Saturday, April 28, 2012

What I've Been Watching (4/28/12)

Hey guys, instead of writing full reviews I'm just going to post a short blog on the last few movies I've seen.

A couple weeks ago I saw the documentary Bully, which follows a handful of bully victims and their families.  The movie was pretty well handled, but with very little relief from the hard emotional subject matter it was tough to sit through and without any interviews with the bullies themselves it felt unbalanced at times; it would've been interesting to hear their perspective.  It's a solid doc though, and I felt my hands clenching when I had to listen to some of the school officials on the matter.  Next I saw the latest from Aardman Animation (the team behind Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run), The Pirates! Band of Misfits.  The film was witty at times and the animation was remarkably detailed, but the story was pretty slight and there was far less swashbuckling than I would have anticipated.  Lastly I caught a screening of Sound of My Voice, from first-time director Zal Batmanglij and starring Another Earth's Brit Marling as a cult leader supposedly from the future.  It's one of those vague movies where the answers are never given to you, sometimes infuriatingly so.  Specific scenes can be full of suspense, and multiple genres are balanced throughout the film (...or are they?  We never really know what the genre is) which is a feat considering its micro-budget.

Sorry for the slight review(s), if you can even call them that. I'll probably write a bigger one for The Avengers since I know a lot of people are psyched for that.  Thanks for reading, bye bye.

  Bully                                     The Pirates!                          Sound of My Voice
Rating: B                              Rating: B-                              Rating: B 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Three Stooges and Cabin in the Woods

The Three Stooges:

Sigh... and I was so pumped for a truly great Three Stooges comeback.  Originally, the Farrelly Brothers' Stooge pic was, in a too-good-to-be-true fashion, set to star Jim Carrey, Benicio Del Toro, and Sean Penn as Curly, Moe, and Larry, respectively.  But nope, instead we have Will Sasso as Curly and two other guys I've never heard of playing Moe and Larry.  If you just look up the development of this movie you can see how bonkers it's been just to get this on the screen.  For nearly a decade the Farrellys have been trying to get this made - you'd think this comedy tribute that has been festering in their minds for so long would've aged like a fine wine.  Instead it aged like a malignant tumor.

This movie felt like a complete rushed mess.  Even the basic structure of the film makes no sense.  It's separated into 3 chapters in an effort to recreate the Three Stooges shorts of the 40's.  The problem with this is that it's all one continuous story line, so really I don't know why they even included that; there wasn't 3 distinctly different shorts.  It's that kind of odd gotta-shoehorn-this-in mentality that makes this a painful experience.  First of all, it takes about 15 minutes just to get to the actual stooges; in that 15 minutes we have to watch their "younger years," portrayed by three child actors who might be charming to show off at a cocktail party, but come off as pretty annoying here.

The story follows the three boys as they grow up in an orphanage together, with Larry David, Jane Lynch, and Jennifer Hudson all playing nuns.  None of these people add any humor to the movie (even though I am a huge fan of Larry David and Jane Lynch). Larry David needs to stick with Curb Your Enthusiasm - he pulls off one of the most annoying cross-gender performances I've ever seen (then again I haven't seen Jack and Jill).  The actual adult three stooges (once we get to them) were OK, but I never felt that their characters were anything beyond mimicry of the original stooges - in other words, I didn't feel the soul of the original characters.  It's as good a stooge portrayal as say, Frank Caliendo's impression of John Madden; while it's a good impression but I wouldn't hire him to play in his biopic.

Sure the movie has some laughs in it, but most of them were lifted out of the old shorts; the "original" ideas in this film are basically a series of progressively terrible puns and annoyingly outdated slapstick.  If you want to update a classic style of comedy to a new generation, don't go the lazy route and force in iPhone and Jersey Shore jokes.  With Dumb and Dumber being my favorite comedy of all time, this really makes me concerned for the recently announced D&D2.  The Three Stooges didn't even feel like a movie, it felt like a rushed SNL skit or something; the budget was clearly low and the script was likely a disaster.  Maybe some day we'll see that magical Stooge revival with Carrey and Co, but for now we have a steaming pile of cow dung, figuratively speaking.

Rating: D

The Cabin in the Woods:

(The Cabin in the Woods is a little difficult to talk about without spoilers, so sorry if the review is too vague).

It would be an understatement for me to say I'm a fan of horror movies.  I love the genre oh-so very much, but nowadays there's really not much happening with it.  There are endless remakes, sequels, prequels, pre-makes, you name it, it exists.  While watching The Cabin in the Woods, it's clear that director Drew Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon are fans of the genre and know all of the pitfalls.  In a very Scream fashion, this really picks apart the "cabin in the woods" flick and gives it a twist.  I don't know how spoilery this is, but essentially this is The Hunger Games in a way, where the horror movie "variables" are semi-controlled by overseers, but it's ultimately up to the victims to play out their own story.  Things start to ramp up and get crazy though, and by the end let's just say that the horror nerd in me was getting a lot of what I like to see.

I'm not the biggest Scream fan in the world, and as interesting and different a concept this movie puts forward, I found it a little too...wink-at-the-camera.  The meta aspects make the movie what it is, but also make the film lose a little impact, I think.  Tonally this movie is all over the map, but it does work somehow.  It's dark and moody one second, funny the next, and horrifically brutal the next.  It also didn't spell things out for the audience without losing their interest which is refreshing.  I liked the slow and steady explanation for the workings of this "game," although some of the answers weren't exactly what I was hoping for (kind of like how Lost towards the end featured a certain urine-cave...Lost fans will know what I'm talking about).  I'll probably have to watch this one again just to get my bearings on it, but I thought it was a solid examination and twist on a genre near and dear to my heart.  Personally these meta-movies can get a little tiresome, so excuse the somewhat low rating, but for what it is, it's a sometimes clever, unique flick and the last twenty minutes or so is bat-shit awesome.

Rating: B-

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