Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Great Expectations: February 2012

On behalf of Hollywood, I apologize for having no Great Expectations for the month of January. Unfortunately, no movies came out in January that I wanted to see AT ALL. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy did hit my local theater in January, but, because they were actually released in December, I didn't want to give January the false credit. Luckily, for all you moviegoers, February does have a bit more promise (though it isn't much). Here are the three movies that I most want to see this month (in order of release date):

The Woman in Black (February 3rd)

Chronicle (February 3rd)

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D (February 10th)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

While I didn't quite understand what was going to happen in this movie, I did hope that I would be impressed with the storyline. All I did know about the movie was that it was going to be about the British version of the CIA. At least that's what I thought. This movie has received a lot of Oscar hype and even brought Gary Oldman his first ever nomination for best actor, so you just assume that it is going to be good. There were many great names attached to the film, such as Colin Firth and Tom Hardy. Everything about this movie pointed toward it being good, but I just had no clue what it was about. I don't know about you, but I love it when I have no clue about the movie heading into the theater. Everyone remembers how clueless they were when they went in to watch Inception, and some remember how clueless they were when they left. Based on this cluelessness alone, I had to watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

While I won't give away much here, I will say that this is the most complicated and in depth storyline of 2011. No other movie this year even came close to making me wonder what was happening, but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had me wondering the entire time. The problem was that I never really figured out what I was wondering about. Maybe I'm just not as smart as I think I am, but I left that theater not really knowing what just happened. The movie started very slow, and there were a lot of useless people walking around. I thought I was following it quite well, but I guess not. I can't really say if the plot was great or not, just because I didn't understand it.

As I said, this was a very star-studded cast, and it certainly didn't hurt the end product. Colin Firth was great as usual in the role of Bill Haydon, one of the top dogs in the British Intelligence. Another one of the top dogs was Toby Esterhase, played by David Dencik. Esterhase was a good character, but I just didn't understand how someone so nervous could possible work for the British Intelligence. Tom Hardy's character, Ricki Tarr, added a lot of depth to the plot, but I didn't see why anymore depth was needed. He was important but unnecessary, if that's even possible. Last, but not least, Gary Oldman was not impressive as George Smiley, not in my opinion at least. He certainly wasn't bad, but I don't understand how he could possibly merit an Academy Award nomination on this performance.

Best Character: Toby Jones is one of the eeriest actors on planet earth, and he added a great eeriness to his character, Percy Alleline. Many of you might remember Jones from Captain America. I just don't understand why he is so scary, but he just is.

Worst Character: Peter Guillam, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was probably the most useless of the useless characters. If they would have cut his character out, I think Smiley (Oldman) would have been a lot more interesting. They spent too much time on Guillam's back story, and it didn't matter one bit.

I honestly don't know what to say about this movie as a whole. I promise that you HAVE to pay great attention to every single detail, but I still can't promise that you will understand. Although I did understand bits and pieces, I will have to rent this movie in a few months to have complete closure. The biggest problems I had with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy were the very slow opening and the very quick ending. Not to discourage you from watching, but I just didn't understand. When I left, I wasn't quite as clueless as I was when I got there, but I was close. You may love it, though. Who knows? Because I didn't understand, I am not going to give a rating for the movie. If you are super curious, just go watch it...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

When I first saw the trailer for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, I was 100% hooked. Stories about 9/11 are always emotional and usually lean toward the sad side, but sometimes you want to see a movie like that. I don't know about you, but I get so sick of the happy endings that Hollywood pours out onto the big screen. Based solely on my knowledge of the preferences of the Academy Awards, I really thought this movie would do well when it came to picking up nominations, but it looks like it will be kept off the list this year. The biggest thing that worried me about this film was it's 50% rating on the Tomatometer. I tend to agree with the Tomatometer, so I just had to hope they were wrong when I went to see Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close...

This story is absolutely fantastic. It really has so many different elements, such as the whimsical nature of a kids adventure film, the emotion of a sad drama, and the mystery of a great thriller. As I'm sure you have seen in the trailer, Oskar (Thomas Horn) spends the movie searching for the lock that fits a key he finds in his father's closet. At the beginning of the story, I didn't think there was going to be much depth to his search, seeing as he is just a kid, but, by the end, I really REALLY wanted to know where his adventure would end. It was really a story about letting go and moving on but not forgetting what we learn from those who pass through our lives. There is a lot of depth to the plot, but I don't want to ruin it for you, so just watch it!

Anytime you have the likes of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, you can expect to have a great movie. Of course, Hanks and Bullock play Oskar's parents. Thomas Schell (Hanks) is killed in the twin towers on 9/11, and his wife Linda (Bullock) is left to deal with the effects of her husbands death on her own life, as well as keep Oskar stable, as he was very close to his father. While Oskar's parents were important to the story, they didn't see very much screen time. Oskar was the only one who was in the majority of the film, but he certainly wasn't the only great character. A man (Max von Sydow), known only as The Renter, really added an extra element to this film. He began going with Oskar on his quest and really helped him face some of his greatest fears. There were also many great small performances from characters that Oskar met throughout his journey. Everybody in the story had a common bond, and that bond was Oskar.

Best Character: Oskar Schell, played by Thomas Horn, is one of the most memorable characters of 2011. If you can't tell from the trailer, Oskar is a very different kid. He is certainly not a "cool" or "normal" kid, and it is obvious that his intelligence and quirkiness holds him back from the rest of society. At the same time, he is very lovable, and you really want him to succeed. He sort of reminds me of Mr. Spock, because he truly cannot find the logic behind his father's death. If you didn't know, Thomas Horn, who did a fantastic job playing Oskar, is a Kids Jeopardy champion. Director Stephen Daldry saw Horn on Jeopardy and knew that he wanted him to play the lead in this film. The fourteen year old Horn had zero acting experience before this film, which certainly makes his performance even that much more impressive.

Worst Character: William Black, played by Jeffrey Wright, was probably my least favorite character. He is greatly involved in the end of the movie, but I didn't think he did a good job of expressing the emotion that he needed to, in what is probably THE most important scene in the entire film. This could be Wright's fault or the fault of Daldry, but, whoever there is to blame, they need to be blamed.

I was certainly impressed with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and I don't know why the fancy Oscar critics don't think it is fantastic. The story was great. The cast was great. The end was great. There really isn't much more to making a great movie, if you haven't yet realized that in your lifetime. The connection between Oskar and his mom really got my emotions stirring, and I am no emotional individual. If you are a movie cryer, do bring the tissues. I was fascinated by the results of this film and the portrayal of a family, who lost their father on 9/11. The only negative to the entire film was a lack of humor. There were times when I laughed, but it was a bit awkward, We have all seen movies about 9/11, but I promise that this one is different. I give Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close 3.97 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Notscars 2011

Well, I hate to say it, but 2011 was a rather crappy year for movies. 2010 was one of the best in a while, but I guess they just couldn't keep up the good work. Obviously, I don't watch the movies that I believe look dumb, so it is hard for me to give an accurate list of the worst of 2011, but this is my attempt. You can consider this more of a "most surprisingly bad" movies list, considering I wouldn't have watched if I didn't expect a little something good. Nevertheless, here is the worst in 2011 movies. They are listed from pretty bad to awful (#1 being the worst).

Worst Actress in a Drama or Comedy

#5 - Kristen Stewart (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I)
I know there are some Twilight fans that read my blog, and I'm sorry if this upsets you. Kristen Stewart is not a good actor. I firmly believe that Robert Pattinson has a very bright future, but Stewart is an awkward person in an awkward role. She fits, but she doesn't shine. In this movie even more so than the first three, she just didn't impress me. She probably doesn't make a worst list for any of the other Twilight movies, but this one was bad for her.

#4 - Blake Lively (Green Lantern)
Firstly, Blake Lively shouldn't have brown hair. Secondly, she should stick to her ditsy Gossip Girl roles. She can't even act like she has a good amount of intelligence. Thirdly, she isn't at all to blame for Green Lantern sucking. She just sucked alongside a sucky movie.

#3 - Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Meester is certainly a young, annoying actress that really needs some coaching, but this was just rediculous. I'm not a huge fan of scary movies, but I have seen at least 100 that were better than this film. Meester was just the icing on a rotten cake. It probably wasn't all her fault, but she is getting the blame from me.

#2 - Lucy Punch (Bad Teacher)
You might think that Cameron Diaz deserves the blame for Bad Teacher sucking so bad, and you would be right. But we can't forget about Lucy Punch, who was probably just as awful as Diaz. Punch was hilarious in Dinner for Schmucks in 2010, but she just couldn't quite pull this role off. I don't know what the problem was, but there certainly was a problem.

#1 - Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher)
Wow! This movie was awful. And who better to pin it on than the lead actress herself. I must admit that I'm not a huge Cameron Diaz fan in the first place, but I really thought this movie was going to be good. Unfortunately, it was absolutely horrible. Earning Diaz the award of worst actress in 2011!

Worst Actor in a Drama or Comedy

#6 - Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman has the ability to play one of the widest ranges of characters, from Capote to the crazy guy in Twister. Unfortunately, he doesn't know how to play a Major League Baseball manager. This has to be one of his worst roles ever. He was just an awkward and unnecessary part of a great movie.

#5 - Ken Jeong (Transformers: Dark of the Moon)
What a funny man, and what a waste! I absolutely love all things Transformers, even through critics hate the movies. Unfortunately, Jeong's character was rediculously unnecessary and hopelessly stupid. Made me want to make a face like Mr. Wittwicky's here. Just go watch The Hangover if you want to feel better about him.

#4 - Hank Azaria (The Smurfs)
I am certainly not a kid, so maybe I missed the punchline with Azaria, but I doubt it. He wasn't funny. He was annoying. Kids go to movies to laugh, and I heard very little laughter when Azaria was on screen. Oh well.

#3 - Ian McShane (Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides)
Ian McShane is one of the scariest men to look at in the entire world!!! I have nightmares of getting into a staring match with him. Add to that, Blackbeard is just a scary pirate name, regardless of who plays him. However, Blackbeard was very very very not frightening, and there is no one to blame but McShane himself. It's just unfortunate. That's all.

#2 - Taylor Lautner (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I)
Sorry girls, but it's just awful. I thought maybe he would get better as time passed, but I'm afraid there may be no hope for Lautner. I have provided a naked picture of him, in order to make you feel better about my harsh comments. At least he is only next to worst!

#1 - Patrick Dempsey (Transformers: Dark of the Moon)
Once again, Mr. Wittwicky's face perfectly describes my emotions: "Why is he even here????". Transformers would have been twenty times better if McDreamy would have stayed at home. Nobody understands Michael Bay, but this move was ridiculous. Unfortunately for Dempsey, this role will grab him my award for Worst Actor of 2011!

Worst Picture

The Tree of Life
I truly and honestly HATE! to admit that I am at any fault in basically any situation. I will argue with anybody until they realize that I am right (usually they just get sick of arguing and walk away). With that being said, The Tree of Life blew my freakin mind. I didn't understand anything that was going on. The movie has gotten great reviews and has a chance for a best picture nomination, so I figured I didn't need to miss out. I tried so hard to comprehend the stupid thing, but it just wasn't happening. While I am an average guy, I usually don't mind the "critic's choice" type movies. Sure The Social Network should have won best picture last year, but The King's Speech was fantastic, regardless of what you think. Even with my patience and brains and appreciation for good movies, I had zero clue what was going on in this stupid stupid film.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I
For one of her Christmas presents, I agreed to watch Breaking Dawn with my girlfriend, who had been begging me to go. As a kind gesture, I didn't write a review on the movie, in order to avoid upsetting the fans of the Twilight movies. However, when I sat down and compared all of the movies I have seen this year, it was necessary to include this film on my list of worsts. While I have previously dogged the acting a bit, the real issue can be boiled down to one single problem: they should have made just one movie for the last book. As I sat there watching, I just couldn't believe how drawn out the entire thing was. I mean, COME ON! It was like 30 minutes of wedding, then 30 minutes of honeymoon, then an hour of pregnancy! If you cut those times in half, you come up with one hour, which gives you plenty of time to add the rest of the info from the last book. If they had made one movie for the last book, it probably (more like possibly) wouldn't find itself on this list.

The Smurfs
As I said in my review of this film, I am a huge fan of the classic Smurf cartoons, so I felt obligated to go watch this movie. As I sat in the theater, I quickly realized how obligations often suck. This movie was so very far from funny! It was just plain awful. I can't remember a single good thing about it. Maybe the little kids loved it, but I just highly doubt anybody in their right mind could have enjoyed any portion of this movie. I didn't hear much laughter from the kids, and laughter is traditionally how you measure whether a kid enjoys a movie. They don't care about plot structure! I just hope these kids are given a chance to watch the old cartoons, so they can really know what The Smurfs are all about.

Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides
When I heard they were making a fourth Pirates movie, I immediately knew it was gonna suck. The Curse of the Black Pearl is my favorite movie of all time. There is no telling how many times I have watched it. When you watch the first three movies, you long for more and more Jack Sparrow, because he is obviously what makes the movies. So you would think he would be ok without Elizabeth and Will to balance his idiocy. Unfortunately, he was not. There was too much Jack Sparrow, and none of the additional cast was good enough to correct the issues. As you saw already, i was not impressed with Ian McShane in the villain role, and they made Barbosa a good guy? What is wrong with these people???? While I'm sure they will continue to ruin the franchise, this guy knew ahead of time that they should have stopped while they were ahead.

Bad Teacher
So you would expect that an R-rated comedy with the word BAD in it would be rather vulgar, perhaps just downright ridiculous. You would think that kids would be cursing left and right and the whole movie would consist of Cameron Diaz washing her car in that skimpy outfit. Well, if you expected these things, you would not win the prize with Bad Teacher. I just don't understand how this movie could be soooooo bad. It seems like such a great idea, and the cast was fantastic! Ahhh! I hate it when good ideas are wasted, and Bad Teacher is one great idea that went right down the crapper. They should have really just called the movie BAD, because that's all it was.

#1 (Worst of the Worst)
Green Lantern
In brightest day...... Green Lantern sucks. In darkest night...... Green Lantern sucks. In the in between of dusk and dawn....... Green Lantern continues to massively, perpetually SUCK. If you haven't seen this movie, I almost have to hold back the urge to tell you to watch it. If I had to suffer through it, then so should you. Originally, I was so so very excited about this movie. The costume looked cool. Ryan Reynolds is funny yet manly enough to be a superhero. Peter Sarsgaard is as scary as a bad guy can be. Plus, Blake Lively is smoking hot. I mean, this movie had so much going for it! Then I saw the trailer, and my expectations dropped from high to hopeful. Maybe they are just holding back on the good stuff, I thought to myself. Unfortunately, they held back on the good stuff for the entire length of the film. Let me give you three reasons why Green Lantern is the worst movie of 2011. #1- Too much CGI. The suit was never actually a suit. It was always digital. Reynolds probably wandered around the set naked through the entire filming process. Also, the secondary characters were as real as the smurfs. Actually, the smurfs probably would have done a better job. #2- The storyline was awful. Nobody could have possibly given a crap about Ryan Reynolds in the amount of time they used to introduce him. He was supposed to be getting this sort of "second chance," yet we never knew he had a first chance. #3- (This is the big one) The movie was WAAAAAY too short. They spent almost an hour and a half setting up the story by explaining who Hal Jordan was and who the green lanterns were. Then there was like two seconds of action where the Green Lantern was struggling to defeat the evil bad guy. Then, as a "great finale," he does what he should have done at the beginning of the two seconds in order to defeat evil bad guy. That's pretty much it. I can only hope that next year doesn't feature as many just plain awful films. At least none that are as bad as Green Lantern.

Here is a list of movies that I deemed too dumb to watch in 2011. These movies would probably be joining the worst list if I had watched them:

  • Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star
  • Shark Night
  • Real Steel
  • Cowboys & Aliens
  • Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
  • Sucker Punch
  • Larry Crowne
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • Change-Up
  • Abduction
  • Footloose
  • Happy Feet Two
  • Jack & Jill
  • The Darkest Hour

***To everyone who has been discouraged by the results of The Notscars, please do not be sad. In a few weeks, I will give you a list of the best in movies from 2011. Keep checking in over the next month for that list plus new reviews!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

The original Mission Impossible was an amazing thriller that almost everyone watched, including myself. However, I have never seen the second or third installment of the franchise, so I did not really know if things were heading downhill or not. Ghost Protocol was getting fantastic scores on the Tomatometer, and it was making a lot of money, so I figured it would be worth watching. I have all this free time until next semester starts, so I gotta fill it with something. Unfortunately, I am usually not a fan of big movies that are all spectacle and no storyline. I don't care if someone can shoot 1,000 people in a movie. I don't care if there is a ton of blood. I don't care what a computer can put on a screen. But I needed something to watch...

Well... the storyline was a bit shallow. What made the original so good was the twists and turns along the way, especially with Jon Voight's character being the bad guy and such. With this new movie there were very few twists and hardly any turns. You knew at the beginning of the movie what they were trying to accomplish, then they just took a long hour and a half to complete their mission (should they choose to accept it). However, I must admit that I was a sucker for the cool, innovative gadgets that the IMF crew used in Ghost Protocol. Also, the action was actually pretty cool. Ghost Protocol was certainly not the typical, boring action film, even though it did lack depth.

Best Scene: Giant chase scene in a sandstorm. Sounds cheesy, but I promise it's fantastic.

While the action was only pretty cool, the characters were fantastic. Tom Cruise was a bit dramatic as usual, but he is always a good lead. He has gained this strange respect that makes him completely different from his rebellious, Top Gun days. Cruise's character Ethan Hunt has become like a wise old man, who isn't really that old. As Cruise does get older, many people have a theory that Jeremy Renner's Brandt will be taking his place as the lead in the Mission Impossible series. Renner was good in Ghost Protocol, but I don't think he is good enough to run the Mission Impossible and Jason Bourne franchises at one time. Along with Brandt, another new addition was Paula Patton's Jane Carter, who is great in her manly woman role.

Best Character: Benji Dunn, played by Simon Pegg, was easily the best character. Benji is absolutely hilarious, which makes the movie not so dorkily serious. Pegg is getting better and better in this comedic relief role, and I can't wait to see him again in the second Star Trek film.

Worst Character: Trevor Hanaway, played by Josh Holloway, was the only really awkward part of the entire film (except for the final scene). Hanaway is Jane Carter's love interest, but he is killed in the first two minutes of the movie. I don't know how we are supposed to give a crap about her feelings for him if we only know him for two minutes!

Ghost Protocol was one of the best action thrillers in a while, and, considering it had not real storyline, that's saying something for whoever was in charge of the actiony stuff. The characters were really really good, and that also surprised me. I really hope they don't let Renner take over the series. He wasn't bad, but he just wasn't Tom Cruise's kind of good. The biggest problem with the film was the ending. It was overly dramatic and dorky, but at least it wasn't too drawn out. I certainly suggest this movie for most everyone, especially any guys who are usually fascinated by shallow movies such as Wanted and Taken. I give Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 2.90 out of 5 stars.