Gavin Grades The Movies

Posts from April 2011

Scream 4
Over the years, I've gotten a lot of crap for my love of the Scream movies.  I was 15-years-old when the first one came out 15 years ago.  At the time, it rocked my socks but like many movies have a tendency to do, it very well could have been just that I was 15 and not that it was a good movie.  I mean, for God's sake, I loved Face/Off at that age too. But Scream has stood the test of time and is still considered one of the most important horror films ever made...and not just by me.  One reason is that it pumped new life (no pun intended) into the "slasher" genre of horror, which was destroyed in the '80s by over-saturation and watered down sequels.  But it also was worthy of creative respect on its own merit.  The fact that despite Drew Barrymore, who was a huge star, was the focus of the trailer and was on the poster, was still killed off in the first ten minutes was astonishing and set up for a film where a "anything could happen" tone existed. Sure the second and third Scream movies weren't as good, but that doesn't mean that they still weren't thoughtful, fun and interesting with what advancement in the on-going story they brought to the table.  So you understand why it pains me to say this as a legit fan of the Scream movies; but Scream 4 sucked. Absolutely nothing new, original or fun exists in this film that tries desperately to come up with a logical reason to continue the story. Sure it's fun to watch stars Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette reprise their roles.  Of course it's chilling and exciting to hear voice actor Roger Jackson ask people what their favorite scary movie is again.  But that quickly wears off and what you're left with is a pointless sequel filled with new and annoying young actors that are so losely tied to the original characters it makes you laugh that director Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street series, The Hills Have Eyes) would even make this film. The new cast consists of Emma Roberts (It's Kind of a Funny Story, Hotel for Dogs) is Sydney Prescott's cousin, who we've never heard of or seen till now, and Hayden Panettiere (NBCs Heroes, Remember the Titans) is her spunky best friend.  Of course they're joined by fellow high school classmates that get slaughtered one-by-one but this crop aren't charismatic, funny and sympathetic like the old crew.  I hope it's not that I'm getting older but this group comes across just plain annoying. Of course the film leads to a climactic Whodunit? but when the reveal comes it keeps the par of the rest of the movie and disappoints and confuses.  There's a part of the film where they mock the Saw films for not building characters for people to care about and Hollywood for just cranking out unoriginal horror remakes (many of which Craven has been involved with), but Scream 4 is just as guilty of both.  I for one am really happy that I have the original trilogy on DVD, because although I know exactly how they all end, it's a lot more exciting than trying to figure out how the new one did. Scream 4 (Rated R) Gavin Grade: D+
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Your Highness
Are you one of those people that really enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy but the lack of modern-day vernacular that included heaps of profanity and scenes of weed humor kept you from loving it? Well, you're in luck because Your Highness is pretty much that. And when I compare it to Lord of the Rings, I'm not overselling the scope of the film. There are epic battle scenes with mythic beasts that contain visual FX that are actually really well done. This was not a cheap movie. Director David Gordon Green has tried his luck at serious drama (Snow Angels) and stoner action comedy (Pineapple Express), so it seemed like he could handle stoner action epic in a serious way. The movie was written by star Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Land of the Lost) and he's joined by a pretty impressive cast that includes Oscar nominee James Franco (127 Hours, Milk), Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan, V for Vendetta) and Zooey Deschanel ((500) Days of Summer, Elf). Everyone involved in the film puts in decent performances but they've all done better. McBride carries a bulk of the comedy on his back and is only supported by bit characters, sight gags and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, The Ten) who plays the villain. However the film is lost in its identity. By the title, advertising and opening first act you get the impression that they wanted to shoehorn in lots of jokes about smoking weed but they changed their mind...and thank God they did. The weed scenes are amusing but completely unnecessary and illogical. I know I'm watching a movie about sword fights with five-headed snake creatures and warlocks but for some reason I found the scenes that involved getting stoned so unbelievably stupid. Overlooking that though, the rest of the movie is pretty damn funny. Note to parents though, this is an R-rated film for a reason. Don't take your little ones expecting this to be a slightly edgier Narnia. There is a prop in the film, which gets one of the biggest laughs, that is WAY inappropriate for kids. However, that edginess and easy sexual jokes that they commit too mixed with fantasy reminds me so much of a modern Mel Brooks film. Your Highness goes into realms of perverted chuckles that Brooks would never dare too, but the tone is still the same. It's lampooning a genre and dragging modern themes into it that make it very obvious that it never once takes itself seriously...and you shouldn't either. There's a really good chance that you won't like this movie. It covers too much to ever make it mass appeal. You have to enjoy medieval fantasy, drug humor, sex jokes, Danny McBride (not everyone does) and action sequences. That's not an easy pill to swallow. But if you do meet all those criteria, then I think Your Highness is going to be the pill that will satisfy you quite well. Your Highness (Rated R) Gavin Grade: B- Gavin actually got to interview Oscar-winner Natalie Porman!!

Click below to hear the interview now:

 Natalie Portman

Gavin got to interview Zooey Deschanel, one of the stars of Your Highness !

Listen to the interview here: Zooey Deschanel
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Hold on.  Wait.  Gimme a second.  I'm still trying to catch my breath after seeing this action film from director Joe Wright, who brought us the Oscar-nominated Atonement and the studio f**k-up The Soloist, He has finally made his masterpiece! This is a rare type of film that hasn't been seen since the mid-90s when everyone was trying to copy the pulp flair of Quentin Tarantino.  Hanna is a film filled with weird characters, weirder locations, dazzling visuals, amazing fight scenes, a pulse pounding soundtrack and great acting.  I am a better person having seen this film.  That being said, it's not for everyone.  There will be haters out there who will think it's too weird or unnecessarily jumpy or perhaps even excessively violent, by only the hyper squeamish.  But don't let that detract you from seeing this. One of the most amazing accomplishments that Wright did was make a hardcore, grown-up aggressive action movie appear a lot more violent than it is.  It's rated only PG-13 and that's because he kept the swearing virtually out completely and used cut-aways to mask the gore, much like how Jaws is scarier by NOT seeing the shark. The cast contains Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones), Eric Bana (Munich, Funny People) and Cate Blanchett (Lord of the Rings, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).  They're also joined by Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean, Pride & Prejudice) who plays an eerie and flamboyant henchmen to Blanchett's villain.  Characters like his are part of what make this movie so amazing.  Everything is slightly off.  Blanchett is an American CIA agent but is in cahoots with Hollander's track suit-wearing, whistling killer who's backed up by a duo of skinhead soccer hooligans.  I know this sounds odd but it totally works.  The locations and sets are just as different too.  You aren't sure where the hell the movie is even taking place for the first 25 minutes and three different locations. Wright is at the top of his game with not only the visuals but the execution of them.  There's a sequence that involves Bana walking through a crowded bus station and down into a subway platform that climaxes in an epic hand-to-hand brawl that is all done entirely in one take.  Most people won't notice or care about a seven-minute-long, one-shot scene but the scale of attempting to do something like that is incredibly impressive. The soundtrack is done by The Chemical Brothers and is probably one of the better ones to come out in a few years.  It's part of a growing trend of hiring industrial/electronica artists to score your movie (such as Daft Punk doing Tron: Legacy and Trent Reznor doing The Social Network) and I'm so glad it's catching steam.  Hanna's soundtrack is almost the perfect foot-stomper you want for an action film that is gritty and tense. This is a film that I will enjoy seeing in the theater again and will look forward to owning on blu-ray many months from now.  I will show it my friends in hopes that they take away from it as much enjoyment as I did.  It's a movie that covers all angles by making you laugh at the right places, drop your jaw at technical achievements and almost cheer out loud for characters you want to see championed. Hanna (Rated PG-13) Gavin Grade: A+
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In 1981 a movie came out with Dudley Moore and John Geilgud about a spoiled rich British drunk and his butler called Arthur.  The movie did very well, spawning two Oscar nominations and even a win for Geilgud.  Fast forward 30 years to find that Arthur is remade with Russell Brand (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Helen Mirren (Red, The Queen) but only this time it won't play to such fanfare.  There's a number of reasons why that is though and it's not just because remakes usually suck and fall flat without offering us something new and exciting. The first is that Brand is a polarizing figure.  His fame train is quickly going up the mountain of success but I wish it would derail.  It's not that I don't like Brand or don't find him funny; he's just way too much to take in as a lead character.  When he played smaller, supporting roles that were quirky and unlikable he was more in his element.  But rooting for him to find love with Greta Gerwig's (Greenburg, House of the Devil) character in Arthur is off-putting to say the least. Another possible reason why Arthur doesn't work this time around is that in 1981, America was in great financial shape for the most part.  People had jobs, they were making money and there was this feeling that everyone could be a millionaire one day.  2011 is very different though and that kind of fiscal optimism doesn't seem to be prevalent anymore.  So sitting back in a theater you paid $10 per person to watch a movie about a guy that could buy the theater for himself just to have some popcorn is a little nauseating.  You find yourself thinking, "Why the hell do I care if anything works out for this guy?  He's giving up billions in inheritance for some girl...f**k that!  I'll give up my own kids for that right now." But mostly the reason why this remake of Arthur doesn't work is because it's not very funny.  During a packed screening of the film, the most I heard from the audience were light chuckles that rippled through like someone tossed a comedy pebble into a pond.  There wasn't one big belly laugh that brought the house down.  Mirren is amusing as she takes on the role that won Geilgud the Oscar, but since she already has one for her own it seems like she just puts in enough effort to make it fun but not funny. The best performances come from Jennifer Gardner (Juno, 13 Going on 30) and Luis Guzman (The Count of Monte Cristo, Boogie Nights) who are great comedic accents to the movie.  They each play characters that are out of their usual character wheelhouse and both put themselves out there for mocking in refreshing scenes that try their best to defibrillate the film back to life. Brand was also a producer of this movie and has said that he desperately wanted to remake it.  Since, outside of changing the sex of one of the characters, nothing new or original was done for this remake, I'd say that Brand remade it out of pure ego.  That is probably the umbrella for which all his other flaws are underneath and in Arthur it shows. Arthur (Rated PG-13) Gavin Grade: C-
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