Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hey you with the FILM!


That's right! You! Are you sick of me posting infrequently? Do you wish you had more TheFaceGuy to read while you procrastinate from the important but boring stuff you should be doing? Well, I wish that I had more TheFaceGuy to write while I procrastinate from the important but boring stuff that I should be doing. And it's in that vein of thought that I am announcing...


Occupy FaceGuy puts you, the readers, in more control over the content that comes out on this website. I'm still going to review movies, just not the random ones like I have in the past. Indeed, I won't even be randomly deciding what Top 7 lists I'm doing.

Here's how it works. If you want a post done, leave it in the comments! The first movie posted by a reader in the comments that I either A) have seen or B) can see within the next 7 days and its one that I have not previously reviewed, I WILL REVIEW IT. That's right, I'm doing reviews on request! Even more, if your post is a Top 7 list idea that I have not done (say, Top 7 Inspiring Speeches), then I will do THAT instead! Pretty sweet, huh?
Sweet like a kickin' laser show!

So come on! Comment your movie! Any movie! Old or new! The time is now - come and take your prize - a slice of this delicious FaceGuy pie.

Even if you look like this.

... Who am I kidding? ESPECIALLY if you look like this. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's The Muppets review!


Ahh, The Muppets. While I cannot honestly say that I grew up watching the Muppet Show (it was, for the most part, before my time), I still managed to become a fairly major fan of the group thanks to my parents. When I was a wee lad, one of my favorite films to watch was the original Muppet Movie, and through that film I was introduced to old reruns of the original show. Even then, in the more cynical mid-90's, there was something special about this cast of characters that can only really be described as magical. The fandom was massive, so much that there was a time when you weren't a celebrity until you had guest-hosted the weekly Muppet Show. And they did. Elton John, John Cleese, Roger Moore, Vincent Price, Steve Martin, Johnny Cash, Ethel Merman and Carol Burnett were all guests on the Muppet Show, along with dozens of others. The Muppet Movie, released during the peak of the show's popularity, was only the first in a franchise of films and specials, every movie seeming to gather new celebrity guests to add their names to Muppet fame.

The Muppets are, in short, a nostalgia powerhouse. A dedicated cult fanbase - of which I am decidedly a member - has loyally followed the Muppets' films through good times and bad. Be it the Muppet's Christmas Carol, one of my favorite interpretations of the classic Dickensian tale, or the film that most Muppet fans pretend never happened, Muppets From Space.

However, in the past few years there has been little seen or heard from the now Disney-owned Jim Henson Studios. With the exception of the Muppet's Bohemian Rhapsody (Google it), we loyal fans had all but given up hope of any more Muppet films or specials, and had resigned ourselves to having naught but the old DVDs to maintain our Muppet Fix.

And then... this happened.

Insert angelic choir here.

Presented as a relaunch of the classic franchise, the new movie (simply titled "The Muppets") was marketed in a way that harkened back to the original Muppets Movie's ideas with a few new characters and a more more modern twist. To we fans, this was a sign of ultimate good in the world. Redemption to we few who had been loyal, true, and waiting for the day when the Muppets would come back and offer deliverence... okay, so that may be an exaggeration, but we were STOKED.

And I wish... I wish to all things green and felted... that I could just leave it there.

This film is an abomination.

What we fans had hoped was going to be a return to the old Muppets, something that would have something for all ages, something that would poke fun at popular culture, something that would take risks, but would also remain something that children would laugh at and enjoy. What did we get instead? Fart shoes, toilet jokes, and the most pathetic attempts at gags and humor that I have ever seen.

This is as close as they could safely get to my head after it exploded.

It's like the writers and director didn't actually give two cents about the Muppets. The movie is about an oil baron who wants to tear down the Muppet Theater to get to the oil well underneath, a plot that is almost copy-pasted from the Muppet's "It's a Wonderful Life" (at the end of which the theater was named a historic landmark ANYWAY, so there's the first major plot-hole... 5 minutes in, for those of you at home). There's also a subplot about a new character named Walter, a puppet guy who has always idolized the muppets and is their number one fan... it doesn't really matter. It doesn't have any real use to the main plot. Anyway, something about the muppets having had a major falling out, something about them needing to get back together to raise the money to buy the theater, having to put on a show like from back in the late 70's... the plot holds about as much water as a playing card. It's entirely irrelevant anyway. Nothing of import happens throughout the entire film. The writers were barely trying to make anything resembling a plot, nor were they doing anything to keep us interested. It's just a massive, groaning mess of stupid puns, awkward silences, and celebrity cameos that are gone so quickly that we barely even see most of them.

And don't even get me STARTED on the songs.

Take this in for a moment. Read all the words.

That right there? That's a poster for a Spider-Man Broadway musical. Now imagine how horrible the songs must be in such a thing. Don't actually look the music up, I did and... yeah, I wouldn't inflict that on you. Just imagine it. Keep that thought in your head a moment. Let it simmer. Okay, got it? Now make that music INFINITELY WORSE, and you have the music from The Muppets.

This movie is fried horribleness served with a plate of badness and a drink filled with liquid disappointment and frozen lack of effort. I'm not just saying that you should avoid this movie - I'm saying that you, all your friends, your family, and anyone you can grab off the street should actively BOYCOTT this movie. Hand out leaflets. Go door to door. Put on a fundraiser to pay movie theaters to take this film off of their list, and then buy every single copy of the DVD release so that you can legally eradicate all traces of this movie's existence from the face of reality itself. Then have a neurosurgeon remove the part of your brain that remembers The Muppets was once a real thing. Then set that part of your brain on fire, in case it's infectious.

The poster was okay, though.

Final Grade: F-

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie Review: The Lion King 3D

So from my past reviews, it probably doesn't take a genius to figure out my opinions of Disney as a company.

"Anyone who takes a break longer than three seconds will be shot."

And let's be honest, here - Disney hasn't made any really spectacular movies lately, have they? I mean, yeah, their name is on some movies that are decent and some that are even good, but it's not like they're breaking any new ground or creating masterpieces of film. Indeed, in recent years it's seemed like Disney's films have just been fading quietly into the night, just a former shadow of the company they once were. That's not to say that the company itself is doing poorly - Disney is such a massive corporate powerhouse that it will take more than a lack of great films to bring it down. But their movies once were such integral parts of our culture and our childhoods that it was almost impossible to meet someone who hadn't seen at least one of their new films. Now, they don't have the same cultural impact that they once did... at least, that's what I thought for a while.

When I first saw that they were re-releasing The Lion King in theaters with a 3D "upgrade" I was pretty horrified, to be honest. I don't know about any of you, but I've never watched Lion King (or any other Disney classic, for that matter) and said to myself: "You know what this needs? A little more third dimension." I, and many people who I talked to prior to it's coming out in theaters, thought that it was just another shameless cash-grab on behalf of the Disney Overmind.

"First, we make a movie. Then we make stuffed animals. And a sequel. And when the money starts slowing down too much, were-release it. That's the circle of profit."

I wasn't actually ever considering seeing this. I mean, The Lion King was a good movie and, though I hadn't seen it in many years, I figured I could just as easily wait until any child of mine was old enough to see it. But circumstances arose that this was the only movie in theaters I wanted to see when my fiance and I were out on a date, so we set the cash down and watched it.

And then I remembered that The Lion King wasn't a good movie.

It was a bloody masterpiece.

And that wasn't the only big surprise that I was met with as I saw, mouth agape, in the movie theater.

If you could see beneath the glasses, you'd know my eyes were the size of dinner plates.

The 3D wasn't just a gimmick. It wasn't just a slapdash thing put in place last minute to make the Overmind's harsh profit margin demands. It was a meticulous labor of love, and it looked absolutely spectacular.

Disney's retelling of the classic Shakespearean tale of Hamlet doesn't require a recap or a synopsis. Everyone here has certainly already seen it at some point in their lifetime. The reason for this is because The Lion King, as I was dramatically reminded, is a true masterpiece of animated storytelling. The visuals are stunning, and the music is nothing short of legendary. Having the opportunity to see this film in theaters alone is worth the money you'd spend, but to my great surprise the 3D actually succeeds in adding a layer of depth to the beauty of the world that The Lion King crafts. From the majestic opening sequence of The Circle of Life to the harsh, threatening power of Be Prepared, the 3D takes the already stunning visuals and takes them to a whole new level... or dimension, if you will.

But what this really represents is Disney reminding us that just because they haven't made a true masterpiece in a while does not mean that they are fading away into obscurity. They have multiple masterpieces of animation on their cinematic resume, and while they may be old, they still have influence on our culture today. While I may not like Disney, I can in no way deny that they are still incredibly important to us today. After all - what movies will we show our children when they're growing up?

Yeah, that's my answer, too.

In short, The Lion King remains a spectacle of legend, and you're seriously missing out if you skip the opportunity to see this in theaters in this way. It's a show that you need to see to believe.

Final Grade: A

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

Welcome to the third and final installment of Hey You With The Face's SUPER WEEK. So far, we have seen a truly abysmal Superhero movie (though I feel obliged to make an amendment to the statement at the end of the Green Lantern review - Daredevil was also a worse film), and we have seen a spiritual defilement of E.T. in the form of Super 8. So now it's time for the climax of Super Week, a review for the ages! Ladies and gentlemen - X-Men: First Class.

The latest series of X-Men movies have had an exceptionally unreliable track record. The first movie, simply titled "X-Men", was released back in 2000. The turn of the millennium marked the beginning of the last decade's trend of rebooting a whole ton of comic book movies, and X-Men was the flagship, the first of them all, coming in a few months before Spiderman. Packed with the incredible talents of actors such as Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, the movie was a hit. Combining a more mature look at the series while also staying essentially true to the source material, X-Men was an excellent way to appeal to both old fans of the series and newcomers to the franchise. Then, three years later, the director came back to bring us X2, a movie which many people had issues with, but I actually found to be a superior film to the original. X2 did well enough in theaters to entirely justify a third... and that's where things went horribly wrong.

I don't think I have to say much about X-Men: The Last Stand. While those unfamiliar with the comics didn't have much of an opinion on it, those of us who considered ourselves fans of the series were outraged. With a new director came a hideous new vision of the X-Men universe, and in doing so completely ruined one of the most powerful story arcs in X-Men history.

We won't even talk about X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Normally Deadpool would, but they appear to have removed his mouth.

With those two horrible films fresh in our memories, many comic book fans (including myself) were barely willing to give X-Men: First Class any notice - and both Marvel and 20th Century Fox knew it. To them, First Class was their last chance to redeem the X-Men movie series, hoping to rescue it from the fate of total collapse. With that weight on their shoulders, the makers of First Class had a lot of work to do in order to succeed...

And they did that spectacularly.

Not only is X-Men: First Class the best X-Men movie yet filmed, it ranks among the top superhero movies ever made. First Class delivers everything that worked well in the 2000 X-Men, and then cranks it all up to 11. Not only did the film take on the herculean task of saving the X-Men franchise from utter destruction, but the fresh new vision that director Matthew Vaughn brings to the series is sure to draw an entire new generation of moviegoers to the X-Men universe in general.

The story opens following the story of the origination of Professor Xavier's "school for gifted youths" by showing us the formative years of the men who would become the biggest names in future mutant society. Not only do we meet the young and naive Charles Xavier as he begins his quest for Mutant equality and acceptance, but we also meet haunted Holocaust survivor Eric Lensherr, who will eventually become Magneto - one of the greatest comic book supervillains of all time.

Like a boss.

However, this movie takes place just before Eric becomes Magneto and begins his quest to place Mutants as the rulers of society, though the film does an exceptional job of explaining why this viewpoint forms. In fact, Eric is even more of a protagonist and hero than Xavier, throwing himself into the thick of things and engaging in some truly thrilling heroics. Xavier, in contrast, takes much more of a side role, and is almost unlikable at times in comparison to the profoundly sympathetic Lensherr.

Set in the later years of the Cold War, the characters strive to find a way to bring all Mutants in the world together under the shadow of an impending nuclear showdown between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.. Driving the conflict on both sides is a nightmare from Eric's past, the power-mad Sebastian Shaw. Having worked with the Nazis during the Holocaust, where he personally trained Eric to control his powers, Shaw wants to use the nuclear war between the two global superpowers and use the resulting radiation to mutate the rest of the world. For those of us who remember what Magneto's plot was in the first X-Men film... yeah. That's pretty awesome.

"Give in to your anger, my young apprentice."

It should be noted that there is not a single actor or actress in this movie who delivers a performance that I can complain about. The side characters do good jobs with what they have, and the leads perform spectacularly. The chemistry between James McAvoy as Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Eric is truly a joy to watch, and both actors to great service to the franchise as a whole. They stay true to the portrayal of their characters in the other films while also adding plenty of new ideas of their own. Kevin Bacon excels in his deliciously evil role of Sebastian Shaw, delivering the sort of brilliant performance that many villains these days notably lack.

The writing and effects, in stark contrast to the other superhero movie I reviewed this week, are stellar. Everything flows so seamlessly together that the effects seem perfectly natural among the rest of the world. First Class plays out like a James Bond movie, just with superpowers and universally good acting. Sure, there are a few issues with true-to-the-comics portrayals of some of the supporting characters (most notably the almost complete rewrite of Mystique), but I thought that it was entirely forgivable in light of the rest of the film.

Bottom line? This movie is great. It's an absolute must-see summer blockbuster that has redeemed the rest of the X-Men franchise. If you possibly can, go and see this movie in theaters before it's too late - you're not going to want to have to wait until the DVD release.

Final Grade: A-

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Movie Review: Super 8

Hello and welcome back to Hey You With The Face, where we meet for the second installment of SUPER WEEK, the first ever themed review week ever held by me, The Face Guy. In this week, I am going to be reviewing three movies that in some way are "super." The first review of the week was a review of Green Lantern, a superhero movie. With that idea in mind, I now review a film with the word "Super" right in the title: Super 8.

This movie needs a little bit of backstory, and it all starts way back with a little movie called E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Made back in 1982, E.T. was directed and produced by the popular director Steven Spielberg, dealing with themes such as acceptance, the importance of love and faith, the importance of having a place to call home, and all around how awesome it is to have peace at heart. The movie was a smash hit, and remains a classic movie for everyone, not just science-fiction buffs. It has been called the greatest science-fiction movie of all time, and stands proud in the fact that it was a perfect movie on it's own and didn't need anything more. For this reason, no director or writer has ever attempted to make any sort of sequel or remake of E.T. in any way.

Until now.

Screw nostalgia, I have money.

When trailers and leaks for Super 8 first started coming to the public, Steven Spielberg was quoted saying that the movie was designed to be a "spiritual successor" to E.T., essentially saying that he wanted to make a remake without actually making a remake. Especially looking at the quote now, after seeing the movie itself, this could not have been a more obvious money-making ploy if it were painted with giant green dollar signs. Both Spielberg and Abrams, who co-produced Super 8, were poignantly aware that this movie was something specifically designed for targeting people's sense of nostalgia, the memories from their youth of wonder at the unknown. The same themes that made E.T. the masterpiece it was would be the same things that both directors knew would make Super 8 popular, and as such those were the aspects that were most strongly highlighted in the advertising campaign.

Unfortunately for them, it was far too obvious that they were doing it all for the money.

Now don't get me wrong - Super 8 is by no means a horrible movie. It would be so much simpler to define and review if it were just another disaster. The problem with Super 8 isn't that it's really bad, it's that it's nothing close to what we were promised in the year or so leading up to it.

Not really surprising, since we were basically promised the movie equivalent of this.

Super 8 follows the story of a young boy named Joe, who we meet right after his mother is killed in a steel-mill accident. We cut to a few months later where we find that he's struggling to find his place in the world, since is his father's police work has left him more or less to his own devices. We meet his loyal group of nerdy friends who have put their heads together to make an amateur zombie movie, each child representing one of the classic traits of childhood. The stage set for a feel-good coming of age movie, we start the main core of the plot with... a five minute long sequence of nonstop explosions, shouting, and children being intimidated by a crazy man with a gun.

Of course, it wouldn't be a modern Steven Spielberg movie without an overabundance of explosions. And also: aliens! You just can't have a "spiritual successor" to E.T. without an alien, right? Of course, in E.T. the alien was innocent, peaceful, and represented how mankind's inability to accept that which is different leads us to antagonize even the gentlest of creatures. Apparently, however, Spielberg forgot that this was one of the most stirring aspects of his 1980's masterpiece, because this alien does not mess around with any of that peace and love BS. This alien appears to have no compunction over butchering everything that it comes across.

"E.T. phone police to leave cryptic hint about next grisly murder!

And this, in case you didn't get the hint, is where Super 8 really falls apart. It seems as though there was a major disagreement between the writers and the producers. The writers wanted a coming of age movie, kind of in the Stand By Me vein, where a group of kids begin their trek down the road to maturity. The producers, however, wanted some hideous crossbreed of Men in Black and Cloverfield, with as many explosions as humanly possible mixed in for good measure.

Also lens flare. You can't forget the lens flare.
... No, seriously. It never goes away. It's like a lamprey mixed with Herpes.

Now, don't get me wrong - I consider every movie that I just listed to be good films in their own right. The problem comes around when Abrams and Spielberg tried to fuse them all together into some horrific cinematic Frankenstein's Monster. The result is a movie that feels incredibly off-balance and disjointed, with no cohesive theme or plot. In the end this "spiritual successor" to one of the most heartwarming and powerful movies of all time comes down to "being mean is bad", resulting in one of the biggest let-downs of the decade.

Super 8 is not a horrible movie. The acting is overall good and the writing is certainly above the quality of many other films in the genre. The problem is that Super 8 tries to bite off WAY more than it can reasonably chew for a single film. While in theory the idea of combining great action with powerful relationship building and a story of overcoming the premature death of a parent in just under two hours sounds like a great idea, so did the Roman Empire's idea of uniting the world under their banner. In the end, both Rome and Super 8 collapsed under their own weight and hubris, reduced to a steaming heap of wasted potential. It's not so much dreadful as it is depressing, since we can see just how amazing this film could have been if they had simply avoided the urge to rely on cheap explosions and car chases. While Green Lantern may have been a disaster, Super 8 - while the decidedly superior film - is a tragedy.

Final Grade: C

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Movie Review: Green Lantern

So apparently there's a thing that people who review things on the internet are supposed to do that I have yet to do. That's right everyone: for the first time, Hey You With The Face is having a themed week, where everything that I do fits with a certain theme. So fitting that description, it's Super-Week here at the house of The Face Guy! In celebration, this week I am going to be posting three - yes, THREE - movie reviews that in one way or another fit in with the theme of Super. And what better way to kick off the week than with a review of the latest big box-office Super Hero movie: Green Lantern.

This right here? This is a picture of sheer potential.

Based on one of the most popular and successful comic book series' of all time, Green Lantern is the latest in a long line of revamped superhero movies that have received either reboots or full on revivals over the past few years. However, Green Lantern marks only the seventh out of all the big ticket superhero movies to have come out in the past ten years that comes from DC as opposed to Marvel Comics. Unfortunately for DC, only two of those six films before Green Lantern have done particularly well at the box office - those being Batman Begins and The Dark Knight - while the other four were either shockingly mediocre or just plain bad. Worse still, the previous decade fared even worse for DC comic-to-movie adaptations, with notably horrible films such as Batman & Robin and Steel.

Green Lantern is DC's only film this year, and the company has a lot riding on the film's success. With several strong films coming out of Marvel Comics' corner this summer (Thor; X-Men: First Class; Captain America: The First Avenger), Green Lantern represents DC's sole bid for the superhero moviegoers of 2011. It was a big gamble to take, with the potential to reap serious rewards as a big budget special effects movie. This film also marks the very first attempt at making a "live action" Green Lantern film - all the previous attempts have been animated. However, after seeing the film I have to use that phrase loosely, because there is very little to be found in Green Lantern that can be counted as either live or action.

Green Lantern is one of those movies that is truly, irrevocably awful. There is simply so much that goes wrong over the course of the film that it's almost impossible to refer to it as anything other than an absolute disaster. The writers and filmmakers very clearly did everything that they could possibly think of to make Green Lantern a great movie, but in the end everything they did came together in a ruthlessly conflicting fashion that resulted in a hideously disorganized mess.

The Green Lantern Experience, everyone. Let's give it a big hand.

Green Lantern follows the story of Hal Jordan, a test pilot with now seemingly obligatory daddy issues. He's shown to be a maverick with very little regard for his own safety or well being, and basically lives from day to day wandering through women and cheap thrills...

Please, stop me if you've heard this one...

One day he ends up getting abducted by this green light, and it is revealed that he has been chosen as the successor to a member of the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic policemen who utilize the power of Willpower to preserve order and justice throughout the universe. Through this, Hal meets some of the more prominent members of the Green Lantern Corps, including the totally-never-going-to-be-a-villain-with-a-name-like-this Sinestro. Sinestro does not believe that Hal, being human, is worthy of being a member of the Green Lantern Corps. However, in the face of doubt and adversity, Hal displays the tenacity of the human spirit and... quits. After less than a day as a member of the Corps, Hal packs up and goes home.

One of the biggest problems that I have with this film is the characterization of the protagonist himself. While it is clear that actor Ryan Reynolds is trying very hard to make the character and the film work, the writers and many other actors work so stalwartly against him that it's almost impossible for him to overcome them. The writing keeps bouncing between serious and comedic, while also jumping between Jordan being either a cocky flyboy or a passive coward. It's almost as though the character is played by two different actors who each had their own radically different view on Jordan's personality.

The issue of uncertain motives and seemingly random character decisions seems to be a recurring theme in this movie. Hal Jordan's love interest, played by the ironically named Blake Lively, appears to have no particular motive to like him in any way throughout the movie, though her performance is so boring and dead anyway that we don't really care. The character of Sinestro, traditionally the Green Lantern's arch-nemesis, is given such a weak reason for turning evil that it comes entirely out of left field (and also only after the credits have rolled.)

And don't you dare complain that I didn't give a spoiler alert before revealing that.
I mean, seriously, his name is Sinestro for god's sake!

The special effects, ESPECIALLY for a special effects movie, are absolutely abysmal. I've seen video games from for older generation consoles that had superior graphics to this film. For the amount of money that Warner Bros. spent on this pile of computer generated verbal diarrhea, I expected something more sophisticated than the opening cutscene of a video game from 2005.

As a side note: people who love the Green Lantern comics should avoid this movie like the bubonic plague. It drifts away from the comic's cannon so much that the film might as well be a giant green "screw you!" to the source material. As a comic book nerd, I found the movie incredibly insulting just by that alone - the rest of its many, many flaws simply provide supporting material for my nerd fury.

This movie is dreadful. Looking back, the only things that I can think of that were good about it were a handful of bit characters who were onscreen for mere minutes - one of them voiced by Geoffrey Rush. Yeah, that's right. Geoffrey Rush is in this movie, playing the voice of a character who is onscreen for less than ten minutes. He also has a narration monologue at the beginning of the movie.

Oh. Whoopee.

Those redeeming moments, however, are so fleeting that it does little to distract us from the rest of the horrendous pile of excrement that is Green Lantern. The acting is bad, the writing is horrible, the CGI is embarrassing, and the source material is bent over the table and ruthlessly violated. The only reason that Green Lantern is NOT the worst superhero movie I have ever seen is because I once had to sit through X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Final Grade: D- (Because I cannot bring myself to give any movie with Geoffrey Rush an F)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

So some of you may have been made aware by reading some of my past posts that I am a massive fan of Johnny Depp. Some of you may likewise be aware that I am also a massive fan of Geoffrey Rush. It should come as little surprise to you then, my dear readers, that the Pirates of the Caribbean series is one that I hold very dear to my heart. I make a point to rewatch the movies at least once a year and often more. The Pirates of the Caribbean series (it feels so strange that I can't call it a trilogy anymore) is something that appeals to me on just about every level.

The acting in general hovers between acceptable to excellent, with the former performances belonging to the roles of William Turner and Elizabeth Swan, and the latter going to... well, just about everyone else who walks on screen. It's no surprise that the role of Captain Jack Sparrow has become a role that has in many ways defined Johnny Depp's already enviable career, and the character of Captain Hector Barbossa is often remembered as one of the many gems of the series. Strap those actors with those performances onto a plot that kept me engaged and entertained throughout the series, add a dash of references to old seafarer's legends and historical references, and you come up with a series of films that I consider to be gold.

Though the gold might be cursed.

That said, I have to hold Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to the rather daunting standard of its three predecessors. Admittedly, when I first heard about the movie back in 2009, I was deeply concerned. As far as I cared, Pirates of the Caribbean could have very easily remained a trilogy. Everything important had been wrapped up, and everything that was left open were so inconsequential to the main plot that it could have easily been left to our imagination. Yes, there was that teaser at the end of the third film about Jack Sparrow going off to find the Fountain of Youth, but that was something that could have been left to the audience's mind.

However, when I started hearing a bit more about the plans for the film, my concern quickly turned to excitement. I never particularly liked the characters of Will or Elizabeth, and always would have preferred if they had nothing to do with the movie in the first place. Then I learned that while Rush and Depp would be returning in Stranger Tides, Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly would not be. I realized then that this was the Pirates of the Caribbean movie I had always wanted but never thought I could have - The Adventures of Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa.

It's great when movies realize just how good they have it.

So it was with all those thoughts in mind that I went into the theater. I was hoping for something wonderful, but fearing that it could be just another instance where a new director tries to cash in on a successful series with a crappy sequel.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides does start more or less where At World's End left off - the balance between government and piracy in the Caribbean restored and Jack Sparrow left without a ship, searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. We discover fairly early on that both the British Empire and the Spanish are likewise seeking the Fountain, and that Captain Barbossa has turned privateer for the former. We learn that he has lost the Black Pearl - along with his leg - some time ago, but we do not learn exactly how this happened until later. In the process, Sparrow ends up getting shanghaied by the ruthless Captain Edward Teach - more commonly known as Blackbeard - who is also racing to find his way to the Fountain before the others.

And to be honest, that's all the details that I am going to reveal, because I want people to go out and see this movie. While the first act of the film is ponderous and aggravating at times, by the time we get aboard Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge, the film takes a decided turn for the better. Depp and Rush, as always, deliver wonderful performances in this film, bringing us back to the relationship between the two old comrades that we only ever had a small amount of time to appreciate in the other three films. At times the movie almost plays like a buddy cop film between these two, and they have such excellent chemistry that it's really a shame that the previous three films didn't take as much time as they could have to develop that relationship.

I also want to make special mention to one of the newcomers to the Pirates of the Caribbean mythos: Ian McShane as Captain Blackbeard. Before the movie came out, I heard a lot of people wondering why they would use a character like Blackbeard - a character who already is very well known from our own history - as opposed to an original antagonist. However, just about every moment McShane is onscreen seems like it should be given a title reading: "Right here? This is why." McShane delivers a fantastic performance, bringing just enough of the historical character in to the portrayal to be recognizable to history buffs like myself, while also adding enough new material to create a distinct and deliciously evil villain.

All in all, On Stranger Tides delivers a genuine Pirates of the Caribbean experience. The acting is great, the story is engaging, and the characters are delightful as always. It does, as could only be expected, offer opportunities for a fifth film in the franchise. I have to say that if we can use On Stranger Tides as a template for what new director Rob Marshall might bring us in the future, then we definitely have something to look forward to. It might not have been as good overall as Curse of the Black Pearl, but I think it can stand proudly as a Pirates film alongside Dead Man's Chest and At World's End. In summation, if you liked the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, you'll probably like On Stranger Tides as well, and I would definitely suggest that you go out and see it.

Final Grade: B

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Movie Review: The Green Hornet

Alright. It's been a long week at school, so it's always nice after such a week to sit back, relax, and enjoy a good-

Aww, really, Hollywood? It's been a stressful week, can I please review something else? I'll be good, just please don't make me review The Green Hornet! Anything else, just-

AAH! Bring it back, I'll do Green Hornet!!

As you probably guessed by the introduction to this review, I'm not exactly ecstatic about the prospect of reviewing this movie. I'm not going to say that it was a terrible film, but.... actually, no. I am going to call it a terrible film. Because that's exactly what it is.

This movie reminds me a bit of Tron: Legacy in that it's a remake of something that hasn't been in the public eye for several decades. Now, the origins of The Green Hornet have their roots back in the 30's, when there was a short-running radio show following the adventures of a masked man named Britt Reid, who was the descendant of The Lone Ranger. Now, like a lot of radio shows in the early 20th century, it was campy and didn't take itself overly seriously. However, while it gained a small following, and was largely forgotten in the face of other, better radio shows.

Skip 30 years later to the mid 1960's, when television was the new medium for campy programs that didn't take themselves too seriously. The new television show was dramatically different from the original radio program, and made an effort to make The Green Hornet and his sidekick Kato more identifiable to the modern audience. Unfortunately for them, The Green Hornet happened to be running at the same time as one of the most popular television shows of the decade - Batman. And really, when it comes down to it, nobody can compete with Batman.

Well, maybe one guy...

Anyway, the only lasting thing to come out of the televised version of The Green Hornet was that it launched the career of one of cinema's greatest martial arts stars - Bruce Lee, whose debut was as The Green Hornet's faithful sidekick, Kato. However, even though the show starred the man who would become the world's greatest martial artist, the series only lasted one season, getting cancelled in 1967.

So now, we skip to 2011, 44 years after Batman beat Green Hornet into a pulp, and The Green Hornet is being revamped yet again. Just as with the 60's show, the movie reworks the characters to make them more appealing to the contemporary audience. Instead of a smart, smooth, and serious interpretation of the character of Britt Reid, Seth Rogen plays a much more laid back character. Instead of being driven and dedicated, we see a Reid who is essentially an impulsive playboy coasting through life on his father's corporate fortune.

So, kinda like....

However, after the death of his father, Reid's outlook on life changes somewhat, and decides to take up his father's crusade against crime and corruption. However, instead of doing so in the conventional fashion of his father, he goes the more direct route of punching bad guys in the face.

So, basically...

And that's pretty much it. Everything in this movie is very straightforward. The plot basically amounts to "Here are some bad guys. Shoot them". The rest is a lot of absolutely unnecessary padding in a movie that feels like it has far too much in the first place. One of the other serious problems with this movie is that it feels like everyone was on a different page. The mood keeps switching around jarringly between every scene. It's like the movie couldn't decide whether it's a gritty action movie or a wacky comedy. People seem to be taking it either seriously or not completely at random, and occasionally seem to change for no reason. Seth Rogen is particularly guilty of this. One moment he's acting like a character out of Loony Toons, and the next moment it's like the movie turned into a dark, brooding drama.

There are no particular character arcs or development over the film, and at no point do we understand the motivation of any of the characters. The decisions they make come seemingly at random, and at times completely contrast with every other decision that they have made previously. After a while, it was obvious that the only reason the decisions were made is because the writers had decided "well, this is what would happen at this point in a superhero movie, so we'll do it."

I guess in hindsight, terrible isn't the word I would use for this movie after all. There are some funny moments, and the action can be pretty awesome. However, the sheer number of problems dragging this movie down render it an entirely forgettable mess.

Final Grade: D

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nomination Overview

We interrupt out regularly scheduled programming for an important movie update!

Earlier today, the nominations for the Academy Awards were announced! I'll be back soon with the expected movie reviews, but I wanted to do an overview of the categories that I actually care about and discuss them a bit, along with present my personal favorites for each category discussed here. Please feel free to comment and add your own opinions as well!

Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
The King's Speech
True Grit

You really do have to go out of your way to make a movie pretty these days, and art directors are becoming more and more valuable - especially with the rise of the 3D motion picture. While all of these movies are very strong, the one that I have to go with is the movie directed by one of Hollywood's most twisted geniuses - Tim Burton. While there were a lot... A LOT... of problems with Alice in Wonderland, the visual direction and vision brought by Burton's twisted mind was definitely not one of them. It was dynamic, eerie, surreal, and beautiful - in other words, everything Wonderland should be.

FaceGuy's Pick: Alice in Wonderland

Black Swan
The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

This is the first time where I've really felt torn between two movies, and it shouldn't be difficult for you to figure out which two. Both Black Swan and Inception were among the most visually striking movies that I have ever seen, and the fact that we can't give them both an Oscar for this category really is a shame. However, both the Academy and myself have to make a choice... and while I consider Inception to be an overall better film, I've got to give this to Black Swan. The director went really out of his way to make this movie a brilliant work of cinematography. Every shot is so carefully planned out and angled that any frame could be considered a work of art in its own right. That kind of dedication is something that I really can't ignore.

FaceGuy's Pick: Black Swan

Music (Original Score)
How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell
Inception - Hans Zimmer
The King's Speech - Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours - A.R. Rahman
The Social Network - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

I love music. It's one of my favorite things, and this goes almost double for good movie soundtracks. I'm one of those guys who goes out and buys the soundtracks for movies that I like, and even make entire CDs and Playlists of nothing but awesome movie music. My favorite movie score composer has been doing a lot of work in the past few years, and even has a nomination here. Hans Zimmer is the mind behind the soundtracks of Sherlock Holmes, The Dark Knight, and most notably the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy. However, his soundtrack in Inception is not as strong as that of the thrilling score written by John Powell for How to Train Your Dragon. Seriously, go onto Youtube and listen to some of that music. Love you, Hans, but you get beat out this year.

FaceGuy's Pick:
How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell

Music (Original Song)
Coming Home - Country Strong
I See the Light - Tangled
If I Rise - 127 Hours
We Belong Together - Toy Story 3

So, I basically just listened to all of these songs on the spot. Not much I can say here - We Belong Together will follow in the footsteps of "You've Got A Friend In Me" as a song from Toy Story that wins this Oscar. That's... really all I have to say on the matter.

FaceGuy's Pick:
We Belong Together - Toy Story 3

Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Iron Man 2

I AM VERY ANGRY RIGHT NOW. Seriously. I mean, okay, I'll grant, all the movies on here had some pretty awesome visual effects, but the movie that I think REALLY deserves the Oscar in this category didn't even get NOMINATED?!? SERIOUSLY?!? I am so mad right now I could smash the computer I write this on... but if I did, then I might harm the inhabitants of The Grid, who are already hurt enough by this travesty. I know it wasn't nominated, but I'm going to pick it anyway.

FaceGuy's Pick: Tron: Legacy - the movie that REALLY deserves it, as opposed to Inception, which will probably win it.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

... Meh. I find myself generally indifferent about this particular category, but it's considered one of the "big" ones, so I feel obliged to comment on it. See, the idea of giving an Oscar to someone for relying on the tried and true as opposed to writing something original seems to fuel what I consider to be the biggest threat to Hollywood. The lack of originality in movies today is just depressing, and... ugh. Not gonna talk about that anymore. I suppose I'll give it to The Social Network. It was a very well written film, in my opinion. I have a nagging feeling that the Oscar will probably go to Winter's Bone, but... Meh. It's not like I care too much anyway.

FaceGuy's Pick: The Social Network

Writing (Original Screenplay)
Another Year
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech

Ahh, nothing like originality, eh? I mean, granted, several of these movies are inspired by true events (including the one that I am going to be picking), but just because we know something happened doesn't mean we know exactly how it all went down. Writing something new and original about a real-life event is something that is very hard to do, and in that light I'm going to give my pick solidly to The King's Speech. Not only is it the best original screenplay this year, I'd go so far as to say it's the best written film this year period - and possibly for more than just 2010.

FaceGuy's Pick: The King's Speech

Animated Feature Film
How to Train your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Now, Toy Story 3 has a soft place in my heart, in no small part because of the fact that it was the first movie I reviewed on this site. However, a movie came out not long before I started writing these reviews that I actually enjoyed better. While I have no doubt that Toy Story 3 will take it, I actually found myself preferring Dreamworks' animated adventure - How to Train Your Dragon. Dreamworks Studios has really come into its own this year, giving us not one, but two very strong animated features. They're moving away from their old formula of either throwing endless puns and pop-culture references at us or just spending an entire movie poking fun at Disney. Dreamworks really started taking itself seriously this year, and they deserve a nod for that.

FaceGuy's Pick: How To Train Your Dragon

Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem - Biutiful
Jeff Bridges - True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King's Speech
James Franco - 127 Hours

I admit, I have only seen three of these movies, but I was able to get a good idea of the acting involved in the two that I missed the people who HAVE seen them whom I have talked to. While I admit fully that James Franco's performance in 127 hours was very emotionally intense, I'm going to have to put my support behind Colin Firth on this one. I am still working on my review for The King's Speech, but I'll summarize by saying that it was a very good film, and Firth's performance as King George VI was, quite frankly, spectacular.

FaceGuy's Pick: Colin Firth - The King's Speech

Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale - The Fighter
John Hawkes - Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
Geoffery Rush - The King's Speech

My overview here is going to be pretty much the same as the one above, I'm afraid. Winter's Bone was a very good movie - and frankly, John Hawks' performance in it is the only one of these that I think can compare to my pick for this category. But again, I'm going to throw my support behind the candidate from The King's Speech. Geoffery Rush remains among my favorite character actors alive, and his performance as Lionel Logue will likely be remembered as one of the strongest performances of his considerably long career.

FaceGuy's Pick: Geoffery Rush - The King's Speech

Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine

Given my last review, my choice for this category should surprise nobody - it's Natalie Portman all the way. Every time I see her in a new movie, I realize more and more that she is definitely a rising star in Hollywood. While she may have appeared on the silver screen with a less than optimal introduction - Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - her later performances have been increasingly good. That said, nothing she has ever done comes close to the performance she gives here. This will likely be an easy pick for the Academy.

FaceGuy's Pick: Natalie Portman -
Black Swan

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams - The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
Melissa Leo - The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom

While I really loved seeing more than just crazy psycho out of Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech, I feel that giving an actress an Oscar for playing someone sane would be an insult to the actresses that really did a good job this past year. Now, don't get me wrong, Bonham Carter did a spectacular job in The King's Speech, but I felt that overall there were performances that surpassed hers - albeit only a little. With that in mind, I'm going to give it to one of the two contenders from The Fighter. Both girls did a great job in the role, but I'm going to give the edge here to Amy Adams - I found her character a bit more engaging and interesting than Melissa Leo's, which makes her - for me, at least - the more memorable pick.

FaceGuy's Pick: Amy Adams - The Fighter

Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
David O. Russell - The Fighter
Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
David Fincher - The Social Network
Joel & Ethan Coen - True Grit

If there's one thing that we learned from the prequel trilogy of Star Wars, it's that you can have a whole posse of great actors and still make a bad movie. Good directors are key to a film - with bad direction, even the best writing can't save the film. Truly good directors are rare, and it's even more difficult to find someone so dedicated to their art that they go to ridiculous levels just to get a 2 second shot "right". One such director is Darren Aronofsky, whose attention to detail in Black Swan felt just as loving - if not more so - than anything that happened between the characters. Most directors view their craft as a work of art, but Aronofsky sees his film as a work of love.

FaceGuy's Pick: Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan

Best Picture
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

This is it. The big one. The Oscar that could turn a movie into a legend, something that will be remembered for all time. The most sought after award in all American Cinema. Of these ten candidates, who will be the champion?

... It'll be The King's Speech. Hands down. The actors and actresses in this movie were all spectacular - particularly the aforementioned Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffery Rush. It was also easily the best written film of the year - if not the entire millennium so far. While Black Swan may have been better directed, while Inception may have been more intellectually engaging, while The Social Network may have been more... um... Insightful! Yes! And while Toy Story 3 may have had more evil stuffed bears that smell like strawberries, The King's Speech is just... amazing. SEE THIS MOVIE. TWICE.

And then buy it.


FaceGuy's Pick: The King's Speech

So! Those are my picks for this year's Academy Awards! Disagree with me on any particular point? Stuff it Then feel free to make a comment sharing your incorrect opinions in the comments section below!

And be sure not to miss the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 27th on ABC to see who was right and who... well.... wasn't!