Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Noroi: The Curse

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Noroi:  The Curse - 5 out of 5

I'm a jaded, jaded man and finding horror films that scare me is more difficult than tracing down a unicorn being ridden by a leprechaun.  In my opinion, horror films hit their peak in the 70s.  They figured out the formula and made films that weren't a collection of cheap scares to make you jump out of your seat like what passes for scary movies now.  They were a collection of psychologically terrifying films that made your heart race and your palms sweat.  Sure some sucked and ended up become the godfathers of the watered down, lack of imagination we see in the PG-13 affairs we get now but films like The Omen, Rosemary's Baby, Jaws, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, and The Exorcist were true testaments to what it meant to instill fear in the viewer.  I still have trouble sleeping after watching The Exorcist.

However, in the last 30 years, horror films have hit a plateau of mediocrity.  Horror films no longer have balls they used to and most of them are geared toward tweens and teenagers who jump over the same stories that are regurgitated over and over again.  These processed and boiled down pieces of garbage have contributed to the overall "dumbing down" of America (the other contributing factors are reality shows and Gogurt--yogurt is NOT meant to be eaten on the go!).  If these kids watched even a second of The Omen, they would wet their pants, vomit in terror and pass out into a coma for a week--maybe not even in that order.  Horror films have become a laughing stock of what they use to be and have fallen even deeper into the well of embarrassment when the "found footage" craze hit.

Unlike American "found footage" films, this movie actually makes use of the subtle
and background for scares.

Every year we are forced to endure another painfully boring, slow moving and entirely scare-less franchise entitled Paranormal Activity.  But leave it to the Japanese to take the "found footage" craze and actually make it worth watching.  They made cars better, they made electronics better and have made video games more creative, why not take the staple of "found footage" and actually do what Hollywood can't with it:  Make it scary.  In 2005, they did it with Noroi:  The Curse.

After a series of seemingly unrelated paranormal-based events occur, a documentary filmmaker starts to investigate and discovers a curse is running rampant by an ancient demon called "kagutaba."  What follows is something that doesn't insult your intelligence and be a collection of poorly put together "jump" sequences like the PA films do and, more so, it isn't just a gimmick like 100% of all Hollywood "found footage" films.  This movie is truly terrifying.

Typical Fox News viewer.

Have you ever noticed in American "found footage" films the small edits that appear within a single scene that supposedly only has one camera?  They're not there often but they're there or how about how the American ones that have actors who are unconvincing and their characters don't react realistically when it comes to filming what is going on around them?  Well, this one actually has good acting and has real reasons and logic to support what you are seeing unfold on the screen.

The film, to more accurately describe it, is a film WITHIN a film.  Noroi:  The Curse is the title but is the project the documentary filmmaker is working on.  At the beginning of the movie, the narrator explains the movie was filmed, edited and finished but never released...until now (hey, that explains why there is mood-music and edits!)  The fact that the work is suppose to be a act of journalism also explains why the cameraman is making sure he's documenting everything.  He's not just some random dude like those shown in Hollywood's "found footage" films who, for some reason, decides that filming every second of the fact that he may or may not have heard some strange noises in his house that conveniently escalate once the camera is rolling is a good idea.  The cameraman has a job to do, he's not that random dude who is on the verge of being killed but wants to make sure his camcorder is with him at all times.  This fact alone, and the fact that the acting in this movie is better than ALL "found footage" films made in the Great 50, makes Noroi:  The Curse quite possibly the greatest horror film I've watched that's been made since the 70s.

Wait a second...is that dude in the background storing nuts in his cheek like a chipmunk?

Finally, Noroi:  The Curse doesn't disrespect its audience the way Hollywood does.  The filmmakers behind this work of art understand that true gut-wrenching terror doesn't lie within slow walking scenes towards a sound that culminates in a cheap scare of a friend/loved one/significant other suddenly popping out of a window.  The filmmakers understands what truly makes people afraid and exploits it.  Darkness, the unknown, children (yes, kids are scary) all these elements are mixed together perfectly with a story that is compelling as it unfolds and comes at you at a pace that builds so perfectly that by the time the final fifteen minutes of the movie arrives, your jaw is clenched shut, your stomach is in knots and your heart is on the verge of beating out of your chest with pure, uncompromising terror.

Seriously, why are kids so scary?!?

A buddy of mine had recommended this one to me, and a list of others that will appear on this blog, when I complained about how bad "found footage" films are.  After watching it--mistakenly at night and I couldn't get to sleep, long time since that happened--I wanted to fall to my knees, kiss his hand and pledge my eternal service to him as his loyal bodyguard for recommending me such a well made and truly terrifying film.  If you're like me and tired of the bland, flavorless and scare-less horror films that fill our market, I highly suggest you track this one down.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Miss March

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Miss March - 2 out of 5

Before I start this review I have to ask one question:  Is Playboy still relevant?  With a wealth of naked women at our fingertips, thanks to the internet, does this once respected gentleman's magazine still have a place in popular culture?  Last I heard their sales were being destroyed thanks to the skin mag Perfect 10--a magazine that only allows natural women to pose, women without boob implants and airbrushing is completely forbidden.  Hell, Playboy once gave me a 2-year subscription for free--FREE!!!  I didn't give Hef a single dime and they gave me two years but other than this strange gift, I can't remember the last time I purchased a Playboy.  I can guarantee it had some celebrity posing but when was the last time we had a decent celebrity pictorial?  All we've seen in the last decade is washed up D-listers like Kristy Swanson, Deborah (Don't call me Debbie) Gibson and Tiffany.  And recently we got the train-wreck of a human being that we only keep around to remind us how good we have it; Lindsay Lohan.  So, I ask again:  Is Playboy still relevant?  Even when this film came out in 2009 (not that long ago) the mag seems like a relic from the distant past that sticks around like a rich Uncle with cancer who won't die and bequeathed his empire to you.

Hugh was nominated for a Razzie in the Worst Supporting Actor department playing himself in this movie.
In my humble opinion, the fact he lost means he got robbed.  Because he was awful in this and
truly deserved that award.

Miss March is a story about a young man name Eugene who is a part of an abstinence program (ha, like those work) with his high school sweetheart.  Well, prom comes along and the sweetie named Cindi wants to get the nasty done and do away with the abstinence thing (see, I told you those don't work).  However, in an effort to get ready for some sweaty action, his best bud Tucker convinces him to consume copious amounts of intoxicants and, on the way to do the dirty deed, Eugene falls down a flight of stairs and enters into a coma for 4 years.  Upon his awakening, he discovers his perfect flower has posed for Playboy and he, along with Tucker, head out to do the dance he missed all those years ago.


Typical reaction to a person watching Miss March.

From the guys that gave the world The Whitest Kids U' Know comes a Playboy-themed comedy that, when I first turned it on, I thought the concept sounded dumb and was a little too close to the J. Geils Band hit "Centerfold," and I thought I would immediately hate it.  However, after some really bad jokes, a couple of gags involving some precise axe throwing and a mishap on a tour bus, I thought that the movie might be mediocre...sadly the movie continued and it went back to my original assessment.  It seemed all the work in the writing department came in the form of those two decent gags and the rest was spent on Mountain Dews and Slim Jim's because this film felt like it was written by a frat boy who still laughs at his own farts.


And friends keep telling me The Whitest Kids U' Know is funny but after seeing this dude
and his TWKUK counterpart, I realize I can't trust my friends.

To compound the lack of energy being placed on the writing, the whereabouts of the money it
Is Craig Robinson only funny on The Office?
took to film this are unknown as the only recognizable stars within the feature are Craig Robinson from The Office and the smoking jacket geriatric Lothario himself; Hugh Hefner.  Okay, you might recognize Deputy Jones from Reno:  911! and you might recognize the dude from the Miller High Life commercials but other than that, this film has no stars to be seen.  So, what we get are two guys who wrote the film and from the sketch comedy show The Whitest Kids U' Know  and they're put in the roles of Eugene and Tucker.  One is lifeless and comes off as an asshole and the other is trying to be Jim Carrey...and comes off like an asshole.

"Don't find me funny on those Miller High Life commercials?  Well, have no fear, my
batting average is intact as I'm not funny in this either!"

Then to have more compounding occur on a film that is already compounded by a lack of effort being put into the final product, our Centerfold, the high school sweetheart of Eugene, never gets nude.  I know that sounds like an odd complaint but when the story is focused on the fact the main character's love of his life becomes a Playboy model, you would think the viewer who just sat through an hour and a half of bad jokes could be at least rewarded with a boob or two.  I'm not one to advocate gratuitous nudity but having Playboy lend its name to its movie and then have the film's leading lady not bare it all acts as a metaphor for to the fledgling magazine--a metaphor of disappointment and complacency.   Honestly, Miss March is one of those cases where a movie is so bad, a little gratuitous nudity would have helped it.  It would have made you forget for a single second you weren't laughing or enjoying yourself. 

Seriously, just one nipple from this girl could have saved this film...slightly.

Miss March surprised me for a moment as it made me genuinely laugh and made me consider that I might actually be in for one of those funny movies that slips under the radar but in the end, the movie is worth about as much as the paper a single issue of Playboy is printed on.  How much is recycled paper going for these days?  Actually I take that back, recycled paper is probably worth more than this film.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Supernatural: The Anime Series

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Supernatural:  The Anime Series - 2 out of 5

I am NOT an fan of anime and every time I tell someone who is they tell me I'm watching the wrong kind of anime (because anime fans refuse to admit that people who don't like anime exist).  But every time I take their recommendations I still find that I'm apparently not watching the right anime.  From my perspective, there are two types of anime:  There is what I call the Action Anime which contains a lot of fast talking intermixed with a lot of "huhs?" with some action sequences thrown in that are, in reality, still images with a lot of action lines around it and screaming and then there is the Sex Anime which contains a lot of giggling girls in school jumpers and rapes by monsters that have a lot of tentacles.  I've watched them both and I can honestly say, I don't like either yet still anime fans will claim I haven't watched the right anime.  But I'm always up for giving something a chance and when that something happens to be anime version of a television show I really like, I'm all in.

Uh oh...I know that look.  The tentacle rape is on its way.

Sadly, I lost this bet, big time.

I love the show Supernatural--hell, it's the only good show the CW has--and when it was announced that the Japanese animation company Madhouse was doing an anime spinoff of the show, I laughed because the idea was ridiculous to me.  Then I watched the trailer and I still laughed because the idea was still ridiculous.  However, because I love the adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester hunting demons and stopping the end times, I gave the series a shot and I have to say...I still don't like anime.

This isn't a still image...this is how the action in the
show actually looks.
Supernatural:  The Anime Series (also called Supernatural:  The Animation) is a re-imagining of the first two seasons of the live-action series with some original stories thrown in to boot.  The wit and charm of the two brothers takes a backseat to darker tones and stories and more violence and blood.  Sure this could work but this is what I call an Action Anime so all the violence is just still images with action lines and screaming and/or roaring in anger.  This animated series follows the brothers as they try to find their father and take down the infamous Yellow-Eyed Demon; Azazel.

I will give the show this:  Their re-tooled look of Azazel was pretty cool.
This is suppose to be Bobby.  Boy did they ruin
that awesome character.
The show has a nice look to it despite the fact it is, on the surface, a paint-by-numbers anime design.  The familiar characters of Sam, Dean, John Winchester and Bobby look nothing like their real-life counterparts as they and nearly every other character has the cliche anime look of wide-eyes, triangle noses and small mouths.  Thankfully they don't go the route of Pokemon and have the cartoon anime look and, instead, go with the gritty, nearly-real anime route.  Despite the overly familiar, and uninspired, look of the characters, the animation company made the environments look really good and used color extremely well to set mood and tone.  Hell, even the actually animation of the characters is good...for the most part.  Some character animation is fluid and well done but other times characters move awkwardly and make the series feel like it was rushed to market.  This feeling is only compacted by the fact that while Jared Padalecki provided his voice for his character Sam, Jensen Ackles was mysterious absent (possibly due to scheduling conflicts) to provide his voice for Dean in every episode but the last two.

I guess they kinda look like Sam and Dean...if you squint.


This brings me to the worst aspect of the show--worse than the still images that anime fans call action--the voice acting.  The voice acting is ear-bleedinly bad.  With Jensen Ackles gone for most of the series, Andrew Farrar takes on the role of Dean and what passes sounds more like a frat boy's attempt at doing an impersonation of someone impersonating a man impersonating Dean.  Sure Farrar starts to get better as the series goes but by the time he's actually decent, Ackles shows up and takes the role back.  But it's not just Farrar ruining the audio with lackluster and lack of feeling voice acting as a majority of the supporting actors sound like they were working for gas gift cards that barely covered the cost of driving to the studio but Padelecki himself is barely able to sound convincing playing the character he's played for 6 plus season.  And, of course since it's anime, 85% of the dialogue is panting, grunting and a lot of "Huhs?" and "What thes?"

The show takes the psychic character of Missouri Mosely and turns her into a voodoo
priestess-like character.  Way to dig deep into the barrel of cliches, Supernatural:  The Anime Series.

Being I'm not an anime fan (and clearly never will be) I don't know if this show constitutes the "right" anime but all I know is I didn't enjoy it.  I kept telling myself while watching it that this series was meant to be its own Supernatural universe and not meant to be a addition to the live action series but after riding with Sam and Dean through all their adventures it's nearly impossible for me to NOT take the real deal over a poorly executed anime substitute.  Even the actors of Ackles and Padalecki don't seem convinced of the show's quality when they introduce each episode.  Even ending every episode with the trademark song used at the end of every season in the wrap-up called "The Road So Far...," the epic tune by Kansas "Carry On My Wayward Son" isn't enough to make this series hold a candle to its live-action counterpart.

Seriously, look at them.  They don't look sold on this show at all...and worse yet, you can
actually hear the lack of enthusiasm in their voices as they intro every episode.

A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

A Fairly Odd Movie:  Grow Up, Timmy Turner! - 3 out of 5

Since I discovered The Fairly OddParents in college, I've been an avid fan and was overjoyed
Not to nitpick but I remember Jorgen being a little bigger
and having more muscle tone in the cartoon.  Are you telling me
they couldn't find a bodybuilder who could do an
Arnold impression for this movie?  Because that's basically
what Jorgen is.
when series creators announced they were bringing the show back for an 8th season starting at the end of 2011.  Perhaps it was the poor execution and reviews of this live-action film that was suppose to be the end of the show that caused this decision?  I don't know but all I can say is that A Fairly Odd Movie:  Grow Up, Timmy Turner! was a pretty lackluster outing for a cartoon series that has always been a shining star in Nickelodeon's otherwise worthless network (SpongeBob is the only other star).

Baby Poof hits the real world...in CG form.

Being a huge fan of the cartoon series, I really wanted to like this live-action movie that shows
young Timmy Turner as a 23 year old man still living with his parents, still in Mr. Crocker's class and still wishing to his heart's content with his fairies Cosmo, Wanda and little baby Poof.  However, it's revealed by the mighty fairy Jorgen that he's suppose to lose his fairies when he enters adulthood but since Timmy is refusing to grow up, it seems that he'll have the trio all his life.  But, fear not because there is a clause in Da Rule Book that states if Timmy falls in love his journey to being an adult will be complete.  It's at this point he finds out Tootie has returned to town and is no longer the annoying little sister of Vicki with pigtails and glasses that Timmy remembers.

Wow...Tootie got HOT!!!

While all this is happening, a rich tycoon who goes by the moniker Hugh J. Magnate arrives in the town of Dimmsdale and is out to destroy the beloved park in order to take the oil reserves underneath it and build a hotel on top of it.  Using his fairies, Timmy thwarts the plans and begins to win Tootie's heart in the process.  However, Magnate teams with the fairy-crazed Crocker and begins a new plan that will help him revive his old plan:  Steal Timmy's fairies, kidnap Tootie and finally get his hands on that sweet oil.

Real-life Chester and Arthur have their moments...let's face it, this movie is a collection of moments.


David Lewis did a great job bringing Cocker to life.
My expectations were high going into this live-action film but they may have been set too high as the film kinda flops.  I have to give an "A" for effort as the movie still has a feeling of a cartoon and they did a decent job of bringing in actors who adequately portrayed their ink and paint counterparts.  Special mention to Daran Norris as Timmy's Dad because he actually provides the voice on the animated program and he already looks like the character, so it was a natural fit.  We even got to see Cosmo and Wanda enter the real world as they go from CG fairies to actors in the form of Cheryl Hines and Jason Alexander in an effort to stop Timmy from falling head-over-heels for the now gorgeous Tootie.  In fact, there were a lot of elements that did a great job of making the jump from cartoon to real-life but the things that didn't work, overpower them like the a high school student's Axe body spray being overpowered by their body order--come on, kids, get with it!  Axe body spray smells terrible and, contrary to what the commercials say, it won't make women fall all over you like it's made of 100 dollar bills and it DOESN'T replace a shower with good old fashion soap and water.

Costanza with green hair.  Festivus will be awkward this year.

Timmy's parents were always one of the funniest
aspect of the cartoon.  This movie could have used more
of them.
The biggest drawback the movie has is the casting of Timmy Turner.  Timmy is the central character of the show and this movie and they needed someone who could capture the extremely naive but amazingly creative and heroic character that has made The Fairly OddParents such an entertaining show over the years.  Did Nickelodeon do that?  Simple answer:  No.  Instead they just went into their archives and pulled out an actor from one of their past shows (possibly because it was cheaper but more likely Nick is just like Disney and wants to keep shoving bad acting tweens, teenagers and young adults who act poorly and sing even worse down our throats).  So, Nick grabs Drake Bell from Drake & Josh slapped a pink hat on him and called him Timmy Turner and Drake's performance is far FAAAARRRR from Timmy Turner.

Seriously, Drake Bell was terrible.  Good thing he has no real career to speak of.


A Fairly Odd Movie:  Grow Up, Timmy Turner! was suppose to be the final bell to ring for The Fairly OddParents but with the overall phoned in feel the film gave, the sound that rang from the bell was brutally off-key.  While it was mildly entertaining to sit through and some of the jokes lived up to the humor standard set by the cartoon, the lackluster performance of Drake Bell and the overall rushed feel the movie had hurt its final product bad.  But look at it this way:  The movie turned out to be such a bad ending that it gave rise for the cartoon series to return!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Cleveland Show Season 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

The Cleveland Show Season 2 - 3 out of 5

When this series started, series creator and funny man behind Family Guy said that Cleveland was the only character that could get his own spin-off but after this and the previous season, did Seth MacFarlane have to use Cleveland at all?  The problem with this show, and it was the same problem I said in my review of Season 1 is that this show is nothing but a re-tooled version of Family Guy.  Writer John McWhorter put it best when he said The Cleveland Show was just "basically Family Guy in blackface."

One thing I absolutely love about the show is having unique director David Lynch in it.

This is Terry, one of the many characters who never
appear in the show.
I gave the 2nd season a shot hoping it would come into its own and stop being the same thing we already saw from the folks in Quahog but the reality is, it hasn't changed.  It's remained stagnant and on the verge of getting worse.  The writing has become such a sloppy mess that a majority of the characters used for the show are barely used and see screen time at very sporadic moments. All the jokes feel like a collection of "inside jokes" used by the writers and makes for an overall unfunny experience.  Occasionally, you'll get an episode that has a gag that will make your sides split but, for the most part, all the jokes are either duds or barely illicit a chuckle for me.

The Cleveland family didn't have a talking pet like Brian so they added a talking bear.
Thus keeping the parallels with Family Guy intact.

Was the goal of the character Rallo to be NOT funny?
However, the biggest thing that hurts this show and keeps me from becoming a full-blooded fan is the fact it is nothing but a carbon-copied and slightly photoshopped version of Family Guy.  You have a talking baby, like Stewie, in the form of Rallo and he has to be the worst aspect of this show as he is PAINFULLY unfunny and can ruin the little momentum this show can build up with his weak gags.  Then there is the daughter character who is a kinda a raunchy thing rather than a unpopular kid like Meg but you never see this character and when you do, you forget that the family even had a teenage daughter to begin with.  Then you have Cleveland's son (who took a drastic change from his appearance in Family Guy) who is just a nicer version of Chris.  Then, there's the wife Donna, who isn't much different from Lois.

They're basically Lois and Meg from a parallel dimension.

And then you have Cleveland...

On Family Guy, Cleveland represented the voice of sanity among the Quahog men.  Peter was the idiot who didn't think before he spoke, Quagmire was the hornball and Joe was the man with anger issues but Cleveland was the nice guy, quiet spoken individual with feelings.  But when his own spin-off came about, this was all wiped away like the animation design of his son Cleveland Jr.  Cleveland was no longer the soft-spoken voice of reason in the world of screwball comedy, he was now Peter Griffin.  Cleveland was suddenly, to put it bluntly, a stupid asshole who was mean to everyone around him and didn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.  Peter Griffin can be a dick with funny results but seeing Cleveland in this role and even on occasions turning it up to 11, makes for some very uncomfortable and bitterly unfunny viewing.

Remember on Family Guy when he was heartbroken when his wife cheated on him with Quagmire?
He doesn't because he was too busy being a complete douche the entire season.

In my review of the first season, I mention the show was not terrible but not great either and, even after it's freshmen season had ended and it had a chance to get ready for a new year, nothing has changed...and if something did, it changed for the worse.  The show, overall, is weak and passes for passable entertainment.  I'll stick with the show because I like Seth MacFarlane and have a great deal of respect for the man and there are moments that are funny enough to keep me watching but deep down, I can't help but think that this show should be canceled but won't because Seth, since the resurrection of the previously canceled Family Guy, seems to be untouchable with Fox and can pretty much air whatever he wants, quality or not, and not see any repercussions from it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Rum Diary

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!
 
The Rum Diary - 3 out of 5
 
It's a rare occasion when I sit down for a Johnny Depp film and walk away saying, "That was AWESOME!"  The Rum Diary was not one of those occasions but unlike most Depp-starred adventures, it wasn't the fault of the actor.
 
The future Mrs. Tim Burton?
 
This movie is pretty indecent.  I mean, that chicken
isn't wearing any pants!
Friends, enemies and totally strangers who talk to me about movies listen to my rhetoric when it comes to Depp and come to the conclusion that I hate the man.  It couldn't be further from the truth.  Granted, I would never EVER call myself a fan of the guy but I don't hate him--I hate his phoney British accent he now sports and I hate that Tim Burton can no longer do a movie without him but I don't hate him.  There are many roles I find him to be terrifically cast for but there are triple that number of roles that he is completely worthless in.  He's amazing as Captain Jack Sparrow and I love the Pirates movies and he was fantastic as Edward Scissorhands but for each of these roles, I had to endure his painfully bad representations of Willy Wonka or his complete rape of the Mad Hatter character.  But let's forget the bad times and remember how awesome he was in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas...I mention this because The Rum Diary, if you didn't know, was a novel by Hunter S. Thompson so, once again, we see Depp stepping into the shoes of the man who gave us Gonzo journalism.
 
"Yes, I am Aaron Eckhart and yes, I am ridiculously handsome and talented."

The Rum Diary is about a journalist (played by Depp) who travels to Puerto Rico for work and rum but finds himself involved with inter-office politics, rich men seeking to get richer and a beautiful woman he finds himself lusting after.  I never read the book but this movie is 'meh' at best.  It's never flat out horrible (surprising because when Depp is in a film, it rarely hits the middle of the road) but it's never excellent either.  The movie will keep you entertain but it doesn't have a wow-factor that the good Depp films have--but at least Tim Burton isn't involved.
 
"Is there something up my nose?  Possibly unobtainium that I could mine?"

Depp's performance is a rare one because he comes off as a believable person--a feat I, for the longest time, never believed he could do as in the 90s and early 00s he played characters with a laundry list of eccentricities and it seemed it had to play every single one of the eccentricities in every second of every scene he was in.  In fact, it's this complaint I often raised as how people have come to think I despise the man.  All I ever asked was to see him play a normal person once who didn't have a craving for chewing the scenery.  For the most part, we got that in this one--albeit he seems to be still playing Raoul Duke only without all the substance abuse and a minor hint of Sparrow.

Wow, that turtle is worth more than me.

"Look at my cock!"
However, Depp's performance is quickly (very quickly) overshadowed by his co-stars.  Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi overtake the film.  Going into the film, you already know Eckhart and Jenkins will deliver, their history proves that fact but the eccentric character of Moberg (Ribisi) and the well-traveled veteran of Puerto Rico who acts as a guide to Depp's character Kemp; Sala, really made the movie something to watch.  I've always found Ribisi to be a great actor but his performance in this one makes up for his presence in Avatar--yeah, he was that good in this mildly entertaining film to wash away the damage of James Cameron's sci-fi rip-off.
 
Michael Rispoli was great in this one.  What?  Not all the captions can be jokes.

The story isn't overly exciting and kind of moves along at a steady pace reminiscent of an elderly woman power walking a mall...but slightly slower.  However, the true magic of the film lies in the characters and the performances of some very talented actors...and Johnny Depp.  The trailer sells this film as a wacky Fear and Loathing remix but it's far from that.  The zany sequences shown in the trailer are it and the film spends more time on the ground than anything--but that isn't bad with the terrific acting shown.  In the end, The Rum Diary isn't a film I will come back in the near future but I didn't find myself regretting watching it either.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas - 3 out of 5


It's a movie about drugs so that ain't baby powder.
When Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle came out, I didn't give it a chance because the trailer uttered the phrase, "From the creators of Dude, Where's My Car?"  That movie nearly made me commit suicide because it was one of the dumbest films I've ever seen.  However, in college, some buddies decided to throw it in and because girls don't like me and I had nothing else to do, I decided to join in and I was pleasantly surprised with how funny the film was.  Harold and Kumar proved to be a modern day Cheech and Chong and the movie proved to be an excellent wacky stoner comedy.  When the sequel came out, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, the title alone sold me and when they ventured into 3-D for a Christmas film in 2011, it was all but guaranteed that I would see it.  But since I am cripplingly poor, I didn't get to see it in glorious 3-D and had to settle and wait for it to come to Redbox.  A large part of me is glad I waited and only paid a buck to see it.

Wow, a shake-weight joke...was doing gags about viagra too high brow?

Seriously, was there a quota of annoying characters
they were trying to fill?
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas isn't terrible but can't hold a candle to their previous adventures.  The movie is about our two loveable stoners who, sadly, have grown apart as their romantic and professional lives have gotten in the way..  However, when the time comes to hang the mistletoe with care, they find themselves once again in a larger-than-life adventure that blends the edges of reality and something that Hunter S. Thompson probably created with his mind.  Unlike the previous two films, the genuinely funny moments don't happen till well in the film as the beginning is filled with one bad annoying character after another.  It's not until these annoyances are removed that the funny comes...then you have to deal with Neil Patrick Harris.

The best character in the film...WAFFLEBOT!

I get it, everyone thinks NPH is funny but to me, he always
looks like he's trying to hard to make you laugh.
I've come to terms with the fact that I'm the only man in the world who doesn't find NPH funny but the reality is I find him enjoyable in the Harold & Kumar films.  The first outing, seeing Doogie Howser out of his element as a sex crazed, cocaine obsessed criminal was amusing and seeing him bring that same flavor with some hallucinogens and having a terrifically funny scene with Rob Corddry was fantastic in the 2nd film but the overplayed, overly-familiar and NPH's overbearing effort to be funny has officially jumped the shark and, maybe in my humble opinion, less of him would have been better.  Not to mention that another staple of the Harold & Kumar series was absent and I felt having him instead of Howser would have improved my laughing experience.  I'm speaking of course of Christopher Meloni.  Playing fun characters in the last two, it was disappointing not seeing him this time around.

We lost Christopher Meloni but we gained Casey Jones!

Don't find him funny in CollegeHumor.com videos?
Don't worry, he's not funny here either.
Once annoying actors like CollegeHumor.com writer Amir Blumenfeld are, thankfully, phased out of the film's story, the movie starts to get some moments that are laughable but, by this point, nearly half of the film is over and I found myself too busy wiping the scenes that reeked of trying too hard out of my mind to enjoy the zany moments shared by our two friends--scenes like seeing them on an acid trip in claymation.  Sure some people may say that the fact that Danny Trejo is in the movie and that's a reason to see it but seeing a movie for him stopped being relevant when he made Machete and the day I realized he's in every movie that has ever been made.

I wasn't lying about the claymation.  Why don't you ever believe me?

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas isn't awful and it has its moments.  Once the film kicks into gear and loses the parts that don't work, I found myself entertained and laughing.  If you're a fan of the other films or just enjoy stoner comedy, you can't really go wrong but if you don't like the other films, there really isn't anything for you to see because, unfortunately, this wasn't the best adventure shared by Harold & Kumar.

Danny is in at least 200 films...a week.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sherlock Series 1

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Sherlock Series 1 - 5 out of 5

"Keep smiling and pretend you don't notice
his fly is open."
I've never actually read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books on the greatest detective to ever exist but over the years, I've become more and more familiar with the character.  When Guy Ritchie made the first Robert Downing Jr. headlined film about Sherlock Holmes, I had my doubts if the man who gave us the awesome films of Lock,Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch could bring his unique vision to the world of deduction but I was proven wrong--pleasantly wrong!  So, it was with high hopes that I turned once again to Ritchie's native land of England for another round of Holmes in the form of the BBC program Sherlock .

The look of heartache of a man who missed the cut off time for McDonald's breakfast.

It's unfair to call this a television show as a single season (or as they call it in the UK Series) lasts only 3 episodes--that's right, there are only 3 episodes per Series...but these episodes are an hour and a half long.  Basically, each Series is 3 movies and let's just say this, each episode of this Series could easily be released in the theaters and be a contender for over half the crap released on any given week as the acting, writing and overall production value is better than most stuff we Americans waste our money on at the theater.

"One Ring to Rule Them All...hmm.  I deduce that this is my...precious."

The show is a modern take on Mr. Holmes as the character is extracted from his era in the late 1800s and is thrown into our world--not literally of course as the character of Sherlock Holmes isn't brought here by some phone booth/time machine and he's not ushered into this century by the greatest band of all time:  Wild Stallions!  Sherlock Holmes is a freelance private investigator who uses his amazing talents of seeing all the hidden details when the police are in over their heads.  In the first series, we see him form his partnership with the good Doctor (no, not that good Doctor, although the 11th Doctor Matt Smith did audition for the role of Holmes).  A veteran from Afghanistan, Dr. Watson is looking for an outlet to deal with his issues and looking for a home.  In comes Holmes and the partnership that has become the stuff of legends is formed.

"Yeah, I'm going to be in The Hobbit.  I'm playing Bilbo."


"Really?  I'm in it, too.  Small world."


Cumberbatch and Freeman...sounds like a brand
of designer jeans.
Each episode (movie) is perfectly crafted with an interesting mystery that is carried out in a creative way as the show is able to execute the unique madness of Holmes' mind through clever editing and the amazing acting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock.  Watching the character in action, the show is brilliantly able to give the audience member an idea of what is going through the man's head.  To balance the show and have a excellent counterpoint to Cumberbatch is veteran of Ricky Gervais' The Office Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson.  The two play off each other wonderfully and even if the show's writing sucked and the mysteries were predictable and formulaic, their partnership would make the show worth watching as they play off each other like a well choreographed dance.  Luckily, the show's writing is fantastic and seeing the two work so well together is just the icing on a very delicious cake.

In America, Moriarty would have been played by
Shia LaBeouf.
The only real complaint I walked away with was the film--show's--representation of Sherlock's greatest enemy; Jim Moriarty.  Actor Andrew Scott brings the character to life but in a scenery chewing, over-the-top, "I'm desperate for attention" way that comes off more annoying than menacing.  In fact, Scott's portrayal reminded me of that annoying guy at the party who is the first to get naked or smash a bottle on his head or the first to offer jumping off the roof in an effort to make all the eyes in the room on him.  Basically, Scott's portrayal smacked of effort and provided a disservice to the criminal mastermind of Professor Moriarty.  Kinda hard to be a shadowy figure of menace when he seems seconds away from lighting his farts on fire in an effort to get uncomfortable laughs.  But when compared to the rest of the show and especially the incredible acting presence of both Cumberbatch and Freeman, Scott's annoying presence as Moriarty isn't enough to hurt my rating of the films--show.  I can't wait until I get to see Series 2!