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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) review
02/09/12 at 11:02 AM by EvilButters
*This does contain some minor spoilers*

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth; you know that movie with Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem, and director Eric Brevig all of which didn't return for the sequel. Fraser didn't want to return unless Brevig was back in the director's chair, but Brevig had his hands full with Yogi Bear when Warner Bros was ready to go for the sequel. So Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore director Brad Peyton stepped in and we have an entirely new cast other than Josh Hutcherson, which includes the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Luis Guzmán, and Vanessa Hudgens. The result is a visual effects heavy amalgamation of corny dialogue and forced feel-good moments.

Journey 2 was actually preceded by a new 3D computer animated Looney Tunes short entitled "Daffy's Rhapsody." A quick trivia note is that they actually dug through the archives and resurrected a Mel Blanc audio track to be featured in the short. So the legendary voice actor is back as Daffy Duck and Billy West steps in as Elmer Fudd. The short itself was very well done since it was brilliantly animated and made full use of the 3D technology. As a Looney Tunes fan, it was a welcome change of pace to see Daffy actually being Daffy again. I'm a huge Daffy Duck fan and while his run-ins with Bugs Bunny are hilarious Daffy eventually became second fiddle to Bugs and evolved into this greedy goofball. In earlier shorts, he was flat out crazy and that personality fit him best. It's almost as if the character is returning to his roots here. Also, when is the last time you saw Elmer Fudd hunt solely Daffy Duck without Bugs being involved at all? I was very pleased with Daffy's Rhapsody over all, especially in comparison to the recent 3D Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner shorts.

Returning to Journey 2 though, the movie immediately lost me in the opening credits as the score seemed to disrespectfully rip-off the famous theme to Jurassic Park. It doesn't take long for the corny dialogue to slap you in the face either. The phrase, "Here we go," should never be uttered in the face of danger or at all really. From the HDTV line to pretty much everything Gabby (Luis Guzmán) says throughout their endless string of adventures, Journey 2 will have you rolling your eyes and facepalming yourself more often than you can count. Characters seem to repeat words over and over again, as well. Dwayne Johnson is the guiltiest of this as his dialogue is pretty painful at times. Shall we bring up "thundercookie" or the "popping the pecs" scene that was only thrown in there for a cheap 3D effect?

Maybe it's because a Looney Tunes short was attached to the movie, but Journey 2 certainly borrowed from classic Looney Tunes shorts on more than one occasion. When they first arrive on the island, Gabby thinks he's been cut in half but it turns out the lower half of his body is just buried beneath the sand. This sequence is awfully reminiscent of a scene in "Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid" and this scene in particular. Gabby also discovers a rock made of pure gold and essentially has almost an identical reaction as Bugs Bunny in "Barbary Coast Bunny." Even the camera placement is similar, so it had to be done on purpose. It honestly felt more like blasphemy than homage though.

I guess the hip thing to do with movies anymore is to make the majority of the cast as intolerable as possible, especially when it comes to family features. Nearly every male in the Anderson family is a snarky, smart aleck, prick; Michael Caine and Josh Hutcherson being the sole offenders. Alexander (Caine) already looks to have raided Indiana Jones' wardrobe and even uses that familiar sounding Jurassic Park-like theme when he first shows up. He spends the entire movie ripping on Hank (Dwayne Johnson). Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) is the same way though in the way she gives Sean (Hutcherson) the cold shoulder, so maybe the aim was to write everyone like a seventeen year old girl. Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson tries to cram as much of his The Rock personality into a PG persona as he can and even sings a little number that is actually pretty darn good.

Journey 2 relies on slow-mo to drive all of its biggest moments home and thanks to movies like 300 has made it all the more obvious in the movies that have followed suit. Even though the entire adventure is basically a race against time, it's like the characters always make time to try and be witty or funny or clever. It just rubs you the wrong way. "Quit standing around in the dark trying to amuse yourself and get out of that damn cave before it collapses on your scrawny butt," you'll say to yourself before throwing the nearest toddler at the screen in frustration. If that isn't the case, they manage to cram these family, touchy-feely moments in at the most inopportune time. "I know you're about to wrestle a giant electric eel, but I just want you to know that me being a hard headed douchebag towards you this entire time was my way of saying I love you." There's more than one comment about being killed after they die, as well. "If we die out there, mom is going to kill us." "If we get ripped to shreds, I'm going to kill you." But you'll already be dead, so who cares? And apparently, being in the Navy means you automatically become "MacGyver." If that's the case, send me a brochure.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island wasn't quite as terrible as I expected it to be. A few of the jokes are mildly amusing and some of the special effects sequences are actually pretty entertaining. In the long run though, it still can't pass as a good film. Its lame humor gets on your last nerve, its feel-good moments make you want to gag, you can tell that everything was done in front of a green screen, and the writing is downright terrible the majority of the time (“THE LIQUEFICATION RATE TRIPLED OVERNIGHT!”). Why did Sean know so much about the island to begin with? Did he read the books over and over again throughout his childhood? Did he watch a lot of National Geographic and the Discovery Channel? Imagine taking a few of the halfway entertaining sequences from the original National Treasure and combining them with the absolute worst moments from the Land of the Lost film starring Will Ferrell and you have a pretty good idea of what you're in for. In the next movie, I only hope that Brendan Fraser returns and challenges The Rock to a wrestling match...IN SPACE!

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Tags: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, review, movies, action, adventure, comedy
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Red Tails (2012) review
01/20/12 at 09:55 AM by EvilButters
Over twenty five years after the fact and Maverick has become a drunk who makes hasty decisions under the influence, Goose has become a bit more reckless and still puts women before anything else, and Iceman's role has been reduced significantly as his smug arrogance is only felt in a handful of lines. What's that you say? Red Tails isn't the urban retelling of Top Gun? Well, you could have fooled me. It's not that it makes much difference though. No matter how you look at it, Red Tails doesn't really have much of anything to offer.

At the peak of World War II, African American pilots are considered the lowest of the low. They're considered to be incapable of performing their tasks to their country to the fullest and are given leftover missions that don't even qualify as scraping the bottom of the barrel. The Tuskegee training program is no different as the entire squadron is mostly reduced to shooting down trucks, trains, and perhaps a cow every now and then. That is until Colonel A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) succeeds in letting the higher ups give his men a chance and they take full advantage of the opportunity.

Red Tails feels really cheesy as soon as that quote is shown in the opening scene. The movie has a $58 million budget, but it certainly doesn't feel that way considering the opening credits. The amalgamation of planes ripping through the sky and tearing each other to pieces feels like a distraction or a cover up for the rest of your senses. Try to pay attention to the credits, how plain they are, and how cheap they look. That along with the score that feels like it was ripped straight out of a stereotypical action film from the 90s doesn't really seem like the type of tone they were going for here. The acting isn't much better as stiffness and monotony seem to be what they were aiming for. The Tuskegee airmen do begin to get a bit more comfortable in their roles as the movie progresses. David Oyelowo takes Lightning the furthest as far as Easy's (Nate Parker) squad goes, but they certainly seem their best in the face of tragedy. Terrence Howard has a few great moments, as well. Specifically his "highest expectations" scene he shares with Joe "Lightning" Little. But it isn't enough to save a second-rate film.

The script is very dry. I don't mean dry humor I mean about as pleasant as trying to listen to somebody with a mouthful of saltine crackers. It feels so stale and again contributes to that 90s atmosphere I mentioned earlier. Keep an ear out for the Americans and how third grade they sound. The dialogue along with the monotonous tone spread out amongst every actor in the film makes everyone come off as a robot. "These cows are armed," is a line that's actually used in the movie. There are a few lines that are almost decent. Winky's (Leslie Odom Jr) line where he says, "Every time I close that canopy I feel like I'm closing the lid to my own coffin," is surprisingly good. It gives the momentary belief that things may turn around, but they never do. Smokey's (Ne-Yo) "colored" conversation at the bar is the most amusing thing Red Tails has to offer, as well. There are many lame attempts at humor that just make you groan. Black Jesus is perhaps the worst joke of all, considering how things turn out for Deke (Marcus T. Paulk).

I was expecting Red Tails to at least offer a fair amount of eye candy, but the special effects weren't really all that impressive at all. There's a train explosion early on in the film that's been shown in nearly every trailer and TV spot. It's pretty much on the same scale as the train crash in Super 8, but it isn't nearly as spectacular. That's kind of weird considering Super 8 was $8 million dollars cheaper than Red Tails when it comes to its budget. What ruined it for me was that sloppy zoom-in effect that's relied on as a crutch the entire movie. The Tuskegee airmen will be in the midst of a heated air battle with the Germans. The camera would pan up to try and capture the action, but it would zoom-in (or out on a few occasions) nearly every time to try and show you who should be keeping track of. It just came off as sloppy camera work to me, as if they didn't have the proper camera placement for the scene and tried to adjust it accordingly. There are several things that don't really add up in the movie either. One of the main ones for me was that at one point, Easy tells everyone that there's no time to celebrate a completed mission and to return to base because they're low on fuel. But can you guess what they do in the very next scene? They showboat and celebrate. Not listening to your superiors and still getting praised for it is an overbearing theme in the movie, as well.

George Lucas fought for 23 years to get this made, but after viewing it you'll more than likely be convinced that the man has grown senile over the years and that retirement from Hollywood is the best thing for him. The turnout for the screening was insane and you can bet that Red Tails will more than likely make a killing at the box office, but there's no way in hell it passes as a good or even decent piece of cinema. Amateur cinematography, a boring script, terrible acting, and the fate of certain characters being extremely predictable (you can guess Lightning's fate around the time things start getting serious with Sophia), Red Tails is the equivalent of a stand-up act that gets booed off the stage. It is just awful. I was left wishing the entire movie was just Cuba Gooding Jr lifting a pipe to his lips, pulling it away, and pretending to smoke the entire film. If it was just those clips strung together with no dialogue and that dubstep track from the TV spot in the background, I could have at least gotten a good laugh out of it.

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Tags: Red Tails, review, action, adventure, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, George Lucas
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Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (2012) review
01/19/12 at 10:08 AM by EvilButters
I have been following Fullmetal Alchemist since 2002. In college, I used to read scans of the manga translated into English by fans before it was picked up for U.S. distribution. I became addicted to the original series and blazed through its 51 episodes in less than a week (I went through "Brotherhood", a 64 episode series, in five days). The first movie Conquerer of Shamballa didn't exactly sit well with me in the long run though. It wasn't because the film was bad or of poor quality (in fact it was very much the opposite), but seeing the adventures of Edward and Alphonse Elric finally come to a close and live in a world without alchemy was extremely bittersweet. "Brotherhood" seemed to correct every misstep the original series had though while also offering better animation and was much closer to the manga it originated from. "Brotherhood" is more emotional than the original series and the conclusion just feels so right. I consider "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood" to be one of the best anime titles of all time. So imagine the excitement when news of a new movie being in development finally reached this fan's ears. Maybe it's just because I've been on a Fullmetal Alchemist kick lately anyway, but The Sacred Star of Milos is everything I wanted it to be and then some.

The Sacred Star of Milos is a stand-alone animated feature much like Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven's Door and Trigun: Badlands Rumble. This means that as long as you have a basic understanding of the characters and the alchemy they use then you'll understand everything in the film and more than likely enjoy it thoroughly. Bones returns as the animation studio for the film (credits include the original "Fullmetal Alchemist" series, "Wolf's Rain", and "Cowboy Bebop" among many others), which is fantastic for us. The animation is so crisp, smooth, and seems so naturally fluid while everything is overflowing with color and appears to be an incredible series of paintings brought to life. The action sequences are illustrated so vividly and are so detailed. The alchemy battles along with its dynamic use of perspective never really let up. If the movie isn't impressing you with its animation or its eyecatching action, it reels you in with its story. Interesting and complex without crossing over into convoluted territory, The Sacred Star of Milos is a perfect addition to the Fullmetal Alchemist universe.

Stand-alone anime films based on well-known anime series always seem to include the coolest and unrelenting villians. The Sacred Star of Milos introduces Ashleigh Crichton and his sister Julia. The town Milos is located at the bottom of a valley directly in the middle of a rising rebellion. Julia feels like she owes an obligation to the people of Milos and looks to help restore the glory the town once had. Little does she know that her quest has her being drawn to the Philosopher's Stone. Ashleigh breaks out of prison six months before his parole and uses a mysterious alchemy that even the Elric brothers don't recognize. His motives are unclear right from the start. Then there's the wolf chimeras (along with their incredible transformations) and the mysterious masked man. All of these characters play intricate roles in the storyline.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos introduces some fantastic new characters wrapped up in an elaborate and intelligent storyline while delivering the exceptional animation you've come to expect from both series. Having such a sensational film be released in this time frame of the year almost seems blasphemous.

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Tags: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, anime, animation, action, adventure
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Hugo (2011) review
12/25/11 at 11:14 AM by EvilButters
Martin Scorsese is a well respected director known for R-rated films usually revolving around crime or gangsters in some capacity. Saying the F-word nearly 300 times in one movie, stabbing someone with a pen, flushing a stash down the toilet, getting whacked, getting blown up, and getting your mind blown to such extremities in the last twenty minutes of a feature that you win an Oscar for it even though somebody already made that movie before; these are the things that come to mind when you think of Scorsese. Scorsese hadn't really worked with children much over his career or at least not to this extent. So that was interesting to keep in mind when Hugo started making the rounds. A family friendly Martin Scorsese film seems so surreal, but is more than a worthy addition to an already overflowing resume full of fantastic cinema.

It takes a while for Hugo to really get going, but it's certainly beautiful in the meantime. The film is a visual spectacle while each frame is an absolute joy to look at. You're taken through the intricate insides of various clocks at a train station; seeing their gears move as the use of steam adds just the right amount of mystery. It's not so much the fact that Hugo is slow because it isn't. There's this veil of mystery that isn't lifted until Hugo (Asa Butterfield) finally caves and tells his story. The various clocks and train station setting keeps you occupied and the long introduction with no dialogue is extremely noteworthy. It's just for nearly half the film, you have all these elements (clocks, the train station, a notebook, an automaton, and Hugo's father) without much of a connection. But it does all come together in extraordinary fashion.

The cast is really superb. Asa Butterfield is so passionate and emotional. Those blue eyes of his tell the story better than words ever could. Chloe Grace Moretz is so optimistic and eager for a chance at an adventure. You can't help but adore the Isabelle character. Sacha Baron Cohen seems to step way out of his element here. The Station Inspector seems like a complete 180 from Bruno or Borat, but his sense of humor is still in his performance. He just happens to have a bit more depth in comparison. Ben Kingsley's Georges Méliès goes through such a transformation in the film though that he's able to display such a wide range of emotion. He plays the broken old man impeccably.

There are times when movies affect you in a way that let you know they are special. For me, it's like I'm suddenly overcome by a wide range of emotions that make me want to laugh, cry, scream at the top of my lungs, and the overwhelming sensation of never wanting that moment or the movie to end. I'm not ashamed to say I felt that a few times during Hugo. James Cameron called Hugo a masterpiece and it's really difficult to argue with that. There isn't a weak point in the cast, the visuals are outstanding, and you find yourself connecting to the story. You're sucked into this world right from the start. Hugo is one of the most beautiful and charming films of the year.

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Tags: Hugo, movie review, review, adventure, drama, family, Martin Scorsese
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Here (2011) review
11/14/11 at 08:19 PM by EvilButters
What initially attracted me to Here was Ben Foster being involved. I remember watching "Flash Forward" when I was in seventh grade and even though I can't remember much about the series, it must've made a long-lasting impression on me because I've followed Foster's acting career fairly closely ever since. But Here was a bit of a gamble since I wasn't familiar with anyone else in the cast (even though Lubna Azabal was also in Coriolanus, which I saw earlier the same evening) and Braden King was a director I was completely unfamiliar with. In the end, Here isn't exactly a film that demands to be seen but is still able to pique your interest at times if you find yourself watching it.

Will Shepard (Foster) is a cartographer who currently finds himself in Armenia. He drives all over the country for his work and eventually crosses paths with a photographer named Gadarine (Azabal). They feel connected to one another right from the start and eventually start travelling together. A relationship of sorts develops and while the two of them thoroughly enjoy the company of one another life steps in to take them in opposite directions. Both Will and Gadarine find themselves at a crossroads and must decide where to go from Here.

Here is full of some absolutely breathtaking scenery. It was actually shot on location in Armenia and the country is almost overly-beautiful. Everything is so lush and green. It's almost overwhelming. You'll also notice the film's prominent use of long shots. Most of them take place in the middle of nowhere, are roaming shots, and usually slowly rotate in a nearly 360 degree angle. It gives you this sense of what's going on in this world around the actors rather than what's just transpiring during their story.

The most intriguing aspect of Here is that every so often it takes a time out from telling Will and Gabadine's story while a narrator steps in (Peter Coyote) and talks over some rather abstract visuals that include shots of nature and city life. The narrated scenes are written really well and it just took me back to the more abstract animated shorts that Chuck Jones did (Now Hear This, The Dot and the Line) back in the sixties. The Tree of Life almost comes to mind, but Here doesn't have half a dozen storylines competing for your attention and doesn't feel nearly as pretentious as The Tree of Life did. Into the Wild is probably the most obvious comparison, but I was left thinking of a Joseph Gordon-Levitt film not many people saw called Uncertainty. The films aren't even all that similar, but both films take something like a character study and make it more important than the actual storyline.

Here is a pretty unique experience. It's not the typical type of film that acts like it demands your attention, but is a journey you won't regret taking when it's over. Conceptual ideas are interjected amongst a blossoming and intimate love story. Everything the story stands for rides on the last few precious moments of the film, which takes something so simple and gives this incredible meaning to it. Here comes off as more of a traveling journal or moving photo album rather than the typical story driven cinematic fare.

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Tags: Here, movie review, adventure, drama, romance, Ben Foster
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DVD review: Trollhunter (2011)
08/23/11 at 12:56 PM by EvilButters
Mockumentaries seem to have worn out their welcome just as much as unnecessary remakes have in recent years. There have been countless fake documentaries out there that chronicle "real" events or try to come off as feeling more authentic by using this technique. The Blair Witch Project, REC, Borat, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, I'm Still Here, and Paranormal Activity are just a few examples that come to mind. It's become a really monotonous concept as of late since all of the films that decide to go this route all seem to follow the same formula. Trollhunter is a bit different though. It at least feels like its pushing the boundaries of what mockumentaries are truly capable of.

Three college students are sent to investigate some rather unorthodox bear killings, but eventually come to realize they've bitten off more than they can chew. Their investigation leads them to Hans (Otto Jespersen), who is believed to be a poacher trying to capitalize on the success of all the bear hunters in Norway. The students are adamant about getting an interview with Hans and follow the mysterious man as he comes and goes at odd hours of the day and stays out all night. While trailing him one night, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud); one of the students, is bitten by something as we finally get a glimpse of what Hans really hunts; trolls. Hans eventually caves and allows the students to tag along with him as he shows us a world the government is going to elaborate lengths to cover up.

Trollhunter has gone to great lengths to at least appear like a lot of thought went into how these trolls exist in the real world. Whether a lot of time went into that or not, the parts of the film where that information is given to us is easily the most intriguing aspect of the film. Everything from how UV rays affect them, whether they'll explode or turn to stone, the various different types of trolls, why some have multiple heads, and what power lines are really put up for are all things touched upon in the film. It is probably a bit unrealistic on one hand, but if you grew up reading Grimm's Fairy Tales or are a fan of fantasy in general, then it's something you'll easily find yourself getting absorbed into.

While the film does a good job of latching onto your interest, Trollhunter does kind of feel like it rushes in the troll department a bit. We see several different types of trolls; a Tosserlad, Ringlefinch, Mountain Kings, and the Jotnar. But you're left wanting more of these adventures of close encounters with these enormous fantastical creatures, which is probably better than wanting less of them. Everything we see relating to the trolls is incredible, but it seems like none of those scenes last anywhere near as long as anything building up to them. At one point in the film, Thomas mentions something about them currently standing where many troll battles take place. Mountain trolls and woodland trolls apparently come to blows there, throw rocks at each other, and basically just have an all out war. That would've been amazing to actually see.

With that said, the troll scenes are still very impressive. The real gems are the Tosserlad and the Jotnar since they are the ones with the most screen time. The night vision camera along with the chase in the woods and how Hans subdues the creature are what make the Tosserlad experience so exciting. The Jotnar is almost overwhelming due to its size and it manages to deliver some of the most astounding scenes in the film. The main one being Hans trying to get in front of the Jotnar by driving right underneath its feet while it's walking only to be struck by its massive right hand. That scene makes the whole mockumentary technique payoff.

Trollhunter is not meant to be terrifying and it more than likely won't make you cry from laughing too hard. It is, however, a thought provoking and fascinating dark fantasy film. Whether the appearance of the trolls appeals to you or not is entirely up to you, but they are presented fairly realistically on film. The amount of detail that goes into what they eat, how they act, and why they're being hunted is what keeps you intrigued in-between the brief, although rather spectacular, altercations between the human characters and the trolls. Trollhunter puts a unique spin on what was otherwise thought to be a worn out concept and leaves you wanting more by the time it's all over, which is all any film should really aspire to do.

Special features on the DVD are a bit misleading. Mostly because it looks like there’s a ton, but most of them fall in between being only thirty seconds to three minutes in length. There are five Deleted Scenes that last about three and a half minutes total and aren’t really all that important or interesting. Improv and Bloopers is two minutes in length and has three scenes. Extended Scenes is where it starts to get interesting. Nearly eight minutes in length, three scenes from the film are a bit longer and contain some fascinating tidbits here and there. Visual Effects is really cool. Three featurettes show how most of the trolls and other CG animated creatures (sheep, Hans in his sample extracting suit) are built from the ground up. This is all about six minutes in length. Behind the Scenes is probably the most vital special feature to watch. You get a good look at how much of the film was computer generated and how much was actually built on set. It’s incredible how actors are able to react to things that aren’t physically there with them to this extent. Behind the Scenes is spread out amongst seven featurettes and is about twenty three minutes long. Photo Galleries is mostly a look at troll sketches and they’re habitats while HDNet: A Look at Trollhunter is mainly the cast talking about the film in between clips of the film itself. These features are around six minutes and four minutes respectively. So you get a total of about fifty three minutes of bonus features.

Trollhunter is rated PG-13 for some sequences of creature terror, is available in both English and Norwegian 5.1 Dolby Digital with English or Spanish subtitles, and presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It is approximately 103 minutes long. Trollhunter was released today on both DVD and Blu-ray in both retail stores and most online retailers.

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Tags: Trollhunter, movie review, DVD review, adventure, comedy, fantasy, mockumentary
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30 Minutes or Less (2011) review
08/12/11 at 06:47 PM by EvilButters

Ruben Fleischer's first directorial effort, Zombieland, was met with both critic acclaim and fan appraisal. There seem to be far fewer people who disliked Zombieland compared to those who enjoyed it. Zombieland was quite entertaining though; its cast was incredibly well-rounded, it offered a new spin on a story we've seen dozens of times before, and most of all it offered humor and sharp wit during what is otherwise the end of the world; a time when you least expected it. Zombieland was something special. However, 30 Minutes or Less seems like a completely different type of comedy. The trailers lead you to believe it could go either way; one way being extremely hilarious and the other ending with you kicking yourself because you didn't just wait to rent it. Even after seeing the movie, 30 Minutes or Less still manages to fall somewhere in the middle of that generalization.

30 Minutes or Less starts off pretty strong. The dialogue is really funny, you can feel the chemistry between the actors, and the storyline is progressing at a steady pace. It seems like it's on track to be this fantastically amusing R-rated comedy that's one of the funniest films of the year, but it begins to lose steam after the bank robbery. It's like the humor begins to lose its wit and becomes more about bickering between the duos Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) and Chet (Aziz Ansari) and Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson). By the end of the movie, you'll wonder how a pizza deliveryman who does nothing but smoke pot, drink, play video games, and watch action movies who's never amounted to anything his entire life can rob a bank, get away with it, and be as smart as he is about the entire situation. Is it years of untapped potential finally bubbling to the surface or a giant plot hole? You'll have to be the judge of that.

There seems to be a plethora of plot devices added in the second half of the movie that hurts it overall. A pen gun, a hired gun getting his own side story, a romance, the potential tan salon Dwayne and Travis won't stop talking about, police chases, the leverage changing hands several times, and flamethrowers all entering the picture, it all becomes too much to process. Trying to juggle that many scenes only results in a movie like this stumbling in its attempted execution.

The cast is 30 Minutes or Less finest asset. The writing certainly has its moments, but the actors are what make the movie as entertaining as it is. Jesse Eisenberg portrays that same sharp wit you've come to expect from the actor. Meanwhile Danny McBride gives one of his best performances. McBride tends to be utilized so well as a supporting character. All of his qualities seem to shine brightest when he's not the main character. It's one of the reasons Your Highness didn't work out. Nick Swardson plays up the bomb expert/second fiddle to Dwayne role incredibly well. He's more intelligent than he lets on and the scene where he's unleashing his kicks in front of a tied up and bomb straddled Nick is probably his funniest in the movie. Last but not least, there's Michael Peña who's the one character in the movie who can get laughs just by the way he talks alone. His "pimp" scene in the mirror is quite amusing. You may have noticed I left out Aziz Ansari and that's mostly because it felt like he wasn't very funny at all. He had a few one-liners that are snicker-worthy, but seemed to ruin it by running it into the ground and just overdoing it in general.

The other disheartening thing about 30 Minutes or Less is the way it ends. It doesn't feel like a conclusion since everything just kind of stops. The movie ends with a laugh and has a pretty ridiculous scene after the credits, but it leaves so many unanswered questions. It was probably left open for a possible sequel, which would probably just completely ruin what limited appeal this comedy has.

30 Minutes or Less is fast paced, action packed, and even downright hilarious at times. Unfortunately, it doesn't keep up the momentum it first starts off with. The humor becomes stale, the actors tend to get caught up in being silly rather than moving the story along, and action takes a front seat in the second half while the comedy takes a hit, but 30 Minutes or Less is still fairly amusing and at least worth a rental in the long run.

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Tags: 30 Minutes or Less, movie review, action, adventure, comedy, Jesse Eisenberg
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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 he’s 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. There’s a fight that takes place in freefall between Cap and a few henchmen that’s 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 that’s 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 (Yûsuke 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 you’ve tagged along for with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and all of the characters and creatures they’ve 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 isn’t to say that other characters don’t 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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