Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud-Atlas

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Umm…well……uhhhhhhh.

Two years I have avoided Cloud Atlas like the plague. It’s obviously a very complex and ambitious film – which you can tell by the trailer alone, but it also felt in general like a film I wouldn’t enjoy. Sure, there’s a pretty impressive cast and quite a bit of explosive visuals going on here, as the Wachowski siblings are famous for – but that’s not always what I look for in the film…so needless to say I was very apprehensive about seeing this nearly three hour-long movie. But I knew at some point I’d have to swallow the bullet and watch this very talked-about film. So how was it….well….uhhhhh…it’s confusing.

Okay, so the plot of this film isn’t exactly a single one…instead theres about six main plots going on at the same time that have some similarities playing simultaneously with each other. Whether those similarities are emotional or physical, or just in the tone of the stories themselves – you can tell there are some mirroring aspects of each of the stories. To give you a better idea, I’ll just copy-paste the plot on Rotten Tomatoes here – “Cloud Atlas explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future. Each member of the ensemble appears in multiple roles as the stories move through time.”

So, this movie is incredibly confusing. Easily one of the weirdest, confusing, and most challenging films I have ever seen. The trailers and the film itself seems to suggest some kind of reincarnation thing going on, but the film feels a little differently. Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast may play a part in each of the six timelines, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how they are personally connected to each other…character-wise. The tone of the stories and things that actually happen seem to flow quite nicely together, but the characters themselves don’t seem to have much in common with each other…and I’m wracking my brain trying to figure that part out. How does one Tom Hanks connect to the other…I may never know.

In all actuality, this film feels a little closer to an anthology – with multiple sections interweaving together, but directed by different people, and it can easily feel that way. No, wait, it feels like a mashup. In songs, people mash songs up that have similar usage of chord progression – and in this film, they seem to do the same with emotion, drama, suspense, and romance. Basically, the pacing is actually really good, but you’re going to have a hard time following the thing in general. I don’t know anyone that watched it and asked what was so confusing…because it’s obvious.

Actually, I checked the time when things stopped being 100% confusing and started to feel connected in some way – and it was at least forty minutes in. Yes, this film is long – and because of the confusion, it feels even longer. Does it satisfy by the end…I guess it depends on the viewer, but I was still left trying to figure things out. At the same time, I am glad I saw it and don’t have that hanging over my head any longer.

To be absolutely fair, the technicalities behind the film are impressive beyond belief. I was blown away at the mere thought of what it took to come up with the things that happen in this film. It looks great, the prosthetics in this film, while flawed, were still impressive. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen because this was one of those films that if you look away for a second, you’ll be really lost – more so than if you paid strict attention the entire time.

The Good:

Cloud Atlas in general is a massively impressive venture from start to finish. Even if you don’t fully understand what’s going on, you still want to watch in the event that you figure everything out. The visuals were also great, and as was the very ambition behind this project.

The Bad:

I personally don’t like playing games while watching a movie, and that’s what it felt like here – because not only was it confusing and really long, but it never let up and helped me understand things. I’m left to draw up my own conclusions on what certain things meant and how they were connected – and while that’s fine, I definitely prefer more clarity, even if it’s a little bit.

Think Like a Man (2012)

Think-like-a-Man

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A rare occurrence.

I really don’t understand it. This…need…to fictionalize a self-help book and adapt it to the big screen. I mean, plenty of films have done this, transforming a popular self-help book into (usually) a romantic ensemble cast comedy. Are there really that little of options in terms of novel-to-movie adaptations? I usually hate ensemble cast films, and I usually hate movies based on self-help books…but I have to admit…Think Like a Man somehow hit the magical note – and it worked for me. Though, I’ll just have to point this out right now…making a sequel doesn’t make any sense whatsoever…but I guess we’ll get to that later.

Think Like a Man is a film based on the  book, ‘Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man’, by famous comedian Steve Harvey. The book in question is a self-help book for women that just can’t seem to get a handle on men. To help move the film along further, each of the main characters are very different than each other. There is The Player, The Mama’s Boy, The Dreamer, The Non-Commiter, The Happily Married Man, and the Happier Divorced Guy. While extremely diverse personalities may come off as unrealistic at first, just remember no one is the same. Every one of these characters finds a girl they are attracted to and the first thing that crosses their mind is to take advantage of these women. Of course, women have been getting tired of being taken advantage of, so when Steve Harvey’s book hits the shelves, it is sold out almost immediately. They begin using the tools set out by Harvey to keep their man in control, and basically do their bidding. This all turns sour when the men find a copy of the book, and begin using the same tricks against the women to get what they want.

In my opinion, there are red flags everywhere that point to the fact that I really should hate the movie. A group of diverse men with different likes and tastes all being friends? I don’t know, but that’s far from the worst element. It’s the fact that – because this is based on a self help book, every character in every scene is always giving another character advice. This happens in all of these types of films. It’s unrealistic, but the thing that really saves it…is the pacing, structure, and most importantly, characters. In my honest opinion – they got that perfect.

These guys, because they are so diverse, don’t all blend together like other ensemble comedies. They are all very remarkable and very memorable – which is rare. The chemistry they have with each other and their respected lover is unmatched, hilarious, and serious when need be. What’s more, it’s completely believable. Past that, you have the structure – which was brilliant and self-aware. It’s a movie based on a book, literally, the book is central to the plot – it’s a character. There are “chapters” and themes, and interludes with Steve Harvey talking to the audience. You ask me, this is exactly how you make a self-help book-made-movie.

Now, it also relies a little too heavily on over-the-top facts. Think about it. The book is sold out for over a week, and every woman and their mother (literally) knows about the book – as if it were more well-known than the Bible itself…and yet…the guys are completely oblivious to it’s existence…which to me spells inconsistency. It’s not a huge flaw, but it’s important. The same goes for the “giving each other advice all the time” problem…these are things that I think are easily avoidable, but they are still there regardless.

The Good:

Of course a movie like this would have flaws, but what’s important to realize is that through all movies based off of self-help books and ensemble comedies alike, they did something special with Think Like a Man. They casted a really good ensemble group – each of which is very easy to keep track of and separate from the rest – plus, they all have very good chemistry with each other. There’s not one person in the entire movie that feels out of place.

The Bad:

It’s really unbelievable in some scenes. Primarily speaking, there’s just too many scenes where people are constantly giving each other advice…that’s unrealistic. But what the hey, it’s still a rare occurrence all around.

The Woman in Black (2012)

The-Woman-in-Black

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Cliché after Cliché.

So there has been this movie that I’ve been waiting to see, which…if you haven’t guessed by now, is The Woman in Black. There was some buzz around the movie when it first came out, as it was Daniel Radcliffe in something other than the Harry Potter franchise. He’s obviously been in more things, but this was Radcliffe amongst the world of horror…which is a reasonable shift in what we’re used to seeing him do…plus it takes place in the past…so this is pretty foreign in terms of what we’re used to…but in the end, it’s more or less the most cliché horror movie out there.

I do like the concept of this horror film though, as it separates itself from your typical haunted house flick, even though a good portion of the film is just that. Instead, it focuses on Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), who is tasked on taking care of the estate and will of a recently departed old lady, but once he gets to her house he begins seeing a “woman in black”. The legend goes…whenever she is seen by someone else, even for a split second, she goes into town and she finds a child to kill. Throughout the film, Kipps tries to discover why the ghost of this woman is so vengeful and how he can stop it from ever happening again…if he can.

The part about the story where it’s a vengeful spirit going after children is actually pretty unique and separates it from your typical ghost-in-house film. However, it is filled to the brim with plotholes that aren’t really explained. On one hand, you understand why she is killing kids, on the other hand…why she does it when someone looks at her is completely beyond me, and her method of choosing which kids to kill also doesn’t make sense and seems random…which doesn’t exactly fit her reasoning…which seems very specific. Beyond that, you know the whole town knows and believes the legend, and yet no one even attempts to move away and continues to have children…I know it’s terrible, but I say they were asking for it the entire time. Finally…the entire town knows about this legend and is scared of this woman in black…and yet the ENTIRE plot revolves around this guy dealing with a recently deceased woman who lived and died in this house. Apparently, the old lady didn’t have any problems with the scary ghost woman that creeps around her house and kills children.

The rest of the movie has a lot of cliché jump-out moments that either work or won’t depending on the viewer. I personally jumped during one of these many, many moments. The problem arises in their choice on how to film the scenes. While it looks nice and creepy a lot of the time, it’s filmed in a very typical manner. I know exactly when the woman in black is going to pop out…furthermore, I know exactly where she will show up as well…and that’s weird because this is my first viewing. Instead of being a psychological spooky movie, it tries to overwhelm you with very obvious scary visuals…which isn’t my personal preferred type.

How was Daniel Radcliffe? He tried his best, but in my opinion…he didn’t fit the role. I couldn’t buy his role as the lawyer, and not once do I care about his character either. Why don’t I care about his character? Mostly because I never felt danger toward him…the only people in danger in the film are the kids that are unfortunately extras in the movie…so even if you want to, you can’t care about the kids either.

Now that I’m done bashing the movie to kingdom come, I do want to acknowledge that it works for a lot of people. It’s clear to me, based on the reviews, that it either successfully scares or creeps out a number of people, so I’m willing to admit that maybe it’s just me and that I’m a critic so the effect was different…but as it is…I’ve seen better.

The Good:

The Woman in Black is an interesting horror film that takes a basic haunted house genre flick and gives it a unique twist with the concept as a whole.

The Bad:

As unique as the concept was, it is met with a lot of flaws and clichés, making the scares in the movie mediocre, overdone, and obvious. Plus…Daniel Radcliffe just doesn’t work in the role.

21 Jump Street (2012)

21-Jump-Street

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Non-stop hilarity here.

When I heard they were making a 22 Jump Street, I don’t know if it made a lot of sense, but I was on board. The title alone follows suit with what the movie franchise is all about, which is self-aware random humor that just pokes fun at obvious things. But before I go to see that tomorrow, I wanted to first go back and watch what made it possible, 21 Jump Street. Most of you are aware of the fact that this film is based off of an old TV show by the same name, and you are probably also aware that there are some differences. We’ll get to that, but first let’s talk about the plot.

What we have here are two unlikely cops, Schmidt and Jenko. These two actually went to high school together years ago. One was the dumb jock while the other was the smart loser. Years later, they are best buds and partners on the police force…but they still aren’t the best cops. In turn, they are sent into an undercover force located at 21 Jump Street, which sends them to their case, a drug ring at a local high school. It is there that they must blend in, but returning to their old lives doesn’t prove to be as simple as 1,2,3.

Yes, this was based on an old TV show starring Johnny Depp, but fans of the show probably won’t be pleased with this film version. The actual TV show was a completely separate genre, so by changing the tone, you change everything. I can’t say firsthand what the show’s fans think about it because I never watched it. What I can say, however, is that the movie is fantastic. Who cares that they changed it into a comedy that makes fun of practically every cliché ever? It’s funny. One more time: It’s creative freedom at its best. I say screw the show, this is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and probably the funniest of 2012.

The comedy itself relies heavily on random, phyiscal, and self-aware humor. Emphasis on the random. It’s one of the best buddy-cop films I’ve ever seen, it’s got some of the best and smartly-written comedic scenes I’ve ever seen, and it has a lot more heart than you would expect. There is an element of predictability as far as soul goes, as one former bully changes for the better, and definitely with the friendship all around. But it also has a lot of satisfying moments as well as far as reliving the best and worst times of high school, as well as experiencing missed opportunities that you normally never get to.

Of course what shouldn’t be left unsaid is the unbelievable chemsitry between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. For a comedy, both of these stars had to sport a level of acting range that you wouldn’t expect. One’s a jock and ones a nerd at heart yes, but they swap lives in a way when they go undercover – and through their learning experience, we see a lot of really great acting that your normally don’t see in comedy.

Here’s what I don’t understand. As much as I want to see a sequel to this amazing comedy, I’m not really sure how it would work. Part of the humor that works in this movie is the same type of thing that we’ve seen in Dumb & Dumber. Two adults acting like kids and how hilarious it is to see the interactions they have. The sequel, like any other sequels, hopes to raise the bar by changing high school to college. No offense, but they are going to fit in more with college kids and the idea alone won’t be as funny. Obviously they couldn’t send these guys to elementary school, but I’m not sure how this will work. I have a few ideas, but I’ll keep those to myself.

The Good:

21 Jump Street is, in my humble opinion, one of the funniest movies ever made and funniest film of 2012. It has a really fresh mixture of comedic stylings, as well as writing, and the heart and soul of the characters are captured really well by Hill and Tatum.

The Bad:

Not everyone has seen it. Just kidding – if you’re a fan of the TV show, you’ll probably have expectations going into this, and you may or may not be disappointed based solely on those expectations.

The Random:

Channing Tatum passed on the movie twice before he was convinced by Jonah Hill to take the role.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Dark-Knight-Rises

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A conclusive ending.

Take yourself back a year or two. It is the peak of summer films 2012. What most would define as the most anticipated films of the year, let alone the summer, was The Dark Knight RisesBatman Begins was great, and The Dark Knight ​was phenomenal. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was one of the most iconic roles in film history. The question on everyone’s mind is, how does the film measure up, and does it really need to? Can it be viewed as a standalone film? All these questions are rolled up into one…will The Dark Knight Rises “rise” to everyone’s expectations?

When we last left Batman, he was seen fleeing from the world, retiring the mask and cape. He took the blame for the death of Harvey Dent to reassure that Gotham once had a hero, someone to look up to, a white knight if you will. Eight years later is when our tale begins. We are introduced to a new villain whose name may sound familiar, Bane. Along with Bane, Catwoman showed up in the mix as well. Bane wants the city of Gotham to burn. There is a reason behind all of this, but revealing that would be revealing a secret which would spoil the experience. When Commissioner Gordon is put in the hospital, Batman decides it’s time to return the city as they need him more than ever. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Blake, a city cop that thinks outside the box, and knows there’s more to Batman than what he has been told the past eight years.

Catwoman in this film is not your average Catwoman. Never in the film do you hear her being called “Catwoman”. She was not eaten by a flock of cats (that we know of) nor does she have a whip or razor sharp diamond claws. Only once or twice does she have a cat-like purring tone. Her suit was simply okay, not terrible, but not expected from Catwoman.

This film is nearly three hours in length, and Bruce Wayne dawns the cape only three times in the film. That’s right, a majority of the film does not focus on Batman himself, but rather Bruce’s internal training to get back into the shape of things. It also focuses a lot more on Bane’s havoc on the town, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role in helping the police as well as Batman into stopping Bane once and for all.

One thing I need to point out is this film was filmed in New York City, while the others were filmed in Chicago, a city that closely resembles Gotham anyway. You can tell too, there are several flying shots that look like nothing else but New York City, which kind of slightly disappoints. It’s also pretty obvious that out of every single Batman movie…ever…this was clearly New York. Heck, it even looked more obvious than some of the Superman movies out there. You ask me, and there’s a slight problem with that. Gotham City doesn’t really look like New York, Metropolis does.

So does it rise to the occation? Tough question, because the first two or three times I saw it, I didn’t think so. Like so many others, my mind was stuck on The Dark Knight. Literally nothing could pass that bar. It was only a question on if it did great on it’s own, and you know what…it really did. I truly believe that The Dark Knight is the best all around, but my God, does this have a really solid story as well. Not only that, but the structure of the story was clearly given a lot of thought. It was a long one, but they put it together amazingly. Take my advice and try your hardest not to immediately compare this to its predecessor.

The Good:

The last time I watched this, I thought it was closer to Batman Begins, but honestly after watching them over again, I think it’s closer to The Dark Knight in a lot more ways, and I’m absolutely fine with that. I also noticed that it’s just gotten better with every viewing – which is a rarity for me and movies. If you haven’t seen it, watch it for sure. If you have, watch it again for sure – you might be interested to see how much you’ll like it more.

The Bad:

As amazing of a movie as this was, Bane doesn’t have the same iconic oomph as The Joker did. Nor did he in the older movies, nor I’m guessing does he in any of the cartoons or comics. The Joker is Batman’s exact opposite, in all actuality – The Dark Knight should have been the last movie. That being said…they shouldn’t have made this New York. Never did I think while watching, – hey that’s Gotham City. Um, no, that’s freakin’ New York, you idiot.

Memorable Quote:

Bane: We will destroy Gotham and then, when it is done and Gotham is ashes, then you have my permission to die

Prometheus (2012) | Spoiler Review

Prometheus

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Crazy amazing prequel.

I reviewed Prometheus two years ago when it first came out when I still reviewed for Examiner.com (hence the title of my website). However, I watched it before I ever watched Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise – so at the time, I didn’t have the ability to catch all of the iconic shout-outs throughout the film. Obviously, that’s the main reveal, which is why my review is considered spoiler-heavy. Most people already know the twist, but just in case some people have magically stayed away from movie news surrounding Prometheus, I have to warn them that I’m pretty much spoiling the whole idea. You can read my old review here. Anyways, after watching the entire Alien franchise, I move right along to the prequel of the series, and it is one heck of a film.

Alright, so on earth, there are all of these ancient cave markings that lead a couple of scientists to believe not in the concept of creation, nor evolution, but in the concept of “engineers”, that is – huge aliens that “engineered” the human being. These cave markings lead them on a space expedition to an earth-like planet, which would ultimately help them further their research, or so they hope. On the planet, they find a strange cave-like structure that houses a ton of secrets and apparently living organisms that have deadly repercussions if interacted with. Well, wouldn’t you know it…stupid scientists doing stupid things, leading them into panic mode because they set off a chain reaction of stupid. No, no, the movie isn’t stupid, it’s magnificent, it’s just a huge case of curiosity killed the cat.

So I want to talk briefly about how this film is connected to Alien, since it is a spoiler review. Basically, the “cave” mentioned above is actually the same type of alien spaceship that the people run into in the first and second Alien movie. This thing is so incredibly iconic that the moment you see it in this film, you’ll connect the dots if you have seen the original franchise. If you go in without watching Alien, you’ll only be surprised by the very last shot of the film – the very first alien. Keep in mind that this isn’t the alien planet of the original franchise. In Alien, they run into a random spaceship that looks like it crash landed some time ago – that could be the same ship Shaw and David fly away in at the end of Prometheus. The other connections would be – a similar cyber-sleep outfit, an android, the giant mysterious ship pilot in the Alien franchise, and the one black crew member that always seems to be in the movies.

Now that I got that out of my system, let’s talk about the movie in general, because for the most part, it’s its own thing. The giant aliens of this planet are a completely new concept and separates this into what feels like a very fresh film, equally as threatening. I also firmly believe that a sequel wouldn’t be another Alienmovie, but instead another Prometheus movie, where the main aliens are actually the giants. The tease with the alien at the end of this movie was just to make the fans happy. If you recall, they leave the planet at the end. The only living organism on that planet is the alien that we’ll probably never see again. No, this all-together new franchise is about the origins of humans, and why these giant aliens went from wanting to create them to wanting to kill them.

So many people compare this to Alien, and that’s fair. It’s in the same universe, but it is more or less about these engineers than anything else. When you compare it to the other series, it won’t feel as good because it’s sort of a different movie all together. It’s got similar tones and similar characters, but the plot itself is original and I’m very interested in seeing the direction of the series.

The Good:

Sorry, I’m getting so wrapped up in the review that it may seem a bit jumbled. In short, it’s a beautifully-shot and edited suspenseful sci-fi action thriller that provides just the right amount of shout-outs to the Alien franchise while focusing on a completely original and captivating plot of its own. Ultimately, whenever this franchise ends on its own terms, I feel like the entire series will feel complete.

The Bad:

Guy Pierce, come on man. Your make up looks no better than Biff’s in Back to the Future – Part II. Other than that, nothing.

Memorable Quote:

David: Big things have small beginnings