Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cloud Cuckoolander Treatise: A Love Letter to Lord Shen

(Hey, guys, it's Herr Wozzeck here. This is a little bit of an interesting thing about me: for those of you who don't know me that well, I'm also into writing poetry, especially prose poetry and poetry about nerdy subjects. In fact, if you live in the Cambridge area, you can catch me at Stone Soup, which is a poetry gathering that meets at the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge every Monday night from 8ish to 10ish. So if you're in town, stop by; it's a small place, but the poetry is good, we've got great open mic, and it's a fun night for all invovled!

Anyway... after that bit of fillibuster... I wrote a prose poem based on Kung Fu Panda 2 that I thought you guys would like to read. It may have minor spoilers, so beware. But nevertheless, here it is, and I hope you guys enjoy!)

A Love Letter to Lord Shen

To His Highest Excellency, and Would-Be Conqueror of China,

                I write these words, a warmth emanating from my heart into cold wastelands whose ice caps cannot be melted. I care not for the fact that you will not let the words of one with as little worth as me enter your mindscape as it’s torn asunder by storms of bitter anger. I ask not that you return my feelings, but only that you receive them, as you received the prophecy long ago that led you on a rampage on a cold night. If only I could warm the perpetual fimbulvetr of your soul... But as I trek through a blizzard of dark anger, I care not for slowly dying of exposure to the elements. If I could hear your voice just once saying words forbidden to mortal ears… if I could hear the voice to scare away the ice clinging to my body, to chase away bandits of black and white fur, I will die the happiest man alive. And should you take me into your wings, my last thought would be of how beautiful your eyes are, dyed as they are by the blood of those thousands of pandas you sacrificed to the soulless god of ambition. Even as the snow runs red with that blood, I would lay there, and feel loved, my shoulder resting against your breast.
                When you kill me, I hold my hands over the dagger that you have placed in my young heart, keeping it in place. For I know that this is the only time that our fingers will entwine, that I will feel your feathers on my skin, that both you and I will have a small piece of heaven in the snowy deserts of your heart.
I now know what true happiness is.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"Midnight in Paris"

So last time, we had a comedy about furry animals engaging in major kung fu hijinks. So on this Memorial Day...

...We celebrate it by going out of the country. Yes, I'm that crazy.

But today's movie is totally worth that trek, trust me.

Midnight in Paris

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a successful screenwriter who wishes to become a novelist. While he's working on his novel, he goes to Paris with fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents, one night deciding to go on a walk. On this walk, however, he finds himself pulled into Paris in the 1920's, and hijinks ensue when he meets and begins socialising with many prominent literary and artistic figures including (but not limited to) Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), and many, many others. And during all this, he finds himself falling for the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard).

So it's exactly what you'd expect. Has a very interesting premise, has some great acting... There's so much I can say about this movie that is good, so let's get to it.

The acting. The acting from everyone in this movie is excellent. Owen Wilson is incredibly charming as Gil Pender, especially when he starts geeking out throughout much of the movie about the fact that yes, he is actually talking to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. There's something so sincere about his character that we can't help but like his character, and Wilson brings this across beautifully. He has great chemistry with the rest of the cast as well, even including Rachel McAdams, whose character gets more and more unlikeable as the movie progresses. And it also works well with the comedy of the movie, though in this regard pretty much everyone who plays the more eccentric personalities of Paris in the 20's pretty much steal the show.

The premise is also interesting, and feels fueled by magic. Screenwriter Woody Allen doesn't feel the need to explain this magic, but in a way, we don't need it to be explained to us. We're given space to sit back and enjoy everything that happens. And it even has some insights into the world thanks to the premise that don't feel overbearing in any way.

And it is incredibly funny. I can't spoil everything because the humor in this movie just works so well it's incredible. The humor is heavily reinforced if you know anything about the people in 1920's France, but I felt that most of it could also work by itself.

I find it difficult to pin down exactly what is so great about Midnight in Paris. Every element works so well it's exceptionally difficult to figure out where it is. But one indicator that it's a really good movie? I waited for five hours to write up this review, and I can still remember the movie in its entirety. It left that much of an impression on me.


A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2

So... this weekend, Kung Fu Panda got a sequel. Pretty much everyone from the previous movie returns, Jack Black is back as badass panda Po, and we have some new people waiting there for us.

So you'd think that it would be a fun extravaganza, right?

You better believe today's movie is exactly that!

Kung Fu Panda 2

Po (Jack Black) is riding high on awesomeness after the events of the first Kung Fu Panda movie. He's the Dragon Warrior, he knows kung fu, and everything is happy. But when Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) rises to prominence and creates a weapon that could spell the end of kung fu, he is called into action along with the members of the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, and Jackie Chan) to stop him while he finds out some very sad things about his past.

As Po would put it: awesomeness ensues.

For Po, anyway. Right off the bat, I can tell you that many of the supporting characters from the first movie get more or less shelved here. While Tigress and most especially Mr. Ping get more to do, they did shelve some of the supporting characters from the first movie. Shifu was only in it for about ten minutes (which is a shame, because Shifu is one of my favorite characters in KFP), and the voice actors for the Furious Five don't get all that much to do. (On the plus side, though, they gave more lines to Jackie Chan, but they didn't give that much for the rest of the Five sans Tigress.)

This is regrettable, but the new characters of the cast are more than engaging enough to make up for this. Gary Oldman as Tai Lung replacement Lord Shen is one of the most incredibly entertaining villains I have seen in a long time, and the addition of a wise goat voiced by Michelle Yeoh also adds something. Overall, the voice acting hits all the right cues at all the right times, and Gary Oldman as the villain is one of the best things of the movie.

And what adds something else is that this movie doesn't feel like a retread of the original. Rather, it feels more like the ambitious expansion that sequels ought to feel like. The action is bigger, the personal struggle for Po feels bigger... it all feels like a bigger movie overall. And that only works to the sequel's advantage. Oh, and the funny bits also still work really, really well.

So overall? There's really not that much to say about Kung Fu Panda 2. But in the end, that's hardly a bad thing. This movie is just as fun and exciting as the first movie, and even if it does lose steam at a few points, it's still an extremely fun movie to watch.

So yeah. We had some awesomeness with this one.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Pirates of the Caribbean 4"

Hello, guys, and welcome to part two of tonight's double feature.

Okay, so... I have an admission to make about the PotC franchise: I have never actually seen Dead Man's Chest or At World's End. Given what I've heard about the two respective movies, I would guess I am better for not having seen either part of the franchise. No, instead, I was dumped into part 4 almost immediately.

Thankfully, I didn't need to know anything about either of the two movies I just mentioned to get today's movie...

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is at it again: this time, he is searching for the famed Fountain of Youth, but not taking a crew. He eventually gets drafted onto the crew of Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who Jack may or may not have shagged at some point in his life. Thus, Jack ends up having to fight mermaids, British guys led by Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and Spanish guys in his search for the legendary Fountain.

So... The franchise was apparently supposed to go downhill from part two. Me? I can't speak for the last two movies, but this one? This one, was actually pretty fun.

The actors fortunately don't take the whole enterprise too seriously. Throughout, the tone is kept mercifully light on its feet. Thus, the many pieces of humor throughout tend to work extraordinarily well. And while Jack Sparrow is probably not the best leading character in the world, his presence in the movie manages to keep things light on their feet, and leads to some extremely playful and effective sequences throughout. And the action scenes are all pretty fun affairs thanks to this.

Of course, this isn't to say that the movie is perfect by any means. There are a lot of very important plot elements that are left unexplained, like why Blackbeard has magic powers or why the Spanish are still interested in the Fountain hundreds of years after Ponce de Leon's search proved futile. There are also a few subplots thrown in throughout that don't seem to amount to that much at the end of the day, either.

What it does well, though, it does really well. And with this, On Stranger Tides succeeds as a popcorn flick that is harmless entertainment. Is it perfect? No. But it's good, with just enough zingy humor and just enough action that it becomes entertaining. And it's a very good way to start the summer season, and better than Priest.


It has a few flaws, but it's still worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Hey, guys. So, for those of you that have known me since I started up on DeviantArt and on the That Guy With The Glasses Forums, I have typically taken a break over the summer blockbuster season.

Not so with this year. It's a bit of a long story, but... I'll be able to review a large part of this summer's major releases here at HWR.

So to celebrate that, I'm giving you guys a double feature!

Fantastical Creature Faire

So that's the theme of this Double Feature. Why? Because both of the features today feature fantastical creatures.

And we begin that Double Feature...

... with one of the worst uses of 3D ever in a movie.


Humanity is waging a war against vampires that has gone on for centuries. Thanks to the rise of the priests, stability has come to the world, and everything seems to be coming to normal. But when a relative of one of these priests (Paul Bettany) gets stolen, he ends up having to go on an adventure with a sheriff (Cam Gigandet) and another priest (Maggie Q) to rescue her. And along the way...


Go on. Take a gander at what happens.

If you guessed that they uncover something big that's going on that could potentially endanger everything they fought for, congratulations, you have won a cookie. This movie is scarily predictable, and as a result, there's almost nothing here that has any tension. So anyone who can predict the ending will get a whole box of cookies.

It's a shame, then, that the cookies don't justify the use of the numerous clichés that show up in this movie.

There are a myriad of problems with this movie, and I can go over what many of those problems are all day. It takes its premise so incredibly seriously it almost borders on craziness when you consider how cheesy the dialogue is. The world-building is heavily flawed, and the high-tech bits that are scattered around what otherwise looks like a post-apocalyptic western look out of place because of it. The acting is pretty much universally stilted thanks to some of the most inane, face-palm inducing dialogue I've seen, and not even freakin' Christopher Plummer can save this movie. You know you're in bad hands when one of the most legendary and capable actors of film history can't save this movie.

What this movie does have in its favor is a rather slick style in the action scenes. But the problem is that we get the action scenes so rarely that the stylized action gets wasted. And the horror bits are also entirely tension free, though I suspect this is more a function of the fact that they're trying to generate horror for guys that are chasing the big bad creatures instead of having them be chased by said big bad creatures. But if it should come to that, then it's not horror.

If I had to pick anything to say that was worst about this movie... I would say that it feels like the movie is fighting against the running time and the rating. It runs at a brisk 82 minutes, and as a result the pacing gets incredibly uneven, as it's way too slow at the beginning and way too fast at the end. And then there's the issue of it fighting it's rating. This is a movie that feels like it wants to be rated R instead of PG-13, as there is an unsuitably large amount of gore for a movie that's rated PG-13. Also, there is a large amount of blood, but it's rarely seen flowing. But it's most apparent in some of the awkward cuts in the action scenes that hide the gorier bits of them, perhaps most egregiously in one action scene in the middle of the second act where one of the vampires winds up getting his throat slashed and the editing gets incredibly awkward to shield the gore. If a movie has to fight against its own rating in such a manner, something has gone wrong.

Also, don't get me started on the 3D. I had the great misfortune to watch this movie in 3D, and it was not worth the extra money. A large part of the movie takes place in extremely darkened conditions, and the fact that 3D technology darkens the screen means that in some scenes, it's almost impossible to tell what's going on, even when the camera is completely stationary and there isn't much movement on-screen. If you must see this movie (and honestly, I don't know why you'd want to), then see it in 2D, because the 3D just obscures everything.

And that is a recap of all of the problems of this movie. Priest is an all-around incapable movie on just about every level. The writing is laughable, the acting is very stilted, and there's a pervading sense that the movie is fighting against the rating that was set up for it. Thus, it is one of the most boring movies I have seen in a while.

Don't bother.


Skip it.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys in a couple of hours with a review of Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


So... those of you that know me best... well...

Actually, let's start that again.

I'm a big fan of Norse mythology. Of comic book stuff, not so much, but Norse mythology? Definitely. So when I heard that there was a Norse superhero, I was pretty excited. When there was a movie about him? You better believe that excitement was amplified.

So hence, why I decided to go check it out.

Hence, today's movie.


Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a prince of Asgard and next in line for the throne. He's also cocky and arrogant, and kind of an ass. Thus, when his actions come extremely close to instigating war with the Frost Giants, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him to Earth after stripping him of his powers. He comes under the care of Jane (Natalie Portman), and an adventure ensues for Thor to find his hammer Mjollnir and kick his cockyness for good.

So... We're of course talking about a Marvel movie here, and obviously everything is great about this. Is it their best effort so far? No. But is it good?

You better believe it is.

It's a funny thing to sit there, watching this movie. By all accounts, the costumes of the Asgardians all look astoundingly silly with all their gold-plated helmets and wierd armor and all that other jazz. But I think it highlights one of the strengths of the movie: it plays almost nothing safely with the scale of the story here. We're talking about mythological figures here: of course the scale is going to be epic. Director Kenneth Branagh realizes this, and the result is nothing short of breathtaking as everything is treated as epically as it must be for a story like this. Everything from the acting to the costumes to Asgard itself lends itself to a grand scale, and it's appropriate for the movie.

And of course, everything else falls into place as well. For one thing, the acting is incredibly solid. Chris Hemsworth makes a very good Thor, as he always has to present this air of grandeur around him every time he speaks, and he does a good job of keeping to the possibly hammy nature of his character in the times when it's used for hilarious effect outside of Asgard. Actually, all of the Asgardians are played by great actors: Hopkins as Odin is... well, Hopkins as Odin, Tom Hiddleston makes an appropriately villainous Loki and manages to steal every single scene he's in, and Idris Elba shows that this is why he was cast as Heimdall. I don't really have much to say on the actors for the Earth characters, as when Natalie Portman is in your movie there really isn't that much to say. Take that as a good thing.

There's not as much action in this movie as you'd expect there to be in a superhero movie. But the action that is here is almost always some very intense action. And it also pretty much banks on being incredibly well-done action that we can see what is going on.

So with intense action scenes, excellent performances all around, and an acknowledgement of the sense of scale in question, Thor is another string in Marvel's successful movies as of late. There's not much else I need tell you about that: if you liked the two Iron Man movies, then you'll like Thor as well. Is it as good as those? Not completely, but it comes very damn close.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.