Rabu, 20 Agustus 2014

The Giver Movie Preview

The Giver Movie Preview (2014)

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift

There’s a great scene toward the end of The Giver where Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges get to have a bit of a verbal sparring match. I would have loved to have been an extra in that scene. It’s one of the more exciting scenes in the film, yet it comes far too late. Their community has become a vast, colorless world void of any feeling and emotion. Everything the citizens once knew has been erased from their memories.  There is strict order and rules set in place for everyone to abide by.  Jonas (Thwaites) and his friends Fiona (Rush) and Asher (Monaghan) are at that age where they attend the Ceremony of Growth to receive their official assignment which is part of being a member of the community. The roles are handed out by Chief Elder (Streep), who rules the community with a strict presence. Jonas is passed over and saved for last causing an alert and low rumble amongst the crowd.

Chief Elder reveals to him that he is strong in all of the attributes and therefore is given the task of being the Receiver of Memory. It is a prestigious task that comes with great danger. He is sent to The Giver (Bridges) who lives at the very edge of the community before it disappears into the area known as Elsewhere. They link arm to arm, and Jonas proceeds to learn more and more about the community’s past. When the various memories come into focus, he becomes more distraught over the present state of society. He starts to distrust his Mother (Holmes) and Father (Skarsgard) and those around him. He decides to risk everything by going where no one has succeeded before him in an attempt to restore society back to its original way of life.

The Giver is based on the award winning children’s book by Lois Lawry from 1993. I think I read it when it came out but haven’t picked it up since then. I would like to think this helped me go in with a bit more of an open mind, but it also led to more questions I have with the material and what changes were made with this adaptation. Jeff Bridges is one of the producers of the film and has wanted to get the film made for years hopping from one studio to the next. I can understand why it was now released in the wake of the success of The Hunger Games and Divergent which have similar ideas and themes. The problem is that director Phillip Noyce and beginner screenwriters Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide don’t have anything new and interesting to add to this story to make it stand out from those other books that actually came after this one.

The script is quite bland that leaves little for these actors to play around with in terms of their characters. Bridges and Streep fare the best and it should come without surprise that they are the highlights of the movie. As the title character, Bridges has that gruff and mysterious vibe to him that left me wondering what his true motives were with Jonas. There was a bit of mystery that surrounded him where I felt a little on edge with his scenes. With her long grey wig, Streep plays another ice queen with Chief Elder. She’s Goddess Meryl Streep so, of course, she is going to be great with this type of character where she can be menacing and evil without having to really raise her voice or scream. We’ve seen her play this type of character before, and I’ll watch her in anything.

The rest of the cast is an odd mixed bag. As Jonas, Brenton Thwaites is a fresh up-and-coming actor who we previously saw this summer in Maleficent as Prince Phillip. He has a nice boy next door appeal about him. He’s fairly young and will need to take better and more challenging roles as he grows up if he wants to be a stronger leading guy type. Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard play his parents in the film. Don’t let the age difference throw you off as they are not intended to be biological parents. I must admit to having a soft spot for Holmes, but she comes off a bit monotone here. Maybe she was remembering her time of being hypnotized under the Scientology spell and applied that here as a character trait. Lastly, singer Taylor Swift has a very brief role as The Giver’s daughter. It is such a bizarre casting move that I can only assume it was because they wanted another big name to draw people into the movie. I mean, come on. When did we ever think that Taylor Swift and Meryl Streep would ever be in the same movie?

The use of color plays an important part of the world in The Giver. It begins with the black and white of the community and color starts to materialize with Jonas’ awakening. I was reminded of the beautiful Pleasantville which I need to revisit. I think the color shifting was better used in that movie. Even though there is a strict sameness to all of the houses, bikes, and the entire look of the community, there is a distinct look and shape to it without it feeling too drab or boring. The whole art direction and design elements were impressive enough to take some focus off the oddly structured script and bizarre acting. For a ninety minute movie, it felt fairly long with its slow pacing. So much of the backstory is quickly told at the beginning and then it drags out until the finally thirty minutes once Jonas sets his plan into action. Only then does it start to get interesting and pick up in tempo. The broader picture and message of Lois Lawry’s story really comes out in this part, but it takes so long to get there. Without giving too much away, I actually wanted more of an ending. I wanted more of a wrap up and a “what next”. Maybe I’m so used to these types of stories being dragged out into multiple books that I wanted a final scene or two after the resolution. This may be directly how the book ends so I shouldn’t fault the screenwriters if this is indeed a direct match to the source material.

This is one of those movies where you come out perplexed as it has some good things going for it that make the movie enjoyable like Meryl and Jeff, the design elements, and a thrilling final thirty minutes. Then you think about its clunky structure and pacing, odd casting choices, and the whole idea that we have seen that kind of movie before, and it leaves you second guessing on if it’s worth your trip to the movies. In this case, I think more people will enjoy it then not.
Director: Phillip Noyce

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It's worth seeing on the big screen at matinee prices, but know that it comes with some major flaws.


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Minggu, 10 Agustus 2014

Movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review


Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Those gnarly Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back to reach a whole new audience of moviegoers. Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, Johnny Knoxville, Danny Woodburn, Tony Shalhoub, Tohoru Masamune, Whoopi Goldberg.
The Foot Clan is wreaking havoc across the streets of New York City. Channel 6 field reporter April O’Neil (Fox) is desperate to get to the bottom of who’s behind these masked foes. One night while in the middle of the action, she snaps photos of a group of vigilantes who are out to take down the bad guys. It should come as no surprise that no one back at the station takes her seriously when she tries to show them her evidence. She is later caught by these four mysterious creatures who turn out to be six foot turtles. She puts the pieces together and realizes these are the same turtles that she grew up playing with in her dad’s laboratory when she was a kid. They were part of a scientific experiment known as Project Renaissance, hence their names Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo. Her dad’s lab partner Eric Sacks (Fichtner) is working with the evil Shredder (Masamune) who is the leader of the Foot Clan. Shredder plans on releasing a toxin into the air and Sacks will use an antidote found into the turtles to “save” the citizens and get rich in the process. It’s up to the Ninja Turtles, April, and her cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Arnett) to defeat Shredder and Sacks before it’s too late. As you can tell, we have a super original plot here that we have never seen before. Never…Ever…Oh wait.

What we’ve got here is a reboot from the cartoons and early 1990s movies that I grew up on. The design and production values have been updated with a new vision to fit today’s moviegoers. The Turtles are beefier and it’s far more action packed than the original series. Hesitation set in quickly very early on in the development stages when it was announced that Michael Bay was producing the movie and that Megan Fox was attached to star as our devoted and hard-hitting reporter April. If you read my review of Transformers: Age of Extinction, you know my feelings towards Mr. Bay. Even though many people assume he directed this film, he is only one of the producers. The film definitely feels like a Bay movie though when it comes to all of the up close and personal action scenes. I think it has the wrong tone as well. It takes itself far too seriously most of the time as it's missing that camp factor that should come with a movie about a group of four mutant turtles trying to save the day. The Turtles and their father Splinter are no longer actors in full body costumes, but the work of motion capture technology. I’m a bit confused as to why Leonardo is voiced by Johnny Knoxville while the other Turtles have the same actor doing the voice and body work. Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld) does the motion-capture work for Splinter and has expressed disappointment in not doing the character's voice which was given to Tony Shalhoub (Monk).

It is no secret that Megan Fox and Michael Bay have feuded in the past, so it was a bit surprising that they patched things up enough for her to play April. I haven’t seen the original movies since I was a kid, but now I really miss Paige Turco and Judith Hoag who have previously played the character. Fox is so unbelievably miscast, it is downright eye-rolling most of the time. Right from the very beginning I could never her take her seriously as a journalist. It’s no wonder why her fellow journalists at Channel 6 don’t believe. I wouldn’t either! I am also baffled on why Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg decided to appear as April’s boss. While Goldberg provides some much-needed laughs, her scenes with Fox are just odd. It honestly brought me back to her mid ‘90s days of appearing in such movies as Eddie and Theodore Rex. Will Arnett (Arrested Development) is completely wasted as April’s cameraman. He is not given the comedy and banter that suits him. It is quite evident that he was completely bored making the movie.

The writing is fairly weak and simple throughout most of the movie. I wish more of a specificity would have been given to each of the turtles to make each of their personalities stand out more. There is so much fun to be had with all four of them, and Michelangelo is the only Turtle that really stands out. This is especially unfortunate as it doesn’t give the actors playing them enough to work with. If you had no context of the characters, you would have a hard time differentiating them apart from another. Shredder does not seem nearly as scary as I remember him being when I was younger. He seems to be a mix of Freddy Krueger meets a Transformer with CGI knives always shooting out from his hands. Partial credit should be given for their references to classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles elements like: their origin, the love of pizza, ooze, and living in the sewer, plus the catch phrases “Cowabunga” and “heroes in a half shell”.

While it definitely has that Michael Bay approach to it, I would say that it is nowhere near as bad as Transformers: Age of Extinction. There is potential to be had here, but a lot of work must be done if it wants to compete with the likes of Marvel movies and how universally accepted they are. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will definitely appeal to young kids. You can tell special attention was made to cater toward their sense of humor and attention span as the runtime is kept at under two hours. I just don’t think it will cater to a broad audience like I think it should.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? I’d rather go back and watch the original series that I grew up on.
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Jumat, 01 Agustus 2014


Director: James Gunn

With Starring by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Benecio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Move over Avengers, because Marvel has a whole new set of heroes that are worth checking out and worth our money at the box office. This is the third Marvel release this summer after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Funnyman Chris Pratt suits up as Peter Quill, a.k.a Star-Lord, a pilot who was abducted into space as a kid on the same night his mother died. He now finds himself face to face with a mysterious orb and a bunch of hunters led by Korath (Hounsou). Korath is working for Ronan (Pace) who plans on using the orb to completely destroy the planet of Xandar. Peter is later imprisoned along with the beautiful and fierce warrior Gamora (Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), the wise-cracking and gun-toting Rocket Raccoon (Cooper), and a tree-like humanoid named Groot (Diesel). All five of them are outcasts and unique in their own special way. In order to save the universe, they band together to protect that little ball of power from the hands of the evil Ronan.

Right from the moment we see the adult Peter Quill, you get the sense that this has a very different feel and tone from the rest of the movies in the Marvel franchise. Whether it’s Marvel's The Avengers destroying New York City or X-Men: Days of Future Past using Richard Nixon as a character, many of those stories are set in a more realistic world. The title of this film tells us that we are dealing with a completely sci-fi/fantasy realm with aliens, species, and creatures of all shapes and sizes. Director James Gunn co-wrote the screenplay with Nicole Perlman, and it’s evident that they were allowed to go to the extremes and bring us a fun, over-the-top ride. There’s a playful attitude that comes across in the wacky fight scenes, the characters, and witty dialogue. It’s great to see the comedic banter given to numerous characters in how they deal with each other. Drax the Destroyer takes everything at face value and doesn’t understand the concept of metaphors while Peter is always joking around and throwing out references left and right. Rocket is the loudmouth partner next to the almost silent Groot. Due to this approach, Guardians of the Galaxy is probably the most family friendly we have seen from Marvel to date. It has a Star Wars-ish vibe but with comic book characters that parents may find more suitable for younger moviegoers. The violence is cartoonish and there aren’t as many overarching life themes that would normally go over a young child’s head.

Chris Pratt is on a roll right now both on the big screen in Her, Zero Dark Thirty, and The Lego Movie as well as playing the goofy Andy Dwyer on Parks & Recreation. Even though Parks & Recreation ends next season, Pratt will not have that post-TV slump as he is currently filming Jurassic World and I’m sure future Guardians movies. He has stated in interviews that he originally turned down this role thinking he was completely wrong for it. I, for one, am thankful he reconsidered as he seems like the perfect choice for Star-Lord. Now, I’ve never read the comics, so I have nothing to compare his performance to in terms of the original source material. Maybe he infused the role with some Pratt-isms that we know from him, but they still work here. He has that nice blend of being believable as an action star and infusing his comedic charm on top of that.

I would never have thought I would find Vin Diesel to be so funny. Maybe I haven’t given those Fast and the Furious movies enough of a shot yet, but there’s a side of him that comes out as Groot that I didn’t see before. He only utters one line, “I am Groot”, but the comedy comes in with how repetitive he gets to be with it. He partners well with Bradley Cooper who voices Rocket. They have that classic comedic duo routine but with a tough edge where one does all the talking and tries to be the wise-guy. If I didn’t already know Cooper was the voice, I may not have recognized him right away.  I applaud him for really going somewhere different with his characterization. Then there’s Lee Pace as Ronan who seems to be getting a lot of villain roles lately. I have no problems with this concept as he can always find the menacing side to any character of his. He’ll return as Thranduil in The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. Even though Glenn Close and Benecio Del Toro have smaller roles, they have great hair, make-up, and costumes to play around in.

I would not consider myself a comic book aficionado, but I do enjoy seeing the big screen adaptations. I had no idea what to expect with Guardians of the Galaxy. The trailer had a good sense of humor about it, but I didn’t want it to be hokey. Don’t worry, it isn’t. I will say that it took me a bit to get adjusted into this universe as I didn’t know the characters, source material, and how different it is than the other Marvels universes. Once I was in, it was a wild ride of fun. I laughed more here than I have in other Marvel franchises. This film continues to show the quality that this genre has on actors and moviegoers. It’s great to see Oscar winners and nominees like Bradley, Glenn, Benecio, John, and Djimon wanting to be a part of these movies. To top of it, it has a killer soundtrack that plays into the movie and provides for some slick Chris Pratt dance moves.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Marvel has a hot new series on their hands that will only get better with the next entries to come.

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