Why is Pirates of the Caribbean so Popular?

I just learned a few days ago that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides became only the 8th movie in history to cross the $1 billion dollar mark worldwide.  This completely floored me.  I understand the success of something like Transformers.  Cars transform into giant robots and beat the crap out of each other.  I get that’s a recipe for box office success.  While I hate the Transformer movies with a burning passion, I at least understand their appeal.  But the money making machine that is Pirates of the Caribbean just baffles me.  Why are these movies so popular?

Now I’ve never liked the series.  I think all three are long, boring and mediocre at best.  In fact, I may even like 2 and 3 more, which is really out there.  They are so dumb to the point where it’s kind of entertaining, like watching a car crash.  There is not one thing that interests me about this franchise.  I guess there’s pretty good action, but it takes forever to get there.

When the 4th one was announced, I truly believed nobody cared about these movies anymore.  And when the trailers came out, I thought they were the most unappealing previews in the history of movies.  If these trailers were good for anything, they helped me to go to bed.  And then I saw the actual movie.  It’s not that this movie is horrible.  There’s just nothing there.  It’s the definition of ‘going through the motions.’  There’s one good scene with mermaids, but other than that, I couldn’t tell you one thing I remembered about this film.

I was confident after its first weekend that On Stranger Tides would go away, conjuring up mediocre business and I would never have to think about this franchise ever again.  Boy, was I wrong.  $1 billion dollars.  How on Earth does this film make $1 billion dollars!  I really need someone who enjoys this movie to sit next to me and explain what it is they like so much.  Movies don’t make $1 billion dollars without people going for repeat viewings.  The thought of sitting through this film more than once is horrifying.  What the hell is it about On Stranger Tides that garnered so much cash!  Is it the fact that they do nothing but repeat scenes from the original?  Is it the stock villain we’ve seen 500 times before?  Is it Penelope Cruz’s barely attentive performance?  SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME!

Wait a minute…I know why.  Is it really Johnny Depp’s performance as Jack Sparrow?  That’s why people come back for more.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  What is so damn interesting about this character?  He stumbles around drunk in pirate make-up.  That’s it.  That’s the character.  I guess he’s mildly entertaining for about ten minutes, but four 2 hour plus movies?  Cut me a break.  He never had a clear goal or motive: he just floats around aimlessly and does whatever is most convenient at the exact moment.  How does that make for a good film?  It’s like the movie can just make it up as it goes along.  Not to sound like an intellectual jackass, but pardon me if I want a little structure.  I really do detest this character.  It’s the most overrated performance in modern film.

Well, I guess I just need to accept Pirates of the Caribbean is going to be with us for a very, very long time.  Even though these films aren’t worse than a franchise like Transformers, I think the success of Pirates bothers me more.  I can point out ‘A+’ elements in every Transformers film, even the atrocity that is the second one (Revenge of the Fallen).  But the Pirates movies are all ‘C+’ at best.  They do nothing interesting.  The plots are impossible to follow.  They are just there.

$1 billion dollars for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides…unbelievable.

Movie Review – The Hangover Part II

Plot: Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married in Thailand, and after the events at Doug’s (Justin Bartha) bachelor party in Vegas, he is vehemently against another wild outing.  But when the gang gathers for just one drink, they wake up in Bangkok with no memory again, and Stu’s future brother-in-law Teddy (Mason Lee) is missing.  Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Stu must put the pieces of the night together once again and find Teddy.

I thought the original Hangover was just mediocre, so I really didn’t have any expectations for the sequel.  I thought this was only a minor step down.  But if you loved the first one, you’ll probably be disappointed.

I think every single review for this movie has said the same thing: It’s just the previous film in a different location.  And for the most part, this is an accurate statement.  It has all the same beats as before.  Animals, crime bosses, misunderstandings, etc.  One thing that is different though is that there is more at stake.  These crazy bastards find themselves in a more dangerous situation, and while I appreciated that, it does hurt the film to some extent.

The Hangover 2 is a comedy, but it doesn’t always feel like one.  Right off the bat, newcomer Teddy, who the gang needs to find, is potentially in some serious trouble.  The fact that he’s a sixteen year old college kid hinders the comedy.  This isn’t Doug lost in the confines of Vegas.  This is some kid lost in Bangkok.  I wasn’t saying to myself, ‘Hahaha, they lost the groom.  What morons.’  I was more like, ‘Whoa…what the hell happened to this kid.’  There’s also something that happens to one of the characters about mid-way through the film that is not funny, and certainly ups the danger level.  Although it’s a bit darker and the stakes are raised, it is ultimately still a comedy.

The problem is that this movie, like so many other comedies these days, is nothing but shock jokes.  The first one had a lot of consistent and solid funny dialogue mixed in with the shock.  This is pretty much all shock gags.  And they are all predictable!  If you’re going to have this type of humor, you have to at least catch the audience off guard, and it never does.  Let’s just say there’s a really bad thing involving Stu that you can see coming a mile away.  I knew exactly when to close my eyes.  We’ll leave it at that.

The only person who seemed to have funny one-liners was Alan, the Zach Galifianakis character.  I thought I was going to hate him in this movie.  Galifianakis has been so over exposed.  But surprisingly, he was the funniest part of the film.  They just revved up his stupidity and ridiculous nature so much that I couldn’t help but laugh.  He’s also got a lot of hysterical subtle sight gags that had me rolling.  Bradley Cooper’s Phil had some good dialogue when they were in the Monastery, but other then that, the clever dialogue is non-existent.  Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are really wasted here.

I do enjoy the camaraderie among the group.  They work well together in these movies.  More Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow, the gangster from the previous film, also fits into the group seamlessly.  I am biased though because I love Jeong in Community so much.

While I got chuckles on and off, they weren’t as frequent as the original.  It’s just too similar and way too predictable.  Not just with the jokes, but in some of the broader plot points as well.  The audience I saw this with was not laughing very hard.  I did appreciate that the situation they got themselves into was a bit more ridiculous, and part of me is intrigued by a third one just to see what would happen.  But they would need to drastically change the formula.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh’)

Movie Review – Hanna

Plot: Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a 16 year-old trained killer raised by her father Erik (Eric Bana) in the Arctic woods her whole life.  Erik, a former government agent, sends Hanna back into society to kill his former boss (Cate Blanchett) who relentlessly pursues Hanna and her father.

Hanna is like the realistic version of Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass.  Although she’s a bad ass assassin, this movie just didn’t connect with me.  I never felt like Hanna’s story was important, and that all starts with the character of Hanna herself.

Hanna is supposed to act like a robot.  She’s been isolated from the world her whole life, learning only how to fight.  When she’s repeating instructions from her father, she regurgitates them like a computer.  Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna very well, but almost too well.  She acts like such a robot to the point where that’s how I responded to her, with no empathy whatsoever.  Even with a film like Steven Spielberg’s A.I., which certainly has its problems, I connected with Haley Joel Osment’s David a lot more, and he actually is a machine.

But this goes back to the story just not feeling important.  It’s painfully predictable and cliché.  It’s the Bourne Identity, but less fun.  I commend director Joe Wright for making all the action seem more real and grounded, but I just never got invested.  The first half is really slow and meanders along.  Hanna spends a lot of time with this family she discovers on her travels.  While the question of ‘will this family get hurt because they’re with Hanna’ tension was effective, it just moves way too slow.  There are a couple interesting and humorous moments where Hanna is completely lost when experiencing things like a television or running water, but this causes the film to go off track and forget its goal.  And while the second half definitely picks up, the whole feel of the movie is just underwhelming.  I was more interested in the secondary characters than Hanna.

I loved Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett.  Bana’s Erik felt more sympathetic, and you could tell from his performance that he was troubled and forced to do something unethical back when he was an agent.  It’s unfortunate that you spend so little time with him when compared to Hanna.

Blanchett’s Marissa is just so driven and determined.  Even though you get very little information on why Marissa is so desperate to take them down, you know she’s a threatening villain because of her demeanor and approach.  Her interaction with the other characters is easily the best part of the film.  There’s a scene where she manipulates this kid into giving her the information she needs that is so slimy, but great too watch.

The movie has a definitive style of artistic camera angles that you just don’t see in the chase action flick, but it works for the most part.

Probably the first thing you’ll discuss after seeing this though is the music composed by the Chemical Brothers.  It’s a very distinct style that I enjoyed very much, although at times it did feel like it belonged in some old arcade game like Donkey Kong.  One thing that drove me nuts though was this eccentric assassin (Tom Hollander) Marissa hires to catch Hanna who hums the same damn tune throughout the whole movie.  Even now, I can’t get it out of my head!!

Hanna is filled with some good tension, but the chase scenes go on way too long.  I enjoyed the climax, but a lot of the action just felt underwhelming.  While there’s good acting and a distinct style, the premise and character of Hanna was just completely uninteresting to me.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh’)

Mario Brothers and the Warp Pipe

I was playing Super Mario Brothers the other day, and I just can’t help but get fascinated by the Green Warp Pipes.  There are so many of them, and not just in the first game, but every single Mario game ever made.  I’m just wondering what the hell goes on in that pipe?  I mean how do they work?  Why do some have different colors?  What if he got stuck in there?  Look, I’m not here to offer any kind of concrete knowledge; I just want to raise the questions and offer some theories.  So let’s explore the pipes in the Mario Brothers World, shall we?

First of all, why can you go down some and not others?  Maybe some pipes are actually closed off and have some kind of hatch or top.  We really can’t see because of the side view.  But then how come Mario can stand on the ones with holes?  Either way, the logic doesn’t hold up.  Mario can walk on thin air for the pipes you can go down.  We never see him lift up any door or anything.  How is he walking on thin air?  If there was some kind of wind or air current keeping him afloat, then how the hell can he go down inside the pipe?  Maybe the pipes in the Mushroom Kingdom are simply enchanted or magical.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

And what about the Piranha flowers who pop up out of the pipes and shoot fireballs?  There’s a lot of mystery with these bastards.  First of all, when Mario goes down a pipe, how does he know there’s not a flower waiting for him?  I guess he could look inside the pipe, but who knows how deep it is?  What if it’s there waiting for him at the end?  And how deep does the flower go down?  Does the vine of the flower stretch all the way to the end of the pipe?  But what I really don’t understand is that I’ve definitely seen Mario go down one of the pipes with a Piranha flower inside it.  How the hell does that work!!  If it goes back inside the pipe and Mario goes down, wouldn’t the flower be waiting for him?  Does it disappear when it goes inside the pipe?  WTF!!

I guess we should start exploring what happens to Mario once he’s inside this thing.  As we all know, when Mario goes into the squat position, he sort of freezes as he goes down the pipe.  Okay, my take on this is that the pipes are in fact some kind of enchantment as I brought up earlier and Mario doesn’t even realize when he’s inside the pipe.  He’s in some kind of deep sleep or coma like state.  When he comes out of the pipe, he’s brought back to consciousness.  This could also explain the flowers not being able to kill Mario.  Everything inside the pipe is frozen and not harmful.  Mario just floats right through it.  Now every time he goes down the pipe, we get that sound effect.  I’m not sure if Mario hears that or not, but I’m not too concerned about the sound effect to be perfectly honest with you.

Okay, now it’s time to explore the heart of the matter.  Where did these pipes come from?  Now I’m about to get a little crazy here, so be warned.  But I do feel strongly about this.  In Super Mario Brothers 3, Mario explores all the worlds that make up the entirety of the Mushroom World itself.  Each world I believe gets progressively deeper, until Mario finally reaches the heart of the Mushroom World, Pipe World, or World 7.  I know people are going to say, well about the 8th world, ‘Dark World.’  I believe ‘Dark World’ or World 8, is on a separate plane and completely Bowser’s own territory and not really affiliated with the Mushroom World.  But that’s a debate for another day.

Anyways, I believe that because Pipe World is truly the heart of the Mushroom World, the pipes are actually the foundation for the entire Kingdom.  In essence, the pipes created the Mushroom World.  Think about it?  They run through all the worlds, and you can even get to World 7 via the pipes from one of the earlier worlds with the whistle.  How does the whistle connect to the pipes?  The whistle is clearly a powerful magical object and obviously linked with the pipes somehow.  The pipes show up everywhere!!  Not to mention the fact that World 7 is nothing but a system of pipes.  So if Mario were to go through the right combination of pipes in World 7, he’d probably find the birthplace, or first pipe, of the Mushroom World where the pipes all probably interconnect and respond too.

Bowser should stop kidnapping Kings and the Princess, and focus on finding this original pipe and destroy it.  That would in turn destroy all the pipes in the entire world and completely undo the Mushroom World causing a total apocalypse.  Although I have to believe it’s nearly impossible to discover the original pipe, and not even the Princess has seen it.  And honestly, I would imagine it would work like the Ark does in Raiders of the Lost Ark where if you looked directly inside the pipe, you would ultimately die.  Or if you were to go down the pipe, you probably remain in the deep sleep state and just float around the pipe system throughout the Mushroom World for all eternity.

This is why Super Mario Brothers 3 is the greatest Mario game of all time.  Mario could have been a few pipes away from discovering the birthplace of the Mushroom World.  OMFG.  The biggest flaw in my theory though is that how was Bowser able to infiltrate World 7 whereas Mario had to battle through every world of the Mushroom Kingdom to finally reach the heart of the Mushroom World.  Certainly Bowser’s resources and power make this viable.

I actually think the last Mario Brothers game of all time should be Bowser attempting to locate this pipe with plans to destroy it, in turn destroying the entire Mushroom World.  And the last battle would be Mario luring Bowser inside the pipe where he would float throughout the Mushroom World frozen forever.

Well next time you play Mario Brothers, don’t just toss all those warp pipes aside.  Just remember there could be something greater going on…

Movie Review – The Source Code

Plot: Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakes in another man’s body on a train to Chicago that explodes. He’s soon told he has to keep re-living the same eight minutes on the train to discover the identity of the bomber in order to prevent another suspected attack on the city itself.  Stevens tries to fulfill his mission while also trying to discover how he got here, how this technology works and desperately tries to save the life of a woman (Michelle Monaghan) on the train he falls in love with.

The Source Code: or as I like to call it, JV Inception.  No, that’s being unfair.  While they do share similarities, they are totally different animals.  This is a completely ridiculous idea, but I am impressed with how it was handled.  The basics of this whole shebang are explained pretty well.  And all the information is given to you in pieces, but you get enough along the way to stay satisfied.  The director (Duncan Jones) does an admirable job until the last act, but we’ll get into that later.

Jake Gyllenhaal FINALLY gives a performance that isn’t just going through the motions.  I haven’t seen all his movies, but he’s always been ‘Mr. Mediocrity’ for me in films like Jarhead and even Brothers, which isn’t a great movie, but the acting is top notch, yet he melts away compared to everyone else.  In Source Code, he is truly charismatic.  He’s funny, likable, determined, smart and an easy character to root for.  And I really felt for him when he’s just thrown into this ridiculous situation and given barely any information.  The guy is pissed off!!  I would be too.

The supporting characters are great as well.  Vera Farmiga.  Jeffrey Wright.  Michelle Monaghan.  They all give wonderful performances.  Especially Michelle Monaghan, who I don’t think could have been any more likable.  Her personality and charm is seeping out of the screen.  It was impressive they were able to develop and juggle so many supporting characters, especially when they are almost all on this one train re-living the same eight minutes and constantly repeating dialogue.

The pacing is very strong.  I promise you won’t be bored.  It’s entertaining despite the fact you re-live a lot of the same crap.  But there’s always something new and clever whenever Stevens goes back into the eight minutes as he progressively unlocks more information.  Unfortunately, for all the good I’ve been saying, the last twenty minutes nearly derails (no pun intended) the entire movie.

(No spoilers, but will discuss tone of the ending from here on out) First of all, the main plot of the story is wrapped up way too predictably.  It’s really anti-climactic.  Really…You couldn’t think of something a little more interesting?

But after the ‘climax,’ the movie goes on a bit longer for an extended epilogue.  It gets pretty damn corny.  It almost feels like the end of Titanic where all the characters stand in the main hallway and watch Jack and Rose kiss.

But the resolution of this movie is like the NFL labor situation…just a giant mess.  It made me think of another recent film, the Adjustment BureauThe Adjustment Bureau goes for a boring, but logical ending.  It made sense.  This goes for the ‘OMFG Oooooooooooooo’ ending, but it doesn’t make any sense!  How the hell did this ending happen!?  It’s just way too out of left field.  Inception had a mysterious ending as well, but you were given the tools to break down what potentially happened.  I don’t even know where to begin on analyzing this ending.  Maybe I need to see it again, but it left me pretty cold.

This is a very solid film.  You’ll be entertained, the acting is great and there are multiple memorable characters.  But it’s one of those situations where the ending frustrated me so much, I can’t call it a good movie.  It’s worth checking out, but prepare for a ‘Huh?’ ending.

Also be prepared for the biggest product placement campaign for Dunkin Donuts.  But I’m fine with it.  Who doesn’t love Dunkin Donuts?

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly better than ‘meh’) 

Top 10 TV Theme Songs

A great TV theme song can sometimes outlast the actual show in terms of legendary status.  In some cases, the theme song is the best part of the show.  When you’re watching an episode, maybe you’re disappointed the theme is over and everything else from there is just a let down.  Well I’m here to bring you my personal top 10 TV themes.  I’ve got a mix of no brainers and odd ones.  I try not to let the actual opening credit sequence influence me and just focus on the music itself.  Now, let me be very clear: I am no music expert.  I can barely tell a guitar from a bass.  I have no idea what’s going on in terms of actual notes.  These are just the themes that for whatever reason hit me hard.  Here we go…

Honorable Mentions: Ducktales, Cheers, Ren and Stimpy and CHIPS.

10) The Simpsons Theme

-To be honest, I really had to shoe horn this one in.  I think it’s a really good song, but it’s more so the show itself that got it on the list.  But it ultimately makes the cut for the first five seconds of, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, the Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimpppppppppsons.”

9) The Saved by the Bell Theme

-When I hear that bell ring, I get all jittery.  The lyrics in general are amazing, but it’s really the chorus that drives it home.  “It’s allllright, because I’m Saved by the Bell.”  It’s also got that rocking guitar going.  I think of this song as an amalgam of post eighties/early nineties.  I think the Saved by the Bell theme is a symbol, bridging the music between the two decades.  But the song really goes crazy at the end where they repeat “It’s alright, because I’m saved by the…” three times before finally ending strong with “Bell.”  Amazing.

8 – The early 90’s X-Men Theme

-What can I say?  It’s just really bad ass, epic and intense.  This one is a lot better though when watching it with the opening theme sequence, especially towards the end when you see Professor X and Magneto lead their respective teams and run at one another.

7) The 60’s Batman Theme

-The lyrics consist of one word if you don’t count the “da-da-da-da-da” at the end, but it’s all you need.  Even if you aren’t watching the opening sequence, you can imagine the “Bams” and “Pows” as you hear the music.

6) The Original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme

-First of all, more than any other TV theme in existence, it gives you the back story and character traits succinctly and flawlessly.  Everyone knows that “Leonardo leads,” “Donatello does machines,” “Raphael is cool but crude,” and “Michelangelo is a party dude,” because the theme song was so damn good.  They remixed it for the last three seasons, and it’s actually a solid rendition, but a little darker.

5) The NCAA March Madness Basketball Theme

-I have a love/hate relationship with this theme song.  Sometimes I hear it and get pumped up because I know it means 55 different basketball games are about to be played at the same time.  But other times it makes me want to rip up my terrible brackets.  Nevertheless, it truly is an amazing piece of music.  I can actually hear brackets being filled out as I hear it.

4) The Monday Night Football Theme

-It may be the most iconic theme on the list.  When I hear those horns blast, I can’t tell you the adrenaline rush I get.  And it just keeps building and building the intensity level as the theme goes on.  But at the end, they circle back to how it begins.  For some, the song may represent failed dreams and heartbreak, but one thing’s for sure; when you hear it, it’s time for football.

3) The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Theme

-This may be the best thing Will Smith has ever and will ever do.  I love this song.  It’s sleek, funny, cool and even suspenseful at times.  When he’s singing “When a couple of guys, who were up to no good,” there’s almost this chilling beat to it.  Now there’s both a long and short version.  I think the shorter is superior.  This one is enhanced a lot by watching the credit sequence, especially when he does that crazy head spin.

2) The People’s Court Theme

-I’m convinced this show was popular solely because of the theme.  Look, Judge Wapner was awesome, but the theme…holy crap.  This defines the word ‘intensity.’  I can’t put into words how awesome this song is.  It’s called ‘the big one’ which you can download on iTunes.  It’s over four minutes long, but honestly, it’s not long enough.  The thing turns into a horror song at one point.  But really, I consider this song all genres of music rolled into one super song.  I can dance to it, run to it, listen to it while I work, and just get generally inspired by it.  In fact, this theme inspired me to do the list.  So if this isn’t number one, what on earth could be…

1) The Seinfeld Theme

-I think it’s the only choice.  More than any other theme, you can instantly recall episodes, dialogue, character moments and just about anything having to do with the show within the first two seconds of the song.  Seinfeld just floods your brain when you hear that bass kick in.  And let’s just think about the music in general.  Would Seinfeld have been the phenomenon that it was if this iconic music didn’t exist?  Probably…but it’s a legit question.  I think it’s only fitting that we end on the best theme that represents the best TV show ever.

Movie Review – Battle: Los Angeles

Plot: When meteors hit around the world, an alien race breaks out and instantly attacks the Earth.  SSgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) leads a group of Marines to save civilians through the devastation.  His troop are also one of the last remaining to save Los Angeles.

I hate this movie.  I hate this movie.  I hate this movie.  This is an abomination to film, and one of the worst things I’ve seen in the last five years.  The director (Jonathan Liebesman) should be embarrassed of the ridiculous chaos and lack of coherence he throws onto the screen.  There are so many issues I have with Battle: Los Angeles, but the one thing I need to address right off the bat is the shaky cam.

I’ve never been so frustrated and angry with a filming technique.  This is like trying to watch a movie while riding a roller coaster.  I’m not kidding when I say this entire two hour mess is all shaky cam.  Even when there are two guys talking across a desk, the director goes off his rocker with it.  It’s like he was so afraid of making another run of the mill alien invasion movie he cops out and just says, “Ohhhhhhhh, if I use shaky cam, people will think this is artsy and different.”  I wanted to leave ten minutes in because I was literally sick to my stomach at how much the camera was shaking.  If I ever see shaky cam again, I’m leaving the theater.  It’s a disgusting technique, and it needs to stop.  ENOUGH!!!

What’s so bad about it is that it makes me hate the action scenes with a burning passion because I can’t decipher anything that’s going on!  It’s just a bunch of random crap flying around the screen.  Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was easier to follow than this.  I honestly couldn’t tell you what characters were dying or fighting.  I really had no idea what the hell was going on in most of the action sequences.  This leads me to the next flaw; the characters.

This was pathetic.  I couldn’t tell you the name of one character with the exception of the lead guy, Michael Nantz.  Part of this goes back to the shaky cam, in that I didn’t know when people died or not.  They don’t even attempt to give these people personalities.  And their quick attempt at the beginning to give them character distinctions was so lazy and cliché, I wish they didn’t even do it.

Oh hey, you have the guy who is getting married and picking out a ring right before he goes into battle.  You have the loose cannon previously removed from duty but wants back in.  You have the Staff Sergeant who was forced to leave men to die in his previous mission and feels bad about it.  And the dialogue is just so blatant and half ass in introducing these themes.  Actually, it’s worse than half ass; it’s more like one quarter ass.

I seriously had no idea who any of these people were throughout the entire movie.  So why do I give a damn?  And there is no passion in the acting.  It is the definition of going through the motions.  People want to give Independence Day a hard time?  At least Independence Day had good actors who had distinctive personalities and energy to the roles.  You cared about them.  I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO SURVIVES AT THE END!

The predictability of these scenes was embarrassing.  There’s one moment where the soldiers are storming a building and it’s really desolate and quiet.  Uh-oh, something is coming out of the building, but it’s just a dog.  Gee, I wonder if two seconds later the aliens are going to bust out and start shooting.  Yup.  Give me a break.

They also have to force in heroic moments to the point of stupidity.  A lot of this happens towards the end.  Look, there’s being movie heroic, but then there’s just being dumb.  There’s one scene where Nantz attempts to do something alone, and there is just no way he’ll be able to survive the first five seconds of what he wants to accomplish.  Oh, but it’s just a lame plot device to get the rest of the troops to join him as the crappy score blasts in the background.  What unbelievably bad writing.

The score is just terrible.  It’s the same damn score you hear in every action movie ever made.  But it doesn’t even try to do anything different.  It’s so over the top and dramatic that you might as well have a chorus of people singing “Cliché” in the background.

Was there anything I liked?  There’s one halfway decent action scene taking place on the freeway where the camera calms down for five minutes, and there’s one watchable emotional moment when one of the characters dies.  Aaron Eckhart is trying his best, but Marlon Brando in his prime couldn’t save this travesty.

Look, I didn’t have any expectations going into this movie.  I just thought it would be solid action and an entertaining two hour alien romp.  I wasn’t prepared to have my intelligence insulted by excruciatingly generic dialogue and two hours of vomit inducing camera movement.  I was very upset when this movie ended, and it ruined my entire day.  I guess the one good use Battle: Los Angeles could have is that if there’s a movie you are really hyped and excited for, but afraid it may not live up to your expectations, watch Battle: Los Angeles, and then any movie you see directly after will feel like The Empire Strikes Back, so I guess that’s something.

Rating: 2 out of 10 (A Complete and Utter Disaster)

Movie Review – Rango

Plot: When a pet lizard is thrown from his owner’s car, he winds up in the gruff western like town of ‘Dirt.’  Going by the name ‘Rango’ (Johnny Depp), he poses as a courageous and tough hero, becoming the town’s Sheriff.  Rango is assigned to protect the town’s small water supply, their only means of survival.

Rango is the definition of an uneven film.  There are moments of greatness, but unfortunately, these moments are overshadowed by boredom and an excruciating slow pace.  The animation in this is downright stunning.  It’s really holy crap incredible.  The character design is gorgeous.  The desolate setting is a thing of beauty.  But much like Avatar, the great visuals get old and we’re left with characters that are as dry as the film’s desert setting.

The first five to ten minutes are fantastic.  It’s funny, thoughtful and deeply delves into the character we come to know as Rango.  Everything about the first action scene was incredible, from the expression on Rango’s face, to the sound of breaking glass.  Right off the bat, I thought I was in for a great movie.  Unfortunately, once Rango is let loose alone in the desert, the film drags on for what seems like eternity.

The heavy dialogue scenes just go on for way too long.  Every time Rango meets a new character, they engage in a boring conversation that is just not funny or interesting.  With the exception of Johnny Depp and Isla Fisher who voices Beans (the love interest), every single voice in here sounds exactly the same.  It’s that droning and gruff voice that you hear in most westerns.  It makes those heavy dialogue scenes even worse.  The best moments in this film are when Rango is by himself and it’s dialogue free.

In fact, there’s a scene towards the last third of the movie where Rango is alone that genuinely got to me and was emotional to watch.  It’s a self reflection moment for Rango, and the director (Gore Verbinski) just nails it.  It was that much more impressive, because the movie for so long had been a yawn fest, so the fact that it was able to bring me back to caring is really saying something.

The only character I did care for was Rango.  Beans also has a distinctive personality, although there’s this quirk with her character where she randomly freezes.  It’s really annoying and it’s not sufficiently explained.  There’s also a bad ass snake (Bill Nighy) that comes in towards the second half whose tail has a cool gimmick.  Other than that, every other character is forgettable.  And the problem is we spend the entire middle of the film with a ton of characters who are all the same and interchangeable.  The story is fairly interesting, revolving around the value of water, but because the majority of the characters are so bland, I couldn’t get into it.

There really are a lot of good elements surrounding this film and it’s got some cool action scenes to be sure, but it’s missing real substance.  I love the first scene, and even though the end brings me back a little, it still moves at a snail’s pace.  It’s also not very funny.  You’ll never hear me complain about an animated film being taken seriously with a dark tone like this one, but this could have used some more jokes.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly better than ‘meh’) 

Oscar Predictions! 2011

Oh, here we go!  Hollywood’s big night of glorifying themselves in one room.  But seriously, as much as I dislike the hoopla and bad jokes, I am excited and interested to see who wins the actual awards.  So here are my predictions that I’m sure will be wrong.

Best Picture

Nominees: 127 Hours, Black Swan, Inception, The Fighter, The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right

Prediction: The King’s Speech
-It’s boring.  It’s mediocre.  It’s an Oscar Best Picture Winner.

Best Director

Nominees: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (Social Network), David O. Russell (The Fighter), Tom Hooper (King’s Speech)

Prediction: David Fincher (Social Network)
-I could just complain about Christopher Nolan (Inception) not being nominated, but I’ll move on and just say Fincher is deserving and will win this.

Best Actor

Nominees: Colin Firth (King’s Speech), Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Javier Bardem (Biutiful), James Franco (127 Hours)

Prediction: Colin Firth (King’s Speech)
-This is the one award King’s Speech actually deserves.  Firth will win it easily.

Best Actress

Nominees: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Prediction: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
-I’ve accepted the fact that the King’s Speech will win Best Picture, so this is the award I’m most nervous about.  Portman is so deserving of this, that if Bening wins, it will be such a blatant “Ohhhhhh, come on, she’s been nominated so many times” factor.  Bening is great, but Portman gives a “holy crap” performance.  Please Academy, please.  Do what’s right.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (The Fighter), John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Prediction: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
-If Bale doesn’t win this I’ll never take the Oscars seriously again.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (King’s Speech), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Prediction: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
-This is by far the closest race of all the major categories.  Amy Adams, Hailee Steinfeld, and Melissa Leo all have a legit shot.  I’m fine with any of them winning, but I think it will be Melissa Leo in the end.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Danny Boyle, Simon Beafoy (127 Hours), Aaron Sorkin (Social Network), Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3), Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (True Grit), Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini (Winter’s Bone)

Prediction: Aaron Sorkin (Social Network)
-Sorkin won, the end.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Mike Leigh (Another Year), Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington (The Fighter), Christopher Nolan (Inception), Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Bloomberg, (The Kids Are All Right), David Seidler (King’s Speech)

Prediction: David Seidler (King’s Speech)
-I’m sure it will be Seidler (King’s Speech), but there is a very small hope for Nolan (Inception).  I’m not just being emotional, I think it could really happen.

Some Quick Predictions

Cinematography: Roger Deakins (True Grit)
Art Direction: Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh (True Grit)
Costume Design: Jenny Beaven (King’s Speech)
Sound Mixing: Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick (Inception)
Editing: Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall (Social Network)
Sound Editing: Richard King (Inception)
Visual Effects: Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, Pete Bebb, Paul J. Franklin (Inception)
Make-Up: Edouard F. Henriques, Greg Funk, Yolanda Toussieng (The Way Back)
Original Song: A.R. Rahman, Roland ‘Rollo’ Armstrong, Dido for “If I Rise” (127 Hours)
Original Score: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross (Social Network)
Animated Film: Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3)

Movie Review – 127 Hours

Plot: Based on the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a mountain climber who gets trapped under a boulder and stuck for several days.  The film follows his time under the boulder and the measures he ultimately has to take in order to survive.

I know what you’re thinking; this sounds like something that won’t hold my interest for ninety minutes, but I bet the film will totally surprise me.  No…it literally is what the film says it is; a guy trapped under a boulder alone on screen for ninety minutes.  There are great moments here, but really, this is boring.  When he first gets trapped, it’s kind of interesting and suspenseful, but it gets to a point where they have to manufacture other drama, and it just didn’t work for me at all.

So what do I mean when I say “manufactured drama?”  Well, like I said, when Aron first gets trapped, it’s an interesting set-up.  We get a truly horrifying shot of how isolated this guy is.  We also see some great trial and error of him trying to break free.  But there comes a point where the director (Danny Boyle) knows he can’t do this the whole movie, and that’s where images of his family creep up, he starts to lose it with other hallucinations and flashbacks, as well as a bunch of other stuff.  This is the entire middle of the film.  And all these elements are just done really poorly.  They were very awkward and silly and just didn’t hold my interest.  The movie really loses me because of this.

Part of the problem is the majority of people know how this story ends, so it’s kind of like, “Let’s just get to it already.”  He also records himself with messages to his family, and they are just repetitive.  I wanted to feel emotion for it, but I just wasn’t because of the repetition.

James Franco does a very good job, but honestly, I wasn’t blown away.  He carries the movie fine, but I just wasn’t totally enraptured by it.  There is so much of him reflecting and sipping every ounce of water, it’s all so repetitive; I started becoming numb to all of it.  It’s a sad situation, but it’s simply not interesting after a while.  Nothing happens!  Franco does have one fantastic scene in which he basically records himself pretending he’s on a talk show that was superb.  It’s easily the highlight of the movie and gave me the emotion I had been looking for.

The score by A.R. Rahman was all over the place.  Sometimes it was fantastic and hit the mood just right, but other times it was so bad, loud and obnoxious, that quite frankly, not only did I not like it, I wanted to step out of the theater at some points.  It really was that uneven.

When we finally get to the end and witness what this guy ultimately has to do, it was cringe worthy and emotional, but it didn’t hit me as hard as I wanted it to because the movie is so repetitive and excruciating.

Look, the story of this guy is incredible, but it didn’t make for a great movie.  I know people love Danny Boyle, but I think another director could have done a better job with the middle part of this film and create more convincing drama.  There are some damn good elements here making it worth a look, but otherwise, this was mostly a forgettable film.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh’)