Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Lightning Thief: Strikingly Disappointing

To change things up a little bit I'm going to talk about a movie I didn't like (at all): Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
The Lightning Thief came to theaters three years ago, and is based off the first book in a popular series written by Rick Riordan. As someone who read the book series when it first came out, I was really excited for the film adaptation hoping to see some of my favorite characters come to life on the silver screen. I was deeply disappointed.
Both the movie and the book follow a young boy named Percy Jackson who learns that all of the myths from Greek mythology are real and that he is the son of the Greek god, Poseidon, throwing all other religious beliefs out the window. Percy is accused of stealing Zeus's master lightning bolt and if he doesn't prove his innocence in the next 10 days all of the gods will be at war against each other. Most of the similarities between the movie and the book end there.
Many creative liberties were taken by the writers as the book was turned into a screenplay. So many, in fact, that the movie tells almost a completely different story.
The movie also has James Bond as a centaur.
What caused these changes? More than likely it was targeting the movie to high school students while the books were targeted to preteens.
For example, one of the characters, a satyr (goat-person-thing) named Grover, is portrayed in the book series as being very shy and cowardly. As the books go on, readers see his character grow out of his cowardice and develop into more of a hero at times. The movie, however, took this character and said, "Hey, let's make him hip!" And so they made him an outgoing, smooth-talking goat-man who is constantly chasing after women. Even one of the godesses hits on him toward the end.
Another example is the music put into the movie. Since the target demographic of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (long title!) was high school students and the year was 2010, the producers had to put popular music at the time into the movie. So, in the middle of the movie, viewers are graced with a montage in a casino set to Lady Gaga. And shortly after that, Ke-dollar-sign-ha's "Tik Tok" plays in the background. Neither seemed to fit well with the atmosphere of the rest of the movie.
And it's not just a bad book adaptation movie, it's a bad movie in general. The acting is terrible and it takes itself way too seriously. And the story in the movie is less believable than the book, which is difficult to do considering the book is also about Greek gods being real.
If you read the book series and somehow still haven't seen The Lightning Thief then I envy you. This movie made a mockery of the book! Three years later, I still remember my disappointment after walking out of the theater. I paid 10 bucks to watch that crap!
Some of you may be thinking, "Dude, that was three years ago, get over it!" And you're right, I should get over it. I was over it. My anger and upset-tion (it's a word now) have only returned because not too recently I learned that the sequel is coming out early this August.

To be perfectly honest, this trailer looks much better than trailer for The Lightning Thief, and it looks like they've done a few things to make Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters better than its predecessor ... like giving it a shorter title.
And putting Nathan Fillion in it.
Sea of Monsters hits theaters in just over a month. Unfortunately, it reminds me of the bad taste I was left with after seeing The Lightning Thief. Hopefully, the sequel doesn't disappoint me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

World War Z: Brad Pitt Runs from Zombies Across the Globe

The other day, a friend and I decided to go see World War Z on a whim. Neither of us had heard much about it and I barely remembered the trailers I had seen for it. So, I went in with as little knowledge as possible, knowing the film had Brad Pitt and zombies. That's it.
Now, I don't like zombies; they were the next logical step in overused monsters after vampires and werewolves became too mainstream (the next step is Frankenstein's monster). They're everywhere! Videogames, TV shows, comic books, regular books, and now regular books turned into motion pictures featuring high profile actors who are married to Angelina Jolie.
Going in with only expectations of lots undead bodies and lots of running, World War Z did not disappoint. It kind of left me breathless.
And I mean that literally. This movie is a roller coaster ride! There is so much tension that it puts the "tense" in "intense." Throughout the film a zombie is always right around the corner, just waiting for any noise to chase after in hopes of finding human flesh to feast on. Also, the characters are in a huge rush to find a way to stop the zombie outbreak before all of humanity becomes brain-hungry-undead. Everything depends on a few people finding a way to save the human race.
It's stressful to watch. My heart was pumping the entire time ... not that my heart doesn't pump all of the time, it was just working over time during those two hours.
The movie does a great job of getting the viewer emotionally attached to the main character and his family as they try to escape Philadelphia and find a safe place to wait out the zombie apocalypse. I found myself actually worrying for these people who don't actually exist.
I don't want to spoil anything about the movie, so I won't talk about the story. Just that I found it to be compelling and perfectly paced to keep you interested.
And I think what I liked best about World War Z was how they went about fighting the zombies. It wasn't outrageously gory. If a character stabbed an undead corpse in the head, it was done with the camera close up on the living human and not on the dead one. There wasn't blood and guts everywhere as one might think would be in a zombie movie. It was very tastefully done, and as someone with a weak stomach, I very much appreciated it.
As I walked out of the theater the only words I could come up with to describe the film were "terrifyingly beautiful" and I still stand by that a few days later. It was chilling and exciting and very well done. Honestly, I really want to read the book now! That doesn't happen when I see the movie before reading the book (lookin' at you Hunger Games).
I highly recommend seeing World War Z. Even if you don't like zombies. Or Brad Pitt.

Superman Done Right

As a superhero fan-boy, when I found out they were doing a reboot of the Superman movie franchise I was ecstatic! I enjoyed the old Superman and Superman II from way back in the day, don't get me wrong. But everything went south with Superman III, the possibility of a Tim Burton directed film featuring Nicholas Cage *shudders*, and Superman Returns. Supes deserved better than all of that. And this reboot gave him what he has long deserved.
I remember seeing the first teaser trailer last summer when I went to go see The Dark Knight Rises. It gave me a chilling case of goosebumps. But, I still had to wait another 11 months for the film. Bummer!
Then two months ago, this trailer was released.

I watched that trailer at least 20 times that day. This movie was going to be incredible! And for the most part, my hopes and expectations were met and exceeded.
I don't even know where to start with this movie. Okay, I do: the story.
Being a reboot of the Superman movie franchise, Man of Steel serves as an origin story for Supes (and also took away his signature red briefs). And what a great take on his origin story it was. Krypton is a distant planet with incredibly fantastical technologies. Unfortunately, it is going through some tough times: lack of resources, unstable core, etc. Oh, and  its military leader, General Zod, tries to overthrow the government. Definitely sucks to be on Krypton.
That is why Kryptonian scientist Russell Crowe Jor-El sends his newborn child, Kal-El to a tiny little planet called Earth via a small spacecraft he built. He hopes that his son will be raised on Earth and survive so that a part of Krypton will survive since it is about to explode. General Zod ends up killing Jor-El, and then his coup d'état fails. He and his minions are punished and sent to the Phantom Zone (sort of like Krypton's dumpster in another dimension). Then Krypton blows up.
We follow Kal-El to Earth where he crashes and is found by the Kents. They adopt the space child, name him Clark, and hide his spaceship.
Now, going through the rest of the story bit by bit would take far too long. So, to sum it all up, Clark, played by Henry Cavill, learns of his Kryptonian heritage and receives his "super suit." He then saves the gorgeous Amy Adams' reporter Lois Lane from a killer robot-thing.
Zod and his cronies attack Earth. Surprise! They escaped the Phantom Zone when Krypton exploded! The general wants to find Kal-El and turn Earth into a new planet Krypton using terraforming technology.
Superman and Zod duke it out. Superman wins. Clark gets a job at the Daily Planet so he can be in the know of world disasters ... and keep an eye on his lady friend, Miss Lane. The end.
I left out some pretty big parts, but I don't want to spoil the movie for you if you haven't already seen it. Which you should. Right now.
Now, in my opinion, the story did something that no other Superman movie before it did very well: Krypton. The first 20 min of the movie are all about Krypton, and in that chunk of the movie you gain an understanding of an entire alien culture! How their government works, how important technology is to them, how important expansion is to them, their belief in superiority, the way they treat newborn life, etc.  And later on, you learn even more about the destroyed planet via an expository monologue from Russell Crowe. It all really added to the depth and believability of the Man of Tomorrow's home world.
The special effects in the film were beautiful! As if I haven't lauded the version of Krypton in Man of Steel enough, the visual effects used to create the look of the planet were astounding. It really looked an alien planet on the fringes of destruction. The movie as a whole just looked great.
Finally, I'll talk about the music.  It was honestly chilling at times. In fact, while writing this review I am listening to the soundtrack. SO. GOOD. Hanz Zimmer, whose work on music in films has created some incredible soundtracks (most notably Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy), outdid himself. The music creates an aggressively intense and sometimes beautifully soft atmosphere for the film. This isn't the John Williams theme you're used to, folks. This new music is for a new generation of Superman fans, and it works very well with the film.
In a time where superheroes are now grounded in reality and made believable, Man of Steel soars. It not only has the potential to launch a successful Superman movie franchise for a new generation, but also the potential to launch the Justice League movie everyone has been whispering about since Marvel's The Avengers came out last summer (fingers crossed!).
In case you can't already tell, I would highly recommend seeing this movie. Whether you're a superhero fan or not, you don't want to miss Man of Steel!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Now You See Me: Not as Magical as It Looked

Last December my roommates and I found a trailer online for an upcoming movie. After watching the trailer, we all had pretty high hopes for Now You See Me.

It looked exciting! Sleight of hand trickery, magic shows, Alfred Michael Caine, and Lucius Fox Morgan Freeman! This HAD to be good!
Unfortunately, Louis Leterrier's Now You See Me didn't quite live up to the expectations I had.
There were a lot of things I did like about the movie, but certain parts of the story felt out of place or were under-developed and resolved too quickly causing the movie to fizzle out a bit.
First off, I thought the overall storyline was great. Four talented magicians brought together by a mysterious unknown benefactor to use their skills in sleight of hand and manipulation to steal money from a successful insurance company. FBI and Interpol soon get involved trying to arrest the "Four Horsemen" and recover the stolen cash. Okay, sounds pretty good so far.
Most of the movie turns into figuring out who this benefactor actually is. Is it Freeman's former magician turned magical sell-out? Or Caine's insurance magnate doing some publicity stunt? Does the mysterious boss of the magicians actually exist?
But then the heist and mystery story gets tainted. A completely useless romance between Mark Ruffalo's FBI agent and Mélanie Laurent's Interpol detective gets thrown into the mix. Now, the heist movie has bits and pieces that could easily be pulled out of a chick flick.
With this new plot element, the film struggled balancing the development of the four magicians' three act crime spree and the slowly budding relationship of the angry FBI agent and the Interpol detective.
Oh, and there's a secret brotherhood of magicians and tricksters that dates back to ancient Egypt that you learn almost nothing about. Where was the explanation and development on that aspect of the story? It's far more interesting than watching Ruffalo and Laurent flirt.
Moving on from the plot, I felt that just about every other aspect of the movie was good. Like the visual effects. They were fun and make some of the unbelievable tricks pulled off by the Four Horsemen a little more believable. From magicians floating around rooms in bubbles to jumping off the roof of a building and turning into a giant cloud of cash, the special effects made those tricks what they were.
And some of the characters are actually pretty funny. Jesse Eisenberg's Daniel Atlas is a cocky magician who thinks he is the best and his controlling nature drove away one of his former partners. Kind of like if Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network went to magic camp instead of Harvard and tried to saw the Winklevi in half. And Woody Harrelson's metanlist/mind-reader is a sarcastically blunt character who easily pries himself into your brain and makes you laugh.
Overall, I think Now You See Me is a very enjoyable movie, just not as good as I originally hoped it would be. If you're looking for roughly two hours of fun, I recommend seeing it. If you're looking for the next greatest addition to modern cinema, don't.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Will The Lego Movie Fall to Pieces or Blockbuster Success?

Last week Warner Brothers released the trailer for one of their upcoming movies. It was awesome.

Okay, this is more of a trailer review than a movie review. You got me. I just thought this would be a good way to ease myself into blogging. Plus, as a former child I am really excited for this movie. (Also, the puns were too good for me to not talk about this trailer.)
In all seriousness, this movie could be absolutely fantastic. You might be skeptical, thinking The Lego Movie will be for children. And you're probably right.
Yes, the target demographic is most likely going to be little kids, but that doesn't mean it will be a dud. Kids' movies don't have to suck. I have a strong feeling this will be a clever movie. Just look at those tag lines. "The biggest movie ever assembled." "The fate of the world is in his tiny yellow hands." Clever.
Plus, did you see that animation? It looks fantastic. That is stop motion done right. It looks nothing like the creepy stop-motion Christmas specials we all know and love.
And did you see the cast list at the end? There were some pretty big names up there. Will Ferrell? Elizabeth Banks? Morgan Freeman!? Liam Neeson!? And according to IMDb, Allsion Brie from NBC's Community has a role in it. I'm even more excited!
This movie, in my opinion, has the potential to be for Legos what last year's Wreck-It Ralph was for video games: a hilariously fun and enjoyable movie with sharp wit and well thought out puns.
I look forward to seeing it next year, and hopefully so do you.
PS: Batman is in it!

Inaugural Post

This is the first post of 8mm Thoughts (as the title of the post clearly states). So, I figured I'd kick things off with some introduction and exposition.
Despite the fact that the blogosphere (the newest layer of our planet's atmosphere) is already filled with the voices and opinions of everyone and their mother, I decided to go ahead and throw my voice and opinions in, too. Why not, right?
And thus, 8mm Thoughts was born!
8mm Thoughts is a blog where I review movies. I am not a film expert, just someone who loves movies and has strong opinions.
Whether good movies or bad movies, movies I like or movies I hate, this is where you (and everyone and their mother) can find my opinions and reviews.
Expect actual movie review posts soon.