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Crunching the Numbers: Year Nine (1st Quarter Reviews)

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Since January is closed, up my thread goes.


I will review all films in chronological order. BUT, I will take the first three requests for any film in the 1st Quarter and get to them first. Only one request per poster. You cannot request a film that you have made.

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The Red Pyramid



So, let's start by getting the elephant out of the room: This should not have been over 20,000 words. Some films understandably end up with very long plot summaries, films that cover a lot of ground and time and have a lot of important things going on. The Red Pyramid is not one of those films. So why is it so long in word count? Because unfortunately the writer did two things wrong: He over-describes nearly every single scene's imagery and details, and he painstakingly includes details for what seems likely literally every scene in the novel. The most important thing you have to do when adapting a novel is to know what you should condense, and what you should cut. A fair bit of of the windy plot and travelogues could have been cut or condensed and should have been. I'm guilty of being long-winded, but for me it's more of a consequence of over-plotting as opposed to over-writing and over-describing. The biggest thing that should be taken away is that there is nothing wrong with a long plot, so long as it is not wasteful or overburdened by its details. Sometimes, that scene where the main characters spend 5 minutes traveling through an area with lots of cool visuals and images and have a wicked encounter with a demon should be summarized in a single sentence "X and Y travel up the river on the boat, tricking the Demon Z to let them pass uninterrupted." Yeah, it may suck that you don't get to describe it, but when it's a very minor scene in the story, it's best to make it minor in the story summary.


So, on to the actual film.



I understand why Alpha wanted to remake this film, but it is annoying that he remade it so quickly. It's going to get knocked at the box office for the quick turnaround, not sure how much yet. If remaking the film was important, it should have been left dormant for at least a couple more game years.


The plot of the film, while seeming daunting from the sheer length of the summary, is actually pretty simple enough, though the story tries to make it seem as complex and twisty as possible by having characters drop out and reappear, delay revelations until the last possible moment, and go with the old genre standbye of characters not telling the whole truth to people because reasons, making things go on for much longer than they would if they were more trusting. The mythology and world-building of the movie is pretty good, laying the foundations for all of the important story devices as well as for where the story will go next. I do have to comment that the genetic makeup of the Kane family is very weird. The Rock and Matthew Fox are brothers and we have no knowledge if their parents were mixed-race. Then The Rock and Rose McGowan have two kids, one of whom is white and the other whom is far darker than The Rock. I'm no geneticist but that's a bit wonky.


Anyways, the two leads are solid, though Joey King definitely makes a stronger impression than Jaden Smith. In the supporting cast, Rose Byrne steals the movie as the slinky, sneaky, deadly Bast, while Jeff Bridges seems a bit disinterested and Max von Sydow does his usual good wise old man impression. The visual setpieces are pretty impressive, though some of the character transitions from human to animal to kite to something to human again are a bit jarring and messy. It's an entertaining adventure, though there is a decent amount of exposition and traveling fat that could be sliced away. I think the film will suffer a bit from being so quick a reboot, but I do think general audiences will receive it well enough to make future outings.


The Writing Effort: TOO GODDAMN LONG



The Actual Movie Grade: B/B+

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I think making a film having a simplistic plot like The Red Pyramid super-long is something I will never try and do again.


Anyways, a B+/B isn't terrible. I think that's the route I was expecting this movie to go.

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I kinda remember this film from the original CAYOM days. It's a charming animated offering that has a generally inventive and unique take on the concept of wishes and what happens when we take them back. Taking us through a fantasy realm that homages the old fairy tales while also offering a unique twist on the modern-day fantasies we have, the film moves with generally solid clip, though it does bog down a little here or there. For example the night club sequence, while visually and aesthetically pleasing, has little to offer the story or characters and just eats up time. But I think the biggest problem the film has is that the actual plot premise of the whole wishing away wishes is left unaddressed until the climax and we get a half-baked presentation of the man behind the curtain so to speak. I think if a little had been cut here and there and replaced with some more foreshadowing and explanations, this film would have a much improved punch to it.


But overall it's joyful and generally entertaining. Kids should get a kick of it and adults will find enough to stay interested with their families.



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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Part 1



Oh boy, this is just a very zany, adrenaline junkie's version of a legal drama. If you take all the cliches about a lawyer defending a murder suspect and crank them up to 11 after feeding them a diet of sugar and steroids, this is the film you'd get as a result. A lot of the plot and legal contrivances and revelations border on the preposterous, the film hiding the ball and the clues until the last possible moment before springing them on the audience like a surprise birthday party. But, this loopy, charged machinery is what also keeps the film very engaging. The actual courtroom sequences seem to take up over half the movie, which in a normal legal drama would likely stall the pacing for audiences a lot. But, because of how insane and wild the film treats courtrooms, the questions and objections and twists rip through like a Concord jet and keep the audience on the edge of their seats.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt is well cast as the cocky, clever, and energetic title character, powering his way through courtrooms like he's filled to the brim with double-shot espressos. The rest of the cast is solid, though Tom Cruise feels underused in a small role that doesn't appear until over halfway through the movie. All in all, the film plays fast and loose with the law for maximum entertainment purposes, which is kinda annoying, but at the same time, the film is hella entertaining.






The rest of Part 1 will now be reviewed chronologically, starting this afternoon.

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First half of January reviews:



It's actually an interesting premise (miners slowly picked off by an ancient evil lurking underground) but it's completely trashed by a lame found-footage angle and the most rote and banal forms of plotting and characterization. Good for a few jump scares if you want to get your date amped up. Otherwise avoid.






Okay, so Gore Verbinski must have had some classic dirt on Hathaway, Bale, and Chastain to get them all to appear in this. It's actually not a bad film, there's definitely some very eerie moments and foreboding, nihilistic atmospheres. It just feels like a shameless cash-in on a long-dormant franchise. The plot essentially shows you all the backstory that the previous Ring films had told you about, so it feels pretty redundant, even though there are some pretty good nuggets scattered in the movie. As far as completely unnecessary movies go, it's fairly good.



Ship of Lies


It's definitely an intriguing premise: Stranded cruise ship with a serial killer terrorizing passengers, but the film goes the easy route, opting for pure shocks and thrills instead of a more intense and consistent ominous atmosphere with strong characters. Plus, the entire chain of revelations in the final act borders on the absurd and totally contrived. David Tennant does give a good turn as the lead though.



Alice in Horrorland


This is the movie Tim Burton should have made instead of that god-knows-what abomination he delivered back in 2010. Taking the Alice story and spinning it into a dark, violent, gothic tale of psychological upheaval and insanity scouring a land, the film certainly doesn't lack for impressive images and environmental storytelling. The actual storytelling though is a bit lacking. There's a ton of plot movement packed into less than 110 minutes, so the film rarely gets a chance to breathe or develop any characters aside from Alice, who herself doesn't get much development or character interactions following the opening bit. She's more of a killer plot device for much of the movie rather than a character. Which is a shame, since if we felt more for the characters this would be a pretty good movie rather than a visually delightful yet emotionally hollow, listless romp.




Tortoise Run


In which tortoises run. It's an incomprehensible plot with cardboard characters. Little kids will find it funny and bright, I think.



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Still can't believe another rating in the C zone for tortoise run. This is shocking me


Also I finally seem to make a quite well received horror movie. Thanks for the Samara review

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