Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Just a Quickie Please: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

As a Tolkien fan, this review will hurt me far more than it will you.  And I am sure to definitively ruffle some Eagle feathers in the process.  To put it as gently but honestly as I can, compared to their LOTR predecessors all three of these films fall quite short.  First, and most obvious to everyone with a "halfling" of a brain, is that the material was simply stretched too thin.  When that occurs, naturally both quality of story and character suffers greatly.   For me, unlike the first trilogy, the characters never make a solid connection with the audience.  And the fault wasn't so much that the acting was sub-par.  Rather their on-screen counterparts just seemed to lack the same endearing qualities and affections, feeling almost stale, two-dimensional, strangely resembling the same experience I had while watching the Star Wars prequels.  Only Freeman stands out, wondrously salvaging his incarnation of Bilbo. While the normally remarkable McKellen's trademark Gandalf does the exact opposite, seeming barely lucid, almost bored.  Second, they just tried to hard with this final outing, throwing everything and the kitchen sink into its matrix,   More time and energy was spent on the battle sequences than anything else.  That would make sense based on the title, however, the CGI is so heavy, that the action blends together, sacrificing clarity for massive quantity.  Thereby making it difficult to discern and appreciate the sweep and scope of the scenes.  Lastly, Smaug unmistakably gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop when it comes to his big scene.  I will say no more to avoid spoilers, but if you don't walk away disappointed, you might be drinking too much of the Jackson Kool-Aid. In the end, the entirety of the feature simply felt forced.  As if it was something that had to be done, going for broke, as opposed to the patience, passion, and energy of the Rings series.   Add into that an over abuse of slow mo' strikes and kills, an almost silly amount of bad guy pauses before they get their comeuppance, and absolute overuse of the "gotta kill the baddies three times cliche," and what you end up with is a discouraging, disheartening farewell to Middle Earth on the silver screen.  2 out of 3 Kernels: I know, the truth sometimes hurts but this one truly Stings!!!!  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Just a Quickie Please: Brick Mansions Review

This is the wrong title for this film.  It should have been aptly named the House of Cards.  Why? Because this stale, exhausting flick quickly and easily collapses under even the slightest intellectual breeze with its ill conceived, trite plot, goofy characters, and ridiculous morality.  Not to mention the nauseatingly over indulgent slow motion sequences, that one can only imagine were designed to promote the sheer overdose of annoyingly repetitive parkour.  To which this film seems to be a poorly written and acted, wearisome 91 minute promotional spot for.   Think Fast and the Furious light as it contains only about 30 minutes of car chases.  The remaining hour treats the audience to the most contrite dialogue, unrealistic action fare, that is laughable instead of exciting, and the worst stereotypical manifestations I have ever had the displeasure to sit through.  Finish that off with a head scratching storyline that somehow manages to justify kidnapping, drug possession and distribution, potential rape, gangland violence, and murder with a nonsensically moronic ending.  It literally sets a new idiotic low in uber liberal ideology.  This is director Delamarre's first major movie outing and I would hope her last.  Franchises like the Fast and Furious play to the lowest cinematic denominator. Those who will eagerly forgo the quality of script and characters to fulfill their need for over the top FX, impossible car stunts, and ludicrous action sequences that resemble a "method out" version of  Cirque du Soleil.  This farce emphatically joins that sorry fray.  If I could give a negative number, I would ecstatically do so.  0 out of 5 Kernels: to even write this review already lends to much credibility to this celluloid travesty.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Just a Quickie Please: Hercules (2014 starring Dwayne Johnson) Review

This is the second or third incarnation of the Greek demi-god's tale. Anyway, I've lost count at this point, partly out of sheer boredom.  The latest outing stars the immense talent and on-screen presence of professional wrestler turned actor, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.   Please note that I saturate the prior sentence with such a tsunami of sarcasm that Poseidon himself would be proud.   However, before I wax too cynical, I have to admit, ashamedly so, that this inception is the most unique and interesting take on the done to Hades tale.  Get it, done to Hades, instead of death, Greek pun, never-mind.   Replacing all of the mythology with a more realistic perspective, calling out the legend as the hapless misconceptions, frustrated imaginations, and superstitious paranoia that drove the philosophies and pluralism of primitive culture.  But that is where the half-hearted praise ends and aspirations come crashing down.  So let's have at it, shall we?  The acting is stale, characters routine and predictable, with special effects unremarkable for such a big budget fiasco, and anticlimactic battle sequences that border on humdrum.   Johnson's pull and desirability as a leading action star escape me, as much of a mystery as Atlantis's location or Homer's riddles.  Ha, more Greek references, at least I amuse myself.  The remaining cast, although hovering slightly above the B List, like the wayward Icarus, offer zero depth or attraction to their singularly dimensional cinematic identities.  So, even with a script crafted with the best intentions, any and all possibility of achievement quickly melts away in the brilliance of this cast's abject failure,  1 out of 5 Kernels: A for effort in redefining the mythos, F in execution.  Not even the iconic strength of the mighty Olympian offspring could not have saved this farce from collapsing in on itself.  

Just a Quickie Please: Chef Review

Favreau pulls double duty for this indie comedy flick as both leading man and man in charge and does so with remarkable effortlessness and with artistic brilliance.  This is such an Oscar nod that the statuesque golden boy looks more like an extravagant bobble-head doll.   The cast is lusciously exquisite,  a masterfully eclectic ensemble.  It wondrously radiates with the talents of the oft ostentatious Vergara, uniquely quirky, irreverently genuine Lequizamo, subtly poignant Pratt, and finally rounding out with the stellar, inspirited performance of newcomer Emjay Anthony.  This savory feature plays more like warm, lively conversation bantered about during a delectable meal among the grand company of dear friends rather than a mere cinematic escape.  Look for three absolutely delicious cameos from two Iron Man alumni; Johansson and a the decadently douche-baggy Downey, and an aggravatingly overbearing Hoffman.   Favreau has now bested both skillfully crafted low budget chimera and bombastic blockbuster, a feat the rare can boast, let alone aspire to.  4 out of 5 Kernels: Big Jon has discovered the recipe for cinematic success, let's just hope he continues to delve out piquant generous servings of it.    

Monday, December 8, 2014

Just a Quickie Please: The Fault in Our Stars Review

Rarely have I seen a film that so authentically depicts the depth and raw emotion of the battle with mortality that we call Cancer.    Especially if it is packaged  in the wrappings of a sappy "tween" romance and equally hyped as such.  Talk about the quintessential cinematic shell game.   Fairly unknown director Josh Boone captures the frightening oft tragic roller-coaster ride that this disease ensnares its victims on.  Crafting this feature with a genuine, definitively captivating story, and utterly engaging performances that make an unmistakable heartfelt and heartbreaking connection with the audience.  I have never read the book.  But I have to believe that this incarnation, being so absolutely thought-provoking, gut-wrenching, and thoroughly endearing, does its literary Didymus undeniable justice.   Woodley's performance is inspired, unmercifully convincing, enhanced only by co-star Elgort's relentlessly charming, nearly mesmerizing support. The remaining ensemble is uniformly as fantastic and flawless.   If you have suffered the loss, or losses, of loved ones to this living torment or shared their triumph in remission, this video venture will tug at all heartstrings, haunt each memory, and touch on every emotion. Warning; the toughest of skins will fare as well as if stung by frostbite if one thinks he or she can turn a tearied eye away from the screen for even a fraction of a second.   4 out of 5 Kernels:  with all due respect to the 80's Hollywood giant, somewhere John Hughes just realized what his films might look like if they contained viable, vehement quality and focus, other than generic teen angst, without sacrificing entertainment value. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

21st Annual RenFaire

Just spent the day today at the 21st annual RenFaire with some of my dearest friends and family to celebrate my 43rd birthday. This is the first time in 20 plus years that I actually had a by invitation event. I want to thank everyone for making the day so very special, especially my wife, who for the very first time, dressed accordingly for the occasion. And what a beautiful Elven archer she is. Plus, my two children dressed as Avengers, Jessica as Black Widow and William as Captain America, and nothing could make this eternal fan-boy a more proud papa! My costume, authentic as it was, was a year in the making, fashioned after a character from one of my future novels. A labor of love for me, not so much for my wife, but I adore her for all of her patience and understanding. This day will be a memory that I will forever cherish. Truly blessed as always!