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The Hangover: Part II full trailer.

To the people who actually bother to read anything I type: sorry for the lack of updates. 

With that said, let's talk about The Hangover: Part II.

Last time I talked about it, I mentioned that the the teaser trailer didn't really give us anything substantial as to what the film is actually about.  Sure, it did what a teaser was supposed to do, but it did nothing to shake the feeling that The Hangover II would be nothing more than a simple rehash.  Well, the first full trailer of the movie is finally out and.......it really does look like a rehash.


Yeah, that's some "deja-vu shit" right here.  Hell, the trailer is even edited to be almost identical to the trailer of the original film: swap out Las Vegas with Bangkok, and you pretty much get the central idea.  However, I'm still willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps there's more to this film than we're seeing.  Maybe this will follow the "Crank 2 model" and have the same basic premise, while being even more bat-shit crazy than the original.

I'm not against seeing another sequel with these guys, but everything leading up to its release so far is leaving me a bit cold.

Battle: Los Angeles review

 Jonathen Libersman's, Battle: Los Angeles, is another in a long line of action films that make promise on explosions and gunplay, but not much else. Never managing to rise above its' epic trailers (once again proving that great editing can make all the difference), Battle: Los Angeles is nothing more than a mishmash of tired war cliches packaged into an uninteresting sci-fi setting.

A group of soldiers, led by Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (played by Aaron Eckhart), lead the charge against an alien invasion that is tearing apart Santa Monica. What follows is literally every single World War II trope from characters such as, “rookie soldier is totally a rookie” to quotes like, “YOU HAVE TO GO ON WITHOUT ME SARGE!!!!” Tropes aren't necessarily a bad thing, and are things we generally look for in our genre films. However, when there's no attempt at even presenting these tropes in any sort of interesting fashion, it's just boring to see the same scenarios played out repeatedly.

This complaint trickles down to the characters themselves, who are all just stereotypes we've seen in a variety of better films: The soldier who's about to get married; the guy with emotional problems, and the leader going on his “one last mission.” Of course any potential character development goes right out the window once the squad hits the streets of Santa Monica. For a group of multi-ethnic individuals, it was hard to differentiate from one green uniformed person from the other as they are pretty much interchangeable. Aaron Eckhart fares much better than his co-stars (which I assume is only because Eckhart is a talented actor) but isn't given much to do, subjected to giving orders and the occasional “uplifting” motivational speech.

So if the plot is something of a regurgitation of what's been done before, surely “awesome alien action” more than makes up for it. Right? Battle: Los Angeles has single-handedly made me jump on the “fuck shaky-cam” bandwagon. I'm all for realism in film, but during an action sequence I actually like to see what's going on. Yet all too often, the camera jitters and jerks around whenever a gun-battle occurs, making it awfully difficult to see the aliens or any of the film's pretty special effects.

Perhaps Battle's unwillingness to let the audience even focus on the enemy invaders was a good decision because the actual aliens themselves are straight up laughable. With 2009's District 9 impressive looking outer world creatures, it's embarrassing how generic and non-threatening these aliens are (even more so upon realization of why they're attacking earth). So perhaps it is a good thing that the movie doesn't really focus on them.

Lacking the distinct visuals found in other sci-fi films, or the grittiness found in most popular war films, Battle: Los Angeles offers nothing to fans of either genre and is just a retread of things that came before it.

The Last Airbender

 

“The Last Airbender” is just one of those films that gets such a bad reputation that I couldn't help but be curious about it. Of course like a cancer, that curiosity grew into a mild obsession where I needed to know what exactly went wrong with this movie. While not the train wreck I was expecting it to be (which seems to be happening quite a bit), “The Last Airbender” is still a mess of a film and a failure of an adaptation.

Based on the hit animated nickelodeon television show, “The Last Airbender” follows the Avatar, Aang (Noah Ringer) and his friends Katara and Sokka (Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathborne respectively) as they travel to the water kingdom so that Aang (who is capable of learning fire, water, wind, and earth abilities) may  learn how to waterbend in order to stop the evil Firenation.

If that description seems like the most confusing thing you've ever read, then the entire film will make you claw your eyes out in frustration. Theoretically, a good adaptation should be made to respect the source material while being open to newcomers. How does director M. Night Shyamalan manage to cram an entire seasons worth of story into a 100 minute film? Why, tons of exposition of course!!!! It's understandable the difficulty that comes with adapting a multiple episode season into a film format, but that's why compromises must be made in order to make the film accessible. Instead, most of the film is just characters talking about events that don't even occur in the film. It's not only confusing to those who don't have any experience with the tv show, it's also pretty boring.

It doesn't help when most of the child actors featured in this film are just bland. There is a reason why none of the trailers leading up to the release show any dialogue: most of it is delivered in the most stiffest way possible. Whether it be Noah Ringer looking like he's on the verge of tears in nearly every scene he's in, or Rathborne's incredibly bland interpretation of the popular character, Sokka, it's hard not to cringe whenever one of these kids open their mouths. The only actors who seem capable of showing the slightest amount of emotion are Nicola Peltz and Dev Patel (who plays banished Firenation prince, Zuko), but that's the problem with being good in a piece of shit: you're still a piece of shit.
 


"Oh God.  You mean I have to be in two more of these?"


Perhaps the worst aspect of the film (besides the race bending and horrid pronouncements of character's names) is that it manages to suck out all of the fun associated with the series. Sure, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” is hailed as being mature for a cartoon, but what drew me to the series is its' great sense of humor. “The Last Airbender” is absolutely devoid of any such entertainment, and is a barrage of dark imagery featuring characters who spend most of the time bemoaning the loss of loved ones.

“The Last Airbender” could have been a good film: the movie has the look of the unique world of the animated series down, and the effects are fairly impressive, but the films positive points are completely squandered by shoddy writing and poor acting. However, unlike M. Night Shyamalan's other “classic” films, the movie doesn't have the badness associated with it to make it even worth a drunken film night amongst friends. It's just boring, which is the worse sin a kids film could make.

 


 

Sound Bites:

Current Thoughts: The Hangover II

 So the teaser trailer for this movie just came out today and it shows....pretty much nothing.  Besides text from various positive reviews for the original movie as well as an extremely short scene from the film, it tells us absolutely nothing about the Hangover II which doesn't do much to shake off this feeling of the sequel being a quick cash-in.  I'm not against the idea of seeing these characters in another movie, but the premise of  sending these guys to another exotic location because of a friend's impending wedding, just seems so damn repetitive. 

But who knows?  Maybe this sequel can capture the charm of the original. Hopefully an actual trailer comes out for this movie sometime soon.

Film Review: Babies

NOTE: I am not a film critic, just an amateur who wants to maintain her writing skills though improving my ability to analyze films is a secondary goal. I will also be reviewing books later on so if you want to suggest something for me to read, feel free! If you don't think this is terrible, feel free to suggest movies as well!
 
Honestly, the abundance of adorable babies was the main reason I decided to watch this documentary. I love babies, though I generally dislike children. Yes, I know it's a frivolous reason but there you have it. Now that we have my motive out of the way, on to a discussion of the actual movie. 
 
Grade: B-

At times, the pacing felt slow and the transitions between the babies (one each from Namibia, Mongolia, Japan, and the U.S.) could have been better though overall, the timeline followed the babies well, from birth to a bit after their first birthdays. The score was limited but I thought that was appropriate because the film's focus lies in following the babies and not on making an award-worthy production, though the few times music accompanied a scene, it meshed well, like a light twinkling tune when the babies first became mobile. Watching them grow physically, emotionally, and intellectually in that year provided a small but real glimpse into human development but it also made me wonder how my parents felt as they watched me (and my brother, I guess) change from infancy to adulthood and how I would feel if I had children. 
 
The lack of subtitles added to the tone of the film. I didn't need to know what was being said in order to understand the laughter that came from the joy in caring for the babies or the parents' stern voices when they admonished their infants for naughty deeds. Culture shapes many areas of people's lives and differentiates one ethnic group from another but humanity also retains similarities in other areas, one of them being child-rearing. Actual techniques differ across societies but the fierce, protective love parents have for their children remains the same. You don't need spoken words to understand body language and other non-verbal cues and the documentary demonstrated this emotional, perhaps instinctual, link between humans.
 
I don't know about other viewers, but the film inspired a lot of "warm and fuzzy feelings," trite though this sounds. I mean, what else do babies do except make people feel bubbly with delight? Besides that, the main reason for this reaction is the lack of "serious" issues. I read the synopsis for the film before viewing it so I felt a bit uneasy wondering how it would portray the lives of the babies from Mongolia and Namibia as the peoples of these two underdeveloped nations still maintain ancient lifestyles. The poster didn't seem to imply discussion of weighty topics and in fact suggested the opposite with the happy babies dominating gorgeous shots of their native countries and the tagline, "Everybody loves...BABIES." 
 
The film is quite straightforward actually and this characteristic makes it somewhat forgettable. Sure, you'll remember some of the more poignant scenes, two of which I'll discuss in the next section, and come away feeling nostalgic, but nothing lasting. The parents' roles, though not minimized, take second place to the babies' lives, and the lack of dialogue and interaction with the parents illustrates this aspect. To emphasize the babies' importance, the documentary treats the viewer to the babies first smiles, first hurts, first movements, and first relationships. Granted, these are all important milestones in a child's life, but the babies were all healthy and happy so things like disease, war, and poverty didn't factor in their individual stories.
 
Despite its relative lack of complexity, the film managed to establish a hint of a connection with the babies because of their struggles - crawling, talking, developing motor skills, walking - and the ways in which the babies overcame them, something most people can understand having faced and surmounted difficulties of some kind. Bayar, the baby from Mongolia, hesitated to walk without holding onto a wall or an animal but after several wobbles finally stood on his own, with the wind blowing through his hair and rustling the grass surrounding him, giving the impression of a triumphant old world khan. Mari, the baby from Japan, figured out how to work the Tower of Hanoi but threw a long tantrum (complete with wailing and thrashing) when she couldn't do it again; yet despite her frustration, she continued to work on the puzzle because some unknown force compelled her to do so. 
 
Most of us can relate to Bayar's uncertainty and Mari's obstinacy because we've felt these emotions time and again as we age but the difference between babies and adults is that fear doesn't restrict babies. Yes, they're limited physically, intellectually, and emotionally but they aren't afraid to explore and learn by pushing their boundaries even if they get hurt in the process. But once past infancy, a child's culture plays a much more significant role in his or her development so fear and caution slowly replace daring and curiosity, though this last statement is just my personal opinion.
 
In brief, the good: simple but thoughtful narrative on the lives of four different but similar babies who exhibit emotions and behaviors adults can relate to; and the bad: slow pacing, decent but not great transitioning, and simplicity that makes it forgettable. Watch it if you're bored or feeling depressed about the state of the world (or just like babies).

Sound Bites:

Of the many (and I do mean many) superhero films set to be released in the next few years, none has made me more excited than Matthew Vaugn's, "X-men: First Class."  Considered somewhat of a prequel film (thankfully Vaugn smartly decided to ignore the Origins franchise), the film follows the original (at least as far as the movies go) X-men during the 1960s when Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lensherr were working together before their eventual fallout. Following a underwhelming first pic , the first official trailer for the movie appeared today and goddamn does it look great.

If there's a complaint that I've always had with the recent spat of Marvel movies is that they've become almost mindlessly derivative. By making the next X-men movie take place in the 60s, it gives it a sense of style and identity that's severely lacking in traditional superhero flicks.  Even Captain America (another film that interested me due to its WWII setting) has that same glossy, "IronMan  look" that seems to be in every Marvel produced film. 

The trailer doesn't necessarily give us much of the rest of the X-men members, but we do get a whole lot of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, and it seems that they've both nailed their roles as the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto.

Ok, anything looks good compare to "Wolverine," but this looks like it could bring back the X-men franchise to what it used to be when Bryan Singer was in charge.



 

The Chicago Code pilot review


YOU CAN'T REVIEW THIS SHOW....IN CHICAGO!!!!!!!!!


I hate procedural shows and how absolutely by-the-numbers they have has become, and yet they're ever so popular with networks ordering more of them with every season.  So not surprisingly  when Fox's newest cop show, The Chicago Code, was annouced I pretty much casted it aside as just another "shitty cop show."  However, boredom is truly a wonderful thing that is the driving force for many a terrible things I end up doing in my life, and I decided to catch an episode.  The shocking thing is: The Chicago Code is actually fairly entertaining.  It doesn't do anything out of the box (at least as far as this pilot is concerned) but it isn't so derivative that it makes me want to brain myself with an object closest to my bed.

The Code's premise  is reminiscent of cop classics such as The Wire or The Shield: the show follows both politicians and police on all sides of the law as it focuses on not only crime in Chicago, but as well as the corruption that seeps within the police.  Though don't expect the complexity or grittiness like the shows mentioned previously; this is still very much a network television cop show, but it's one that shows potential and with enough time could grow into something truly amazing.

But let's focus on the hear-and-now: Teresa Colvin (Jessica Biel) is noted, thanks to some Goodfellas-esque narration provided by supporting character Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) as being the first ever female commisioner and has some fairly ambitious plans in dealing with the crime rate.  However, she's continually stopped by Alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo) who she suspects of being dirty.  When the murder of a whistle blower seems to point to the Alderman as being the culprit, Colvin attempts to form a team dedicated to busting Gibbons.

As I've said: this pilot does not do anything that we haven't seen in these procedurals.  All the trademark tropes and cliches associated with cop shows are in full effect here, but it does them with a bit of style not normally seen in these types of shows.  Even the narration, normally an annoying way to input exposition, is used fairly well and seems to imply this is more a story about Chicago itself than just about a couple of cops.  The pilot doesn't offer much in the sense of performances (though Biel is effective as tough as nails commish Colvin), and admittedly some the performances are underwhelming, but I'll give the episode the benefit of the doubt as a show still trying to find its legs.

Perhaps the most exceptionally thing about the episode is the ending, which took this show from a "somewhat interesting cop drama" to a "holy shit I gotta watch the next episode!!!"  The ending features one of the best televised deaths and I'd be surprise if the scene doesn't end up on someone's "top tv deaths" list.

It's almost expected for procedurals to follow the same worn out plot lines, and the same character archtypes and cliches that we've come to know from the genre.  So when a show comes out that attempts to break out of the mold, I feel like I should give it my attention.  If done right, The Chicago Code could be a very interesting and engaging look at crime in Chicago.

The Last Exorcism




It’s easy to mistake The Last Exorcism as just another exorcism film and while it does somewhat follow the same beats that are found in most demonic possession films, Last Exorcism focuses far more on character developing and atmosphere building than simply providing cheap scares.

Presented as a documentary, a former exorcist who has lost faith in his practice (played by Patrick Fabian) goes out on one more exorcism in order to prove that exorcism is fake.  However upon meeting the inflicted girl, Nell (Ashley Bell), events seem to point directly towards the Devil being involved.

The Last Exorcism actually takes its time before getting to some of the more scarier aspects of the film.  In fact, it isn’t until the middle of the movie where things become more of a horror film.  In a lesser movie, this probably would have translated into a boring film, so it’s a testament to the abilities of the actors that the film never fails to be engaging.  Fabian is fantastic as the faithless priest, bringing a sense of humor to a role that normally is dominated by sullen looking characters that take themselves way too seriously.  Ashley Bell as the possesed Nell  has an effective performance as she’s able to go from innocent to creepy with relative ease.  She plays the character with such naivety, that it’s almost heart-wrenching to see her go through this trial in which she clearly has no idea what’s going on.  The father (Louis Herthem) manages to avoid playing the cliched “unintelligent hick that uses religion as his explanation for life,” creating a sense of sincerity with his character; all he wants is to protect his family, and he’ll go through extreme means to do it.

Some may roll their eyes at yet another film in the “found footage” genre, but  there’s something creepy about amateur footage of a poverty stricken southern town, which certainly plays to the strengths of the film.  Sure, some of the same tricks found in the genre make an appearance here ( It seems “creepy thing jumping at cameraman” is a staple for the genre), but it works well enough to create a creepy atmosphere that is present throughout the entirety of the film.

With that said, it’s just a shame that the last five minutes of the Last Exorcism is such a disappointment, abruptly ending with a ridiculous twist that comes out of nowhere.  While I can certainly appreciate a good plot twist (see: Keyser Söze), but only when it’s done right.  What happens makes absolutely no sense within the context of the film since there’s almost no build-up towards it. Which brings me to another point: The Last Exorcism is a surprisingly short film.  Clocking in at barely 90 minutes (87 minutes to be exact), it really feels like there’s 30 minutes of footage missing that would have made the ending at the very least make sense.  

However, a somewhat crappy ending doesn’t take away from the good that can be found in The Last Exorcism.  If you’re looking for something a little different, something a bit more intelligent than your average horror film, The Last Exorcism is the perfect film.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

 


 

British director J Blakeson’s crime thriller, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, is the very definition of minimalist direction:  Taking place in a single setting and consisting of only three characters, the film doesn’t have the luxury of special effects or action sequences to carry the film.  However, Alice Creed is proof that sometimes less is better as it manages to avoid complications that usually present themselves in these types of films.

After a montage of two crooks turning a bare room into a prison, Danny and Vic (played by Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan respectively) kidnap Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton) in the hopes of gaining ransom money from her wealthy father.  However, this wouldn’t be an interesting crime film if things didn’t go wrong and what was once a simple plan is hampered by back-stabbings and plot twists that would make M. Night Shyamalan blush.

Creed’s simplicity allows the film to focus on the intense emotions surrounding the characters, and it’s here where the film truly shines:  Compston is excellent as Danny, whose interest in the kidnapped Alice threatens to tear the entire plan apart.  But Marsan’s intense performance really stands out as the cold and calculating Vic, the complete opposite of the emotionally-driven Danny.  When it finally hits the fan, the possibility of violence on Vic’s part fills the entirety of the film with tension, at times to an almost unbearable state.

Gemma Arterton isn’t nearly as impressive as her other co-stars, mainly because the film doesn’t give her much to do besides react to her situation (i.e. lots of screaming and crying).  Also, plenty of shots of Arterton lying on a bed with a ball gag, unconscious.

If you like your thrillers simple, yet brutal, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, is a film that delivers on almost every level and provides what a crime thriller should:  An engaging plot that constantly keeps you guessing at what happens next.

THE CHRISTIAN BALE MOVIE (or The Fighter)

I hesitate to call The Fighter a sports movie, at least in the traditional sense.  While it hits the same beats that are familiar to sport films, it certainly feels like director David O. Russell focused more on filming the drama within the Ward and Ecklund family rather than the boxing itself.  Though that’s not entirely a terrible thing since, The Fighter is an exceptional drama.  And the actual boxing isn’t too shabby either.

The Fighter focuses on real-life boxer, Mickey Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) struggles to gain independence from his own oppressive family.  It’s made clear that he lives in the shadow of his half-brother, Dickey Ecklund (played exceptionally by Christian Bale), a former boxer whose claim to fame was knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard. 

That is until he meets a local bartender, Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams).  Charlene sees the negative impact Dickey’s family has on him, and attempts to make him stand up for himself.  This brings her into direct conflict with the head family member, Alice Ecklund (Melissa Leo), who believes that Fleming is simply trying to take Mickey away from her. 

On paper, this all sounds like what you’d expect from any sports film and for the most part that is true.  However, it’s the performances that truly drive this movie.

I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that Christian Bale does an exceptional job as Dickie Eklund; in fact, it’s almost expected.  But his performance really needs to be seen, as he completely melts into the role.   Losing all that weight certainly helps, but it’s completely adopting the mannerisms of Dickie to the point of mimicry (seeing a short clip at the end of the movie of the real Dickie reveals the brilliance in Bale’s performance) that makes his performance outstanding.  Dickie is an unreliable scumbag, constantly living in the past and vicariously living through his own brother in the hopes of retaining that former glory.  But Bale plays him with such sincerity that you never truly hate the character.

In more ways than one, Mark Wahlberg is stuck in the shadow of Bale’s livelier performance, especially in comparison to his more reserved role as Mickey Ward.  Wahlberg isn’t exactly going to turn heads with his performance, but his usual “wide-eyed innocence” he brings to his characters (such as Eddie Adams in “Boogie Nights) works extremely well within the context of the film.   Amy Adams as the love interest is fantastic because she doesn’t simply play “the love interest,” a character whose only purpose is to provide romance to the story.  She’s fierce and directly involved with Mickey’s journey of being a capable fighter, but she’s no saint either as her determination slowly transforms into the very thing that keeps him in his present situation. 

Family drama or not, this is still a boxing movie and one does expect some good boxing fight scenes.  Unlike other boxing films, Russell chooses to present the fights as if they were actual playing on some pay-per-view event.  While those scenes may lack the cinematic punch that films such as Cinderella Man contain, the realism in The Fighter adds plenty of tension, as if we really were watching the real Mickey Ward come to blows with his opponents.

There are a couple of missteps towards the end of the movie.  The redemption of the Ecklund/Ward clan seemed too easily earned to be believable.  I understand that the film needed to end on an uplifting note, but the film spends too much time painting the family as unintelligible hicks that it’s a bit disappointing the sudden turn those characters take.  Also, the inclusion of Mickey’s ex-wife served to only to show how much of a loser he is and not much else.  She’s an insufferable human being, (joining the likes of Famke Janseen from “Taken”) that managed to make my blood boil every time she appeared on screen.  The fact that the movie never gives her a well deserved comeuppance is disappointing.

While normally I find sports film to be somewhat cheesy or melodramatic, The Fighter manages to avoid the trappings of the genre while delivering some great performances.

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