It took a lot of convincing to get my friend to see Semi-Pro with me. He and I had both heard mixed reviews of the film. By the end of the film, however, we were both very pleasantly surprised. Semi-Pro was very funny but the first couple times I heard Will Ferrell say the “F” word, I was taken aback because it was unusual to hear Ferrell talk like that. Very few of Will Ferrell’s films have been R-rated and Semi-Pro is one of those few. Semi-Pro is rightfully rated R because much of the humor in the film is language-based.
Semi-Pro is the latest sports comedy from funnyman Will Ferrell. Ferrell plays his 70s-era basketball player, Jackie Moon, the same as he played Ricky Bobby in 2006’s Talladega Nights: as a self-assured man who is truly an idiot. In Semi-Pro, struggling 1970s basketball team, the Flint Tropics, are facing extinction. The basketball commissioner tells the Tropics that at the end of the season, only four teams from the ABA will merge with the NBA. Unfortunately, the Tropics are not one of the teams. Jackie Moon suggests that the four teams in the ABA with best record at the end of the season should be the ones to go to the NBA. Thus begins a crazy but entertaining season for the Tropics as they slowly try to wiggle their way to the top.
Woody Harrelson co-stars as washed-up NBA champion, Monix, who comes out of retirement to play for the Tropics. Andre Benjamin plays the Tropics’ only star player. This role is nothing new and is certainly not a stretch for Will Ferrell. He is, however, still quite funny. As I already mentioned, the only reason the movie is as effectively funny as it is, is because of it’s language and other R-rated aspects.
Semi-Pro is not as funny or original as Old School, Anchorman, or Talladega Nights. Nevertheless, the movie is much better than Bewitched and Kicking and Screaming. I give Semi-Pro a solid B.
Shrek the Third
One of the strongest, and most important, factors of a CGI (Computer Generated Images) film is the quality of the animation. In addition to thrillingly detailed graphics, many of these CGI films have relatively strong storylines. Anyone who knows anything about these films knows that the animators have a tough job trying to make the look of the film pleasing to the eye.
Most CGI films accomplish this task of creating a beautiful look and an interesting story but the graphics in Shrek the Third were the most spectacular I have ever seen in a fully computer-animated film. The attention to detail was unbelievable. I could pick out every single hair on Donkey’s head. I found myself drawn into the film’s look and thus paying less and less attention to the usual Shrek plotline.
The story was average. It had a few less laughs than Shrek 2 (2004). It did, however, provided an ample amount of thrills for children and their parents alike. In Shrek the Third, Shrek (Mike Myers), “everyone’s favorite green ogre,” is the current heir to the thrown of the kingdom Far Far Away. He is married to Fiona (Cameron Diaz), the daughter of the current king. When the king dies, Shrek makes a startling revelation…he doesn’t want to be king! Shrek decides that the only way of getting out of his duty to become the new king is to pretend that he mysteriously found out that someone else is the real new king of Far Far Away. Shrek is soon off with his pair of misfit pals, Donkey and Puss in Boots (Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas, respectively) to search for a young boy by the name of Arthur, or as he prefers to be called, Artie (Justin Timberlake).
While Shrek is away, trouble is brewing back in Far Far Away. Prince Charming has become a social outcast since Shrek 2. Once word spreads that the king is dead, Charming sees this as his golden opportunity to claim the thrown for himself. A new batch of fairytale characters that includes Captain Hook, Snow White’s Wicked Stepmother, and others join Charming’s posse. I could go further into detail but to try to keep things relatively simple, in a series of events, Shrek and his buddies save the day and everyone lives happily ever after. Oh, and did I mention that Shrek becomes a daddy? To say that Shrek the Third was only as good as the first two films in the series is a compliment because, well, the first two were pretty darn good! I give the storyline of the film a C+ because even though it was similar to the first two, which is fine, it was nothing new. For the overall comedic and visual value I give to film a B+. All in all, Shrek the Third deserves nothing less than a B.
The Simpsons Movie
Oh boy, am I glad this movie was awesome. If it was anything short of perfectly loyal to the 18 seasons “The Simpsons” has been on television…well lets just say the millions of Simpsons fans wouldn’t have let show creator Matt Groening live very much longer. In order for the film to accomplish the difficult task, many important factors had to be taken into serious consideration. If you are not a fan of the show or you have never even seen the show (which I find to be impossible), then you should just skip the next paragraph. Better yet, you shouldn’t even see the movie because you wouldn’t be able to understand half of what is going on.
As I was saying, in order for The Simpsons Movie to work, it had to feel exactly like a longer version of an episode. The most important aspect is the story. If the film didn’t have the jokes and ridiculous antics that each episode has, they may as well have just not made the movie. Second, the voice actors from the show had to be involved 100%. There are countless people out there that like to think they can imitate the show’s many unique characters but the truth is that the only ones who can really perform the voices that are required are the actors who have been with the show since the beginning.
Finally, the animation of the film had to be identical to that of the show. This is probably the only time I will every say that animation needs to be stagnant rather than progressive in order for a film to be successful. The look of the film needed to be simple enough to allow all of the unrealistic aspects of the film.
If you are a huge fan of the show like I have been for so many years, the plot is really irrelevant and should have no effect on your decision to see this movie or not. For those of you who have never seen the show and are relying on the storyline to effect your decision to see the film, all you have to really have to know is that the film will definitely make you laugh as long as you don’t analyze each joke. Just take it for what it is or you shouldn’t see the film.
I cannot get away with finishing this review without giving a summary of the film (although it is really unnecessary). The Simpsons Movie revolves around, who else, but Homer Simpson; the bumbling, fat, stupid, father of the Simpsons clan. Through a series of events, Homer “dooms” the fictitious town of Springfield and the Simpsons family is exiled out of town. Of course, the only one who can save Springfield is the one who doomed them in the first place, Homer. That is about all I can really tell you about the film besides tell you the entire story. I give The Simpsons Movie a B+.
Not many films based comic books are very well done. You may say that this is not a very fair interpretation of the comic genre when taking into account such critical and box office successes as the original Superman starring the late Christopher Reeves and Michael Keaton as Batman. Even the first Spiderman was received fairly well upon its original release in 2002 considering its genre: superhero crime fighting.
However, when considering all the superhero movies that have been produced, it’s rare that they go on to become as well-liked as the aforementioned Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. Most comic book films are lifeless outings and a waste of the moviegoers’ money. Comic book films, it would seem, stick to a simple formula: explain to the audience how the Average Joe receives his powers and then have the new superhero fight crime. It’s when films break away from this mold do they truly shine as a piece of film history.
The Spiderman franchise has certainly achieved this feat. The Spiderman movies have all incorporated incredible effects, good storylines, and decent acting. Before the third Spiderman, I wasn’t all that impressed with the franchise. After this third installment, I now have high hopes for the recently announced additional installments that are rumored to begin production whether the stars of the first third return or not (big mistake).
In any case, Spiderman 3 was, unlike the first two films, more than I had hoped for. Spiderman 3 stars Tobey Maguire returning to play New York City’s favorite masked hero, Peter Parker (aka Spiderman). This time around, Spiderman must not only battle one villain but three. Each of the three villains relate to Peter Parker in one form or another. Thomas Haden Church plays Flint Marko (aka The Sandman). It is revealed in the film that Flint Marko was his uncle’s true killer. Topher Grace left his starring role on the hit television show, “That 70’s Show,” specifically so that he could play the role of Eddie Brock who is competing with Peter Parker for a job on the newspaper staff. Lastly, Peter Parker, not his alter ego, must battle his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) who has vowed to avenge his father’s death as the New Goblin.
Kirsten Dunst, as Mary Jane Watson, has a more prominent role in this outing than she did in the previous two films. In Spiderman 3 Mary Jane and Peter Parker are a happy couple but then things start to spiral out of control. First Mary Jane gets fired from a big starring role in a Broadway musical, then she suspects that her own boyfriend, Peter Parker, is falling for another woman and is letting the fame of being Spiderman get to his head.
For a movie that runs for 2 hours and 20 minutes, you would think one of two things: either the director, Sam Raimi, is trying to cram too much storyline and too many villains into one film, or there is not enough in the film to keep the audience interested for 2 ½ hours. Honestly, I came out of the theater more pleased with all the aspects of this Spiderman film than I was with the first two combined. The effects were better, the acting was better (that’s not saying much for Tobey), even the scoring of the film was better. The best aspect of the film was the overlying theme of revenge and then acceptance. Peter Parker vows revenge on Flint Marko throughout the entire film. He also takes his anger and revenge out on Eddie Brock when he loses the Newspaper staff job to Brock. Harry Osborn also vows revenge on Spiderman for killing his father in the first film. I don’t want to give anything away but in the end, each of the characters finds peace with each of these problems that they face. The hardest thing Peter has to do has nothing to do with battling the villains in the film but actually coming to terms with the fact that he is hurting the one he loves, Mary Jane.
I only have two problems with the film. The first is the casting of Topher Grace in such a prominent role in such a huge film. Grace was the worst possible choice to play Eddie Brock. It seems the only reason they hired Grace for the gig was because he resembled Tobey Maguire and he was just coming off of a very popular, long running television sitcom. Topher Grace was certainly not prepared for the enormous leap from weekly sitcom to big budget-big screen action movie.
My second complaint is with the character development. The background and motives to killing Spiderman were not properly dealt with. At no point does the film inform the audience of the “venom’s” origin or its true powers. It is only described as something that “feels good” when attached to a human being. Flint Marko and his Sandman villain were also no very developed. The character of Flint Marko was dealt with enough as it is revealed to the audience that he is Peter Parker’s uncle’s killer and that he is now an escaped convict. His alter ego as the Sandman, however, is barely dealt with. There is no explanation to why Flint Marko becomes the Sandman.
Spiderman 3 stands above the majority of comic book films as a great piece of this particular genre. For this I give the film an A. However, in the broader scheme of being just another big budget action film, I give it B+.
Wow. What a weird-ass movie (That wasn’t an insult). I really had no idea what to expect of Stardust. Does anyone ever know what to expect when going to see a fantasy film? Then when you throw in a gay, cross-dressing Robert de Niro, you really don’t know what to anticipate. Stardust reminds the audience of other classic films of the fantasy genre; namely The Princess Bride and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (sans the hobbit).
The overall plot of the film is simple: Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man in 1800s England, promises the woman he loves that he will bring back to her a star they saw fall from the sky in exchange for her hand in marriage. He sets out on his quest to retrieve the fall star for said love interest while along the way encountering different strange and exciting obstacles. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong! All the different characters he runs into along the way are also searching for the star for the own individual purposes. The three witch sisters (headed by Michelle Pfeiffer) want the star because it will return the youthful beauty to them. Also after the star are seven brothers determined to find the star as a way of proving to their father (Peter O’Toole) that they are worthy of being the next king of their mystical land. The list goes one and one. Also thrown into the mix are a band of hilarious flying pirates (led by Robert de Niro as Captain Shakespeare).
Claire Danes (Terminator 3) plays the fallen star. I guess she did as good a job as anybody could have done of playing a celestial body of hot gas. Michelle Pfeiffer is the evil witch sister, Lamia. Sienna Miller is Tristan’s attractive love-interest. Ian McKellen plays the narrator in the smallest role of his career. Hands down, the best character of the film was Robert De Niro. It was awkward, hilarious, and entertaining the see the guy who is known as one of Hollywood’s “badass” actors dressing up in a girdle while pracing around the ship’s Captain’s Quarters.
Honestly, Stardust was a bit too fantastical for my taste but the all star cast and the constant action kept me entertained the entire time. I feel I should warn you once more that the story was rather confusing. It took me about 20 minutes to finally figure out just what the heck was going on. Either it takes a Lord of the Rings geek to follow Stardust’s story completely or I’m just not that quick. In any case, I give Stardust a B-.