four dimensions based on current physics theories.  String theory needs eleven dimensions to work (don’t ask…I don’t get it either).  The dimensions we perceive are height, width, length, and the fourth being time.  The fifth dimension is alternate realities in time based on the decisions we make every day.  For example if you decided to stay in bed for an extra minute this morning your day and possibly life would be completely different because of it.  Griffin can see all of the possible outcomes/realities based on the decisions that people around him make each and every moment.  It was really interesting and integral to the plot later on.

All in all MIB3 was solid.  The movie is just a steady, good movie for an hour and a half and then finishes great.  The ending was actually quite touching.  If you enjoyed the original movie (or original two) you will really like the way they wrapped up the trilogy (I’m assuming there are no plans for a fourth but who knows).  The story, effects, and solid performances make this a fun movie for everyone.  I definitely recommend.

-Gish

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Snow White and the Huntsman

Rating: Maybe catch it on TV some day.                                                                                       

When I think back to Snow White and the Huntsman two words come to mind.  Pretty and boring.  The visuals were unlike anything I have seen before; and I mean that in a good way.  It was visually as unique as the first time I watched 300.  Unfortunately, even the breathtaking visuals couldn’t save this movie.  I can recall two points in the theater when I was actually entertained.  One included a poop joke from a dwarf, the other included the kid a few rows in front of me doing everything in his power to get the last drop out of his ICEE.  The people who somehow found this movie interesting were annoyed by him, and this was more entertaining for me than what was happening on screen.

The person who deserves the biggest award for this movie is the person who created the trailer.  The trailer looked sweet.  Unfortunately, everything that looked cool was in the preview.  Even still, the movie was very pretty to look at.  The creatures of the Dark Forest were truly creepy, and the non creepy creatures later on in the movie were fascinating and beautiful.  The few action scenes were slow and clunky but keeping with the rest of the two hours and ten minutes looked really cool.  From the first scene the movie gave interesting visuals.  An army was being literally shattered with sword blows and it looked pretty awesome.  Later on in another battle scene creatures made out of what appeared to be metal shards attacked the huntsman and again it looked really cool.  The sound editing here was also really well done with metal scraping and other menacing sounds mixed in.  The movie looked GREAT…ok I think I beat that into the ground enough and won’t say it again.

Unfortunately, despite the beautiful visuals (ok one more time), the movie felt like it was never going to end.  The story was slow torture.  Nothing happened, ever.  Well, a few things happened, but nothing entertaining.  The evil queen (Charlize Theron) has great powers but continues to age and weaken unless she can literally suck the life out of youthful people.  Her mirror then tells her that if she can steal Snow White’s (Kristen Stewart’s) heart, she can live forever without stealing other’s youth.  Fortunately for Snow White she just broke out of the Queen’s dungeon but is lost in the Dark Woods.  The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is then sent in to kill her, but instead sides with her and they rise up to fight the Queen.  Then they try and rally people to fight the Queen, or something, I don’t know I was so bored I had a hard time paying attention.  Then they keep rallying and rallying and nothing happens.  They do meet the Dwarves who are boring and forgettable.  I literally didn’t care about any of the characters.  In summary…it was BORING.

The cinematographers deserve several awards, the actors, well…do not.  Kristen Stewart was fine as Snow White but that’s because she had nothing to screw up.  She had maybe ten lines throughout the entire two hours, and one encouraging speech.  Chris Hemsworth was also fine as the Huntsman but again didn’t have much to screw up.  Then there was Charlize Theron.  I keep hearing everyone say she was the best part of the movie, and was brilliant, and will probably get an Oscar nom.  I completely disagree.  Instead of being an evil queen she seemed more like a whiney brat who was given some cool power.  She overacted the whole thing.  I think Theron is better suited for light hearted characters such as Mr. F.  The seven dwarves were very forgettable.  I didn’t care about any of them, and for some reason they used film trickery to make average people look small rather than hire little people to play the parts.  Are you telling me there really aren’t seven talented little people looking for work in Hollywood?

To sum up, the movie looked great (last time I swear!), but was incredibly slow and boring.  I can’t recommend it because I just wanted it to finish the whole time it was on.  If you see it on TV in a year or so watch it just to see how cool it looked at parts.  Otherwise skip it.

-Gish

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Battleship

Rating: If you want to go space out for a couple of hours and see some awesome CGI, see it in theaters (because the explosions look cool on the big screen).  If you feel you are better than that, maybe catch it on TV sometime.                               

Let’s start by saying that I’m glad if an alien spaceship, that has a giant force field, and just demonstrated extremely superior firepower ever attacks us in the ocean, we have a first response plan which includes the following phases.  Phase 1: Drive Rhianna around in a dinghy and have her fire a rail gun at the ship.  Phase 2: When (not if) phase 1 fails, have a Naval Destroyer entice the enemy ship with a rousing game of chicken.  Phase 3: After the inevitable destruction resulting in the failure of phase 1 and 2 record the faces of several concerned children in slow motion.

Ok now that that is out of the way, let’s discuss the insanity that is Battleship.  This could get interesting so bear with me.  I’ve seen movies described as train wrecks where you can’t look away.  I’ve seen movies so accidentally bad that they can only be laughed at.  Battleship tries a new tactic.  It beats your intelligence into such a pulp that you can’t help but be entertained by the ridiculousness that is unfolding in front of you on screen.  In the art of film making, Battleship gets zero stars.  In the art of awesome summer blockbuster making, Battleship gets four stars.  That averages to a two star movie right?  I don’t know either but just go with it.  Was the movie fantastic? No.  Was the movie terrible? No.  It was just there, on screen, and it made damn sure you knew it.  Plus Rhianna was in it because why not?

With respect to the movies details, let’s start with the bad.  First off acting.  There wasn’t any.  Not much at least.  Taylor Kitsch did what he had to as the burn out turned Lieutenant Alex Hopper, but wasn’t anything amazing.  Rhianna did everything in her power to pretend she was Michelle Rodriguez (you’ve seen her as the bad a** chick in every recent movie that needed a bad a** chick).  I love Liam Neeson, but he was not needed here.  Basically the productions companies said, “Hey Liam, we need a big name attached to this movie, and will give you millions of dollars to be on set for one day.”  And, no big surprise, he said, “Sure”.  He’s in the movie for maybe fifteen minutes and his character is boring, but he’s there.  Most of the acting from other characters was pretty weak as well.  Also, Brooklyn Decker was attractive so there’s that.

The second bad part of the movie was the plot.  Again, there wasn’t any.  I suppose that’s not entirely fair to say; they started to set up a plot but then completely threw it out the window thirty minutes in.  The story stars with Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) as a burnout loner at the bar.  For about ten minutes bad things happen to him, none of which are clever or funny like they were intended to be.  Then he meets Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), and falls in love…literally in like 4 seconds there is a relationship formed on screen.  Anyway, his brother decides he is too much of a screw up and makes him join the NAVY with him.  Cut to several months later, he is still with Samantha, whose dad happens to be Liam Neeson and his Admiral.  Also, surprise, surprise Hopper wasn’t good at life as a civilian and he’s still not really good at life as a soldier.  Because of this Liam Neeson doesn’t like him and doesn’t like him being with his daughter.  Then alien spaceships land in the water and we must fight.  That all takes place in the first thirty minutes or so, and only one portion of this paragraph is revisited for the other hour and forty five minutes.  Guess which one.  I’ll give you a hint; It’s the alien part.

This movie cost over 200 million dollars to make and obviously not much money was spent on actors or writing.  So where was the money spent you ask?  Explosions!  The visual effects and action were clearly this movies saving grace.  They were so spectacular, entertaining, and fun that I wasn’t even mad about spending ten bucks on a plotless movie.  Everything from the alien spaceships, to the explosions, to the traveling missiles was done well.  If you paid attention to the movie’s trailer you have already seen a portion of my favorite CGI/action.  The reddish orange death spheres that the mother ship fires towards unsuspecting cities.  Their mechanics and destruction was very visually entertaining.  Throughout all of the chaos, the movies creators even managed to incorporate the namesake’s board game mechanics without being incredibly cheesy.

Staying on the topic of the movie’s visuals, I really liked the way the aliens looked.  They were humanoid but different enough from a human to clearly from another planet.  Staying with what seems to be the theme of the movie, the aliens looked cool, but they could have done so much more with their story.  We didn’t really know much about them, or why they were here, and I wish we did.  Despite this, I thought the aliens were done fairly well.

One of my other favorite parts of this movie is that it didn’t take itself too seriously.  I think a lot of people would argue that it does, and they are wrong.  I laughed a lot at the insanity during the second half of the movie, and was worried I wasn’t supposed to be.  Then my favorite scene occurred.  A scene so awesomely ridiculous that I realized the creators couldn’t possibly be taking themselves seriously.  I don’t want to ruin it but lets just say it involves some eighty-something year old war vets, a seventy year old, decommissioned battleship, and ACDC’s Thunderstruck.  It was awesome.

Overall the movie was not great, but it wasn’t as bad as I’ve heard some people say.  You have to know what you are getting yourself into and if you like action movies it is worth seeing.  If you are not that big into action movies to begin with, I would recommend skipping it.  I was entertained, though, and hopefully you can get some entertainment out of it as well.

-Gish

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