Friday, February 28, 2014

My Tops of 2014 - February

THE LEGO MOVIE was, quite frankly, AWESOME!

ROBOCOP was a bit better than feared but was still an unnecessary 80's reboot and often too boring to endure.

Yeah, only watching two new movies of the year in its first two months isn't exactly a great feat but at least I started 2014 off with a 5/5 film.

Best Films of 2014

1. The Lego Movie

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Trailer Review - Godzilla (2014) (2)

1st Official Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Everybody, save for David Strathairn, return from the teaser trailer. Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe are given the heavy duty of narrating the plot and its conflict. Poor Elizabeth Olsen, she still doesn't have any importance yet. I was most certainly right about Juliette Binoche being a dead meat scientist, as evident by Cranston's shattered demeanor.

Scene Pop: Hooray, we finally get to see Godzilla's face! And, it's fine!

Briggs Breakdown: 6 BRAM music stings, 4 fired-off flares, raining jets, mass hysteria, colossal road of destruction in Las Vegas (and its ugly Statue of Liberty), some weird glowing thingy, and a callback to the first American Godzilla remake.

Effective?: Still yes. I wish the BRAMs weren't it in, though. Stupid action trailer cliche.

Check it Out?: This film is can now be safely labeled as a hot ticket. I'm still a bit concerned that Godzilla may not appear at all, given his still lack of full presence and might, but I do hope that this is corrected once it hits theaters.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Harold Ramis - RIP

Harold Ramis has died. He was 69 years old.

Ramis had a long, fruitful career in Hollywood but most will remember him as the straight man scientist in the pop culture phenomenon of 1984, Ghostbusters. With his prominent pompadour and signature circular glasses, he showed that he could steal laughs away from Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray as Dr. Egon Spengler.

But Ramis shouldn't just be known for one character. He first broke into show business as a series writer and later performer on SCTV. His expert craftsmanship with writing comedy lead to a fantastic streak of comedic classics in the 70's and 80's: Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Back to School.

With Caddyshack, he went beyond the page and started to rest nicely behind the camera. His noteworthy directorial efforts include Vacation, the SNL spawned underrated gem Stuart Saves His Family, Analyze This, and the underground cult favorite The Ice Harvest. Though he was one of the greats in modern comedy, he also had a series of severe missteps, including Multiplicity, the unnecessary sequel Analyze That, a begrudging remake of Bedazzled, and the major flop Year One.

Despite these major setbacks, they can not erase how Ramis will forever remain a major contributor to the film arts, particularly for directing and co-writing Groundhog Day, the 1993 masterpiece that has become a perennial favorite every February.

He will sorely be missed.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Poster Review - February 2014

Coming right off the mighty vibes of its trailer reveal, the first official poster for the Guardians of the Galaxy is simple and effective. Notice how Rocket Raccoon is in the front and Chris Pratt is doing his best Han Solo pose. The "From the..." ascription, however, clearly shows that Marvel is still fearful that the general public won't connect the dots and be informed of this being the next step in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also, the bottom tagline is smarmy goodness.

After a series of brilliantly crafted teaser posters, we finally have the first theatrical poster for Godzilla. This one references the powerful imagery of its teaser trailer but still stubbornly refuses to reveal Big G's face. Please let it not be another T-Rex head.

See, this how a striking design can stand your horror product out. Probably won't be very good, especially considering the skeletal warnings and rich crimson coloring are hampered by the PG-13 rating.

So, if I download the app, will I receive a better poster? Let's gloss over the stupid "second screen" film gimmick for a minute and take a good look at this "art": The film's young girl(?) hero is apparent Lisbeth-lite, drives a motorcycle, and is set to battle with SHODAN with just her iPod Nano. Talk about a crowd-filler.

Need further proof why romantic comedies are still on a major bad streak? You could remove the title and replace anything up there, the best, of course, being Patton Oswalt's rom-com standard title, Trying to Fuck. Are glasses now a sign for ghost writers? Why is Kaley Cuoco happy while Chris Klein retains a "I farted" smirk? Is she feeling his "diction" and approving of it?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Trailer Review - Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Chris Pratt as Peter Jason Quill a.k.a. the self-proclaimed "Star-Lord", Zoe Saldana as the soldier/assassin Gamora, Dave Bautista as the vengenace-seeking Drax the Destroyer, the voice-less duo of Rocket (Raccoon) and Groot, John C. Reilly as the exposition-dumping Nova Corps soldier, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Benicio del Toro as that-weird-guy-from-the-ending-of-Thor 2 The Collector, and Karen Gillan as the blink-and-you-miss-it Nebula.

Scene Pop: Obscene Gesture Imminent!

Briggs Breakdown: 2 fan service shots, 2 shots of Rocket (Raccoon) firing on all cylinders, a taser strike, green blood spillage, a walkway of explosions, a spaceship battle, and the most badass remix of Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling".

Effective?: Yes. Marvel utilized this first look to it fullest, verbally explaining all of these new space-themed heroes while also informing that the film is a comedy first, sci-fi action second (the last screenshot here pretty much sums it up). It even has a bunch of extra info and easter eggs that are suitable for the hardcore comic book fans. Finally and thankfully, it breaks the streak of new Marvel movies being all about gloom and doom.

Check it Out?: Absolutely. I was looking forward to this product since it was first rumored and I like that the studio is hedging their bets on it. Maybe the next trailer, where we'll hopefully hear Bradley Cooper as Rocket (Raccoon dammit!), will wipe away all of the fears from investors.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Trailer Review - The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge: Anarchy
Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Ultra-wooden couple Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez and a bunch of rejects from the Manhunt video game. Where the hell is Frank Grillo and Michael K. Williams?

Scene Pop: The extremely horrendous motorbike cameras.

Briggs Breakdown: 5 scary guys in masks, 3 motor-bikers, a bus full of hammy degenerates, 1 car in plot peril, a house inferno, a rich man blood party, and some guy with a murder van and a back-door gun cannon.

Effective?: Somewhat yes. It at least tells us briefly the main plot and what danger will be lurking this time around. Plus, the demented use of "America the Beautiful" always seems to work.

Check it Out?: No. Though it suffered from bad plotting and an often too-dark-to-see lightning scheme, I thought the first film was an okay diversion and worked well in creating dread. This follow-up, however, looks terrible, something more suited for a Saturday premiere on the Syfy channel. I mean come on, did you hear that awful "Oh my God!" from Sanchez? Worse, this sequel still doesn't fully chip away at the innate potential of this newly made franchise's premise. It's just another spin of bland rich white people in peril, except this time they have to walk.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Lego Movie - Review

THE LEGO MOVIE hinges itself all on one little ditty that plays throughout the picture, "Everything is Awesome!" Upon listening to it for the first time, the song represents the spirit of joie de vivre that slathers all over the City realm of the Legos, where its residents open up everyday shouting out "Good Morning!" and keep walking and singing along in unison throughout the work day. Once the viewer actually listens to the lyrics, it transforms into a scathing diatribe against oppressive rule; the happy vibes and musical stings of the song mask its satirical jabs at praising frivolous things like string, while also delivering a dark threatening bite to anyone who doesn't follow the mandatory protocol and join the community. This initial impression will certainly cause many to compare it to a certain infamously profane, but incredibly brilliant, song from TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, since they both share a theme of being bombastic tyrannic anthems. It becomes even more purposefully derisive and totalitarian when it's later revealed that the track was crafted by main antagonist Lord Business, plays non-stop on all of the popular radio stations, and is not only the favorite song of every city dweller, but of every robot drone under his thumb.

However, unlike Trey Parker & Matt Stone, the writing/directing duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the comedic masterminds behind the first CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS film and 21 JUMP STREET, want to go further with the song. They want to have their cake and eat it too: As the movie goes along, "Everything is Awesome!" slowly morphs back into its original musical state as a maniac social jingle, a cry for enjoying what you have, preferable loose Lego blocks, and what you can make with it or to accomplish your virtuous goal through team-building and friendship. This double-sided strategy of chaos and order doesn't just stop there with one song. Lord and Miller use it for the story, where it becomes serious and heartfelt one minute, anarchic comedy and plot hole stepping the next. Same goes with direction: A foreboding aircraft will ominously be taking off in one closeup shot, followed next by a flat backdrop with sound effects achieved by a guy off screen. They even utilize it for the animation, expanding the boundaries of 3D animation but still retaining the home-made charm and limited flexibility of Brickfilms. Finally, these two geniuses create a rug pull on the audience, guiding you through this luscious imaginative world only to then deliver a stone-cold sucker punch, returning us to the painfully realistic sentiments of rational order and how it effects the progress of human life. This sounds pretty nutty to comprehend, especially considering it's a movie centered around a popular Danish toy, but that's how much this movie affected me, bequeathing an immense richness of humor and heart and establishing itself as one of the best films of the year.

So, what really happens in the plot? As noted, a ruthless individual named Lord Business (Will Ferrell) has complete control over the world of Lego. The only normal person living within the walls of the Lord, able to see and hear beyond all of the marketing charades like he's Roddy Piper in THEY LIVE, is a generic construction worker named Emmett (Chris Pratt). He doesn't have any friends and unfortunately can't even make a lasting impression on anyone, even with the help of instruction booklets. His life quickly turns upside down when he follows after a female intruder and comes in contact with an odd non-Lego plastic piece, which is then stuck to his backside. He's harassed by the strict authorities, led by Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), over finding "The Piece of Resistance", but is rescued and spirited off by the former intruder, confusingly named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). She and the rest of the rebel army, all of whom have the expert ability to construct anything on the spot, believe him to be "The Special", the master builder/chosen one who's prophesied to defeat Lord Business and to prevent the use of his deadly MacGuffin, the "Kragle". Or, all of this soothsaying could just be made up by the bumbling, blind prophet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman).

Since they are dealing with Legos, it's only fitting that Lord and Miller treat the story like a kid receiving a big box of the toy. It starts off as a sci-fi satire, reconfigures into a wild west romp, then smashed completely apart only to be assembled into a brief heist caper and then concluding with the disaster blockbuster setting. Long-time Lego fanatics will notice that I said wild west, meaning that the limited Lego product line of the 90's gets more screen time over classic staples like Castle, Pirates, and Space, with the latter being a sad detriment to one scene-stealer. Though too jumpy for some viewers, this plot redeems with itself with the final reveal. I would like to explain what shocking element the directors implement into the last third but I really need to curtail any spoilers. As a clue, let's just say that like the current animated mega-hit FROZEN, THE LEGO MOVIE banks on the foundations laid bare by a previous Disney hit. But instead of just riding on the nostalgia and stealing wholesale from its influence, the LEGO makers too put an unexpected spin to the proceedings. The narrative of these little Legos and their plastic universe becomes an allegory, telling a tale ultimately thought up to be therapeutic for the human condition.

On the lighter side of the flick, the comic beats are spread like bullets from a machine gun, rapidly throwing out a new joke after another and another, to make sure one or all of them hit you right in the funny bone. It's kinda hard to just pick one set of favorites but it's sure to be unanimous that the best jokes are the ones centered around Batman, voiced to perfection by Will Arnett. The overexposed yet still popular DC super-hero comes into the picture as the third wheel of the potentially blossoming couple of Emmett and Wyld, who both might want to share a long, passionate swivel twist of the hand. He intentionally hammers all of the usual jerky boyfriend tropes but his brash confidence is somewhat justified by his quick Chess-like thinking and mastery of fighting. Arnett walks this fine line between parody and flattery like he's Philippe Petit, delivering huge laughs either way while keeping a straight voice. As for fans of Green Lantern, well, you might be more vexed. The rest of the ensemble are also flawless, from Neeson's surprising versatility to Alison Brie's lampooning of girl-centric toy figures as a kitty unicorn. But it really needs to be stated that this couldn't have really worked to its fullness without the pleasant presence of Pratt. Sure to shine brighter, the actor easily conveys the everyman quality of Emmett and the humble ambition to achieve his own identity in a crowded world.

The animation is so breathtaking that it becomes a bit too hazardous, though. So much is happening in every frame that it gets too kinetic to follow along, particularly some of the laser shootouts, so the very little kids in the family may have to stay home. What I suggest is that whether you are a child or an adult, you buy a ticket to see this at your local cinema, preferably not in 3D. Once it hits video, you then can abuse the tape to spot every little easter egg, every mini-joke with a mini-figure. The absurdity gets funnier, the inventiveness becomes more amazing, and Will Ferrell furthers himself as a heartwarming figure.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl Movie Trailers Overview

Super Bowl XLVIII ended up being a complete disaster for the Denver Broncos, thus causing everyone to reminiscent about Homer Simpson's opinion of them back in 1996. As for the commercials, they all frankly sucked, the sole exceptions being the much hyped-up Budweiser ad involving a puppy and a Clydesdale horse and the slow burn teaser for the new 24 miniseries.

Embedded within the wall-to-wall adverts for new cars no one can afford right now or truly want, there were a few movie teasers. The Super Bowl has always had a history of high-proof film trailer premieres: The debut of The Fifth Element, the first look of the comically big Incredible Hulk in Ang Lee's Hulk, and the popular "oh snap, she's back!" teaser for Fast and Furious 6 just to name a few. Let's check out the few that tried to stand out:

Transformers: Age of Extinction was the true money winner. As evident by the teaser, this is a sad return of Michael Bay's evil ways of cinema. He just made the best movie of 2013 with his own passion and conviction, and now he has to repay Paramount's favor with this mercenary job. Already, I can tell that Nicola Peltz will be getting another Worst Actress nomination. But honestly, did you see what was shown? A robot had a gun for a head! Another one has parachutes(?) and shooting at his sides without looking, like a boss! Optimus Prime, Excalibur-like sword in hand, is riding Grimlock! I was as giddy as a schoolboy watching it. It may suck come June but I was at least happy for a brief shining moment.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier would have been really cool, with the slowly painful violin rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" juxtaposed with the super-heroics, if not for the interrupting narrator at the end who urges us to visit a website. What is this, an online ad window?

I was not feeling The Amazing Spider-Man 2 at all. Still looks boring and the last joke was pitiful.

The ad for Muppets Most Wanted allows me to finally talk about the film's recent marketing strategy of harshly mocking Twitter trailers. This is so incredibly brilliant, both because it trashes films like Grudge Match, who had to resort to online praise for any acclaim to glorify in their TV and film ads, while also criticizing the inane purposes of status updates, emoticons, and hashtags. Thank you God.

I have nothing much to say about Noah because it was just a very concise cut of the official trailer. Judging by the reactions of my Super Bowl party members, nobody was really wowed by all of the wild animals and crashing waves.

Need for Speed was a misfire. I'll give the editor some credit; he or she tried to parallel all of the action shots into one flowing sequence of events. However, it tells you absolute nothing about the film, other than people are racing for some unexplained reason.

A Million Ways to Die in the West was pure bait-and-switch. Seth MacFarlane pulls double duty, playing himself and his popular Ted character in one scene, only to just state that the real trailer is on their official website (again with the redirecting!). It drops a few info nuggets for the TV viewer, like it being from the guy who created Family Guy and features Charlize Theron, plus Liam Neeson and his huge dick. But it still begs the question, why bother spending money on a Super Bowl commercial if you're not going to show even one frame of your movie? Don't give me that "family-friendly" excuse.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman - RIP

On a day suited to celebrate American football and American commercialism, a tragedy has unfolded. Philip Seymour Hoffman has died from an apparent overdose of heroin. Hoffman has been battling the drug all of his life, relapsing just last year in May and now recently sadly. He was 46 years old.

Hoffman started off his career playing weaselly villains who enjoyed tormenting the young pretty male lead, in movies like Scent of a Woman and My Boyfriend's Back. His breakthrough in film came with the one-two punch of Twister and Boogie Nights. Though a cheesy popcorn flick, Twister gave Hoffman a flashy comical role that reached general audiences, always played up in the adverts, while Boogie Nights, his second teaming with director Paul Thomas Anderson after a small role in his debut feature Hard Eight, had the actor shine with a supporting role as a repressed gay crew member.

From there, his significance to the world of cinema continued to grow. He had spectacular turns in a multitude of films: The Big Lebowski, Happiness, Magnolia, Almost Famous, Punch-Drunk Love, 25th Hour, etc. He even was the sole highlight in sour projects, such as the pathetic rom-com Along Came Polly.

But from late 2005 to today, Hoffman reached the upper echelon of film acting. His magnificent lead performance in Capote earned multiple accolades, cumulating with an Oscar for Best Actor. Then came Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, The Savages, another Oscar nod for supporting Charlie Wilson's War, then a Best Actor nod for the adaptation of Doubt, Synecdoche, New York, Pirate Radio, Moneyball, A Late Quartet, and his widely acclaimed turn in the latest Anderson film The Master.

Despite his presence being more suited to art and dramatic driven works, he still had a high profile in Hollywood releases, such as his antagonistic rule over Mission: Impossible III and a prime role in last year's blockbuster The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. He even started to go behind the camera with his first directing effort Jack Goes Boating in 2010.

His untimely death has brought another Paul Walker situation on to the film industry. He's supposed to figure heavily into the final chapter of The Hunger Games franchise, the two-picture stretching of Mockingjay, which are both still in production. Just to continue to show how important he was to cinema, especially in the indie scene, this year's Sundance Film Festival had two films where he was significant in: A Most Wanted Man and God's Pocket.

Hoffman didn't have the good looks and inescapable charm of people like Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks but you always knew that the man could deliver a great performance with seemingly no effort shown.

He will sorely be missed.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Maximilian Schell - RIP

Maximilian Schell has died. He was 83 years old.

Schell will forever be best known for his breakthrough performance in his second American film, the courtroom drama Judgment at Nuremberg, where he stole the show as the fiery German defense attorney Hans Rolfe, who thoroughly explains with great detail that the world isn't black and white and the blame for World War II and its atrocities rests on all nations. He easily won the Oscar for Best Actor of 1961.

His booming voice and imposingly handsome figure would later be utilized in movies such as Topkapi, The Odessa File, and Cross of Iron. He was Oscar nominated for later roles in the 1970's, The Man in the Glass Booth and Julia. He also was blessed enough to be touted for his directing efforts, namely First Love and The Pedestrian, both of which were up for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Other than Nuremberg, most viewers will remember Schell for his work in sci-fi fare, such as the madman villain of Disney's The Black Hole and Téa Leoni's estranged father in Deep Impact. Cult TV aficionados also will recall his presence in a late episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where Mike and the Bots riffed on him and the direly filmed German production of Hamlet.

His last most well-known performance was Diamond Dog, the antagonist with the menacing voice in Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom.

He will sorely be missed.

Jesse Eisenberg is...the New Lex Luthor?

When it comes to Warner Bros. and DC Comics for the past five years, you can always expect some insane stupidity when it comes to their business decisions. From Green Lantern being a colossal turd (featuring an antagonist made of turds), to the retrospectively lame ending to the Dark Knight trilogy, to last year's Man of Steel killing off the mystique of Superman, to these ongoing news stories of Man of Steel 2/Justice League? being delayed constantly and Zack Snyder selecting some iffy picks like Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Well, now we have one of the biggest bombshells to be delivered to the public by Snyder.

Jesse Eisenberg has been cast to play Lex Luthor in the next untitled DC Comics movie. He apparently won't be the central villain but he'll be groomed in the background behind some other super-roidy-magoo (Jason Momoa and Dwayne Johnson are currently being considered).

Unlike Marvel Comics, who often expertly makes a dream cast for their movies, Snyder and abysmal writer David Goyer seemingly want to do their own weird twisted version of the popular DC universe. So, instead of a bald actor easily capable of playing power-hungry, imposing madmen like Bryan Cranston, they hired Eisenberg instead, to essentially play a rip-off of his Oscar-nominated role as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

I do really like Eisenberg as an actor and I loved him as Zuckerberg, hence why I gave him Best Actor honors in 2010. But him as Luthor? I can see it in some form but it just blows my mind how bad this miscasting is.

First off, there's the hair situation. He could keep his hair and be a slight variant of the crazy haired mad genius of Luthor implemented pre-John Byrne. If he cuts it all off, which some internet folks have already done so through Photoshop, he'll just disturbingly look like a Neo-Nazi or make everyone crave for Michael Rosenbaum of Smallville fame to play the character again.

Secondly, and more importantly, this will be just another DC movie iteration where a handsome super-jock ultimately defeats a nerdy, thinly-muscled villain. Where have we seen this pathetic rivalry template before? The fiasco that was known as Green Lantern.

Thirdly, just picture Eisenberg in Luthor's famous super-armor. No buys indeed.

I keep repeating myself after every one of these breaking news, proclaiming that I wholeheartedly believe that Snyder and Goyer will deliver another terrible film. Maybe I will have to eat crow and it will completely work on the cinema screen. But this latest casting decsion firmly shows these two numbskulls are from Bizarro World. I now rather want to read a book account of all of this production turmoil than actually see the final product.

Oh, and Jeremy Irons is our new Alfred. Not much to say about that.