Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For movie review

Hopefully, you've learned your lesson, studios. If you have a film that gets a huge cult following, don't wait 9 years to release the sequel.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is the sequel/prequel to 2005's Sin City, and like the first one, this film tells multiple stories all set in the titular city. These stories are Just Another Saturday Night, a short story following Marv (Mickey Rourke) recounting the events of the night after he wakes up on the highway surrounded by dead men, The Long Bad Night, where a young gambler named Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) arrives in Sin City and ends up getting on Senator Roarke's (Powers Boothe) badside, Nancy's Last Dance, a story focused on stripper Nancy Callahan and the aftermath of what happened to her in the first film, and finally A Dame to Kill For, the main story, where Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) gets entangled with the wrong people when Ava (Eva Green) returns to Sin City.

The film follows the same style as the original. It's very different from other films, and it's very faithful to the graphic novel it's adapting. Just like the first film, it actually felt like I was watching a graphic novel come to life on the screen. However, it's not in the film's style people will find problem, it's in its substance. The first one was visually stunning, yes, but it's three main stories were all very compelling, intriguing, and at the very least, enjoyable. The same cannot be said for this one.

All this film is is a watered down version of the first one. More focused in mimicking its predecessor to achieve its own success rather than being focused on telling good stories. All the storylines in this film are generic revenge/personal vendetta storylines, and it got very repetitive after awhile. Basically, it was like watching three episodes of a TV show beat you over the head with the same message, and I didn't find that even remotely enjoyable.

Out of all the stories, I'd have to say I found Joseph Gordon-Levitt's story, The Long Bad Night (Part I), the most entertaining, mainly because of Gordon-Levitt's charisma on-screen. However, it came back for a Part II, and then became another generic "I'll get my revenge on you" story. My least favorite would have to be Nancy's Last Dance, probably because of its placement in the film. It's the last story of the film, and it's another revenge story (surprise, surprise), and the person Nancy Callahan was exact her revenge on was the same person Johnny was exacting his revenge on in the previous story, so yes... I was bored out of my mind and the story wasn't even interesting. A lot of people found A Dame to Kill For boring, but I disagree. I found it to be pretty okay, mostly because of Eva Green's performance.

Yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's and Eva Green's performance brought at least some joy to this film. They were great. I would've comment on Mickey Rourke as Marv, because I actually did like Rourke returning, but I didn't like the way they handled Marv. He just pops up here and there at random times during different stories, usually just to beat someone up (another example of the stories getting repetitive), so Marv wasn't really a big positive for the film. Josh Brolin replaces Clive Owen as Dwight McCarthy, but he's kind of eh. He broods. That's basically it. Jessica Alba tries (she really does) to be the brooding badass, but she doesn't quite pull it off. Which is a shame, she's the only female protagonist in this one, and I really wanted to like her here.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn't a very great (final) outing for Sin City. It's repetitive a lot, it's not that entertaining, intriguing or compelling, it's characters are pretty flat, and the acting isn't all that good. When put beside its predecessor, it comes off as very unnecessary.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie review

Go ninja, go ninja, go!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the 2014 live-action reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In this movie, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello are forced outside of hiding in the sewers to defeat the Shredder and save New York City.

Now, this isn't the childhood-ruining, cinematic tragedy that some fans have been making it up to be. I honestly think that that hate has stemmed from the fact that Michael Bay (director of the recent film Transformers: Age of Extinction) was producing. His stamp on the film is noticeable, but it's ultimately Jonathan Liebsman's directing that brings the film down heavily. 

This movie presents almost nothing visually appealing.Mostly everything from the character designs to the action sequences to even the way it was shot makes the film look like nothing more than a generic and bland blockbuster. Thankfully, however, the movie's tone wasn't a dark and somber tone (that it seems like most reboots are going for these days), but instead it (sorta) made up for its lack of visual appeal with a light-hearted, fun, and humorous tone. You can actually have fun with some scenes here.

An example of a fun action sequence in the movie is the only action sequence I enjoyed, and that is the action sequence which takes place on a snowy mountain. It was actually pretty fun and exciting, and there was even some comedy that surprisingly worked.

The biggest positive of the movie would probably have to be the turtles. The turtles' designs may have been questionable, but there individual character personalities were well established in the movie. I was expecting they'd just be brooding muscle-y chunks of CGI, but I was proven wrong. The voice work and the scenes where we just get to see the turtles interact with one another helped a lot in elevating this movie to something actually bearable.

The human characters on the other hand... not so great. Megan Fox as April O'Neil wasn't that bad, she was serviceable, but Will Arnett's character, man... was he horrible. His function in the movie was to drive our heroes around and occasionally crack a weird and awkward joke. His character was so cringe-worthy and so unnecessary. William Fichtner's character felt out of place. He'd pop up a few times in the movie, but you never really got the sense that he's adding anything to the plot, other than exposition to the audience. I felt that he could've been replaced by the Asian henchman Shredder has in the movie. 

If you really think about it, it wasn't a terrible showcase by Paramount and Nickelodeon this time around. They delivered on an okay, sorta fun movie, and they actually got their main characters right. No tragedy here, and nothing here that a sequel with a good director can't fix. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy SPOILER review

Well, I'm guessing everyone saw 'Guardians of the Galaxy' by now, so here's a SPOILER FILLED review of it. If you want a spoiler-free review, go click the link in the sidebar for my spoiler-free review.

In my previous 'Guardians of the Galaxy' movie review, I wrote about how funny and energetic the movie is. The movie really is funny and energetic, but I bet you guys didn't expect how dark the comedy would get. Yeah, I never thought I'd see a raccoon and an alien get into a drunken bar fight in a movie (much less a Marvel movie), but it happened. That aforementioned raccoon even started insulting another character at one point after that character talked about his family dying. Yes, the movie has some dark comedy, it's characters are a bunch of tough guys and girls, but the movie and its characters also have a very soft spot deep within them.

There are some scenes that really stuck with me, probably because they were really strong emotional scenes, something I didn't expect going in. Rocket's drunk rant about himself and Drax's realization that all his anger and rage will only affect the people around him were nice touches to show that the characters have more depth to it. Yes, in the overall scheme of things those two very deep moments (moments that could be misread as dark comedic moments) were 'nice touches'.

I'll get to the scenes that really impacted me later, but for now I got to tell you that I believe this "rough exterior complimented by the very emotional interior" personality is inherited from the film's director James Gunn. Gunn is no stranger to dark comedy, having directed the films 'Slither' and 'Super', prior to this, and while I was watching some of his press interviews for the film, I really got the sense that this was a guy that had a genuine passion and love for what he was putting in this movie. 

You also really feel James Gunn's stamp on this film with the 70s music he added to the film, which brings me to, what is in my opinion, the third most emotional moment of the film - when Star-Lord reads the letter from his mom. The narration by his mom was a nice close to his arc in the film, and it was a touching moment at best, but it's when he opens Awesome Mix Vol. 2 and plays Ain't No Mountain High Enough by Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford. 

That song simply propelled that scene into a whole new other level (tears were almost shed), and that's really the best (out of a lot of very great) examples to why the music played a part in the story telling of the film. A lot of people may not know it, but the soundtrack really helped move most of the scenes along.

Now we have Groot. As I said in my earlier review, Groot was my favorite character in the movie. Why? There is just something about Groot that simply captures a universe of imagination. There's just something beautiful about this simple creature who can only say three words (I, Am, and Groot, exclusively in that order). My fourth favorite scene in the movie is when Groot walks up to a little homeless alien and gives her a flower. It was magnificent. It captured the personality of the creature perfectly. My second favorite scene (another Groot one, surprise surprise) is the part where the Dark Aster is plummeting from the skies of Xandar, and the Guardians of the Galaxy are going to be killed, and Groot turns himself into a giant cocoon around them to protect them. Rocket asks why is he doing that, and Groot says "We. Are. Groot." I absolutely loved that. You know the saying "One picture can tell a thousand words"? Well, Groot is basically three words that paint an extraordinarily beautiful picture. 

Now, that scene flowed well into my favorite scene of the movie - when the Guardians of the Galaxy came together. When Peter Quill took the Infinity stone of the Orb, and nearly died, but he took the hand of Gamora, Drax, and Rocket. The thematic build up to the scene was spot on, and when Peter takes the hand of his mom (metaphorically) hit me in all the right places. This is the scene that cemented that these Guardians of the Galaxy aren't just another superhero team that has characters that need to get a long, they're a family, a family who have personality clashes here and there, a family who may not be perfect (or even all that good) individuals, but a family that loves each other nonetheless.

Yup. 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is actually my favorite movie of the year now. Surprising, I know. 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is just ripe with beautiful and imaginative colors, character-driven action, GREAT characters, and James Gunn's directing, man. Rating? Man, there ain't no mountain high enough.