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Archive for May 2011

The Perfect Score (2004)

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A bad knock-off of The Breakfast Club?  I think so.

The Perfect Score is about a mismatched group of stereotypes: the brain, the rebel, the stoner, the loser, the jock, and the “good guy” who all decide that the SAT is the only thing standing in their way of achieving their dreams.  So they decide to go for the ultimate teen-heist and steal the answers.

The cover says it’s The Breakfast Club meets Ocean’s Eleven.  Yeah, maybe the worst possible version of John Hughes’ classic and all of the corny elements of Ocean’s.  The Breakfast Club is one of my all-time favorite movies.  It defines high school, it’s far more than stereotypes.  The Breakfast Club could have EASILY failed.  It could have been awful, cheesy, and cliché because, let’s face it, the plot is very basic and it IS full of stereotypes.  But those characters are real, the dialogue is witty, and it has heart.

The Perfect Score is like someone placed Breakfast Club on a platter, stabbed it forty times, threw in some new amateur actors, and tore out the heart that everyone connected with.  This movie is dead.  It has no heart, nor soul.  It’s a two-hour detention, not two hours playing hooky.

The only reason I watched the entire thing was because I had just finished with my last final exam for the semester.  I definitely agreed with the injustice that standardized testing is to humankind or whatever, so I fell for the premise.  And, I’ll admit, it did start off well.  Stylized introductions to the characters, planning sessions, etc.  But then one too many characters got involved.  I mean, all that Kyle (Chris Evans) and Matty (Bryan Greenberg) really needed was Francesca (Scarlett Johansson) since she’s the one with access to the building.  I guess Roy (Leonardo Nam) can get into the computer, and that’s cool.  But even if you did have a crush on her, would you really tell the smartest girl in school that you were planning on doing ANYTHING unethical?  That’s how Anna (Erika Christensen) got involved.. and then she just decided out of the goodness of her heart to tell “deprived” BASKETBALL STAR Desmond (Darius Miles) about it.

Here’s the thing though.  Even if Brian Robbins was going for a heist movie – it’s far from satisfying.  I guess their sense of right and wrong got the better of them, or whatever, but they don’t use the answers.  Sure it makes me feel good inside that teenagers can have some ounce of integrity, but that wasn’t what I watched this movie for.  All I saw, was an intelligent and strong girl turn into a slut, an insecure rebel go for a fat-boy loser with no backbone, and an Asian druggie being controlled by a domineering black woman.  I don’t know, everything just goes too far to try and teach a lesson. “A lot of people would think these questions are difficult… not me.”  “No?”  “No. Because these questions have answers.”  Touching.

It has further lame attempts to be Breakfast-club-esque:  “What would you do if you had all the money in the world” kind of questions.  “There’s this one video game, blah blah blah.. it was so cool, this one character was cool…” “Oh, so you want to design video games?” “No, I want to be that one character!”  It goes for laughs, but all I could muster was half an eye roll.

The acting was amateur at best.  Some say that Johansson isn’t half bad – and she isn’t – but I don’t really like her that much anyway.  Everyone’s lines are forced, their interactions with each other are fake.  As improbable as Claire and John’s relationship is in Breakfast Club, they at least had some ounce of chemistry – and they interacted well together.  Nothing in this is real.

Stereotypes at its worst, The Perfect Score is as far from perfect as I am from being a millionaire.  Please watch The Breakfast Club instead. 1/10

Thor (2011)

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The beginning of a fantastic superhero-filled summer.

My first association with Thor began when I was just a kid.  My comic-book loving brother had Marvel characters galore coating his walls and I used to stare at them, with zero comprehension of who they all really were.  Probably the best that I’ve really known Thor, though, was in Adventures in Babysitting.  Don’t judge, Thor has a pretty big impact on bad-A car dealers, too.

I’d watched the trailer for Thor over a dozen times at my job.  They play the. same. commercials all day long.  Excitement turned to boredom, boredom turned to mockery, and mockery turned to WTF Kenneth Branagh is directing this??? And then back to excitement.  Needless to say, I was anxious to see what the distinguished English actor/director of Henry V would bring to the table.

Thor.  The god of thunder.  The son of Odin, king of Asgard.  So basically once upon a time, like a billion years ago or whatever, Asgard and the Frost Giants were at war.  Those snowy dudes wanted all-ruling power over the nine realms, including our blessed Earth.  When Asgard blew them over,  the Asgardians took their little ice trophy, the Casket of Ancient Winters.

Flash forward to present, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is about to assume the throne – even over his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  Those same, frozen, frisky sonofaguns went and ruined his big day by trying to steal back their power…thing.  Thor is kinda pissed, thinks he’s king already, and decides to take matters into his own hands and kinda starts up some war again with those frosty idiots.  Odin (Anthony Hopkins) realizes that, oh wait THOR can’t be king right now.  He should probably go grow up a little bit.  On Earth.  Without powers.  And kinda without his hammer, too.  Things get worse upstairs when Odin has some kind of stressed-induced heart attack thing and falls into his get-better “Odinsleep.”  Loki takes over as king and he wants to run things a little differently…

First of all, does anyone else feel like laughing every time the name “Thor” is used in casual conversation?  Because I do.

I also have to give credit that it was exactly what I was expecting.  A good story, good action, some cheese, and a lot of great stranger in a strange land moments (which I applaud for being highly entertaining, but not overbearing and distracting).  As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t been too exposed to the Thor-verse, so I wasn’t sure how Marvel would mesh with Norse mythology.  After this movie, however, I’m definitely jumping on the bandwagon and I’d call myself a Thor-fan.  While I don’t consider it up to par with the Spiderman movie franchise nor Christopher Nolan’s Batman(s), it does have some surprisingly deep facets to the story – all thanks to Loki.  Loki’s character was the best developed out of anyone else in the ensemble (especially compared to Thor, who became a good boy remarkably quick).  His disturbed countenance and spark of evil are perfectly portrayed, as well as his deep confusion.  I was half rooting for him.  He sold the movie for me and I’d recommend it if only for him.

I think my main complaint was the lack of character development in Thor.  Maybe I’m just not buying the I-am-a-better-person-because-of-a-woman-even-though-I-just-met-her-yesterday plot device anymore.  (Speaking of which, Natalie Portman is in freaking EVERYTHING this year!)  I actually really enjoyed Portman’s performance as the storm-chasin’, researcher/scientist Jane Foster.  Even if I were a science nerd, though, I don’t think I’d be  head over heels for some larger than life specimen from nowhere just because I wanted answers.  I thought that Chris Hemsworth played the two extremes well, but there just wasn’t enough script in the middle to fully appreciate the leader that he turned into.

And how ’bout that Asgard?  The rainbow bridge was as beautiful as I could have imagined it.  Good on ya, folks.  The towers, waterfalls, castles, and landscapes were all breathtaking and god-like.  If I had their kind of power, that’s where I’d live.

We’ve also got things to get us more pumped for The Avengers – Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) played a bigger role than in previous Avenger-precursors.  SHIELD was all over the place trying to figure out that goshdarn hammer, stuck in the ground like Excalibur.  The intrigue builds for the mega-mashup coming in 2012.  But I don’t think of Thor as simply an extended trailer for The Avengers.  I think it’s a great stand-alone flick and I’d welcome a sequel.

The screenplay was fine, but somewhat cliché.  The CGI and action were fantastic and entertaining and the costumes made them gods look awesome.  The secondary characters were good too for the most part (Kat Dennings was getting on my nerves a little bit) with good performances by Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo and Colm Feore.

Branagh, you da man.  Thor is a popcorn flick well-worth the popcorn and the price of the movie ticket, too.  7/10

Jane Eyre (2011)

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A favorite book is not shamed.  Ever since I overcame my Harry Potter movie phobia, I don’t walk into those films with a constant fear of disappointment.  But just the same, it’s been a while since I watched a movie adaptation of a dearly loved book with that edge of fear that your treasure would be thrashed.  I’m pleased to report that Jane Eyre not only didn’t disappoint, but it brought a smile to my face.

In case you are sadly unfamiliar with this classic tale, here’s what’s going down.  This adaptation opens with a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) frantically traipsing some beautiful countryside.  She’s alone, she’s wet, her face looks sad and hurt.  Her hair looks like it was once beautiful before being torn apart by the downpour.   She is taken in my a man and his sisters, a man who’s got muffin chops like nobody’s business (Jamie Bell).  Everything’s spinning, it’s very disorienting.  Who are these people?  Who’s the girl?  As they begin to question her, we are jumped backwards to a memory that obviously belongs to the woman.  She’s now a young girl, eight-years-old probably.

Pause.  As previously mentioned, I love Jane Eyre.  I’ve seen basically every other movie/mini-series ever made.  I read the book twice, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.  I know the story back to front.  This was a bit of a different take.  I was trying to figure where in the story we were, where Rochester man was, and why it seemed like we completely skipped over the climax.  With this being only a two-hour version of a long and detailed book, this was a smart move and helped with us dive into the story without it seeming like a biography.  Which I guess it kind of is, but it doesn’t have that same feel starting in the middle.

Anyways, Jane Eyre had it rough growing up.  Hated by her aunt who took care of her, hated at her sadist boarding school where she lost her one and only childhood friend.  Then she lands a governess job at Thornfield Hall with the young French girl Adele.  Mrs. Danvers (Judi Dench) runs the coop but has a kind heart and accepts Jane.  Later, after Jane is nearly trampled by the mysterious, rude man on a horse, we find out that the mysterious man on the horse is Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender).  She is intrigued by the master of the house, and she becomes a pet of sorts.  Their relationship develops, and so do the mysteries surrounding him.

Jane Eyre is a combination of many genres.  It is definitely a romance.  It is also something of a spooky mystery – an element that is sometimes overshadowed by the romance, but the mystique is awesome.  It is also a drama, and even a tragedy (though not really).  What makes Jane Eyre special is, you know, Jane Eyre. The crossroads she reaches between integrity and happiness has always been moving, and it was not put to shame in this adaptation.  You can feel her pain.  Jane will always be one of the greatest literary heroines ever written and one of my greatest examples.  I can only hope that my own daughters can be as strong as she.

Mia Wasikowska was great.  I would have liked a little more fire in her personality, though she is still wonderful.  She had a great year and this is definitely her best performance to date. I love that she could emulate the intelligence, independence, and integrity that I admire so much in Jane.  Judi Dench, and Jamie Bell are also great secondary characters.  Who steals the show, however, is Michael Fassbender as that sexy SoB.  He so perfectly creates a character that you learn to love despite initial hatred.  Mysterious and dark I couldn’t keep my eyes off him.

The film is also GORGEOUS.  From the get-go I was swept back in time, transported to a new world.  There are a lot of castles, fields, gardens, and woods to capture the eye.  The landscape, combined with the music, help to create the perfect tone for this film.

I think my one complaint is that the two hours FEEL like two hours.  I mean, I’ve seen four hour mini-series of this, and this felt just as long.  I wasn’t complaining, I was loving every second of it.  But it did seem at least a half an hour longer than it actually was.  Which makes me think that they COULD have added more detail in that additional half hour that I ALREADY thought existed.  IMHO.  The constant back and forth in the first fifteen minutes was a little confusing as well.

I love that book, and I now love this movie.  Girls, get yourself a new role model.  Try Jane Eyre.  9/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

May 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm