Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

My first impression of Guardians of the Galaxy was that it would be about a raccoon who had a thing for machine guns.

Not a very good first impression.

But as I kept hearing more about it, I became more and more intrigued. Once I saw pictures of the main cast, my expectations started to rise and I began to get extremely excited for this movie.

That excitement culminated in the trailer that was released yesterday. I think I’ve already watched it 20 times, and I just keep going back for more. So, why has this film really caught my attention? I’ve got a few reasons.

But first, just in case you haven’t seen it yet (or even if you have), here’s the trailer:

1. The cast. I don’t know much about Chris Pratt, who plays the lead character Starlord, but if the trailer is any indication, I think he’ll be brilliant. I’m a huge fan of Zoe Saldana, who plays Gamora, and I think she’s a great actress who also happens to be extremely skilled at portraying roles that require a lot of action and physicality. Bradley Cooper, who will voice Rocket Raccoon, is also a great actor, and I can’t wait to hear him on screen. And although there are others — many of them big name actors — the other one that sticks out to me is Karen Gillan as Nebula. As a huge fan of Doctor Who, I’m glad she’s in this movie, but I’m even happier that her role looks totally badass.

2. The CGI. Let’s be real: When one of your main characters is a talking raccoon who has a proclivity for high-powered firearms, you have to make sure it comes off in the right way. Although we’ve only seen a few glimpses of Rocket, and even fewer of him actually in action, I think he looks fantastic. The CGI looks so real and well-done, and for some reason, it just works. I can’t explain it, but any hesitance that this movie would be silly (in a bad way) has gone completely out the window. Groot, the huge tree-like creature, also looks amazing.

3. The tone. The tone of this movie is quite different from a lot of the other Marvel movies we’ve gotten so far. The closest to GotG‘s tone would be Iron Man, I believe, because Iron Man is filled with snappy dialogue and clever humor. GotG looks like it’s going to follow that same path in terms of humor, but I’ve also been hearing it described as “colorful” in the same way Star Wars is, which is a completely and totally perfect comparison. Movies like Captain America aren’t drab or monochromatic, but there’s a certain coldness to them. GotG is full of greens and reds and blues. The spectrum is all over the place, and I think that’s going to help this world feel more real and alive.

4. The marketing. This is a strange reason to be excited for a movie, but it does make sense, I promise. Right now, we don’t know much about GotG other than the trailer we’ve just seen. That was our first big look into what this movie is going to be like, and the trailer was incredible from start to finish. It began with what could have been an intense and cliche action sequence, but instead we saw the main character give up his stolen loot without attempting to fight back at all. The dialogue is funny from the beginning, which comes full circle with the song at the end. In between we get a few action scenes, which are always welcome in my book, but the majority of the footage focuses on the main characters, describing who they are and what their roles will be without feeling heavy-handed. A lot of people who watch Marvel movies aren’t familiar with the source material, and I think this is doubly true for Guardians of the Galaxy. But within just a few moments, I already like and understand these characters and am completely invested in them.

5. It’s original. It seems strange to call this movie original when it’s based off of a comic book that’s been around for so long, but when you compare it to other movies out there currently — even ones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — it’s truly unique. Marvel is uber successful at the moment, but I’m sure even they weren’t positive they could pull off a talking raccoon, a giant tree, and a green lady as part of their main cast. These risks make me believe that this movie is going to be unique and won’t follow the same structure other Marvel movies do. Taking the biggest risks will give you the biggest rewards, and I think Marvel is going to hit this one out of the park.

If you’re like me and don’t know much about Guardians of the Galaxy, I suggest watching this hilarious but extremely informational video about the group. It describes their pasts, their powers, and more.

You can also check out this article on Hypable, which breaks down the trailer.

Here’s the inevitable followup question: Are you excited for Guardians of the Galaxy?

Saving-Mr.-Banks-PosterI’m not one to sing the praises of stretching the truth, particularly when it comes to blockbuster movies that tweak the facts to suit their own stories, hoping to dramatize a person’s life to make it “interesting.”

Real life is interesting, plain and simple.

But could there be a case where fiction is actually better than the truth? I haven’t found many examples, but I think an argument can be made for Saving Mr. Banks.

Saving Mr. Banks follows the story of P.L. Travers, creator of Mary Poppins, as she tries to decide if she’ll sell the rights to her stories to Walt Disney so he can make a movie based on her characters.

Travers wasn’t exactly easy to work with, as she — understandably — felt extremely protective of her characters and her world. A lot of the story was based around feelings and events from her childhood, so there was a strong, personal connection to the story.

The movie did a great job of portraying this in Travers, and Emma Thompson was brilliant at bringing this person to life on the big screen. The film also captured the vibe of the 1960s in America, and especially what it was like to work at Disney.

But, as per usual, not every detail was right. Some were small, some were changed in order to give the movie a plot, and some were there to throw a kinder light on some of the characters — especially Travers.

You can read about the nine major things Saving Mr. Banks got wrong if you’re unfamiliar with those facts already. But, basically, the main difference between real life and the story we saw on screen had to do with the final reaction from Travers.

She never danced. She never cried tears of happiness. And she certainly didn’t leave her relationship with Disney in a good place by the time Mary Poppins was released.

But is this a bad thing?

I don’t know the intimate details of the true story, but as far as I can tell, Travers was a difficult woman to work with. Mary Poppins is a timeless, classic movie, and I can see why people would want to know the story behind it. Those two facts are at odds with each other, and it makes sense that the studio would want to change a few things to make the ending give you the warm fuzzies when the credits roll.

And I’m okay with that. Can you imagine leaving the theatre having just seen Travers refusing to watch the movie, walking away from Disney with harsh words, and basically hating every part of the film once she finally did sit down to see it twenty years later?

That doesn’t exactly scream “good movie” to me.

So, yeah, they fibbed a few things for the sake of the story. I think it’s important to recognize the truth of Travers’ life, but I also think it’s important to just be happy with watching a beautifully written, wonderfully acted, and superbly shot movie. They were going to change details anyway, so I’m glad they changed the ones that ended up leaving us with the warm fuzzies.

Have you seen Saving Mr. Banks? What did you think of it?

Disney’s got the right idea

Posted: January 3, 2014 in Movies
Tags: , , ,

Disney has been around for a long time. It has a proven track record for being one of the greatest companies on Earth. It also has a certifiable formula for making great films; a formula that will work every time and entertain children who just want to see princes saving princesses and funny animal sidekicks.

The greatest thing about Disney — the absolute best thing about them — is that they know their greatness can be even better. Eventually, stagnation will turn into loss, and the Disney name will no longer bear the strength it once had. They know that as times change, so must they, and that taking risks is just the first step in becoming even better than they once were.

Disney has made mistakes, of course, and there have been plenty of flops. But that happens to even the most ingenious of people, and it’s all part of the learning curve.

When Disney is great, though, it truly is the best.

The three films that immediately spring to mind are Tangled, Brave, and Frozen (major spoilers ahead, by the way). They’ve turned this genre on its head and have paved the road for, I hope, more films to follow the same path — animated or otherwise.

I think Mulan must be mentioned at this point. In a lot of ways, it pointed the way for these other movies while still having one foot in the Golden Age for Disney. Mulan is about a girl who saves her entire country. She has to pretend to be a boy to do it, and it still feels like a princess movie, but that doesn’t completely detract from the a-typical storyline this movie presents. The guy didn’t save the girl. In the end, the girl saved everybody.

Tangled falls closer to this film than the other two. It’s a guy-rescues-the-girl-movie, but I think there’s one important difference here: the happily ever after is focused on family, not romantic love, and the marriage proposal happens after many years. The last fact is one of my favorite things about Tangled because so many Disney movies (and not just the animated ones) jump from Problem Solved to Now We’re Hitched Because We’re Totally Meant For Each Other.

It’s a beautiful concept, but not exactly realistic.

And right from Tangled, we jump into Brave, which completely throws off the shackles of True Love and deals with more realism than I thought possible in an animated movie. Merida doesn’t want to be married, despite the fact that she is a princess and is destined — by the law of the land — to take a husband. Although there are suitors in this movie, there’s no Prince in Shining Armor. And there isn’t even a real villain. Merida is both the protagonist and the antagonist, and it’s her actions — not the actions of the witch, who really isn’t wicked at all — that bring about everything that happens in the movie. In the end, Merida gets her wish and learns a valuable lesson in the process. And no prince had to help her along the way.

Lastly, there’s FrozenFrozen feels like a different beast altogether, though I’d say it’s a blend of what both Tangled and Brave do for this type of story. The greatest thing about Frozen is that it throws all the tropes at you at once — the princess, the prince, the instalove, the marriage proposal — and then stuffs them full of dynamite and blows everything apart. By the time Frozen ends, the Prince in Shining Armor is actually evil, and the Boy Who Is a Nobody is the one who really steals our (and the princess’) hearts. While that latter point wasn’t exactly a shocking twist, I loved how the move ended on a kiss between the two main characters. No marriage proposal, no Happily Ever After. Just a realistic ending to a movie that was truly about two sisters and their relationship to one another.

I think a lot of other companies and franchises could benefit from doing what Disney has been doing for the last few years. We need more stories that fall outside the box but still give us the satisfaction of having all the parts we typically love in these types of narratives. It’s tricky, and it certainly is a risk, but if done correctly, the rewards could be astronomical.

Besides, creativity should be heralded above profit, don’t you think?

In particular, I would love for these ideas to be applied to superhero movies. We need some female-led superhero films, and not just the kind where the heroine is super hot and hooks up with the guy in the end. Although any female superhero movie would make me happy at this point, I’d love to see Marvel, for example, go outside the box and give us something truly great and creative.

catching fire posterBottom Line:

Rent it, buy it, or don’t bother? — Buy it.

Details:

[No spoilers.]

Did anyone expect Catching Fire not to be amazing? Because it was. But it also left me a little overwhelmed. I loved the movie, I truly did, but part of me is still looking for something. Something more? Maybe. Something else? Possibly.

I don’t know what it is, and I can’t explain it. I’m not disappointed, not in the slightest. But I’m hoping to see it again soon. I think that will help me get my thoughts in order.

But no one has time for that now! You guys want to know how the movie was, and I’m here to tell you that it was spectacular.

Cinematically, the movie was beautiful. District 12 was drab and full of sorrow, the Capitol was lively and full of color, the arena was sprawling and dangerous, and the CGI was impeccable. There really are no complaints here.

The acting was, of course, spot on. We have to talk about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance because it stole the show every single time. She’s so great at moving between the truly emotional scenes, whether she’s scared or upset, and the hilarious scenes, of which there are plenty. Her interactions with the other tributes, particularly Johanna and Finnick, are laugh out loud funny. She makes the best faces.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta really stepped it up in this movie. He’s exactly the Peeta I pictured from the book, and the more I see him, the more I’m convinced Suzanne Collins actually based the character off of the actor. Liam Hemsworth was great as Gale, even considering his limited screen time. Haymitch and Cinna continue to be some of my favorites, and I really thought Effie’s emotional scenes were particularly touching.

The Victory Tour was poignant, and the Games were frightening. I often found myself tensed up in my seat even though I knew exactly what was going to happen. That’s the mark of a great movie.

And speaking of being a great movie, this truly was a fantastic adaptation. I haven’t read the book in a while, but a lot of little details that stuck out in my mind were in the film. There was one particular scene that was missing, but in the end I actually think it may have been an asset for viewers who hadn’t read the books.

The highlights for me were just the beauty and scope of the movie and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. That ending shot right before the credits roll… Wow. You can see every thought and every emotion on her face, and it sent chills down my spine.

Let me know what you thought about Catching Fire in the comments. Remember that while this review was spoiler-free, the comments won’t be. I look forward to discussing the movie with you guys!

thor the dark world posterBottom Line:

Rent it, buy it, or don’t bother? — Buy it.

Details:

[No spoilers!]

Thor: The Dark World is the second movie based around Thor, and in a lot of ways it’s a sequel to The Avengers, much like Iron Man 3. As far as sequels go, it was a great followup. As far as movies go, I loved it, though it did leave me wanting more…and not necessarily in a good way.

The Dark World was full of action right from the beginning, and it follows Thor around as he helps to clean up after Loki’s mess that he created in the first Thor and in The Avengers. Thor is much the same person he was at the end of the first movie, and I love this new humble version of him that still knows he’s pretty badass.

There was, surprisingly, also a lot of humor in this movie, including some truly laugh-out-loud moments. I especially loved the banter between Thor and Loki, and I wish these two had an easy-going relationship so they could just play off of each other at every turn. The real star, however, was Erik Selvig, who is still trying to cope with what happened in New York.

All I’m going to say is that Stellan Skarsgård has surprisingly great legs.

I know a lot of people don’t particularly like Jane, and I know many of those same people don’t think she has any chemistry with Thor, but I really do like them together. It doesn’t having the same sort of genuine feeling that Tony Stark and Pepper Potts have, but their relationship is weird and quirky and full of some really interesting moments. While I wish their love story could have been built up a bit better, it is what it is, and I’m okay with that.

My favorite part of this movie is actually also my least favorite part, if you can wrap your head around that. Loki is an interesting and complex character, and Tom Hiddleston is just a fantastic actor. I loved everything about him in this movie, except for the end. Without ruining it for anyone who hasn’t seen this film yet, suffice it to say that I’m not sure what Loki’s motivations were, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I feel like the unanswered questions should have been answered, and I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

This movie was filled with some great moments, but I think it could have been a bit more cohesive. The ending could have been wrapped up better, without having to spell everything out for us. But the after credits scene was great and really got me pumped for where they’re going next. This has a potential to be quite a huge undertaking for the Marvel universe, and that is definitely saying something considering what we already know about the scope of these films. It’s all very exciting!

I’d be interested in talking to anyone about the movie in the comments, which — as always — are not spoiler-free. Let me know what you thought of the movie, and which Marvel movie you’re excited for next. I’m looking forward to Captain America: The Winter Soldier quite a bit. The previews look great!

It’s sort of a rhetorical question because, yes, there are some things that are still surprising. But more on that in a minute.

I watch a lot of television and movies, and I read a lot of books. I don’t get taken by surprise too often. It’s not actually a bad thing — more often than not we know how the journey will end, but it’s the act of going on that journey that is the most interesting part.

Any action movie or adventure book can attest to this. Nine times out of ten the hero will save the day, get the girl, and blow stuff up. By the end of the movie we know that most of the main characters will be alive, the problem will be solved, and everyone will pretty much go home happy.

Is there a problem with an ending like that? Not usually, no. It’s satisfying, even if we knew it was coming. It’s what leads up to that point that makes the story interesting. It’s not the “if,” it’s the “how.”

Dexter PosterBut sometimes I just really want to be shocked, you know? I want to be totally blindsided by a plot or a character’s motivations. I want to never see it coming and have it literally knock me off my feet. It’s fun to be that surprised after feeling like you’ve figured out the plot of something ten minutes or ten pages into a new story.

Last week I talked about how Fringe did this to me. It was a great feeling. But then as I was watching Dexter, I figured out exactly who the major evil villain guy was an episode or two before the big reveal. It wasn’t exactly hard — you just think about whose betrayal would have the biggest impact on the characters, and there you have it.

It’s sort of a catch-22 isn’t it? You want your big reveal to have impact and be believable. But oftentimes, in order for that to happen, you have to lay the groundwork of that plot, which can show up as a big, flashing neon sign. If you don’t lay that groundwork, the reveal will be shocking, but it won’t have the impact you were hoping for. If it’s just a random person, it won’t affect your main characters as much as if it were their best friend.

I think the best way to solve this problem is with red herrings. You want it to seem like the bad guy (or whatever shocking thing you’re trying to keep secret — it doesn’t have to be a villain) could be multiple people. Or you want to lead your audience in one direction, and then pull them in the other at the last second. This doesn’t always work either, because sometimes a change in direction like that can be anticipated, but it’s definitely worth a try.

What do you think? Do you have trouble being surprised by the turn of events you witness on screen or in a book? Without giving away spoilers (just in case!), what’s a shocking moment you remember that really took you off guard?

Potterheads accepted the end of Harry Potter. The books were over. The movies were finished. Sure, there was a Wizarding World theme park, and exhibitions here and there. And, let’s face it, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

So, no. Harry Potter was never dead. It was never gone. It was still alive and well, albeit pushed to the back shelf, to be visited regularly, but to never experience anything new.

Until. Now.

I’m sure you’ve been camping out on a mountain peak if you haven’t heard the news yet. There will be more Harry Potter. (Kind of. We’ll get there in a minute.) Within thirty seconds of the announcement, people all over the world were like this guy. If I owned a set of robes, *I* would have been like that guy.

But that didn’t stop me from freaking out. All day. My mind was like a sieve. Work? Screw work! WE HAVE NEW HARRY POTTER.

*ahem*

The basic rundown is this. J.K. Rowling is going to be writing a new series of films based on the life of Newt Scamander and the book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s going to be set in 1920s New York, and it’s going to be awesome.

That last bit was my commentary. But still fact.

So, no. It’s not Harry Potter, per se. But it’s set in the same world. And I kind of like this idea better. For one, it’s written by J.K. Rowling. She’ll have exclusive rights over the scripts. That means everything will be accurate according to what’s in her head. It’s every fan’s dream realized. Secondly, this won’t touch what we already know. It’s not a remake, a reboot, or a re-anything. It’s not even a prequel, really. It’s its own entity, and it expands the universe.

Like I said. Every fan’s dream.

All we needed was a reason. We were waiting on the sidelines, happy with what we had, grateful for the time when the entire franchise was still developing. You could never get rid of the Potterheads, but we quieted down a little bit. We stopped walking the streets in our robes. (Well, most of us, anyway.)

But we’re back and in full force. There’s going to be more Harry Potter. New Harry Potter. And if I wasn’t excited for anything in the upcoming years (and there’s a lot in terms of films, in just 2015 alone), this was the cherry on top of an already extra large sundae.

Harry Potter was, and still is, a phenomenon. It’s a world event. It was my childhood. I already had the spark of an avid reader and a writer inside of me, but Jo fanned that flame and made that fire burn with a vengeance. I owe her a lot. Many people do. And we get to continue to bow down in her presence for many years to come.

To say I’m excited would obviously be a bit of an understatement.

What do you think, friends? Yay or nay to more Wizarding World? Do you care about Newt Scamander’s story? We’re covering all the news on Hypable, with plenty of featured opinion articles as well.