Friday, March 22, 2013

Jonah Hex (2010) Review:

Along with several other anti-heroes like Marvel's The Punisher, Daredevil and Ghost Rider, not much is really said about the characters from DC Comics universe. That is except for the western outlaw, Jonah Hex. And out of all the DC Comic film adaptations that have hit the screen, Jonah Hex is really the only character who does not possess superhuman abilities (from the comics at least). In this movie, things have changed (which isn't a surprise) and it's actually not that bad of a movie. It has a lot of good parts but the problem was with how it was brought to fruition.

Brolin as the scarred western outlaw
I will go over what I had problems with first. My only quarrel with the whole project is that for all that it promised, there really wasn't a lot of action. And if there was, it was sporadic and only last for a few minutes. I was hoping to see some real gunfights since it was a western. It's not to say that the action was bad. It was excellent but because it didn't last too long, I was left disappointed because I was hoping to see more. Back to what I found good. On more of a parallel, Jonah Hex is the 19th century Frank Castle. He loses everything to one man and is from then on, destined to kill any man he feels deemed to die. It's very cool because how many slick characters do you see, hear or read about from the 1800s? Probably very very few.

Playing the main lead as Jonah Hex is Josh Brolin. Brolin is able to pull off the tough guy look very well, especially with the scar. His voice is low enough and his mannerisms are dry enough to make it sound like he doesn't give. Oddly enough, I do not know why Thomas Jane wasn't hired first. Jane went out of his way to show his enthusiasm for the character and he still didn't get the part. Strange. I'm actually curious now to how much better Jonah Hex would have been if Jane was the lead. Funny as it is, Jane would play Hex that same year in a DC Showcase animated short.

The villain who made Jonah Hex who he was is Quentin Turnbull played by John Malkovich. This isn't Malkovich's first time playing a psychopath but it seemed like he couldn't give his character enough energy to make him seem truly hell-bent on destroying the Union. Turnbull's right hand man is Burke, a psychotic Irishman acted by Michael Fassbender. Fassbender actually seems like he had fun with his role. However, I'd like to know why he put on such weird looking tribal ink on his face. It reminded me of the character Hiko (Cliff Curtis) from John Bruno's Virus (1999). Lastly, hate her or love her, Megan Fox plays the lover of Hex. Surprisingly, she's not on the screen as often as one would think. Either way, she wasn't bad at her character either, especially when she actually fought.

The one thing fans were not happy with was that Hex had super powers. The ability was the power to talk to the dead. Actually, I thought it was neat trait. I'm not fond of changes to original ideas but this didn't seem like such a big deal to fret over. Also, many people thought the dialog was bad. The screenwriters, the Taylor and Neveldine duo didn't do that bad of a job either. I didn't feel any dumber when I heard the characters talking. Brolin had a lot of good lines.

Fassbender as his crazed character Burke
Finally, the introduction with the whole animated bit was rather unique too. It's interesting because Taylor and Neveldine would later direct Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012) which would also feature animated segments. It doesn't excel the picture above and beyond but it does give the audience something new to look at. Even for heavy rock band Mastodon's first theatrical film score, I was fairly impressed with. I wasn't sure what to expect originally because the question was, how could they pull that off without an orchestra? But they did and although it didn't contain any soft parts, the guitars blazing in the background were able to portray the anger Hex had very accurately. Too bad, Mastodon could not release the full score. Their EP album is fun but it's not the traditional film score.

There's a lot of good stuff going on in Jonah Hex. The characters are well casted and Mastodon's score is well played for the tone of the film. Too bad the action wasn't as frequent as everything else.

Points Earned --> 7:10

The California Raisins II: Raisins Sold Out! (1990) Review:

I actually did not know there was a sequel to the TV hit Meet the Raisins! (1988) until just recently. Once I knew for sure that there was, I obtained the footage as quickly as possible and sat down and watched it. Its running time is about equal to the first but there are some key components missing to this that don't make it equal in quality to the first.

Leonard Limabean.....looks dasterdly right?
I think I can honestly say that no one likes backtracking. Does anyone like moving forward by first going backward (if that makes any sense)? I don't think so and I know I don't. But that's what happens in the second story of the energetic California Raisins. Screenwriter Rowby Goren seemed to be the only person who thought the story was a good one. In short terms, a corrupt talent agent, Leonard Limabean, tries to break up the California Raisins through deception.

The reason why this doesn't work is because this ends up having the California Raisins perform really wacky songs. Disco-polka? Country-rap?...It's not like it isn't funny or creative because it is, but that's not why I wanted to view this movie. I wanted to see the California Raisins come out with more of their own music! I mean, isn't that what made the first one so popular? The only song that it retained from the first film is "Heard it through the grapevine".

The claymation is still there....
Plus, this film isn't a parody/documentary like the first one. This is more like an episode if it were a running TV Show (which they did have at one point by the way). But to call this a sequel, really isn't. I will give credit though for keeping most of the voice acting consistent and sticking with the claymation. I will always give props for that because it is not an easy skill. Other than that, there's not much else. If you're a California Raisins fan looking for fun, then it will satisfy. If you're a fan wanting a new album release of these characters, you're going to be disappointed.

Will Vinton's California Raisins sequel doesn't hit the high mark like the first output because there aren't any new music numbers. It's still fun though, if that's all you're looking for.

Points Earned --> 7:10

The Evil Dead (1981) Review:

Every famous moviemaker has a start somewhere. Some have greater beginnings (Steven Spielberg), while others are not truly recognized and are left with a strong cult following (Clive Barker). For Sam Raimi, he has the luxury of both. Not only did his first theatrical film gain popular momentum, but it also has such a large fan base that it spawned two sequels and a remake, not to mention it made the name Bruce Campbell a family name. Sam Raimi is a lucky man, but I was actually surprised to see that his first film was not what so many viewers have praised it to be. For me, it was scraping the surface of entertainment.

If you come across a cabin like this........AVOID
The Evil Dead (1981) story, written and directed by Sam Raimi himself is about five friends who decide to spend some time in a cabin secluded in the woods. Little do they realize that not only does the cabin contain a deadly secret but the entire area surrounding it is in need of some serious pest control. They should've called the Ghostbusters (1984),...oh right, that company was established three years later. Anyway, this dark secret has the power to unleash deadly spirits that can inhabit any host when read from a mystical book.

The thing I found the most troublesome about this movie was the fact that for everything I wanted to give full credit for, ended up only being partial credit. For example, I found the makeup effects noteworthy because it made the victims of the demons look really supernatural. However, what I could not take were the voices of the possessed victims. Either screechy and raspy, or deep and gurgley, I would prefer to hear one kind of demonic voice. At one point, one of the voices sounded like an upset stomach. I'll admit that it did make the possessed victim seem more unnatural but it still was hard on the ears.

But for a film with such a low budget, it does get creative with its practical effects. At some parts of the film, it even uses stop motion animation. One of those scenes is the vine-raping scene. Unfortunately, this is a particular part of the film I really wish Raimi did not include. It's one thing if the character gave consent for this kind of thing but watching a rape scene is a tad bit too far on the "entertainment" description. I just felt uncomfortable watching it. Why would anyone consider it fun to watch?

The five friends of this movie......Bruce Campbell is far left
As for blood goes, audiences will get their fill of grossness. It's not a bloodfest but it is nasty. Just nasty. Bruce Campbell's character can't escape having buckets of blood thrown into his face every ten minutes. But here's where I get frustrated again. What is Raimi's icon? Is it Ash (Bruce Campbell)? Or is it the demon spirits that inhabit his friends? For most horror films, the antagonist is the icon that represents the franchise but in this film, I can't figure it out since the audience will never get to see the demon that inhabits Ash's friends.

Lastly, the score produced by composer Joseph LoDuca, (his first theatrical score to be exact) was half hearted too. I know LoDuca can produce good work because he did it for the Xena and Hercules TV show. Did he just not have enough equipment in 1981? The only two times I hear an actual tune is in beginning and ending. This proves he knows how to make themes in music. But besides that, LoDuca relies way too much on the strings to make any kind of music. And majority of the time, I enjoy the strings. The problem is that LoDuca arranged their music to create either scratchy or plucking noises. That doesn't create tension. Besides of the fact that they were only used for mainly transition scenes. The score was barely there to begin with.

This was a project I was really looking forward to enjoying but instead for every good part, there was a counter. It’s by no means awful but for all the praise that it's been given, I was expecting more.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Salt (2010) Review:

Angelina Jolie is the true icon of what you would call a female that can fill in the shoes for any masculine role. And what kind of audience wouldn't want that? She's a role model for women because of her talent of displaying power in the feminine lead, and for the guys, she makes them drool because of her ability to be sexy while being powerful at the same time. A benefit for both ends of the stick and there is no doubt that Jolie will not give such a performance for a film with a premise like this.

The title is based on the main character, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), a CIA agent who is revealed to be a Russian spy sent on a mission with several other Russian spies to overthrow the United States of America. Once Salt realizes this, she flees from the government to try and discover why she is being sought after. Unfortunately (for her character), this leads to many twists and turns along the way. As for audiences’ go this is probably the most troublesome part of the film.

On the run with blonde hair......
Kurt Wimmer, an individual who isn’t a novice to the film industry, but doesn’t seem to have a true understanding of what audiences want or expect to see in their films, wrote the screenplay. The way the story is written is so up and down on who's on what side, can become really tiresome. It does allow the movie to create a sense of paranoia about who is really who, but it is not given in a fashion that makes it any more clear for the audience either. In fact, depending on how avid a filmgoer you are, this movie may take more than one viewing to truly understand what went down in the whole film. It really can be frustrating at times to keep up with what viewpoint the main characters' have and what side they support.

Along with this, is the system of child hypnosis that a Russian antagonist puts on these "creations" of his. It is a really convoluted plot and sometimes it sounds just plain ridiculous. Also, anti-heroes are cool and have neat traits but for me, I just couldn't get over the fact of how Salt's character is always on the run. Yes she did fight (which I'll get to in a second) but a lot of the time she was fleeing from the authorities because she had NO ONE else to go to. Those kinds of plot lines annoy me because it feels like there's no hope for the character.

......getting serious with jet black hair
As for acting goes, the actors all portray their characters well and understandably. None seem out of place or overacted. Jolie's abilities to perform action are still there as well. She still has the muscle to throw herself and others around while looking attractive at the same time. She's always good at doing that. I also liked the transition that Jolie's character made from the beginning to the end of the film with the color of her hair. Light to dark always shows a change in character tone and it's shown very accurately.

As for James Newton Howard's musical score, I wasn't quite sure if he forgot how to portray emotion. His score definitely knows how to build tension with the blaring horns. But the emotional side of his music seems to be lacking. There are some vocals that reminisce of the Russian culture (which usually sounds tragic) but it doesn't occur frequently. Perhaps Howard missed these points in the film.

With Angelina Jolie back in her action boots, there's bound to be plenty of fun. However, the story is a little over the top and James Newton Howard's score is a little dry.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Meet the Raisins! (1988) Review:

Have you met the California Raisins? There's a good chance you haven't. That's because it never was a theatrically released movie, yet the VHS copy has gained a strong following by multiple generations around the world. This musical documentary only has a running time close to a half an hour but its energy, wit and passion for music are all in the right setting. The premise of this film is to introduce the audience to a vocal group called the California Raisins and tell their history of how they came to be.

The California Raisins
To begin with, apparently no one has updated this website or others because Karreem was not the only voice actor in this film. David Scully, David Downing and Ted  are just a few to mention. These are the voice actors of the Raisins themselves. Surprising as it is, not too many of these voice actors went onto play bigger and better roles. The only one able to be found is David Scully, who provided the voice for Sergeant Johnson in Halo. Good luck trying to find the rest. All in all, these actors do great jobs at not only being their character, but singing as them as well. The musical numbers, which should be the main reason why one should watch this film, is mezmorizingly catchy. It will literally make you jump up and begin to dance.

Along with the superb voices, the entire story itself contains various references to pop culture and normal living which gives it a creative edge with its sub-material. Remember the era of the "British Invasion" of music? That's in here, with a character named "Lick Broccoli", who some people would think is supposed to resemble Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. Since every character in this film is some sort of home grown food, each will have their own specific trait that makes them stand out from the other. Even the dialog has puns galore with vegetable/fruit related terms. It's that clever.

A grapefruit working at an assembly line.....yes haha
Topping things off is the fact that this entire short movie was done totally by stop motion animation (claymation). One would think Art Clokey, the claymation creator himself, would have been involved with this project. But he wasn't. It still baffles me to this day how anyone has the patience to shoot a still image over 100 times just to get one scene right. Such skill. And even without Clokey, director and producer Will Vinton was able to produce a very satisfying piece of entertainment.

If you haven't met the California Raisins yet, you should see them as soon as possible. The story and music is saturated with family oriented material that it is impossible for one not to enjoy it.

Points Earned --> 10:10