Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hard Target

All business in the front and a party in the back
Hard Target is maybe Jean-Claude Van Damme's cheesiest movie. He sleepwalks his way through every non-action scene and John Woo does his best with one of the weakest scripts he has ever been given. The problem with this movie is that the plot is unbelievable in almost every way possible. It seems like every homeless person in New Orleans is an ex-special forces soldier. It plays out like a more over the top version of Hostel but with less gore, shittier story, and worse acting.

The two things this movie had going for it was the fact that John Woo directed and the presence of Lance Henriksen. Woo does a great job with all of the action scenes in the movie and knows exactly how to bring real kinetic energy to each action scene. Most of the scenes are completely over the top but they are really awesome and each scene is bigger than the last. Woo might not be able to evoke great acting performances from his actors but he is able to craft engaging action scenes almost as if they come as second nature to him. Henriksen is simply a BOSS, in his role as the main bad guy in this movie. His character created this organization where they are hired by multimillionaires to organize the hunt of a skilled human being. It might seem corny, and it is, but Henriksen knows how to play a bad guy and keep the character in the realm of possibility.

This is a mediocre example of what John Woo is capable of as a director. JCVD does nothing but chew up the scenery in this movie and contributes very little to the overall movie. Henriksen does a good job with his part and is the best aspect of the movie. This is a 5/10 and is simply a very mediocre 90s action movie.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Catching Fire (Book Review)

This is a first for me, attempting to review a book. Pretty much comes down to the fact that I have never tried to review a book before so this might be slightly painful to read. There also might be a ton of SPOILERS in the review so be careful. Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy and is my personal favorite. The characters, story and action are all top notch. The movie series has a real high bar to top on this one because it is much more brutal and violent then the first book and that will need to be displayed accordingly. This volume introduces many of the series most interesting characters and has my favorite action sequences in the series as well. Suzanne Collins does a fantastic job creating this rich world that you feel is not that much different than our own and it would only take a few major events for our world to shape into something like the book.

The book reflects the extremes of our own society with many of the districts of Panem being unbelievably poor, where people struggle to come up with enough money to simply eat. There in our own society where this occurs but not on the level seen in this series. The rich lives incredibly lavish lifestyles and are completely oblivious to the problems of the poor which is similar to our own society except everything in the book is amped up to an extreme degree. The Hunger Games themselves reflect on the love of violence in organized society. We had the gladiator games in ancient Rome and even now we have MMA fights which have overtaken Boxing as the most brutal sport in the world. These books were published well before the Occupy movement came into existence but you see how easy a rebellion can start over something that seems so common to most of society. In the case of the Hunger Games Trilogy it happens to be the tyrannical rule of the government and the events of the 74th Hunger Games in which Katniss is participating in.

I am not going to sit here and explain the outline of the story and plot because that would get bring really quickly. I will say that this book is much more complex than The Hunger Games Book 1 for several different reasons. The books sees these characters evolve from innocent, at least Katniss and Peeta, into strong young adults. Several other characters such as Haymitch transform into revolutionaries due to the circumstances of the events around them and their desire fight tyranny and injustice. That sounds unbelievably corny but this is my review so I really don't give a shit. Best character of the novel has to be Finnick, who is originally thought to be this aloof man whore by most of the people in Panem but he is nothing like the way he is perceived. He is willing to die for the people/ideas that he believes in and he has a truly tragic story in many ways. The producers of the movie better not mess this character up because he is one of the deepest characters in the series and one of the most badass characters as well.

This is one of those novels that you read and you automatically want to pick up the next installment and just rip through the story. It was for me at least. The characters and action alone make this book worth reading. The series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine and over the next few months I am going to make a conscious effort to read more and work on my book review skills. This is a great book and really deserves your time. I know it is not really "cool" to read but there is no better image then the one you create in your mind. This is a 10/10.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is probably the most anticipated movie of 2012 besides The Avenger and The Dark Knight Rises. The hype is warranted because the book of the same title has a huge following among the younger generations. I myself was sucked into the hype and read the book and found it to be a great novel. Not earth shattering but it was a great story with fascinating characters and brutal action. This is not a review of the book and I will be focusing solely on the movie and I will attempt to make it as spoiler-free as I possibly can.

This is the basic idea behind the story. The nation of Panem has risen out of the war, disaster and the ravaged ruins of what was once known as North America. Over 70 years before the events of the film, the thirteen poverty-stricken districts of Panem rebelled against the wealthy, controlling Capitol. After its crushing victory, the Capitol devised the Hunger Games as an annual reminder to the twelve remaining districts of its authority, and as continuing punishment for the rebellion. Every year, each District must hold a raffle (known as the "reaping") to choose one boy and one girl (ranging from age 12–18) to participate in the Hunger Games, a competition in which each of the 24 contestants (known as the "tributes") battle to the death in a televised arena until only one is left alive. The story follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. Also selected from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a baker's son whom Katniss knows from school, who once gave her bread when her family was starving.

Jennifer Lawrence plays the main character, Katniss Everdeen. She is the single best part of this movie displaying a certain type of effortless grace in embodying this beloved character. Katniss is the anti-Bella (main character from Twilight) because she is a strong willed, forceful, and independent young woman. She has no problem fending for herself and Lawrence continues her string of great acting roles with this character. Lawrence is probably the best young actress in Hollywood right now and her performances in Winter's Bone, X-Men: First Class, The Beaver, and The Hunger Games all serve as proof of this fact. Josh Hutcherson does a great job of bringing the character, Peeta, to life as well. He displays the same strength, charisma, and innocence that the character had in the first book of the series. Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch Abernathy, who guides Katniss and Peeta in their journey in preparing for The Hunger Games and also looks out for them during the games as well. Woody does a great job of bringing this character to the screen and showing that under his broken and drunken exterior there is a wealth of knowledge and becomes a true friend to the two children he is mentoring.

The action in the movie was pretty much what I thought it would be due to the PG-13 rating and it was still frantic and brutal enough to hold my attention. It is not nearly the quality of the action in the book but what can you do, fans of the book have a right to see the movie and who am I to bitch that there is not enough gore in the movie. Outside of some lackluster action sequences, everything else in the movie was top notch and watching the movie was really like seeing the book come to life as I had envisioned it in my mind. I just finished reading Catching Fire, which is the sequel and I cannot wait for the movie to come out in late 2013.

On a side note, I must applaud Lenny Kravitz for his role in the movie. It was odd seeing a person being so genuine in a movie and I might sound corny, but it seemed like he wasn't even acting. I felt like he was his character, Cinna, in every way. Kravitz wasn't forcing anything and all of his lines seemed organic and heartfelt. If this is just a sample of his acting ability then someone needs to cast this man in more supporting roles as soon as possible. It also helps that Cinna is one of the best characters in the book even though he is a fairly small character in the overall story.

There are probably many things that I did not include that I wished I had included in this review, but what it comes down to is that despite not being as great as the novel, the film adaptation of The Hunger Games is a great way to kick off the summer movie season. Lawrence, Harrelson, and Kravitz are just three of the reasons to go see this movie. This series will rival the quality of any of the Harry Potter movies in my personal opinion. This was one hell of a start for the series and it easily deserves a 9/10. A little lacking in action but made up for it in visuals and character depth. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street originally debuted in 1987 and starred Johnny Depp as a young undercover police officer. The tone of the original show was very serious and mostly a police procedural. It focused mostly on police cases centered in colleges, high schools, and most of the cases centered around drug trafficking. The series also has the honor of launching Johnny Depp to stardom and he has become one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Oddly enough he was not happy with how he was being perceived in Hollywood while on the show and asked to be released from his contract. After he was let out of his contract, the show fell apart and was soon cancelled after that.

In the 2012 version, the tone and attitude of the characters has been completely altered and retains just the overall idea of the TV show and little else. Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) were polar opposites in high school. Jenko was a popular jock and Schmidt was the awkward loser/nerd. Seven years after high school they are reunited at the local police academy and quickly realize that they can help each other with their unique talents. They quickly become best friends/partners and then they have their first bust which goes completely wrong when they fail to read a criminal their Miranda rights. They are soon placed into a revived undercover police program based in a church on 21 Jump Street. They are placed in a local high school to bust a local drug ring to stop the spread of a new designer drug.

What is a NARC, bro?

The reemergence of the R-Rated comedy. This is the latest in a great 5 year span for adult comedies and this one definitely took the "buddy Cop" movie to a new level. Hill and Tatum make a great team and you get the sense that their characters are really close friends. The humor was great for the type of movie that it was and it helped the Hill also wrote the movie because he is one of the most talented young actors in Hollywood. More movies need to realize that if you are going to have an R-rating then you might as well just go balls to the wall with it. This movie did it perfectly and it had the entire theater laughing from start to finish. This is one of the only movies that has taken a realistic approach in terms of how action scenes play out. Things that would normally explode in movies but not in real life act realistically in this movie and it was a very refreshing change. This is a perfect blend of comedy and action and I really can't remember the last time I laughed this much during a movie, possibly during Due Date or the original Hangover. Channing Tatum was actually perfect for the role he played and seemed to have a natural comedic flare and we already knew he would be able to handle the action component. The cast is generally very good with Hill, Tatum, and Brie Larson anchoring the cast. Larson is a very good comedic actress and I can't wait to see what other roles she will have in the future, because she was very good on the latest season of The League(watch it).

Brothers from another mother.

The only reason this movie was not a perfect movie was because of Rob Riggle. He has had a single funny line in exactly one movie, Step Brothers. Other than that he is pretty much worthless. He instantly brings down any movie in which he appears in. Sounds like he is one of my favorites, doesn't it? This movie movie is easily a 9.5/10 and crushed every other comedy that I have seen in a very long time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Young Adult

Young Adult is about having to grow up no matter how old you are. This also happens to be Jason Reitman's deepest and possibly best movie. Charlize Theron was straight up robbed this year during award season. Anyone who watches this movie and can tell me there is no way that she deserved more recognition for this role, the I will give you a free hug. Patton Oswalt was disrespected to a lesser degree because he is not a well known actor but that doesn't make his performance any less powerful. Reitman's movies have all been pretty spectacular with the exception of Juno, which was a disaster in my opinion. This movie has really well developed characters and a fantastic lead character that is by no means likable in any way but her journey is a fucking hilarious one.

Oswalt and Theron absolutely kill it in this movie. They control every scene that they are in and when they are on the screen at the same time it is a sight to behold. Theron plays the villain with elegant grace and she makes the character her own. Oswalt plays the lovable loser in the movie but his character is a lot more damaged and witty than the stereotypical lovable loser in movies. His character is the perfect counter to Theron's and they play that up to effect in almost every scene that they are in. It was also refreshing to see Oswalt get a chance to bring his humor to the big screen, and I would really like to see him get bigger roles in movies just like the one he had in this movie. Having Theron play a mostly unsympathetic was also an inspired choice because she usually plays the heroine in most of the movies that she is in except for a few. She embodies the true crazy of her character, Mavis, and you never really feel like you are watching Charlize Theron but instead feel like you are watching this woman who is going through a prolonged mental meltdown. And the surprising thing is that I enjoyed every moment of that meltdown.

This was one of the best movies of 2011 and slid past Tucker and Dale vs. Evil to enter my top 5 movies of last year. I have personally been a fan of Patton Oswalt for years and this movie made me love him even more. Theron was truly amazing and I can't wait to see her in Prometheus this summer. I wish there were more comedies like this on the market because they care about the characters just as much as the laughs. This is a 9/10 for me and you should really take the time to sit back and enjoy this movie.

Monday, March 12, 2012


For some strange reason I am a huge fan of dance movies such as Flashdance, Footloose (the original), Step Up (All of Them), and now the Footloose remake. There is absolutely no reason for me to like these movies because I usually enjoy well thought out stories, good acting, and movies that generally don't feature dancing. It might be that I get wrapped up in the music and a few of the characters or that most of the characters are similar to me in age and I can relate in some strange way. I actually liked this version better than the original but that has more to do with Julianne Hough's ass than anything else. She is just about the perfect looking woman and seeing her on screen is great. She really cannot act but that is a minor gripe. The women in Transformers couldn't either but they were great to look at.

Miles Teller makes this movie great because he really caries every scene that he is in. He plays a redneck jock who refuses to learn how to dance until the main character convinces him that it will help the town. His transformation through the movie is great and he is a character that everyone can root for because he is a nice guy who happens to be a total boss. Ray McKinnon plays the uncle of the main character and just like in his role in Sons of Anarchy, he controls every scene that he is featured in. His screen presence and acting ability are great and he seems genuine in all of his roles which makes him easy to relate to. He is a total boss in this movies and puts a lot of characters in their place.

This is not a movie for everyone because most people aren't really into dance movies. This one is a cut above the rest because it has a solid story, good acting, and Julianne Hough's ass. I loved this movie and I am not ashamed to say it, it is a quality movie and a lot more people should have taken the time to see it. The movie gets a 8/10 and Julianne Hough gets a 10 for being incredibly gorgeous.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

John Carter

This is a movie that I have been looking forward to since I heard that it was being produced. John Carter is a story that predated Star Wars, Avatar, and pretty much every other modern sci-fi movie/novel. This is the story that began everything that we love today and you can see how the story would have influenced movies such as Avatar (which borrowed heavily from John Carter of Mars). The effects were excellent but the over reliance on CG always counts against a live action movie in my eyes. I really liked the leads in the movie, Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins. It was also great to see Bryan Cranston get some big screen time even if it was for a very small part. Andrew Stanton, who directed Wall-E and Finding Nemo, also shows a lot of promise as a live action director. My only advice would be to do something on a smaller scale for his next feature.

The action in the movie was definitely one of the strong points of the movie. The violence is brutal but toned down enough where people of all ages can enjoy the movie. It also helps that most of the characters dying on screen are CG. The story was also a plus for me because I really got wrapped up in John Carter's journey and him discovering his lost confidence/beliefs. The acting is good for the most part but flirts with B-movie status a few times. Disney did the story justice and I hope they have enough confidence in the series to make a sequel because with the initial introduction out of the way they can bring out more interesting stories.

I am a huge fan of Flash Gordon and I can see how it ripped off the story of John Carter from Mars in almost every way. John Carter is the movie that Flash Gordon should have been if done right. The problem that all of these movies had in replicating the John Carter story is that they were unable to create and form characters that the viewer or reader cared about. No one really cared about any of the characters in Avatar or Flash Gordon. But in the old John Carter comics ad even in the movie, the viewer gets to know the characters and actually cares what happens to them. This is something all movies and stories should strive to achieve.

This is the type pf movie that can really bring the lighter side of sci-fi back to theaters. This is one of the only sci-fi movies in the last 10 years that I have seen where actual families were in the theater. That is a great thing to see because this movie appeals to people of all ages and does not dumb down the original source material. In my opinion Disney has a winning franchise with this movies and lets see if they take advantage of that fact. This gets an 8/10, great action and story but it goes get a little hokey in parts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


This movie had an unbelievable amount of potential and gained a lot of support after its excellent series of trailers. But ultimately it collapsed under the weight of all of the stars in the movie. Huge casts of A list actors are generally not the best route to go if you are trying to make a movie that has to be based solely in real world situations. I just didn't believe the Morpheus would be the head of the CDC and Demetri Martin really cannot pass as a scientist. Matt Damon and Marion Cotillard seem to be the only ones who knew that they were in a movie that they actually have to try and act in and that is why their portions of the story standout. There are no real surprises in the movie, other than the ones that are spoiled in the trailer (Paltrow is in the movie for 5 minutes). Steven Soderbergh also phones in his direction with the movie looking relatively drab throughout.

The movie should have been focused solely on the plight of Damon's character and his daughter as well as the story of Cotillard's character. Damon is too good of an actor to only be featured sparingly in a movie of this nature. He uses the most of his screen time and puts together a fantastic performance that is easily the film's best because he took the time to create a well fleshed out and sympathetic character. Cotillard plays a sympathetic doctor who is taken hostage by a group in China who is searching for a cure to the plague. She gives a very strong performance, which has become commonplace in her short career. I can say with certainty that I would have watched a movie that featured only these two characters because their journeys were very interesting and left a little mystery to the entire situation pertaining to the plague.

The wasted potential of the movie is very sad and it is really too bad that we will never know how truly good this movie could have been if the story had been told properly. Soderbergh really needs to stick to obscure independent movies because he simply butchers mainstream movies. This get a 6/10 simply for the two story lines that were good and the rest of the movie was pretty much crap.