Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Smurfs - Movie Review

“The Smurfs” was a TV show I watched a lot in re runs when I was a child, and worked really well as a half hour kids show. The Smurfs were a good and wholesome group of blue people who just wanted to live and enjoy nature. Their enemy was Gargamel who wanted the Smurfs for a number of reasons, sometimes to eat them, and other times to use them in a magical spell. It was quite entertaining and one of the better Hanna-Barbara studios cartoons.

Now in the year 2011, Columbia pictures has released a half computer animated half live action film version of The Smurfs, simply just called The Smurfs. It takes the the characters from the original TV show, and through a random warp transplants them to New York City, and thats just the start of how ridiculous is. The voice acting stars Katy Perry, George Lopez, Alan Cumming, and most notable, in a rare appearance of any kind, legendary comedian Jonathan Winters who does the voice of Papa Smurf. It was really nice hearing Winters voice throughout the film but his character makes about the same caliber of questionable decisions as Qui Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I. He comes off as this wise old sage of the Smurf clan but then acts like a child in situations once they are in New York City. For example, he promises one of the humans they encounter that are kind to them that they will stay put, and not even 10 seconds later runs off with his Smurf friends following suit, even the 5 year olds that this movie is mostly marketed to can stay still longer before turning their words into a lie.

The live action part of the cast must've owed someone a favor because I can't see how else they got them together. The film stars Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays (from “Glee” fame), Hank Azaria, and in a rare cinema appearance, Tim Gunn from the TV Show“Project Runway” who has one or two good one liners in his limited appearance in the film. Harris and Mays play an expecting married couple who accidentally find the Smurfs in their home and eventually try to help them get back home. Harris works in marketing and worries too much about his job and has to learn a lesson about. Which becomes one of the morals of the movie and it comes across as very forced. Mays plays the expecting mother who is well on her way to being very motherly.

Hank Azaria plays the villain of the film, Gargamel, and he makes it a very close competition between who is more cartoonish: The Smurfs or Gargamel. His performance is the one redeeming thing in the movie because it seems his winking at the camera often enough to point out that he is in the Smurfs movie and he almost knows its bad but he is having as much as he can with it. His best bit is anytime he comes across a mist rising out of the sewer he points out to himself and his cat that it looks very mysterious walking out of a white mist. He almost is always in conversation with his cat, Azrael, who is computer animated but made to look as much as a real cat as possible which was done well. So if you want to see Hank Azaria acting like a fool but being well aware of it, well The Smurfs might work for you.

The biggest fault of this movie is it overlooks the biggest, and basically only, character development of the film in the character Clumsy Smurf, who as you can tell by his name is clumsy and screws everything up, and semi-spoiler alert redeems himself in the end, and its celebrated but not to the extent you would expect. Plus they totally miss a great setup in the film where its discussed on how Smurfs get their names, and from the conversation had between the Smurfs and Mays and Harris' characters you would think Clumsy Smurf would be renamed upon redeeming himself, but it doesn't happen, for me personally left the ending of the film underwhelming.

So overall, I didn't like this movie, and not because it is a kids movie, because kids movies can be done really well, like Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon, and The Smurfs doesn't even have half the quality of those films. The writing is shoddy, the characters are very flat, and other than Hank Azaria's self aware character performance, there is really nothing enjoyable about this movie.

My overall grade for this movie: D

Until Next Time...Stay safe folks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Top 5 Movies I want released on Blu-ray

So back in November of 2010, I made the upgrade the Blu-ray which is a far superior medium if you have the equipment to support it, that being an HDTV and a home theater sound system. The greatest thing about Blu-ray is the uncompressed video and sound it delivers which makes the at-home viewing experience almost on par with going to an actual movie theater. The downside to Blu-ray is thought the format has been in the mainstream for about 5 years, studios still have some catching up to do on releasing great past titles on to the format. So here is my current top 5 movies that aren't on Blu-ray nor do they have a release date set for Blu-ray.*

#1 Who Framed Roger Rabbit

This is easily one of my favorite films of all time. Robert Zemeckis does a fantastic job of replicating the Tex Avery style of animation and mixing a half animation, half live action world. The 2003 Vista Series DVD release is an excellent presentation, but I think its time the powers at Disney do another restoration of this for Blu-ray. The vivid colors and theAlan Silvestri score would be awesome to have on Blu-ray.

Update: This movie is set to be released on Blu-ray on March 12, 2013

#2 The Indiana Jones Trilogy

This one is probably at the top of most Blu-ray enthusiasts lists most wanted titles on Blu-ray, but Roger Rabbit holds a special place for me that just edges out the Indiana Jones trilogy. There isn't much left to say about this trilogy other than the fact that its quite shocking they didn't do a Blu-ray release for this back in 2008 when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull was released, but with Star Wars and Jurassic Park being released on to Blu-ray later this year, it has to be the next franchise to get Blu-ray box set. I just hope they offer it as a trilogy box set so I won't have to deal with owning Crystal Skull.

Update: These movies were released on Blu-ray on September 18, 2012

#3 Dick Tracy

This is one film I bet a lot of people forget about, but I can guess if the restoration is done correctly, which is almost a guarantee since it is a Disney movie, and almost all of their Blu-rays look and sound perfect, Dick Tracy will look amazing on Blu-ray due to its bright color palette and amazing sets built for the film. In a recent Dick Tracy Q&A Warren Beatty said a Blu-ray is in the works but no release date has been set. And that is the first bit of news concerning this films Blu-ray release, I've ever heard of.

Update: This movie was released on Blu-ray on December 11, 2012

#4 The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer was a movie my mom and I watched numerous time when I was a kid, and we watched it off of a version we taped off of Disney Channel which back then showed films in their entirety and didn't take any breaks at all. But this movie has an amazing score that I would love to fill the room with, and it's another Disney movie so the restoration will be awesome and with this year being the films 20th anniversary, its kind shocking Disney missed the boat on capitalizing on doing a Blu-ray release of it this year. Plus with its only DVD release dates back to 1999, its long over due for a high-definition restoration.

Update: This movie was released on Blu-ray on December 13, 2011

#5 Batman: Mask of The Phantasm

Of the titles on this list, I imagine this one is not far off, especially with the release of The Dark Knight Rises next year, Warner Brothers has to be planning this one for a Blu-ray release real soon, especially after the fact they released Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker back in April, and from what I read the high-definition presentation was well done, and Mask of the Phantasm, was actually released in theaters so they may have better material to work with in terms of making a restoration of the film. Mask of The Phantasm is the only Batman movie left that was released in theaters to not have a Blu-ray release, unless you count the Batman serial films from the 1940s.

One movie that was going to make this list was It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But researching this post I found it was released as a Wal-Mart exclusive earlier this month and its a budget release so it was only $10. Great deal for one of my favorite films of all time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger review

So Captain America: The First Avenger is the last major comic book movie to come out this summer, and the studio system has certainly saved the best for last. Captain America: The First Avenger is filled with action and adventure, subtle romance, a villain that seems to be just pure evil, and one of the finer hero's journey stories. I saw the movie in 2D, because I read it wasn't worth seeing in 3D, and after seeing the film I didn't see anything where 3D would have added much to the experience of watching the film.

The cast was absolutely amazing, everyone played their part and didn't out shine anyone in terms of performance. Chris Evan signed on for nine films when he was cast Captain America. That was a great decision on the studio's part because he was spectacular in the role, a huge departure from his other Marvel based role of The Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films. He is able to capture pure good essence of the Captain America character without a factor of unbelievability that he is too good, and he comes off as relatable throughout the film.

Hayley Atwell plays the Captain's love interest, Peggy Carter, she plays a strong willed but still slightly vulnerable female lead. She's assertive and certainly has some attitude to her. It was great to see that they did not dumb down her character in the transition from comic book to film, because it is very easy to do that when making a movie set in the 1940s but the writers and director didn't do that at all.

My personal favorite performance of the film is Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull. When this casting was originally announced, I got excited because Weaving is great in every geek property he has a part in, whether it is The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, or V For Vendetta and now Captain America, he always turns in a stellar performance. The Red Skull for those who aren't familiar with the character is one of the more major villains in the Marvel universe, and one that doesn't compromise his agenda for anything, he is just pure evil and nothing less than that, and Hugo Weaving conveys just that as The Red Skull.

The one detail that I was a bit weary about going into this film was the director, Joe Johnston. For those who don't know, Joe Johnston early in his career. directred some awesome films such as The Rocketeer and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, while lately directing some films that were just terrible, The Wolfman (2010) and Jurassic Park III. But upon seeing Captain America: The First Avenger, Joe Johnston has regained his directorial touch he had while directing The Rocketeer, which makes me think he should just stick with directing movies that take place in the 1940s. The performances he was able to get out of the actors and choices in how to shoot scenes comes across as positive on screen. He deserves a good amount for the overall package of a movie he was able to put together.

In terms of the actual story and plot, without going into spoilers too much, the story of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America and going after the bad guys, was just really enjoyable, well paced, and just fun to watch. The love story between Peggy Carter and Captain America was subtle, didn't seem forced, and flowed really well into the overall plot of the film. The fight scenes were well shot. Never was the camera too tight on the action, which was a problem in the other Avengers movie this summer, Thor. And the final fight of the movie, was great to sit through and see it develop, awesome build up and great payoff, including some possible foreshadowing for The Avengers, maybe???

Sure there are a few issues with the film but I'd have to go into spoilers to explain them and I don't feel like ruining the movie for others who maybe reading this who haven't seen it yet. So go see Captain America: The First Avenger and then start the countdown to May 4, 2012 when this series of Marvel films finally will payoff and The Avengers will kick off what will hopefully the best movie summer in a long time.

Overall Rating of the film: A-

Until next time...Stay safe