I Heard That Movie Was...

I Heard That Movie Was...: July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy - 'I am Groot'

Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana
Release Date: August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy is the final film in Phase Two before Avengers: Age of Ultron. First, let it sink in that the next Marvel film is going to be the sequel to Avengers. That alone has me beyond excited for this film. As for the actual comic, it's based off the 2008 team and not the 1969 original team. Basically the film is based on a comic that is ONLY 6 years old. Yet, Marvel is willing to roll the dice and give the comic book the big screen treatment. What a huge risk, especially since this film is going to play a huge role in the third Avengers film. With a movie that will play such a huge role, of course Marvel Studios will make sure they hire the best director for the job right? Well, when looking at the resume of their director of choice, the answer... is no. James Gunn, writer and director, has some huge flops on his resume. He wrote and directed Movie 43, Tromeo and Juliet and Scooby-Doo. Okay, okay - So maybe their lead role for the film will at least be an action star or a big name in general, right? Wrong once again. Chris Pratt got the nod to play Peter Quill and if you aren't aware of who Pratt is, he's the funny man from TVs Parks and Recreation and has very little action movie history. But even with two major wrongs, surprisingly enough, Guardians of the Galaxy is one huge right.
Peter Quill was just a young boy when, devastated by his mother's death, he sprinted out of the hospital and was swept into the stars by Yondu (Michael Rooker), the leader of an eclectic band of space scavengers known as The Ravagers. Twenty-six years later, Quill has adopted the nickname Star Lord (Chris Pratt). He's broken away from The Ravagers in an attempt to track down an ancient orb that is also coveted by the evil Ronan (Lee Pace), who is in league with the dreaded Thanos, and who dispatches his top assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve it from Star Lord. In the process of doing so, Gamora also gets drawn into a fight with furry bounty hunter Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his tree-like, humanoid companion Groot (Vin Diesel). Subsequently thrown into prison, this unlikely quartet quickly makes the acquaintance of fearsome warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who seeks bitter revenge for the slaughter of his entire family at the hands of Ronan. In the process of making a daring prison break, Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax recover the orb, and transport it to The Collector (Benecio Del Toro), who reveals that it houses an Infinity Gem - one of six precious stones that harbors incredible powers that could pose a dire threat should they fall into the wrong hands. Later, Ronan acquires the Infinity Gem and plots to use its power to destroy The Nova Corps home-world of Xandar, The Guardians of the Galaxy must race through the stars to recover it before Ronan can carry out his genocidal plan.

Marvel Studios faced an early difficulty with Guardians of the Galaxy that they were able to avoid with The Avengers - introducing five characters in one film. See, The Avengers had the privilege to have five films to introduce their team of heroes, meanwhile Guardians of the Galaxy were thrown straight onto the big screen with no introduction. A difficult task indeed for director James Gunn but not only did he successfully handle this task, he mastered it. With a mere run time of  only 122 minutes, Gunn was able to introduce The Guardians individually and build the relationship between each member. If Gunn didn't set these two crucial things up as beautifully as he did this would have effected some major screen time. Everything felt so right when The Guardians finally teamed up in that final fight sequence. It would have been a total fail if the viewers didn't believe the chemistry among each hero nor their reason for fighting together.

But was it only the screen writing that made this movie a hit? The casting was spot on as each actor brought their character to life. Let's start with Chris Pratt, who I must admit I was truly against playing Star-Lord. Pratt has very minimal experience in a lead role and that number only decreases when you look for his experience in action films. Pratt is actually his best in comedies especially in his role as Andy in Parks and Recreation. But all that doubt and prejudgment was thrown out the window when Pratt delivered a Star-Lord that creators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning would be proud of. He was able to give the proper heroic speeches and exquisitely deliver his one liners. Zoe Saldana's Gamora was the perfect character to put Star-Lord in check and she even dishes her own butt-kicking. Now for the two characters that for sure will become household names, Rocket and Groot. Groot might have only said 3 words repeatedly throughout the film but it was enough to be the glue that sticks The Guardians together. Groot might be the fan's new favorite Vin Diesel character. Rocket's endless sarcasm and quickness to bark back will make even the littlest human have the courage to fight back. Groot and Rocket are the tag team partners that I'm sure if Vince McMahon could hire, he would. But one person Vince McMahon does have under his belt is Dave Batista who plays Drax the Destroyer. I rarely expect good performances from wrestlers but Batista delivered some great witty lines and makes you scratch your head and ask yourself why he wasn't featured more in the commercials. Overall, all of the characters delivered us with some memorable quotes; a round of applause for the script writers.

Where our heroes shine, the villains do the opposite but it was not their fault. Nebula and Ronan the Accuser are both aesthetically appealing but their relationship with the villains was never a priority to focus on. This first film is all about The Guardians and The Guardians only. Their main villain, Thanos, will make a bigger impact in the evil department.

It's as if everything Gunn and his team did when putting this film together, they did it perfectly. Even when it came down to handling the setting. In general, when a film's main setting is a different galaxy the viewers are usually given the unfortunate gift of a long introduction and explanation of said galaxy and everything that's in it. But the film makers avoid all that in hopes that the viewers just simply pay attention.

One of the major flaws of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that too much was put into the film in order to set up future films. The film felt too clustered and at times lost track of its story. Guardians of the Galaxy on the other hand, introduces us to five new heroes and three new villains and some major plot points for upcoming films and yet did not make the same mistake as The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is a delightful risk taken by Marvel Studios. The pieces that made the film amazing could of easily made it awful but Gunn made sure to add the right amount of everything. If I learned anything, it's not to prejudge a film due to its casting and filmmakers. I highly recommend going out to check this film out in theaters just going off the role this film will play in the upcoming Marvel Studio's Phase 3 plan.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Get On Up - 'The Funk'

Director: Taylor Tate
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd
Release Date: August 1, 2014

On Christmas Day in 2006 the world lost a true musical legend. James Brown went by many names, 'Soul Brother Number One', 'The Godfather of Funk', and 'Mr. Dynamite', but these nicknames belonged to Chadwick Boseman for 138 minutes while he took on the role of 'The Hardest Working Man in Show Business' in Taylor Tate's Get On Up. This is the third feature film Tate has been given the opportunity to direct with his last film being 2011's The Help which went on to be nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, and two nominations in Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role with Octavia Spencer winning the award. Boseman is no stranger either to playing a lead role in a bio-pic. In case you don't remember, he delivered a superb performance as Jackie Robinson in 42. The combination of Tate and Boseman deemed to be perfect as they gave fans a bio-pic that will make 'The Godfather of Soul' himself happy.
A biographical drama following the story of James Brown (Chadwick Boseman), the Godfather of Soul, showing his rise from poverty to extreme success. It shows how he rose from an his impoverished childhood to become a world famous and highly influential R&B musician with hits in the 1960s and '70s, becoming one of the most influential musical figures of the 20th century.

Get On Up happens to be the second bio-pic of a musical act that has graced the big screen this summer with the first being Jersey Boys. Where Jersey Boys fails, which happened to be in a lot of areas, Get On Up easily succeeds. Both films tell a story about a musical act that changed the music genre and both directors let their actors tell their story while breaking dialogue. That is where the pencil stops writing in the middle of the venn diagram of what these films have in common and starts working on what they did differently. The music in Jersey Boys never meshed with the rest of the film. It was the only true highlight but director Clint Eastwood never showed a connection to the music but instead drowned it out with plot points that should have received less focus.Get On Up on the other hand was wonderfully put together. Tate didn't focus on only the music but the man himself, James Brown. Using a jagged story telling method by jumping from different time periods of Brown's life and not necessarily in chronologically order, Tate was able to show us the ups and downs of Brown's life and career while giving us the songs and dance moves that we remember.

Tate's decision to use jagged storytelling for the film started off sour. We see an older James Brown walking towards the stage while different snippets of dialogue we will soon hear later in the film is playing. The next immediate scene skips to a younger James Brown in the scene before holding a gun at a seminar because one of its attendees used his bathroom. As soon as Brown hears sirens and makes a run for his car, the scene changes once more and goes to an adolescent Brown playing with his mother, Susie Brown (Viola Davis), in the woods. This would be the last transition that would give you a dry taste. The scenes that follow all get very exciting with the first being of James Brown and his band's airplane getting shot at while landing in Vietnam. A clear chronological order was tossed out immediately, but there is a clear emotional order as all the scenes build up to show the viewers the emotional pain that the egotistical Brown experienced throughout his life as an artist.

It might be that bio-pics are Boseman's favorite films to work on, but he fails to disappoint so far. The voice we hear throughout the film singing James Brown's music belongs to the artist himself but the dance moves, oh the dance moves, that was all Boseman. Wherever Boseman slacked in lip singing, he made up with the dance moves. But the dance moves were not the only thing that was stellar about Boseman's performance. He captured the drive and ambition Brown had as a 16 years old all the way until his 60's. 

It's hard to cover everything that happens in a man's life when he had a career that lasted five decades so obviously Tate had to leave some things out. A major chunk of that being Brown's legal and drug problems. I must admit, both of those topics were something I was hoping I got to learn more about. But Tate added enough in the film for the viewers to get an idea where Brown's mental health was heading towards late in his career, especially when there were scenes of him hitting his wife, adding angel dust to his joint and the second scene of the film in which Brown is holding a gun at a seminar. Overall, I was far from disappointed and I'm sure Get On Up is a film James Brown would be proud of. If you're a fan of Brown and his music than I suggest you go check this film out in theaters but other than that I would recommend you add this film to your DVD collection instead.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NETFLIX: Top-15 Fantasy & Sci-Fi Films to Watch on Netflix Instant Play

Finding films on Netflix's Instant Play can be quite a difficult task. Netflix offers its users a wide range of options to pick from and at times you can stare at all their options for length of a movie and still have no idea what you want to watch. Luckily for you here at I Heard That Movie Was... we are going help you narrow their huge selection down to FIFTEEN films and we will be doing it for each genre. The list will be in no particular order but just 15 films we enjoy and we know you will enjoy as well. Let's go!


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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - 'Trust'

Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Release Date: July 11, 2014

When Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out back in 2011, I must admit, I didn't think it was going to be a hit. After all, reboots for the most part do tend to disappoint here and there. But Rupert Wyatt, James Franco and the rest of the cast completely shocked me with the film they put out and I firmly believed that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one the best reboots to a franchise ever. Just when Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was set to release, Wyatt left the project due to the rushed production schedule. RED LIGHT! The man I have just praised for directing one of the best reboots in a franchise's history is now leaving it? Time to expect a bad cliché  sequel. But the replacement that was chosen was the right choice, Matt Reeves. His last two films Cloverfield and Let Me In were good enough (both received a grade at minimum of 75% on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes) to make me regain confidence in the franchise. But will Reeves' impressive resume continue the successive rebirth of the Planet of the Apes trilogy?
A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.  They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.

The opening scene gives you a great taste of what you're about to experience. There are nearly no words spoken between the apes but you have a good sense of what the relationship is between them as they partake in an animal hunt. Reeves and the screenwriters does an amazing job defining every relationship and how the humans and apes feel about each other. In the first film, the relationship between human and primate is what draws our attention but in this film it demands it by making it more engaging than ever. We are given Caesar, who wants to trust the humans due to the relationship he had with Will Rodman (James Franco) in the first film and we are given Koba (Toby Kebbell) who wants nothing to do with them due to being subjected to animal testing. That alone creates another interesting relationship between the two primates as they go through their own trust battles. The opening scene was impressive and very enjoyable but the other two fight scenes in the film tops it and will have your eyes wide open throughout each.

As for the visuals, it’s hard not to be impressed with the lifelike CGI apes but the WETA team brought it up an extra notch with the effects being better. But it was not only the visuals that made the apes so amazing but the actors who played the roles. Serkis and Kebbell's commitment to the roles were truly amazing, especially in the second half of the film when Koba becomes more aggressive and violent. The combination of the two makes everything about the apes flawless and secretly makes you wish that the WETA team made the horses CGI as well for the next film.

As the primates impressed, unfortunately the human actors did not follow suit but on their behalf it is not totally their fault. Perfect example was the usage of Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), he is gone for huge chunks for the film. Which makes you wonder, why cast such a talented actor if you aren't going to use him as much as you can?

Overall, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has everything you want in a film: great visuals, acting and story. If there was anything I would have changed about the film it would be the length of the final battle scene and the usage of some of the human actors, but even then I should remember that the film isn't called "Dawn of the Planet of the Humans" for a reason. I highly recommend you see this film when it hit theaters as you will truly not be disappointed. 

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