Sunday, May 12, 2013

Movie review: The Other Guys

The Other Guys (2010)
Netflix streaming
Rating: 2.5/5

I wasn't all that impressed with this movie. I had heard that it was pretty funny, and it's from the same director (Adam McKay) of movies such as Anchorman and Talladega Nights, so I was expecting it to be pretty humorous. But there were only a few scenes that I found myself briefly laughing. It was pretty disappointing. Most of what McKay does is usually hilarious. Mostly because he has found a formula for his comedies that he has been able to make work. Of course, the downside of that is that most of his movies have started to all feel the same. That might be due in large part to the fact that Will Ferrell usually plays the lead role...and that role is usually practically the same character. The first few movies that Ferrell played such a character, it was hilarious. But the more that he plays that role, the more it starts to just feel annoying and like it's the same thing I've seen time and time again. In The Other Guys, Will Ferrell's character did start out as somewhat more of the straight man...but there was enough of a presence of his "zany" character to begin with that it never really felt right. Then, as the movie went on and he got zanier and zanier, it just felt like "ugh...not this again." I did think, however, that Mark Wahlberg did a great job. He is a much funnier actor than what some people might give him credit for.

As you could probably guess from my review so far, my recommendation is: pass. It wasn't entirely unpleasant to watch, but I wouldn't have been missing out on anything if I had never seen it. If you are wanting to see a McKay/Ferrell movie, I say just stick to either Anchorman or Talladega Nights.  Even if you've already seen them, I think you'd have a better time re-watching them than you would watching The Other Guys. If you are wanting a movie where Ferrell isn't playing that same type of character, I'd say go with Stranger Than Fiction. And if you are wanting Wahlberg in a comedic role, go for I Heart Huckabees.

This is a re-post of a brief review I did on my other blog, before starting Gargyle Reviews.  I have made a few grammatical changes, but the content of the review has not changed.  There are two other reviews (Thor and Inception) from my other blog that I will eventually be posting here.  I enjoyed both of those movies, and I do recommend watching them.  Before re-posting the reviews, however, I am going to watch the extras on the DVD/Blu-Rays and include that into my reviews.  Will my recommendation stay with just a "rent," or will either of them be upgraded to a "buy"??  Be sure to check back here to find out.

Be sure to follow me here and check back soon for more reviews and recommendations.  In the meantime, comment on this (or any other) review, and follow me on twitter @GargyleReviews


Saturday, May 4, 2013

May the 4th be with you...

image from
Happy Star Wars Day everyone!!

Like most like-minded geeks, I will undoubtedly be watching at least one Star Wars movie tonight.  We can all go ahead and rule out Episode I: The Phantom Menace though...I don't think anyone is going to be watching that today.  As is usually the case with most geek-themed "holidays," most of the people who already know about Star Wars Day are people who already have some way to celebrate it - whether it's as minor as posting a Star Wars themed status on Facebook, or as detailed as dressing in full costume and attending conventions or acting out your favorite scenes.  Conversely, the people who couldn't care less about Star Wars are not going to be swayed into watching it by some random movie review.  In other words, if you are the type of person who is going to watch Star Wars, you do not need my recommendation.  And if you are not going to watch Star Wars, my recommendation is not going to change your mind.

So rather than providing a review tonight on any of the movies (I do plan to post reviews of each movie eventually), I am going to share some Star Wars themed videos that I enjoy.  These videos are in no particular order, and are only a small sampling of the videos available.  While none of these videos are actually from the movies, most of them do heavily reference the films.  So, despite the fact that these movies have been around for 30 years, and it is my assumption that the only people who are going to watch these videos are people who have already watched Star Wars countless times, I'm going to go ahead and give a general spoiler warning.  If you have not yet seen any of the Star Wars movies, these videos might contain spoilers.  If you haven't seen Star Wars before, and plan on watching them (all of them), I recommend watching, in this order, episodes IV, V, I, II, III, VI.  Also, some of the following clips do contain adult language.  So, if you are offended by swearing, or if you are watching these clips with your children, I will note which clips contain adult language ("al" will be next to the titles of those with adult language, in case you watch the videos before reading the text beneath them).  Ok...with spoiler and adult language warnings out of the way...on to the videos.  May the 4th be with you.

  • Robot Chicken:  Death Star Orientation

The Adult Swim stop-motion animation Robot Chicken has been parodying/mocking Star Wars since their first season.  As their Star Wars clips increased over the years, the eventually had enough clips for an entire episode dedicated to Star Wars.  In fact, at this point, I believe they have created three dedicated episodes.  While I recommend watching all of the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials, there are simply too many clips to choose from to post, and I would not be able to post the entire episodes.  So, I have chosen a more family friendly clip.  Not all of the clips are as family friendly though (some contain adult language, suggestive dialogue, and occasional nudity...all involving stop-motion animation).

  • Eddie Izzard:  Death Star Canteen (al)

Keeping with the stop-motion genre, this video is a fan-made animation using Lego Star Wars set to the audio of Eddie Izzard's bit about the Death Star canteen.  The animation is pretty choppy, and clearly not to the same caliber as Robot Chicken, but I am a tremendous fan of Eddie Izzard and his comedy is what really drives the video anyways.  This video does contain adult language.

  • Clerks:  Death Star contractors

If there is one thing that Star Wars fans love...well, it's watching Star Wars, obviously.  But, at a very close second, fans talk about Star Wars.  I am sure that every fan out there has had at least one conversation revolving around which of the movies was the best (again, a unanimous "NOT the Phantom Menace!").  I know that I have had that conversation more times than I like to admit.  But the beauty of this scene is that it captures the essence of most fan conversations of Star Wars...the ideas and consequences of the actions of the characters, not addressed by the movies.  If you have not had a conversation similar to this before (or have not referenced this conversation as evidence for your own point), I am sure that you will before too long.  While Clerks is certainly not family friendly, this clip is - there is surprisingly no swearing in this clip.

  • Saturday Night Live: Bill Murray's lounge singer sings Star Wars

This is a classic clip, so I am disappointed that I was not able to find an actual clip from the show.  Not only will this song be stuck in your head for the rest of the day, but you will probably not be able to hear the theme from Star Wars again without singing these words to yourself.  And that is not a bad thing.    

  • William Shatner sings "My Way" to George Lucas

Say what you will about whether or not it is a good thing that George Lucas has done so many things his way (re-releases, prequels, CGI, constant changes, inconsistencies, and so on...), but you cannot deny that doing things his way has made him money on the Scrooge McDuck level.  You also cannot deny that William Shatner is awesome.  Though, by the look on George Lucas's face during parts of the video, he is not as amused.  Let the Star Trek vs. Star Wars comments commence...

  • Star Wars - The Clone Wars: Darth Sidious battles Darth Maul and Savage Opress

In case you have not heard, Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been one of the casualties of Disney's acquisition of the Star Wars franchise.  While I am looking forward to the possible new directions of the franchise, I was saddened to hear about the loss of The Clone Wars.  Some of the story lines in the series have been less enjoyable than others.  But, overall, I thought that it was an enjoyable show.  In fact, I have enjoyed the show much more than I enjoyed the prequels.  I especially liked that some of the recent stories had been getting increasingly dark - mirroring Anakin's path towards the dark side.  The clip that I have chosen is from one of the more recent episodes.  So, if you have been watching the series, but have not yet seen this episode, you might want to skip this clip for now.

  • Belated Media: "What if Star Wars: Episode I was good?" (al)

Seriously, what if Episode I had been good?  Star Wars was the movie that started many on the path to geekdom.  We are all grateful for that, and Star Wars will always hold a special place in our hearts.  But for many, Episode I was the last straw.  They could deal with the re-releases.  They could deal with the bad CGI.  But they just couldn't deal with Episode I.  The Phantom Menace not only failed to capture young fans in the same way that the original films did, but it also caused some fans to turn away and never look back.  And the worst part is, Episode I could have been really good!  This video is a critique of Episode I, but more importantly it is a hypothetical story-line of how Episode I could have been good.  Really good.  This is the movie that should have been made.  Oh, and by the way, there is adult language in this video.

  • Parks and Recreation: Patton Oswalt's Star Wars filibuster

Speaking of hypothetical Star Wars plots, this recent clip of Patton Oswalt's proposed plot of the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII is brilliant.  Pure hilarious genius.  According to the video, Patton's rant was unscripted.  Having heard some of his other comedy bits about Star Wars and other various areas of geek culture, I totally believe that.  Plus, you can clearly see a couple background characters having a hard time keeping their composure.  Even though it is completely ridiculous, I would gladly see the movie he proposes.  Without giving too much away about the clip, there is a spoiler warning for The Avengers.  So, if you have not yet seen The Avengers, and somehow managed to completely avoid all discussion of the movie, and plan to see it before too long...then you might want to skip over this for now.  Patton's stand-up routine about the Star Wars prequels is not family-friendly, but this clip is.

  • Emerald City ComicCon: voice actors reading script of Star Wars (al)

Voice actors Billy West, Tara Strong, Maurice LaMarche, John DiMaggio, Kevin Conroy, Jess Harnell, and Rob Paulsen read the script of Star Wars..with some slight modifications.  They not only read in the voices of some of their famous characters (e.g. Bender, Brain, Yakko, Fry, Professor Farnsworth, and so, so, so many more), but also as impersonations of some well-known actors (Christoper Walken, William Shatner, Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby...just to name a few).  They do not read the entirety of the script...but this is the entire video.  It is over an hour long, but certainly well worth it!  Even though many of the voices are of beloved cartoon characters, there is some adult language.  So, while it might completely shatter a child's perception of some of their favorite characters (actually, just seeing real people do the voices of the cartoons might be enough to shatter their perceptions of their favorite characters), adults who grew up on the characters will probably find it as hilarious as I did.

So, there you have it.  A small collection of some of my favorite Star Wars themed videos on the web.  In case there is any question, I should note that I did not create any of these videos, and all of them were found via YouTube.  If there are any Star Wars themed videos that you enjoy that you feel should be added to the list, please attach them (or a link to them) in the comments below.  Let me know why you enjoy them.  And let others get the same enjoyment you have.

Until next time, may the 4th be with you.  Happy Star Wars Day everyone!!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Movie review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Netflix blu-ray
Rating:  2/5

Following the success of the X-Men trilogy (well, at least the success of the first two films), X-Men Origins: Wolverine gives a more in-depth look at the life of Logan and how he became the Wolverine.  I saw this movie several months ago (at this point, probably over a year ago), so this review is going to be a bit shorter (and probably more "bullet-point" style) as it is based primarily off of the notes I made for myself at the time, and not a more recent experience.  I would go back and re-watch it to be able to give a more recent review, but honestly, I do not want to sit through this movie again.  I had heard nothing but negative reviews about this film, so I wasn't expecting much out of it.  But still, I loved the first two X-Men movies (by Bryan Singer...not the third one, by Brett Ratner), and Wolverine has always been one of my favorite comic book characters.  So, despite the negative reviews, I still really wanted to see it.  Even though Brett Ratner did what he could to destroy the X-Men franchise, I still held out hope that maybe the origin stories would help to bring the franchise back to something worth watching again.  I was foolish to hope for such things.  There were some things about Wolverine that I did enjoy, but overall it left me frustratingly underwhelmed.  By the way, there will be spoilers in this review.  So if you are thinking about seeing Wolverine, skip down to the end to read my recommendation first.  If you still want to see it, then come back to my review after you've watched it and leave some comments.  But if you don't plan on seeing it, then read on.

Wolverine started out disappointing from the very beginning.  It begins with Logan (Wolverine) and Victor (Sabretooth) as children who experience a traumatic event.  I know that it can be difficult to find good child actors, but the kids at the beginning of Wolverine are not believable as mutants...and are barely believable as kids.  Following the opening scene, there is a montage during the opening credits of Logan and Victor fighting in various battles throughout history.  I understand the use of this montage to quickly explain that Logan and Victor are both very old, and very difficult to kill.  But it doesn't really do much for the character development of either.  And it does absolutely nothing to show the reasoning for the transformation of Victor/Sabretooth from patriot to murderer, or explain why Logan/Wolverine and Victor/Sabretooth have turned out so differently after going through the same experiences.  And somewhere during that montage, Logan (who was called "James" during the opening sequence) goes from being named James to Logan...with no explanation for the change.

I like Liev Schrieber a lot, but I think that he is a little too clean-cut for Sabretooth.  Also, if they kept the same actor for Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) from the X-Men movies, then why did they change actors for Sabretooth?

I think Hugh Jackman did a good job as Wolverine in the first X-Men movies (and I am really looking forward to The Wolverine), so I'm glad that he maintained his role in this movie.  But, I don't like how his character was presented.  There are too many scenes where we should have seen Wolverine's berserker rage, but instead were presented with mild-mannered Logan (almost an emo Logan).

The movie tries too hard to force "comedy" into the scenes, but the result is not amusing.  Humorous scenes can certainly be placed into action and comic-book movies, and can be done so well when they are done in a more natural tone.  But when the "humor" is forced, it does not work out well for anyone.  The scene where Wolverine fights the Blob is absolutely dreadful.

The effects were pretty cheesy at times.  Even Wolverine's claws (which looked great in the first X-Men movies) looked comically fake at times.

If  X-Men Origins: Wolverine is supposed to be a prequel to the first three X-Men movies, then there are far too many inconsistencies.  If it is supposed to be a different line, or a reboot, then there are far too many similarities.

Two of the best characters, Gambit and Wade Wilson/Deadpool, are horribly mishandled.  Even with all of the other problems I had with the movie, if those two had been given decent screen time or had been more developed, I might have actually been ok with the movie overall.  But they try to cram so many characters into the movie that it results in the entire film feeling like it is lacking a well-developed plot or character development.

Recommendation:  Pass.  I had heard bad reviews before watching this movie, but I still held out hope.  With the characters involved, the actors playing the characters, and the foundation from the first (two) X-Men movies, I thought that X-Men Origins: Wolverine had a good bit of potential.  But sadly, nothing was done with that potential.  The acting is far below what I know the actors/actresses are capable of.  The visual effects are far worse than the original movies.  The introduction of new characters fell short, as none of them had any character development.  And there is a litany of inconsistencies (both internally, and in relation to the first three movies).  The best part of the movie for me (possible spoiler?) was that it was left open for a possible Deadpool movie.  Hopefully The Wolverine will handle this character properly, and give us a Wolverine movie that we actually want to see.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews and recommendations.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day

I'm a fan of themes and traditions.  And I especially like making a tradition out of a theme...even if it's just a minor tradition/theme.  One of those minor tradition/themes is watching Pi every March 14th - Pi Day.

Pi, Darren Aronofsky's feature-length directorial debut, is about a mathematician who believes that pi is the mathematical key to unlocking and predicting the patterns of nature.  There's a bit more to the plot than that. And the film does get a bit darker as it goes along.  But for those of you who have not seen it yet, I do not want to give any spoilers.  Part of the enjoyment of the film is not knowing more than the main character, and going through the experiences with him.  It has been a while (last Pi Day, I believe) since I've seen Pi, but if I remember correctly, there are hardly any scenes that do not involve the main character.  So you only know as much of the story as he knows.  I really like this, because it forces you to examine all of the events as he perceives them, and figure things out for yourself, rather than just seeing everything that happens.  

I have not watched Pi yet today (I will be remedying that shortly), so it has been too long since I've seen it to post a full review.  I will eventually be posting a full review, but that is not going to be able to happen tonight. But I have seen Pi enough to be able to give my recommendation.  If you are a fan of Darren Aronofsky, or of dark, cerebral dramas, then you will most likely enjoy Pi.  Since it was his first feature-length film, it is not nearly as refined as some of his later works.  But, as a fan of independent films, that adds to my enjoyment of the film.  I am glad that his work and production quality have improved with time (and money), but I love being able to watch directors' early shows their passion for film and film-making.  If you tend to steer clear of films that get a bit dark, then you will probably not enjoy Pi.  Although, Darren Aronofsky's films have certainly gotten darker over the Pi will probably be the most accessible of his works, for those who do not like their film too dark.

The re-watchability alone makes Pi a must-buy for me - especially now that it has become part of my tradition to watch it every 3-14.  But, aside from my geeky tradition, the DVD does have a few good extras (to be covered in my full review) that add to the buy-appeal of the film.  Plus, there is a DVD double-pack with Pi and Requiem for a Dream.  So if you are a fan of Darren Aronofsky's, and do not have either of his earlier films, the double-pack might be a good buy for you.  Of course, it's extremely rare that I've met anyone who says that Requiem for a Dream is high on their rewatchability list.  But, that is a topic for another review.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews and recommendations.  But for now, go watch Pi.  Happy Pi Day everyone!!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Movie review: A Prairie Home Companion

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Rating:  4/5

Basic plot:  The last night of an old-timey radio show, where you get to know a little more about the cast and crew...both on stage, and behind it.

I grew up listening to the radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, and it has a huge place in my heart.  I love the old-timey radio show.  The music.  The variety.  The comedy.  The stories.  I love them all.  The movie stayed true to the tone of the radio show, but focused primarily on the music.  With as much as I love the variety of the radio show, when I first saw the movie, I was hoping that there was going to be a bit more of the variety in the movie.  But, having seen the movie a few times, I'm actually really glad that it was done as more of an actual movie, rather than just a movie form of the radio show.  That being said, I love the fact that they included Guy Noir as one of the characters.  He might not exactly fit in with the rest of the characters, but that little bit of absurdity actually fits in perfectly with the humor of Garrison Keillor.  Speaking of Garrison's humor, I love his writing - that very dry, slightly dirty, humor that not only draws on experiences of life, but the absurdity in life.

While the movie might not have had the same level of variety as the radio show, it most certainly had the music.  The old-timey/folk music pervades throughout the movie, not only helping to set the scene, but in some cases really driving the story as dialogue takes a back-seat.  Don't get me wrong...there is plenty of dialogue, and lots of interactions among characters (there isn't much "action", so the dialogue and storytelling is the main way that you get to know the characters).  But the music is just such a major part of the story, almost a character itself, that it needs screen-time as well to be more than just a background character.

One of the things that I loved most about this movie is how natural it felt.  It feels as though you are watching a slice of real life, and not just a story of imagination.  I think this happens, in part, because of the types of conversations that happen backstage while the radio show is going on.  Those conversations, while they do a lot to help you get to know the characters, don't really have much to do with the main plot of the movie.  I found myself thinking during the movie, "I wonder how many of those conversations, or ones similar, actually take place during the radio show?"  The other main reason that the movie felt so natural was because of the cinematography.  The slow pans and zooms give the movie a sense of movement that actually draw you even more into the movie, especially during the stage scenes.  Whenever they show what is happening on stage, it almost feels like you are watching a live concert of Garrison's actual radio show.  And there are several single-shot scenes throughout the movie.  I really respect single-shot scenes, because of the precision involved in making them.  If there is any mistake, they have to start at the very beginning again.  It takes a lot of talent to be able to either remember all of the lines, or to be able to improv when necessary.

A Prairie Home Companion is definitely a comedy, but there is also a dark and dreary tone to it at times.  The subject of death is brought up a good bit, both metaphorically (as it is the last broadcast of the show) and literally.  This mix of humor and somber emotions helps with the realism of the movie.  It shows that things might not always work out exactly like you want them too, but that humor can be found in just about any situation.  The tone of the film can really be summed up in one of Garrison's closing lines on the radio show (and on his actual radio show):  "keep your feet on the ground, your hopes up high.  Pray for rain, and keep the humor dry."

When I initially saw A Prairie Home Companion, I probably would've only given it a 3 or 3.5, because I had different expectations with what should have been in it, based on the actual radio show.  But, the more that I watch it, I think that I've bumped it up to a 4 out of 5.  I love the music, there are great stories and storytelling, really good cinematography, and a (mostly) great cast!  I love the mix between music, dry humor, and somber mood.  If you aren't much of a fan of this style of humor, music, or storytelling, then you probably will not enjoy this movie as much as I did.  If you take a look at the ratings for this movie at, there is a huge difference in the ratings given by critics and viewers.  The critic rating is 81%, but the viewer rating is 49%.  I would not be surprised if the majority of the viewers who rated the movie were unfamiliar with the original radio show.  But as a fan of Garrison Keillor, and knowing a bit more about what to expect out of his type of humor and storytelling, I loved A Prairie Home Companion.  The film has a very natural, organic feel to it...almost as if it had been a documentary of one of Garrison's actual radio shows.

Now, for the extras.  The extras on the DVD can basically be summed up with "they were good, but I wish there were more of them!"

Full performances of musical numbers and advertisement segments:  It's great that there are full segments of the musical numbers and advertisements, but you could hear most of the music in the background when it would cut to other scenes in the movie, so there isn't really any new music on the extra.  But, as a fan of the radio show for years, the music is definitely part of what makes the show so great.  So, I do like the fact that you have the option to listen to just the music, without it cutting away to other scenes.  I also like that they treat the music extras as actual performances (e.g. camera movement, close-ups), rather than just being a wide shot of what was going on when the rest of the movie was being made.  That being said, I really wish that there had been a version of the movie that was the actual show - what the "audience" saw on that last broadcast.  It wouldn't have really added anything to the movie, but I think that it would have been a great extra to basically have a "live recording" of the show.  Also, the music segments didn't have any of the songs performed by the actors.  I guess they figured that since you got to see full version of the actors' songs in the movie, you didn't need to see them in the extras.  But if I'm wanting to listen to the music from the movie, I would like to have been able to listen to all of the music.

Feature companion:  There are 6 feature companions (Genesis of PHC, The Adaptation, A Master at Work, An All-Star Cast, Note by Note, and Signing Off), each of which are only about 6-15 minutes long.  When it comes to the feature companion, just hit "play all" and watch it as one extra, rather than a bunch of individual extras.  As one feature, it is a decent length and has a fairly comprehensive summary of some major aspects of what brought this movie together.  But if each feature is watched individually, they will all leave you wanting more in each area...especially since each one could easily have been turned into full features.  I assume that it was being presented more to people who are not as familiar with A Prairie Home Companion.  But, speaking as a fan of the show, I wanted more!

Feature film, with commentary by Kevin Kline and Robert Altman:  Even though I wish that Garrison Keillor, John C. Riley, and Woody Harrelson had been on the commentary (or done a separate commentary), I really enjoyed watching the movie with the commentary on.  Kevin Kline and Robert Altman have fun with the commentary and seem to enjoy the process, rather than just spending the entire time talking about how great they think they are (I really get annoyed with commentaries that are nothing but the director, actor, etc. talking about how amazing they are).  And I like that it's an actual commentary on the film, and not just two people having a conversation about nothing while a movie is on in the background.  There are little bits of humor, interesting questions from Kevin Kline, and informative takes on the directing and making of the film from Robert Altman.  It shed light on things that I had noticed, and pointed out things that I had missed before.  The commentary might not be "entertaining" for everyone, but I would think that it would be very enjoyable to most movie buffs.

Recommendation:  overall, I definitely think it's worth seeing.  There is a pretty high re-watchability factor for me, and each time I watch it, I enjoy it a little bit more.  I enjoyed the extras that were there, but I think that it would have been so easy for them to add so much more! So, while the extras were enjoyable, I found them to be a little lacking.  If there had just been a few more extras, or if the extras that were there had been just a bit more developed, I would easily say that this is a must buy.  But, as it is, my recommendation is split.  The people who will most likely really enjoy this movie are the people who are already familiar with Garrison Keillor and his radio show.  And for those people, the rewatchability alone makes this movie worth owning (if you find it somewhere at a good price).  But the extras on the DVD seem to focus more towards people who are just being introduced to Garrison Keillor, and do not go in-depth enough for the long-time fans.  So, my overall recommendation....I highly recommend to rent (especially if you are a fan of old-timey folk music and dry humor), and think it's worth the buy if you find it at a good price.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews and recommendations.