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Thor: Lights, action, but what is up with the camera?

Thor is owned by Paramount

Let’s look back at Norse mythology: in the kingdom of Asgard, King Odin had a son named Thor. Thor was the god of thunder, forging lightning bolts and causing terror to the humans. He was a god from a distant planet banished down to Earth to fight his brother Loki and take back the kingdom. At least, that was how Marvel tells it with the movie Thor.

Marvel teases us more with this next “Avengers” movie directed by Kenneth Branagh, the same Kenneth Branagh responsible for the Shakespeare films. It’s been pretty anticipated ever since Iron Man 2 prepared us for it. We knew this would happen since we were promised a movie starring The Avengers. This adaptation introduces us to the god himself in a way only a Marvel movie could do: explosive, amusing and visually cool to watch. Yet, I cannot say that this movie is awesome. I want to say that I enjoyed this movie, but the camerawork and the script really need work. It’s hard to focus on the tale of a god when EVERYTHING IS AT AN ANGLE or ON THE SIDE. What is it about these people that try to be creative with the camerawork? The visuals were artistic enough.

Thor (Chris Helmsworth) is banished to Earth the day he is supposed to be crowned king by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) for threatening war with the Ice Giants. When Odin becomes incapacitated, Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes over and tries to rule Asgard as his own. Thor, aided by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her team, tries to get back to Asgard but finds it hard to do so because he’s mortal.

The world of Asgard is definitely a sight to see. The setting has been done creatively to the point where it’s just cool to view. The scope of this film adds some depth to the world of Thor and its cosmos. Most of the special effects behind the film were definitely appealing, but most of the effects behind the creatures didn’t appear real. Even for upgraded technology, most of the creatures came across as fake. Cool as they appeared, you knew right away they weren’t there. Still, the action delivers some amusing scenes. Thor, as cocky as he appears in the beginning, knows how to put up a fight. Hell, he’s freakin’ taller than everyone else. The fight scene with the Ice Giants threw in some really nice fights. The battle with the giant was cool even if it looked like it came from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Chris Helmsworth actually does a decent job portraying his character. He gives Thor the right amount of energy and fun to really make him likable and range to make him seem somewhat human. He makes his character humorous and enjoyable for audiences. Natalie Portman, on the other hand, didn’t really give it her all. This isn’t her best role (which does sound stupid since she won the Oscar for Black Swan; it is hard to top that). I wasn’t convinced that she was Jane Foster or even in love with Thor. The other actors were pretty hit and miss: Kat Dennings was funny as Darcy, but Stellan Starsgaard didn’t seem all impressive. Anthony Hopkins hasn’t given any good performances since Hannibal Lector, but he plays Odin okay. He’s not really impressive that much. Tom Hiddleston as Loki seemed borderline-hammy. He appeared to be almost over-the-top and even forgettable.

The script could have used some work. Some of the lines were pretty funny such as “He drank, he fought, he did his ancestors proud”, but there were some that were just really stupid. “Do me a favor and don’t be dead”? Who says that? Nobody does. At first, the story seems to be a bit ridiculous, but some things do clear up. The villain is the hero’s brother: that’s a cliché so old that it’s beyond eye-rolling. However, Loki technically isn’t Thor’s brother since he really is an Ice Giant. As Thor is the god of thunder, being tased does seem farfetched as an effective means. Yet, he lost his powers upon impact, so that makes sense.

But if the script isn’t one thing, it’s the camerawork. Most of the scenes were shot at an angle; many of which didn’t need to be at one. The movie’s in widescreen, so we can see everything fine. There’s no need to put everything in a diagonal. Ever heard of a movie called Battlefield Earth, one of the worst movies of all time? Almost every scene is at an angle in that movie as well. Some things don’t work. The camera is supposed to represent the view of the storytelling. Nobody tells stories at a 45⁰ tilt. I don’t need to see S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogating Thor at a slant. The camera showing it straight is just fine. Also, what is it about movies moving the characters too far to the left or too far to the right? I understand rule of thirds, but even some of these scenes are just extreme. Characters are so far left and/or right that they’re practically out of the scene.

Bottom line: I want to love Thor, but the technical aspects get in the way. The worlds are pretty creative. The fight scenes are cool. Helmsworth does a pretty good job with his character. However, the camerawork is just frustrating. See it for what it’s worth, but it’s not the best Marvel movie.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 – I’d Go

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Your Highness: A Royal Pain to Watch

Your Highness is owned by Universal.

I saw something really interesting while browsing the bookstore: a book presenting The Big Lebowski as a Shakespearean play. If you have never seen The Big Lebowski, it’s about a slacker/stoner named “The Dude” who has to solve a mystery as to why a wealthy man’s wife is missing. Being a slacker, he doesn’t really have much enthusiasm over the matter, but random events occur to him that help him solve the mystery. Once you see this movie, you can imagine how putting it in a Shakespearean setting can be funny. However, like all things done, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Your Highness is the WRONG WAY.

From the director of Pineapple Express comes a stoner comedy set in medieval times which also has a recent Academy Award winner and a host of the Academy Awards playing supporting roles. What could go wrong? Everything. The jokes were juvenile and disgusting. The premise was stupid. It even uses those wide-angle lens close-ups that I didn’t even like in The King’s Speech. There was very little that I liked about this movie, and that which I did like wasn’t enough to save it. I was watching this film in agony of its stupidity.

The movie is about two brothers: Thadeous (Danny McBride) and Fabious (James Franco). The latter is a brave and gallant knight about to wed a beautiful maiden named Belladonna (Zooey Deshanel). The former is a slacker who doesn’t like to do anything but smoke weed and bring his servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) everywhere with him. During Fabious’s wedding, the wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) kidnaps Belladonna so he can have sex with her. Fabious and Thadeous go on a quest to save her and come across Isabel (Natalie Portman) who is after Leezar to avenge the murder of her brothers.

While I don’t hate Danny McBride, I don’t’ like his character. I’ve seen McBride play better roles when he isn’t trying to be funny. I liked him in Tropic Thunder. To be honest, almost all of the actors had to deal with bad characters. James Franco, while he had a rocky beginning, actually did a decent job holding his own. I could tell he was trying to take his character seriously. Justin Theroux, unfortunately, had to deal with a character just as bad as Thadeous, maybe even worse. He plays this character as a cross between a frat boy and a spoiled teenage daughter. Courtney, however, was a decent character. He wasn’t funny, but he wasn’t trying to be funny. Natalie Portman was the best. She proved her Oscar for Black Swan wasn’t a fluke. Like Franco, she took her character seriously and portrayed it seriously. She let her natural beauty do its own talking and focused more on her character. Unfortunately, she couldn’t save the movie.

In an attempt to be funny, the writers threw in some really nasty jokes. The Wizard (who looks like a cross between Barney the dinosaur and a catfish) smokes pot and comes across as a pervert, asking for someone to “do a job for him”. The worst joke, however, is when Thadeous slays a Minotaur and decides to take something from it as a trophy. He can’t take a horn, so he settles for something lower. Half of the dialogue is sexual and just nasty. There is a part when Leezar is explaining to Belladonna how he’ll be a great lover. I can’t repeat what he says for the sake of public decency, but it refers to “personal experience”. I heard that the dialogue in this movie is entirely improvised. If so, these people need to stick with a script.

Bottom line: Your Highness is just low. The jokes are nasty; the dialogue is stupid; the premise is terrible; and the only good things were James Franco, Natalie Portman, and Courtney. To say this film is geared towards a certain audience is like saying Epic Movie is supposed to be bad.  You’re better off seeing other movies such as Hanna or even Soul Surfer.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 – Don’t Go

Dazed and Confused: No confusion in quality

Dazed and Confused is owned by Universal Pictures

For my film studies course, I have to create a thesis regarding American cinema and write a paper on it. My thesis is on how filmmaking in Austin, Texas has further developed American cinema. Austin, Texas has become what one journalist has called “the third coast” for film. What started with a chainsaw slasher film developed an actual studio and site for most movies. Austin still develops its fair share of independent films, some of which have developed large cult followings. For my topic, I decided to watch one: Dazed and Confused.

Director Richard Linklater (who believe it or not founded the Austin Film Society) wrote and directed this indie in 1993 about a couple of high schoolers enjoying their last day of school during the seventies. Dazed and Confused didn’t bring in much revenue but has since develop a strong following including a near-perfect score on Rottentomatoes.com…and I can see why. Ever heard of a film called American Graffiti? Well, this movie is like that, only a little better. It’s funnier, the music is better, and it’s much more likable. It’s definitely a stoner movie, but its not a stoner movie that is too obnoxious. It has elements of heart, friendship and connection combined with a proper amount of raunchy humor.

The movie deals with a group of high schoolers trying to enjoy their last day of high school in 1976. Randall “Pink” Floyd (played by Jason London) is hesitant to return to the football team because he doesn’t want to sign a pledge saying he’ll stay away from drugs and sex. A number of senior guys try to paddle middle schoolers as a right of initiation into high school. Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins). a middle schooler, tags along with Floyd and some of Floyd’s friends after he gets paddled by O’Bannion (Ben Affleck. No seriously, Ben Affleck is in this film). After a planned party with beer has its cover blown, everyone just drives around looking for something to do. Two nerds,  Tony (Anthony Rapp) and Mike (Adam Goldberg), drive around trying to have fun. Tony hooks up with a freshman girl (Christin Hinojosa), and Mike wants to do something memorable in his life.

Like American Graffiti, Dazed and Confused is told in a series of vignettes happening simultaneously. There really is no coherent story as much as it is a bunch of sub-stories. However, these sub-stories weave together a tapestry of trying to find purpose in life and enjoyment during adolescence. It’s about growing up and finding out who you are and what you want to be while enjoying your life right now. I can see why Richard Linklater picked the Led Zeppelin song for the title. There are many different characters in this film. Each one has their own story, giving him or her enough time for the audience to get to know them. There really is no main character unless you consider “Pink” or Mitch the main character. Really it’s high school that is the subject matter.

There aren’t many big-names or anyone familiar. There are three names that we know now: Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, and Matthew McConaughey. Everyone else isn’t all well-known. Despite that, the actors are believable in their roles. Each character was someone different, and each actor’s personality seem to fit with each one. Matthew McConaughey plays his character Wooderson as pretty laid back. What makes it work so well is that Matt is pretty laid back in real life (so laid back that he’ll play bongos in the nude). The best actor is probably Rory Cochrane as the stoner Slater. You’d believe he was a stoner if he told you. I really can’t say which actor stood out because every one did a really good job in carrying the story across. That isn’t a bad thing, though. That’s why I thought The Social Network was stronger than The King’s Speech.

The best thing about this movie is how well Richard Linklater created this world of the seventies. He picked some really great songs of the time, which isn’t hard because the music of the seventies was great. He combined every possible culture of the seventies into one movie minus the disco crowd. Hippies, potheads, rockers, everybody. High school itself never really changes. It always has the same groups that run the place regardless. This makes this movie easier for us to relate, maybe even sympathetic. We know these people, maybe not to this extent. Regardless of the time, the message isn’t dated or of its time.

Bottom line: Dazed and Confused is a great movie. It has great characters and vignettes. The music is great. The jokes that work really work. The energy is fun and high. Above all, we can relate to it. It’s a better American Graffiti than…well, American Graffiti. In a time where Hollywood is running out of new ideas, independent movies such as this really stand out. Hell, Office Space has a strong following, and that, too, came from Austin. As long as movies like these come out of Texas, there is no doubt that there will be a fruitful studio here in the Lone Star State.

Final Rating: 9 out of 10 – Do Go

Favorite Rap Songs

I am not the biggest fan of rap music. I find most of the lyrics to be really nasty and even a bit degrading. The messages for the longest time have been the same to me: fuck bitches, get money. I don’t live by that lifestyle, so why should I listen to songs that promote it? Anyway, there have been those songs that do get to me, especially rap songs. Here is my list of the Greatest Rap Songs (in my opinion, of course). There’s no specific order because I can’t really pick which one is the greatest.

No Love by Eminem ft. Lil Wayne – 2010 was the year Eminem came back and boy was it a comeback. I enjoyed his song “The Real Slim Shady” when it first hit the airwaves ten years ago, and he did fairly well in the couple of years that followed. What happened between now and then? I don’t know. What I do know is this: Recovery proved to be just that, a recovery. He released two songs in 2010: “Love the Way You Lie” and “Not Afraid”; both became hits. “Love the Way You Lie” proved to be the bigger of the two. The song that makes this list, however, was released after these two. This collaboration with Lil’ Wayne (not the greatest rapper BTW) is just intense. The message of “I have become better despite what you say” is just powerful. Combine it with an actually well-made sample of “What is Love” by Haddaway, and the song just becomes intense. Add Slim’s speed rapping to the mix to complement Wayne’s slow steady rap, and it proves to be awesome. Is there cursing? Yes. Is there sexual references? Yes. Does it have a good message? Yes. “No Love” proves to be a rap song that I actually do love.

The Way I Are by Timbaland ft. Keri Wilson – Has there ever been a song that you really, really like and would really, really love if not for one little thing? Well, this song is mine. I really do enjoy this song. The beat is really catchy. The lyrics aren’t profane at all (unless you’re offended by the word “strip). Keri’s singing really makes the hook really catchy. The best part is the message: I love you for who you are not what you have. Here’s a message to counter the thug ideal of “fuck bitches, get money” we heard these so many years. Hell, Timbaland even comes across as dirt poor in the song. Timbaland has proven to be a good producer and can be a good musician occasionally. This song is definitely one of his best. So what is that one characteristic that holds me from loving this song? It’s simple: it’s called “The Way I Are”. Really? “The Way I ARE”? You don’t have to be an English major to know that it’s grammatically incorrect. It doesn’t even sound right. Oh well, grammar aside, it’s a good song.

Nothin’ on You by B.o.B. ft. Bruno Mars – I actually sat down and listened to some of B.o.B.’s songs, and I have to admit that they’re not bad. Some say he’s a carbon copy of Andre 3000, and they may be right. Maybe it’s a Georgia thing. I don’t know. Sure, “Airplanes” may have been overplayed, but check out “Don’t Let Me Fall” when you get the chance. If I had to pick his best song, it would be his first. I keep hearing that rappers are trying to clean up their image, and I find it harder to believe. I still hear the same messages over and over (and even grosser than ever). When I actually listened to this song, I started to get a sense of hope. It has the same characteristics as “The Way I Are” besides issues on grammar: catchy hook, catchy rapping, no profanity, and (gasp) it has a message that contradicts the rap culture. In a world where trying to get as many hot girls as you can symbolizes your status in life, B.o.B. says “I only want one”. It’s the sign of fidelity that makes him stand out to me as a rapper. Kudos to you, B.o.B. You definitely got the magic.

Young Forever by Jay-Z ft. Mr Hudson – I read somewhere that “California Gurls” by Katy Perry was the anthem of summer 2010. That’s a statement on which I couldn’t disagree more. I hate that song so much. It’s annoying and God-awfully cute. The lyrics are vapid. The subject has been SUNG ABOUT TO NO EXTENT FOR THE PAST FORTY YEARS. Also, it bears similarity to Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”. Don’t believe me? Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2dPA2dCRNY for proof. Why I disagree with this decision is that Jay-Z’s “Young Forever” is a much more worthy candidate of the term “summer anthem of 2010”. It represents everything having to do with summer: enjoying today, living in the moment, wishing you could be forever young. The synthesizer in the background just paints the image of a sunrise over a beach. I listen to this song, and immediately I feel like I’m in summer. It does have a lot of profanity and a couple of drug references, but the message still rings clear.

My Chick Bad by Ludacris ft. Nicki Minaj – Nicki Minaj scares me. When she does her freaky character, it just becomes really creepy. She has very animated eyes and teeth that can turn her into an evil doll. Her costumes are very extravagant and out there. She is the Lady GaGa of rap. And yet the freakier she is, the better she is. When she’s sweet and all “cute”, that’s when she starts to lose her luster. Give me more of that “Freaky Nicki”, like she did in Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad”. I always found Ludacris to be somewhat clever in his lyrics (even though he can be really nasty when it comes to politics, see “Politics as Usual”), and “My Chick Bad” is no exception. Even though it uses that strange concept of dropping the “like” in comparisons (“I fill her up, balloons”? “It’s going down, basement”? Using “like” or “as” doesn’t make you look bad. In fact, NOT using them makes you look stupid), it’s still catchy and has the elements from both rappers that I like. It’s profane and sexual; however, Ol’ Luda is using it to describe his girlfriend.

City by Hollywood Undead – I have a confession to make: I may enjoy angry rap songs more than not angry. I’m not mad at the world; it’s just that the anger makes the song more intense and even catchier. It may be why I enjoy Eminem so much. If you haven’t heard of this group, it’s not your fault. Hollywood Undead is a Myspace band: They’re not really big yet, but they still have somewhat of a following. They have this shtick of wearing masks to hide their identity. Why? I don’t know. They had some decent songs off their first album Swan Songs such as “Everywhere I Go” and “Undead”, but the one song that I just love is “City”. It’s this idea of fearing the end of the world because of what it’s doing to us that makes this song powerful, even scary. I don’t approve of its nihilist message (“This city looks so pretty. Do you wanna burn it with me?”), but “City’s” intensity and power is what gets me hooked to this song.

Coming Home by Ditty-Dirty Money – I know I said rap music doesn’t speak to me, but I finally found a rap song that actually does. Ditty sings about all the times he has messed up in the past and how going back to his roots will make him feel better. He lists all of the things that went wrong in his life, including personal matters. When he talks about his divorce, he hits me hard because I understand what he is saying and how he felt. I’m not going into details as to how I understand, so let’s just leave it at that. He starts off every verse with a reference to another song, saying why he hates or loves it. Each verse is very personal, and Ditty’s lyrical structure makes it easier to say with good rhythm and rhymes. The song gets better as it goes on as the third verse gives the listener a sense of hope. It gives Ditty hope that he can go back and fix his mistakes. There’s a powerful message if there ever was one.

 

Full House Introduction

As a critic, it is my duty to look at movies and judge them according to taste and preference. Having said that, there are a good number of movies that I like that other people don’t and vice versa. As a movie-lover, I constantly wonder what exactly makes a good movie? What do audiences want in a movie, and what turns them off? The gap between critics and audiences is wide at times because there are movies that critics love and audiences don’t as well as audiences love and critics don’t. Usually, they match, but audiences will vary. Despite the varying opinions of some people, certain formulas never seem to fail because lots of movies use these formulas and attract large amounts of audiences.

This is why I am beginning a section called Full House: Analyzing What Audiences Love. I will state different elements of movies that are very successful and gain a lot of audience approval afterwards. I will start the first part later on this week and continue as I develop  them. Until then, be prepared.

Would Be “Higher” If Not For Unnecessary Support

Taio Cruz is distributed by Island Records

I’m not the biggest fan of pop music. I think most of the lyrics in pop songs are stupid, the melodies are all the same, and they really get annoying. I can rant and rave all day about how the quality of music has reached a decline in the past years. For those who can’t really comprehend the latest trend, club music has taken over the radio. All the songs are about getting drunk and going to clubs, which is why college people love this stuff. Electric synthesizers playing the same notes over and over in the background while a bunch of people rap incoherent nonsense in front of them is the craze nowadays.

However, there are some pop songs that do get to me, and Taio Cruz’s latest single “Higher” is one of them.

Why do I enjoy this song? One word: energy. “Higher” just releases a large amount of good energy that even when sitting down makes you dance. Taio Cruz sings this song with a lot of energy, and you can tell the amount that he puts into this song. Sure, it’s sounds a lot like an Usher song, but it sounds like a good Usher song in all the right ways. It’s a very fun, catchy, has a good beat, and more importantly, it’s not stupid. Okay, let me rephrase that: Taio Cruz is not stupid.

The song really is about how a song is making Cruz break out cool dance moves, and how he’s enjoying himself while he’s dancing. Simple enough, really. Taio’s lyrics really are harmless and don’t really have any elements that are stupid.

I rephrased myself because there are two versions of the song released: One with Travie McCoy of “Gym Class Heroes” fame, and the other with pop star Kylie Minogue, and…well let’s just say I wish Taio was “dancing like he was the only one”. Travie McCoy raps in the beginning and the bridge of the song, and some of the lyrics he makes are just stupid. “Now, I’ve never been one to dance, but we’ve got something going on in my pants”? Classy, Travie. Really classy. The last thing any one wants to hear at a club is how horny a guy is at that moment. I don’t care how you may mean it; it came out the wrong way. “You play Kelly, I’ll be O-Zone”. I don’t know why he said that. What correlation exists between Kelly (I’m guessing Clarkson) and the guys that Gary Brolsma made famous (Numa Numa, anyone?) is beyond me. In fact, I don’t know why he would want to be the next Numa Numa guy.

The one with Kylie is no better nor is it worse. It has Kylie and Taio singing back and forth, and there’s no rapping. What bothers me is her vibratto voice. I just don’t really care for it. Taio’s voice is smoother and lighter; Kylie’s is deeper and more nasal and takes away from the feel of the song. They sing together at the end, and you can somehow tell the difference between the two and listen for yourself.

The music video is simple without being too crazy. it just has Taio and Kylie riding around a parking lot in nice cars with four girls coming out of nowhere dancing. I’m guessing it’s for sex appeal? I personally can’t complain about it because there really is nothing to complain about it. The chemistry between Kylie and Taio was pretty good even though they could have been closer together when dancing. The director reshot the video with Travie, and the editing was very sloppy. There were scenes that just jumped to each other after a second, and the video fell out of place.

That being said, I prefer the version with Kylie because there aren’t any stupid lyrics, and mostly no one takes the attention away from the song. I know Travie was trying to add to the song, but I just feel like he’s taking the spotlight from Taio for a second. I may not like Kylie’s voice, but at least she’s continuing the song. I would rather Taio sing this one by himself.

In short: “Higher” is a fun song with a good beat and melody. It makes you want to dance, it’s not that annoying, and if you Took Travie McCoy and Kylie Minogue out of the equation would be a much better song. This is one of those songs that would have been much better hadn’t it been for one unnecessary part of the formula. Even though I don’t believe Taio has made himself memorable just yet and still needs to find his own distinct voice, the song isn’t bad and he may have a healthy career after this until the audience has a change in taste. Until then, feel free to get higher off the ground.

Final Rating: 3/4 – Like it

Drive Angry: Violent, Obscene, and Fun to Watch

Can someone please explain to me Nicholas Cage? This guy is one of the weirdest actors out there. He has the potential to be a good actor and occasionally is, but for every good role he plays, he gives us a few roles that are just strange and/or bad. I think a good example of this is Ghost Rider where he plays a stunt motorcyclist who sold his soul to the devil. I watched the first half of this movie in the Commons, and I was just laughing at the sheer stupidity of it. Cage’s acting was a combination of ham and his usual gruff whisper that just adds to the oddity that is Nicholas Cage. Now, the reason I bring up Ghost Rider is because he again plays a person who is confined to Hell in Drive Angry.

Yes, Nicholas Cage is back in this 3-D action film giving us that usual element of strangeness that he somehow brings. From a title like Drive Angry, you’d expect a basic car chase/car race movie. Well, it isn’t. In fact, expect a lot of sex, a lot of violence, a lot of gore, a lot of cheap effects, a lot of profanity…and surprisingly a lot of fun out of it. Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed watching this film despite how many elements it has to hate it. The cheap effects and the clichéd moments were offset by the good acting and the fun tone of the film.

Nicholas Cage plays John Milton (get it?), a man who somehow breaks out of Hell to prevent the baby of his murdered daughter being sacrificed by the Satanic cult leader who killed her named Jonah King (Billy Burke). He comes across Piper (Amber Heard), a girl who likes fast cars and cusses like a sailor, and takes her along for the ride. But following Milton’s path is a minion of Hell called The Accountant (William Fichtner) who tries to take Milton back to Hell.

To take care of the poor things first, the special effects were pretty cheap. The coin The Accountant flips, the bones that fly out, and the bullets that Milton fire come from the low end of computer graphics. Throw in the cliché of exploding cars and the 3-D gimmicks of things coming at you which get pretty annoying at times. The car chase between Milton and the Accountant is pretty downplayed, and the villain is pretty one-dimensional: crazy demonic Southern man with a gun. But Nicholas Cage is on the up-side of his strange roles in this one because he actually does make his character interesting, as does William Fichtner. In fact, I was actually upset that I didn’t get to see enough of Fichtner because he makes his one-dimensional character really interesting. Amber Heard, though, was the best of the three. She gives her character that feistiness, edge and sexiness that makes her really entertaining to watch. On top of that, the gun fight scenes can be pretty cool. The best one has to be when Nicholas Cage kills everybody while having sex with a waitress in a hotel room. That was just cool. There are some car chases that are fun, but they’re not what you would expect from the title. They’re not so angry.

What also makes this interesting is how subtle they make the references that Milton is from Hell. They open with him leaving Hell, and they talk about people saying he’s dead, but it’s not so blatantly obvious that he is from Hell until right around the end. Cage’s character does offer euphemisms such as “locked up”, but that’s as obvious as it gets. We know that Milton can’t be killed because he gets shot in the eye but still survives. In fact, neither he nor the Accountant can be killed except by a special gun with magical powers that can send someone into complete oblivion (and by that, I mean no heaven or hell). Yeah, that idea is stupid, but this is a grindhouse film.

Bottom line: Drive Angry is gory, violent, obscene, and it’s pretty fun watching it. The characters can be one-dimensional, but the acting makes them interesting. The fight scenes can be amusing though cheap, but cheap thrills can be better than none at all. It suffers from being gimmicky with its 3-D and special effects, and the story and characters don’t have much development, but it’s surprisingly entertaining. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s not too bad either.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 – I’d Go

Film Like Me: The King’s Speech vs. The Blind Side

Welcome to a new segment that I like to call “Film Like Me” which I have taken from the title of the novel Black Like Me. This is where I take an acclaimed film that either I or somebody else claims to have similarities with another film prior to its release. That being said, I think it’s best to talk about 2010’s “Best Picture” The King’s Speech.

Before I start, let me be honest and say no, I’m not too upset that The Social Network lost. I knew that was going to happen. I’m more upset that the Academy picked Tom Hooper for Best Director instead of David Fincher. Anyway, set in the years leading up to World War II, The King’s Speech is about Albert, Duke of York who has a bad stutter and must make speeches. He meets an unorthodox speech therapist, and the two develop a friendship that strengthens as much as Albert’s speaking. Sounds motivating, but as I saw this film, I noticed a lot of similarities between this film and another film nominated for Best Picture the year before: The Blind Side, a film about Michael Oher and his development from boondocks basket case to gridiron hero which also happened to be a surprise hit. (Notice a trend?) For those of you who never saw The Blind Side, Michael Oher, who is now the offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, is portrayed as a character from a rough neighborhood who is adopted by a white family the Tuohys (pronounced TOO-wee) and matures into a future college football player as opposed to living a life in the ghetto.

So now I’m going to bring up the top five comparisons made.

1. Both the films subject matters are hopeless cases with obviously great destinies – This one was probably the biggest one for me. Albert has a problem that he must make speeches and has a bad stutter, so that makes him afraid to talk. Except that which makes him so special is that he’s the son of the King, and it’s quite obvious he will one day take up the mantle of his father, so he has to make speeches and improve his speaking. Michael Oher has been passed around from high school to high school with poor test grades, testing in the bottom of his class, but he excels in protective instincts and is placed in a private high school. Those protective instincts make him destined to be an offensive lineman in football and apparently one of the greatest. Both these characters seem out of place in the situations, and even they feel the same way. Albert is afraid to speak because of his stammer; Michael is afraid to speak because he’s shy and doesn’t like people thinking he’s stupid.

2. Both undergo unique and different means that happen to make them excel – In the role that won Sandra Bullock the Oscar, Leigh Anne Tuohy sees Michael Oher walking to a place to stay and decides to let him stay over her house. She eventually adopts him as one of her own and helps use his protective instincts for good. What makes this so unorthodox (and even controversial to some critics) is that Mrs. Tuohy is a white Southern Christian woman adopting a black child. That alone raised a few eyebrows. Lionel Logue is a speech therapist who gives Albert therapy to help control his stutter. However, some of his methods are considered unorthodox such as making him shout obscenities, making him sing his thoughts, and breathing with his wife on his belly. These means may not be entirely similar, but they are considered unorthodox to the time’s standards. The previous methods used to better the two characters were shown to be failures. Michael Oher never really passed high school and was passed around from school to school until finally graduating. The traditional, old-school means of controlling Albert’s stutter led to him furiously giving up. Of course, both methods seem to work. Mrs. Tuohy helps Michael pull off a high enough GPA to get into college, and Albert realizes how much he’s progressing with Logue.

3. Both are hesitant about the idea at first and leave, and consider leaving again due to a misunderstanding – At first, Michael Oher spends the night at the Tuohy’s because he really didn’t have a place to go. He really didn’t consider staying with them after Mrs. Tuohy confronted him about the idea. After Logue tried to get Albert to read Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” monologue while listening to music, Albert gets frustrated and storms out, but after listening to a recording Logue made of Albert while he was reading, and realizing how well he spoke, Albert returns to Logue for more coaching. They had different results, but both eventually led them continuing on. Albert leaves again out of frustration and doubt but eventually  returns after seeing what he’s about to become. As both characters seem to excel in their development, something happens that almost breaks them apart. Michael is given the impression that he was raised by the Tuohy’s so that he could play football at their alma mater Ole Miss and runs away, but afterwards he beats up his old friends and contemplates going back. Mrs. Tuohy tells him that if he wanted to play for Tennessee, she’ll be cheering for him regardless (but she won’t wear that dreaded orange. I can relate to that.) Albert doesn’t leave Logue when it is found out that Logue isn’t really a doctor and is advised to dump him for a certified speech therapist.  Logue is able to demonstrate to Albert his progress (in Westminster Abbey, of all places!) and Albert reconsiders his reaction to replace Logue. He even is there when he makes the speech at the end of the movie.

4. Both came from rocky backgrounds – While on the opposite ends of the poverty line, the idea is that these people didn’t have the greatest of childhoods. Michael came from the boondocks of Memphis and was taken away from his real mother, who was a meth addict, as a child. His friends are all thugs, and some of them even dropped out of school. Albert admits that his childhood wasn’t exactly fair to him either. He was left-handed but forced to be right-handed, people made fun of him because of his stutter by calling him “B-B-B-Bertie”, and he couldn’t do all of the things that he loved to do because his father forced him to be more like a Duke, such as building model planes. This is supposed to make us feel sympathetic to the characters and even relate to them to some extent. As cheap as it is, it apparently never gets old.

5. Both subject matters have strong, capable women supporting them the whole way – as broad of a statement that sounds, it is pretty true. Michael Oher technically had two, if you think about it: Mrs. Tuohy, and Miss Sue, a tutor that the Tuohys hired to help educate Michael. Miss Sue further helps Michael in his studies and even gets his GPA to a 2.52, which is high enough to get into college. Albert has his wife Elizabeth, who isn’t that strong but gets him to Logue on her own. She proves to be by his side through thick and thin, as does Miss Sue to Michael. They prove the cliche of “Behind every successful man is a woman”or “No one acheives greatness by themself”.

So those are my five comparisons. Summary: The King’s Speech is just an Oscar-worthy version of The Blind Side when you get down to it. The things that separate them stand out, but they are little in comparison and aren’t big enough to separate the films. If what I’m saying is true, then the Academy Awards should have given the Best Picture Awards not to The Hurt Locker but The Blind Side in 2009, or did someone learn a thing or two for the 2010 Academy Awards? Oh well, The King’s Speech may have won the Best Picture, but it will join the ranks of the 75% of Best Pictures that have been forgotten in ten years’ time, such as How Green Was My Valley (which beat Citizen Kane) and Shakespeare in Love (which beat out Saving Private Ryan) because another movie with the EXACT SAME MORAL will come out and take the Best Picture Oscar for that year.

Ke$ha’s “Blow”…Blows

Welcome to my first music review on “The O Stage”, and I decided to do this because I saw something that I wanted to address. Let me start off by saying this: I am not a Ke$ha fan at any extent. Her music is annoying, the Auto-Tune is just turning into a gimmick that proves she can’t sing, and her lyrics are just terrible. I also don’t really care about how every song is about dancing at clubs and getting some, which are two things that I don’t necessarily need to hear outside of the club, such as in a car driving to the grocery store. However, some of her songs I admit have become somewhat of guilty pleasures from “We R Who We R” to “Sleazy” (which has every reason for me to hate it, and oddly enough I don’t).

Then I heard her latest single “Blow”, which is another song about having fun in the club and just losing control. The lyrics have poor grammar such as “this place about to blow”, but it’s harmless enough.

Then I saw the video.

What is wrong with the world? The video is just completely random and has very little, if anything at all, to do with the song. How so? Just listen.

The video puts Ke$ha in another club but this time with people with unicorn heads, one of which she gives an open-mouth kiss. She’s dancing around the club with all these uni-fawns trying to act sexy like she normally does. She then comes across something odd…James Van Der Beek. She then proceeds to remove her bra in front of him, and-vice versa? The video winds down with the two in the middle of a gun fight shooting paintballs, even killing some of the uni-fawns. Van Der Beek loses and calls for a truce, but Ke$ha kills him and puts his head on the wall.

I have a lot of questions to ask about this video, and almost every one begins with “Why?” Such examples are: Why people with unicorn heads? Why have James Van Der Beek remove a bra from HIS shirt? Why a gun fight between James Van Der Beek? Now I have a couple of “what?”s. What was the point of the video? What correlation does this video have with the song? Please don’t tell me to be radical and new. If that’s the reason why you threw all of this into a video of a song about dancing in a club, then the song must not be that original. Unfortunately, that is the case.

Let me go back to some of the best videos: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson had MJ dancing with zombies. That made at least some sense with the song because it’s about that which scares you. “Money For Nothing” made sense because it dealt with musicians getting fame and fortune without putting much of an effort while blue-collar workers have to bust their ass to make a dime. What do unicorn-men and shooting guns have to do with dancing? If anything, throw in some explosion references such as people exploding or the club falling apart as people are dancing. At least that would make sense to a song called “Blow”.

In short: Blow is a harmless, unoriginal song from the rest of Ke$ha’s material that is further complemented with a video that makes no sense and is just silly. All this is to further make Ke$ha the life of the party; which one I don’t know.

Oscar Predictions

The Academy Awards are almost here! Time to acknowledge the “best” of 2010 because that’s what the Academy does. This is the second time now that we have ten Best Picture nominees, and just to follow up with other critics’ predictions, I’m going to give my own as well in a game of “Will/Should”. I won’t cover all of the categories, but I will cover the majority of the major ones.

Best Picture:

Will: The King’s Speech

Oscar-bait with a capital “O”, this movie has heart, the advantage of being a period piece, and not being modern. This win will still perplex me because this means that The Blind Side should have won the last award over The Hurt Locker. Oh, wait! That took place in modern times, and politics trump all in the Academy Awards. My bad. Anyway, Speech has the right amount of sentimentalism and historical input to make it a favorite for the Academy.

Should/May: The Social Network.

I said enough, and if I need to explain why it should, then read some of my other blogs that defend this movie fervently.

 

 

Best Actor:

Will/Should: Colin Firth

For the same reasons as to why The King’s Speech will win Best Picture, Colin Firth will win Best Actor. He gives us the traditional underdog but dressed up in royalty and bearing a stutter. However, the part of me that says he should is the believability in the character. Firth does make his portrayal of King George VI convincing and doesn’t make the stutter seem fake, and again he has the right amount of sentimentality. Having said that, there is a downside to winning this: winning the Best Actor, I read, is basically when your career has jumped the shark. A lot of big name actors have won the Best Actor Oscar only to not really release any good or successful films since. Robert DeNiro has done some off-beat roles since winning for Raging Bull but none as memorable. Al Pacino, what has he done lately? Tom Hanks is an exception because of Toy Story, Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan, but who else managed to pull through? So because of Colin Firth’s age, believability, and the possible peak of career, I say he’ll probably win it and why I didn’t put Jesse Eisenberg in the “should”.

Best Actress:

Will/Should: Natalie Portman

Black Swan was one of those movies that just makes you sit back and go “what the hell is wrong with these people?” much like Fight Club. In fact, I consider this to be Darren Aronofsky’s Fight Club. Natalie Portman put in a lot of effort to make this movie just that because she truly grasped the dynamic character that was Nina Sayers and did it with much grace like…well, a ballerina. Sure, she did come across as melodramatic at times (such as crying a lot), but what good is a psychological thriller with deadpan acting? (next month, Keanu Reeves in Somebody’s Watching Me) Portman’s performance has picked up a lot of momentum with critics, the Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, so why anyone would snub her after this would be crazy.

May: Annette Bening

Which is where Bening comes in. Her portrayal as the lesbian equivalent of the “man of the house” in The Kids are All Right has defense from Peter Travers and some other critics, and the Academy has a track record of giving acting Oscars for gay performances. Tom Hanks won for playing an AIDS victim in Philadelphia; Phillip Seymour Hoffman won for playing Truman Capote who was openly gay, and Sean Penn (unfortunately) took it away from Mickey Rourke for playing Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician (and he had no qualms in politicizing his acceptance speech either). Another factoid that I found is that she has been nominated many times before without success, so she’s considered “long overdue”. But, like the Best Actor Oscar, this win could also make her career jump the shark. Portman’s, however, has some steam left so she’ll be around for a while.

Best Supporting Actor

Will: Christian Bale

I haven’t seen The Fighter, so I can’t judge. However, I can’t deny the momentum Bale’s performance picked up early in the season. Bale is himself a pretty good actor and has Christopher Nolan to thank for really making him well known. Whether or not he deserves the Oscar I will never know.

Should/May: Geoffrey Rush

I have seen The King’s Speech, so I can judge this. I may have my reasons not to like this film, but Rush made this movie incredibly entertaining. In the theater I was in, everybody laughed at just about everything Rush said to Logue, most of which was actually funny. Geoffrey Rush is a great actor, and his career is still somewhat healthy thanks to Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo. Hell, he did a great job in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. This movie is no exception, either. Firth may have the buzz of being best actor as George VI, but it was Rush, much like Lionel Logue to the future king, that made him better.

Best Supporting Actress

Will: Melissa Leo

See Christian Bale and a bit of Annette Bening (the overdue bit). Melissa Leo has picked up the Screen Actor’s Guild Award, the Golden Globe, and a lot of accolade for her role. She may not have won the BAFTA, but that may not stop her from taking home the Oscar. She was nominated for Best Actress for Frozen River and lost, so this may put her in the “overdue” category. I’m not really sure. Leo, unlike Bale, isn’t really a big name in Hollywood, so I don’t really know much about her.

May: Helena Bonham Carter/Hailee Steinfeld

What may stop Leo is a possible controversy regarding funding for her own campaign to win the Oscar. Carter won the BAFTA for The King’s Speech and as a result combined with the lack of controversy may win the Oscar for playing Elizabeth. While I find it unlikely if this is the only reason why, it’s not necessarily far fetched. This wasn’t her best role, in my opinion. I still liked her in Sweeney Todd, Fight Club, and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as opposed to Speech, but those roles weren’t what you would consider “Oscar-worthy”. A number of “experts” say that Steinfeld could win for her role as the girl in the Coen Brothers’ version of True Grit, but this is her first movie role, and she’s only fourteen. Tatum O’Neal may have won it at a young age (she is still the youngest recipient in Oscar history), but that eventually led to a rocky career. Maybe the Academy’s learned its lesson, or maybe they believe the grown ups should handle it.

Best Director

Will/Should: David Fincher, The Social Network

Because of his win at the Director’s Guild of America Awards, some magazines and predictors say Tom Hooper will win it, but that’s an unfair statement in my honest opinion. Tom Hooper had Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce, and Timothy Spall in his ensemble for The King’s Speech. These are all medium-to-big named actors even over here in America. We all know they can act, so that would make Hooper’s job easier. Fincher, on the other hand, had Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer, and Brenda Song. These are medium-to-no named actors. The biggest name in the bunch is Timberlake, and it’s not for acting. Fincher took this rag-tag team of young actors and made them blend in with their characters to the point where we all recognize them now. Eisenberg as Zuckerberg? Amazing. Hammer as the Winklevoss Twins? Outstanding. Hell, even Timberlake did a decent job as the arrogant Sean Parker. Fincher is known for his meticulous directing, and it shows not just in The Social Network but his past films as well.

May: Tom Hooper

However, since most people believe the Director’s Guild of America Awards to be a more accurate predictor to the Academy Award for Best Director, they say the honor will go to him. But an interesting thing I read from Scott Feinberg is that the DGA is composed of mostly TV directors who may not have the final verdict come the Academy Awards.

Best Original Screenplay

Will: The King’s Speech

Heart power, and they want to make its win for Best Picture seem stronger.

Should/May: Inception

Wake up, Academy! (pun actually intended) Inception may not be THAT original, but it’s the MOST original of those nominated added by the fact that it’s one of the highest-grossing films of the supposedly “worst year of cinema”. Just about everyone hates you for snubbing Christopher Nolan for Best Director (I don’t because I know your type), so give him the honor of Best Original Screenplay because let’s be honest, it’s still a very strong story, much stronger than the British Blind Side that probably will win it. The only reason I put the dream theater in the “may” column is that the Academy “may” be unpredictable and give it to Nolan for this, but I don’t think it’s likely even if  I do want it to happen.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Will/Should/May:Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network.

Some audiences cry “overrated”, but even they can’t deny that Aaron Sorkin’s script is just top-notch with great lines from just about all of the big characters and many clever moments. The script gave us some pretty good lines, especially the last line in the film which was just the best I heard in a long time. There’s no contest: Sorkin will win hands down.

 

Best Animated Feature:

Will/Should/May: Toy Story 3

Do I even need to explain why?

 

 

 

 

Best Cinematography:

Will Win: Black Swan

Natalie Portman’s acting was one of the many things that made the movie work; the cinematography was the next thing. The camera played a lot with the mirror motif and gave the idea of the other side of the personality along with some of the other gimmicks that the movie threw at us. Having said that, the camerawork and the little effects behind it truly brought out the schizophrenic feel to the subject matter and more into Nina Sayers’ mind. The King’s Speech really shouldn’t have a chance because the characters were off center and out of focus when they didn’t need to be. That works when trying to get a bigger picture using scene, but the characters were in front of blank walls, so why do it?

May Win: Inception or True Grit

Black Swan has the benefit of artistic value and Darren Aronofsky being one of the most respected directors out there (I can’t fight statistics), but Inception has the benefit of scope. It’s cinematography really did bring the dreams to life and made everything more interesting while the special effects just made them look cool. The cinematography made the movie with a complicated story make sense. I haven’t seen True Grit, but there has been some buzz around it and it did pick up the BAFTA for Best Cinematography. Who knows? But critics are predicting Grit to get this one. 

Should Win: Black Swan or Inception

Anything is possible, and I’m fine with either one winning. Swan was effective in turning ballet into a nightmare, and Inception was effective in literally making dreams come true.  However, considering the Academy Awards, I’m keen on putting my money on the former because it’s not so “blockbusting” in its approach.

 

Best Film Editing

  Will/Should: The Social Network

 It won the American Cinema Editors Award for Best Picture, the BAFTA for Best Editing, and the Golden Globe for Best Editing; and I don’t blame it for winning those awards. The movie goes back and forth between the past and the present without you knowing it until after the first thirty minutes, and it does it without leaving the audience confused. The Social Network just leaps back and forth while still progressing the tale and bringing up to speed as to how the two situations came to be. You first take a glimpse as to who Mark Zuckerberg was and immediately find out who he is, so now all that matters is how he got there. The editors just made the movie move quickly and also separate the interesting scenarios between the introversion of Mark Zuckerberg and the growing need to be social and how he somehow managed to combine the two to create a “social introversion”.

Best Original Score

 Will: The Social Network

Inception has the problem of being too epic with its music, as if it’s trying so hard to make this movie even more awesome than it is. Hans Zimmer is a great composer. We’ve known this since day one. Hell, he won for composing The Lion King, but Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provided a score that wasn’t so brash and yet somehow brought out the technological world that we became and would become as well as the cool speed of the movie. The score was just one of the things that made this movie very hip and modern. Plus, they haven’t won an Oscar yet, so Zimmer may be out of luck on this one.

Should: The Social Network or Inception (TRON: Legacy)

Why is TRON: Legacy in parentheses? Because really it should be the one to get this award, but the Academy snubbed it. Everyone may be upset with Nolan getting the shaft for Best Director, but I’m more upset that Daft Punk didn’t get the nomination for their score. It was truly the first movie score that I actually wanted on CD. Anyway, I’m pulling for The Social Network as much as I can, but for the same reason I think Inception won’t get it, I think it may have a chance. Sure, it’s more ostentatious, but it’s grand and puts the world in a bigger scale. It really is awesome, but it doesn’t have to be that awesome because the movie does a good job of being that on its own.

May: Inception

It’s too awesome to not get the award, even though it is unnecessarily awesome.

Best Visual Effects/Sound Mixing/ Sound Editing

Will/Should/May: Inception

There’s no contest in any of the three categories. Predict a sweep in the technicals from Inception. The visuals were what made the movie seem plausible from the folding city to the floating in the hotel room. It was just cool to watch even if it is a bit overwhelming.

Best Documentary Short

don’t care.

Best Documentary

also don’t care.

So here are some of my predictions. We’ll see this weekend to find out if I’m accurate.