Sabotage (2014)

Sabotage

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Incredibly; Unexplainably; Boring.

I consider myself to be a bigger Arnie fan than most. There really is a lot of his films that people can’t stand, which I am usually confused about. Sabotage didn’t look like an award-winning masterpiece, but I thought it looked interesting enough with a decent cast to at least check out, and check it out I did. Now, as big of a fan of the Governator as I am, I couldn’t help but find flaws in this film…mainly how it felt like it dragged on. Forever. To give you an idea of where things went wrong, let’s first talk about the plot.

Now, this is the easy part. The plot of the film is incredibly easy to talk about – basically it’s about this DEA Special Forces team that stole $10 million from a drug cartel, and throughout the movie, his team is getting picked off one by one because of this theft. So Agent John Wharton (Schwarzenegger) must work with Agent Caroline (Olivia Williams) to track down this killer and stop him from eliminating everyone.

The plots easy because it’s your basic And then there were none story…which is fine. However, that’s not really how the film was advertised. You got Arnold Schwarzenegger with big guns in hands blowing things up in other countries – that’s the basic look of the film…and yet…that’s mostly all that happens in the first fifteen minutes. The rest is this…detective, whodunit mystery that feels way too repetitious and honestly boring for its own good. I wouldn’t say they did anything specifically wrong by any means, but I was yawning and getting distracted for most of the movie…which is a horrible, horrible sign…because the movie itself was shortened to have more action sequences in it versus the original more mystery-centric story…we may have dodged a bullet on that one.

Also, these people on his team were cool when it first started, but after the introduction, they were all more or less your basic fraternity dudes that lost all of the things that originally made them interesting and diverse. They were all basically the same person in the film, which made me care less and less that they were being killed off…which is another bad sign. It was really cool to see all of these actors taking part in the film, though. I mean, they had both Terminators side by side, two actors from ABC’s hit show, LOST, and obviously Joe Mangniello…the cast was brilliant, but the character writing was weak and unworthy.

Like I said, they shortened the film to introduce a more high-octane action film, which resulted in an unfortunate boring, loose plot. Think about it…the original design probably had a good balance between action and mystery, but the way we were given the film…it just bounces back and forth and just…feels disproportionate. Either pick one or the other because I’m getting tired of this crap.

The Good:

Sabotage is just one of the many films to incorporate the And Then There Were None… film styles, which if done right can be a very interesting mystery. Also, if you aren’t nit-picking too much, just seeing the Governator in his natural habitat is enough to satisfy.

The Bad:

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice, but the movie just feels incredibly dragged out, repetitious, and boring. You could literally take a leave of absence for probably 45 minutes and return to the same basic things happening. You may have missed out on a few things here and there, but you get the gist early on, and like a broken record, the same thing just keeps happening…and the way they go about the murders isn’t as attention-grasping as it probably thinks it is.

A Haunted House 2 (2014)

Haunted-House-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
It’s…technically better.

If I remember correctly, the main reason I actually went to see the first A Haunted House was because of Marlon Wayans. Wayans, of course, was one of three brothers that brought us the horror parody franchise – Scary Movie. If any of the crap parodies out there remotely held a chance, it was that series, so I was hoping we’d have something special on our hands again. However, the first one proved to me that it took all three Wayans to give a parody a glimmer of hope, and just the one this time made the film absolute crap. So now we learn that it gets a sequel. Well, of course it does…why wouldn’t it? Was the sequel any better than the first? Technically, yes, I think it was.

Marlon Wayans returns to his role as Malcolm in this sequel, and this time he’s dating Megan (Jaime Pressly). It takes place sometime after the events of the first and he is met with another demon…or perhaps the same one? It comes once he and his new girlfriend get a house through old video reels, a creepy haunted box full of moths, an imaginary friend, and a doll named Abigail. They must find a way to stop this demon before it keeps multiplying in other horror film rip-offs.

The found-footage style was visited once again for the sequel, which is good, because that gives the franchise consistency – even though the technical aspects aren’t really taken that seriously. A phone’s video quality versus an actual HD handheld cam is much different, but the movie is indistinguishable. Not only that, but half the time, characters are holding their cameras and pointing them at the ground, yet they are steadily aimed at the other character in the next shot. Also, there are random characters that seem to be filming on their phones for absolutely no reason other than to explain to the audience how they got that shot. I think they wanted to expand the filming locations, and that was the only way they knew how to do it…seemed ridiculous…but hey, it’s a spoof comedy.

I also like to watch the movies and try to figure out what films they are spoofing. It bothers me that they choose so many, but at the same time, it’s fun to recognize the movies if you’ve seen them. From what I counted, they were ripping off of Paranormal Activity 4, Insidious, The Possession, The Conjuring, and Sinister. What’s cool about that is that – at this point, I haven’t seen a lot of spoofs on these specific movies, and I’ve actually seen all of them, so I could actually respect what they were going for. At the same time, you can’t enjoy the movie on its own without knowing the source material. That was something I think Scary Movie had the advantage of…but I won’t let it get to me.

In all seriousness, the choice of spoofs in this movie were better than the first, and the way that they interlocked the stories was better than the first as well. Not only that, but they got a better budget all around, so there are better actors that actually show up than the first, making it an all around better film. However, I still didn’t really laugh in the movie, and instead sat their wondering what in the world I was watching half the time. I also firmly believe that however good the choices of spoofs were, there were too many to tell a solid story. Instead, we’re left with a number of side plots that don’t really mesh together as seamlessly as they should.

Remember, in my opinion, a parody is a film making fun of an idea or genre in general, a spoof is taking someone else’s idea and making a mockery of it…which is why parodies are much better, and for the most part…extinct in film. They are the types of movies Leslie Nielson often took a part in, Naked Gun, or Airplane! for example…or even Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods. Those are parodies, and they are so rare nowadays that it’s a crying shame.

The Good:

Marlon Wayans upped his game for A Haunted House 2, making sure to stick to only spoofs on current horror films that more people would recognize.

The Bad:

As much of a step in the right direction this film was, it still wasn’t funny, in my opinion. It tried way too hard to hit those physical and WTF comedic moments, and because of that – fell short on what would actually work.

The Random:

The inside jokes about the Wayans and the Scary Movie franchise was the funniest two seconds in the entire movie.

The Woman in Black (2012)

The-Woman-in-Black

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Cliché after Cliché.

So there has been this movie that I’ve been waiting to see, which…if you haven’t guessed by now, is The Woman in Black. There was some buzz around the movie when it first came out, as it was Daniel Radcliffe in something other than the Harry Potter franchise. He’s obviously been in more things, but this was Radcliffe amongst the world of horror…which is a reasonable shift in what we’re used to seeing him do…plus it takes place in the past…so this is pretty foreign in terms of what we’re used to…but in the end, it’s more or less the most cliché horror movie out there.

I do like the concept of this horror film though, as it separates itself from your typical haunted house flick, even though a good portion of the film is just that. Instead, it focuses on Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), who is tasked on taking care of the estate and will of a recently departed old lady, but once he gets to her house he begins seeing a “woman in black”. The legend goes…whenever she is seen by someone else, even for a split second, she goes into town and she finds a child to kill. Throughout the film, Kipps tries to discover why the ghost of this woman is so vengeful and how he can stop it from ever happening again…if he can.

The part about the story where it’s a vengeful spirit going after children is actually pretty unique and separates it from your typical ghost-in-house film. However, it is filled to the brim with plotholes that aren’t really explained. On one hand, you understand why she is killing kids, on the other hand…why she does it when someone looks at her is completely beyond me, and her method of choosing which kids to kill also doesn’t make sense and seems random…which doesn’t exactly fit her reasoning…which seems very specific. Beyond that, you know the whole town knows and believes the legend, and yet no one even attempts to move away and continues to have children…I know it’s terrible, but I say they were asking for it the entire time. Finally…the entire town knows about this legend and is scared of this woman in black…and yet the ENTIRE plot revolves around this guy dealing with a recently deceased woman who lived and died in this house. Apparently, the old lady didn’t have any problems with the scary ghost woman that creeps around her house and kills children.

The rest of the movie has a lot of cliché jump-out moments that either work or won’t depending on the viewer. I personally jumped during one of these many, many moments. The problem arises in their choice on how to film the scenes. While it looks nice and creepy a lot of the time, it’s filmed in a very typical manner. I know exactly when the woman in black is going to pop out…furthermore, I know exactly where she will show up as well…and that’s weird because this is my first viewing. Instead of being a psychological spooky movie, it tries to overwhelm you with very obvious scary visuals…which isn’t my personal preferred type.

How was Daniel Radcliffe? He tried his best, but in my opinion…he didn’t fit the role. I couldn’t buy his role as the lawyer, and not once do I care about his character either. Why don’t I care about his character? Mostly because I never felt danger toward him…the only people in danger in the film are the kids that are unfortunately extras in the movie…so even if you want to, you can’t care about the kids either.

Now that I’m done bashing the movie to kingdom come, I do want to acknowledge that it works for a lot of people. It’s clear to me, based on the reviews, that it either successfully scares or creeps out a number of people, so I’m willing to admit that maybe it’s just me and that I’m a critic so the effect was different…but as it is…I’ve seen better.

The Good:

The Woman in Black is an interesting horror film that takes a basic haunted house genre flick and gives it a unique twist with the concept as a whole.

The Bad:

As unique as the concept was, it is met with a lot of flaws and clichés, making the scares in the movie mediocre, overdone, and obvious. Plus…Daniel Radcliffe just doesn’t work in the role.

God’s Not Dead (2014)

Gods-Not-Dead

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Newsboys: The Movie

Pure Flix – where all of the failed ‘90s TV stars go to die.

Here on Dave Examines Movies, I’m known to dabble a bit here and there in the world of Christian cinema. I actually believe there is a place for it, but it is incredibly hard to do right…primarily because they never know who their target audience is and they can’t hit a good presentation whatsoever. The movie studio Pure Flix is probably one of the more well known studios for this scene, but God’s Not Dead is probably one of their most famous movies for quite a few reasons…well mostly speaking – it went to theater…which is rare, plus the title is based off of a Christian rock song of the same title…so obviously Christians everywhere were pumped to see the movie and thought it was wonderful. What did I think? To answer that, let’s first talk plot.

We have a pretty straight-forward plot. It’s about a student named Josh Wheaton (not Joss Whedon, as I thought I heard initially). This kid is super-religious, and his literature teacher isn’t. In fact, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) is as athiest as they come. He tells his class that they have to sign a paper saying “God is Dead” or they will lose 30% of their final grade…but one kid stands up to him. That’s right, Josh Wheaton. It’s up to him to persuade the class otherwise, that God’s not dead…even though all the odds seem to be against him in this.

Why was this so hyped up to begin with? Well that’s pretty simple, it was a Christian movie in theaters nationwide, annnd…it’s all based on a song by the Newsboys with the same title. Let me tell you a little something about the Newsboys. I grew up with them. I loved them. Throughout the years, they disbanded. One by one, until each member was pretty much replaced. Their entire routine changed. The band in this movie…the one that wrote that song? That’s not the Newsboys. Those are the…something else, but they aren’t the Newsboys and I wish they wouldn’t keep calling themselves that. Of course the whole movie was practically centered around their concert at the end – with posters on the walls and tickets in hand, etc.

That’s not important, though, let’s just talk about the movie itself. I’ll tell you the one and only thing I liked about this movie, because it is a big one. The discussion/speech aspect. That kid talking about God through his faith and passion was admirable. I can respect a well-written and executed speech. So his defense and back-and-forth with his professor were all pretty good scenes…but that’s all I cared about. The rest was complete hoopla.

These people…they don’t act normal. I know the movie is based on actual legal cases, and that’s just the thing. Legal cases, what this professor is doing is highly illegal…and yet…that’s not even touched in the movie – and the kid is studying pre-law. How is he not just outright suing the teacher for infringing his First Amendment rights? That goes beyond me, but anyways – the sourness and evil nature that the teacher has is complete honky and unbelievable – as is the rash actions taken by the kid’s girlfriend. Most of what happens in this movie…doesn’t make realistic sense. Forget the religious aspects…just look at how everyone interacts with each other…it’s way over-the-top and unbelivable. It’s really ridiculous.

One of the main things I complain with these types of films is that in two or three scenes, there are these unrealistic “sit-down” moment where one person talks to the other about Jesus. Two or three times is too much, and this entire movie is littered with them…almost every second of the movie…there is a sit-down of some type or another and it was so obnoxious…we get it!

Here’s what really gets me. “God’s Not Dead” is the title. Great choice, so I want you to convince the audience. Tell us something we haven’t heard before. Nope, all still the same thing we’ve heard countless times, making this film incredibly pointless. Why? Because as I stated from the beginning, they don’t know their own target audience. If they want to reach out to those people struggling and hurting, they have to do so in a way that will actually reach them. These Christian movies do the same thing over and over again. They make movies that only appeal to other Christians…they aren’t turning or helping anyone. I just don’t get it.

“It’s all about the message” they’ll say. That’s great. I’m all for good messages in film, but in order to have a successful message told – it needs to be told right. A good message is one thing, but without the message being executed through a good story…you have nothing.

The Good:

In all honesty, the debating scenes were well thought out and executed.

The Bad:

Everything else. From chemistry, to interactions outside of class, to random people’s life stories that are in all honesty unnecessary, to non-stop “sit-down” moments, to improper target audience expectations, to the freaking “NEWSBOYS” frauds.

Cuban Fury (2014)

Cuban-Fury

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Not incredibly funny.

Here you go America, just what you asked for, a Nick Frost solo film. We all thought, well…Simon Pegg can do it, surely enough Nick could follow suit, right? I don’t know, that may be so, but he has to pick the right movie…at least I would think. Cuban Fury had a good idea in there somewhere, but when it came right down to it, I could see a lot of people watching it thinking, hey it stars Simon Pegg’s buddy…but where’s Pegg? What’s more, I honestly think the movie would be better had Pegg been co-starring…because without the onion, sour cream is just sour.

Our story today revolves around our pal Bruce (Nick Frost). As a wee lad, Bruce was a popular and talented salsa dancer…but bullies helped dissuade him of his passions. Twenty-five years later, the world of salsa comes swingin’ back round as his new, attractive boss at his job is learning to salsa dance herself. He thought it’d be simple to win her heart, but alas, his over-confident co-worker is sweeping in to steal Bruce’s thunder. To save the day, Bruce must venture back into his heart and recover whatever he lost years before.

I don’t know if it was really the movie or the fact that I don’t care to watch salsa dancing films, but I wasn’t really getting into the movie. I mean, I get it. It’s funny to watch a big guy try to do a complicated dance and coming off as really awkward. It makes sense, and I’m sure it’ll strike the right chord for some of you. However, when it comes to movies about fat guys dancing for a girl, I turn my focus to Hitch. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but for the most part it’s because the movie was not really about dancing. That was only an aspect of the film. I can’t really stand movies that are almost 100% about dancing. I will admit that I laughed once in the movie, and that’s when a certain someone made a really random and unexpected cameo.

The characters were also very weird. Weird in a way that I actually liked them, but don’t think they work very well together. There wasn’t a lot of chemistry that felt right. At the same time, the chemistry didn’t feel absolutely horrid, it just felt very… bland and honestly forgettable. The same goes for the romantic chemistry between Nick Frost’s character and Rashida Jones’s character. Both very good and hilarious actors, and they feel so…uneven together. At the bare minimum, they at least needed good chemistry there, but it was a no go.

But hey, as expected, the dancing was pretty good. Better than what you’d expect out of Nick Frost, even if properly trained. If anything, you can just watch the movie for the dancing. Salsa is a very groovy dance…but at the same time you can just tune into So You Think You Can Dance for that.

I really wish I could sit here and list off the reasons to watch this movie, but I come up blank. However, the same applies vice versa. I can’t really list off strong reasons to avoid the movie, because for the most part…they’re just my personal opinions. The movie feels like it would definitely work for some people, and I’m glad. It means maybe I missed out, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Let me know what you think.

The Good:

That Nick Frost has some moves! Cuban Fury is a movie that will most likely work for a lot of people that love British comedy or…Nick Frost.

The Bad:

If you’re anything like me, you won’t hate the film, you will just have a lot of trouble getting into it. The concept alone isn’t extravagantly unique, so they try to pull more focus on physical humor by Frost…which might not be enough to make you happy.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014)

Angriest-Man-in-Brooklyn

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Made me angry.

Who doesn’t love Robin Williams? Sure he’s a little over-the-top in real life during his interviews, but his movies are usually phenomenal. Even if they aren’t, at least he’s a real treat to watch in practically anything he ever does. He is honestly one of the greats, and I’ll probably always watch him in anything…but The Angriest Man in Brooklyn really kind of set me off as far as his movies go. The trailer looked really funny with a great concept…but the movie itself…I don’t know. It won’t make me stop watching Robin Williams, but I at least have to warn my fellow movie fans.

The film is about, well, apparently the angriest man in Brooklyn, Henry Altmann. After his son died years ago, he’s just very sour towards everything around him and sometime in the past he pushed his loving family away. On a routine visit to the doctor’s office, he is met by Dr. Sharon Gill filling in for his normal doctor. She tells him that his brain scans show an aneurism. Obviously, he asks Dr. Gill how long he has to live, and pushes her for an answer until she finally relents and comes up with a number off the top of her head, “90”. Not 90 years, not 90 months, not even 90 days or hours…but 90 minutes. So throughout the movie, Henry Altmann tries to rush his sudden onset of a conscience and get through that short bucket list.

No wonder why he’s the angriest man in Brooklyn…this movie is kind of a boresville and would make anyone angry. With respect to Robin Williams, I fully understand why he accepted the role. The concept alone is very cool. You have 90 minutes to live…what do you do? Coincidentally, the movie is also 90 minutes which technically makes this movie real time, which is always a blast. However, the conveyance of real time isn’t the best…seeing how you can’t really tell anyways. I feel like I know what they were technically going for, but just failed in their execution.

I’m mostly upset at the sense of humor and thought it was quite cheap. At first, I couldn’t tell what they were going for, but then it occurred to me, they just want to make Robin Williams swear as much as humanly possible because that’ll make people gasp and laugh at the same time…thing is, as good of an actor that Williams is, for some reason or other, this performance wasn’t even remotely believable. I think it was purposefully overdone for a more colorful performance, but in the end, it didn’t feel like it matched up with anything else. Only Robin Williams and Mila Kunis were over-the-top actors while everyone else was genuinely acting serious, and worrying about his health condition. Trust me when I say it felt lopsided and inconsistent.

For the most part, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn actually had a lot of potential, because that is quite an interesting concept, and I really think Robin WIlliams would be great in a role where they did it right…but this time…this time was just kind of sad. The laughs were no where to be found. Instead, we’re just left confused about how we should feel…it was weird.

The Good:

Definitely the concept. The concept was really good. The whole idea about living the last hour and a half of your life really does make you think, and it also elevates the whole carpe diem thing…if done right.

The Bad:

Where they decided to take the concept. Seriously, there’s very little good to be seen here. The clashing personalities between the obviously over-the-top angry Robin Williams and his very serious family was especially nerve wracking.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)

HSM3

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Definitely better production.

So, today I watched the entire High School Musical trilogy. I did. aaand I liked them, so sue me. You know what I noticed? It was touch and go here and there, but in general, each movie got better, ending in a theatrical release for the third movie…which by the way, is really rare…it’s usually the other way around. The first two go to theater and the third is a TV movie that no one cares about…so if I’m being honest, I honestly have no idea why there was never a fourth movie with an all new cast, it only makes sense. At the same time, the story and legend of the films does a good job wrapping up here, and I’m glad they did, because like it or not, High School Musical 3: Senior Year did a good job.

The third and final film in the franchise obviously takes place senior year at East High, and with any other movie dealing with high school seniors, this also deals with the dilemmas of choosing the right college, and what that means for couples in a relationship. For their last ever musical, they decide to do it on themselves in their senior year of high school and the real problems that they are already facing every day.

The first thing you’ll realize with this movie is that it has a remarkably different tone than the previous two. That would be because of the higher movie budget and expectations. It wasn’t allowed to feel like an inky dink Disney Channel Original Movie anymore, now it had the obligation to feel like an official theatrical Disney movie, which even though you don’t think it would, presents a lot of pressure for everyone involved. Obviously, they couldn’t get it to perfection because it’s a third film in a franchise, but in my opinion…they took all of the flaws of the first two movies and corrected them substantially.

One of my complains about the first movie was that they used a different man’s voice for Troy’s singing scenes. Now, that issue was fixed in the second movie, but then the second movie also had way too much focus on the comedic characters and not enough on the High School side of things. The third movie took things back to the high school and it got back to being a musical about a musical. Not only that, but they took it a step further and actually showed us the songs of the movie in a very unique way that you wouldn’t think of. In my humble opinion, the choices made in this movie pertaining to direction were really smart.

I liked the songs in the second movie, but I didn’t think they really upstaged the first movie’s selection…and I think the third did just that. These new songs are more modern, they are written better both lyrically and melodically, and the dances that accompany them are simply mesmerizing. I’m not afraid to say that I really enjoyed the third movie…but I have one confession I have to make. All of the things that make this great in my opinion are all based off of comparisons to the other movies…as a movie all on its own…it’s really hard to say.

I still hold firm that the songs are really fun and the look alone is really great and more professional, but I’m sorry…it’s just inconsistent. You never just see a third movie go to theater. The reason why is because people who were unsure about the series may start here, because this movie actually went to theaters…which is fine, but they wouldn’t have a single clue as to what was happening once they watched it. There’s no real character development or even depth because that stuff was introduced to the audience already. All this movie really is – is an attempt to end things with a bang! That can serve as a real problem.

The Good:

Those of you who are fans of the High School Musical franchise, check this movie out! It takes every problem you may have ever had with the series and vanquishes them before your eyes.

The Bad:

If you are unsure about the franchise and are thinking about starting here because this is the one that actually went to theaters – stop. Your experience will be significantly altered because you won’t really know what’s happening or how they got to this point. Watch the other movies for context.

The Random:

One of my brothers once asked me to come up with my own “The Boys are Back” dance choreography routine in order to make a fun little video. I didn’t do it.

High School Musical 2 (2007)

HSM2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Better and Worse.

The High School Musical franchise is one that not a whole lot of people enjoy…that’s clear. What’s more, it’s understandable, but I still hold firm that they aren’t as bad as people put them out to be. I honestly think that people expected them to be absolutely horrid, so low and behold, they turned out to be to everyone…I just think they need to be taken a little more seriously and given a solid chance. They aren’t exactly my favorite movies ever, nor my favorite musicals at that, but I do think each and every one of them have a lot of good to offer. High School Musical 2 is a tricky movie, because it definitely hit the right chord in respect to fixing what the first had wrong, but at the same time…it botched something else up that’s almost equally as bad.

This time, the East High Wildcats are on Summer vacation, and their location to gather collectively around is an expensive summer resort that Sharpay’s family owns. Most have to do work because it is a summer job, but they don’t mind because it’s a very lucrative opportunity. Anyways, Sharpay has her own agenda of getting with Troy…and what’s more…it’s slowly seeming to work because Troy is worried about his future in college…which is taking him away from his high school sweetheart, Gabriella.

I want to first talk about how this moved light years beyond the first movie, because that is really important. I was honestly impressed with what they did for themselves here in only a year after the first movie. Mainly speaking, Zac Efron actually sang for his role and it finally looked real. Seriously, the first movie was like the whole Aunt Beru thing in Star Wars, but more often, and more obvious. It’s not only that, but those that were in the first movie that didn’t sing…sang in the sequel. Collectively, they did what they should have done in the first movie here. Then there was the dancing, it was clear that there were more diverse song and dance styles in this film. The dances alone were actually about five times better and more sharp than the first. The visuals and production value were also miles better than the first movie…so why did I only rate it a couple notches better than the first?

One word. Plot. High School Musical 2 falls victim to what countless family and kids movie fall victim to all the time…taking the comedic roles and making them more important than the leads. Sharpay and Ryan are fine characters, but for some reason, the movie seemed to be more about them than anyone else. They all went to Sharpay’s family business, Ryan needed to feel like he was important, Sharpay was trying to get with Troy the whole time…it had a lot of focus on them, and it just wasn’t that great. I liked the location as well, but the problem with it was that it wasn’t high school. The actual high school building of the first film was more or less a character, and an important one at that.

The title of the first movie was a play on words. It’s a musical about a musical, and that wasn’t true for this either. There was a talent show, but that was about it. It isn’t called Sharpay’s Talent Show Extraveganza, it’s called High School Musical 2, and I can’t help but feel a little gipped in that regard.

As for the songs, they weren’t bad. In fact, for the most part, they were just about as good as the first. A couple were even better, but I think in the end I probably prefer the first film for the songs…and that could be because the second one wasn’t put together as smart as the first. Who knows.

The Good:

Good or bad, High School Musical 2 definitely fits well into the franchise, as it continues with a lot of catchy, toe-tapping songs as well as even better dancing. It was clearly a higher-budget and bigger production than the first, and they did the right thing by allowing Zac Efron to sing this time.

The Bad:

My god, this was a Sharpay-centric movie. I don’t think I realized just how true that was until I saw it again, but that really annoys me, because I don’t care for her character.

The Random:

There is a special feature on the DVD that teaches viewers how to dance to “Work it Out”. I watched this special feature, and I learned how to do this dance. I have since forgotten how, but you know what…it’s not easy…at all.

High School Musical (2006)

HSM1

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Shush, it’s catchy.

I remember when I first saw High School Musical, but it actually surprises me that it was a 2006 movie…because I still remember watching it for the first time on TV as plain as day. It was just getting popular and they were always showing repeats of it on the Disney Channel and I thought I’d give it a try…low and behold it hooked me too…and I was a senior in High School…and a guy. I urged my family to watch it as well, and of course they had their doubts, but they too joined the High School Musical club…and there is a genuinely good reason for that…but at the same time, there are genuinely negative elements that shouldn’t be ignored either, especially with the first film in the franchise.

The story is pretty simple, your average, every day basketball superstar, Troy Bolton, met this cute girl while on a break from school, and it turns out they go to the same school. While there, Troy begins to question his loyalties and passions…does he want to play the championship basketball game, or does he want to sing in the next school musical with the girl he met, Gabriella? Whatever the case, change is apparently the worst thing in the world, because no matter what he wants to do, judgment follows him from every direction and he has to make a decision fast.

I really do believe that there are good things about this film, but at the same thing there are bad things. It does feel like a complete rip-off of Grease…at first. The entire foundation of the movie is the same exact foundation for the other…so I’m sure that there was some inspiration from both…however…the rest of the plot is more or less its own…that being said, it still is pumped full of predictable, cliché malarky…but that’s not the worst thing about it. It’s also not the worst thing in terms of production value, which is clearly cheap. It’s not even the fact that the acting is quite mediocre and very “Disney Channel Original Movie”-like. Instead, the worst thing about this movie…is their really strange choice to have some other guy do the singing instead of Zac Efron.

In my opinion, the choice to switch Troy’s voice for the songs was a really bad one. They did this because they wanted a tenor voice to match the character, but it doesn’t really sound like Efron…especially because Efron sings for both the second and third movie. I personally like his singing voice, and think that it adds to the movies better, but the guy’s voice he has in this film belongs to a Drew Seeley. It’s not that he has a bad singing voice, but to me it’s cheap and obvious and really ruins the movie.

The rest of the movie I more or less enjoy. It has a pretty bland and overused plot of staying true to yourself and not falling victim to the status quo, and of course, not caring what others think about you…but that’s really not the main reason people watch the movie…they watch it for the singing. As far as musicals go, I’m usually a fan of, at most, half of the songs. For some reason or other, I love all of the songs in the movie. They may not be the best written songs the whole time, but my god are they catchy. So sue me. I give credit where credit is due, and they have some catchy, diverse songs and forgive me for saying this, but fun dance numbers.

The Good:

There is a solid reason why High School Musical got the sequels it did, the popularity it did, and the career that Zac Efron ultimately got afterwards. The songs in the movie alone are enough to keep people watching the franchise, even if they aren’t the best written songs in the world…they are very catchy and a lot of fun.

The Bad:

A little too much of the footing of the movie looks way too much like it is copying off of Grease. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the film is also very cheap-looking and Zac Efron’s singing voice was that of another actor all together, which really ruins the experience for me, personally.

The Embarrassment:

I still kind of know all of the songs by heart. For all of the movies in the franchise.

John Tucker Must Die (2006)

John-Tucker-Must-Die

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Three women scorned

A little bit ago, I reviewed a movie called The Other Woman. It was about these ladies taking revenge on this cheating, womanizing man. The plot alone sounded remarkably similar to John Tucker Must Die, but I could tell right away that the main difference between the film was flow and direction. The Other Woman took way too long to get to the point because it wanted to focus on character introductions, developments, and interactions before it got to the primary and secondary plots…now character development isn’t really bad, but a movie like this requires the plot to get to the point and quick. For an example of how to do it right, we turn now to the plot of John Tucker Must Die.

Taking place in high school, we have John Tucker, who is basically the hottie with a body in the entire school. This whole film bases itself on the idea that popularity transforms peoples minds on who you are and because you are cool…the stupid things you do are also cool. So when he cheats on three girls, they decide to take out revenge on him…but their attempts just make him look cooler. They decide the only way to get back at him is to break his heart. Their method? Transform a neutral student into the girl of his dreams, and then rip his heart out from inside him when the time is right.

This is where they did absolutely everything right in terms of flow and direction. They introduced the girls and the plot right away. The character development was introduced throughout the film like it should have been…it just felt so natural, and believe it or not, it wasn’t as predictable as you might think it is. There are elements here and there which you’re like…okay yeah that’s obvious, but the rest of it and how things will turn out for John Tucker…isn’t as easy to predict.

I also really liked the inclusion of a skewed, over-exaggerated look on popularity. There’s no way that one popular guy in school could get the whole male student body to wear women’s thongs because he did…but because they did things like that in the movie, it was able to make fun of itself and somehow make light of a serious problem that teens are forced to accept every day. Popularity shouldn’t be the deciding factor for everything…and it often is…people just end up acting stupid and they end up regretting things they could easily avoid.

Is this the best movie in the world? Not by a landslide. But there are things about the movie that feel unique and original to itself and that’s never a bad thing. The overall tone is a bit childish and ultimately dumb, but in my opinion, it’s a kind of dumb that you can sit back and enjoy just because.

The Good:

John Tucker Must Die has a level of humor that at least makes the film feel like it stands alone among other movies like it. It also does a pretty good job at progressing the story and making its point crystal clear.

The Bad:

I’m not sure many people really care about the movie because it doesn’t make a substantial impact on the audience. It’s childish and dumb, and the laughs it does give are only temporary. In the end, the movie will end up collecting dust on your shelf.

The Random:

Director Betty Thomas referred to all the actors by their characters’ names, since, she claims, she couldn’t remember their real names, and she wanted to think of them as their character. When she forgot their characters’ names, she’d simply refer to them as “person”.

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