The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Apparently The House with a Clock in its Walls was a book. I haven’t heard of it. The author really loves it, and made a whole bunch about these people. Studios be trying to get all pseudo famous books into movies, because the scripts are halfway made and have a following.

I don’t know it, nor do I care. This title is unforgivably awful. At no point does this scream out sexy, fun, or cool. It sounds god awful. This is about magic? This is the least magical sounding title of a movie ever.

How anyone saw this title and wanted to read the book is beyond me, but at no point is this one I would want to watch without being a reviewer. This is a film that I would skip on principle alone.

Goggles
Why the fuck is this kid wearing goggles? To show he is whimsical?

Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) just lots his parents, in some sort of car accident. Now he has to move to some place in Michigan, to live with his Uncle John (Jack Black), an eccentric man that his family never talked about and whom he never met. for many wonderful reasons. He lives in a mansion. It is weird, and decorated with Jack O’Lanterns.

And shit, inside the house things move around and are a bit spooky. Why? Well, his Uncle is reluctant to tell, so we have to let things be a mystery for a while. Maybe he is a murderer, and he will kill Louis one day.

There is also a purple loving neighbor, Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), no relation to the Florida vigilante, who is hanging around, also involve in some sort of shenanigans.

Alright, okay, they are warlocks and witches. Not bad ones, not necessarily good either, but certainly not evil. And Louis is showing promise so, shoot, he can be one too.

No, this is not The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This is the Warlock’s apprentice, damn it.

Also starring, Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Colleen Camp, Sunny Suljic, Lorenzza Izzo, and Vanessa Anne Williams.

Old people
“Hey, we’re cool, we’re hip, we know magic!”

To be honest, it has been a good while since I fell asleep during a movie in the theaters. The last one was probably Deadpool 2, I know, how dare I do that thing.

Well, when a movie is boring, its boring. I know I missed full scenes, because they referred back to them later in the movie. “What cemetary scene? A blood what?” I think to myself. Oh well, not important. Because of how slow the film decided to start, really going hard after that old time asthetic, we had to watch character development scenes that really don’t move the story forward.

At no point would I say are the school plot points really useful for this story. People don’t like him because he is new. Normal stuff. People don’t like him for being a nerd? Hard to say. Really, they don’t like him for wearing goddamn goggles. Take that shit off your head. Which another character even points off, but nah, need those goggles on.

The school scenes are all just to set up future movies that probably won’t happen. Even the normal plot line of finding a friend didn’t work out, defying no tropes along the way.

The movie feels overly polished and CGI heavy when we get to the magic aspects. The ending isn’t fun or exciting. It mostly feels like convenient moments after convenient moments to get to what they eventually call an ending.

Eli Roth tried to do a family film. I shouldn’t be too surprised at the low ranking, since he has been disappointing me with his R rated endeavors recently as well.

1 out of 4.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

¨It only took twenty years, but we finally have a Jumanji sequel…” said no one ever about this movie, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.

Especially since everyone of course remembers that Zathura: A Space Adventure totally exists!

But also because when this movie was announced, a lot of people got pretty angry. Saying things like it would tarnish Robin Williams´ legacy, that it was changing too many things, that it didn´t feel like Jumanji, and everything else. People seem to think that movie studios were sitting on this idea for years, just waiting for Williams to fall over so they could move on. Williams did not own the rights to Jumanji.

When I saw the trailer initially I was actually a little bit excited. Getting sucked into a video game is not a new prompt. It has been done many times as one-off TV show episodes, entire shows have been based on them, and movies as well, but it feels like when it happens it is usually shit. And since I like a lot of these actors, I had a bit more hope for this one.

Group
A diverse cast of characters in a jungle, WHAT YEAR IS IT?!

Don’t worry purists, this film takes place in the same universe as the first Jumanji film! As it starts in the mid 90’s, boardgame found on a beach. However, board games are lame, so the kid doesn’ play it and goes back to his video games. So what’s an evil sentient-esque game supposed to do but morph into a playing system? That is how they will get the kids hooked.

Flash forward to modern times, and we have four kids, very distinct histories and likes, who end up getting detention at the same time. Spencer (Alex Wolff) is our nerd/video game lover, we have The Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) who is good at sports, Bethany (Madison Iseman) a popular cute girl addicted to her phone, and Martha (Morgan Turner) who also is nerdy but more reclusive. They have a task of removing staplers from hundreds of magazines in a basement, hooray child labor! They of course instead find this old video game, all agree to play, because fuck work, and lo and behold, they get sucked into a video game!

Now, they are all the avatars they chose as their characters. Spencer is now Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), good at everything, while The Fridge is Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), the backpack guy sidekick, Martha is now Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) a fighter good at fighting, and Bethany has become Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), an overweight cartologist.

They must work together to balance their strengths and weaknesses in their new bodies to save the jungles of Jumanji, and also, get themselves back home.

Also starring Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Nick Jonas, Marc Evan Jackson, and Colin Hanks.

Shock
The Rock showing emotion, WHAT YEAR IS IT?

As previously mentioned, most “jump into video game movies” are poorly made. Just look at the third Spy Kids movie. The problem with all of these films or tv shows is they just never seem to “get” video games. They make them awkward puzzle based challenges, but mostly a lot of…non gaming things. The closest we have to a movie understanding video games has been Edge of Tomorrow.

If there is anything you can say about Jumanji 2, it is that it at least understands video games. Our characters have multiple lives, sharing lives, strengths and weaknesses, there are obvious levels, there are boundaries, there are goals, NPCs, weird interactions. It feels like people interacting with a video game world for the most part, that is wonderful.

It is wonderful, until they contradict themselves. For example, one of my biggest issues with this movie is Dr. Smolder Bravestone. He has no weaknesses, and his strengths include Fighting, Strength, Endurance, Speed, and being Fearless. Yeah, he has a bunch. And all the characters in avatar form obviously have strengths or weaknesses that are not normal. But hey, Ruby can actually fight despite being weak in real life. And Smolder can run fast, jump high, and all that.

Except for apparently his Fearless trait. Because a recurring plot point is watching Johnson scream at the slightest and smallest of animals, running in terror, over and over again. It causes one of his deaths. It is such a ridiculous oversight, it really bugs me because everything else was on point and this one felt glaring.

Overall, the movie is just okay still. The video game aspects are fine, the plot is really week. It doesn’t have an overall sense of awe or wonder like its predecessors. Everything is of course just extremely CGI’d and action scenes, with too many of the scenes focusing on human bad guys instead of swell animal problems. We don’t even get natural disasters, despite the several plant or weather based issues that Jumanji gave us.

A fine film, it just still could have been a lot better.

2 out of 4.

Kung Fu Panda 3

Animated films can take a long time to make. It takes years to get all of the CGI right, and pretty. It does not take a lot of time to record dialogue, or figure out the plot (Unless you are The Good Dinosaur). But all the technical work making sure every frame is wonderful and all the characters are as you had hoped. Years and hundreds of people at work.

Technically it only takes years if you care about the final product. That is why we had Planes and Planes: Fire & Rescue less than a year apart. The animators didn’t care.

There was a five year gap between Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3. And you know that is not because the voice actors were too busy for lines. Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011 was the prettiest film of all the CGI movies. Prettier than Rango and Puss In Boots. If they wanted to not just recipricate the second movie but surpass it, you can bet your ass it would take them years of work.

I am rambling. All I am trying to say is I expect this film to shit rainbows and make my eyes bleed in wonder. A sweet villain would also be delightful.

Kai
Creepy and promising! Me likey.

As we know from the end of 2, there is a secret panda village somewhere and Po (Jack Black) doesn’t know about it. He won’t care about it until a mysterious panda, Li (Bryan Cranston) shows up to the valley. He is looking for his lost son. Could it be?! Yes, yes it could be.

Great news! Now Po can show his dad all the cool dragon warrior stuff, and make his Foster Dad, Mr. Ping (James Hong) feel incredibly sad and jealous. Also Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) plans on retiring so he can focus on himself and find his Chi to do even better Kung Fu, leaving Po in charge of training the five (Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Jackie Chan). But he can’t teach.

Even worse? Well, Kai (J.K. Simmons) has escaped from the Spirit Realm! Who? He used to be a friend of Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) 500 years ago, even saved his life! But he got jealous of Oogway when he was taught to harness Chi from the mystical Panda village and wanted the power for his own, so he had to be put down in a jealous fury. Well, he eventually figured out how to steal Chi in the spirit realm, defeating all former masters and now he is back to the real world to defeat any and all would be challengers.

Jeez. Now Po has to learn Chi to defeat Kai. But it took Oogway 30 years! And Shifu can’t! Time for Po to go to his homeland. To determine how he can be the most Panda he can be, to learn what he has been missing all his life. To really become the Dragon Warrior.

Also featuring Kate Hudson as a ribbon dancing Panda.

Armor
And of course this rhino panda bird metal hybrid warrior! Don’t forget about him!

This part of the review is actually really hard to write. How many times can I say how beautiful this movie is? I don’t want to look in a thesaurus but I believe everything I say about the CGI and art style will just sound repetitive. Gorgeous, detailed, beautiful, wonderful and wunderbar, eye orgasmic. The best part that this Kung Fu movie is animated is they can show amazing fight scenes and nothing gets lost to blur or shaky camera. We can see every punch and kick. Every fantastic movement. And it is awe inspiring. Just like the previous films, the entire thing isn’t just CGI, they have other art styles to show within back stories which give it more traditional feels.

Fuck its so pretty.

Okay. Sorry. I will stop.

Kung Fu Panda 3 is sadly not perfect. A lot of the early film is wasted. Part of the charm of sequels for action films like this is that we don’t have to waste our time with origin stories. But this film has us sit through Po being bad at teaching, then he is has to do the long Panda training. The Panda training in particular, discovering his family and friends, just takes so much time and makes me lose interest in Po. The twists that show up during the village are also quite obvious, so we don’t even get the benefit of a nice shock.

The villain is awesome, although we don’t get to see enough of him doing bad things. The spirit realm was awesome and allowed the film to add more magical components to the franchise. Making “Chi” the big new thing feels a bit strange. I think KFP2 added that he needed Inner Peace and the Chi concept just feels like the same thing again. I don’t want each film to be Po learning something bigger to defeat a new threat. That isn’t original. Although I don’t know if there will be any more films after this one, given the ending.

Oh well. Pretty franchise. Pretty good. Not perfect.

3 out of 4.

Goosebumps

I feel strange reviewing Goosebumps in the month of December. THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT THEME.

Well, I had to cancel my eventual trip to see Goosebumps in theaters back end of October. Things were crazy. And now things are crazy, but a bit less. So while some people are thinking of Star Wars or Christmas, I can think about scaring little kids.

After all, what are the holidays, if not for scaring little kids?

Back to the film, I read probably 75% of the main Goosebumps books when I was a youthful lad, and I watched every episode of the TV Show. Hell, I’ve been watching the episodes on Netflix slowly for the past two years. It is great to see how shitty the effects are now, but how much they scare the kids. And occasionally you get to see Ryan Gosling out of nowhere, so that was fun.

Needless to say, I was nostalgia-ing pretty hard, so I couldn’t wait to see what weirdness they went with for the new film.

Gang
A whole lot of white people. Makes sense.

Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mom (Amy Ryan) are moving to the best place to be a kid. Discovery Zone! Wait no. He is actually now in Madison, Delaware.

New school, new high school life. And a crazy aunt (Jillian Bell) who is way too energetic also now nearby. What’s not to love?

Oh hey, his neighbor is a teenage girl. That’s a plus. Because he is a boy and boys like girls. Hannah (Odeya Rush) is homeschooled and her dad (Jack Black) is very protective and won’t let Zach interact with her. Fuck.

Let’s cut to the chase. The dad is totally R. L. Stine. Yes the “real one” who wrote all the Goosebumps books. And he has original manuscripts of all of his books in the house locked up. What’s that? If they open it up, the bad creature comes out! Holy fuck, shenanigans! Magic and stuff! And eventually Slappy, the doll is released (also voiced by Jack Black), and he decides he should open all the books around town, burn them so they cannot be recaptured and fuck all the shit up. Because Stine wasn’t letting them wreck things. Fuck that small town up, hard.

Also with Ryan Lee as the weird male friend and Ken Marino as creepy gym teacher.

Monsters
All these monsters and the scariest one is still the clown.

Okay, without taking off the nostalgia glasses, I can say I was a bit disappointed. Especially when “all” of the books are unleashed upon the town into one big army, my main thought was “Yes! Let’s see all the other bad guys! Even the lame ones!” But no, they added only a handful of villains, with mostly zombie hordes to make it look bigger. So I was disappointed I didn’t get to see more Goosebumps staples. I am mostly shocked I didn’t see a haunted camera and there was only a vague reference to a mask. Bring out the props, damn it!

Nostalgia glasses back off. On its own, the film felt relatively safe. It had a few in jokes for adults more aware of the series that would fly over the heads of new kids. Hell, there was an R. L. Stine cameo that I found incredibly hilarious and well placed. But for the most part, nothing too crazy or unexpected happened. The main character was generic.

There were still a few good scenes though. The abominable snowman in the hockey arena was very tense. The first lawn gnomes attack was great. And I enjoyed the shocker and the werewolf. Slappy makes since as the big bad guy, only in that he has a voice, but he didn’t do enough creepy things on his own.

I will say this. When the first trailer released, I made a guess on a twist that would happen near the end of the film, and I ended up being correct. It is something that avid Goosebump readers might also have figured out before the movie, due to book plot lines and character names. It was just one of those tidbits that just popped in my head, seemingly out of nowhere. So once the twist occurred, it didn’t land too strongly.

As I was saying. Perfect Christmas film.

2 out of 4.

The D Train

I am happy to say that before I watched The D Train, I knew absolutely nothing about it. I had only briefly seen the poster/DVD cover. Enough to recognize the two leads.

I actually thought this was a war movie. Again, quick glance at the cover, I thought the arm in the background was like, a gun strapped to the back. I thought they had just won a war!

Or you know, a movie about trains or something. A lonely New York meet up that turns into friendship. Fuck it, let’s just go into it.

Cool
Quit yelling. I’m trying to relax on my couch, far away from war and trains.

Dan Landsman (Jack Black) is a weird dude. But we will get into that. First let us talk about his normal tendencies.

Dan has a wife (Kathryn Hahn), a 15 year old boy (Russell Posner) and a baby girl. He has a boring job doing something and has been there for awhile. It isn’t particularly rewarding, but it pays the bills. His boss (Jeffrey Tambor) is an older guy who doesn’t like new technology and is generally swell.

And he is the self-appointed head of the Alumni committee for his high school class. The others (Kyle Bornheimer, Henry Zebrowski, more) don’t agree with a head, but whatever, they have a 20 year old reunion to prep for. No one seems to give a shit and turn out is looking low. Things turn around when Dan finds out that the coolest kid in school, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), has finally made it after all this time. He was an actor and wanted to be a big star and now he is in a national television commercial about sun block!

OH MAN SO COOL. He thinks if he can convince Oliver to come to the reunion, more people will show up, and he will be a hero! He just needs to fly out to LA to convince him in person. So he lies about it as a business trip to his boss and wife, just to hang out and party with Oliver.

And Oliver is a great dude. They get drunk, they get happy, they dance, they flirt with women and Dan is able to convince Oliver to show up!

And also, something very different happens. Something that has never happened to Dan before. Something that will make his trip home and subsequent weeks leading up to the reunion very weird and uncomfortable.

Drunk
Enough to drive a mediocre middle aged man to drinking? You betcha!

From the description, it looks like The D Train can be a very uncomfortable movie from start to finish. An average dude in a boring life, put into a super liberal party setting, with a man he has strangely idealized for decades. He has always wanted to live vicariously though him, but now he has the opportunity to seem cool and actually celebrate with the man. Life is wonderful!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an uncomfortable movie, just a boring one. Sure, there was that one scene. And like, a good scene at the reunion, and maybe another good joke. And that is it.

The best thing really about this movie is that it was a different sort of character for Jack Black. Not different like Bernie, but more just regular dude. So good job Jack, diversifying your resume. That will be good help in the future assuming you need it. Marsden unfortunately adds nothing to the film. Hahn does a pretty good exasperated housewife though, sick of her husband’s shit.

The plot isn’t even that bad. With some work, better dialogues, and better…just scenes in general, it could have been a solid movie. Instead this movie is about a nickname and a dream gone wrong, and is completely forgettable.

1 out of 4.

Margot At The Wedding

The reason I bought Margot At The Wedding for a dollar is because I recognized the people in it. The reason I finally watched it was because someone else chose it for me from my list of unwatched movies. But the reason I was actually looking forward to it was because of the director/writer Noah Baumbach. He is most famous for working with Wes Anderson, but I watched a film he did about his own child life called The Squid and The Whale, and absolutely loved it.

Basically, I am excited about the potential of a great drama. He also wrote/directed Frances Ha recently, so the potential is pretty dang high.

Angst
Yep, just look at all of that angst.

This film is about Margot (Nicole Kidman) at a wedding. Huzzah!

She is questionably single, and taking her only son Claude (Zane Pais) back to where she grew up for a wedding. Not just any wedding, but her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is still living in that old middle of nowhere house. Her husband, Jim (John Turturro), and her are going through some tough times, but that can’t possibly affect this wedding, can it?

Nah. But having a lover on the side in that homedown, Dick Koosman (Ciaran Hands), can. Add on a war with the very redneck-y and cruel neighbors, past family drama, and bad communication skills, and you got yourself a dramatic wedding. Especially with Jack Black as the groom.

Also starring Flora Cross as Pauline’s daughter, and Halley Feiffer as Dick’s daughter.

Tree
Totally thought her son was a girl for like, at least the first 10 minutes of the movie.

I think I would describe this movie as cruel. Cruel and vague.

Why cruel? Well, every adult character in this movie is deplorable. Every single one of them. Most of all Margot of course, but everyone has faults and they all come out to the extreme during the movie. Constant arguing and constant passive aggressive behavior. It certainly took a huge toll on my “Give a fuck” meter.

Why vague? Well, there were problems in the past, and problems now with relationships, but figuring out what happened is a big struggle. The most I can figure out is that Margot wrote a novel about her family, told the world secrets, and they got mad at her. I have no idea what is going on between her and her husband, outside of the cheating. They intentionally kept a lot of the details in the dark for too long, which made it more annoying than anything else.

I guess the acting was decent, but the story was blahhh.

It had a lot of indie tropes, my favorite of which is “camera behind character walking”. Man, indie movies love that shit. That is what most of The Wrestler was, after all.

Overall, this is just another movie you can skip. Noah is a very hit or miss writer. Better than mediocrity all your life, I guess.

1 out of 4.

Year One

There comes a time in Cinematic History where certain movies seem to leap bounds and fountains over the rest of the movies in that year. Unfortunately, these films are not always recognized for their greatness, and therefore never watched, like Little Shop Of Horrors.

In 2009, with such treasures like Avatar, Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, Twilight: New Moon, and 2012, one film was overlooked. One film was passed on the side of the round (or trampled by the lazy). That film of course, was Year One.

Yellin
YES. YEAR ONE. LET ME SHOUT ABOUT IT NOW FOR YOU.

No, I won’t actually shout.

This film is set in history, maybe roughly 1 AD, but that is a rough estimate.

In it, we have Zed (Jack Black), a bad hunter, and Oh (Michael Cera), an okay gatherer. Zed is feeling unloved, so he eats from the forbidden fruit tree to gain all the knowledge of good and evil! Well, that goes badly, and they are kicked out of the tribe. Now he will never get it on with Maya (June Diane Raphael), and Oh won’t be able to impress Eema (Juno Temple).

On their travels, they find that the world is actually a much bigger place than they thought. They run into Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd), and things (obviously) escalate from there.

They find themselves on run from an angry village, learn about the wheel, and end up in Sodom and Gomorrah where orgies occur nightly, and lets not forget about the sodomy. They not only join the city guard, but also become trusted slaves and chosen ones of the royalty. Queen Inanna (Olivia Wilde) takes a personal interest in Zed, to figure out just what the priest is up to.

Can the Chosen One and Oh save the day with their now stunning intellect? Or you know, will they just be sacrificed for rain? Also featuring Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, and Hank Azaria.

Cast
Don’t make that face. Vinnie Jones isn’t that bad.

I am agog, I am aghast, that I took this long to see this film. Especially when I bought it about a year ago and have had no real good reason to avoid it (other than, you know, other movies to watch). But this may not only be the finest movie I have seen with Jack Black, but Michael Cera as well, and he was in Superbad! Shit. That is why I had to move up my review o this movie. Originally it would be in two weeks, sine I am behind on posting current theater movies, but I really couldn’t let another day go by.

One major reason to talk about this movie is David Cross, who probably gives an Oscar worthy performance as Cain. He has to live with the guilt of killing his brother, living a life of sin and sadness, while at the same time, dealing with two primitive numbskulls who don’t understand how “modern” society work. I bet the only reason he was overlooked is because it is a comedy, and outside of Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, they usually ignore them.

Wilde
Now I know why she has taken on a lot of bad roles since 2009. She just can’t live up to her past great work in this movie.

Year One reminds me of why I love Olivia Wilde, despite her recent mess ups. What a beautiful creature.

Basically, if you had seen Year One (and statistics show that you probably have not), you would know that every line is an ounce of wit, that popularized Arrested Development back in the day, and currently categories some great comedies like Modern Family and Archer.

Yes, it is historically inaccurate, but that should be a given when it also includes stories from The Bible.

I think I am going to have to forgo going to any future movies until Jack Black and Michael Cera are put in another movie together. Their chemistry (bromance?) seems to have towered over any comedic duo that I have seen before. Yes, even more so than David Spade and Chris Farley.

This movie changed my life in more ways than one (I’d say about four). Hopefully one day it can change your life too.

4 out of 4.

Bernie

The tale of Bernie is a strange one and a tragic one. More so when you realize it is based on a true story.

I SAID BASED. Apparently there was large support from the actual town of Carthage, Texas to not let the film be made there, as a lot of people either felt like they were being made fun of, or though Bernie was a creepy bad man. But you know, it is just a similar story, with a lot weirder stuff going on in the film. So take it with a grain of salt.

Church
Or else this man will come into your room at night and host your funeral!!!

Bernie (Jack Black) is a weird man. He may be gay, but he loves Jesus and is super Christian, so that is probably not true[Editor’s note: Movie logic, not mine.]. He became a funeral director, and knows the proper way to liven up a corpse for the big day. Originally from Louisiana, he has moved to small town Carthage, Texas, where he immediately strives to become a pillar in the community. He sings, he acts, he gives gifts, he mourns, he funeral directs, he goes above and beyond the call of duty every time. EVERYONE loves him.

Mostly. Not Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) who just had her husband pass away. But she hates everyone, and everyone hates her back. But she is super rich, and keeps it all to herself. Two of her grandchildren even tried to sue for some trust fund! What gives? Despite all this, Bernie does his best to get her to cheer up, and is eventually welcome into her grace. She isn’t that bad, just gotta give her a chance!

Eventually they start doing everything together. Trips around the world, shows, just general shopping and hanging out. He is living the life. She begins to let him handle her affairs to, having access to all of her funds and stuff, so she doesn’t have to do it. But she also gets more protective. She starts treating him worse and worse, limiting his schedule and life, making him direct less funerals, and even sing less at church! It’d be a shame if one day Bernie just snapped and shot old Marjorie in the back. It’d be worse if he freaked out, didn’t know what to do, and decide to hide the body in the house and pretend she was still alive. For months. Yeah, that would be bad.

Matthew McConaughey plays the local DA who is attempting to get justice served, Sonny Carl Davis as Lonnie, a lawyer, and Rick Dial as the funeral director.

shawpa
A chainsaw statue? That does sound like a great investment.

Why spoil most of the movie? Ehh, true story. I knew going into it that Bernie killed some old lady, and kept it a secret. But knowing that ahead of time didn’t ruin it at all for me. What made this movie something special was the large cast of characters. Instead of a narrator, the story is basically narrated by a large group of townsfolk that are retelling the events and their thoughts on the matter. Sort of in a documentary or realty show like format, they are talking straight to the camera and sitting in a home or shop or office, and they are phenomenal. They add so much depth and character to the movie, they are one of the best “greek choruses” I have ever seen.

Not to take away from the main cast of actors. McConaughey did what he always does. Jack Black really enveloped himself in this character, and if you like to hear him sing, you get to do it quite a bit. Mostly religious songs too! Shirley MacLaine did a lot with her body language before she was talkative, also doing a nice job.

And it is weird. Quirky as shit. I thought it was a well done darker comedy, and will probably buy it someday.

3 out of 4.

The Big Year

Apparently if I watched some of the trailers for The Big Year, you still wouldn’t really know what it is about. I will tell you right now. BIRDING. Or Bird Watching, if you want to be lame about it. Yes. The art of looking at birds and feeling good about yourself.

Mort importantly, A Big Year in the birding world is a competition to see who can see the most birds in a single calendar year. The competition can be state / province based, lower 48 states, or the biggest area of all states except Hawaii, and a bunch of other territories around the US. I didn’t learn these until I wiki’d that shit.

Big Year
Can you tell who each of these three big actors are by just this picture alone?

So the story tells of three different “birders” who are attempting the big year. Owen Wilson plays an expert birder. In 2003 he reached a new record for A Big Year, reaching 723, putting him into instant celebrity status. Well, pseudo celebrity. Dude can find a bird like no other. He hasn’t attempted another big year since, but this year he is just going to do it for a few months, set the pace, make sure no one is getting close to his record. But will his dedication and drive break apart another marriage?

Steve Martin is a CEO who is retiring finally. Super rich, he wants to try a big year, full support with his wife, JoBeth Williams. But his job constantly is bugging him to return to the game, to fix problems, to even take another job. Joel McHale and Kevin Pollak are the corporate D-bags who continue to harass him throughout the year, warning him that after retirement, comes death.

Jack Black is the narrator and also attempting for the first time. He has trained to recognize any bird by a few notes only. He isn’t rich though, kind of poor, disapproving dad, and working a full time job to help pay for this during the year. But he is inspired to finally do something with his life. If he could also woo over Rashida Jones (who can do hundreds of bird noises on her own (I think in real life too?)), double win. Bird love. All that shit.

The movie shows the three men and their journey across America, just doing the things they love. They don’t travel together, but they run into each other enough to build a rivalry. Of course they don’t want others to know they are doing a big year, will make them no longer help them out. The movie probably sounds super boring. Bird watching. Wtf?

ACTION
But look, there is some action!

Of course this whole thing is based on the honor system. Don’t have to take pictures, because hearing the bird counts as well. So it sounds like cheating may happen, and obviously it is dealt with in the movie. Not to mention Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory slinks about in the movie as well.

But overall? The story was definitely done pretty nicely. By the end, you don’t hate Owen’s character like you’d expect. Everyone has their own appeal and their own “happy ending” so to speak. Had some chuckles, and hey, good for the whole family.

2 out of 4.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Dreamworks is known as the CGI-animation company that is not Pixar. More or less, everything Pixar does is instantly praised, while everything Dreamworks does is hated on. Sure, Pixar has more good movies, but damn it, Dreamworks has some good ones too.

Like the first
Shrek. And Kung Fu Panda. The first one got about fifty sequels, the latter so far only has Kung Fu Panda 2. And it is more epic than the first.

Chop KICK YEAH
But Kung Fu Panda also lead to the worst rip off in recent years.

The plot of the movie is similar to the first. Someone is kicking a lot of ass and is evil, and needs to be stopped. This time, instead of training montages and noodle shops, Po (Jack Black) starts out as a kick ass warrior. The dragon warrior! Which we all know he became later in the first film. Now we get to ignore all of that, and go straight into lots of fight scenes.

One of the central plots is that Po realizes the goose is not his real dad! Shocking, I know.His parents were killed as a boy and he was orphaned. Killed by who? A peacock. Or at least an evil peacock (Gary Oldman). While they originally thought his threat was dealt with, he has been hiding away, building an army of wolves and gorillas, and making a weapon that renders kung fu and other fighting types useless. (Its based on fireworks, aka pretty).

Speaking of pretty, the CGI in this movie is fantastic on Blu-Ray. Everything was wowable, and noticeably better than the effects in the first movie. In addition to the normal CGI, during flashbacks to Pos youth, they used a more traditional style of Asian cartoon work, and it was pretty damn nifty. I’d have liked it if the beginning had a story similar to the one Po made up in the first to open the film. Had some of the better lines.

The same gang from the first film is also back, Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan) and Tigress (Angelina Jolie). I still don’t like Tigress though.

The end of the movie also does what a lot of movies try to do and fail. Give us both a full story, and set up a possible sequel. I have reviewed numerous movies that have focused more on setting up a sequel than giving a satisfactory ending. But this one does a nice job and I want there to be a Kung Fu Panda 3.

Panda 2
Oh don’t look so shocked Po. I will let you wait at least three years first.

Overall? The fight scenes are pretty great and creative. I am sure Chan had a lot of influence on how they were developed, since he has a knack for that sort of thing. They were also comedic enough to laugh without taking away the seriousness of the fights/plot. Everything was weaved together well, plot, action, backstory, effects. Just the “inner peace” plotline seemed forced. Or Po is just that awesome. Not sure.

3 out of 4.

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