Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Previously, on "Mini-Reviews"...The massive threat of watching 25 new films in less than 45 days almost proved to be overwhelming for our young film critic. Can he continue his streak of movie reviews and save the princess in the process?
All will be answered...right now, actually. And what princess? I haven't seen any princess around here.
"Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil" (2010)
Sometimes the simplest comedy is the most effective kind.
"Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil" is one of the most compelling horror comedies I have seen in a long time. It is a simple cast of judging people before you know them, and these judgmental people getting their comeupings in the most horrifying and gruesome ways. It's not that Tucker and Dale, who are hillbillies, want to harm these teenagers, but are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Much like "Attack Of The 50-Foot Woman," this one is bare bones as it gets, and it excels at slapstick comedy and telling the simple story of two guys just trying to enjoy their lake cabin, only to have death fall upon their house.
Final Grade: B+
"Inherit The Wind" (1960)
I wanted to see this one because it one of the very few roles that Gene Kelly performed and did not sing and/or dance. That and it was made by the same guy who directed "Judgment At Nuremberg" and "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."
I'm going to put this out there - I am not a religious man, but I respect people's choice to practice any religion and lifestyle that they want. But I despise it when anyone or anything forces religion down my throat, as if that is the only way to run your life and if you don't accept it then you are a terrible person. "Inherit The Wind" forces the bible and all of its teachings on the audience, followed by the science to prove it wrong, and tries to say that both are right and need to work together.
An effective message, if it were not for both sides coming at the audience with the force of an eighteen-wheeler hauling steam rollers. There is no subtleties in this film and it really gets annoying that the film cannot make its mind. Good performances all around, but goddamn this one was hard to watch at times.
Final Grade: C+
This one stays as close as possible to true events. From police reports to autobiographies to eye-witness accounts, this film does its best to recap every major point of the Zodiac Killer that started in 1969 all the way through 2002.
For that reason, I respect "Zodiac" and it was enjoyable to watch at times. But other times, scenes just dragged on way longer than they needed to and served no purpose other than to be accurate to how it happened. Some characters drop off the face of the Earth and don't pop up again, like Robert Downey Jr.'s character once the film is half over.
Still, "Zodiac" has wonderful atmosphere and is still a gripping mystery based off of real events. Possibly even the best film to adapt a real life serial killer.
Final Grade: B
"Top Hat" (1935)
From a gritty mystery to screwball musicals.
I don't know if I've said this before, but I don't care for musicals. Very rarely the dancing and singing has anything to do with the story and characters and is just an excuse to have dancers do their thing. "Top Hat" is an example of that, but still taking the time to develop characters that you either care about or want to see screw up.
This is one of the first Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies I've seen, and these two do light up the screen. Whether they are ripping each other apart with their fake stories or dancing the night away, the two excel in class and appeal. Their dance sequences are simple yet so long that you can't help but appreciate them.
But the real winner of "Top Hat" is the character of Alberto Beddini, who is uproariously protective and full of himself that when he is on-screen I cracked up. From his pencil thin mustache to how is eyes light up when he wants to kill a man for a woman, Beddini steals the show.
"Top Hat" had a lot of great points, but it did drag on longer than it needed to, especially since the gimmick of mistaken identity gets old very fast in this film. Good dance numbers, Beddini is great and so are Astaire and Rogers. Good times.
Final Grade: C+
"King Kong Vs. Godzilla" (Japanese) (1962)
Fun fact - The American version of "King Kong vs. Godzilla" is the first film that I have a memory of watching. And it is only now that I've decided to watch the film the way the Japanese filmmakers intended it to be shown. And you know what? The Japanese version is a better film.
Granted, there are many similarities and plot points between the two, but the story in the Japanese version is much more clear and relatable. The television studio that funds the trip to find King Kong has visual evidence to support that their shows are "dull and boring" thus the need to get a giant ape to be on your shows. The leader of the studio, Tako, has many more comedic moments in the Japanese version, to the point that his mannerisms become jokes on their own.
One point that I will never get use to though is the musical theme they have for Godzilla in this version. It has many of the same notes as the classic Godzilla theme, but the tempo is way off and many sections go off to different places than what I'm use to. The theme in this film predates the classic theme, which was introduced in "Mothra vs. Godzilla" in 1964, so I consider this theme a warm-up.
Though the American version of "King Kong vs. Godzilla" will always hold a special place in my heart, I can say that the Japanese version is the better movie. Which version would I want to watch again? Probably the American version due to nostalgia, but I would not mind watching this one again soon.
Final Grade: B+
"The Interview" (2014)
So I decided to watch this one just to say that I saw the most controversial film of 2014. Now I wish I hadn't seen it. This one was painful to watch at times. If the comedy was not being dull or insipid, it was unbelievably crude, disrespectful and illogical.
To top things off, the plot of "The Interview" is inconsistent, devoid of character development and comes across like it was devised during one of James Franco and Seth Rogan's late night pot sessions.
Sometimes James Franco's character is intelligent, supposedly during interview segments, but most of the time he is incompetent and cannot separate life from his own fantasies, like when he keeps asking for a bulletproof vest and doesn't get it. He'll whine and complain until he gets his way, like a spoiled child, which I suppose we are meant to relate to. By the end, I wanted to slap him.
"The Interview" is garbage. Unfunny, far too crude for its own good, terribly written and acting that made me wince. Unless you wanted to watch it because North Korea hated it so much, like I did, stay away from this one.
Final Grade: F+
"The Odd Couple" (1968)
Throughout most of this film, I was left asking the same question, "Was I supposed to laugh at that?"
My problem with "The Odd Couple" with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau is how unpleasant and unappealing the film was. For the majority of the film, Lemmon's character is suicidal. They hardly joke about it, or at least it did not feel like they joked about it, and he rarely gets better, only to become more obnoxious with his constant need to keep everything abnormally clean. Matthau's character tries to help, but would rather spend his time hitting on the neighboring women.
As always, Lemmon and Matthau do a great job with their parts, but the script and supporting actors give them very little to work with. There were a few points that made me laugh, like the poker game near the beginning of the film, but I left "The Odd Couple" feeling depressed and unhappy about the product.
Final Grade: C-
"Father Of The Bride" (1950)
If there was ever an actor to play an overprotective aging father figure, it is Spencer Tracy.
"Father Of The Bride" is all about taking a little thing like a wedding and showing the chaos and anarchy behind it, especially from the perspective of the father. Meeting the groom, making sure her little girl is going to be loved, losing the girl that he has loved all his life, planning the wedding, throwing rehearsal dinners and parties that he only ends up mixing drinks at, dealing with the emotional family. And that's all before the day of the wedding.
Tracy's narration as he describes the events unfolding helps to sell just how this molehill turned into Mt. Everest, at least in his eyes. He never thought a wedding was such a big deal, but as he learns, times have changed and so has his family.
Final Grade: B
This is what I wanted out of "Selma" - A period piece about a dark time in U.S. history that gives us some insight into the people behind this event, and not just their beliefs and drive.
This is due in large part to the performances of Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, with Hanks never letting go of his love for his family and lover, and Washington starting out with a hate for homosexuals and turning that into an undying respect for their courage and bravery to their lifestyle choices.
Though ultimately, "Philadelphia" is a courtroom drama and it does get sucked into the same dull and long-winded judicial speeches as most other courtroom dramas do. There were several points where I drifted off and felt like I missed nothing, but that seems to be the nature of the courtroom.
"Philadelphia" is an inspiring story of a paranoid time in America, driven by two wonderful performances. It does drag at points, but it does hit many emotional notes that will hit anyone who has been oppressed.
Final Grade: B-
At the right I am going, I'll have another batch of mini-reviews in a few weeks. But stay tuned, because in the next few days, several Academy Award-related posts will be out, including my predictions for the winners.