Saturday, May 28, 2011

Battle Memorial Day Sequel Weekend: Kung Fu Panda 2 vs. The Hangover Part II


In this review I'm going to do things a little differently. Instead of doing 2 separate reviews for the 2 sequels, I'm going to compare and contrast them, saying what film did the sequel-thing right and which one did it horribly wrong.
Three summers ago I was going into college. I had this fantastic new job at the Hill Country Galleria Cinemark and I loved everyone I was working with. And Kung Fu Panda had come out. Now up against the year's best animated picture (Wall-e), Kung Fu Panda was just not as fantastical. However, after rewatching it again (on bluray of course) I realized that the movie actualy was pretty fantastic in its own way. The movie is gorgeously animated and all the jokes are super clever. It's funny, it's beautiful, and the story pans out marvelously. I laughed throughout the film again. It was hilarious.
Now, two summers ago one of my favorite recent comedies came out in theaters. I went to see The Hangover twice, which is something I rarely ever do for a comedy (I'm more of a repeat action-blockbuster kind of girl). It was unexpected, unpredictable, and totally hilarious. The Hangover is simply a fantastic raunchy comedy that I love. Like Kung Fu Panda, it too was hilarious.
This past holiday weekend both these films sequels hit theaters. The Hangover Part II swooped in and almost doubled the original's weekend gross with $86.5 million. That's a whole lot of people who decided to go out and see said raunchy R-rated comedy sequel. On my last day at the theater, all of our showings for The Hangover Part II sold out completely after 6pm. It's safe to say it did really really well. Kung Fu Panda 2, however, did not do so well. Coming in with a total of $48 million, the film's predecessor pulled in $60 million on a non-holiday weekend 3 years ago. I guess this wasn't the weekend for a children's movie after all (probably because all the parents were out seeing the R-rated movie).
It's obvious what film did much better money-wise this weekend, but which one was better overall? I of course saw them both, being I was very excited for the 2 films this summer. I must say, as much as I understand the box office results, I do not agree with them.
The Hangover Part II was a horrible film. Not only did it pretty much just cut-and-paste the first film's formula, making it completely predictable (something that the first film was so good at evading), but the jokes just weren't funny. Director Todd Phillips must just be laughing behind his desk in Hollywood right now, pointing his giant finger at us all for paying for this movie. I felt like the movie also didn't take advantage of all the funny jokes it could have. Being a fish out of water in any country is always a funny scenario, but this film took that and stomped on it. The movie had this super serious tone to all its humor and it felt to me that there's something about Thailand that maybe Mr. Phillips doesn't like. Every time a person near me would laugh, I would look over at them and think "How is someone getting shot funny? That's not funny, this is serious." The film got people to laugh at parts that, if they were in another film, people would not be laughing at ever. Also the total lax attitude about the [spoiler alert] chopped off finger was ridiculous. I would never be so nonchalant about my finger getting chopped off if I wanted to be a surgeon. Say goodbye to your future. [/spoiler]. I usually don't get the feeling to walk out of a film, but with this movie I almost did. The only reason I didn't was because my boyfriend had gone with me and I didn't want to bother him. However, after the movie it came to my attention he too wanted to walk out. If I had paid for this movie, I would have probably asked for my money back. It was terrible.
There was a glimmer of hope this weekend though and families didn't take enough advantage of it. While The Hangover Part II was the example of what you shouldn't do while making a sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2 was everything you do when you want to make a sequel right. The film was just spot-on. Instead of creating a movie that is step-by-step the original, it expanded on the first and moved forward, repeating some jokes from the first, but most of all creating more character development. In the first film, Po learns to accept himself for who he is. What Po discovers in this film is to accept his past and to focus on the present, to become at peace with himself. The villain was also fab. Gary Oldman's voice was so prefect for the peacock, I loved it. The film had a completely new story arc and I fell for it. I adored Kung Fu Panda 2 almost as much as I loved the first, and it just proves that sometimes that children's movies can be the better film. Just because you're over the age of 17 does not mean you can't watch a really solid and good animated film. They may sometimes be better than the raunchy R-rated movie.

At last! I shall give you my ratings (with my ratings of the first films as well).
The Hangover Part II: 1.5/5 (The Hangover: 4/5)
Kung Fu Panda 2: 3.5/5 (Kung Fu Panda: 4/5)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wild Target (2010)

Wild Target - 4/5

I really enjoy British comedies when I get the chance to watch one, and this one is no different. This is a remake (but you wouldn't know), and despite that it's stays super quirky and fresh. With a huge and remarkable cast (Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, and Rupert Grint to name a few), it is as well acted as any movie I've seen lately. It's fun, and it's not supposed to be anything else. There's no incredible life lesson that is to be learned, and the plot is very simple and nothing extra-ordinary. However, this movie has energy and keeps its audience laughing throughout.
This movie fell upon my radar because two of my favorite people are in it: Rupert Grint and Emily Blunt. They played the two major supporting characters, and they did it so well. Emily Blunt's character Rose kind of reverts back to her hilarious work on The Devil Wears Prada, which was the first movie I watched with her; and Rupert Grint fabulously breaks away from the Ron persona (of Harry Potter) really well, very much like he did with Driving Lessons. Bill Nighy played the assassin Victor Maynard and he was hilarious. I absolutely adored the way he would so nonchalantly kill all his victims in the beginning and his transformation was funny to watch.
Watching the movie on bluray was really fantastic, because the colors all popped out. The film itself was also really fast paced and it moved with such ease. I really enjoyed this movie, and would strongly recommend you go out to your nearest movie store or head on over to your netflix account and get it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tide -- 3/5

I am one of the hugest Pirates fans, and I love the first three ones ever so much (the first being in my top 15 movies of all time). I find them exciting, fun, and they always have something new going on. However, even though I enjoyed the new Pirates entry, I feel like it was a huge step down from the older ones and possibly (I bite my tongue now) an unneeded film to the series as a whole.
The film starts off like an average Pirates movie -- there's a goal (The Fountain of Youth) and our faithful Captain Jack Sparrow hasn't a plan, but is just moving forward with the motions. You are reintroduced to all the old characters (Barbossa and Gibbs) and then some new (Angelica played by Penelope Cruz and Blackbeard played by Ian McShane). It's interesting, it's funny, but there's something missing...and if you haven't noticed from the lack of their appearances in the posters and trailers, Will and Elizabeth are officially gone. Instead, they attempted to replace said couple with Philip (played by Sam Claflin) the Christian and Syrena (played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey) the Mermaid. If trying to force Jack with a lover was enough, the flimsy replacement of Will and Elizabeth is contrived, and overall I feel the movie would have done better without them at all. Sure, they needed the mermaid for the Fountain, but there was no need for Philip what-so-ever. He was easily eliminated and I honestly wish he had been. Their subplot was the worst part of the movie, and the extra 30 minutes they both added together just dragged the film down to the depths.
There were some enjoyable parts of the film. As always, Jack and Barbossa have some pretty witty banter, and a lot of the twists and turns to get to the Fountain are pretty cool. Also, the mermaids were dark and scary and I loved watching them attack the pirates. I really liked watching the movie, but sadly it just wasn't the best. However, I never expected it to excel without Will and Elizabeth anywho.

And BTW my previous Pirates ratings, just so you can compare:
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 4.5/5
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 3.5/5
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 4/5

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and My Impression on the Movie Series

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy - 3.5/5

With this summer debatably having the most sequels of all time, everyone has their own opinions on serial movies. Do they work? Are they unoriginal? Why are they so popular? For some, when a favorite movie gets slapped with the foreboding green light to sequel, teeth cringe. This even happens to movies the person didn't terribly like either. Why is Hollywood so unoriginal? Why must they continue a story they already made and finished?
One would argue that it makes Hollywood loads of money. Some big-name series that have made it to theaters with very successful (if not more) sequels like Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers create huge uproars. Why oh why do they want to make more of this "garbage"? Well, for starters both Pirates 2 and 3 are in the top 10 highest grossing movies of all time worldwide and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is number 11 domestic making almost $100 million more than its predecessor. Obviously, it pays to sequel. What's so wrong with continuing a product that will make a company more money? Apple does it all the time with their "re-inventing" of the iphone. Why can't a movie company earn back more money so they can keep in business. They're also keeping their public happy with the continuation of films that super-fans really want to see more of.
However, this not only happens in Hollywood, but happens in every country with every popular movie franchise. People complain constantly saying it's Hollywood that's not original, but alas (!!): China has their very popular Love Undercover series and The Eye trilogy, and Korea has Marrying the Mafia I through III. So it's apparent that Hollywood is not the only country who has caught on to this sneaky marketing ploy. There are also series of films that are adapted from books like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. However, those usually aren't piled in and tagged with the dreadful "movie series" logo because those were lucky enough to be series in book form prior. So my question here is what's the different between a book and a film series? They're both stories, aren't they? Then we come to your very famous series that usually aren't worth complaining about like Star Wars, The Godfather, and the new Batman series (though maybe this is where I should mention The Godfather was actually a book too before being film).
Then here comes the dreaded horror sequel. The genre that easily has the "worst" and most "gimmicky" sequels and series of them all. They create something original that excites fans everywhere and then continue to make these huge box office money-makers (percentage-wise) and spew them out fairly cheaply. Some famous series that had great success would be Saw and Final Destination. Which brings me to the super long 4 hour documentary I watched tonight, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.
What this documentary showed me is that movie series are much more than what people give them credit for. At first I only found this doc interesting because they went into depth about how they make-uped, casted, and brought to life this huge film series (and mainly the first one). It was intriguing how much money they made off this series which actually molded the backbone of the production company New Line, which later on created the Oscar winning Lord of the Rings films. This series was a landmark. Although, it was the ending that really touched me. All the people that worked on it, whether it just be in one film or them all, really and truly cared about the series as a whole. Their blood, sweat, and tears went into this franchise that is now a milestone in the horror industry. You can't tell me that's not incredible. It's changed my view on the movie series and I really think people should hold their tongues before criticizing these huge money machines.
There were also some really interesting facts I learned from the documentary. Wes Craven actually got the idea of the dream-killer Freddy from a newspaper article on how a child was afraid to go back to sleep because he had a foreboding that he would die (and his fear came true). I also learned that for one of the later Freddy movies, Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) wrote a script that didn't make the cut, but forever attached him to the New Line production company. This series did incredible things for directors, actors, and producers. So then I ask my question again, why do we condemn sequels all the time?


Bridesmaids: 3.5/5

Like many of her SNL co-comedians before, Kristen Wiig has recently taken the path into comedic film writing, and she doesn't fail. There are very few female-oriented comedies out there right now (the only other that comes to mind is Tina Fey's Mean Girls). Many of the recent raunchy comedies have the A-typical male cast: either Seth Rogan, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, or any other pick-your-SNL-comedian. With her co-cast of hilarious females, Wiig successfully creates an outrageously funny film without the help of the traditional "funny men."
The film itself explores female relationships that not since Mean Girls have been dissected, while romantic chick-flicks always regurgitate the same old female dynamics. Annie (Wiig) and Lilian's (Maya Rudolph) sister-like friendship really pulls the film forward and creates many laughs. The way Annie feels threatened by the beautiful and new "best friend" Helen (Rose Byrne) was super relatable. The two side-kick bridesmaids Becca (Ellie Kemper) and Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) were also equally funny with their contrasting characteristics. However, the character that generated the most roaring laughter had to be Megan (Melissa McCarthy). Megan knew no embaressment. Her character went places that would be tough for some women to go. She was rowdy, rude, was a little masculine, and above all held a pretty unattractive exterior. And that was the brilliance of her character. She was the male where the comedy needed a male, but she was disguised as a female, and she was hilarious.
The film's characters are the really special part of this film, and the feeding of their lines is what makes this movie a great one. There are some downfalls to this movie, however. The ending is super cliche, and the romantic side-story feels overkill at moments, but was needed for the story to come together. Aside from some minor issues though, the script was fantastically written and hopefully this proves that more females can write funny movies.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Thor: 3.5/5

So it appears because of finals, I have been unable to write any reviews! Lucky for me, on Friday I was able to see Thor and start off my summer movies right. I liked Thor a great deal and I thought it was super funzies. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting much from this movie. Since the bumper on Iron Man 2, I had pretty much written this movie off as one of the more boring Marvel/Avengers movies (not so different from The Hulk). I wasn't excited, I didn't really care, I never watched a trailer. Then one day I decided it would be the most kind of funny to watch the trailer with Japanese subtitles. Not only were the translations pretty hilarious, but the trailer itself actually seemed...not as lame as I thought it would be. It actually seemed...well, interesting.
There are a few things I really enjoyed about this movie, and a few others that I was alright with, but not incredibly thrilled about. I really enjoyed how this movie went between two different worlds, the Thor-world, Asgard, being my absolute favorite. The CGI was really stunning and the characters all seemed to mesh well with each other. It was actually Earth that I wasn't all too thrilled with. Aside from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) not being a very convincing character, Earth just overall seemed to be comic relief every time the movie would lead us back there. It seemed a little odd that all the mighty warriors from Asgard would act like complete fools on Earth. You'd think because they are such higher beings, they would understand how to act. Instead, Thor's pals pranced around like they had never even heard of Earth before. While on Earth, I found myself getting excited for the next time I would be on Asgard, so I could stare at Loki some more.
Most girls would giggle and sigh at the sight of Thor's abs (played by Chris Hemsworth), much like Natalie Portman did. However, for some strange reason or another, I totally had the hots for the glorious Loki (Tom Hiddleston). I dunno if it was his bad ass helmet, or his pretty blue eyes meshed with his darker brown hair, or maybe it was his evilness, but I liked him a lot. And honestly, his looks alone didn't make him my favorite character. He was the only dynamic character in the whole film. It's actually a little surprising, because aren't the villains supposed to be flatter characters than the protagonist? Thor himself wasn't all too thrilling of a guy, though he did have a nice smile and acted the part well. However, his "revelation" seemed a little quick and I had a hard time believing it was all Natalie Portman's doing. Loki however seemed confused as a villain and he honestly appeared to think he was doing the right thing. He was an interesting guy, and I loved him. I really feel like I need a poster of his beautiful face hanging somewhere on my wall now. Mmmmmmm.
Overall, the movie was a fun way to start the summer. No, it's not Iron Man or Spider Man 2, but the film is great fun. Mindless, superhero fun. So go see it now, in 2D not 3D.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

10 Summer Movies

I decided to compile a list of films that I am totally stoked to see this upcoming Summer 2011. I will state a few reasons why I'm excited for these films, but in general, compared to last summer there are a lot more I am going to go out and see.

(The list is in order of desire, and I'm only counting movies from May 6-August 26)

1. Super 8 - this film is one I have been excited to see for about a year. Ever since that wonderful super secret trailer was attached to Iron Man 2 I have been following this movie. There is no movie I can compare to my thrill. JJ Abrams has promised me many things with this movie, above all the nostalgia of my childhood with Steven Spielberg's ET (which, if you don't know, is my 2nd favorite movie of all time). I love alien movies. I love the aloofness of this film, and how I know almost close to nothing about it, but I've been following it for over a year come this weekend. In other words, this movie has the most potential to disappoint me greatly, but I strongly feel it won't. (June 10)

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt.2 - uhm, duh. If you read my last blog post, you'd know that there is nothing that beats HP in my eyes. Actually, if you know me at all you'd know Harry Potter revolves around my life like nothing else. It's pretty much the air I breathe. I think about the book series at least once a week, and my room can be seen as a shrine to my love for it (I have a book shelf dedicated to the series, 3 posters, and assorted other things that express my love for the series litter my room). This movie is a close 2nd to Super 8, and the reason is because I'm almost a little scared for it all to end. (July 15)

3. X-Men: First Class - Yeah, make fun of me all you want and tell me how much the X-men series has tanked. I'll agree with you. But come on, have you not seen this trailer??! Yeah, not only that but James McAvoy's voice is sexy on its own. Add Rose Byrne, who I've fallen in love with since Adam, and new comer Jennifer Lawrence and you have a match. I desperately want to see this movie, and living proof of this was today after someone read their script I immediately said "this makes me even more excited for summer movies, specifically X-men." The trailer, oh man, it's just so good. (June 3)

4. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - I've been wanting to see this movie for a little over a year now. However, MGM's bankruptcy prevented that. After constant waiting, finally there is a release date and hopefully it sticks. Insidious gives me hope for a new turn over of scary movies. Hopefully this trend stays, and we start to see more interesting and inventive horror films produced and made in America. I can only cross my fingers. (August 26)

5. Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides - Again, make fun of me. But Johnny Depp is one foxy guy and I love every single Pirates movie. I have a lot of weaknesses within films, and one is big-time blockbuster movies. For the past 2 summers, however, I have been unimpressed. I want something fun, exciting, and entertaining enough for me to munch away at my popcorn, eyes glued to the screen. The Pirates movies do this for me. I also am partial to the fun exchange of dialogue. The characters are strong, they're entertaining, and the movies keep me on my toes. Perfect summer movie. (May 20)

6. Winnie the Pooh - awh, I'm so excited for this movie :) I love Winnie and all his friends. As far as animated movies go, this one is up on my high list for the year. It's nostalgia all the way, but it's classic and maybe I'll even dig up my old Winnie stuffed animal :p. Plus, the fact that it's hand-drawn 2D animation just makes it almost more appealing than all the CGI and 3D animated movies coming out (sorry Pixar). July 15th is going to be a busy weekend.

7. The Hangover Part II -- Jeez, there's a lot of sequels, prequels, reboots, you name it this summer...but that's okay with me. this is pretty much the highest comedy on my list of summer movies I'm excited to see. I loved the first one, so that already makes it on my list of movies I need to see. It also doesn't hurt that this one takes place in Asia (hello, awesome). And supposedly Justin Bartha has a more important role in this one (as I cross my fingers). Love him. I'm a little worried about this movie, though. Maybe all this hype will kill it. The reason the first movie did so well was because no one saw it coming. It was hilarious, and unexpected. This movie can end up being a big time flop for me, but that doesn't mean I'm any less excited for it. (May 26)

8. 30 Minutes or Less - As an awesome friend of mine said already, what is not to want about this film. Director of Zombieland, Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, and on top of all that it has Dilshad Vadsaria who is of Greek fame (my favorite TV show of all time). The trailer's solid, the cast and crew are solid, is there any reason not to want to see this film?? Probably not. (August 12)

9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - One name: Tom Felton. You've captured me, won me over, I'm already in line. Honestly, I don't need to know any more about this film than that. However, I do know a little bit more. There are some other strong cast members such as James Franco, Andy Serkis (Gollum....duh)and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire). The CGI monkey also looks great. My only protest is that this movie will most likely end in sadness, seeing as this is the prequel to The Planet of the Apes, and we all know how THAT starts. (August 5)

10. Cowboys & Aliens - This spot was hard for me, actually. There was a lot of potential for another movie to fill the number 10 spot, but Cowboys & Aliens creeped up above all those others. So why? Well, it's the alien part, I'm not going to lie. But the actor line-up also helped it as well. Paul Dano, whom I love, is on the cast list as well as big names like Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde. Also, it's the director of Iron Man, so I can do that. A couple of the writers are also behind the script of the new Star Trek movie. Super! (July 29)

Other Movies Worth Noting:

Thor (May 6)
Bridesmaids (May 13)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 27)
The Troll Hunter (June 10 limited)
Green Lantern (June 17)
The Art of Getting By (June 17 limited)
Cars 2 (June 24)
Bad Teacher (June 24)
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (July 15 limited)
Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22)
Friends with Benefits (July 22)
Crazy Stupid Love (July 22)
Our Wonderful Brother (August 26)
Apollo 18 (August 26)

EDIT: I will cross out the movies as I watch them