Monday, December 22, 2014

Eight Crazy Nights (Seth Kearsley, 2002) Review

It's Christmas week so what better thing to do than....look at a Hanukkah film. Hey, it's the season fro a lot of things and its only fair. What ISN'T fair is that this is one of the only Hanukkah films out there...and I feel bad about this as it's a bad film to represent the holiday with. I'll look at a Christmas film later in the week but, for now, let's share the season with those who don't celebrate Christmas...I'm sorry for this.

It's Hanukkah season and Davey Stone (Adam Sandler) is alone, bitter and drinking. After being arrested for skipping on paying for his drinks, he is brought into court where his old basketball coach Whitey (also Adam Sandler) manages to keep Davey out of jail negotiating that Davey act as assistant referee. As the two spend more time together, more is revealed about Davey's past and his hatred for the holidays and Davey must learn to let the past go.

Adam Sandler really frustrates me. Yes, he's terrible now as he delivers crap after crap with the likes of Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2 however believe it or not, he has done some decent work in the past. Click, Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love prove he can deliver some solid performances yet he goes out of his way to deliver awful, awful films....and Eight Crazy Nights is one of those awful films. This is a very crude film with no taste or concept of quality jokes. No jokes land and it's just unpleasant The characters are also dire. Davey has absolutely no redeeming traits even if a tragic backstory is forced in. Whitey is as annoying as sin and Sandler's voice acting borders on an Egoraptor video (I mean, I love Egoraptor but come on, the voices are uncanny). We also have to deal with yet another racist Rob Schnider performance.

There are two aspects that are actually note worthy though. Firstly, and most obviously, is the animation. Eight Crazy Nights boasts some really nice animation. It's smooth, is coloured really well and the characters look great (well, as great as an animated Adam Sandler can look). It's kind of insulting in a way that this great animation is wasted of this terrible film. The other aspect would be the music. The idea of Whitey singing is horrifying but I won't argue that I found the songs annoyingly catchy and have stuck with me. For better or for worse, they're memorable and I suppose that's what makes a...'good' soundtrack? Kind of a strange dilemma.

Eight Crazy Nights is a train wreck of a film. The voice acting is annoying as hell, the characters are either unlikable or annoying, the jokes don't land...and are also annoying and all in all...this film is annoying. That's the key word. Adam Sandler CAN do good but he chooses not to and this film is the holiday season addition to his hoard of awful films. It you are the least bit interested then just watch the musical numbers to see the great animation out of context and probably get a few songs in your head.

Only the animation and possibly the music are the decent things. Everything else is dire.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Peter Jackson, 2014) Review

A lot of great franchises are coming to end this year. Anime fans are well aware of Naruto's finale, I myself have been emotional drained by the ending of The Legend of Korra (and am left wondering what my favourite current TV show is...) and now we enter Middle-Earth for the final time. No books to fall back on, no way they would ever consider making up their own stories (unless they were desperate) so here we are at the end of this amazing saga. "Will you follow me, one last time?".

With Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) unleashed from the Lonely Mountain, the Dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) take over their former home and claim Smaug's gold for their own. Bard (Luke Evans) leads the citizens of Laketown to the mountain where Thorin refuses their entry after Smaug's attack. Word of the Dwarf's success gets out which attracts the attention of the Orcs and Elves who enter in an all out war over the gold. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is left in the crossfire to save his friends yet balance Thorin's new found tyranny.

The hardest part about writing the synopsis is that there is a huge major spoiler...less than ten minutes in. It jump-starts the plot yet I had to dance around it which is even harder because that's one of my biggest complaints. I suppose I can generalise my point by saying that I'm starting to see a huge issue with adaptations. The idea of an adaptation, in essence, is to make changes to accommodate a new audience. They do in some places such as the whole Gandalf sub-plot being completely made up however the opening, because of the build up and the actors used as well as the publicity, left me with an audible "...oh". I was left craving much more from that particular aspect and yet I'm left at an anticlimax. I am relieved, however, that the running time is significantly shorter than other films in the franchise seeing as the majority of this one film is based on a single chapter. Doesn't waste time and just delivers what we want...except the opening.

Martin Freeman still delivers a wonderful performance and excels ever further towards the end. One moment in particular is beautifully performed as well as written. One moment towards the end of the battle comes to mind which actually follows a very tense and well one action scene. 2014 has given us some excellent one-on-one fight scenes (Captain America: The Winter Soldier still holding up with its amazing fight choreography) and this one is another one, even more impressive considering its in the middle of a giant war which is also glorious to watch. Throwing in Billy Connolly doesn't hurt either. He fits in with the rest of the cast very well mostly becaues of his banter. It terms of other actors, it is good to see more of Luke Evans this time and I'm glad they actually did  good things with the addition of Legolas and Tauriel which proves to be one of Orlando Bloom's best roles still.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a pleasant send off for the Middle-Earth saga. It may end on a very bittersweet climax but the battle we were promised is a great way to end the year. The acting is on top form this time with Martin Freeman being the best in particular. It's good to see more from the actors introduced in the previous films (well...Cumberbatch is another story) and I can't say there isn't that much to not like...but then again it doesn't do anything new either. It's just simply here to end the series...and that's fine.

Satisfying conclusion that, while I may have craved a bit more, seems like a good enough send off.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Get on Up (Tate Taylor, 2014) Review

I suppose it is that time of the year, isn't it. With Oscars a couple of months away, everyone is no getting their biopics and deep, meaningful films out now that blockbuster season is over. We've seen a good variety of epic action films and great animated films but it's time to slow things down and get into stories about people. The first one I got to see of this season was the biopic about legendary singer James Brown in the form on Get on Up.

James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) needs no introduction since he was one of the biggest names in the music industry. Get on Up chronicles his rise to making history starting from his childhood in poverty living with his father (Lennie James) after his mother (Viola Davis) left. He was forced to work from a young age and, while in prison, befriended singer Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis). The two partnered up to produce music together and slowly but surely began to next noticed, paving the way for their futures.

I will admit that, while I'm intrigued with James Brown and everything, one of the reasons I saw this was because of Chadwick Boseman. He was just cast as Black Panther for the upcoming Marvel films and I wanted to see how good of an actor we are getting. I can tell you we are getting a damn good one. Watching Boseman play James Brown feels like watching the real James Brown. While biopics tend to have fantastic leads, I do acknowledge that I'm watching actors portray people but here, I felt like I was peering into the life of a musical master. A strong supporting cast also helps with Nelsan Ellis giving a wonderfully supportive and warm performance. It's also great to see Dan Aykroyd on the big screen again and deliver a good performance. Films such as Yogi Bear were not kind to his career. Overall, Get on Up has a wonderfully diverse cast and each actor delivers a great performance with Boseman leading the way.

What's interesting about Get on Up is the way that it is put together. Naturally, it has to dictate the life of James Brown but it decided to do this out of order. This could be a risky decision as it could be confusing to some. Luckily the film pulls through and the constant jumping in time helps keep things fresh and matches the erratic behaviour that James Brown displays. In a weird way the film also uses Brown's hair as a way of telling what year it is. It establishes how his hair is initially and then uses it to remind the audience just when they are. It's bizarre but it truly works. That was the main method I was using to keep up with the time jumps.

Get on Up is a well written and performed adaptation about the godfather of soul. James Brown led a very intersting life and the film captures this well by keeping the audience invested with memorable people (thanks to great performances) and a good use of time jumping. While some may be thrown off at the idea of time jumping and keeping up since characters come and go quite quickly, this is a good film through and through.

Written and performed wonderfully with great music (naturally) and unique use of time jumping.