Archive | February 2012

Tangled — A shot in the arm that the “family movie” genre has been needing for quite some time.

I would not have seen this movie if it wasn’t for my girlfriend.  I’m glad she made me watch it because otherwise I would have passed on this completely.  Fantasy is a genre I dislike about ninety-nine percent of the time.  It has never appealed to me for a reason that even I am unclear of.  With that aside, I also think the marketing for this film shied a lot of critics (like me) away.  They made it seem too childish and didn’t make it seem as if they were trying to place it in the Disney Princess canon.  If they were to market it as part of that canon, I would have gone out of my way to see it.  Tangled definitely took me by surprise and it’s a shot in the arm the family movie genre has needed for quite some time.

Absorbing beauty.

If you’re planning to make a CGI movie, take note of Tangled.  Every, and I mean every, shot of this film is a work of art.  I have never seen something so damn pretty and computer generated at the same time before.  Frankly, I have been getting sick of animations like these but this is definitely the medium’s savior.  It’s not just the hair and the skin and the water and the clothes and the trees and the lights; it’s also the animation.  The animation in this is so fluid.  I have to say it’s practically life like.  For awhile, I thought maybe they used motion capture for majority of this film but looking at the “how they made it” feature in the extras, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Instead, it was a lot of very hard and careful work.

Well done characters.

Even when you take the pretty graphics away, the story is A+ material.  For a fantasy movie, I felt the characters were believable and memorable, not just the heroine.  Flynn Rider.  The Stabbington Brothers.  Maximus.  Pascal.  Mother Gothel.  There weren’t too many or too little characters.  I thought that each even had just the right amount of screen time, not a bit wasted or needed.  They all played into the overarching theme of this movie: trust.  This is another thing that I applaud the writers of Tangled on.  Not many kid or family movies in the past few years really had an actual theme or message; most of them have been lacking in that department.  Tangled‘s writers were able to put it in the story and not make it either overbearing or just “kinda-sorta” there.

This scene would make anyone want to invest in a Blu-ray player and a big TV. Seriously

The only thing I think this movie falls short on is how some things resolve in the end.  It suffers from the “barely explainable” plot devices that most fantasy movies succumb to.  I will have to give Tangled some leeway on this though because it tries its hardest to avoid cliches and it is based on an age-old fairy tale where the belief in “magic” was commonplace.  All-in-all, Tangled is a great movie for kids and adults alike.  It is also, in my opinion, one of the best family films to come out in the past several years.

What would go great with this ?
Serve with…
Crispy Oven Fried Fish
http://www.howsweeteats.com/2011/04/a-good-fish-sandwich-with-chips/ (by the way, my girlfriend and I absolutely love this blog)
Accommodating beverage…
Black and tan.  It’s my comfort drink.

Rating:

Critic Value: 8/10

The theme may be nothing new but it was well done.  “Themes” are also something a lot of family and children movies have been lacking these past few years and Tangled gets props for bringing it back.

Quality Value: 10/10

Giving the artists one point less would be a crime.  My jaw dropped so hard from Tangled‘s beauty that it locked.

Entertainment Value: 9/10

It’s very rare that I give something from the fantasy genre more than a six or seven.  The beauty and the story worked so well together that my attention didn’t leave the screen once.

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Babylon A.D. — An idea that went from good, to bad, to decent.

I had my eye on this movie since its late production stages.  My nerdom is cyberpunk.  It always has and will be; sadly, it’s one of the worst ones to subscribe to.  The reason for this is because it’s so damn niche.  What’s even worse?  Usually those niche things, when they are released on the market, end up being sealed away in the Crap Vault for eternity; honestly, I thought this was what happened to this movie.  When it came out in theaters, I practically wanted to cry because of all the terrible reviews that rolled in and I typically agree with critics.  Back in 2008, cyberpunk was pretty much declared a dead genre (though it’s slowly being re-resuscitated today) .  The last good cyberpunk flick during that time was probably A Scanner Darkly (2006).  Everything else was either b-rate or hard to get a hold of.  The Gene Generation, though intriguing in concept, was the ultimate in cyberpunk cheese.  The other film, Sleep Dealer, you could only see if you went to one of the film fests it showed at (and maybe an indie theater, neither of which I had access to when it was released).  Babylon A.D. was the only “mainstream” one since ’06.  As you can see, being part of a niche can either really suck or be really rewarding.  Luckily the extended cut of this movie does not belong in the aforementioned Crap Vault.

“DEUCES IS WILD, IT’S A TRIPLE THREAT”

I had access to the DVD that featured the theatrical and extended cut.  I watched both.  One of the major things that the extended cut has over the theatrical is character development.  Honestly, if you saw the theatrical before watching the extended (I did it the other way around), this movie does not make a lick of sense.  Vin Diesel’s character just seems to be some sort of bro biggot, Aurora (the girl he has to protect) appears to be more trouble than she’s worth, and the whole general plot line is far off course than what was intended.  If there is a lesson to be learned, it’s that editing can make a world of difference when it comes to plot and story.

This is what I look like when I critique things… or give life advice.

The theatrical cut’s story makes no sense.  It only makes a little bit if you see the extended first but still, it barely will.  I’d spoil the movie if I were to go into it deeper.  The true version is best compared to a mix between The Fifth Element, Children of Men, and a smidgen of Blade Runner.  Granted that even the extended cut is nowhere near as good as these movies, it definitely takes the first two’s “on the run” elements and draws that sense of mystery and worry the latter brings.  Clearly the director knew what made these three classics great.  The producer?  Not so much.  Though, I don’t think someone who was the mastermind behind Lawnmower Man 2 really has the say on what makes a sci-fi movie good; especially since the rest of his IMDb page consists of romances and historical flicks.  I don’t have anything against the guy but this isn’t a movie he should have touched.

Everything looks pretty with filters.
 
In the end, I have to say the extended cut is definitely worth checking out if cyberpunk and dystopian sci-fi are your genres of choice.  As a film (the extended cut) overall?  It’s okay.  Not great but not bad either.  It’s entertaining, a lot of colorful eye candy.  Some of the actions scenes are silly and out of place; I have a feeling those had a lot to do with the producer.  Granted they were required for the story but, compared to the slight level of subtlety in the extended version, it would be too expensive to reshoot them just for it.  That is one of the faults I have to give Babylon A.D. leeway on.  Though, there is one over-the-top action scene featured in the extended version that would have fit better in the theatrical (you’ll know it when you see it).  Thinking back, it was probably used for Aurora’s character development.  But even then, there were still some parts of it that didn’t involve her but maybe they just needed extra footage so it could be referred to as the “extended” cut.  The production of movies always has some mystery behind it.  Sadly, I think audiences will be left in the dark on this one.

What would go great with this (Extended Cut)?

Serve with…
Pasta alla Vodka

Accommodating beverage…
Tall, cool bottle of Baltika 8 beer.

What would go great with this (Theatrical Cut)?

Serve with…
Saltines.  Too bad, you have to starve through the whole thing.

Accommodating beverage…
McCormick Vodka.  A movie like this is hangover inducing, like cheap liquor.

Extended Cut Rating (I’m not bothering with the other one):

Critic Value: 7/10

Unlike the butchered theatrical cut, this version really plays with the thought of theocracy embracing technocracy to push their doctrines.  It’s not entirely apparent at first but the movie does leave you thinking.

Quality Value: 8/10

Once again, putting the ruined version aside, this film was well done all around.  From character development, to story, to cinematography and casting.  This film shows its budget.

Entertainment Value: 8/10

Time definitely flies by in this movie.  It’s visually engaging and the character connections will  get the audience caught in its web.

Soulja Boy: The Movie — Gaudy Trash or is Ken Burns on a run for his “stacks on deck”?

A bad documentary is still a documentary.  Even if it’s poorly filmed, broken up into twelve parts, missing the fifth, and is uploaded on YouTube; it’s still a documentary. It educates the audience on something they could care less about and gives them their doctorates on the subject within an hour’s time. What am I talking about? Soulja Boy: The Movie. Before I continue any further, I’m going to let you know I am a huge fan of terrible flicks. I love The Room, Birdemic was epic (though unwatchable). My affinity for terrible, cheesy old anime OVAs knows no bounds. Ask anyone: I. Love. Trash. But I have to say, Soulja Boy: The Movie may be one of the most “less-than-mediocre” documentaries I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few on its level. Still, they have all done what they sent out to do: educate the audience on something they know nothing about. That’s why I really can’t hate on pieces such as this.

And how could you hate on anyone that throws Benjamins into a crowd?

One of the pits this documentary really falls into is the focus: Soulja Boy (or DeAndre Way, depending on how he wants to be referred to). He refuses to work with the camera throughout all ninety minutes. He either won’t talk towards the camera/interviewer, gets too close to the camera, goes out of frame, or even ignores the fact that he’s being recorded. He mentioned a few times that he “hates doing interviews”. Why would the director even bother with this project then? Soulja mentioned how he “owed him a favor” but why still include that? Does he refuse to do any reshoots? If that is the case, how can he even film a music video? You rarely get shots right the first time. That bit could have at least been edited out if they weren’t going to explain why he owed whoever it was (assumedly, the interviewer) a favor.

Remote controlled Lamborghini chain, studded in black diamonds.  He really needed it.

Pitfall number two: this piece gives mixed arguments. Some objective, some subjective—that subjectivity ranging from putting Soulja Boy into a somewhat positive, human light or a negative, materialistic light (usually it ends up being the latter). There really is no continuity in what this documentary is trying to say. It keeps the audience interested but it doesn’t give a straight line on what is trying to be said and what we, the audience, must believe.

I have never been to a concert that had ads running in the background DURING performance.

Another flaw that also must be blamed on the director are gimmicks. The first, though somewhat required, are the concert tapings. I understand this documentary is sabout a “musician” but there is no real pacing between them and some are longer than they need to be. Several times I caught myself skipping through them and, frankly, there are a few concerts where they probably could have found better recordings. One that comes to mind is where there are advertisements for a dancing video game all around the stage. In certain shots, you can see the video game’s commercial playing on loop in the background in every recording of him in this concert (and this is within a span of at least three to four songs). The worst and most annoying gimmick? I’m going to dedicate another paragraph for that…

STOP IT.

Within the first minute of this visual shrine, we are given a “screenshot” of a knock off YouTube page called RTube where Soulja Boy is, supposedly, giving his commentary in a comment box. I just don’t know what to make of this. This is such gaudy trash that it looks like more work was put into it than needed. There are so many other easier, less gimmicky ways of doing a caption commentary. They could have simply had a black screen with white, Impact or Helvitica font that had what Soulja Boy wanted to say in proper English. If you’re going to be a professional, “cuz” and “u” make you appear illiterate and after watching this ninety minute Soulja circle jerk, that is pretty much the conclusion I have made. At least on the bright side, DeAndre Way plainly admits he wants your money and could care less about you in the beginning of all this. Spoken like a true businessman.

What would go great with this?

Serve with…

Red Baron Supreme Pizza with Tabasco Sauce (regular)

Accommodating beverage…

Acai Purple Drank

  • 2 shots Russian Standard vodka
  • Half can of Sprite.
  • Fill with Acai juice

Serve in the gaudiest glass possible.

Critic Value: 4/10

There’s nothing here that really makes you think…. well, maybe you’ll start realizing that gaudy and apathy correlate with each other.

Quality Value: 5.5/10

I typically don’t give half credits but this film’s quality fluctuates from decent to poor then back again.

Entertainment Value: 8/10

Though, I think this really depends on the audience.  If you’re a Soulja Boy fan or hater, or just a general hip-hop fan, you’ll probably find some of this interesting (and I did).  But if you’re neither of those, just pass it.