Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Big Hero 6

***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. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! There must have been a redneck comedian out there who made a bad joke about how his "Big Hero 6" is the six-pack of beer.

Big Hero 6 – 5 out of 5

I love comic books.  This isn’t really a surprise to any loyal readers of mine—with my never ending references to superheroes and the way I pretty give perfect scores to all the comic adaptations that come out (even this one), I’ve made it painfully clear that I’m nuts about those books that old people call cartoons and funny pages.  However, I haven’t read every comic to ever exist and there are tons and tons of stories from various publishers that I haven’t known about, haven’t glanced at, or haven’t got to yet.  When the Big Hero 6 miniseries came out in 1998, I think I read one issue (maybe two) and never bothered to finish it.  I just wasn’t into it…however, when Disney Animation Studios did a very loose adaptation and complete re-imagining of it, I was very sold.

                                                                              Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The adorable-factor with Baymax helped sell me, too.

Set in an alternate future in the new city of San Fransokyo, the brilliant (but unfocused) Hiro (Ryan Potter) ends up seeing his future put into a spiral after his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) and his brother’s mentor; Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell), die in a fire.  Hiro’s resulting depression becomes the focus of his late brother’s work when his healthcare robot, the loveable and balloon-y Baymax (Scott Adsit), makes it his mission to cure him.  Soon, however, Hiro discovers that his brother’s death came about after a mysterious man stole microbot technology from him and now Hiro wants to get to the bottom of the crime and bring about justice for his brother.  So, he forms the superhero team Big Hero 6 with some of his brother’s friends; Fred (T.J. Miller), GoGo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), and Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez).  The heroes set out to bring down the villain using the microbots but discover a horrifying secret about him… 

                                                                             Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
"Let's seek out Tony Stark...and to make things fair, he can wear his Hulk-Buster armor."

Like I stated in the opening paragraph, I read one issue of Big Hero 6 and didn’t really care for it.  I don’t recall what exactly I wasn’t digging about it but I remember it just not grabbing my attention.  Either way, I was a little surprised when I found out that Disney was going to adapt it to a cartoon (that is not connected to the live-action MCU, by the way…although, it would have been kinda neat if it was).  I knew I wasn’t going to see the team’s big names like Silver Samurai and Sunfire in the film because of the rights to those characters belonging elsewhere but I really had no idea how they were going to adapt it.  The comic didn’t really seem like a Disney affair…so, I guess that’s why so many changes were made.

                                                                             Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Will GoGo share her gum with the rest of the team?

                                                  Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
A misspelling in her invite email made Honey Lemon
show up with balls on.
Pretty much everything about the team, the setting, the story, and the characters were changed for this adaptation and, honestly, that wasn’t a bad thing.  I’ve never been one for strict adherence to source material and the changes made to Big Hero 6 did something the comics didn’t and that was create interest in me (that makes me sound a tad narcissistic).  Baymax is no longer the robot that changes into looking like some kind of reptile beast and is now a lovable and ridiculously adorable balloon robot that gets all kinds of badass when he gets the armor treatment.  Wasabi gets the rest of his name dropped (originally named Wasabi-No-Ginger) and is no longer a trained chef who fights with all kinds of bladed weaponry.  GoGo is given a simpler advance suit to wear into combat and Honey Lemon is almost unrecognizable from her comic counterpart.  Also, the way they handled the change to Fred (called Fredzilla in the comics) was pretty entertaining.  He’s not creating monster auras anymore and, instead, he is simply wearing a suit that breaths fire and gives him super jumping abilities and it made for some very amusing moments.  All the alterations made to the source material were an improvement, in my opinion.  It turned an obscure comic into something that worked for a mass audience and it ended up being one of the examples where adjustments for a wider appeal ended up succeeding and not feeling like the source material was being watered down.

                                                                             Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
T.J. Miller as Fred is seconded only to Baymax as the show-stealer!

The story in Big Hero 6 (also greatly different from the comics) is your typical superhero origin affair but it never felt played out or like some sort of rehash.  It hits all the numbers that are synonymous with hero origin stories—like a death of a loved one sparking the need to take justice into one’s own hands, the connection between the first villain and the heroes' story and, of course, a training montage.  However, Big Hero 6 took all these clichés and made them feel less weary and more entertaining.  From watching Hiro design a suit for Baymax to watching the team learn how to use their new supersuits to watching their first, and inevitably losing, battle was filled with heart and humor.  The addition of having characters that were entertaining, interesting, and very diverse made these classic tropes feel refreshing and new.

                                                                              Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Hey...I wanna wowwy-pop.

                                                  Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
And with that, Wasabi started to ask Pizza Hut to
never cut his pizzas again.
The characters, and all their changes, were all fantastic in Big Hero 6.  Everyone from Hiro to Baymax to Honey Lemon and Wasabi to Tadashi and Hiro’s Aunt Cass (voiced by Maya Rudolph) to Robert Callaghan and the industrialist Alistair Krei (voiced by Alan Tudyk and may, or may not, be the one behind the mask of Yokai because of the interest he had in Hiro’s microbots)—they are all very interesting and fun to watch.  While characters like GoGo may not have as much screen time or be as overwhelmingly hilarious as someone like Fred, no one felt unwarranted or complete superfluous in their role.  They are all dynamic, interesting, fun, and even intimidating when it concerns Yokai.

                                                                             Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
In all seriousness, Yokai is a pretty badass bad guy!

The voice acting helps greatly in creating the world of Big Hero 6 and is one of the biggest reasons that the characters are so easy to get behind and invest in.  While T.J. Miller is, without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights as Fred because they guy is just ridiculously hilarious, no one in the cast was any real slouch.  Ryan Potter is fantastic as Hiro and nailed the emotion needed for the boy genius, Scott Adsit helps makes Baymax the loveable and sweet character he is, and veteran James Cromwell is incredible as Robert Cromwell.  In fact, everyone in the cast felt right at home in their characters and really brought everyone to life and helped make the story move fluidly.

                                                                            Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Big Hero 6 is what a douche bag version of Hiro would call his six pack...

                                                  Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Bring on Part 2!
Big Hero 6 holds no surprises with its story of a newly formed superhero team but it never feels tired or dated.  With spectacular animation, a perfect blend of heart and humor (I cried and laughed in this one), and a talented cast, Disney Studios was able to showcase the standard of Marvel-infused action alongside Disney wonder and magic.  The film is heartwarming, hilarious, action-packed, and, most of all, ridiculously fun from beginning to end.  Finally, the film proves that a Disney animated version of a Marvel comic can work and work extremely effectively!

                                                                            Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Maybe the best Stan Lee cameo yet!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Giver

***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. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Hack comedians all over the world took a second away from their Taco Bell/Diarrhea gags and 4-hour erection jokes to declare the sequel should be called The Taker.

The Giver – 3 out of 5

So, it seems The Giver is based on a book of the same name by Lois Lowry that came out in 1993.  It was one of those tween dystopian novels that are all the rage now but came out before they were the rage (so, can I say it is the grandfather of the subgenre?).  The book is quite acclaimed and loved by a lot of people and it has been fought to get adapted into a film for nearly two decades—by a man in the film, no less.  It’s not really surprising that since Twilight and The Hunger Games proved that adapting young adult novels into films—especially when they are about future worlds that are suppose to be perfect but are covering up all kinds of corruption and suppressing people’s desire to be free—basically results in the studio drowning in money, it’s no wonder it was easier to get The Giver made today than it was years ago.

Sure it's a screencap from the film but it also looks like it was taken from a Goo Goo
Dolls video.
Everything Bridges does just looks cool.
The world is a different place.  War, worry, disease, and suffering are all gone but it comes at a price.  The price is forgetting all that came before…with the exception of one; The Giver (Jeff Bridges).  When young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) sees his day where he can be assigned a duty to the community, he finds that the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) has elected him to become the Receiver of Memory.  His time with The Giver shows him the world that once existed.  A world with joy and sorrow, fear and sadness, hope and love, and one that was an all around melting pot of ethnicity and culture.  This breeds rebellion in Jonas and he longs to see the world beyond where the community ends; beyond the cliff’s edge…a place called “The Elsewhere.”  As the memories from The Giver are…um…given to Jonas, he learns that he is in love with his friend Fiona (Odeya Rush), finds out that The Giver had once failed another Receiver of Memory (Taylor Swift), and that their utopia hides a terrible and deadly secret.  Soon, Jonas becomes hunted by the Chief Elder and he is forced to flee and now must fight to return the lost memories of his people back to them.

Hopefully they don't get the memory back of that "Because I'm Happy" song.

Well, hologram Streep is way less creepy than that
CGI Jeff Bridges from the Tron film.
Despite the fact I never read the book, the trailer sold me on this one and I thought it looked pretty damn interesting.  I was very excited to sit down with this one because it looked a lot more thought out than other tween dystopia films (probably because this is one of them that set the standard) and it looked like it wasn’t going to bow down to the tired trope of the two doughy-eyed main characters that fall in love without really knowing anything about each other beyond the fact they are physically attracted to them. Not to mention that powerhouse actors like Bridges and Streep were in it and that only adds to my interest level.  However, the end product just didn’t feel as emotional or powerful as it could have been.

One of her memories that her character had returned to her was being married
to a guy who was the poster boy to a religion made up by a bad science fiction author.
Visually, The Giver looks fantastic.  The stark grayscale that we see while Jonas is living a life under a metaphoric umbrella compared to the vivid color he sees once The Giver opens up his mind to the past may draw parallels to the film Pleasantville but it still worked incredibly well for the story that the film has.  Not to mention the designs used for this utopian society are pretty neat to look at, as well.  The designs made the world come to life and made it feel legitimate and authentic.  It’s also nice to see a dystopian society that comes under the guise of a utopia.  It’s a refreshing change from the usual broken down buildings and junk that we see in the likes of Divergent and The Hunger Games (not that I’m calling those movies “junk,” fans of Divergent and The Hunger Games, I'm just talking about the sets and the dilapidated style of future they show).

This looks like an album cover to a Christian rock band...add in a cross on the horizon
and BOOM!
Additionally, the performances in the film were great.  Naturally, Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges were amazing—but I knew that going into the film.  You could see the weight of each characters' responsibility in both actors and it added to the level of authenticity the film was putting off.  Both Streep and Bridges were playing opposite sides of the same coin and each were pulling in the direction of what they felt was good for the community and the people, and they performed this part amazingly well.

He just realized how the rug really tied the room together.
Even some of the smaller parts were done well and made the fictional world the film exists in seem real.  For example, Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård play Jonas’ parents and both played their parts exceptionally great—especially Holmes…whose time around Scientology might have helped with the emotionless zombie she was playing.  I also really enjoyed Odeya Rush as Fiona and seeing her journey of self-discovery as Jonas opens her eyes to all the things their utopia denies them was very interesting.  And I really enjoyed Shameless’ Cameron Monoghan as Jonas’ friend Asher who is forced to hunt Jonas down while he is passed the borders of their community.  Finally, I was a little taken back by how decent Taylor Swift was in her short role. 

I'm not going to say anything mean about Swift because I don't want to be a hater
that hates, hates, hates, hates, hates.
In order to make this film work, you needed the right actor for Jonas and, for the most part, I think the production made the correct bet on the right horse with Brenton Thwaites.  Despite having a short career, I’ve dug Thwaites performances in both good movies he’s been in and bad ones.  Overall, I think Thwaites really hit the right marks with Jonas and really showcased the confusion, fear, and hope he experienced as the Receiver of Memory and watching him try to come to grips with the reality behind the sterilized paradise he lives in and discovering all that his people lost in order to get it was performed wonderfully from him.  In fact, the visuals and the performances aren’t the issues this film had and what kept me from really getting into it the way I wanted.

I'm pretty certain that Meryl Streep wins awards for eating cereal now.
The only real problem I had with the film was the story just didn’t pack the emotional and dramatic punch it should have had.  With the story the way it is, the realization of the reality they live in when characters like Jonas and Fiona learn the truth should have come out of the TV screen like a fist and knock my teeth out with emotion and, as the internet says, hit me right in the feels.  But due to what feels like Jonas learning the truth too quickly and characters like Fiona and Asher coming to terms with Jonas’ actions and forgotten memories returned and them being too quick to accept these revelations, the unveiling of what the utopia is really about doesn’t have the weight and gravity it should.  Not to mention that the ending is pretty lackluster and, according to what I’ve read on the internet, lacks the ambiguity that the book has.

Don't give me that look...I still liked the movie.
In all honesty, this is the only complaint I have about the film.  Besides that, I actually enjoyed The Giver.  Had the running time been slightly longer and many elements of Jonas’ journey or the doomed first Receiver of Memory been feathered out slightly more, the film might have been a lot stronger and infinitely more dramatic.  As it stands, it’s a decent film that tells an interesting story but it just doesn’t do much to stand out.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Maze Runner

***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. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Why don't they just do what I do with mazes?  Work backwards.

The Maze Runner – 4 out of 5

I was totally unaware of the tween novel this film is based on and, when I first saw the trailer, I thought it looked like an adaptation of the smartphone game Temple Run.  Of course, it’s not but the fact the film is still something that was birthed from the tween dystopian subgenre that is all the rage right now I can’t say that my hopes weren't very high for this one.  Sure, the trailer looked pretty cool but it still is adapted from a tween novel and since I haven’t been a tween in quite some time and don’t spend my time reading these types of books, the track record for these releases haven’t been the best for me and so many of them are the same story told with the same formula and all have the same looking white man and female love interests that I was kinda expecting the same shit done with a different coat of pseudo-gritty paint…I was wrong.
Run the fuck out of that maze, kids!

The Maze Runner opens with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) waking up in an elevator with little knowledge of who he is and where he is going.  The elevator exists into a green glade and he is greeted by a bunch of kids not much different in age from him.  Thomas learns that the Glade is surrounded by a complex maze that is explored by the boys called Runners and they are looking for a way out.  However, the Runners must return before nightfall because it is then that the Maze closes its massive doors and no one has survived in the Maze alone at night…due to it being populated by the dangerous creatures called the Grievers.  However, Thomas isn’t like the other kids who have shown up in the Glade and he soon shows the rest of the crew that he has skills that could shake up their reality and may lead them out of Maze and back home.  The only problem is the mystery of who they are and why they are there is far deeper than they are prepared for when the first girl is sent up in the elevator (Kaya Scodelario) and it starts to be realized that Thomas and this girl; Teresa, may have had a hand in why everyone has ended up caught in the Glade and are now at the mercy of the Maze.
"Whoa...are those two Grievers doing it?"

Like I stated in the opening paragraph, my expectations for The Maze Runner were wrong and the initial reaction I had to the cool visuals of the trailer were right.  The film is very entertaining, surprisingly tense, very exciting, wonderfully acted, and the story is very engaging, mysterious, and intriguing.  The film has a few drawbacks but nothing that can’t be easily overlooked.  In fact, the only real downfall I had with the film was a single actor that didn’t really look like he fit with the role he was cast in.  Besides that, the film was far better than I was prepared for and I really look forward for the next installment of the franchise.
Yep, I would totally die in that maze.

Wait a minute...The Glade is actually the Shire!!!
Initially, when the film started, I thought I was going to greatly dislike the fact that the film was seemingly made up of extras you would find on the set of an MTV television series (amusing since one of the actors really is on an MTV show).  All the perfectly in shape bodies, immaculate jaw lines, and product-infused hair styles (how they got hair spray and hair gel in the Glades is beyond me) made me worried that this film was just going to be a generic tween film that put visuals over substance.  Fill your cast with all the smoldering good lookers that will get the little girls and their iPhones in the seats of the theater and all the money will come rolling in.  I was fully prepared to see a bunch of actors who are only good at looking like they are on the verge of throwing out a Blue Steel look and being only good enough for the girls that love them to try and see if they can no longer can’t even and do it long enough to gush over the baby faces splashing all over the screen.  However, I was shocked by how good of actors these kids were. 
A shot from O'Brien's audition reel he sent to Spielberg.
"I can't even with this maze."
Sure, Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario may not be giving off earth-shattering and emotionally powerful performances but they are doing their job quite well for the type of film The Maze Runner is.  However, I have to say that the chemistry that O’Brien shared with Blake Cooper, who played the character Chuck, was pretty decent and came off looking like a legit friendship.  Sure, it’s still evident that most of the cast was brought in because they all look eligible to have their own Tiger Beat covers and photo shoots but when you include Thomas Brodic-Sangster—a Game of Thrones alumni—you see the production is not afraid to include some talent with those girl-crazy creating good looks.  However, I wasn’t a fan of Will Poulter in the film.
Sangster, seen here remembering Hodor.
If you remember my review of We’re the Millers, I talked about how funny I thought Poulter was and how well he played his character.  However, in his role as Galty, I think the production may have picked the wrong guy.  I don’t think Poulter played the character badly; the problem was he didn’t fit the role.  Galty was a character shown trying to maintain order in the Glades and is upset with the fact that Thomas has shown up and is wreaking havoc on that order and is throwing off the balance.  He seeks order to return and see Thomas punished for the threat he poses and, sadly, Poulter didn’t make this character believable for me.  His body language and his voice didn't command authority and I kept wondering why anyone in the Glades would actually listen to him.  He came off like someone who wants to be taken seriously but someone you are too quickly to chuckle at, comment about how it’s adorable they are trying to be tough, and then you just move past them and forget them.  Poulter’s performance wasn’t a deal-breaker and didn’t throw me out of the film, I just had a feeling a better actor could have been chosen and who could have been more appropriate for the role.
The names of those who didn't survive The Glades' Chili Night.
Oh, so that's a Griever.  Yep, fuck that.  Fuck everything
about that thing.
Poulter is really the only complaint I had about the film.  Besides that, I really enjoyed The Maze Runner.  The action in the film was far more intense and exciting than I had any inkling of anticipation for and the film even provides a great ending that really gets the blood pumping for the next film—or gets a persons ire rising because it ends on such a cliff hanger.  However, above a lot of things in this film, one thing that really made The Maze Runner stand out in a sea of cliché and generic tween films that are making up the population of entertainment these days is the fact this film is a lot darker than I was ready for.  While a lot of tween dystopian films want to look gritty and dark, they really are only lightly touched by these elements.  The Maze Runner isn’t afraid to really hit it on the head with the dark aspects and won’t shy away from death and sadness.  Sure, characters die in other tween dystopian films but The Maze Runner actually made the deaths a little more meaningful and, occasionally, horrifying.  The complete lack of fear in making the film more mature than the likes of something like Divergent really made this film stand out and made it very entertaining to watch.
See, Chuck gets it!

With a story that veers away from the typical tween dystopia fiction, a darker and more mature approach, and actors who are far better than what normally is inserted into this subgenre of films, The Maze Runner went past my expectations and made for a great film.  I’ve very interested in seeing the next one when it comes out in ’15.

"This thing says 'Do Not Use Rectally.'  What were you guys doing here before I arrived?"

A Walk Among the Tombstones

***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. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! A part of his certain set of skills is skillfully walking among tombstones.

A Walk Among the Tombstones – 3 out of 5

Liam Neeson will pretty much take any script that comes his way (and I’ve heard he’ll even just jump in front of ones in slo-mo and intercept them from others) and this decision results in films of varying quality (but I won't fault his reasons for doing this).  The one thing above all else in these films is the fact that Neeson is great in all of them.  It’s a rare sight when I see a film with him in it and I say, “Wow, Neeson is pretty bad.”  So, how is it when Neeson steps into the role of the iconic private investigator from the successful novel series?
Walk the fuck among those tombstones!

Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) has a history with alcohol and, in 1991, it ended up causing him to make a mistake that left him leaving the police force (he was a cop, by the way).  After that, Scudder became an unlicensed private investigator and, in 1999, is asked for help from a local drug trafficker.  The man informs him that his wife was kidnapped and murdered despite the fact he gave them the ransom they were asking for.  Scudder begins to investigate and finds that others involved in the drug game have had their loved ones ripped from their lives and murdered after the ransom was paid.  Now it’s up to Scudder to find out who is behind the killing and bring them to justice.
They wanted to really show you it was the 90s but stopped from having Liam wear
a Nirvana shirt.

The trailer, the title, and the presence of the action genre's badass Liam Neeson, I sorta expected a Taken-kinda film.  I’m not really familiar with the book series the film is based off of but just the few elements I took in made me think this was going to be a crime thriller with plenty of bullets flying.  I was a little surprised to see the film was more about the investigation part than it was about the heaping helping of justice that Liam Neeson has become synonymous with.  This ended up with a movie that moved at a slower, more deliberate pace.  Expecting Neeson throwing fists with a very specific set of skills threw me greatly and could easily cause people expecting Taken action to become bored with the film.
By the way, this movie has a lot of scenes with people talking to each other on the phone.

The story is very interesting but I won’t say it was captivating.  There are moments during Scudder’s investigation that really had me glued to the TV but there were also parts that moved far too slowly for me and lacked a great deal of tension and were, for the most part, boring to me.  However, the overall story was still interesting enough and contained enough shock factors that it never became overwhelmingly boring.  Hell, the film is even nice enough to throw in some mildly satisfying action towards the end of the film.  But, the slower pace the story kept still can’t be completely overlooked.
Seriously, a lot of talking on the phone.

It’s not surprising that Neeson is very good in the film.  He makes the character of Scudder an interesting and broken one.  One thing the film did exceptionally well was keeping the film’s main story moving forward while developing the character of Scudder at the same time—without one feeling like it was overwhelming the other.  The development of Scudder is only made more intriguing thanks to the very strong performance of Liam Neeson. 
"...anyway, enough about me.  When's a good time for me to find and kill you?"

"What?  Who is this?"

The rest of the cast, while made up of mostly unrecognizable names or character actors that most people known only because they’ve seen them in that one thing as that one person, back up Neeson very well and make a very believable world.  One of my favorite performers in the film was Brian “Astro” Bradley playing the character of TJ; a homeless boy who ends up assisting Scudder in the investigation.  The back and forth between him and Scudder made for some of the more lighter moments in the film but also showed how Neeson could have varying degrees of working chemistry with the entire cast.
Geez...remember what happen the last time you took it upon yourself to guide
a child, Liam.  We don't need another Darth Vader.

A Walk Among the Tombstones didn’t wow me but I definitely found a lot of it to be very interesting and some of it to be very intense.  The performances were good and, aside from some boring bits, the story is very interesting.  While I won’t lie and say I was hoping for a little more action from this one, the end result was a pretty decent crime thriller with some very strong and realistic performances.

If Neeson learns how to kill people with his mind, we're all fucked.


***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. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! It's The Human Centipede...but about turning the Mac kid into a Walrus...and made by the guy who was Silent Bob.

Tusk – 2 out of 5

I consider myself a casual fan of Kevin Smith.  I like him more as a person who shares my interests than him as a filmmaker and writer (or as someone who can’t take criticism very well).  I can’t watch his old films anymore because the humor just doesn’t have the staying power for me, so things like Clerks and its sequel, Dogma, Chasing Amy, and Mallrats are unwatchable now and completely unfunny.  And don’t get me started on Cop Out.  However, I still like Jersey Girl (George Carlin’s performance in that film was incredible) and Red State might be the greatest film from the man I have ever seen.  But when I heard he was making Tusk and found out what it was about, I was sold because I love really fucked up films.  I was actually really excited to see it…and then the disappointment hit.
Ah, podcasting...just as annoying as blogging.  Wait, what did I just say?!?
Wallace Bryton (who is played by Justin Long and has a name that suspiciously sounds like “walrus”) is a podcaster with his friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment).  One day, he heads to the Great White North to visit a viral video star but learns that the star is no longer around and he’s left without a story.  He stumbles upon a mysterious and worldly man named Howard Howe (Michael Parks) and thinks he found something to talk about on his next podcast.  Granted, he totally did but he’ll never get to tell his story because Howe wants to surgically transform Wallace into a walrus.  Now it’s up to his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) and Teddy to locate and save him.  On the way, they find themselves teaming with a mysterious lawman named Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) who has been hunting Howe for some time.  Can they reach Wallace before the transformation is complete?
They don't...hashtag Fuck Yo Spoilers!

I love ridiculous films and this one, based on a story that Kevin Smith and his buddy came up with on his podcast, sounded all kinds of insane and I instantly fell in love with the concept.  Not to mention, it’s pretty damn cool that Kevin Smith had the means to make this silly idea a reality.  Not all creative types have the means, financial support, or the faculties to get anything they come up with off the ground and made—so, the fact that Tusk exists is already something cool and I can get behind…of course, just because I think it’s cool that a movie exists or appreciate its existence due to its influence on free speech, creativity, and the advancement of storytelling and filmmaking doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoy it or think it’s a good movie.  I think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a revolution for horror films but I still think it's a terrible movie.  I also think Pink Flamingos is a bold statement in the world of filmmaking but that doesn't mean I find any entertainment value from it.
Typical guy, polishing his walrus tusk.

Tusk starts out fantastically…for the most part.  The premise is established and built upon terrifically and it feels like it is really going somewhere amazing.  Sure, it felt like a bad mockery of The Human Centipede but I found that film both unsettling and entertaining so I thought why wouldn’t I enjoy a film that feels like a silly parody of it?  Then, to add to it, Michael Parks is giving off an absolutely unbelievable performance and he makes the character of Howard Howe simply captivating and thrilling to watch.  However, it’s not long before the film starts to slip…
However, Parks made the film a must watch, I can't emphasize that enough.

The second the film starts, it’s obvious that Justin Long will not be a sympathetic character.  He’s brash, abrasive, disrespectful, loud, and an all-around asshole.  Within the first ten minutes, I wanted his character dead and gone and that is what makes the film and its story hard to deal with.  Part of the magic with The Human Centipede was the fact you felt sorry for the hell the nutso doctor was putting the victims through.  I had no sympathy for Justin Long’s character of Wallace.  I get that he is meant to be a parody of a travelling American and was there to annoy the Canadian characters but it was so hard to feel anything for him during the horror he was going through because he was so damn unlikable.  At no point is he redeemed either and, as the film progresses, we learn that he actively cheats on his girlfriend.  So, he doesn’t get better, he only gets worse.
I like you Long but, gawd damn, I hated your character.

Secondly, the film has some truly abysmal humor.  I was hoping for a great dark comedy and it definitely has its moments that are twistedly funny but so many of the jokes in the film are hack material.  Such gags can work when you utilize the whole “it’s funny because it’s really unfunny” kinda stuff that the alt comics love to do (and I am guilty of in my stand up) but when an overwhelming majority of the jokes in the film are cheap shots at Canadians with the intention of being unfunny so the jokes become funny, it starts to make the humor in the film look lazy and weak.
I tried to laugh at this terrible joke but all that came out of my mouth was sadness.

Finally, the film drags itself out to the point the whole joke of it has run its course very early on.  While it was cool to see Johnny Depp show up and play the French Canadian version of Inspector Clouseau, his character quickly starts to wear thin as all his scenes go way too long and all the humor that was in them starts to get repetitive and boring.  In fact, the whole story starts to feel this way as it very quickly starts to drag out its thin premise and pushes the boundaries of making it into a feature length feature.  Honestly, this probably could have work better and a hell of a lot smoother if it was a short film.
I'm assuming Smith got Depp for the film with promises of acting through make-up...
that's fucking catnip to Depp.

And I won’t bother getting into how disappointing the ending was…
And I won't get into the fact that somehow Haley Joel Osment still has a baby's face
when he's all grown up.

Tusk had a lot of potential thanks to an incredibly epic performance from Michael Parks and a strange and very wacky premise.  However, the film overstayed its welcome by stretching its limited premise too far and too many of the other performances are either annoying or aren’t under control within the film’s editing.  In the end, the film actually comes off worse than the film it is clearly trying to lampoon and isn’t a very good start to Kevin Smith’s Canadian Trilogy or True North Trilogy...or whatever it is being called. 

So...so the goal with Justin Long was to make him Norm McDonald's impression of Burt Reynolds?