TAKE TWO: 30 Minutes or Less

19 Aug

30 Minutes or Less

Rated: R

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Chris’ Take: Ruben Fleischer was the talk of the action-comedy town back in 2009, with his smash hit zombie comedy (or zomcom for short) Zombieland. The script was snappy, the action superb and it was enjoyable from start to finish. His latest comedy attempt, reuniting him with star Jesse Eisenberg, shows only a minute amount of the genius that he displayed.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza delivery boy who spends his off time getting stoned and dating the sister of his best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). When Nick receives a pizza order that takes him out to an abandoned warehouse, he soon finds himself kidnapped by two redneck criminals, Dwayne and Travis (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), who strap a bomb to him and tell him that he has 10 hours to rob a bank or he’ll blow up.

The film starts out fast enough, introducing us to two somewhat likeable idiots as protagonists and Danny McBride channeling his inner Kenny Powers, but we really didn’t get to know the Chet and Nick as well as I would hope. There is about one scene where they are together and we establish that they are “friends”, but immediately there is discord and you don’t feel like you know them enough yet to care. It seemed that Fleischer spent more time establishing who the criminals were, almost to the point of making them sympathetic, that I felt that the film was going to be more of a dark comedy about Dwayne and Travis trying to kill Dwayne’s Dad.

From there, we immediately moved into the second act of the film, which moved rather quickly as well. Chet and Nick try to figure out how to rob a bank and put together a terrible plan, which was sure to bring hilarity, and it did. However, the second act was far too short and a scene which could’ve easily been stretched out, or at least made more comically intense was squandered. Maybe it had something to do with budget, maybe it had something to do with the writers not knowing where to go with a potential hostage situation, but I just felt like it was wasted.

Or maybe the writers were...

Then, the third act was upon us and stayed for what seemed like forever. At this point, I cared very little about any of the characters involved since Nick and Chet could’ve easily found a way around the previous situations, so they are kind of too dumb to be concerned about. Dwayne and Travis were the funnier pair, but you knew things couldn’t end well for them so it was a waste to root for them too. Michael Pena makes an appearance as a hitman, and was probably the funniest character introduced to the plot, but he kind of brought the laughs a little too late and I was just hoping this would be over as quickly as it started, but it dragged out.

He a pimp!

I really felt that a good portion of the time allotted to the conclusion of the plot could’ve been given to the beginning, establishing the friendship between Chet and Nick, or in the middle, lengthening out the ridiculous bank robbing scheme they developed.

When all was said and done (I won’t be specific because I don’t want to spoil it for you if you still want to see it), the actions of the “protagonists” had me pondering whether they were the better people. I guess they didn’t really want to kill anyone, but they definitely weren’t on any moral high ground, which isn’t exactly necessary to establish in a dark comedy, but 30 Minutes or Less didn’t conform to that genre.

With all the talent involved with the project, I expected more, and while I think it was admirable that they tried to limit their time to 83 minutes, I don’t think it was paced well at all. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Ruben Fleischer is a bad director, he’s proven before that he has talent, it just seemed like he was getting lazy this time around. Maybe if he added some zombies this would’ve been right up his alley.

OVERALL: C

Pac’s Take: I couldn’t agree more.

OVERALL: C

Weekend Film Recommendation: I Love You Phillip Morris

19 Aug
I know I’ve talked about this film from time to time on this blog, but it is a new arrival to Netflix and if you haven’t seen it yet, now is the time.  I Love You Phillip Morris is the story of Steven Russell, a happily married man and a member of his local police.  When an accident forces him to reevaluate his life, Steven becomes openly homosexual and decides to live his life without regard for other peoples’ opinion and, more importantly, the law.  Once his extravagant lifestyle of conning and fraud catches up with him, he lands in prison where he meets Phillip Morris.  After falling in love with Phillip, he devotes himself to freeing Phillip from jail and pulling off a series of ridiculous and impossible cons so they can live the perfect life together.

I Love You Phillip Morris marked the return of Jim Carrey to the style of R rated humor that hadn’t been seen since Me, Myself, and Irene (though not as hammy), a refreshing change of pace from the comedies he chose for the nine years in between. 

This is exactly how we felt too Mr. Carrey

The story is excellently written and well paced, and really keeps the watcher engaged in the two characters and their relationship throughout the movie.  The subject matter is a little grotesque at times, but the aforementioned delivery of Jim Carrey throughout really softens the shock.  There is a lot of social commentary within the movie (did I mention it takes place in Texas), but it is not so in your face that it feels like sermon rather than an entertaining comedy.  The performance of Ewan McGregor as the titular Phillip Morris is worth noting as well.  While he plays more of the straight man in this comedy (no pun intended), it really works to humanize the two individual’s relationship and solidify the chemistry of the two leads.

Click here to add I Love You Phillip Morris to your Netflix queue.

Quick Take: Ridley Scott to Revisit Blade Runner

18 Aug

My favorite director, Ridley Scott, seems to be rebooting his resume by revisiting his previous films – starting at the beginning (never mind The Duellists).  Ridley’s next film, Prometheus, was originally a prequel to one of my favorite films Alien, and once he’s finished with that he’ll apparently be revisiting Blade Runner.  It is unknown whether the film will be a remake, reboot, prequel, sequel, or whatever else Hollywood is asking for these days, and it is also unknown whether Harrison Ford will be involved.

Let's hope not

Check out the link below for more information.

http://www.deadline.com/2011/08/ridley-scott-ready-to-direct-new-version-of-seminal-sci-fi-film-blade-runner/

 

Opening This Week (19 Aug 2011)

17 Aug

Well, I have to say that I was a bit surprised that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the box office winner again this week with a domestic total of $27.8 million. Apes became only the second film this summer season to take home top box office honors two weeks in a row (Thor was the other back in May). Finishing in 2nd was The Help with $26.0 million, and in third, Final Destination 5 with $18.0 million. The other major releases last week finished dismally. The action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less finished in fifth with $13.3 million, and Glee 3D finished in 11th wiht $6 million. With positive word of mouth and positive reviews, I think Rise could take the box office again this weekend since there isn’t a whole lot of competition again.

Conan the Barbarian

Rated: R

Starring: Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang

Director: Marcus Nispel

Synopsis from IMDB: The tale of Conan the Cimmerian and his adventures across the continent of Hyboria on a quest to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I guess you could do worse for summer fare. Jason Momoa was great in Game of Thrones, but that may have been because he didn’t really talk, he just kind of stared menacingly and towered over everyone around him. I kind of lost interest in the trailer as soon as he opened his mouth. Anyway, if you’re looking for mindless action, this will definitely be your best bet this weekend. The early reviews are mixed (57% on RT), so it is difficult to say where this will land, but my guess is in the 30% range.

Fright Night

Rated: R

Starring: Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant

Director: Craig Gillespie 

Synopsis from IMDB: A teenager suspects that his new neighbor is a vampire.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: The original 1985 Fright Night is one of the best horror-comedies ever. While I want to be excited about the film, especially since I think Colin Farell is a great pick as Jerry, it is hard to imagine that this film will re-capture the perfect combination of genres that the first one did. I also noticed that all the trailers are keeping Peter Vincent (David Tennant) pretty close to their chest, and he was an integral part of the original. Anyway, I will probably try to see this one and am holding on to hope that it will be decent.

One Day

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Tom Mison, Jodie Whittaker

Director: Lone Scherfig

Synopsis from IMDB: After spending the night together on the night of their college graduation Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives. They are sometimes together, sometimes not, on that day.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: One Day looks like a mix of Friends With Benefits and A Lot Like Love, except they’ve thrown in British accents to make it seem different. However, as much as I’m not one who usually is interested in chick flicks, I do like Focus Features and I did like what director Lone Scherfig did with An Education, so I am somewhat intrigued by this film. I’ll probably put it down on the Netflix queue, but I won’t watch it alone, I will have to put it under the pretext of “date night in”.

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D

Rated: PG

Starring: Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Jeremy Piven, Alexa Vega

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Synopsis from IMDB: A retired spy is called back into action, and to bond with her new step-children, she invites them along for the adventure to stop the evil Timekeeper from taking over the world.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I can’t say I’ve seen any of the Spy Kids films, but I still have no desire to. The 4D Aromascope really sounds like a cheap gimmick. I read an article on it and it is just scratch and sniff. Yup, they give viewers a card of different scents and when you are prompted on the screen, you are supposed to scratch the appropriate one. I wonder if they will charge extra for that…..

Limited Releases

The Last Circus

Rated: R

Starring: Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang

Director: Alex de la Iglesia

Synopsis from RT: 1937, Spain is in the midst of the brutal Spanish Civil War. A “Happy” circus clown is interrupted mid-performance and forcibly recruited by a militia. Still in his costume, he is handed a machete and led into battle against National soldiers, where he single handedly massacres an entire platoon. Fast forward to 1973, the tail end of the Franco regime. Javier, the son of the clown, dreams of following in his father’s career footsteps.

Trailer (Caution: Red Band Trailer-disturbing content):

Chris’ Take: Wow, this trailer did nothing to help me get over the fear of clowns that I developed after watching It and Poltergeist, but for different reasons. This is a mix of comedy and disturbing drama and is receiving great reviews (90% on RT). The trailer alone is unsettling and unforgiving. Anyway, this is probably something that I will have to be in the right mood for, but I am definitely interested.

Griff the Invisible

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody, Marshall Napier, Heather Mitchell

Director: Leon Ford

Synopsis from IMDB: Griff, office worker by day, superhero by night, has his world turned upside down when he meets Melody, a beautiful young scientist who shares his passion for the impossible.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: It looks like this is trying to be a deeper look at the Spider-Man and pretty much any other superhero love story. I don’t know how I feel about it. The reviews are positive (83% on RT) which makes me want to give it a chance, but I am growing tired of superhero and superhero knock off stories.

Flypaper

Rated: Unrated

Starring: Patrick Dempsey, Mekhi Phifer, Ashley Judd, Tim Blake Nelson

Director: Rob Minkoff

Synopsis from IMDB: A man caught in the middle of two simultaneous robberies at the same bank desperately tries to protect the teller with whom he’s secretly in love.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: The trailer makes this film look very entertaining, I like pretty much everyone in the cast, especially Tim Blake Nelson and Pruitt Taylor Vince, but the reviews are kind of vexing (25% on RT). So, I might add this to Netflix, but apparently there is a good chance that it won’t be good, although the reviews aren’t the final say.

TAKE TWO: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

10 Aug

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rated: PG-13

Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Tom Felton, John Lithgow

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Chris’ Take: I was hesitant to see this film, and I almost went and saw The Change Up instead. When I saw the trailer earlier this year it looked like a quick cash grab, grasping at straws to find a familiar brand to the average moviegoer. I thought that it was a weak idea because there didn’t seem to be many people excited about it and I thought it was going to fall flat on its face.

Plus, I was still recovering from this.

I came out of this film realizing that I severely underestimated this film.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes remakes the previous prequel to Plant of the Apes and simultaneously reboots it. Will Rodman (James Franco) is testing a new Alzheimer cure on chimpanzees and has a successful test subject, but when the chimp goes on a rampage while he is trying to get funding for human testing, he is forced to abandon the project and put down all the chimps. However, his successfully tested chimp had a baby which Will saves and takes home when he sees that it maintains the residual effects of his Alzheimer’s cure. As the chimp, that Will and his father name Caesar (Andy Serkis), grows, they notice that his intelligence is far beyond that of a human counterpart. When Will’s company, Gen-Sys, discovers the chimp they force him to run riskier tests on other chimps which turns out to have dire consequences for mankind.

The film starts out on very familiar science fiction territory. You have the failed science experiment, the cocky scientist, the money grubbing boss, and the protagonist makes the decision to bring testing just a bit too close to home. I kind of sighed at these elements, thinking that this film would bring nothing new to the table, but it quickly took some turns after that.

Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar can take a lot of the credit for that. His CGI work, just as he did with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, took on a life and character of its own. Halfway through the film, James Franco really became a non-factor and Caesar really carried the story. In most cases, it would be hard to build a story around a silent and computer-generated character, but the viewer really begins to feel attached to him and sympathizes with his plight to some degree. Also, in doing this, the writer puts himself in a tough spot, reconciling the viewer’s growing fondness of Caesar, the tragedy of that awaits mankind, and the bond that Caesar and Will have that divides them, but they handled it in a dramatic and satisfying fashion. It’s kind of hard to describe the way this played out without bringing in too many spoilers, so all I can say is that you have to see it in order to appreciate it.

I know I just destroyed half of San Francisco, but let's hug it out.

There was little artistry in the film outside of the writing and the characters. The camera work was decent for a summer blockbuster and I was very happy to see that they didn’t resort to 3D, although it seems that could’ve fallen prey to that fad easily. To me, the most impressive aspect was the effective use of CGI and making the realistic looking apes blend well with environment around them. Rarely did I feel aware that I was watching computer generated characters.

One of the challenges I saw for the film was how they would make it seem believable. I mean come on, how do apes take over the world? They obviously explain it in the first Planet of the Apes, but it would still be hard to convincingly watch that develop. I could see them running rampant in a city, in this case San Francisco, and wreaking some havoc, but you would think a large military force would immediately come wipe them out. I thought that the writers and director handled this well, addressing those questions with tact and bringing a new concept to the apes’ destruction and how the world came to be ruled by them. Some might disagree, but I was very impressed with how it was handled. Again, it is hard to describe without spoilers.

Suffice to say, I  thoroughly enjoyed this film. It was not the deepest film, nor some amazing feat of cinema, but it impressed me more than just about any blockbuster to come out this summer. It contained some of the spirit of the originals, bringing with it the comfortability of something familiar, while mixing in a fresh take that gave it its own pleasantly unique flavor.

OVERALL: A

Pac’s Take:  I recently heard the original Planet of the Apes described as a overacheiving B-Movie, an analysis that poignantly describes the film.  It’s a wonder how this overacheiving B-Movie has been able to captivate pop culture for so long that it has evolved into multiple sequels, remakes, and reboots.  Planet of the Apes has had such a cultural impact in american cinema since its release that you’d be hard pressed to find a person (even one who hasn’t seen the films) who didn’t know the film’s general premise – or couldn’t recognize the famous beach scene.  All that being said, it was hard to have high expectations for a film that was seemingly trying to capitalize on a 43 year old franchise that hasn’t produced a hit film in about… 43 years.

Oh, &@!#. There goes the planet.

Perhaps it was the surprise of the unexpected, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a pleasure to behold from start to finish.  As expected with any summer blockbuster, especially those that are constrained by the parameters of an already established franchise, the film has some initial stumbles.  Chris adequately described those as the tropes of a science fiction film above.  However, it doesn’t take long for the film to go beyond these tropes into to the real heart of the film – the relationship between Caesar and Will (James Franco), as well as Will’s father (John Lithgow).  Make no mistake the star of this film is Caesar, played by Andy Serkis.  I emphasize the “played by Andy Serkis” part because it seems like a great challenge to humanize the Caesar character without going too over-the-top to where the film reaches the B movie status of its predecessors (not to say the effects team(s) don’t deserve credit for this as well).  One of the things I found most endearing and most engaging about this film is that I felt for the plight of Caesar despite knowing he was probably going to be the catalyst of the fate of the human race.  This, coupled with the relationship between Caesar and Will, crafted a conflicted emotion in my mind as the film unfolded.

We should have seen this coming

There were plot holes in the film, but none that bothered during the viewing, and none that diluted the quality of the film for me in retrospect.  This is a summer blockbuster and science fiction film, plot holes and a certain suspension of disbelief are to be expected.  In terms of what I was expecting to know coming out of the theater, the film covered all of its bases; making it, as far as prequels go, one of the tightest screenplays I’ve seen in a while.  For a film that I didn’t really desire to see in the first place, it didn’t really leave much to be desired upon its completion.  I can’t say that it is the best film of the year so far, and I don’t think I can call it the best summer movie either, but I do think that Rise of the Planet of the Apes will end up on my top 10 list for 2011 at the end of the year.

OVERALL: A/A-

Opening This Week (12 Aug 2011)

10 Aug

Rise of the Planet of the Apes took the #1 spot at the box office this past weekend, grossing $54.0 million, which is the 5th highest August opening weekend of all time. This came as a surprise to me, since many people seemed skeptical about the remake/reboot of the series. The Smurfs, the second place finisher, trailed far behind with $20 million, and Cowboys & Aliens dropped more than 50% to $15.7 million. Here are the contenders this week:

30 Minutes or Less

Rated: R

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Synopsis from IMDB: Two fledgling criminals kidnap a pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest, and inform him that he has mere hours to rob a bank or else…

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: Comedies are pretty hard to get a good read on ahead of time, mainly because they almost always put their funniest parts in the trailer. I am interested in seeing it because I like almost all the actors involved and Ruben Fleischer direct the great Zombieland, but I am not necessarily “excited” about it, especially when it is holding at 54% on RT right now. I’ll let you know how it is next week.

Final Destination 5

Rated: R

Starring: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher

Director: Steven Quale

Synopsis from IMDB: Survivors of a suspension-bridge collapse learn there’s no way you can cheat Death.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: The Final Destination franchise is an interesting novelty, and the only impact it has had on my life is that I think of it every time I end up driving behind a truck that is carrying copious amounts of logs. Other than that, they are forgettable and each one provides even more and more cheap thrills. I would’ve never though that they would make it to #5, especially since the last one was entitled THE Final Destination, but here we are. I think this will flop both critically and in the box office, but we’ll see. No early reviews yet, which isn’t a good sign.

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

Rated: PG

Starring: Lea Michele, Corey Monteith, Amber Riley, Chris Colfer

Director: Kevin Tancharoen

Synopsis from IMDB: A concert documentary shot during the Glee Live! In Concert! summer 2011 tour.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: Glee  used to be clever at one point, it lost it about halfway through Season 1 and I stop paying attention any time these people open their mouths to sing. More power to you if you want to go watch them sing and take more of your money because it is in 3D, but this movie does not appeal to me at all.

The Help

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia L. Spencer

Director: Tate Taylor

Synopsis from IMDB: A look at what happens when a southern town’s unspoken code of rules and behavior is shattered by three courageous women who strike up an unlikely friendship.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: The early reviews have been positive, 74% on RT, and I’m pretty sure it will be decent and inspiring, but it isn’t necessarily my cup of tea. So, while I might say that this film would be a safe bet for a  film this weekend, I am not saying that I am interested in seeing it.

First Look at Superman in “Man of Steel” and Selina Kyle in “The Dark Knight Rises”

5 Aug

Yesterday, the first picture of Henry Cavill as Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel was released, and it looks pretty impressive.

He definitely looks a lot darker than Brandon Routh in Superman Returns, plus he looks a lot more jacked. The outfit looks fairly traditional, with a couple of updates to make it appear more modern. While I am hesitant to get my hopes up for this film, I gotta say that I at least like the look so far.

Another photo popped up yesterday as well, this one from another major superhero release next year, The Dark Knight Rises. This is probably one of the most buzzed about movies that I can recall, and Christopher Nolan seems to be taking delight in teasing his fans with mysterious looks at the final installment of his Batman franchise. The photo is a first look at Anne Hathaway playing Selina Kyle:

While the fan boys were all excited about Superman in Man of Steel, the buzz about this photo is very confused. The Dark Knight Rises website did not mention whether this was Selina Kyle in the final Catwoman outfit, and if it is there was a lot of disappointment about it. If it is, I don’t mind it so much. While it is less traditional, I trust that Nolan will make her compelling character, so the outfit is easily overlooked. If it isn’t, it makes me curious what they are going to add and how it will turn out.

What are your thoughts about these photos? Is that a good look for Superman? What about Selina Kyle? Let me know in the comments!

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