Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quick Blurb Review: The Princess & The Frog

Okay, so I haven't really touched base on films intended for much younger audiences on either here or my YouTube account with exception of two posts. It may come as a surprise to some who read this, but I have a soft spot for kids movies. Many great films immediately come to mind: All Dogs Go To Heaven, The Land Before Time, the first couple of Shrek films, Aladdin, A Goofy Movie, An Extremely Goofy Movie (which is the only direct-to-video Disney sequel actually worth watching and could've done well in a theatrical run), Robin Hood, The Aristocats, Peter Pan. It's no coincidence that the last six films that I mentioned are Disney films because let's face it, there's a reason why people keep calling animated movies, regardless of what company produces them, Disney films, because Disney does it best. Lately, you can chalk that up to their collaboration with Pixar Studios to keep churning out well rendered hit after well rendered hit, but something about those films were missing something. Before you start sharpening your knives and flooding the comments with hate (provided you haven't closed this tab by now), I have a lot of respect for the Disney/Pixar films. Anyone who questions the impact that the Toy Story franchise has had on the animation world is a damn fool, even if the 3rd movie was a tad over-dramatic. Yet, after 5 years of CG Disney movies, the whole thing was starting get a little old. I remember saying to my brother, "The next generation doesn't know what they're missing with the older style animation films." Sure, Disney gave the hand drawn stuff a rest after the painfully mediocre Home On The Range but then they decided to dust off the drawing board and gave us The Princess & The Frog, Disney's first hand drawn film in five years.

The plot behind The Princess & The Frog is that Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) was raised in a work work work lifestyle and as an adult, she works two jobs to try and help bring her father's dream of opening a restaurant in New Orleans. Meanwhile, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) has come to New Orleans to try and find a wealthy wife to get himself out of a financial bind. There, he and his assistant are confronted by The Dancing Shadowman, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) who spins some voodoo magic to convince them that he can give them everything they ever wanted. Long and short of that, Naveen gets turned into a frog and in order to break the spell, he has to kiss a princess. At a costume party, he mistakes Tiana for a princess and makes her kiss him, accidentally turning her into a frog as well. They then go on a mission through the bayou to set things right.

Tiana is also the first Disney Princess to be African-American.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't really take a lot of notes of things to talk about while watching this movie because I was having way too much of a nostalgia trip with Princess & The Frog, so I'll talk about the movie as a whole instead. This movie continues the fine Disney tradition of leaving our main character with only one parent (father's gone seven minutes into the film. Wasn't surprised) but while it carries on this odd tradition, it also pulls out a lot of stops from the hand drawn Disney films that we loved. Elaborate musical numbers with people who can actually sing (Anika Noni Rose was in Dreamgirls), talking animals (including a Jim Cummings voiced Cajun lightning bug), really cartoony sight gags, large ballroom dances, wishing upon stars, it's all here. Not surprisingly, the movie takes a bit of a darker turn in the final act to bring in an element of peril and suspense, but when your villain is a voodoo twirler voiced by Goliath, then I'd be disappointed if it didn't get a little dark (seriously, the things that Fecilier summons to find the heroes are kinda freaky shit!). Watching this movie honestly gave me the sensation that I had back in 1992 when I first saw Aladdin in theatres.

Cynic Fun Fact: This was the first movie I ever saw in theatres. Too bad it was followed up by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

However, as much fun as I had watching Princess & The Frog, the film is not perfect. There's one scene where three hideously inbred hunters try and catch our heroes for supper that I felt was really stupid and not necessary. Being aimed at a younger audience, I can see why that scene was in there and will even let it go. There might have been a couple of parts trimmed down a bit to shorten the run time slightly and Tiana's friend was really annoying, but I think that was the whole point of her. Fortunately, those gripes don't overshadow the rest of the superb quality found in this film. If you've been wanting to revisit hand drawn Disney, give Princess & The Frog a shot. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

If nothing else, YouTube the song "Got Friends (On The Other Side)." It's quite the spectacle and shows that Keith David has a pretty decent singing voice, too.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quick Blurb Review: Sucker Punch

I was willing to give this movie the benefit of the doubt. Despite the mostly negative press on it, maybe Sucker Punch had some sort of redeeming factor in it that would make the movie mostly tolerable, but no! I HATED this movie! I REALLY. FUCKING. HATED. THIS. MOVIE. So much in fact that if there is anyone, anyone reading this that has yet to see Sucker Punch, I will gladly spill out the shit and spoilers of this film to save you from the torture of sitting through these unwelcome 110 minutes on disc! Read on at your own risk, folks! You thought I got a little nasty with my last blog? You ain't seen SHIT. Here we go!

I know it was a bad sign when I thought the beginning of the film was a trailer. The disc jumps straight into the film without malice or forethought or even a glimpse of the DVD menu. The film starts with Baby Doll (I won't even bother listing the actress' name. The sooner I finish ripping this movie a new asshole, the better. No, I'm not being cute or trying to overreact. This movie genuinely made me that angry) crying on her bed because her mom dies. Her stepdad looks at her mom's will and finds that she left everything to Baby Doll and her sister. Enraged, her stepdad tries to kill her but she escapes and he goes after her sister. Baby Doll tries to pull a gun on her stepdad but when she shoots she misses and accidentally kills her sister. Her stepdad then puts her in a mental asylum for girls (those exist now?) that all look like Zombie Children Of The Corn and it turns out that the place is secretly a burlesque house. During a dance lesson, Baby Doll's mind wanders into fucking lala land and some old guy tells her to gather five items so that she can escape. Convinced this is a fucking brilliant idea, she and four fellow "inmates" (one played by Vanessa Hudgens, I didn't give a damn about the rest of them) decide to pursue this goal in order for freedom. A bunch of really stupid trying-to-be-metaphorical-and-subtle-but-we-beat-it-over-your-heads-like-the-wet-end-of-a-severed-limb shit happens for the next hour and fifty minutes, resulting in massive headaches, high blood pressure & hot tempers.

First off, I want to talk about the overall look of this movie. I know that this has the same director as 300 (an infinitely better film), but at five minutes in, the cinematography reminds me far too much of 300, or even The Spirit, although I'm not sure if Sucker Punch is more or less retarded than The Spirit. This movie made me much angrier, but as for overall know what? Sucker Punch is FAR more retarded. I'm going to shit on it in every other cock-sucking department, so why not this one?


The next thing that I want to rip into is the soundtrack. Oh. My. God. If you are a nostalgic music fan, stay the fuck away from this movie. You will be subject to audio anal-rapings of such songs including but not limited to "Sweet Dreams," "Army Of Me," "(We Will) Rock You," "I Want It All" and "Search & Destroy." No, not Metallica's "Seek & Destroy" but Iggy Pop's "Search & Destroy." If they did as awful of a cover of "Seek" as they did "Search," I'd probably be getting angry drunk right now. Actually, hold on. *Grabs Keystone Beer from fridge* Okay, let's keep going. The soundtrack completely kills the mood of the film and grates on your ears about as badly as an orgy of Kesha, Katy Perry, The Black Eyed Peas, Rebecca Black, Cradle Of Filth, Mayhem, Death & Johnny Reid, if not worse.

Any copy of this album should be shot, stabbed, stretched, hung, disembowled & a start.

The settings of the film go from distracting to absurd. It starts off in an asylum for mental ill girls that's actually a burlesque house. Okay, that's a little twisted, even for me. Who's this movie trying to fool?! This isn't a setting for an action film! Hell, the "action" isn't even real! It's just in this Baby Dingbat's head! None of the hugely over-the-top action scenes actually happen! Which is another thing that pissed me off about this movie! These scenes only happen when she dances, right? If her dancing is so goddamned enchanting, why in the hell can't we see that instead of these ridiculous action scenes that are home of some of the worst fucking CGI in a big budget movie that I've seen in a long time? Anytime we went back to the asylum, it just made me think of the Disturbed album by the same name, which was immediately followed by the thought of, "WHY IN THE FUCK AREN'T I LISTENING TO THAT INSTEAD?!"

"I feel you DIE! In Asylum, I live a lie! Don't know this movie's crap and isn't even ready! To be Released, worldwide!"

I need to touch base on the action scenes some more. The worlds that these scenes take place in are beyond unforgivably stupid. Giant samurais with miniguns? Planes, machine guns & comm units in medieval times? A dragon with a head that looks like a cross of a Ceratosaurus, Spinosaurus & the Cloverfield monster? I, Robot ripoffs? Steam powered zombie Nazis? The only good thing to come out of a couple of these scenes (seeing as how she was only in a couple of them) was Vanessa Hudgens carrying around a big fucking machine gun, which even then was a tad underwhelming. She's not nearly as arousing in this situation as Scarlett Johansson was in Iron Man 2, where when she was beating up all the Hammer Tech goons I thought I was gonna shoot my brains out the end of my dick. Not only do these scenes (and this film in general) fall flat on its face in the mud in the "sexy" department, these scenes are crammed with so much fucking slow motion shots that I swear they're just there to drag out the film. Slow motion looks cool when used in small doses, NOT EVERY MOTHERFUCKING THIRTY SECONDS. KEEP IT MOVING, ZACK SNYDER! WE DON'T HAVE ALL NIGHT, YOU BRAT!!! This movie is like a guy in Burger King wearing a chef's hat: it's trying so hard to stand out and it ends up bathing in a festering cesspool of FAIL.

Get used to dragging action scenes like this one, folks. There's a lot of them. How do you deal with the mass quantity and poor quality? Lots of alcohol.

The fact that this movie is only PG-13 certainly doesn't help it. Not that I was craving naked crazy lady burlesque dancers in this film (if I wanted cast nudity, I'd just Google "Vanessa Hudgens Nude Scandal"), but something this out there and over the top could've used some gore splattering the scenery and a few "fucks" in there. The closest we get is Hudgens (seriously, due to her beauty, she's the only one worth paying attention to in this movie. Too bad she gets killed) aiming at the dragon saying, "I got you in sight you mother" BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a PG-13 movie can get away with saying "fuck" no more than five times before it becomes restricted. Why censor it?

Carla Gugino's accent is pretty hot in this movie too, in all fairness.

The notes I scrawled down while watching this film are three pages of chicken scratch and rage, so I'll wrap this up. On top of all of the awful things in this movie, this film also teases us with an event close to the ending hinting that none of the shit we spent the last hour and a fucking half didn't actually happen when Baby Doll gets a lobotomy, but then it spins us back in the whole burlesque house angle. On top of that, there are animated shorts included on the DVD that are narrated by Kieth David (Goliath, bitches!) and how he decided to get associated with this awful film, I'll never know. Then again, he did star in Delta Farce, so who knows? Maybe Goliath was getting towards the red in his check book. The final salt on the fucking wound with this movie was after the credits roll, the DVD runs through, I'm not kidding, 3 minutes of multi-lingual copyright warnings. What in the hell is the point of that? Then again, when it was made by Cruel & Unusual Films, why should THAT part surprise me? It's not like the rest of the movie didn't give me fair warning.

"Shouldn't we get going?"
"No, we haven't heaved our chests enough yet."

I fucking hate this piece of shit of a movie. While it wasn't as painful as The Love Guru, it was more frustrating to watch than Jurassic Park III. Sucker Punch is nothing more than fapping material to teenage boys as Twilight is to tween girls. Nothing about this movie really jumps out, other than it's gravely low quality of entertainment and its lack of subtlety that bludgeons you at every corner does it no credit, and when I, a guy who describes himself as subtle as a plane crash, says something needs more subtlety, that's saying something. The worst part about this is that Zack Snyder dedicated Sucker Punch to a deceased relative. Ordinarily, I'd feel bad about hating and ripping into something dedicated to someone's memory, but this movie did itself no favors. Sucker Punch is less of a film than it is what Zack Snyder had to show for oogling the cast members during production. Perhaps the guy should just stick to copying and pasting comic books to film, because at least 300 and The Watchmen were incredibly entertaining and the changes he made to those movies helped in the end, whereas his original work here is an attempt to make eye porn for stupid young males, and I think even the stupid young males have higher standards than this shithole of a film set for itself. Avoid this movie as if it were the plague or a bloodthirsty rabid Sasquatch coming to tear down your house and eat everything and everyone you hold dear after it violates them in every orifice the human body houses.


-The Cynic

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I Hate Jurassic Park III Now

My fandom for the franchise Jurassic Park needs no introduction, explanation or any further attention to you because if you're reading this, you probably know how I pretty much all but worship the air this franchise farts out and will no doubt take sharp instruments to your genitalia in lieu of any further elaboration on my part. However, what stops me from being one of those Jurassic zombies, as it were, are the comic Jurassic Park: Redemption, the toy-line Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect, and finally, why we're here today, the film Jurassic Park III.

Surprisingly, fandom appears to be hereditary as my now two year old son, Roland (partially named after Pete Postlethwaite's character from The Lost World: Jurassic Park), loves dinosaurs and actually calls them "kas" because he's trying to say the "K" sounds in Jurassic Park, what he immediately associates dinosaurs with. While he enjoys watching the kas in the entire series, he seems to have taken a liking to the third film for a reason I'll never quite understand (maybe because of the "bird kas"). Since it has those two practically magic words in the title, I find myself parking my ass down next to him and watching it too. However, lately Jurassic Park III hasn't sit quite well with me. In fact, the more I watch it, the less I like it, and considering how much young children like repetition, I now like Jurassic Park III far, far, FAR less than I did when I first saw it on July 18th, 2001. Why? Let's dig in and find out.

The Running Time
At a measly 90 minutes or so, Jurassic Park III feels like a member of the ADD generation, sacrificing build up, suspense & character development to show off the "goods" sooner. One of the great things about Jurassic Park and its sequel, The Lost World, was that it took its time before shit hit the fan. It established the characters, it showed off some of the wondrous animals and majesty of the island(s) before putting the characters you should root for in the way of a giant theropod's gaping maw. Here, give it ten or 15 minutes and the cast is already down two mercenaries and a way off the island. Um, okay, fine but why should we give a crap about Tea Leoni or Alessandro Nivola? Or even the two currently digested mercs at this point? Those two probably had a combined, what, 5 minutes of screen time and ten lines? Boo fucking hoo. If you want us to have a reaction, good or bad, to characters dying, you need to get us invested in them. Fail on this department.

Excuse me, sir. Have we met?

Tea Leoni
Now, I'm not harping on Tea Leoni because she's a bad actress or anything because to be honest, I'm not entirely familiar with her work for the most part, just this film and Deep Impact. The problem isn't so much in her acting, but her character. My other half, Picky Momma Scholar, finds Tea Leoni's character Amanda Kirby more annoying than Willie from Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom. I think Scholar shouldn't say things she can't take back (as annoying as Amanda can be, she has nothing on Willie or even Short Round). That not withstanding, Amanda is a fairly annoying character and probably the only grown woman from the Jurassic Park franchise that I wouldn't be bothered by seeing her not make it (I wasn't entirely sold on The Lost World's Kelly Malcolm). All she does is bicker with her ex-husband Paul (played by William H. Macy, who I like), scream and break away from the herd, calling unwanted attention to herself and her associates. After seeing wonderful leading ladies in the franchise thanks to Laura Dern & Julianne Moore, this just seems like a let down.

"Hi, Dr. Grant? S. Aegypticus here. Can you please tell that annoying thing you're scurrying around on my island with to shut the fuck UP?! Thanks to her, I now have to abandon a GREAT meal so I can get a head start to reach you bastards before the Velociraptors do. Congratulations."

The Spinosaurus
Sometimes, change is good. There are those who encourage, embrace and welcome it, but not all changes are good. Such is the case here. Spinosaurus is by no means a no name dinosaur, but not nearly as recognizable as the iconic and first two film's main attraction, Tyrannosaurus Rex. So much in fact, that I, no word of a lie, had people come up and ask me if Spinosaurus was actually a real dinosaur or something they just made up for Jurassic Park III. Spinosaurus is a real species of dinosaur, but the thing was that given its crocodilian snout and light frame compared other predators of similar size, Spinosaurus was designed more for catching fish and herbivorous dinosaurs in the area, NOT for delivering cheap kill shots to Tyrannosaurus and being some unstoppable bulletproof behemoth that this movie makes it out to be. Then again, the series' paleontological adviser, Dr. Jack Horner, just has it out for T-Rex, suggesting that it was a limping scavenger (you see it in this movie) and that Torosaurus & Triceratops were actually the same dinosaur, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Changing the main dinosaur at this point was like changing the lineup in Transformers back in the 80s: nobody cared about Rodimus Prime vs. Galvatron, and nobody cared about Spinosaurus either.

"Hiddy ho, kids! I'm Spinosaurus aegypticus! Even though I'm not nearly as recognized as my old buddy T-Rex and I have no right to rob him of all but 60 seconds of screen time in this movie, that doesn't mean we can't have fun, right? Right? Does anyone out there like me yet?"

The Velociraptors
After the first Jurassic Park film came out, the word "Velociraptor" became a household word. Rightfully so, seeing as they were the park's most terrifying animal (gave me nightmares for a year, not a word of a lie), even though they were more like Deinonychus or Utahraptor, but we can chalk that up to a miscalculation in the cloning. The screen time they got in Jurassic Park III makes up for their screen time, or lack there of, in The Lost World, but JP3 makes them out to be some kind of messiah that'll start a Dromaeosaur uprising that we'll see in Rise Of The Planet Of The Raptors hitting theatres soon. Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) even says in the movie that they were smarter than dolphins, whales and primates. Sure, if those three species in question are dumber than a housecat (I know some primates who are, in all fairness). Most research that I've found has concluded that Velociraptors were probably about as smart as your common feline, which by reptilian standards, is still pretty impressive, but this movie makes them seem like McGuyveraptor (setting a trap in the tree? Seriously?). Another thing that pissed me off about the Raptors is their look. Why ditch the great tiger stripe thing from The Lost World and give them this acid trip coloration? It's like someone spilled some paint and primer on the male and female maquettes (respectively) while having an acid trip cranking some Pink Floyd and said, "Good enough." I'm fine with the males having feathers, but everything else just sucks.

"Whoa! The jungle's on fire, man!"
"Honey, put down the ecstasy."

Dr. Grant's Change Of Attitude
In Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant says to Lex (Ariana Richards) that the dinosaurs are not monsters, but animals. Here, Grant flat-out says, "Now what John Hammond and InGen did at Jurassic Park was create genetically engineered theme park monsters, nothing more and nothing less." What the fuck, man? You study these things all your life and you get pissy after a few years because they just follow their nature? If you took such personal offense to them trying to feed themselves, why not switch professions? Did nearly a decade of sitting on the thought of them sour your opinion of it all? Actually...this is starting to sound a little familiar. In all seriousness though, this just goes to show you that the writers of Jurassic Park III forgot the whole point behind Jurassic Park.

"Your cousins tried to eat me. You're all a bunch of savage Judases."

Which brings me to my last point, and what I hate the most about Jurassic Park III...

Dinosaurs Are Animals, Not Fucking Monsters.
Dinosaurs fascinate so many people because like Steven Spielberg described them, they possess many of the aspects that make mythology so alluring...only its not mythology, its real. Therefore, his goal in the first Jurassic Park, and even the second if you think about it, was to show the dinosaurs more as the animals that may have existed all those millions of years ago rather than creatures ravenous for human flesh. Jurassic Park III took that philosophy, said "To Hell with this noise," and took a huge dump on it. I say this because of a few key scenes:
1. When the group first encounters the Tyrannosaur, they find him chewing on a dead dinosaur. He roars to scare them off, they split, and then he chases after them. The Tyrannosaur gives up tons, TONS of flesh already at his disposal for a couple of running bitesizers? That's like giving up a freshly cooked steak for some stray Skittles. What a crock.
2. When Udesky (Michael Jeter) gets killed, the Velociraptors claw him down his back and when they are called away, the male takes the time to reach down and break his neck, snarling back at Paul, Amanda and Billy (Alessandro Nivola), as if to mock them. You'd think that they'd just slash him again and put him out of his misery or you know, drag him back to their nesting site to feed their young. Just a thought.
3. The one that pisses me off the most, when Billy is thought to be killed by the Pteranodons and the one perched on the rocks nearby looks back and gives that "You're next" look to Grant and Paul. A real Pteranodon would probably screech at the intruders and take off to realign itself and dive at them, if anything. Sorry folks, this was creepy in the first Resident Evil game, but it just looks stupid here.

This movie can officially go fuck itself.

Okay, I think I've gone on about this for awhile now. I've been typing this for a couple hours now and I have other things to attend to. On top of all the things I mentioned, Jurassic Park III also had the lamest CGI (computer generated imagery) and toys in the entire franchise. In the first two films, the CGI looked damn real and still holds up pretty well, all things considered, but with JP3 anytime a CGI dinosaur was on I was well aware that I was looking at a rendered CGI model. This movie rushes into things, not giving us anything to wonder and marvel at with people we don't give a damn about thrown into the fray and is just a frustrating experience. With Steven Spielberg announcing that Jurassic Park IV is apparently a go, we can only hope that they learn their lessons from Jurassic Park III and take their time, both production and final length time-wise, to give us a quality film that will have us invest in the...what's that? Universal wants it out by 2013?

We're fucked.

-The Cynic

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quick Blurb Review: Iron Man 2

I know, I know, I should be ashamed of myself for not seeing this one sooner, but life happens. Thanks to a friend's Netflix subscription, I was finally able to see Iron Man 2.

The story for Iron Man 2 takes place about a year or so after the events of the first Iron Man film. Tony Stark/Iron Man, played once again by the brilliantly cast Robert Downey Jr., has pretty much single-handedly made world peace because nobody wants to come to blows with him and the Mark 3 Iron Man suit. However, the suit that's keeping him alive is also slowly killing him due to the toxicity in the element used to power Tony's super-pacemaker. It turns out that the original designs from his father weren't entirely his own, but shared with a Russian scientist and when Tony's father had the Russian deported, the Russian raised his son in a vodka filled rage. Fully grown and finally having the means to exact revenge, his son (also a scientist, played by Mickey Rourke), builds a similar technology to combat Tony's Iron Man suit.

First off, the casting. Many familiar faces return with the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow & Jon Faverau, but we see some new ones as Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Col. James "Rhoady" Rhodes and Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow which was...well...daaaammmmnnnnn. I don't feel there was a single dull performance in this movie, but then again in order for this film to maintain the thunder from the first, it would've had to lack dull performances. In all honesty, one of the most fun characters to watch in this film was Sam Rockwell as Justin "Jack" Hammer. He was such an arrogant suit toting douchebag that he was just so lovably hate-able that I looked forward to seeing him onscreen. Also, I don't know what everyone was complaining about, Mickey Rourke's Russian accent didn't seem THAT bad.

The overall pacing of this movie worked well because there weren't any parts that dragged and nothing felt too rushed either. Unlike the first one, there's more scenes that are either action packed or visually appealing in with the dialogue scenes, but one doesn't wash out the other, which is impressive because the film pays homage to an old arc in the comics called "Demon In The Bottle" where Tony can't control his drinking and the last half an hour or so of this film was absolutely insane and kept me on the edge of the couch. In the action department, Iron Man 2 topped the first film.

Watching ScarJo beat the tar out of a bunch of guards is the most arousing action scene I've ever witnessed. I hope she gets more roles like this.

That being said, I wouldn't necessarily go so far to say Iron Man 2 completely surpasses its predecessor. Probably on par at best. I'm not entirely sure why, but then again, it has been quite some time since I've seen the first Iron Man film so perhaps I should watch the two back to back and see how they compare. My final thoughts on the film would be if you're interested in seeing The Avengers next year and if you haven't seen this one yet, you might want to look into it for the full experience. That, and if you're familiar with The Avengers, the trademark weapons of two Avengers make cameo appearances in this film. All in all, Iron Man 2 was a damn fun movie and maybe I should have seen it before, but I'm glad I finally have this one off the "To Watch" list, for it was on there for too long.

-The Cynic