Sin City: A Dame To Kill For Review

I am a huge fan of film noir. To me, there are few styles of film more sleek, stylish and cool. I even wrote a book in the style (insert not-so shameless plug here). And if you’ve seen the first Sin City, then you know that it is an absolute Noirgasm from the scenery, to the characters, to the lingo. Even more entertaining, is its groundbreaking chromo key, color washing visuals that make it look straight off the pages of Frank Miller’s original 1991 graphic novel. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is more of the same.

Sin-City-A-Dame-to-Kill-For-teaser-posterLike with the first film, A Dame to Kill For features an All-Star cast and is broken up into three different stories with a few intertwining characters. The titular tale, a prequel to a segment in the first film, revolves around sexy femme fatale, Ava Lord (Eva Green as naked as ever) as she manipulates her tortured ex, Dwight (Josh Brolin replaces Clive Owen) and a few policeman (Christopher Meloni and Jeremy Piven). It also features some tough, gangland prostitutes (Rosario Dawson and Jamie Chung). Another story, involves a young, cocky gambler (Joseph Gordon Levitt) trying to one up the most dangerous man in town, Senator Rourke (Powers Boothe). And the last, the only actual sequel from part one, follows stripper Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) as she looks to avenge her fallen love (Bruce Willis) with the help of grizzly badass, Marv (Mickey Rourke).

In comparison to 2005’s Sin City, the stories are not nearly as hefty with emotion or even vigor. Ironically, the most entertaining one, starring Gordon-Levitt, is the one that is not adapted from one of Miller’s original graphic novels. None of that should take away from the big attraction though; the beautiful visuals that leave each scene stunningly vibrant. But, if you found the first film excessively violent, gratuitously sexual, shallow, and vulgar then you’ve got no business watching this film. If, like me, you appreciate the unique imagery and love the over the top action and sleek throwback dialogue, then this is the movie for you. Simply stated, if you liked 2005’s Sin City, then you’ll like this one too.

 

FINAL GRADE: B+

Dystopian Teen Novel Movie (The Giver) Review

A dystopian society and a teen that must set the people free from it… sound familiar? These movies have become so abundant that it is hard not to right them off as copycats before you even sit down to watch. But just like with the Superhero origin story, or the slasher film, these movies can actually be worthwhile if you give them a chance and at least try to take them as individual stories and not a member of a collective whole.

The_Giver_posterThe Giver, based off of a novel published in 1993 by Lois Lowry, is the story of Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a boy living in a community of people who live in a world of Sameness. Everyone takes a drug that eliminates emotional depth. Teenagers are assigned their jobs based on their personality traits. And no one has memories of the world before sameness. Things like animals, snow, even colors, are lost to this community of seemingly happy people. After being assigned as the Receiver of Memories, a job assigned to one citizen who withholds all of the knowledge and records of the world before Sameness, Jonas begins to realize how shallow his society is. Along with his teacher, the Giver of Memories (Jeff Bridges) he seeks to restore the world to what it used to be and overthrow the chief Elder (Meryl Streep).

The movie is essentially Divergent meets Equilibrium. The funny thing is; the source material predates both of those films. So, all of the clichés and moments that hearken back to other dystopian teen stories are a bit forgivable. Understanding this makes the movie very fascinating though it lacks the action of similar stories. It makes up for the lack of big action sequences with a more philosophical approach to its story, because unlike Hunger Games or Divergent, the antagonists aren’t committing mass genocide or doing any damage for the sake of power. Even their most heinous acts are justifiable via their emotionless logic and quest for true peace.

The films biggest shortcomings are actually with the cast. Thwaites and many of the younger actors, carry themselves like they’re doing an ABC Family sitcom and not a major motion picture. They dominate most of the screen time, so it can get a bit annoying. The ending of the film is also very confusing and a bit ambiguous, but readers of the book will tell you that this is no different than the source material. I personally read the book too long ago to fully remember the details, but I found this theatrical version fairly entertaining. As for as the themes and the questions they raise, the movie is actually a step above last springs hit, Divergent.

FINAL GRADE: B. Won’t be a waste of money. Worth seeing if you’re bored.

2 Bad Movie Reviews

I chose the title to kill the suspense on this one. Saw two movies recently that were so forgettable that I didn’t care to post about them. Alas… I had people ask me my thoughts on them, so I suppose I should be fair to the other lousy films I’ve seen this year, and share.

Into The Storm

Into_the_Storm_2014_filmInstead of calling this movie Into the Storm, they should’ve called it “Into the lives of stock characters who ignore the weather channel”. For all of the thrills and spectacular moments advertised by the trailer, this movie is incredibly boring. It spends the entire first half introducing you to people you mostly don’t care about, who are going through things that you see in almost every disaster movie (Single father trying to reconnect with his son, money hungry jerk willing to risk the lives of his team for fame, parent trying to get back to their young child, etc.) If these types of characters and situations don’t sound familiar, it’s probably because you don’t watch enough movies.

Weak characters would be forgiven if we were actually given a movie where the action and adventure dominates the story. But that is not remotely the case in Into the Storm. Many of the adverse situations stem from pure stupidity; Why not cancel a graduation ceremony after you’ve just watched a severe storm warning on the News? Why do you need to film a flaming vortex from a few feet away with a heavy duty camera with professional zoom? There are even two moronic characters who run on foot to take pictures of the storms so they can get famous on Youtube. The only saving grace from this movie is that once the actual superstorm hits, the visuals are thrilling and the action is suspenseful. But none of that happens until the last 15 minutes. So you’re better off just ignoring the whole thing. Trust me, it isn’t worth it. FINAL GRADE: D

 

Let’ s Be Cops

Let's_Be_Cops_posterA movie about two friends who pull pranks dressed as policeman is a fairly funny premise. Too bad Let’s Be Cops has a not so funny script. I am a fan of the Fox sitcom New Girl, which is where the film’s stars, Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr., honed their chops as a comedic duo. So, I know that the two can be funny. But despite their chemistry, the humor falls flat more times than not. It might be because the movie tries to take itself too seriously with a plot driven by a killer gangster and illegal weapons trafficking. Old police comedies like Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop series had serious cop action and drama, but the humor in those movies was driven by the quips of the lead actor, not by zany, unrealistic antics like this film.

There are a few funny parts. Then again, most comedies have a few chuckles to pull you in from the trailer. But, like with Sex Tape and Tammy, you have to have either a worthy story or a ton of humorous, unadvertised moments, for a comedy to resonate after the credits have rolled. Let’s Be Cops doesn’t really have either. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

Power Rangers Movie Reboot – Do’s and Dont’s

If you’re an 80’s baby and you haven’t seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yet, then you need to get on it. Anywho, the concept of reliving early 90’s T.V. Shows got me thinking about the upcoming Power Rangers movie that was recently announced by Saban and Lionsgate. Little is known about the project other than that it will be a “re-imagining” of the original series and that the studio has enlisted the writers of X-Men: First Class to create the script. It sounds like they are on the right track, but in true know-it-all blogger fashion, I’ve decided to give a few Do’s and Dont’s for the upcoming Mighty Morphin Power Rangers film reboot to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes that caused TMNT to get a horde of negative reviews.

MightyMorphinPowerRangers

DO:

1. Update The Special Effects: This goes without saying. With all of the advances in technology, it makes you wonder why the t.v. show still has sparks flying out of people’s chest when they get hit. Big screen will mean big budget. And that should lead to a product that doesn’t look like it was filmed with a camcorder. As for the zords, this is a perfect opportunity to use some awesome CGI. Think Transformers Dinobots.

2. Include Intricately choreographed fight scenes: Because it’s all about the kung-fu man. Several members of the original cast were actually skilled martial artists. With so many movies with great fight choreography, it makes sense to have some jaw dropping flipping and fighting this time around.

3. Bring Back Zordon and Alpha 5:

power-rangers-alpha-5-zordon-elite-dailyThat little robot was annoying as hell, but admit it… you cared about him. If you’re going to do a reboot, you’ve got to include the O.G.’s. A Power Rangers movie just wouldn’t be the same without that dinky android alongside Zordon’s floating head and weird voice.

4. Use the original villains:

ritas-gang

Rita Rapulsa was weird and not very threatening, but if you’re going to do a reboot, she has to be included. And this time, let’s try to make her lips match her voice. Then there’s Goldar, the golden monkey dude who refused to die. He’s got to be in there giving the rangers the business. And most importantly, the Putty patrol. They never really did anything other than get their asses kicked, but hey, someone’s gotta be there to make the Rangers look good.

5. Have Cameos: Unfortunately, the original yellow ranger Thuy Trang passed away in a car accident in 2001 (R.I.P Trini). But those other guys probably aren’t busy with anything. Everyone would love to see Jason, Zack, Billy, and Kimberly, as well as some other early rangers actors, pop up in there somewhere.

DON’Ts

1. Include Bulk and Skull:

762030-3002696-8756250755-13452Without a doubt the worst thing about the original show. They were a-holes and they weren’t funny. They served virtually no purpose. Nothing wrong with the original actors making a quick cameo, but making them a major part of the story or recasting them is something we could do without.

2. Use the Same Human Characters: While we’re on the subject of recasting, it would probably be a good idea not to recast any of the human rangers. If you find a new Jason, Zack, Trini, Billy, and Kimberly, we’ll just compare them to the originals and complain about why they aren’t as good. Let’s see some new teenagers with attitudes shall we.

 3. Stereotype Rangers:

racism-in-power-ranger_o_812098It probably took you a few years to realize it, but everyone knows that there was something a bit “off” about the selection of which rangers were which colors. In fact, it was so blatant, that Power Rangers never again made the black ranger an African American or the yellow ranger an asian. Which goes back to my previous point. Let’s not do the whole asian knowing kung-fu and black guy dancing all the time routine. We’d all like to keep some dignity on this one. The producers should understand that there’s nothing wrong with mixing things up. Maybe have an Asian guy be the leader for once, or some cute black girl as the pink ranger. I’m just sayin.

… And last, but not least… DO NOT include…

4. The Green Ranger:

224bfd43708b9738e602c919329621bfYes, he’s the best thing that ever happened to Power Rangers. But hear me out… if you’re going to do him, you have to do him justice. Even his introduction into the original show was done with a mini-series. Don’t just wedge him into the movie just because (ala Venom in Spider-Man 3, Robin in Batman Forever, or the dinobots in Transformers 4). If the producers, writers, and director do a good job and follow my awesome advice, then they’ll likely set up some sequels. And then you can give the ultimate sixth ranger his proper shine.

prmemewinnerOkay… that’s all I’ve got. Can’t wait to see what Saban and Lionsgate cook up. If you feel like I missed something, disagree, or have any other ideas for 80’s and 90’s movie revamps (my older brother is still waiting on those Thundercats and Captain Planet movies) feel free to leave a comment! Now… back to movie watching

Ninja Turtles Review

Ahh… the reboot. Nowadays, they’re almost a genre in themselves. There are different ways to reboot a film series. You can do an exact remake with modern changes to fit the time period. You can do a reinterpretation grounded with more realistic and darker elements. Or you can do what producer (not director by the way) Michael Bay did with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is to fill it with big bloated CGI and action sequences. Whatever floats your boat I guess.

Teenage-Mutant-Ninja-Turtles-BannerIf you don’t know the Ninja Turtles by now, you should. Three feature length films, three animated series’, an animated film, and one forgettable live action TV show were all inspired by the original comics by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. There are elements from all of those platforms that never change; mainly the characters. There’s Leonardo, the noble, by the book leader… Donatello, the brainy nerd… Raphael, the short-tempered a-hole… and Michelangelo, the goof ball. They are four mutated turtles trained in the art of ninjitsu by a mutated rat named Splinter.

If anything I just explained in that last paragraph is new information, then stop reading now. Because this movie isn’t for you. Not in the slightest. You probably won’t enjoy a single ounce of it. BUT… if you happen to be the parents of young children, then they’ll probably get a kick out of it just like I did when I was younger. For those 80’s babies who, like me, grew up on Ninja Turtles, all is pretty much the same. Splinter is a little more of a drill sergeant than a teacher, the Foot Clan uses guns instead of ninjitsu, and Shredder looks like something out of Transformers… but April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is still a reporter and the turtles still live in the sewers, love pizza, and spit Californian slang. To you, it’ll feel nostalgic. The fight scenes aren’t bad either. One between Splinter and Shredder is actually pretty awesome.

But make no mistake, this isn’t really a good movie. It features several of the problems of a bad action movie, like the villains having a plan that doesn’t make much sense. Or the fact that they manage to capture most of the heroes, but lazily fail to make sure the others are dead even though they have them on the ropes. No, this movie is not for anyone who means to take it seriously. It wasn’t really made for adults. But neither were the ones made in the early 90’s. This movie was made to captivate young children. And, after observing some children who finished watching the movie, their smiles looked no different than mine did when I was little and I popped Ninja Turtles into my VHS player and started dancing to Vanilla Ice.

 

FINAL GRADE: F for non fans. B- for fans. And a solid A+ for all those bright eyed youngsters.

Get On Up Review

Get_On_Up_posterBiographical films are a very delicate genre. Just because you have an interesting figure, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have an interesting film. After all, you’ve seen enough of them to virtually know how things will go (bouts with drug abuse, domestic violence, friendship fallouts, racism, etc.). Thus when it comes to keeping a biopic fresh and interesting, it becomes more about style than content. Luckily for director Tate Taylor (The Help), James Brown has plenty of style. Having a lead actor who can do the iconic singer justice certainly doesn’t hurt either.

That lead actor is Chadwick Boseman, who got his big break playing Jackie Robinson in last year’s biopic, 42. But playing James Brown is a completely different task than playing the mild mannered baseball legend. In this role, Boseman is really able to show off his talent. He may not physically look like or sing like James Brown (the performances are clearly voiceovers), but the speaking voice, the swagger, and the iconic dance moves are spot on from start to finish. Simply put, it is impossible to not find Boseman’s portrayal infectious if you are a fan of “the Godfather of Soul”.

But as I said earlier, biopics are more about style than substance. And while one could argue that it’s difficult to make a boring movie about James Brown, it is never difficult to make a movie excessive. Get On Up comes close. With a two and a half our run time, the movie feels way too long, especially considering the fact that the film doesn’t even spend a ton of time exploring Brown’s flawed later years. As for the film’s nonlinear style of storytelling, it has its positives (we don’t have to wait an hour to get through James Brown’s rags to riches backstory) and negatives (It makes the story feel muttered and chaotic).

Ultimately, the movie still has Boseman, who is able to offset the manic narrative with an awe inspiring performance. And even though the movie flows like James Brown’s hallucinations more than the typical biopic, it certainly can’t be called dull. When it’s all said and done, you’ll get what you come for; great music, greater performances, and a glimpse into the life of the legendary hardest working man in show business.

 

FINAL GRADE: B, Good movie. See it when you can. But no rush.