Tag Archives: Chris Petersen

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

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-

TAKE TWO: Captain America: The First Avenger

26 Jul

Captain America: The First Avenger

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving

Director: Joe Johnston

Chris’ Take: The big concern for me going into this film was that it would merely be a stepping stone to The Avengers. Marvel Studios knew that it had a large fanbase that would show up to this film and they probably knew that regardless of its quality they would still make bank off the aforementioned super-project that is going to be released next year. While there was a fair amount of effort to tie in this film to the other Marvel projects, Captain America  was at least decent enough entertainment to leave the viewers salivating for more.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny and asthmatic young man who is desperate to join the U.S. Army and defend freedom and justice, but his conditions leave him marked as 4F despite several attempts to falsify his records. His determination attracts the attention of a scientist (Stanley Tucci) in an experimental branch of the U.S. Government, who is developing a serum to build super soldiers. Rogers jumps at the chance and is transformed into Captain America. His excitement is short-lived as he is instead used as a mascot for war bonds instead of fighting in the actual war. His powers are soon called upon when the looming threat of an underground group of Nazis, lead by the mysterious Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), harness the power of the gods and pose a greater threat than Hitler himself.

When trying to harness the power of the gods, you might want to up your SPF.

The Captain America  comics were a very blatant attempt at propaganda during war time. Looking back the comics seem hokey, and the outfit is certainly ludicrous by today’s standards. I was expecting them to almost completely update it and try to provide a grittier film. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of cheesiness, it fit well within the context of the film and brought a certain nostalgia for the old comics, while simultaneously updating it for this generation.

Chris Evans is a charismatic guy and is a perfect fit for Rogers. The script really developed his character and made him relatable and sympathetic before he even became Captain America. I think what bothered me about Marvel’s last endeavour, Thor, was that it was hard to relate to someone that was a god and had always been a god. Rogers’ earnestness and appreciation of his powers makes the audience want to root for him, and Evans never made his ambition seem anything less than genuine.

A lot of the other superhero films focus heavily on how much the main character kicks ass, and how the fate of the world rests completely on their shoulders. In the final battleCaptain America was certainly the only one that could defeat Red Skull personally, but  the film as a whole made it clear that he heavily relied on friends and his “team” to get him where he needed to be. I liked that aspect of the film, and in some ways it makes him seem that much more likeable as a character. It made him seem less egocentric than a lot of other superheroes. A lot of other Marvel films have some of those elements, but the characters only rely on friends when they actually need it, or it is almost too late for them to succeed on their own. Captain America plans on needing them, and works in conjunction with them, rather than seeming cocky by running in guns blazing on his own.

No, no....you're the man!

The action in the film was exciting, and while it was over-the-top at times, it felt more subdued than a lot of other recent action films. There was a scene involving a jailbreak that was particularly thrilling. Joe Johnston had shown glimpses of his ability to direct an action film, but he certainly was allowed a bigger budget for this one and you could tell he was just having fun with it.

While the film could’ve been better, and did feel a little rushed at the end, it certainly didn’t let me down. All the other heroes (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor), I’ve seen about as much of their course as I think I care to see outside of The Avengers. Captain America is the one character that I hope gets his own sequel once the major assembly is done. With as much money as that movie is probably going to make, I’m sure Marvel Studios will have some left over “change” to make it if they so desire. If they do, I’ll be there.

OVERALL: B+

Pac’s Take:  I was expecting to see a different film than the one Captain America: The First Avenger turned out to be.  Knowing the film was going to be set during World War II and given the footage I saw from trailers, I was expecting more of a gritty war movie than I was a comic book movie.  While at first I was disappointed by this curve ball and seeing this film play out in a completely different tone than what I anticipated, it quickly grew on me and I started to enjoy the ride.  The hokiness of some of the film certainly fit in with the agenda of the Captain America comics (the early ones at least), as well as the character’s purpose in the beginning of the film.  However, as Hydra emerged as a threat and Captain America’s role became more pivotal to the success of the war, the film did a great job of changing tone (which aided in keeping the pace) and keeping me invested in the story.

There were times where I noticed Chris Evan’s acting and delivery waiver, but I really have to hand it to him, Joe Johnston, and the screenwriters (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) for fully developing the Steve Rogers character and his relationships.  Chris touched on this, but the humanization of Steve Rogers really made the Captain America character more likeable.  Every sacrifice and effort Steve Rogers made for his friends and his country felt genuine because of this development and really made the film where it could have easily been broken.  The chemistry was most evident between Rogers and Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), and it was a joy to watch these two on-screen together. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, we will now commence stealing this scene.

 The fight scenes in this movie were captivating, and while we ultimately knew the fate of Captain America, his close relationships with the supporting cast created a great amount of suspense whenever they were in danger.  There was one particular death that I really didn’t see coming, ultimately making it one of the best scenes of the movie.  As for the fate of Rogers, though we all know he ends up frozen (this is no spoiler due to The Avengers and the foreshadowing in the first 5 minutes of the film) his self-sacrifice carried an emotional weight with the audience and felt like more than a stepping stone to The Avengers.  With as much time as they invested in the emotional humanization of Steve Rogers, I really hope they spend some time at the beginning of The Avengers focusing on Rogers’s adjustment to the 21st century and coming to grips with the mortality of now aged or deceased friends.  It would be a great waste to unravel all the work that was put into this film and ultimately diminish its quality.

I wonder if she still wants that dance...

 Many have dubbed Captain America: The First Avenger the best superhero movie of 2011, I’m a little reluctant to give it that title considering how much I enjoyed X-Men: First Class.  Still, it is a very good installment, certainly one of the best amongst The Avengers pre-films (it’s between Captain America and Iron Man for that crown).  Marvel did a great job closing out the “prequels” for The Avengers, and I’m really excited to see them all come together next year.

Overall: B+

 

TAKE TWO: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

26 Jul

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes

Director: David Yates

Chris’ Take: Well, it’s been a long 10 years and if it hadn’t been for my brother I probably wouldn’t ever have watched more than the first film. We had a family tradition of seeing a movie on Thanksgiving Day and it was usually a family oriented movie, so in 2001 my parents dragged my brother and I, who were both about college age, to see the very kiddie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My younger sisters loved it and my brother and I were groaning, knowing that there were more mature films that we could’ve gone to. The next year, my brother being more benevolent than I was, took my sisters to the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I scoffed and went and watched one of the worst movies I have ever paid money to see in the theaters, Star Trek: Nemesis. My brother came and told me that the second film was “awesome” and definitely worth seeing. Against my instincts that told me my brother was playing a prank, I went and saw it later and was thoroughly impressed. I was not expecting the level of excitement or wonder that the film brought. I was hooked, and on Saturday, when I finally saw the last film I felt like I really was saying goodbye to people I had gotten to know really well over 10 years. Even if at times I thought they were hokey, cheesy, or just plain dumb, I had watched these characters grow and the final installment of the franchise was nothing short of impressive.

We find  Harry, Hermione and Ron right where we left them at the end of Part I. They are getting ready to stage an attempt to steal a Hocrux out of Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault in Gringott’s. Severus Snape has turned Hogwart’s into what looks like a program for the wizarding Hitler youth, and Voldemort is flaunting the power of his new found elder wand. Harry comes to grips with the fact that he must confront the dark wizard face-to-face in order for the wizarding war to end.

As some of you might remember from my review of the first part, I thought the pacing was rather slow. However, in retrospect it was the perfect set up for the fast-paced action of Part 2. Almost all the exposition and necessary character development occurred in Part I and built a rock solid foundation for two and a half hours of non-stop excitement. The viewer was able to just sit back and become completely engulfed in the wizardry and epic that ended the series.

Unless, of course, the viewer had never seen any of the previous films or read any of the books. In which case, they probably were completely engulfed in sleep...or confusion.

The care for the characters is really what made the action seem that much more intense. That was my gripe with Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I cared about none of the characters Michael Bay presented. It didn’t matter how eye-popping (or eye gouging) the action scenes were. The suspense really gets created through characters that you love being placed in danger. If not, it just becomes a mildly sick hope that they die. 

David Yates’ talents were under question for closing out the series, since many people claimed that the fifth and sixth Harry Potter films were arguably the weakest. I think after he proved that he could direct on an epic scale in this conclusion, he put any and all criticism to rest. Sure, he had a screenplay that was based on a fantastic book and he had an endless list of talented actors lined up at this beck and call, but taking all those elements and reigning them into a cohesive directorial piece that captures the wizarding fantasy world and doesn’t disappoint fans and critics is quite a challenge. He received high accolades from me for being able to pull it off.

The cinematography in the first part was stellar, there really was a tremendous depth to each shot, and this film was very similar in that regard. A fantasy world should not be shot close unless there is a specifically claustrophobic scene and Yates seemed aware of that. In each shot you weren’t just get a close up on the actors participating in the action or a simple line of dialogue, you could clearly see the world around them, and made it almost a character of its own.

It seems redundant for me to keep bringing up the fact that the lead actors in the series are really what made it what the series have the clout that it did. Say that someone who had the acting talents akin to Jake Lloyd, the cute but talent deprived Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, had gotten the role of Harry. The credibility of the series would’ve tanked, no matter how well the story was developed around him. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint were incredibly talented child (now adult) actors. Plus, they were surrounded by some seriously gifted people in supporting roles. While Ralph Fiennes would not have been at the top of my list of actors to play Voldemort back when his character first started playing prominently in the series, I can’t see anyone pulling it off like he did and really making his character three-dimensional.

And I don't just mean in the technical IMAX 3D sense.

The series will always be something that is easily watched again and again. Some might start making the argument that this should be nominated for Best Picture, but I am still not convinced that these films contain the caliber and depth that I think warrant that. These films more deserve to be filed under a “favorite films” list as opposed to “best films” list. They were certainly all quality films, except for the first one, and I could easily make an argument that this was the best in the series.

OVERALL: A

Pac’s Take:  My journey through the Harry Potter  series also came to fruition through reluctance.  My younger brother was really into the books and encouraged me to start watching the movies as he collected them on DVD.  While the films entertained me during some of the more boring nights of my summers home from college, I was never that invested in the series.  Then, when I finally got around to seeing movies three through five I became a fan.  It is no coincidence that this was the same time in the series that one of my favorite actors, Gary Oldman, played a pivotal role as Sirius Black.  Once Oldman’s involvement ended my interest wavered again, but by this time I was too invested in the series not to see it through.

Though Gary Oldman's star power does have it limits

 Like Chris, I was not satisfied with the pacing of part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I do have to agree that it was necessary for the success of this film.  Part two picks up right where part one left off, as if they were one movie seamlessly making a scene change.  However, as a single movie they cannot work because the pace and tone of the second movie severely contrasts the first.  This was the Harry Potter movie I came to see, two and a half hours of action. 

Since Chris compared this film to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment.  I think David Yates could have learned something from the last hour of Michael Bay’s film.

Product placement?

 SPOILER ALERT:  While I certainly was much more invested in the wizards of the Harry Potter universe much more than I was Sam Witwicky and the Target car of the Autobots, at least during Transformers I felt like they were challenged.  For what was supposed to be an epic battle to end all battles, all the fights were too brief and lacking of suspense.  There’s nothing David Yates (director) and Steve Cloves (screenwriter) can do about J.K. Rowling’s inability to kill major players (though she didn’t seem to have a problem doing this before), but they could have at least made it seem like they were threatened.  While the final battle between Harry and Voldemort is evident of this, the prime example would be the death of Bellatrix Lestrange.  Considering how prominent and menacing she was throughout the final chapters of this series, she met her demise far to easily. (END SPOILER ALERT)

Regardless of this films flaws it still was a major success both financially and as a piece of entertainment/art.  I do find it possible that the Academy will reward the creators’ and players’ work for this series (just as they did with Lord of the Rings), though I don’t think it is necessarily justified.  It’s hard to rank Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two amongst the other films, but I do consider it to be top-tier. 

It may have ranked as the best if they would have not wasted five minutes of my life with the pointless epilogue.

Overall: A-

TAKE TWO: Horrible Bosses

22 Jul

Horrible Bosses

Rated: R

Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey

Director: Seth Gordon

Chris’ Take: Summer comedies are hit or miss most of the time. This summer has been primarily composed of some serious misses. We’ve gotten The Hangover 2, which while decent was far below expectations, Bad Teacher which had a lot of potential but floundered it in the final 10 minutes, and The Zookeeper…which at 15% on RT requires no explanation. I felt like I was wandering in a desert of poor comedy until I stumbled across the oasis that is Horrible Bosses.

Most people, at one point or another, have dealt with a horrible boss and made off-handed comments about “killing” them. The film Horrible Bosses takes this premise and runs with it. Nick, Kurt and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) are close friends and each are dealing with a uniquely terrible boss. Nick’s boss, Dave (Kevin Spacey), is a twisted man who leads Nick on by promising promotions that he never intends to give and tricking him into drinking at work. Kurt’s boss, Bobby (Colin Farrell), is a crazy cocaine addict who fires people he doesn’t like or who creep him out. Dale’s boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), sexually harasses him while he is trying to remain faithful to his fiance. When all three bosses cross the line, the friends plot to kill each others’ boss and move on with their lives.

A great buddy comedy, even if it is a dark one, relies heavily on the chemistry between its leads, and Horrible Bosses came out in spades. Bateman, Sudeikis and Day provided great complements to each other, which is nice to see  because each of them have been floundering around in low caliber comedies recently, trying to make a stand without any support. Bateman never plays an out and out funny character, he is at his best when he can play the deadpan straight man to someone else’s zaniness.

Of course, there is one exception...Pepper Brooks.

Sudeikis’ comedy usually gets lost in a poor script, which he was able to overcome this time, and Charlie Day…

He was pretty much right at home.

Right below the stellar lead cast was a strong foundation of supporting characters. Kevin Spacey played the smart and cruel boss perfectly, giving the audience plenty of reason to make him the out-and-out bad guy in the story. Jennifer Aniston definitely let her more vulgar side show, and came out being funnier in this than anything she’s been in…ever. Colin Farrell was my personal favorite out of the three, because he plays the eccentric superbly. Outside of these three, there was another pleasant supporting actor, Jamie Foxx, who plays the man they hire to give them advice. I don’t normally like Jamie Foxx, but he was hilarious in this cameo and had several scene stealing lines.

The premise for the film is obviously preposterous, but I like how Seth Gordon and the writers made sure to not go completely dark with it. They ensured that each lead explored other options for coping with their bosses and reasons why they couldn’t just quit. While reaching the decision to kill their bosses is still outlandish, it was  at least nice to have a little nod towards intelligence.

There are few films where I think that should’ve had more time. Most of the films that are coming out these days could leave a good half hour of their films on the cutting room floor. Horrible Bosses comes in at 98 minutes, which is decent for a comedy, but it seemed to go by so quick and there were so many great characters that I felt each of them could’ve been fleshed out a little bit more. While Spacey plays a great role, he kind of hogged screen time from Farrell and Aniston, who were playing equally humorous parts in the story.

So, if you’ve been waiting for a comedy to catch your fancy this summer, and you enjoy yours a little on the dark side, this is the film you’ve been waiting for. The laughs come from start to finish and you will get wrapped up in the great chemistry and misadventures of these eccentric, yet relatable characters.

OVERALL: A-

Pac’s Take:  Horrible bosses excels because of a good script and a great cast.  If you look at some of the great comedies of recent times you’ll probably notice there is a trend, it takes more than one star taking the spotlight to make good comedy, or any good film for that matter, but I think Hollywood is just now starting to realize this.  Ensembles like Old School, Anchorman, andThe Hangover perpetuate this belief; and Horrible Bosses is the next great comedy in a growing list of shared star power.  As Chris stated, the three leads worked well with one another and the chemistry and reality of their friendship connected the audience with their plight.  The supporting cast: Spacey, Farrell, Aniston, and Foxx were excellent as well, though they probably all could have benefited from more screen time.

As evidenced from Farrell's end credit outtakes

 Chris also touched on how well the script covered its bases by forcing its characters into this situation.  Though it’s a comedy, it would have been a distraction to think that these characters resorted to murder when they simply could have quit.  It was a joy to watch their plans spiral out of control and it never felt unnatural as the three leads bumbled through their situation.  I was pessimistic that Charlie Day was going to skate into this film on the success of his role in It’s Alway Sunny in Philadelphia and disappoint his fans (which admittedly, I am not one).  However, I owe credit where it is due because he really shined in this film; and though it was scripted to be this way, he delivered most of the trio’s laughs. 

Finally, it was a joy to see Jennifer Aniston in this role.  There is no doubt that Jennifer Aniston is a talented actress but she’s made her career starring in mindless, boring romantic comedies.  To see her shed that skin (and some clothing) to play the sexually harassing boss of Charlie Day was a refreshing change of pace from her typical fare.  Odds are she’ll return to the same cookie cutter roles she previously occupied, but here’s to hoping this is the start of something new.

According to tabloids, playing crazy isn't much of a stretch for Aniston

The competition this season is not great by any means, leaving Horrible Bosses as a stand out comedy in a weak summer line up. 

OVERALL: A-

TAKE TWO: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

15 Jul

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, Peter Cullen

Director: Michael Bay

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a Michael Bay masterpiece. That should only mean something significant to 14 year old boys….and Pac. I’ll let him explain himself later.
This is where I usually put the plot synopsis. However, the plot was almost non-existent and only served as a backdrop to start the next fight, since the studio probably told Bay he had to have one somewhere and he couldn’t just do two hours of robots fighting through exploding nonsense. So, he probably walked out of the room mumbling out of the room under his breath, “Fine, I’ll do it, but I won’t make it logical.” “What was that, Michael.” “Nothing.” Anyway, if you really care to know something about the plot know that apparently the moon landing in 1969 was in response to alien robots crashing on the moon. They’ve been waiting there to come to earth to apparently prepare it for a huge robot invasion and now it is too late for the incompetent secret government agency behind the moon landing to realize that. Now, it is up to Sam Witwicky (Shia Labeouf), his cardboard cut out girlfriend, Optimus Prime and the Autobots to save the day.
There were numerous problems with this film, the plot being the one that bugged me the most. When I say plot, I also mean character development. I kind of liked how Sam, even though he had saved the world twice, was struggling in the economic times as well. Since unless you have numerous commercial deals, probably doesn’t pay well. However, this was the only time Sam or anyone else was a relatable character. I guess I feel bad putting it this way, but it was like a bad cartoon (which may have been what Bay was going for). Every character seemed static, they were either good or bad, nothing in between. Sure there may have been characters that you thought were good and then turned bad, but the reveal never felt compelling, it was more like a sneering man twirling his moustache instead of making even an attempt at showing us three-dimensional characters. I am not saying that I expected a whole lot from Bay in that regard, but at least try.

"Okay Shia, your character's motivation in this scene is to be...good....and...action!"

Speaking of three dimensions, the 3D for this film was decent, which is actually not a compliment considering the fact that this was touted as the ultimate 3D film this year. I was excited to see how Bay used this technology, and this was really the reason why I wanted to watch the film. However, I was a little let down. That is not to say that it wasn’t better than the other 3D films that have come out this year, but it just wasn’t as good as I expected. I am not really going to criticize though because I think the theater Pac and I watched this in, might not have been suitable to get the optimal experience. The one scene in particular I was looking forward to were the squirrel suits. I thought it was a really cool idea to use the 3D technology to show people skydiving and flying around the city. That scene did not disappoint at all, it was just far too brief.
The action scenes overall were very spectacular, but the key to make them interesting and intense is to have characters that you care about, and as I mentioned earlier, that was wasn’t there. Instead, at least for me, there seemed like a disconnect and I did not even have the slightest interest in what all these explosions meant or what was happening to the characters.

Some of them I just wished would die already.

On top of that, I think the 3D added to the discord in the action sequences as well. Not only did I feel disconnected from the characters, but from the actual screen itself. I was very aware I was watching a movie because the glasses create not only a physical, but a subconscious barrier between me and the film. I couldn’t feel engulfed in the action. All I could feel was a headache.
When all was said and done, the dust and explosions settled and I was staring at the screen in awe. Not because I was impressed, but because I didn’t expect it to be that bad. Even with the negative critical response, I went into this film with an open mind. Part of me wants Bay to succeed because I really am impressed with his passion for film. He truly loves what he does, but I can’t say that this film was in any way “good”.
If you’re here to find out if it was better than the second film, the answer is yes, but come on…is that saying much?
OVERALL: D

Pac’s Take:

If you went to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon to see great character development, story, and emotional conflict then you must not know Michael Bay very well.  I went to Transformers: Dark of the Moon with the anticipation of seeing some really cool action scenes, spectacular 3D, and some more really cool action scenes.  In those regards, this film delivered to about 75% of my expectations; but as most of my report cards from school will tell you, 75% is still passing.

The movie is about 2.5 hours long, and the first hour and a half is bad, I’m talking about laughably bad.  The only bearable part of the first half of the movie was Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, however not for her acting capability (though it was not a step down from Megan Fox). 

Chris touched base on all the flaws of the film, and for the most part I agree with them so there is no point to be redundant; however once the city of Chicago was introduced on-screen the movie really took off.  I didn’t care anymore that there was no plot, or there was no depth of character, all I cared about was watching the Autobots & humans battle the Decepticons while simultaneously destroying the windy city.  The last hour of the movie was awesome.  Two scenes stood out significantly in my mind, one being the squirrel suit skydiving sequence:

and the falling skyscraper sequence:

Remember, the first two Transformers film where you couldn’t tell which were Autobots and which were Decepticons.  This time around Michael Bay had an interesting and economical way to help the audience out. 

The Walmart car was probably a Decepticon.

I did not have a similar experience to Chris with the 3D, in fact I didn’t really notice it unless there was an intentional in-your-face shot.  I still contest that 3D is a waste of money, but if you’re going to see a movie in 3D regardless, this isn’t a bad choice.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a good movie, but the last hour of the film was a very enjoyable experience.

 
OVERALL: C

Trailer Time: John Carter, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and The Thing

14 Jul

There is a lot we’ve yet to post this week and will be coming to you soon (New to Blu Ray, 2 Take Two’s, and a WFR), we promise.  However, I thought that this took precedent as a lot of new trailers have been released on the internet, one making quite a buzz.  Here’s a look:

John Carter

I’m not too familiar with the series of novels from which this film is derived, but there have been a lot of people petitioning for this film in one way or another for about 8o years.  There seem to be a lot of elements from other films and stories including: The Book of Eli, Prince of Persia, and Avatar.  The director/writer, Andrew Stanton has had a pretty succesful run of animated films for Disney/Pixar so it will be interesting to see if he can translate that success to live action.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 

I’ve been waiting for Guy Ritchie’s follow up to 2009’s Sherlock Holmes since I first saw it in theaters and we finally get a first look here.  In fact, I look forward to anything Guy Ritchie directs.  Though Daniel Day Lewis won’t be appearing as Professor Moriarty as originally rumored, Jared Harris seems suitable as an alternative, and the cast still remains stellar.  One face that is featured prominently in the trailer is Noomi Rapace, who seems to be making her breakout in America with Sherlock Holmes and Prometheus after her turn as Lisbeth Salander in the Sweedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its 2 sequels (Rooney Mara will play the same role in David Fincher’s American version later this year).

The Thing

The prequel to arguably the greatest horror movie ever made (though I’d argue against it, but not strongly), 2011’s The Thing chronicles the expidition of the Norwegian team that’s heavily referenced in John Carpenter’s 1981 film of the same name.  It appears from the trailer that they stayed true to Carpenter’s version and made sure the details of this film matched the references from his film.  One subtle not I noticed from the trailer, they even made sure to keep the old school flamethrowers that Carpenter featured. Even though it’s sure to be heavier on the blood and gore to appease the new generation, this film looks like it could be a worthy successor to the original.

BONUS:

If you haven’t heard by now, the first teaser for the highly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises will preview prior to screenings of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.  So far only bootlegged versions of the teaser are on the net and the quality of them are poor, so I won’t include it here.  Nothing about the plot of the film is revealed the teaser but it does include brief glimpses of Bane, Selina Kyle, and Commisioner Gordan in the hospital.