Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Tops of 2012 - May

THE AVENGERS has easily destroyed the summer box-office, thanks to its popcorn violence and heroic feats. It is also a well crafted film, with a very funny script and delightful performances all around. The fact that it achieved the rare feat for me of seeing a film in theaters two times tells you how good the movie is.

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT was funny but not really a treat. It had some originality yet still hit the same romantic-comedy beats. It had fun performances but had them dragged out for a not necessary two hour running time.

BATTLESHIP wasn't a total washout. It has a ultra-lame script, focusing heavily on douchebaggery and chicken burritos. It has bland and blank characters and actors respectively. It ends with "Fortunate Son" playing during the credits (?!). At least the film is a bit tongue in cheek, has some fun action sequences, and has a scene where the cast play a re-imagined version of the board game.

DARK SHADOWS was a complete and utter bore. Except for the deliciously talented Eva Green, nothing in this film raised a warranted laugh or awe. Tim Burton's worst film in his long career.

Best Films of 2012

1. The Avengers

2. Chronicle

3. The Secret World of Arrietty

4. The Hunger Games

5. The Cabin in the Woods

6. 21 Jump Street

Worst Films of 2012

1. Project X

2. Dark Shadows

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Moved to March!!!

Coming soon indeed!

Paramount has decided that since the film looks to get some good money, they want to make more money by putting 3D in it for the stupid suckers overseas. Hence why the June 29 release date has been moved to some time in March.

This knocks off one of my top picks for the summer and it pretty much ruins a lot of good will the film has accumulated.

Trailer Review - The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Boring, glad-handing narrator Tobey Maguire, strangely stiff Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, a hardly present Joel Edgerton, and fun old Amitabh Bachchan.

Scene Pop: I can't say, since everything is just so damn overbearing.

Briggs Breakdown: A lot of drinking, a lot of dancing, a lot of fireworks, a lot of debauchery and crazy driving in old timey New York.

Effective?: No. Its way too flashy, bombastic visual style and cuts hinder the story significantly and decreases the audio of the lines to a murmur. It also pretty much gets an instant failing grade for using modern songs for a period piece (seriously, The Throne's "No Church in the Wild"?), though Jack White's "Love is Blindness" does a bit fit. Unless this film will be another one of Baz Luhrmann's remixes, these songs are just audience-suckers and bait-and-switches.

Check it Out?: Easy school field trips and dates only. The Great Gatsby ranks up there next to A Separate Peace of books I hate. Though I can take in it in video-game form or in Kate Beaton's comic strips, I just detest the plot and all of the characters. This trailer doesn't sell anything to me beyond Luhrmann's overdose of sights, sounds, and fury.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Trailer Review - The Master

The Master
Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: A very confused, unstable, meta-infused Joaquin Phoenix.

Scene Pop: The entire interrogation.

Briggs Breakdown: Sand boobs, hidden alcohol, and a six-man tag match on the beach.

Effective?: Yes, in its off-putting and unnerving level.

Check it Out?: Too early to tell. I don't have a straight opinion of Paul Thomas Anderson's work; I've never been completely wowed by him and I still think There Will Be Blood is overrated. I still have a feeling that the film could pull a Tree of Life on me, though. This teaser doesn't sell the true plot of the film, it being a roman de clef of the creation of The Church of Scientology, but the trailer is gripping with some beautiful washed-out cinematography.

Trailer Review - Skyfall

Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Daniel Craig's James Bond and Judi Dench's M are back.

Scene Pop: A train crashes underground.

Briggs Breakdown: 8 coffins, 1 Gruber, 1 blown up house, multiple bullets fired, a helicopter shootout, a free-falling and rotating motorcycle, car and train destruction, running through traffic, and sexy shaving.

Effective?: I'll go with a yes, though the cut is generic; Only a few couple moments feel Bond-esque.

Check it Out?: Too early to say. The action looks good, especially whatever is happening with those cars and a train, and the cinematography certainly is gorgeous being bathed either with cool blue and bright orange. It still will be an uphill battle to make Bond relevant again after the disaster that was Quantum of Solace.

Brief Reviews of Early 2012 Films

From time to time, I forget or not motivated enough to write a full length review for every single film I have seen in theaters.

As to catch up, here are some short form reviews, done today to coincide with the DVD/Blu-Ray release of the first featured film:

The Secret World of Arrietty

A wonderful balance between natural sweetness and melancholy, this anime delivers a great adventurous female figure among beautiful music and the always delicious Studio Ghibli art style. Based on The Borrowers book series and co-written by animation master Hayao Miyazaki, the film has some amazing sequences, such as the breathtaking first search of the house for the titled character. There are some faults though; A housekeeper is cast later to be the main antagonist for the little people living in the walls, but it comes off very odd and a bit unnecessary. Still, it is all just very cute and heartwarming, helped greatly by an English dub featuring Amy Poehler and Will Arnett.


Wrath of the Titans

I was fine with the remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS two years ago, but I nor anyone really wanted a sequel for it. Yet, here it is and what a colossal display of ineptitude and banality. Sam Worthington returns with a hideous mullet to fight off Chronos, depicted here as giant lava-man for no reason beyond CG "artistry", and a peculiar version of Ares, who seemed to listen to a lot of Linkin Park before enacting his daddy issued hatred. Characters always shout the obvious for the nose-bleeders and the brain-fried and do stupid actions for the sake of unimpressive action. It also feels like a bad re-write to please the original 1981 fans spurned by the remake; Hence why Bubo returns despite being treated like garbage in the first film, and a recast and remodeled Princess Andromeda is included as a love interest yet does absolutely nothing of interest or importance. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes seem to have some fun towards the end and I always like to see the Greek Gods use pro-wrestling tactics, but the film is way too much of a bore to appreciate.


21 Jump Street

This comedy film, based on the 80's cult television show, goes all out in delivering multiple forms of humor for the audience, such as topical, pop-culture, gross out, meta, absurdist, camp, and stoner. All of which are very effective, as well as the chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as two fully-sized cops going undercover in a modern day high school to stop a new synthetic drug from outbreaking. Though the fun FREAKY FRIDAY type twist of having the once nerdy Hill be the new king of the social ladder while former jock Tatum is ranked dead last is clever, it seems that Hill's storyline gets way too much attention, especially since he co-wrote it with PROJECT X's Michael Bacall. Also featuring many fine performances by Brie Larson, Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper, and Rob Riggle, the movie handles being a tribute to the show while mocking itself and the action cliches we come to expect.


The Pirates! Band of Misfits

I had a smile throughout this feature length stop-motion animated film but the jokes were often too British for kids, too odd and very little wit for anyone else. For a so-called adventure flick following a pirate crew as they tangled with a vicious Queen Victoria and an boobish Charles Darwin, the crew is unfortunately often kept aboard while the Hugh Grant voiced Pirate Captain takes up way too much of the screen. A fun affair, but much is wasted potential, especially since Salma Hayek and Jeremy Piven hardly have anything to do. Also, the use of a Flight of the Concords' song is completely way out of left field, though a little enjoyable.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Dark Shadows - Review

DARK SHADOWS is Tim Burton at his absolute lowest point in his professional career. Never have I seen the man do something this bad before. You might severely point at his version of PLANET OF THE APES but I refuse to comply with that. At least that film, whether you tolerated it or loathed it, had a main conflict, characters to side with, and talented people working on all aspects of the art direction. DARK SHADOWS is just Burton on complete auto-pilot, producing a turgid, boring affair where the dreariness of everything in frame turns to appalling garbage. If he wanted to prove his detractors correct that he's been making the same film to diminishing results, he at least did a fine job at that.

Despite being based on a cult favorite soap opera, there is a distinct lack of anything soapy, only tons of dull emotions and slow storytelling. The film follows Barnabas Collins, yet again a headlining Johnny Depp, starting at his childhood to pleasure-seeking businessman days ruling over his family-made fishing town Collinsport in the late 1700's. Spurning his housemaid/lover turned witch for some plain jane, he both loses his future wife, when her face meets a cliff rock, and his own soul, as he is turned into an immortal vampire by the "evil" Angelique. He is forced into a buried coffin by a big unruly mob and later wakes up in 1972. Barnabas returns to his now-decaying family mansion and somber descendants to reverse their fortune, all the while encountering a still-living and very rich Angelique.

I've already been stomping hard on Burton in this review, with plenty of energy for another round of insults, but the worst offender of the entire picture is the script by Seth Grahame-Smith. A man who has written "humorous" re-takes of classical novels and famous figures, Grahame-Smith has no idea how to craft a protagonist. Barnabas richly deserves his own punishment for being a bourgeoisie pig when he is not a serial killer. Back in his original life, he indulged in the pleasures of sex with Angelique but wouldn't utter the word love to her because she is a servant, not a beautiful woman of high society. Once he breaks free and lives in his vampire state, he kills a ton of innocent people, all of whom are the working class or hippies that help him in the art of courting. We are to accept and believe his so-called remorsefulness, since he says "sorry" to them before munching on them and labels it as an unbearable "curse". If he feels so bad in killing, why couldn't he steal blood bags from a hospital or kill forest animals?

Angelique is the film's true hero, played expertly by Eva Green as the film's only saving grace. While Barnabas uses and abuse women, Angelique is the one who wants to smite the blight the Collins brought to the town yet still retaining her feelings for Barnabas. She makes concessions to him several times, willing to forgive and forget if he can match his immense lust for her with true love. So, of course the reincarnation of Barnabas's fiancee has to come to town, rekindling Barnabas' heart despite the absolute lack of any chemistry with her, before or after when her body went thud. Why is she the villain? Because she dares to have sexual feelings and express them freely?

Grahame-Smith also displays his lack of anything able to labeled as "funny". All, I mean every single one of the jokes are nothing more than pokes at 1970's pop-culture. In a trailer, they can work and deliver a chuckle; In the actual film, they are absolute nil. Outside of these non-humorous quips, there is nothing to suggest and identify this film either as a comedy or as a drama. Burton blocks all of the scenes in a super-serious theatrical manner, combined with a sluggish rhythm that injects a lethal dose to the patience of every viewer. This is best shown in a scene that consists of Barnabas describing at extremely long length the construction of the rooms in the mansion. This is cinema, Mr. Burton, not HGTV.

Despite featuring a large talented cast, Depp is always front and center, delivering non-punchlines in a manner fitting a Sam Beckett play. Michelle Pfeiffer gets some needed material but is often forced to be stoic and dressing for the background. The rest of the cast are all shockingly emaciated victims and completely wasted, except for reborn fiancee Bella Heathcoate and Burton-boy surrogate Gulliver McGrath who should both be better at selling soup. Helena Bonham Carter does receive a bit love from her husband/director before being unfairly removed from the proceedings. Chloe Grace Moretz has to scowl throughout, shoe-in an Alice Cooper cameo, all before experiencing a bewildering twist during the gonzo action finale. Those actors at least get some crumbs compared to Johnny Lee Miller, who really didn't need to be in the film at all.

Thank goodness for Eva Green. Hail to the queen of campy acting when she is not unbelievably sexy and dangerous. Without Green's great stylish approach to this film that would have made Joan Crawford blush if she were still alive, this bore-fest would have been six feet under very fast. If DARK SHADOWS was literally darker, meaning that the sex and violence were amplified to the degree of Burton's own SWEENEY TODD, this might have been the broad farce it wants to be, instead of the stiff zombie it truly is.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Battleship - Review

BATTLESHIP is one hell of a giant turkey, but at least it has some negative energy towards itself, constantly poking fun at its ludicrous origin and flat script when not unfortunately trying to be ultra-serious and "Bay-tastic" for the studio heads fitting its bill. This is a film created to franchise a board game, which anyone who has played one knows that fun often is it be had and relationships are to be strained. After embarking with the film, BATTLESHIP ends up being the sore loser, kicking and screaming about the amounts of misses it has than hitting its targets.

The film revolves around a frozen chicken burrito. No, I'm not making this up, the film focuses heavily around a Mexican meal in its opening moments. We are introduced to our gloomily and dirty loser protagonist Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who goes out of his way to obtain a burrito for a supermodel (Brooklyn Decker) who just so happens to walk into a bar. Surely, she is to be his girlfriend, especially once he illegally gets one for her before being justifiably tasered to the ground. Anyway, the douchebag Hopper is then forced by his more officer and a gentleman brother Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) to join the Navy damnit, because we need to move this plot forward after wasting ten minutes. Bam! Title card comes up. This is one of the worst ways to start off a so-called action blockbuster, by having your hero trying to get a home run through refried beans.

Cut to years later at the RIMPAC naval exercises in Hawaii, where the two brothers now have command over separate destroyer ships. Alex still retains his rash attitude, getting into a fight with a Japanese captain and possibly getting his jack-ass kicked out of the service. Now how can he ask the father of his hot girlfriend for her hand in marriage, especially since the father is coincidentally his head Admiral (Liam Neeson)? Meanwhile and elsewhere in Hawaii, some scientists have long been trying to send out communication signals to a distant planet that is suitable to match with Earth's own atmosphere. Some evil conquering aliens get the signal and send out five ships to Earth to lock off Hawaii with an energy dome, do some recon and pointless destruction before sending a return signal back to order the rest to come for world domination. So human's fate rests entirely on a pathetic and incompetent destroyer commander and his more deserving and likable crew.

Take note that the heroes largely do battle with a destroyer in a movie called BATTLESHIP. Sure, a battleship does come into play later to great results and the destroyer is one of the five legendary game pieces of the Hasbro board game but it is so stupid that screenwriters Jon and Eric Hoeber failed to do anything with the obvious in favor for the generic. Not only is a battleship not the main vessel, but the immortal line "You sunk my battleship!" is never uttered at all, despite the line being more part of America's pop culture than this film will ever be. Why does the viewer have to sit through INDEPENDENCE DAY/TOP GUN fan fiction when they clearly came for big warships in a suspenseful scenario, looking for their opponents inch by inch before completely annihilating them, all in glorious CGI flare? No one will care about Decker's situation behind enemy lines, or the goofy fish aliens with odd Shaggy goatees. They are just wondering when the ships will finally do battle.

When the ships do engage with the weird frog-hopping alien ships, the naval fights are certainly a lot of cheesy fun. Also, thankfully, there is a brief sequence where the familiar grid-based combat of the board game comes into play, hushed behind big words like "water displacement" and ominous music cues because this is a serious movie. But it is those tongue-in-cheek moments that ultimately work. Director Peter Berg is clearly trying to save this film from sinking under write-offs and critical vile, simply by pointing at the film's flimsy construction whenever he can. For example, as expected, there are some head-bashing propaganda scenes where old Navy veterans are to be celebrated, which they should be but not under tedious and money-grubbing circumstances. Berg turns this all around by not only featuring them later on, but giving them hilarious lines and little moments that are to be remembered for. He also gets the main and supporting actors to play up their individual emotions and camaraderie amongst themselves for an exquisite campy taste.

When it comes to the acting side, you can properly tell which characters I had problems with. Taylor Kitsch is talented but is unfortunately suffering the Ryan Reynolds treatment this year by headlining bad mega-pictures. Here, he is just too good in making the character as awful as he truly is. It takes a long while for Alex Hopper to finally be a little more tolerable in the picture. His fellow destroyer commanders are more suited and better protagonists, except Skarsgard is specially designed to be expendable and the Japanese Captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) is instantly rejected due to unguided studio fears. Both Skarsgard and Asano actually do really well in the roles, handling their officer responsibilities first and foremost when not cracking a nice joke. This same thing happens on the female side, with Brooklyn Decker doing nothing beyond looking pretty and jiggling her boobs. Compare her to Rihanna, who goes beyond the stigma of being a pop music star in a feature film to playing a brave, bad-ass gunner's mate who saves lives and blow things up with the press of a trigger.

BATTLESHIP is only suited for afternoon affairs, whether with cheap matinee theater tickets or as a rental. All of the generous humor and thrills is just way too bogged down by first draft crap and studio notes. Much of the public is walking into this with low expectations and unbridled hatred, utterly angry at its existence and it being a complete visual duplicate of the TRANSFORMERS films. Universal Studios will surely learn the hard way that people do tend to learn from their mistakes and choose better blockbusters, like the now extremely profitable THE AVENGERS, which can handle action and comedy with ease.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Trailer Review - The Amazing Spider-Man (2)

The Amazing Spider-Man
3rd Trailer
Watch It Here

Since this is the first time I'm doing another trailer of a film I have already covered, some new features have been added.

Any New Person of Interest: The Lizard has fully arrived.

Scene Pop: Spider-Man and the Lizard fight on the ceiling of the high school.

Briggs Breakdown: A ton of web-swinging, radical skateboarding!, one flaming car, a couple of bullets, some kind of sky bomb(?), and that stupid tower fall from the last trailer.

What Has Changed?: The angst has been heavily pushed forward to toxic levels, focusing more on Peter's whining of where his parents went. Dr. Connors and the Lizard are now more pronounced to notify him being the big villain, while Denis Leary's threat level has been significantly decreased.

Effective?: Sorta of. This is more about the meat and potatoes of the movie rather than being an action cut.

Still Check it Out?: Now I'm getting concerned. Combined with the early "Sony hates the film!" rumors, this trailer makes the film to look really boring instead of a fun ride. It is certainly not a first day watch.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement - Review

We have ourselves here yet another Judd Apatow production with the same problem that all of them have been diagnosed with: a distended running time of over two hours. Instead of using the basic technique of a three act, 90 minute movie, the audience has to sit through a slog of pointless subplots that go nowhere and a plethora of unfunny jokes. I'm not insinuating that THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT is a complete and utter bust as a comedy, because it is often pretty humorous when it is not dealing with the real dramas of a relationship. However, it just feels like a chore sometimes to watch this, especially since the basic outline of the film is extremely formulaic for a so-called original romantic comedy.

Jason Segel and Emily Blunt celebrate their one year anniversary as a couple on New Year's Eve by getting engaged. Factors begin to stall their glorious celebration of love from happening, such as a sudden pregnancy turned marriage between Segel's best friend/fellow chef Chris Pratt and Blunt's sister Alison Brie and a couple of funerals. The biggest delay comes when Blunt is finally able to use her degree in psychology when she receives a position at the University of Michigan. Segel makes the sacrifice to suspend his career for her's, only to learn that he inadvertently passes up a job as a head chef at a new restaurant. Stuck in the coldly confines of Michigan, the couple struggles to finally seal the deal when charismatic professors, quirky locals, crushed dreams, and rampant jealously constantly distract and interfere with their lives.

The best thing about the film is its large cast, who all easily bring out the laughs and dramatics. There is a great richness in talent, ranging from Kevin Hart and Mindy Kaling as Blunt's fellow colleagues to Brian Posehn and Chris Parnell as mentally troubled but amiable neighbors. Of course, the heart of the story does come from the excellent chemistry between Segel and Blunt. I seemed to enjoyed Pratt and Brie better though, who are first positioned as idiots at love but later become a lovely couple and capable parents compared to the protagonists. These two actors always make me smile when they appear, whether when they are doing a parody of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" or shouting at their sister while role-playing as Elmo respectively.

Too bad the material can't always work for the actors. Rhys Ifans, as Blunt's head professor, just has to become a possible love interest for her while Segel gets some weird girl, who will clearly confuse viewers because she is briefly introduced and quickly forgotten about until the script says she should come back for a tedious and unfunny sequence at a specific shop. Not to have just one plot-stopper, we also have to experience another pointless love interest for Segel in the third act. The worst, however, is reserved for a crappy subplot where Segel turns into a mountain-man, complete with a bushy beard, and ends with a misguided slapstick gag. Jason Segel did himself no favors writing this film with director Nicholas Stoller, who both achieved way better results with FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL.

It is very unfortunate that THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT is unable to motivate its capabilities beyond being simply a weekend rental for a couple. There is some powerful moments and fantastic jokes in here, muddled down significantly by tedious tropes and padded-out non-punchlines. There better not be a director's cut release in the future, unless it is an invitation to more cuts to this bloated movie.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Avengers - Review

Marvel Studios has shockingly placed their large bets on dangerous film and economic tactics, such as hiring talented craftsmen and slow audience burn, to lead all of their comic book adaptations up to the biggest superhero film of all time, only to miraculously win it all. THE AVENGERS is not only very good and the best thing to achieve being the definition of a "blockbuster" this summer, it is a pure example of a comic book, only with the inks and paints placed on celluloid instead of paper. It handles and solves the many bipolar audience problems, creating an easy gateway to new viewers while pampering the hardcore and devoted. Whether it is giant explosions and heavy combat or rich character relationships and altruism, this film is the total package.

Describing the main plot is both laughably pretty thin yet feels adequate and brimful: The Norse God Loki, who seemingly survived the finale of THOR, appears on Earth as the personal vanguard/lackey for an intergalactic army called the Chitauri. He wants a glowing Macguffin called the Tesseract, a "Cosmic Cube" that fans of the films and comic books are knowledgeable of, in order to open a space-gate for the invading forces. The Marvel supporting player Nick Fury and his shadowy group SHIELD assembles existing powered-up individuals to serve as his soldiers/scientists of fortune against the God of Mischief. If the superheroes can handle some checks and balances, maybe they all can cooperate peacefully with each other to bring the dormant "Avengers Initiative" into action. But it will hard for Tony Stark to subside his Iron Man bravado, Captain America to drop the army mentality, the returning Thor to stop being the godly outsider, and Bruce Banner to handle and keep his Hulk persona in check before getting a bullet or arrow to the head from master assassins Black Widow and Hawkeye.

Like a good read from a book, or a graphic novel in this case, once the mission layout and conflict is established, all that is left to sustain interest is copious amounts of dialogue, characterization, and interactions. Writer/Director Joss Whedon, a man who has the experience to craft and put together extensive lore vibrant circumstances, achieves this beautifully for the most part. The chemistry amongst the characters is impeccable. Each of the mighty six heroes are expertly given their own prime moments to shine brightly throughout the picture when they are not hilariously and brilliantly bickering and working with one another. It becomes a contest for the viewer to pick their favorite moments; Whether you laughed more with Hulk-Thor and Banner-Stark, or think Iron Man is more badass with Capt. America or Black Widow, the debate will be endless. Once you throw Loki into the duo mix, then it becomes much more sweeter to feud with your fellow audience members.

Of course, without the right actors, there would be no humor between the heroes. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth once again deserve great acclaim for their returning performances. Mark Ruffalo had the rough task of being Bruce Banner/Hulk number #3 and is able to succeed greatly with it. He gives the troubled doctor turned green wrecking machine a meek, defeatist attitude but still able to deliver a funny jab. Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner get to finally receive more room to perform as the once minor supporting spies, while their SHIELD colleague Clark Gregg continues to steal the spotlight as Agent Coulson. The person who once again conquers the screen, however, is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. His character was one of the best complex super-villains in last year's THOR and here he still follows and accomplishes it well. Both a major threat and an unfortunate soul, Hiddleston sells the evil grimaces and lonely tears like a master artist.

It's not that hard to say that the long, bombastic climax in New York City is the best feature of all. There are plenty of action sequences done before it, all featuring the same unique camerawork and superb editing mixed with the brutal attacks, but this final festival of violence never burns itself out, nor able to be not epic enough for anyone. However, despite all the glorious fun, one of the most fascinating things about the conclusion, as well as being outlined all through the film, is how it cements Scarlett Johansson and her character Black Widow as being capable to play within the male big leagues. The film has a nice feminist aesthetic, while at the same time removing the "T & A" aspects that continue to plague comic books. Johansson, as well as Cobie Smulders as Fury's second-in-command Maria Hill, receive equal participation and abilities without being resorted to later be a love interest, a damsel in distress, or the weakest link.

Sadly, there are a few things that cut this down from absolute film perfection. Plenty of questions are half-heartedly answered with really horrible throwaway lines. The biggest one, how Thor was able to return to Earth after the events of his own film, is painfully rushed out when it is not bad exposition. Also, maybe I'm being a little too nerdy here, but the whole sequence where Loki is arrested feels straight out of THE DARK KNIGHT, hitting some of the same beats. The only other bad element would be a complete spoiler, but fans of Whedon's previous work know it is an unpopular plot device he likes to do constantly. It is a bit justified to be a major element both for the story and the whole scheme of things, but it still feels like a miserable thing for him to do.

Maybe when I watch the film again, which is pretty much a given, all of my pointed out errors in judgment will be washed away underneath the great action direction and acting. That is one of the many joys of a well put-together action film; Why care about realism and meticulous details when you are witnessing human beings working for the greater good, but with more explosions? THE AVENGERS is a very suitable fit for cinematic entertainment today and a nice prelude for further superhero films to come. Also, as tradition, the film has two stingers, one amongst the first set of credits and one at the very end. They are well worth it.


Friday, May 4, 2012

MCA of the Beastie Boys - RIP

Adam "MCA" Yauch of the famed rap group Beastie Boys died today. He was 47 years old.

Yauch was the most ambitious of the three while also being the glue of the group. When he wasn't delivering ill and humorous rhymes on many classic and groundbreaking albums, he was directing music videos, speaking out his mind on subjects such as Tibetan independence, and venturing out into independent film distribution with the excellent Oscilloscope Laboratories.

He will surely be missed.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trailer Review - Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Young, brave, "I'M THE MAN!" Quvenzhané Wallis and a lot of dangerous beasts called "Orox".

Scene Pop: A "Orox" crashes through several houses and buildings.

Briggs Breakdown: 4 critic pull quotes, 2 festival tags, 5 roman candles, one heavy-handed Katrina allegory, several "Oroxs", a cave drawing tattoo, and one very dangerous house roof/barricade.

Effective?: Yes, though mainly only for art-house fans right now.

Check it Out?: Yes, though I do have a few reservations. It comes off a little too Malick-esque with this trailer cut, which makes me wary for any signs of pretentiousness. However, it does look spellbindingly beautiful and rough, and it could definitely be the Whale Rider of the year, including the strange PG-13 rating.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Look At Summer 2012

It is that time once again, for all of the blockbusters and heavily-hyped films to come out to a salivating and desperate public. As said by basically every film glad-hand in existence, this summer looks to be the biggest one yet (Until, of course, next year's offerings). Of course, it could be another failure, like last year's offerings.

This Friday, May 4th, is the one every studio needs to beat as The Avengers finally comes out to America after a highly successful special world release last week. The demand is ever enormous, the reviews have been respectable and gleaming, and it will probably dominate for the next couple of weeks. There are a few lame other releases, such as the expected worst of the year contender LOL, but there is no chance in hell of an upset.

May 11th brings forth Dark Shadows, another Tim Burton-Johnny Depp-Helena Bonham Carter fest that I do think looks funny and interesting from its first trailer. Still, every time we receive a new Burton film, I can never stop thinking about that hilarious CollegeHumor video. The rest are some independent fare, with the only one standing out is Bobcat Goldthwait's latest pitch-black comedy God Bless America.

May 18th is board game time for Battleship, a film everyone fears and mocks due to its Transformers ripped-off visual style. Surprisingly, I have heard some good things about it, mainly thanks to Peter Berg's direction, but it will be the next hard sell for America on the talents of Taylor Kitsch, after the sting of defeat that was John Carter. This date looks to be a battle, considering What to Expect When You're Expecting looks to take away a high percentage of the women audiences, the nauseating The Dictator is to get the suckers for more Saron Baron Cohen antics, and Hysteria, a comedy about the invention of the vibrator no less, looks to grab the art fans and the best reviews.

May 25th is sadly for Men in Black III, a film that will win the top place at the box office and continue to make Will Smith an icon despite his very less than stellar star and career path. I love the guy, but his past long departure from his own work to build up his kids' careers did him no favors. Plus, this is yet another Hollywood sequel that wants us to forgot the bile-inducing second film and just look at Josh Brolin's impression of Tommy Lee Jones. I may have to be Werner Herzog and eat my shoe for liking this but it still will not shake the sight of the cobwebs this franchise retains. Maybe Wes Anderson's newest film Moonrise Kingdom and the latest good concept-bad execution found footage film Chernobyl Diaries will sway me and audiences.

June 1st has Snow White and the Huntsman, the Snow White film America expected to want, especially after the failing performance of Mirror, Mirror. Its Lord of the Rings influence definitely works in its favor, along with great art direction and a very scary Charlize Theron. The film's expected boffo business will not stop the shockingly commissioned but cleverly titled sequel Piranha 3DD or the latest "Look! People are dancing!" flick Battlefield America from grabbing a few millions.

June 8th gives us the maybe-prequel/definitely prequel to Alien, Prometheus. This film looks to be the Inception of the summer; A smart sci-fi film, directed by a master craftsman (Alien director Ridley Scott), but retaining some energy and visual effects to get the mouth-breathers into the theater for some much needed forward thinking. However, the more-money grubbing Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted might be the "surprise" victor, while the numerous independent fare, such as the peculiar, based on an internet meme Safety Not Guaranteed and the latest Robert Pattinson art bomb Bel Ami, will fall by the wayside.

June 15th will be America's Skip Weekend, as the less desirable come out begging for money, fueled only by very heavily-aged movie stars. First, there's Rock of Ages, the next probable example that just because it did well on Broadway, doesn't mean it translates to movie form. From the lame 80's cover songs to Tom Cruise, this looks to be a giant mess. Then, ugh, there's That's My Boy, a film that from its trailer looks to be yet another horrible Adam Sandler film, but maybe even worst. After the major derision from last year's Jack and Jill, including my own humble opinion, and the fact that it is rated R, I don't think, more like pray heavily to the lords above, that this will do as expected.

June 22th is the big Pixar day, as Brave comes to takes its place. This is one of the few I am very hyped for, especially after last year's shocking turn of events with Cars 2. Not only is this going to be important when it comes to Pixar's take on the Disney Princess, but whether Pixar can escape from their past criticisms and the fact that its original female director, Brenda Chapman, was let go during production. There's also Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which looks to be ho-hum drive in/rental fare, whether from its original trailer to its latest. Also, Woody Allen gets a bigger spotlight after his success with Midnight in Paris with To Rome with Love.

June 29th is redemption time, as G.I. Joe: Retaliation is to be the major contender. I surprisingly enjoyed the first film, a film that I now hold for myself as how not to lead your expectations solely with your inner fanboy feelings and to be more objective instead of living among the Internet forums and comic book shop conversations. Still, the film seems to have won the detractors over, with impressive action sequences and a Cobra Commander who looks more like his original form. Tyler Perry's latest Madea opus Madea's Witness Protection does not look good or will do as well as previous installments, but I will say that I am interested more with Magic Mike and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Magic Mike is the second appearance this week for Channing Tatum and is to return him to his male stripper roots under Steven Soderbergh's vision while Beasts conquered Sundance this year and has been described to be a Miyazaki take of Southern America.

July 6th has The Amazing Spider-Man, a film that I think looks to be good given a few mis-cues. However, recent rumors that Sony isn't happy with it and that there might be another expected reboot to the franchise, which is not something America is always happy with, is definitely killing its buzz. You also have the Katy Perry: Part of Me documentary no one really wants to see and Oliver Stone's Savages, which could be a goofy entertaining drug and violence flick or another U-Turn for him. In limited release is The Queen of Versailles, a better documentary that drew raves at Sundance with its different perspective of the economic turndown.

July 13th is another skip. Ice Age: Continental Drift will obviously be dwindling returns for the franchise (Why can't it be turned into a TV show instead?), while Seth MacFarlane's big movie debut with the talking teddy bear flick Ted will sure to be either an unsung comedy or ample fuel for his many critics.

July 20th is The Dark Knight Rises. It is all about the Batman. Hollywood knows everyone wants to see this, and they shockingly gave it a free open road this weekend. Expect major business and numerous links to The Avengers to see whether Marvel or DC has the Midas Touch.

July 27th is Batman's next weekend of domination. Step Up Revolution will get some teenager love but Neighborhood Watch is certain to receive the SpaceCamp treatment after the major news story of the death of Trayvon Martin took over America's attention earlier this year.

August 3rd will of course be the first day Hollywood finally takes a break before exhausting itself. Still, it is a pretty big bang to call it on, with the releases of The Bourne Legacy and the reboot of Total Recall, the latter being something I might be looking forward to. However, I'm going with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days to be the "surprise" winner of the weekend.

August 10th is ... yeah not much. I haven't heard anything about The Campaign and Hope Springs is just another obvious "mothers and old people love it!" flick with Meryl Streep trying to get her groove back. That sounds pretty sickening, especially after her role in Mamma Mia!. However, Hope Springs has been given the Eat, Pray, Love spot, which didn't do that film any favors, especially with next week's entrees.

August 17th looks to be another king size seat for The Expendables 2. The first film, which wasn't very good, has been a punching bag for many ever since the film destroyed Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at the box office, though that film had its share of problems despite my adoration for it. The remake of Sparkle will get some of the Whitney Houston bump, while the special attention and release on the 15th for The Odd Life of Timothy Green hopefully will not translate well. I'll be more interested in ParaNorman, a possible worthwhile little animated horror film for kids to join the likes of Coraline.

August 24th looks to feature some bottom feeder films, except for Premium Rush, an action film that thankfully features two of my recent favorite actors, Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Michael Shannon. It sounds like a nice little Die Hard adventure and give more audience cred to both actors.

August 31th is final nail in the coffin for the summer and so far, Hollywood did not give it any favors. Two highly forgettable horror films, The Possession and 7500, are to come out and get whatever they can Labor Day weekend. However, the film Lawless, coming from depression-loving filmmaker John Hillcoat and mega-producer Megan Ellison, looks interesting to behold.

My Top 10 Picks for Summer 2012

1. The Avengers
2. Brave
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. Prometheus
5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild
7. Snow White and the Huntsman
8. Dark Shadows
9. Total Recall
10. Battleship

Look out for my review of The Avengers later this weekend. I hope your movie experiences will be as good as mine, but probably less cynical.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Three Stooges - Review

There is no pie fight at all in THE THREE STOOGES. Not one mention of a pie, not even a little bait and switch to the audience. For heaven's sake, the climax takes place at a fancy birthday party for the rich and wealthy. There's even a snooty, portly woman with a hoity-toity voice, name dropping "Aspen" when she isn't saying "My word!" and walking away from the undesirables of the gathering. Instead, and I'm not making this up at all, we get a pompous French chef wheeling out a giant birthday cake, simply in order for someone to later splat on it for minimum damage beyond the victim's attire. For this inexcusable offense and omission, absolute failure is not an option for the film to become, it is the law and fact.

To be honest, besides my misgivings of skipping over one of the major running gags the original three regularly did in their film shorts, THE THREE STOOGES was not a film that I walked away completely angry at, though I was very much confused. It will not make my worst of the year list, but it still isn't just a lite slap to the face. The movie doesn't have any charm to make up for its major problems, nor can it forgive itself for being yet another horrible creation from the Farrelly Brothers.

The film is strangely broken into three acts/episodes, so as to be an insider joke to hardcore fans, but it is all just very frivolous, especially since the plot is about as subtle as a chainsaw to the face. It starts with the origin of the Stooges, three devilish little babies left at an orphanage run by nuns. They grow up at the place, barely getting a chance to be picked by a set of parents, and try to do maintenance work when they are not destroying the house themselves. Brian Doyle Murray comes into the picture as a Monsignor, who threatens to close down the orphanage in 30 days, unless they can get a little over 800,000 dollars in the allotted time. So, the Stooges are off to the big city to get the money, whether through lame-brain schemes or a special job from a hot temptress played by Sophia Vergara. The job she's requesting? Assisted suicide. Rated PG by the MPAA.

Granted, Vergara actually wants them to kill off her rich husband, who we learn later "coincidentally" knows the Stooges, and stupidly has her lover briefly pose as him to give his consent in front of them to the scheme. This is one giant double-edge sword, people. First off, this whole thing is really dark and disturbing to pull off with the Stooges, but not for a so called kids entertainment film. Seeing Curly push the idiot boyfriend in front of a on-coming bus and Moe putting a pillow over his face in a hospital scene while laughing his head off is all just wrong. I don't object to all of the constant eye-pokes, nose twists, and other antics, since obviously that's the whole famous act of the Stooges. But having them seriously murdering someone in a very modern setting? Really, Peter and Bobby Farrelly?

Other than the unfortunate black comedy, the rest of the gags are really eye-rolling at best. The normal hits, body blows, and "nuk-nuks" I can take, but having them featured heavily in nearly every scene hurts their overall effectiveness. Then, there's is the really dated material, such as the Stooges' very bad handle at spelling that would have worked in the olden days, but not past that era. Of course, there's also the potty humor, such as the extended baby pee fighting scene, which is crass in itself but way too fake and artificial to accept as being funny. As for the presence of and jokes featuring the Jersey Shore crew? Yeah, they are very stupid and reek of desperation from the Farrelly Brothers. I refuse to go the Razzie route and nominate any of those inhumanoids for worst-of awards later down the line, but it needs to be addressed that Snooki is one awful, awful actress.

There is no saving grace to the film, but at least the three main actors do their jobs as the Stooges. Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso are really committed to the roles, with Sasso probably doing the best of the three. They still can't entirely shake off the whole TV quality of the film, from their own last-minute casting, to the presences of Vergara, Jane Lynch, and even Stephen Collins as a delightfully slimy lawyer. The worst performance, beyond the Jersey Shore meatbags and the sugary but flat kid actors, has to go to Larry David, playing a never believable disgruntled nun who screeches out every line when he isn't getting a hit to the head. As for the direction? It looks and feels just like every Farrelly Brothers movie: Everything is bleached out and over-bright and everyone is vanilla and white. I'm not trying to attack the two for being racist or anything, even considering the casting of Jennifer Hudson and Isaiah Mustafa in minor roles. However, there is a truly painful "comedic" moment where an unfortunate African-American actor is given the HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE treatment and has to play a black thug, who's pants are very low much to the chagrin of the Stooges and threaten to "cap" them for touching him.

The only thing I'll be walking away from with THE THREE STOOGES is this being another recent example of the failures of the MPAA. Not just the subject material of the main conflict being in a PG rated film, but for some of the other gags. For reference, last year's Oscar winner THE ARTIST received a PG-13 rating, mainly for featuring a extremely brief shot of the middle finger and a gun being pointed at a certain spot on the head. This film features all of the above, plus a scene where a man knowingly holds a gun straight to his brain for several seconds. There's also the joke where the Stooges horseplay with a loaded gun that's pointed at a little girl off camera and is fired off but I think that's enough evidence to prevent you from seeing this movie. So, how did the film get away with all of this, you may ask? Because the talentless directors inserted a film-breaking PSA coda where their handsome surrogates inform the kids in the audience to not try this stuff at home. Trying to be wiseguys, eh?