Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

One of the big things about making the Hobbit movies is that they're working from a book that's really hard to adapt. A lot of the changes and additions they made to the source material might seem extraneous and even downright blasphemous but the movie is working from a book that doesn't really have that much of a story. There is definitely a story in Tolkien's The Hobbit, but the structure basically amounts to...just a bunch a random stuff happening. In the book, it always seems like the Goblins and the Orcs show up just to be dicks about it, so maybe some credit should be given for making the villains a more essential part to the story. This is why An Unexpected Journey got off to a bit of a rocky start, even if I still really enjoyed it. In fact, maybe this whole experience has been a little rocky from the start as it was hard to see where all of this extraneous bloat would be going.

But, if the series has been anything, they have at least been entertaining and fun to watch as nobody seems to know their craft of big giant battle scenes as well as Peter Jackson. In fact, one could probably look at these movies as nothing more than Jackson seeing how much left he could throw into this fantasy world of Middle Earth. Of course the goblin cave sequence would be nothing but silly, yet awesome light-hearted action. Of course they would adapt a simple scene of the Dwarves escaping by way of barrel riding into a full scale action scene involving kung-fu and heads getting cut off. And, much in the same way here, yeah, what took a couple of pages in the book has been blown up into a full feature length movie involving a battle of five armies. The final result of The Battle of the Five Armies will depend on how much you've been on board since the beginning of the whole Hobbit thing, but I can't say that I haven't at least been enjoying these movies by a lot.

Since The Desolation of Smaug ended on a cliff-hanger, The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right where the last movie ended. The dragon, Smaug, is terrorizing the people of Lake Town only to be taken down by The Bard. This part literally happens before the title of the movie is shown and before the actual story starts. The real story has the Dwarves reclaiming their mountain after Smaug's defeat only to have the leader of the group, Thorin Oakenshield, be overcome with greed. A lot of this has to do with some sort of dark energy that Smaug had left in the mountain. While this sort of trouble is going on, the people of Lake Town attempt to settle in the remains of the destroyed town next to the mountain in hopes that Thorin will keep his word on helping them out. Unfortunately, even when Lake Town has an army of Elves to coerce him to keep his word, Thorin is being kind of a douche and is willing to fight in order to keep his treasure. This is all happening while there is a looming threat of Orcs to make things even worse.

So, yeah! Going back and trying to describe the plot of this movie shows how complicated the series has actually gotten. Everything to this plot is the pay off to everything that has been set up in the previous movies. Not that it has been difficult to follow even with their being about three different plots going on as it all comes together pretty nicely. The reason why these movies have gotten pretty dense is how they could lead up to this epic battle without it seeming like something that comes out of nowhere as it does in the book. There's a reason why they had scenes of Gandalf investigating the return of Sauron only to find out that this is directly involved to the start of this epic battle.

And once the battle does come, the entire thing hits really hard. Jackson throws in just about everything he could think of in order to make this a one big, exciting war. However, it is all backed by some emotional key moments that keep the story going. The Hobbit of the story, Bilbo Baggins, seems to drift in and out of the background and almost seems unnecessary to the plot, but he actually turns out to be the key guy that holds the dwarves together and the one who helps them on the right path through some pretty effective scenes. Even the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and Killi really comes into its own by the end of this movie. And, while I'm even having trouble telling you which dwarf is which, the more important key dwarves in the group finally do get a good payoff by the end of it all.

I'll admit that having the last movie ended where it did pissed me off as much as the last movie I saw where it did that(Catching Fire), but, now that it has all come together, I'm having trouble figuring out where you could have ended The Desolation of Smaug in a way that would make it feel like a complete story. In fact, these last two movies could be viewed as being one long giant movie as there are a lot of callbacks and even minor payoffs that were setup in the last movie. Of course, this might make people think these films should have just been two movies in the first place but a lot of the additions to the stories from the books feel like they are needed in order to make it feel like an over arching story and not just something where a bunch of stuff happens which was the sort of feeling I got from the book. How well these additions were done is up for debate, but I'm hard pressed to think of a better way to do it while still retaining the iconic events from the original source material.

By the end of it all, no, these movies are not going to live up to the legacy of The Lord of the Rings movies that started it all. However, it has been fun and I'm glad I got a chance to see these made in the first place. I've seen this movie two times at this time of writing this and I have to admit that I think I actually liked it better the second time. This might not be my favorite of The Hobbit movies, but the conclusion is satisfying enough and the battle sequence is just down right fun. It's been a good run and I can't wait to see what Jackson has in store for the next Tintin movie.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


If there was any movie that would benefit you from not knowing or knowing little about this movie before seeing it, Nightcrawler would be one of those movies. It's not because there are big twists and hidden secrets to this movie, but of how this movie just takes you on a ride and describing all of the things that happen in this movie would be a great disservice. The trailer, as usual, just goes ahead and shows you the whole damn movie, which means you'll know exactly where the movie is going and how everything gets to where it eventually does. With that said, I'm not going describe major events in this movie and I'm going to be as vague as possible, but you should just watch the movie before reading anything about it.

Anyways, that's your PSA announcement of the day, let's talk about Nightcrawler.

Have you ever been one of those unfortunate people who ever had to go through a job interview? You know the process: an interviewer will ask you seemingly arbitrary things like "What are your strengths and weaknesses", "How would you describe yourself with three words", and other stuff as they claim to find the one person who's "motivated" and "self-starting" and other stuff. Nightcrawler literalizes the kind of person that interviewers would claim to look for, so of course this kind of person would be introduced as killing a security guard after being caught stealing from a construction site only to ask for a job at said construction site.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, someone who could be handily described as a sociopath who seeks to move up on the metaphorical business ladder. The story to Nightcrawler is that Bloom is looking for a job and he finds an interest in being a nightcrawler, someone who captures footage of a crime scene or an accident without the consent of anybody. Bloom sells this footage to a news station and he hopes to expand on his business.

And, yeah, that's the entire story. The main character is just out to make as much money as possible doing this sort of thing. Of course, there is a lot more to this movie. Otherwise, why else would I be saying that this movie is awesome, unless some guy was paying me to say that?

The secret behind Nightcrawler is the protagonist himself, Bloom. He's a sort of fascinating specimen who doesn't blink, states his intentions clearly when he thinks it will benefit him, and will lie at times to get what he wants. He will backstab someone when it means he can further his own goals and he's really good at pressuring people and he knows which buttons to push on certain people in order to make them give in. He also claims to be a business enthusiast and can list off a lot of the tactics to help build on his own career, but tactics like being encouraging and making connections are not coming from someone who's genuine in that kind of friendliness. These tactics are used to further his own agenda.

Bloom's character is foiled by Rick, a character bloom hires because he has GPS on his cellphone to help him get from location to location. Rick is sort of a different character to Bloom as he even makes the mention that Bloom just "doesn't get people". Of course, Bloom understands people all too well, which is how Rick ends up working for him in the first place. Rick is a poor person and stays with Bloom just for the money even though everything Bloom does is questionable right down to the big business that Bloom claims he owns. But it doesn't matter that Bloom has a business, only that he is able to take advantage of Rick in the first place.

There's a reason I brought up interviews in the beginning of this review as this movie shows the stark contrast between a business world and the day to day world through the character of Bloom. We've all seen movies and know that you have to get your hands dirty in order to make it big anywhere. However, Nightcrawler takes it a bit further than that as it shows how inhuman and robotic the business world can be. Interviewers seem to always look for certain kind of people with specific traits, even though, most of the time, the people they hire usually just need money and they're willing to give up time and energy just to make said money(someone like Rick in this movie). Someone like Bloom would be exactly the kind of person an interviewer would be looking for as he states all of the things that make him a good worker, but, by the end of it all, most of the people working with him end up hating him as the traits for a good business person doesn't make for a good human being.

One of the best things about Nightcrawler is how funny it is. This is one of those movies where I think you can tell a group of people they're going to see a serious crime drama and another group of people that they're going to see a pitch black, hilarious comedy and the reactions would be completely different based on that. The humor in this movie is very subtle and, often times, quite tragic, but it all fits well with the context. Bloom wears all of his intentions on his face and, through out the majority of the film, it says "I'm lying to you". Yet, the way he talks and the way he does things make it particularly hard to pin the guy on his obvious evil-doings other than...well, just look at him.

Nightcrawler is thrilling, tragic, dark, and funny all at once, but what's amazing is how engaging and mesmerizing the experience is. This is seriously one of the best movies to come out this year and something I feel is going to be mentioned as a major highlight by the end of it all.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The November Man

FOREWORD: It is December 5th of 2014 and nothing interesting came out that I can see right now. So, here's a review a I wrote back when this movie came out. The reason why I haven't posted it until now is because I wasn't entirely satisfied with how this review turned out, but it's a little better than nothing at this point. Enjoy!

So...not a lot has been coming out. At least, not a lot where I can conjure a whole essay on, but I guess that happens sometimes. So, here some quick bites of movies I saw recently.

Boyhood: I have pretty complicated feelings about this movie. There isn't a whole lot I can say that hasn't been said before. It features a very non-traditional story that shows the whole "in-between" moments of life. Ya know, all of the things that happen in-between our self-realizing big moments. Does it work? I'm not too sure. Is it worth watching to see a young, innocent boy grow up in front of your very eyes to be some sort of...philosophy...guy...type...guy? Eh...

Cantinflas: Hey! Remember that movie Saving Mr. Banks? Yeah, me neither.

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For: Haven't seen it yet, heard it was okay.

Expendables 3: Haven't seen it yet, but, in spite of all of the hate that me and others have put on the first two movies, I've been hearing that it's actually pretty cool. So...sure, I'll take it. that we've gotten that out of the way...oh god, why did I choose to write about this movie?

To be honest, I was secretly rooting for this movie. That might only be because Pierce Brosnan is in it and...well, look, I actually like the guy. Sure, he was in some of the stupidest James Bond movies ever, but he was also in a really good one(Goldeneye). When I read up on this movie that he was wanting to get this movie off of the ground right after Die Another Day(ugh...), it sort of seemed to me that he wanted some more fast paced, hard hitting, spy action. So, seriously, why not? I like Pierce Brosnan and I want him to succeed in a cool spy thriller. We've all been reminded by Jack Ryan, played By Chris PineTree, on how boring and cynical a spy actioner can get when nobody really gives a damn on what they're making, so why not a movie that somebody actually wants to make?

Well, it turns out that it can churn out the same kind of boring movie that Jack Ryan was, except now it gets into some weird places that somehow makes it a little worse.

The toughest thing about spy movies is actually coming up with a story that anybody would give a damn about. If you just played it straight and just had it where two organizations were against each other, you'd just have a boring villain of the week superhero movie...except without the super heroes. This is why so many movies go with the Mission Impossible format. When you have a secret agent who gets betrayed by the very people he is working for, it sets up that connection with the main character pretty easily. After all, I thought a movie like Haywire did this really well. But where as that is there to show off some slick fight scenes from an actual fighter, The November Man doesn't really seem to know what it wants to do.

So, Pierce Brosnan plays a spy who doesn't even resemble any sort of James Bond character. So, maybe the movie is setting itself up for something interesting? How about a subversion on the character? People still have Pierce Brosnan fresh on the mind as James Bond, especially after being in the sillier movies. Having him come back as being older, more crass, and sometimes even coming across as a scumbag would seem to make for some interesting commentary on the whole spy genre.

Unfortunately, even with an R-rating, which would seem to help give it an edgier take than usual, the movie just doesn't really want to do anything much except give a straight spy story while stuffing women in refrigerators(no, not literally, women just get the really, really short end of the stick on how they're treated in this movie). So, Peter, played by Pierce Brosnan, is on a mission with a hot-head recruit who does assassinations. Peter gives the guy a direct order and he doesn't listen, which causes the death of a kid. Cut to the future and Peter is retired while the hot-head guy is still doing assassination work. Peter gets called in on an assignment to extract a fellow spy, who is Peter's wife, because using someone else that the bad guy knows would blow the mission. Due to a misunderstanding, the hot-head guy kills Peter's wife because he thought she was being captured and Peter gets mad and some other plot stuff happens and...other stuff...ummm...eventually, the hot-headed guy learns not to be such a hot-head and the good guys win.

To be fair, it's not too bad in terms of plotting and structure, it just sort of leaves your mind the instant you walk out of the theater. Unfortunately, the movie can't help to bring in female characters as plot-devices in order to give the characters motivation to drive the plot along, and they get pretty scummy with it as well. We already see Peter's wife get shot through the head by a sniper, but, later on, Peter comes in to get revenge on the hot-headed guy by sending his girlfriend to the hospital by cutting a major artery. And then there's a daughter that appears at the last minute, because...well, why not? Gee, thanks for giving us the wrong reasons to talk about your movie!

But, above all else, this movie is just boring. It's amazing how a movie can have an R-rating, give some pretty gory action, and actually try to be something with something to say while also just being so dull. There really isn't anything you've already seen that's been done better by even the weakest of the Daniel Craig Bond movies. It's unfortunate that the movie also has to bring in some pretty scummy things that can hardly be justified, especially in the 21st century.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1

Ok, I have some catching up to do, so here are some movies I saw and then we'll get to the new Hunger Games movie.

Cantinflas - Do you remember that one movie called Saving Mr. Banks? Yeah, I'm a little hazy on it too, but this movie is like that movie

The November Man - Oh yeah...this movie exists...

The Equalizer - This was the movie I saw when Boxtrolls came out and...well...I wish I saw Boxtrolls instead.

Gone Girl - Err...yeah, haven't gotten to see this one either, but, from what I've heard, I really need to see it.

Alexander and the no good terrible something something day - Yeah...I saw this movie. But, for what it was worth, I laughed more than I probably should have.

Fury - Pretty damn good.

John Wick - Pretty damn well...

Nightcrawler - This movie is probably going to end up in my top 5. It was pretty fantastic!

Big Hero 6 - One of the better animated movies to come out this year. Also, stay through the credits.

Interstellar - The technique behind this movie is great. The visuals, the special effects, the intense moments through space just work like those guys that bust gangs for a living. Unfortunately, the follow through with the story is not as great. But, if anything, it's a movie that people are going to be talking about at least.

Dumb and Dumber To - I laughed. According to "expert" reviews and movie goers, maybe I shouldn't have laughed as much as I did, but...well, I just did. That's all I really need to say.

Alright! Here we go!

Imagine that Return of the Jedi was split into two parts and that the first part was just people talking and waiting around until they finally devise a plan to rescue Han Solo. There might be some conflict and a couple of things happening.  Maybe Luke is having some self doubt on the rescue mission and everything afterwards, but it's mostly just marking time to get to the actual meat of the story. And then the rescue on Han Solo finally occurs, but that exciting sequence happens off-screen. And then the movie ends with a promise that things will finally get resolved in the next movie. This is roughly what the new Hunger Games movie is like.

I'll admit to not liking the Hunger Games as much as everyone else, but they have been decent movies so far. The first movie was okay and the second one was a little better, so maybe things are going to come together for a really strong finish. Unfortunately, we have to wait a bit for that to happen because this is the new age of adapting single books into multiple parts just to squeeze out as much money as one can. This decision is what makes The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1 a chore to watch.

Mocking Jay Part 1 picks up where the last movie ended and all of the good guys are trying to start a revolution. In order to do that, they need an inspiring leader to fulfill the role as "The Mocking Jay" and it's up to Katniss Everdeen to take on this position. During the meanwhile, they find out that Peeta is being held captive by the Badguys. Also, Peeta is being forced to discourage the entire revolution which complicates things.

Katniss agrees to be "The Mocking Jay" as long as the rebel leaders agree to rescue Peeta along with all of the other Hunger Games winners who are under the control of the main Badguys. Unfortunately, Katniss is having a bit of trouble with the scripted propaganda videos she acts in, so everyone decides that she needs to do her own thing in order to be inspiring. This requires a camera crew to follow her around and exploit her emotions during tragic events, even if that event involves people tragically dying on account of them showing up to help.

Honestly, the whole part where the crew callously tries to film a "moment" from Katniss no matter how terrible the situation is brings up some pretty dark subject matters. It shows the dark side of a revolution that still might be for a better cause, it shows how one might do some shady things if it might push people in the right direction. The previous two movies have been lacking in a bit of hard-biting commentary other than "OOooohhhh, oppression towards the poor is bad, etc, etc," but this could be exactly the kind of thing this franchise needs in order stand out.

Unfortunately, The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1 has yet to go anywhere because it has the burden of only being a fragment of a complete story. Catching Fire had a bit of this problem as well, but at least it had a beginning that was leading somewhere, even if it cuts itself off with a cliffhanger. Where ever the second movie was going has yet to come up in the new movie because The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1 is only there to bridge a gap that has yet to exist with the final movie not being out yet.

At this point, it feels unfair to really judge this movie since we have yet to find out how it's going to work in the grand scheme of things. But, as of now, the movie isn't even trying to appeal to anyone else except for the hardcore fans who have already read the books. The movie jumps in the middle of everything and then just leaves in the middle of everything as well, which is what made it really hard for me to sit through this movie. I trust that things will work out in the end, it's just going to be a sort of a wait to get there. Until then, I really can't imagine anybody but the devoted fans to be able to really get anything out of this movie.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Giver

"It's just a bad adaptation. As a movie it's just boring." Lindsay Ellis (The Nostalgia Chick)

I feel compelled to put a quote like that for this movie as it appears a lot of people are saying this about it. And, speaking as someone who hasn't read the book, this does seem to be about right. I wouldn't be able to tell you how well it lives up to the book, but, seeing other people calling this a "bad adaptation," it's pretty clear that the book was doing something a lot more compelling than the movie was trying to do. Apparently, there are a lot of concepts and ideas that don't get explored in the movie as it makes room for a vague set of rules in this new world so we can have a vague sort of destiny that our protagonist goes through where he goes on a quest that has a vague goal on breaking the system somehow. Eventually, the movie ends.

The book might have had more detail on what the hell was going on and there might have been goals and motivations from characters that were probably clarified. If that's the case, then this movie fucked up hard. I already have a Ninja Turtles movie that's fresh in my memory in reminding me how badly things can go when you don't have clear characters and a lot of loose plot-threads, but The Giver takes everything to a whole new level in lazy story-telling.

The Giver is about a young, teenage boy, named Jonas, who lives in a future where everything is boring. However, this is a trade-off so people can live a perfect life as kids are born and start doing activities that will determine what their job is in their adult lives will be. People live happy, boring lives just as long as they take their daily medicine provided to them by the government. But the protagonist feels like there isn't going to be a job that fits him in the future because he feels like he's a special snow-flake who always saw things differently(making him instantly relate-able to every teenager ever). They reinforce this by having the entire world in black and white and there are scenes of Jonas where he catches glimpses of color. Anyways, it turns out he's right because, as they go through the job process, he turns out to be the chosen one and he must learn the ways of the not boring life for some reason.

To teach him the ways of the not boring life is Jeff Bridges, who plays a guy who carries memories of the life that was happening before this society was created. Jonas's new job is to be the next person to carry these memories so he knows what the world was like before it was boring. Through this process, he learns to see colors, to think for himself, and to feel emotions. And, it's at this point where the movie falls apart and doesn't even bother to make sense anymore.


The biggest problem is the lack of...establishing of whatever the hell is going on throughout this movie. Jonas gets appointed this job, but it's never really explained why this job is necessary for this society. Wouldn't it benefit the people in charge to not have anybody remember what the past life was like in case people start thinking the old way was better? What do these people get out of having somebody being the memory carrier when they can't share these memories?

The Giver gets killed by establishing a premise that somehow doesn't even make sense within its own context of the film. It's clear that they needed this whole memory plot to be there in order to have a story of some sort. Otherwise, the entire population would just go about their daily lives without a care in the world as it turns out the medication they are forced to take is what robs them of all emotions and free thinking. So, of course, the plan is to break the system and help everyone else free themselves from being controlled. In order to do this, the protagonist must...ummm...cross the barrier that's shielding this society so it will break and cause everybody to not be boring anymore. Forget that it was the medication that everyone was forced to take, breaking this barrier is what causes everybody to see clearly.


The worst part about The Giver is that it's a lot more boring than I'm probably making it out to be. From describing it, it sounds like one of those cases where they got things so wrong that it's laughable. If you read the book, this might be the case. Otherwise, the movie just gets by on being vague on its own plot details so it'll have the illusion of any sort of conflict or drama or story-telling and it's also what causes this 90 minute movie to feel like it's 10 god damn hours long. If The Giver is any hint on what's coming out in our future of boring, soulless adaptions of young adult novels, then we're in for a pretty painful ride.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Preface: This review is assuming that you're smart enough to figure out that the good guys win in the end. Thank you!

I really wanted to hate this movie. Every new detail I heard about this new Teenager Mutant Ninja Turtles iteration gave me every reason to not expect anything good out of it. And the final result pretty much confirms everything I thought was going to go wrong. This movie feels like it's doing everything it can to make me want to hate it. It's got Megan Fox reminding us why we hated her in the Transformers movies, the new designs for the turtles and even Splinter himself are on par with the robots from Transformers in being the ugliest, busiest computer generated things to ever be produced from a budget that you'd think would be able to conjure up something better, and it's got story and structural problems that would make the most amateurish writer of writers(people like me) scratch their heads in confusion.

This movie gave me every reason to hate it, but, for some reason, I just couldn't.

Maybe it's because the Ninja Turtles didn't have that much of an affect on me throughout my childhood and, if they did ruin these characters(which they did), it isn't on par with, say, ruining the Super Mario Bros. But to say that it had no affect would be an overstatement. I grew up watching the Second Animated Series that started in 2003. I don't remember a lot from that show other than that they weren't afraid to branch off into weird settings with inter-dimensional beings or something like that. They made ballsy moves that only inexpensive shows and big-budget Marvel movies can pull off for some reason. Also, I loved the crap out of the first two 90s movies and I remember being the only 7th Grader at school to actually be excited about the animated feature that came out in 2007, which wasn't a classic but it was functional and something that's now been elevated in quality thanks to this new movie.

The story starts with our lead character, April O'Neil, who's a reporter that's sick of getting B-news stories as everybody only treats her by her looks. Did I mention that she's being played by Megan Fox? Holy shit, movie! Are you trying to make a statement in showing off that Megan Fox can be taken seriously as an actress and that we should treat her more seriously than we do now? Well, apparently not, because Megan Fox looks like she'd rather be anywhere else than in this movie. But it's okay, because the movie can't even take her seriously as her entire character is undermined by one butt-shot that they some how sneaked into this movie.

But the entire movie can't even take itself seriously by giving us the most lazy, generic screenplay since Divergent(which at least tried to take itself seriously). April goes off on an investigation to figure out who's been stopping these terrorist attacks from the Foot clan. As it turns out, the titular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the ones who are helping out, who turn out to be April's pets during her childhood, who turn out to be part of an experiment to create a cure of some sort, which turns out to be the plot device for the bad guy, who turns out to be the guy behind these experiments, which, in turn, is there to make the dumbest bad guy scheme since Christopher Walken's plan from A View to a Kill. Seriously, the main bad guy's plan is to release a disease that only he has the cure for, except his disease kills off everybody. It doesn't exactly take a keen eye to see the problem with his plan there. Also, I'm starting to wonder if the entire world revolves around these events since nothing that happens in this movie is due to chance or coincidence or, god forbid, actual character choices!

Oh yeah, and Shredder is in this movie as well.

Formulaic stories that involve destiny, or stuff like that, does seem like the easy option as it does the work for you in basically giving you all of the character and story arcs that you need. So, be ****ing surprised that they even messed that up. I've talked about how they set up April as someone who people don't take seriously, so maybe they're going to complete her arc with her finally proving herself to everyone or with her figuring out that this messed up world isn't going to let her get anywhere without her breaking the system or something like that. But, no, that doesn't happen. Instead, she starts off with figuring out who the turtles are and then....she just watches stuff happen...

Cue Mr. Plinkett quote.

But, hey, maybe that's the point, right? Maybe they did it this way so they can give something for the Ninja Turtles to do. Except, they don't, as the Turtles are introduced, they have a fight with The Shredder, they fail, they have their second fight, and then they finally defeat him by playing this sort of childhood game on him. That sounds like it could be a Chekov's Gun moment, but they never show us a scene where they play in order to defeat The Shredder. Seriously, there were obvious arcs they could have used like team-work or mastering their ability to be ninjas or proving themselves to the outside world. Ya know, stuff that doesn't even need the whole damned "destiny" trite!

There is no way I'm going to be able to list every single thing that's wrong with this movie in this review without it turning into a long, thesis length essay. However, loose plot threads and unfinished character arcs are the big main problems that no movie will ever survive.

But, with all that said, I couldn't hate it.

There are a couple of good action scenes, one involving a tumble towards a cliff and a couple of decent moments of ninja action. Were these moments enough to save this movie? Of course not. But I wasn't bored or angry throughout the entire run-time, even though this movie is still probably going to end up on my top ten worst list because there are still too many damn problems to just ignore. In fact, thinking about this movie, writing this review, and mulling over on all of the story issues that this movie has really, really makes me want to hate this movie.

But I can't, as it's probably because it's hard to conjure up any sort of strong emotion when I care about this movie as much as the people behind this film. Here's hoping for better run in round 2.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Let's Be Cops

We'll get to the movie I'm supposed to be reviewing, but I need to backtrack and talk about movies I probably should have reviewed.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - As awesome as you've heard!

Lucy - An action movie that that takes a left turn into 2001: Space Odyssey territory. Honestly, it was kind of awesome.

Guardians of the Galaxy - As awesome as you've heard. Also, just like all of the other Marvel movies, stay through the credits!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - To Be Continued(Haven't seen it yet)

Alright, let's talk about this piece of shit!

To be fair, I guess it's not too bad. There were parts where I laughed and there was one part where it was pretty hilarious, but, throughout most of the run time, it's not even all that funny and it weirdly doesn't even try to be throughout some long stretches. The entire premise sounds like it should be giving this movie a lot more mileage than it actually gets. Two guys decide to dress up as cops, but, after getting mistaken for actual cops and getting some unexpected benefits out of it, they decide to actually pretend to be cops. I've heard of worse ideas that have turned out well, but I guess bringing up Lord and Miller would be cheating. Anyways, here's a question that the filmmakers didn't seem to ask.

"Since when the hell does being a cop make you the life of the party?"

Seriously! You kind of have to wonder why being a cop suddenly made these guys the cool kids when virtually everyone I know seems to have a big distrust with the cops because they totally got pulled over for no reason that one time. Things that did happen that actually worked a little better was when the main characters got confused for being male-strippers and another time when they got involved in actual police work where everything just fell apart for them. But, other than that, It kind of feels like that the people behind Let's Be Cops forgot that they were making a movie about two guys pretending to be cops. Either that, or they had a serious crime drama under works and some joker decided that it would be a fun twist if they threw in guys who weren't really cops.

Anyways, the story of this movie involves two, down on their luck guys who aren't really getting anywhere in life. One guy is named Ryan and he got a sum of money that he's been living off of after doing a herpes treatment commercial. The other is Justin, who works for a game place...thingy(it's kind of hard to tell what kind of place this is) and is trying to pitch a video game idea, but nobody is willing to listen to him. Also, he's black and is the somewhat useless, comic relief side-kick because this is a comedy...I think. One night, they're invited to a masquerade party but Ryan confuses it for a costume party and they decide to dress as cops. After some embarrassment of being guys who are sort of stuck in their own life, they leave the party feeling down until they get mistaken for real cops and start getting treated like...awesome people, for some reason.

The thing behind this movie is that it's completely interchangeable with damn near any other low-end, formulaic comedy. To be fair, it does a decent job of following the guidelines for a decent script, but the end result clashes against the idea of this movie being a comedy or even a movie about guys pretending to be cops. In fact, the entire idea that these guys are pretending to be cops is inconsequential for the entire movie. Most of the jokes don't even require them pretending to be cops and a lot of the jokes don't even make sense, ESPECIALLY within the context of its own film. I mean, yeah, I guess it's funny that they held up some guys for a search and seizure and, while that whole thing is happening, Justin starts making the guys dance while he's holding everyone at gunpoint. You'd think the guys getting held up would have at least said something, but they're being held at gunpoint and, to be fair, it's probably not the strangest thing a cop has asked them to do. So, I guess I'll let that one slide.

Oh yeah, and since they were using the most generic screenplay possible, they have to put conflict into the movie somehow. So, the main characters have run ins with a gang of drug dealers. This is the part where the movie gets weird and is the main cause of why the movie has long stretches of it not being funny. As in, they suddenly want you to care about what's going on with actual stakes and drama after the movie had us try to laugh at all of the "cccrraaazzzzyyyyy" situations these guys got into. Seriously, why would a movie have us laugh at how these guys shouldn't be cops and then suddenly make us think that they should be cops after they were failing so badly at it?

There's one action beat in the movie that has the movie shift tone and it puts the characters in real danger. It's honestly a well done scene, but it's at this point I was kind of thinking "Wasn't this supposed to be a comedy?" After this well done scene, the movie throws away any promise it has at having chops for a decent action movie by giving us a bad action movie at the end of it all. There are cases where the movie still tries to be funny involving jokes where...umm, I guess where there scenes that come off as them accidentally doing gay things to each other? Honestly, it's kind of hard to explain, but the movie doesn't bother to even try to make sense out of the situation, so it really doesn't matter.

I honestly felt like this had potential to be a really funny movie. But the whole thing feels like a result of the filmmakers not really knowing what to do with their own premise. It's not really even a gimmick, it's just feels more like the two main characters just happen to be mistaken for cops. Other than that, it's a below average comedy that just runs into a brick wall by the end of it all. I think the movie even indulged in some racist and sexist humor, but the movie was so boring that I doubt anybody would care enough to get angry. And that alone shows just how empty this movie is.

Friday, July 11, 2014


No matter what people on the internet will try to have you to believe, it really is impossible to approach things we call art in any sort of objective way. Sure, there are some standards that a lot of us like to go towards when “evaluating” a certain movie, but no matter how hard you try, you’re going to be bringing your own agenda into the movie, even if its just what you think a good movie should be like. Which is fine, because movies usually bring in their own agenda as well. Even if the creators weren't trying to get political or try to say anything meaningful, a lot of work gets put into why certain stories are told in a certain particular way.

The reason I’m talking about these things is because it really is impossible to talk about Snowpiercer without talking about the hard biting politics behind this movie. Most movies usually use issues like class disparity or other political issues as the sort of setup and background for the rest of their story, but, with Snowpiercer, the whole political issue is what the movie is about. The movie puts all of its issues and politics right into the foreground and it never lets up throughout the entire run time.

The story takes place in the future where an experiment to combat against global warming goes disastrously wrong leaving the Earth to go cold and wiping out nearly all of Humanity. The little bit that is left are stuck on a train to be able to live safely on. The train has been in a continuous loop for years with all of the poor people in the rear of the train and all of the rich and wealthy people nearer to the front. Of course, the poor people are fed up with the miserable life they have had to endure and it’s about time for them to fight back. Curtis, played by Captain America, is the one who instigates this revolution and through a series some great action set pieces, they get closer towards the front of the train to see just how well the rich really have it.

Subtlety, this movie has none!

Snowpiercer goes even further by explaining how the train is running and how people are able to live on it. Through “balance,” everything runs on this train due to repeating cycles and hope that nobody dares to break said cycle. It’s up to the poor people to continually do all of the hard work so the rich people can continue having their fun. And, no, it doesn't stop there. One of the cabins they find themselves in is a classroom setting where they find all of the more well off kids getting indoctrinated into justifying living this kind of lifestyle. They are trained to hate the poor and to view them as nothing more than dirt.

Like I said, the movie has no problem being explicit in what it’s trying to say.

What’s offset by a lot of the political melodrama are some pretty stellar action scenes. It really is surprising how much of a dynamic experience they can get from a whole train setting but it all makes sense in the long run. It goes into the sort of action movie territory that I like where everything is contained to one setting which makes all of the action scenes a lot more personal. There isn't some sort of end of the world macguffin where everything is at stake. The movie is entirely grounded in its characters and all of the stakes come from there. Have all of this wrapped around some excellently directed action scenes and you really do have yourself a great action movie.

What’s really great about this movie is the high caliber cast it has as well. I've already mentioned Chris Evans, but it also has Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, and Allison Pill. But, this all comes down to Chris Evans and I think it’s about time we declare him a great actor by now. There’s a reason why he’s been nailing the character of Captain America down so well and in this movie we get to see why. The big thing throughout this movie is that he feels the whole revolution needs a proper leader and he keeps being told that he’s the one that needs to be up to the task even though he’s not willing to do it. We learn more about his character as the story goes on and he never misses a beat on the way there.

Snowpiercer is one of those movies that some might find preachy and pretentious and overly broad in its political views but the style and effort that goes into this movie is what makes it all the more unique. It delivers all it can when it comes to being a hard action movie, but the political overtones spread throughout everything is what’s been having me think about this movie days after I've seen it. It’s one of the best movies of the year and a godsend to what has been a pretty mediocre summer so far. It’s not playing in very many theaters, but if it’s playing anywhere near you I’d definitely recommend checking it out even if you might disagree with what the movie is trying to say.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

For a lot of people, Transformers has ruined everything. And not just the whole Transformers franchise, but everything! It's not hard to sympathize as I sat down and watched these movies only to realize that, yeah, these movies were as horrific I was hearing. But, even after so much complaining, a couple of people in charge felt like they were missing a couple of million dollars from their money bin, so they decided to bring Michael Bay back for round 2. Everybody was in a state of resignation by then, saying "Ugh, fine, let's get it over with." but things were looking up a little. We found out that Shia The-Beef and the rest aren't coming back for these sequel, the trailers made it look like Michael Bay learned how to keep his action scenes coherent, and....robot dinosaurs.

With all of this coming together, Michael Bay has manage to make the best movie of all of the Michael Bay Transformers movies. It's still not very good though. In fact, the movie isn't really good at all. It's just another mess that seem destined to happen from another Michael Bay Transformers movie. However, things seem to have improved from making terrible, incoherent messes to barely-watchable, incoherent messes.

Probably the most significant improvement to the Bayformers movie is the fact that there's actually a plot to speak of, for the most part. Mark Whalberg plays a guy who has a daughter and they live out in the middle of Tea Party land(which is out in the middle of nowhere). He collects and invents a bunch of helpful robots, yet, none of these robots have gotten him anywhere, which is pretty drastic because these guys are broke and are on the verge of getting kicked out of their property. Also, Mark Whalberg is having trouble taking care of her daughter as she is...well, a teenager. I have to say, placing the burden of being a protagonist in a Transformers movie on a "hard luck" father figure who has to try to figure out what to do with the mess that's handed to him is more compelling than having this burden be placed on an actual teenager who doesn't learn ****ing **** through out any of the movies.

But, in the midst of a bad situation, Mark Whalberg manages to find a truck that he decides to take back home and it turns out that this truck is a damaged Optimus Prime who is hiding from the government as the government has decided that all Transformers are evil. Also, there are other Evil Transformer robots that are helping the government and there's this one company that's trying to make things that can transform into anything which manages to produce even more Evil Transformers robots. After two hours of mucking around, there's a giant battle and, after the group goes to China for some reason, there's another, bigger battle that lasts 40 minutes long, they call in robot dinosaurs, and then, eventually, the movie ends.

Can I go home now?

Credit where credit is due, Michael Bay, a big problem with the first one was that there were 5 or 6 different subplots going on that didn't have any direct affect with each other which made the movies feel disjointed, messy, and one of the major reasons why they were genuinely awful. This movie has different subplots happening as well, but these plotlines are directly affected by each other. While things are overly bloated and somewhat confusing, because there is still so damn much that happens in the movie, this different approach helps make this movie to be watchable until the end. I'm not sure why they haven't opted for a simpler, more approachable story to work in to their movies, but things work a little bit better this time. So, whatever.

The thing that doesn't help this movie? Overly bloated action scenes. The action scene at the two hour mark of the movie sort of felt like it could have helped end the movie right there and it was simple. But that last battle scene...ugh. This is easily the loudest and busiest movie since Man of Steel, but Man of Steel was at least well shot through out that entire battle sequence. This new Transformers movie shoves in as much crap in your face as possible and, after a while, I had a hard time knowing what was going on and I had a hard time figuring out why I should be caring about all of this in the first place.

If it's hard to tell who the good guys in the bad guys are in a giant toy robot movie, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

There were a couple of shots in this movie I liked, most of them coming from the end where Optimus Prime and Bumblebee were fighting the baddest robot of the baddest robots. Everything else goes off the deep end of incomprehensibility with long shots obscuring what's going on in these battle and giant explosions. By the end of it all, I was exhausted and I was ****ing glad I managed to not see this in 3D.

While the whole movie will leave you in a state of sensory over-load, at least the robots are a little more well designed than last time. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee have had a little bit of tweaking and they introduce new robots that are all unique and readily recognizable from each other. There's one sort of military robot who wears this sort of cloak and is mainly green and there's even a blue samurai robot with a sword. The other guy is more of the gun-ho military, demolitions guy who's round and overly busy and the guy that I didn't really care for from an aesthetic stand point. Yeah, all of the robots are still overly busy looking with too many moving parts for any sort of brain to get a handle on and none of them get to do much, but a step in the right directions is still a step in the right direction.

Robots who have their faces turn into guns not withstanding.

Even with all of the improvements and things that I liked a little better this time around, Transformers 4 doesn't exactly come out from the bad movie realm. It shows some glimmers of hope and there were some things I liked about it. The human drama feels a little more like...well, drama, the robots look a bit better, some of the action shots I could really get behind, and, most importantly, robot dinosaurs. But, in the end, the whole thing is still big, loud, noisy, and dumb. The plot is a mess, most of the Transformers barely get to do anything, and the robot dinosaurs don't really have a lot of impact on the story.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Transformers Series

Michael Bay made the same movie three times in a row, so it's going to be easier for me and for all of us if I just don't give off a synopsis on all of these movies and on why all of these movies are terrible, festering pieces of monkey chunks thrown at the audience while they were being too busy being distracted by all of the explosions going on to notice that their popcorn was tasting a little funny midway through the movie.

I saw the first movie when I was in 8th grade, my last year of middle school. This was probably around the age where things would have been more impressionable for me to where anything would seem good enough for me(I was an xbox live, multiplayer, Halo fan nut back then and a lot has changed), but even the first Transformers movies didn't seem to live up to actually being good to my 14 year old's standards. I never saw the other two when it came out. But, the thing is that I didn't like the first movie back then even before I became a "high-minded, well-respected, universally-loved intellectual" But now that another movie is coming out, I decided to actual sit through all three of these movies. So, how did they fare to the me of "now" than to the me of "back then"?


Would have made a more compelling story if all they said was "protect" or "destroy"


I seriously cannot believe how low a movie can go. After watching the first movie, I realized that "Holy shit! There are still two more of these movies that exist." I don't know how else to put it than just to use a quote, which called this movie "One of the worst films of the ****ing decade!" I've never seen such a blatant disregard to story-telling, characters, consistency, plotting, or everything. After actually watching the other two movies, I've just come to the conclusion that these movies have ruined everything!

Not just Transformers or movies in general, but EVERYTHING!

So, here are the plots to all three of these movies. The military gets involved into finding out that there are giant robots or that they find out there's an end of the world macguffin. Suddenly, off to another part of the world, we are introduced to Sam Witwacky who is going through relationship and life problems. What does his story line have to do with the Transformers? Well....he eventually gets involved in their story-line and then he eventually learns something in the end and he gets the girl. Actually, a really, really, really weird thing about these movies is that you could take out the Transformers out of the Transformers movies and you wouldn't have affected the movie a lot. The title characters are inconsequential in their stakes and conflicts in their own movie. How is it that the Transformers feel like they're getting in the way of their own movies?

Also, the Transformers themselves are basically the worst from their design all the way down to their personality. All of them are one note, boring, and sometimes just out right racist(that part specifically goes to the second movie). Maybe the idea was to make a car changing into a giant robot look more realistic by giving busy and ugly designs with all of the moving parts look like they're being strung together by junk yard piles, but did anyone realize that they'd be worse off for doing it?

"Haha, very funny guys. Who smeared this crap all over my sunset picture?"

I think one of the biggest problems about this movie is how scattered it all feels. The movie is always running 4 or 5 different plot threads and they usually have nothing to do with each other besides having something to do with the giant robots. It's not just jarring to me that to movie has the audacity to switch from a complicated military issue to Sam's love life to government politics to a Tyler Perry movie, is it? And that's what it all seems to come down to as the movie just throws so much at us without giving any of it time to be fleshed out or workable in a story, making all of these movies feel like 500 hours long.

I have to give a special mention for the first movie as some people have told me that it was actually "pretty good, it just all went down hill by the second one" To that I have to say is...did we just watch the same movie? Did we see the movie that displayed blatant contempt for the franchise, its own characters, and even the audience? I'll say that out of all three of the movies, this one definitely felt more scaled back in terms of "noisiness" but I'm left in shock that anyone is able to say that "this was the 'good one'" without any hint of irony.

Really though, this isn't anything that you probably haven't heard already. We all know that these movies are bad and we all know the reasons why they are bad. Mostly because these movies are directed by Michael Bay, who isn't really a bad director(I really liked his last movie "Pain and Gain"), he just didn't seem to care to make these movies. There's a story that I've heard where he declined directing these movies the first time he was requested to do so, saying "I'm not doing that stupid, silly toy movie".

But it might have worked out with a toy car movie...

Of course, he isn't being done any favors when he's helped by *shivers* Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. I swear to god, everything those two writers touch just turns to solid crap by their inability to even tell the most basic of stories. I mean, they probably could, but it feels like they just don't want to. If Star Trek Into Darkness shows anything, they'd rather give off a plot that seems really complicated and meaningful only til you realize that there really isn't a plot at all and it's all being strung together by references and action scenes.

So, it's really all coming down to the fourth movie now and if it will be any good. Well, in the midst of all things, even if the first three were horrid abominations without any respect for anything ever, I'm still hoping it turns out to be...well, I was about to say good, but even just hoping for the movie to be "good enough" seems like your raising the bar too high. Let's just say "watchable" It does feel like that Michael Bay is getting pulled back in because the studios feel like he's the one for making them all of the money they need to build that dooms-day device, but at least the series looks like it's going to try something different. In the end, we can only wait and find out. But I guess I can say I'm caught up now.

Having said all of this, I think all I need to say is that the next person who asks me "What's the difference between Transformers and Pacific Rim?" is getting strangled.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Netflix Night

How to Train Your Dragon Again and 22 Jump Street seem to have no problems earning money over the weekend. Also, I'm not sure if this upcoming weekend is going to be good on their releases, although there is some hope with one of them(No, it's not Think Like a Man Too, how dare you!).

Since 22 Jump Street is review proof, not in that there's nothing I can say about the movie that would quantify as any sort of meaningful criticism because these movies "aren't supposed to be taken seriously" but in that anything I have to say about the movie would just be spoiling it on why it works and why the movie is just so damned funny.

So, let's do a one off thing! Are you looking through all of those Netflix titles and thinking to yourself "Man! There are just too many options. I don't know what to watch." Well, let me point out some of the more interesting titles. I can't guarantee that you'll like every one of these movies, but they are all "different" enough to warrant some kind of viewing.


I'm going to start off with a movie that's a little more simple. Not very many people went to see Dredd when it came out but, as far as action movies go, this one outshines even the biggest blockbusters. It's one of those movies that "goes big" by going small just by having the entire movie take place in one building. But, having everything feel contained is what works in the movies favor, much like in The Raid, as all of the stakes revolve around the main characters and it's not about some "end of the world" macguffin that tries to hide the fact that the makers didn't know how to actually put a story into there movie. So, it's really no wonder why a movie this small hits the mark better than most summer action movies with a wide scale in destruction. I think the most effective way to describe this movie is Die Hard but with Judge Dredd.

And, no, it's NOTHING like that one Stallone movie.


Once again, trying to keep things a bit simple here and to guarantee that what you'll watch is going to be something enjoyable. But Bernie goes for incredibly hard biting commentary on the life style in a small town and what was going through the mind of the person who committed an actual murder that happened in real life. Bernie mixes between this sort of faux-documentary style with actual movie story telling, but the transitions are seamless and it's engaging all the way through as it is funny. The fact that the movie can go into a true story with this sort of black comedy angle takes guts and skill; this movie has both.


So, how would a film play out where Elijah Wood plays a serial killer and the entire movie takes place in a first-person perspective in the eyes of said serial killer? If nothing else, the provocative nature of this movie is what makes it memorable but I'd go so far as to say that it's also just really, really good. Yes, the movie isn't going to be for everyone. Yes, the film is very dark, gruesome, and disturbing. But a film that's this bold and audacious plays out to be more than just a standard "slasher" movie. The movie is intimate on Elijah Wood's character while also having no problem with saying that, yeah, what he's doing is wrong.

At the same time though, it's definitely not for somebody with weak stomachs. I really liked this movie but be warned that this isn't really a fun movie to get into even if you are into this kind of stuff.

Only God Forgives

Directed by the same person behind Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn, this one is more interesting on a visual level more than anything else. I think it also might be fair to say that it's kind of indulgent as well, not in the sense that this guy just likes to see violent imagery and people getting killed in some horrific ways but in the way of how the director likes to film his movies. He's all about playing with the audience on this one with long visual cues and scenes that I'm not even sure if they really make any sense. However, I think I did like this movie even if I didn't completely understand it.

God Bless America

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was shocked, horrified, and even scared. A movie where a guy decides he's had enough with the sick trends and the blatant worshiping of being an anti-intellectual, so he decides to kill everyone who's a part of the problem? I mean, I agreed with the things that the main character was saying but I wasn't sure if I could handle the fact that he was going out killing people because of it.

But, after my trip to California, I feel a lot more okay about this movie than I did earlier. I think it really had a lot to do with being exposed to more reality TV than I would have like to have been(IE any reality TV at all). The movie is about as pitch black as a comedy as you can get with the movie still having a light hearted feeling to it. I guess that's about the only way you could really approach this movie without it seeming like a threat to most of humanity.

And, honestly, I think I did really like this movie.

Hot Rod

This about the goofiest movie I've ever really seen anyone attempt. Yes, it's even more off the walls than either of the Anchorman movies. A young man wants to live out his dream as a daredevil and, as you know, hilarity ensues. But the movie goes a step further by not just having its jokes be about the main character failing spectacularly but by also having all of the characters act in all of these bizarre ways in incredibly bizarre situations.

After showing this movie to my brother, he said it was pretty stupid even though he did laugh through a lot of the movie. And yeah, this movie does seem to aim for that kind of humor, but it does so with skill. It's not a smart movie but it's smartly made and these guys know how to tell their jokes.

So, cool beans!

Robot and Frank

A man with Alzheimer's is forced to have a robot helper because his son is really worried about him. Also, this guy likes to go off and steal as a hobby. It would have been easy to just have the movie be about a guy who's showing in his years and finally finds the strong friendship with his robot pal, but the extra turnaround where Frank actually doesn't really have a clean hobby and manages to get his robot to help him out is what makes the movie a little more complex than how it could have been. This movie has the ability to show that what Frank is doing isn't right while also being able to make us care for the character as it takes you along for a heartfelt ride. It might hit a little too close to home for some people but this movie really is quite a watch.

Fat Kid Rules the World

You know what I hate about some recent movies? How they try to frame one of their characters as an outsider, outcast misfit and it just becomes absolutely stupid because they are no different than any of the other actors in the movie. Movies like the terrible Carrie remake, the terrible Amazing Spider-Man movies, and the somewhat decent The Spectacular Now all fall into this problem where we're supposed to believe that the main character or one of them is supposed to be "weird" or someone that no one would want to be around for some reason.

Fat Kid Rules the World is pretty much the antithesis of that terrible drudgery. The main character is passive, alienated, hateful towards himself and others, but he is really sympathetic throughout the whole movie. However, something happens(I'm not going to say what) that ends up with him getting dragged around by a kid who wants to start him up in a punk rock band, even though the kid doesn't know how to play anything. I was a bit disappointed by the end of the movie when it the movie takes a shift onto the kid who's dragging the main character around because he has problems of his own. I mean, they give the main character an arc on how he starts taking a more proactive role in life, but, since this is one of the few times where I actually related to character, it kind of wasn't enough for me. However, the movie is really well written and well directed.

There were a couple of other movies I wanted to talk about but I wasn't sure if they were really "good enough." The two that stick out in my mind, and are actually kind of similar in strange ways, are Cash Back and The Lifeguard. Interesting in some parts but also sort of mind boggling in how they "miss the mark" as well. Maybe you'll see me talk about them later, who knows.

Friday, June 13, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Before I start, you should make an effort to go see 22 Jump Street. I can't delve too much into it to talk about why the movie is as good as it is, but it should suffice to say that it's really funny, incredibly smart, and it has a pseudo love story that plays off better than movies with serious love stories.

Also, Mild Spoilers from here on out, but it was either spoiled by the trailer or something that I'm sure people should be able to easily guess about a kids movie. So, here we go!

The first How to Train Your Dragon was a real surprise for pretty much everyone. It wasn't just a good movie but it was also an enthralling and engaging one with some admirable lessons about science and exploration. I'm not sure if it was really memorable enough to be more than just a really tight story hidden inside a big-budget kid's animation film, but everything really did come together so nicely in it. The visuals were great, the process of Hiccup training his dragon was fun to watch, and all of the designs for the dragons were just down-right awesome!

After we got things settled from the last movie which established Vikings having pet dragons in order to help their colony, where else could the story go in order to expand on a dragon-filled Viking universe? Well, this films answers this question by having more people needing to realize that they too can train their dragon.

Yeah, I'm really not all that sure about this one.

It's not that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is bad, in fact, there are lot of things about it that are really good. But my first instinct was to just write it off as a retread of the first movie, however it feels a lot more accurate to describe it as a celebration for the first film being an unexpected hit. The movie just sort of jogs in place as it just lets itself have a lot of things happening in it that might constitute as some sort of story or plot, which there is one, but it's pretty disjointed and thin. But, here it goes.

"Tell me the one again where nothing happens!"

So, the story starts off by showing how well the Vikings have taken to siding with the dragons and integrating them as a big part of their culture. Stoick, the chief of the entire Viking gang, has decided that his son, named Hiccup, is fit enough to become the new chief. However, Hiccup doesn't feel prepared into becoming the new Chief and he's been avoiding his dad because of this. When his girlfriend, named Astrid, finds him, she's excited for him and wants to push him along into this noble honor.

All of a suddenly, Astrid and Hiccup get attacked by seemingly rogue vikings. Though, it turns out that their village was attacked by a trained dragon army and they immediately place blame on the two people they see riding tamed dragons, thinking they are under the enemy master of Drago I'm-an-Evil-Badguy. When Hiccup tells his father of this encounter, it turns out that Stoick and Drago have had a history and that it's really hard to change Drago's evil ways. Hiccup is unconvinced and wants to try to change the heart of Drago.

Oh, and there's one part of the story that should have felt like a really big reveal only to come off as a way to just fit in a lot more dragons into the movie so it can lead up to the climax of the story.

So, even though this film is trying something a bit new and different with it coming down on the side of the grumpy disapproving father figure who knows that you really can't change the baddest of bad guys minds, it all really comes down to Hiccup still being more right in his methods than anyone else and that it's kind of hard to just not see that coming. Where as Hiccup and crew embrace the dragons as friends and loyal followers, Drago is the bad guy in that he takes the more hypnotic and cruel approach in controlling the dragons. Guess which side gets the award for winning by being good guys and by being nicer to the dragons which causes them to win the battle?

And, no, there aren't any prizes if you guess correctly.

It's not that I couldn't accept a plot like this in that Hiccup must learn to embrace responsibility as he inherits the role as chief, but I couldn't help but feel that the plot was a bit clumsily put together. It all starts off incredibly nicely and everything feels really tight. But, when it comes time for the second act , it just sort of feels like the movie is waiting around until an impressive big finale(No, not every movie follows a three act structure, but this one does and think it kind of suffers because of it).

At this part of the story, everything sort of takes this abrupt halt and lets everyone that isn't the main character go off and make sure that a plot is going to eventually happen. I was so disengaged with this part that even a big dragon battle just didn't feel like it was enough to keep me from feeling bored through the second act. But things do pick right back up at the end, as everything really comes together for an awesome closing act. It was finally around the time when the stakes to the story actually felt like it mattered.

If nothing else, it's definitely a great looking movie. It introduces even more dragons and all of their unique designs are just so awesome. There a lot of great scenes of Hiccup flying on his dragon and that he even gets to partake in flying on his own. Also, Hiccup has A FREAKIN' LIGHTSABER FIRE SWORD and one of the characters wore this unique costume that I just fell in love with. I really like the unique style of this film and how compelling everything is just on a visual level. This is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing movies since the last time vikings got involved on the big screen(Thor 2, in case you were wondering).

I'm not sure if they explain how this awesome sword works, but who cares? It's awesome!

In the end, I think I just wish the story was tighter through some parts and that it wasn't as predictable as it was. Sure, the movie sets itself up through a lot of surprising things, but it doesn't feel like it really does much with it. I felt like a couple of characters who were actually supposed to feel major and vital to the story just ended up being there in order to get the everything going. Still, there's enough good in here that I wasn't thinking that I wasted my time after leaving the theater. There are enjoyable and even engaging parts with the story and especially with the visuals. It just takes a bit of patience to get to these parts.

But at least the kids will like it.