Sunday, May 27, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribean: At World's End

I caught the late show of Pirates cause I didn't want to have to deal with the crazy crowds. It is Memorial Weekend after all. I knew it was gonna be long but, damn, it was an epic. It was like two movies in one. My wife, her sister and myself caught the 11:30 PM show and we didn't get out till at least 2:30. I think this sucker clocked in at 2 hrs and 48 minutes. Far longer than Spider-Man 3. The trend for the 2007 summer blockbuster is to be long with epic proportions and to toss a lot of plot onto the viewer. So how does this Pirate adventure match up with the previous two? In my mind somewhere in the middle. I certainly enjoyed it much more than DMC, but it still doesn't quite reach the clever fun of the first one. Johnny Depp practically steals almost every scene he is in with his even more crazed performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. The film is far darker than the previous two films as we begin the movie with a scene reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. They also build further on the mythical themes of Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman and his duty to guide souls who have been lost at sea.When we left off from Dead Man's Chest Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has been swallowed by the Cracken and sent to Davy Jones' Locker, which serves as a form of purgatory. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley)and the crew set out to find and rescue Captain Jack from the clutches of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). With help from a, thought to be dead enemy, Captain Barbosa and the mysterious witch Tia (Naomie Harris), lead the crew to Singapore in order to get directions to a place that cannot be found. Yeah, it makes more sense as you go. Meanwhile former Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) has sold out the others and given Davy Jones' still beating heart to the very evil Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), with the East India Trading Company. Beckett controls the heart, which means he controls Davy Jones and the seven seas. The crew of the doomed Black Pearl fight a new adversary to the Pirate lore, Captain Sao Feng, (Chow Yun Fat) a ruthless pirate who seems to be only interested in siding with whomever seems the strongest. I think in this movie every one of the main characters double crosses someone else at least 4 or 5 times each in the film. Between Will Turner trying to save his cursed father (Stellan Skarsgard) from indentured servitude to Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow's weasling out of his debt to Davy Jones it gets very difficult to really trust anyone in this film. The stakes are high and the balance of nature must be restored. Will the two lovebirds Will and Elizabeth work out their trust issues and seal the deal? It takes a long time but we finaly get a conclusion to this one. The most enjoyable bits though are Jack and his lunacy, when we first see him in purgatory he is stuck in the middle of the desert with his ship the Black Pearl. He's been there long enough to create imaginary duplicates of himself. Once the others arrive it takes him a while to realize that it is really them. There are some great bits from Ragetti (Mackenzie Crook) and Pintel, (Lee Arenberg) as well as Jack's right hand guy Mr. Gibbs (Kevin McNally). Not to mention a great cameo from Keith Richards who plays Captain Teague, the keeper of the Pirate code and he "surprisingly" looks oddly similar to Captain Jack. I wonder why?

The film is good fun as they close the third chapter on this great mythical adventure. I won't give anything away but the ending is not what I thought it would be. They did throw in a few surprises. The sets of course were amazing and the special effects were as good or better than the previous film. I loved the whirlpool at the end--completely ludicrous but awesome fun just the same. Oh and when the credits begin to roll you get an even nicer happy ending if you wait for the credits to finish. Trust me it's actually very important to the completion of this epic, sometimes silly, but extremely fun series.

Grade 4 Buckets

Thursday, May 17, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Shrek the Third

I got to see a sneak preview of this third and obviously not the last of this popular series. So what did I think? Shrek himself is not particularly funny this go around. In fact he is kind of boring. It's the supporting cast that make this film watchable and in the end pretty darn funny. Where would Shrek be without Donkey, Puss and Boots, Pinocchio and that funny Gingerbread Man? Not 200 million at the Box Office I can assure you. Sure the kids will shout for joy when they see those little purple dragon babies that Donkey has fathered, and I'm sure they will enjoy the silly smelly jokes and ogre one-liners. The fact is if you are 20 and pushing 30. You will be completely bored with that shit. So thank god for the side kicks and of course the Fairy Tale princesses. The Queen, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the dude in drag. It also helps that they are voiced by Julie Andrews and SNL vets like Mya Rudolph, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler and the very funny Amy Sedaris.So this movie takes off where Shrek 2 ended. Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are trying to get used to life in the kingdom of Far, Far Away. The King (John Cleese), who is now a frog croaks, his fellow froggies do a very strange yet funny rendition of Live and Let Die at the funeral, and the film is off. Shrek is tasked to be King and of course he doesn't want to be king so it's up to him to find an heir to the throne. He learns about some cousin named Artie (Justin Timberlake) who is a complete loser away at boarding school. So Shrek, Puss (Antonio Banderas) and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) head out to find the kid and make him own up to his birthright. On their way back they run into a crack pot Merlin (Eric Idle), who could have been utilized a bit better except as a plot device to get Shrek and crew back to the castle in a matter of seconds. Meanwhile that bad Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) guy from the last film hatches a plan to take back the kingdom that he claims is rightfully his. He enlists help from all of the classic villains you remember for your favorite fairy tales. Captain Hook, The Evil Queen, an Evil Knight and Some hilarious Evil Trees (Wizard of Oz). Not to mention that Shrek is dreading his upcoming Fatherhood. Whew, okay now is any of this really important to the enjoyment of this film? The answer is no.As I said before the best thing about this series is the side-kicks, especially the Gingerbread Man. There is a flash back sequence here where the little cookie is about to meet his maker and he has the end-of-life flashback. It was friggin hilarious. Also the music numbers were pretty good, I loved the random induction of a Paul McCartney favorite and Snow White belting out some Zeppelin. Unfortunately this isn't as funny as the second or first film but it does have some good laughs. This isn't as much for the adults as the jokes aim mostly to the kids but if you listen carefully you can catch a few gems.

Grade: 3 Buckets

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


For Mother's Day this Sunday My Mother-In Law, Tamar and myself decided to check out the new Zach Braff flick. It bombed terribly this past weekend, but I kind of liked it. My wife and I are about three months away from our first child, as were Braff and his on-screen wife Amanda Peet in the movie. Some of the baby conversation in the beginning was almost word for word a conversation Tamar and I had about our soon to be bundle of joy. So right off the bat we related to and just really enjoyed the chemistry between the two of them. Yes it was silly, it was a screwball comedy for Christ sake, but there were some truly funny bits. Especially Jason Bateman, he played a monumental cocksucker who just happens to be handicapped, making it hard for anyone to call him on his bullshit.

Tom (Zach Braff) and Sofia (Amanda Peet) are a happily married couple, Sofia is a high powered attorney in NY and Tom is a bit of a journeyman worker. Apparently he has a bullshit detector that gets him in trouble with every job he obtains. His latest job as a chef is over before he can get his big raise. Sofia decides after the baby is born that she wants to be a stay at home Mom and that slacker Tom will have to be the official breadwinner. They decide to move out to the sticks, Ohio to be exact, for Tom to start his new career in advertising with Sofia's goofy Father (Charles Grodin). The ad agency is pretty funny, they are a google esque company where everyone is encouraged to relax at work in a zen like way and pass around invisible balls of inspiration. Tom finds himself a rival with an old sweetheart of Sofia's, Chip (Jason Bateman). Chip decides to mess with Tom in true college frat boy style. He puts Gay Porn on his computer, screws with his desk chair, etc. Of course as I mentioned above Chip is also in a wheelchair which makes it difficult for Tom to accuse him of anything. Meanwhile Sofia tries to settle in as a housewife and finds complications of her own. She has one of the funniest sequences in the film when she joins a group of young mothers and their babies for a class on nurturing the children. These crazy ladies were attempting to get to the bottom of their slobbery children's inner chi or something, it was hilarious especially with a nice random guest spot from Amy Adams who slams Sofia for being a bad mom cause her kid doesn't ever want to smile. You also have some great performances from old SNLr's like Amy Poehler and Fred Armisen.The film is pretty much by the numbers and it did get a little too slapsticky about mid way through, but there are some genuine moments between Sofia and Tom that make it feel less scripted and more real. If you get a chance to see this one in between summer blockbusters I think you should check it out. It makes a fine rental too.

Grade: 3 Buckets


Steve Guttenberg says:
"Chardonnay is the urine of the devil."

Friday, May 04, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Spider-Man 3: An Alternative Perspective

I understand my colleague G.I. Jeff. I get him. I should, I’ve known him for a very long time. And as a result, I know that he would write a glowing review of Spider Man 3 no matter what Sam Raimi threw up on the screen. It could've been two and half hours of Peter Parker taking a radioactive dump in the toilet. He has a certain childlike reverence for the character, and I fear he has convinced himself that Spider Man 3 is actually a good film.

It’s not. Not even close, really.

Yeah, the special effects looked pretty good (I would hope, if they spent TWO-HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS on this film). But that’s about the best compliment I can give the film.

The acting is almost absurd in spots (the audience I saw it with laughed numerous times in spots not meant to be funny – stop crying Tobey!).

The many, many characters in this film aren’t juggled near enough screen time to be properly fleshed out.

The plot is… well, I actually have no idea what the plot was – but, I think there were at least six of them.

There were too many antagonists. Four by my count, which is three too many.

Bryce Dallas Howard is completely wasted in a nothing role.

The Sandman is a bigger flip-flopper than John Kerry. He’s bad, he’s good, he’s bad again… wait, wait… okay, he’s good again.

The emergence of Venom (at least I think its Venom. They don’t even have enough time to work in the name), is pretty much just a flash in the pan. His forced presence in the film seems like a lackluster attempt to pander to the fanboys. A real waste in this film, and should’ve been saved for SM4 or left out all together.

Walking out of the theater, I was simply confused. Based on the previous two films, which I like very much, I expected a smart, efficient, and connected story. What I got was a lot of murk, mire and meandering. Spider Man 3 is like a size 24 woman trying to fit into a size 6 pair of jeans. Sloppy. Very, very sloppy.

Grade: 2 Buckets

P.S. Is Harry the "New Goblin" or is he going paint balling??

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Last night I got a chance to see one of the first of many screenings for Spider-Man 3 in New York, and I got to tell you the truth--I felt like a kid on Christmas Morning. For those people that know me they understand how much I love Spider-Man. Since I was five years old I was hooked on the web slinger. I named my first dog Spider for Christ sakes. So am I going to be kind of biased towards Spider-Man 3? Probably--but it also means that I'm going to be really anal about how they portray my favorite characters, so how did this 3rd and possible final chapter in the Spider-Man saga fare? I gotta say I loved every frame.In the third installment directed by Sam Raimi, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is now living his dream. He got the girl, Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the people of New York love Spider-Man and he is excelling as a student at Empire State University. So of course there is no where else to go but down. Mary-Jane is having a rough time with her acting/singing career and she gets a little jealous of the new girl who vies for Peter's affection, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). Harry Osborn (James Franco) is also having a rough time of it as his quest for vengeance against Peter/Spider-Man for the death of his father (Willem Dafoe) reaches a boiling point. It also provides one of the most entertaining fight sequences of the film as Peter fights Harry sans Spider outfit. Not to mention a bizarre asteroid crashes unleashing a strange black ooze all over Pete’s new duds, what is a guy to do. The three new villains to add to the story are Flint Marko aka. Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), who is revealed to be the true murderer of Peter's Uncle Ben from the first film. Peter has a new rival for a position at the Daily Bugle in Eddie Brock/Venom (Topher Grace), a sarcastic brown noser with a very murky morality code. When the mysterious alien goop attaches itself to Peter's clothes it brings out a very dark side in him, making him a bit of a villain as well. Actually the dark Spidey provides some truly funny bits. I admit there is a lot of plot going on here--to some Critics it may seem disjointed but to me it was perfectly in-sync.

The fight scenes were incredible and visually stunning. Raimi was tasked to top himself from the last two Spider films and I believe that he has done so with style. With the addition of the very complicated Venom and the constantly shape shifting Sandman, he still keeps the storytelling top notch as all of the characters stay completely true to themselves and we get to see the completion of a phenomenal trilogy. The themes are simple, the first film was about Responsibility, the second was about choice and the third one is about forgiveness. These simple themes along with strong grounded characters are what make these films watchable over and over again. It is what is completely missing from the 3rd X-men film. They rushed it and got a crappy movie. Spider-Man is proof that you can take a seemingly difficult and fantastic story from the pages of a comic book and make a series of strong capable films if you have the right filmmakers behind it. I read somewhere recently where Kirsten Dunst made a comment about future Spider-Man films. She said that it wouldn't work without herself, Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi. She's only partially right. Don't get me wrong Tobey and Kirsten are great in their respective roles, but there is only one director that has the passion and desire to make a great Spider-Man film and that is Sam Raimi. There are many talented directors out there but I don't think any of them could do as good a job with this series as Raimi has with this one. I mean just look at this supporting cast of JK Simmons and J. Jonah Jameson, Bill Nunn, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, Elizabeth Banks, Dylan Baker, James Cromwell and the always funny Bruce Campbell. Raimi has so intricately created a real universe of sub-plots and character development that has consistently spanned all three films. Bear in mind that this one is a long one so take your pee break before the show--otherwise you're gonna be hurting.Spider-Man opens this weekend May 4, also in IMAX. As Stan the Man Lee says. Nuff Said.
P.S. I saw this and I just couldn't resist!

Grade: 5 Buckets