See this movie – Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)

Yes, ladies and gents, after 3 weeks of active blogging, and 4 reviews so far (YAY, ME!), I’ve finally arrived at a romantic comedy. Normally, I don’t watch a lot of romantic comedies for the same reason most people don’t watch romantic comedies:-

(a) they usually recycle a generic formula (boy meets girl, they fall in love…..)  

(b) they’re riddled with clichés  (they break up, IT’S THE GUY’S FAULT…) 

(c) You know from an hour away how it’s going to end (he has to own up, he proves how much he loves her, she accepts them, they get married, THE END, cue Top 10 Pop Song of the week, roll credits) 

For this year however, I did manage to see two romantic comedies. The first was “Friends with Benefits”, an aight effort starring “my wife to be” Mila Kunis and “who knew that wigga could act?” Justin Timberlake. The second, of course, was….

Reviews were positive for this film, with many viewers calling it one of the best comedies of the year.  Now, having sat through some of the SHITTIEST films of 2011 already (“Battle L.A.”, “Sucker Punch”, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, “Conan the Barbarian”…. ARRRGH!), I was more than willing to check “Crazy, Stupid, Love” out.

So was it a hit-or-miss like “Friends with Benefits”, or was it a genuinely good movie? Or was it just another film heavily overrated by critics and viewers alike (*COUGH *”Bridesmaids” *COUGH*)? Let’s see, shall we?

PLOT

Driving home one night, Cal Weaver is told by his wife Emily that she has been cheating on him with her co-worker David Lindhagen. Upon hearing the news, as well as Emily’s request for a divorce, Cal sinks into depression. Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie notices his parents’ marriage falling apart, but is already dealing with a crush that he has for his 17-year old babysitter Jessica. Anyhoo, Cal does what most men do when dealing with a broken heart – HIT THE BAR (or walk into it…..get it?). He blabbers loudly about his wife’s infidelity, catching the attention of a young man named Jacob Palmer. Jacob is the complete opposite of Cal (obviously).  He dresses well, he knows the right moves, he knows how to talk to women and how to get them to sleep with him. However one person has rejected his advances – a young woman named Hannah. Anyhoo, Jacob takes Cal under his wing and seeks to make him a better man, for himself and for Emily.

CHARACTERS

Cal Weaver  – Steve Carell (the equivalent of his “40-Year Old Virgin” character if he were married)

Jacob Palmer – Ryan Gosling (boy, he’s come a LONG way from “Young Hercules”, the little-known, and utterly ridiculous spin-off of “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”

Emily Weaver – Julianne Moore (give this woman an OSCAR, already!)

Hannah – Emma Stone (who was also in “Friends with Benefits”. How you luv that?)

David Lindhagen –  Kevin Bacon (who has appeared in three 2011 films, including this movie. Impressive!)

Robbie Weaver – Jonah Bobo  (steals every scene he’s in)

Jessica – Analeigh Tipton (from third place in “America’s Next Top Model” to the big screen! Dreams do come true)

MY THOUGHTS:  What surprised me about this film is that it was actually more of a comic drama than a romantic comedy. The drama involves the characters of “Crazy, Stupid Love” and how they deal with their crazy, stupid, “lovey” situations. Actually, the characters are played so well that you can’t help but relate to them in some way or another. Anybody who suffered a broken heart can relate to Steve Carell’s character. Anyone who went through a childhood crush can relate to Jonah Bobo’s character. Anybody who wants to be a player, or is probably a player, can relate to Ryan Gosling. Speaking of Gosling,  as a heterosexual male, I must admit he delivered an impressive performance.  He embodied his character perfectly, down to the ‘Hitch’-like advice he gives Carell in the film. And yes, the females watching this film would drool over his looks, and the guys watching it will envy him as a result. But whatever, he did a great (acting) job. As I mentioned above, Jonah Bobo also delivers an impressive performance as Robbie. His crush for Jessica, and the attempts that he makes to prove her love to her, is both sweet and funny to watch. And this is what makes “Crazy, Stupid Love” works. The genuine performances in this film help remove the film from its generic rom-com roots, to one of honesty and heart that will make it an eventual classic in its genre.

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM?  If you love romantic comedies, then you should go see this film. If you love romantic comedies that are more truthful and REAL instead of carbon-copied and ANNOYING ike some other films in the genre   (*COUGH *any rom-com starring Jennifer Aniston *COUGH*), then you should go see this film. Ladies, if you love Ryan Gosling…… ah fuck it, why am I stating the obvious?  Go see this film.  It isn’t the greatest romantic comedy of all time  – and the beauty of it all is that it isn’t trying to be. It’s a genuine look at love and the obstacles and pitfalls we all go through in order to find that perfect one.  It  may not be as crazy and stupid as the title suggests – and believe me, love itself can get crazy and stupid at times – but that doesn’t stop it from being a really good movie.

MY RATING – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)

THE END, cue Top 10 Pop Song of the week, roll credits

– Matthew

I Want my Money Back – Conan the Barbarian (2011)

“Conan the Barbarian” – a sword-swinging, demon-slaying, almost-always-bareback warrior created by the late Robert E. Howard in the 1930s, which spawned a series of books that are still being re-published today, a Marvel comic-book series, two movies starring Arnold “I had sex with the maid”  Schwarzenegger,  a not-so-bad animated TV series, a TERRIBLE live-action TV series, a Dark Horse comic-book series, and now….this.  Just in case you were wondering.

I’ve always been a fan of Conan. I read the books and the comics, and I even saw the original movies. The first film, similarly titled “Conan the Barbarian”, introduced the world to a new action hero – Arnold “I had sex with the maid”  Schwarzenegger. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, THAT film made him a superstar,  and that was only two years before his iconic leading role as “The Terminator”. The sequel, “Conan the Destroyer” (which came out the same year as “The Terminator”) was a weak, watered-down attempt of capturing the essence of the Conan stories. I LOVED the first film. It wasn’t a perfect movie by a long shot, and it won’t be placed in a greatest-films-of-all-time list in a hurry.  But it did contain an engaging plot, an impressive performance by Schwarzenegger, a great villain (James Earl Jones as ‘Thulsa Doom’) and a muscial score by the late Basil Poledouris that is arguably one of the BEST I’ve ever heard in a movie – period!

The influence of “Conan the Barbarian” could be seen in many films, from “The Beastmaster” and “Masters of the Universe” (Yes, people, there is actually a live-action He-Man movie. Don’t ask!) of the 1980s, “Hercules” and “Xena: Warrior Princess” (REMEMBER THAT SHIT?!) of the 1990s,  and “Gladiator”, “300”, and “Spartacus: Blood and Sand/Gods of the Arena” of the 21st century. So, with today’s viewer being used to mind-numbing scenes of decapitation, severed limbs, blood and guts, then obviously it would be a great idea to give the Conan franchise a reboot, right? Well, ain’t it?!

Let’s see, shall we.

PLOT

A vicious warlord named Khalar Zym raids the village of Cimmeria, home of a young Conan and his father Corin. Khalar is seeking the last piece of a magical bone mask to revive his wife (who was burned to death for witchcraft) and conquer the world. HUH?! Anyhoo, Corin is killed in the process and Conan (OBVIOUSLY) seeks revenge. He travels the land, gets in and out of bullshit, and dismembers bodies (male, of course) along the way. He meets a woman named Tamara, who is being targeted by Khalar and his sorceress daughter Marique for her blood, which, when dropped into the mask, will make Khalar unstoppable.  Riiiiiiight.

CHARACTERS

Conan – Jason Momoa

Tamara – Rachel Nichols

Khalar Zym – Stephen Lang

Marique – Rose McGowan

Corin – Ron Perlman

MY THOUGHTS:  Where do I begin? Morgan Freeman narrates the film. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, MORGAN FUCKING FREEMAN narrates the film. Unlike the narration of the original “Conan the Barbarian”, which was spread out neatly throughout the entire film, M.F.F. does the opening narration and another bit after the first 20 minutes. THAT’S IT! NOTHING MORE! Not even an outro!  Not even the last lines of “The Shawshank Redemption”!  It gets worse.  The story itself is so thin that it relies on mind-numbing action scenes to keep us interested. Action sequences are necessary in this film, yes, but NOT WITH A 2-MINUTE INTERVAL AFTER EACH ONE! There’s literally no time to catch your breath after these action sequences. Hell, there isn’t even time to understand the characters (who are one-dimensional, by the way), especially the main character. Conan comes across as a guy who doesn’t give much of a fuck about anything or anyone, and is solely bent on revenge. He scowls, he grunts, he even lifts his sword to the skies and roars. He-Man, anyone? He also utters one-liners that try to come off as epic (like ‘300’s “Ready your breakfast and eat hearty, for tonight we dine in hell”) but wind up being godawful (“I live…I love…I slay…I’m content”). Even the side characters, even the villain, are uninteresting. However, the film does get points in its fight scenes. They’re well choreographed and gleefully gory, but, unfortunately, sloppily edited. Overall, this film tries desperately to make Conan appealing to a new, “300”-quoting, gore-hungry generation of movie lovers, but ultimately,  it falls on its own sword.

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM?  If you loved the original “Conan the Barbarian” movie like I did, then you’ll LOATHE this one. If you have no clue who Conan is, SEE THE ORIGINAL MOVIE! Or read the books! They’re great! Seriously! If you really don’t give a fuck about story or characters, and you’re willing to spend your hard-earned money to view senseless, bloody violence for 112 minutes, then go ahead! For everyone else, SKIP THIS SHIT! Please! I’ll put this “Conan the Barbarian” movie under the category “I want my money back”. Though I haven’t had the ‘privilege’ of viewing it on the big screen, I STILL WANT MY MONEY BACK! I really am curious as to what other franchise Hollywood plans to rape (I mean, reboot). I did hear of a new, live-action “He-Man” movie coming out soon. I shudder at the thought.

By the way,  if  you’d like to hear that score of the original, and BRILLIANT, Conan movie, go to YouTube and search for “Conan the Barbarian soundtrack”. Just in case you were wondering.

MY RATING – 2 out of 5 stars (“I Want my Money Back”)

– Matthew

See it if you really have to – Final Destination 5 (2011)

Final Destination 5

Final Destination 5

NOTE: While I type this review, I am constantly hoping and praying that not only will my laptop NOT overheat, but also that the water that has spilled from my cup doesn’t accidentally drip into the electrical outlet where my laptop is connected to, which if not checked, will cause the wire to spark, which also if not checked, can possibly electrocute me to death. After all, you know what they say, “Life is a bitch….”.

Ahhhh, New Line Cinema. The film company that released the timeless “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the “Austin Powers” trilogy, and most importantly, the “Friday” trilogy.  I swear, no other movies made Friday such a great day than the “Friday” trilogy. Anyways, what is most surprising about New Line Cinema is that their popularity and fame began with a little film from a certain guy called Wes Craven which became a box-office success and an iconic horror movie. What I’m talking about is 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, starring everyone’s favourite child killer/burn victim/bogeyman with razor-blade fingers, Freddy Kreuger. The success of this first film spawned a critically-bashed yet commercially-successful franchise.  Very soon, New Line got their grubby fingers on another horror icon, Jason Vorhees, and put them together into the SMACKDOWN OF THE CENTURY (i.e. “Freddy vs. Jason”). I don’t remember much from it, but I do remember two things: (a) that movie SUCKED, and (b) Kelly Rowland got killed off rather nicely. The point is, New Line Cinema was becoming well-known for their gory-ass horror movies, way before Lionsgate came out with their “Saw” series (another seemingly-neverending franchise).

Speaking of which, in 2000, New Line unleashed the film “Final Destination” to an unsuspecting world, and the result was a commercial success and a decent-enough horror movie. In a nutshell, a bunch of teens survive a plane explosion thanks to the premonition of one guy, who visualizes the actual explosion and the order in which his comrades die. The rest of the film involves everyone dying in the exact order in which they would have died, had they stayed on the plane. What made it frightening was the fact that we saw Death himself, visualized as both a ghostly apparition and as Tony Todd, a black actor with a low, creepy voice. What made the film truly original was the outrageous ways in which the characters die. The deaths range from LOL to OMG to “I wonder if that shit can really happen, like in real life”.   Unexpected to the masses (and unfortunately), “Final Destination”  was only the beginning of yet another New Line franchise. “Final Destination 2” (which was a fucking AWESOME sequel and which contained arguably the BEST deaths in Final Destination history, by the way) helped raise the bar for gory-ass horror films. “Final Destination 3” tried its hardest to top its predecessor, but the end result was a meh effort. Part 4 of the series, ridiculously titled “The Final Destination” promised viewers that it may be the “end” of the franchise. I avoided that film like the stomach flu, knowing full well that New Line’s promise was all bullshit.

And I was right! Now, we have FINAL DESTINATION 5! Sigh! 11 years come and go so fast when you’re cheating death.

PLOT

Where do I begin without stating the obvious? Similar to the OTHER FOUR Final Destination films, one person sees a premonition of himself and his friends dying horrifically in a freak accident. In this case, a young man called Sam visualizes his friends dying in a freak accident where a bridge collapses. Very soon, Sam realizes that his friends are dying in freak accidents in the same order they would have died on the bridge. According to the rules of Death (who has returned after his absence in “The Final Destination”), the kids have cheated death, and now THEY GOTTA DIIIIIIIIEEEEE! BUT WAIT! There’s a new rule! If someone accidentally dies instead of you, or if you KILL SOMEONE YOURSELF, you’ll be removed from Death’s ‘death list’. Hmmmmmm.

CHARACTERS (similar to my last review, real names don’t matter. In this case, it’s because they’re a bunch of new faces, except for….ahh, you’ll see for yourself soon enough)

Sam Lawton  – the guy with the vision

Molly Harper – Sam’s girlfriend

Peter Friedkin – Sam’s best friend, and a likely contender for the “Tom Cruise of the 80s lookalike” award (What made me laugh was that in the bridge sequence, when Peter is running away from the destruction, it brought to my mind the scene from “War of the Worlds”  where Tom Cruise first runs away from the aliens.)

Candice Hooper – Peter’s girlfriend

Issac Palmer – you know that annoying guy who thinks he’s the shit just because his “girlfriend” calls him regularly? That would be him.

Olivia Castle – the token hot chick, cause what’s a movie with teens without a token hot chick?

Nathan – the token black guy, cause what’s a horror movie with teens without a token black guy?

Dennis – David Koechner (a.k.a. the guy whose face you know from some movie that you saw some while back) plays the boss of all these hopeless mofos.

Agent Jim Block – Courtney B. Vance, husband of Angela Bassett (WOW! You go, boy!) plays the federal agent desperately trying to figure out the motive behind the freak accidents

William Bludworth (*COUGH *death *COUGH*) – Tony Todd’s back! BAWH!!

MY THOUGHTS: Critics have been saying that this latest installment in “Final Destination” (which should have be re-named “The Neverending Story” had there not been a trilogy, WHICH ENDED BY THE WAY, of the same name) is an improvement over the last one. That I can agree on! Though I haven’t seen Part 4, and have no plans of seeing it, the bad reviews that it received are reason enough NOT to re-consider. I must also admit with critics that the bridge sequence is REALLY IMPRESSIVE, and is worth seeing for that scene alone. The story….well, let’s face it, you DON’T watch a “Final Destination” film for a story. You watch it for the deaths! Which brings me to the obvious problem with “Final Destination 5” …. the DEATHS! While the deaths in the bridge sequence are really awesome, the deaths afterwards range from meh to fairly decent. The suspense is built very well, we see the objects that will be used in the execution of the death, but when the execution plays off, it’s not that shocking. Gory, yes, but not “jump out your seat” shocking like the first 2 films. The performances are okay, but the prize goes to Tony Todd who plays his character with the same oozing creepiness that Final Destination fans have grown to appreciate. Though he only appeared twice in the film, his presence was a much-deserved return to the franchise. Overall, “Final Destination 5” is a welcome back to what fans loved about the franchise in the first place,  and the “new rule” is a nice touch, but ultimately it still feels like the same ol’ shit. The ENDING, however, DESERVES POINTS – but only die-hard fans of the franchise with a keen eye will see it coming.

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM?  If you’re a “Final Destination” fanatic, you should give this latest installment a glance. But believe me, you’re not going to get anything new. Just gory deaths as the result of something knocked over, spilled or removed by accident. To everyone else, it’ll just seem like another horror film which relies on gore and cheap scares to “terrify” the audience. I definitely won’t pay full admission to watch this film. So I’ll put “Final Destination 5” under the self-explanatory category “See it if you really have to”. See it for the AWESOME bridge scene, and perhaps the ending if you give a shit. But believe me, your life, and the world as a matter of fact, won’t come to an end if you don’t see it. I honestly suspect that there’ll be another “Final Destination”, and another, and another, until Skynet becomes aware and Judgment Day finally occurs. But you know what they say: “Life’s a bitch…”

Which reminds me, they REALLY should make another “Friday” movie. If only they could persuade Ice Cube… and Chris Tucker for that matter.  

MY RATING – 2 1/2 out of 5 stars (“See it if you really have to”)

– Matthew

Bawh Movies – 13 Assassins (2010)

13 Assassins (2010)

13 Assassins

I have no idea where the term “bawh” came from. Like me, it was created in Trinidad, and it was probably the result of a guy who drank too many beers one night. It’s the Trinidadian equivalent to the American phrases “YEAH!!!” or “WOO-HOO!!”. It expresses amazement and an adrenaline rush upon viewing or hearing something awe-inspiring, awesome and simply put, bad-ass. Since its creation, it has been used primarily by men all over Trinidad and Tobago, especially when viewing a film with lots of action in it. I use this term as well, but I make sure to say it, or yell it, when necessary. I don’t say it for every action movie that I watch, but for the ones that stand out to me. The ones which deliver a great story, greater characters and exciting action sequences.

Which leads me to “13 Assassins”, a samurai action/adventure film directed by the legendary Takashi Miike. When I say “legendary”, I don’t mean Akira Kurosawa-legendary, even though both directors are from Japan.  Miike is one of the hardest-working directors in Japan, with over 70 theatrical, video and TV productions under his belt. His films range from family -friendly to dramatic to brutally violent to really, REALLY twisted shit! The first Miike film I viewed was 2003’s “Gozu”,  an incomprehensible horror film of sorts which can easily be placed under the category FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition). I became a FAN of Miike after seeing the “controversial” 2001 horror film of sorts “Ichi the Killer”.  Though the film’s many scenes of violence and torture are truly disturbing to watch, I was impressed by the way Miike guided the viewer through the film’s fucked-up, yet uniquely engaging, story. I still rate  that film as one of the best of the past decade (simply for the BALLS Miike had to make a film like that in the first place) and I would recommend it to the bravest of film lovers in a heartbeat.  I have yet to see “Audition”, another FUBAR film, which is widely acclaimed as Miike’s masterpiece.

“Gozu”, on the other hand…..

Oh wait, where was I? Oh yes…. 13 ASSASSINS!   BAWH!!

PLOT

The story is set in 1840s Japan. The sadistic Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu (It’s a Japanese movie, people! Of course there’d be names that are hard to pronounce! COME ON!) gets away with rape and murder simply because he is the son of the former Shogun and younger brother of the current Shogun.  The senior government official  Doi Toshitsura has had enough of Naritsugu’s corruption. He secretly hires the veteran samurai Shinzaemon to assassinate him. Shinzaemon hires 11 other warriors, including a hunter named Koyata  who may not be what he appears to be (hmmmmm),  to help him on his mission. The plan is to trap Naritsugu and his entourage of soldiers in a town where they’d be passing through. Once trapped, Naritsugu and his men would be unable to escape. The problem however is that Naritsugu’s entourage is not made up of 70 soldiers (which was what Shinzaemon assumed) but more than 200. The plan to eliminate Naritsugu becomes a suicide mission, where the 13 assassins (TITLE! AH-HA!) must prepare to give their lives to restore order to their country.

CHARACTERS  (Let’s face it, their real names don’t really matter. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a Japanese movie, people! )

Shinzaemon – a bad-ass.

Saheita  –   a bad-ass.

Shinrokurō –  a bad-ass.

Rihei – same as above

Kujūrō – same thing

Gunjirō – keep it moving, people

Mosuke – come on, let’s go!

Yasokichi – we don’t have all day here.

Gennai – how many assassins are there again?

Yahachi – “THIRTEEN!”

Heizo – Oh right, right! 13!

Shoujiru –  Just one more….

Koyata – WOO-HOO! I mean, BAWH!!

Matsudaira Naritsugu – son of a bitch!

Doi Toshitsura –  actually a real Japanese historical figure. So is Naritsugu. Hmmmmm.

MY THOUGHTS: From start to end, “13 Assassins” grabs you by the throat and only lets you breathe when there’s hardly any action taking place. Unlike certain Hollywood action films, the main characters are given more than one dimension. They’re not bloodthirsty warriors looking for a head to decapitate. They have back stories, characterization and most importantly… MOTIVATION (cue Kelly Rowland’s song up please). Naritsugu is really a twisted son of a bitch, and we see this in the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film. He is the kind of villain that you LOVE TO HATE, and a great character as well. The story takes its time, and we get to see our heroes strategically plan their attack.  But it’s the film second half that truly shines. The attack itself, and the battle that ensues, is an engaging, and dare I say, ENJOYABLE adrenaline rush. And unlike certain Hollywood action films, the sequence isn’t sloppily edited for “style”. We see each warrior do his thing, we see his victim nicely killed, and we aren’t confused by what’s going on. The music for this film and the sound design deserves praise as well.

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM? Really? After all I just said? SEE THIS SHIT! SEE IT NOW! Order it from Amazon! Stream it! Torrent it! I don’t care!  You have got to see this movie! AVOID the English-dubbed version at all costs! The film sounds WAY better in Japanese. Though the film was released in Japan in 2010, it was released in the U.S. in 2011. So I will go out of my way to say that “13 Assassins” is one of the BEST FILMS I’ve seen for 2011. And in closing, this latest film from Takashi Miike is not a FUBAR movie, but deservedly a bawh movie!

MY RATING–  4 out of 5 stars (i.e. “See this movie”)

– Matthew