Ep. 103 – Top 5 movies of the year so far, home video reviews of The Circle, Unforgettable, and Kong: Skull Island, and a preview of Fathom Events this week

August 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod run down their top 5 movies of 2017 so far. They also preview a pair of Fathom Events, “Batman and Harley Quinn” and “Rifftrax Live – Doctor Who: The Five Doctors,” and Cody reviews home video releases for “The Circle,” “Unforgettable,” and “Kong: Skull Island.”

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Ep. 97 – Beauty and the Beast, Kong: Skull Island, and our full SXSW recap

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Beauty and the Beast,” circle back to pick up “Kong: Skull Island” from last week, and give their full SXSW recap, including quick reviews of “The Disaster Artist,” “Baby Driver,” and “Mr. Roosevelt.”

[00:00-42:53] Intro/SXSW recap

[42:53-56:37] Review: “Beauty and the Beast”

[56:37-1:06:30] Review: “Kong: Skull Island”

[1:06:30-1:10:20] Wrap up/tease

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Beauty and the Beast

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans
Directed by: Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”)
Written by: Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and Evan Spiliotopoulous (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”)

As impressive a pair of live-action adaptations Disney was able to churn out in the last two years with 2015’s “Cinderella” and 2016’s “The Jungle Book,” it would’ve seemed like the studio figured out a surefire way to take a beloved classic film and enliven it for audiences who never owned a copy of the original on VHS. In “Beauty and the Beast,” however, director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) doesn’t seem very interested in producing a fresh take of the 1991 animated movie. In fact, in this re-imagining starring Emma Watson (“Harry Potter” franchise), it looks as if the most important thing to do was adhere to the film’s “tale as old as time” adage and commitment to nostalgia. If anything, “Beauty and the Beast” is too faithful.

There are a few liberties screenwriters Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and Evan Spiliotopoulous (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”) take in the narrative that don’t add much to the overall emotion of the story. The backstory of the Beast (Dan Stevens) get more screen time as we learn the fate of his mother before he is turned into a hideous castle-dwelling monster. Identity politics also come into play as this version of “B&B” introduces us to Disney’s fist gay character, LeFou (Josh Gad), who in the original Disney movie was Gaston’s buffoonish punching bag. In this one, he’s a lively flirt.

Waston is serviceable as the intelligent and innocent Belle, but her interaction with the Beast in the first half of the movie leaves much to be desired. Their relationship lacks because the Beast is missing all of the charm and charisma of his animated predecessor. Becoming computer generated has done no favors for the Beast and we’re left with a hollow shell of a character that used to feel genuine, emotionally complex and enchanting.

While the art direction is nearly flawless albeit a bit overly gaudy at times, scenes like the dance in the ballroom or the “Be Our Guest” performance don’t visually pop like they once did. And when it comes to the new music, none of the songs from “How Does a Moment Last Forever” to the quite lullaby-like melody “Days in the Sun” are not memorable.

Wonderful set pieces, costumes, and childhood memories aside, “Beauty and the Beast” is fairly unexceptional. If French author Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s traditional fairy tale has never crossed your radar before, it’s probably best to start with the one that came during Disney’s Renaissance period. It is, by far, the more romantic and entertaining of the two.

The Bling Ring

June 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson
Directed by: Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”)
Written by: Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”)

In 2008 and 2009, a group of teenagers ransacked the homes of celebrities in Hollywood including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson and Lindsay Lohan. Accessing some of these houses by simply walking through unlocked doors, this group of teenagers made out with a total of $3-million worth of money, jewelry, art, and other belongings. Director Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) tackles the story of these infamous teens with “The Bling Ring,” a fairly well representational albeit highly un-relatable narrative that is all shine and no spark.

The film is anchored largely by newcomers Katie Chang and Israel Broussard, who both do a decent job given their lack of experience. Their characters, along with the rest of the young crew, are underwritten and unlikeable, but are serviceable given the material provided. The rest of the cast give their best impressions of annoying California teenagers who have virtually nothing to do except offer up their thickest valley-girl accents. Even “Harry Potter” veteran Emma Watson can’t do much with what should be an interesting character to dissect psychologically. Instead, Coppola aims for uncomplicated themes like materialism and the celebrity culture and sidesteps anything with real meaning.

By far the biggest issue with “The Bling Ring” is that there is nothing to keep the film grounded, which makes any connection with the audience obsolete. What the film ends up boiling down to is pretty rich people stealing from pretty rich people. Even at a merciful 90 minutes, the film drags on due to the complete lack of fully-realized characters and a script that has more to say than, “OMG!”

Creating a film with no redeeming characters isn’t an inherently bad thing. However, an effort needs to be made to either make the characters multi-dimensional or create a story so interesting that you can’t peel your eyes away. Neither of these things is accomplished in “The Bling Ring.” It’s shallow and inapt on almost every level.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

October 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky (debut)
Written by: Stephen Chbosky (“Rent”)

As the music swelled and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” cut to black, I felt a twinge of regret that the teenage version of myself didn’t have this film (or the book it was adapted from, for that matter) to both obsess over and hold up as a parallel to my high school life, accurate or not. What self-diagnosed misunderstood teenage male can’t identify with being an outsider or suffering through the ultimate tragedy that is unrequited love?

While I venture on into my 30s, though, these things become embarrassing relics from a life gone by. What is it about high school that activates the mopey, me-against-the-world response in some people? Life wasn’t that bad, you know? As such, if you’re a pre-Millennial, “Wallflower” may make you wonder why you were such an insufferable teenage ass.

Written and directed by the book’s author Stephen Chbosky, “Wallflower” begins with Charlie’s (Logan Lerman) first day of high school. An undercurrent of tragedy and awkwardness follow Charlie as he ventures into the maw of early-’90s teenage culture, where no one has a cell phone and the preferred method of expressing your deepest feelings for someone was via mix tape. Friendless and skittish, Charlie takes a chance and latches on to gay class clown Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his beautiful, music-savvy step-sister Sam (Emma Watson). Charlie finds happiness in both friends and in school, thanks to the attention of English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) fostering Charlie’s love of reading with a steady diet of angst-filled teenage literature like “Catcher in the Rye” and “A Separate Peace.” And all the while Charlie finds himself falling in love with the unavailable Sam.

While the modern teenage experience may remains timeless, the details add a timeliness that might trip up the casual viewer. The gentle suggestion of the time period, the early-’90s, both helps and hurts the world of the film. The production design mostly avoids obvious fashion choices, sparing the audience from reliving the wardrobe styles of “Saved by the Bell,” but the pre-smartphone lifestyle may be difficult for today’s teens to grasp. After all, one of the plot points involve the main characters not being able to figure out what the name of the song was they heard on the radio once. Nevermind that’s it’s obviously David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Even this grizzled 33-year-old can can just barely remember when that was a real world problem–which is a recurring theme, as it were.

In the end, though, “Wallflower” has the vibe of a sad rock song: maybe all the details don’t line up exactly with your life, but when one or two do, damn…it feels like it’s speaking only to you.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

July 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: David Yates (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”)
Written by: Steve Kloves (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”)

Whether Harry Potter’s increased maturity over the last decade is most evident in the fearlessness he summons within himself in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” or the amount of hair he displays beneath his arms, there is no denying that the famously spectacled boy-wizard audiences first met in 2001 has become a full-fledged man.

With his rite of passage comes the removal of all childish things from this final installment of the fantasy film series adapted from the ambitious mind of best-selling author J.K. Rowling. In “Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” there is no time to play a skillful game of Quidditch, or transform students into ferrets, or cast ridiculous spells on black widow spiders. Actually, there isn’t much time for any humor at all, and for good reason. When Harry Potter (Radcliffe) steps up to the edge of a looming forest in the third act of the film and declares that he is ready to die, it’s not just some melodramatic statement he makes before his inevitable face-off with Lord Voldemort (Fiennes). He actually sounds like he believes it. Depending on how emotionally invested you have become in these characters over the last decade will determine just how disheartening it would be to see Harry fall short of his calling.

Returning for his fourth consecutive Harry Potter film, director David Yates embraces the seriousness of the narrative and the consequences of Rowling’s uncompromising mythology. In “Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” Harry, Hermione (Watson), and Ron (Grint) continue their scavenger hunt for the remaining Horcruxes, which they have to destroy in order to defeat the Dark Lord. With Hogwarts under the prison-like rules of new headmaster Severus Snape (Rickman), the trio must infiltrate the school to seek out the last object and then defend the castle alongside their professors and fellow classmates as Voldemort flings the Elder Wand around without remorse.

While the catalog of Harry Potter films include both highs and lows (Alfonso Cuarón’s fascinating “Prisoner of Azkaban” is still unsurpassed), both halves of “Deathly Hallows” are easily two of the most satisfying entries in the entire epic. In “Part 2,” the danger is seething as both sides battle between extravagant set pieces and eye-catching special effects, unnecessary 3D notwithstanding. The final chapter will be a bittersweet farewell for the most devoted Potter fans, but the franchise will forever be remembered for its distinct creativity, imagination, and darkly enchanting vision.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

November 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: David Yates (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”)
Written by: Steve Kloves (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”)
 
Don’t anticipate some sort of shocking cliffhanger at the end of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” the first half of the final chapter of the imaginative franchise that started back in 2001. It’s almost as if director David Yates (his third “Potter” film) and screenwriter Steve Kloves (who has adapted all but one of J.K. Rowling’s “Potter” books) found a reasonable stopping point, hit the pause button, and asked us to come back in eight months.

It wasn’t a bad decision to split “Deathly Hallows” into two parts other than the fact that “Potter” fans will be climbing the walls until next July when Part 2 hits theaters. Although “Deathly Hallows” is much less action-driven than its predecessors, it’s evident the material from the original book was much too extensive to try to squeeze into a single feature. To do the final book justice (and to wrap up the nine-year adventure the right way), “Deathly Hallows” needed extra time to manifest.

In “Deathly Hallows,” Yates and Kloves understand exactly where our heroes are at this point in their lives, not only based on Rowling’s narrative, but also on a deeper, more emotional level. It’s the most mature film of the series and also the best since Alfonso Cuarón’s “Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Playing like an epic version of hide-and-seek, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) are far from the comfortable confines of Hogwarts, which has been taken over by the Death Eaters. Now, on a journey to find the last remaining Horcruxes (if you don’t know what those are by now hurry and catch up), the trio evades the even-more-terrifying Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and spends most of their time trying to understand clues left behind by the now-deceased Dumbledore. How else will Harry get revenge for the murder of his parents during his inevitable final battle with the dark lord? These clues include the “Deathly Hallows,” three powerful objects that Harry may need to defeat Voldemort, who is becoming more powerful by the second. The eerie animation built-in with the mythology of these objects is impressively artistic.

Knowing the franchise is almost complete makes “Deathly Hallows” all the more serious as we inch closer and closer to the finale. While there are less spells cast and typical Harry Potter moments from earlier films, fans can find satisfaction in the darker elements and conflict between our heroes. We’ve invested in Harry, Hermione, and Ron for nine years. Now it’s time to reap those benefits. Sure, it’s might be impossible to get the full effect of what this film will be until the story is complete, but “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” is an impressive start to what we hope will lead to a memorable showdown.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

July 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Jim Broadbent, Emma Watson
Directed by: David Yates (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)
Written by: Steve Kloves (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”)

The popular boy wizard continues down the mysterious road of sorcery and wonderment that has entertained fans for the last eight years in the sixth installment of the J.K. Rowling’s fantasy franchise, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Who would have guessed that Harry’s most formidable adversary in the new film would be puberty?

Yes, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has developed into a young man, and just in time. In “Half-Blood Prince,” there’s far more to fear than acne breakouts and raging hormones. The Dark Arts flourish as Harry and best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) continue on their quest to stop the evil Lord Voldemort (seen in this film only as a gothic-looking young student).

The story begins with Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) interfering into Harry’s life outside of Hogwarts as he flirts with a café waitress and sets up an impromptu date. Harry, who now knows he is “the chosen one,” doesn’t have time to enjoy the Muggle world as much as he would like. Dumbledore whisks him off to visit retired professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) so they can try to persuade him to return to Hogwarts. There’s something Slughorn is suppressing in his memory that can help Harry understand how to defeat Voldemort.

Along with Slughorn’s secrets, Harry must contend with a trio of smoky Death Eaters, who are terrorizing both the Muggle and Wizard worlds, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), who is coming into his own and doing so by following orders of the Dark Lord himself, and, of course, the romantic high jinks that seems contagious throughout the entire school.

While romance continues to blossom occasionally between Harry and Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright), Ron and Hermione’s ambiguous relationship halts for a moment when another girl (Jessie Cave) begins to show interest in Ron. There’s no need for too many doses of love potion in the high school-like melodrama that plays out in the halls of Hogwarts. With all the heartbreak, jealousy, infatuation, and pitter-patter of youthful hearts, it’s really a treat to see there’s actual blood pumping through these characters as the story continues to unfold.

Directed by David Yates, who was also behind “Order of the Phoenix,” “Half-Blood Prince” is the most dialogue-heavy of the entire series. Yates and his screenwriting team slow down the pace considerably to uncover more of the emotional elements of everyone involved. However, there are still highly entertaining scenes comprised of impressive special effects and sprightly editing (you can’t have a “Harry Potter” movie without a weather-beaten game of Quidditch). “Half-Blood Prince” is also the funniest of the bunch.

While actual magic might be a secondary thought in Rowling’s text, “Half-Blood Prince” is a notable addition to the narrative as a whole. It all leads up nicely to the final installment, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows,” which will be released in two parts in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

The Tale of Despereaux

December 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson
Directed by: Sam Fell (“Flushed Away”) and Robert Stevenhagen (debut)
Written by: Will McRobb (“Alvin and the Chipmunks”),Chris Viscardi (“Alvin and the Chipmunks”) and Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”)

Don’t let the title fool you. “The Tale of Despereaux” is really only a third of what this Universal Studios animation is all about. Along with a little mouse named Despereaux (Matthew Broderick), screenwriters Will McRobb, Chris Viscardi and Gary Ross, make a mess of the narrative by adding layers upon layers of unimportant characters and situations.

The primary story itself isn’t all to interesting either. Despereaux, a small rodent who fears nothing, is banished from Mouse World because of his courageousness and ends up befriending Princess Pea (Emma Watson). There is also a confusing story about a rat named Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) who accidently kills the queen during an event called Soup Day and later teams up with Miggery Sow (Tracey Ullman), a lowly castle servant who looks like a computer-generated character from the movie “Gummo.”

Based on a Newberry Award-winning children’s book by Kate DiCamillo, not much of anything make sense in “Despereaux” and by the time you understand how everything is linked there’s really no reason to care. It’s not the worst animation of the year (watch “Fly Me to the Moon” and you’ll see why) but with gems like “WALL-E” and “Kung Fu Panda” already out on video, there’s no reason to see this dopey little tale about a mouse with Dumbo-like ears. “Despereaux” will make a cute plush toy, but as an animated feature it’s unlikable.