Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Big Eyes - Matthew Jacobson


It's almost as if Tim Burton woke up one day and said, "I'll prove I can make a movie without Johnny Depp," and the proceeded to make the most un-Burton Tim Burton film to date.

And you know what? It worked out great.

Sweetheart Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane, a woman whose artistic talent got her work known worldwide – under someone else's name, that is. Her husband, Walter, played by the ever-so-slimy and ever-so-genius Christoph Waltz, convinces Margaret that the world just won't accept a female artist, and takes the credit for her work instead.

Based on the true story of Margaret Keane, "Big Eyes" was fascinating and enthralling. I, along with millions of others, I assume, went directly to my computer following the movie. I immediately punched "Keane" into Google images to see the real life art.

And while I'm a huge Tim Burton fan – I laud each and every one of his films, even when they're critically panned – I have to admit it was a breath of fresh air to see him take on something new. "Big Eyes" is more akin to his 2003 film "Big Fish."

This begs the question, of course: will his next un-Burton film have "Big" in the title, as well?

Missing from the movie was the cast of usual Burton suspects; most notably absent were Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Honestly, the three of them needed a bit of a break, anyway.

Actually, with Carter and Burton's recent split, something tells me that particular break is going to last a long time – if not forever. Remember Lisa Marie, who played the part of Vampira in Burton's other biopic, "Ed Wood"? Yeah, she appeared in his films while the two were dating. But she hasn't been heard from since the two broke up.

I hope she's still alive.

I can't wait to own this on Blu-ray. This is by far one of Burton's best films. And it's clear this man knows how to make a biopic. (Edward Scissorhands is a biopic, right?) Now, I think I'll go watch "Ed Wood" again.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Devil's Due - Matty Jacobson


In my never-ending quest to find the next sleeper horror hit, the likes of which leave me awake at night ("Paranormal Activity 3!"), I paid real, actual dollars to see "Devil's Due." 

It's a mockumentary, found footage style, about a newly-married woman who is impregnated by, Satan, I guess, while on her honeymoon. 

It's not a spoiler. I mean, look at the movie title. 

The reason I think it should be torn into a million pieces and then shoved down the throats of the filmmakers is this: If you want to make a truly scary movie in this day and age, you need to eliminate motive and explanation. Seriously. 

Something can be creepy, scary, haunting without having to be explained to the audience. In fact, when you don't explain the origin of something to the audience, said audience is left to dream up their own personal nightmare instead. 

That's why the very first "Paranormal Activity" worked so well -- despite the horrible acting. The demon was never shown, so we were all left to imagine what it would look like. And there's only one person in the world who can imagine the scariest thing ever. That's you -- thinking about the scariest thing ever to you. 

"Devil's Due" gives us a stupid rehash of "The Last Exorcism" in that not only is Satan's baby inside this woman, but there's also a group of people -- a coven or whatever -- who are actively making sure the Antichrist is born. 

So, no. I wasn't scared. There were no good GOTCHA scares. There wasn't anything that made this film any better than the worst found footage film I've seen. Laaaaaame. 

Save your money. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones - By Matty Jacobson


What was it about "Paranormal Activity" that scared the living hell out of me? The acting wasn't great, the production was cheap, and the whole concept was kind of cheesy.

Nonetheless, the first in the franchise made it hard for me to sleep for a while. I didn't care for the second one at all, but for some reason, the third installment scared me even more than the first. The unseen demon Toby pretty much followed me home from the movie theater. At least, in my mind he did.

So I figured there was a pattern. Even numbered "Paranormal Activities" are the ones to skip. So of course I wanted to check out "The Marked Ones" in hopes that the odd-numbered trend would continue.

I mean, yeah, it sucks trying to sleep when you're so scared, but it's also fun to get that scared in the first place.

Well, I was incredibly disappointed. What made the original and the third movies so great was that unseen presence of something that is trying to hurt you. The second film wasn't as successful because of all the cameras. But "Marked Ones" just comes across as another generic found footage film, documenting what some random teenager is going through.

That sense of something huge and evil lurking in the shadows is sadly missing. And, as in every "Activity" film, I found the explanation of the goings-on unnecessary. The whole tracing-it-back-to-witches thing sort of detracts from the mystery.

I think "Paranormal Activity" has run its course. If you're not going to give us Toby, then don't give us anything at all.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

American Hustle - By Matty Jacobson


Christian Bale has never been my most favorite of actors. Essentially, he's kind of a prick. And don't get me started on Bradley Cooper, who's penchant for playing douchebags leaves a rotten smell in my nose. And as for Jennifer Lawrence? Listen, I really like the girl. I think the's got a great attitude about life, and she's obviously a good actress or else she wouldn't have received an Academy Award. But her role in "American Hustle" seemed like a struggle for her.

OK, so now that I've got all my bitchiness out, allow me to elaborate on what I really thought of "American Hustle."

Dammit, this film is good. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Ninety-two percent of critics on RottenTomatoes.com loved this movie, too. A slightly lower, but still impressive, 81 percent of regular old movie-goers like you and I loved it, too.

First off, the main selling point for me was not the always wonderful Amy Adams, or even the great (but sometimes slightly homophobic in a "he doeth protest too much" kind of way) Jeremy Renner. While those two are great, I was initially wooed by the costume design.

I live and die for glam, so the fabulous clothes (especially those worn by Adams) got me hook, line and sinker. Everything else -- the great and engaging storyline, the super suspenseful scene with Robert De Nero, the mind-blowing ending -- was just kind of an afterthought.

But as afterthoughts go, they were good ones. I literally gasped at one point, and I don't consider myself the gasping kind -- at least not in movie theaters.

"American Hustle" was an excellent combination of suspense, comedy, clothes and "Oceans 11"-esque trickery. I loved it, and I'll see it again. This was one of the best pieces of art to come out of 2013.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' - By Matty Jacobson


As a journalist, "Anchorman" has always been one of my favorite films. I'm not that into Will Ferrell, but for some reason I find the antics of Ron Burgundy, Brian Fantana, Champ Kind and good old Brick Tamland quite hilarious -- and super quotable. (Why don't you go back to your home on Whore Island?!)

So, as a journalist and "Anchorman" lover, I might have gone into "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" a bit biased.

Of course the second isn't as good as the first, but you know what? It's pretty damn close.

"2" follows up on Ron (Ferrell) and his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate), both working as coanchors for the same network. But it isn't long before Veronica continues climbing the success ladder, and Ron gives her an ultimatum: It's either him or her job.

So, needless to say, we catch up with Ron a few months later, separated from his wife and now working as an announcer at Sea World.

This all sort of felt like a re-imagining of  "Blades of Glory." The disgraced Ron Burgundy even had stains on his shirt, reminiscent of the vomit-covered Chazz Michael Michaels after falling from grace and having to skate in children's shows. But that's where the similarities ended.

Ron is approached by a producer for a new idea: A 24-hour news network. So he rounds up Kind (David Koechner), Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick Tamland (the ever-funny Steve Carell) to help anchor a channel that would be all news, all the time. This is where the journalist in me was really entertained.

The film pokes fun at the ridiculousness of 24-hour news and how the very concept is basically asanine. The only way to make something like that work would be to report on what is actually newsworthy and then fill in the other 23 hours with fluff (the movie hits that nail right on the head).

There was one scene that got a little out of hand for me. In an attempt to cash in on one of the more memorable scenes from the first film, the gang gets into a newsteam gang fight only with national news channels and about double the cameos that appeared in the first film.

We get a fustercluck of celebrities in the form of Sacha Baron Cohen, Kirsten Dunst, Tina Fey, Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, Liam Neeson, Amy Poehler, Vince Vaughn, Marion Cotillard, John C. Reilly, Jim Carrey, Will Smith and, in what was almost a movie deal-breaker for me, Kanye West.

Don't get me wrong; the scene had its moments. But at that point, the film was already running a bit long. It could have been cut down just a bit.

Don't miss the face Kristen Wiig makes when she says, "Wanna see the face I make when I'm looking at a snake made out of candy?"

Yes. This film gets my approval. You stay classy, San Diego. Or, wherever you happen to be.

'Saving Mr. Banks' - Matty Jacobson


There's nothing like a good "based on a true story" story to give you perspective on things. But unlike most "based on a true story" stories, this one is, at least for the most part, truly based on a true story.

"Saving Mr. Banks" follows the tumultuous week where Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, tries to convince "Mary Poppins" author P. L. Travers, brought to life by Emma Thompson, to sign over the rights to the story in order for the studio to make it into a film.

Now, we all know Disney succeeded because, well, we've all seen "Mary Poppins." But the trek from point A to point B is very interesting, and incredibly touching.

I read the books when I was a teenager and was completely disappointed in them. They were nothing like the movie, after all. But after seeing "Banks," I can see how Travers saw the characters, and the books make a lot more sense to me now.

Hanks plays a sometimes convincing Disney, but when it boils down to it, I don't know how anyone other that Walt himself could really take on that role. The real scene-stealer was Thompson.

Now, I didn't go into the theater with any real knowledge of P. L. Travers, so there wasn't a lot compare Thompson's portrayal to. I do know, however, that Thompson managed to tug a couple of tears from me on a couple of occasions.

This was the perfect movie to see on Christmas day. It was enlightening and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Plus, it made me want to go to Disneyland.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

"Oh, I see you're still awake after hours and hours of unnecessary plot,
Barrel Rider!" - Smaug (probably) 

When it comes to J.R.R. Tolkein's Middle-earth adventures, I was never able to get into the actual "Lord of the Rings" book or movies.

Reading them is was like having to learn a whole new language, and I think I got through "Lord" and a smidge into "The Two Towers" books before I had to put them down and. All semblance of story was lost within a hodgepodge names, creatures, languages, quests and characters that popped up for no apparent reason other than to take up room. And I still couldn't tell you the motivation behind anything anyone did.

"The Hobbit," on the other hand, was such a great book. It wasn't drawn out to the point of ridiculousness. It had jovial characters who, despite their horrible manners, were generally likable. And the whole tale was told in a fraction of just one of the "LOTR" trilogy books.

That, of course, didn't stop Peter Jackson, Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and MGM from greedily trying to bleed as much money from the audience as possible.

"The Desolation of Smaug" was a four-hour movie, or at least it seemed like it. Why? Because there was a whole lot of nothing happening all the time. It reeked of being fleshed-out for the purpose of length and nothing else. "The Hobbit" could have easily been told in one movie. But instead, we had to be subjected to a bunch of material that was lifted from The Histories of Middle-earth, which include 12 "LOTR" companion-style books written by Tolkien, and new characters written specifically for the movie.

And for what? For hours of fight scenes that should have lasted minutes? For a barrel-in-the-river scene that might as well be a TV miniseries in and of itself? For a movie that feels like it should have been over hours ago when it gets to the good part?

The good part I speak of is the titular character's emergence, but by the time we actually see Smaug, I'd already had enough and I was pretty much ready to leave. I will give the film this though: Smaug's voice was great to listen to. That's about it.

There were so many unnecessary additions to the story of "The Hobbit" that I just couldn't reconcile my feelings for the book and my hatred of the movie.

I just wish Peter Jackson had told a "Hobbit" story that stuck with the "Hobbit" book. If the director wanted to tell all these additional tales, there are plenty of other books to make into movies. I didn't need all the realms of Middle-earth bleeding into what was once one of my favorite stories.