Monday, August 30, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World


Okay, have you ever had one of those experiences that is so unimaginably strange that you just can't find the words to describe it? Imagine for a moment that while walking through the park, you ran into this.

If this makes sense to you, you may need psychiatric help.

It's one of those things where all you can do is just stare at it with an expression of mild confusion with your head tilted about 30 degrees to the side. All that you can say is some variation of "What?" as this ridiculously bizarre thing dances in front of your face expecting you to do something. Afterwards, you can't think of how to describe the experience - everything contradicts. It was awesome/boring, good/bad, and funny/scary. It was just... weird.

All in all, I think that the last few paragraphs provide a perfect opening to the real subject of this post: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. This movie is, in many ways, like the picture provided above. It's confusing, vaguely charming, possibly makes you laugh, and is one of the weirdest things that I have ever... EVER... seen in my LIFE. However, being weird doesn't necessarily make it bad. It's just mind-bogglingly odd as it turns the real world into its own little virtual playground. The way that this movie plays with the universe can be really fun at times, in a strangely off-beat way that takes you completely off-guard. This theme starts before you're introduced to any of the characters, before the action starts... before the movie even begins.

This is how the movie begins.

And it all goes up/downhill from there. I'm going to try to describe this movie as best I can - be aware that if what I say does not make sense, it is legitimately the movie's fault. You have been warned.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a movie about a young man named Scott Pilgrim. He is 22, plays bass guitar in a small band, and has a 17 year old girlfriend. For those of you who cling to reality, hang on to this as hard as you can, because this is the last shred of normality you get in this film. Scott has a dream about a girl his age with bright pink hair who also happens to be hot. Now, this normally wouldn't cause too much of a problem between him and his girlfriend Knives (Yes, his girlfriend is named Knives), but in this case the dream-girl turns out to be real. Scott then hones in on her like... well, like a 22 year old male flooded with hormones.

That is to say, oblivious to everything else.

She does the whole "I'm in to you, but not into you" thing for about 5 minutes before she starts taking off her clothing. Meanwhile, Knives starts becoming more and more of an obsessed stalker... and seriously, the last name you want your obsessed stalker girlfriend to have is "Knives."

So not long after Scott and the dream-girl (whose name is Ramona, by the way) start seeing each other behind Knives' back, an Indian Emo-kid name flies through a wall and declares that he and Scott must have a duel to the death. Using the powers of flight and martial arts. Scott then takes the obvious course of action (that is to say he mysteriously learns kung-fu) and does battle against the intruder and his team of Bollywood demon hipster girls.

Oh, and when he is inevitably defeated, he explodes into money.

I needed to look at this picture now, as it makes enough sense in comparison to ground me back into reality.

Okay... random people showing up to partake in duels to the death, I can handle. Main character fighting back exceptionally well despite never showing any previous athletic prowess? I can manage that. But the fact that nobody really questions the whole... flying people with demon hipster chicks thing? THAT'S JUST TOO MUCH TO HANDLE.

The rest of the movie is essentially a long string of fight scenes, one after the other. See, it turns out that mister flying-explodes-into-gold-coins-man is actually an old flame of Ramona's. There's this plot device about how she has seven evil exes who are trying to control her love life, and Scott must defeat them all in order to date her. Not surprisingly, this blindsides our protagonist more than just a little.

"Hey, neat, I have a girlfri - OH MY GOD IT BURNS!"

So yeah. There's a lot of fighting in this movie, seeing as Scott has to battle his way through six more of these clowns in order for the plot device to be fulfilled. Each of these fights is fun and entertaining in their own way, but when you put them all together it honestly gets tedious pretty quickly. By the time Scott has beaten the guy with psychic Vegan powers (Because being Vegan just makes you better than other people), it's pretty much downhill.

I really don't know how much more I can legitimately say about this movie without giving too much away. Let's just say that if you thought what I've already described is weird... man, you don't even KNOW what strangeness even is. So lets get down to the bare bones of this movie.

Scott Pilgrim does indeed go up against the world - he defies just about every law of nature imaginable. As I saw this movie, I mused to myself that watching it must be what being on drugs feels like. It is such a completely unique and bizarre trip that there is literally nothing in the world like it. It's simple oddness makes it almost worth watching on its own merit. It's also visually stunning - the use of interesting imagery combined with rather excellent cinematography provides a really exciting product. However, while this movie is very pretty, the visuals do not make up for some of the very serious problems that run rampant.

Like with Paris Hilton

Like most really weird movies, it's also incredibly confusing. It expects viewers to take so much for granted that it never actually answers any of the questions that would have maybe helped it to make sense. In addition, while Scott Pilgrim is very visually engaging, it goes much too far, to the point that I was relieved when the credits started rolling because my eyes finally had a chance to rest. It's not a good thing when the visuals of a film send the audience into sensory overload.

When it comes down to it, Scott Pilgrim is a movie of relatively limited appeal. You have to be a pretty specific kind of person to really get and enjoy this movie - that kind of person being a hardcore geek. The constant references to video games and comic books are a very large part of the movie's appeal, and anyone who didn't get them would have a lot of difficulty understanding... well, anything about this film.

Having never read the comic books, I can't say for sure if you'd enjoy it more having done so, though I suspect you probably would. That said? If the comics are anything like the movie, I'd hazard a guess that if you don't like one, you wouldn't like the other and vice versa. The bottom line is that at its core, Scott Pilgrim is a cult film. A really strange, odd, bizarre, weird, and confusing cult film.

Final Grade: C+

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Public Service Announcement!!

TheFaceGuy is now on Facebook Twitter! Get updates immediately when I post, along with daily thoughts on various movies that I watch those days that might not necessarily make it into the blog! There you can also send me messages to ask me to review specific movies that you'd like to hear my opinion on.

So what are you waiting for? Go to Twitter and follow me! Or, if you're of a more Facebook Orientation, Friend Me!

Also, that goes into my next announcement... I am now officially taking requests! Now, as it generally takes 2-3 days to get a review finished, I probably won't be able to do everything all at once if I end up getting flooded, but if you poke me enough I will probably end up doing it in the long run. If you give me a cool idea for a Top 7 List, I'll probably do one of those as well. Wanna know my favorite movies of a particular genre? Perhaps my least favorite movies of all time? Ask away, and I will deliver.

Let it be known from now on that I am ready for action. Wicked films: You Face TheFaceGuy!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Top 7 Supporting Characters (Who Should have been the Leads)

Sometimes the hero of a movie is so powerful and charismatic that he makes the entire film revolve around him. Sometimes it's the reverse, and the main villain is the character remembered by the audience once the movie is finished, such as the Joker from Dark Knight. Other times, however, it is neither the hero nor the antagonist who takes center stage. Sometimes the character who we remember the most is one of the sidekicks or henchmen - supporting characters who are more memorable than the main cast. These characters stick out in our memories, and deservedly so. And so, without further ado, the Top Seven Supporting Characters (Who Should have been the Leads)

#7: Scrat, Ice Age
I think just about everyone who as seen any installation of the Ice Age Trilogy remembers the antics of Scrat, the... saber-toothed squirrel? Man, I don't even know what he's supposed to be, but boy is he a load of fun.

The makers of the Ice Age series really knew what they had going for them with Scrat. Even in Ice Age 2&3 (the plots of which were nowhere near as interesting as the original), the movies were both tolerable and entertaining thanks to the wordless mini-plot of Scrat going for the acorn. It's a lot of fun to watch, and has you in stitches the whole time. I could watch an entire movie just about this little guy, which is something I couldn't say about any other single character from the Ice Age series.

#6: Captain Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
"You'd best start believing in ghost stories, miss Turner. You're in one!"

Man, I love this series so much. As I mentioned in my review of Sorcerer's Apprentice, Pirates of the Caribbean was one of the best received live action movies that Disney has ever produced, and though Dead Man's Chest was a bit of a let-down, At World's End brought back a good amount of the entertainment provided by the original. One of the reasons for this, in my opinion, is the inclusion of Captain Barbossa.

Though he was the antagonist of the first movie, Barbossa makes a return in the third as a helping (if somewhat less than trustworthy) hand. With the less than stellar talents of Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly, it would take a lot more than just the formidable talents of Johnny Depp to save this film. Fortunately, Geoffrey Rush's performance as Barbossa was more than enough to redeem the third installation of this epic nautical adventure series. Despite the presence of Depp working at his side, Rush manages to make his character even more engaging, entertaining, and interesting.

#5: Jacob, Ink
"One, two, three, four..."

Have you seen Ink yet?

If the answer is no, then you have some serious problems. WATCH THIS MOVIE. Because, seriously. Damn.

It's hard for me to talk about this movie too much here, because there's so much about it that I don't want to give away. One thing I can talk about, however, is one particular character. I made a reference to him in my Ink review a few weeks back as a crazy blind man called a Pathfinder. However, this simple sentence does not manage to get across the awesome that Jacob has to offer. To say that he steals the show is similar to saying that The Beatles were popular - no matter how you phrase it, it's an understatement. The most awesome thing about him is that he's played by a complete unknown, yet manages to score a performance quality up there with Michael Caine or the aforementioned Johnny Depp. He blends humor with engima brilliantly, and it's a treat to watch.

#4: Gollum, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
"My own... my love... my Precioussss..."

I don't think anyone in the world saw the portrayal of Gollum coming in the second film in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. All of us in the know about the film's plot knew he would play an important role, but nobody in the world could have predicted the mastery of his portrayal. But holy damn was it there.

Ever since watching Two Towers, I have held the position that Andy Serkis is a genius. He managed to turn what could have been a rather annoying, slimy character into one of the deepest personalities in the entire trilogy - and he did it without ever appearing on screen. More than anyone else, it was clear that the actor behind the character had spend days upon days working on his character, perfecting the mannerisms and the movements. Gollum is terrifying and pitiful, loathsome and tragic, ruthless and guilt-ridden... he is a mass of interwoven conflicts that create a fantastically deep and engaging character, and he all does it through a face made of pixels and animation.

And speaking of animation...

#3: Kronk, The Emperor's New Groove
"Riiight, the poison, the poison for Kuzco, the poison chosen especially to kill Kuzco, Kuzco's poison.... That poison?"

As you probably gathered in my Top 7 Movie Villains List, I really like The Emperor's New Groove. It's among my favorite of the Disney Overmind's animated features, featuring some truly excellent comedic minds both behind the script and the acting. However, the one who takes the cake (and probably bakes it, too) is Patrick Warburton as Kronk, the less than perfectly enbrained henchman of the film's antagonist.

I... I don't know how to start. Every time he's on the screen you're at the very least chucking if not full-on screaming with laughter. While every other character has moments of brilliance over the course of the film, Kronk's entire performance is the moment of brilliance. I've seen this move many times, and each time I leave disappointed that there isn't more Kronk in the movie.

Now, Disney tried to make some spin-off movies that focused more heavily on this character, and unfortunately these attempts just didn't work out. Judging by that, Emperor's New Groove might not have been improved by a shift in character focus to Kronk. However, I can still dream that if it had happened, it would have been incredible.

#2: Han Solo, Star Wars Trilogy
"Never tell me the odds!"

I hate Luke Skywalker. While I have really liked Mark Hamill in his various voice acting performances (Batman and Avatar: The Last Airbender among them), I think that he was wholly unconvincing as the hero of the original Star Wars series. I like to think that George Lucas - who at this point had not yet gone batshit insane, which would lead him to make the prequel trilogy - realized that Hamill couldn't carry the performance along on his own, and so he went on a mission. That mission: create a supporting character so awesome that nobody would notice that his lead was falling behind. That character was Han Solo.

I don't think there's a single person reading this blog who hasn't seen at least one of the original (read: real) Star Wars movies. Normally I'd pick just one of the series to list in the title, pointing out the film in which he gave his best performance. But after reviewing my material, I honestly don't want to choose. Harrison Ford is such an incredible actor, and he was given an incredible character. Solo is also notable as the best written character in the series. Why? Because Han Solo's line were written by a different writer than the actual script: Harrison Ford. The vast majority of the time, Ford simply improvised his lines because, frankly, his ideas were better. For someone making up his script on the spot, he still managed to pull out some incredibly memorable lines.

And as we're on the topic of memorable lines...

#1: Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Interesting story about this one - Inigo Montoya started off as #5 on this list. Then, over the course of the past few days, he continued to gradually move up the list until he finally surpassed Han Solo earlier this morning. The reason for this is because every time I started writing for the next person in line who would come after Inigo, I realized that I liked the dashing, Spanish sword master better than the character I was writing about at the time.

Inigo Montoya is one of those characters who gets an entire plot arc within a film to himself. The cast of The Princess Bride seems almost like a party of D&D characters - each one an important cog of the party, each with their own goals and backgrounds. Inigo Montoya would be the character played by the guy we all wish we could be. He's the perfect combination of kind, sympathetic, funny, and awesome rolled into one package. There's nobody in the world who doesn't root for Montoya - he's so likable that you want him to win simply on instinct. He has complete, easy control of the scenery, which makes him easily the most memorable character of the film. If that doesn't make a character deserve the title of Best Supporting Character of all time, then I don't know what does.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Other Guys

There are two different kind of movie stars: actors and celebrities. Sometimes these two classifications overlap somewhat on actors who through their incredible skill in their profession combined with strong personalities manage to become the best of both worlds. But then there are the people on the two extremes. There are actors who are talented and do what they do solely because they love to act, their aspirations for fame and fortune on the sidelines. Then there are celebrities who have little to no talent, but who are charismatic or pretty enough that they've managed to create a career for themselves through the desire to be rich and famous.

Guess which kind this guy is.

One example of the latter kind of movie star is a man whom I have often loathed with a passion matching that which I usually reserve for movies like Twilight or Half Nelson. That man is Will Ferrell. There are no words that can accurately describe my opinion of this man and his usual so-called "comedy," so I am going to describe it in the way that best suits me as TheFaceGuy: through interpretive comedic art.

Almost everything that I have ever seen this man do I have hated. After a while, I learned to avoid his movies due to the fact that, 95% of the time, he makes me want to break something. The sad thing about this is that on rare occasion, he does something that puts me in complete stitches. For example, a few years ago he and Jack Black presented the Oscar for best original song. Seriously, go onto Youtube and watch that clip. It's great. He also did a movie that I really loved: Stranger Than Fiction. That's another great movie - it's smart and funny without drowning you in Slapstick Ocean.

What did these two things have in common, other than the actor himself? Simple. He wasn't overdoing it. In fact, he was being incredibly straight-faced. When he tries, Will Ferrell is one of the best Straight-Faced comedians that I have ever seen. When he does it right, it's a real joy to watch.

Now, when I saw trailers for The Other Guys, my original plan was to avoid it. But then it got good reviews, and we were going to the theaters anyways so that we could see Step Up 3D. So, after we saw a movie about dance gang warfare, we went on to see a crime comedy/action thriller. Now, I was already in a bad mood because of the previous film, and seeing a movie starring Ferrell was not helping the "Make TheFaceGuy More Cheerful" fund.

Me at the movies. Did I mention that I spilled my Blue Raspberry icee all over myself?

So, anyway, my anticipation meter was not at what one might call "High."

I don't know if that contributed to how much I enjoyed this movie, but I wouldn't be surprised.

The Other Guys is one of those few movies where Ferrell plays it down, staying calm and straight for most of the film, despite the fact that his lines are generally ridiculous. It's the kind of humor that builds. At the beginning of a scene you might not even catch it, but by the end you can't breathe because your sides hurt too much. Of course, he doesn't maintain it the entire time - once or twice he does slip into the usual vernacular. However, for the most part the movie is pretty decent.

Admittedly, it's at its best in the very beginning. While the acting is pretty good throughout, the first half hour does have the best The Other Guys brings to the table. Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson have cameos early on as the cops that most police thrillers would focus on. Also, there's an absolutely wonderful monologue about tuna fish learning to crave the taste of lion. I wish I could recreate it here - it's hysterical.

Gonna go hunt some lions.

Now, I'll be honest. Though I did enjoy this movie, it's certainly not a work of art. It's fun and entertaining - which admittedly is what this sort of movie is supposed to be - but there's not a lot of substance. The plot is almost an afterthought, something used as an engine through which the two main characters develop their relationship. Sadly, the movie also peters out as it goes, so the second half isn't nearly as entertaining as the first. While Will Ferrell was certainly better in this movie than he usually is, the movie itself suffers from the lack of depth and development that is usually attributed to his characters.

This movie is fun. It may not be a blast, but it definitely has a certain audible bang. That said, it's not something that I would go out of my way to see in the theaters. See this movie - but wait until its out on DVD.

Final Grade: C+

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Movie Review: Step Up 3D

Before I begin, I would like to say that I am a bad, bad man. Really. I am a horrible, stinking rotter who probably deserves to be shot. Why? Because I haven't posted in almost a week. There is no excuse, and frankly I am appalled at myself! I fill me with so much inhuman rage that I have no resort but to hunt myself down, and I will not stop until I make me pay for what I have done. I will not show myself mercy, and will treat myself in the same way I would treat any of my nemeses.

And knowing me, I will likely end up facing myself in an epic lightsaber duel.

So anyways, now that I've gotten that mess out of the way, it's tome to get to the soft, gooey, and somewhat putrid marrow of this post - the movie review.

Man, the US sure does love dancing these days, doesn't it? It seems that recently the media has been pummeling us with a constant barrage of things that involve dancing. Dancing competitions, dancing pageants, dancing washed-up former celebrities, dancing penguins... and then some dancing for dancing's sake mixed in for "flavor." It seems impossible to avoid the dancing craze, as it seems to follow you everywhere you go. Seriously, within a year or two, they'll figure out how to put dancing on the Radio.

"We interrupt this program for some break dancing."

Now, I'm a theater person. I can appreciate good dance number, probably more than most men my age. However, even I get sick of the constant waves of So You Think You Can Step Up With The Stars. As I'm not much of a TV person (not for any shows currently on the air, anyways... well, other than Supernatural), I miss a lot (read: all) of the dancing television programs. Furthermore, the idea of going to see a movie where the plot amounts to "Look What I Can Do" is... less than a thrilling prospect.

So when I went out to see Step Up 3D this past weekend, I was expecting that the most entertaining part of the experience would be the traditional blue raspberry icee.

I was wrong.

The movie ruined the icee.

You know what I miss? I miss aspects of film that made the old movies great. Things like... coherent storytelling. Actual plot. Character development. Acting. Little things like that. Unfortunately, Step Up 3D has none of these things. Instead it has a bunch of people who I think are supposed to be attractive shaking their hands/legs/arms/head/butt at the screen for 95% of the film.
Dear Movie Industry: This is not a Plot.

What small thread of a story there is behind this festering pile of rancid avocados is so pathetically weak that an anemic would look strong and mighty in contrast. It revolves around several groups of kids who belong to a underworld culture that have fierce, almost hateful rivalries on the streets of downtown New York City. When things ever come to a head between these various groups, they corner one of their rivals in a bathroom and... dance at them.

Okay, admittedly I don't know a whole lot about street culture, but I'm pretty sure that this is not how differences are generally solved. From my understanding, it goes more like this:

Pictured: Authentic Street Violence.

So anyways, these "Dance Gangs" (I can't even TYPE that with a straight face) are all competing in a big dance competition, the award for which is $100,000. Because street dance gangs definitely make the sort of revenue to fund that sort of thing. The good guy dance gang, the Pirates, needs the money so that they can prevent their club from being bought by their evil rival gang, called the Samurai.

... Okay, obligatory Pirates Vs. Ninjas photo.

This picture has a much better plot than the movie. Also better acting.

The rest of the movie is just a series of scenes that graphically depict the horrors of gang dance warfare.

Man, THIS should be a movie. I'd WATCH this movie.

Now, I'll admit - some of the dances in this movie are actually really cool. There are three big dance scenes in particular that are a lot of fun to watch. They use creative methods to make each dance unique and interesting, and the visual effects used really do enhance the experience.

... Except for the 3D. This is the truly baffling thing about this movie - it is the most pointless waste of 3D technology that I have ever seen. It only really comes into play maybe twice in the entire film, and those instances were clearly forced into the dance routines just to occasionally remind people that the movie was using the newest movie fad. I'd be willing to hazard a guess that this movie would actually be better if it hadn't been in 3D; the ticket would have been cheaper, and the movie wouldn't have been rife with those awkwardly forced moments designed solely to show off a completely irrelevant aspect of the film.

Of course, the good guys win the dance gang war. And they do so through the careful use of lasers.

Okay, this is the last Gangster Kitten. Promise.

This movie is pain. Pain delivered directly into the forehead with an ice pick laced with acid and the tears of innocent children. It has cool dancing, but cool dancing does not a movie make. I'm pretty sure that's a Chinese proverb - after all, it is well known that Confucius was not much of a dancer. If you're willing to pay $11 to go watch people try to act (and fail spectacularly) their way through a movie that is little more than an excuse for extended dance gang wars - then by all means, go see Step up 3D. If you're not one of those people, then avoid this film like the plague.

Final Grade: D+

Friday, August 6, 2010

Movie Review: The Princess and the Frog

So this review is a little late in coming, thanks to the fact that I saw Ink the day I posted my last review, and the sheer volume of awesome that was that movie interrupted the train of thought that was going into the review that you are reading now.

To those of you who remember my review of Sorcerer's Apprentice, you probably recall that my opinion of the Disney Overmind is not exactly what one might call "sublime". The thing that really bugs me about Disney is that they're so powerful despite the fact that they've made more bad movies than people can remember. They like to focus on their classics - but remember, for every Beauty and the Beast there's a Black Cauldron, a Brave Little Toaster, and an Oliver and Company - Movies so bad that Disney doesn't name those movies on it's list of animated features.
Things that Disney wishes it could forget.

For the last few years, Disney has been scrambling to climb on top of the recent movie fads. They've been leaping on 3D, on CGI animation, and on live-action action movies that have less and less content (not to mention quality) as time goes on. I don't know if this is because they're trying to stay modern and "edgy" with the current audience, or whether their current CEO is a kumquat, but for whatever reason it's still true.

However, last year the Disney Overmind decided that it was feeling a bit nostalgic for the old days, and ordered it's minions to create a musical animated feature using the classic style of animation.
"And then build me an army worthy of Mor- I mean, er, DISNEY!"

Fearing bloody retribution, the scurrying drones of the Overmind created something to appease their capricious master. What was created was a movie called The Princess and the Frog, a tale based on the classic fairy tale, The Frog Prince, but with a twist so that it would be approachable by a modern audience. Furthermore, in an attempt to improve Disney's image - the Overmind had been called racist for some years - they decided that the story would take place in New Orleans, and would feature a black heroine. They actually made a pretty big deal out of this. Unfortunately though, she spends most of the movie as a frog. So while this movie is reaching out to the community that agrees that it's not easy being green, the only main black character is... well, the villain.

Gentlemen, you have failed.

I missed Princess and the Frog in theaters. In fact, I have to admit that I did so deliberately. The trailers that I saw didn't impress me all that much, and I thought that romantic Disney animated musicals were a bit below my interest. However, the same fateful day that I saw Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I picked up another movie at my local Red Box - this one. I wasn't expecting all that much out of it - but I found myself very pleasantly surprised.

Princess and the Frog follows the story of Tiana, a young waitress living in New Orleans with dreams of starting her own restaurant. She has all the typical qualities of a female lead in a Disney movie - she's pretty, strong-willed, passionate, and charismatic. After her character is introduced, we meet the male lead - Prince Naveen. Naveen is a prince of an unnamed country who is visiting New Orleans for fun. In contrast to the rather typical Disney portrayal of Tiana, Naveen has all the qualities that one would not expect to find in a Disney Prince. He's handsome, yes, but also foolish, impulsive, irresponsible, and a bit of a horn dog.

He also spends most of the movie looking like this.

The plot kicks off when Naveen encounters Dr. Facilier, also known as The Shadow Man. This voodoo sorcerer con-man tricks Naveen into making a deal with the devil, which results in his fateful transformation into a frog. When he later encounters Tiana - whose dreams of owning her own restaurant have just fallen through - he convinces her to kiss him, hoping that he will be transformed back into a human. However, the plan backfires, causing Tiana to be transfrogged as well. Things then go even more awry when they get lost in the Louisiana bayou.

The rest of the movie is a fun, entertaining ride as the two of them make their way back to the city, meeting the expected cast of comedic supporting characters along the way. All the while, Facillier is working his magic to prevent them from returning - as the spell on Naveen is all part of a plan to take control of the city and harvest all of its wayward souls.

This movie is slick. It does manage to catch some of the feel of New Orleans through the music and imagery, even though the movie takes place sometime in the early 1900's. While it certainly doesn't have the same majesty that movies like Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid might be able to convey, Princess and the Frog certainly manages to fend for itself in an increasingly harsh movie environment. It's decently written, the songs are fun, and the characters are pretty interesting, all in all.

A particular standout character is the villain, Dr. Facilier. A lot of Disney villains are generally uninteresting and unintimidating, but Facillier really works. He's very much the smooth operator, and you can really see this sort of person managing to convince all the people around him to do what he wants. He's also one of the very few villains (I think there's only two or three others) who actually kills a major character during the course of the film, and he does so in such a way where the character's death isn't particularly meaningful or heroic. Facilier just strikes him down out of sheer cruelty, which pumps up his rating on the scary-o-meter. Finally, he has one of the coolest villain songs in Disney musical history - right up there with Ursula's "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and Frolo's "Hellfire." Seriously, that song alone makes this movie worth checking out.
If only I had seen this movie in time, he'd be on my Top 7 Movie Villains List.

This is a really fun movie, and certainly one of the better films that the Disney Overmind has churned out lately. It's cool, relatively smart, and entertaining. It may not be an animated masterpiece, but it's certainly something that I can definitely feel comfortable suggesting to you.

Final Grade: B

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Movie Review: Ink

So, the original plan was that I was going to review The Princess and the Frog today - but then a friend of mine sat me down and made me watch a movie that she's been raving about for a few weeks. Along with watching several episodes of Dr. Who, we watched a little movie called Ink.

Note: Not Princess and the Frog.

This movie is a bit older than most of the movies that I review - it was released way back in the ancient days of 2009. It's one of those movies that nobody really hears about - I never saw any trailers, commercials, or even posters for this movie. It's one of those movies that I doubt many of the people reading this review have ever actually heard of. However, it is because of its relative obscurity that I am writing this review.

Ink is set in our world - but with a dark, almost gothic fantasy twist to it. Like Inception, Ink's plot revolves around the nature of dreams - but instead of looking at the people who can control dreams, it looks at the entities who create them in the first place. The plot revolves around a conflict between two forces: the Storytellers, who create pleasant dreams that inspire hope, and the Incubi, who create and feed off of nightmares that inspire despair and mindless terror.

Just like Christopher Walken.

Early in the film we are introduced to a man named John, a successful businessman whose daughter, Emma, has been in the custody of his dead wife's parents. When the Storytellers come to him, it is discovered that his greatest dream is simply to play with his daughter again. However, shortly after this is revealed Emma is stolen away from her grandparents' home by a man named Ink. Though the Storytellers try to fight the man off, Ink overpowers them and escapes.

Not long after, a group of Storytellers sets out to rescue Emma before Ink can deliver her to the Incubi as a sacrifice. The plot goes down a twisting path, where John must resolve the ghosts of his past, and the Storytellers (along with a crazy blind man called a Pathfinder) must solve the mystery of Ink's motives while evading and fighting off the relentless Incubi. All of this comes to a head in the finale - which involves one of the greatest twist endings that I have ever seen. It's one of those things that legitimately does catch you by complete surprise, while simultaneously making you ask yourself how you didn't see it coming.

If this isn't your reaction to the end of the movie, stop lying, you liar.

The result is... well, it's one of the coolest movies that I have seen in a while. While it does not reach the level of awesome that was achieved by Inception, it comes very close.

The thing that's so impressive about Ink is that it's a sci-fi/fantasy thriller that not only manages to be excellent, but does so on a very low budget. Low budget as in less than a quarter of a million dollars. It has some very well-done visual effects, stellar acting, a great original soundtrack, stunning cinematography, and excellent writing - in other words, it has all the qualities one might expect to find in a high-budget, professional film.

There's not much else that I can say about this movie without giving too much away - it's one of those movies that you really have to see to understand and believe. Long story short, it's a fun, creepy thriller that proves to be incredibly cerebral and well-written. At 106 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and it's a truly unique movie experience. If you ever have the opportunity to do so, watch this movie. You can find it on Netflix both by ordering the DVD and through Instant Watch. Seriously, check it out. It's a film that you won't soon forget.

Final Grade: A

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Movie Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I love mythology. I love mythology a lot. Reading the ancient tales and legends from Greek, Norse, and Roman mythology is one of those precious things that I do when I want to relax and have a good time. My particular favorite is Greek mythology - it conveys that feeling of epic adventure that I love so much more than any of the other myths. The stories that come out of Greek Myth were some of the stronger influences for one of my favorite works of literature - Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. That should give you an idea for how much I love those old stories, and how much respect I have for them.

There's also a guy who looks like this. What's not to like?

I generally get pretty excited when I see a preview for a movie that involves any form of Greek Mythology - and Percy Jackson and the Olympians was no exception to this rule. Having recently seen the re-vamped Clash of the Titans, I was looking forward to seeing a movie that might get things better and more enjoyable. It looked like it would also be pretty lighthearted, but considering that most of the motives of the Greek Gods amount to "Because it would be funny," that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Unfortunately, due to being busy with things like school, life and other very important and mature things, I was unable to see Percy Jackson in theaters, and was forced to wait until it had come out on DVD.
Pictured: Very Important and Mature Things.

So I only recently was able to see this movie, and I was rather excited to see it. At last! A potentially good movie about Greek Gods in a modern setting! I giddily turned on the TV, slid in the disk, watched the film, and when it was over, I was... um... how do I put this...


You all saw this coming, didn't you? So yeah. This movie is about as accurate on Greek Mythology as Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull is on how to survive a nuclear blast.

To those of you lucky enough to have missed that movie - he survives a nuke by climbing into a refrigerator.
...No, seriously. I wish I could make that stuff up.

Let's dive right in, shall we? So the movie starts off by giving us the rather lame premise that Zeus' magical lightning bolt of all-powerfulness has been stolen... because apparently Zeus (played by Sean Bean) just leaves world destroying super weapons around the house like a pair of dirty socks. Anyway, because this movie has decided that Gods cannot take away the powers of other Gods (never mind that in Greek Myth this happens approximately 700 gajillion times), it must have been a Demigod who did it - people who are half God, half Human hybrids born when one of the Gods decides he wants to get kinky. As it must have been a powerful Demigod who stole the lightning bolt (for no reason other than the fact that they need a plot device), Zeus reasons that it must be the son of one of his two brothers - Poseidon or Hades.

This is where things start getting dumb (the first 2 minutes, for anyone keeping track) because guess who Zeus blames? The son of Poseidon, the loyal, caring, good brother who has pretty much always backed Zeus when push came to shove - or Hades, the villain of almost every single war between the Gods and is notorious for trying to overthrow Zeus and claim power for his own.

If you chose Hades as the one who you would suspect - CONGRATULATIONS! You are smarter than the king of the Gods, because Zeus decides that it must be Poseidon's fault, and therefore he does the most logical thing a man in his position can be expected to do. He threatens to destroy the world if the bolt is not returned pronto.

Well, it's not like his characters are well known for making good decisions anyway.

Cut to Percy Jackson, the most annoying little strip of a Demigod whom you've ever wanted to throttle with your bare hands. He figures out that he is the son of Poseidon, and therefore the one who Zeus thinks stole the McGuff - er, Lightning Bolt. After some running away from monsters, Percy's mother is seemingly killed, which he takes with the emotional scarring and trauma of a kid who has just lost his pet hamster. Anyway, this "tragedy" leads him to go to a magical forest that is a Demigod Academy where the children of humans and gods are trained for blah blah blah blah BLAH.

Seriously, this plot sounds like it was written by someone who was on drugs! The whole thing is so random and pointless that it's clear that the writers weren't even trying. Things are the way they are in the movie because... well, because they are! It makes no sense, but the plot demands more McGuffin! Not that you, as the audience, can tell, because you are too busy gaping in awe at the stupidity of the main characters. All the while, the director is busily keeping himself mildly entertained by butchering and defiling everything about Greek Mythology that we know and love, turning once-beautiful legends into things for the modern audience to point and laugh at.

I'm not going to go into much more detail - suffice to say that there's a quest where Percy has to rescue his mother from the Underworld all while trying to find Zeus' bolt and get it back to him before the Gods go to war and subsequently blow up the planet.

God, this movie is horrifying. I'd rather watch Sorcerer's Apprentice again.

Hell, I'd rather watch Twilight: Eclipse again.

Actually, you can just soak me in napalm. After watching this movie, that sounds genuinely entertaining!


I hesitate to call this movie awful, because there are a lot of awful things in the world which don't deserve that kind of insult. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a terrible, TERRIBLE film that needs to be erased from time. I want to set this movie and everyone involved in it on fire, then set the ashes on fire, and then lock the ashes in a box that will never, EVER be opened.

But the real victim here is Greek Mythology. It was so horribly misused and mistreated in this film, I actually found myself feeling sorry for an abstract set of beliefs. These once-great legends and sagas were used for cheap laughs and entertainment, almost as though the movie was mocking them in their state of disrepair. It's as if all the greatest magicians in history were put into a cheap, sideshow carnival routine. It's sad, demeaning, and to me, infuriating. This movie defiles a thing of beauty, and for that there can be no forgiveness.

Final Grade: D-

Friday, July 30, 2010

Movie Review: Shutter Island

Before I start of this little mess of messiness, I want to apologize for the unfortunate lack of posts this week. It's been a pretty crazy time at the home of The Face Guy, and writing reviews of movies - be they good or bad - have gone onto the back burner a bit. But I am back now, and ready to write my heart out!

Seriously, this will probably happen.

I've been reviewing a lot of the more recently released movies lately, trying to be current and edgy to all of those teenage kids with their Hip Hop and Rock & Roll. However, the blockbuster season seems to be dying down a bit and the movies that are coming out are becoming less and less appealing... which is saying a lot, since I went out to see Eclipse and Sorcerer's Apprentice.

However, the time is coming around where a lot of DVDs are being released en masse like an army of genetically altered super soldiers. Most of these DVDs are movies that came out early in the year - movies that I therefore missed due to my not reviewing movies at the time. Therefore, for the next couple of weeks or so, I'm going to be reviewing movies from earlier this year that are now coming out on DVD. The first of these films is Martin Scorsese's so-called suspense thriller Shutter Island.

Now, I don't know if I got this across all that well in my review of Inception, but I really like Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor. I've enjoyed just about every single performance that he's ever given - I loved him in Inception, he was spectacular in What's eating Gilbert Grape, and even though I didn't like Titanic that much I still enjoyed his performance. He's a very good actor, and does not deserve to be mistreated by being put into bad movies... you know, like what people keep doing to Liam Neeson.
Is it just me, or does his expression say "Please kill me now"?

While I'm told that the book Shutter Island was based on was relatively decent, the movie interpretation was... not. I felt like I should be embarrassed for DiCaprio as I watched this movie, the same way you want to look away when someone who cannot sing has been pressured to getting up at the karaoke bar. I honestly felt bad for the guy as I went through this film. He was clearly trying, but given the writing it was a seriously uphill battle.

The movie follows the story of Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal who has been tasked to investigate the disappearance of a patient at Ashecliff, a Mental Institution for the criminally insane that is definitely not based on Alcatraz. It is also apparently the place where they keep all of the movie composers who cannot tone down the mood of their music from "overwhelmingly dramatic and imposing". From the very beginning, Shutter Island bombards us with some of the most inappropriately overdramatic music that I have ever heard from a film. It's like if someone played the Imperial March during a scene where two people are playing chess.

"Knight to B-6."
"No, Luke... I AM your father!"

After going down the long walkway of composers who need to be shot, he meets with the head of the institution, Dr. John Cawley, who is played by...
Ben Kingsly, NO! What did they do to Ghandi???

Yep, yet another actor whose talents are wasted in this painfully over the top film.

So anyway, during Daniels' investigation of the disappearance of the patient, he slowly becomes convinced that there is something horribly wrong with this institution, because of a history that he has with one of the supposed patients. There's this big conspiracy theory about how patients keep disappearing without a trace, along with some vague suspicion that there might be something going on involving human experimentation. Over the course of the movie, Daniels becomes more and more convinced that Cawley is evil, and that the institution needs to be brought down.

To give away more would be spoiling it too much, which is something that I don't want to do that often (no matter what my review of Sorcerer's Apprentice might convey). Suffice to say that at the end of the movie, there is a big twist because, after all, it's a Scorsese movie.

Here's the problem, though. Both the people I was watching the movie with and Isaw the "twist" coming. In fact, we had seen it coming since the first five minutes of the film. I challenge you to watch the movie and see if you can beat our time. It's really not that hard. See, real psychological thrillers are supposed to gradually give tiny, almost invisible clues about what's really going on in the movie - stuff that's there, but that you wouldn't notice unless you watched the movie a second time. Shutter Island, however, takes a radically different approach that goes as follows:
That's not the way you're supposed to do it, guys.

This movie is crap. I know that it got really good reviews and was liked by a lot of people, but by God I am NOT one of them. The plot is ridiculously predictable, the characters only barely two dimensional, the writing is bad, and the music... I still have nightmares about the music. It's theoretically possible that you might like this movie, so I'm not going to go so far as to tell you to avoid it... but if you think more than your average tulip, you'll see this movie the same way I did.

Final Grade: C-