Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Raven (R/110 Min.)


I got up this morning to go see Dark Shadows and when that was over I said to myself, “Self! Let’s go see another movie!” So I chose The Raven. I really really REALLY need to quit talking to myself. Or listening to myself. One or the other. Is it rude to say that a movie is tedious? Yes? Okay then. I won’t. But it wasn’t good. Apparently word has gotten out about how not good it is as I was the only person in the theater. So not cool.

The Raven is a fictional recounting of Edgar Allan Poe’s final days. It is said that just before he died Poe disappeared for five days. No one ever knew where he had gone and no one ever knew what caused his death. In this telling, three people have been murdered using methods described in Poe’s literary works. Soon after, Poe’s fiancĂ©e, Emily, is kidnapped from her birthday ball. She will be killed unless Poe publishes a story in the newspaper every day. While this is happening, other people are murdered and clues are left behind to lead the police and Poe to Emily.

One of the few things I liked about The Raven is that it romanticizes Poe’s death. It gives it meaning and we, as the audience, were allowed to see how he died. If fictionally anyway. This had the opportunity to be a really good movie. It was not. Had this been one of my pre-screenings I might have been compelled to walk out. Though if I didn’t walk out on Jack and Jill I probably won’t walk out on anything. I had paid for this so I decided to see it through. I wish I was able to tell you exactly what was wrong with it. It had all the components of a hit. There was action, mystery, murder, romance, John Cusack. So, why was it a miss?

I’m not quite sure how I thought this was going to play out but the murders did not go as I had imagined. You know what I mean. You know that someone is going to die and how they’re going to die and you might even hear them die but you only see it as a shadow on the wall or not at all. Not so here. Having said that and thinking back to the murders I realize that I only saw two as they happened. They must have been emblazoned in my memory never to be removed. Please be warned, this review is going to have several spoilers. I would worry about them more if I weren’t trying to encourage people not to see it.

The first murder I was “allowed” to watch involved The Pit and the Pendulum. I remember from reading that work long ago that I imagined it as a death by fractions of an inch. A very slow, painful, nay, agonizing death. It looked agonizing all right but, thankfully, it wasn’t as slow as I imagined. I think the pendulum had around 6 swings before it got stuck. Yuck. I actually sucked in my breath after the initial cut thinking, “Wow! That must’ve hurt!” Thank you, Princess Understatement. They were all about the blood spurting and the victim gurgling too. It was tres gross.

The other murder I got to see was not premeditated on the part of the serial killer. He cut someone’s throat open and the nice movie makers made sure to make that as yucky as possible.

Now, let’s talk about Emily a little bit. I liked her. She didn’t wait around for help but tried to get herself out of her predicament. I know you’re thinking, “Hoorah. Big whoop.” Well, it was a big whoop. All I could think when she was working her way out of where she was being held was that the bad guy could be standing right there waiting to do something even worse. But, what do you do? Sit there and hope someone will save you or take the chance to get your own tuckus out of trouble? And speaking of…when she managed to scrape away enough of a space to see out and she saw her captor’s mouth it was NOT the mouth of the guy who put her there. If any of you decide to see this despite my warnings let me know if I’m right or not. I’m pretty sure I am but I have been accused of being wrong before. The man whose mouth it more closely resembles is a good guy. And they even do a close-up of his mouth. I think this was one of those let’s-try-to-make-them-think-it’s-someone-else-first kind of deals. Like in Gone. What was highly frustrating is the person who dunnit isn’t seen enough to give you the impression that he had anything to do with it. Wow. You guys sure were sneaky with that one. No amount of intelligence would have enabled the audience to predict who the bad guy was. The angle on her view of the room was wrong too. She was laying down but it made it seem as if she was standing up. Who edited this?

Let’s talk a little bit about some other things I liked. The costumes were well done. Especially at the masked ball. I would love to have a mask such as the one Emily wore. Okay. That’s all I could think of that I liked. I’m going to take a second and hop over to read some other reviews. I’m back. And I’m relieved. Even the critics from some of the big papers found The Raven less than satisfying. So it isn’t just me. Yea!

I’m not going to bother with other character endorsements as I felt everything about this film pretty much fell flat including the acting. I just don’t get it. This should have been so much better. I would have loved to have seen this had Guy Ritchie been at the helm. He proved twice-over with the Sherlock Holmes movies that he is more than capable of directing a film not of this time. I like talking old-worldy and tend to do so after seeing movies like this. Can’t help it.

Since this movie is rated R and obviously not for children, I’m not going to break it down. People die, it’s gross, don’t take your kids to see this with you. Speaking of dying…I am apparently not as big a Poe fan as I had previously thought. In one of the scenes I saw the marker for an empty grave that they were supposed to find during the search for Emily. It had her name and a date written on it. The date? October 7, 1849. Wanna guess the relevance? That was the day Poe died. You knew I was leading up to that, didn’t you.

I cannot recommend this film to anyone. Not even Poe fans. Especially not Poe fans. I don’t think it would live up to their or anyone’s expectations. I am very disappointed for John Cusack. He deserved so much better than that.

To end on an even more disappointing note, what on earth were they thinking with the credits? It was very James Bond and took us to a completely different time. Don’t do that. It’s bewildering to say the least. The computer graphics were so definitely out of place here. Having suffered through all that I found that there was nothing after the credits. This was somewhat predictable as the ending of the film left it so that there couldn’t be a sequel unless Poe passed the torch on to someone else. Oh please say he didn’t.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG-13/124 Min.)


“Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right then it’s not the end.”

What do you do if you live in England and you’ve run out of money and/or lost your spouse? You move to a run-down hotel in India. Of course!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a not-so-surprising treat. The actors were entertaining, as these usually are. The hotel, though run down, is still impressive and boasts a manager who is charmingly manipulative, strong-willed and romantic.

Seven different stories merge to form one heart-warming tale of loss and wandering out in a new direction. A judge has decided enough is enough and walks out on his job. A woman in need of hip replacement surgery and who is also incredibly racist seeks aid where it’s cheap and available right away. Another woman has recently lost her spend-thrift husband who left her with absolutely nothing. A husband and wife are being forced to find smaller housing due to a bad financial decision. A “gentleman” has been looking for love in all the wrong places and has decided to move his search to another country entirely. The 4th and final woman is looking for someone well-off with whom she can spend her remaining years in the manner to which she means to become accustomed. Finally, the hotel manager isn’t quite living up to his mother’s expectations but is determined to plow on despite the obstacles.

As good as each story is they wouldn’t do as well on their own. Together they form a very enjoyable two hour cinematic experience. Leanne and Diane (the Fig sisters) went with me and both really liked it too so I’m not just basing this on my opinion. Well, not completely anyway.

Dame Judi Dench is Evelyn Greenslade, the widow whose husband has left her to sell her home to cover his debt and have enough money on which to live. I am a big fan of Dame Judi. She is lovely and seems to be full of spunk. She is also on my list of people I would like to go to dinner with at least once. Just imagine the evening’s entertainment! Her character, despite her losses, seems fully capable of taking matters in to her own hands. I am very happy with how things turned out for her. Leanne took a stab at who Evelyn would end up with. I completely disagreed with her. I was certain it was one of the other men. Leanne won, darn it.

Tom Wilkinson is Graham Dashwood, the Judge who has given up life in England to return to his birth place in India to seek out his lost love. Graham is a beloved character almost from the very beginning. Not so Muriel Donnelly, played by Maggie Smith. She needs the surgery but has to force herself to “deal with” people of a non-Anglo Saxon persuasion to get it. This does not make her happy. Maggie shines in this role. She must be ornery in real life as that’s how she most often seems to be cast.

Billy Nighy and Penelope Wilton (Douglas and Jean Ainslie) are painful to watch in that they did an excellent job as the unhappy wife and brow-beaten husband. Douglas is a wonderfully sweet man and Jean exudes nothing but negativity. Sadly, one of them reminded me a lot of…well…me. Did not appreciate that mirror in the least. And I don’t condone everything Douglas did but I understand why he did it. They can never be cast in another film as a romantic couple. I just wouldn’t believe it.

Madge Hardcastle and Norman Cousins (Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup respectively) aren’t as prominently cast as everyone else mentioned so far. Their stories seemed like filler. I’m almost sorry to say that I was glad about that turn of events though they did well in their roles as the gold-digger and the pervert. Okay, that’s probably too strong a word but it’s close. Madge does turn out to be a bit of a sweetheart so I guess I can forgive her her money hunt.

Sonny Kapoor, played by Dev Patel, is, in my opinion, the hero of the movie. The bumbling hero...but hero nonetheless. He tries to save his hotel, please his mother and win the girl all at the same time. I can’t imagine anyone else in this role. You can’t help but hope everything works out for him. Unfortunately, this sweet man says one of several cuss words we heard in this film and it was the big one. Sonny! It’s not really very surprising that he said it though.

Despite its rating I still feel as if this might be too mature for young teenagers. As mentioned before there is cussing. We didn’t see any nudity other than Norman’s upper half during a shower scene and no sex scenes were included though it was discussed quite a bit. There is drinking but in moderate amounts in social situations and there was no violence. Then why wouldn’t I recommend this for young teens? I truly believe they wouldn’t enjoy it and the different situations are a bit more than they need to deal with at this age. Having said that, I don’t think most older teenagers would enjoy it either.

I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a couple of weeks ago and am just now getting around to talking about it. Sorry about that. What makes my judgment of the demographic even harder is that I’ve seen 6 Marvel movies since then. It skews who I think I should direct this towards. My cousins and I have very differing opinions on what movies we like and all three of us enjoyed this. It’s a feel-good movie – for the most part – but there’s no action. Not really. Unless you count the modes of transportation taken from the airport to the hotel. The characters might have felt as if it was. Because of the lack of action, the need to see it on the big screen isn’t as great but I want to encourage people to do so anyway just so it does well at the box office. It’s a nice little escape and now is the perfect time to see it as most people will be at The Avengers anyway so the theater should be nice and cozy. Probably not the build-up the director would want out of a review but there you go.

P.S. Nothing happens after the credits so please gather up your trash and dispose of it properly. It’s the right thing to do.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers (PG-13/142 Min.)


Thor, I’m sorry. I love you and still want to marry you and have little Thorlings with you but in one way and one way only have you been removed from my favor. The Avengers is officially the best Marvel movie. I know it hurts but hey! At least you still have me. And that’s a good thing. Right? Right? Is this thing on?

To say I like The Avengers is the understatement of the year. I went to the Marvel marathon yesterday at Quail Springs AMC. No, it didn’t involve running, thank goodness, but it did involve Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America and, finally, da da-da duuuuuum…The Avengers! There were between 60 and 70 people in this particular theater and it was super nice not having to worry about the crowds. And these were my people. My co-nerdlets, if you will. We all received lanyards, special 3D glasses (mine were Captain America but only because all the Thors were gone by the time I got there) and a comic book. “They’re not comics…they’re anime!” Name that TV show. We were feeling all kinds of special. To make things even better, we were asked Marvel trivia questions in between each movie and the first person to give the correct answer got a prize. I didn’t win anything. I’m going to blame it on the fact that I couldn’t hear the questions as I was sitting in the very top row. That and my phone wasn’t as fast as everyone else’s who were Googling the answers. Cheaters!

For those of you who need a synopsis for this, here goes:
Loki, brother of Thor, teams up with a super nasty (The Other) to take over the world. Mwahahahahaha!!! Oh. Sorry. His evil machinations bring about the formation of The Avengers, comprised of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Hawkeye/Clint Barton and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff.

If you don’t know who those last two are do NOT go see the Avengers without watching Thor and Iron Man 2. Although, thinking back, the Thor movie doesn’t really tell us much about Hawkeye. You just have to already know who he is, I guess. But we see a lot of Natasha, not like that!!!, in Iron Man 2.

I know I usually discuss the actors right about now but I’m pretty sure you already know who most of them are. All I have to say is, the casting director person team whatever should have been well-paid for choosing this group of actors. If they’ve been with the Marvel film franchise from the beginning. If this was their first Marvel film, then never mind. The only person they had to come up with was Mark Ruffalo for The Hulk. Okay, and maybe a few more but as far as the main characters go… I can’t imagine anyone else in any of these roles. I loved them all. Iron Man stole the show but we sort of expected that. He’s just got that kind of personality. I liked Mark better as The Hulk than I did Edward Norton. Sorry, Ed. You were good. You were just too skinny. Not who I picture as Bruce Banner. But, then again, what do I know?

Aside from a couple of slow spots – and these don’t last long – this film was constantly going going going. There was lots of action, of course, quite a bit of funny – the Hulk and Loki scene was my favorite – and even a little sad. What? Sad? How can this be sad? This is war people and war has casualties! You didn’t really think all the good guys in the movie survive, did you? And now you’re wondering who it is, huh? Sorry. Having told you what I did was probably edging over the line of telling too much. I will say that I appreciate that they pay proper respect to the fallen hero and don’t instantly make us forget him..or her. Did I cry? Maybe a little. Then it got all action-y again and I got pulled in to that.

The one and only character I didn’t care that much for was the super nasty. I felt about him as I did about the villain in The Green Lantern. He was kind of hokey. I’m so glad we didn’t see very much of him. And, as mentioned in The Green Lantern, despite the villain being hokey I still wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley…or in the light of day…or pretty much anywhere. It’s easy to say he’s silly from the safety of my computer chair. Yes, I do realize he’s not real. I’m just sayin’.

Let’s shake it to the break-down:

Sex/Nudity – There just wasn’t time.

Drugs/Drinking – No drugs. A bit of drinking. Tony Stark is one of the characters. There would have to be alcohol!

Cussing – Samuel L. Jackson is in this film. Enough said. Okay, in all fairness, he didn’t cuss at all (I don’t think) in the Star Wars movies so I guess I should cut him a little slack. I didn’t hear any of the big words and just a few little ones.

Violence – Seriously? And there is blood but no gore.

Intense scenes – the worst scene for me was when Loki appeared to be removing a man’s eye. Fortunately, you don’t actually see it happen as Loki is blocking the view but you get a pretty good idea. Yuck! The evil army guys are kind of creepy and the bigger evil army guys made me think of the last Transformers movie when that coily critter was tearing up buildings. These guys are more wormy than coily but still icky.

If you are a Marvel fan I would definitely recommend The Avengers. If you aren’t a Marvel fan, become one and goes see The Avengers. PT is old enough to see movies like this and her PaPa will be taking her this weekend but because of her age now and knowing what she is able to process I have no idea whether or not this would be okay for younger children. I think the youngest person in our theater was either a tween or a little older. If your kids have seen all the other Marvel films then they probably would be okay with this one. Especially if they’ve seen The Hulk or Captain America. Those bad guys were equally yuck. I really hope this does well at the theater. According to reports they made over $18 million at the midnight showing. Yea!

P.S. I’m afraid I have to admit to judging someone by past works. I was happily surprised by a couple of religious quotes in the movie. Having seen some of Joss Whedon’s other projects – Buffy, the Vampire Slayer among others – I wouldn’t have guessed those would have been left in. Shame on me.
P.P.S. To all the people my age with children I would really like to know if your kiddos would actually catch some of the references from our generation. Included in these were “Point Break”, “Galaga”, “Acme Dynamite” and Tony Stark wore a Black Sabbath T-shirt during quite a few of his non-Iron Man scenes. Are they even still a band? Forgive me. I never was a fan.
P.P.P.S. One of the gentlemen in the theater had been toting a replica of Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer for those of you who escaped the nerd wagon) and apparently set it down somewhere outside of our theater. Before The Avengers started one of the AMC employees came in bearing the hammer and raised it up asking, “Does anyone know who this belongs to?” The overwhelming response? “THOR!” Well…duh.