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The Cursed Child Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Literature, Reviews Sep 22 2016 · 138 views
Harry Potter, The Cursed Child and 1 more...
The Cursed Child Review :kaukau: What's one of the most sacred things that thou shalt not spoil? Obviously, the new Harry Potter book. You spoil that, and you might as well get thrown out of the window from the top story of a tall building.

I would like to avoid a dramatic fall to my death, so I'm avoiding anything that even remotely sounds like a spoiler. And yet, I still want to give an opinion on this book, so there are a few things that I feel obliged to say to the prospective reader who's wondering whether or not this book is worth reading.

Let me start off by saying that the last time a Harry Potter book was released, it was carefully thought out, and all of the books prior to it were clearly leading up to it. It has clever writing and good plot twists that J.K. Rowling built up to from the very beginning. This book doesn't feel like a natural continuation of the series, however, and it's quite evident that J.K. Rowling was only partially involved inn crafting its story.

Because The Cursed Child reads like a fanfiction. Not a horrible fanfiction, since at least it's entertaining, but a fanfiction nonetheless. If I could boil down my description of this book to one word, that would be it. What can I say? Practically everyone is out-of-character, and then "cool" things happen that feel like they happened just because a fan thought that they were cool, but otherwise feel contrived. There were also details in the story that contradicted established elements of Harry Potter lore, which resulted in plot holes. Somehow, three writers with very obvious talent got together an write a fanfiction for a sequel.

That's all I have to say about it. There's nothing wrong with liking it, if you read it and decide that it isn't that bad, since it does have a story that at the very least can be entertaining, but it just doesn't have the greatness that the original series had. Maybe Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be better, but overall it just feels like people are turning a story that was already complete in itself into an unending franchise.

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Sully Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Sep 20 2016 · 116 views

Sully Review :kaukau: With most movies even predictable ones there's some basic level of suspense keeping you at the edge of your seat. Since most of us know the outcome of the miracle on the Hudson, though, this film is a little different. This is one of those movies that you hold up as an example of why you don't need suspense to keep a movie interesting. The focus of Sully lies more in educating the viewer on this historic plane crash and what happened afterward. The story is known to us; the exact details are not. One should go into this looking forward to learning more about the miracle on the Hudson.
So what Clint Eastwood presents us with is an experience that's meticulously researched. He does everything to be realistic, and to capture the technical aspects of the airline industry. It's not uncommon for films based on true events to embellish things, or change some details for the sake of making things work better on camera, but going from the general feeling that I get, a lot of the details here feel more like they were put in out of loyalty to real-life rather than out of need for added drama. Very little in this film save for one exception that I'll get to later feels like it came from a film-maker's imagination. I really felt like I was watching airline pilots, and not some romanticized version of them.

It should be noted that the title of this film is Sully, and not The Miracle on the Hudson, and the film isn't strictly about the plane crash itself. The plane crash itself is a very simple story that can't take up a whole film. Rather, the main story of Sully is that of the aftermath, and the investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to figure out for the record what went wrong, and what could have been done differently. The stakes for Sully are very personal his job is on the line if its proven that he put his passengers at a greater risk by landing in the Hudson instead of trying to make it to a nearby runway.

Of course, we know that the investigation comes out in Sully's favor, otherwise this movie wouldn't exist, and Clint Eastwood would have cast the villainous Ralph Fiennes to play Sully instead of the noble persona of Tom Hanks. Like I said, this film doesn't have much suspense, but it manages to stay dramatic. Perhaps that drama is a little bit of a problem, though, because this is the one area of the film that's dramatized. In order to give this film conflict, the NTSB is cast in a negative light. Their routine investigation is depicted as though it were a prosecution, determined to blame Sully for endangering the passengers and strip him of his career and dignity. They were way too willing to assume negative things about him, and their arguments against his heroism were weak and very obviously overlooked certain details, which the film mentions. It was bad enough that the real Chesley Sullenberger, who otherwise really liked the film, asked for the names of those heading the NTSB investigation to be changed so as not to defame them.

Perhaps the most egregious part of this dramatization is that Sully depicts the investigation as being hasty, lasting for only a few days, when in real life the NTSB was much more cautious and objective, taking eighteen months to investigate the plane crash. For the life of me, I don't understand why the screenwriter changed this. Sully is a short movie, and there isn't much space to give Sullenberger a character arc. It would have made more sense to show how this investigation affected him over the course of a year and a half. It would have even been more dramatic to watch the tension build up in the titular character over time. For whatever reason, Clint Eastwood didn't throw the script back at Todd Komarnicki and tell him to make the investigation longer and meatier, not to mention more accurate. He didn't, and I don't understand that.

Aside from that major flaw, I also had mixed feelings about the flashbacks. There were a couple of flashbacks from Sullenberger's younger years that didn't feel necessary at all, and his PTSD hallucinations of the plane crashing felt like they were put in there just to appeal to the visual medium, and hallucinations are a pet peeve of mine. If Captain Sullenberger really did have PTSD, though, which is likely enough, I'd be okay with the latter of these two minor issues.

Overall, it's a fairly good drama that I didn't regret watching. While the screenplay has some faults, Clint Eastwood makes a lot out of it, and his directing is easily the best part of this movie. Do I think that Sully is as good as American Sniper? Not so much. I definitely like the longer time frame for that story, but of course that movie had its faults, too, so I can't say that it's objectively better. Besides, there's something unique and refreshing about watching a drama that's so short and to-the-point, which makes it a perfectly paced film. Certainly, Sully is a well-edited film, and it's easy enough to watch that I might very well watch it again when it comes out on DVD.


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Kubo and the Two Strings Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Sep 13 2016 · 138 views
Kubo, review, animated and 1 more...
Kubo and the Two Strings Review :kaukau: 2016 has seen the release of several outstanding animated movies. Disney has been hitting things full throttle and has been making outstanding advancements in animation. Just look at Zootopia, where not a single background character stands motionless, and they manage to fill the frame with millions of subtle details. You could also look at Finding Dory, where Pixar has been pushing the limits in what they can do with lighting, and they also managed to animate a a boneless octopus. If you pay close attention animation, you know that these achievements are spectacular, and that it isn't at all easy to do what these animation companies are doing. On top of it all, Disney and Pixar have crafted great stories that challenge the viewer, either to look at stereotypes in a reasonable light or to relate to a fish with short-term memory loss. These are great stories. These are great movies.

Which is why my sisters were a little offended when advertisements claimed that Kubo was the greatest animated movie of the year. "Really? Haven't they ever heard of Disney?" Their presumption was, apparently, that only Disney-style animated movies can be great.

I will stand by what those critics were saying. It's all subjective, but I simply can't put it behind what Disney and Pixar have accomplished this year. It's good; it stands out; and it's memorable. It made the lasting impression that I like to see in an animated movie.

If you're like my sisters and have trust issues when it comes to animated films outside of the Disney domain, since they can often be cynical, crude, Shrek-like, and exploitative, take comfort in knowing that this film is PG and has a strong storytelling spirit. It wasn't conjured up just to earn a cheap buck, like Minions or The Secret Life of Pets. It's a film for the family, and yet is distinct from Disney and has an identity of its own.

Most especially, the animation is beautiful. Technically, Disney and Pixar's animation is the best there is in the world, but it still isn't as beautiful as Kubo's. In this movie, every other frame puts me in awe. This movie is simply wonderful to look at. I don't know what the technical demands of this animation were, and if Kubo made any innovations, but the end result is too stunning to discount. The director Travis Knight made sure that everything about this film was filled with elegance and played to the strengths of animation. He has an eye for beauty and employs it constantly, turning Kubo and the Two Strings into a mystical series of idyllic paintings. Some people have a good sense of rhythm, others have a good sense of humor, and Travis knight has a great sense of beauty. On the simplicity of its beauty alone, the movie was worth the price of admission.

The visuals weren't the only thing to be simple and beautiful, though. Kubo is a somewhat short film, and keeps its story to the important stuff. This shortness really helps with the pacing, since the story arrives at each of its stages in relatively short order. The scenes last long enough for you to be satisfied with them, but they don't go on so long that they make you impatient for the next big thing to happen.

Perhaps the story could have have been filled with a few more events during the rising action, but Kubo is a straightforward Hero's Journey that doesn't need much more than a few basic plot points, and it also proves that a story can be one of those without ripping off Star Wars (I'm looking at you, Eragon). The details of this journey might sound a bit familiar. At the beginning of the film, Kubo is a kid living a life in a normal community, until adventure calls and he's thrown into an epic quest to find three important artifacts in order to confront the big villain. Does that sound familiar? It could be because these are the elements of classic myths and epic poems, and this movie tells them in a fresh way. It's simple and primal enough that a child can watch it regularly without it getting old, just as I did with my old Disney VHS tapes back in the day.

Finally, I appreciate that this movie is willing to treat death as very real and offers its two cents on the subject, as well as what it means to be human, and it says it in language that I think that kids can understand and that adults can appreciate. There are a few scenes that might scare younger children, hence why its rating suggests parental guidance, but they play well into the Kubo's themes. In many ways, this animated film is pretty serious once you actually think about it, much as Zootopia was. So if you liked the one, I see no reason why you wouldn't like the other. Kubo has quite a bit to offer.



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Joy Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Aug 25 2016 · 137 views
Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper
Joy Review :kaukau: Before watching this movie, I heard it described as a "modern feminist fairytale." That's good. David O. Russell has a talent for creating modern stories about real life and making fiction feel remarkably real and resonant. However, as I found out while at the end of this movie, Joy is actually nonfiction, and based off of the story of Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop. I wish I had known that beforehand, because I watched this movie when I was in the mood for a modern feminist fairytale. In my mind, something can't really be a fairytale when it's real life. That's just me. Anyway, it didn't ruin the experience for me, because Joy is a darn good film that has nothing to be ashamed of.

With just about every nonfiction film, I wonder how closely it sticks to real life. Perhaps the most true-to-life movie I've ever seen was 1992 television film Stalin, a masterpiece of meticulous research put to screen. One of the less reliable movies that I've seen recently was Eddie the Eagle, which took massive creative liberties for a story that didn't need them. As far as I can tell, Joy sticks to the facts. I did some quick research on Joy Mangano, and most of the details line up with the film, save for the number of children. In real life, Joy had three children with her husband Tony; in this movie, she has two. Overall, there isn't a whole lot about Joy Mangago on Wikipedia to help me in corroborating the story presented by David O. Russell, and the main thing that tells me that the film gets it right is the fact that Joy herself was one of its executive producers. I'm going out on a limb here and assuming that she didn't let them butcher her life story.

Jennifer Lawrence's performance was, of course, solid. It wasn't as exciting and many-splendor'd as the trailers had me expecting, but she was still fairly immersed in the role, and I think that it's the type of performance that many aspiring actors would kill for. Robert De Niro, meanwhile, had a ton of charisma playing the her dysfunctional father, and is by far the most entertaining part of the film. Perhaps the one person who didn't deliver a great performance was Bradley Cooper. He's a remarkably talented actor, and he didn't do anything wrong in this role however, he was shoehorned into this movie, and his presence was distracting. With Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, I saw their roles. With Bradley Cooper, I didn't see his role.

Although edited together to feel like a drama, it also has some of the fast pacing that I've associated with David O. Russell, so even though these actors are cast to add some gravitas to these roles, the film also makes them feel just zany enough to remind viewers that it's okay to be entertained. It fits the emotional state of the main character, whose life is hectic and very unstable. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jennifer Lawrence, as famous as she is, blends into her role, because David O. Russell has a very strong feeling for Joy Mangano.

Well, I guess I do have a few slight criticisms. For the first act of the film, I wasn't sure what its focus was or where the story was going. Once I realized that it was a story about the invention of the Miracle Mop, though, it became very interesting.

And then that very interesting story ends, and I feel it happened a little too quickly. Maybe "quickly" isn't the right word; I just feel that the scene that it ended on was an odd final scene. I think I can see how it looks good on paper, but I just felt that the movie had a few scenes left. I felt that I was getting near the end of the film, but not that I was actually at the end.

The lasting impression that Joy will leave me is that it's tough to start a business. And risky. That's what this film is all about, and it's put me off from some of my more optimistic aspirations to do something businesslike. While Joy doesn't bog bog the viewer down in the paperwork and all of the technical details, it does do a good job depicting the uncertainty of such ventures, and that there can be many unforeseen complications, and most especially that it will probably feel like the whole world has turned against you. Not everyone is going to have the second chances that she received, and not everyone is going to get a generous lone to kick-start their business. Even though Joy succeeds at the end, the end result of this film is still discouraging. It's odd saying that about a film that overall has a fairly positive outlook, but that's the conclusion that I've come to. I guess I'll have to make my millions some other way.

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Pete's Dragon Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Aug 16 2016 · 197 views
Disney, Petes Dragon and 3 more...
Pete's Dragon Review :kaukau: In case you couldn't tell by the trailers, there isn't much connecting this movie to the original 1977 movie asides from an invisible green dragon named Elliot and a boy named Pete. If you think about it, there are some other basic similarities, such as a woman who adopts Pete, whose father swears he saw a dragon. But there's no conniving Dr. Terminus, no adorable town named Passamaquoddy (yes, I got that right on my first try), no abusive foster parents, no lighthouse, and no songs. The trailers quotes a critic who said that this is a new Disney classic, which may or may not be true, but assuming that it is true, I should go out of my way to clarify that I prefer the original, and as a colorful musical it will always be the greater classic.

That having been said, this year's Pete's Dragon is good. While it doesn't quite match The Good Dinosaur's landscapes, it's visually arresting. Elliot is a graceful creature that's enjoyable to watch, and this movie gives you plenty of him. It has good senses of music and pacing that work well together, and scenes end where they're naturally supposed to end. If you watch enough films, you know that that's hard to do, so I applaud Pete's Dragon for having a good feel for its scenes and the progression of its story. It doesn't move too fast or too slow, so by the end of the movie you feel that you've watch a really solid, complete final product.

The actors - and their characters - have good chemistry with each other, and there's nobody in this film that I really dislike. Perhaps it's because this movie doesn't villainize anyone, or perhaps it's because it has the just the right amount of characters. However, I might point that Bryce Dallas Howard's character, Grace, does compete with Pete as the film's main protagonist. It's a minor flaw, since here character is likable, and her chemistry with Pete is believable, but it's worth pointing out in a critical response to the film. It isn't bad that her character commands the audience's sympathy and takes up screen time, since her equivalent in the original movie had her own scenes and even a musical number, but it's worth pointing out that I connected with her character more than Pete, whose name is in the title. In the original film, I could relate to Pete more, since he had clear, strong desires. In this movie, I understood Bryce Dallas Howard's desires, Karl Urban's desires, and even the nonspeaking dragon's desires, but Elliot's desires weren't as clear, or at least they weren't as easy to get behind. He simply wants to stay in the woods with Elliot, but I as the moviegoer know that he needs to have a family, so I'm not invested in his goals. After all, what is he going to do once he gets back into the woods to stay with Elliot? In the grand scheme of things, what does he want out of life that he'll get by being a hermit? Those aren't motives that I can root for in quite the same way as I did for the original Pete, who wanted to get away from his abusive foster family.

None of this means that Pete is an unlikable character. He is likable. He's an adorable kid. Like Bryce Dallas Howard, you really care for him. It's just that you relate more to the woman who loves the kid than you do the kid himself. It's possible to love someone without relating to them, and that's how I'd describe Pete, which created a minor issue when he was the main character of this movie.

All that having been said, Pete makes sense. I don't relate to his desire to stay alone in the woods, but I understand it. He was orphaned at an early age, and that's all he knows. Furthermore, his relationship with Elliot is believable, and I completely buy into it. The film gives us plenty of time to show us the bond between these two characters, and you do get invested in them. It gives this movie a lot of heart.

And maybe that's why there's a trailer saying that this is a new Disney classic. It might not be a musical, but it still has heart. It's good for families, because it speaks to adults and children alike. It's incredibly simple and doesn't get bogged down in details that distract from the core story. If you're okay with a simply movie, then I think that you'll enjoy it. So long as you don't go in expecting it to be as classic as the original and judge it on its own merits, there shouldn't be any problem. I don't think that anyone's going into Pete's Dragon with inflated expectations, so not too many people are going to be disappointed by it. It's a solid film that lives up to its advertising, so if you were a little interested in this film, it's a safe bet. That's more than can be said for some other movies that had excellent trailers.

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Bad Movie Marathon "Bertrand"

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies, Bionicle Aug 15 2016 · 103 views
Twilight, Eragon
:kaukau: Most times that I review a movie, I leave the review-ee a generally positive impression of the film. Am I too easy on movies? Am I a suck-up? Actually, no. I'm fairly tough on films, all things considered. The reason why most of my reviews are positive is that I'm good at figuring out which films are worth watching. It's called selective viewership, and we all practice it. Here's an experiment: just watch the poorly put together trailer for Push and be honest with yourself. If your reaction was "Ugh, nope, not going to bother with that," then congratulations! You just practiced selective viewership.

Because of selective viewership and good instincts, most of us hate Twilight without ever having watched it. You want to rip those movies apart, but you also want to save time. Actually watching those movies wastes time, so you might as well hate on them from a distance. To some, it's cowardly to criticize a movie that you've never seen, but don't listen to them. You're doing it right. Stay intelligent, save up those IQ points, and maybe go to college someday. Life is too short for you to waste your time on bad movies.

Which is why there's something wrong with me. And my sisters, who share my Valjean genes. Did we listen to our better judgment? No. We knew that the Twilight movies were bad. We knew that they failed on every level. We knew how we'd feel about them. It didn't matter; we watched them anyway. One summer we were minding our own business when we saw a review (warning: contains language) of Breaking Dawn, Part 2 on The Escapist, which encouraged people to watch the movie just so they could laugh at it for all the wrong reasons. Then we got an idea. An awful idea. The Valjeans got a wonderful, awful idea.

What if we used our selective viewership powers to intentionally go out of our way to watch bad movies?

We went to the library, checked out all of the Twilight movies, and made ourselves some popcorn, ready to revel in the perverse blasphemy against the good name of cinema. The result would have been a natural disaster, if not for how unnatural it was. Still, it was a cinematic catastrophe, and like any catastrophic event, it deserved a proper name. We called it "Bad Movie Marathon Alvin."

The surprise twist? The Twilight movies weren't that bad. Well yes, they were bad, but not that bad, because we watched another movie first that helped us put things into perspective, and in fact made us appreciate the talent that went into Twilight. Yes, it made Twilight look good! Only a total abomination could do that, a manure cart filled with poop — stuffed with poop, overflowing with poop, actively radiating poop — and our selective viewership, for all its insight, was not shrewd enough to realize just how bad it would be.

Ladies and gentlemen: Eragon.

I have never reviewed this movie, and never will. Absolutely nothing that I write will ever compare to this recap (like the last link, it contains language). It is the best review of a bad movie I have ever read, and I still pull it out every once and a while when I need entertaining. Only a movie like Eragon could produce this. Thank you, Christopher Paolini.

We Valjeans came to a conclusion: individually, Eragon was worse than any of the Twilight movies, save for possibly the last one. However, as a whole, Twilight as a series outdid Eragon, because is was long, boring, tiresome, and far more drawn out than it had to be. As a matter of fact, we tried something out of a hunch and looked up the plot for the books in Wikipedia; we then looked up the plot for episodes of Star Trek and found that individual episodes had more story than all of the Twilight books combined. So don't worry, we still have plenty on Twilight.

Years went by and we learned from our mistake. A few weeks ago week, it's my pleasure to announce that we, the blasted fools, plugged in another bad movie marathon, this one named Bertrand, and we saved the worst movie for last. Are you ready? Let's get started:


BIONICLE: THE LEGEND REBORN


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Drive by review: this is Barbie for Boys. The animation is poor and clunky; the actors are posing with their voices; and the band of protagonists unite together with cringe-worthy ease. It's kind of campy, although it doesn't amp the camp up to eleven like it should have, because it wants to take itself seriously as a story about superheroes, saving the world, and bravery.

The Legend Reborn starts off on the wrong foot right away, since it begins with the infiltration of Makuta into the body of Mata Nui, enslaving the Matoran and doing evil stuff, except I'm not sure if any of that was mentioned by name. If you followed the Bionicle storyline prior to this movie, you knew that all of the characters lived inside of Mata Nui, who as it turned out was a giant robot, so huge that he had entire island chains inside of him, and Matoran were people inside of him who kept him running. It was really weird.

Do you know what wasn't too weird and made a bit more intuitive sense? The Mata Nui Online Game, which was epic. It was back when Bionicle was cool, and I can't stress this enough, that it was cool. I have very nostalgic memories of a dignified, epic telling of the Bionicle story that rose beyond being a mere advertisement for the toys.

It's hard to explain what all made Bionicle so unique, but I'll try, since it has inspired me as a writer almost as much as other major influences like Star Wars. I insist that you go play MNOG and get immersed in the original Bionicle world and its storyline. It has an atmosphere about it that makes it larger than life, mysterious, intriguing, and unique. It was a special world that I wanted to immerse myself in, and it even had the perfect music that helped make that world feel real. It really is its own entity, and so much originality went into it that it's hard to compare it to anything else.

After its glorious third year, Bionicle got a lot less interesting, because they took away a lot of the mysticism in the storyline. They made the heroes less special, and ventured off of the original setting that made the story so fresh. The most significant grievance was changing the nature of the Makuta, a satanic entity who was the jealous brother of the much-adored god Mata Nui. They made him a cyborg, one of many Makuta, and changed his name to the drastically less mystical sounding Teridax, which sounded like it came from a bad fan fiction. They then changed the mythology even further by changing Mata Nui from a god sent by the Great Beings to the aforementioned giant robot. It was very, very stupid.

Then there's this movie, which some people defended, but an honest reviewer like me could see for what it was. That is to say, it's that mentally challenged kid with a heart of gold. Okay, maybe it's heart isn't that golden, because this movie was an obvious cash grab so that the LEGO company could make a little extra money on the side, but the film itself isn't too cynical and has a positive spirit. Other than that, any objective viewer can say that its characters are flat, its storyline is incomplete, its plot is unoriginal, its world is uninteresting, its voice acting is cartoony, its animation is an afterthought, and its atmosphere is uninspired. I can't stress that last part enough: the old Bionicle had a whole ton of atmosphere, and this doesn't have any.

The movie doesn't even succeed as a toy commercial, because the movements of the characters really show off their awkward proportions. Perhaps strong characters with in intriguing stage presence could make up for that, but clearly the movie doesn't have that either. So what you have is an advertisement for action figured that brings attention to just how awkward these figures are when they're actually in action. Does that sound like a winning move?

Otherwise, it's harmless if you want to show it to your kids, although you want them to be intrigued by something, I recommend that you show them MNOG and get immersed in that world, pretending that the latter storylines never happened. It will be much cooler that way.


BARBIE IN THE NUTCRACKER

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An actual, proper Barbie movie, made for girls. Barbie in the Nutcracker is a little darling, much hated by my sisters. As they have made sure to remind me, the characters mistake a cardboard cutout of a castle for the real deal, even as they're walking through its front door! Yes, this is a stupid movie alright. It doesn't operate under any human logic, and like most direct-to-DVD films, the characters were cardboard cutouts.

The main character, "Barbie Nui," the bland female equivalent of Mata Nui, has no personality. She does have a name, Clara, but let's be honest — you're not going to think of her as Clara. For crying out loud, the movie's name is Barbie in the Nutcracker, so for all intents and purposes her name is Barbie. Meanwhile, as with any Mary Sue, the movie pretends that she has a personality, but her traits are all generic positive attributes. If I can remember correctly, she possesses cleverness, kindness, and bravery. Incidentally, she has these exact same traits in every Barbie movie.

Barbie films have bad animation in general, and this was the first computer animated Barbie film, coming out in 2001, so its animation was especially bad. For example, when Barbie does ballet, something about her thighs looks disturbingly unnatural, even by Barbie standards. I also get a kick out of the hair, because as much as the Barbie franchise loves hair, they animate it as one ugly, solid piece of matter. Some of the characters also have the oddest 'do's, like the aunt who gives Barbie the nutcracker. It has some sort of weird spiral going on in back that I can't describe, and you'd just have to check out the movie for yourself to know what I'm getting at.

This movie wasn't as bad as The Legend Reborn, though, because in its defense it at least based itself off of one of the great ballets. And on that note, the music wasn't half bad, for obvious reasons. So for me, at least, it was a more entertaining watch than Barbie for Boys, because it had a classic story. Other than that, this isn't my choice for entertainment, nor should it be anyone's.


THE WIZ

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The Wizard of Oz is a fantastic, classic fairytale with unforgettable, striking imagery and timeless characters. The movie is one of the most iconic films ever made, arguably one of the definitive entries in our movie culture. There have been countless adaptations, unofficial sequels and prequels, and spoofs of The Wizard of Oz, generally being quite entertaining. Many television shows, if they go on long enough, will eventually feature episodes mimicking The Wizard of Oz, along with A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life. It's one of those phenomenons that stands on its own as truly inimitable, and there will never be another Wizard of Oz. Things that base themselves off of The Wizard of Oz also, with few exceptions, turn out to be delightfully entertaining.

The Wiz is one of those exceptions. It isn't too difficult to explain why, either. It's a musical, and the cardinal sin of any musical is to have uninteresting music. As the movie trudged on, I found myself looking at the clock, because it was boring, and we often zoned out during the musical segments. It just wasn't that interesting, and that's a shame.

Maybe I'm missing something here. People have praised the stage version and said that it's better than the movie, and I've witnessed it before where a song sounds boring until sung by the right vocals. When my high school put on a production of Beauty and the Beast, the short guy that they had playing the Beast made "If I Can't Love Her" into the blandest song ever. He technically hit all of the notes, but he sang it with so little personality that I didn't even perceive the song's tune. When the play finished, I had no interest in hearing that song again. Then I discovered a video of a Korean opera singer singing the song, hitting all of the same notes, and it was beautiful. How do you account for such a drastically different perception? I don't know, but I'm open to believing that The Wiz could be an entertaining stage production. If someone in my area produces it, I will probably give it a visit, just to see if there's a difference.

One thing that I'm sure contributes to the dullness of these songs is that oftentimes the movie completely lacks choreography, robbing the singers of any chance to be expressive. This isn't all of the songs, but it describes enough of them that it becomes a problem. And by no choreography, I don't just mean that they don't dance. I mean that they're not moving, period. No walking, no adjusting their body language, nothing. You'd expect more out of a movie that has Michael Jackson in it.

That's not to say that all the songs are boring. Most people are familiar with "Ease On Down the Road", and that's a gem. I'm also a little bit partial to "No Bad News", and I can hum its tune. Outside of those two, though, the songs are boring, and I know that it's possible to produce consistently interesting songs. Les Miserables did it; Fiddler on the Roof did it; The Sound of Music did it; Oklahoma did it; Beauty and the Beast did it; The Lion King did it; The Phantom of the Opera did it; Mary Poppins did it; Godspell did it; Grease did it; Annie did it; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory did it; and most importantly of all, Bewitched and the original Wizard of Oz did it. One can argue that I shouldn't put my standards so high, but I say that I should put them that high. Shouldn't I have a standard somewhere that posits that a musicals music should be entertaining? And if it's not entertaining, then it is what it is. What am I supposed to say, that a musical is boring and unentertaining, but otherwise enjoyable? What kind of a review is that?

Let's be clear about something, though. I'm not attacking the makers of this movie. I understand that good art is hard to make, and I have no particular talent with music, so I know that I wouldn't do much better. They aren't grand masters of the craft, but unfortunately it takes grand masters of the craft to write music that's entertaining. Not too many people can do it, so those whose musical credentials read "better than average" still aren't good enough to entertain us. I give them credit for trying, but I don't give them a trophy for succeeding, because they didn't.

Except with their main song, "Ease On Down the Road". As I've said, it's a good song, so the movie isn't completely devoid of merit. I can't speak for others when I say that "No Bad News" is a good song, though. That's just me. If you watch the movie, you might dislike it, but you might find another song that just barely fits your fancy, and you can advocate for that one. There are enough songs in there for that to possibly happen. No guarantees, though, because the music truly is boring, as a general rule.

Outside of the music, the movie's other fault is the sets and cinematography. Personally, I like the sets, because they make the movie feel like an on-screen stage musical, but the lighting doesn't do them justice. Personally, I'm not averse to the idea of darker lighting in and of itself, since it gives us a very different type of Oz that's dimmer and grittier, which puts the film in the green light for having its own distinctive vision. Visually, the film is distinct and can't be mistaken for anything else, and I admire that. It's also nice to give an Oz with an all-black populace its own distinctive "black" feel. However, I don't believe that this decision benefits the overall impression that the movie makes, because it's difficult to take in the beautiful sets and appreciate the choreography and costume designs. It makes the setting appear to have less depth, and everything becomes two-dimensional. I can even see it being argued that creating a run-down, ghetto-like "black" Oz as being a twinge racist, although I'm not sure where I'd fall in that discussion if it were to be had.

Overall, the film just doesn't deliver, which is sad, because it's hard to go wrong with an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. I'd give the play a chance, but it's entirely likely that I will never watch this movie again, because it's simply so boring and only serves to waste my time.


FOODFIGHT!

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Here we go. The worst that we saved for last. Foodfight! first came to our attention when the Nostalgia Critic reviewed it, and it was one of the less savory films he had reviewed, which was pretty impressive considering his library of bad films. It's interesting, because in spite of how insanely bad it is, there aren't too many reviews of it on the internet. No Honest Trailers, no "Everything Wrong With Foodfight! in 15 Minutes or Less," no HISHE parody, nothing. The only prominent cinephile to review it was Doug Walker. So I feel privileged to be one of the few to tackle this beast, although it puts some pressure on me to write knowing that I'm something of a vanguard. I really wish I had it in me to write something that would function as a guiding light to future reviewers who might wish to jump on the bandwagon, to set the standard for reviews of this movie.

Alas, I don't have it in me. Not today, as I sit on this chair and try to recall all of the mind-bogglingly stupid things that happened in this congenital defect of a movie. However, yes, I actually bought this movie. I own it, and you can bet your sweet milk money that I plan on watching it again. Maybe someday I will come back and do a scene-by-scene recap of Foodfight!, reacting to each and every one of its individual moments with as much comedy as I can muster.

But for now, I'm just reviewing the film, the worst that I saved for last. And it's true; it was the worst. All the movies leading up to this were pretty bad, but Foodfight! delivered. While everything else was bland and difficult to enjoy, Foodfight! entertained us with every passing moment, because we never ran out of things to laugh at. I have to admit that I was worried that the Nostalgia Critic had selected only the worst parts in his review, but Foodfight! was jam-packed with one bad moment after another, leaving us incredulous as to how such a film could actually exist.

Seriously, I came down on The Wiz for demonstrating that it took more than just better-than-average talent to make a good movie. At least in the other movies you can see how talented people actually tried to make a good produce. But there's no accounting for Foodfight! I have seen college students put together better animations than this. I have seen fanfiction writers put together a better story. I have heard kindergartners read their lines better than some of the voice actors in this bad egg. Where did all of the talent go? Where?

Because it's intended to be a comedy, it's funny. Kind of. For all the wrong reasons, really, but we were still laughing, because the movie consistently gave us reasons to laugh at it for trying so hard and failing so spectacularly. Every single joke that this movie makes is lame, with no exceptions.

Usually, I can list a few redeeming qualities, one or two things that were genuinely good. For as much as I absolutely hated Man of Steel, I loved Antje Traue as Faora. For as much Star Trek Beyond disappointed me, I genuinely laughed along with its sense of humor, and got emotional when they paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy. However, Foodfight! has nothing, at least nothing intentional. Which was a relief. I often get tired of holding back somewhat on an otherwise bad movie because it has at least one redeeming quality. It's hard to actually suck in every conceivable way, but Foodfight! does it, and I'm able to completely bash it for everything that it is. It feels good!

The animation, for example. It is worse than The Legend Reborn, or even Barbie in the Nutcracker. In fact, it's the worst animation I've ever seen in any film. They don't even reach the quality of 90's video games. I'm pretty sure that someone could make a better-animated film than this by playing The Sims. Sometimes, when the characters moves, it looked like the animators were working through a glitch in their software, because their movement was so unnatural.

The characters are everything you've seen before, except for less. Dex Dogtective is an aviator-jacket-and-fedora-wearing scoundrel of a sleuth, with ripoff personality traits of Rick Blaine thrown in, making him the most interesting character in the film, albeit still a stereotype with no real depth. There's Sunshine Goodness (Oh the name!), whose sole character trait consists of being Dex's girlfriend with a sunshiny personality. There's Daredevil Dan, the annoying sidekick who is the annoying sidekick. There's Lady X, the femme fatale who turns out to be the bad guy. And that's about it as far as characters go. That's literally all you need to know, and you understand the entire cast of this film.


The story: it's been done to death, and even then it couldn't be followed. I mean, the story takes place in a world parallel to our own where the food mascots are real, and what happens in the real world has some effect on what happens in the fictional world, sort of like The Lego Movie. Except the rules for this interaction are never clear. It's indicated that the food brands, as personified by their mascots, can interact with the real world, but you don't know exactly how that works. Sometimes they live in an abstract world, but at other times they're running around in the real world and need to physically get across the grocery store in order to check out the manager's computer. When they do this, apparently these abstract entities can interact with humans, but humans may or may not be able to see them. How do they travel from one world to the other? Does their world exist in an alternate universe? Does it exist physically inside of the shelves? The movie indicates that the grocery store aisles physically transforms into a city at night, but I'm not quite sure how this works. Nothing about this makes sense!

I can't even give this film credit for at least having good intentions, like many direct-to-DVD films aimed at children. Among other things, it has fetish humor ("This will be more fun than a spanking!"), which doesn't belong in a children's film. It's also a shameless attempt at product placement, which is probably the only reason that Foodfight! ever existed in the first place. It pretends that it has a moral about not putting "evil products" on the shelves, but I don't know what qualifies as an evil product and how any of this connects to real life. There is absolutely nothing good about this movie, body and soul, so I have to give it a resounding F.

Even so, I insist that you buy it and see it for yourself. This films is an absolute goldmine.


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Suicide Squad Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews Aug 13 2016 · 138 views
DC Comics, Suicide Squad, Review
Suicide Squad Review :kaukau: Look at that poster. Doesn't it look fun? As in, everything's-off-the-wall-in-you-face-so-fun-that-it's-insane? I not only wanted to like this movie, but I also had a lot of confidence going in that I was up for a good time. My verdict now that I've seen it? Well...it's okay. It isn't bad, but - look, I'm not going to get too much into the details, but let me explain from the beginning.

The movie starts off pretty eccentric, finding fun ways of introducing us to all of these characters. It has an offbeat style that reminds me a little bit of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and that's awesome. It's the type of creativity that I expected from this film, what with it's "Bohemian Rhapsody" trailer and drug-trip poster. It's a whole lot of style without much substance, which worked just fine for me. The problem is, the movie didn't maintain this stylized approach, and quickly fell into feeling like a normal movie, free from its more risque tropes. Suicide Squad had the potential to be 2016's Mad Max: Fury Road, where the director had a million and one crazy ideas bursting from his noggin that he just barely managed to jam into one movie; that's what the idea behind this film lent itself to, and that's what the advertising brought me to expect. However, it isn't quite that movie.

In fact, not much happens in Suicide Squad, when you take a step back. The actual story doesn't get moving for the first third of the movie, which is dedicated to introducing us to all of the characters. The introductions mostly stick to showing instead of telling, which is a smart move, but it they still don't show us a story, and they can't conceal the major pacing issues that this film has. Because when it comes down to it, nothing happens for the first third of the movie, save for the introductions. While those introductions are fun, they postpone the fun premise of the film that you paid to see. When Suicide Squad finally gets its titular group together, it feels like the story only lasts for two acts. They get together, go up against the bad guys, and don't come across too many challenges. The action isn't as interesting as other superhero movies, and especially not as inspired and adrenaline-pumped as Fury Road. The story can basically be summed up as "Suicide Squad fights minions until they meet the Big Bad." There aren't too many interesting challenges or twists along the way. It's unfortunate, because I wanted to see the director do everything that could possibly be done with a villainous group like this, and he only showed us some of the things that can happen when you assemble a group like the Suicide Squad.

With all that having been said, there are many upsides to this film. The characters are enjoyable, and as someone who has read the comics, I feel that they were pretty loyal to these characters. Harley Quinn could have been a little more insane, but insanity is hard to write and she still felt like Harley Quinn. Floyd Lawton (Deadshot) felt just like the character that I know from the comics, and Captain Boomerang was the fun little trouble-maker that I've come to love. I loved El Diablo from the comics, and I loved seeing him come to life in this movie. The one who shines the most is Amanda Waller, who is exactly who she's supposed to be, and Viola Davis should be proud of her performance. There were other characters who didn't get as fleshed out, but they're still loyal to their comic-book origins. Perhaps the one area where some might complain is with the Joker, who seemed a little too sane, and whose character was defined mainly by his relationship with Harley Quinn. However, I give the film a pass here, because he wasn't in this film in order to showcase the things that make him the Joker, but rather to showcase the things that make Harley Quinn who she is, and he succeeded. I'm sure that in future films, when he's given the freedom to be the main star and exist for his own sake (and Batman's), you'll see a far more definitive version of the Joker, and his insanity will really shine through.

From what I hear, many people have been entertained by this film, which is good. I won't deny that it's entertaining, or that it's unique. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near as entertaining or as unique as it ought to have been, at least by my estimation. That won't stop me from recommending the film to the curious moviegoer, though. If you're interested in this film and want to watch something villain-centric, go ahead and give Suicide Squad a go.

Oh, and one last thing: stay afterward when the credits start rolling. DC caved and started mimicking Marvel by including a mid-credits sequence.



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The LEGO Movie Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Bionicle, Movies, Reviews Feb 14 2014 · 474 views
LEGOs, username change

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:kaukau: The LEGO Movie turned out to be what I wanted it to be, which is good.  The problem is, how to I begin to explain what my hopes for this film were?  Well first, I certainly wanted something that felt definitive, something that wasn't just a LEGO movie but The LEGO Movie.  It fit the part by having a good story that expertly mixed together a dramatic narrative with plenty of comic relief.  And trust me, there was plenty of comic relief.  There were so many jokes in this movie I would have to watch it twice in order to catch them all.  The dramatic element, meanwhile, intimately incorporated the nature of LEGOs into its character.  This isn't a movie with a bunch of LEGO jokes and gimmicks but an overarching plot that could have otherwise been unrelated to LEGOs.  This is a movie with LEGOs that's about LEGOs.  There is simply no other way that this film could have been made.
 
The beginning of the movie, meanwhile, was a strong note.  The villain gains control of a mysterious device from Wizard Freeman.  Whatever it is, it's powerful and could only possibly be used for evil, and it's called the Kragle.  You know I smiled at that.
 
But that's not the strong note, even though I personally loved the name of the doomsday device.  What I loved was that the opening of the movie made use of giant LEGO sets and made a complex LEGO city filled with movement.  Not only was it visually splendid, but it had a great way of establishing the feel of the universe and the way things worked.  There were countless things going on, enough to make me think that this was indeed the LEGO Movie, the one where they pulled out all their guns and did everything that could ever possibly be done with LEGOs.  The smartest thing about all this, though, was that it was also all put to a theme song.
 

 
Having an establishing sequence set to a song that defines the theme of the movie is a staple of classic movie making, which shows that the makers at LEGO decided to use all their tricks.  The great thing about this song is that it also works as a great description of what LEGO is all about, without necessarily being about LEGOs, sort of like how "When You Wish Upon a Star" works as the official theme for Disney.  It's also catchy enough that I think I could play it for five hours straight.
 
As I said before, this movie is visually amazing, incredibly clever at every turn, uses every single LEGO-related joke and story element you can imagine, and also includes a pretty great reference to BIONICLE to keep us at BZPower happy.  Even the references to things non-LEGO are pretty good and done to far better effect than in movies like Shrek.  I genuinely think that they put everything they could into this movie, and made LEGOs a strong enough theme for a story, that it works well on the big screen.  In fact, I think that this was made for the big screen, and seeing it later on VHS DVD/Blue-Ray would be a cause for regret.  The end credits suggest as much when some of their credits feature LEGO versions of those popcorn bags that you get at the theatres and poor butter on.  So take my advice and see this before it goes onto the small screen.  Especially since you're reading this on BZPower and that obviously makes you a fan of LEGOs.
 
To put it another way, everything in this movie is awesome.
 

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Signing out from the movies!

 
 
In need of a new signature because of this,
The KRAGGHLE!


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The Last Starfighter review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Dec 30 2013 · 201 views
science fiction, 80s

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:kaukau: May I introduce you to the second-ever "photorealistic" use of computer generated environments put to film, right after Disney's TRON.  Made in 1984, it's far from realistic by our standards and doesn't even measure up to the expectations we have for a cheap video game these days, but somehow I would say that the effects have aged well.  Part of the reason, I think, is that they don't have that manufactures feel about them, and the look of the film somehow shows that it was lovingly put together.  This was before "special effects" was just a synonym for "CGI," and the director took a genuine risk making this film the way he did.
 
Personally, I think that this all could have been done without computer-generated-imagery.  I would have preferred that look, especially today.  As it stands, it looks like an old video game, but there's something fitting about that.  Unless you're been living under a rock, the premise of this film is that the main character, Alex Rogan, gets recruited to be a starfighter for an alien race known as the Rylons after getting a high score in an arcade game simulating the starfighter experience.  Since the video game was an integral part of the movie's premise, it makes it more forgivable that the digitally rendered ships should look like they came from an old 90's video game, and it gives it a certain fantasy look that has never really been done in any movie since.  It feels like it's neither practical effects nor computer effects, even though it is the latter, since it's a look I have yet to see again.  In any case, I find it easier to suspend my disbelief for something like this than for a lot of CG today that makes me want to closely analyse it for faults.
 
Regarding the story, it uses some science fiction cliches, including names like Xur and Xandoxans, the Ko-Dan Empire, Rylos, and an lovable con-man named Centauri.  If you are in the mood for something that takes a queue from Flash Gordon, add this to your things to watch.  Of course, it inevitably ends up with a number of similarities to Star Wars that it has rightfully been called a Star Wars ripoff, but "the best one."  That is to say, director Nick Castle was aware that this could easily turn out like Star Wars and tried his hardest to make it different, only to find out that George Lucas really knew what he was doing when he embraced universal archetypes that show up in just about any story, such as the reluctant hero with a modest rural background.  The director went from trying hard not to copy it to accepting any similarities that came up.  As much as he can, he does try to make this his own thing, hence, "it's a Star Wars ripoff, but the best one."
 
Alex Ross was initially also intended to come from a suburb, but Castle felt that this was too "Spielbergian."  That's another thing that Nick Castle had to fight against, and ultimately failed to do.  However, being similar to the best of the best isn't too bad, since at the end of the day it's pretty fun.  Had this been a story meant to cash in on those successes, that would be a problem, but this was a very well-intentioned movie that really just wanted to provide people with a charming, escapist fantasy that all of us have in one form or other.
 
Regarding that non-Spielbergian background, though, that was supposed to be a suburb but turned into a trailer park: I'm glad they did that.  It's a setting I've really never seen in a movie before, and it felt very real to me, in spite of the slightly unrealistic elements they through in there to advance the fantasy.  It hit a chord with me, and it was a pleasure to watch the characters in their home environment.  I think part of that is because watching neighborhoods with a distinct identity and self-comfort automatically feel familiar, and few stories call for such a cultured illustration of home life.  The mountain scenery in the backdrop of the trailer park was also stunning, which cetainly helped with the feel for this modest trailer park.  Overall, it created a distinct atmosphere that was uniquely American and definitely from the 80's.  So 80's.  Considering that this was actually made in the 80's instead of being a period piece, this means that this is an authentic souvenir of that time period, making it pretty cool to watch.
 
The fantasy, however, was far less complete.  I loved everything having to do with Alex's home life before his fantasy began, since it was set up so well, but the adventure ended fairly fast, and there were obvious loose ends to tie up.  it reminds me very much of Star Wars Episode IV, what with Darth Vader escaping, the empire remaining in power, and Luke Skywalker merely beginning his quest as a hero of the Rebel Alliance.  This movie needed a sequel that never came.
 
The reason why the fantasy works is because of a character known as Beta.  if you haven't seen the film, I'll explain this in a roundabout way.  There are two storylines going on in the film, both following characters played by Lance Guest.  One of them is Alex Rogan, and the other is someone named Beta.  The latter character is fun and funny, and also shows that Guest had to be a flexible enough of an actor in order to be in this film.  I personally think that Guest was perfectly cast, and he brought a lot of charm to both the roles, the all-American boy charm to the one and the humorous charm that came with the other.  I like Beta, and he was probably the selling point of the whole film.  He allowed me to switch from the fantasy to the home environment that seemed rather captivating and, being an alien to trailer park, equally as much a fantasy.  There's really two stories here, one of a mundane character adopting to a fantastic world and one of a fantastic character adopting to a mundane world.  I think that it makes this experience just unique enough, and gives it just enough heart, that it can be watched repeatedly.
 
By the way, in the last five years there has been talk of making a sequel.  I personally feel it should likewise be lighthearted, and wait until a third installment before going for a major tone shift.
 

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Adam West Batman Movie review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Dec 28 2013 · 307 views
Batman, Nananananananana and 1 more...

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:kaukau: "Jingle bells, Batman smells!  Robin laid an egg!  The Batmobile lost a wheel..."  These lyrics and and Adam West were the first impression I ever had of Batman growing up.  I do remember the movie series that started with Michael Keaton and the animated series, which was ironically the most serious of these incarnations of the character, but my real indroduction to Batman was through the Adam West television show.  The character was fun and I never tried to take him too seriously, so Batman Begins rdefined that world for me a little.  This, however, will always be my first Batman.  It is tied with Batman Begins as the best Batman movie ever, perhaps even exceeding it in its excellence.
 
That satirical song about Batman will always have a special place in my heart.  I remember learning the first couple of lines during a swim meet, the rest from the first, best friend I ever had.  "Batman's in the hall — peeing on the wall."
 
Goodness, I'm getting nostalgic tingles just thinking about it.
 
Anyway, the movie doesn't take itself seriously at all.  Everything about it is silly.  You know exactly what I'm talking about: the wham's and the zook's appearing comic-book style during the climactic fight scenes, gadgets both bizarre and mundane all bearing the prefix "bat", and bat-logic that bears no resemblance to reality whatsoever.  The producers knew exactly what they were going for, and it's something that not enough of Hollywood appreciates at the moment.  According to their opening: 
 
"ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: We wish to express our gratitude to the enemies of crime and crusaders against crime throughout the world for their inspirational example.  To them, and to lovers of adventure, to lovers of pure escapism, lovers of unadulterated entertainment, lovers of the ridiculous and the bizarre --- to funlovers everywhere --- this film is respectful dedicated. [spotlight passes by a couple passionately kissing]  If we have overlooked any other sizable groups of lovers, we apologize.  The Producers"
 
There you have it.  The film reviewed itself.  If you are one of these people, go ahead and watch this film.
 

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Me

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Username: Jean Valjean
Real name: N/A
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Heritage: Half Dutch, 25% Hungarian, 12.5% Swedish, 6.25% German and Irish
Physical description: Looks like the eleventh Doctor
Favorite food: Chicken, turkey, and beef.
Least favorite food: Vegetables of any kind
Favorite band: Queen
Favorite singer: Billy Joel
Favorite song: American Pie
Favorite movie: Schindler's List
Favorite TV show: Smallville & Arthur the Friendly Aardvark
Favorite play: Les Miserables
Favorite color: Silver
Second favorite color: Brown
Favorite board game: Risk
Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Lucky Number: 53
Past-times: Writing, reading, politics, drawing
Political party: Republican
Religion: Christian
Language: Not English, but American.

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