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The Last Emperor

The Last Emperor

(1987)
9 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The Last Emperor is a stunning, vibrant, elegant, and mesmeric historical epic. After hearing all the great things about it and being a fan of film epics, I obtained the 3.5-hour Director's Cut and I was blown away by it, as I hoped I would be by the director of Last Tango In Paris. The Last Emperor is an all-encompassing epic, one that demands every bit of your attention to process everything that it throws at you, both intellectually and visually because of its grand scale and ambition that still impresses to this very day.

The plot focuses on China's last emperor, Pu Yi throughout the course of life, ranging from his abdication to the throne in 1908 at age three, to both World Wars, his imprisonment for his involvement with the Japanese government during World War II, to his eventual death in 1967, complete with his torrid family drama, his love affairs, and his western teacher, R.J., who opens his mind to the outside world of the Forbidden City, altering the course of his life as the world so rapidly changes around him.

There's a lot to be found in the story, which is why it is highly recommended that you watch the 3.5-hour version of the film to appreciate the grand scope and become immersed in the life of Pu Yi. There's plenty of drama, romance, tragedies, some humor, and a whole lot more. I cannot properly explain what the film entails because there is so much to explore in the story, making it difficult to take your eyes away from the screen as you eagerly process everything.

The acting across the board is pretty good, though I would have preferred it if the film had been in a Chinese language (Like Mandarin or Cantonese), as opposed to English. It took me a little while to accept its English language because it didn't feel quite as authentic to me, but it's surprisingly good compared to a lot of other Asian-set films with English languages and I grew to accept it. John Lone does a great job as Pu Yi, and as expected, Peter O'Toole was great as R.J. Surprisingly, the acting is also so good that even the child actors are quite good, which is extremely rare in films. What also made the acting so great is that every actor made their characters feel like their own person, as opposed to just being static characters. Everyone seemed to have a purpose and a soul, which is something that definitely makes the viewer feel more immersed in the film. They make the film feel alive.

The Last Emperor is a grand epic, but only for people who have patience to watch it. It's a very story-oriented and dialogue-heavy film that will reward patient viewers and give them a lot to feed on. If you don't have the patience for this sort of film, you shouldn't be watching it. If you love a good film epic, The Last Emperor is definitely something to check out because of its story, superb acting, stunning visuals and set pieces, great music, and so much more. I think it's an amazing film and a masterpiece.

Despicable Me

Despicable Me

(2010)
9 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

After watching the enjoyable, albeit flawed, sequel, I decided to watch the first film of the mega hit Despicable Me franchise. Then again, it was practically inevitable that I would watch these films, on account of all the hype surrounding them and how many people I've met who absolutely love these films - both children and adults alike.

Does it live up to the hype surrounding it? I'd say yes. Neither film will ever be among the greatest films I've ever seen, but their impact on pop culture is undeniable and this film is tremendously enjoyable and quite funny.

The film focuses on a has-been villain by the name of Gru, who becomes jealous of the antics of another villain who proceeds to steal a pyramid and makes international headlines with his massive heist.

Gru plans to take things a step further by stealing the moon and then demanding a ransom for its return. However, he needs to secure funding to build a rocket to the moon from the Bank Of Evil, which is dedicated to villains. In order to do this, Gru must steal a shrink ray and is also in fierce competition with another villain by the name of Vector, who plans to do the very same thing.

Though Gru manages to steal the shrink ray, Vector steals it from him, and now Gru is determined to get it back, though this is easier said than done. Vector's fortress is heavily weaponized, and any attempt to get in proves futile until Gru sees that three orphan girls selling cookies manages to get into the fortress.

So, Gru decides to adopt the three girls: Agnes, Edith, and Margo to use them to get into Vector's lair to steal the shrink ray. At first, he wants nothing to do with the children and only seems intent on using them for his plans, though he starts to grow attached to them after a period of time and begins to act like an actual parent to them...which could be problematic to his plans.

Now, Gru has to decide between his plans and the girls, while also still having to deal with Vector in the process.

The story is very over the top, as expected for this sort of film, but it never feels obnoxious or annoying. It actually manages to stay pretty focused on its plot, while also managing to provide a lot of heart, which is something quite rare in such films. The cast of characters are also lively and fun to watch, including the minion characters everyone seems to love so much. Despicable Me also manages to walk the fine line between over the top humor and serious moments, without ever having jarring tonal shifts that many such films would fall victim to. It's engaging, lively, funny, and heartfelt.

The acting, as it should be, is quite good across the board. There isn't a single weak performance and every actor seemed to revel in their silly roles. Steve Carrell does a great job in the lead, though, even the minor characters seem to be well acted. Of course, there are also the minion characters played by the directors, and it was always entertaining to watch the minions and all the ridiculous shenanigans they got caught up in. Needless to say, you do grow to enjoy and love the characters.

As with any comedy, the humor is critical, and Despicable Me is a very funny film, no matter how outlandish or weird it became. I was certainly laughing from beginning to end and I enjoyed all the bizarre and utterly ridiculous scenarios that played out because the film is so vibrant and energetic.

With a solid story, great acting, terrific action scenes, hilarious humor, and heartfelt moments, Despicable Me is a tremendously enjoyable animated film that indeed lives up to its hype. After two terrific films, I'm eager to see where the future leads this franchise.

Identity Thief

Identity Thief

(2013)
41 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Identity Thief is a guilty pleasure comedy for me. I wasn't exactly expecting much considering the awful reviews from critics and the mixed response from audiences, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by this aloof comedy. It's messy and can be unfocused at times, but it has a breezy and fun charm to it that wouldn't allow me to hate it. It'll never be a classic, and it'll be forgotten a short time down the road in future years, but it's a pleasant, funny, and fun ride.

Diana is a con artist who buys whatever she wants with the identities she steals. One day, she steals from a man named Sandy Patterson after posing as someone working for his credit card company. Once she gets his identity, she wreaks havoc on his credit and his life.

Sandy's life is about to change for what he hopes is for the better, especially with a wife and two daughters, with another child on the way. He quits his job at a financial company along with a number of other co-workers so they can start their own firm. There's a hitch in his plans, though, when his card is declined when trying to buy gas and is suddenly arrested on his way to work for an outstanding warrant in another state. Though it's determined he didn't do it and this identity was stolen, things continue to go badly for him once he does get to work and his boss finds out that he now has 240 credit score and a mountain of debt which not reflect well on their budding company. This is immediately followed by the police searching the office building for drugs and ammunition when his name turns up in connection with drug dealers in another state.

Desperate to repair his life and save his job, Sandy decides to go to Florida and bring in the woman who stole his identity, whether she likes it or not. Though he does manage to track her down, their first encounter ends with her striking him the throat, stealing his car, and ramming the side of her car (Which he takes cover in) and trapping him inside. However, he finds information in the glove box of the car and tracks her down to her home.

Another fight breaks out, but the two find themselves stuck together when the drug dealers Diana pissed off shoot open the door and plan to kill her and now Sandy, since he's with her. Now with pissed off drug dealers and a bounty hunter on their tail, the duo end up going on a wild and crazy road trip while striking up an unusual friendship in the midst of all the shenanigans they find themselves caught in.

While the story follows a number of the routine road trip cliches, it does manage to make it feel fresh and lively. It's no Thelma & Louise, but it's a fine and entertaining road trip story with two great actors getting caught in over the top scenarios. I also enjoyed how the script took its time in developing these two characters, especially Diana with the heartbreaking dinner scene at a hotel near the end of the film. While the script does a lot right, there are times when tonally it becomes confused whether to be over the top campy, or dramatic. Sometimes, it can't find a proper balance of these elements, making it feel messy at times. There are also times when subplots cause the film to wander a bit. Still, the script, while shaky at times, is competently written and quite funny.

The acting is pretty solid across the board, though the two leads, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy steal the show with their roles, though their characters are very different from one another. Most of the other characters aren't particularly memorable, but the others do a fine job, though they are ultimately in the shadows of the two leads.

As far as humor goes, this film is indeed pretty funny. While the script can be messy, the humor is consistently funny, including moments that had me laughing hard. However, sometimes the film struggles with balancing different types of comedy, making some scenes feel uneven, especially with comedy that ranges from over the top screwball to dramatic comedy, which can case the tone to feel unbalanced. Still, I was laughing a lot, which I should be doing in a comedy.

Overall Identity Thief is a fun, but flawed comedy. I think it's much better than what critics gave it credit for, but there are undeniable flaws to found. But thanks to funny humor, a solid script, and excellent acting by the two leads who have terrific chemistry together, this film holds up.

Dr. Seuss - The Cat in the Hat

Dr. Seuss - The Cat in the Hat

(2003)
41 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The Cat In The Hat is one of the ultimate low points in the history of family films, as well as in the history of adapting a book to the screen. It's a hellish film, one that not even your worst nightmares fueled by a week-long binge of meth and LSD could conjure up with its horrific imagery that's more terrifying than most psychological horror films, utterly unfocused storyline, jarring tonal shifts, horrible and unlikable characters, unfunny humor that is highly inappropriate for a PG-rated film, and so much more that cannot be explained unless you make the tragic mistake of watching this film.

Joan Walden is a single mother and realtor who has two horrible, bratty children named Conrad and Sally, as well as having a boyfriend named Lawrence. On this particular day, Joan's boss wants her to host a party for her and her fellow realtors, and her boss is an obsessive germaphobe who threatens to fire Joan if her house isn't clean this time around.

Joan is disheartened by this because Conrad is snot-nosed little brat who is hell-bent on not doing what he's told and will wreck just about anything in sight. She tells her two children to not make a mess of things, especially as Joan's boyfriend, Lawrence wants her to send Conrad to military school and Conrad is already on thin ice with his mother.

After Lawrence leaves and Conrad decides to be a little shit by telling his mother, "I wish I had a different mom," Joan leaves her two children with the Asian-stereotyped babysitter she hired who proceeds to fall into a deep sleep and leaves the children unattended.

While the children are wandering around the house, they just so happen to run into the title character: a giant, talking cat in a hat, who proceeds to take the children on a terrifying journey of mischief, double endentres, allowing them to continue being horrible little brats, allowing them to open a portal into a terrifying dimension and other shit that I can't even begin to explain or comprehend.

How did a simple story with multi-layered themes get turned into such a garbled clusterfuck of a story? Nothing ever makes sense and this film is more insane to follow than even the most bizarre surrealist films (You know, films that are intentionally made to be batshit crazy). The scenarios presented in this film feel more like the types of things you'd see in psychological horror films or home invasion films because everything is made inadvertently creepy and horrifying. Trying to follow all the scenarios and bizarre things that occur in the film become so confusing and disorienting that following the film becomes a bewildering and emotionally-tormenting experience.

The humor? What humor? There's nothing to laugh about in this film. NOTHING. The slapstick is dreadful, the campy humor is dreadful, the scatological humor is awful, the parodic humor is painful, the gay jokes are painful, the race jokes are awful, the plays on swear words are awful, and the adult jokes are especially painful to endure. You've got boner jokes, the cat calling a ho, "Dirty ho!" and then apologizing to it like it's a woman, the cat jokingly telling the children about how babies are made, and more. All of it is completely unfunny in every way, and much like the story, trying to process all these horrible jokes is bewildering. Hell, the film even as the audacity for a moment of product placement involving Universal Studios where the cat deliberately and glaringly promotes it with a wink (Either that, or it's supposed to be like the product placement joke in Wayne's World. Only in Wayne's World, that joke was funny. And more importantly, Wayne's World was actually a good comedy).

With a horribly written storyline, horrible and unlikable characters, unfunny humor in a wide spectrum of comedy types, scenes more horrific and terrifying than most horror films, a number of offensive attributes for a family film, and more, The Cat In The Hat shot dead any future chances for live action Dr. Seuss films worse than even the most brutal mafia-style execution (Dr. Seuss' widow was so pissed about this adaptation she refused to allow any other live action films based on his work). However, I did like the visuals and set pieces which I thought were well made, and I wish had been used for an enjoyable quirky comedy, as well as the music score. However, this is not something to be watched unless you possess absolutely no taste or standards in comedy.

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil

(2011)
41 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Well...I will say that Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil was a lot better than I was expecting, but it still wasn't very good. I've never seen the original Hoodwinked, but despite overall mixed response, it seems to have developed a small cult following, but that's not the reason I watched this. No, I was seeking a bad film and I was already aware years in advance of how poorly this sequel did.

To my surprise, it was much better than I was expecting, but it's still a mediocre experience that will have one clamoring to re-watch one of the Shrek films to remind one's self of how a parody of fairy tales should be done. This one is sloppy, but it does have its moments of charm. But I neither like it, nor dislike it. I am split squarely down the middle on this one.

While Red is off training with the Sisters Of The Hood, the H.E.A. is off on another mission to rescue Hansel and Gretel from a witch named Verushka. During this mission, things go badly when the witch escapes with the children and kidnaps Granny and takes her to an unknown destination.

When Red receives word of what happened to Granny, she ends up teaming up with Wolf and Twitchy to find out what happened to her, rescue her, find out what the witch wants with a specially-made truffle, and also get into a series of bizarre shenanigans along the way involving fairy tale characters and kung fu film parodies.

The story is a mess because it feels like a brain-dead version of Shrek mixed with an unfocused kung fu film parody. There are so many characters, so many threads, so many bizarre scenarios, and just plain stupid moments that following the plot becomes cumbersome and confusing. The humor also feels unfocused as it at times can be pretty funny, while at others just outright unfunny.

When it comes to the acting, there are pretty solid actors like Patrick Warburton as Wolf, Glenn Close as Granny, and a number of other talented celebrities. But, the script lets down their characters and never gives them enough breathing room to develop as it tries to stuff them into as many wacky scenarios as it can. The acting is good, and is definitely one of the highlights of the film.

As far as humor goes, this part of the film is very hit-or-miss. Sometimes I chuckled, other times I groaned because of what was happening. You've got slapstick, you've got parodies, you've got pop culture references, you've got adult jokes, and more, and all of it feels like a bizarre mix that can hit the right spot or hit a very sour and foul note. This part of the film is very frustrating because it has moments of genuine humor, but also moments of just plain terrible humor.

As an adventure film, the action bits can be exciting, but they can also be boring as well. This part of the film is also a very mixed bag, much like the humor. Some stuff was exciting and a lot of fun, while other bits will have you groaning and waiting for the film to end.

Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil is a frustrating film. It has moments of goodness, but also moments of utter badness. It will certainly never replace the likes of films like Shrek, and will inevitably disappoint fans of the first film with its terrible story, hit-or-miss humor, great acting, and action that can be exciting, but can also be dull. This is an animated film doomed to be forgotten by future generations, but I will say that it was better than I was expecting, but it still wasn't very good.

Keenan's Badges

Intel Hollywood Star Program (July 2012 - December 2012)
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