Monday, May 27, 2013

The Great Gatsby


Expectations:
While none of you will be surprised to hear this, I have never read The Great Gatsby... I will say, however, that I loved Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. That does not qualify me to speak on Fitzgerald at all, and, aside from watching that film, I have very little experience with Fitzgerald, his work, or the story of Gatsby. Luckily for you, that means that I can give you an honest opinion of how the movie was done, without worrying about the book. I don't know about you, but I get sick of people using books as an excuse for a famous book-based film's success or failure. For instance, many people pick apart the big changes that I unfortunately know exist in the various Nicholas Sparks-based films (per my girlfriend), and they love to blame this change on the filmmakers. They can't look at the film without considering the book. However, there are many films that people do not even know came from books, yet they give the filmmakers a hard time for the story (a story that they did not even create!). The third act of last year's Silver Linings Playbook has been greatly criticized, but the book dictates how the film ends. In this case, they refuse to look at the book, and, instead, give David O. Russell a hard time! Excuse my rant, but I hope some of that made a little sense... I thought Gatsby was going to be really cool and interesting, especially with the artsy touch that was added, so I was excited to get to the theater...

Plot:
The first half of Gatsby was very interesting and intriguing. I really loved the setting in which Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway was placed, and I could really see myself being in the exact situation (had I lived in the 1920s). His story was very interesting, and I wanted to know the outcome. However, there were times when the film shifted too far from Carraway and gave too much focus to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). If the story would have been more about Carraway's struggles in New York and less about Gatsby's struggles to find love, I would have enjoyed it much, much more. As the story went on, the entire theater sat and waited for the twists and turns to come along... And then we sat and waited... And then we sat and waited some more... Some people sat and waited in the bathroom (old viewers/long run-time)... Then I gave up hope, and just accepted that this film would leave me unsatisfied.

Characters:
There were many characters that I had mixed emotions about. Most of the characters I somewhat enjoyed, but I wished that their stories had been more dramatic and maybe a little more consistent. In the first hour of the film, I thought Carey Mulligan's Daisy was going to be one of the best characters I had seen in a long time. Mulligan was really in touch with the character, at first, but, as the story moved along, I didn't much care for her anymore. Similarly, my opinions wavered on DiCaprio's Gatsby, who I couldn't decide whether to like or hate. It was quite a roller coaster of a film but not in a good way.

Negatives:
Honestly, I do not care for Joel Edgerton at all, and I think that is probably the only reason that I did not care for his character, Tom Buchanan. Regardless, I didn't like him. Also, as far as the story goes, I did not like how insignificantly significant Amitabh Bachchan's Meyer Wolfsheim turned out to be. The character barely had two lines, but they just kept on and on talking about him throughout the film.

Positives:
Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway was by far my favorite character in the whole film, and, if the story had truly focused on Carraway, rather than Gatsby, I would have enjoyed it so much more. Maybe Tobey Maguire isn't so bad after all.

Conclusion:
The Great Gatsby suffered from a less than fulfilling storyline and an extremely bold and unnecessary artsy focus. The trailer sold the film as a twisty thrill ride, with shocking moments and deep characters. Unfortunately, the film fell short of that thrill ride, because there really was not huge twist ever, which was quite disappointing. Also, the visual extremities were completely unnecessary. If this story would have been told in a more simple manner, I probably wouldn't have expected so many big twists and turns, allowing me to really appreciate the story line. Was I intrigued the whole time? Pretty much... But, I was never satisfied with what I found on the other side of my intrigue. I was hoping that the film would inspire me to read the book, but I doubt that will ever happen now... Oh, well... I give The Great Gatsby 2.45 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Hangover Part III


Expectations:
If there is one thing that I've heard too much of over the past couple of years, it's people complaining about The Hangover Part II. I'm sorry, but I don't understand how people could not like it! Those characters in those situations create absolute hilarity, regardless of how original the storyline is. In my opinion, raw, R-rated comedies, like The Hangover, are meant to do ONE THING... make you laugh. While watching The Hangover Part II, you may not have had a huge, life-changing moment, but I have a good feeling that you did laugh. Was Part II as good as the original? Absolutely not! But, nothing is!!!! People just need to learn how to be content. So, needless to say, while everyone else was hoping for a franchise turnaround with The Hangover Part III, I was just hoping for more of the same.

Plot:
Congratulations, folks! You got what you freakin wanted! In an attempt to appease the masses, Todd Phillips and company threw out everything from the past two films and started from scratch. If you don't want to see The Hangover Part III because you are worried about having to watch more of the same from the last two films, fret not. In what was meant to be "Allen's story," it turned out to be "the wolfpack chases Chow," and, with the focus on Allen, the laughs were sparing on the parts of Phil and Stu, which kind of sucked. In my opinion, the story would have been more interesting if they had just stuck with the same old wedding adventure from parts I and II, but, instead, they attempted to create something new and completely failed.

Characters:
If you've seen either of the first two films, you know that these characters are absolutely great, and I have a great amount of love for them all. However, in Part III, the characters were not given a chance to do their thing. Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) took a backseat to everything and really had no dog in the fight at all. After the success that Bradley Cooper has had over the past few years, I'm surprised that he agreed to do this film in which he barely matters but is always there. Of course Allen (Zach Galifianakis) was hilarious, but I think he is getting a little less funny at this point. Also, he changes a lot during the film, which does not fit the character that we have all grown to love.

Negatives:
After his small, hilarious turn in the first Hangover film, I think it is safe to say that Ken Jeong's Chow has been over-utilized at this point. I won't spoil anything, but Chow had too large of a role in a film that was supposed to be a swan song to the wolfpack. On top of that, what made him relevant was the addition of John Goodman's Marshall, who I didn't find the least bit intimidating or interesting. Finally, Mike Epps's "Black Doug" made a disappointing return in the film. Epps brought many laughs in the first film, but he was just too serious this time around.

Positives:
Maybe I'm already suffering from Office nostalgia, but I really thought Ed Helms did a great job of bringing the laughs in Part III. Without the crazy, wedding night "demons" that Stu had faced before, I was wondering if he was going to bore the audience in this film. But, when he was given a chance, I think he made me laugh more than anyone else, so kudos! The only other character that I really loved was Grant Holmquist's Tyler. Of course, the last time we saw Tyler, he had recently had his named changed from Carlos, which fits him better anyway. That scene with Holmquist and Heather Graham was quite impressive and probably the high point of the entire film for me.

Conclusion:
I was quite disappointed in how the wolfpack went out in The Hangover Part III. Not only was the story quite dull, but the laughs were few and far between. The Hangover began the craze of over-the-top, hardcore, raunchy comedies that have been coming our way for the past six years, and that's what made it so great. Unfortunately, there was a lack of raunchiness and laughter throughout this film. It was as if they were trying to end the trilogy on a serious note, and it just fell oh so short of succeeding. I'm pretty sure that everyone will say that the post-credits scene is their favorite, and that scene is the only real over-the-top, Hangover-esque scene in the entire film. If this film had come along before Part II, people would have begged Todd Phillips to return to his original formula that he used to create the first two films. To all of you who begged for something different, you got it! Now, as I go to my grave with disgust toward the final installment in The Hangover trilogy, I won't blame Todd Phillips or the cast. Instead, I will blame the millions who moaned and groaned about the second film. Because IT WAS FUNNY!!!! I give The Hangover Part III 2.11 out of 5 stars and apologize for this great rant.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

 

Expectations:
If you’ve ever read my blog, it’s likely that you know about my great love for J. J. Abrams. Some may even call it “an obsession.” However, as someone who is often asked for his opinion on entertainment issues, I believe this obsession is healthy! Regardless of my love for Abrams, 2009’s Star Trek was absolutely brilliant, and I believe that most people would agree with me. The recreation of the classic Star Trek characters was done so, so well, and I don’t think it really received the praise that it deserved. Of course, as good as the first film was, my expectations for Star Trek Into Darkness were very high, and I honestly believed that Abrams could pull it off. On top of that, he kept almost every detail of the film secret. There is nothing more exciting to me than a director hiding details! Really, there was not even a small piece of me that thought this film could be bad… AT ALL!
Plot:
Because of the secrecy of the trailers and the news, I will avoid saying too much about the plot of Star Trek Into Darkness. I will lead off by saying that, after watching the film, I don’t really understand the broad title, so don’t try to find answers in the “Into Darkness.” With that being said, I thought the storyline, along with the twists and turns, was great. Abrams managed to fit a lot of happenings into a short (for a blockbuster) two hour run time, and that made me happy, because I was able to go to bed at 2:30 on Wednesday night, after the midnight premiere. I will say that there were a few extremities, with regard to the events of the film, which were a bit over the top. However, the entire Star Trek name encompasses nothing but over-the-top extremities, so it is to be expected.

Characters:
The only real problem that I had with Star Trek Into Darkness was the lack of screen time for some of the main characters. Somehow, in his first Star Trek film, Abrams was able to create a back-story for every single character from the original Star Trek cast and come up with a time-travelling storyline featuring two Spocks (all in just over two hours!). In the sequel, it seemed like situations were created just so the characters would have something to do. In particular, John Cho’s Sulu and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov just didn’t have anything to do, and I like each of those characters, so it was tough for me get over that. Very few of the characters were BAD, but many were a bit underutilized, in my opinion.

Negatives:
The only real negative in this film was the random addition of Peter Weller’s Marcus. While the character was important, I just didn’t like the fact that he became SO important SO quickly.

Positives:
If you've seen 2009's Star Trek, you know just how great the entire cast of this film turned out to be. Honestly, there were no low points in the casting of the first film, which is so so so rare when dealing with a remake of any kind. If you take a great cast and use that entire cast in a sequel, you are most likely going to get success in the category of "characters." That was certainly the case with Into Darkness. Every returning cast member was just fantastic, and I really thought Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto excelled in furthering the relationship between Kirk and Spock. This film leaves you with no doubt that you care about both of these great characters. In addition to the returning cast members, Benedict Cumberbatch's turn as bad-guy John Harrison was brilliant. Filmmakers are getting so good at creating villains, and I'm quite glad.

Conclusion:
Iron Man 3 may have been a good start to the summer movie season, but it's highly unlikely that any other May film will shine quite like Star Trek Into Darkness. A successful cast and storyline usually make for a good film. Throw in the great ending and the graphics, and Into Darkness is a GREAT film! With J. J. Abrams jumping ship to helm the next Star Wars film, the future of the Star Trek film series is in question, but we can all hope that whatever comes next is somewhere close to the greatness that was Star Trek Into Darkness. If you haven't seen 2009's Star Trek, watch it! If you don't really care for science fiction films, watch this one! With the great plot and great characters, you will forget that space is even a part of the equation. I promise!!! I give Star Trek Into Darkness 3.93 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Farewell to The Office


I debated whether or not to write this post, because it has nothing to do with movies, but my love for The Office overcame my love for keeping my blog movie-focused. Rarely will anything have such a large impact on my life for this many years, so I deemed it necessary to wrap my head around what the show has meant to me and put fingers to keyboard in an attempt let you know how I feel about this great show--a show that made me laugh, and a show that made me care...

This post is interactive, so you must watch the videos to play along. Whether you love the show or you've never seen a single episode, watch the videos! You will be glad you did! Also, I made none of these videos, so kudos to the folks who gave me the luxury of a YouTube search. Enjoy...

Start Here:




They Made Me Laugh:

Some of my favorite characters:

Stanley Hudson- As the office downer, Stanley was always able to bring a smile to my face. Blunt humor just cracks me up, and, when he was in a good mood, it felt so genuine. My favorite Stanley moment was when he had his heart attack, and, of course, Michael tried to revive him in the name of the president being black. It was so great!

Kevin Malone- After Michael Scott left The Office, the lesser characters really had a chance to steal the spotlight, and nobody stole my attention quite like Kevin Malone. I honestly can't remember a recent episode in which Kevin didn't crack me up. Kudos to Brian Baumgartner for bringing him to the spotlight.

Erin Hannon- When Pam became a saleslady for The Michael Scott Paper Co., I never thought that she would remain in that position. I did not think that the show could go on without Pam behind the reception desk. Then, in walks Erin--the ditsy, cute, and HILARIOUS new receptionist. She makes you feel so bad for her, in her constant state of stupidity, and you can't help but laugh your butt off at everything she says and does.

Michael Scott- Steve Carell made The Office what it was, and there is absolutely no denying that. His hilarious antics and amazing approach to management opened the door for so many great moments that will have me laughing forever. It was a sad day when he left, but it was an amazing farewell to an amazing actor, comedian, character, and what seemed like an amazing friend.

Some of my favorite funny moments:

Andy falling in the lake in a sumo suit- There is absolutely nothing in this world that can make my mother laugh as hard as she does when we watch this episode. Maybe watching her laugh is the reason that this scene makes me laugh so much, but it really is hilarious:

 
 
 
Bro's Before Ho's- This is probably the greatest quote from the entire series, so you must watch:
 

 
 
 
Dwight Traps Bat on Meredith's head- Little did we know that Dwight was giving her rabies! But, Michael saved the day, by hitting her with his car:
 
 
 
Michael vs. Toby- The relationship between these two is absolutely hilarious. Poor Toby:

 
 
Michael Declares Bankruptcy- Just so you all know, this is NOT how it works:
 

 
 
Jim and Pam's Wedding Dance Down the Aisle- I'm sure you have all seen the YouTube video of the people dancing down the isle at the wedding, but, with these characters involved, it's just soooo much funnier:
 
video
 
 
They Made Me Care:

Some of my favorite emotional moments:
 
Michael Proposes to Holly- After a failed attempt to propose with gasoline, Michael Scott is able to propose in only a way that Michael Scott could. This scene was done so perfectly, and it was the moment that made me realize how much I would miss him.

 

Michael Scott says 'Goodbye'- Because I'm posting this before the final episode, I don't know how emotional I will be during the finale this week. However, to this point, Michael's farewell was the saddest moment on The Office, even with the amazing moments in the last few episodes. Here is a tribute video to the great Michael Scott. When they sang him this song, I will admit that I had some tears:

 
 
Andy Sings 'I Try'- It became obvious to me, as I prepared for the exit of Michael Scott, that The Office was on its last leg. While listening to these lyrics, I realized just how much I was going to miss these coworkers that I love so very much. I could not find a good quality video of this, so I went with his recent farewell edition of "I Will Remember You." Try not to cry!

 
 
Before we move on, how about some camera looks:
 

 

 
 
What The Jim and Pam Storyline Has Meant To Me- Greg Daniels, who created The Office, has been selling the final season of the show with the idea that the entire show was Jim and Pam's story. Whether or not this is true, I will admit that their story has had a huge impact on my life. Although I knew that Jim and Pam were fictional characters living fictional lives, they gave me hope that I could one day fall in love with someone that I once called a great friend, and I have done just that. Now, I'm not going to get too sappy, mostly because my wit and charm is what won my amazing girlfriend over (yeah, right), but it is easy for me to find similarities in the lives of Jim and Pam and the lives of me and my girlfriend. She was in a relationship when I was slowly falling for her. We were best friends before we even dreamed of becoming a couple. I have a lot of ambition, with regard to my career. She would be content with staying in South Mississippi forever. But, most importantly, our lives are worthy of a documentary. We will find out on Thursday whether or not Jim and Pam will ride off into the sunset, and I hope they do, just as I hope that I do one day.

 
 
If that didn't make you cry, the following video will. It is so hard to say goodbye, but now I must. My world may crumble when they are not here, but only time will tell. Farewell, to the comedy that I have loved for so very long and will continue to love until people are telling me farewell. These co-workers became like family to me, and I thank everyone who contributed to the show for giving me something to look forward to on Thursday nights for the past 9 years...

 
 
End Here:
 

Have to end on a funny note...
 
 
 

 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Iron Man 3

 
 
 
After a tough, tough week of finals, it's so great to get back to writing on here. Sorry to keep you all waiting, but I will be playing catch up over the next couple of weeks, so check in regularly for new posts!

Expectations:
After the disaster that was Iron Man 2 and the amazingness that was The Avengers, I didn't really know what the heck to expect with Iron Man 3. The first Iron Man film was great, and Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect Tony Stark. However, once you have a bad sequel, you tend to follow that bad sequel with another bad sequel, and I thought Iron Man 3 may just be another bad sequel. From the trailers, I was not at all convinced that The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, was going to be intimidating at all, and I cannot stand Guy Pearce, so the villains did not intrigue me whatsoever. My only confidence was found in Robert Downey Jr., who isn't a bad person to have confidence in.

Plot:
Iron Man 3 brought with it a lot of twists and turns, and that excitement is what keeps people returning to the theater for these type of action shows (along with the millions in marketing and such). Amazingly, the twists in this film were actually pretty well done, particularly the utilization of the previously under-utilized Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). With a much calmer, less cocky Tony Stark, the door was opened for his relationship with Potts to become more than just an excuse for Iron Man to have a girl. Also, the scene of him going into space ("never to return") in The Avengers really made me care about their relationship, in a dorky "I like comic book films" kind of way. The conflict with the villains did seem a bit insignificant, particularly now that we know Iron Man just has to call his Avengers friends if he really needs help. Nevertheless, the focus of this film was not the conflict with the villains but rather the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. A much simpler Iron Man made for a much simpler story, which aided in the twistiness of the twists.

Characters:
For the most part, I either really loved or really disliked the characters in Iron Man 3, so I didn't have a very hard time figuring the positives and negatives...

Negatives:
As I said before, I cannot stand Guy Pearce. I don't really understand why I don't like him, but I don't. Unfortunately for him, my opinion of him did not change after his performance as scientist-turned-baddy, Aldrich Killian. He just wasn't very frightening nor was he cool or clever. The villainous roles were just a big miss for me, with Iron Man 3... and that rhymes. Also, while some people may be fans of Don Cheadle's Rhodes character, but I just don't care for him in that role. Terrence Howard was much better in that role, but, really, War Machine is a boring sidekick, in my opinion. Lastly, I thought the focus that was given to Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan was unnecessary and did nothing but ad to the length of the film.

Positives:
Of course, as expected, Robert Downey Jr. was his amazingly hilarious self, and, if anyone else ever plays Iron Man, they will not do the role justice. He has, single-handedly, taken Iron Man from an average super hero to Marvel's go-to guy, and overcoming Spiderman is not an easy task. Additionally, the huge increase in screen time for Paltrow's Potts really helped both characters become more than they could ever be alone. Even with the greatness that is Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr., my absolute favorite part of this film was Ty Simpkin's Harley Keener, who became Iron Man's little minion and had the same sarcastic attitude as Tony Stark. As a sucker for child actors, I thought he did a really great job in the role, and I can't wait to see him in future films.

Conclusion:
Few things make me happier than to see the theater filled to the brim with butts and excitement. Iron Man 3 will probably have the biggest opening weekend of the summer, if I had to guess, and, as a result the theater was a happening place last Friday night! Actiony, super hero films would not be nearly as good without the enthusiasm of a large crowd, so that definitely improved my Iron Man 3 experience. Also, it did not hurt that the movie was really great. Downey Jr. fit the mold perfectly, yet again, and I hope that he chooses to play Iron Man again in the future. Usually, by the time of the third film of a franchise, I am ready for the towel to be thrown in, but Iron Man is unique. Not only is Downey Jr.'s super hero portrayal great, but, unlike most super heroes, Iron Man brings so many laughs, much of which is attributed to his wit. With the scientific background and the charm of a multi-billionaire, Iron Man is more able to ground himself in reality than most (non-Batman) super heroes. He is able to accomplish this without the "dark"ness of Batman, and that is something that should be recognized. I give Iron Man 3 3.54 out of 5 stars.