Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)

Superman-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Loses cinematic appeal.

When I was going through the entire Superman anthology a while back, I reviewed them based on what the general masses have seen, which was more or less the theatrical versions. Those have the most copies sold, and henceforth, millions of people base their knowledge of Christopher Reeve in blue tights off of those films, so I skipped the Donner Cut of Superman II. I did mention it though, saying from my recollection – it was better than the theatrical version. Giving it a second viewing however…has me really questioning where I got that. It’s definitely interesting and awesome to watch in comparison, but is it really worth watching as a movie movie? I think that’s a really good question.

Plotwise, it’s very similar to the theatrical…just done in an…alternate way if you will. Superman must defeat the three Kryptonian foes including General Zod and his buddies as well as touch base with Lois Lane in a very intimate way – because she discovers his secret, you see. So basically, it is a very character oriented film that asks the question…who is superman really? What does it mean to be him, what power struggles does he face within himself? Then, of course, there is Zod.

I was shocked at how much this film really just resembles the theatrical film. Yeah, there are new, never-before seen stuff (especially with Jor-El), but for the most part it’s the same story…just the way Richard Donner would have preferred it seen. To give you a little background, Richard Donner filmed a lot of Superman II, but the project was handed over to another director for dramatic reasons. They reshot a lot of footage, and the original footage was tossed away in some lost-and-found film factory (I’m assuming), and was then discovered when they were making Superman Returns, so here we are.

Here’s what you should know about this version: you have to take it with a grain of salt. You can’t take it seriously as a film on its own, because it’s an alternate version…kind of like the Anchorman alternate movies. They don’t feel like complete film and instead feel like a collection of unfinished footage…and so does Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. I actually didn’t remember it being so obvious, but there were shots here and there that just flat out looked wrong and had major continuity problems – including a scene that was simply just the actors’ screen tests where Clark’s hair and glasses change dramatically several times. No one will miss that.

That being said, there are some scenes that ultimately work better in this version than the theatrical. The most notable scene is towards the end, where [spoiler] Clark sucks Lois’s memories out with some kind of super-kiss. That was in the theatrical version and makes no logical sense…we know he’s super, but he doesn’t do that. In the Richard Donner cut, they take a play out of the first film…but at least it makes more sense. Also, even though it was a little more repetitive in the Richard Donner cut, Lois’s investigation skills feels more natural as she slowly discovers Clark’s secret…instead of it being a little forced. I did like the theatrical reveal scene though. 

It’s so hard to pick a favorite between the two, but if I had to pick, it would be the theatrical version just because that movie feels more like a film than a collection of interesting shots put together. I think it was more nostalgic to release a Christopher Reeve Superman movie in 2006 than anything else. It’s a nice film to check out once in a while, but it shouldn’t take precedence over the other – it’s just put together a little choppily.

The Good:

Seeing Christopher Reeve in newly found footage after so many years is definitely nostalgic, and the preparation of these scenes work a lot better than the theatrical version in many cases.

The Bad:

You can tell it’s just a special movie created to showcase brand new stuff.You can’t just toss in screen tests into an actual movie and expect people to not notice. Filmmakers shoot and reshoot scenes hundreds of times for a reason.

Penguins of Madagascar (2014)

Penguins

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Waste of time.

I can’t really say I’ve ever really been a huge fan of the Madagascar animated series, but I usually saw the appeal, but one thing I wouldn’t really consider neccessary is a standalone movie centered on the Penguins. Same with the Minions in Despicable Me. They are cute characters meant solely for comedic relief, by making them the main attraction, you lose a little bit of your dignity…at least I would think so. You see, if it weren’t bad enough, The Penguins of Madagascar already have a television cartoon series on Nickelodeon…why on earth did they need a movie? I’m not really sure, but let’s take a look at Penguins of Madagascar.

You’ve seen the Madagascar films, right? Those are the ones with the escaped Zoo animals that go on ridiculous adventures and end up having ridiculous musical numbers. Anyways, among the animals are the Penguins of Madagascar, a group of four sarcastic and pun-heavy penguins that are always up to no good, self-serving purposes. It’s really no different here, except there is no inclusion of the famous characters from the other films. This is strictly PENGUINS ONLY territory…or is it? When penguins from all over the world are getting kidnapped, its up to our favorite penguins to save them from the evil octopus Dave.

Before we get in too deep with how this is a standalone Penguins film, let’s not forget that in all honesty…it’s really not. This film introduced us to another group of animals that are more or less spies – which included Benedict Cumberbatch as the wolf in charge, and only real reason why I watched it. The more it moved along, the more I noticed how the Madagascar gang was simply traded in for these spy dudes…so I’m kind of confused why it’s technically called Penguins of Madagascar when the other players were just as important. That being said, the spies aren’t as memorable as the Zoo folk, so it felt more like a generic rip-off animated flick than it did a spin-off.

I had a generally bad feeling in my gut before watching it. As I mentioned above, the Penguins were a comedic relief source for a reason, and they should have never been taken advantage of for the film corporation’s evil greedy pockets. They don’t work as their own thing. I’ve always believed that comedic relief character(s) are only effective in limited doses. Which means if you have too much of that, you overdose on silly puns to the point of exhaustion. Word to the wise, kids, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. There may have been good things about this film, and the concept of turning it into a spy thing was kind of fun as well, but you’re good after a half hour. The rest is just drags on…and on…and on.

I was bored, plain and drain. It starts out okay, but the reason to continue watching it escapes you and you realize the rest of the movie is really just made for the kiddies, and the small ones at that. There is humor here and there that only adults will cue in on, which means that adults won’t be utterly annoyed taking their kids to the movies, but it really wasn’t enough of that either. My official recommendation is just to stick with the Nickelodeon show if you want to keep your kids distracted.

The Good:

To be honest, Penguins of Madagascar starts out on a good, no, a great note. There was a lot of action that never let up, and some pretty interesting choices in direction and some solid jokes that feel fresh and are smoothly presented.

The Bad:

Everything that’s good about this movie is only in the first half hour, in my opinion. The jokes may be the same, as may be the action – but you can only take so much of it before you’re ready to move on. A good hour of this thing will have you tapping your feet out of a mixture of both annoyance and boredom.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

City-of-Bones

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A cluttered mess.

Once, long ago, I attempted to review The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. You see, back in its day, the book everything is based upon was actually pretty popular, and apparently different than your typical young-adult franchise (others’ words, not mine). So I tried, but for whatever reason, I stoped the film because I couldn’t get into it for whatever reason. Recently, I decided instead to read the book (book review), and found some interesting concepts and direction…so I decided to give the film another go ahead. I found the same problems, but now I can actually talk in depth about them.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones stars Lily Collins in the lead as Clary, a young woman over head, as she comes face-to-face with the world of make-believe…or in more seriousness, the world of the paranormal. Witches, werewolves, vampires – you name it. You’ve heard the stories, and their all true. When her mother is kidnapped by one of the biggest, baddest villains of all time, Valentine, Clary and a number of other shadowhunters must work together to find and save her. All the while, they must protect the mortal cup, the very tool that created shadowhunters to begin with.

Alright, so I want to give them the benefit of the doubt first. Before I start bashing its brains in, it’s important to know what they did right. First and foremost, the casting was actually really well done. As I read the books, these were more or less the characters that I saw, the locations I imagined, and the overall feeling I felt while reading. Somehow, they got a lot of that surprisingly spot on, which leads me to believe the film had quite a bit of potential epicness here, but its major downfall comes down to pacing and transitions.

It’s technical and easily avoidable, but because it had such bad pacing, no one watching has any idea what’s going on. When I first saw the film, I stopped it because each scene was nothing but explanation after explanation, reveal after reveal, action scene after action scene…and it became quite overwhelming. This is because – if you have ever seen the actual physical book, it’s very thick. The same things happen in it, but it takes the reader on a really long journey just to get there – like Peter Jackson long. The book takes its time, the movie doesn’t. To make things even more complicated, the transitions were badly timed. You’ll be watching them at the institute one second, and all of a sudden, they’ll be in a cemetery the next and there is absolutely no lead-up. They might explain the scene in the first second of the next scene, but the jump is out of the blue and very – very confusing. The only way you know what’s actually going on and why is if you read the book.

Here’s the kicker. Because I read the book, I know when they take their time and savor the flavor…so to speak. The film actually took those same scenes that should have been slower, and insisted on making them action-packed like everything else – not allowing us to take a breather and digest everything that’s going on. I like creative freedom in film, but I stopped watching the movie on its own the first time I saw it because it was so absolutely complicated that its impossible not to think that even the filmmakers were confused during production. It’s that cluttered.

The Good:

The visionary behind what the film looked and felt like clearly had his mind at the right place. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones had the right casting, the right setting, and ultimately the same feel as the book.

The Bad:

The same trap that The Da Vinci Code fell for during the movie struck The Mortal Instruments as well. The books are full to the brim with really complicated details that only a book can properly present – when thrown into a film, it becomes really cluttered and honestly just a mess that doesn’t make much sense. These are projects that either need to stay in a book, or be made into a television series that allows for more details to naturally surface, rather than being forced.

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Jupiter-Ascending

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
The Wachowski’s indeed.

When it comes to the Wachowski Brothers Siblings, you never know what they’re going to throw your way next. However, you’d usually be pretty safe assuming that it’ll be strange and hard to comprehend at first, and usually something that’ll lag in your mind long after the movie finishes. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the viewer, but I can’t help but appreciate this directing/writing duo and their brains. It’s usually at least something impressive on some scale or another, and Jupiter Ascending ascended my expectations, believe it or not.

It’s very difficult to put the plot of this film into words, but I’ll try. Mila Kunis plays our title character, Jupiter Jones, who is more or less the “Neo” of this film. She seems like a normal human being, but in actuality – is very special and ultimately holds the secret to the Earth’s survival. In outer space, there are four groups of individuals that want her for various means. I’ve deemed them: The Hunters, The Entitled, The Un-Entitled, and the Bad Guys. I’d say half of these groups are good and the other half are bad, wanting her dead. I don’t want to get too deep into the story, just know that her living status poses a threat to their destructive plan.

Well I can say one thing is for certain, this is without a doubt a product of the Wachowskis. Not only does it have that neverending mysteriously weird vibe going for it, but it also seems to be a mash-up of all of their past films put together. The character of Jupiter and her importance seems somewhat reminiscent to Mr. Anderson himself in The Matrix, the colorful action sequences with mixed CGI and live action may remind you of Speed Racer, and the sci-fi/reincarnation aspect of it will definitely remind you of their most recent film prior to this – Cloud Atlas. It feels like their type of movie, and I commend them on that – however, you may notice that it doesn’t have the best ratings around.

In my opinion, it was a lot better than Cloud Atlas when it comes to clarity and overall entertainment value. However, it does have a lot of things going against it at the same time. People will mostly have a difficult time understand the vast arrangement of space lingo and trying to piece the history of the narrative together. Even I am still trying to figure everything out – so that’s fair. At the same time, isn’t it always a Wachowski thing to force their audience to re-watch the movie just to gain more clarity? I truly think most bad reviews are judged too harshly based on first impressions. Critics don’t often like to think too much on a film if they don’t have to. If they did, however, it’s not that difficult of a story to really comprehend, because I really found myself enjoying this movie. Sue me.

Watch it in 3D if you can. There’s just something about watching Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis skate/glide/fly through the city of Chicago during very wide angle shots that looked immaculate – even real. The action scenes in this film, and most of the rest of the scenes in the movie were shot and pieced together so incredibly well that I could have watched them over and over again. Even if I was totally lost during those segments, it was a blast and a half just to watch everything. Love it or hate it, this movie is impressive, you have to give it  that.

The Good:

Truthfully, I really enjoyed Jupiter Ascending. It may be confusing at times, but that is what the Wachowskis are all about. It was pieced together really well, is just clear enough to follow – but adds a lot of mystery to gain knowledge of in multiple viewings – the action sequences were kind of insane…I just had a lot of fun with this.

The Bad:

It’s confusing. Even after explaining most parts, you may have difficulty after watching the movie figuring everything out exactly right. Even if you are right, you might have doubts because of the jumbled nature of the film. Take that as you will.

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)

horrible-bosses-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Was expecting funnier.

To be perfectly honest, I always found Horrible Bosses to be quite unique for comedy, and I had a lot of good laughs watching it because not only is the concept funny, but so are the characters and the jokes written for each of them. Did I ever expect a sequel? No, and neither did the rest of the world, I don’t think. The first movie stood alone as far as importance went, we certainly didn’t need another one, and yet here we are at Horrible Bosses 2. In the end, it wasn’t amazing, but you know Hollywood’s insistent on the Rule of Three, we almost always have to have a trilogy – so you can pretty much guess there’ll be another one in the next year or two.

This sequel once again centers on our three amigos once again, Nick, Kurt, and Dale. This time around, they’ve learned from their mistakes…or have they? They no longer like to work for evil bosses, so they decided to work together and be their own boss – but in order for that to work, they need a sponsor and money…so you can guess what comes next – their sponsor is now the one that is horrible, so they plot to kidnap his son in order to get the money they claim is rightfully theirs. Only, the son decides he wants in on the kidnapping plot as well, which only makes things worse.

You know what I was thinking when I first started watching Horrible Bosses 2? I was thinking, “ohh, I get what they did – now they are the horrible bosses…nice.” In all honesty, I think that would have created a nice spin on everything, but in the end, it just turned into more or less the same thing as the first. Instead of murder, you have kidnapping. Which is fine, but the way they went about it was just mirroring the first film – including re-hashing most of the jokes from the first just for the heck of it.

That’s the thing about the comedy, the humor was funniest only when bringing back jokes from the first…which is really sad. Unfortunately, the trailer showed all the funniest bits and even presented those funny bits better than the actual movie. I can’t help but notice the lack of chuckles or even smiles I had while watching this sequel. It wasn’t exactly as horrible as the title suggests, but it wasn’t hysterical either. You can watch it all the way through when you have nothing better to do, but I’m having trouble saying this film was worthy of even being called a part of the franchise.

You see the same cast for the most part, but you don’t exactly love them like you did the first time either. It’s basically nice to see them together again, but you get more excitement from the movie poster and trailer than you do the movie itself. That’s because the plot is very old. Faking a kidnapping to get the money yourself? Oh come on. If I had a nickel for every time that’s ever been done, I’d be rich. What they should have done instead is become the horrible bosses and have to relive the first movie from the other perspective. Boom. I’m a better writer than you Hollywood turds.

The Good:

It’s great to see these comedic legends coming together once again, even if we weren’t expecting this franchise to have a second movie. They have pretty good chemistry, and there are a few solidly funny parts here and there.

The Bad:

To be blunt, Horrible Bosses 2 should never have been made. There was no point, the comedy was bland, and the plot was unoriginal. It was, in all honesty, a waste of time.

Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
That was unnerving.

I don’t say this often, but some films really get on my nerves…but kind of in a good way. These movies are done with such precision that you get so transfixed with what’s going on that it makes you cringe with slight disgust but leaves you with unquenchable curiosity for what’s coming next. Nightcrawler had me on the edge of my seat, and for a type of movie that doesn’t normally have me interested, I was hooked in more ways than I’m having difficulty explaining. If you are unsure about watching it like I was, you need to at least give it a chance, because there’s nothing like it out there.

Nightcrawler stars a creepily thin Jake Gyllenhaal with an equally creepy persona as Louis Bloom, a man that really needs a job. That is, until he discovers what it is like to be a nightcrawler, a freelance journalist that films crime scenes before the police arrive to sell to the News. However, his insatiable apatite for money and perfection finds him on and over the line of ethics and morals, as he films the crime scenes as he deems fit – which means breaking and entering, tampering with the evidence, and much more just to get that perfect shot.

This movie is, well, it’s kind of insane. If it weren’t for Gyllenhaal, this movie wouldn’t really be much of anything. You see, he not only looks creepy, he walks and talks creepy as well. Throughout the film, you know there is something very wrong with him, but it never really explains what that is – which is perfect. It keeps you guessing and you never know what will happen next. My best guess was sociopath with homicidal tendencies, but again, that’s just a guess. He could just be a weirdo. The fact of the matter is, Jake Gyllenhaal continually kills it in the movies. He’s a god at acting.

My stomach was slowly churning throughout the movie for a few reasons. Few movies have the ability to keep my attention so thoroughly, and Nightcrawler kept me insanely zoned in. What was happening wasn’t only unnerving and original, but in a certain light it was pretty believable too. The videos he illegally obtains are blared on the News like any other story, and it really makes you think how often this actually happens. It’s told as-matter-of-factly, but the reality of the situation is really tense and really messed up. You think paparazzi is bad? Try crime journalism.

It seems to me that this film was equally balanced in its character development, acting, story progression, and editing in order to make the entire film have an unnerving tone to it that never once goes away. Need to use the restroom? Use it beforehand, because even with the ability to pause a movie – you wouldn’t dare disrupt the pacing this movie had for itself. It’s definitely a winner, even if it doesn’t win that Oscar later this month.

The Good:

This is one of the very few movies I’ve ever seen that had me on the edge of my seat and had me clinging my upset stomach. The world is messed up, and the hunger of television and numbers, and what people are willing to do to achieve them makes my head hurt. This is original, thought-provoking, and chilling. You have to watch it.

The Bad:

It’s not really a typical movie in terms of protagonist, antagonists, and a typical plot arch. That’s because it’s a dark, brooding movie that is made to dig deep into where you’re uncomfortable…and some people just don’t like that.

Project Almanac (2015)

Project-Almanac

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Chronicle: Butterfly Effect

I could have sworn I saw the trailer to Project Almanac a long, long time ago – I thought it looked like a great concept, reminiscent of Chronicle, in that it is a found-footage teenage epic where something sci-fi and impossible happens. Instead of super powers, you have time travel, which is perfect. When it came out, however, an outpour of horrible reviews came out and are continually piling on top of each other. I understand their complaints, but at the same time, was it ever supposed to be anything more than it was? Probably not, and you can’t ignore that. I personally think it is okay, just not good enough for a buy.

Project Almanac stars a number of unknowns in the lead as they go to high school and prepare for college. David Raskin (Jonny Weston) is an ambitious teen that might remind you of a young Tony Stark that dreams of one day going to MIT, but doesn’t exactly have the funds to do that. When he and his friends discover blueprints to a time machine, they use their intellect to build it and make a wearable version to go around town fixing wrongs in their own life and just having fun.

I’ve heard certain complaints about this movie, and I want to talk about them too. Everyone who watches these movies always seem to want the same thing – a time travel movie where characters on screen go to real events that actually happened and affected the nation. Like Woodstock, for example. However, almost every time travel movie doesn’t do this and instead introduces its own storyline that’s important to its own characters. Back to the Future is one of the many films that did this, and so did Project Almanac. Basically speaking, think of The Butterfly Effect when watching it. It’s all about these fun-loving characters that get a little in too deep with what their messing with, and when things get affected by the ripple effect, David continually tries to fix it and keeps screwing things up.

That’s ultimately what bugged me here, it was unoriginal in the sense that it ultimately started to feel like a cheap rip-off of The Butterfly Effect, except it wasn’t as dark. I never once cared that they didn’t visit historical events, but when time travel movies step on that butterfly and change the course of history, they also get in too deep with where loop holes might be, and there is a pretty big loop hole here – there may be an easy explanation when it happens, but because it didn’t even touch the subject, it feels like a mistake.

Another part of the film that didn’t really spark my interest was the characters. They click, sort of, but I’ll probably wake up tomorrow forgetting their names, and the next day I may have forgotten everything about them because I simply didn’t care about them. If you don’t have loveable characters, you don’t have a solid story anymore, because it’s completely based off of these characters and depends on them in order to work as a whole. It has its moments, but all I’m saying is that it could have been a lot better.

Now, when it comes to found footage, I’ve written an article on what’s good and what’s not on a technical level. Project Almanac actually wasn’t terrible, but it was far from perfect as well, so let’s look at the checklist for a good found footage film:

  1. No opening credits/subtitles – Actually, there wasn’t any opening credits or subtitles, but there was a couple of production company logos, which are clearly not found on any footage randomly found.
  2. Appears to be unedited – Truth be told, this was dealt with pretty well as well, but not perfectly. There are some moments when the camera turns where you can really tell it was edited.
  3. Shaky Cam – Definitely shaking here, which is completely fine.
  4. No background music – There wasn’t any background music, but they did play a lot of current songs on the radio and listened to them in concert. That’s an easy way out, and I don’t have a huge issue with it. If you REALLY want music in a movie, and I’m guessing a teen movie does, they did what they could.
  5. Bad quality/ultimately looks amateur – Not at all, this movie is completely HD and has clear post-production effects and color correction, as well as sound recording and editing that makes absolutely no sense from an amateur standpoint. I figured that though, so I don’t really care too much about that. – BUT I completely understand why others would be pissed at that.

So my judgment on found footage for Project Almanac is that it would have done a lot better as just a standalone movie. It’s cool to throw a camera back in time and everything, and the importance of the camera becomes more apparent towards the end, but not so much that I wouldn’t say hey, this could have done better as just a plain movie. Found footage = unnecessary and possibly hurt it overall.

The Good:

The real reason why I liked this a bit more than most is probably because I’m a huge fan of Chronicle, and the complete and overall feel of Project Almanac almost feels like a spiritual sequel of the other film, and I do like the feel of both movies. It’s interesting, a lot of kids would probably have a lot of fun with it, which was the point the whole time anyway.

The Bad:

It could do better, much better. It took a really long time to build up to the whole time-travelling aspect because it wanted to introduce you to all of the characters and situations, and because this movie isn’t that long – they needed to get on with it. I get it, science! Let’s just speed things along, shall we.

The Random:

I wasn’t waiting for them to go back in time and kill Hitler, but I can’t express how interested I was in seeing them travel to the future, which doesn’t happen in the movie…so that sucked.

Let’s talk ‘Found Footage’

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Among all of the sub-genres film has to offer, I’ve noticed one unstoppable force that is, for the most part, hated by the reviewing community – and that is “Found Footage”. You know what I’m talking about, a movie that focuses on the perspective of the cameraman and nothing else? It usually begins with an ominous message in the beginning that says “This footage was found in the wreckage at so-and-so, State. It has been released unedited at the request of the victims’ families.”. Then, the movie itself is probably attempting to scare the audience, as the cameraman accidentally captures something impossible on camera, and just can’t stop filming, because they need this evidence on tape.

What is perfect found footage?

Now, people hate found footage with a passion – but to be perfectly honest, I like it. If it is done right, I love it and cannot stop praising it. The three films that come to mind as a perfect example of found footage done right are The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and even the first (and only first) Paranormal Activity. There have been others that, while not a perfect example of found footage, is still a lot of fun, like Chronicle. How do I define “The perfect example of found footage”? Simply put, it’s filmmakers that take the craft seriously. The best found-footage movie that’s out there is without a doubt The Blair Witch Project. That sucker was filmed by the cast on a VHS recorder. It’s full screen, horrible quality (VHS), the cast used their real names, and before the movie came out, there were news stories released that these random people vanished, and they didn’t make themselves known until after the movie was released. That’s devotion. Devotion will take you far, and there are people out there that still believe The Blair Witch Project was a real documentary. It looks real, and by real, I mean something that filmmakers wouldn’t make, just regular people, and that’s the primary key for found footage.

The Shaky Cam Dilemma

Found footage is what I like to refer as professionally amateur. The entire concept of the thing is supposed to look like it’s not filmed by anyone in Hollywood, but rather just your average everyday Joe Shmoe. That means, every actor must be unknown at the time, or at least playing themselves in the feature. It also means it needs shaky cam. Shaky cam is always, ALWAYS exaggerated by critics, in reality it’s never as bad as they say, it’s just not as smooth as regular Hollywood movies. Guess what? I have a ton of homemade movies with my family during events like birthdays and holidays. After that, my brothers and I made movies together – guess what they all technically have? SHAKY CAM, because we are amateurs, and for movies to replicate what happens when normal people film extenuates the realism that it needed for its message of “Regular, everyday people running into something impossible…could it be real?”

Unedited?

Of course found footage movies are edited, but if you can make it look unedited, you’re a freaking genius. While The Blair Witch is also a good example of this, the best unedited look in found footage is clearly Cloverfield. Not only did Cloverfield have absolutely no opening credits, but the way they shot it was perfect. Notice the shots when the cameraman thought he turned off the camera, but instead filmed the ground, or when he thought he filmed something important, but missed everything. Or, the obvious parts where it cuts to footage that was previously on the tape they were recording over when they went back to look at the footage. It was very reminiscent of how things actually work when you’re not a part of Hollywood, and I can’t stop praising that. It made it THAT better, and it actually makes me want to watch it again.

I also love Paranormal Activity, but more based on their idea of horror than anything else. Their found footage clearly has its faults, but when I watched it, I didn’t really have an issue with it, and found reeled in with the characters and events – it’s not the best found footage for found footage, but for me, it’s definitely up there.

When found-footage goes bad.

You won’t see me ever, ever complaining about shaky cam, because I think you need shaky cam for found footage to even work. If you had something really nice and calm, you don’t have found-footage, you just have a movie. Where it really goes bad is when they don’t understand how things work and just don’t take it seriously. How many found footage movies have you seen where the camera angle doesn’t make any sense, or has changed angles when there’s only apparently one camera in the scene? How many movies have you seen with subtitles or opening credits that clearly suggest it’s edited? How many found-footage movies have production-value lighting and sound, but still insist on being found footage? Unfortunately MOST found-footage will have one or more of these easy mistakes, and if I could say one of them that DOESN’T really bug me, it’s the production value lighting and sound, but I can see where it would bug others.

Found footage is amazing, it just has to be taken seriously. Yes, over the years, it has gotten a little old, and people have felt obligated to find new ways of found footage, like Skype and X-Box Kinect, but I still like the classics, which are still more believable. The changes can be fun now and then, but you don’t need them, really. I vote for more found-footage films that take themselves seriously.

What do you think?

Taken 3 (2014)

Tak3n

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
AKA The Fugitive.

‘The Preventor’ himself, Bryan Mills is back in action in Taken 3, a movie that no one can comprehend of its existence! Say what you will about the series, I like it. It’s completely unnecessary, only insists on being a trilogy to be a trilogy, and is just a form of getting more and more money. I totally understand and agree to all of that, but why not have fun watching it in the process? Liam Neeson is so weird as an action star when you think about it – all 9 feet of him (or so it appears) karate-chopping bad guys left and right. Why not, right? As expected, there were things I did and did not like about the third and final film in the trilogy…so let’s talk about it.

This time around, the thing that is taken from him wasn’t his daughter, but instead – his ex-wife. By taken, I mean (SPOILERS) killed. There’s no way around it, that’s the main foundation of the plot – but as soon as he discovers her murder, he is immediately framed for it. So he does what any good ex-husband and father does – he strikes the police officers attempting arrest, and goes on the run in order to find and stop his wife’s murderer.

What I liked about the third movie should be obvious, thanks to the second movie. It simply wasn’t the same plot. The second movie in the series was more or less just a big re-hashing of the first movie with just a little more action…but I mean – his daughter was taken again, by similar people, and he had to get her back. Both movies took place in different countries with terrorists and really bad men – this was grounded in the United States and it was mostly Liam Neeson on the run…it was unique in the sense that this is a Taken movie that feels more or less like The Fugitive…which is what I didn’t like about it.

Yes, I liked that they changed up the plot. I didn’t like how that meant turning into a re-imagining of Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive. Liam Neeson was Harrison Ford and Forest Whitaker was Tommy Lee Jones. The only thing that was a little different was Bryan Mill’s character. While Harrison Ford played an innocent doctor using his intellect to solely look into his wife’s murder – Bryan Mills used his particular set of skills. BUT, even so – this has to be the least action-oriented Taken film.

I’m not entirely sure if they wanted to flow a little more heart and soul into the story, but there wasn’t a lot of action…certainly not as much as you’d come to expect from the series, and as a franchise ender, you’d think it needed a bit more. It’s not a huge issue, but the heart and soul of the film, while there, wasn’t strong enough to ultimately carry it and it left me a little dissatisfied. Instead, I want to watch The Fugitive because I know that’s basically the same story, just better.

The Good:

It’s good to see a series that never deserved to be a series come to an end – and to be perfectly fair, some franchises are basically torture to watch, and it is very possible to watch this and have fun at the same time. No expectations or nitpicking, and you might actually enjoy it.

The Bad:

The story was just ripping off of The Fugitive. So much so that you’d do much better just watching the other movie because that’s more entertaining.

Taken (2008)

Taken

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
The overprotective father.

Interestingly enough, I never did review the first Taken. This is the movie that started it all, jump-starting Liam Neeson’s career into how it’s known now – a type-casted action hero role. Though, if you ask me, that has more to do with him having a mid-life crisis and trying to prove something more than it has to do with anything else. It’s weird, because before Taken, I remember Liam Neeson in countless films that he’s done a really good job in, and while his acting wasn’t the best in Taken, the movie itself was just a lot of fun when it comes right down to it, so let’s talk plot.

I’m not going to pretend you don’t know what the movie is about – because I’m pretty sure whether or not you’ve actually seen it- you know the plot regardless. That being said, I just feel like talking about what happens. You see, Liam Neeson portrays Bryan Mills – a retired CIA agent that just wants to be around his estranged daughter – who takes his existence for granted. In a continued effort to prove his loyalty and love to his daughter, he buys her tickets to Paris, where she is immediately abducted from the airport. Let’s just say it’s back to a particular set of skills in order to track down and kill his daughter’s abductors.

The plot of this movie couldn’t be more simple if it tried to be. Liam Neeson kicks butt and the film isn’t afraid to prove that to the viewer throughout the movie – and all they had to do to prove it was give him a reason to kick butt. Kidnapping his daughter, done, let the show begin. It’s so simple, yet perfect for what it’s going for. It didn’t have to be deep and meaningful, because as a general rule, kidnapping is a very emotional experience from the get go. So even though it’s simple, it also has a lot of heart. No, you won’t really buy that Maggie Grace is Liam Neeson’s daughter, but it’s not really imperative that you do, either. It’s an action movie that wants to be an action movie, I say let it.

As far as the series goes, I’ve only seen the second movie so far, and to be honest, I like them both a lot – mostly because they aren’t trying to be anything that they aren’t. They know if it’s silly and repetitive, but the real reason you watch it isn’t truly for the story and you know it. The thing is, as fun and exciting the action is, and as unimportant as the story is, you still can’t really get away with not complaining about the acting.

I have no idea why, but there was something remarkably off about the acting. Like I’ve said before, I’ve seen Liam Neeson in a lot of movies and have been impressed with his acting ability, but there was something really robotic and amateur about the acting he did in Taken. It’s not only him, either, it seems like everyone in the movie couldn’t figure out how to act, and just like Liam, there was a lot of actors with the proven ability to act in this…so why did they seem so bad at it? My guess is probably the director or editor was a little off sync with what’s typically considered professional, and for the most part…it was just a mistake.

The Good:

Taken is a lot of fun, regardless of how good or bad the movie is on a technical level. Every now and again, you run into movies that are just fun, but critics like to rip them a new one anyways. This is one of those movies.

The Bad:

The acting. It seemed bad for some reason.

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