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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Peter Jackson

King Kong (2005)

He must protect his house.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) is a filmmaker living in the 1930’s, meaning, he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities. And the ones that he does have, don’t tickle his fancy as much as they used to. That’s why, when he catches wind of a mysterious, huge and odd island out in the middle of nowhere, Denham soon gets the ambition and inspiration all over again. So, he assembles a team full of actors, actresses, crew, and handy-men, who know a thing or two about an adventure and are capable of solving issues, should any of them arise. Aboard the ship is leading-lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who also is in desperate need of a hit and will do anything for the spotlight, just one more time. Screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) feels the same way, but also finds himself falling for Ann, leading him to make some pretty rash decisions along this adventure, all leading up to finally meeting, once and for all, King Kong – the giant gorilla who practically watches over Skull Island and kills any sort of threat that may come its way. In this case, it’s these humans and needless to say, not all of them are equipped to take him down.

Why would you want a human, when you could have a Kong?

After winning practically every Oscar that he could for Return of the King, it made sense that he would be allowed to make virtually any movie that he wanted. Cause it’s a known thing in Hollywood: Make a lot of money, win a lot of awards, earn respect, and guess what? You can make your dream projects a reality. And oddly enough, for Jackson, it was remaking the movie he grew up knowing and loving, King Kong. Oh, and by “remaking”, I mean making two hours longer and adding on more CGI, special-effects, and story than you could ever imagine.

But trust me, this isn’t a stab at Jackson.

If anything, King Kong is Jackson getting the opportunity to play in his sandbox, where the world is his oyster, sky is the limit, there are no rules, and even better, everyone’s watching. A lot of people may have complained about the fact that the movie is over three hours long, takes awhile to actually get to Skull Island, and yeah, features one too many monsters and creatures, aside from the titular Kong, but in a way, that sort of makes the movie more epic; it shows us that Jackson isn’t setting out to make a note-for-note remake, but bask in every single bit of this material and be as excessive as humanly possible.

Is it a little draining? Quite possibly, yes, but at the same time, watching Jackson having the time of his life is, in all honesty, a beauty to behold. There aren’t many directors out there in the world with the impressive and ambitious scope like Jackson’s, so when he’s given carte blanche to do all that he wants and not stop, it’s nothing if not entertaining. Also, when was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that goes by in a flash? King Kong should have been a slog, but it’s not and it’s a true testament to Jackson’s prowess that allows for him to make a three-hour movie about little humans and a big gorilla, feel a lot less than that.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Jackson directs the hell out of this thing and it makes sense why he wanted to bother with this story in the first place.

And even getting away from the technical side of the movie, and focusing more on the actual things that matter, like story, character development, etc., yeah, it still kind of works. The story isn’t all that different from before, but this time around, Jackson does up the emotion in a way that’s surprising, mostly because while we’re watching Kong up there on the screen, we’re watching something believable and impressively done – almost to the point where instead of being scared by him, we’re actually connected to him. The whole tale about this gorilla falling in love with a short little blonde thing is, of course, silly, but the movie doesn’t forget that sometimes, the seriousness of a tale like this can actually work, so long as you build enough tension and emotion behind it all.

That’s what Jackson does and it helps King Kong move along, even when it gets away from the gorilla beating the hell out of other monsters and dinosaurs. Cause even during those sequences, there’s a fun, crazy and almost hectic energy that’s a lot like the Lord of the Rings movies, but still its own kind of beast. Even when Jackson does dial it down for the characters, the movie’s still at least somewhat interesting, because we’ve spent so much time and energy with them, it’s hard not to understand them, at the very least.

Jack knows what I’m talking about.

Then again, the ensemble involved does help out with that as much as they can.

If there’s one thing that holds King Kong back from being a truly and absolutely great movie that it sometimes comes close to being, it’s that the performances can tend to be a bit bland, which may have more to do with the script and less to do with the actual actors themselves. Like, for instance, Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody are two perfectly good actors who can work well when given the material, but for some reason, they just feel underdeveloped; Watts gets some chances to be bright and shiny, whereas Brody is mostly just serious and not all that right for a movie that’s so concerned with everything else that’s going on around him. Others in the cast fare better, like Kyle Chandler, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, and Colin Hanks, mostly because their characters aren’t made out to be the leads and can benefit from some goofiness, but with Watts and Brody, who are supposed to be our emotional anchors throughout this whole thing, it doesn’t fully work.

That said, the movie does benefit from having a very good, very surprising, and very dark performance from Jack Black. Of course, a lot of people will consider Black’s performance to be channeling Orson Welles, but if so, it’s still a good performance, because we see him lay down all of the usual trademarks and conventions that we’re so used to seeing, and hating with the sorts of characters he plays. What we get here, is a person we grow to love to hate and because of Black’s performance gets better, taking on more meaning as the movie develops and we start to see more sides to this twisted, sometimes sad little man.

Which is to say that I’m still waiting for that battle between Black and Kong.

Black Kong. What a name.

Consensus: Ambitious in scope, epic in its look, feel, and overall mood, King Kong is the movie Peter Jackson deserved to make and absolutely revels in the opportunity to do so, for the benefit of us all.

8.5 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: Fernby Films

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Entourage (2015)

Eight seasons and a movie?

Having just divorced after nearly 10 days, Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) now has his eyes set on writing, directing and starring in an adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde, which will just be called Hyde. However, Vinny’s ambitions are so large and demanding, that the movie needs a bigger budget to feel “right” enough for him to give the go ahead with. Cue in Vinny’s long-time manager, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who is still happy with his family, but still needs to convince financiers that the movie deserves more money because it’s considered, well, “a masterpiece” (his words, nowhere near at all mine). However, Ari and Vinny’s lives aren’t the only ones happening here as Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) all respectively have their own trials and tribulations to get through. E is can’t seem to find it in himself to stop sleeping around with random girls, and settle down with his very pregnant ex-love Sloan (Emmanuelle Chirqui); Turtle wants to settle down with someone again, but that special someone just so happens to be Ronda Rousey; and Drama, as usual, can’t seem to catch a break with any casting directors.

Oh, how sad they must all be.

"Hey, guys? A little help here because my back is killing me!"

“Hey, guys? A little help here because my back is killing me!”

Let’s cut the crap and get right down to it, everybody: Entourage, the show, wasn’t all that it’s been made out to be. Was it fun? Yes. Was it entertaining? Yes. Was it anything else deeper or more meaningful than that? Not really, and I guess, there was some appeal in that. Most fans who tuned in to watch the show on HBO every week, didn’t want to see heartfelt, intimate emotions portrayed on the screen; they just wanted to see how these four fellas would stay rich, party it up, stay rich, and bang whatever hotties they could find. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but where I have a problem with that idea is that, all of a sudden, people make Entourage out to be as some sort of sitcom classic along the lines of such treasures as Seinfeld, or Arrested Development, or Friends, or hell, even another, much better HBO program, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

And these are the exact reasons why I wasn’t at all that stoked with this movie finally being made. Now, that isn’t to say that just because I’m crapping on everything that has to do with Entourage, means that I not only hate the show and feel as if everyone should to – that’s just not true. The show was, at points, interesting to watch, and occasionally made me laugh. However, I also do realize that the show carries on a lot of die hard, full-on fans that have been anticipating a movie event such as this ever since it had its finale nearly four years ago. Sometimes, there are fans who like shows for just being what they are, not what they could be, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just that what Entourage is, or better yet, represented about all things having to deal with society, is pretty sickening.

Which is all the more strange to say, considering that I’m talking about a show that came on the air no less than eleven years ago.

Yeah, chew on that for awhile.

See, with Entourage, the show, as well as the movie, all we do is watch these thinly-written characters grab-ass with one another, while, at the same time, try to grab any hot model’s ass, spend thousands and thousands of dollars, and have basically no worries in the world. Now, of course, there was still a lot to see with the Hollywood/movie-making side of the spectrum (more on that later), but lets be honest, neither Doug Ellin nor Mark Wahlberg could really care about these angles as much because, at the end of the day, everything was fine. Girls were slept with and sometimes treated like yesterdays garbage; everybody stayed rich; Vincent was looked at as a superhero of sorts; and everybody was happy. That’s literally every episode of Entourage in a nutshell and it’s the same with this movie.

Which is, obviously, to say that the movie feels like nothing more than an overextended episode with hardly any arch carrying it along – it’s just one scene, after another, that occasionally meanders onto another self-important plot-point that’s nearly forgotten about in the next frame. Normally, this happened in the show, but there wasn’t all that much of a problem considering that each episode was hardly above 25 minutes. But, when you’re movie is nearly two hours, there’s a huge problem in that it feels like nothing is getting accomplished. It’s literally just a bunch of attractive people walking around L.A., doing normal things that people in L.A. do.

The gang is all back together and they look so excited.

The gang is all back together and they look so excited.

Once again, this will most definitely please fans of the show and have them wanting, hell, pleading for more, but for anybody who was already “so-so” on the show to begin with, it’s nothing more than another clear sign as to why the show shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did and should stay dead in the water as it is. But like with the show, if there were any saving graces, it was whenever Jeremy Piven showed up as the foul-mouthed, yet excessively obnoxious Ari Gold to do and say whatever he was saying or doing, and with the movie, there’s no difference. In fact, I was probably happier to see Piven here, if only because it’s been awhile where I’ve seen him get a lot to do on the big screen.

And also, well, because he would save the movie from being an utter and total bore.

Piven as Gold has always felt like the smartest man in the room, no matter how brash the decisions he made, were. He would hurl out insults at some of the most important people around him; wouldn’t think twice about ditching an important family engagement just so that he could have a dinner with some Hollywood exec; and he would always stay loyal to his wife, no matter how hard it was for him to do so, especially in a place like L.A. Here, there’s not much of anything new for Piven to try out as Ari Gold; all he has to do is stick to the same old song and dance, which is fine because it worked so often before. And like they always say, why fix what’s not broken?

But then, this puts into perspective how lame the rest of the performances are from the rest of the core performers. Adrian Grenier has always had that one expression and tone as Vinny and it never changes, which isn’t good; Kevin Connolly has always felt like a smart-ass as E, which isn’t good; Jerry Ferrara has always been the overly eager one as Turtle, which isn’t good; and Kevin Dillon has always been the creepiest, most perverted one of the clan, which isn’t as bad as the others, but still isn’t all that great, either. While some could make the argument that maybe this is less of a problem with the performer’s, than it is with the material for not challenging them enough, I would probably have to say you’re right.

However, by the same token, if they haven’t been challenged for the past decade or so, either, so why even bother trying to do so now?

Consensus: Like the show, Entourage, the movie, feels like it’s never really going anywhere, nor is it trying to offer anything new to the viewer, but instead, just rely on the same old tricks and trades that allowed the original show to stay on way longer than it maybe should have.

2 / 10

Ride off in the sunset, boys. Please try and stay there, too.

Ride off in the sunset, boys. Please try and stay there, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (2014)

It’s over. So pipe down, nerds!

After having left his precious castle, Smaug roams free and is killed. This leaves many happy and feeling safe for once. This also leaves Thorin (Richard Armitage) to go back and take back what was rightfully his in the first place: His throne. Problem is, word spreads pretty quickly that he’s sitting in his high chair and this does not make Thranduil (Lee Pace). So, like any good elf would do, he wages war against Thorin, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and the rest of their band of trusted misfits; a war which Thorin and co. could definitely lose, but they don’t seem to be turning away from. However though, the war takes a turn for the worse once the Orc’s get involved in the shenanigans, making it harder for this war to be won, but decide who is on who’s side, and why. It’s all so wild and crazy, but at the center of it all is Bilbo, who just wants to get that precious ring of his back to his comfortable, lovely little life in the shire.

So far, the Hobbit trilogy has been an okay one. Maybe that’s just from my standpoint, but for the most part, I haven’t seen myself incredibly upset about there being three Hobbit movies released over a three-year period. Sure, it’s a bit obvious and manipulative of Peter Jackson to stretch a 300-page book, into nearly eight hours of footage, but for me, the movie’s never got so offensively made that they were just downright terrible. They were fine for what they were, and that’s how they’re supposed to be viewed as, I feel. Even if, yes, the Lord of the Rings franchise is a whole lot better in hindsight.

"Aw damn."

“Aw damn.”

With that being said, it was nice to see Jackson finally end this trilogy on a note that was not only effective, but seemed like it was a return-to-form for his own true-self. The past two movies have been fun, adventurous and chock full of all the medieval exposition nonsense we expect from a movie such as this, but they haven’t really been too exciting to where you could tell Jackson was really just letting loose and having a ball with this material. In a way, one could almost view it as another lame attempt at Jackson just trying to hold onto this name-brand he loves and adores so much.

But regardless whatever the reasons may have been, Jackson brings back all of the excitement he showed in the early part of his ambitious career and it’s what makes the Battle of the Five Armies a good time. Because there’s so much action firing around on all cylinders, with numerous characters coming in and out of perspective, you get the general sense that Jackson is literally taking all the pieces of his puzzle, shuffling them around, and just letting them stick and stay there, for them to do their own thing and see how we respond. And, well, for the most part, it works well; it brings a certain level of tension to a franchise that, quite frankly, needed plenty of it.

However, like with the other films, Jackson still seems to get bogged down in not knowing where to go with his stories, or whom exactly to focus on the most.

What I mean by this is that while this is clearly Bilbo’s story first and foremost, Jackson pays plenty of attention to nearly everyone else around him. Thorin, Gandalf, Legolas, Tauriel, Thranduil, Bard, and even Saruman, all get plenty of development in the first hour or so of this, whereas we don’t really get much of a simple glance or two at Bilbo and just what the hell he’s up to. Sure, I get that Jackson doesn’t want to keep his scope limited and much rather focus on the ensemble at hand, but when you’re film is literally named after the main character and you give him maybe two or three paragraphs for the first hour, it makes me wonder just who the hell you really care about when all is said and done.

That’s not to say when Martin Freeman is given the chance, he isn’t willing to work his arse off whenever Bilbo’s on-screen, because he totally does in that lovably charming, yet sly way of his that always seems to work no matter where he’s at. It’s just that a part of me thinks Jackson didn’t seem to care about any more development for him and instead, just lingered towards the rest of the cast of characters who aren’t nearly as interesting, nor as fun to watch as Bilbo. Everybody’s fine in their roles, but seeing as how this is Bilbo’s own story, it seems only right that we focus on him the most, and allow Freeman to just work his magic. Almost as if he’s in whole other different universe completely, but it doesn’t matter because he’s so much fun to begin with.

"For freedom! I guess?"

“For freedom! I guess?”

Just wish there was more Martin Freeman to go around. I guess you can never get too much of that tiny fella.

But despite all of my moaning and complaining, the movie still entertained the shorts off of me (not literally, sadly). Once again, we see Jackson in a state of mind that shows, despite his story-telling elements being a bit off, he still packs enough punch to make his action excite nearly anyone watching it. It doesn’t matter if you’re invested in the characters or not, if you have a clear idea of who the good guy is, and who is the bad one, then all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy as the fist-a-cuffs come out and everyone starts duking it out. A part of me wishes the other two movies were like this, but I’ll take what I can get, whenever I get it. Even if, you know, it is a bit pleasing to see this franchise done once and for all. Hopefully it will allow for Jackson to go back to his old school roots and try something smaller, and possibly even go back to doing horror.

Let’s just hope he stays the hell away from another Lovely Bones. Please, anything but that.

Consensus: With enough action-packed sequences of swords, sorcery, and stones, the Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies is the kind of Middle Earth movie we wanted from Peter Jackson, except not nearly as epic as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I would say, "don't do it", but we already know he's far too gone. Wait? Was "the Ring" a metaphor for drug-addiction? All this time and nobody's informed me on this? What the hell?!?!?

I would say, “don’t do it”, but we already know he’s far too gone. Wait? Was “the Ring” a metaphor for drug-addiction? All this time and nobody’s informed me on this? What the hell?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

West of Memphis (2012)

Arkansas politicians: What a bunch of dummies.

You may have heard of it, you may have not, but regardless, here’s the general-basis for what happened on one afternoon in the small town of West Memphis, Oklahoma. Three eight-year-old boys (Steve Branch, Michael Moore, Christopher Byers) were reported missing by their parents. No less than a day later, their naked, battered, and bruised bodies were found in a creek. Some within the justice department felt that because the boys seemed like they were victims of something more than just a traditional murder, that the murder itself had to be something of a satanic cult. Therefore, the police limited their search to people who were believed to be of a satanic cult of sorts; which, as a result, lead them right to three teenagers by the names of Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols. Though nobody expected these three to be so willing to torture, rape and kill these young boys, the evidence was there and stacked-up all against them. And in a court-of-law, that’s all you need to get your ass sent away for life, and even in some cases, death. However, not everything feels right to those who pay close enough attention to this case and its history, which leads documentaries to be made, new evidence to show up, various celebrities to get involved, and eventually, the re-trial of this infamous case.

First things first, in order to understand, or better yet, “get” this movie, you do not had to have seen the previous three other documentaries made about the West Memphis Three, also known as the Paradise Lost documentaries. Which is rather strange considering I had heard so much about them, but for some reason, never even bothered to watch. I just read, and read, and continued to read on until I felt like I had a clear enough picture in my head as to what was going on with this case, why it was so wrong that it happened in the first place, who did what, why they did that, who is responsible, and so on, and so forth.

Eh, still kind of, a little weird, but hey, the man deserves it!

Eh, still kind of, a little weird, but hey, the man deserves it!

Basically though, everything I read, thought, believed in and felt while reading paragraph, after paragraph, after paragraph of information, was all jam-packed into this two-and-a-half-hour documentary. And yet, I was always thrilled and continuously surprised, even though I already knew most of the info this documentary was throwing at me.

Like I said, pretty weird, right?

Well, I guess when you have a good director at the helm, it isn’t so much weird as it’s just an assurance that this is what can happen when you keep a clear mind and conscience while making a documentary about a very controversial topic. Sure, the fact that these three boys were wrongfully jailed, convicted, and practically sent to live the rest of their days in jail, is an absolute outrage. I know that; you know that; Peter Jackson knows that; hell, even Johnny Depp knows that! But when you’re making a documentary, or any movie in particular, you have to keep your eyes on the prize and make sure that just about everybody involved gets their say, their take on the proceedings, and reasons as to why they did what it was that they did. You don’t have to like it, but you at least have to understand it and respect someone human enough to make that decision and at least tell others about it – let alone a mass film-crew that would more than likely show their response to more than a few million people.

But here, director Amy J. Berg allows for each and every person that was involved with this case and was willing to talk, share their side of the story. And for the most part, everybody brings a little something to the table. It would have been as easy-as-pie to give us this whole story through the West Memphis Three boys themselves, but Berg focuses her attention more on everybody else surrounding it; the lawyers, the judges, the activists, the celebrities, the financiers, the victims’ families, the detectives, the cops, the mayors, the governors, the random civilians that just want to have their face on camera, etc. You get the picture – there’s a very large canvas here that Berg has to cover, but she does so in a very steady, matter-of-fact way, without rarely missing a beat.

For somebody like me, who had already known so much about this case in the first place before watching it, it was a bit tiresome and boring to get the same bits and pieces of info thrown at me, but it was still intriguing to see it told and brought to my attention by a different perspective or two. Rather than just reading in my head whatever Wikipedia had to offer me on that day in question, I was told it by people that seemed like they were professionals at the certain things they were saying, because believe it or not: They were.

Nonetheless though, there still is some info that comes around here and there that I never knew about and actually surprised the hell out of me. I won’t spoil the new evidence that shows up and exactly how it works for the West Memphis Three boys’ case, but it may shock you by how much of it went past so many damn people in the first place. Then again though, where this documentary really dives into is how those certain people who were in power and control during this case, didn’t really give a flying dingle berry who actually did it, they just needed somebody to take the fall.

Now, here is where Berg could have easily lost her cool and let these political, high-minded a-holes have it like their champagne and mistress on a Friday night, but she doesn’t do that. Instead, she chills out and let these guys say why it is they decided to ignore certain parts of this case. Sometimes, their responses are idiotic and so vague that you know there’s an under-lining meaning to it all, but still, they’re real life human beings, voicing their positions on the case and setting the shit straight. Not all of them are likable, but there are a few who admit that they made some mistakes, or, better yet, didn’t want to get too involved with the case because election season was coming up and they wanted to look all bright, shiny, and moral for those who cast their ballots.

When life gets you down, just know that somewhere, out there in the world, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder are jammin' for your freedom.

When life gets you down, just remember that somewhere, out there in the world, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder are jammin’ for your freedom.

Once again, nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, regardless of if it makes you look like a jerk or not. Berg sees this and allows for the documentary to be judged on that basis: Everybody has a say, no matter what.

As for the documentary itself as a whole, I can’t really say it was anything I’ll remember for the rest of my days, but I am glad that it was made. You have to remember, I never saw any of the Paradise Lost documentaries, but I at least knew enough going in to where I didn’t have to do a quick synopsis of everything that was going on, nor did I know so much to where every piece of newfound info didn’t do a single thing for me at all. Quite the contrary, actually. Anytime something new, or shocking did plop on the table, it hit me and made me wonder just whose next? Seriously, if these three, predictably rebellious and young teenagers can get thrown in jail because of the way they may have acted or by something they may have wore differently than those around them, then what’s to say they won’t come for us next? I know I sound paranoid and a tad crazy and all, but it’s the truth. That’s why so many damn people got behind these kids’ backs in the first place, and that’s why you definitely should to.

It’s your human right, dammit!

Consensus: Most of what’s presented in West of Memphis may be a lot of previously-known info, but still, with the attention to detail, getting all of the facts right, and uncovering new evidence, it’s an effective documentary that shows us, once again, why a film can be made more than to just entertain.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Still lookin' mighty fine! Well, not really, but you get the point.

“So uh, I’ll call you guys later?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)

Where’s the precious?

Picking up right where the last one left off, we see the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) still on the run from the orcs that are pursuing them. Halfway through their journey however, Gandalf decides to break off from the rest of the group, fearing that this rumored Necromancer will take over the whole land, and infect it with its pure venomous evil. As he’s gone off to do his own thing, this leaves Bilbo with the rest of the pack to venture off to the Lonely Mountain where they meet plenty of fun, exuberant, and yet, sometimes dangerous characters along the way. However, standing at the end of their journey is none other than the vicious dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is the sole foe standing between them and retaking the mountain. So it only makes sense that Bilbo have to go up there and settle the peace, right?

Despite all of the problems people had with the first movie and the whole 48 fps ordeal, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wasn’t all that bad. It was definitely a drawn-out movie that felt a bit unnecessary, especially considering that there was supposed to be two more movies for this said 100-page story. However, for what it was and for what it was worth, it was fun when it wanted to be and best of all, brought me back to the good old days of when I used to rollick to the movie theaters, just to place myself back in Middle Earth, even if that meant wasting half of my day doing so. So it sort of had a little bit of a nostalgic thing going on for me, which is why it didn’t kill my insides as much as it may have done to others.

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

All that aside though, now that we’ve got the first movie out of the way, which also means that all of the awkward plotting and setting-up of the story is with it, we finally have a sequel that should hopefully do what most sequels do: Tell the story, give us new characters, while still building ones that the homefronts have already been built for, but also, not forget about giving us the goods that usually make people happy with the movie in the first place. We get plenty of story and plenty of new characters, but what about the goods? The movie doesn’t totally shy away from giving us all of the fun, exciting and energetic bits of fantasy action and adventure we’re so used to having with these movies, but it also still feels like there’s something else missing here that was missing from the last movie, but was totally there, front-and-center with the original trilogy, and that’s an actual amount of tension and terror to be had.

Throughout the whole movie, I couldn’t help but feel like the wheels were spinning for this movie once again, but this time, without much surprise added to the mix. We get most of the same characters, doing the same things, for the same reasons and no sense that any second, these characters could be taken away from us at any moment. Now, that’s not saying that I’m some rabid animal who wants people to be dead at the drop of a hat, but there’s also nothing here that really felt like it got me over that hurdle to where I really felt like this was a story I could get involved with. Instead it just felt like a story I could watch as it played-out, but without any of the heart or emotion devoted to these characters or the actual proceedings themselves. You could practically say the same thing about the first movie, but I think that’s a tad different because we’re sort of used to that with first movies in a planned-trilogies. It’s sort of like learning how to ride a back and all for the first time after all of these years, in that you don’t actually need the training-wheels to assist you, but you may need a buddy or two to stand behind you just in case you go plummeting down.

Them, or a firm and trusty helmet. But you should have had that on already!

Anyway, back to what I was saying, basically, this movie didn’t really offer me anything new I didn’t already see with the first flick, with the exception of maybe a few new sights to see, characters and set-pieces. Fun set-pieces nonetheless like, for instance, the sequence in which we follow the dwarves as they are in a bunch of barrels, flowing down the river stream away from the orcs, but at the same time, also battling them in any which way they can, with some assistance from the elves as well, but still nothing really new or inventive to where I felt like Jackson really got back into his old school, Lord of the Rings mode. Nope, this is the Hobbit’s trilogy, or better yet, Bilbo’s, and his is a whole new breed of storytelling, if you will.

Even if that is the case though, and this is all about Bilbo Baggins, his adventure, his story and his splendid life and times with “THE RING!!!!!”, it’s sort of strange considering how only gets about fifteen or so minutes to where it’s just him and nobody else. But even stranger is the fact that it’s practically at the rear-end of this whole flick, and it’s easily the best part. Of course he had some help from his fellow Sherlock star (that bastard) but it’s still the most tense, most exciting and only time where I really felt like all of these different threads of story-lines were coming together, even though the part itself focused on one, which just so happened to be the main story we’re supposed to care about in the first place. Though Freeman’s great too, as he usually is, he still barely gets enough time in front of the screen to substantiate the fact that he is indeed who this story is all about, and he is the one we’re supposed to be rooting for and thrusting all of our emotions into. However, you just never feel that because Jackson’s got a hundred-million-bajillion other story-lines going on, none of which really seem to catch any real fire.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Same thing that I’m saying about Bilbo’s treatment, goes the same for Gandolf’s as well, which is an absolute sin since we know that Ian McKellen’s portrayal is absolutely the heart and soul that keeps these movies moving. Instead, we get introduced to a new characters like Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, Luke Evans’ human character with the least human name, Bard, Lee Pace playing Legolas’ daddy-o, Thranduil, and the always pleasant and charming Stephen Fry, who shows up as the corrupt and lazy Master of the Laketown in which the dwarves and Bilbo find themselves hanging around in for some time. They all do fine and bring enough to the story to where I could see them having bigger roles in the next film and being fine additions. Yet, I also see myself not really caring too much, either. Once they took Viggo away from me and replaced him with some dude named “Richard Armitage”, then I knew I’d just never be the same.

With all of that said, and I now I’ve said and awful lot to really beat and batter down this movie, it’s still somehow a hair better than the first, if only because it now actually feels like we’re getting somewhere with this story and where it’s supposed to take us. Sure, there are some mishaps here and there that definitely got in the way of what could have been a very compelling and well-told story, had there been more focus placed on Bilbo and his fellow band of dwarves, but with the way they end it, it’s hard not to get a bit jacked-up for what’s next to come. The ending is very abrupt and along with what the consensus seems to be with Catching Fire’s, most likely people will be up in arms and upset; but to me, it feels like we’re actually getting somewhere with this trilogy that should have never been. However, if Peter Jackson wants to indulge himself a bit, then hey, I won’t stop him. Not like he’d listen to a two-bit, movie blogger from Delco anyway, but still. It’s the idea of power that counts.

Consensus: Just a tad bit better than the first, yet, still feels like there’s plenty room of improvement to be made with Desolation of Smaug with the cutting-down of its run-time, exposition and endless list of characters that don’t really seem to mean much, except that they’re just big names filling in the roles, and who doesn’t love that?!?!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I know! ONLY one movie left! Shocked, right?

He’s as shocked as we are that there’s only ONE movie left. However, it is Peter Jackson we’re talking about here, so don’t get too wrapped up in what you think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Frighteners (1996)

Marty McFly, Ghost Whisperer.

Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) isn’t the most moral man around, but he gets by with what he can; which is showing up to funerals of the recently-deceased and throwing his business cards around, in which he goes under the title “paranormal expert”. Some believe it’s phony bologna, others like Lucy Lunskey (Trini Alvarado), believe he really can speak and reason with the dead. And they aren’t incorrect in their thinking either, it’s just that maybe they don’t quite know how much Frank does in fact talk to these ghosts. In fact, he talks to them all the time and even has a scam-plan running with them where he’ll tell the ghosts where to go and whom to spook, so that he can get a call, show up and practically save the day, all for a healthy price, of course. So yeah, he may be a bit of a scam-artist, but he’s making a living at doing it and nobody knows how he is, so there’s no problem with that a single bit. That is until the Grim Reaper shows up and tries to put all of Frank’s, as well as his fellow ghouls’ shenanigans to a much-needed, much long rest. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m talking about death. He’s going to get rid of them forever.

Since Peter Jackson was making his name pretty well-known during the early 90’s in his native New Zealand, it only makes sense that eventually Hollywood would catch on, give him a call and see what they can do about making him a bigger name in their neck of the woods. Just ask any foreign director who made their names known with a big hit on their shoulders, and they’ll practically tell you that Hollywood has a knack for doing this, and the results usually aren’t pretty. Sometimes they can be, but other times, they don’t quite work out as well as maybe the Hollywood producers had originally planned on.

"HERE'S MIKEY!!"

“HERE’S MIKEY!!”

This is one of those cases.

Don’t get me wrong though, it isn’t like Peter Jackson’s inspired vision was ever lost in the process of this movie being made, edited and marketed to a wider audience. In fact, I’d probably wager that that’s where the main problems for this movie arises in that he couldn’t quite make up his mind as to whom he wanted to appeal to, other than just his usual band of misfits who loved all of his movies before his big break in Hollywood. That’s why there’s a slight problem with this movie and it’s tone; it never quite knows whether it wants to be a dark comedy about death, the after-life and the effect it has on those who are alive, or a slap-stick, full-blown comedy about a bunch of silly willy ghosts that like to do crazy things, even if they are just souls floating throughout the atmosphere. Jackson never quite finds that balance either, and it becomes painfully clear that this flick would have definitely benefited from that.

Then again though, I have to give Jackson still a bunch of credit for at least sticking to his vision, and making this something of his own natural beast. Every moment of horror, sprinkled with just a dash of humor, feels exactly like something you’d get from a Jackson movie, even if there aren’t loads and loads of blood or gore thrown all over the place. It’s weird that even though this is an R-rated movie, that there wasn’t as many ketchup packets to be seen here. It’s not like there were too many moments arouse that needed a nice helping of some red paint, but it wasn’t like the movie was necessarily supposed to be tame or anything. But still, Jackson gets past this and does give us a reasonably fun and light horror flick, that’s probably more about the thrills, than the chills.

However, those chills and thrills begin to somehow go away by the end, and the movie seems to get bland. Suddenly, Banister’s back-story comes to light and while it surely was interesting to see who he really was before all of these crazy ghosts came into his life, it still brought down the speed and fun of the first-half. It seemed like Jackson wanted to bring some depth and emotion into this story, which would have gone a real long way, had the movie not been so light on its feet in the first place. Because the movie was so wacky and wild for the first hour, once it gets deep into dark themes like death and the people who succumb to it, it feels strange and out-of-place, as if Jackson had intended for this to be apart of a whole other movie entirely. Instead, he just got stuck with a goofy movie starring Michael J. Fox and all of the ghosts he hangs out with, one that’s even an old Western cowboy who humps a statue. Yup, it gets that silly, which I was fine with, but once again, gets lost in the shuffle of an overly-serious last-act. One that also takes a cop-out ending, which really bummed me out more than anything else here.

My grandmom's wallpaper usually does the same thing too. Time for a change!

My grandmom’s wallpaper usually does the same thing too. Time for a change!

Speaking of the Fox, the guy does pretty well as Frank Bannister, giving us his usual wise guy, up-to-no-good persona we usually see from him. He always has some wise-crack to say in passing and seems like a pretty good guy, underneath all of the conning, lying and money-grubbing. Even when the movie does get a bit serious and dive right into Bannister’s life, it works for a short while because we know there’s more to this character and we know that he ain’t so bad of a dude, he just needs to stop messing with people’s minds and their wallets. Then again, the same could be said for those a-holes on Wall Street, and we all know that there’s nothing more to them!

Trini Alvarado, despite being quite the cutie, is rather bland as the supposed love-interest/admirer of Bannister’s and is okay with what she has to do, but doesn’t really bring much to the table. She’s just another pretty-face, that just so happens to fall for the strange guy on the outside. If only those types of chicks were real, then I wouldn’t have to worry about going to the clubs every night, on the prowl and looking for wife-to-be #3.

Consensus: You can definitely spot where and when Jackson’s creativity and original vision of this story comes into play, however, you can also see where and when the movie begins to lose its punch and energy, making the Frighteners seem like something more of an uneven affair.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Them silly ghosts! Always haunting my dreams!

Them silly ghosts! Always haunting my dreams!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Dead Alive (1992)

Or Braindead. Whatever you want to call it, there’s still plenty of blood-flavored corn syrup to be found.

In 1950’s New Zealand, village nerd Lionel (Timothy Balme) tries to keep his romance with local bag-lady at the supermarket, Paquita (Diana Penalver), up and running. However, the only real factor getting in the way of that all is his constantly nagging mother (Elizabeth Moody), who never seems to want him to leave her alone, or stray away from her and fall in love with somebody else. It would be sort of sad and sweet in a way, but she’s such a beotch that Lionel can’t help but wish she was dead. Well, eventually, good ol’ Lionel gets his wish to come true when all of a sudden, his mum is bitten by a virus-infected Sumatran Rat Monkey. Slowly but surely, before Lionel knows it, his mom has dies but is still alive in the way that she’s a zombie, running around, biting, feeding off of and infecting others as she goes on her merry way. Eventually, she starts to infect too many people to where Lionel has to keep them all locked up in his basement so that the infection won’t spread and kill almost every person in town. But one night, against Lionel’s wishes, a party is thrown at his huge pad which leaves the basement unattended to at times, therefore, also leaving there plenty of time and space for these infested-zombies to start having themselves a little feeding time!

OOOOOH!!

OOOOOH!!

While it has been said many times before that Peter Jackson is definitely the only type of person that can direct the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies the way they need to be directed, I still wonder how that decision or that idea even, all came about in the first place. Most of the movies he made before the Tolkien adaptation, were just strange, slightly off-kilter horror movies (with the exception being Heavenly Creatures, which was somewhere in the middle) that didn’t tackle big spectacles of sword, sorcery and wizards. They were just odd movies, made from a pretty odd nerd who seemed to have a talent for making really crazy, but really fun horror movies, with this being the clear example of that statement.

Over the years, I’ve heard many people go on and on about this movie and I never gave it a shot because horror movies really aren’t my thing, nor is gore, which I heard this movie had a load of. But, much to my surprise, the movie still kicked my rear-end into high-gear because while it sure as hell was a horror flick, it wasn’t a very scary one, nor did it ever take itself too seriously. It’s a B-movie in every sense of the word and never stops being campy, over-the-top or just absolutely wacko with whatever it’s doing, and never for once settling for less. You rarely ever get that with B-movies nowadays to where you could get a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet doesn’t go to the full-max of its insane potential; but Jackson did not disappoint me here one bit. I mean lord, there’s even a scene where a dude beats the hell out of this zombie baby in a public park! If that doesn’t give you the idea of what to expect from this flick, then I have no clue what will! Anyway, I have to give Jackson loads of credit here because he kept everything quick, hilarious, crazy, unpredictable and best of all, campy, but done so in the right way.

Thanks, Pete. You da man!

And now, the gore. Yes, yes, yes. In case you haven’t been able to tell by now, or haven’t heard about this movie before, there is plenty of blood, gore and dismembered limbs to be found here and if that is not your thing, then get the ‘eff up out of here and go rent Steel Magnolias or something. But if those three elements all sound like a juicy good time to you, then you, my friend, should definitely get the hell out there, find your wallet, do whatever you have to do, and see this movie right away. Why? Because the insane amount of gore will utterly leave you flabbergasted, but don’t be alarmed, because it’s done in a sense that goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the directorial style.

Some moments in the flick, you’ll literally be laughing your arse off by how ridiculous everything is, and then the next second, you’ll be holding your stomach, just begging yourself not to barf all over the area in front of you. Case in point, try the dinner-table scene that occurs early on in the movie. Lionel’s mum is already infected, but she isn’t feeling the total side effects yet to the point of where she’s practically a walking corpse, but she’s sure as hell getting there. So, she spends this whole scene falling to itty, bitty pieces, while also somehow getting a small amount of her infected puss into some guy’s pudding. It’s literally the most disgusting thing you’ll see in the whole entire movie, and that’s really saying something. It’s one of the very rare times I’ve actually felt my insides curl up, but at the same time, still couldn’t keep myself from laughing to high heavens.

AAAH!!

AAAH!!

And that’s exactly what Jackson does here, and does well: He finds a balance. Many times throughout this flick, you can tell that Jackson wants to be goofy, and sometimes he wants to be serious. More times than not, he ends up coming off as just plain old cheesy, but that works well for the rest of the movie as it gives you the impression this guy knows what he’s doing the whole way through. Which is why once we get past all of the constant yammerings of the first-to-second acts, the movie kickstarts its heart, gives you all of the splattering gore, in-your-face and hilarious situations, right in front of your eyes. He also finds a way to continually find newer, cooler ways to show one of these zombies being hurt or killed, that keeps you on-edge the whole time, wondering just what Jackson is going to pull out of his pockets next. Usually, it’s something inventive that we’ve never seen done before, and even if we have, it still doesn’t matter because it’s a whole bunch of fun to see regardless.

That’s why, no matter what gripes I may have had with the meandering first and second-act of this movie, the way in which Jackson absolutely goes balls to the walls in the last act, more than made up for those problems and continued to put a smile on my face. Why Jackson doesn’t do more comedies like such as these, is totally beyond me. Bloody hell, he’ll do a melodrama about a teenage girl being raped and killed, and the investigation surrounding it, but he won’t return to his roots, if only for one movie or so? Bollocks I say! Bollocks!

Though none of them are big names in today’s day and age, the cast still do their jobs here, and they do them well. What I mean by that is all they are called on to do here is just be wacky, act as if they are constantly high at all times and be able to take a bunch of ketchup being thrown on their faces. All of them succeed at what they have to do, especially Timothy Balme who is constantly hamming it up the whole time, but still gives us a guy we can get behind to kill all of these zombies, even if he is practically the sole reason they’ve become such a large army. Even then, the dude still feels like he’d be willing to pull a chainsaw out at any moment, and I’m totally cool with that. Just keep it away from me.

Consensus: As ridiculous, as crazy and as over-the-top as you are possibly ever going to get with a B-movie, but Jackson’s non-stop stamps of creativity and total pleasure that obviously went into Dead Alive, make it a fun time, if you’re not squeamish. If you are, then stay far, far away from this one, ya hear?

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

WTF?!?!?

WTF?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

A trip back to Middle Earth, means a trip that takes about 3 hours out of my day.

This is the begging tale of the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who embarks on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago lost to the dragon Smaug. Oh, and a band of dwarfs that accompany him as well. Can’t forget about those little fellas.

It’s a real shame that the only real hype surrounding this movie, is not just because it’s Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in less than a decade, but mainly because of the 48 frames-per-second. Yes, in case some of you people out there don’t know, don’t care, or even know what to expect (I was sort of in the latter’s boat), 48fps is double the normal rate and makes it pretty damn obvious right from the start of this movie that everything is going to look a lot clearer, but sadly, a little too fast.

For me, this first ever experience of actually seeing a 48fps movie wasn’t as traumatizing as it has been to many others who have seen this movie, but it is quite distracting. Sometimes you forget about it, get used to it, and accept the fact that things are going to look a lot weirder then expected, but then it becomes obvious once again, especially a character is moving in a very, very fast-pace that almost makes it seem like Jackson shot this film, while on hefty-amounts nose candy. Once you get used to it, you sort of are able to enjoy the whole movie but it never goes away and I guess it was my fault for being curious and actually giving it a shot in the first-place. They always say, “curiosity killed the cat”, and even though I didn’t get killed by this movie, my idea of 48fps definitely did, and I will probably never see another movie like this ever again. Sorry Peter, you’re experiment didn’t work so well with me this time-around. I’ll stick to normal 3D for now.

"What do you mean I have to choose between this and X-Men? Again!??!?"

“What do you mean I have to choose between this and X-Men? Again!??!?”

However, as much as I may talk shite on the whole 48fps-element to this movie, it makes the movie look a whole lot more beautiful, if a bit fake in some-spots. Everything looks so detailed, clear, and as good as the details looked in the past movies. Obviously, since Jackson has better technology and probably a hell of a lot more money to work with, he uses a crap-load of CGI that is impressive at some-points, but when you put in a film that is using 48fps, it doesn’t always work and makes scenes look as if they were filmed in-front of a green screen. Which in reality, they probably were, but you don’t want to have that going through your mind when you’re watching a movie about wizards, dwarves, trolls, and other mystical creatures. You want to feel as if you are there, rather than feeling like we’re watching a bunch of guys act in a studio, where biscuits and gravy are probably on a big-ass table in front of them. I wasn’t always picturing this idea in my head, but it popped-up quite a lot, more than I actually wanted it to.

Aside from the fact that the 48fps is more than just a controversial idea that Jackson had on his mind and actually went-through with, the film is still pretty good, even if you know everything that’s going to happen to these characters in the near-future. You know, because Jackson made the sequels to this book less than a decade ago. However, Jackson still seems to have a lot of fun returning back to the place that made him such a household name in the first-place and it’s great to see a lot of that fun and passion jump right-off from the screen, and onto us as we just sit there and have a good-time.

There isn’t an epic feeling to this story and in-fact, it actually starts off just as Fellowship of the Ring did. There’s a crap-load of back-story, exposition, and characters coming in and out of nowhere, and it takes awhile to get used to (as expected), but once the actual journey that these characters begin on starts, it becomes more and more entertaining as it goes along and it’s just great to see Jackson back in his comfort-zone and not trying to make teenie-boppers cry their little, fragile hearts over a young girl that gets raped and murdered. I’m talking about Lovely Bones in case you couldn’t tell, and I think that movie is just one, perfect-sign as to how Jackson maybe felt like he was a bit too big for his britches. Middle Earth is where he works best at, where he has the most fun, and best of all, is where he belongs in terms of making movies and entertaining stories.

It seems like everybody was inspired by Katniss. Even dwarves.

It seems like everybody was inspired by Katniss. Even dwarves.

However, when you compare it to what Jackson has done in the past, especially with Middle Earth, this film itself, really fails to generate the type of sparks and emotional fireplugs that those flicks had. It was cool to see a lot of these older-characters come into this story and make their impressions quickly and easily, but the other characters that they introduce, don’t seem to be as memorable or as lovable as those ones we look forward to see return-to-the-screen once again.

A perfect example of this statement would be the twelve dwarves that are key to this story and as entertaining and fun as they may be to watch on-screen, they don’t really come-off as memorable. They all seem sort of the same, with the exception of one, and they don’t really have us invested in them, quite as much as we had for characters of the same nature like Gimli or Legolas. They’re just there for comedic-relief and to have the kiddies out there in the world who want to see this, laugh a bit, just to get past all of the darker-stuff and it seems like a real waste of time. I wanted to get to know them more and understand how all of their personalities were different. Who was the smartest one? The ugliest one? The best fighter? The worst? Seriously, they all just seemed like clones of one another, as they all ate, drank, and slept huge and huge amounts, with nobody really being different. Just like my feelings with these dwarves, I wish there was more to this flick and despite it already being a prequel to films we have all already seen and loved to death by now, Jackson can only try to make us forget about them. Notice how I said the word, “try”, mind you.

Too much baggage for one guy to carry on his shoulders.

Too much baggage for one guy to carry on his shoulders.

Martin Freeman was a pretty nice-choice to play a younger Bilbo, mainly because when we had an actor like Elijah Wood, doing satisfactory work as our main hero of the story, it wasn’t anything special but it was at least nice to finally get an actor that can actually ACT, and do some nice-work in terms of doing all of this goofy, Middle Earth stuff. Freeman is fun to watch as Bilbo and definitely hams it up in terms of playing-up the whole slapstick-side of his character and being there to provide us with a bunch of humor and heart, especially to a character who comes-off as sort of a dick in the latter-stages of his life. Some may say that Freeman is trying a bit too hard to be funny and over-the-top, and to that, I would have to say some of it is true, but at least he’s entertaining and kept me interested the whole-way. In terms of the rest of the trilogy lying on the shoulders of Freeman, I think we’re in good-support.

There are many returning-players to this flick, from the other ones, and even though they don’t all have as much screen-time as the new bloods, it’s still great to see them all back and alive again, especially Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen seems to be having an absolute blast returning to play Gandalf the Great, once again, and for me, as a big fan of Gandalf, it was an even-bigger piece of enjoyment since this is an actor that seemed born to play this role and have us on his side the whole-way through. McKellen isn’t doing anything new, special, or even refreshing when it comes to playing Gandalf, but that was A-okay with me, because he is always the most memorable out of anybody that surrounds him.

Also, it was another real sight for sore eyes (literally) to see Gollum for on the big-screen once again and even though he doesn’t take over the film like he has in the past, his presence is still well-deserved not just because it’s Serkis kicking total ass again, but mainly because Gollum himself looks so realistic and perfect in the animation. Hey, the 48fps may be a huge-bummer, but at least the special-effects are great and that’s all that matters, especially when you’re sitting there and over-analyzing Gollum’s look to depth. I don’t think I saw a single pixel in his look. Impressive as hell.

Consensus: Though Jackson does tread in familiar-territory that we all know what to expect and get out of an experience like his return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still fun and entertaining to watch, even if the whole idea of being filmed in 48fps can get a bit tiresome over time. After awhile, you do begin to get used to it but in my opinion, to avoid any distractions to the human-eye whatsoever, just give this baby a whirl in 3D, or regular 2D, especially if you want to save some moolah.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Next season's cast of Whisker Wars. It's gonna be a close one.

Next season’s cast of Whisker Wars. It’s gonna be a close one.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Finally, 9 hours of my life can finally be put to rest.

As Sauron’s dark army surround the citadel of Minas Tirith and hope wanes for all of Middle-earth, Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), and Gollum (Andy Serkis) continue their journey towards Mount Doom in order to destroy the Ring of Power.

After two movies that have already racked-up to being over than 3 hours each, it seems almost granted that the final-conclusion of this spectacular trilogy would end with a 3-hour and 21-minute time-limit. That’s right, ALMOST 3-AND-A-HALF HOURS! But what separates this long-ass time-limit from the last two, is the fact that you barely notice it one-bit, despite it being the longest of the three. Just goes to show you that long movies, aren’t always that bad to sit-through.

I think first things first to get this review going would be to give major kudos to director Peter Jackson who, like with the last two, does a magnificent job at showing us this beautiful world of Middle Earth, in all of it’s darkness, weirdness, and overall beauty. The sets, designs, make-up, costumes, art direction, and everything else, just look perfect and with this last movie, you needed that keen-eye for attention to detail that Jackson has to make a movie like this work, and it totally does. Obviously a lot more of this movie is dependent on special-effects and CGI, whereas the last two had it, but not a huge-amount, but it’s not distracting from the real beauty that lies underneath this movie and from what I hear, a lot of this was filmed naturally, which impressed me as hell since it seemed like some of these sets would have taken years to be built, and each movie came-out a year-apart from one another. That’s dedication to detail right there, folks, and it’s no surprise that that same dedication won Jackson almost every art and set-design Oscar that year, and rightfully so.

LOTR1

“What the fuck did you just say?”

However, Peter Jackson didn’t just win a bunch of secondary-awards for his work here on this movie, he also won Best Director and that’s not just because of his strong look and detail into this world he obviously loves, but mainly because the guy has the spirit and passion inside of him that makes this flick work, right about from the start. The reason I say “right about from the start”, is because the film obviously has a bit of a problem in the beginning, because it seems like it’s trying to find it’s footing in how it wants to start things-out. We get a couple of awkward cuts to Frodo and Sam being slightly homosexual with one another, to a pretty un-epic shot of Legolas, Aragorn, Gandalf, and Gimli, all slowly riding-down the grassy lands with their horses, but after that, it picks up it’s speed and momentum, and I was willing to forgive Jackson for all of this because it just continues to get better and better.

Once this movie picks up and knows exactly where it wants to go, it’s the freakin’ most epic, most entertaining, and most emotional-ride you will ever take in a movie. The movie cuts between the two stories of Frodo & Sam’s journey to Mount Doom and the defense of Gondor and Minas Tirith, and whereas the weaving in-and-out of stories took a lot of momentum out of the direction the last time-around, it works so perfectly because both stories have a great deal of built-up tension and emotions that run high in about every frame of this flick. Watching Sam and Frodo make their way to destroying the ring will keep you on the edge of your seat as they constantly continue to find hardships getting to their destination, and the Battle of Peleanor Fields is the other story that seems to be the centerpiece of this movie, and had my heart racing just as much as Sam and Frodo’s journey, even though they were both polar-opposites in terms of pacing and development.

LOTR2

Quick! Who has been the most successful in the past decade? By the way, the two pictured are Orlando Bloom and Karl Urban. Okay, never mind. Dumb question.

In the Two Towers, the Battle at Helm’s Deep was an absolute joy to see play-out on screen because it built-up the intensity, the emotion, the action, and most of all, the fun in having two, opposing sides go head-to-head and watching as they are both equally-matched, and equally-as-smart as the other. It was probably the highlight of that whole movie, even if there was a lot more to cheer-on about, but the battle that takes place here in this flick (the Battle of Peleanor Fields), makes it look like a bunch of kiddies messing around in the playground. Jackson totally ups the ante with his direction by providing so much action, blood, and sometimes, gore to have us really involved, but also adds a great deal of heart and emotion to have us fully-invested enough, to the point of where our hearts are racing every time it seems like somebody is going to be the nest one to bite the dust. Seriously, I’ve seen this movie about 2 or 3 times before, but I was still gripping my sheets, wondering who was going to be next and it sent me shivers up my spine whenever I heard a loud, scary enemy come-through again and provide another threat to all of our heroes and favorite characters. Seriously, if you don’t feel any type of emotional-connection to these characters as they all become one-step closer to death in a span of 1 hour, then you my friend, are just as soulless and as dark as the enemies they are facing. Crappy metaphor, I know, but you get the point.

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Secretly, there’s weed in there. Or whatever the hell those Middle Earth snobs call it.

However, that key-battle in the center of this movie is only one of the main reasons why this movie works as well as it does and why Jackson got the Oscar in the first-place. There is so much going on-here that it would definitely be very easy to see how somebody would feel as if it’s too much at one-time, but Jackson evens it all-out so nicely so that we see everything that happens, why it happens, and gives us a bit of time to understand it all. Not many movies that have a certain-type of audience feel the need to do that because they feel as if it’s strictly for the fanboys to understand, and everybody else to ‘eff off, but not Jackson. No, he’s a different type of lad and I’m happy that he decided to take his time with this movie and lay everything-out on the ground for us all to get as soon as the story started to pick-up because when it gets going, it never stops and that’s when you find yourself having the best time of your life with this movie.

Another key-element to this movie that Jackson wisely allows, is that every character that we have gotten to know or see over the past 2 films, finally all get their own chance to shine, rather than having it be the Frodo and Gandalf show 24/7, which also means, all of the performances are fully-realized and some of the best of the whole trilogy. Viggo Mortensen kicks ass once again as Aragorn, and shows that he is not one prince to be messed-with, especially when it comes to somebody coming in between him, his buddies, and most of all, his gal that he is so far-away from. I may make Aragorn sound like a bit of a pussy with that description, but trust me, he’s not in the least-bit. Ian McKellen is awesome as Gandalf and shows how wise and warm he is, not only as a ruler, but as a character, as well; Orlando Bloom is good as Legolas, and shows us why the guy kicks just as much as Aragorn does; and John Rhys-Davies doesn’t quite get enough moments to steal the spotlight from everybody else like he did in the 2nd-movie, but he still has a lot of fun here as Gimli. Anybody I didn’t mention, don’t worry, they all did good, especially those little, fuckin’ hobbits.

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His ax is the best part of his character, without it, he’s just got one-liners about how small he is. Somebody find it, and quick!

In the past 2 movies, it seems as if Sam and Frodo are the only ones to really get the attention from Jackson in terms of character-development and actually meaning something in the whole grand scheme of things, but now, Jackson allows the other two as well to show what they’re made of. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan are each great as Pippin and Merry, respectively, and show that they aren’t just about of immature jokers, they can actually put-up and shut-up when they need to and actually help move this story along, even if they are without their tree buddies that I missed very, very deeply. These two get a lot to do, but Frodo and Sam aren’t left-out of the equation, either, and their story is by-far the one I really connected to since it’s all about the limits of friendship and how far one will go to really help the other one out and hopefully, save their lives in the process. Elijah Wood has been a bit tweedy as Frodo in the past 2 movies, but really excels here and gives Frodo a bit of a mean-streak that actually has you fearful for Same, as well as Gollum. Wood has never been the star actor of our generation, but here, he shows us that he can act no matter how much he gives-off that softy-smile that really rang the wrong bells for me. Seriously, I thought the revelation at the end was going to be Frodo was in-love with Sam after all of this time, I swear it.

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“Yep, there go our careers as we know it.”

As good as Elijah Wood may be, Sean Astin is the one who really steals this show as Samewise Gamgee, and you know what? It’s about damn time this guy finally got his rocks off in these movies, because not only is Samwise as strong of a character as anybody else in this whole damn series, but Astin is also a great-actor too, and one that I feel like never really gets to show himself for all that he is because people still see him as Rudy. Samewise is such an awesome character to watch on-screen not just because he lays down the law for Frodo and tells him all of the obvious stuff about the ring, Gollum, and the evils that come-from both of them, but because you feel like this guy would do anything, I do repeat, ANYTHING, to save his friend’s lives, no matter how hard or impossible it seemed to be. Astin plays this up so perfectly and to watch him come-alive as an actor through Same, is a freakin’ revelation since this guy rarely ever gets the chance to and it’s sort of a shame that this guy never got an Oscar nomination for his work here because he’s understated, believable, strong-willed, and most of all, the emotional anchor that holds this movie down from being a “Nerd’s Only” love-fest.

If there is any reason why this movie deserves the high-rating I’m giving it, it’s mainly because it’s one of those rare-occasions where I’m reminded of why I love watching epic movies such as this: they take me out of the real-world I’m in, and place me into another no matter how unbelievable or fantasy-like it actually may be. After those first, 15-minutes that Jackson seems to struggle with are over, things only go uphill from there and show you exactly why you invested half-of-your-day to see the first 2 movies in the first-place. You love the characters, you love the mythology, you love the setting, you love the battles, and most importantly, you just love what Jackson does with this movie and how he never seems to disappoint any loyal fan of the original source material, or regular, moviegoer that just wants to be transported into a different world. He delivers on both ends of the spectrum and trust me, by the end of this movie, if you loved the first two, you will most likely shed a tear once you see your beloved trilogy come to a sweeping, but beautiful ending that couldn’t have been better, even if Jackson put a freakin’ cherry on top of it. Go out there and see The Hobbit this weekend, people! Lord knows I will be, regardless of if I want to or not. Trust me, I do.

Consensus: Despite being the longest out of the three (clocking in at 3 hours and 12 minutes, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King still delivers on every end of the spectrum that fans, and moviegoers alike expect from these movies: beautiful sets and designs, fully-realized characters, dazzling action, an emotional story from start-to-finish, and especially with this one, a beautiful send-off to a trilogy we will most likely never, ever forget about, no matter how many prequels Hollywood and Peter Jackson want to churn out of their money-making asses.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

"I'm money, bitches."

“I’m money, bitches.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

I may be a noob because I don’t know a Orc from a Uruk-Hai, but as long as we got elves, wizards, dwarves, monster-creatures, and trees all duking it out in one flick, I’m fine with not knowing.

Taking place literally 3 days after where the first one left-off, we follow three stories of our favorite characters and see how they all are separated, but go-out on their own quests as well. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their journey towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring, meeting and joined by Gollum (choreographed by Andy Serkis), the ring’s former owner. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the resurrected Gandalf (Ian McKellen), before fighting at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) escape capture, meet Treebeard the Ent, and help to plan an attack on Isengard.

That’s a pretty lengthy-premise, hell, probably the longest one I have ever done, and hell, this is a pretty lengthy-movie. But even though it may clock-in at 2 hours and 59 minutes, just missing that day-changer by a measly minute, you still can’t help but have a great-old time watching all of your favorite fantasy characters, battle it out like nobody’s business. Oh, and let’s not forget the walking trees, too. Can’t forget about them.

Once again, as you could probably expect from the guy, Peter Jackson does a great-job at nailing each and every single, little detail of this setting down to it’s core. Everything just looks perfect the way it is and those swooping shots that seem to take over the film, do nothing else but put you in the mind-set that yes, you are in Middle-Earth and it’s time to get ready for a place that is filled with mystical-beings and happenings, but also a place that’s filled with a lot of darkness and war, as well.

Believe it or not, from a reader’s stand-point, this is the most controversial movie-adaptation of the three because apparently Jackson took some liberties of his own in changing up the story-structure, events, and even the characters as well. Obviously any person who has ever read these books and is expecting the exact, same thing on-screen are going to be a little pissed to see some things shook-up a bit, but I don’t think Jackson could have told this story any other way. What I mean by that, is that since there are three stories going-on at the same time, you sort of have to tell them all just like that, rather than telling one-story, being done with it, and moving onto the next without any transition to other stories. It can be done, but it wouldn’t have worked for this movie and that’s why I’m really glad Jackson kept all of these three stories to continue to go-on at the same time, without a break, or stop, or anything. It’s just got a beautiful flow to it and that’s because Jackson knows the story from head-to-toe and wants to show everybody his love and appreciation for it, even if he has to stick to his movie-rules and piss a couple of people off by doing-so. Hey, you can’t please everybody out there, Pete, but you sure as hell pleased the hell out of me.

I think where this film works so well compared to the first-one is the sort of tone and approach it takes to the story. You can definitely tell that this story is starting to get more and more tense as it develops and you can tell that there’s more of a drastic-feeling to every scene, where you don’t quite know what’s going to happen next, who you’re going to have to say bye to, and just how far the story will progress in-time. You have a bigger, emotional-connection to everybody here and it’s not just about who’s going to get killed-off next, it’s about who are you going to miss when it’s all said and done. There is definitely a lot that’s worth standing-by and awaiting the next surprise, but it’s not all about surprises, twists, or turns with this story, it’s about the feeling of the world you’re placed into and whether or not you’re going to be able to stay-long and watch as all of your favorite characters risk their lives 24/7.

That’s why the infamous battle at Helm’s Depp is considered one of the best battle-sequences of the past-decade, there’s so much emotion, turmoil, and intensity going on behind it, that you can’t stop feeling like you are involved with it as much as the actual-characters themselves. Anybody that talks about this movie, always talks about this huge-spectacle of a battle and as they should, because it is absolutely awesome to be entertained by, and absolutely gripping to watch. You never know what’s going to happen next with this scene and you feel like anything could happen, and usually does actually happen. It’s filmed-beautifully, as well as you could expect, and just goes to show you that Jackson had an inspiration for how he wanted this battle to look and feel like and holy damn, if it wasn’t for this whole-sequence, I don’t know how much of this film I would have actually loved.

However, I shouldn’t really talk like the battle at Helm’s Deep is the only thing worth watching here, because it isn’t. Each and every other story that they throw at us is as epic, dramatic, and gripping as the one that comes before it, the only problem is that when it gets in the way of the battle-sequence, it slows things down a bit. I liked the story of Sam and Frodo continuing their quest with the Ring, and the two hobbits with the walking trees, but whenever they showed-up, it was usually to break-up the action that was happening during the battle and it felt a bit cheap, as it just took away from all of the excitement and intensity that we were feeling beforehand. I mean, yeah, these stories needed to be told and needed to be spliced-in with the main-one, but still, you can’t help but feel like they just dedicated a good solid 45 minutes to the battle at Helm’s Deep, and be done with it, rather than just jumping back-and-forth and breaking some of the fun.

That same person who you heard talking about this movie and mentioning the battle at Helm’s Deep, would also probably mention that this is the flick that first introduced the CG-driven powerhouse of Gollum, played by Andy Serkis. See, what most people at the time didn’t know was that Serkis donned the blue-suit for this role and encapsulated all of his movements, flow, and feelings all into this character to give him a realistic-look and feel. Instead, everybody else thought that it was just another case of the computers taking over the magic of Hollywood, and just using a bunch of special-effects that may look beautiful, but are still special-effects none the less. That’s what’s so amazing about Serkis as Gollum here, is that he just brings all of this feeling to a character and makes it seem very unbelievable how he was able to pull it all off so well. I also can’t forget to mention that Gollum looks as real as you’re going to get and it’s a work of art to watch and just gaze at. Yeah, technology is better now, but at the time, it was beyond art. It was a freakin’ masterpiece.

Ian McKellen was the anchor of the first movie, but is rarely here as Gandolf, even though he still kicks as much ass here in this movie, as we expected from him in that movie. Instead, that anchor is given-away to Viggo Mortensen who absolutely nails it as Aragorn. Viggo just has this look and feel to him that has you wonder what he’s going to do next, but yet, at the same time, still has you feel like you’re in safe-hands whenever he’s around. That’s why it was pretty freakin’ awesome to see him take over ship here a lot of times and just let everybody know that he’s the boss, he’s the man you don’t want to mess with, and most of all, he’s the man that’s going to slay all of these weird-looking, freaky creatures. Just goes to show you that Viggo really can scare anybody, whether he’s playing a Russian-mobster, playing Sigmund Freud, an ex-gangster-turned-family-man. Yeah, that last sentence pretty much puts Viggo Mortensen’s career into a nutshell.

Consensus: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the second-installment that hits, and hits hard with enough emotions, action, and characters running through, that you feel like you have a full grip and feel of this story, what’s happening in it, and what’s to come of it in it’s grand, epic finale. Return of the King, here I come!

9/10=Full Price!!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Alright, bring on the freaks!

Set in Middle Earth, the story tells of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking the One Ring. The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and eight companions who form “the Fellowship” begin their journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

Obviously with the fact that Peter Jackson is returning to Middle Earth soon with The Hobbit, I thought to myself, “It’s been awhile since I actually wasted my day and watched one of these movies. So, why not just go back to the whole trilogy and waste three days now? Woo-hoo!!” Trust me, people, it’s all for you out there so you better be freakin’ happy.

Anybody that ever talks about this movie, or the trilogy itself, always says the same thing, “You have to have read the books to fully understand.” Is that true? Well, yes, in a way, but that does not mean you can’t still appreciate it for what it truly is: a very, very well-made film. Jackson has never been a huge favorite of mine but I have to cut the guy some slack here because this direction is one of the more inspired-directions I’ve seen in a long, long time. Jackson obviously has a near and dear passion and love for the J.R.R. Tolkien novels, and that shows here with his set design and attention to detail.

Saying that everything in this movie is beautiful, is a downright understatement. Everything looks so perfect the way it is, that at times, believe it or not, I actually caught myself wondering just how they got it to look so real and put it out into a film without ever making it look cheesy one-bit. I will say that in the year 2012, the CGI and special-effects may not be as up-to-date as we all are used to nowadays, but just checking this film out from a viewer’s stand-point and realizing how much attention and detail was given to each scene really makes me want to get up, and give Jackson a big old hug. The guy really has a distinctive look with this film and made me feel even closer to Middle Earth, even though the shots were obviously from New Zealand. But you know what? Who the hell cares, because if Jackson can make it look like Middle Earth, then that’s good enough for me.

I feel like I should have been more open in this review by starting off and saying that I’m not a reader/nor have I ever read any of Tolkien’s novels and to be honest, I still think that the story made me enough sense for me to get the gist of it. In the beginning, Jackson spells-out everything pretty nice and clear for everyone to understand just what’s going on with a detailed and heavy prologue and definitely makes it clear right from the start, just what we’re in store for: hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, sorcery, action, violence, and plenty of other weird-looking creatures just hangin’ around. Jackson’s attention to detail in terms of setting and scenery, carries out very well into the characters and creatures that he creates but I feel like that’s a pretty obvious statement already. Let me just get it out of the way: Jackson’s direction is superb here and he pays attention to detail like no other. Also, it’s a very, very, very beautiful film! Okay, now that I got that thought out of my mind, I can move on now and just tell you that it’s a pretty fun movie once you get past all of the kookiness behind it.

You don’t generally have to be a fan of fantasy movies (like me), to enjoy the hell out of this movie, but it definitely does help. There’s so much exposition, secret powers coming out of nowhere, swords clashing, people yelling bold statements about courage, weird creatures, and more exposition. It’s exactly what you expect from a fantasy movie and I didn’t have much of a problem with that because the story kept me involved, and I found myself to have a lot of fun with it as well. The action doesn’t take over the whole  movie, but that was a-okay with me because I payed more attention to the adventure that all of these colorful characters were on, where it was going to take them, and the danger that lied ahead of them. There was definitely a great deal of suspense in the air because I never really knew when shit was just going to pop-off for these characters and their adventure, and quite frankly, I was a bit scared for them as well. It’s one of those movies where you feel as if you are on an adventure that may never end, but you sort of don’t want it to end because you feel as if you’re along for the ride, without having to worry about being killed or eaten alive by some weird-looking, monster/creature/thing.

Regardless of how fun and exciting this movie really was, it still does not make it “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”, a statement and accolade that has seemed to be given by anybody who has watched this movie. Is it a grand, sweeping epic that catches your attention right from the start and keeps you watching? Yes, but is it perfect? Awwww, hellll nooo! The reason why this movie is not perfect is because of how long it is. It comes close to clocking in at over 3 hours and even though I don’t mind that with most movies, just as long as they keep my attention, I minded that with this movie because of how many times it seemed to start-and-stop all over the place.

What I mean by this, is that every time the movie would fire-up with an ultra-epic action scene, it would just automatically slow-down, start having everybody talk in their exposition jibber-jabber, continue walking, focus on another character from another setting, have another ultra-epic action scene, and then go right back to the same pattern. At first, I didn’t really mind this because it was entertaining to see and I liked watching where Jackson went with this story, but after awhile it became a bit repetitive and I could almost tell where all of the action was going to go down and when. That’s not good for me, because I usually like my surprises, especially with my action-adventure movies and if Dan the Man’s not surprised, Dan the Man’s not happy! Waaah!

And to be honest, it was even worse when these people would go off on these rants and raves in this jibber-jabber, that really seemed to get in the way of any type of excitement or energy this movie had going for itself. When I thought the movie would continue to go at the pace it was going at, it just slows down, focuses on a character talking a whole bunch of nonsense that only people who sleep with the book would be able to comprehend, and loses that steam for the longest time, that is, until the next action scene files in and picks the movie right back-up from where it was left off in the first place. A couple of scenes where these characters had these “talks” really seemed to come out of nowhere, and maybe should have gotten a call from Jackson’s editor to cut that one the hell out. One scene in particular is where Cate Blanchett comes in out of nowhere and starts to go crazy about the ring, and even though it is visually-stunning, it’s still pretty obvious and serves no purpose to the story or the message other than, “everybody is obsessed with this ring and wants it like Grandma’s secret meat loaf recipe”. Yup, I think I got that idea right from the beginning of the story when I saw how bat-shit crazy this ring made everybody go so it didn’t necessarily do anything for me when all of these characters kept falling for the same bag of tricks over and over again.

But I can’t rag on this film anymore, really, because it still kept me entertained and kept me watching a great ensemble, do fantastic jobs in each of their own, respective roles. This whole cast is jam-packed to the core with familiar-faces and superstars of the silver-screen, but the one who really stood-out for me was Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen owns it as Gandalf because he gives this character a great deal of warmth and sympathy that it makes it real easy for us to believe why so many people feel comfortable around him, and why they don’t have to fear for their lives whenever he’s around. I also liked how McKellen didn’t really ham it up and kept everything very straight-forward with what he was going to do next, and why. I also can’t forget to mention Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. The guy just looks intimidating and definitely holds his own as the only guy who could be considered an “action hero” throughout the whole movie, but there’s going to be a lot more of him talked about in the future reviews of this trilogy so I won’t go and spoil it now. Just be ready, everybody, as I wastes my life away watching swords, sorcery, and stones.

Consensus: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring may be a tad overstuffed with scenes that feel unneeded, but it’s epic-nature still cannot be denied with it’s fine, fine, fine attention to detail from Peter Jackson, and engrossing story that makes you feel as if you are along for this ride in Middle Earth, where nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. Not really sure if that’s the right statement to use for this movie, but you get what I mean.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Your Sister’s Sister (2012)

Note to self: never bang your best friends sister, unless they both agree for three-some. Hey, call me what you want, I’m just human dammit.

Jack (Mark Duplass) is still reeling a year after his brother’s death. Iris (Emily Blunt), who was previously in a relationship with his brother, invites Jack to go to her family’s cabin where he can relax. When he reaches the cabin, he unexpectedly finds Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). And that’s when things get weird.

For me, mumblecore movies aren’t really my favorite to go out and seek. Some of them are very good and bring a lot of reality to their stories, but others just feel way too quirky and weird for it’s own good. Somehow though, I took a chance on this one, actually paying for my own ticket, and I think it brought a new piece of faith in me for these little flicks.

What I liked most about this film was just how realistic everything felt, and I think a lot of that is due to writer/director Lynn Shelton, natural screenplay. Actually, maybe the word “screenplay” is not the right thing to use here because this film seems like Shelton just wrote-out to these actors, what was going to happen and why, and then she just gave them the camera to run free and do whatever they want. And that’s probably my favorite aspect of this movie because the whole time I was watching this, I didn’t feel like I was watching some really good-looking people, in a small-indie, I felt like I was watching real people, going through a real situation, and having some real emotions be torn apart. I felt like I could also hang out with these people at a party, and just talk, and talk, and talk, which is exactly what they do here but it’s a lot more interesting than what I would talk to them about. Because if Emily Blunt was next to me, I highly doubt I would want to talk to her about her sister. Just being honest here, people.

Another aspect that could pretty much go hand-in-hand with what I already stated, is that this film brings out a lot of emotions in you, without you ever expecting it. For the first 30 minutes or so, I was laughing my ass off just by how brutally realistic and zany everything was. Then, there’s a slight change of pace for this flick where it gets pretty emotional and that’s when it started to hit me because it shows these people in vulnerable states and how they all respond to one another, especially when peoples feelings are thrown into the mix. In any lesser film, this change of pace would have effected it and make it come off as some sort of melodramatic mess that is so easily trying to rip tears out of our eyes, but not this flick. In fact, I got a little teary-eyed by the end and it was something that I was not expecting in the least bit, and for that sneakiness, I have to give major props to everyone involved.

And when I do say “everyone involved”, I mean just that. The cast isn’t that big (probably about 6-actual speaking roles) but you don’t really need many people when you have these three together. Emily Blunt is great in this role as Iris, because she not only gets to show her chicky, British side to her that we all know and love, but she also gets to go down a very emotional path with her character that makes us feel so much for her and it gives her more depth as an actress, more depth than I could have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I think Blunt is a solid actress, but I don’t really think she’s been given the perfect opportunity to flaunt her drama skills, especially when she’s in flicks like The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement, Sunshine Cleaning, and plenty of others. Not that those flicks are bad by any means, but they just don’t let her strut her stuff as well as she does here and for that, I’m glad because I think this gal definitely has a brighter future in Hollywood now. And hell, she’s only 29. Live it up baby!

Rosemarie DeWitt is an actress I haven’t seen much of in anything really, but she gives off an amazing performance here as Hannah that makes me want to see more. Hannah is a character that’s very hard to read at first, but after awhile, you start to see a very sad and lonely person come out of there and even though she, out of everybody else, does the meanest things, you still feel for her because of what she’s been through with all of life and love. DeWitt is definitely not the most likable character out of the bunch, but she’s one that you can feel for even when she is doing some nasty things. I also loved the little sister-sister relationship her and Blunt had going on here and it made me feel like they actually were sisters. And come to think of it, they actually sort of look alike.

The one who really surprised the hell out of me with his performance was Mark Duplass as Jack. From the first scene, this guy totally had me won over with his everyday dude look that seemed realistic and had him come off as a guy that is really messed up from the death of his brother, but also doesn’t take himself too seriously. I don’t know what it was about him, whether it was his delivery or great improv skills, but he had me laughing just about the whole way through and it was even in scenes that were fairly serious. Duplass really shines in this movie because he’s able to take this character from scratch, and give him so much depth and emotional honesty, that it made me feel like I could be friends with this dude and stick by him whenever he needed a friend. Like DeWitt, I haven’t seen this guy in much, but I think now I’ll start to look out for him more.

If there was one complaint I had with this flick, and trust me, it’s a biggy, it’s that I couldn’t really buy “the first ending”. When I mean “the first ending”, I don’t mean that this is like Lord of the Rings or something where Peter Jackson can’t make up his mind on how to end, so he gives us about 30 minutes of extra-footage. No, what I really mean is that the resolution to all of these problems these people have with each other, plays out in a very unbelievable way and I tell you why. By the end of this flick, these characters go through so much uncomfortable and messed-up situations with one another, that sort of feels phony in a way, when it gets resolved at the end. The way that Shelton has it all resolve was a good trick she pulls off very well, but it happened a little neatly and too clean, whereas I think some people wouldn’t let it be resolved exactly like that. I know I sound very vague, but that’s because I don’t want to really spoil the actual ending, even though I did like the final shot of this movie.

Consensus: Your Sister’s Sister may be a tad disappointing by the end, but still features a trio of performances that feel natural and realistic, a script (or lack thereof) that sounds like real people, actually having real conversations with one another, and when the film is all said and done, you feel like you know these people from the inside and out, and you can only wish them happiness for the rest of their lives.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

The main reason why I refuse to travel to New Zealand.

Heavenly Creatures is true story of two teenage girls (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) from New Zealand who form a very strong friendship that changes both of their lives as they live through their own imaginations. However, things start to get strange when their friendship turns into obsession, which soon leads into murder.

The most disturbing aspect of this whole film is that this is an actual true story and while that is effed up in it’s own right, the chicks are still alive and well today, roaming the streets of only God knows where. Then again, this is a Peter Jackson film which means it’s always going to be strange.

The one thing about this film that sets it apart from other films of this nature is the direction and vision from Jackson himself. This is a pretty straight-forward story but the way Jackson tells it through extreme close-ups, awkward camera angles, constant zooming in-and-out, and not many regular shots, gives this flick a real different feel that I haven’t really seen before in a film that’s about two teenagers who go bat-shit crazy.

However, my problem with this whole direction is that everything here is practically going just about a mile a minute and I just wanted this film to slow down a bit. I get what Jackson was trying to do here, he wanted us to see the world through these girls’ own eyes and imaginations but after awhile it felt like Jackson just wanted us to know that it’s him directing so of course we need gigantic clay figures running rampant killing people. The best scenes for me here were when Jackson kind of just let the tension flow and come on in itself without Jackson ever getting in the way of that but for some reason, he just tried a little too hard and got in the way of what was going on.

The film also opens up with these girls covered in blood from head-to-toe screaming about a murder so right off the bat, I knew exactly what was going to happen by the end and for the whole time, I was just sitting there waiting for it to happen. If they didn’t show us this scene right from the get-go, I think I would have been more into this film like I had wished because it was only till after the flick that I actually checked out the actual case itself.

Even though I still bitch about all of these problems with the film I still found myself totally involved with the very disturbing story that this flick is all about. Seeing two girls go from being friends, to obsessive lover types, to stone-cold killers is downright frightening and the fact that everything here is true is what kept me really disturbed. Every film always shows the bright side to friendship and finding your bestie, but you hardly ever see the dark side of that and what it can do to not just everyone around you, but also yourself. The last 10 to 20 minutes are probably some of the most tense and disturbing I’ve seen ever since ‘Bully’ and I have to say that is something worth recommending.

The performances given by the two girls here are awesome and I think elevated this film completley. Melanie Lynskey is great as Pauline Parker and gave me that very angsty but dangerous teen-vibe the whole time. I still cannot look at her the same and actually be able to call her hot seeing this film. Kate Winslet gives a break-through performance here as Juliet Hulme and steals the show giving this incredible energy that keeps the film entertaining every time she is on-screen. It’s crazy to see where these two really got their starts and it’s also even more great that they sort of made me feel something for their characters, even if they are totally effed up in the head.

Consensus: Peter Jackson has way too much style here for me to actually be involved with this story, but regardless, Heavenly Creatures is a flick that is very disturbing, well-acted, and makes you feel as if you are in these girls’ heads as they go from normal to completley insane.

7/10=Rental!!

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Apparently Tintin is famous everywhere else except for America.

Starring Jamie Bell as Tintin, the intrepid young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure teamed with his little dog Snowy, and Daniel Craig as the nefarious Red Rackham.

I have never read any of the graphic novels that this film is based off of and going into this, I wasn’t expecting much considering motion-capture is just simply freaky and having Peter Jackson and Steve Spielberg giving it a go, doesn’t really make me feel safe about it either. However, I just looked at it like a young Indiana Jones with dead eyes.

Where this film really benefits from is the screenplay written by Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. With the script, you get a lot of mystery to keep your attention on the little details, the humor that will actually having you chuckling more than expected, and plenty of interesting motivations that really keeps the viewers interested in the plot even when it seems to dive into some real familiar territory that we have kind of all seen before, especially from Spielberg.

This film also benefits from the fact that Spielberg starts this films pace at a high of 11 and never lets loose once. The whole film you have hotels moving, guns shooting, fist-fights, pirate ships running into each other, Snowy moving from one vehicle to another, and just so many other exciting and fun things going on here that it’s actually a lot of fun. We get a lot of really fun action sequences that keep the plot moving and never stop as the camera constantly moves around each setting. This reminds me of what the 4th Indiana Jones film should have been like, if it weren’t for those damn aliens that George Lucas put in. That asshole.

The problem with this frenetic feel that Spielberg gives this flick is the fact that it is almost way too highly-energized and it feels as if Spielberg was just doing this to get away from the fact that the story itself is a little uneven. We never actually get a chance to rest and understand what is exactly going on with this plot, because every time they show us one clue, one crazy action sequence will just come by and follow it. Hey, I’m not against a film that just wants to be fun but what I do get annoyed by is when we never get a chance to just relax while watching it.

One of the other main problems that the flick runs into though is the fact that motion-capture still does not work for me. It isn’t quite on-par with certain films like ‘Avatar’ or ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and the film tries so hard to be just those epics, but instead comes off as a long video-game sequence that I would find in ‘Drake’s Fortune’ or even ‘GTA’ games for that matter. I also never understood why there were some characters in this flick that tried to look like real people, while there were others who looked exactly like a cartoon. I mean it is based on a graphic novel, so I can definitely see why they would have cartoonish-looking characters here but what I never could fully grasp was why they didn’t do that for every character in this flick.

This is what leads onto my next biggest problem and that was Tintin himself. I have never really read any of the graphic novels in the first place so I was kind of depending on Spielberg to give me a really cool look at this character, but I could never really stand behind this kid considering there was nothing ever spectacular about him when it came to how he looked and how he acted. Tintin’s face looks very flat, with his cheeks looking like he’s a big baby and he doesn’t really have the round noses that all of the cartoonish characters have either. The film really tries hard to make Tintin look like a real person which makes him stand-out as terribly creepy and just plain dull looking. Jamie Bell is also very good in the things that I have seen him in but he just doesn’t have the physical presence to get us by this problem or even really get us to stand behind Tintin. Thankfully though, Tintin had his dog Snowy to steal just about every scene. With this film and ‘Beginners’, it’s been a pretty good year for movie dogs.

The one character in this flick that I could get behind was Captain Haddock, played by the always great Andy Serkis. When we meet Haddock he’s a lot of fun, cracking one-liners left-and-right, and Serkis just always seems to be having a ball with this role considering he pretty much owns motion-capture performances. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost aren’t in this film as much playing Interpol agents Thompson and Thompson, but they are still a lot of fun every time and Daniel Craig is a pretty mean son-of-a-bitch as our main baddy, Ivanovich Sakharine.

Consensus: The Adventures of Tintin still seems weird with the motion-capture animation and constantly moving plot, but where this film makes up for that is in its script that is full of mystery and humor, and a Spielberg direction that calls back his old Indiana Jones days that still works all of these years later.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Proof that Peter Jackson isn’t the greatest.

When 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is murdered, she watches from above as her family deals with her tragic death — and as her killer prepares to strike again. Torn between vengeance and healing, Susie’s loved ones are forever changed. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz star in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s riveting best-selling novel; Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci co-star.

Now this is based off a n0vel, that I have never read. Before this movie was coming out I really wanted to go out and buy it but never got that far. But now after watching this I have decided I need to give the book a nice read.

Peter Jackson uses a lot of these great ways to lighten up the mood in this film. He uses a full pallet of rich color, lush music, and astonishing visual effects that will simply leave you in awe. When Susie is in the after world there is a lot of images to look at, yeah they may be a bit creepy and weird with their CGI look, but I felt like I was in a whole new world of love and beauty when these scenes were on.

There are some beautifully crafted suspenseful set pieces within this film as well. Scenes come up out of nowhere that just leave you on the edge of your seat not knowing what was going to happen next, and how it was going to happen.

The one big bad problem that the film has is that it can’t find a coherent approach to this story. At times its grim and the others its beauty, but it just didn’t work out real well. One minute I would be in this beautiful wonderland full of joy and happiness, then the next minute I would stuck watching this serial killer at all nutty, while the parents of Susie are still trying to investigate. The film should have just went with one whole approach and mood towards this film instead it tries to combine these two, and it doesn’t work at all.

The biggest problem, overall, is that in a movie that runs well over two hours, Jackson is so busy bombarding us with trippy post-death visuals that he forgot to include actual human relationships. There are maybe fifteen minutes of actual conversation between characters in the entire movie — and believe me, I’m not exaggerating. Everything else is given over to our perky dead girl running through CGI mountains and fields, or observing her mopey family, while the ponderous, constant, droning narration makes the whole thing feel like an illustrated audio book.

Wahlberg and Weisz are completely given really nothing at all, other than being just these cheesy one dimensional characters throughout the whole film. For me they could have been given more material, because these two have proved in the past that they can work with good material, if given it correctly. The best performance here is Stanley Tucci as the creepy serial killer. Every time he was on screen I was just scared and wondering to myself what was this man going to do next. There wasn’t one time that I didn’t believe that this man was a crazed and amazingly creepy neighbor. Ronan is OK in this role, as sometimes she is just seen as being scared, and at the same time just repeating these little monologues.

One last thing with this film is that it’s message about death, and the after life did not seem all that well brought out. It wasn’t that preachy, but it also wasn’t well brought out in the way it could have been with the source material it was given.

Consensus: The Lovely Bones has Peter Jackson’s visual flairs and a great performance from Tucci, but can’t find a coherent approach to its mood, and barely shows any other human emotion other than just being sad all the time.

5/10=Rental!!!!

District 9 (2009)

I never realized how much I actually care for aliens.

When aliens land on Earth, global business conglomerate Multi-National United forces them into rigid containment zones where they are compelled to labor, even as MNU commandeers their other worldly technology for profit. As tensions build between human and non-human races, a rogue agent leads a resistance movement against MNU’s ruthless consolidation of power.

The first thing I noticed about this film is its style. It uses a lot of documentary-esque presentation, they use a lot of footage from interviews, the use of the shaky camera, and even some security camera footage. It’s that feeling of realism that sells the world and makes it feel like its a documentary and not another glitzy Hollywood production.

The action is amazingly fast-paced, there’s humans shooting all over the place, and the way the special effects look. In many movies that use a lot of special effects they don’t really look real and your sort of just looking at the camera and saying, “oh this is a nice science fiction film”. However these aliens actually look like they could walk the Earth. They look all the very real, and add that in with a whole bunch of action you got a whole bunch of people sitting on the edge of your seat.

The most powerful aspect of the film is witnessing all the horrible treatment of refugees. It’s interesting how the aliens are set up, because you have many conflicting feelings for them. On one hand your scared of them cause their just so darn ugly, but on the other hand you feel compassion for them because their treated like crap. This is a wonderful example of how special effects can work as the hand-maiden to story telling.

The film has that documentary feel to it and it works well for awhile, but then by the third act it actually starts to abandon it and create a very standardized shoot-out scene. I feel like they could’ve done a better job with how the ending was handled, but it still did feel right by the end. Much of the dialogue is actually pretty cheesy and uses a lot of the same lines that I have heard over and over again.

Sharlto Copley who plays the main character does a good job at playing the sort of anti-hero. He’s never acted before but he seems like he has acted all the time. At some points you love him and then at some points you really just want to kill him yourself.

This film is very dark that and it brought up a huge social statement. It touches subject on immigration, the handling of refugees, and so many other subjects are brought up and what is done to these aliens you just feel so emotionally wrenched to.

Consensus: District 9 has some very obvious plot holes, but is brings up many good points, and will leave you emotionally distraught with enough action to keep you on your seat amazed at how real it looks.

9.5/10=Full Priceee!!!