‘Maleficent’ Review

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“Curious little beasite.”

Where do I begin? Well, this film didn’t meet my expectations, and my expectations weren’t that high to begin with. The film is honestly a mess. It tries to fit roughly forty years of the titular character’s life into a short ninety minute run-time, and it ends up coasting over every single plot point without giving any of them a second look. Which really is a shame, because this film brings up some interesting topics. It just fails to answer said questions and ends up distracting us with colorful visuals instead.

This might be because of the inexperience of Robert Stromberg in his debut as a director. In the past, Stromberg has work on the visual effects for films such as Bad Boys 2, Pirates of the Caribbean, and most recently, Life of Pi. He brought his twenty years of visual expertise with him here, and it’s obvious throughout the film as many of the visuals and landscapes look great. Sadly, that seems to be the only thing Stromberg has a strong handle on.

The script, written by Linda Woolverton, is as bone-dry as they come, in terms of plotting. You’ve seen this exact story multiple times before, even though the ads tell you otherwise. Every so often, the film brings up an interesting topic, but then drops it almost immediately. And other times, it just throws in random scenes because…you know…fan service. The worst case of this is the prince, who is shoehorned in the final twenty minutes of the film (I shit you not). It doesn’t help that his acting is awful.

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Now that I think about it, most of the acting here is pretty bad. Elle Fanning, who was actually pretty good in Super 8, is truly dreadful here. Every scene she’s in, she’s just playing around in the forrest with CGI creatures. You’d think that they’d at least give her some character development because she’s pretty much at the center of this story, but nope. She’s just some happy girl who barley even feels like a character at all when it’s all said and done.

The two actors that seem to have escaped this criticism from me are Sharlto Copley and Angelina Jolie. Copley admittedly doesn’t have much to do here (noticing a trend?), but he tries the best with what he has to work with. One scene in particular when he is sitting in a dark room talking to himself was quite chilling. But it’s Jolie who steals the show here.

And she doesn’t just steal the show, she makes it her bitch. From the first time we see her onscreen, we are actually interested in what’s going on and she is undoubtedly the life and soul of this movie. Without her, this movie would have been absolute garbage. The infamous scene where she casts the curse on Aurora is when she truly shines though, as it turned out being one of my favorites scenes from any movie released this year so far. Too bad the rest of the film doesn’t have the same type of energy and fun to it.

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Like I said earlier, the film does have some interesting bits, but I have the feeling that the heads at Disney didn’t want to make things too dark, so instead we got dragons and far too many scenes with fairies. Far too many. As for one of the interesting scenes, the one that stood out to me was the scene where Maleficent looses her wings. The imagery and tone of this scene gave off a vibe that it was trying to say something about the sexual abuse that men inflict on those for power, but after that scene, I never got that vibe again. Maybe I was looking too far into it, or maybe Disney just thought that going down that road would have been a bad idea for its audience. Yet, impaling and killing people is okay to show to children. Right…

Overall, this re-imagining of the fairytale classic doesn’t soar, it looses its way early on and crashes by the time it’s all over. It brings up some interesting topics, but clearly favors showing its flashy visual effects (and a lot of zooming-in) to keep the kids entertained. For older audiences looking for more of a bite from this “edgy” adaptation, look elsewhere. This beastie only nibbles around the edges.

“I must say, I really felt quite distressed to not receiving an invitation.”

2 out of 5

“Godzilla” Review

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“The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control… and not the other way around.”

Oh my God(zilla)…that was awesome. This movie, to me, felt very similar to a film Steven Spielberg would have made in his heyday. Actually, it’s really similar to Jurassic Park, now that I think of it. Now, was it as good as that movie? Probably not, and I’m somewhat disappointed that they went with more of a monster showdown movie than the disaster movie that the ads had painted, But then again, I’m also thankful because it showed that you can also be dark and grim, but also have some fun as well, something that’s missing from the usual batch of blockbusters we get today.

Everyone wants to know if the action is worth it and I can easily say that it is. The film teases the titular character throughout, with snippets of the beast and his ginormous size shown in most of the film’s set-pieces, but we don’t see him and in full glory until the last act. And let me just say that it’s beautiful. Watching the film in IMAX 3D was a great choice because there were times where I was literally shaking in my seat during some of the action scenes. I would not, however, see this in 3D. It was okay because the IMAX balanced it out, but it was mostly just a distraction.

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To no surprise, Bryan Cranston is the stand-out here, chewing up scenery like there’s no tomorrow as the lead’s depressed father. Whenever he’s on-screen, his presence is felt and his performance is only rivaled by the King of Monsters himself. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is not as bland or boring as everyone says, it’s just that he and his on-screen wife, Elizabeth Olsen, aren’t given much to do.

That’s really the only problem I have with this movie. No one is really developed as much as they should be. The leads, the scientists, and not even Godzilla seem to have much development, as the movie moves far too fast for its own good. But, that’s also good if you want to be entertained and on the edge of your seat, because once this movie gets on a roll, it doesn’t stop until the final frame. So, depending on what type of person you are, you will love how fast it moves along or you’ll be begging for it to slow down. I’m sort of in the middle, because I really didn’t mind that much, but if I’m gonna talk about things the film could’ve improved on, it’d be that aspect. It’s really odd because the pace of the movie is almost relentless, so when Godzilla shows up, you’ll be thinking that he’s showed up pretty early, when in reality, half of the movie has already passed.

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But, let’s be honest here: most of you are going in expecting a badass monster flick with some nice cinematography and spectacular special effects, and it’s safe to say that you’ll get that. The human characters aren’t unbearable or boring, even though most leave something left to be desired (save for Cranston). And even though I just said that Godzilla is teased throughout until the end, there’s…other obstacles to keep you intrigued. That’s all I’ll say.

While it’s not the “supreme blockbuster” that many seem to have deemed it, Godzilla delivers the goods. It’s pretty much the slow-burn extravaganza for this ADD generation, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. If people warm up to this and its tension-building towards the big reveal, than I think Hollywood will be more open to the idea of slowing down movies to actually set up characters and plot for a bigger payoff. Like I said, this movie moves a little too quickly to achieve that goal, but it’s a step in the right direction. Instead, it ends up being a beautiful, big budget epic that is trying to harken back to past blockbusters such as Jurassic Park and Jaws while still trying to gear itself towards modern audiences. And for the most part, it works.

“You keep telling everybody that this place is a death zone but it’s not! You’re lying, because what’s really happening is that your hiding something out there!”

Score Sheet
The Good:
*Godzilla is an absolute beast and truly marvelous to see on the big screen
*Builds up more tension towards a big reveal than most blockbusters in the past decade
*Bryan Cranston is phenomenal
*Doesn’t have annoying human characters
*Godzilla has some pretty bad breath

The Bad:
*It might have a slow build-up to its titular character, but the plot and the character deveolpment feels very rushed
*Didn’t take itself as seriously as I had wished (this could be a good or bad thing, depending on your taste)

4 out of 5

“Neighbors” Review

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“This is utterly ridiculous!”

What makes a comedy actually funny, you might ask. Well, if you asked the makers of Neighbors, they’d tell you that you’d need non-stop weed and dick jokes. This film is filled to the brim with them, most of which are highly ridiculous and or go on for far too long. To some of you, this sounds like the formula for a great comedy, and even though I usually like these type of movies (especially the ones with Seth Rogen in it), this film ultimately disappoints, as settles for a half-assed story made up of jokes that miss more often than they actually hit.

First off, this film practically has no story. The previews paint the story as this: a frat moves in next door and the parents try to have them move out so that they can raise their new-born baby in peace. But sadly, the story here is less than what we were lead to believe. The baby has maybe ten minutes of screen-time, tops, which is quite disappointing because she is easily the highlight of the movie. Instead, we get to see Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne smoke weed and party with college kids. Nice.

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At times, I couldn’t help but feel like they got away with making a college sequel to Project X, as most of the film’s partying scenes feel as vulgar and crass as that movie. Actually, this one might be even more tasteless than Project X at times (the scene involving Rose Byrne‘s breasts, for example). Granted, this movie actually has some funny jokes here in there to balance the irresponsible partying, but it’s just odd how that one got panned by critics and this one didn’t.

Even Seth Rogen, who I usually like, was bad here. Okay, I wouldn’t call him bad, per se, but he was pretty bland. He even verged towards Kevin James-territory at times, which is why I laughed when they referenced said-actor here. And I think it’s safe to say that I officially hate Carla Gallo (period blood chick from Superbad) as an actress. Her role in the movie, as well as her husband’s, are absolutely pointless and it didn’t help that she was annoying as shit.

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Thankfully, this film isn’t completely terrible, thanks to the fact that some of the film’s more obscure gags actually work. Zac Efron should actually follow the career path that Channing Tatum is following, because Efron is much more suited for comedies than anything else. He Rose Byrne are responsible for most of the film belly laughs, which sadly isn’t as much as it should be. Some of the other supporting cast is funny at times, such as Hannibal Buress and Jerrod Carmichael, who actually have the best one-liners of the film, but are only used in a handful of scenes.

Overall, Neighbors is an overrated misfire. For a film that they seemed to have much confidence in, it’s evident that Universal chopped this film to bits in the editing room, leaving us with a film with far too many drug-related and dick jokes that just don’t work over a story that, while idiotic, could have been fleshed out more. There are some stand-outs here, but not enough to save this film sadly.

“I think the frat stole all the airbags…”

– Score Sheet –
The Good:
*Stella, the baby, is adorable
*The Robert DeNiro party scene
*Efron is actually pretty funny, as are some of the supporting actors

The Bad:
*The sad excuse for a plot, even for a comedy
*Most of the jokes are just too vulgar to actually enjoy
*God-awful special effects

2.5 out of 5

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” Review

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“You mean the guy who tried to turn all of New York into lizards?”

Let’s just get this out of the way: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is this year’s Man of Steel. People either seem to love it, or they seem to absolutely hate it. The Rotten Tomatoes scores between the two seem to back my claim. And against all odds, this sequel is not only entertaining as hell, but it thankfully manages to top the previous two Spider-Man films and even rival the first two, in terms of quality. So even though I didn’t love it, I clearly lean more towards that opinion than the latter. That isn’t to say that there are some glaring flaws, however.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry here and director Marc Webb continues to impress with this story aspect, thanks to his background with “rom-coms” such as (500) Days of Summer. Some of their dialogue seems forced and the whole stalker aspect was a bit odd, but you’d be lying if you didn’t think these two aren’t great together onscreen.

Another actor who stood out here was Dane DeHaan as Peter’s long-time friend, Harry Osborn. I won’t discuss how he factors into the story too much, but I’ll just say that this isn’t the Harry that you saw in Sam Raimi’s films. This one is much creepier and in-control, which I liked a lot. He’s much better than James Franco was, that’s for sure.

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What I usually like about this franchise is how the films’ villains seem to follow a common theme, depending on the movie. Later in the movie when Harry confronts Electro to team-up (cliche alert), he tells him that they have both been “shoved aside” by everyone and that he knows what it feels like to not be cared about. They both feel alone and rejected in the world and want to be seen better. Now, I’m not sure if it was DeHaan’s acting or what, but this scene to me proved that the films’ villains had the potential to be the best that the franchise had to offer. Sadly, that isn’t the case. The reason: Electro.

Performance-wise, Jamie Foxx does his best with what he’s given and actually has a few bad-ass lines here in there, but his character has no arc. Actually, he falls into the same trap that Guy Pearce‘s character from Iron Man 3 fell into: there’s no true motive behind his madness. I can’t help but feel like this was Sony’s fault because I remember reading somewhere that Webb stated that this was “Electro’s story” and that he was the main attraction, but for anyone who’s seen the movie, you know that’s not the case. He’s largely forgotten about halfway through and I wouldn’t be surprised if when all’s said and done, he has less than a half-an-hour of screen-time. This was probably the biggest disappointment to me because his character showed promise and I actually cared about him.

Not only that, but everything starts feeling rushed and tacked-on at the end. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the last act of the movie, but I can’t help but feel as if they could have save some aspects for future films, especially Harry’s arc. Unless you’ve been one of the lucky few who haven’t been bombarded with the non-stop trailers and footage for the film, you know what Harry becomes towards the end, and in all honesty, this could have been saved for an after-credits scene and the filmmakers could have actually focused on Electro instead. Oh well.

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Besides that gripe, I don’t think much else stood out negatively in this film. Some of the music choices were corny and there are some Schumacher-esque lines of dialogue here and there, but this film gets a lot right. This installment feels much more like a “Spider-Man” film than its predecessor, which felt like it was trying too hard to follow in the footsteps of The Dark Knight Trilogy. Hans Zimmer‘s score isn’t phenomenal, but it works well here, the action set-pieces are for the most part well-done and I actually didn’t hate The Rhino like I expected. Oh, and I loved the last scene of the film. A lot.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rights most of the wrongs of the first installment in this rebooted series, but it still seems to have a hard time finding its footing when it comes to its selection of villains. But, they’ve got the right tone and the right cast locked down. Now, it wasn’t quite amazing like the title suggests, but it’s pretty damn good.

“Let’s go catch a spider.”

– Score Sheet –
The Good:
*The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is better than ever
*DeHaan steals the show as Harry Osborn
*The Times Square set-piece is very impressive
*Climatic fight between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man was intense
*Phenomenal last scene

The Bad:
*Electro is sadly wasted here
*The opening action sequence with Rhino is way too silly
*The “untold story” about Peter’s parents really wasn’t that interesting

4 out of 5