Sunday, November 2, 2014

Nightcrawler - Take a Walk on the Creepy Side With Jake Gyllenhaal (Spoiler Free)

It was several months ago when I first heard something about Nightcrawler and about how good Jake Gyllenhaal was in it.  I’ve liked him in other movies, so that did get my attention even though I had no clue what the movie was about.  Even once I started to see previews, I wasn’t completely sure of the plot, but I wanted to see the movie. 

I am only going to briefly discuss the plot of Nightcrawler and I will not be sharing any major spoilers.

**Minor Plot Discussion**

Louis Bloom is doing somewhat questionable work in Los Angeles while being on the look out for something that could become a career.  By chance, he sees someone, Joe Loder, show up at the scene of an accident and start filming.  Lou learns that Joe goes to the scenes of accidents or crimes, films footage, and then sells the footage to whichever local news station will pay him the most.  Lou decides to try that type of work, gets an older video camera and scanner, and starts filming.  He gets footage his first night that Nina Romina, the night news director of a local television station likes and buys.  She says that Lou has a good eye, tells him to bring her anything else he gets, and suggests that he gets a better camera.

It isn’t long before Lou gets himself an assistant, Rick.  Lou continues to provide footage to Nina and he makes enough money to get better equipment and a new flashy, fast car.  Lou learns more about the news business in general and uses that knowledge to his advantage in his relationship with Nina.  Lou does have a talent for the work, but he starts to do questionable things to get footage at times, and that eventually lands him on the radar of the police.

**End of Minor Plot Discussion**

Nightcrawler is an entertaining, though somewhat disturbing, thriller that is well worth watching.  Things do start off a little slow as Lou is introduced and the situation is set up.   The slower pace at that point works for the story, showing how Lou begins his new career.  Things do pick up in certain scenes, like when Lou is driving like a maniac through Los Angeles to try to be the first at a scene while Rick freaks out in the passenger seat.  The plot is interesting and it is entertaining even though there are disturbing elements to it.  There are some graphic things shown at times, mostly connected to the stuff that Lou records and some swearing.  The movie does deserve the R rating and it is not a movie for children.

I have no idea how accurate the work that Lou got into is depicted in the movie.  I know large cities have more crime and more accidents.  I don’t live in a big city, though I do get local stations from one and there are stories about local crime and accidents.  I honestly don’t know if those stations send their own crews to those different locations or if they get footage from a freelance journalist like Lou.  It seems believable, and I know that the paparazzi sort of does the same thing, just by following celebrities instead of crimes.  Several scenes do take place at the station where Lou sells his videos.  Nina is a bit manipulative with the stories she edits and she is willing to use stories and footage that are questionable if she thinks it will get the station better ratings.  Later in the movie, she does talk to someone else at the station about what they can legally air, but even then, she talks about being willing to get fines for airing the footage.  Some of the news broadcasts are shown.  Early in the movie, Lou is captivated by seeing his footage on the news at home.  There are at least a few real broadcasters from Los Angeles in a few scenes here and there.  It does seem like Nina is willing to show stuff that is more graphic than what can actually air, though I know some stations keep trying to push that line. 

While I think that Nightcrawler is a thriller, there really isn’t any mystery to what is going on.  Lou’s background is a complete mystery since really nothing about his past is shared.  He does mention at one point that he didn’t go to college, but he took at least one class online.  Lou does several unexpected things throughout the movie which does keep things interesting.  The movie is definitely not predictable.  I don’t think the movie is action packed, though action does turn up in some scenes, usually when Lou is driving like a bat out of you know where to get somewhere in a hurry.  Later in the movie there is definitely building tension to what is going on.  At one point, Lou is chasing other vehicles involved in a high speed chase.  That sequence is very well done.  There is a little bit of humor here and there that briefly lightens the mood, but the movie is far from being a comedy.

Most of the movie takes place during the night when Lou is working.  He is shown filming several things, though he spends more time in his car, driving around while listening to the scanner.  That may sound boring, but it truly isn't.  Just about all the interactions between Lou and Rick happen in the car.  Even the scenes that take place at the television studio take place during the night, and there is dark lighting there as well, almost as if the station can’t afford to use lights at night.  That does cause some interesting lighting to be used throughout the movie.  At times the lighting does intensify Lou’s creepy look.  I did recognize some of the street names mentioned, though I have no idea if scenes were actually filmed in those places. 

Nightcrawler revolves around Lou and he is probably the most unique character I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.  He is ambitious and willing to do just about anything to reach his goals.  He is smart and he learns things quickly, which does help him in his new career.  It also helps him to do some of the more questionable things he does as well.  He can talk the talk, and while not everyone buys his line, he does convince several people to do what he wants.  This guy could probably sell igloos to Eskimos.  Lou does have a talent for getting the type of footage that Nina wants.  He wants to be the best at his work, and when something doesn’t go his way, he can get unpleasant.  Lou remains calm and seems to be polite with people he is upset with, but that doesn’t stop him from issuing threats while still talking in a calm tone with a pleasant - for him anyway - expression on his face.  He is twisted and creepy in a whole different way because of that.  He really isn’t a likable character at all, but he is fascinating.

Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely amazing as Lou and he makes the movie.  He has a somewhat different look for the character, with hair that is an odd length - too long to really be short, but not long enough to really be long - and a gaunt look to his face from losing twenty pounds.  The weight loss make his eyes look slightly sunken, which adds to the creepy look.  Even when he smiles, he still looks creepy.  In some ways, he is even creepier when smiling.  At times, as things happen, this sort of crazed look comes into his eyes, making him look borderline psychotic, extremely creepy, and borderline crazy.  I have no idea how he did that, but it is very effective.  I will be surprised if Gyllenhaal doesn’t get award nominations for this performance.

Nina is the news director that first buys Lou’s footage.  She likes his work, including that he gets graphic, bloody, images at times.  She seems willing to put just about anything on air if it will get ratings.  Nina does try to establish some boundaries with Lou, but that ultimately doesn’t work.  At times she seems just about as crazed as Lou.  Renee Russo is really good in the part, though I wasn’t fond of the dark eye makeup she always wears.  A few other people around the station turn up every so often, but none of them receive as much attention as Nina. 

Rick is desperate for a job when Lou hires him.  Rick is in charge of navigation to get them to the different scenes while Lou drives like a maniac.  Rick buys into what Lou tells him during the interview, though he starts to have concerns about certain things tied to the way Lou does things.  He seems nice enough, though he doesn’t get much development.  Riz Ahmed handles the part well.  Joe Loder is the freelance video journalist that ends up getting Lou interested in the work to begin with.  Joe has been doing the work for a long time.  At one point he shares plans for expanding his business.  Joe does seem to feel threatened as Lou gets better at the work.  Bill Paxton is only in a few scenes, but he handles the part well. 

Nightcrawler is a very well done, somewhat disturbing thriller.  It probably won’t appeal to everyone, but it is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of Gyllenhaal.  I do think it is worth checking out in theaters.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Expendables 3 Suffers From a Bloated Cast



3 Out of 5 Stars

I do like action movies and don’t even mind some that have major plot issues at times.  I have enjoyed a lot of movies that Sylvester Stallone has been in over the years.  I really enjoyed The Expendables when it came out and I enjoyed the sequel The Expendables 2 as well.  That is why I was interested in seeing The Expendables 3 even before I knew much about the plot.  I did enjoy the movie when I had the chance to see it, but I don’t like it as much as the first two movies.  This one has more issues.

Barney Ross and the team are on a mission to rescue former Expendable Doc.  He has been held prisoner for several years and is currently being moved on a train.  Doc was one of the first members of the Expendables and none of the other guys know him.  The next mission goes bad when Barney recognized Conrad Stonebanks, the man who started the Expendables with Barney originally.  Conrad went rogue and Barney has believed him dead for years.  One of the guys is injured, and feeling guilty and wanting to avoid that happening again, basically fires everyone and then recruits new, younger mercenaries.  Eventually everyone has to work together in an attempt to face Conrad.

There is no indication of how much time is supposed to have passed since the end of the second movie when The Expendables 3 begins.  There isn’t any sort of recap to anything that happened in the previous movies.  The events in this movie don’t directly build on the first two movies since there is no continuing story line.  It is kind of interesting to find out a little more about the founding of the group, but even with finding out about Conrad, there isn’t that much shared.  Barney and Conrad’s conflict works well enough as a story even though it isn’t developed as well as it could have been.  Much of what happens seems to be an excuse for more and more wild action scenes.  It just would have been nice if the story had been a little stronger.  There are attempts at humor throughout the movie, with some working better than others.

Over the top action scenes turn up throughout the movie.  There is all kinds of shooting as well as some fist fights.  Doc uses knives, much like Lee, which causes some conflicts between them.  As the movie continues, the action sequences just get bigger until there is absolutely no hint of believability to what is going on.  A handful of people with limited weapons is supposed to take out what amounts to an army, complete with helicopters and tanks.  It does get a bit ridiculous.  All sorts of nameless characters are injured or killed in some way, especially later in the movie.  Despite that, the movie is rated PG-13 instead of R like the first two in an attempt to get more younger viewers to see the movie in the theater.  It is true that there is very little if any blood shown even with all the injuries and killings, but the rating still doesn’t seem right to me with how high the body count is.

A lot of the cast has been in all three movies, but this one also has several new, younger members.   Frankly, too much time is spent with the new members at the expense of the returning characters.  The new members don’t stand out at all really.  One of them is a woman bouncer and another one is a former member of the military who doesn’t like taking orders and seems a bit moody.  I didn’t particularly like or care about any of them.  I liked the characters from the first two movies so I wanted to see more of them, not younger moody people I don’t care about.  Before seeing the movie, I didn’t realize that the younger members of the cast were going to receive the most attention, with the older members being shoved to the background for the most part while the new guys crack jokes that involve calling the older members Grandpa.  I wouldn’t have minded so much if there was just one or two younger characters added, but a whole new younger team was overkill.  That, along with adding Doc, Bonaparte, Galgo, Drummer, and having Trench around a bit more, has the cast just too big.  That results in none of the characters getting enough attention and there really isn’t any character development.  By trying to feature every member of such a large cast, it ends up with no one really featured.

The set up with Doc and how they rescue him is interesting, then in no time, that is forgotten to focus on the new team.  A big part of the appeal of the first two movies was the fact that they featured several older action stars together in one movie.  This movie went to far off track that idea by focusing so much on the new younger team.  Adding Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford would have been more than enough and would have fit in more with the original set up. 

Ronda Rousey, a mixed martial arts figher who currently has at least one title, plays Luna, the woman bouncer that Barney adds to the new team.  Really the only thing that stands out about her is that she is a woman who acts tough.  I didn’t particularly care about the character and I wasn’t that impressed with her acting.  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either.  Kellan Lutz, who played one of the moody, sparkly, vampires in the Twilight movies is John, the kind of moody former Marine.  I do wonder if anyone involved in the casting was hoping that some of the Twilight fans would follow Lutz to this one.  Thorn is some kind of veteran who is really good with computers and Mars is a sharpshooter who has a fear of heights. 

Lee, Yin, Gunner, Toll Road, Hale Caesar, and Trench are all back, with some of them doing more than others.  They were all fine in what they were able to do.  Doc starts off looking like a bit of a wild man.  He quickly proves that he still has his work skills.  Wesley Snipes is good in the part.  Galgo is a kind of older mercenary who is desperately trying to get on a team again.  He talks a lot.  I liked Antonio Banderas in the part.  Bonaparte is someone that Barney knows who is helping find the new team.  It seems like Bonaparte has done mercenary work in the past.  Kelsey Grammar only has a few scenes.  Harrison Ford is in a few scenes as Drummer, a CIA agent that gives Barney missions.  Drummer is replacing Church, the character the Bruce Willis played in the first two movies.  Willis was originally going to be back, but then he wanted more money for only four days of shooting, so the character was removed.

Conrad started the Expendables with Barney years ago.  Somewhere along the way, Conrad starting turning more and more to the criminal side.  There was some sort of confrontation and Barney believed that he killed Conrad.  Instead, Conrad was able to become a huge arms dealer and he lives a lavish life.  He is ruthless and he decides that he is going to take out Barney and the team.  Mel Gibson does a good job with the part.  This is the first time I’ve seen him play a bad guy, but he handles it well.

Overall, The Expendables 3 is entertaining though it does have story issues and too many of the cast - the ones that many people probably want to see - are under used.  I have heard that there are plans for a fourth movie.  If that moves forward, I think it needs to return to the main cast from the first two movies and get the cast size back under control. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams - A Farewell to My Favorite Entertainer

I am still a bit shocked and very sad about the passing of Robin Williams.  He has been my favorite actor for most of my life and I even did a paper on him in college.  I don’t know how well I can articulate everything I have been feeling since learning about it, but I decided I needed to try.  My thoughts may jump around a bit, but that seems fitting since that is frequently what Robin did.  At this point, I have been working on this off and on for a few days because it has taken me this long to get my thoughts in some semblance of order.

I went about my day on Monday August 11, 2014, running errands and things.  I didn’t bother to watch the news - I don’t watch the news all the time because I just get tired of hearing about all the crime and negative stuff.  That night, I was minding my own business, looking through some posts on Facebook when I was stunned to read one about Robin Williams dying.  I immediately went to other sites, hoping not to find confirmation that it had happened - not that I think the friend that posted would have made it up, but I just didn’t want to believe it.  I still don’t. 

Over the years I have felt sad when different celebrities have passed away without getting too upset or crying.  I almost always end up shedding a few tears during the memorial segments on different award shows.  This time it is different.  I have cried several times over the last several days, and that will probably continue to happen for a while.  The only other time the passing of a celebrity has hit me this hard was with Jim Henson.  I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, and since Henson was responsible for so many of those characters, it was like they died too at that point.  Mork & Mindy is one of the few shows I remember watching from the early 80s, so I guess I connect Mork, and therefore Robin with my childhood as well, which may be part of  why this has hit me so hard.  It may also be because it is just so sad that such a talented and gifted man is gone.  Finding out that it was suicide and that he had been severely depressed lately makes it sadder.

I am not in any way judging him for this.  It just makes me sadder that his depression got to such a point where he felt this was his only way to deal with it.  Unfortunately, it seems like others are judging.  I have seen nasty comments left on articles and videos.  There are people who are calling Robin a coward and selfish because of this.  He is a man who spent the majority of his life making other people happy.  He has done all kinds of work for various charities, a lot of which he didn’t talk about because he wasn’t doing it for the publicity.  He did it because he cared, something a selfish person wouldn’t do.  He was suffering from an illness that still has a stigma attached to it.  Someone who seems to be a well known blogger wrote something about it that I chose not to read because just the title ticked me off.  It seems like most of the people who have been posting these rude, judgmental, and even nasty things are people who have never had to deal with the type of severe depression that Robin was battling.  They have no idea what type of torment he felt or how he suffered.  They should be glad they haven’t.  Thankfully I have never had to deal with depression, and I hope I never do.  I do understand that it is an illness that people should not be criticized for having.  Some of the things that some people have said online, or even in some of the “news” reports have the potential to be harmful to people dealing with depression.

Over the years, Robin has battled addiction and depression.  Some of that has come out in his work, with him referencing the battles in his stand up.  He has played characters that have problems with depression.  There was even an episode of Mork & Mindy in which Mork learns about loneliness, and the episode does have some serious moments.   Years ago I saw either an interview or read one in which he talked about having insecurities.  It can be hard for people to grasp that someone who was as funny as Robin was could have insecurities and suffer from depression.  It seems like many funny people, and gifted people as well, end up dealing with some form of depression.  Having money or a successful career doesn’t make a person immune to depression. 

Depression does not discriminate and it can be incredibly hard for people to overcome.  It isn’t just feeling sad and people can’t just make themselves happy.  It isn’t like a cold where a person can wait it out or get some type of medicine to deal with the symptoms until it is gone.  There is no magic cure or magic pill.  What helps one person won’t necessarily help another.  While there are medications that can help, it can take a long time to find the right balance.  A medicine that had been helping can stop for whatever reason, starting the search for the balance all over again.  If a person also has to take other medications, they could cause interactions that mess things up.  Medications interact with each other in weird ways at times that can cause complications.   The side effects for a lot of medications mention depression, including some medicine used to treat depression.  There is at least one medicine used to treat depression - I can’t remember which one, but I have seen a bunch of commercials for it - that mentions, in addition to increased depression, suicidal thoughts and actions as side effects. 

On Wednesday, I was horrified to read that some people attacked his daughter for what she has and hasn’t shared online about him, claiming that she hadn’t shared enough pictures of him or some such nonsense.  No one, no matter how famous, is obligated to share every part of their life with the world.  No one has to take pictures of their every waking moment and post them online.  Famous people have a right to privacy too.  No one should be attacked for not sharing enough about their personal life online ever, and it certainly shouldn’t happen after someone has died. 
Friends and family members of someone who has died should not be attacked or criticized for how they grieve.  I don’t understand how or why those people have been doing this.  What is the matter with people?  That is an extra special level of cruel.

Robin Williams made the world a funnier, happier place.  I feel lucky to have been able to watch his many wonderful performances over the years and to have been touched by his brilliance in that way.  I have seen recordings of some of his stand up performances that I enjoyed greatly, but I was never lucky enough to have seen him perform in person.  That would have been something very special.  It would have truly been an honor to have been able to meet him, even for a brief time.  I was thrilled when he was in a new comedy series, and then disgusted when CBS cancelled it while renewing the ever more horrible Two and a Half Men.   Now that he is gone, the world is a sadder place.

I always loved to see Robin on talk shows.  He was the most entertaining guest, bouncing from thought to thought at lightening speed.  He was greatness in action.  When he would crack up over something, his laugh was infectious.  Not all comedians can really do improv, even though many of them seem to think they can.  It takes a very special type of talent to consistently be able to do that in front of a live audience and actually be funny. Robin was the best at it.  That is very different from certain actors who think doing improv is doing take after take after take until they decide something is funny when filming a movie.  Robin was a truly gifted, talented performer.  He was a comedy genius the likes of which I don’t think we will ever see again.

Not only was he hilarious, he was also very good at more serious roles.  One of his early movies was more serious - The World According to Garp - and it was made during the time he was playing Mork.  I haven’t seen all of his movies, but I have seen a lot of them.  I traveled about an hour and a half to get to a theater to see One Hour Photo because it wasn’t at the local theater.  The main reason I wanted to see the movie was because he was in it.  Even many of his funny performances have serious, emotional or downright sad moments in them.  In Mrs. Doubtfire, he was hilarious dressing up as an elderly Scottish nanny, and those outrageous moments are probably what many people remember the most from the movie.  I remember that his character dearly loved his children and would do anything to stay a part of their lives.  Late in the movie, during a court scene, he is absolutely heartbreaking talking about how much his children mean to him. 

I have several of his movies on DVD and I will probably pick up more of them at some point.  I actually did look a few up on Amazon only to discover that they are out of stock right now so they got added to my wish list.  I do sort of feel like having a marathon, starting with the three seasons of Mork & Mindy I have on DVD - I have been hoping for years that the fourth will be released - and continuing with the movies, but I also feel like it is a little too soon for me to do that just yet.  I have watched some clips from some things I hadn’t seen before, and others I had over the last few days.  While they have made me laugh hysterically again, I have also ended up crying again and again and again for various reasons, like just that he is gone or because of something sweet or touching said or done.  I know that I will lose it at the end of Aladdin the next time I watch it, but I will watch it again, along with his many other movies.  I will laugh again, sometimes hysterically until I can’t catch my breath, and I will cry again.  What I won’t do is ever forget him or the joy he has brought me. 

Robin Williams was a very special, talented man who was able to touch his fans in ways that left an impact.  That is why so many of us are so sad right now.  Even though we never actually met him, it feels like we have lost someone close to us.  It takes a special type of person to be able to make that sort of connection to so many people. 

Robin Williams will live on . . . as a grown up Peter Pan, a dedicated English teacher, an outrageous disc jockey, Popeye, a troubled homeless man, a few psychiatrists, a Russian defector, a disturbed photo technician, a killer, animated penguins, the President, Teddy Roosevelt, various doctors, the author son of a feminist, a firefighter who moves to the Caribbean, a banker stuck in the past, a used car salesman, an animated bat, a goofy toy maker, an actor who dresses up as an older Scottish, female nanny, a boy trapped in a game for twenty-six years, a boy who ages four times faster than normal, a flamboyant gay night club owner, a distracted professor, an android, an animated robot, the twisted, corrupt host of a children’s show, a man taking a vacation with his family, a man struggling with the aftermath of loss, an eccentric minister, a father trying to protect his son after death, an advertising executive, a centuries old genie who ultimately gains freedom, and a sweet, kind, gentle, loving alien from Ork. 

Robin Williams will not be forgotten, but he will be greatly missed.

Nanu nanu.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy is Still Awesome on Second Viewing



When I really enjoy a movie, I will watch it multiple times.  That is why I have as many movies on DVD and Blu-ray as I do.  I usually only see a movie in the theater once, but I am willing to see some movies more than once while in the theater.  So far, the most I have gone to the theater to see a movie is four times for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.  Over the years, I have seen several movies twice at the theater.  I haven’t done it as often in the last few years, partly because of opportunity and partly because there weren’t as many movies I was interested in seeing at the theater twice.  Earlier in the week, I decided to see Guardians of the Galaxy again.

I absolutely loved Guardians of the Galaxy when I saw it on opening day.  The movie is fun and entertaining with a great soundtrack. Probably within a day of seeing the movie, I was thinking about trying to go see it again.  I ended up waiting until Tuesday because I was going to have several hours in between two work related classes and I didn’t want to make two trips into the office.  If that hadn’t been happening, I think I would have gone again on Monday. 

There weren’t as many people there the second time, but it was a decent amount for early afternoon, especially considering it was a 3D showing.  For whatever reason, there are only two show times at the local theater for Guardians of the Galaxy that aren’t in 3D.  The very first showing every day is discounted even more on top of the matinee price, so there could have been more at that time - I missed that showing because of the first class.  Everyone in the theater seemed to really enjoy the movie - all of us stayed through the credits for the extra scene.  Yes I had already seen it, but I wanted to see it again too. 

I noticed a few more things here and there that I had missed the first time I saw the movie.  I noticed how Yondu’s mohawk turns red at times, especially when he is using his whistle controlled arrow.  I paid more attention to one character when he turned up because I figured out from reading the credits the first time that Nathan Fillion did the voice for that character.  The voice really sounds nothing like Fillion.  I noticed more cool things with the special effects, including with the 3D.  Since there weren’t as many people there, I was able to hear a few lines that I had missed previously thanks to the laughter of the audience.  I did notice the one character from the scene after the credits earlier in the movie - no I’m not saying who it is.  The character in question can be seen in the background when the main characters go to see the Collector.  There isn’t a closeup of the character or anything like that.  It is really just a silhouette, but that is enough to make it clear who it is.

Guardians of the Galaxy holds up very well on a second viewing.  I enjoyed the movie just as much as I did the first time.   Honestly, I would be see it in the theater again if I got the chance.  I would even pay the higher price for a 3D showing again.  This is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a long time.  I will definitely be adding this to my movie collection.

This review is part of elvisdo’s 7th Annual Funny Pages Write off.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy is Awesome (Spoiler Free)



5 out of 5 Stars

Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest Marvel movie.  I have been looking forward to seeing it for months, ever since I saw the first trailer that has Hooked on a Feeling playing.  The movie is very fun and entertaining and it is definitely worth checking out.  It does build on what has happened in previous Marvel movies and sets up things for future movies while still standing alone fairly well. 

I am only going to briefly discuss the plot for Guardians of the Galaxy.  People who prefer not to know anything about the plot before seeing the movie should skip the next paragraph.

** Minor Plot Discussion **
Peter Quill is abducted from Earth in 1988, just minutes after his mother passes away.  Twenty-six years later, he is calling himself Star Lord.  He ends up in a world of trouble when he manages to find an orb that Ronan, a Kree, is trying to retrieve for Thanos.  Ronan sends Gamora, an assassin and Thanos’s adopted daughter, after Peter.  Gamora and Peter end up in prison along with Groot and Rocket, where they meet Drax.  The five decide to work together to get out so they will have a chance to stop Ronan and Thanos.

** End of Minor Plot Discussion **
There is a cute scene at the end of the movie, just as the credits are starting.  There is a scene after the credits that ties back into something that happens during the movie.  All of the Marvel movies have done this, and with most of them, the extra scenes hint at something that will be coming in some way in a future movie.  Another Marvel character is introduced in the short scene.  I did recognize the character, but I have no idea what is being planned there.  I honestly never expected to see that character show up, and I am now wondering what Marvel is planning since all the other characters introduced in this way have turned up in later movies so far.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the based on the Marvel comic book.  I have never read it, so I have no idea what has stayed the same and what has been changed.  I hadn’t even heard of Guardians of the Galaxy before Marvel announced that they were making the movie.  I didn’t know what to expect from the movie, even after seeing the first few trailers, but I still wanted to see the movie.  I’m very glad that I saw it. This is one of the best movies of the year.

Peter is first shown as a child in 1988.  The movie only spends a few minutes on that point in his life, but it is a rough few minutes.  The movie then jumps forward twenty-six years to show Peter as he is finding the orb.  From that point on, things move at a fairly good pace without feeling rushed.  The story works well overall.  It is very interesting and entertaining, blending in some touching moments with really funny things.  Some of what happens is just flat out bizarre - one of the characters is a talking raccoon and another one is a sort of tree that can only say I am Groot  - but it all works perfectly to make an awesome movie. 

All of the main characters say and do things that are funny in some way.  All the humor gives a movie a lighter feel overall even with the emotional moments.  Music also plays a part in what is going on since Peter’s most treasured possession is the mix tape his mother made for him of songs from the 70s and 80s.  Those songs actually work very well with what is going on when they are heard.  I am slightly disappointed that more of Hooked on a Feeling isn’t heard during the movie like it was in one or two trailers.  Other characters react oddly to Peter’s music, and at one point, he even uses it during a confrontation in an unexpected way.  In another scene, Peter shares the legend of Footlose and hero Kevin Bacon.  The music also serves as a connection to Earth and his mother for Peter, so it is understandable why he is so protective of his walkman and the mix tape.  I do wonder where he got batteries for the walkman over the years.

I ended up seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in 3D because of the show times.  For whatever reason, all but two of the show times are in 3D at the local theater.  I do think the 3D was pretty good and that it added to a few cool images.  I think the movie is also showing in IMAX 3D at some locations.  Everything looks wonderful throughout the movie.  Several things are created with special effects that are done well. 

There is a decent amount of action to what is going on without things getting too graphically violent overall.  A few things happen that are more violent and could be upsetting or even disturbing to some viewers.  There are different fights, including a few involving space ships, that are done well.  I think there is a decent amount of action in the movie overall.  I think of the movie mostly as a fun action adventure in space.  The movie is rated PG-13, so parents should keep that in mind when deciding on taking kids to see it.  There is some swearing, though nothing extreme and the word that rhymes with luck is not used.  Peter does make an obscene gesture at one point, though it is done in a funny way. 

Guardians of the Galaxy has an interesting group of unique characters.  Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax are basically misfits who are thrown together by circumstances and end up finding a way to work together.  They ultimately become friends and discover that their individual strengths compliment each other, making them stronger together.  Peter is a bit of an outlaw who has a rather inflated view of his own reputation.  Chris Pratt is perfect in the part. 

Gamora was raised by Thanos and turned into an assassin after he killed her family.  She sees the current situation as her way of getting away from him.  She is very good at fighting and does have some trust issues.  Zoe Saldana is good in the part.  Nebula, who is part cyborg,  was raised with Gamora and the two have issues.  Nebula has issues with Thanos as well, though she seems loyal to him.  Karen Gillian is really good in the part.  I don’t think I would have recognized her if I hadn’t know she was playing the part since she looks so different. 

Rocket and Groot have been working together for a while as some sort of bounty hunters/mercenaries.   Rocket is a raccoon that has been experimented on, giving him the ability to talk.  He is very fond of large weapons.  The voice Bradley Cooper does for the character fits him very well.  Groot is basically a walking tree who is very good in fights.  Vin Diesel provides his voice even though he only says one thing.  He does say it in different ways, and it seems like Rocket is able to pick up on more other things that Groot means.  Drax is after vengeance for his family.  He wants to kill Ronan and even go after Thanos, and his need for vengeance causes him to make some stupid decisions at times.  Dave Bautista is fine in the part. 

Ronan is the main villain of the movie.  He wants revenge against enemies of the Kree, and he is determined to get it.  Most people are afraid of him since he will not hesitate to use deadly force.  Lee Pace does well with the part.  Thanos is just briefly in the movie, though it is clear that he has bigger plans.  I believe that Thanos will be playing a bigger part in future movies.  Josh Brolin performed as the character for motion capture and provided his voice. 

Yondu is a bandit that has basically raised Peter.  The two have some conflicts.  Yondu isn’t really a bad guy, but he isn’t really a good guy either.  Michael Rooker does well with the character.  Glenn Close is in a few scenes as Nova Prime, the leader of the Nova Corps who are in charge of protecting the planet Xandar.  John C. Reilly turns up in a few scenes as Rhomann Dey, a member of the Nova Corps. Benicio Del Toro is The Collector in a few short scenes.  Stan Lee makes another short appearance somewhat early in the movie.  Nathan Fillion has a small cameo, though I think, now that I figured out which character it was, that he just did the voice.  Director James Gunn has a cameo too, though I didn’t manage to spot him.

Guardians of the Galaxy is absolutely awesome and definitely worth seeing in the theater.  People who have liked the other Marvel movies will probably enjoy this one as well even though it is a bit different.  This is one of the best movies of the year.

This review is part of elvisdo’s 7th Annual Funny Pages Write off

Thursday, July 31, 2014

22 Jump Street - Overload of Crude Humor



2 out of 5 Stars

I try to keep an open mind about new movies.  I tend to give most movies a chance, even when I am not particularly fond of members of the cast.  With some actors and actresses, it is a little harder for me to do that.  Originally I really wasn’t interested in seeing 22 Jump Street.  I only recently saw the first movie, and, well, it wasn’t a favorite.  I don’t really like Jonah Hill, though I have managed to like some of his movies.  I ended up going to see 22 Jump Street.  I should have followed my initial instincts and avoided it.

After somehow managing to be successful with their assignment out of 21 Jump Street that sent them back to high school looking for drug dealers, partners Jenko and Schmidt have trouble with other assignments.  They get a lead on Ghost, a drug dealer, but mess up in a big way and are sent to 22 Jump Street - across the street in a different abandoned church from 21 Jump Street.  Captain Dickson assigns Jenko and Schmidt to go undercover at the local college to find who is suppling a new drug called WHYPHY that has been linked to the death of a student.

It doesn’t take long for Jenko to start up a friendship with Zook and Rooster, fraternity brother football players.  Schmidt doesn’t fit in with them at all and he starts feeling left out.  He does manage to start a relationship with art student Maya even while being looked down on by Maya’s roommate Mercedes.  Jenko and Schmidt start to drift apart and the investigation, as well as their friendship, suffers.

During the first several minutes of the credits, there are a series of clips from fake sequels that have Jenko and Schmidt going undercover in other schools, like medical school, culinary school, and a seminary - in which Seth Rogen replaces Jonah Hill as Schmidt because of “contract negations”.   The clips are amusing.  At the end of the credits there is a short scene that ties back into something that happened earlier during the movie.  I’m guessing it was supposed to be funny, but I didn’t think it was.  It was just an attempt at a joke being taken too far yet again.

While I did laugh here and there at things happening in 22 Jump Street, I didn’t find the movie that funny overall.  Far too often, the “jokes” fell flat for me.  From very early in the movie there are a lot of jokes about movie sequels being exactly the same as the first movies, how a bigger budget doesn’t guarantee success, and how all sequels stink.  The movie is very self aware, including through the clips during the credits.  That stuff is fine at first, but it gets old fast.  The same thing happens any other time something actually funny happens.  The writers didn’t know when to quit.  Mercedes spends just about every minute she is on screen making cracks about old people and how ancient Schmidt is.  That was just stupid.

There are a lot of gay jokes tied to the relationship between Jenko and Schmidt.  There are some tied to Jenko’s growing friendship with Zook as well later in the movie.  The first few of those jokes was fine, but again, the writers didn’t know when to quit.  It got to a point where it was uncomfortable that they were resorting to that sort of joke again.  The humor would have worked better overall if there wasn’t so much overkill with certain types of jokes going on.   It is almost like someone decided that if it was funny once, then doing the same sort of joke 900 more times will be absolutely hilarious.  It isn’t.  I don’t mind dumb comedies or silly movies at times.  This one just didn’t work for me.  There some pop culture type references, including references to Batman, Robin, and Spider-man.  Sexual references, some of which are rather vulgar, are used throughout the movie.  They are something else that I think were intended to be funny that weren’t.

I don’t know if everything in the movie was actually scripted or if improvisation went on during filming.  Jonah Hill is part of a group of male actors who do a lot of improvisation during their movies.  They seem to think anything they think up on the spot is hilarious no matter how stupid it is.  Saying whatever pops into your head and then laughing doesn’t make something funny.  Some people are really, really good at improvisation, but not everyone is.  Hill - and the group of actors that includes Seth Rogen - isn’t that good at it.  I have seen extras on some DVDs that have actors going on and on and on, trying to come up with something funny by just spewing nonsense.  A lot of the stuff that Mercedes says about how old Schmidt is has that sort of feel to it. 

The few action scenes do seem a bit exaggerated and over the top.  There is sort of a chase at the beginning, and a longer chase later that has Jenko and Schmidt going after two different suspects.  The action does take a back seat to the attempts at humor.  Some violence is in a few scenes without the movie being violent overall.  The word that rhymes with luck, along with variations of it, are used by just about every character, something else that is over done.  Drugs play a part in what is going on, including when Jenko and Schmidt unknowingly ingest some and have a weird trip.  The movie does deserve the R rating, and it isn’t one that children of any age should see.

I didn’t think any of the characters were that interesting.  Jenko is good looking and becomes popular at college, but he is dumber than a box of rocks.  That makes it harder to believe him as a college student than the fact that he is older than his classmates.  Schmidt is overly needy and clingy where Jenko is concerned, but he is still somehow able to hook up with Maya, a girl well out of his league.  Jonah Hill didn’t annoy me as much as he has in other movies, but he still isn’t funny.  Channing Tatum really isn’t funny either. 

Maya is just a pretty art student who has a family member that could add complications.  Mercedes is a waste most of the time.  She and Schmidt get into a fight at one point that is just ridiculous.  Captain Dickson is only around in a few scenes.  He mostly is yelling about something.  The Ghost is a drug dealer the guys are after at the beginning who may or may not turn up again later.  Rooster and Zook are the football playing frat brothers.  Neither of them seem that bright either.  Zook is around a little more since he becomes more of a friend to Jenko.  I didn’t realize that Wyatt Russell was playing Zook when watching the movie.  Different students are around briefly without them adding anything to the movie.

22 Jump Street has a few moments here and there that work or that are funny, but overall, it just isn’t funny.  I know the movie has gotten a lot of good reviews, but I don’t understand that.  I don’t get what is so good or entertaining about it.  This is definitely not a movie for everyone.

This review is part of elvisdo’s 7th Annual Funny Pages Write off because of the references to Batman, Robin, and Spider-man.   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tammy



3 out of 5 Stars

Melissa McCarthy has become very popular in the last few years.  I think she is very funny and have enjoyed movies she was in, so I have wanted to see Tammy, her new movie.

The day is already going bad - car issues and being fired - when Tammy arrives home and discovers that her husband is romancing another woman.  Tammy packs up a few things and heads two houses down to her parents’ home.  When her mom won’t turn over a car, Tammy decides she can take her grandmother’s car.  Pearl is willing, but only if she goes with Tammy.  The two head off on what ends up being a wild road trip, complete with drinking and a robbery.

A few short things are shown during the first few minutes of the credits, including one blooper.  There are no additional scenes at the end of the credits.  There isn’t a 3D option for this one.

Things start happening within the first few minutes of Tammy, setting up that this is just the most recent bad day that Tammy has had.  It quickly becomes clear that her life isn’t the greatest.  Some of that is her own fault and other things aren’t.  There are times when I felt really bad for her.  Pearl has her own issues that come to light during the trip.  That does sort of add a few complications to what is going on, but the plot is fairly straightforward, though it isn’t completely predictable since there are a few small surprises here and there.  Some people could be disappointed by the fairly simple plot. 

Not everyone is going to like or appreciate the humor in Tammy.  Some of it is rather crude or rude, involving obscene gestures or language.  The word that rhymes with luck, along with some variations are used repeatedly throughout the movie by just about every character.  All the foul language may offend some people.  I don’t mind if that sort of thing is done a few times, but it does get old after a certain point.  Bad language by itself isn’t funny.  I do think that Tammy is funny overall, though it could have been funnier.  There are funny things that weren’t in the trailers, but there is also something that has been in trailers that wasn’t in the movie for some reason.  A few references are used at times as well, mostly to things that a younger person will not get.  The only one I can remember now is when Tammy mentions the old tv show Falcon Crest

Tammy is not a family friendly movie, though when I saw it, someone decided to bring a herd of children, who ended up sitting just one seat away from me.  The movie is rated R for a reason, and young children really should not be seeing it.  The movie is probably all right for teenagers.  Parents should check the movie out first.  In addition to all the swearing, there are some sexual remarks and a few borderline sexual situations as well.  At one point, Pearl is picked up by Earl while Tammy and Earl’s son Bobby watch.  Pearl and Earle end up in the backseat of the car before locking Tammy out of the hotel room.  Pearl demonstrates more bad behavior by offering Tammy beer when Tammy is driving and spending a lot time drunk.  The two women share a few things, some of which are a bit disturbing. 

Pearl and Tammy serve as the main characters and each of them have some issues.  Pearl spends a lot of time drunk, and at least once, she is shown starting to drink really early in the day.  Pearl is a bit wild at times, especially where Earl is concerned.  Susan Sarandon is all right in the part, though she doesn’t seem old enough to have a granddaughter Tammy’s age - or daughter the age of Deb for that matter.  It is a little odd to see Sarandon in this type of part, but I think she handles the comedy well.  I do think she was funnier in the few episodes of Mike & Molly she was in last year.  Deb and Don are Tammy’s parents.  Deb is not happy about the road trip at all and she doesn’t come across as that supportive at times.  Alison Janney is fine in the part even though she isn’t old enough to have a daughter the age of McCarthy.  Don only shows up very briefly late in the movie, so Dan Aykroyd don’t get much to do.

Lenore is Pearl’s cousin who ends up helping Pearl and Tammy at one point.  Kathy Bates is fine in the part even though she doesn’t have much to do.  Sandra Oh has even less to do as Susanne, Lenore’s partner.  Earl is a drunken mess and a mostly flat character.  Gary Cole really just has to stumble around and make out with Sarandon.  Bobby is Earl’s sort of responsible son - Bobby did take Earl out drinking after all.  Bobby doesn’t get much attention either, but he seems nice enough.  Missi is the woman that Tammy’s husband Greg is seeing.  They are only in a few short scenes, so Toni Collette is wasted in the part.  Ben Falcone is good as Keith, Tammy’s jerk boss. 
Tammy, as the main character that the movie is named after, ends up with the most to do.  She has a fairly crappy life.  She tends to complain about things without doing much to try to change things.  She isn’t the brightest crayon in the box and she clearly has issues.  She usually makes bad decisions, though at one point, she does that with good intentions.  She still manages to be mostly likable even though she has some moments when it is difficult to like her.  Melissa McCarthy is fine in the part.  She, along with her husband Ben Falcone, wrote the movie and he directed it.  I do think it could have been better.  Tammy really isn’t that different from the parts she has played in Identity Thief and The Heat, so I can see why some people say they are getting tired of her doing the same thing over and over. 

Tammy has problems and could have been a lot better, but it isn't as bad as some have said.  It does manage to be funny and entertaining, but it isn’t as good as The Heat.  Fans of McCarthy will probably want to check out of the movie.