That is, a review of the movie Non-Stop, not a chance for me to run at the mouth for hours on end. I did that for Star Trek Into Darkness.
I have to be careful with Liam Neeson. His bad movies are like wearing sand paper underwear, constantly chaffing and reminding me of the pain of Taken 2, Battleship, and the Phantom Menace. But then I see something like this or the Grey and am reminded that he is actually a dammed good actor. Would that his script discrimination matched his acting ability.
Yes, I enjoyed it. Exciting, intense, and with only a few easily ignored plot holes. A few days ago when talking about seeing this film I disparaged director Jaume Collet-Serra a little for not having done anything worth mentioning but I have to say the man has talent. This film is tight. Great buildup of tension, great connection to the main character, and a very exciting denouement with a couple of nice plot twists with no excess. I would now give any film he did serious consideration.
Of course like the worlds greatest seismologist I can find fault with anything (haw! Earthquake humor) and this film does not escape my scrutiny unscathed. In general it is quite well done and a great template for a good action/drama. Relative to most of the movies I have seen since the beginning of the year it was a nice break from the sewage grind.
Reviews where I like the film tend to be short and kind of boring so I will get this one over with so you can read about my opinion on Star Trek. The film starts off with Bill Marks (Liam Neeson-Wrath of the Titans, the Lego Movie, the Nut Job) drinking in his car prior to going through security at an airport. He has a minor run in with a preppy dude named Zack (Nate Parker-Red Tails, The Great Debaters, Arbitrage) on the line only to find himself seated next to the guy.
Jen Summers (Julianne Moore-Carrie, Crazy Stupid Love, the Big Lebowski) needs a window seat and so Zack trades with her. The plane takes off. It turns out that Bill is an air marshal and he starts getting a series of strange texts, telling him that a person on the plane will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred to an account.
At that point it’s a massive whodunit. Bill looks like he is being framed for the whole gig. He has is suspicions and conducts a fairly brutal investigation. The as this film is all about surprises and I think it worth seeing I am not going to go into the story too deep. A spoiler here would really be unfair.
Honestly very exciting, something of a rarity these days. Two stars. Liam Neeson plays a bitter burnout better than anyone else and this movie is the perfect vehicle to showcase his talent. One star. The rest of the cast delivered an admirable performance. One black hole. The plot twists were coherent and not just dredged up from bilges of the writers ass. You know. Twists that make sense, not just twists for twisty sake. One star. Pacing and tension development were actually quite masterful. No excess baggage (haw!). One black hole. In general a fun, exciting movie. Two stars. Total: eight stars.
The black holes:
While none of them were gaping there were a few black holes, mostly around the complexity of the bad guys plan and the fact that no one in TSA would look suspiciously at someone trying to get a parachute through security. One black hole. That’s pretty much it. One black hole total.
So seven stars, and one of the shortest reviews I have done in a long time. Sorry but movies that I like without being about something I really care about tend to be brief. I will take a moment to endorse the music making software package project by a friend of mine and ask that you check out her Kickstarter video. If you are into electronic music seriously consider donating a few bucks. I don’t ask for a lot of these (aside from checking out my nerd t-shirt site, of course) so at least give it some thought. Thanks, and thanks for reading. Like this on FB on the link above and follow me on Twitter if you think these reviews are decent (@Nerdkungfu). Comments on this film or my review can be left here and off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to [email protected]. I saw Stalingrad last night and will review it next. Talk to you soon. Have a great night.
The Grandmaster Movie Review
Occasionally I will get someone asking me how I came up with the name of my nerd t-shirt selling website, NerdKungFu.com. The first part is painfully obvious to anyone who talks to me for more than 5 minutes (especially if they make the mistake of asking me how I feel about the new Star Trek reboot). But why kung fu? Have I studied martial arts? Am I a disciple of the kung fu philosophy? Once in a while I’ll get some wing nut who asks me if I sell martial arts supplies and uniforms.
The truth is much lamer than any of those. As a kid the thing I watched second only to Star Trek was Kung Fu Theater. My best friend and I had the schedule worked out where we could watch six hours back to back. I love them. Naturally I am a huge fan of the great Bruce Lee, but if you really want to get into the nitty gritty of of what kung fu films are about you have to get into the hard core Wu Tang stuff. Master of the Flying Guillotine will always be my favorite, but you can’t go wrong with the Five Deadly Venoms, Drunken Master, 36th Chamber of Shaolin, or Five Fingers of Death (by the way, if you want to watch any of these I found this great site WatchKungfu.com. Awesome. I think when I am done writing this I will watch 36th Chamber again).
Kung fu movies are fairly formulaic (the good ones at least). Typically an everyman hero is wronged by bandits or local officials. He travels to find a martial arts master (often ending up at the Shaolin temple) where he goes through a very cool series of training exercises in order to become a deadly martial arts master. He then travels home and kicks some ass. In some movies the martial arts hero dies to save other people (these film are all a product of Communist China and therefore have a very strong social and egalitarian slant. The hero is usually the one protecting people from Imperialist oppression).
Bruce Lee films take these to the next level, with all the above plus the fact that Bruce Lee is amazing. The point of this long intro was I went to this film hoping to see a kung fu movie and was a little disappointed. It was more of a documentary of the great Master Ip Man, the original trainer for Bruce Lee.
I don’t really want to do the full black holes/stars thing for this. When it comes to reviewing this I am up the cultural river without a paddle. I’m sure many of the issues I noticed would look totally cool to someone living in China. The film just didn’t have a lot of weight behind it. The martial arts sequences were abreviated, and I was kind of disappointed to see them using the quick cut action sequencing that has been plaguing Western movies for years now. In other words, instead of amazingly choreographed fight sequences (like in the Raid: Redemption) we get a lot of 1-5 second shots (still an improvement on most Hollywood films, where the cuts are 1-1.5 second) shots edited together. The film also didn’t have the amazing camera work I have come to expect from modern Chinese martial arts movies like in Hero. However, the story, while kind of flat, was interesting and there was actual martial arts action in it.
I think the best way to appreciate this film is as a cultural study with kung fu in it. There were some intriguing decisions made by the main characters that wouldn’t make a lot of sense here in America but when taken with the Chinese culture in mind are kind of cool. And don’t get me wrong. There are some great fight sequences (the first fight in the rain at the beginning and later between Gong Er and Ma San at the train station in particular).
I think my frustration with this film is it is really hard to nail down. It doesn’t have enough fighting or the fanciful story to be a true kung fu movie; the story is too flat and broken up into documentary style vignettes to be a great drama; and the camera work is not lavish enough to be an artistic piece. Ip Man is of course a great character but I the film glossed over the dramatic turns in his life (leaving his family, dealing with the invasion of the Japanese, etc.) leaving me with a hard time identifying with him. I had a better connection to his love interest Gong Er, but even her story arc was flat. I did enjoy this film a great deal, but there were parts I found myself wishing for a fast forward button for.
The story is of course about Master Ip Man of the Wing Chun school of Kung Fu. He is selected to match up against the Northern martial arts head. He wins the challenge (by literally breaking bread) but is challenged also by the Northern Masters daughter Gong Er. They fight and Gong Er wins on a technicality. During the fight the two both feel amazing chemistry for each other, but Ip Man has to go home to his wife and kids.
Ip Man and Gong Er plan to meet up and spar again but before they can the Japanese invade. Ip Man is forced to take up work as his family starves. Meanwhile Gong Er’s father Gong Yutian is betrayed and killed by his pupil Ma San, now a Japanese collaborator. Gong Er hunts him down and they fight at a train station. Eventually Ip Man travels to Hong Kong to find work, only to be cut off from his family when the Communist government closes the border. He meets up with Gong Er and thinks to rekindle their relationship but she has sworn an oath of celibacy. Eventually he opts to open a Wing Chun school in Hong Kong in order to make kung fu available to the general public and there trains young Bruce Lee. Thanks to him Wing Chun is the most widely used school of kung fu.
I’m not going to get into the stars and black holes on this one. Like I said, I don’t think I have the proper cultural basis to properly appreciate it. I’ve discovered that once I get any film onto my autopsy table I tend to find birth defects and cancers I didn’t even see while watching it, and I don’t want to do treat this film that way. Besides, the answer to the question should you see it or not is very simple. If you are a fan of Bruce Lee or kung fu movies then absolutely. If you are not then feel free to give it a pass. The quick cut action means you can probably get away with seeing it at home so wait for NetFlix.
Sorry about the lame review, but this film kind of defies my reviewing power. I will be seeing Blue Jasmine later tonight so look for that review tomorrow. I have a couple hours to kill before the movie so I am going to watch 36th Chamber of Shaolin (aka Shaolin Master Killer) and enjoy every second. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If you have comments on this movie or my review post them here, and off topic questions or suggestion can be emailed to [email protected]. Have a great night.
P.S. Riddick tomorrow night. Stop pestering me about it.
Oblivion Movie Review
Pretty damned good.
This movie was something of a singular experience in that I left the theater with a definite opinion on the film but after a nights sleep and a few waking hours to think about it I have more or less reversed it. My massive ego does not leave me prone to second guessing myself but upon occasion I realize I was slightly less correct than I could have been. This is such an occasion.
I feel like my late night slightly negative opinion is based largely on the fact that I have been seeing the trailers for this movie for months and each time I did I got more excited about the film. 2013 has not been a generous year for fans of science fiction thus far (based on some of the trailers I saw last night that is about to change dramatically) and I have been feeling a little thirsty for something good. In the trailers this looked like it could fit the bill nicely (although when I saw the directory Joseph Kosinski had also done Tron: Legacy I did have a few doubts).
In truth it really does, but during the course of the film I kept spotting what I thought were massive plot holes that just seemed like stupid mistakes for a big budget film to make. That really tainted my viewing experience. However the story managed to wrap pretty much every hole in the last 15 minutes, a feat that is not seen often in Hollywood. It was like being pissed at a friend for making you late to a show only to find out at the last minute he had already bought VIP tickets and reserved a parking space six feet from the door. The plot holes were like a sour taste in my mouth that some reflection and mouthwash were able to get rid of.
Thus we are left with a shockingly original interesting story with some really good twists and great action. The concept was very cool and the final twist was almost Matrix-like in being unexpectedly and well executed. The special effects were seamless (this is one of the very rare occasions when I wonder how it would have looked int 3D) and all the acting at least good. In general a credible stab ad science fiction.
That’s not to say there weren’t still problem, which I will get into in excruciating detail shortly. There was one thing that bugged the hell me the whole time: is Tom Cruise (or his character) supposed to be right or left handed? He consistently uses his rifle in the left handed configuration (left hand on the pistol grip right hand on the fore grip) but his pistol is on his right hip and he uses his right hand to shoot it. Perhaps there was some science reason for it but nothing was ever offered up. Petty I know but it really was the tiny rock in the shoe of movie watching that drove me nuts.
This film is super twisty and complicated so am going to great pains to avoid spoilers. This will result in my story recap being somewhat abbreviated but this is the kind of film I expect all of you to see and I won’t ruin it for you. Three of my black holes will include a bit of a spoiler but I will warn you beforehand. Tom Cruise (Top Gun, Minority Report, Mission Impossible) is Jack Hardy, a drone technician left behind on Earth after a devastating war against aliens has left most of the planet a post apocalyptic wasteland. He lives in a high tech sky base so advanced it makes the Apple Store look like the booth at the swap meet where the guy sells rusty old tools and broken lawn mowers. His wife and fellow operative Victoria (Andrea Riseborough-W.E., Being Human, Happy-go-Lucky) lives with him. Jack flys around in a super cool hover gunship that looks like ti was made of giant ping pong balls blued together repairing damaged drones (that also look like giant ping pong balls). The drones are there to keep the alien remnants called Scavs (or Scavengers) from damaging giant energy converters that are turning water into power for the human colony orbiting Titan. Jack has a fascination with old Earth and keeps dreaming about it.
Again, I don’t want to go into it too much. Jack runs into some other humans and saves one of them (Olga Kurylenko-Quantum of Solace, Hitman, To a Wonder). Things aren’t what Jack believes them to be. Twists get twisted and somehow Morgan Freeman surfaces dressed suspiciously like a helmetless Darth Vader.
First and foremost this was an original story. I have seen elements of it in other books or movies but this particular set up I haven’t seen before. Given how often I beat my fists against the unimaginative brick wall that is Hollywood script writing I would be a cad to not award this at least three stars. Three stars. The story was complex, cool, and convoluted in the best ways. One star. It takes a lot for special effects and CGI to impress me these days, but that plus some really great camera work made this movie fun to watch. One star. While Tom Cruise may or may not be a weirdo in his personal life, the man can deliver a solid performance. One star. The ship Jack flew around in, the drones, and all the super cool technology made sense and didn’t strain any disbelief. Good science fiction is not about creating technology that couldn’t possibly exist for hundreds of years (or ever) but taking existing technology and moving it along the logical progression to something believable. One star. Action was very solid. One star. In spite of a 126 minute run time pacing was great. One star. The movie was a constant debate as to which of the two women turned me on more (I know who my best friend would pick). Plus you (almost) get to see some bare ass. One star. Science fiction movie that is not a huge insult to science (Except for maybe the moon part. I don’t know enough about lunar gravitational stresses so I can’t comment. Plus I was always a Thundarr the Barbarian fan so I’d let it slide. Science image courtesy of the Nerd T-Shirts.). One star. Overall a quality movie experience. Two stars. Total: thirteen stars.
The black holes:
In spite of having a complicated and intelligent story the director obviously thinks most of us are idiots as he spoon fed us plot elements in the form of either an annoying voice over monolog (every element of which he later revealed as an expository scene or three) or just over explained stuff. One black hole. Like I said when I reviewed him in Jack Reacher Tom Cruise must have a clause in his contract that says he can never be anything other than the most capable, macho, moral super human on the screen. There is nothing beyond his abilities (also what is the deal with him and characters named Jack? That’s two in a row). It tends to drain some of the tension from the scenes. One black hole. The action labors under the PG-13 yoke like a bull trying to pull a plow through solid concrete. Humans die in kid friendly evapo-explosions and most of it seemed to be Tom Cruise firing at something off camera. One black hole. This is where the spoilers come in so SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT! You can skip ahead to the next paragraph or not but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. I need Hollywood science fiction writers to let go of the idea that the most valuable resource on our planet is dihydrogen monoxide. It was a stupid idea in Battle L.A. and it is a stupid idea here. The universe is up to its ass in dihydrogen monoxide (Pluto is 90%) most of which does not have pesky natives shooting back at you. One black hole. The movie was solid all the way through up until the end when they decided the final scene needed to have Jack fumbling around with the win MacGuffin. Has no one ever heard of a device that can be activated with a single flip of a switch? One black hole. While all the humans motivations seemed pretty clear, the actual bad guy perplexed me by being so blatantly stupid. Also they did the Phantom Menace and Avengers thing of having all the bad guys fall apart as soon as the controlling brain died. One black hole. Total: six black holes.
A grand total of seven stars. A very good score, although I think with a few tweaks it could have been better. Should you see it? If you call yourself a nerd than absolutely. If you don’t you are not a true nerd but one of those people who just glom onto the latest cool thing (somehow being a nerd turned into something cool. When did that happen? I must have missed the memo) like most hipsters, emo kids, and Tea Party members. Turn in your nerd card on the way out. Date movie? I think so. The characters are cool enough and the story nicely complicated such that a non-sci fi girl will still enjoy it. However, be warned that whatever Tom Cruise is doing to stay young and good looking (cryo-sleep chamber? Full body Botox injections? The life blood of young aspiring starlets?) is working at full strength and you will probably suffer in comparison. Bathroom break? Like I said with Trance hold it. Any scene you miss could screw up your comprehension radically. If you really have to go any of the scenes with Jack at his lake house are probably the most expendable, but just don’t super size your drink if you can.
Thanks for reading. More to see this weekend. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Comments on this film or my review can be left at the bottom here. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to me at [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
End of Watch Review
You say your life lacks intensity? This movie is the cure.
In January when I do my end of the year retrospective I am going to remember this weekend as the most awesome weekend of movie releases ever. Dredd was freaking amazing, and now I have End of Watch to be the second in a run of tremendous movies.
Director David Ayer did Training Day, one of my previous all time favorite cop movies, and it is fair to say I went into this film with extremely high expectations. This is often a big mistake, as it sets the stage for massive disappointment when the director proves he only has one good effort in him and trips on his own private parts. However, this was not the case for End of Watch as it managed to actually exceed my high expectations.
There are some obvious comparisons to Training Day, but in truth I believe it has more in common with the 1988 Sean Penn movie Colors. It has a similar feel being shot over a period of several months without a true central plot or antagonist. It is a true buddy movie, showing the daily lives and traumas of two LAPD cops, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal-Donnie Darko, Source Code, Brokeback Mountain) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña-30 Minutes or Less, Tower Heist, Shooter). The whole movie is shot found footage style, except for when the director didn’t feel like coming up with an excuse to have a camera involved and blew it off. This is actually my one real criticism of the film. If you are going to do found footage cool, but don’t go to the trouble of establishing a reason for cameras to always be around and then bailing on it to do a bunch of standard POV shots.
Fortunately the rest of the movie makes up for this problem. During the course of several months (or maybe even years) you see the two men laugh, joke, and bromance each other to the hilt. Brian starts off as the single ladies man while Mike has been married since high school. You see Brian develop a strong romance and eventually marry my other future wife Anna Kendrick (50/50, Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, Up in the Air) while Mike’s wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez-Death Race, Saints and Sinners, Magic City Memoirs) delivers a baby boy. Each scene is filmed around a particular event in their career; a pulled over vehicle resulting in a drug bust, the discovery of a bunch of corpses, etc. Some of them are loosely connected to a Mexican drug cartel that eventually puts a hit out on the two officers. Multiple shootings occur. Cars get chased, and the last 20 minutes of this film will most likely be the most intense movie scene you have experienced in years.
Before I get into the stars and black holes I would like to say that this movie draws you in like no other that I have seen in a long time. The combination of the found footage with the amazing performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena cause you to develop a real connection with them and honestly care about what happens. I am pretty much a robotic shell of a man, but by the end of this film this movie manage to reach deep inside and stimulate the frozen chunk of coal that passes for my heart to actually beat a couple times. All that excess blood ran to the decrepit emotional part of my brain and I was in series danger of exhibiting an emotional response. Fortunately I was able to quash it but you humans should be able to really get something from this. (Obey Robot image one of the many nerd t-shirts I have in my collection)
The stars. The acting was truly amazing. Oscar nomination worthy IMO. Three stars. All the support characters were great. One star. You actually care about what happens to the characters. One star. I got to experience the most alien of emotions a regular movie attendee can: excitement. Two stars. For a found footage film pacing was brilliant. One star. The women in this film were good eye candy without distracting from the film. One star. They managed to fit in a bunch of interesting minor sub plots without hurting the overall movie (one advantage to not really having an overall plot, I guess). One star. The action was well done in the confines of found footage. Somehow a 15 second gun battle seen through the dashboard camera of a police car is much more exciting than a full production running gun battle. One star. Truly a great cinema experience. Two stars. Total: thirteen stars.
The black holes. The sudden shift from found footage to POV camera is a little annoying. One black hole. There was something of a lack of overall story that I think might have helped, but honestly I am just picking at nits here. It is fine without it, but one black hole. Total: two black holes.
A grand total of eleven stars, and yet another recommendation to see this film. That’s two great movies to review in a row. I keep waiting for the Earth to stop spinning on its axis. See both this film and Dredd at your earliest convenience, although you might not want to see them back to back as you could die of an awesomeness overdose. Date movie? I’m going to say yes on this one. The emotional interaction between the characters could very well speak to a woman, and while Jake Gyllenhaal is kind of a pretty boy I think you might gain some kind of bounce back from him into your bed, if you know what I mean. Bathroom break? This is another film I am going to say you want to see in its entirety, but if you super sized and can’t hold it Brian’s wedding could be mostly missed I think, especially when everyone starts drinking. Just hurry back.
Thanks for reading. If I have the energy I might go see something else later tonight, but I am afraid of ruining my streak. It’s going to happen eventually, however, and bad movies tend to make for funnier review. There isn’t much entertainment to be had listening to me gush like a fan boy. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have any comments on this movie or review please post them here, and if you have any off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
A question from The Matrix.
Somehow Dave managed to avoid having an image from the Matrix in his huge collection of nerd t-shirts, but I figured since Hugo Weaving was filming both the Fellowship of the Ring and the Matrix at pretty much the same time I would roll with this one of Sauron. Very cool.
Anyway, here is my question. It is established early on that Agents can dodge bullets, as can Neo by the end of the film. I also get that if Trinity were to put a gun to the side of an Agents head the bullet would probably be too close to dodge even with Agent speed.
Why, then, on the roof of the building would Trinity, after performing a perfect flanking maneuver, get into position for a perfect execution and then take the time to say “Dodge this”? Saying that takes longer than a bullet travels. Given what has been established regarding Agent speed the Agent should have had enough time to move out of the gun barrels way, cave Trinity’s chest in, grabbed a quick cup of coffee and a smoke, and comb his hair back to perfect before getting back in Neo’s face. Seems like a case of continuity suffering for the want of more drama.
Wow I sound like Dave all of a sudden.
How good is Dave at this reveiwing business anyway?
Dave was talking about how many people tell him his review are good and fun to read and I decided the time has come to either reinforce his ego or put him in his place. I normally just go to Rotton Tomatoes to see if a movie sucks or not and have decided to compare Dave’s score the the tomato-meter to see how close he really is. Here are the top 10 movies right now:
1. The Hunger Games. RT gives it 85%. Dave gave it 9 stars and 5 black holes. He did say it was fun but I think he might have missed what the audience was looking for.
2. Wrath of the Titans. RT 25%. Dave 2 stars and 12 black holes. Looks like he’s on target there.
3. Mirror Mirror. RT 49%. Dave 4 stars, three black holes. Dead even.
4. 21 Jump Street. RT 85%. Dave 11 stars, 4 black holes. I think I should probably go see this.
5. The Lorax. RT 58%. Dave didn’t rate it with black holes, but said it was pretty dumb but worth taking your kids to see. I don’t know if he matches here or not.
6. John Carter. RT 51%. Dave gave it 10 stars and 6 black holes. I think he was too much in love with the source material.
7. Salmon Fishing in Yemen. RT 68%. I don’t think Dave has seen it, the lazy git.
8. Act of Valor. RT 25%. Dave gave it 9 stars and 4 black holes. I think his patriotism got to him.
9. A Thousand Words. RT 0%. Dave 3 stars and 8 black holes. He must have been in a good mood that day.
10. Journey 2: the Mysterious Island. RT 42%. Dave gave it 7 stars and 4 black holes. To be honest I was surprised when I read that. Not sure what he was drinking that night.
So it is obvious that Dave is generally in the same direction as a lot of the other viewers, but odds are his nerd perspective give him a slant when it comes to certain movies, like John Carter. I guess he has to be true to what he is. This talk nerdy shirt I found in his huge pile of nerd t-shirts. I think it’s funny.
Movie Review: the Help
I was pretty sure this movie was going to make me feel guilty for being white, but honestly it managed to avoid that. I guess it was because the white people in the movie acted in a manner alien to most of my life experience that they felt like a different race entirely. I guess I got open minded at some point.
Anyway, the movie. It’s not my usual fare, but I actually like it a lot. Going in I was afraid I might doze off, but in spite of the lack of explosions, car chases, or anything resembling action the movie held my attention for the entirety of the film. There were some attractive women, but most of them were acting in such a reprehensible manner that I felt not a lot for them. The acting was great all around, the setting and scenery perfect, and the story compelling.
It’s a story told in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi about the African American maids who serviced the homes of white people. They are treated reprehensibly, and within the first ten minutes you hate most of their employers. There is one cute white girl who is trying to write a book about the stories. The biggest hurdle she has to overcome is the very legitimate fear the maids feel about getting not only in trouble or fired but actually attacked and possibly killed for speaking to her, but with the help of one maid, than another, she eventually gathers dozens of embarrassing stories. Most of the movie is more or less a series of embarrassing vignettes for the whites of the town as the maids become more and more comfortable talking to her. Some kinds of justice are served up, and some kind of injustices as well. I won’t say it’s a totally satisfying movie, in that in the end you still feel like certain people really didn’t get a fair deal, but you are not totally overwhelmed by the unfairness of the final outcome.
The stars. Great story. Two stars. Good acting all around. One star. No need to suspend my disbelief. One story. Some funny moments, including one of truly wonderful and hilarious justice. One star. I can honestly say I felt connected with the three main characters, and even with a lot of the supporting characters. One star. They kept the period stuff dead on accurate. One star. Emma Stone (Zombieland, Superbad, super hot) was great. I am almost ready to forgive her for Crazy, Stupid Love. One star. The managed to avoid the temptation to “Hollywood it up” by adding stupid cliche movie crap. One star. There was a nice, well developed sub plot that I think added a lot. One star. Total: ten stars.
Now the black holes. I felt the pacing could have been a little better. Towards the end, after the book was released and we saw all the horrified reactions of the white people, it seemed to drag on without contributing a lot to the film. One black hole. I had multiple moments where I was so frustrated with the injustice of what was going on I wanted to travel back in time and set fire to a couple houses. One black hole. Emma Stone’s character had to live up to the “girls like jerks” stereotype (which, ironically, is exactly what her character did in Crazy, Stupid Love). One black hole. While a good story, the director seems to really be going for the low hanging fruit. You are pulled into the emotions of the film from only the simplest of terms, with no real exploration of the more complicated aspects of 1962 Mississippi, like how can little girls raised lovingly by African American maids grow up to become completely racist a-holes? It’s is touched on briefly in the opening monologue and kind of dropped from there. One black hole. Total: 4 black holes.
Overall a great movie, with a total of 6 stars. That is a high score from me of a movie with no special effects budget. See it in a theater if you can, or NetFlix it when it comes out on DvD.
Incidentally, I donated a bunch of nerd t shirts like this Alien one to my friends at the Geek Down show. I met these guys at a comic book convention earlier this year and they seem to have some really good shows, all nerd related, so you know I have to love them. Check them out if you get a chance.
More of the Harry Potter marathon: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
So this movie adds three elements that up until now have been missing from the movies until now: actual death, hot girls, and Lord Voldemort.
I liked it, and the movies to seem to be getting more adult themed as time progresses. Again, I won’t burden you with a full on review, but will simply record my impressions and the questions that came up during the movie.
So yes, someone dies, and it warmed the cockles of my heart that it was Robert Pattinson. He already has an amazing film franchise in the truly terrible Twilight series, and does not deserve to be attached to an even bigger one. Also, he bugs me. Plus, I still feel some animosity for him for making me watch the horrible acting he did in Water for Elephants. Does he do anything but deadpan? Watching him die did wonders for me. Also, for the first time we get some hot girls on the screen. I mean, sure Hermione is cute, but she’s just a kid. When the girls in the blue outfits sauntered in, my interest level perked. And finally, after hours of everyone losing their water every time someone mentions his name in spite of the fact that he had no real powers, Lord Voldemort finally resurfaced in corporeal form and proceeds to get boondoggled by Harry Potter. If he were really as bad ass as every says shouldn’t he have killed Harry in like five seconds? I mean the kid is essentially a Freshman in high school.
Anyway, here are some questions that occurred to me while I watched this.
First off, Harry and the Weasleys all go to the Quidditch World Cup. Didn’t we establish earlier that some Quidditch games can go on for weeks if not months? How long can an audience sit there for that long? Then, the audience is pretty much filled with wizards and witches, right? Hundreds if not thousands. How do a half dozen guys in KKK hats proceed to tear their camp apart? Shouldn’t there have been several hundred magic wands pointed at them after the first few minutes? For all their magic powers the only thing all the people seemed capable of doing was running and dying. What is the point of all that training? Also, I know for a fact that there had to have been at least a few magic brooms in that camp, as it was for a Quidditch tournament. Why, then, do they all keep wanting to beat their feet?
Actually, this leads me to my next big question, one that has been on my mind for a while. Seems like Hogwarts matriculates several dozen full fledged wizards every year, and now we find out that there are other schools worldwide. The Quidditch audience seems to have a few thousand in residence as well. What, then, do all these magic users do for a living after graduation? Malfoy’s father talked about being rich from magic, but how does he do it? Maybe he uses his powers to influence the stock market, or divines lottery numbers? If they are supposed to keep their powers a secret from we mundane Muggles, what do they do exactly? What exactly is the benefit of a degree from Hogwarts? They can’t all end up working at the Ministry of Magic, in spite of appearances. If everyone has approximately the same powers they can’t exactly sell their services to each other, and if they can’t show them to Muggles who exactly are they getting money from? Even if they could sell services to each other, from an economic point of view that is just not a viable system. Eventually the money bleeds out. Maybe they go out and rob from supernatural creatures like the goblins, but isn’t that the thing that Dark Wizards do, which we keep hearing is a bad thing? So how do you make a living as a wizard? Why is Malfoy rich and Weasley poor? (Goblin minions image courtesy of the nerd t shirt category)
That actually leads into yet another question, which is what is up with Dark Wizards? Is being a Dark Wizard like joining the Dark Side in Star Wars? If you tread down that path will it forever taint you? Or is it something where you could do a little and sneak back? Maybe you are Dark most of the time, but donate a lot of money to charity and actively support independent coffee houses? This question has actually been growing on my mind as it is one of those things we are supposed either have read in the books or just accept without being told in any kind of detail.
What is the deal with the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and betrayal? It seems pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain that whoever they hire for that position will either betray Harry or turn out to have some dark secret. Next movie I recommend Harry just blast the Dark Arts teacher on the first day of class as a precaution. See how good he really is, and who knows? Might head off the inevitable betrayal early on. Also, I would like to point out that once again Harry and his friends completely failed to discover who the villain was until he chose to reveal himself. The Hardy boys they are not. If even one villain opted to not deliver his complete plan and identity in a megalomaniacal rant the he or she could screw with Harry for years, then possibly stick a shiv in his ear while he slept in the infirmary after his next inevitable injury.
Speaking of injury, does Dumbledore get some kind of jollies from seeing underage kids risk their lives and possibly get killed for some esoteric reason? Sure, this Tri Wizard championship might be a big deal, but you are putting your students against dragons. Big, powerful, fire breathing, and eminently pissed off. Honestly, there doesn’t seem much room for high school bullfighting or lion taming last time I checked. Then, in addition to setting the kids up to possibly drown in the Black Lake, he grabs four other completely innocent students (none of them put their names in the Goblet of Fire), knocks them out, and ties them to the bottom of a lake filled with vicious merfolk. Did their parents sign some kind of waiver form for that? I swear when I first saw them I thought they had all drowned. Also, I would like to point out that the loving cup looked very much like a cheap plastic mug laser etched with the word “Wiz” on it. Didn’t really make me think it was thousands of years old.
For that matter, Harry is now in his fourth year, right? And this Tri Wizard thing is a huge competition? Why, pray tell, have we not heard mention of it before? Someone told me it only happened every 25 year or so in the books, but why then was Weasley gung ho to try it when he was 17, in 3 years? By the way, could he and Harry have been bigger putzes at the big dance? Neither one of them seem to have an interest in Heriome, and have two super cute dates but spent the evening sulking about the girl they didn’t bother to ask out. At age 14 (assuming I had a date at a dance and was not by myself in a corner with a head full of mindless violence) if I had any girl remotely attractive on a date with me I sure wouldn’t have been moping around the buffet table. By the way, Weasley in particular managed to ruin the social event of the year for his date. Nice going, jackass.
Finally, I know this is the school of magic, but is there a real reason they don’t bother to use even any technology? I mean, electric lights might be cool, or maybe an iPod full of music. They managed to have a flying car in the last film, and Hagrid had a flying motorcycle in the first one. Some TV might be nice. I really ask this because if I were a wizard headed into possible battle I think I would like to have a fist full of steel to back up my magic. That way, while you are Voldemort are locked in a wand duel you could draw your .357 with your other hand and put an ounce of lead justice over his left eye. Harry gets hurt all the time, so it’s obvious that being a wizard doesn’t make you immune to kinetic energy or blunt force trauma. Blow his brains out, then evaporate his head with your wand and tell everyone you beat him fair and square. I’m just saying.
Anyway, like I keep saying, I am enjoying this series quite a bit, in spite of my many questions. My movie choices are starting to look a little lame, so I think I will try to see another one to write up tomorrow. Talk to you soon.