Friday, June 21, 2013

Movie Guy: Monsters and Magic

I haven't done a "Movie Guy" post in a while, but I have an excuse: I haven't watched that many movies since the last "Movie Guy" post. Maybe 80 or so. A hundred tops.
Anyway, I'll throw five quickie reviews at you now.

John Dies At the End (2012)
This is not as messy as it looks.
This adaptation of David Wong's sci-fi/horror/comedy web serial (and ultimate novel) is fun. The DVD case referred to it as a "punk Ghostbusters," and I'll allow that it definitely shares that sensibility, but is not on par with that classic. It is pretty good, though, if ultimately a little unsatisfying. I think I need to read the novel to see if it is the source material that is disjointed or the filmmaking itself. Again, I enjoyed it for what it was, though it did leave me wanting more (which may have been the point.)

Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013)
"You shouldn't mess with me. I'll ruin everything you are."
This was pretty disappointing. It's visually stunning, but director Sam Raimi's prequel to the Baum stories is a little too fond of its 3-D effects. (I didn't watch it in 3-D. I don't like 3-D as a film lover. It's too gimmicky, and it takes me out of the story.)
As much as I have liked James Franco in other things: Freaks & Geeks,  127 Hours, Pineapple Express, Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy - I found his portrayal of the titular con-man . . . well, irritating. Adding insult to injury, Franco plays opposite a live-action Zach Braff in the prelude and a CGI monkey voiced by Braff for the rest of the movie, so I spent the whole movie thinking about how much more appropriate Braff would have been in the role of Oz the Wizard.
Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis are fairly one-dimensional in their roles. (I won't give any spoilers, but they're sisters. You figure it out.) Michelle Williams is delightful as always, but my favorite characters in this turned out to be the little China Girl (voiced by Joey King) and the Master Tinker played by Bill Cobbs. I wish that Raimi had spent more time re-thinking the casting and less time trying to figure out how to make things jump out and scare us and finding a 30-second cameo for Bill Campbell.
Like I said: disappointing. I wish that they'd made an adaptation of the existing prequel Wicked (the novel, not the Broadway musical).

Warm Bodies (2013)
"Dude, there is not enough Axe Body Spray™
in the world."
I often say that I don't like zombie movies, but then I have to add: "Well, except for Shaun of the Dead, and Fido. . . and Zombieland. . . and the original Night of the Living Dead . . . and the 1990 remake, sort of." So, I guess I do kind of like zombie movies, but I think they have to be well-constructed. Night of the Living Dead is an exercise in paranoia and - in its own way - a take on Sartre's No Exit. Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, and Fido are brilliant satires. So I have to say: I dislike zombie movies except for five.
And now six.
I loved this movie. Loved it. A zombie love story told from the perspective of the zombie is a very clever idea, and Nicholas Hoult is perfect as the zombie. Aussie Teresa Palmer is also great as the girl who warms his cold, dead heart. I really like this actress. She has kind of a Kristen Stewart-vibe, but, you know, watchable. Rounding out the cast are John Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton (love her), and Rob Corddry, who normally I could do without but manages to be charming in this.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
In this issue of Dwarves Quarterly:
overcoming short-man syndrome.
Why do we have to try to make dwarves hot? Really? Was that a major factor in the original novel? I guess I need to re-read it. Oh wait. I did. Do you know what made it such a great story? It's a simple little fantasy about quirky little characters that evolves into this great epic adventure across 300 pages. When you try to start it off as an epic from the very beginning, padding it out to three movies with additional material written (over-written, in my opinion) by the author as appendices in later novels, you  are not doing justice to the source material that meant so much to many of us, and you're just coming across as greedy, Peter Jackson. Don't get me started on the toilet humor.
The lyrics to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"
 just got infinitely creepier.
Martin Freeman is good. Sir Ian is good. Sylvester McCoy is good. I'll probably spend my hard-earned money on the sequels, but I will hate myself for it just a little bit.

Rise of the Guardians (2012)
I will begin this review by acknowledging that its disappointing box office performance led to 350 employees being laid off from the Dreamworks studio. Being unemployed sucks, I know, and I hope that all of those people have found other jobs by now.
That having been said, I thought this movie was brilliant. Building off of the idea that Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and other legends of childhood lore are sort of an immortal Avengers team charged with protecting the magic of the childhood experience, the story centers around the outcast Jack Frost (Chris Pine) who wanders the world unseen by humanity - lonely, finding solace only in the bits of mischief he can cause with his power to control cold. When Pitch, the Boogey Man (Jude Law), decides he wants to rule the world through fear, the Guardians reluctantly enlist Jack Frost's help.
Funny, thrilling, and touching, I'm not sure why this movie didn't strike a chord with audiences. Based on the number of Jack Frost costumes I saw at Denver Comic-Con, I expect it may have - just a little bit later than expected. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out.

So there's five for now. Please feel free to share your thoughts, agreements, or movie recommendations in the comments.

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