Flapperdoodle's Gaming Blog Ep. 136: Flapperdoodle's 2012 Movie Round-Up!
All of these films are worth watching at least once... that's a pretty perfect summary if I do say so myself.
Be sure to watch the Oscars tonight!
As school becomes more and more prominent in my daily life with all of the things on my to-do list I must put first, having time to write reviews for movies (especially with my format) is becoming more and more of a personal challenge. I love writing them, I really do. But soon, I just saw so many movies, that giving them all full reviews just couldn't work, nor did it really make sense. So, I just kinda just dealt with it, and let the New Year ring in. It saddened me my amount of reviews went down. And I told myself that somehow, I would make up for my drought. And then, one day, it hit me.
I was looking back at past Spotlights I wrote, cause I like to see how I've advanced as a writer, and I noticed that for one of them, I gave GameJudge's Video Game Round Up Ranch and Grill the Pick of the Week spot. I liked it a lot, as it gave good analysis about so many games in a very reasonably sized blog. I enjoyed reading it. So, I thought, maybe I should do something similar to what GameJudge did. Take all the movies I saw in 2012 that I haven't reviewed for you yet, and just blast you with the most important thoughts, as well as a grade. It'll be fun!
Consider these mini-reviews similar to my normal reviews… just a hell of a lot shorter, so that way we can fit 'em all in. And yes… there are a few of them. So, everyone take a seat and grab some popcorn, it's time for
Yup. That's what I'm going with. No need for anything like a Ranch or a Grill.
Starting off chronologically, let's get started.
Directed By: Tim Burton
Genre: Animated, Horror, Fantasy, Family Comedy
Produced By: Walt Disney Pictures
Tim Burton has kinda been on an off and on streak with many people. It's bit mostly off lately, with the remake of Alice and Wonderland and the adaptation of Dark Shadows. Both of them are highly criticized, so Burton needed a project to be more personal with. How about an animated remake a short he made a really long time ago? Yup, this movie's concept was actually a short film Burton did many many years ago, IN LIVE ACTION. So, it would seem like the perfect project to back to your roots to... right? Eh…
Frankenweenie had a lot going for it. It took the story of Frankenstein, made it much more relatable with a dog as the experiment, and overall gave the movie a truly vintage vibe by being black and white, as well as claymated. That really is where the movie shines mostly. The look of the movie is perfectly executed, as the claymation is seamless, and the black and white looks very good with the character designs and the sets created. The characters are well designed, fitting into the style of the film, and overall the environment just comes alive. The feel of the movie also works like magic, as Burton's touch turns anything horrifically adorable like this into pure gold. When the movie wants to be sincere, it succeeds very much so. The movie has a huge heart, and the relationship between this boy and this dog feels very genuine. You want these two to be buddies together, and you truly sympathize with the emotions this kid is going through. All of us want to resurrect the pet we love after death, but sometimes we must just let do. It's just too bad the movie fails on that last part.
The plot of the movie, while nice and genuine, is way too cliche for its own good. Nearly everything turns out to be what you expect, and not much creativity is truly put into the overall story. The characters are very fun, with each stereotype having some laughs included, but they don't stop the plot from going places you could see a mile away with your GPS. There's the moments where he has to hide the dog, there's the big event that is caused by the dog's resurrection, there's the misunderstanding, and all that. It's just so bland at time. And during the third act, when the plot actually tries to lean a little to the left for creativity, it ends up derailing. Things aren't explained clearly, and events just happen that are crazy and odd, and explanation doesn't play a role. The ending just kinda goes on, like none of these odd things happened, and we get no reason for why this mindf*ck even occurred. Thanks, Burton. That is really where the movie falters hard. And finally, while this is a small nitpick, the movie was just a little too low on laughs. Sure, there's some good chuckle-worthy moments in there, as the characters all have some good pokes at each other. But in the end, there are only one or two moments where I can say I laughed out loud.
While Alice and Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Dark Shadows take risks with its source material, Frankenweenie stays a tad reserved. It doesn't really do anything revolutionary to these genres, and ends of colossally failing when it tries too. There's a lot to watch for, but there's also a lot to be disappointed by. If it was a little funnier, slightly more focused, and more creative, maybe Frankenweenie would be a smash success. But in the mean time, it's an enjoyable, yet small return to form for Burton.
Final Grade: 7/10 - OK
Directed By: David O. Russell
Genre: Comedic Drama
Produced By: The Weinstein Company
Sometimes you see a movie, go in looking for a good time, and come out feeling about the same. But then, maybe once or twice a year, there comes a movie where you walk out, and feel changed. Not just changed emotionally, but mentally, psychologically, and possibly physically. This happened to me twice in 2012. It happened when I saw The Avengers, as I could barely speak after seeing that masterpiece. I didn't expect any movie, especially a comedic drama, to top The Avengers. Then I saw Silver Linings Playbook, and my mind exploded.
I highly questioned whether or not this was my favorite movie. I legitimately considered that possibility for a good few days. And while it did lose out, Silver Linings Playbook is an absolute masterpiece from top to bottom, head to toe, beginning to end, A to fricken Z. Everything in this movie works like clockwork. The cast and their chemistry is something that you cannot imitate anywhere else even if you tried. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have such a true genuine relationship in this movie. You care about them, you want to see what happens to them. The rest of the cast is also wonderful, especially Robert De Niro, giving one of the best performances he has ever given. The rest of the ensemble may not be focused on, but they still work beautifully together as a team. I laughed, I internally cried, and I had a wonderful time watching the movie come alive. The comedy is very subtle, so it's not trying to shove the fact that its a comedy into your face. It's blunt, it's there, and at times, its offensive. But that is what makes Silver Linings Playbook so fantastic. It doesn't sugarcoat anything… well, the ending is a little expected, but the thing is that you want that ending to happen because you care about these characters so damn much.
The direction of David O. Russell is absolutely brilliant here, as the execution of the story and the drama feels real. I can see this happening completely. There are people like this who exist, and there's no hiding it. So why not shed some light? The plot is actually quite sad at times actually, but adds some very dark yet hilarious humor to balance it all out. The script is also wonderful, with tons of fantastic timing, and lines that truly make you laugh or cry depending. The interactions as well are just so genuine. While this may be small, I think the movie chooses cool events to fill the story up and give excuses for things to happen. I was extremely entertained. By the end of it, I truly felt like I had watched a movie that was a brilliant, brilliant movie. I am so happy this is getting nominated for countless awards. I think Russell really deserves some wins here. The movie is a fantastic final product of an adaptation. You can tell effort was put into every aspect of the movie. The acting, the script, the chemistry, the sets, and even the camerawork in some areas truly ooze quality. What else is good about the movie? Well, the music fits well. Yes, it is exactly what you'd think it is, but I have zero problems with that. Indie guitar songs in a movie that needs some subtlety in the department? Perfect.
There's no doubt about it, Silver Linings Playbook is one of the best films of the year, by far. The entire production as a whole is brilliant, whether its the direction, the performances from the ensemble cast, the camerawork, the script from the writers, or the effort oozing out of it. It all comes together to become a truly feel-good story. If you are having a bad day and need to cheer up… there is no better film in 2012 for it.
Final Grade: 10/10 - Perfection
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Produced By: Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, and MGM
Yeah… I was really upset at the fact that I didn't get the time to give this a full review. I was really looking forward to seeing the film, reviewing it, and talking about it with people. Aw well. But hey, better late than never, right? Well, let's hope. Because even touching this movie with a ten foot pole kinda opens up this massive debate. With the 48 frames per second crap, and the whole surprising response from critics. Well, I may get some hate from dire fans here… but I'm here to put my experience out there.
I really dug this movie, and I'm no hardcore Tolkien nerd. I've seen the films, have read a bit of some of the books, and overall like the mythos. I think the Lord of the Rings trilogy are three of some of the most brilliantly made of all time, so seeing an extension to it is fine with me. No, I was not familiar with The Hobbit very much before this came out, so I was happy to be able to be more familiar with it. Now, before we get to the real meat, and I'm make this clearly apparent: I disagree with the critics when they say the movie is too long and has unnecessary elements. I also disagree with the idea that the movie takes too long to start up. I personally think the movie's first hour is really fun and does a very good job of showing off this platoon of dwarves we'll be sticking with for the rest of the movie. I also think it's does a great job of setting up the movie. As for the rest of it, I think the movie is incredibly fun. I will admit, the movie drags on a little bit towards the ending, as it fails to concisely wrap up, however I feel some of the action scenes in this movie are some of the best this year had to offer. The movie has really impressive production value, with awesome green screen work, truly in depth makeup and creature designs, and an overall wonderful attention to detail. Peter Jackson obviously knows what he's doing around a camera with this franchise, and it shows. All of the action coming to life is just excellent. Remember that scene with Gollum and Bilbo? Yeah. Chills.
The characters are so entertaining to watch, and the performances highly compliment this. Martin Freeman as the stuttering, yet lovable Bilbo Baggins is one of the most underrated performances of the year, no question. It saddens me that people don't take it as seriously because it's Lord of the Rings, but dude, seriously, he's fantastic. Ian McKellen is just doing his thing as Gandalf. He's badass and awesome, even if he does end up becoming a Deus Ex Machina a few times. Richard Armitage is also pretty fantastic as Thorin. He wasn't amazing, but he got the job done and served as an interesting character. I really hate how everyone is complaining how there are too many dwarves and how they all feel mushed together, and how none of them have enough time to themselves. Do you not understand their place? The dwarves are meant to be on the side, assisting Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin. Sure, some of them to dissolve down to comic relief, but I think they were fine in the movie, and even added to some of the laughs in the film. I enjoyed them, for sure. The only character gripe I do have is with Radagast. My god, was he annoying. I will thank Jackson for keeping him in only about 10 minutes of the movie, but rightfully so because his character was just terrible executed on all accounts. And even though this goes with saying, I'll say it anyway, the score is absolutely breathtaking. I still sing "Misty Mountains Cold" to myself EVERY DAY. No joke. I'm being real.
I had a ton of fun seeing The Hobbit. I think that some people are just taking it way too seriously and not seeing it for what it was meant to be. The trilogy is meant for bringing the book of a highly respected to the big screen. You should be expecting everything in the films because there will be three of them. So what if it's not a children's film? It was 2012 (when it was released), releasing The Hobbit as a children's film would be a HUGE mistake. Besides for an stretched-out ending and a really annoying comic relief character, The Hobbit is a joy. I highly recommend it.
Final Grade: 9/10 - Great
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
Genre: Dramatic Thriller
Produced By: Columbia Pictures and Universal Pictures
I wanted to see this film in 2012 so that way it could be on my list for the Top Ten of 2012. Sadly, the film was not released in New Jersey before January, so I had to wait a little bit. But, thankfully, I got the chance and I went to the theater excited for a movie that dialogue lovers can truly sink their teeth into. And believe me, that is a great way to describe the movie. But don't think the only draw to this movie is the talking.
The movie's dialogue is very well written and very smart. It doesn't hold any boundaries as to what it needs to say, or what it needs to show. There's plenty of scenes where characters discuss plans on how to find Bin Laden, or find other routes which… let's just say, take a few detours. It's a lot to sit through, which leads me to not recommend this to somebody who likes a ton of high-octane action films. While the movie does have some action moments, 75% - 80% is mostly discussion. And honestly, most of it is fantastic. There are some scenes where there's a bit too much to swallow, thus causing the plot to be harder to follow, but for the most part the conversations between these characters are genuine and well constructed. This also is helped by a very impressive slew of performances, including the always fantastic Jessica Chastain in the leading role. I don't think she'll take Best Actress this year, but she'll get pretty close. The cast also includes the highly underrated Jason Clarke and the also highly underrated Kyle Chandler. Also, you're gonna love this, James Gandolfini plays the Director of the fricken C.I.A. The movie gets… like, 83% better once he is on screen. The cast overall does a great job of allowing you to enter this mission they are undertaking, and they all play their roles very well. They understand the subject material, and they truly pull it off.
The movie is also surprisingly funny at times, allowing for some true laughs. And not forced laughs, they actually come quite naturally. It's sometimes from the cursing shock value, but other times it does come from truly subtle humor via the script. But don't worry, there's tons of drama to be had here as well. There's plenty of scenes that are beyond intense, including interrogations, explosions, waterboarding, and the last 20 minutes of the film, which is some of the richest suspense I've watched from last year. Not only is it quiet, but it's brutal. There are some true surprises you won't see coming, and the conclusion it builds up is something of true respect. I will say the movie isn't perfect, as it does suffer from too much exposition and too much dialogue every once in a while. Most of the movie is easy… "enough" to follow, but sometimes it gives the audience too much credit on all of this "Bin Laden" stuff. Sure, we know the basics, but when you get too into it, it can be a bit hard to get through. Thankfully, the characters are relatable enough for the audience. Also, this may be a small nitpick, but the movie seems to jump around a lot. And when I say jumping around, I mean time-wise. They jump ahead many years throughout many points in the movie. If I can remember correctly, one jump was somewhere from 5 - 7 years. I mean… there probably was some kind of stalemate but… geez guys.. that's a long time.
I may not be in love with it per say, but Zero Dark Thirty is a very well done film, and a very respectable one considering the event it happens to be dealing with. Something like the assassination of Osama Bin Laden isn't something seen lightly by most people, so a delicate hand was needed in order to make a film about it. And despite all of the controversy of course going on with the CIA and all, I think Bigelow continued her impressive streak of war movies with this addition. Here's to her not getting snubbed next time.
Final Grade: 9/10 - Great
Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie
Genre: Action Dramatic Thriller (sorta Mystery)
Produced By: Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions
I have never been in love with Tom Cruise. Ever. I've never followed his movie career, I've never taken any note to the news about him, whether it was his crazy breakdown or his relationship with Holmes, and I've never really seen him as anything too special. Sure, he's an icon. Sure, he can bring in a crowd. Sure, he was pretty good in the Mission Impossible movies. But let's be honest here, Tom Cruise is beginning to become less and less of what he used to be. At least to me. So when I saw this movie was hitting us, I wasn't planning on seeing it. But I began to hear some good things, so I said "what the hell" and went out to watch. And… it actually surprised me. A little.
Tom Cruise giving a good performance is nothing spectacular to marvel at, but he did a fine job here. He definitely knows how to become this action hero. He can be cocky, heroic, sly, witty, fast, vengeful, whatever. He is a good action hero, seeing as his training with the Mission Impossible movies got him going. The rest of the cast is solid, with Rosamund Pike actually giving a very good performance… even if you could tell they were dubbing her. Jai Courtney (yeah, Jack McClane…) gives a surprisingly sincerely evil performance as the minor villain, easily outdoing the main villain in this movie, who boils down to nothing more than a dumb cheesy and allegedly badass Russian. Speaking of cheese… yeah, it's there. There are plenty of moments where the script and the actors just kinda go with the joke a bit too much, as they cheese it up with some of the dialogue segments. It's not overly done, although the beginning is chock full of it, but it's definitely noticeable. As for the action itself, most of it is top notch stuff, with plenty of suspense to go around. Car chases, gun fights, kickass hand-to-hand combat, it's all here, and it honestly is very well done. There's a bit of annoying shaky cam, but the movie keeps it mostly serious and spine-tingling. The suspense specifically, as there are quite a few scenes where I was at the edge of my seat, truly.
But the thing Jack Reacher does that surprised me was that it actually made a pretty interesting mystery. Yeah… you wouldn't think it, but the plot of the movie unravels into something quite more complicated than you would believe. The resolution isn't exactly mind-blowing, but the destination wasn't the true goal of the movie. The journey to get to that (kinda disappointing) ending was actually quite interesting and easy to follow. It has many different characters, and the movie keeps a watchful eye on who should stay and who should go. They all are added up into a well done story that never truly lets up. The way the movie flows is quite smooth, as it keeps the action, exposition, and surprises fairly equal, or at least leveled correctly. And while some of the surprises are actually quite expected, they don't want you to know it. And it's better to put effort into a normal whatever surprise, than to just half-ass it. And this movie is not half-assed in the slightest man, seriously. There's a ton of good production value, including good effects, mostly good camera work, a decent script, and a sense of true action and suspense. It definitely holds back a little bit when it comes down to the violence, but it probably would've been risking more if it was a Mission Impossible meets The Raid type of film.
It wasn't a masterpiece by any means, because it can get rather silly. But Jack Reacher definitely is not another dumb action film like the recent Die Hard 5 or the other recent Hansel and Gretel. It tries to be taken seriously, and at some times it truly can be. The action is well done, the plot is surprisingly well handled, and the director makes some really good calls when it comes to set design, scene structure, and character appearances. I probably won't be watching this movie again, but it's definitely worth a watch at least once.
Final Grade: 8.5/10 - Pretty Good
Directed By: Andy Fickman
Genre: Family Comedy
Produced By: 20th Century Fox
Yup… I'm sure a few eyebrows are going up, huh? Well, this was the week before Zero Dark Thirty was released in NJ, or the week I believed it was releasing in NJ. I got in the true mood to see a film, all hyped and everything, and then I learn it's sold out. Well crap, what do I do now? I wanna see a movie, but the one I wanted is not available! Well, after looking through some pretty barren times, my last resort was Parental Guidance. And while I was expecting the worst, I ended up getting a normal family film. What do I mean by this?
Well, many things actually. If you are to take anything out of this review, it's that Parental Guidance is serviceable, if anything else. In fact, sometimes the movie can be very funny, mainly thanks to Billy Crystal. Sure, he's getting older, but he doesn't want to show it, as he is actually on the top of his game here. He's constantly cracking one-liners, using true facial expressions, and he looks like he is having a good time. That vibe is all over this movie, it looks to me like the people involved in this movie had lot of fun. It's very apparent, just look at their faces. And I'm talkin' everybody: Fickman, Midler, Tomei, even all the kids look to be having a ball. And the feeling soon became mutual, as there were times I personally good and happy watching it. I had a few good laughs. Now, don't give the movie too much credit though, it's cheesy. OH BOY is this movie cheesy. It's a whole nacho bowl of cheese. There's tons of bad lines, annoyingly cute moments, and an overall sense of "DAW…" all over the place. And my god, the last 20 minutes of this film are like a RUSH of cuteness. Seriously, I saw my life flash before my eyes, because a boulder hit me with how damn adorable and loving this movie became. If you have a family of youngsters, this is essentially perfect. There's a ton of moral lessons learned, problems overcome, and redemption. LOTS. AND LOTS. OF REDEMPTION. Oh, and don't worry, there's plenty of annoying visual gags to have them busting their guts, pee and all.
The performances are fine, and we even get a few chuckles, but the movie suffers from everything you would expect right from the get go. The plot is incredibly cliche, from head to toe honestly. Sure, there's a few things that are slightly different than the typical dumb family comedy, but not enough. Misunderstandings? Oh boy are there a ton. I mean, three kids, two parents, and two grandparents! My god, the "Liar Revealed" usage here is off the charts and damn you movie for it. I hate that plot-line, as it's annoying and overall predictable. But surprisingly enough, because there are so many characters the juggle, the movie suffers from plot complication. So much so half of the main plots don't get a true resolution, and plenty of them end up becoming either boring or lost. I got a little confused trying to juggle all of these various subplots. It kinda forces the slightly better and more development-prone segments to get cut. That's really the biggest problem, but there's always the usuals. The script is pretty weak, not really attempting to be anything special. The comedy can be very painfully bad at times. I am starting to get very sick of family movies trying to rely on nut shots and pee as joke material. And something that kinda urked me was that this movie references some pretty… not kid-friendly things. Scantily clothing, alcohol, smoking, anatomy, breasts, and even some small references to sex. I dunno… it just seemed off. I know this is trying to go for parent enjoyment too, but it tried a little too hard at that rate.
This movie has definitely been getting a bad rep, and I think it's a fine film. I'll probably never watch it again, in fact if I'm in a certain mood, I'll do my best to avoid it. But I do know that Billy Crystal was in fact on top of his game, and I hope that this inspires him to try some more comedic roles where he can do a lot more than get hit in the nuts by a baseball bat. As for if you should see it… don't. Look, the movie may be fine, but it's not something you should decide to see out of your own free will. But if you are stuck with, it's not the worst thing in the world. Hopefully.
Final Grade: 6/10 - Decent
So, that covers all the 2012 movies I haven't discussed as of late. I'm thinking of doing a 2013 one if I get too backed up, and by the time I see Jack The Giant Slayer… I will have.
Before I go, I wanna remind you (or possiby introduce) that my new show on g1 Features "CinemAttack" is now up and running! We discuss a ton of movie stuff, and I plan on the show going on for a very long time. So, be sure to leave a comment with feedback. As for SIDETRACKED… I'll be posting an update discussion what's going on with that later.
Catch you all on the flip side! Be sure to catch the Academy Awards tonight!
- Larry :)