Thursday, September 29, 2011

Movie Reviewed - Clash of the Titans (2010)

I never saw the original Clash of the Titans. I thought about getting it first from Netflix as I did with The Crazies and Dawn of the Dead, but for whatever reason, I ended up just getting the new one. Maybe at some point I'll go back and check out the original, but probably not anytime soon. I wasn't exactly wowed by the reboot.

The plot follows the myth of Perseus. I'm sure liberties were taken, but not knowing the original story, any discrepancies are incapable of bothering me. Which is kind of nice, having seen how people lost their shit when the elves showed up at Helm's Deep in the second Lord of the Rings film. The basic story is that Perseus is the half-human son of Zeus, he and other gods make various decisions regarding the mortal realm, monsters get involved...you know, standard mythology.

The special effects were pretty impressive, resulting in some very entertaining battle scenes with the aforementioned monsters. Perseus' traveling party also has some interesting members, which make the adventure more fun.

But the effects don't overtake the weakness of story or tepid acting in Clash of the Titans. While the action scenes are intense and fun, you simply do not care at all about the characters or their hardships. I think part of this comes from the innate difficulty of creating tension when a character may or may not be immortal. The fear of death is what makes a lot of stories engaging, and you're not really sure how mortal the half-son of a god is. Great acting could trump that (see Gandalf in Lord of the Rings), but there's no Ian McKellen in this film.

As I said, normally I watch the original movie before the remake, and that lets me feel comfortable watching the newer movie later, on the assumption that it'll at least be a little more watchable from a special effects standpoint. That's the circumstance with The Crazies, (though I actually enjoyed the original of that movie as well). So I don't expect to be watching the original Clash of the Titans any time soon.

Of course, that won't stop me buying that rum and..."Releasing the Kraken!"

The Last Word: I feel like the movie tried to get by on a few quotable moments and some dynamite effects, which happens all too frequently these days. The effects were fine, and the quotes were okay, but such things do not make a great film.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Movie Reviewed - For Your Consideration

Some of Christopher Guest's work is masterful. Best In Show was a great story about a lot of really compelling characters, portrayed perfectly. A Mighty Wind had a lot of that same magic. This Is Spinal Tap was decent, though didn't have the impact on me that it did for many others. So it stood to reason that I'd enjoy For Your Consideration, which features a lot of the same cast (Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, John Michael Higgins).

Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way.

For Your Consideration is a movie about a movie, which might make some of my description confusing. Anyways, the film is called Home for Purim, and it features a few lesser-known actors. Some way or another (it's never fully explored), a bit of Oscar buzz is generated about one of the leads, then another, then another. FYC follows the actors, the director, and other ancillary characters as the movie is tweaked, then completely altered, filmed, and reviewed. Their reactions are stereotypically Hollywood-ish, taking the whispers of awards and running with them, as far and as fast as possible.

Watching actors portraying "actors" acting like actors should have been an easy road to humor, but mostly it comes across as frustrating or disappointing. Honestly, the movie makes you wonder if the on-screen talent in the real world is just as shallow and jealous, and ultimately clueless. We all hear nice stories about Tom Hanks or Kiefer Sutherland, but who knows if they're accurate. Certainly we're at least willing to believe that a lot of Hollywood stars are more like the guys from Entourage and less like the guys from The Lonely Island.

Guest is well-known for having some looseness with his scripts, and sometimes that creates some gems, as I mentioned at the outset of this review. Honestly, A Mighty Wind and Best In Show are two really, really funny movies. For Your Consideration, though, shows you the risk you run when you allow actors to improvise dialogue. It can get messy, and unfocused, and if it's not funny, you just have a crummy movie.

The Last Word: Go watch the other two movies I mentioned. For Your Consideration is a pass.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Movie Reviewed - The Winning Season

I'm kind of a sucker for Sam Rockwell. He seems to do so well in every role he has, and does especially well when his character is some kind of sinner. Choke was strange, but entertaining. People will look at the lineup for Matchstick Men and deride it because of Nicolas Cage, but Sam Rockwell does fantastically well, and actually, Cage does a very good job as well. The Green Mile was fantastic all around, and Rockwell was as good as anybody.

As I've done with several other actors, I went through Netflix's instantly available movies and added anything that looked interesting and had Rockwell, and The Winning Season was on the list. So, even though my brother chided me for watching it instead of Iron Man 2 (which I've also seen in the meantime), I decided to kill some time one afternoon at work and watch this film.

The basic story is pretty straightforward: Sam Rockwell is a drunk who used to play basketball. An old friend offers him a job coaching the girl's team at his old high school. Once you get past the ludicrous idea that a girl's varsity team would have an independent coach, the plot carries alright. Rockwell does a great job of portraying a guy who you could believe has a good heart, but is buried under the demons of his past.

The progression of the movie is predictable, but sometimes that just means that you get a standard feeling of satisfaction at each turn. Early troubles, moment of clarity, small successes, obstacles, overcoming them, new and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, redemption, etc etc. It's completely unsurprising, but it's pretty well-written and very well-acted, so I wasn't bothered by that. Though, truthfully, I'm not someone who gets bothered by predictability very often.

I laughed more than a couple times at the film, and Emma Roberts is cute in a "man I wish I was still in high school" kind of way...as she so often is. And Sam Rockwell is very good, as he so often is. I'm glad I watched it...about as glad as I am that I watched Iron Man 2.

The Last Word: I don't know if I'd say it's a must-watch, but if you're bored and in mixed company, you could do a lot worse.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie Reviewed - Fanboys

Let's start with this: I love Star Wars. I know that it's got its flaws, and that a lot of people hated episodes 1, 2, and 3. But my dad watched Star Wars about a dozen times in the theater, and my whole family caught on to the fever. The Star Wars universe has produced some great stuff, like Star Wars - Pod Racer for Nintendo 64 and Knights of the Old Republic for Xbox. This movie, though, doesn't register quite so high on the list.

The plot of the movie is kind of questionable. By that, I mean that I was actually finding myself questioning parts of the plot. Like, "Really? I don't buy that." The basic story is that a few friends who've grown apart over the years are brought back together when one of them finds that he's got terminal cancer. The whole group loves Star Wars, and since Episode One won't come out until after the friend's expected demise, they resolve to break into George Lucas' home to steal the film and watch it while he's still around.

Here's the thing. This movie had all the makings of being really, really good. Anytime you have nerds creating a self-deprecating piece of media, you've got a chance at something fantastic (see: Internet). And they got kind of a fantastic lineup of supporting cast/cameos. William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Seth Rogen, Danny Trejo, Danny McBride, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Craig Anderson, and Will Forte all make an appearance at some point, and they all do pretty well. Oh, and Kristen Bell is walking around the whole time, looking awesome like she does.

So where did it go wrong? Well, the lead cast was actually pretty weak. Even Kristen Bell, as smokin' ass hot as she is, can't really carry a movie. The four main guys are all relative no-names, and none of them is some diamond in the rough that ends up blowing you away with his performance, like Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Superbad. Furthermore, as I said before, the story doesn't really engage you as well as you'd like, and it seemed like a conglomeration of scenes, rather than a fluid film.

In the end, I wish the movie had been better than it was. So many worthwhile contributors went in on the movie, you'd like to believe that they could put together something impressive. Especially when you're adding in the various Star Wars references that a guy like me can appreciate, it's a damn shame this wasn't a more well-made movie.

The Last Word: It had its moments, but mostly Fanboys was a disappointment, for how good it could have been.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Movie Reviewed - Big Fan

Maybe I think Patton Oswalt is funnier than he is. I recently watched a brief stand-up clip of his, and while I chuckled a couple times, I didn't have any laugh-out-loud moments. But somewhere in my head, I have it that he's some kind of comic genius. I know a friend of mine has relayed a few jokes of his, and he re-tells them better than Oswalt delivers them himself, so I'm sure that's part of it. Thankfully though, watching Big Fan has helped me to view him a little more objectively.

The story follows Oswalt's character Paul, a deadbeat toll booth operator who's a tremendous New York Giants fan. He's a typical fanatic, owning lots of memorabilia and calling in to late night radio shows to give his take on his favorite team. One fateful night, he has an unpleasant encounter with his favorite player, and Paul has to figure out how to react to an internal crisis. He's got friends, family, a detective, and reporters who try to get him to do one thing or another, but in the end he resolves his situation in his own way.

Oswalt is certainly believable as a kind of loser, living with his mother and being cynical and snarky towards his lawyer brother, and anyone else who isn't either a sports celebrity or in the same dregs as himself. And really, while the film doesn't boast a particularly impressive lineup of actors (Michael Rapaport is the only other big name here), everyone seems very real. It's movies like this one that make you wonder how much of our assessments of people's acting ability is related to their attractiveness. Like, is Natalie Portman a good actress, or do I just want to take her home with me?

In the end, though, the solid acting doesn't make up for a mostly uninteresting story and a script that doesn't make you care about any of the characters. Maybe their soulless interactions are part of what make them realistic, but if real life were that interesting, I wouldn't watch movies. I'm looking for something more when I watch a movie, and it just wasn't there in Big Fan.

The Last Word: I don't think I'd recommend it, but I couldn't say it was a total waste of time. Definitely not a contender for my "Movie of the Year" list, though.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...