Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Tops of 2013 - June

FAST & FURIOUS 6 was delightful in its action, way too stupid in its plot. Not a worthy sequel to Fast Five.

AFTER EARTH was another disaster for M. Night Shyamalan. However, the slight advantage for all of its problems lie with the Smith family.

EPIC never matched its name. What a shocker.

THE INTERNSHIP had several mouth agape moments: terrible jokes, unlikable Vince Vaughn, rampant Google propaganda, gags too adult for PG-13, a full TWO HOUR RUNNING TIME(!), etc.

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH is certainly better for wee little kids. Anyone beyond six will find it truly bland.

SAFE HAVEN has a ultra-stupid final twist, not to mention a tiresome pace and a flat story, but it wasn't that bad for myself. A dumb time-killer for couples.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, however, was that bad. An insulting magical message to women collides with dreadful leads and a Twilight-cloned script.

NOW YOU SEE ME was a very fun summer film. The direction and camera gave myself headaches but the sheer bliss watching it overcame these faults.

A HAUNTED HOUSE was another pathetic horror spoof but at least Marlon Wayans was trying to make a little film with his buddies.

MAN OF STEEL is my most loathed movie of the year.

QUARTET was not a movie I really liked but it's technically okay. Only suitable for the old fogies.

MAMA was a pretty good horror film and debut for its director. Too bad it falls apart with its Tim Burton-style ending. No more Dark Shadows, please.

DARK SKIES had the right mood for a family "alienation" movie but became too stupid to accept. It also features the absolute worst child actor in recent times.

THE LAST STAND was fun action fare with some nice direction. However, Schwarzenegger is clearly too old for this shit.

BROKEN CITY was a decent noir-esque crime drama but it felt way too familiar and certainly not a "Black List" level script.

Half way there and already the bad has surpassed the great.

Best Films of 2013

1. Pain & Gain

2. Spring Breakers

3. The Croods

4. Side Effects

5. Now You See Me

Worst Films of 2013

1. After Earth

2. The Hangover: Part III

3. Man of Steel

4. The Internship

5. A Good Day to Die Hard

6. To the Wonder

7. Beautiful Creatures

8. A Haunted House

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Brief Film Reviews - June 2013 (3)

Some more 2013 films that have hit video:


Maggie Smith moves into a retirement home suited for those who spent their young lives in the opera, the symphony, or other musical talents. There, she reunites with her fellow Rigoletto players, including the spurned Tom Courtenay, and is the only prima donna able to boost their annual charity drive show. Despite the major presence of Dustin Hoffman behind the camera, nothing jumps out from this play adaptation. Everything is just okay, a breezy affair, and is never funny unless you have somehow not seen an elder in a movie talk about sex and hip-hop before. The main four actors are acceptable, even though we never clearly hear their "unique" and "celebrated" singing voices. However, they are easily trumped by the background players, all of whom are actual performers who haven't lost their step or let age get in the way when it comes to making beautiful music.



An artist's long search for his lost nieces, who were whisked away by their murderer father, finally ends when the two are found to be feral in a strange wooden cabin. Given special custody to them, he and his rock-star girlfriend try to raise them like a normally dysfunctional family but they begin to notice the signs of "Mama", their invisible guardian whose past ties lie within the woods. Adapted from his own short horror film, which is recreated in its entirety here, Andy Muschietti pulls off an impressive film debut and able to create a frightening movie while observing the confines of a PG-13 rating. The young girl actresses are suitably top-notch, with the younger Isabelle Nélisse pilfering the limelight with her disturbing commitment to extreme acts and body language. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau obviously needed to get back to the Game of Thrones set, hence why he rarely appears after the opening, but Jessica Chastain is able to carry the parental load as a dissatisfied rocker who won't let her dashed dreams affect her maternal instincts for the girls. Despite its innate creepiness, the film has its legs cut off from under it thanks to an awkward ending, which has bad shades to last year's dreadful DARK SHADOWS.


Dark Skies

A family of four starts to experience unexplainable phenomenon that affects their middle-class white lifestyle, possibly by shadowy aliens dubbed "The Grays". Despite several mental disorders, skin branding, teleportation, blackouts, and three flocks of birds crashing into their house, they refuse to bolt and nobody else in this cocky world thinks something beyond human could be the cause. Written and directed by the man who gave us PRIEST, this is a stupid greatest hits version of recent popular horror films (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, INSIDIOUS) when it should have sticked to its minor allusions to BUG and THE SEVENTH CONTINENT. Talented workers such as Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, and the young Dakota Goyo have to endure plenty of pitiful dialogue, a supporting cast of jerks whose alternate forms of theories make no logical sense, and the absolute worst child actor in some time. Seriously, Kadan Rockett is a menace to cinema, dropping bombs in every scene and decaying the patience of any viewer. I attribute the veritably creepy visual and lighting schemes by cinematographer David Boyd, plus a cameoing J.K. Simmons, as the few stars keeping this horror ship afloat. Featuring a confusingly surreal twist ending and a family who buys a dog just to watch it die, this is a film destined to be a "scare first, laugh second" rental.


The Last Stand

A drug lord/racing savant orchestrates his own breakout and drives in his "faster than a chopper", custom-made ZL1 to the Mexican border. The only ones able to aid the FBI in stopping him and his large crew of goons is a small town sheriff and a few deputies. Though it's a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger to get back into the action game, the film's stars are actually director Kim Ji-woon (I SAW THE DEVIL) and his Korean staff. They craft well-staged violent encounters that are easy to follow visually and pack a mighty punch. Arnold does alright stepping front and center again but it is clear that he doesn't have the older magnitude of the likes of Clint Eastwood. The flimsy script is tailor-made to make him the smartest, most capable hero for all of his impressionable allies to admire yet his bloodthirsty grace has slowed considerably and he lacks the bite he once had. Worthy of being a hugger for your DVD collection.


Broken City

A potboiler drama that'll kill a day but surely will slip through through the cracks of time, unless it pops up on TNT. Mark Wahlberg is a disgraced NY cop turned private investigator who does a job for Mayor Russell Crowe: find out who his cold wife is seeing on the side. Nothing's what it seems, yadda, yadda, yadda, roll credits. For a script that was deemed worthy of being on "The Black List", nothing really stands out that couldn't be seen in past film noir and corrupt city films. Even the dialogue lacks the pulp juicy enough to expunge a tough and gritty flavor. The cast is fine, led by Russell's too quiet menacing but it is Barry Pepper, along with his campaign pal Kyle Chandler, who tended to steal the spotlight and the entire show. The movie is best when dealing with its mayor election subplot than it does with the actual main action. Also, the film has a weird message about alcoholism; Wahlberg literally gets powered up by alcohol in the second half, liquid courage indeed, despite it leading him to many problems in the past. Stay for the long laundry list of producers at the end, including Mr. Mudd (?!).


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Poster Review - June 2013

Let's look at a couple recent posters, shall we?:

Coming on the heels of the recent teaser trailer, this is a simple and effective advertisement that is sure to stay in theater halls for a long while.

Kristen Bell has been in the entertainment news right now thanks to her connection with the recent Supreme Cout decisions on same-sex marriage, perfectly timed with the poster release of her latest film. Obviously, when it comes to promoting your film about a thirty-year-old committing statutory rape, sell it as a feel good indie with your star in a swimsuit and awkwardly photoshopped.

What is this? The next Tequila Sunrise or a romantic drama? How come Affleck refuses to look at us?

If you saw this image in front of you in your own home, you would be crapping bricks. Very terrifying and powerful.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gatchaman Movie Comes Out in August

Well, I did one for Tiger Mask, I might as well do one for another anime adaptation.

Gatchaman was most widely known here in the West as Battle of the Planets, then later as G-Force, in the early days of television anime exports. Given the Japanese nickname of "Science Ninja Team", the group fought the evil army of Galactor, using the weapons and features of their color-coded bird outfits when karate didn't get the job down. When it came over to the States, the anime was widely stripped away of its more controversial features, such as the heroes fragrantly killing their opponents or the fact that the their recurring adversary Zoltar was transgender.

The film adaptation, coming courtesy from Toho Studios, looks to be pretty lame, as judged by its trailer. The signature costumes are more bulky and non-flattering, it has the budget of an average Power Rangers episode, and the finale apparently will be set in a dark cave to hide the shortcomings of the set. Not even a "homage" of the The Avengers 360° spin can generate any excitement. If all of the melancholy and angst doesn't draw you in, maybe the theme song by BUMP OF CHICKEN will!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Brief Film Reviews - June 2013 (2)

Let's check up on some 2013 films that have now hit video:

Escape from Planet Earth

It's nice to see Mainframe Entertainment, now named Rainmaker, still in business and now on the big screen. Too bad their new creation is truly unmemorable, except for the brief excitement a kid has when picking it for a rental. A hotshot alien hero named Scorch, who uses his own name as a verb, heads to the Dark Planet, i.e. Earth, without the supervision of his smarter older brother. He is kidnapped by a General at Area 51, who's been snatching up alien visitors in order to capitalize on their inventions, and it's up to the brother and a crew of other intelligent life-forms to break out the prison. Though it is an easy sit, the film doesn't offer anything to really praise or ridicule. Hell, even the product placement of 7-Eleven is shortened before it becoming annoying. Except for the deliberately smarmy performance of Brendan Fraser as Scorch, the rest of the all-star cast offer nothing to their characters; the creatures could of instead been filled with regular voice actors who could have needed the film rub. Even the jokes are too babyish, though the brief parody of THE ARTIST was frankly odd.


Safe Haven

A young woman on the run from a pursuing police officer finds solace in a small North Carolina port, where she falls for the local widow at the general store. Despite the charming presence of Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, this is a boring slog of a movie, more of a breezy sizzle reel for the town than an actual narrative. Everything's too happy and easily resolved or can be really stupid, as in the case of the local police department who are too caught up with fireworks to notice what's on the bulletin board. However, and this is even counting the profoundly idiotic twist at the end, the film really is too harmless to scorn. You can witness the painful dialogue the actors have to deliver, or the cloyingly awful performances by the children, but all of the lush, natural sunlight keeps you in check. Some might like to have this on for a lazy weekend viewing or cuddle up to with their loved one. I will say that the third act does somewhat functionally work as a terrorizing thriller, even though the police would have curbed this ordeal fast if they weren't focused on fleeting explosions.


Beautiful Creatures

Another TWILIGHT-flavored failure. A good ole Southern boy falls for the new goth girl in his bumpkin town, which of course brings a huge set of problems, whether it's the town's prejudice against strangers or the supernatural forces that surround her Southern Gothic family. The girl is counting down to her sixteenth birthday, which will determine her center of morality, her abilities as a witch, or a "caster" as the film gags it down our throat, and if she will be stricken by a family curse. Despite the bite marks left in the scenery by the likes of Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons, the movie unwisely tries to be teenage serious non-stop, particularly whenever the central couple make kissy faces. Dubbed by myself as "Caveman" Cody Rhodes and the recent valedictorian of the Leelee Sobieski Academy, Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert are both dreadful, constantly relying on their dull surprise facials and pathetic accents. Once the film reaches its third act, the stupid really hits the fan; side-plots that come out of nowhere, a twist that isn't fully explained, and a suspense-laden sequence where a character reads a book slowly. Not even having Emmy Rossum dressed as GILDA can make the pain subside. Though others might find the film to be decent, what truly wrecks any chances of this film succeeding is its harsh restrictions for its women: a male caster can chose whether to be good or evil at their ceremony, and can change sides whenever they feel like it thereafter, but a female caster is relegated to forever be a good witch or a bitch.


A Haunted House

Saying goodbye to the SCARY MOVIE franchise, Marlon Wayans decided to strike out on his own with an extensive riff on the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series, with a little of THE DEVIL INSIDE on the side. In case people forget his origins, Wayans sprinkled in old horror references that were even hackneyed 13 years ago. No surprise that the spoof is terribly unfunny, particularly whenever Nick Swardson makes an appearance as a flaming gay stereotype. Though I strongly disliked it, I will give Wayans and the rest of the crew a small amount of credit. They clearly appear to be doing this for fun, even if the fun involves cheap fart jokes, mandingo parties, and people being raped by a ghost.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Man of Steel - Review

MAN OF STEEL is an unbearable horror experience. It creates discomfort so easily that the opening five minutes can give you a SCANNERS-level headache, waiting to explode all over the rest of the audience. Unfortunately, the next five minutes of stupid errors and severe misjudgments will set it off. This continuous vicious cycle of mental pain and temporary explosive relief is all thanks to the unbelievable failure in the creative department. Director Zack Snyder once again proves why he shouldn't be sitting in the high chair of big CGI-infused blockbusters because he can't wring any vibrant, human emotion into the frame. Plus, he has David S. Goyer doing script duty, who proceeds to write one of the most heinous, aggravating, depressive superhero stories ever brought to the screen. It's the type of movie script that should come with a free cup of hemlock with every copy. Instead of soaring through the sky, making us believe in the power and hope of a hero, MAN OF STEEL scrounges Christopher Nolan's dustbin, tacks on scene after scene of clinical depression, and spews it through the horrific machinations of DC Comics and Warner Bros.

The ever descending value of the picture starts off with the extremely protracted backstory of Krypton. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) have given birth to the first human child of the planet. The rest of the Kryptonian civilization were seemingly bred through artificial means, who later grow up to be highly bored politicians, soldiers, and scientists. Leaving the bedside of his wife and new son, Jor-El travels to speak to the planet's council, to once again mention all of the giant explosions that are literally outside their window. The heads don't care about these grave threats to the planet because a mediocre director told them to be drained of every expression and not to take precedence over the DUNE-influenced production design. General Zod (Michael Shannon) blasts his way through the chambers to enact a military coup. Zod asks his pal Jor-El to side with him through stilted dialogue, but Jor-El says "psyche!" and flees on his dragon-thingy, in order to steal a MacGuffin trinket that is imprinted with all of Krypton's DNA. The MacGuffin is sent off with his kid in a rocket, so Zod stabs Jor-El. Even though he and his crew assassinated a ton of people and the planet is literally about to explode, the surviving council have the audacity to ship off the evil perpetrators to live free in the Phantom Zone. Surely, they won't break out. Lara lets off some vapid lines and Krypton finally blows up. You know, when Grant Morrison had to re-tell the origins of Superman in one of his books, it consisted of just four panels and four words. He didn't need this pathetically epic prologue of stupidity.

The movie continues with an adult Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) jumping from job to job, never able to keep one because of publicly using his powers, until he sneaks through a private U.S. military operation in the Arctic. He locates and enters an alien spacecraft embedded in the ice, where he encounters his future super-suit and an A.I. program of his biological father. He also eventually meets up with Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who somehow spotted him as a spec through her ultra-maxi-definition camera. Don't let the cold weather fool you; these two actors clearly have no chemistry with each other, thanks more so to the contrived flirting skills of Goyer and the flat direction of Snyder. Lois tries to push her story of the world's first superhuman only to find no love with editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne). That is until Zod and his buddies show up around Earth, broadcasting a cryptic video message that they want their disguised brother to return to them or they will annihilate the planet. Because movies, stories, books and television are seemingly shallow in this world, Kent and the military agree to this, only for Zod to say "psyche!" and get ready to terraform Earth as their new Krypton.

I would say super-heroics are then in order, which does happen but in a series of unfortunate events, but as scripted by Goyer, he wants to hold back on actually having any kind of fun. Clark spends the majority of time not using his powers for good because of all of the flashbacks where he was brought up by the absolute worst Pa Kent ever. That isn't a crack at Kevin Costner's acting talent but at how the character is written by Goyer. Pa Kent shames Clark extensively from ever using his powers in public, despite the fact that he's called a freak by everyone else in Smallville, regardless of his own actions. For instance, a young Clark saves his fellow classmates from drowning inside a bus at one point, only for the next scene to feature a parent screaming at the Kents about how dare Clark saves her son. This mean-spirited paternal nature climaxes with one of the most laughably crappy farewell scenes to ever take seriously. To make matters worse, it's not like we can sympathize with Clark either. His adult version is an empty-headed dullard with no forward planning or concept of other people's feelings. The biggest, absolute pure "walk-out" moment of the feature is when he visits Ma Kent (Diane Lane) for the first time in a long while, beams a wide smile and tells her how happy he is to find out about his real biological family. What a super-dick.

So the script is toilet-paper, stained with the brown ideas and lines of a screenwriting chump. How about the action? Well, if you wanted to experience 9/11 all over again in the form of film, this is worthy for you, you sick bastard. The concluding chapters all involve Metropolis suffering catastrophic casualties: Buildings are demolished and fall down on people running away in panic; the terraforming device causes citizens and debris to rise up in the air, slam hard back down to the ground, and repeats endlessly; and Superman and Zod engage in further destruction by clashing at other sites all over the city. Never in a long, long while have I ever felt so utterly sick and appalled by CGI effects and the people who crafted and devised them. Once you add the clanging sound mix to it, it becomes even more unbearable than a screening of FUNNY GAMES. Shame on, Zack Snyder.

I only have two things that I can praise about in this abomination, and they both go to the acting department. While all of the mains and the first set of supporting players all suffer, Fishburne and Antje Traue were able to make things work. Fishburne's Perry White was the only character truly likable. I was cheering for him in the finale, when he bravely tries to save his fellow colleagues from the Zod and Superman-helped demolition job. Traue, on the other hand, was the one actor to actually bring enjoyment with their role. She makes Faora-Ul, Zod's right-hand woman, a badass villainess and a worthy adversary for Supes. However, because she's a woman, and Nolan wasn't fawn of strong women in his works, that means her designated counterpart is Lois. Goyer, you are desperately trying to make me loathe you more.

The very best thing about MAN OF STEEL is evident in its title. The movie routinely and stubbornly doesn't want to call the main character Superman. I'm very overjoyed by this decision. So, Snyder and Goyer, you can have your angst-ridden hero who refuses to stand out and actually save some lives. You can have your egregious view of Smallville. You can have your rampant product placement of IHOPs and fancy electronics. You can have your world of ennui. I'll just take my Superman, the one created by Siegel and Shuster and expanded further by many dreamers and believers in humanity, and go home.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Trailer Review - Frozen

1st Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: A snowman and a dog-like reindeer.

Scene Pop: Nothing besides the last gag, since this is just a small comedic sequence.

Briggs Breakdown: 1 carrot on ice and 10 ways to reach for it.

Effective?: "No" as a film trailer but "Yes" as a nice little short before the movie.

Check it Out?: Inconclusive. Again, it's a just a short little film, not a short look at the actual film (unless this is a comedic scene in the film). This little teaser is very similar to the Ice Age trailers, where the attention and popularity when to the bumbling Scrat character. It falsely advertises the film as being from the people behind Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, though writer and co-director Jennifer Lee did co-write the latter, when it should just say out loud that its from the now more acclaimed Walt Disney Animation Studios and not Pixar. I still look forward to it and wish to see some of the plot in the next trailer.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tiger Mask Movie Coming in November

...and he looks like a hardcore Power Ranger, certainly not in a good way.

For those of you not in the know, Tiger Mask is a Japanese comic book character whose popularity and legacy continue to reverberate today. He is a super-powered professional wrestler who fights for the forces of good and the orphanage that he protects and grew up in, against the evils spewing from the Tiger's Cave. The character's manga and later anime television series were also notable for featuring cameos from actual professional wrestlers from the JWA promotion, such as the legendary Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki.

Though he peaked in 1971, the character was later adapted into the Japanese wrestling (puroresu) scene, first played by Satoru Sayama. Starting from his amazing debut match, thanks largely to the innate skills of Sayama and his opponent the Dynamite Kid, the possible joke became a overnight superstar. The persona of Tiger Mask has been handed down to several others, including Mitsuharu Misawa, Koji Kanemoto, and the current fourth iteration. Capitalizing on the success, the villainous Black Tiger was also devised for the ring, usually with a foreign (gaijin) wrestler under the mask.

Beside the squared circle, Tiger Mask has remained in the spotlight thanks to the popular Tekken video game series, featuring the homage character of King in all entries. In recent years, there have been many news stories of unexplained gifts being given to orphanages and other child-related charities, all bearing the name of "Naota Date" (the real name of the character).

Coming out this November, this will be the first live-action film adaptation of the character. From the recent 30-second trailer clip, it looks very worrying. The tone and costume design seem to be following the same problems that plagued the Casshern and Devilman films: everything's depressing and the outfit is overtly complicated. The last shot, the thing that is supposed to get us excited for the film, is the main character shedding a tear on his mask. Thrilling.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

James Gandolfini - RIP

In unbelievably shocking news still breaking, James Gandolfini has died of an apparent heart attack while in Italy, as first reported by Deadline. He was 51 years old.

Gandolfini started off mostly doing character work, breaking out into the film business during the mid-nineties with his heavy turns in the Charlie Sheen action vehicle Terminal Velocity, Tony Scott's True Romance (where he had an infamously violent fight with Patricia Arquette) and Crimson Tide, and the much celebrated satire Get Shorty.

Of course, he will forever be known as Tony Soprano, the disgruntled mob boss of the show that forever changed television and created the powerhouse that is HBO, The Sopranos.

Even after the major success of the show, winning several Emmys for his great skills, he went back to what he loved, the theater (most notably God of Carnage) and supporting roles. He helped bring major attention to the acclaimed black comedy In the Loop and lent his voice for Where the Wild Things Are.

Just last year, he delivered two prominent performances in Killing Me Softly, as an emotionally and physically inept hitman, and Zero Dark Thirty, as CIA director Leon Panetta.

His last major role will be in the upcoming crime film Animal Rescue.

He will sorely be missed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Trailer Review - The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie
1st Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Chris Pratt as "The Special" Emmett, Will Arnett as Batman, Morgan Freeman as Master Builder Not-Gandalf, an unnamed female super spy, Superman, Wonder Woman, Robin, Green Lantern, Abe Lincoln, The Statue of Liberty, a crash test dummy, a clown, a ghost, The Mermaid, Green Ninja, 1980's-Something Space Guy, Michelangelo (the artist), Michelangelo (the turtle), and the 2002 NBA All-Stars.

Scene Pop: Either of the two giant laser battles.

Briggs Breakdown: 1 thrown shark, a crap ton of lasers, a turbo-charged motorcycle, a flapping glider, the Batwing, and the word "you" stretched for 14 seconds.

Effective?: A bit light on the main plot, and heavy on the kinetic action, but yes.

Check it Out?: Yes. I'm always a sucker for anything that brings multiple worlds or icons together, hence why I was looking for to this film ever since the announcement of Superman and Batman being in it. I genuinely love the animation style; instead of using the fluid 3D movement of the Lego figures present in all of the Lego video games and animation specials, the studio emulated the crude jerkiness present in the plethora of fan Lego stop-motion shorts. Combine it with all of the voice talent and Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) and you have yourself a winning formula.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Trailer Review - The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: A charisma-spewing, comically mugging Leonardo DiCaprio, his fish-eating best buddy Jonah Hill, space cadet Matthew McConaughey, femme fatale Margot Robbie, strunged out and goateed Jon Bernthal, and a down-to-earth, disgruntled Kyle Chandler.

Scene Pop: Leonardo popping and locking (!).

Briggs Breakdown: 6 parties/celebrations, a destroyed mailbox, making it rain, a bin of garbage money, orange juice violence against a bush, a bad case of money smuggling, and short person shot-put.

Effective?: Yes.

Check it Out?: Yes, but seriously, Damn! This trailer is an exhilarating rush of bad men and bad money. I love it! It is helped greatly by Kayne West's "Black Skinhead", a song from his new album Yeezus, which comes out tomorrow.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Brief Film Reviews - June 2013

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:

Fast & Furious 6

FAST & FURIOUS 6, or FURIOUS 6 as it oddly calls itself in the opening credits, is a flat Mountain Dew; it will give you some buzz but not enough to be a delicious treat. You'll get a kick out of all of the fantastic, well-crafted action sequences but it lacks the plentiful machismo of the previous installment, FAST FIVE. The crew from that movie, except for two bumbling comic reliefs, return to do some special work for Dwayne Johnson: they will all receive pardons for their past actions if they can help him take down an English mega-criminal (Luke Evans) before he can construct and sell a dangerous EMP-like weapon. Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are additionally motivated by the presence of living dead girl Michelle Rodriguez. After the eighteenth discussion about loyalty and family, you'll realize that the lines in the script are all boring and stock. It then dawns on you that all of the side-missions, whether it was to have Walker enter a L.A. prison or a diversion of street racing, ultimately do not matter since they all end with a "Toad" telling you to check another castle. Once the third act starts, you have to endure another, another Joker Plot, a nonsensical twist (beyond creating an altered final fight), and our heroes making a grave indecision where they care more about one unimportant person than an entire nation. Of course, once the mouths stay partially shut, the vigorous excitement of a subway battle, tank destruction of a highway, and multiple engagements on one extra long airstrip get the blood rushing highway speed. An okay affair for the matinee. Also, the stinger does bring some joy but hopefully not to more Vin Diesel ego-stroking.



Already mocked for its audacity when it was first announced, EPIC certainly doesn't live up to its title. This is the type of movie for couch potato kids, flipping through channels before briefly exclaiming surprise that it is on Cartoon Network. It's also the type where logically thinking about it makes you more mad. A teenage girl nicknamed M.K. moves into her father's house, only to find a FERN GULLY civilization in her backyard, where she is then shrunken down to their size and gets wrapped up in a war over a blessed flower pod. The five credited writers for the film start off generic and then get colossally amateurish. The bad guys are evil just because they are dark-skin and have decaying powers. Every scene starts off serious then radically goes into slapstick comedy. A musical number enters suddenly into the picture due to the ear-splitting presence of Steven Tyler. There's a freaking pod race sequence for no reason. And, more importantly, the heroes are worthless: M.K. does nothing beyond surrogate duty, A comic relief snail and slug are lazily thrown in and never really do their job as pod moisturizers, and a young soldier acts who's a complete jerk throughout before being shoe-horned into an awkwardly, undeveloped romance with the lead. The true hero and sole likable individual is Colin Farrell's Ronin, who goes through the proper aspects of a warrior character (loss, determination, fearlessness, etc). But Blue Sky Studios can't have an older man as a lead; bring forth more of the handsome jackass! To ruin the movie further, we are supposed to care about M.K.'s relationship with her bumbling scientist father but it's negated by the sheer fact that the man gave up his whole life, has not seen or contacted his ex-wife or child, in favor of more attention to his theory of leaf-men. It's another dud from Chris Wedge, who last directed ROBOTS in 2005. He should stick to being a producer and the voice of ICE AGE's Scrat.


Now You See Me

I don't care that our main leads lose their characterization momentum after the first third of the film. I don't care that Morgan Freeman didn't act like a tweener or the heel character he was supposed to be. I don't care that Louis Leterrier's direction and the cinematography literally causes headaches from all of the shaking, jolting, and 360 swirling. I can subdue these problems and concerns because NOW YOU SEE ME is a frankly fun adventure. It is a mixture of Lupin III and Robin Hood, with a dash of Pen & Teller, as a group of street magicians, motivated by a secret benefactor and tarot cards, pull off a massive American caper while avoiding both national and international law enforcement. All of the actors in the ensemble are game for the material and are clearly having a blast working on this project. Certainly the standout is Mark Ruffalo, one of the best middle-aged actors today, who gets to be young again as an action star. His weathered but determined FBI agent is the film's true heart and he plays well with everyone, from his flirtation with Mélanie Laurent to the camaraderie with Common and Michael Kelly, and sells the comedic tone of a major organization fighting a war against magic. Worth it solely for the smoke and mirrors battle between Ruffalo and Dave Franco.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Internship - Review

Before seeing THE INTERNSHIP, it finally dawned on myself that I completely missed a huge gaffe in its trailer. The biggest joke the trailer editor could end with was to feature the scene where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are conned by their arrogant team-members into locating Professor Xavier at Stanford, only for the two to find one matching his description and to be humiliated for their lack of testicular fortitude. It stupidly took myself quite a while to notice the fact that these two characters somehow never grew up with X-Men comics during their 70's childhood, had a peak at the animated series during the 90's, and removed themselves from the entertainment world entirely when the X-MEN film franchise (including one released two years ago!) stormed theaters.

THE INTERNSHIP is extremely unfunny, which makes the full two-hour running time even more worse to bear. It also rests on the severe traits of its three male heads of the picture: producer/co-writer/main actor Vince Vaughn showcases his obnoxious, egotistical side constantly over his supposed best bud Owen Wilson, who again doesn't do much besides his usual quirky aloofness and nose talking, and director Shawn Levy returns to his crass mediocrity that everyone expects of his talents. Just when you thought it can't get any worst, you remember that you are sitting through a glorified commercial for a internet search engine that is "changing the world" and making a better life, yet has their interns play real-life Quidditch to determine their job qualifications and to see them grab a golden ball strapped on to an effeminate man. I can even put a rancid cherry atop on this hateful sundae because it's a pretty foul film with a PG-13 rating, obviously edited down from its rated-R target but somehow retaining all of their risque jokes.

Vaughn and Wilson, let's face the fact that they neither truly act as a character, find out that they lost their pompous watch salesman jobs because these kooky kids nowadays use their phones for time. I guess fashion doesn't exist with watches. White, middle-aged and believing that their b.s. talk can't give them another job, which is incredibly false, they get themselves enrolled into an internship at Google, the sunshines-and-lollipops company where everything is complimentary at the food shops and you can take a slide down to the first floor. Other than continue existing as a thumbs-up p.r. tool, the film then rehashes the 80's stable of slobs vs. snobs, where the duo teams up with a group of stereotypes (nerdy girl, disgruntled hipster, masochistic Asian, hip-hop white boy) to face off against the snooty British ass-kisser (Max Minghella) for future jobs at the company. They also try to win the respect of their stern headmaster Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi) and show that excellent social and real-world skills can tronce those un-evolved young adults who can't talk normally and hide behind computers.

The so-called famed WEDDING CRASHERS duo is unbearable together here, with the hammer falling harder on Vaughn. Their eccentric exchanges are either ear-splitting nonsense or flat deliveries; I nearly wanted to scream back at the screen during their tirade at the "find the bug" challenge. Wilson at least gets to be quiet and dignified later but Vaughn just will not shut up or stop showing off. He deliberately wants this to be his show alone and he fails hard. The only thing able to keep the film hanging a millimeter away from hitting the bottom of the barrel is the other cast-members. Dylan O'Brien, Tiya Sircar, Tobit Raphael, Max Minghella and Jessica Szohr all give their best at their roles, sometimes given the spotlight to display a nice warmth to them. Then, there's the talented and lovely Rose Byrne, who gets to speak in her native tongue as a Google supervisor who is wooed by Wilson. She gets some pleasant little moments, able to shine some much needed energy and try to make the jokes seem to be comedy gold. However, she is unfortunate to have a character perfect for Lifetime: a woman who has placed her time only on work and not on men and making babies.

I was not surprised that this male-dominated comedy, let alone anchored by Vince Vaughn, would feature sneering portrayals of women. According to the film, women are covertly sexual and/or have perverted thoughts, date douchebags, rely on their physical beauty to advance, overbearing punishers, or are literally a stripper. To make the film doubly weird and easily show the negative light, Vaughn constantly encourages everyone with the story of FLASHDANCE, to see themselves as Alex and to keep their hopes alive, yet still brings them all, including the sole girl of the group, to celebrate at a Chinese stripclub. That's the only true laugh of the film, that a sequence at a stripclub is in a PG-13 movie. You can tell that alternate shots are placed in the cut and shots were blurred out to maintain the strict limitations of the rating. The MPAA also thought that jokes such as a cameoing Will Ferrell dry-humping a customer, fisting, a mention of hentai, rampant ejaculation, and octogenarian gang bangs were suited as well.

You can tell how highly misguided the film is when it brings some reality to the table. There's a small scene where the college kids inform Vaughn and Wilson that their future is a dark unknown, that their college education will not easily grant them a job after finishing up their studies (that sounds familiar!). A whole generation that's cynical about what once was the American Dream. So what happens when the true victors at the end have their hands raised? All of the other competing men and women who just had their hopes dashed are applauding non-stop for those few. They deserve to remain in the background, to let their dreams die. That's unbecoming for a film that plays extensive lip-service to FLASHDANCE.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

After Earth - Review

AFTER EARTH is the worst birthday gift possibly ever given to a 14-year-old son of a major celebrity, a catastrophic attempt to sell the American public of the "talents" of Jaden Smith. I'm surprised a cable channel wasn't on the set to capture the misery for a special television event, and also for our own viewing benefit. It would be enthralling to see the sheer egotism of the Smith family, the limp direction of Hollywood flameout M. Night Shyamalan, the creative process of the bizarre sci-fi art direction, James Newton Howard trying to have fun making another score for his buddy, and the tumultuous sessions in the editing bay; all captured in front of reality show cameras because the end product is a sleepy, straightforward affair that kills any sense of cinematic exhilaration.

Kitai (Jaden Smith) is a young kid wishing and wanting to be a "ranger", humanity's updated show of force on their new home planet Nova Prime. The disturbing fact that they court children into the military is never addressed further. Once they become part of the elite, the kids get educated in the art of "ghosting", where they remove the so-called choice of fear from their emotions in order to easily kill an engineered alien race called the Ursas, which is an odd name since they have no distinctive features or signatures of a bear. I don't remember hearing the recent news-story of a bear impaling a human with one of their six legs and then staking him on a tree branch to send a message to others. "Ghosting" also gives the person super-human abilites, somehow. Have our future self's changed our genetic code to achieve this tradeoff from fear or does Will Smith really, really want to make his kid a badass?

Anyway, because he is a loose cannon brat who doesn't play by the rules, Kitai is not advanced further in his soldier studies, much to the dismay and harsh opinions of his famous soldier father, Cypher Rage (Will Smith). Let that name sink in now for you: Cypher Rage. No questions, no notes from the studio to stop this name from constantly being spoken out loud. Mama Rage (Sophie Okonedo) thinks that Cypher and Kitai should spend some quality time, so they both head out to a military base. Their transport ship collides with an asteroid storm, suffers a failed warp and crashes on an environmental-changed Earth. Surprise, surprise, the duo are the only survivors, with Kitai being the only one capable of walking and retrieving a homing beacon in the tail section of the ship. So, as Kitai learns to be a man and a proper soldier on a harsh world, Cypher just strings out from all of the pain killers and wooden acting.

Though I singled out the war for children element, there are so many other sci-fi things that are never explained within the glorious script by Gary Whitta and Shyamalan. The highlights include: Why would you transport an imprisoned Ursa on a human-packed ship? How can Cypher "tonto" the asteroid barrage by touching the ship's side? What's the purpose of Kitai's color-changing suit beyond visual aesthetics? How come the cutlass, a ranger's weapon of choice, has multiple transformations and configurations yet all result with a sharp knife-like edge? How do they know every animal on Earth has evolved to the point of being a threat to a human being if the planet is quarantined and no one lives on it? However, the crowning disaster-piece is the main antagonism of the film, that Cypher and Kitai have a bitter relationship due to the death of Senshi (Zoe Kravitz), their daughter and sister respectively. Flash-backed throughout, an Ursa got into their house (invasion? open door?) one day, so Senshi put a 9-year-old Kitai into a smell-proof box (which is actually a clear plastic bubble) and, despite being a full-blown ranger and able to "ghost", is ripped apart by the creature, but not before her perfectly still CGI dummy is flung into a wall like a ragdoll. That's right, daddy is pissed off that his weakling son didn't protect his soldier sister.

Any naive eye can spot that the editing of this film is a shambling calamity. Whether it was Shyamalan, editor Steven Rosenblum, or the suits at Sony, nothing is crafted to make sense. Everything is told to us in the prologue like a cheat sheet, then re-told to us throughout to no surprise. Time moves incredibly fast, weather changes literally crash through the edits, and there are some heinous jump cuts that ruin any sense of tension. But my favorite low-light is during a sequence where Cypher enters a room filled with rangers saluting him and the very next shot shows him appearing to be standing on a table, rigid as a stiff board. Shyamalan is clearly working mercenary duty here, largely unable to show any drive to make the picture work. He does get to craft a couple of moments that are purely from his usual sandbox: slow-paced anxiety before a lame jump scare, obtuse dialogue, beats that stretch for a mile, and acting drained of any conviction.

Both of the Smiths are god awful, with Jaden Smith getting a mighty head-start as he delivers the opening summary in his stupidly stilted wacky voice. A 5th-rate martial artist who funds his or her own direct-to-video is better suited as an action lead than Jaden. He whines more than Anakin Skywalker, every reaction to something dangerous is dull surprise, and he can't even get a tear to be shed when the time obviously calls for it. Will Smith also has a goofy speech pattern but spends most of time sitting in bland silence, waiting for the camera to stop rolling. He displays none of his innate charisma and, despite help fund this dream project of his, he never seems to be trying to help his deer-in-the-headlights son. The only character I gave any care for was a giant black condor I dubbed Metaphor because the creature is only in the picture to make sure you get the ultimate message.

AFTER EARTH is a terrible experience, a movie so dry that it will somehow affect the flavors of your theater treats. I can say this though; it's bad but not as bad as THE LAST AIRBENDER. That's the only compliment you can give to Shyamalan from here forward.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Trailer Review - The Starving Games

The Starving Games
1st Trailer

Person of Interest: Extensive (yet horrible) parodies of The Hunger Games, The Avengers, The Expendables, Avatar, Angry Birds, Taylor Swift, PSY, plus a Starbucks tattoo and a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.

Scene Pop: The god-awful Angry Birds joke.

Briggs Breakdown: 2 cases of butt trauma, 2 outdated gay jokes, and a slew of very loud groan-inducing pop culture "jokes".

Effective?: NO!

Check it Out?: HELL NO!! Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have been a thorn in the side of comedy film, help leading the genre into the toilet. This is supposed to be another easy-bait spoof like 2010's Vampires Suck but people when to see that crapfest because there was much hatred for the Twilight franchise. The Hunger Games series is much more respected and better received, including the first film, which later even made my top ten of last year. Thankfully, as evident in the trailer footage, the duo's standard film budget took a major nosedive; it legitimately looks like a YouTube parody, shot on dad's digital camera and filmed in the forest behind their house.