The 10 Best Films of 2013
A tribute to another year dedicated to the self aggrandizement of my own opinion.
So another 365 days filled with mostly mediocre cinema pap and the occasional true gem or turd. Last year I reviewed 93 films, which is weird as it didn’t seem like that many. However as I was going over my list I was struck by how many of them quickly faded into the the background noise of my mind. Only the real good or sucktastic films stand out; the middle hump of the curve blends together into a bland porridge of competent yet boring or incompetent yet interesting story decisions, poor rating choices, or regurgitation of other, better films. I was surprised at how many films I had to read my own story recap to remember what it was about.
My average score was 1.77 stars, which means anything between a -3 (three black holes) or 5 stars I consider to be in the mediocre range. A few years ago I took a statistics class (don’t ask me why) and for a few minutes I thought about finding my textbooks and calculating a standard deviation but then I remembered I really didn’t get into this to do math (and also I’m pretty lazy) so I will forgo the detailed statistical analysis.
My final ranking is not a direct result of the actual scores. Those numbers are a handy guide, but often times the warm afterglow of a good film or the smoldering canker of a bad one can strongly influence my scoring and it only through the filter of months of reflection, a certain amount of therapy, and the periodic alcohol induced discognitive seizure can I fairly make these assessments. I plan to do 3 and possibly 4 posts on this: this one will be top 10, next post will be bottom 10, and the next 1 or 2 will be “special” awards (my own homemade Oscars, although I don’t have a cool trophy, award name, awards ceremony with hundreds of movie stars, millions in advertizing revenue, or set awards categories. Other than that it’s exactly the same).
Oh, and I suppose this would normally go without saying but I can only list the movies that I actually watched and wrote reviews for. Odds are extremely likely I should have seen 12 Years a Slave or Grudge Match, but in spite of any reports you may have heard about my recent deification I really cannot see every movie out there and have to make movie decisions based on my time, money, interest, and what I believe you, my beloved readers, are interested in. Please don’t waste my time with comments about how dare I not include Inside Llewyn Davis on my list.
I’m also linking all these reviews so if you are really, really bored (or bed ridden) feel free to read and enjoy!
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. 12 stars, 4 black holes. If you had told me a few years ago that a film designed to appeal to moronic teenage girls a la Twilight would make my top 10 for the years I probably would have gouged out both my eyes to avoid seeing it. However, when I think back to movies I saw this is one of the few films that actually got my pulse moving. It was, for lack of a better term, exciting and as such managed to edge out Kick Ass 2, Iron Man 3, and Man of Steel. Those movies were fun but they all failed to have me connect or care about the main characters like Hunger Games did. Plus I have a soft spot for sequels that manage to not have numbers in them and films where young people kill each other.
9. Pacific Rim. 12 stars, 5 black holes. This one and number 8 are going to be proof that I am not a typical reviewer. This film made my list not because it was a great story, had good acting, was a cinematographic masterpiece, or had a point but rather because it was just plain awesome. I mean, sure the dialog and acting will have you wishing for the sweet kiss of a trepanners drill bit but all you have to remember is that every few minutes you will be seeing GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING GODZILLA MONSTERS! I mean come on! How can that not rock? Also if you are the type who gets some kind of pathetic ego boost by predicting with 100% accuracy exactly how a story is going to progress this film is true low hanging fruit (plus we could probably be friends).
8. Riddick. 9 stars, 2 black holes. OK, this is my last indulgence on this list but the fact is somehow I have become a Riddick fan boy and cannot let it go by. Muscled, taciturn, gruff, bald, with cool sunglasses? What’s not to love? In a completely straight, bromance sort of way of course. I also have a deep appreciation of a sci fi film that is actually about sci fi rather than using it to sell some political, religious, or ideological agenda which as a sci fi nerd is the equivalent of being touched inappropriately in my bathing suit area. This film also featured Katee Sackhoff topless but if that is not enough to convince you of its awesomeness I have two words that will: flying motorcycles.
7. Rush. 10 Stars, 3 black holes. Time to get serious I guess. I really appreciated Ron Howard on this film. A good director tells a story, a great director inserts you into his characters lives. This film definitely did the latter. What was great was I thought going in the movie was going to be about James Hunt and his life but in truth it was more about Nikki Lauda. Both characters were engaging but by the end of it I felt myself more invested in Nikki. Serious, scientific intellectual who survives a horrific crash and gives up on something for love trumps party frat boy IMO.
6. The World’s End. 12 stars, 2 black holes. I am a Simon Pegg fan and enjoyed this film a great deal. One thing I love about his films is they often times start off as one story but by the end are a completely different one. I would say this one is not as good as Hott Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead but is better than Paul. Incidentally if you like Simon Pegg Netflicks a BBC show called Spaced. It’s pretty amazing.
5. Blue Jasmine. 9 stars, 4 black holes. This is a perfect example of how I don’t let the numbers dictate my placement. This film was brilliant and Kate Blanchett was amazing. On the other hand, this film is a complete bummer. You don’t leave the theater feeling inspired or uplifted. You leave the theater looking for a bed to lie in for a few days. I also was bugged by the fact that the story supposedly took place in San Francisco yet all the characters are completely New York or New Jersey stereotypes. This is why this film will not get my best film of the year. Also to be perfectly honest I find a lot of Woody Allen’s personal life to be extremely troubling and have a hard time enjoying the success of scumbags.
4. American Hustle. 11 stars, 4 black holes. I had to overcome my own personal dislike of the 70’s aesthetic in this film. However, I cannot deny it’s excellent execution and the acting that each of the performers brought to the screen. In truth I have been having a hard time ordering my top four. Any one of them seem great at a given time. However, in order to get the placement I asked myself “If I were stuck on a plane and had time to watch 3 of these 4 movies which is the one that I would be most willing to skip?” At that point it seemed pretty obvious to me.
3. Gravity. I have a lot of friends who were ambivalent about this movie but most of the haters seemed to have an axe to grind with either Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, or both. I was riveted to my seat and loved every second of it (especially the Sandra Bullock underwear scenes). I just suspect these two have a really good eye for scripts and know how to pick winners. I also like that they didn’t overwrite the script.
2. Her. 14 stars, 3 black holes. Like a Strippergram waiting in the bushes for me to come home after a long, hard day this movie caught me off guard and was an extremely pleasant surprise. Great character development, awesome visuals, and an intriguing story with high societal relevance. It was a sci fi character study as good as any other and you really feel tremendous sympathy for both the main character and his AI. My only warning is if you happen to see it as a bitter single bachelor this film can hit you kind of hard. Not that I would know anything about that.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street. 13 stars, 3 black holes. No big surprise here. I know I had some issues with this story, it’s length, and the morality of pretty much every character in it but when I think of 2013 and which movie I would like to see a second time this is the one that pops into mind. Leonardo Di Caprio holds your attention like your eyeballs are superglued to the screen, the story flows in it’s development, and there is a ton of gratuitous nudity. Martin Scorsese knows what he is doing and wrings a powerful performance out of even the most minor character. (the saxophone werewolf image I found in the vintage t shirt collection. I couldn’t find any stock broker t shirts)
So that’s my list. I will say thank God for the last month of movies. Three of my top four I have seen in the last few weeks. Before that 2013 was looking like the Fukushima of cinema years. Also, just to keep this list in perspective as compared to any of the thousands of more “legitimate” reviewers 6 of my 10 are science fiction films, so take that for what you will. If you are truly a nerd than I think that will enhance my reviewing credibility.
Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Comments on this list are invited and can be left right here. Off topic suggestions or questions can be emailed to [email protected]. Next post will be my 10 Worst of 2013 and to be honest I think I could probably do the 20 worst. It was a banner year for crap films.
Captain Phillips Review
There are certain iconic cultural items that when added to any movie, video game, TV show, or general life situation automatically ramp it up a few points on the awesome scale. They are like the bacon bits of life and include zombies, warp drives, time travel, jet packs, crossbows (or spear guns), grizzly bears, witch doctors, cyborgs, tanks, and super hot bikini clad girl ninja assassins (or ninjas in general, but I really go for the martial artist who has mastered the art of cleavage distraction along with throwing stars). Lord knows any one of these would have livened up my last horrible dating experience.
Pirates is another one of these magical spices of life, so this movie already started on the plus side of awesome. The fact that it stars the great Tom Hanks and is otherwise pretty spectacular helps too, but let us not forget that this film would not have been made were it not for pirates. From Blackbeard to One Eyed Willy our lives are made better from the efforts of these seafaring rogues. (Pirate logo shirt comes from the Vintage T Shirt category)
I saw this a few days ago and enjoyed the hell out of it. It has all I really want from a film: Good story, excellent acting, some decent character development, and pirates. Naturally I woke up the next morning and was dismayed to learn that a lot of the Alabama’s crew have decried the story, saying that Captain Phillips was more than less responsible for what happened and he was not the paragon of virtue that this movie portrays. At first I was all “Is it not too much to ask that I be allowed to enjoy a film about pirates and SEAL snipers and not have to sucked into a lot of crap by guys who may or may not be telling the truth but who did not get trapped on a lifeboat?” I was a little bitter until I remembered that while this story is supposed to be based on the actual events this is Hollywood, where one man’s fabrication is a whole audiences truth and any controversy surrounding the events can be comfortably ignored if you just like the film.
Also, where are the books written by the rest of the crew? If I were to write the autobiography of my life I would definitely consider not including the story of the time I went out with a girl only to have her go full lesbian after sleeping with me (to her and her partner I wish them happiness, by the way). No one is going to write a story about events that they participated in and include the phrase “The whole episode could have been avoided if I hadn’t been such a greedy dumbass”. I really can’t hold it against Capt. Phillips if he glossed over a few of his mistakes.
Anyway, the story. Veteran ship captain and all around good guy Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks-Forest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, the Green Mile) leaves his loving wife to captain a container ship from some desolate 3rd world port to another. He joins his crew including Shane Murphy (Michael Chernus-Men in Black, the Bourne Legacy, Love and Other Drugs) and engineer Mike Perry (David Warshofsky-Lincoln, There Will Be Blood, Now You See Me). They plot a course past the Somali coast.
Meanwhile fisherman and pirate Muse (Barkhad Abdi-no other credits) is feeling the pressure from his war boss to capture a ship for ransom. He chooses a crew for his skiff including Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman-no other credits), Najee (Faysal Ahmed-no other credits) and young Elmi (Mahat M. Ali). The team up with another skiff on a mothership and go hunting.
Captain Phillips has received warnings of increased pirate activity and puts the crew through a piracy drill. While this is going on Muse and his crew approach from the rear. Phillips and crew managed to avoid them and move out. The next day Muse returns and manages to board the ship. The crew hides in the engineering section while Muse captures Phillips and the bridge crew. Muse takes the captain on a search of the ship, looking for the rest of the crew.
Elmi manages to get injured and has to be returned to the bridge. The crew overpowers Muse and a trade of the money in the ship safe and the two captains is arranged. The pirates leave in the ship lifeboat but at the last minute keep Phillips.
Eventually the US Navy shows up and things start to get serious. Phillips attempts to bond with Muse and the rest of the crew, but to little avail. He helps young Elmi but Bilal is aggressive and violent. At one point he tries to swim off but is recaptured. Seals show up and set up snipers. If you watched the news you know how this ends. Muse gets captured and the rest of the pirates suffer bullet overdose.
Powerful performances from both Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. You really get sucked into the story. Two stars. The rest of the acting was very good too. One star. Pirates. One star. Navy SEALs. One star. I liked seeing a story based on events I had just seen on the news. It let me feel closer to the action. One star. An attempt was made to show the pirate motivation and the kinds of pressure they were getting from their bosses. Nice cultural overtone. One star. Overall a fun time and engaging story. Two stars. Total: eight stars.
The black holes:
I suppose I have to say something about the rest of the crew saying it was bogus. One black hole. After they get into the lifeboat the story kind of drags more than a little. You will find some sluggish moments there. One black hole. Total: two black holes.
A total of six black holes. Not as good as Gravity IMO but still well worth seeing. However, I think this movie could be easily enjoyed in the comfort of your living room. Nothing in the film really requires a huge movie screen. If you are a fan of good film see it in a theater otherwise wait for NetFlix. Date movie? Meh. I kind of think this one won’t do much for you. Take her to see Gravity. Bathroom break? There are a ton of redundant scenes once they take off in the lifeboat. Don’t miss the last fifteen minutes however.
Thanks for reading. Short review but when I like a movie but not love it that is what you get. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have comments on this film or my review post them here, and if you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at [email protected]. Have a great night.
2012 Recap: the 10 Worst Films of 2012
To those of you new to my blog and my style, I should tell you that I have been looking forward to this post for a while. Seeing all the movies and writing reviews is fun about half the time; the other half the time it is like riding an exercise bike while chewing on broken glass with cinderblocks tied to your feet. There is a lot of crap that comes out of Hollywood, and as I see it the bad movies owe me something for the time and money I wasted watching them. This is where I get some payback, and I enjoy every word of it.
This portion of the review process I like to think of as akin to clubbing baby seals, except that the seals in this case all made the conscious decision to suck and are not at all cute and helpless. Clubbing seals is a horrific crime, whereas clubbing these films could be seen as a public service. If a film doesn’t want to get clubbed it should make an effort to be at least competently made.
In reviewing this list and my top ten I can honestly say 2012 was kind of mediocre. There were no obvious stand outs in both amazing and horrible. The bell curve of movies has gotten taller, with more films hovering around the bland middle like a bunch of artists around the snack table at the worlds most boring gallery opening.
10. Won’t Back Down-The presence of dream woman Maggie Gyllenhaal and the acting of Violla Davis kept this one from dropping any further than number 10, but the time I spent trying to map out the blood vessels in the inside of my eyelids means this film earned its place here. Remember when “drama” meant that there was some kind of opposition the protagonists had to overcome? Apparently the director of this film doesn’t.
9. Joyful Noise-The dialog from this movie could be used to strip paint. If there is one thing that is worse than a trite, worthless story in a movie it’s a movie broken down into a dozen trite, worthless stories that all chew through the script like the worlds stupidest and most relentless termite infestation. Also, can Hollywood stop trying to convince us that there are massive rewards for being the worlds best choir, acapella singer, dancer, or karaoke performer? If you want to see the logical conclusion of that concept check out the Dance Dance Revolution post-apocalypse movie.
8. This Means War-As a guy who has a hard time dating women because I can’t be enough of a “bad boy” (apparently. If more women knew about my secret plan to conquer the world I think I might be seen as a little sexier) and who sees his female friends only date the biggest selection of abusive losers the human race has ever seen, this film made me laugh by basing a romance on all the worst decisions two men and a woman could ever make. The action was like a kid playing with his action figures, and if you weren’t at all creeped out by the fact that the two main guys should have about a dozen stalker restraining orders each than you must have a few of your own. I took particular pleasure in trashing this film mainly because it was directed by McG, the oil tanker spill of film making.
7. Rock of Ages-You might have noticed when I was bitching about Joyful Noise I didn’t say anything about the music and that’s because the music was actually pretty good. In this film the music is will make you want to burst your own eardrums (with a 12 gauge). Combine that with a story that only compares favorable to reading a phone book aloud and acting that (with some exceptions) ran as if the entire cast had been fasting for weeks and the only thing to eat was the scenery. Tom Cruise was entertaining, and a couple other characters were funny, but not enough to make up for the pain of listening to actors sing mashups of songs I wish had never been made in the first place. (Vitruvian Guitar Man image courtesy of the Vintage T Shirt category)
6. Girl in Progress-When I was compiling my list of films from last year I came across this one and for the life of me couldn’t remember seeing it. This is weird in that I have that special kind of memory that lets me remember scenes and the main story of almost every movie I have ever seen. I can only assume my subconsious repressed this one in order to protect me from more emotional damage. Once I read my review a lot of it came back to me, specifically how awful it was. Nothing in this film is at all appealing, and by the end you are hoping to see one or more of the actors and the director in the parking lot so you can run them over with your car. Also, if you feel like your life lacks creepiness for some reason this is the film for you.
5. One for the Money-This film progresses like a 15 year old kid trying to learn how to drive stick by himself. All jumpy starts, stops, and the smell of your transmission on fire. The script overall reads like it was a byproduct of someone testing out the “million monkeys on a million typewriters” theory. I think this is a good example of why you should never let your star be an Executive Producer unless he or she has a proven track record of well produced films.
4. Battleship-In addition to being a qualified candidate for the Stupidest Movie Concept ever, this movie could also be used as evidence in a court case for the crime of assault on Science (in any country except Italy). The problem I really had with this garbage scow of a film wasn’t so much that it sucked but that if done right it could have actually been decent. I even wrote a follow up blog post about how this film could have been made to not suck. Finally, I hate it when the fate of humanity boils down to a fist fight. MacGuffin plots suck.
3. Red Tails-Yes, I admit that tearing into George Lucas films is one of the few actual joys I have in my life, but how can I not love it when he makes it so damned easy? This thing was clunky and awkward, like a car with two flats, a radiator leak, three bad pistons, and a tank that was filled with Mad Dog instead of gasoline. However, I can’t discount the possibility that this is all some kind of mad genius retroactive marketing campaign. Do any of you think Lucas made this film purposefully horrible in hopes of making Episodes 1, 2, and 3 less craptacular in comparison? If so I say kudos to you George. Job well done.
2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2-Yes, when I wrote the review I did say it was the best of the Twilight series (I still refuse to call it a saga). However, that is like saying losing one limb in a tree shredder is better than going in head first. Not a lot of originality putting this in my top 2, but I have to go with what I feel. Also, in addition to being an execrable story acted out by wooden marionettes and enhanced with Shrinky-dink quality CGI, this film worries me for the future of America. If millions of teenage girls think this is quality entertainment then in my retirement home I will be watching the return of Teletubbies for adults.
1. Wrath of the Titans-The only thing worse than a bad movie is a bad sequel to a bad movie, and this one scores the bullseye. The two stars I gave it were more or less pity stars, whereas the 14 black holes were each fairly earned. An action film has to really work at it to make me not care at all for any of the characters, and this film succeeds mightily! Honestly, watching this film compares fairly well to watching someone play God of War in his underwear while you suffer from the worst hangover in alcohol history.
Well, that’s my list of shame. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support in 2012. I plan to see Zero Dark Thirty tomorrow night and review it Saturday. Tomorrow I plan to go through the rest of the movies from last year and just give joke awards to the ones that jump out at me. Feel free to comment here on my list or any of these films, but bear in mind that I can only include films that I actually saw last year. If it didn’t waste two hours of my life I don’t feel the need to dump on it. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to me at [email protected]. Alternatively you join the extremely few who follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Talk to you soon.
Battleship Movie Review
F-Zero. You sank my movie script!
This is another one of those movies that I, as reviewer, find so annoying in that it doesn’t fail completely. There are elements of this film that are seaworthy, but rather than sinking to a massive gaping hole in the hull it goes down to a million billion small holes comprised of flat acting, lame story, over reliance on CGI, mediocre casting, and disconnection from reality issues.
Of course all these issues pale to insignificance compared to the major problem with this film: the whole premise is based on THE WORST SOURCE MATERIAL IN CINEMA HISTORY! Battleship? Really? The game I used to cheat at against my sister with the pegs and plastic ships? I might have bought a navel battle against aliens but this is just dumb. I consider it a bad sign when Hasbro starts this movie out with a dramatic Hasbro intro cut scene similar in tone (if not seriousness) to the Marvel and DC intros from their respective movies.
By the way, here are some of the other Hasbro projects that are in production or under consideration: Candy Land starring Adam Sandler (oh God!), Ouiji (actually Universal paid $5 million to get out of the embarrassment of being associated with this project. Good move IMO), Stretch Armstrong, another GI Joe, and worst of all another Tranformers. By the way, check out this trailer for the upcoming Chutes and Ladders movie. Epic.
Speaking of Transformers, you will definitely feel like you are being beaten with the Michel Bey stick while watching this film. Massive slow motion explosions, grey CGI robotic aliens, flat acting, one dimensional characters, dopey worthless sub plots, and a super hot blond girl as out of place in this movie as Al Pacino in a really horrible Sandler film (oh, wait. That happened). The typical Bey pattern is followed in the aliens being unstoppable killing machines at the beginning of the movie and dying to wet farts by the end.
The thing that bugged me the most about this film was how completely disconnected from the realities of the military, navel warfare, ship maintenance, and actual science it really is. So instead of my usual pattern I am going to give a very succinct plot summary followed by the things that bugged me the most. Here we go:
Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Friday Night Lights) plays Alex Hopper, a waste of humanity who joins the Navy to be with his brother after stealing a chicken burrito for a super hot girl (Brooklyn Decker-Just Go With It, Exposure: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2011, Spike TV VGA Game Awards). Apparently being a lazy unmotivated impulsive smart mouth who is hated by your commanding officer (Liam Neeson-The Grey, Phantom Menace, Taken) for dating his daughter (the burrito girl) is no inhibitor to your navel career as he managed to rise to the rank of Lieutenant in six years. He and his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård-Generation Kill, True Blood, Melencholia) are participating in navel maneuvers off Hawaii when aliens follow a signal sent out by NASA and start attacking. They seem to have a very specialized threat assessment process and are cool with an enemy ship nearby as long as it is not actually shooting at them. Explosive navel hijinks ensues. A semi-clever (there’s a fine line between clever and stupid) plot device is found to reference the actual game it was based on. Rihanna (the Hangover, Just Go With It, 21) apparently has every job on the ship including gunner, Marine, soccer player, and possibly ships cook. All forms of military decorum and chain of command are disregarded. The fate of the planet manages to boil down to a fist fight between an amputee and an alien wearing advanced power armor.
Let’s talk about the many, many breaks from reality that this movie suffers from. First of all, my good friend science (I Atom Science image courtesy of the Vintage T Shirt category). One of the alien ships crashes onto the planet (by the way, they have the technology to travel across light years to find a signal from earth but don’t have enough radar technology to avoid a satellite in orbit around the planet) and scientists determine that it is made of an element not found on Earth. I guess the writers (and everyone else associated with this film) was sick the day they did science in the 8th grade, so I will explain it to them. You see, a periodic table of elements lists each one by a number. That number is the number of protons (and neutrons) in said element. Therefore, if you have an atom with 46 protons in it you inevitably have Palladium regardless of what planet you are on. As the number increases the elements become increasingly heavy and unstable, making most of them only occur in lab experiments for a few moments. Furthermore, the Earth scientists were somehow able to figure this out in about five minutes in this movie.
Next, let’s talk about battleship maintenance and mothball museum ships. This movie seemed to think all you need to do is cut some chains and a ship that had not even fired up it’s engine in ten years would be sea worthy. Also that a ship that had been a museum for decades would have both fuel and live ammunition on board, or that a battleship could even operate with a crew of about 20.
It is laughable that anyone would think that a ship the size of the U.S.S. Missouri (45,000 tons) would come to a screeching halt when moving at flank speed and a single anchor is dropped, causing the ship to whip around it’s anchor point. At best the anchor should have torn up a bunch of sea bed, but the inertia generated is amazing.
As for military protocol, there is no way the commander of a ship would be running around with an assault rifle hunting for aliens when he has seamen who could do it for him. This was just dumb.
The list goes on and on. It’s almost like they purposefully said how dumb can we make this movie before the American public finally vomits it back out (based on box office receipts they blew past the limit on this one). Stuff like an interplanetary signal being visible in space, aliens who can only see stuff that is actually dangerous, senior officers brawling like barroom drunkards, and so on just hurt the whole thing. You see, science fiction movies start off with a serious break from reality, which essentially means in order to be taken seriously you have to try to remain true to reality as you possibly can. That’s why movies like Aliens or TV shows like Stargate SG1 work; they are dealing with unreality but they keep everything remotely human as real as possible.
Anyway, the stars. If you don’t care about reality or are just really, really, really ignorant and possibly dumb the movie can be fun. One star. I do like big navel ships. One star. Alien invasion films. One star. I’m going to award a star to this film for having the best excuse for alien invasion as of late in the form of none at all. Stealing all our water, power, or brains is just dumb. It’s OK for aliens to just be imperialistic jerks. Some of the action was kind of fun. One star. Total: five stars.
The black holes. Dumb, dumb, dumb premise. Two black holes. Insulting my intelligence by disregarding a ton of fairly basic science and military protocol. Three black holes. Must every alien invader have a weakness? One black hole. A bonus black hole for getting a floating museum and steaming it out to fight with about two hours of work (also I would like to note that they talk about the shells being 1,ooo pounds as they try to manhandle one down a long corridor. In fact they weighed 2,700 pounds. Also, it was established that the Missouri was the last Battleship decommissioned. Where the hell did they find 16 inch shells? Do we even make them any more?). One black hole. Aliens who are ultimate bad asses at the beginning turning into paper dolls by the end. One black hole. The fact that advanced aliens with interplanetary ships apparently are cool using trebuchet-like targeting systems on their ships. They don’t believe in any kind of guidance? One black hole. Crow barring in the game pegs into this movie. One black hole. Sub plots that made me wish movies had never been invented. One black hole. Having the fate of the planet come down to a fist fight. One black hole. Flat acting and one dimensional characters. One black hole. Total: thirteen black holes.
A grand total of eight black holes. Pretty miserable. Worth seeing? Maybe, if all you want is Transformers style action and a lot of explosions. It certainly is brainless fun, so if you can shut you brain down (or are just brainless to start) you might enjoy it. Date movie? Hell no. Not only will she not be interested but all the stupidity surrounding this movie will infect her perception of you. Bathroom break? I can honestly say that there is not a critical moment in this film that missing would cause you to lose something from the experience. Most of the most worthless footage seems to be in the first 30 minutes, but any of the scenes involving the girl, the handicapped vet, and the wimpy scientist are an excellent chance for you to use the restroom, check your email, smoke a cigarette, and possible leave the theater entirely to go home and take a little nap. God knows I wanted to.
Thanks for reading. What to Expect When You Are Expecting is later today, and believe me I am dreading it. I hope you all appreciated the sacrifices I make to keep you entertained. Follow me on Twiiter @Nerdkungfu. Post any comments on this movie here. If you have any questions or suggestions on other topics feel free to email me at [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits in 3D Review
Certainly better than Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides.
Of course, whenever I hear Misfits in the same sentence as band I am going to assume you are talking about the Misfits, one of the greatest punk/horror/pop bands ever. Naturally no songs by the Misfits were in this very family friendly film, although I did catch London Calling by the Clash. In fact I also heard I Fought the Law by the Clash in the trailer for Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted that they played before this film, so I guess it can be said that the Clash have officially sold out. Sad really, and in both cases the songs were as out of place and disconcerting as finding hard core pornography in a grade school child’s book bag. (Misfits image courtesy of the Vintage T Shirts).
So I am a big fan of Wallace and Gromit, and therefore this style of animation really works for me. A lot of the humor styling carried over as well, and in general the movie was really fun and enjoyable. However, I think in the effort to ride the fence between being fun for kids and entertaining for adults this film kind of failed to really succeed at either. Not bad. Just not as awesome as I think it could have been.
As is my policy for kids movies I will not do the full on stars/black holes review but rather just talk about the overall feeling for the film. I generally base my kids reviews on how the kids in the audience were reacting, and for the most part they seemed to be enjoying themselves but not going bat**** nuts like I have seen for other kids movies. I think a lot of the humor went over their heads, and some of the action might have been a little intimidating for them.
The story is of a band of pirates, led by an intrepid sailor with the fortuitous name of the Pirate Captain (was he named Pirate Captain at birth, or was he like Pirate Sailor? There is a guy in my building down the hall who calls himself Pirate, but I am pretty sure that is a nick name of some kind). The funniest part of the entire movie was the individual pirates and the names they were given, like Surprisingly Curvacious Pirate and Pirate who likes Sunsets and Kittens. Each one had a distinct personality that meshed well together. However, I think this was exactly the sort of thing that missed the kids entirely. Anyway, they are kind of down on their luck with a decrepit boat and a less than stellar reputation, but the Pirate Captain opts to enter the Pirate of the Year contest. He is faced with three other captains, all more competent and successful than he.
The crew sets off to capture booty and runs into a string of ships with next to nothing on it. Eventually they capture Charles Darwin, who convinces them to head off to London for Scientist of the Year. There they meet Queen Victoria, who has an absolute hatred of pirates for fairly unclear reasons. Piratical hijinks ensue. Queen Victoria is painted in a fairly negative light (not really into the UK market I guess, although how mad would we be if someone did a movie that showed Abe Lincoln in a comical light?).
Overall, a fun, enjoyable movie. The only issue really is the compromise they tried to strike between kiddy and adult. However, if you are looking for something to kill 88 minutes with your kids you will probably not regret seeing this. The kids will be entertained, and you will not be bored. The characters were fun, and the animation good. Even the 3D actually added to the film, although I have long held that the best 3D comes from animated movies. It just translates better.
Thanks for reading. Sorry about the short review, but really not a lot to sink my teeth into here. This week I think it likely you will see me dive into another George Lucas rant at least once, so if you are into that keep checking back. I also had fun writing up those cartoon questions yesterday and might hit it again. Tuesday I will probably go see Girl in Progress, but am kind of dreading it. It looks like kind of movie that will make me wish I had spent the two hours trapped in a collapsed coal mine. However, those generally make for funny reviews so you, my beloved readers, have that to look forward to. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to post any comments about this movie here, or if you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
21 Jump Street Review
Worth jumping to see.
I had serious doubt about this film when I first heard about it. God knows we have seen our share of really lame remakes and reimaginings over the last few years, most of which did not need to be made, nor was the public clamoring for them. Was there any part of the original Footloose that had you desperate to see it redone badly last year? Or the A Team? Now they are remaking Red Dawn and Top Gun. It’s like an insane architect designed a house with the septic/bad 80’s culture storage tank on the roof and in the last couple years the bottom is starting to rust through.
Of course, at least that would have been a creative and new idea, something that has become anathema in Hollywood these days. If it hasn’t been done successfully (or not) in the last generation most of film industry will treat it like a week dead skunk.
21 Jump Street was notably only for launching Johnny Depps career. Otherwise it was another dumb late 80’s cool kids acting all serious and having fun in high school. Kind of like 90210 with guns. When I heard they were remaking it I had that slow sinking sensation you might get when told there is an 80% chance you are going to have to pass a number of kidney stones. You know it’s likely to happen and very likely to suck. When I heard it was a being written as a comedy I thought either that would be the life preserver that keeps this film afloat or the anchor that drags this remake down to a watery grave.
Fortunately the comedy works, and works in a big way. I, along with most of the audience, laughed my ass off throughout most of this film. The jokes are funny, relatively original (is a joke original if it is purposely calling back on a dead horse that has been beaten by many other movies? Kind of a conundrum), and extremely well delivered by Jonah Hill and (to my surprise) Hollywood pretty boy Channing Tatum. The story, while not overly complicated or complex, was direct and to the point enough to make me not be distracted from the humor, a lot of which was tongue-in-cheek directed at exactly the deluge of bad remakes I just spent the introduction of this review railing against. Extremely fun and funny.
Not to say it didn’t have it’s problems, most of which seem to stem from the action sequences. Towards the end the movie tries to switch gears from a comedy into an action/buddy film and ironically I found that part to be the slowest and least intriguing. The action was too tame to pull me in and too out of tone to fit in with the comedy. Odds are it was necessary for the story, but the first chase sequence had a Police Academy feel to it that I thought worked better in the context of the entire film than the last big chase/fight scene. Not to say you won’t enjoy the film because of it.
Anyway, the story. Jonah Hill (Moneyball, Knocked Up, Superbad) plays Schmidt, a fat loser in high school who wants badly to be Slim Shady. Channing Tatum (the Vow, Haywire, the Eagle) plays Jenko, popular jock at the same school and recurring tormentor of Schmidt. A few years after high school they both enroll in the police academy together, where they discover Jenko’s physical prowess and Schmidts scholastic ability is what they both need to help each other graduated, thus becoming friends. After screwing up their first bust they are assigned to the 21 Jump Street program, where young looking officers are sent in to high schools to solve crimes. There is a new synthetic drug out there and they are told by their very funny (in a stereotypical way) captain Ice Cube (Friday, Boyz in the Hood, Office Space) to find the supplier.
Once at the school they get their identities mixed up, and discover that since they graduated the jock stud has become very unpopular and the sensitive, eco-conscious nerd is popular (proof once more that I was born in the wrong decade). Schmidt gets hooked up with the popular kids, including his (kind of creepy, although the make a point of telling us she is 18) love interest Molly (Brie Larson-Scott Pilgrim versus the World, 13 Going on 30, United States of Tara) and most popular kid in school, Eric (Dave Franco-Superbad, Fright Night, Charlie St. Cloud) while Jenko gets hooked up with the local geeky science nerds, who somehow in this age of enlightenment are still really unpopular (science image courtesy of the vintage t shirts). They encounter a super cute science teacher (Ellie Kemper-The Office, Bridesmaids, Get him to the Greek) and a Coach McGuirk (from Home Movies. If you don’t know this guy you fail in geek cred. Go watch a few episodes) style coach (who’s credit I can’t find but I have seen him before).
At that point we get a lot of high school humor, but because it is adults trying to fit in I found it more tolerable. They guys throw an epic party. Stuff gets blown up. Bad guys surface. An extremely cool twist shows up and brings the funny back during the final action scene for a moment.
The stars. Really, really funny. Three stars. Excellent performances from everyone. Two stars. Story was pretty good. One star. Rated R without trying to get rated R. Star. Ice Cube and a couple other surprise appearances were great. One star. A remake movie that pokes fun at all the other remake movies. One star. Overall fun movie. Two stars. Total: eleven stars.
The black holes. The action towards the end was really out of place and felt forced into the film. One black hole. Rated R for language is a huge waste of an opportunity to show nudity or some graphic violence. One black hole. My whole issue with kids having fun in high school. Am I the only one who remembers going to high school and wishing for the sweet caress of oblivion most of the time? One black hole. The character of Molly felt somehow faker than the rest of the characters, although I thought Brie did an admirable job with the role she was given. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
A grand total of seven stars. This movie is totally fun and definitely worth seeing. Go to a theater in support of quality film production, please. Date movie? I’m kind of neutral on this. Your date will probably enjoy the experience of watching it, but there is nothing in the film that will either encourage or discourage her feelings for you. Also, you will lag in comparison to Channing Tatum by a lot.
I gotta run, so I’m not even going to edit this for spelling until later tonight. Please forgive any you see. Thanks for reading. Not sure what I am going to watch tonight. Nothing really caught my eye. If you have any suggestions feel free to email me at [email protected] or Tweet @NerdKungFu. If you have a comment be sure to post it up here. Talk to you all soon.
Battleship movie: greatest navel film ever or is the whole country getting RickRoll’d?
So Dave was telling me about some of the trailers he saw the other night and one of them was for a live action movie based on the game Battleship. I had to check it out, and after watching it was left scratching my head in confusion. I played a lot of Battleship as a kid and honestly, don’t remember anything about aliens in it anywhere. In fact, I don’t remember anything more than yelling out random letters and numbers and trusting my friends to not lie about what I did or did not hit. One guy in particular was famous for cheating at Battleship. Personally I always like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, as it was hard to cheat, had violence built it, and involved robots. Also I was able to find a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em image in among the vintage t-shirts, and Dave has nada for Battleship.
The thing is, the trailer actually looks kind of cool. Big ships, bigger alien ships, lots of guns going off, and some decent action. There doesn’t seem to be much at all related to the game Battleship aside from the name, although I did see some alien weapons hitting a ship that looked suspiciously like the marking pegs from the game. So is this movie really supposed to be based on the game, or are the movie producers heartlessly trying to take advantage of all the novelty children of the ’70s might feel for this game in order to scam a quick buck from our pockets? If the later the chance of it sucking horrible seems pretty good. Dave has a pretty critical eye for alien invasion movies, so I am sure he will ferret out any suckage with the tenacity of a terrier and then clamp onto it with the jaws of a pit bull. Should be interesting.
By the way, if you want to check out the trailer I watched and see for yourself watch it here. Thanks
Good news about the plans for Tranformers 4
So Michael Bey is talking about his plans for the upcoming Transformers 4 and has said he plans to get rid of all the actors and start fresh. I totally applaud this move, as the human actors in these movies suck. My next suggestion to Mr. Bey is when he is starts casting his new movie he take all the human characters and fill the roles with more robots.
Remember the glorious cartoon where the only humans were Spike and once in a while his father, and really their only job was to ask stuff like “Why would Megatron do something like that?” just so Optimus Prime could explain what was going on to them and the audience? How the movie was about the Autobots and the Decpticons, not about Sam Witwicki trying to find a job and his parents shopping for matching jogging outfits? You know, pretty much what Transformers are supposed to be about? How about that for a movie? Human suck, robots rule. Do that and I will totally be cool with any amount of explosions Micheal Bey wants to shove into his movie.
By the way, apparently Dave doesn’t have any Transfomers shirts on his site, so I found this cool robot image in the Vintage T Shirt pile. I think it’s pretty cool.
The Vow Review
Not as painful as I thought it was going to be.
I have to be careful when I review movies that are patently chick flicks. If I were to watch a technical film on Linux coding for release engineering and then said I found the film boring and confusing I would be a complete moron. This is why I don’t use my stars/black hole rating system on most kids films. I have to take into account the intended audience, and in this case the audience is definitely women and possibly their happy or browbeaten male partners.
This movie was absolutely written with that audience in mind and makes no apologies for it. That being said, in spite of my Y chromosome I found myself pulled into the story to a degree I didn’t think would be likely based on the subject matter. This film definitely had it’s issues, which I will get into shortly, but I can’t say I left the theater feeling like I had wasted my time and money.
The story is of a young, artistic couple who are supposedly very much in love (to be honest, the romance from early in the film seemed a little forced) who get into a car accident (by the way, the accident is pretty graphic. If seeing someone catapulted through a windshield in slow motion bothers you maybe close your eyes for a minute when you see the snowplow coming). Leo (Channing Tatum-the Eagle, Haywire, Step Up, She’s the Man), the husband, recovers quickly but his wife Paige (Rachel McAdams-Wedding Crashers, Midnight in Paris, Mean Girls) has brain trauma and is put into a medically induced coma. She comes out of it but has forgotten the last five years of her life, including everything about her marriage, dropping out of law school to go to art school, or her estrangement with her parents. She goes from being a sophisticated, talented urban artist to a vapid suburban cheerleader (and ironically plays the role much more naturally and believably, which may or may not say a lot about Rachel McAdams. She is super hot in this, by the way). She thinks she is still headed to law school and engaged to her two dimensional ex fiance Jeremy (Scott Speedman-Underworld, Felicity, the Strangers). Her rich right wing parents (Sam Neill-the Hunt For Red October, Jurassic Park, the Piano and Jessica Lange-Rob Roy, Cape Fear, Tootsie) , whom she has not spoken to in years, surface and attempt to take control of her life. Her husband is a complete stranger and she no longer remember why she stopped talking to her parents, so she goes back to her superficial suburban life.
At this point the movie kind of fragments into four different stories (not surprising, since the credits list four different writers). There is her and Leo’s attempt to help her regain her memories. There is her controlling fathers attempt to regain control over her. There is her struggle to deal with the loss of five years of her life and the changes that have occurred, as well as deal with her ex fiance and all her old friends. And finally there is Leo’s attempt to get her to fall in love all over again while struggling to keep his recording studio open. I will say that the movie, which seemed kind of all over the place and disjointed for the first 2/3rds of the film, actually tightened up a lot and became more interesting in the last 40 minutes or so.
The stars. Interesting story concept, probably because it was inspired by true events. One star. Decent if somewhat uninspired acting from most of the cast. One star. The portions where Paige is struggling to reconcile her missing years with the life she thought she was leading were pretty interesting. One star. In spite of the obvious influence of multiple writers with differing ideas as to where the story should be going, the director managed to keep the story together with decent editing and pacing. One star. The supporting characters were the big positive surprise, developing into interesting and valuable plot devices towards the end of the film. One star. The ending, while pretty much what you would expect from a romance film, was both messier and more interesting than I would have expected. One star. Generally a movie I enjoyed that I expected to pan. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. The fragmentary influence of multiple writers was pretty apparent. One black hole. The scenes involving Paige and Leo from prior to the accident seemed forced, with super sweet sugar coating used to hide a lack of chemistry. (Sugar Smacks image courtesy of the Vintage T Shirts) Honestly, Leo reminiscing wistfully about their romance seemed more real. One black hole. A pointless and annoying voice over by Channing Tatum was used to crowbar in a fairly prosaic message about moments of impact that attempted to give a deeper meaning but were fairly worthless. One black hole. Overall, while entertaining the emotional direction seemed really heavy handed, especially given the easy to manipulate subject material. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a total of three stars, a shockingly good score based on what I expected here. Should you see it? Probably not, if you are a guy and single (unless you are OK with looking like a creepy loner in the theater and/or planning to write a review about it). Date movie? Absolutely, 100% yes. This is one of those perfect date movies, where your date will eat up all the “love lasts eternal” messages while you will find the struggle to fix Paige’s brain interesting enough to keep you entertained. Just be sure to talk about how cool the love message is and not go into a lecture on assorted types of brain trauma.
Thanks again for reading. Not a lot left to see, which unfortunately means I might be stuck watching Mysterious Island 2 tonight. Ugh. I’m headed to Las Vegas for work (believe it or not, but I don’t make my money writing this blog) and won’t be back until late Tuesday, so I will probably write up something tonight and schedule it for tomorrow. Let Jason do some work over the next couple days. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If you want to send something directly feel free to email me at [email protected].
Friday Night Midnight Madness; a (possible) nerd love story
So Friday a friend of mine emailed and invited me to Midnight Madness at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. As you can see from the marquee photo I took from outside, it promised to be an epic evening with the Princess Bride, Time Bandits, and Deathstalker, all in 35mm. Any human with a pulse loves the Princess Bride, and any nerd worth his or her salt loves Time Bandits. Deathstalker I had never heard of before but was told it was so bad it was good.
I will forgo my usual movie review process, as anyone who has not seen the Princess Bride must be living in a cave somewhere and anyone who has not seen Time Bandits should be reading Oprah’s blog, not mine. I will say that Deathstalker was more suck than funny, although my opinion may have been colored by the fact that it was the movie that started at midnight and I was in the theater until about 2am (a car wreck on the bridge on the way home meant I didn’t get to bed until 3am, which is late even for me). It was like Conan the Barbarian if Conan the Barbarian had been written by dog wagging it’s tail against a keyboard while the Conan soundtrack was played backwards to reveal it’s Satanic messages. Like Conan it did have a lot of gratuitous nudity, which was pretty much it’s only redeeming feature.
Anyway, the point of this story is the remind my readers interested in nerd dating of something I said a long time ago in a post about where to meet women. The answer is everywhere. Here’s what happened. I was holding a bunch of seats for my friends who were running late from drinking at a bar down the street and sitting at one end. I notice there was an attractive woman sitting by herself behind me. In most cases this would mean her meathead boyfriend was getting popcorn or something but, given that we they were going show the Princess Bride first you never know.
I started off talking to the couple next to me as a pretense and in a minute involved the girl as well. Turns out she was there by herself. She had never seen Time Bandits so I encouraged her to stay for it. By that time I had made the decision to ask her out during the break between movies. I went to get popcorn after my friends took their seats and they decided to move from the excellent center theater seats I had secured to the far left in order to accommodate a couple more drunken reprobates. This might have been a good thing, actually.
Anyway, during the break I went back over and asked her out to dinner. She seemed a little hesitant to give me her number so I gave her my card. She emailed me the next day with her number and we are having dinner tonight.
Thus is my point proven. There are single women everywhere you go. You just have to keep your eyes open for opportunity.
That evening I also learned that my iPhone autocorrects the word Benihana (as in the restaurant) to the word genitals. Funny.
In answer to yesterday’s question of the MacKenzie brothers versus the Stooges, I would have to bet on the Stooges. They are just more used to violence and pain than Doug and Bob. The fight wold be both close and hilarious in my opinion. (Three Stooges image from the vintage t shirts category).
For today I am going in a different direction: corporate wars. Who would win, Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil versus Omni Consumer Products from Robocop?