Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Think Like a Man (2012) Review:

Relationships are never easy. It takes time, commitment and understanding to get past all the differences. And even then, not everything gets settled. Romantic comedies are not the easiest to represent realistically because not every story comes out with a happy ending. But for the most part every audience wants a satisfying ending and that's just how things are; even if it is cliche. That's really the only weak point of this film. And although, his filmography does not carry a strong history of showings, this looks like director Tim Story's strongest movie. There is just so much going for it in the writing that helps string along its characters.

The guys
The title is based off of celebrity Steve Harvey's book of the same name and how Harvey's book helps a group of girls (and guys, later on) figure out how to be the better partner. The writers, Keith Merrymen and David A. Newman who wrote the screenplay for Friends with Benefits (2011) a year before, did a great job at connecting each story together and critically defining the various types of females and males and focusing on their pros and cons. Not only does this help open the audiences’ eyes to what possibly they didn't know, but it also gives viewers a character to connect with, especially if they know what kind of individual they are when it comes to dating.

Plus, each relationship story arc is given pretty much an equal amount of time for everything. No one gets the spotlight more than the other does, and that's perfect. And although, Kevin Hart is the most comical of the bunch, he too did not hog the spotlight and gave his fellow co-stars enough screen time of their own. Thank you Peter S. Elliot for doing a terrific editing job. I see that's why he was chosen to edit Iron Man 3 (2013) as well. The casting was well done too. There are multiple cameos from celebrities from music to sports. My favorite couple of the stories was Michael Ealy and Taraji P. Henson. Too cute.

Michael Ealy & Taraji P. Henson =D
And it's because of the casting that the chemistry, emotion in the romance and comedy work. Each couple has their own funny and emotional moments that help define what each of the two lovers are going through and how it affects them. Making these scenes even more effective was composer Christopher Lennertz unreleased score to the film. Most of it contains jazzy tunes with a saxophone and guitar and it really adds to the down to earth laid back tone of the plot. Well done now if only he would release it.

A movie containing multiple stories isn't the easiest to follow but this rom-com completely defies that claim. The actors do a wonderful job, the music is great and the story is written exceptionally well.

Points Earned --> 9:10

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Guess Who (2005) Review:

The concept of interracial couples isn't the easiest of topics to touch upon. Some individuals are open to idea and think it's a beautiful thing, while others think it shouldn't exist. It really all depends on how one is raised as a child. No one is born prejudice against anyone else, nor should anyone ever be taught to be that way. Unfortunately, the past is a hard thing to let go of. Thankfully though, in movie history, there have been films that break down these walls and expose to viewers this controversial topic.

Zoe Saldana as Theresa
Simon (Ashton Kutcher), a Caucasian male and Theresa (Zoe Saldana), an African American female are an interracial couple. After being together for so long, they felt it was time for Simon to meet Theresa's family. To Simon's dismay, Theresa tells him that she did not tell her family, her father Percy Jones (Bernie Mac) especially, that he was Caucasian. And it's at this point where things get interesting and a tad dangerous. The film is comedic which is good, but this is also its flaw. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), the original film that this film is based on, shows a few similarities but there's hunk of important material that was left out. The seriousness of the issue.

Nowadays interracial couples are much more accepted into society than it has ever been before, but the way this topic is treated is slight bit overblown. Out of the three writers, the best one to handle the screenplay should have been Peter Tolan. David Ronn and Jay Scherick have the reputation of writing comedy driven screenplays that weigh heavily on one gag. It's not to say the comedy doesn't work but with a lack of seriousness in its tone, this topic could become a stereotype of itself. When it fact, the whole point of the film is to break down those stereotypes - not to reinforce it. That's the disappointing thing about this movie.

Ashton Kutcher (Simon) & Bernie Mac (Percy Jones)
Everything else about the movie works well though. Ashton Kutcher and Zoe Saldana make a convincing interracial couple and Bernie Mac is good choice for an overprotective father. Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac show the required chemistry to be likable onscreen too. In fact Bernie Mac is the actor who carried around a lot of the weight in the film. The supporting cast also helps drive comedy and contains some of their own unique scenes. I enjoyed the small tracks that composer John Murphy installed into most the scenes. They were light, goofy, and it added to the overall tone. I enjoyed it. It has a good cast and fun laughs. I'm just curious if viewers prefer the realistic or comedic tone.

Although the seriousness in tone is dropped, the comedy works well thanks to Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac's chemistry. However, the film does flip flop between realistic and stereotypical.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hercules and Xena: The Animated Movie - The Battle for Mount Olympus (1998) Review:

Sam Raimi's Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995) and Xena: Warrior Princess (1995) of the same year has left fond memories for many small screen audiences. Kevin Sorbo had a way of being a very macho convincing Hercules, while Lucy Lawless gave something for nerds to drool at. Both series combined action, wit, likable characters and story lines that reeled in fans. Interestingly enough, some people aren't familiar that Universal Studios released an animated cartoon feature of these two famous characters. And compared to many other animated features that have been released, it does have its flaws but it still is fun.

Kevin Sorbo; Hercules (Animated Form)
The title, (although a mouthful) explains itself. Xena and Hercules will battle for Mount Olympus. Simple as that. Just like Disney's Hercules (1997), the four elemental titans attack the Immortal Gods and its up to Earth's mightiest heroes to fend them off. However, what differs is that John Loy (the writer) was smart and stuck to Sam Raimi's story line where Hera (Hercules' immortal mother) is the one who unleashes the titans. Why - because Hera hates Hercules - not Hades. Hades minds his own business in this film.

Thankfully, along with the writing, the actors who play the characters in the live-action series came back to voice their cartoon counterparts as well. That's a very good thing. Imagine if the studio hired new actors to voice the characters. That wouldn't be wise. And because the actors are playing their respective characters, the dialog comes naturally making the listening experience easy as well. This also helps make the comical scenes funny too. Kevin Sorbo (Hercules), Michael Hurst  (Iolaus) and Kevin Smith (Ares) carry much of those parts. Even Lucy Lawless (Xena) has some rather unconventionally funny scenes.

The last couple of parts that help make the watching experience enjoyable were the action and music. The title doesn't lie, there is plenty of battle moments in this movie. And for a PG film, it has some tense moments. Either way that's effective. And since this is a Raimi production, composer Joseph LoDuca should be expected to be on board - which he was and his score is effective for each scene. But here's where some people may be turned off. First, this animated feature also contains musical numbers sung in the intro, by Xena, and even the titans. Since this isn't a Disney production it may seem avant garde, considering the TV series didn't have musical numbers.

Lucy Lawless; Xena (Animated Form)
Also some viewers may not appreciate the animation. At points it can look choppy even though the action scenes are exceptionally good. The main characters are drawn appropriately but it also seems like that's the only other place all the effort that was put into. Everything else from the background pieces to the minor characters weren't given much attention. Some characters from head to toe are one full color. That can come off as cheap and lazy. The dimensions of this world are very flat and too squared off in some areas. Along with that are some very strange flaws in continuity. It's not always obvious, but when noticed, it is baffling. It really depends on the opinion of the viewer and what you're interested in seeing.

For the most part, fans of the Hercules and Xena TV series should enjoy this animated feature. It's animation certainly isn't as polished like Disney's but the voice cast makes it work along with some fun action and music.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Friday, December 20, 2013

Masters of the Universe (1987) Review:

It's no surprise that after the success of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) cartoon that Hollywood became interested in creating a live-action version of the series. However, it turned out to be a financial and critical blunder for everyone - crewmembers and audiences alike. It's pretty much a split right down the middle. It either will be enjoyed or it won't be. I for one had a hard time figuring out where my stance is. It certainly is not even close to being a good movie but it also isn't close to being a terrible film either. It's just blah.

The film starts out with already what seems like a finale to the film - Skeletor (Frank Langella) has captured the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull and wants to lure He-Man (Dolph Lundgren) himself into a trap so he can acquire the powers of Grayskull. All Skeletor needs is He-Man's sword. But writer David Odell thought it would be a good idea to create a subplot that involved a gizmo called the "Cosmic Key" that can transport anybody anywhere across the universe. But the only way to make this item work is to play a musical tune out of the finger pads surrounding it. I mean, it’s an ok plot device but it's not necessary.

Upon being ambushed when He-Man arrives to confront Skeletor, a portal is opened from the cosmic key and he lands on Earth. From there a boy and a girl find the instrument and mistake it for a synthesizer. How 80s like. It's because of this plot device that carries the whole film. As a whole, it’s a chase, but it's a slow chase. And kind of cumbersome too. Every scene is one cliched chase after another where each team is a step behind the other. It's just so happens that everything occurs coincidentally with one another to string along a very thin plot line. It's not great entertainment but one should also understand that it isn't unwatchable either.

The Eternians
To be fair, this film stays pretty faithful to the cartoon. Everything from the set design of Eternia, to the costume design of each character looks and feels like the cartoon was rendered into the real world. Dolph Lundgren's physic matches He-Man accurately as does his co-star Jon Cypher as Man-At-Arms (with that brush of a mustache). Frank Langella as Skeletor was an okay choice, but his make up could have been done better and he could have at least tried to make his voice a little higher pitched. The same goes for many of the other creature like characters. In some ways, they remind me of Steve Wang's creature costumes. I did wish the character of Man-E-Faces was included though. He was an awesome character.

What's even more interesting is too see a very young Courteney Cox as the girl. However, that doesn't mean that the acting is great. For the actors that take part in this, the performances aren't really convincing. No one's performance really feels genuine, nor is any of the dialog anything special. Even for an 80s movie, you'd think there'd be cheesy one liners - not even that. But again, it's not terrible, just plain. But, the other aspect I did find gratifying was Bill Conti's score to the film. I am confused to why he didn't reuse the theme from the cartoon but his new tune sounds praiseworthy none the less. There is a theme and it sounds heroic. Too bad it can't support all the other dead weight.

For a live-action film, it stays faithful to the cartoon and has a good musical score, but its' actors' performances are barely passable and the writing is too silly.

Points Earned --> 5:10