Dracula: Dead and Loving It

1 11 2011

“Dracula: Dead and Loving It” is one of the funniest films I remember seeing as a small kid. It merges three of one of my most favorite things: Leslie Nielsen’s comedy skills, Mel Brooks’s instantly recognizable spoof talent, and vampires! So naturally I was looking forward to seeing it again, and I’m happy to say that it has lost none of its funny.

Leslie Nielsen is Count Dracula in this spoof of vampires that looks and feels like one of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula.” It’s my kind of comedy.

It has the kind of spoof movie jokes and gags like the increasing size of the sheriff’s hat in “Scary Movie 3,” or Nielsen’s “I’m serious, and don’t call me Shirley,” quote from “Airplane.” Those kind of unpredictable, irrelevant to the plot kind of gags inhabit this movie.

I like it. Everything that was supposed to be funny made me laugh, and Leslie Nielsen is just a blast to listen to and look at. What surprised me a lot, though, was Peter MacNicol’s performance as Renfield. I’ve never heard of the guy or seen him in any other movie, so I didn’t really know whether he’d be funny, and I didn’t think he would, but he actually provides some of the biggest laughs in the movie.

I’m probably the only one who liked it, though. The average rating for this movie according to Rotten Tomatoes is 3.0/10, and only 9% of listed critics enjoyed it. IMDB has a 5.2/10 rating, which is a very low rating on IMDB (Transformers 2 won the Razzie for Worst Picture and it has a 5.9 rating).

But I don’t understand why people didn’t find it funny. It’s one of Mel Brooks’s funniest films, and one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time. We haven’t really had any laughs this year (or at least I haven’t, having a very weird sense of humor), so it was very refreshing to see an old 90’s movie that brings back memories of when comedies were funny and Leslie Nielsen, one of the greatest comedic actors, was alive. R.I.P., Leslie, we miss you.

I strongly recommend everyone to see this movie. I understand that most people go to movies like “The Hangover” for laughs, but this movie really is underrated and should be appreciated more. By “underrated,” I mean that critics bashed the movie and it did poorly at the box office. If you’re reading this, and if you’re reading this, you’re reading this, go add this movie to your Netflix queue or do whatever to see it. One of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time.

Rating: ★★★

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7Dogj5c9pg


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

28 10 2011

Steven Spielberg’s latest is a very well made, entertaining spectacle. Finally, a movie made by people who know what they’re doing.

“The Adventures of Tintin” stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and Daniel Craig, who portray their characters through motion capture technology that suits Hergé’s, the author of the French comic books of the same name, style perfectly.

The plot is: Tintin, an adventurous Belgian* reporter, is sucked into an adventure across the globe as his journalist instincts kick in to uncover the secret of a ship, the Unicorn, which is said to carry a vast treasure. He is accompanied by Captain Haddock, a drunk man of the sea, but according to legend, the only one who has the power to find the Unicorn’s treasure.

“The Adventures of Tintin,” subtitled “The Secret of the Unicorn,” is a very good movie. It’s quite similar to Spielberg’s other adventures like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and though it’s not as good as the Indiana Jones pictures, it’s probably a better film for the audiences of today.

The movie is much more focused and fast paced than Spielberg’s previous films, which were very focused and fast paced already. My only actual complaint with the film is that it’s maybe a little too fast, or a tad “over-directed.” But that’s probably a good thing anyways, not many people want to see an animated movie about a French reporter anyway, let alone a 2-hour and 30-minute one.

This 107-minute adventure is great all-around. The motion capture one of the best I’ve seen so far, the voice work is great, the score is so well composed that we barely notice it, and the action… Oh my.

There is an explanation to all of this goodness: Spielberg. The guy’s a cinematic genius. This year hasn’t, at least so far, produced a lot of good movies. And if a movie was good, Spielberg was involved in it in some way (“Super 8”).

Oh, also, the 3D. Not necessary at all. The only thing it adds is darkness. But if a movie should be made in 3D, this is that kind of movie. I’m glad Spielberg realizes that. I’m a little confused why they did make this in 3D, though. Probably because of the extra bucks.

Anyway, I conclude that “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” is a great movie all-around. The score, the technical aspects, the action, oh, and it’s also quite funny. This is how movies should be made. One of the best of the year.

Rating: ★★★½

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlE4kXKwG7Y

Blade Runner

8 10 2011

I’m writing about one of the favorite films of one of my favorite directors. I am very happy to say that “Blade Runner” is now, after a third viewing, among my favorites, as it is in Christopher Nolan’s.

Ridley Scott’s equally visually stunning and emotionally resonant masterpiece “Blade Runner” is set in 2019. In the beginning of the 21st century, the Tyrell Corporation built the Replicant – a robot that is practically identical to a human being. The newest replicants are stronger, more agile and at least as intelligent as their creators.

They’re used off-world as slave labour for the dangerous exploration and colonization of planets. After a bloody mutiny in a planetary colony, replicants were declared illegal on earth. Under penalty of death.

Special police squads – Blade Runner units – were dispatched to “retire” any passing replicant. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is assigned to kill four replicants who hijacked a spaceship and returned to Earth to find their master. A dystopian detective story begins.

With elements of sci-fi, drama, action, and even film noir, “Blade Runner” is an interesting movie. The longer the film goes on, the deeper it ventures into the depths of the human mind, and how we think of life. Director Ridley Scott charms the audience with still-convincing special effects and keeps them in the theatre with characters who you come to care about.

The Rutger Hauer-played replicant is not really a bad guy. All he wants is “life,” he says. Deckard falls in love with a woman who turns out to be a replicant, and finds out she’s been given memories and doesn’t know she’s a replicant. Deckard doesn’t seem to have a family and there is no talk of his childhood, so we realize he could be a replicant himself.

There’s no confirmation of this, but that’s why we love filmmaking. Paradoxes such as this, unconfirmed things can exist in the film world. Ridley Scott no doubt realizes that and through Deckard’s character, makes us think. This kind of could-be style is also apparent in the earlier-mentioned Christopher Nolan’s films. More specifically, “Inception.” Cobb could have been dreaming all the time, we’re never told. I love these kinds of things.

“Blade Runner” is accompanied by an electronic Vangelis score, which is most suitable for this kind of dystopian future picture. The music is, at times, even beautiful. Especially in the opening scene when a 2019 Los Angeles is shown from bird’s-eye view.

No matter how you look at it, “Blade Runner” is a great film. It transmits philosophical ideas, it displays visual effects credible to this day, the action is brilliant, the performances are magnificent, the whole movie is great. Having watched it a third time, I’m happy to call “Blade Runner” one of my favorites.

Rating: ★★★★

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPcZHjKJBnE

Real Steel

8 10 2011

When I found out that a movie called “Real Steel” was going to be made, I couldn’t care less. Then I saw the first trailer and had no hopes up for this movie. I wasn’t really impressed with director Shawn Levy’s work and most of what Hugh Jackman does out of the X-Men franchise is crap. But now that I’ve seen “Real Steel,” I can say that it is a great movie. A very surprisingly great movie.

It stars Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton, a robot boxing promoter who, back in the day, used to be a boxer himself. The year is 2020 and robot boxing is the top sport. Charlie is a really arrogant, self-centered guy. He’s pretty much broke and reduced to giving robot vs. bull shows at rodeos. Then he’s told that his ex-girlfriend has died in a car accident and that he has an 11-year-old son Max, played by Dakota Goyo, who he’s never met and has to spend the summer with.

Early on, though, Charlie and his girlfriend, played by Evangeline Lilly, find out that Max loves robots and knows a lot about them. The father-son thing happens and they later begin a climb to the top of the robot boxing industry. Their found-from-the-scrapyard robot Atom turns out to be a great fighter and they even challenge the “un-beatable” Zeus, whom they have a big final fight with.

Along the way, Charlie goes from interested in money to interested in money and loving his kid too. He looks like he wants to get him back and that he’s planning to, but the movie ends with what is probably the most stupid ending I’ve seen in a long time. There’s practically no conclusion to the story.

Still, that said, I haven’t seen an action film this good since… Well last month when I saw “Rise of the Apes.” Okay, so I haven’t seen a robot action film this good since, ever! I despise the Transformers films; I enjoyed the third, but they are no match against this surprisingly good, emotional, gripping, traditional action movie.

Rating: ★★★

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S8a180uYBM

Cowboys & Aliens

23 09 2011

Could I really have expected something deep from a movie called “Cowboys & Aliens”? Yes. Yes, I did. It’s advertised as a Western. And I loved all of the Western elements in it. But there’s something wrong. It’s not even the sci-fi elements, which are certainly overshadowed by those of the Western, though. It’s director Jon Favreau’s wish to make a Western, and not a Western/Sci-Fi which is wrong with “Cowboys & Aliens.” Also, perhaps the extraordinarily silly premise.

The movie begins in the middle of the desert. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up, remembering nothing. He quickly punches someone, takes his clothes and horse, and rides to the town of Absolution, where he quickly embarrasses the Colonel’s (Harrison Ford) son (Paul Dano) and finds out he’s a wanted man. After a nasty bar fight and Olivia Wilde breaking a bottle, Jake wakes up imprisoned in the Sheriff’s office. He quickly punches someone again and is thrown into a carriage. The Colonel comes to claim his son, but something goes horribly wrong. The town is attacked by aliens.

Yes. A 19th century western town is attacked by alien spaceships. This is where everything goes wrong. The aliens steal a couple of citizens, kill some, and the rest rallies together and sets out on a quest to get their loved ones back.

Great opening, it would fit into a B-movie, but unfortunately, “Cowboys & Aliens” seems to understand it’s a B-movie only for the first 30 minutes. Then director Jon Favreau becomes obsessed with minor western details and forgets to develop everything else.

Why we care about the characters is all because of the opening 30 minutes. Then, with the aliens coming in, and the movie becoming a western with sci-fi elements, rather a western/sci-fi movie, it falls apart.

There is only one person to blame, director Jon Favreau. The guy knows how to make a good sci-fi movie (“Iron Man”). He knows how to make a western, and “Cowboys & Aliens” is a great western. But I think he wanted to make a western more than a sci-fi movie. And I wanted to see a western more than a sci-fi movie, but the sci-fi is so distracting. It feels like Favreau doesn’t care about it.

And I actually wouldn’t mind any of this, at all, but as soon as the aliens come, instead of confessing it’s a good B-movie, “Cowboys & Aliens” pretends to be a bad A-movie. I didn’t care at all about the aliens, nor any of the sci-fi part, I cared about the western part. And I would’ve loved to just see a western directed by Jon Favreau.

Replace the aliens with Indians and the plasma rifles with bows, and you’d have a great western. I respect Favreau, the guy’s a good director, but if you’re gonna make a film called “Cowboys & Aliens,” you’d better make it “Cowboys & Aliens,” not “The Good, The Bad, And The Aliens.” It just doesn’t fit together.

Olivia Wilde gets naked though, so you might wanna see that; I don’t know.

Rating: ★★

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH7KZD5vGBY


23 09 2011

If you’ve seen any of Lars von Trier’s previous work, or perhaps an interview, you’ll know he’s a sick dude. Sick in both a good and bad way. But a damn good filmmaker, an artist, I think. That is, if you consider what kinds of movies he likes to make.

“Melancholia” is possibly the most Lars von Trier film I’ve seen, if you know what I mean. I’m still recovering from last year’s “Antichrist,” so I’m glad to see he’s loosened up, and in turn, made a better film; perhaps even his best?

The movie is presented in two parts: Justine and Claire. The Justine part centers on, wow, Justine! She’s just married, and they’re having a party at his sister’s husband’s castle which pretty much functions as a huge bed-and-breakfast with a golf course.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and her husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are late for the party, and this causes problems between Justine and her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who already have enough on their hands with planning the overly expensive wedding and keeping their ignorant, cold mother at bay. Justine falls into depression. Claire’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland) complains about spending a lot of money over Justine just being depressed throughout the wedding. And we get a slightly humoric addon with Stellan Skarsgård as Justine’s boss who’d do anything for money. The whole wedding eventually goes wrong.

In parallel to this, a huge planet that has been “hiding behind the sun” moves towards Earth and will eventually crash into our blue pearl. I know what you’re thinking. Spoiler! Well no, not really, since the movie opens with Earth being destroyed. I don’t know why, but I guess it’s got something to do with art.

The second part, Claire, focuses on the aftermath of the wedding gone wrong. Justine is completely depressed, can’t seem to be able to even move, and now Claire has to take care of her sister. John, that’s Claire’s husband, starts complaining again. We also learn about the planet, and John issues some reassuring comments that it will absolutely not crash into Earth, but we know the truth.

Justine is played effectively by Kirsten Dunst. I wouldn’t say it’s worthy of an Oscar, perhaps not even a nomination, but I guess the Cannes people saw something in her performance to give her the Best Actress award. I’m happy for her, and she gives a good performance, but I don’t see anything award-worthy. If you exclude the nude scenes, that is. Oh yeah.

A better performance was given by Charlotte Gainsbourg. I’d be happy to see her garner a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and the same for Kiefer Sutherland. That guy’s just a badass.

So as a Lars von Trier film, “Melancholia” is perfect. As an awards film, “Melancholia” is easily among the better movies of the year. And as an artistic film, “Melancholia” is a Mona Lisa of Cinema, or a Michelangelo’s David, or some other important art thing. I didn’t like it as much as the similar “The Tree of Life,” but “Melancholia” is a good film.

Rating: ★★★

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzD0U841LRM

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

10 09 2011

In a time filled with crappy sequels, prequels, reboots, you name it, it’s great to see one that has actually been made with care.

Let me just start off by saying that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a very good movie. It’s got great action, great acting, and a great story. It’s a prequel/reboot which are coming out mostly every week now.

Very few of them are good. I can only recall the recent “Fright Night,” “X-Men: First Class,” and 2010’s “The Wolfman.” So naturally I’m very glad to see a good one.

It’s not really an action movie as the trailer or premise would suggest. It’s more of a historic future movie, if you get my meaning. It’s built like a historical epic, set in the near future. A futurical epic?

The ape protagonist’s name is Caesar. He is the son of a chimpanzee who was tested with ALZ-112, a supposed cure of Alzheimer’s, that apparently boosts brain activity. The effects were carried on to Caesar, who is a chimp with the intelligence of an average human being. He unites the apes and so begins the rise of the planet of the apes.

The human protagonist is Will Rodman, played by James Franco. He’s the one to thank for ALZ-112, but all the chimps affected by it had to be put to sleep after a nasty incident with one of them getting aggressive. That’s the one who had a baby, and turns out she was only trying to protect her.

So out of good will and just because he had to, Rodman adopts the ape, and quickly realizes that he’s supersmart. He decides to use the cure on his father (played effectively by John Lithgow) who has Alzheimer’s disease. It works, for a while…

Anyway, Caesar grows up, he becomes part of the family, and after another nasty incident involving a Mustang and a finger being bit off, Caesar is captured by evil dudes who put him into a sort of prison for primates.

Rodman swears to bring him back home soon, and Caesar relies on that for a while, then he gets sick of being held in captivity and being bullied by Malfoy (that’s Tom Felton playing a caretaker), and with his high intelligence, unites all the apes, and breaks out of the prison.

What follows is an epic battle of San Francisco. Stuff gets blown up, people get hurt, apes climb on buildings, cars, bridges, etc.

It’s built like a classic movie. The first act is the introduction. The second act ties together the introduction and the final act, which is just pure destruction. There is only one long action sequence in the movie, the whole third act.

The epic battle between apes and policemen on the Golden Gate bridge consists of the apes using a bus as a shield, Caesar riding on a horse, and a gorilla taking out a helicopter. A helicopter! It’s like guerilla warfare. See what I did there?

Through motion capture technology by Weta Digital, Caesar is played by Andy Serkis. Known previously for playing Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings,” and the title character in 2005’s “King Kong.” He is a really good actor, and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is him at his best. I would love to see him get a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 84th Oscars.

What makes it even better is the fact that it’s a reboot and a sequel. It seems to be very hard to make a good reboot in Hollywood these days. Director Rupert Wyatt does a great job, and it’s his second feature! That guy’s got a great career ahead of him.

And the movie’s got AWE! When was the last time I felt awe in a cinema? This year’s “The Tree of Life,” but if you exclude that, a very, very long time ago! If you want a prime example of how awe-inspiring “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” just see the teaser clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-gf4iymmY8). That was EPIC, AWE-INSPIRING, EPIC, HOLY SH*T! And it’s only 5 F*CKING SECONDS LONG!

Anyway, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a really good sci-fi movie, a really good futurical, or something, epic, and a really good action movie. I’d even go out and say that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is probably the most fun I’ve had in a movie theatre this year, excluding maybe “Super 8.”

So there you go. It’s got great acting, great visuals, great performances, great direction, some actual awe, and it’s got a gorilla taking out a helicopter! A frickin’ helicopter!

Rating: ★★★★

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8D2NIGEJW8