Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pitch Not-So-Perfect

For some reason in the past few years a capella groups and music have become quite popular (especially on college campuses). From huge successes like Straight No Chaser to television competition shows like NBC's The Sing-Off, this unique music style has flooded the ears of the population with instrument-less renditions of songs we all know and love - and sometimes hate -, like this ...

Last fall, a movie highlighting the popularity of a capella music in colleges sang and danced its way into theaters. Girls all across the country dragged their boyfriends to see Pitch Perfect.
The movie follows a girl, Beca, who is forced to go to college by her father. She also gets forced to do extracurricular activities which lands her in the all girl a capella group on campus, the Barden Bellas. This is just one group of about five by the way. The school's singing groups compete and sing songs in a way that clearly shows that the evil award-winning all guy group, The Treblemakers, is the best. Beca and her girl group struggle to get better and work as a team while she develops feelings for the nerdy guy from The Treblemakers who loves The Breakfast Club. The a capella groups compete in regional competitions and then more competitions until finally it's the Barden Bellas against the Treblemakers. I'll go ahead and let you guess who wins and how it ends (hint: it is a chick flick and therefore a happy ending is required). It's basically Stomp the Yard for white people with singing and dancing as proven by Buzzfeed.
I remember girls I know talking about how much they loved this movie after they saw it last year. This past January while on a 30 hour bus ride for a school trip I got around to seeing it. Twice, unfortunately.
Admittedly, I kind of enjoyed Pitch Perfect the first time I watched it. It was a little funny and the a capella music was pretty catchy. Then I had to sit through it a second time and immediately I quickly realized that was a mistake. The cute romance in the movie was now boring, the funny parts was now annoying, and the a capella music was ... still pretty good.

As a member of the male gender I would say that Pitch Perfect is okay for a chick flick. It's a movie I would suggest a guy see once. And only once. And only if he is watching it with at least one girl. The story is predictable, the acting is okay, and there are some funny parts. Really the only redeeming quality of the movie is the music, which is appropriate because the music is the point of Pitch Perfect.
While a film about singing and dancing in an organized fashion might not be appealing to most young men, the ladies ate this crap up! Most of the girls on my college campus couldn't stop talking about this movie. Singing the songs, referencing scenes, quoting one-liners spat out by Fat Amy (yes, the fat girl's name is Fat Amy), it was just ridiculous!
Honestly, I might have been a little more positive toward this movie if every girl I knew hadn't talked about it. They gave it so much hype, and then hyped it up more even after I'd seen it twice and thought it wasn't that great.
But by far the most annoying thing to come out of Pitch Perfect's popularity is the cup song "Cups." I dislike this song for three main reasons, and they are as followed:
1. I heard it EVERYWHERE. On the radio, in my friends' dorm rooms, groups of girls singing it in the cafeteria, EVERYWHERE. I thought I was going insane.
2. Just about every girl or guy with some musical talent has covered this song. Even some girls from my school who sang it at dinner in the caf covered it. Stop it! There are already more than enough covers of this song! No matter how talented you are, it is too much!
3. Nobody remembers that the cup beat in the background of "Cups" (and the song's namesake) is something most of us saw as children on the great kids' show Zoom.

Pitch Perfect was unfortunately popular enough for producers to think they could milk it for even more money and so a sequel is allegedly in the works for 2015 (Pitch Perfect 2: Pitch-ier). I have no intentions of seeing the sequel, unless I end up on another 30 hour long bus ride and have no other options.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fight Club Kicks Your Mind's Butt

This review is cancelled because you do not talk about Fight Club.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Go See Pacific Rim!

Yesterday,  the robots and monsters of Pacific Rim burst into theaters across the U.S. Today, I saw it, and knew immediately afterward that I had to review this movie.
Pacific Rim is Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's latest film. The man known for his insane imagination and horrifyingly beautiful monsters (just look at Pan's Labyrinth) brings giant robots and extra-dimensional monsters together in oceanic battles to the death. And it works!
The film shows a not-so-distant future where Earth is invaded from a dimensional bridge at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Giant monsters, known as "Kaiju," cross this bridge to wreak havoc on the planet. Humanity joins together and starts the "Jaeger Program," building giant mechanical titans controlled by two pilots. These Jaegers defend the planet from the onslaught of Kaiju and cause a lot of property damage in the process.
Kind of like this ... but better!
It's basically a nerd's wet dream.

Watching this movie is kind of like watching a Japanese cartoon with mecha in it, which is fitting because the plot is just about as predictable as a Japanese cartoon with mecha in it. But that doesn't matter! Just about everything else makes up for the predictable plot. Plus, it's too fun not to enjoy!
Industrial Light and Magic's special effects were wonderful in the movie. They deserve a neural handshake or two. Working together with the film's designers, the Jaegers and Kaiju were brilliantly brought to life.
The music of Pacific Rim perfectly sets the tone for the world the movie presents. Electric guitar, orchestral strings, and brass are brought together in a unique, somewhat futuristic and light, way. And booming heavy notes from the low brass create a sense of just how huge the giant robots and extra-dimensional monsters really are.
I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite parts of the whole movie: Charlie Day's character.
Kaiju and bird law expert.
The Always Sunny star's character provides some excellent comic relief and is largely important to the plot overall. As someone who enjoys Day's character, Charlie Kelly, on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia seeing him in a slightly different role in a movie was very enjoyable ... and it allowed for this to happen.

In case you couldn't tell, I loved Pacific Rim! It was one of the most fun movies I've seen this summer and the only word I can think to describe it is "epic!" I highly recommend seeing this movie!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Watching Power Rangers ... Without Nostalgia Goggles

Growing up in the '90's, I was a huge fan of Saban's Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. So, in 1995 when Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie hit theaters three-year-old me had to see it!
This morning when I decided this would be the next movie I would review I got a little excited. I quickly realized, however, that if I were to truly review this movie I would need to take off the nostalgia goggles and put my sentimental feelings toward the Power Rangers franchise aside.

For anyone who didn't grow up in the 1990's or did and failed to watch one of the greatest things television at the time offered children, Power Rangers is an American version of an older Japanese television series Super Sentai. And by "American version" I mean we took out all of the Japanese parts, added American teenagers, racism (only at first), and used all of the Japanese footage for action sequences.
The premise of the show was that a group of color coordinated teenagers were given skin-tight suits and giant robot dinosaurs, called Zords, from a space wizard named Zordon and run around the town of Angel Grove and stop bad guys from space.

In the movie, an ancient evil is freed: Ivan Ooze ...
Purple demon wizard of nightmares.
... played by Paul Freeman, who is better known for his role as Renee Belloq, Indy's rival French archeologist from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Yep, same guy.
Ooze breaks into the Power Rangers' headquarters and breaks everything, including Zordon, and cuts off all the power. Somehow, this makes it so the Rangers can no longer put on their suits and fight crime. They are quickly sent off to another planet with what little power is left at the HQ (the same little power that somehow isn't enough to let them put on their suits) to find a new source of power.
While the Rangers are away, Ooze decides to dig up his giant robot bugs that are conveniently buried beneath Angel Grove. He turns the adults of the city into his workforce by dressing up as a purple-pedophile wizard (with rhyming skills that challenge Dr. Suess) and giving kids his "ooze" ... yup.
Who wouldn't trust this guy with a bunch of kids?
Meanwhile, the Power Rangers find their spirit animals on another planet and become ninjas with the help of a woman who can turn into an owl. They fight dinosaur skeletons and get new Zords of their spirit animals. After getting new giant robots, they fly back to Earth to stop Ivan Ooze.
The Rangers fight Ooze's giant robot bugs with their giant robot spirit animals. Then the nightmare pedophile wizard possesses one of his robo-bugs and makes it stronger, which causes the Power Rangers to use teamwork and combine their Zords to form a Mega-Zord and work together to defeat Ivan Ooze.
This fight takes them to space where (SPOILER!) they throw Ivan at a comet that is conveniently shooting by. The END.
In case you couldn't tell by reading the plot of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie, it was not a good movie. At all. Taking off the nostalgia goggles made me see that. As much as I loved the Power Rangers as a kid, it was difficult to sit through the entire movie and here's why:
1. The acting is terrible. Of course, the acting in the television series was no better, but it seems the Rangers' acting chops only got worse when they moved to the big screen.
2. The dialogue is riddled with puns and cheesy one-liners. As someone who normally loves puns and cheesy one-liners, I found these ones to be just  annoying. I cringed at the lines, really I did!
3. I still can't figure out how nobody in the city of Angel Grove has figured out who the Power Rangers are! There is a group of teenagers that wear the same colors as the Power Rangers who all practice martial arts and are into extreme sports right in front of your eyes, people! They're the Power Rangers!
4. So much is unexplained in this movie. Like how the Power Rangers suddenly have way cooler looking leather suits as opposed to the spandex ones from the show (besides a bigger budget). Or how they suddenly have flood lights and scanners in their helmets. Or why literally (and I mean literally) every time they move there's a "Whoosh!" or "Whippsh!" noise. Or why they didn't have enough power to put on their suits, but had enough power to be transported through space to ANOTHER PLANET!
The list goes on and on, but I'm going to stop there so I don't get anymore carried away than I already have.
Moving past my childhood love of this movie was dangerous. I can't understand why I once thought it was good! Now, I would like to formally apologize to my parents for making them sit through this movie in theaters and all the times I rented it at Blockbuster (remember when Blockbuster was a thing?).
If you haven't seen Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie then I would recommend not seeing it. This movie is only suitable for watching with the intent of purposefully watching a bad movie and making fun of it ... like Big Trouble in Little China (except nowhere near as awesome). Of course, it is a movie for a children's franchise made in the 1990's, so it could only be so good. I am sorry to any die hard Power Rangers fans who have read this and were offended (like my older sister).

Friday, July 5, 2013

Paperman: The Short I Wish Was Longer

Earlier today I finished my review of Wreck-It Ralph and put up here on the blog. In my post-publishing happiness I reflected more on the movie and remembered something that deserved just as much attention: the short before the movie.
When my friends and I went and saw Wreck-It Ralph in theaters last year, I remember being a little surprised at the fact that it started with a short animated film. That is something Pixar does, not Disney (they're very different). However, this seven minute animated extra absolutely blew me away.
Paperman takes place in the 1940s or '50s and is the story of a guy and a girl who meet at a train station and how paper airplanes bring them together (a little too literally). It's a better love story than Twilight (which isn't difficult to do), in just a few minutes (which is difficult to do).
No words are spoken in the short, only beautifully playful music composed by Chirstophe Beck plays in the background. And it's perfect without any words. So much is said in the silence and the music hits you with waves of emotion as you watch the story of the two characters, George and Meg, unfold.
The short is absolutely beautiful and the animation is astounding and truly unique, a combination of traditional hand-drawn animation and CGI.
Paperman won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. Wreck-It Ralph, the movie to which it was attached, only got nominated! The short did better than the movie, and as I said previously, Wreck-It Ralph was great.
Definitely make sure you watch Paperman when you watch Wreck-It Ralph, or even watch it on its own.

Wreck-It Ralph Broke the Video Game Movie Curse

In the last 30 years or so video games have become incredibly popular. An 8-bit boom of popularity (and profit) brought video games into the mainstream during the late '70s and on into the '80s. So, in the '90s when Hollywood execs wanted to make bank off of this growing market, they took the most prominent series at the time and turned it into a movie. The very un-super Super Mario Bros. movie came to theaters (more on that failure in a future review), along with a curse. A curse that fell upon all other video game movies from then on. A curse that made it so video game movies would always suck.
Now nearly 20 years later, that curse is on its way to being broken ... by Disney. Disney? Yes, Disney. Last year, the animation behemoth that shaped this generation's childhood released their newest movie about video game characters, Wreck-It Ralph. And it didn't suck! In fact, it was great!

The story follows the titular character Ralph, a villain from the fictional 1980's arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr. (which is a lot like the original Donkey Kong) who is tired of always being the bad guy. So, the 9 ft. tall, 643 lb. wrecker goes "game-jumping" to try be a hero for once landing him in Hero's Duty (heh, duty), a first person shooter, and Sugar Rush, a candy coated version of any game from the Mario Kart series. And of course, hijinks ensue.
Wreck-It Ralph is full of classic video game character cameos. Go ahead and look at that poster again. M. Bison, Q*bert, Clyde from Pac-Man, and Sonic the Hedgehog are chilling behind the star of the movie. And that's just the poster. Other classic characters make appearances, too. Trying to find all of the different characters in the background is almost like doing a seek-and-find or reading Where's Waldo (there's really not much reading when it comes to Where's Waldo). Along with cameos, there is more than a few bit-loads of references to video games and video game culture. Who wouldn't want to see a support group for depressed game villains?
Not only does the movie have a fun story that is filled with familiar faces, it has good music. Composer Henry Jackman did a wonderful job separating the three different video games that Ralph enters with music and fitting said music to the atmospheres of those games perfectly. 8-bit music for Fix-It Felix, Jr., intense and crazy dubstep music for Hero's Duty (mixed by Skrillex himself), and fun light and cheery music for Sugar Rush. It definitely compliments the movie.
I almost forgot to mention how clever this movie is: VERY. Wreck-It Ralph is one of the most clever and pun-filled movies I've seen in a long time. And I loved every bit of it. It's like a Mt. Cleverest on the clever scale (which doesn't actually exist ... yet). My favorite character, King Candy, has some of the wittiest lines and puns I've heard in a movie in a long time.
During opening weekend, Wreck-It Ralph grossed $49 million. And it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. This video game movie succeeded! Sure, it's an animated movie about fake video games, but still! It did the un-do-able and has potentially (and hopefully) broken the curse of video game movies sucking! There is also talks of a sequel that will have even more video game character cameos, including a certain mustachioed, overall-wearing, mushroom eating plumber. The very same plumber whose 1993 live-action movie started the very curse Wreck-It Ralph broke.
In case you couldn't tell by what I've already written or you skipped to the end (shame on you) I absolutely loved this movie (I even mentioned it in my review of The Lego Movie trailer)! Everything about it made me smile, and I still can't decide if it beat out Aladdin for my favorite Disney movie (which is a pretty big deal). If you haven't seen Wreck-It Ralph yet then I highly recommend seeing it. Whether you're a video game fan, a Disney lover, a child at heart, or all of the above, this movie is a must.