Sunday, November 30, 2014

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 movie review

I'm trying to imagine how much better The Amazing Spider-Man 2 would be if Jamie Foxx was playing his character in this movie rather than Electro.

Horrible Bosses 2 is the sequel to the 2011 film Horrible Bosses, a surprisingly funny comedy (at least to me, anyway) about three average dudes he form a plan to kill their bosses. A few years later, we have this movie, where the same three average dudes form a plan to kidnap the son of a rich businessman who stole their new business from them.

As I said, I quite enjoyed Horrible Bosses unlike most people, so I was pretty optimistic going in, and honestly, I had real nice time with this movie.

The thing that makes this movie is the cast. This movie has assembled an excellent team of comedic actors. The three leads, Charlie Day, Jason Bateman and Jason Sudekis, just kill it. They're chemistry is good, they're just terrific on screen, and it's just all laughs with them. Jennifer Aniston and Jamie Foxx return from their roles in the first film, and though they're not a big part of the movie, they really were funny in it. I really missed them playing these types of roles. Speaking of which, finally! Chris Pine returns to a role that showcases both his charisma and his charm on screen. Of course, he plays a douchebag, but he's a likeable douchebag. He kills it, and I really hope he does more of these roles, no more glum and serious spy roles please. Sadly, I got to say Christoph Waltz and Jonathan Banks were super underutilized in the movie. They had Christoph Waltz come in, and you don't even give him that many good lines nor a lot of screentime? Seems like a waste of an opportunity to me. Also, Jonathan Banks phoned it in. I only remembered he was in the movie while looking at Wikipedia looking at how to spell the cast's names... yeah, that's how forgettable he is. However, those two underutilized actors don't get in the way of me praising this excellent comedic cast.

Now, there's a lot of slapstick and dumb humor and this movie. It's some pretty dumb people doing idiotic things. Some people might not find that funny, but I found the way they executed it to be in the "safe zone"of dumb humor, not too Three Stooges-like. There's a lot of really good jokes in there, and I laughed quite a lot. There's only one really big laugh though. I'm not going to spoil it, just saying that it was worth the ticket for me.

Another thing I admire about this sequel is that it doesn't retread the same plot as the original. We saw with The Hangover Part II how the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" schluck can ruin the series, but we also saw with 22 Jump Street how "being self-aware and making fun of the fact that you're a retread of the original" works. This movie is neither, because it plays it safe, and does something different. Nothing wrong with playing it safe, but it's nothing memorable either.

 There are a lot of funny parts, true, but there are also a lot of dull moments, moments you wish you could just fast forward through. This happens a lot, but luckily, not a lot consecutively, because that would've really killed the film more than it did.

Horrible Bosses 2 is a fun enough comedy sequel. It's got a great comedic cast, a fun and new premise, a lot of entertaining scenes, and a lot of boring uninspired scenes. Still a fun time at the theaters, mainly because good comedies are always fun to watch in theaters.

Friday, November 21, 2014

MOCKINGJAY - PART 1 movie review

Ah, another young adult novel adaptation series concludes, and... What's that? Wait. "Part 1"? What the

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is (haha, you guessed it) part one of the final story in the Hunger Games series. Here we're reunited with Katniss after the events of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and we find that she's in District 13, the supposedly destroyed district of Panem but which actually is a secret underground facility where the rebels are biding their time to take the Capitol. Katniss is once again thrown into action when the rebel leaders ask her to become a propaganda piece for them and to become the symbol of their rebellion, their Mockingjay.

I quite like the Hunger Games series. In my opinion, it has the best YA novel adaptation movies post-Harry Potter, and they work just as well as popcorn flicks. That being said, I wasn't really looking forward to this film mainly because I didn't really like the book it's based off of.

But man, does this movie deliver.

The film turned out better than I expected, and that's mainly due to the talent behind it. Returning to direct the film is Catching Fire's Francis Lawrence, and he does the best job bringing a lot of what I liked about the book to life. He made a good film that brought us out of the arena into the real world. The scope of the film is much bigger, a lot of beautiful shots and set designs, a lot of bigger and more riveting action sequences, it felt like it was on a much more grander scale while still staying true to its roots.

Jennifer Lawrence is also back for her third outing as Katniss Everdeen, and she's still amazing. I do believe that she gets better in the role with each outing. Liam Hemsworth gets a bigger role in this film than in the past two, and it's serviceable. He doesn't have the charm nor charisma on screen as his brother does, but I accept that he's there to add to the love story, and I can live with it. Also returning is Philip Seymour Hoffman, now with his new partner in political shenanigans, Julianne Moore. These two are great together, they play off each other really well, and they're a nice addition to the film. Josh Hutcherson gets less screentime this time around, but he delivers one of the more powerful and more moving ones. Most of the film, he gives a subtle and emotional performance that only works because of the build up of the Katniss-Peeta relationship of the last two movies.

The acting is fantastic, and it's very well directed, but the film does suffer from the studio's decision to split the movie into two parts. Now, I'm not entirely against the idea of splitting source material into two parts. I believe parts one and two of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows worked really well individually and as a pair, I also believe splitting The Hobbit into three parts was justified, but the problem with this film is that there really isn't a clear need to have to split it into two parts other than more money and yet another cliffhanger. 

The problem is that Mockingjay the book clearly doesn't have enough substance to stretch two movies, yet they still tried to stretch out every single plot detail of the book to add screen time, but those stretched out plot details don't really add anything to the overall film. 

The film doesn't totally suffer from it, I still liked it, a lot more than the first actually. It serves as nice build up, but nothing more than build-up. I question why we couldn't just have one solid two hour and forty five minute movie with the solid build-up immediately followed by the meat of the story. I don't know, maybe I'll warm up to this movie more after I see part two, but it just really sucks that I have to wait for one entire year before the story and the character arcs that I'm invested in get become well-rounded and resolved storylines.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is still a more than welcome entry into the series, despite some flaws. It's a damn good YA novel adaptation that's has stellar acting, fantastic directing, and some really intense action. Now that I know what I'm in for, I can't wait for Part 2.

Monday, November 17, 2014

NIGHTCRAWLER movie review

I swear, Jake Gyllenhaal blinks not more than 10 times in this movie.

Nightcrawler is the debut film of Dan Gilroy, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a very driven, creepy, and at times frightening man who stumbles upon the world of L.A. freelance crime journalism. He discovers this, and realizes it can be something he can really be good at, so we follow his character as he climbs his way up the career ladder, doing anything necessary to get to the top.

This is a pretty unsettling film. Director Dan Gilroy did a phenomenal job on this film.The commentary on the current state of new outlets was very well handled. It wasn't so much of commentary on media manipulation, but more of how much they can show and how much they want us to see, how the media sees these injured and deceased people as stories rather than human beings, and also media vulturism. I thought that Gilroy handled those really well.

The film is also very sharp and sleek. It's very well paced, not a lot of fat on it. The way he handled the dark humor, the still moments of horror throughout, and also some the rapid car chase scenes. The score by James Newton Howard was great, really complimented the tone of the film. The cinematography by Robert Elswit is just amazing. The tagline of the film is "The city shines brightest at night" and now I believe it. He captured that perfectly and so beautifully. He literally lit up the screen. 

Also, Jake Gyllenhaal, man. Throw all your gold statues at him, because wow, that was an extraordinary performance. He just became the character, a character I can best describe as a ticking time bomb that you're just waiting to go off. He was so creepy, calculating, insane and disturbing, it's just hard to get that smile out of your head. I mean, Lou's just talking about his work plan, and I'm going back and forth between cowardly leaned back and curiously on the edge of my seat. Probably my favorite performance of the year so far.

It goes more than just the performance too, his character was also really well-written and presented in the film. He's a sociopath, there's no real debate on that, but the film never really punishes him for you. Noooo, you do that in your head. It allows you to be the one to judge him.

Nightcrawler is creepy, unsettling, and an insane thrill ride through the the nighttime world of L.A. crime journalism. Jake Gyllenhaal gives probably the best performance of his career. Dan Gilroy gives us the ideal directorial debut, and I'd say Nightcrawler is a must-see film.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

INTERSTELLAR movie review

Christopher Nolan's 2014 space odyssey.

Interstellar is the ninth film directed by Christopher Nolan, known for films such as The Dark Knight and Inception. The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, a farmer in a not so distant future Earth, where the few surviving humans are struggling to live in a world running out of food and full of dust storms. Cooper is soon invited to join the crew that'll go to another galaxy in search for a new home and become mankind's last hope for survival.

I was very much looking forward to Interstellar, because Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors working today. I haven't seen all of his films, but four of his films are probably in my Top 30 of all time, so Interstellar was on my radar. I didn't want to know a lot going into the movie, so I avoided all news, all trailers, basically everything, because I wanted to experience everything for the first time while watching for the first time, and boy am I glad that I did.

Nolan succeeds in making this film an experience. It's so rare these days you're sitting there after watching a movie, and you say "yeah, I experienced that," and that's honestly how I felt after watching Interstellar. Nolan is a fantastic director, and he directed this amazingly. So many jaw-dropping moments of wonder and imagination, so many intense moments that'll leave you breathless, dialogue that leaves a lasting impact on you, just pure emotion. You can really feel the sincerity and passion Nolan put into this film.

The acting as well, just terrific performances across the board. Just Matthew McConaughey looking at a screen will break your heart. Anne Hathaway almost stole the movie with her monologue about love. However, the breakout star of this movie has got to be a child actress by the name of Mackenzie Foy, who steals nearly all of her scenes, and is the real emotional center of this movie. Without her giving a good performance, the whole movie may have failed, but she absolutely nailed it. There's a huge supporting cast, too many to go into detail specifically, but all fantastic nonetheless.

Jonathan Nolan does an excellent job writing too. Excellent, excellent job. The film is rich with themes of human nature, hope, and more importantly, love. Interstellar is the Nolans' deconstruction of something as illogical as love, and IT WORKS. (I'm not going to go into that, because if you haven't seen the movie, I want you to grasp and understand the themes yourself and your own way, so I'll leave it at that.) It's also brilliant how they used the premise of an "outer space adventure" as the backdrop for a real emotionally intimate film.

Speaking of outer space adventure, let me talk about the film on a technical standpoint. It's a visually beautiful film.The score by frequent Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer is eargasmic. It was so powerful in the scenes that were already so emotionally powerful.

The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema was freaking beautiful, and dare I say it, out of this world. So many of the wide shots in outer space is so hauntingly beautiful, it just leaves a last impression on you. Aww, and combined with the breathtaking visuals, it just made me feel awe and wonder. Awe and wonder were on the big screen. There came times where I was actually convinced that this was real footage taken from a space craft or something. The movie is just so beautiful on so many different layers.

The movie is not without its flaws, that's for sure. The dialogue is hard to follow sometimes, at times it will feel melodramatic, and especially, a last twenty minutes that'll leave audiences divided, but I don't care.

Many of the flaws of the film are on the surface. You'd be shocked that they got past a director like Nolan, but you see, Nolan is more focused on the emotion of Interstellar. He's more concerned about what you feel than how this plot point makes sense or how this does that. Interstellar is a movie that'll make you think, sure, but it's more of a movie concerned on how it makes you feel. It's an experience. That's why some people will like the third act, some people won't. It's all about how you experience it, and that to me, is why I love it.

I can analyze movies all I want. I can learn new things about them, I can debate over the facts and the events that happen in them, but in the end, I go to the movies for the experience, the feeling you get after watching them. I go to the movies to go to that little happy place. That's what makes Interstellar a real special treat. It's a movie that puts emotion first.

Interstellar is a flawed movie where Christopher Nolan puts his passion, sincerity and emotion first to give us a great cinematic experience. It's beautiful and well-crafted on so many different levels. It's a movie that teaches us that love, hope, and optimism will transcend all.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

BIG HERO 6 movie review

A Marvel Comics property brought to you by Disney Animation that comes across as a mix between Terminator 2 and The Incredibles. Sign me up.

Big Hero 6 is the Disney Aniimation film that loosely adapts the Marvel Comics property of the same name. The film centers around Hiro Hamada, a child prodigy that can do wonders with robotics. Hiro is struggling with a recent tragedy that happened, and when a terrorist threatens the safety of San Fransokyo, he assembles a team of robotics experts and his brother's robot, Baymax, to take him down.

I was really looking forward to this movie, ever since they announced this somewhere around a year and a half ago, mainly because it's a combination of two things I love: Disney Animation and Marvel based movies (both of which are on a hot streak right now). That really proved to be the case with this movie, because if I were to describe Big Hero 6, I'd say it's structured/packaged like a Marvel movie and with the heart of a Disney movie.

This was an absurdly fun and entertaining movie, and that's one of it's biggest strengths. It's action packed, like most superhero films, and it's not even the punch-smash-destroy action. The action sequences are pretty creative thanks to the different abilities our heroes have, and it's very entertaining. Hell, I'd even go as far as to say the final battle sequence of this movie is the best final battle sequence in a comic book movie we've had all year. 

All of our main characters are all full of energy, fun to watch on screen, and all have personality. The voice work is really good too. The characters also really fuel the goofball comedy this movie has, and the comedic timing in this movie is just gold. If the actions sequences, characters, and comedy don't leave you with a big smile on your face, I don't know what will.

All the characters in the team are full of spirit, but the film's focus really isn't on the whole team, but Hiro and Baymax. Hiro and Baymax's friendship is the real heart and driving force of the movie and Hiro is the only character who really goes through an arc, to my slight disappointment. Don't get me wrong, I loved Hiro and Baymax and they're relationship. There were some emotional and beautiful moments with them throughout the film (specifically a flying sequence), but I personally would have liked to see the rest of the team get a little bit more substance and depth. 

The rest of the team were mostly absent from the real emotional moments, and that bummed me out. It felt like they were sidelined into supporting character territory (not that I'm undermining the supporting character category). People will be putting this film along the lines of The Incredibles or this year's Guardians of the Galaxy, and I'd have to disagree with that, because those films had the characters grow as team. The story here was really more about a boy and his robot, sort of like a G-rated Terminator 2.

Big Hero 6 is a super fun and entertaining movie. It combines what I like about superhero movies and Disney movies. It's hilarious, action packed, and the characters have personality, though lacking a bit of depth, but it does function really well with its boy & robot story, delivering quite a few emotional and beautiful scenes, and tugging on your heartstrings the Disney way.