Saturday, December 27, 2014

Movie Review: Into the Woods

I often jump for new movies not having any idea what I’m getting into.  For example, as I skimmed the Rotten Tomatoes page for Into the Woods, I noticed it said it was a mix between Hollywood and Broadway, implying to me, that it might have roots on Broadway already.  My initial impression was that it was a fun story, but it didn’t belong in the big screen, but live, on Broadway.  If it was a Broadway baby that Hollywood decided to release for a wider audience/profit, then I was still right, sort of.

The story behind Into the Woods takes many of the characters from the fairytale stories from my youth.  Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel (sort of) and a variety of others are repurposed.  While not one really stands out over another, the amalgamation of all of them is a bit much, making the movie feel even longer than it might have been.  The singing was, in a word, excessive.  There seemed to be more singing than speaking and while some of the stars shined, I was startled by Emily Blunt’s ability to sing, quite unexpected really, for the most part, everyone was quite able, though I felt like a musical in a movie allows the sound folks to scrub everything clean, whereas live, there is nowhere to hide.

I don’t know that I can say I enjoyed the movie.  At times I felt bored and the new versions of the stories didn’t bring me anything that made me think, oh, that’s neat. It was fun, interesting to see actors in different roles.  Chris Pine as a shallow Prince Charming was interesting, but that’s the best I can say.  At some points, it felt like the movie was making fun of itself and if that had been consistent throughout, I might feel more confident thinking that was deliberate.  It was an uneven movie, at best.  For seven dollars, I won’t complain, but I won’t be buying it on DVD or opting to see it a second time.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

If you’re anything like me, every year, you were forced/treated to The Ten Commandments over Easter weekend.  A few years back, I stopped telling my father when it was airing so I wouldn’t have to watch it yet again.  If given the option now, of this new version or the old one, I’d pick the old one, and I’d happily pay the $12 I paid today to see the classic rather than suffer through the new one a second time.  Like Noah from earlier this year, or last year, I can’t even remember, Hollywood has made a failed attempt at rewriting and creating a new version of what was already done as well as it could be done.  That’s like saying someone’s going to film the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Even with all the special effects advances, the story doesn’t change and the execution of it from Ridley Scott was confusing at best, offensive at worst, more so when you look at the number of white actors playing roles that could have just as easily been played by people who were closer to the Egyptian ethnicity.

I will never understand the rave reviews around Christian Bale.  He plays the exact same person in every single movie he’s in.  He delivers a handful of lines in his gravely, angry voice, perhaps to depict conviction, then he looks quiet and then he’s been overcome with emotion.  More than that, how is he supposed to be an Egyptian prince who is really Jewish with that mix of English vs. cockney accents?  I was so distracted by his accent alone I couldn’t figure out who he was supposed to be.  At some point here, someone in Hollywood has to stop buying into this.  It isn’t acting, it is playing the same character the same way over and over again.  Instead of always playing the brutish bruiser, perhaps Bale could try acting like something else, just once.

The casting of the rest of the movie was quite curious.  Everyone was white, whiter than white and it seemed out of place.  All the accents were all over the place.  I love Sigourney Weaver, I do, I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan, but why was there a random American in a movie set in Egypt who is supposed to be playing the mother of Ramses II?  Joel Edgerton seemed out of place from the beginning, but his performance, the only really stellar one, really won me over by the end. Again, though, he was almost wearing brown-face, if there is such a thing, to look Egyptian.  Am I the only one who finds this mildly offensive?  I mean, when do African American actors put on white makeup to look white?  They don’t.

While the movie had moments that were visually stunning, more so in 3D, the story brought nothing new to the Biblical tale and the delivery of Christian Bale detracted more than enhanced the movie.  Ridley Scott has had some misses lately and I can’t even think of a movie he’s done recently that isn’t basically Gladiator all over again.  This one follows suit.  Don’t waste your time or money on this.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Movie Review: Penguins of Madagascar

It is amazing to me that a standalone movie wasn’t made for these characters sooner, more so given the popularity of the TV show on Nickelodeon.  I always get a little nostalgic when I see the show on TV, and it always gives me a jolt hearing the voices that don’t match when watching the movie.  I am more familiar with the TV show than the movie version of the characters and that is mostly about the voices.

The story is absurd, at best.  The most I remember is that my mom made enchiladas last night and that was what I had before I went to the movies.  That’s right, the plot and story are that forgettable.  Did I laugh?  Of course.  Did I cry?  This is Hina we’re talking about, I cry watching feel good commercials.  That’s a yes.  The animated versions of the penguins are, of course, adorable, but the story is barely passable.  This had a mix of for kids and for adults content, but overall, it never really came together in a meaningful way, which is about what I expect from Dreamworks.

The origin story of the penguins is where the movie starts and it goes through a somewhat laughable plot of a jilted Octopus (played by John Malkovich) who is trying to make all penguins ugly so he won’t seem as grotesque in comparison.  Along the way, the penguins meet up with another covert team led by a dog (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is only mildly amusing.  I thought the whole additional team was boring and I’m not sure why everyone raves so much about Cumberbatch.  The best I can say is, if you’ve got kids, you’ll probably end up seeing this.  If you’re an adult, then you can probably wait for the DVD or TV showing of it.  I enjoyed some of the jokes, but it just felt forced throughout.