Your Highness

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel

Synopsis: Fabious (Franco) is the popular Prince of the realm, off fighting the hordes of the evil Leezar (Theroux), and overshadowing his underachiever brother Thadeous (McBride).   When Leezar steals Fabious’ bride-to-be Belladonna (Deschancel), he enlists his brother’s help to go rescue her.   They are helped along the way by female warrior Isabel, who has her own scores to settle.

I should preface this review with the fact that I was seeing the film with low expectations based upon previous reviews, and I was also already extremely tired.   I was far from being in the mood to think about much, and if anything, cheap laughs was exactly what I could have wanted.   I got said laughs, and as such, this film was perfect for me at the time.   If I had been in a more discerning mood, I probably still would have enjoyed it, but perhaps find it a bit silly.

That would not be an inaccurate interpretation, but it is where the charm of the film lies.   Raunchy innuendo, gross-out, slap-stick… all the reliable comedy tropes are there.   McBride revives the same slacker comedy type that he relies heavily on, and Franco channels more of his character in Pineapple express than his Spiderman villain, here to good effect.   If the film had remained a two-handed effort between these two, the gags could have gotten old fast, but introducing Portman’s Isabel gives the comedy greater balance, in addition to providing a love interest for Thadeous (and the associated comic opportunities).   In the end, there were quite a few belly laughs on offer, with many chuckles in between.   Bride of Film Nerd and I saw the film as a second half of a double feature with Bridesmaids, and I can safely say we both agree that Your Highness was the superior comedy.

We were also quite surprised that the special effects were quite decent, in addition to some quite incredible action sequences.   Each come from nowhere, and they are welcome when they arrive, giving the film a bit more flair whenever the running gags are in danger of becoming old.   It helps that Franco looks quite appropriately dashing in the role of action icon of the film.   Even McBride, when brought into his stand up and be counted final fight scenes, looks somewhat menacing, without extending the character beyond its origins to an unbelievable extent.

All of this commentary in many ways however is over-analysing what is a very simple film.   If you find stoner/slacker/frat boy humour offensive, you should already be well aware to keep away from this film.   If that list already has grabbed your interest though, there are many worse ways I can think of spending an enemy.   The film gets the fourth star if you are tired and can’t raise your mind above low-brow!!

4 stars out of 5http://filmactually.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php


Your Highness on IMDB

Your Highness on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH7qH4Kb8wc]

 

 

30 Day Film Challenge Day 10 – A Film With Your Favorite Actor (Female)

Film Nerd’s Choice: (500) Days of Summer

Review:

Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, GeoffreyArend, Chloe Moretz, Clark Gregg

Synopsis: Follows the entire course of one couples relationship, from the day they met to the eventual demise.   The story is told in a non-linear fashion, jumping from early to late days in the relationship, highlighting how the passage of time can alter what was once wonderful early to become something grating at the late stages of this particular partnership.

I have long been a fan of Zooey Deschanel, but it is perhaps in the last 18 moths that she has cemented herself as my favourite artist.    Not only is she an amazing actress that remains adorable in almost every performance, making almost any character she plays sympathetic, she is also quite a brilliant singer, making one half of the group She & Him, as well as contributing vocals to the soundtrack of a number of her films.   For me, she is much more talented than her doppelgänger Katy Perry, who criminally has more fame than Emily Deschanel’s (TVs Bones) sister.

(500) Days of Summer is perhaps the film that she is most recognised for to date, despite having been the female lead in films such as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Yes Man, and having bit parts in the likes of Failure to Launch and Almost Famous.    This is perhaps because, at least for me, Summer is superior to all the aforementioned films.   Deschanel is the titular Summer, though it would be more accurate to say that the lead role is Gordon-Levitt’s Tom.    Tom meets Summer at work, and is attracted not only to her beauty, but also to her very free-spirited nature and goofiness.   In short, the type of character Deschanel was born to play.

The relationship bubbles to a nice start, though hints are visible early as to the disparate elements in their personalities.   Tom is clearly keen for an exclusive commitment, whereas Summer is more in it to have fun while the fun lasts.   Perhaps she would have been more open to something lasting, but as time passes, the splinters between them develop very naturally.    I read in an early review that one of the interesting elements of this film is that it does not paint a picture of a “bad guy”, or in other words it does not demonise either partner for the sake of story.    I agree this is the case in the sense that the film represents a very natural dividing of ways, but Tom in the latter days does become borderline obsessive, which for me was a bit irksome, meaning I can’t blame Summer at all for drifting away.   Gordon-Levitt is amazing though in a difficult role.   He may be irksome, but he does not lack sympathy himself, and the role could have fallen apart in lesser hands.

I have not met anyone yet who has not enjoyed this film.   I highly recommend it, just as I highly recommend more audiences pay attention to Deschanel, as it would be a crime for her to disappear from our screens and airwaves through simple lack of recognition.

4 stars out of 5


(500) Days of Summer on IMDB

(500) Days of Summer on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsD0NpFSADM]

Upcoming Genre Films for 2011 Part Deux – A Preview by Film Nerd

First of all thanks to Urban Fantasist for that awesome post.   Consider my appetite whetted.   As you referred to yourself though, there are certain tastes of mine that were not catered to, so here is a preview of 2011 from the perspective of someone who collected comics in high school.

I will be using the same list as Urban Fantasist from io9, but I will extend from there a little bit from a post by blastr featuring the top 55 trailers for films coming out in 2011.   I will of course avoid overlap between these lists.

The Green Hornet (io9, blastr)     January 14

A remake of the series that first captured hearts on radio serials then on television, featuring a rich guy turned vigilante.   The character was created by the guy who brought us The Lone Ranger, and at one point in the radio series it was indicated that the Hornet is descendant of the Ranger.   Directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, it could prove interesting.

I Am Number Four (io9, blastr)     February 18

A group of nine aliens hiding out as teenagers on Earth are hunted down for extermination by the government.   With three down, this film follows the story of the fourth to be targeted.    Based on a novel of the same name.

The Adjustment Bureau (io9, blastr)     March 4

Matt Damon plays a congressman destined for big things, before he meets and falls for Emily Blunt’s ballerina.   He was supposed to never meet her again, but somehow does, and falls in love with her.   The mysterious agency of the title steps in to prevent the relationship, and put our heroes life back on the set path.   Escaping, running, and hiding ensues….

Battle: Los Angeles (io9, blastr)     March 11

Gritty war film with hand-held camera work with visceral closeups, etc.   Oh yeah, and humans are fighting aliens.   Sounds like a great big B-movie, but with a cast headlined by Aaron Eckhart, may prove a hidden gem.

Red Riding Hood (io9, blastr)     March 11

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this retelling of the classic tale, with the wolf recast as a werewolf connected the past of she with the hood.   Don’t know how Urban Fantasist missed that one, sounds like her cup of tea!!

Paul (io9, blastr)     March 18

Comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as two mates on an American road trip that meet foul mouth alien Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.   Some of the gags on the trailer are foul, but delightfully so!!

Sucker Punch (io9, blastr)     March 25

A film by Zack Snyder, who previously brought us 300 and Watchmen.   He does have a talent for absolute visual splendour on-screen, and the trailers indicate this will be no different.   It is hard to get a grasp on what it is about, but seems to be the story of five girls attempting to escape the clutches of evil authority in a mental asylum…or is it a war zone???   Or a bordello??

Super (io9, blastr)     April 1

Okay, so the concept of this sounds very similar to Kick-Ass… average bloke dons a costume to fight crime.   So lacking in originality on that count perhaps.   Just watch the clip posted on blastr though and I dare you not to show some interest!!

Hanna (blastr only) April 8

Eric Bana’s ex-CIA agent trains daughter Saoirse Ronin to be the perfect assassin, with the goal to target Cate Blanchett.    A lot of talent there in that sentence, and a pretty cool concept to boot.    The trailer also kicks butt!!

Your Highness (io9, blastr) April 8

Danny McBride and James Franco reteam with the director of Pineapple Express to star as royal brothers on a rescue mission… a comedy that drags Natalie Portman and my favourite Zooey Deschanel along for the ride.   I am still giggling at the trailer… “What a coincidence, I was just about to finish thinking of you!!”   Hehe.

Thor (io9, blastr)     May 6

The Norse god is exiled to Earth, as reimagined by Marvel Comics.   Mjolnir was spotted after the credits to Iron Man 2, resulting in my second Nerdgasm for that film.   Those that don’t know that this is part of building towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers should be stripped of their geek badge immediately!!

X-Men: First Class (io9 only)     June 3

The second Marvel movie for 2011.   With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and January Jones on board, and Kick-Ass’ Michael Vaughn directing, can we put the travesty of X-Men: The Last Stand behind us???

Green Lantern (io9, bkastr)     June 17

A film based on a DC universe second tier hero.   Ryan Reynolds is good casting, but the CGI costume is still a little off-putting for me.   However, has the potential to be the next Iron Man, whom was one of Marvel’s second tier heroes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (io9, blastr)     July 15

You really want a synopsis for this one?

Captain America: The First Avenger (io9 only)     July 22

The source of my first Nerdgasm in Iron Man 2 was spotting Captain America’s shield partially constructed in Tony Stark’s work room.   Like Thor, this is building to Whedon’s The Avengers, and has Chris Evans donning the tights in what can only be called great casting!

Cowboys and Aliens (io9, blastr)     July 29

James Bond and Indiana Jones!!   The old west!!   Aliens!!    Daniel Craig waits from unconsciousness with a strange device on his arm.   Harrison Ford plays the villain of the piece, that teams with Craig when the bigger threat arrives.   Why didn’t they think of this earlier???

The Thing (io9 only)     October 14

Prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic original.   Stars Joel Edgerton, and personal favourite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sherlock Holmes 2 (io9, blastr)     December 16

Downey Jr. and Law return to 221B Baker Street, this time to face the infamous Professor Moriarty.   Be warned, blastr screwed up, the trailer from the first film, not the first trailer for the second!!

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (io9 only) December 23

Steven Spielberg directs his first fully motion capture film.   Peter Jackson produces.   They will be swapping roles for the sequel!!   Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.   Some writing was even done by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffatt!! Add that element of retro charm and I am sold!

Man, that is a lot of movies…. I hope Bride of Film Nerd doesn’t kill me when we need a second mortgage!!

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – A Reviw by Film Nerd

Director: Garth Jennings

Cast: Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, Bill Bailey, John Malkovich

Synopsis: A story adapted from the first of the series of books written by Douglas Adams.    Arthur Dent (Freeman) escapes Earth moment before its destruction with the aid of his best friend, Ford Prefect (Def), whom as it turns out was an alien all along.   Ford writes for the renowned Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (voiced by Fry).   Their travels intersect with the those of Ford’s cousin and President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Rockwell), and his travelling companion Trillian (Deschanel), who is the only other remaining survivor of Earth.

 

A review by Film Nerd.

I was quite a fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide as a series of books, the infamous trilogy in five parts.   It was a series that was all about the ridiculous, and not to everyone’s sense of humour.   I was often quite tickled by it, so the prospect of a movie to me was quite a thing of anticipation.   The fact that Adams himself had contributed a lot of the screen play before his passing was promising, the fact he had taken so long to get it successfully off the ground was not.

But on the surface of things, there were a lot of smart choices made with this film.   Freeman has always made the perfect “every man”, and was ideally cast as the always bathrobe wearing Arthur Dent.   Mos Def I was unfamiliar with, which concerned me, and though there is nothing wrong with the performance it was not necessarily brilliant either.    My love for Deschanel is well on record, once again in the type of role she has made her own, the independent woman who is more quirky than harsh.   Rockwell is let off his leash in full crazy mode, and can be a true delight in this film.   Then just look above at a lot of the rest of the acting talent, including Rickman voicing Marvin the Paranoid Android, and Fry’s dulcet tones filling in for both Narrator and the guide itself.   So really, the casting in most cases could not be more spot on.

The film also opens brilliantly, taking Adams’ record of the last communication from dolphins to humans; “So long, and thanks for all the fish”, and making an opening credits song out of it, is just what is needed to break the audience out of normality and into the realm of Adams mind.   And yet from that point on, the film is somewhat lacklustre.   Adams comedy does not always shine through, with some of the less famous lines from the novel feeling somewhat flat on delivery.   Despite all the brilliant individual performances, they somehow do not add up to a whole that is entirely enjoyable.   It is hard to pin-point where things go wrong, yet somehow they do.   There are moments that are great, breaking up a rather ordinary film.    It is a real shame, as this had the potential to be gut-bustingly funny, and yet it is just a pleasant time-waster.

My recommendation?   If you are unfamiliar with the books and curious, give it a look, but at your own peril.   This makes some of Adams’ work look kinda boring, so you could unfairly pre-judge the books before reading them for yourself.  If you have an open mind though, there is enough here to enjoy.   If you are already a fan, it perhaps is more entertain knowing the source material, and yet you will be disappointed knowing what this film could have been.

2.5 stars (out of a possible 5)

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on IMDB

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbGNcoB2Y4I]

Yes Man (2008) – A review by Film Nerd

Director: Peyton Reed

Cast: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Darby, Sasha Alexander, Rocky Carroll, Terence Stamp

Synopsis: Carl Allen (Carrey) never recovered from a broken romance and lives a life of apathy, and as a result seclusion, given that he never accepts any invitations from his friends.   After bitterly disappointing his best friend (Cooper), he attends a seminar on saying yes, conducted by an out of control inspirational speaker (Stamp).   Carl then starts saying yes to everything, finding he only has bad luck when he refuses an offer.   Of course, this leads to many outlandish events in his life.

A review by Film Nerd.

Jim Carrey has a life intervention by( his son/old colleague) giving him absolutely no option but to (tell the truth/say yes to everything) until (the end of the day/forever…?).   Yes, in many ways this film is a repackaged Liar Liar, with the most significant difference being the fact Carrey has clearly aged.   If you liked Liar Liar, there is plenty of entertainment in this film, even if there is an occasional sense of repetition.   Suffice it to say though, if Liar Liar was not your thing, there is little fresh here to keep you in front of the screen

This film is based on a book by Danny Wallace, who did take up the challenge of saying yes to every offer put in front of him.   It is a loose adaptation though, given the opportunity for comedy that this scenario presents.   Overall, I would say this is to the benefit of the film, as any good comedy is about escapism.   What does let it down though is that the sheer level to which the saying yes challenge was accepted does feel at times unrealistic, particularly when ordered by love interest Deschanel to get away.    How could this not be to the deficit of our lead character??   So while there are many good laughs here, the film is a bit uneven.

A major improvement of this film over its predecessor is the fantastic supporting characters.   Rhys Darby’s Norm is a special one, a little nerdy bundle of energy who throws Harry Potter and 300 parties.   Maybe I like him given I see some of myself in the character, throwing an annual James Bond party myself.   But despite his ineptness as a boss, he is just a really likeable guy.   Bradley Cooper I would have loved to have seen on-screen more, having been a fan since Alias, but this was before The Hangover and his name at this time was not enough to get bums on seats.   Stamp gets just the right amount of screen time though, being a great impact player for his scenes.   The final cast member worth mention is a personal favourite actress of mine, Zooey Deschanel.   She plays cute as a button yet slightly odd characters with great skill, and the film feels like it steps up a notch when she is involved.

So how to rate this one??   It is a tough call, but I will be putting it in the mid-range.   While watching, I found if quite enjoyable, and had many chuckles and even a belly laugh or two.   The criticisms already listed come more from reflection getting ready to write this review.   But to decide to rent it or not, it is simple.   If you want more of Liar Liar, jump on in and see this one.

3 stars (out of a possible 5)

Yes Man on IMDB

Yes Man on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRv4CoXQoAQ]

The World of Oz – Tin Man

Recently, I have allowed myself to revisit the Wizard of Oz in many forms, as in the original 1939 film, a SyFy channel re-imagining, and the Broadway smash musical Wicked.   I wish to review each, and will do so in order that I watched them to indicate how my viewing of the subsequent pictures was affected.

Tin Man (2007)

Director: Nick Willing

Cast: Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming, Neal McDonough, Richard Dreyfuss, Raoul Trujillo, Callum Keith Rennie, Kathleen Robertson

Synopsis: A SyFy channel re-imagining of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.   It is a three episode mini-series which is familiar while completely changing everything you ever thought you knew about Oz.

A review by Film Nerd

This is a very niche place to start this review, but it is where I started, impelled by much general Zooey Deschanel love.   It took me some time to find this DVD before having success at JB HiFi, at the not so pricey sum of $10 too!!    And it was well worth the effort.

To give away too many details of the plot would be criminal, as part of the joy of this mini-series is in discovering exactly how they have updated the narrative.   In brief, however, Deschanel plays this version’s Dorothy, here called D.G.   She is a young lady in search of a new direction in life, bored with being a waitress in a small town.   Each night she dreams of another world, almost another life entirely.   Then comes the tornado (here with an explanation for the storm given), transporting here to the Outer Zone, or the O.Z.    In her travels in this land she meets many enemies of the evil Azkadelia, whom rules the O.Z. in a reign of tyranny.   She first meets Glitch (Cumming), whom has had half his brain removed, as denoted by the zipper across his head.   She later meets an animalistic seer named Raw whom has no courage (Trujillo).   In between these however, she meets Wyatt Cain (McDonough).   He was a former police officer of the O.Z., which is colloquially known as a “Tin Man”.   He has been tortured in a cage for years, repeatedly being shown the abduction of his family, leaving him a shell of a man with little other thought than revenge.

All I can say is if you can find this to view it, it is an absolute MUST.   Initially, you nod knowingly at the parallels to the original story, and yet at some point it seems to diverge into a completely new and fresh story.   There is as a result no real feeling of having seen this before, rather it draws us in with new ideas, depth, and intrigue.   I sat down to watch the first episode only initially, and then found myself at the end credits of the third and final instalment in the same sitting simply because I had no choice, I had to see what happens next.

There are a number of stand out performances.   The Cowardly Lion doesn’t get a lot of room to breathe, but Trujillo makes good headway with an anguished beast.   Rennie and Robertson both have the roles of villains, and give them just the right flavour to antagonise our heroes.   Dreyfuss brings some star power as the Mystic Man, and left me wondering why he is not doing as many big budget roles these days, as the talent is still there.   Cumming’s role is more essential than previous Scarecrow portrayals, and once again he is such a chameleon as he has been in X-Men 2 and Goldeneye, just disappearing into his role.   And I am still to see him in a role with his native Scottish accent!   The series belongs to two actors though.   Deschanel brings a feistiness to D.G. making here a heroine who you get behind with delight.   But even more than this, McDonough owns his title role.   Tortured nobility is great to watch when played right, and it is in the subtleties of this performance that truly had me glued.

My only complaint is the special effects.   This is where Tin Man shows its made for TV origins, and when you have a lot of TV these days with effects that are just as high quality as movies, this is a disappointment and it did take me out of the world that had been created here at times.    This is the main are that lost points on my rating here.   Thankfully though, the story is enough to avoid this ruining an otherwise entertaining premise.

See this!   See this!  See this!

4 stars (of a possible 5)

Tin Man on IMDB

Tin Man on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0Rw1YpseHk]