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Final Destination 5 (2011) review
08/12/11 at 03:53 PM by EvilButters

Final Destination was at least interesting when it first hit the scene eleven years ago. The cast was solid, the story was at least somewhat intriguing that first time out, and the deaths were a bit more plausible. The series continued to get more and more ridiculous with each sequel though. The outrageousness began with Devon Sawa's character getting killed off by a tragic brick incident that we never even got to see in the second film. The franchise jumped to 3D with the third film and has basically offered the same experience over and over again the entire franchise ever since. Everything plays out exactly the same; a premonition, a set of characters escaping a devastating tragedy, and they all start dying in this aforementioned death pecking order. Most would argue that the Final Destination series is only good for the deaths, but even those get pretty tiresome as the franchise progresses. So now everyone is about to experience Final Destination 5 and it does nothing more than fit the predictable mold you're probably expecting.

Eye-catching credits start us off. At first it just seems like plain white text on a black background, but then random objects begin to enter the fray; ladders, knives, hooks, and chains. It's as if they're being thrown right into your lap, but then the screen shatters as if this was all being shot behind a giant pane of glass. Over and over again these objects shatter through the screen with a fair amount of blood being added in for good measure. The cool thing is that most if not all of the objects are throwbacks to deaths in the franchise. The unfortunate thing is that the appeal of the credits is worn off about halfway through the credit sequence. It's way overdone and becomes really monotonous by the time the movie finally begins.

The story offers up the same plot points you've come to expect with Final Destination. This one revolves around a bridge collapsing and is incredibly gory right from the start; people get impaled as their heart practically leaps out of their chest and off the screen, somebody gets covered in tar as they're clinging on for dear life, wires snap and take out unsuspecting individuals, a woman falls into the water below as a car falls on top of her, thin metal rods sitting in the back of a truck impale a man, etc. It's pure devastation, as you can imagine. But of course it's all Sam Lawson's (Nicholas D'Agosto) vision. He manages to get a few of his friends and co-workers off the bus that's parked on the bridge who in turn start getting picked off in the order they died in Sam's premonition. They tease with the fact that the order can skip you if you take someone's life, but the addition is very minimal and doesn't really change much. It isn't long before everything jumps back into order. Remember the "New rules. New decade," slogan from Scream 4? This offers something similar but has even less of a follow-through. Final Destination 5 seems to heavily imply that Tony Todd's coroner character either knows how to cheat death or has a helping hand in it. It would kind of be interesting if it did go that route rather than having the same exact storyline for five movies, but alas it wasn't meant to be.

The deaths are just really preposterous this time out though. Candice (Ellen Wroe) takes a nasty fall off of some gymnastic equipment that looks like she jumped off a three story building while Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) has her eye lasered to a bloody pulp before tripping over a plastic stuffed animal eye, falling out of a window, bouncing off of the front end of a car, landing on the pavement, having her other eye pop out of her head, and having said eye be rolled over by a passing vehicle. People were screaming bloody murder at the deaths in the theater, but they were laughable at best. Excessively grotesque deaths that are both unbelievable and nonsensical are just incredibly humorous for some reason.

The story between these characters during the calmer moments of the movie is just lame, as well. It felt like a reality show drama like something you'd find on MTV sandwiched in between "The Hills" and "Jersey Shore." Sam is a chef who has the opportunity to go to Paris for an internship, but is willing to throw that all away for Molly (Emma Bell) who he considers to be the love of his life. Since he's throwing this opportunity away, Molly decides to break up with him because he's giving up his dream for her. She spends the entire movie being wishy-washy over the matter. Sam also works at the same office Molly works at along with Olivia, Candice, Peter (Miles Fisher), Isaac (P.J. Byrne), Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta) and their boss Dennis (David Koechner). Candice, an intern, is dating Peter, Isaac seems to have a rolodex of women at his disposal, Nathan has constant altercations with one of the factory workers, and Dennis spends his time calling the police over "strange" things occurring at the office. These are the survivors of the bridge incident that are picked off one by one.

The one cool thing Final Destination 5 has going for it is that it has a way of making the entire franchise come full circle. Pay close attention to the final scene and you'll understand. This scene is easily the most enjoyable thing about not only this film, but the past three.

Final Destination 5 is extremely formulaic. It takes pride in being over the top, unbelievable, and flat out ludicrous at times. While the fifth film in the franchise doesn't necessarily offer anything you haven't already seen before, it still has a way of returning to its roots by the time Death takes its final victim. Final Destination 5 is a gory, predictable, crowd-pleaser that the general movie going audience is sure to love.

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Tags: Final Destination 5, movie review, horror, thriller, 3D, sequel, Tony Todd
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Another Earth (2011) review
08/12/11 at 11:35 AM by EvilButters
I think just about everyone looks up at the sky every so often and wonders what else is out there. Outer space is filled with so many unexplored territories that logically speaking there has to be intelligent life out there somewhere. Otherwise it'd just be a waste of space. Undiscovered planets and unimaginable life forms are only the half of it. What if there's another planet somewhere in the cosmos similar to earth? Raising the stakes a bit, what if you and everyone you knew was also on that planet in addition to earth like an alternate universe that was right within our grasps? That is essentially what makes Another Earth so interesting.

Earth 2; that's what the planet is being called that is right within our atmosphere. They're saying another you is on that planet that may have made all the decisions you wish you had or married the person you always wish you did. Sometimes the concept of a film is really powerful. It's so powerful and so intriguing that it kind of backs itself into a corner since there's really no way the film will ever be able to follow through with a product that's quite as good as its concept. Another Earth is kind of like that. The film does its best to intertwine the stories of Earth 2 and the blossoming relationship between Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) and John Burroughs (William Mapother) and it all comes together in a really satisfying way. But you're also left wondering what the planet would be like if we actually got to take the trip there in the film. Is animal life the same? Do they have similar technology? Are famous monuments altered at all? The questions are endless and while its best to leave these questions open ended, part of you is left wondering if some of these questions could've been answered with a larger budget.

The soundtrack was nearly as brilliant as the concept of the film. It's a rather brilliant mix of classical and electronic music with more of an emphasis falling on the classical part since John Burroughs is a composer. Classical scores always seem to bring out the best in films and the few electronic tracks threw in a little bit of unpredictability that also strangely fit the tone and atmosphere of the film.

The biggest weakness Another Earth has is its camera work. It feels downright amateurish at times. Things seem to smooth out a bit in the second half, but objects and people on screen start off being blurry or out of focus right from the start. So while there were a few interesting perspectives thrown in, it didn't really make up for the camera being out of position at times and wondering if the awkward camera work was intentional at others.

Another Earth latches onto your interest right out of the gate with a rather high impact introduction and keeps that engrossing factor alive throughout its duration. The bonding that takes place between Rhoda and John takes the front seat while the hype around Earth 2 is kind of the side seat driver; you're always hearing about it but it never really becomes a factor until the conclusion. Another Earth also delivers a really satisfying ending. Thinking back on it, there really isn't another way to end a film like this. If it wasn't for the camera work that feels somewhat unprofessional at times, Another Earth would be really fantastic. An absorbing and engaging film with a unique storyline, Another Earth is one of the most thought provoking films of the year.

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Tags: Another Earth, movie review, sci-fi, drama, Brit Marling, William Mapother, Mike Cahi
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The Change-Up (2011) review
08/06/11 at 10:55 AM by EvilButters
You've seen this movie on countless occasions; Freaky Friday, Face/Off, Freaky Friday again, The Skeleton Key, and Freaky Friday a third time amongst a half a dozen other movies I'm probably overlooking. Body swapping isn't exactly a new concept. Truth be told though, while the idea has been used in an R-rated film before it may be something new to the R-rated comedy genre. Maybe that's why we're taking this rather redundant feeling trip once again or maybe it's only to capitalize on Ryan Reynolds blossoming popularity and have long time fans of his reminisce about their first time watching Van Wilder. The Change-Up is coming whether you like it or not and while it isn't the funniest film of the year or even the most original, it isn't quite as bad as you might be expecting.

Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) has been working hard his whole life. He thrived to make work the most important thing in his life and that shows as he's one of the best lawyers in town. Meanwhile Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) has barely worked a day in his life and tends to quit anything when it shows the first signs of difficulty. Dave never seems to have time for anything while Mitch just wants someone to come home to and feel appreciated. So after a night at the bar and a conversation while urinating in a public fountain the two accidentally switch bodies.

Raunchiness rears its ugly head not even five minutes into the movie. The Change-Up is probably the most obscene and easily the most vulgar movie of the year, at least thus far. The things that come out of Mitch Planko's mouth, whether he's in the body of Ryan Reynolds or Jason Bateman, walks a thin line between being profane and being downright offensive. It's so unbelievable that you can't help but laugh at times. The really bizarre thing is that I couldn't help but somewhat relate to the Mitch character. Not so much the sleeping around with countless women part, but his sense of humor, use of vulgarity, and dislike for children. That's basically me in a nutshell.

Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds do a pretty flawless job of swapping each other's roles. The roles they both start off with are pretty much the roles we've always seen the two actors play, so seeing them switch it up a bit was kind of interesting. Jason Bateman will always bring a little bit of Michael Bluth with him wherever he goes while Reynolds will probably always be seen as Van Wilder first. That's part of their charm and part of the appeal for the fans that have been following them longer than a year or two. Bateman playing the douchebag is actually a lot of fun though and Reynolds is kind of charming in the nice guy role in an awkward and goofy kind of way. Their chemistry is really the thing that makes the comedy work as well as it does. Leslie Mann also has her moments, which usually come once her husband starts acting like his best friend. This is probably Olivia Wilde's best movie performance in the past few years though. She was so boring in both TRON: Legacy and Cowboys & Aliens. At least in this she gets to show that she's both professional and has a kinkier side while portraying much more emotion than in those two films.

The movie progressively snowballs further and further into ridiculous territory as it drudges on though. The scene in the kitchen where Mitch is trying to figure out how to feed Dave's children just about ruined the entire thing for me and the whole Tatiana thing is really stretching it. Each character gets to coach the other while in the other's respective body and those scenes might have honestly been the best in the movie. They were concise and had all the strongest points of the movie in those segments. It's a shame the entire movie couldn't quite hold onto that throughout its duration. With all the fecal matter going into people's mouths, ball cupping, genital shaving, and women being shown on the toilet at inopportune moments, the toilet humor got to be a bit much at times and that's coming from a guy who's a fan of that type of humor.

The Change-Up is slightly above the mediocre line for R-rated comedies this year. It's slightly similar to Hall Pass with a little bit of Bridesmaids and Your Highness thrown in for good measure. While it is fairly humorous at times, its outrageousness is its own downfall as certain bits are too ridiculous for its own good. However, The Change-Up was still a crowd pleaser and is sure to at least make a modest profit at the box office.

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Tags: The Change-Up, movie review, comedy, Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Wilde
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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) review
08/06/11 at 10:54 AM by EvilButters
Planet of the Apes is one of those franchises I never really saw the appeal in. The original one is the only one that seems to get continuous praise from people, but it along with its four sequels have been labeled as dated more than anything else. Then there was the Tim Burton remake from 2001 that nearly everyone says is terrible. It's usually referred to as "the one with Marky Mark" and I overheard a conversation a row ahead of me earlier tonight where somebody said, "I couldn't even finish it." So I was essentially entering Rise of the Planet of the Apes with a fresh mind; seeing it as a standalone film rather than a reboot of a franchise. To be honest though, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is excellent no matter how you look at it.

The compelling story is what really makes the movie. It makes you feel sympathy for these apes in ways you probably can't even fathom when you're first sitting down to see it. The relationship between Caesar (Andy Serkis) and Will Rodman (James Franco) is the heart and soul of the movie. Caesar's facial expressions and actions just immediately make your chest tighten and heart beat in ways to let you know you're seeing something special. If Andy Serkis is involved in any way when it comes to motion capture technology being used in an upcoming movie expect magic because that's what you're going to receive. You feel more for Caesar than anyone else in the movie and you should. It is a movie about apes taking over the world after all.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a smart movie; plain and simple. There's a lot of scientific jargon thrown in there and whether it's all legitimate or not it all comes together in a way that makes sense. It's story structure is brilliant, as well. It starts off a little slow and shows how Caesar becomes a part of Will's life while also showing the struggle Will's father Charles (John Lithgow) is going through with a case of Alzheimer's that's quickly making his health deteriorate. Will works for the Gen-Sys lab, which develops antidotes that they test on primates with hopes of it curing human disease. ALZ 112 is what they hope will cure Alzheimer's, but it backfires. It has an alternative effect on humans than it does on apes; humans tend to get sick and die while it makes apes more intelligent. As the years pass, Caesar and Will become close but they're separated after Will is forced to put Caesar in a primate reserve. As Will focuses on trying to save his father's life and bring Caesar back home, Caesar begins planning a revolution and starts to relate to his brethren.

There are a few references to the original Planet of the Apes films. Since I haven't seen them, I was really only able to catch a few of them. The cool thing about them though is that they can be looked at as planted seeds for potential sequels or just as a throwback to where the movie originated from. That's something special in itself; a movie able to accomplish something open-ended.

The cast is pretty fantastic, as well. James Franco has always been an actor with the potential to deliver a great performance and he does so here. John Lithgow was a pleasant surprise as I wasn't aware he was a part of the cast until I saw him on-screen. The way he handles Alzheimer's is really incredible. Andy Serkis, as already mentioned, is the guy that makes the whole thing come together; Caesar is just amazing. Brian Cox makes a brief appearance as a rather low-life individual and Tom Felton plays his son who's a lot like Draco Malfoy in personality. Tyler Labine takes a break from comedy to show he's not too bad at drama while David Oyelowo shows how you can be despicable while just trying to do what's best for the company you work for. The strong cast is just as impressive as the fascinating storyline.

This is the first Planet of the Apes movie to use CGI effects rather than actors in prosthetic makeup. You may be asking yourself how that's going to look. Don't put much thought into it; it looks outstanding. Weta Digital really outdid themselves with this movie. Everything blends together so well that the apes look genuinely realistic the entire time. Their emotions are portrayed to perfection, which is probably the most important aspect of this movie. I'm a pretty big stickler when it comes to the more exciting sequences in modern films being littered with noticeable CGI creatures in front of a green screen. That sort of thing is so minimal that I honestly can't remember having that feeling during Rise of the Planet of the Apes. So not only do you get great action, you get seamless special effects as well.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is ridiculously good on all fronts. It features an excellent cast, an absorbing storyline, explosive action, and marvelous special effects. This is easily one of the best films of the year. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is emotional, exciting, and mesmerizing; it's everything a summer movie should be and monkey mayhem at its finest.

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Tags: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, action, drama, sci-fi, James Franco, Andy Serkis
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DVD review: Bodyguards and Assassins (2011)
07/31/11 at 09:04 AM by EvilButters
Whenever I find myself getting lost in conversations with other people about martial arts films one of the guys that always seems to get glossed over is Donnie Yen. He's just as good as the Bruce Lees, the Jackie Chans, the Jet Lis, and Tony Jaas out there, but for some reason he's just never really been able to click with the mainstream. Yen seemed to stick around wuxia films longer than the names you probably associate with these types of movies and extravagant wirework is usually the first thing to make an action film feel mediocre to me. People can't fly around, run on the tips of blades of grass, or kick people seventeen times in the air before landing on their feet and doing it all over again; the more realistic an action film is the more enjoyable it is to me. But ever since Hero (yes it's a wuxia film, but it's one of the exceptions), Donnie Yen has put out some really fantastic action films that are either more grounded or the wirework involved is a lot more subtle. Kill Zone and Flash Point were two of the films that made me love the guy's work and Ip Man is easily one of my favorite martial arts films of all time. Most Yen projects not only have spectacular action sequences, but have an engaging story to tell as well and that's something action films like this usually don't bother trying to do. Bodyguards and Assassins just tends to focus more on the dramatic side of things rather than just punch you in the face, kick you in the gut, and move on to the next action scene.

Bodyguards and Assassins is a bit misleading. It's marketed as this martial arts epic and it really isn't. It's actually incredibly similar to 13 Assassins in the way that nearly all of the action is in the last hour of the movie. Most of the movie is spent planning Sun Wen's arrival. The movie takes place during the early 1900s when plans were set into motion to try and overthrow the Qing Dynasty which had become corrupt. Sun Wen was the man believed to be the revolutionary and first step toward that goal. So while many Chinese are willing to step up to the cause and see China become a democracy, there are others who want China to remain the way it is; some want to protect him while many want to kill him. This movie is even more of a slow burn than 13 Assassins was. A man gets shot in the opening scene, there's a brief fight scene where more characters get killed, but the rest of the first hour of the film is very dialogue heavy that is sure to make action junkies itch for their fix.

The other misleading part of the film is Donnie Yen getting top billing. He does play a key supporting role, but is probably only around on-screen for thirty to forty minutes. His character is probably the most well-developed though. Yen is Sum Chang-Yang; a compulsive gambler who will do anything for money. His wife left him after their daughter was born because she didn't want to see their child have the same fate as her father. He's basically a lowlife the entire movie until he has the opportunity to make something of himself and finally gets to see his daughter up close. Then it's as if his entire life was spent waiting for this moment and he decides he shouldn't waste it. So while Yen does make the most of his screen time, he's secondary to the bigger issue at hand.

Bodyguards and Assassins falls victim to shaky camera techniques during a good portion of the fight scenes. The technique is probably used to make the viewer feel closer to the action, but it just doesn't work. It makes you miss more of the action rather than make you feel like you're a part of it. The other disappointment is that there is quite a lot of CG blood in the movie. Most of the blood that makes it to the ground is obviously made with practical effects, but all of it that flies into the air is computer generated. CG blood just gives a movie like this a cartoonish feel, when it's supposed to be taken seriously.

The last hour does have at least two scenes to try and make up for that wordy first hour. There's a chase scene that evolves into a fight scene involving Donnie Yen in the marketplace that is exactly what you've been craving since the movie began. It's probably Yen's crowning achievement in the movie. Leon Lai plays a beggar in the film named Liu Yubai who was outcast from his rich family after falling in love with his father's woman. He uses a metal fan when he fights and he's extremely skilled with it. His action scene is quite spectacular as well and it nearly trumps Yen's.

Bodyguards and Assassins is not a bad film by any means; it's very story driven, has an excellent cast, and delivers an incredibly powerful message. But labeling it solely as an action film seems really unfair. It's a historical drama featuring some action sequences. Impatient viewers may turn the film off before it really has the chance to take off while a shaky camera and CG blood does bring the movie down a notch or two, but there is light at the end of that tunnel for martial arts admirers. Donnie Yen fans may also be slightly disappointed once they realize Yen only has a supporting role. Nevertheless Bodyguards and Assassins is a riveting drama with an unbelievable climax that captures the look and feel of Hong Kong during the early 1900s in exquisite fashion.

The special features on the DVD are kind of weird, so bear with me. First up are five Making of featurettes. "The Characters" is about twenty one minutes long and gives a brief look at the characters The Revolutionary, The Tycoon, The Diva, The Fugitive, The Rickshawman, The Fiancee, The Heir, The Hawker, The Policeman, The Beggar, The Assassin, The Concubine, and The Gambler. Each actor and cast member bleeds not only enthusiasm for the project but passion, as well. You're treated to quite a bit of interesting information during this feature including the fact that the film was nearly ten years in the making. During The Gambler portion of the feature, you get an in-depth look at Donnie Yen's astounding marketplace fight scene that's a great watch. "The Set" is nearly three minutes long. The set was built from the ground up and took six months to build. It portrays Hong Kong during the early 1900s very realistically. "The Design" is just under two minutes long. It goes into detail concerning the extent of the costume designs including the police uniforms. Leon Lai also discusses how he crushed up bean curd with honey and smothered himself with it to try and be more in character. "The Make-Up" is a minute and a half long. We take a look at Nicholas Tse, Hu Jun, and Donnie Yen as they each tell their stories of sitting in the make up chair during production. Donnie Yen spent four hours putting on make-up and one hour taking it off every day. Hu Jun had prosthetics added to his forehead and nose to make his nose crooked. "The Action" is about four and a half minutes long. It briefly takes a look at the action director using storyboards for most of the action sequences before the feature recycles the same behind the scenes marketplace fight footage from "The Characters" featurette.

There are also four extended interviews totaling a little over ten minutes in length altogether. Leon Lai goes into detail about his beggar character while telling the story about he became part of the production. We're also shown behind the scenes footage of his action sequence being shot. Wang Xueqi portrayed Li Yu-Tang and discusses his first time working with a Taiwanese and Hong Kong cast. Tony Ka-Fai Leung played Chen Xiao-Bai and talks about portraying a revolutionary pushing 30 years old when he's well over 30 himself. Finally there's the producer Peter Chan who created the concept of the film ten years ago when the movie market was very different and wouldn't have been mature enough for a film like this. The DVD also contains the international trailer, as well.

The funky part comes in the form of a QR code on the DVD. You scan it with your android phone and it takes you to a website that's supposed to feature more bonus material. There's a mailing list you can sign up for that supposedly mails you a clue leading to a new reward in the form of bonus material. The only video on the site at the moment is Tony Ka-Fai Leung's two minute extended interview.

The Bodyguards and Assassins DVD is not rated, but is presented in Mandarin with English subtitles, is available in 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Stereo sound, and is presented in widescreen. It is approximately 139 minutes long and should be available in both retail stores and most online retailers now.

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Tags: Bodyguards and Assassins, movie review, DVD review, Donnie Yen, drama, history
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The Smurfs (2011) review
07/31/11 at 09:03 AM by EvilButters
Sometimes despite your best efforts a movie you just know is going to be an awful experience is somehow worse than you imagined even though you tried to talk yourself into thinking it might not be so bad. "Oh, this actor and/or actress is in it. Hopefully I'll still be able to enjoy their role in this monstrosity," is what you say to yourself. It turns out to be all for nothing and even though that person you admire is in it, you're just left wondering why they're a part of something so horrendous to begin with. The Smurfs is such a movie and I can almost guarantee you that you haven't seen anything as bad as this all year.

The smurfs live in Smurf Village in another universe where magic actually exists. These little blue creatures are about seven inches tall that can sing, dance, talk, live in mushrooms, and are massively annoying all day long. The evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) is obsessed with capturing the smurfs in order to obtain their essence to become the most powerful wizard in the universe. During the festival of the blue moon, Clumsy (voiced by Anton Yelchin) accidentally leads Gargamel to Smurf Village. Amongst the confusion while they're fleeing Gargamel's onslaught, they accidentally stumble onto a portal to our universe as Gargamel follows in hot pursuit. Unfortunately for them, our moon never turns blue so they must rely on the assistance of Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace Winslow (Jayma Mays); a couple who's expecting their first child and who are going through some troubles of their own.

If you weren't a fan of the original Smurfs cartoon, then you probably won't have any reason to actually sit through this thing. Speaking as someone who isn't a fan of anything Hanna-Barbera related, taking one for the team or biting the bullet doesn't even begin to describe the unfortunate displeasure I experienced throughout this cinematic miscarriage. The Smurfs does nothing but make a repetitive, never-ending effort to rub its audience nose in the fact that it's trying to be cute. It can't just show something cute and move on. It's basically shoving cuteness down your throat without asking in a rather obnoxious and extremely forceful fashion.

As if purely tolerating these tiny, blue kumquats wasn't enough, the movie makes it a point to rub salt in the wound before dousing it with lemon and plunging your exposed injury into a bucket of bleach. There's a Rock Band scene where Neil Patrick Harris plays the game with The Smurfs and they decide to add their own lyrics to Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." Imagine the song with all the lyrics replaced with stuff about sunshine, kilts, intelligence, being angry, blue skin, and "smurf" every three words or so. I recommend not getting nachos before seeing this. You'll want to pour the hot, scolding nacho cheese into your eye sockets just to make the torture on-screen be a little less painful.

Looking at the movie from a critic's perspective doesn't even help matters. It shows you all the main plot points in a vision Papa Smurf has at the beginning of the movie, so you basically know what's going to happen long before you even get there. You probably already have a solid idea of what the movie is just by seeing the TV spots alone. There's also another scene where Gargamel is in prison in our universe. He has a conversation with a moth. He doesn't use magic as he doesn't even have anything on him at the time other than an orange jumpsuit. He talks to this moth and convinces it to break him out of prison. How, you might ask? With about a million flies. Flies break Gargamel out of prison. All family movies have to include some sort of bodily fluid in them anymore. Crude humor is apparently the only way you can reach a younger audience these days. So I hope you like cat vomit and a grown man digging through a vomitous pile for a few strands of hair.

Is there anything actually decent about this movie? If you've read this far, you're probably thinking that. There is, actually. The 3D effect is actually utilized really well. Smurfs are constantly jumping in your face and when they're not random objects are flying at you thanks to Gargamel's magic. There's a scene at the very beginning of the movie where two smurfs are riding birds. That scene is pulled off incredibly well as the birds twist and turn in the air. The perspective, positioning of the camera, and the way we seem to follow their every move makes that thirty second sequence work really well. Neil Patrick Harris is probably the least offensive part of the movie, but that isn't saying a whole lot. There's actually some really talented people buried in the cast. Unfortunately they're so smothered in smurfberries that you probably won't even notice them.

The Smurfs is the first movie I've ever actually physically ran out of as soon as it was over. It is downright offensive with how cute and corny it is. With an overly predictable storyline, ridiculous plot points, and some of the lamest material to ever hit the big screen, anything remotely good in the film is immediately erased by the overwhelming wave of forcefed cutesy garbage. It's like having an entire jar of Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme crammed down your throat. If you suddenly have the urge to see this movie, stay home and drink a bottle of Drano instead. I promise you'll have a better time.

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Tags: The Smurfs, movie review, animation, comedy, family, Neil Patrick Harris
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Cowboys & Aliens (2011) review
07/29/11 at 08:31 AM by EvilButters
This does contain some minor spoilers

Cowboys & Aliens was an awkward movie in terms of anticipation towards its release. Expecting more than what was already given to you in the title would be silly on your part and the premise already seemed really simple yet kind of brilliant since you probably can't name another time aliens were brought in to the western genre. Anticipation on my end fluctuated; I thought it looked so-so for the longest time, then at one time I was REALLY excited for it, and then my excitement for it had all but died by the time the screening finally came around thanks to less than stellar reviews and word spreading around the internet that the potential summer blockbuster was rather mediocre at best. Cowboys & Aliens is kind of funky in what it actually offers its audience because there seems to be just as many bad or floundering things about the film that there are good.

The opening scene let's you know what you're in for as Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of a desert with no memory, a strange wound to his abdomen, and a mysterious bracelet strapped to his left arm that seems to be permanently attached to him for good. Three men stumble onto Jake who think he's just escaped prison and attempt to take him in under the assumption there's a bounty on his head. Jake defeats all three men in spectacular fashion before stealing their clothes and a gun. Jake is essentially an insatiable bad ass. Even as we learn more about his character as the movie progresses, there's never really an explanation why Jake can somehow take out half a dozen men or more consistently throughout the movie. That's pretty much all you get out of Jake, too. If you were expecting any actual personality or emotion from the guy, then you're looking in the wrong place.

In fact, all of the leads in this sci-fi action extravaganza are really boring. Harrison Ford basically comes off as portraying himself and is nothing more than a bitter old man who's pessimistic about everything. Then there's Olivia Wilde, who's shown how wide her acting range truly is on "House, MD", but has been nothing but dull in her blockbuster roles. Her character, Ella Swenson, has some interesting aspects but they're kind of all over the place and never effectively come together in the proper fashion to be considered a well developed character. She also tends to have the same stupid look on her face the entire movie without much portrayal of emotion. The most interesting roles lie within the supporting characters. Hands down the best character in the movie is Clancy Brown's Meacham; a quick-witted preacher who knows how to use a gun, has memorable dialogue, and makes himself useful more than anything. Paul Dano is also incredibly entertaining. He plays Percy Dolarhyde, the son of Harrison Ford's Woodrow Dolarhyde. Dano is easily the most despicable character of the line up and his portrayal of the character is just so spot on. It was interesting to see Sam Rockwell play Doc, who is an all around good hearted individual. Rockwell makes the most of his part, but you're used to seeing him play the villain or the vilest character on-screen. This was a welcome change of pace.

Cowboys & Aliens is really sporadic when it comes to the storyline, as well. Once we get a glimpse of the aliens, we eventually learn that they've come to earth to steal our gold. Besides melting it and having it float up to a puddle on the ceiling there doesn't really seem to be much else they had planned for it. It's as if they said to one another, "Our spaceship is seriously lacking in solid gold puddles peculiarly placed on our ceilings. Let's find the nearest planet and rectify this dire situation." As you've seen in the trailers, the dummy ships are sent out, capture humans by basically lassoing them with alien technology, and bring them back to the mother ship. It looks pretty cool the first few times, but you get kind of sick of it once you get past the first hour. So what are the aliens having the humans do? Enslaving mankind for some strange alien purpose perhaps? Only if you count having them stand around, stare at a light in the ceiling, and erasing their memory a strange alien purpose. These aliens just have a fascination with things located on the roof. The aliens would look pretty awesome if it wasn't for their eyes. They have these beady, bullfrog-like eyes that completely ruins whatever awesomeness they once had in their appearance. Their chests would also open up where you would see their beating heart along with a pair of three fingered hands that would attempt to shove a victim inside of them. It comes off as being more humorous than anything. It actually just reminded me of Kuato from Total Recall. "Quaid....start the reactor."

The ridiculousness doesn't end there though. When the aliens first come and Woodrow informs Jake that he's coming with them in search of these aliens that just took their people, he hits Jake in the stomach with the butt of his gun and Jake immediately turns around and punches Woodrow in the face. They stare at each other almost longingly for what seems like an eternity before Jake finally walks away without them saying another word. I guess that's how you have to make friends out in the old west. Once they find the mother ship and they're planning their strategy on how they're going to try and get into the alien craft Jake just leaves. He doesn't say anything to anyone and everyone is just kind of like, "Oh, Jake is leaving." The very next scene Jake finds reinforcements, mentions how hard it was to find them even though it seemed like he just walked around a corner, and brings them back to help on the mission. Miracles seem a lot more outlandish in westerns these days.

Cowboys & Aliens is not terrible. It's actually fairly amusing and crazy entertaining when it needs to be. Unfortunately bringing aliens into a western atmosphere is a really awkward transition that isn't pulled off smoothly. The entire movie as a whole comes off as bizarre and fantastically farfetched the majority of the time. With its weaknesses taking center stage, it's difficult to consider Cowboys & Aliens as anything more than crazy, stupid fun.

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Tags: Cowboys & Aliens, movie review, sci-fi, action, thriller, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford
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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) review
07/23/11 at 06:10 PM by EvilButters
I've never been the biggest Captain America fan. Even when I was into comics he always just seemed kind of boring to me. I have friends these days trying to tell me he's even more awesome now, but it just seems like too little too late. My comic book reading days are over, for the most part. But despite that Captain America: The First Avenger looked like it had a lot of potential. Chris Evans seemed to fit the Steve Rogers role incredibly well and Hugo Weaving always plays an excellent villain. I've also enjoyed nearly every Marvel film since Iron Man anyway. So Captain America: The First Avenger looked like it could be great, but also had a lot to live up to. It mostly delivers, but comes up a little short in being fully and completely satisfying.

Just about all of Captain America is spent in 1942 during World War II. We follow Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he persistently tries to join the army and fails repeatedly due to his small size and asthma. A scientist named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) sees potential in Rogers and recruits him to Camp Lehigh in New York. Erskine sees something in Rogers; his integrity, his honor, his natural desire to be nothing more than a good man. It's here that Rogers is chosen for the "super soldier" experiment and eventually becomes Captain America. Meanwhile, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) leads HYDRA, a private terrorist group, and has just come into possession of a mysterious tesseract that Schmidt claims gives him the power of the gods.

The cast is ridiculously flawless in this. I've always been a big fan of Chris Evans, but I never really imagined him in the role of Captain America. He fits the role so well. He does look a bit odd before he gets the super soldier serum injected into him, but the method used was probably the best way to go. Evans is able to portray Rogers in a spectacular light. You believe heís a good guy just doing what he thinks is best for his country. Hugo Weaving is also a fantastic Red Skull. He's so hellbent on destroying the world yet he has class taking time out to have someone paint his portrait or enjoy a glass of wine in the middle of a pep talk to his HYDRA troops. Tommy Lee Jones also manages to squeeze in quite a few humorous one-liners. I feel like Hayley Atwell deserves the most credit though. In most superhero films, the love interest usually just does that; makes love to the superhero and sits on the sidelines worrying about him the rest of the time. Atwell's Peggy Carter actually makes herself useful. If it wasn't for her, Captain America never would've been given a serious chance as a soldier. Atwell also showed the widest range of emotion in the film next to Evans, as well.

Captain America felt simple in the most flattering of ways. It never strayed too far from Cap swooping in and having to save the day and never tried to over complicate things by cramming too much of the comics into an origin film. The action usually resulted in tremendous explosions and men being thrown across the screen. It's like the movie gave you pride to be an American without being too political or overly preachy. In fact, it wasn't either of those things at all. It was just extremely gratifying entertainment that did its source material justice.

The special effects were really top notch, for the most part. The finale with the highly anticipated battle between Red Skull and Captain America is probably the most impressive. Thereís a fight that takes place in freefall between Cap and a few henchmen thatís done incredibly well and the special effects always shine brightest whenever that blue cube Red Skull is obsessed with is shown on screen. Some of the scenes that were obviously shot in front of a green screen kind of got to me though; once you notice that it kind of takes you out of the action for a moment. Luckily, this was a film that made it easy to get sucked back into it.

Captain America has a lot of buildup with the pay off coming up short of completely delivering. We spend all this time with Steve Rogers before the super soldier serum and after and his time on stage selling war bonds. We're basically itching and craving for him to beat the snot out of some Nazis by the time he goes off venturing on his own to where the 107th's last known whereabouts. That scene delivers the action in spades, but everything else thatís exciting after that seems incredibly short. We get a montage that would've been amazing in its entirety and we basically get bits of incredible action sequences sprinkled throughout the second half of the movie. We never really get that tingling sensation from being punched in the face too hard during an incredible action scene. Fantastic things happen in the film, but they seem to end as soon as they begin.

Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the best written and most well-rounded superhero films of the year. The entire cast is phenomenal, the special effects are impressive, and it has all the right seeds planted for next year's The Avengers. The action almost feels like an afterthought though. It's as if there was too much story to tell and Joe Johnston had to cut down on action to cram in more dialogue. Captain America: The First Avenger is still explosive, exhilarating, captivating, and fairly entertaining, but it drops the ball on delivering a completely satisfying climax.

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Tags: Captain America, movie review, action, adventure, sci-fi, based on comic
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DVD review: 13 Assassins (2011)
07/22/11 at 08:32 AM by EvilButters
Takashi Miike has always been a filmmaker for people with particular tastes. He's best known for massive amounts of blood and insane or grotesque moments in his films that make you double take and verbally gasp. Films like Audition, Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer, and Gozu illustrate this point to disturbing perfection. But there's more to the Japanese director's repertoire than most expect or even know about. The man has dabbled in just about every genre; The Happiness of the Katakuris was a musical, his Black Triad trilogy brought his extreme violence to the crime genre, he tested the waters of both westerns and the English language in Sukiyaki Western Django, and he even jumped head first into the superhero genre with Zebraman. Takashi Miike may be known for disturbing and violent cinema, but that isn't entirely fair to a filmmaker who has directed over seventy productions since 1991. It was only a matter of time before Takashi brought his versatile sense of filmmaking to samurai epics and 13 Assassins is an incredible place to start.

13 Assassins is a remake of the 1963 film The Thirteen Assassins. Without actually seeing the original film, this is more of a review of just the film as a standalone feature. What I have read about the comparisons between Takashi's Assassins and the original is pretty astounding. Hollywood remakes tend to make the mistake of remaking films frame by frame with all the same story points and conclusions. It makes the entire process feel like a waste of time. Takashi actually takes ideas from the original film and expresses them in different ways in his remake. This is done by swapping characters in the scene or different camera angles. Wildgrounds posted an article that goes into a bit more detail and it's worth a look. This alone makes 13 Assassins special. It almost completely redefines what a remake can and should be.

This samurai epic is a slow burn meaning it takes quite a while for the action to really get going. At a little over two hours long, 13 Assassins does seem to over explain things. Also there's a fairly large chance you won't be able to remember all of the thirteen assassins; at least by name. Most of the movie is spent gathering the troops and acquiring samurais for their cause. Once all of that is taken care of there's still training to go through, a run-through of their plans, and a lengthy forest sequence. But despite feeling over explanatory, it is still worthwhile and fairly intriguing along the way. That forest sequence does pay off by introducing Koyata (YŻsuke Iseya), who eventually becomes the 13th assassin. The character is an obvious nod to Kikuchiyo (played by Toshiro Mifune) in Seven Samurai. Koyata is quite possibly the most interesting character in the film due to him not actually being human and his similarities to Kikuchiyo make him awesome right from the start.

The last battle is epic in itself. Everything in the film has been building to this. Lasting nearly forty minutes, it's safe to say it pays off. People expecting Takashi's over the top violence will walk away disappointed though. There's one crazy moment in 13 Assassins that comes to mind and a few fairly gory scenes, but it's not up to the standards you're expecting. The violence is strategically placed to mean a bit more once you actually see it and not come off as completely senseless. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, as well. Fog plays a pivotal role and the forest, while being hell for the characters on-screen, is a joy to look at.

While I can't compare 13 Assassins to the film it's based on, it did have shades of all of the great samurai movies I have had the pleasure of seeing. It even felt like a new version of Seven Samurai at times without making the mistake of modernizing everything. 13 Assassins does come off as a bit too long for its own good and has the tendency to explain things in too much detail, it is still one of the few films out there that can be considered a true remake. 13 Assassins shows how far Takashi Miike has come as a director while focusing more on the story than the beneficial expectations some have come to anticipate from the director. Despite its flaws, 13 Assassins is one of the best films of the year.

The DVD release is a bit bare when it comes to special features. You may notice that the international cut is quite a bit shorter than the uncut version of the film. Thankfully, all of those scenes are in tact in the Deleted Scenes section of the special features. 20 deleted scenes last a little over 18 minutes and most of them just add a few little extra tidbits of information to the story that aren't completely vital; thirty seconds here and a minute there. A few deleted scenes are worth mentioning though and most of them involve Koyata. When he's first introduced, Koyata leads the twelve assassins back to the road after getting lost in the forest. In a deleted scene, he's offered money after the good deed but doesn't take it. He's then hit over the head with two rather large tree branches that shatter on impact, but they don't phase him. He asks if he can come along and join the battle. Hesitant at first, Shinzaemon eventually decides Koyata can come with them even though he insists on not being the boss of the group. In another deleted scene, Koyata has sex with every woman in town and wears them down to exhaustion. Hungry for more, he tries to go after a woman he already wore out which the mayor won't allow. After Koyata notices the mayor admiring his "member," he has sex with him to satisfy his desire. Lastly, there's an extra scene added to the ending of the film where Shinrokuro's wife runs outside looking hopeful and happy.

Other than a two and a half minute theatrical trailer, the only other special feature is a nearly nineteen minute sit down interview with director Takashi Miike. He touches on some pretty interesting stuff during the interview including the actors portraying the samurai giving amazing performances and being the highlight of the film, not using music on purpose to make sound effects more meaningful, the film being a drama and not an action film, Koyata's death being open ended, the last scene only having one take, and a lot more.

The 13 Assassins DVD comes with a digital copy, is R-rated for sequences of bloody violence, some disturbing images and brief nudity, available in both English and Japanese with English and Spanish subtitles, and presented with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound and widescreen 2:40:1. It's approximately 125 minutes long and is available in stores as well as most online retailers now.

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Tags: 13 Assassins, movie review, DVD review, drama, adventure, action, Takashi Miike
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) review
07/14/11 at 06:46 PM by EvilButters
I was never a big Harry Potter fan. I didn't read the books and only saw The Prisoner of Azkaban in theaters at the time because I was bored one weekend. So I had pretty much gone all this time without seeing the other movies in their entirety. With a screening of The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 quickly approaching, I took the initiative to watch the first seven movies over the course of a few days to be prepared and I'm very glad that I did. The movies do in fact get darker as you progress through them and seem to get better with each sequel. The one thing I didn't like was that The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, and The Half-Blood Prince all have similar endings that just leave you hanging. One of the main characters, usually Harry, blurts out something like, "We're going to have to go do this," and then there's this long, winding panoramic shot before the credits roll and that's it. However, watching all the movies at once had me at a bit of an advantage since there wasn't much of a wait between movies. Everyone has their favorite Harry Potter movie and I'm still a bit partial to The Prisoner of Azkaban but in my opinion both halves of The Deathly Hallows are the best in the series.

I'm not entirely sure if it was just following so close to the book or what, but The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has an excellent sense of perspective. Hermione holding a stray hair and the scene at the bank where the guard begins to suspect Harry, Ron, and Hermione to be imposters are the prime examples that come to mind. The way it drew attention to certain items or characters through the use of those things being in-focus while everything else around them was out of focus just really made a simple scene so much more interesting. It made you try and take notice of the surroundings a bit more since they seemed to be just as important as what the main characters were going through at times.

The special effects are extremely impressive, as well. The war at Hogwarts and Harry's battle with Voldemort are probably the most substantial scenes that come to mind while the death eaters always use some fairly eye-catching effects, but I found the white dragon to be the crown jewel of the special effects department. Most of the extravagant creatures that have played an important role in the series have generally looked the best (Buckbeak and Thestrals come to mind) compared to some of the other computer generated effects in the franchise. The white dragon in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 just looks really spectacular though. It didn't look like it was obviously created on a computer like many computer generated effects seem to and almost came off as being flesh and bone or at least as realistic as a dragon could be.

Does a film like this have any weaknesses? Probably, but they'll mostly go unnoticed. That's not necessarily a bad thing either. You'll be so caught up in watching this ten year event come to an end and piecing together those final pieces of the puzzle that if there is anything wrong with this finale you won't even notice. I've always felt that it always looked kind of funky whenever somebody rode a broomstick. At times it looks great and just as it should, but at others it just didn't look right. It looked a bit off in this one, but it's so brief that it should hardly even count as a nitpick.

I feel like amongst all of the adventures youíve tagged along for with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and all of the characters and creatures theyíve come into contact with in the span of eight films that Snape is still easily the most intriguing aspect of the entire story. His agenda is certainly something worth paying attention to and the way everything he does falls into place after you learn what you do about him in this movie is something really extraordinary. That isnít to say that other characters donít have their moments because they do, but Professor Severus Snape is that unexpected adhesive that brings all of the films together and gives the entire franchise an even greater meaning.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is essentially everything you want it to be and that's more than a satisfying conclusion for all Harry Potter fans big and small. The special effects are fantastic and the cast is at the top of their game. It's intense and gripping while part of you will want to see this film last forever. That's probably the most difficult part; saying goodbye to these characters you've spent the last ten years getting to know. Overall Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is just a brilliant conclusion to a wonderful franchise.

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Tags: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, action, adventure, Daniel Radcliffe
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