Posts tagged 3D
After three busy “X-Men” films where Wolverine struggled to stand out, and one trainwreck solo picture, James Mangold’s “The Wolverine” finally does the character justice. Mangold not only satisfies us by providing depth to Wolverine’s familiar traits, but he surprises us by taking the character to captivating new places. Although his flick isn’t Oscar-worthy, the film is good enough to make its terrible predecessor “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” seem like a candidate for “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
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Regrettably, Robert Schwentke’s action comedy “RIPD” is not about the Rhode Island Police Department. That concept would have been much more engaging than the actual basis for this mediocre movie written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi.
So what do the film’s titular initials stand for? They’re the name of a covert law enforcement unit called the “Rest In Peace Department,” comprised of cops who die in the line of duty. Disguised as harmless civilians, these officers walk the Earth again for a unique purpose: to capture rogue spirits and bring them to the other side.
The RIPD’s newest recruit is Nick (Ryan Reynolds) a cop gunned down during a drug bust. Since Nick has done some things he’s not proud of, he’s offered the position to make spiritual amends. Of course, this greenhorn is partnered with a grumpy veteran lawman from the 1800s named Roy (Jeff Bridges). Roy is a loner with zero interest in training a partner, which is just fine, because Nick thinks that he’s too good for Roy’s help anyway. After a series of humorous scuffles however, they realize that they’ll need to cooperate to stop a villain (Kevin Bacon) from bringing about the end of days.
Instead of being creative with an amusing premise, the filmmakers for “RIPD” disappoint by lazily ripping off “Men in Black” and “Ghostbusters.” The secret supernatural crime fighting organization piece as well as the mismatched partners is totally “MiB.” Roy is even Southern and hard to understand just like Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Plus, their misadventures in capturing ghosts and the apocalyptic showdown at the end borrow heavily from “Ghostbusters.” That said, it’s too bad that the humor in “RIPD” doesn’t come close to the hilarity of either picture.
Unfortunately this movie’s few attempts to innovate aren’t much better. Schwentke tries to place his camera at weird angles and twist it upside down during a couple chases, which only distracts you from the action. The slow-mo sequences look okay in 3D, but the only time the extra dimension feels truly worthwhile is when you wish it wouldn’t. Characters spitting chunks of food in your face isn’t particularly enjoyable or appetizing.
At least Jeff Bridges rewards viewers by playing gruff, grizzled cowboys like Roy with great gusto. The enthusiasm with which he portrays his character in “RIPD” is eerily similar to his jovial embodiment of the trigger-happy lawman Rooster Cogburn in 2010’s “True Grit.” Roy is entertaining because he’s more perverse than you’d expect, yet strangely sensitive. As a character he can be annoying though, due to how difficult he is to comprehend. His sometimes unintelligible voice sounds like Foghorn Leghorn with a frog in his throat.
Thankfully, Bridges has an odd chemistry with Reynolds that’s comedically decent. Although their quips won’t knock your socks off, they’ll still get you chuckling. At points however, “RIPD” seems confused about how far it should go with humor, choosing to stay on a safe PG-13 path in scenes where R-rated lines would be better. This hesitance made more sense after I learned from an actor who worked on the film, that it wasn’t supposed to be funny originally; the schtick was added during reshoots.
If there’s one good thing about this flick though, it’s that it’s short, well-paced and over quickly. Far from the best movie of the year, yet certainly not the worst. See it only if you have no other options at the theater.
My Grade: C-….as in Coming Close to Complete Crap.
Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” is the BEST giant-robots-fighting-things flick of all time. Considering how low movies like “Transformers” and “Robot Jox” set the bar, that statement may sound like a backhanded compliment. It’s not though, because “Pacific Rim” is truly this genre’s highest caliber film to-date. The picture’s exemplary special effects, editing, camerawork, and implementation of 3D cooperate to create a miraculous, yet convincing world where humans pilot massive mechanical men to combat mammoth monsters.
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To call Marc Forster’s “World War Z” an adaptation, would be an injustice to the gripping zombie novel it’s supposed to be based on. The movie masquerades as a big-screen version of the popular Max Brooks book, but underneath that cheap disguise, it is a total stranger. Using the scummiest tactic possible, the filmmakers purchase a name that has credibility with zombiephiles in order to entice viewers. Then with everyone’s rapt attention, they betray the book’s reputation by creating a narrative driven in their own ineffective direction.
As a novel, “World War Z” is fascinating because it takes place several years after the zombie plague. Humanity has bounced back from the brink of extinction and a journalist is documenting extraordinary tales of how people conquered the outbreak. Each chapter represents a different story told from a single person’s perspective. What’s so engrossing about this particular narrative model is that it vividly depicts the scale of the horrifying experiences its subjects lived through. The novel also reveals the clever strategies that humans used to turn the tide in the war against the zombies.
Unfortunately, the rich perspective created by the book is totally lost with the movie. The writers Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof rob you of it all by only focusing on a single person’s point of view. In a storytelling strategy clearly based on the need to turn this movie into a Brad Pitt vehicle, “World War Z” follows Gerry Lane (Pitt), a former UN investigator and family man who becomes a key figure in the fight against the zombie outbreak.
After all hell breaks lose and the world’s population is swiftly overtaken by the disease, Lane is summoned to assist with stemming the outbreak. Due to his keen observational skills and ability to think on his feet, the powers that be task him with finding the source of the infection and determining a way to stop it. Lane is forced to leave his family behind, while he hops precariously from Korea to Israel and then to England in a desperate race against time, hoping to quash the global epidemic.
Sounds nothing like the book right? It’s actually a lot more like Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” with its plot and its unsettling piano-laced music. And yes, it’s expected that some things might have to change with this story, given the nature of film as a medium. However there’s no need to butcher the author’s original intent when doing so, like this movie does. Pictures such as “L.A. Confidential” show that it’s possible to do justice to the source material, while still exercising creative license.
Aside from its deviations from the book, another annoying aspect of “World War Z” is its inability to decide whether it wants to be a horror film or a thriller. There are a few great jump scares and some frightening up close shots of zombies that look cool, especially in 3D. Plus there are horror-inspired scenes where noise at inconvenient times, attracts zombies. However, the movie largely relies on big action set pieces to maintain your interest, like its frantic foot chase in Israel and its unbelievable situation involving a hand grenade on an airplane. It probably would have better as straight horror, because a 3D zombie movie would have been epic.
There is one great aspect of “World War Z” that draws inspiration from the book: how the zombies are portrayed. Taking cues from nicknames like “rabies” that the novel gives the disease, the ghouls in the movie operate like rabid humans. They’re fast, their bites take effect within seconds, and they work collaboratively. The filmmakers make these zombies fascinating because they act like flocks of birds or schools of fish. They swarm in great numbers, climbing on top of one another, scrambling and leaping to reach their prey. To its credit, “World War Z” also does a good job showing how quickly society would collapse during an outbreak with intense rioting, looting, and mass hysteria.
Despite all the effort Pitt’s character goes through, “World War Z” has a disappointing anticlimactic ending, with a lot of buildup for very little reward. Frustratingly, it is neither a captivating zombie flick nor a taut thriller. The film is a big budget Brad Pitt vehicle that’s not terribly interesting or inventive, regardless of whether you’ve read “World War Z.” It’s sad the amount of time, money, and energy Brat Pitt sank into this movie, because it might be the most expensive misfire of his career.
My Grade: C…as in Come On! You Can Do Better Than That!
Baz Luhrmann’s bombastic big screen adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” is like drinking cheap booze to excess. It’s unpleasant going down, and even worse coming back up, but when the experience is over, you’ll feel much better.
Speaking of bad alcohol, Luhrmann’s film is a nasty homemade concoction. With his take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, he creates anachronistic moonshine that doesn’t mix effectively with the story’s Prohibition Era setting. His predilection for combining the old and new isn’t surprising, considering previous brazen films “Moulin Rouge” and “Romeo + Juliet.” However those stylistic blends were arguably more fluid.
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Welcome back to Weekend Movie Preview. Things have been pretty busy for me over the last month or so, which is why you haven’t seen as many of my movie reviews coming out. However I’m trying to get back into the swing of things and hope to deliver you guys with more regular columns. I had such fun at the theater this week, I felt like I just needed to share my thoughts on the new “Evil Dead” and “Jurassic Park 3D.”
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Forty-eight frames per second: a term that has the potential to live in infamy. Whether it actually does or not, depends on who is watching Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
If you’re a Tolkien fanatic, you may consider this visual treachery a minor offense. Or you might look past it entirely, because you’re thrilled to see a beloved novel come to life. If you’re like me however, and you have just a casual interest in the fantasy genre, there’s a much greater chance that you’ll be aggravated by the film’s higher frame rate.
If you think “Men in Black III” should have a new rap song by Will Smith or more scenes with Frank the Pug, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. The closest you get to either, is a tune by Pitbull during the end credits and a couple of minor nods to the famous talking canine. But you have to look on the bright side: Barry Sonnenfeld’s “Men in Black III” is a campy sci-fi adventure complete with time travel, gimmicky 3D, inane dialogue, and an outlandish villain.
Just like the other movies in the series, “MIB III” has our heroes fighting a renegade alien with plans of world domination. A goggle-eyed baddie named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes captivity to exact revenge upon the man who put him away: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Boris jumps back in time to kill Agent K, which alters the course of history and allows his species to invade Earth.
Since Agent J (Will Smith) is the only one with memory of the previous timeline, he travels back to the 1960s so he can foil Boris and save his partner. On his journey, Agent J bumps into the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin), who he joins forces with to defend the planet. Before they can make any progress though, they must learn to work together all over again.
While most situations in “MIB III” are business as usual for this franchise, there are a couple of humorous and inventive sequences which stand out. The prison escape involving Boris is hilarious its amusing twist on the “special” birthday cake trick. Likewise, time travel in the movie, also known as time jumping, quite literally requires plunging from tall structures. As he uses the time machine, Agent J falls through some entertaining time periods, passing pterodactyls and upset investors after the stock market crash of 1929.
Like most 3D films, the extra dimension in “MIB III” functions more as a trick than a means to enhance the storytelling. Sonnenfeld foolishly uses it to throw things in the audience’s face like a lame amusement park ride.
The stupidity of this movie extends beyond 3D, into the dialogue between its characters. Screenwriter Etan Cohen gives Will Smith very little to work with, so don’t expect many laughs from him. Cohen’s lowest point comes when Boris meets himself in the past, and his younger self actually asks “Who are you?” We’re not talking about an old Biff and young Biff scenario from “Back to the Future II” here. These two look enough alike that he should be able to recognize himself immediately.
Josh Brolin is fantastic as a young Tommy Lee Jones, impeccably mimicking the actor’s mannerisms. Since Brolin’s Agent K hasn’t become jaded yet, he’s a more sentimental fellow who can talk openly about his thoughts and feelings. Jemaine Clement’s Boris the Animal is also enjoyable because his snarling character is a vile villain. Occasionally Clement goes a bit over-the-top into cheese territory though, which can be annoying. Perhaps the most surprising performance comes from Michael Stuhlbarg, who portrays a quirky alien with the ability to see the future. Stuhlbarg’s childlike sense of wonder and tendency to break the fourth wall are especially fun.
“Men in Black III” possesses much of the same camp which made the first film so much fun to watch. Where it differs, is that takes an obnoxious sappy direction at the end by showing a direct connection between Agent K and Agent J’s destinies. At least this flick is more memorable than 2002’s “Men in Black II.”
My Grade: C+
The answer to your burning question about The Avengers is a resounding “Yes.” If you’re into movies or comics, you’ve anxiously awaited its arrival since 2008’s “Iron Man,” which first hinted that an Avengers film was in the works. After four years and four more Marvel movies, you’ve been wondering “Will it live up to the hype?” Rest assured, not only does director/writer Joss Whedon’s flick live up to the hoopla, “The Avengers” surpasses it.
Whedon’s 3D beauty captivates you from the opening scene, where Thor’s angry step-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes a deal with some mysterious baddies. Promised an army to help enslave the human race, Loki drops down to Earth to assemble his force and stir up trouble. Despite Loki’s unclear motives, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) immediately realizes that he must call together the planet’s mightiest superheroes in order to stand a chance against the villain.
3D movies take entertainment to new heights, making ordinary visuals, extraordinary through great spectacle. However some things just shouldn’t take on the extra dimension. Male genitals are one of them, even if they’re only animated.
In newcomer Todd Strauss-Schulson’s comedy “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas,” a claymation member comes very close to taking your eye out, during a drug induced hallucination. Needless to say it’s pretty gross, though you may find it amusing if you’re not easily offended.
The purpose of sharing this over-the-top moment is certainly not to frighten you away, but rather to let you know what you’re in for with this film. If you don’t find that kind of stuff funny, you should probably stop reading…now. For those of you left, let’s take a deep breath, because it’s not that outrageous for the entire movie.
Aside from the genitals, Todd Strauss-Schulson has created a 3D extravaganza that is visually stimulating. His film manages to poke fun at the 3D craze, while simultaneously celebrating it. Strauss-Schulson successfully rides the line between parody and tribute as puffs of pot smoke billow off the screen at you, and eggs from an angry mob hilariously pummel Bobby Lee in the face.
“A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” also cleverly worships great Christmas movies of yesteryear. The most obvious sequences influenced by holiday specials are a large performance number, a claymation hallucination based on the Rankin/Bass animated films, and a not so subtle take on a particular scene from “A Christmas Story.”
Talented directing and skilled homage are not enough to support the entire film though. Unfortunately “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” shows significant weakness with its story and its humor.
At the opening of the movie, it’s obvious that our titular buddies have suffered a major falling out, and have not spoken for years. When Kumar (Kal Penn) receives a package accidentally intended for Harold (John Cho), he attempts to bring it to its rightful owner. In true Kumar fashion though, he causes destruction after just a few minutes, by accidentally torching the prized Christmas tree belonging to Harold’s father-in-law (Danny Trejo). Determined to win his father-in-law’s approval, Harold sets out on a quest to replace the tree, with Kumar accidentally in tow.
The tale then follows a logical path. Harold and Kumar warm up to one another, and they begin to remember why they were friends in the first place. Where it starts to get cheesy though is a side story about Kumar learning to grow up. As a stoner comedy that revels in the lighthearted, this sentimental bit feels extremely forced and out of place. It stinks of the cliché, feel-good warm and fuzzies you get in a more legitimate Christmas film.
Their journey is reminiscent of their previous outings, a wild night filled with all sorts of crazy encounters: Russian gangsters, waffle making robots, and yes, you guessed it, Neil Patrick Harris himself. The jokes themselves just don’t have the same pop though.
Probably the most insane development is a running gag about a baby that accidentally ingests several hard drugs, which isn’t really funny at all, it’s just messed up. And if a guy who likes screwball humor can’t even appreciate the jokes, then you know something is wrong. Stylistically “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” is better than “Escape from Guantamo Bay,” but it doesn’t capture the magic of their adventure to White Castle.
My Grade: C+