Quick Movie Review: Sin City (2005)

Extremely engaging and technically stunning, Sin City encapsulates you in its world and, when it’s over, makes you glad that it was all just a dream. Some may wonder if the film would still be as entertaining if it weren’t for the attractive visuals. But for me, as great as it looked, it was still the stories that I was enthralled by the most. Nonetheless, i couldn’t stop watching, and when the stories all tied in at the end I was overwhelmingly pleased. 

The script is so deliberate and moves effortlessly throughout the well-paced story. And the direction is so well orchestrated as well. The performances are hit or miss, but all work for each respective character. While I’m not terribly partial to the shock-value stuff that Rodriguez is so well known for, I was able to see past it since the narrative was so captivating.

Although too graphic for many, Sin City immerses you in its fiction and demands your attention as you never see what it has in store for you around the corner.

Twizard Rating: 96

Quick Movie Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

The Expendables series would be like if Sylvester Stallone invited you to a party that he has every so often at his house. You want to go because you know it’s gonna be like a who’s who of action stars there. However, you have to drive 2 hours and 6 minutes to get there, and when you arrive there’s no music and no drinks–just everyone standing around watching these action stars talk to each other. In the moment it’s great and you can’t believe that you’re there experiencing all of that. You listen to their stories, and laugh as they poke fun at each other. But after it’s all over, you realize that you didn’t talk to a single one of them. You didn’t even take any pictures. You’re not sure if you’ll remember anything that happened other than the fact that you were there and they were there. Nonetheless, it was still pretty cool when you think back on it.

If you’re a fan of 80s and 90s action films, you will enjoy yourself here. But when it comes down to it, it’s just not a great movie. We come to see all of these huge names in one film, and leave wanting them all to be used a little better. The script is bad and the acting is mediocre, but it is entertaining nonetheless. It’s occasionally slow in the first hour or so–not including the enjoyable Wesley Snipes-focused 1st act. But we love how it keeps us laughing and continues to laugh at itself. 

While the acting is expectedly average, Mel Gibson steals the show. And the thing that this film does the most right is giving him a good amount of screen time. His character and Stallone’s character used to run together until there was some sort of betrayal or something (it wasn’t terribly clear). However, the script fails to let us feel that tension or to sense any deep-rooted emotions in order to give the drama between the two any significance. But let’s face it, the only reason why you sit through these films is to see all of these guys in one place–not for the stories. It’s the only thing that’s keeping it from getting a February release. 

Better than the first, but not as good as the second, The Expendables 3 is a great idea on paper. It could even be a great idea on the screen, but much of the plot is confused and meandering. What made the last one better was its dark tone and a sense of urgency in the premise. Throw in a nice twist towards the end and it satisfies the audience’s needs. In this one, nothing caught us by surprise and it seemed like there was more focus on cramming everyone into the film. If done right, it would have felt much more relaxed and natural. 

Overall, the pacing is frustratingly uneven and Wesley is underutilized, but The Expendables 3 never takes itself too seriously and that’s why we keep coming back.

Twizard Rating: 67

Quick Movie Review: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

Homeward Bound is a great movie about our love for our pets. It’s simple and to the point without becoming over-saturated with subplots and fluff. Although it’s a remake of the 1963 film, The Incredible Journey, the story still proves to be original after all these years. 
There’s not a whole lot to criticize here. I guess it’s somewhat annoying (if you pay attention) that the kid’s mom didn’t have any opinions or backbone whatsoever as she let her new husband (their stepdad) to call all the shots. After all, the film was about his growth as a character, but she just seemed to never have any emotion either way about what was happening with him and the kids. In general though, I didn’t have to be too nitpicky at all. Maybe just a little more emotion coming from Chance and Shadow when they think that Sassy dies.
It’s great how the filmmakers brought such depth and emotion to these animal characters and then juxtaposed it with the development of the stepdad’s character. It was young learning from old at the animals’ level, but old learning from young at the humans’ level. Very smart. 
But overall, your liking of this film will come down to whether or not you enjoyed it yourself.
Twizard Rating: 95

Quick Movie Review: The Giver (2014)

Having never read the book, I can’t give you a comparison–I apologize. However, I was encapsulated by this film. 

Beautifully filmed, The Giver is not as familiar as we think. It’s based on a novel written in 1993–twelve years before Blake Snyder’s beat sheet formula. And although, from what I heard, it’s not exactly like the novel, there’s only so much of the plot that you can leave out in order to make it formulaic. The themes are brilliant and thought-provoking. It shows us two aspects of “ancient” humanity–the good and the bad. But while the audience will want this new society to change back, they won’t do it without considering what bad we have done as well. Very deep stuff.

But with that said, there are a couple of things that could have been done differently. For instance, it could have been a little longer. The setup is rushed. Instead of showing more insight into the world in which they live in, it got to the action too quickly. They should have explained things more and get us to really understand it as though we were in that universe too. The rushing also deprived us of developing the characters as much as it could have. The betrayals and heartbreaks would feel even more hurtful. I mean, the pacing did move quickly to keep it interesting, but I wouldn’t have complained if they wanted to immerse us more into the film universe. 

The acting was so-so. Bridges and Streep were great. And so is Brenton Thwaites (Jonas). However, Odeya Rush’s character, Fiona, felt uninspired at times. Her actions pre-wisdom didn’t seem convincing enough and therefore wasn’t as much of a dramatic shift in character when she stopped taking her vaccines.

But the film didn’t exploit the love story as much as it could have. And although it seemed like they wanted to at times, it found a happy medium. 

Overall, it succeeded at getting its message across and stuck to it the whole time without trying to include any subplots. The concept and themes are undoubtedly sincere and meaningful. And the script didn’t pose any real disconcerting questions to the audience either. All it left me wondering about was what else was out there beyond the border. The thing that separates it from the political and social statements that similar films have made is that it taps into a concept that is not only relevant now, but always will be. And then it leaves us hanging. It doesn’t show us how the rest of the community responds to this “gift” of knowledge. Which leaves us to wonder if this will all be for the better or if humanity will fall back into its own ways. 

Twizard Rating: 89

Quick Movie Review: Beethoven’s 2nd (1993)

I actually really enjoy this movie. Despite the fact that the script is pretty terrible and has tons of holes–way more than the first–the villains motives are way clearer and logical, and this followup has some nice overlaying themes.

Love is in the air in Beethoven’s 2nd and there are hints of it all over this film and in all sorts of different ways. Ryce is torn between two guys, Beethoven finds a misses and has puppies, Missy’s owner is going through a divorce, and Mr. and Mrs. Newton’s love endures through all of their financial difficulties. 

But just like the first film, there is no character depth and even less development and growth. There is no threatening drama within the family besides the fact that the kids are hiding puppies. But that gets resolved swiftly within the first half of the movie. The pacing moves nicely through this film and the balance between the main plot and the subplots were smoother and less uneven than its predecessor. 

My favorite parts of this film besides the puppies were the scenes filmed in Glacier National Park. The scenery is beautiful and lush. And the scenes at the fair are going to be loved by any kid watching this film. 

Although the script poses tons of questions in this silly and unrealistic movie, Beethoven’s 2nd is entertaining and laughably enjoyable. Toss in Chris Penn and it ups the ante. I would definitely watch this again. 

Twizard Rating: 81

Quick Movie Review: Guys and Dolls (1955)

I may be biased about this film as I was in a production of it 7 years ago where I met my current girlfriend and future wife (sounds familiar after watching this film). But this is the film and I tried my hardest not to compare it to the stage musical. I have to say I was impressed. 

The script holds up incredibly well. The comedy is all still laughable and not as dated as per usual of films from this era. At times it felt very scripted, but that’s just the style of the time period and the genre. 
And it’s interesting that the main synopsis of the film is actually the B plot. As the movie is really about guys and dolls–as simple as that sounds–it’s ingeniously disguised as a film showing a glimpse of the world of underground gambling. And the music goes beautifully with what the main themes of the story are. Even one of the gambling songs (Luck Be A Lady) begs for monogamy from a supernatural force.

The performances of all four lead were great too! Although I’m pretty sure I caught Frankie acting on a couple lines. But I’ll let it slide since he was very convincing otherwise. And the characters may not have been as deep as can be, but they were very well defined–which is the least you can expect from a musical comedy.

The only thing that I would do differently would be for Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown to not get married at the end with Nathan and Adelaide. It takes away from their moment a little bit, and it doesn’t make much sense why Sarah wouldn’t get married in a church since she is a holy roller after all. They should have showed them getting engaged or something like that instead.

Overall, Guys and Dolls is silly and fun and a quick two and a half hours of your time! I definitely recommend a watch!

Twizard Rating: 97

Quick Movie Review: Beethoven (1992)

This is the type of movie that would have had to be made in the ’90s. There would be no business for it nowadays when non-animated family movies pretty much suck, and even the ones that don’t aren’t dated enough to make us appreciate them. Films are too perfect now. No more leeways in scripts or silly phrases here and there. I miss the good ole days. But I digress. 

Beethoven was good for someone like me who grew up with it. If you were 40 years old when this film came out, then chances are you’re not going to appreciate it besides the fact that your kids enjoy it or that the dog is cute.

The dad is the only character with any depth or development here in the sense that it’s mostly about his relationship with Beethoven and growth when it comes to accepting him. The wife and kids love the dog from the start and there’s no situation that ever threatens that. But this causes for the dad’s actions to be all the more dramatic, although it doesn’t make much sense why the he wouldn’t consult with his wife before taking Beethoven to be put to sleep. His character’s actions tend to be inconsistent and frustratingly unpredictable. The villain’s motives are unclear and, from what I gathered, ridiculous reasons to go on a dognapping spree. I did, however, appreciate some of the director’s attention to detail. The questions I had weren’t his fault, but the screenplay’s. Certain situations were forced into the script in order to execute the desired results more conveniently. 

The script, although porous at times, can be very clever and acerbic, so I’m giving in points for that. John Hughes did pen it after all. The 3rd act includes a killer action sequence all dressed up in ’90s flair.

Overall, Beethoven is a good feel-good family film and a great children’s movie. Watch it with your kids!

Twizard Rating: 80

Quick Movie Review: Let’s Be Cops (2014)

I have been looking forward to this film coming out since I first saw the red band trailer back in March. I’ve watched the trailer over and over again and laughed so hard every time. I was nervous that it would be one of those situations where all of the funniest parts were in the trailer, but to my pleasant surprise it lived up to my expectations and was hilarious all the way through! This is my kind of movie–ridiculous “what if” premise followed by a fun adventure of a movie.

Most people will be trying to compare this film to the Jump Street films. I liked it better than 22 Jump Street, and is probably on par with the first installment. And even though the pacing in this film moves along nicely, some viewers may have issues with the uneven tonal balance between the comedy and drama. Although the first 2/3 of the film were pretty well balanced (much like Jump Street), the tonal shifts became slightly jarring during much of the late 2nd and early 3rd act. But the film stuck with it and made it work. It wasn’t so light (like Jump Street) that you didn’t get nervous about the fate of the protagonists. In this film, you actually thought that they might get killed or arrested. 

I think that most people’s issue with this film lies within the fact that it’s not formulaic. They want a full-fledged story that the film is committed to from beginning to end, instead of showing a series of events happening from a “what-if” scenario and then adding in a plot half way through that some may have felt was forced upon it. But honestly, this is how it would have really happened–fun at first with no consequences popping up, and then all of a sudden everything comes together and your life is at stake.

Although completely entertaining, this film doesn’t come without flaws. I wasn’t a huge fan of the direction by Luke Greenfield. Some of his decisions left me scratching my head and coming up with better ways of doing it myself. This, combined with a porous script, had me asking questions throughout the movie. Like, how did the bad guys not see Justin’s red van parked outside of their headquarters (100 yards away) as they pulled up? And why were Justing and Ryan taking–not whispering–when Mossi (the antagonist) was looking for them in the money room? He should have found them within seconds. And why did they take their time when going to get weapons to help Officer Segars when he needed backup? And why did Officer Segars go by himself without backup when showing up at the building where he was told was the bad guys’ headquarters? This seemed to be a detail that was inserted in order to create the end result that they wanted. It felt like a forced circumstance. There were one or two more, but none of them were too distracting as long as I reminded myself that it’s still a comedy. Greenfield is lucky that he had such a talented cast with great chemistry. And although the script and the direction wasn’t exactly where they could have been, I applaud this film for not taking predictable routes, even though there were a few times when it could have.

I know that it was probably started out as a fun concept that was turned into a full feature film, but I think that you will find it entertaining as long as you put your critic book down and just enjoy it. Who’s to say that a flawed movie can’t be thoroughly enjoyable? It may have its faults, but it’s the exact film that I asked for when I first saw that trailer 5 months ago.

Twizard Rating: 86

Quick Movie Review: Heart and Souls (1993)

I think I have found my first lost gem of 1993. This film was simply amazing. Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic in this movie, which perfectly balances genuine laughs with emotional tears. It makes you cry without ever being depressing. It may be too sappy for some, but I think that most will be very entertained. It’s so much fun that you don’t want it to end.
Heart and Souls provides us with a unique twist on a familiar story. It’s anything but formulaic as there are two 2nd acts and a new climax is reached each time one of the ghosts “concludes” their life. All of this followed by one big ending that you don’t really see coming. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t come without some predictability, but it never nears annoyance. Initially I thought that the 1st act was a little rushed and didn’t give enough background to the characters, but as the movie progressed I saw how the filmmakers utilized the rest of the movie to develop the characters and give them depth. And perhaps they wanted to keep it light and felt that if they were too developed early on that the audience would become too upset when they all die in the bus accident 10 minutes into the movie. I also applaud the script for not overly explaining things for the audience. It kept it very free-flowing.
There are some great comedy scenes here too. It’s a silly movie and it even comedically acknowledges the fact that it waited so long to have Thomas (Downey Jr.) help the ghosts out with their unfinished business. And Thomas (as Harrison) belting out the National Anthem before an audience waiting for B.B. King to come on stage is a classic scene. 
Ron Underwood’s direction is on point, and Shaiman’s sweeping score fits perfectly with the tone of this movie.
My only criticism is that it didn’t address the fact that Thomas was still mad at the ghosts for leaving him when he was a child. His resentment was never clearly resolved with his invisible friends. But this is a minor complaint compared to how much joy this movie has brought to me.
People will either love it or hate it. It may have been forgotten about since 1993 but I think if people started watching it now, they’d realize that this is a nice treasure waiting to be rediscovered. It holds up well and should be considered a classic by today’s standards.
Twizard Rating: 96

Quick Movie Review: Addams Family Values (1993)

With a less convoluted script and funnier circumstances, Addams Family Values can move beyond one liners and bring the family and their weirdness into the real world. It brings the tone and feel that everyone loved from the first one and creates a more compelling story around it.

We get to see a little more depth here too as we look further into Gomez and Fester’s relationship, explore Fester’s deep rooted issues, and we watch Wednesday fall in love. This is huge for the Addam’s family, who come across as what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of people.

However, the script didn’t come without a few flaws. Questions like, why would it take Debbie so many tries to kill Fester if she just killed all of her ex-husbands with an axe–why didn’t she try the axe with him? And if electrocuting Fester didn’t work the first time, then why did she try it again at the end for her ultimate murder attempt? And I know this is nitpicky, but why didn’t Wednesday and Pugsley just stop putting the VHS tapes into the VCR when they were being “tortured” on punishment at the summer camp, instead of continuing to watch more and more?

But all that aside, this film is highly enjoyable, clever, and laugh-out-loud funny. There aren’t a lot of movies in the history of cinema that can parallel the type of humor presented throughout the Addams Family duology, which makes these films all the more unique and important.

Twizard Rating: 90