Summer Road Trip of 2012!!

WOOHOO! I am about to embark on a 2 week road trip vacation and I am very excited!  My last road trip to California to drive down the Big Sur, for my daughter’s HS graduation, was a huge success and now my man-friend and I are taking a southern state tour.  We plan to eat awesome food, lay on white-sand beaches, stop by and visit Hogwarts and end with a couple of days in the Big Easy.  I predict good times.

We begin with a one night stay in New Orleans, then Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Islands National Seashore–with a timely Pirate Day Festival at Fort Walton Beach.  ARG!!

Onward to Orlando Universal Studios to enjoy The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Disney World happened a few years ago and was amazing)–we’re very stoked.  Butter beer? Yes, please.

Then some amazing food (The Lady and Sons–here we come!) and a Ghost Tour in Savannah, GA, followed by a day in the charming Charleston, SC.  A few days visiting the famous Myrtle Beach seashore (although I hear it is a tourist zoo–but we plan to visit the Seafood Capital in the South, Murrell’s Inlet for some get-away-from-the-tourist time and some fresh crab).

We see an old friend in Raleigh/Durham (possible baseball game) and then drive down for an overnight stay in Atlanta, GA.  Finally, we spend sometime enjoying some of the best food in the US in New Orleans–as well as visit some cemeteries, eat some Po Boys and such.  😀

Yes, it sounds awesome!

Of course, it is obvious that I will be unable to blog much–although we do plan to watch Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus on the road (I know…we are hard-core! :)) but not sure if I will review them until after my return.  We’ll see…

If you want to follow my adventures with photos and updates, you are welcome to friend me on facebook–Nereida Mercado–http://www.facebook.com/nereida.mercado.5 –I would love to share it with you guys!

Happy Summer of 2012!

Men in Black are cool again! Bravo MIB3!

I’ve missed you, Men in Black.  I had forgotten how much I liked this universe.  I had forgotten how great Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are together.  I had forgotten many things, but MIB3 pleasantly reminded me and what a blast!  The concept was brilliant.  F/X and aliens were seamless.  And the addition of Josh Brolin and Emma Thompson was a stroke of genius.  Bravo!

I loved the 1997 Men in Black.  It was original, funny and pretty badass.  I still can recall and quote from that movie.  MIB2?  Not so much.  Honestly, I had to go back and read the summary to even remember what it was about.  So, I was so-so about the third installment.  The franchise was dead.  But, lo and behold!  They did it.  Barry Sonnenfeld was able to bring back the magic and breathe new life into MIB world.

Why did it work?  Mainly because they went back to what worked in the first one–story and characters.  By shining the spotlight on the characters relationships you are able to enjoy all the F/X craziness around it.  The time travel bit worked perfectly and allowed for new possibilities and plenty of fun moments.  Major shout out must be given to Josh Brolin.  Brolin not only nails Mr. Jones voice and mannerisms, he is also able to duplicate the wonderful chemistry with Smith.  It is truly a pleasure to watch.  (And Mr. Smith still has it! His charm is on full display here.)

I enjoyed this more than I expected and want to watch it again.  I am sure that I will not have to read a summary to remember this one!

It’s a Plunderful Life indeed! The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a fun adventure

I love Aardman Animation Studio!  Wallace and Gromit? Classic.  Chicken Run? Hilarious.  So, I was understandably excited about this film and happily, it did not disappoint.  The Pirates! Band of Misfits is an intelligent, quirky story that will engage kids and yet, keep the adults entertained.  The humor may be very British and not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s funny at some level for everybody.

Stop action claymation is an amazing art form and does not get enough attention, in my opinion.  This is the company’s first 3-D feature and it’s cool.  Co-founder/Producer/Director Peter Lord is back behind the camera (Chicken Run) and is joined by former Aardman animator Jeff Newitt.  Lord has a great sense of timing and storytelling.  There is so much to see that you have to watch it more than once to catch-all the fine details–posters, store fronts, and lots of background gems.

The film is based on the first two books from Gideon Defoe‘s The Pirates! series and Defoe wrote the screenplay.  Honestly, that does explain why it is not as hilarious as the earlier films (writing duo of Peter Lord and Nick Park outshines most though), but it is still extremely enjoyable with plenty of laugh out loud moments.  What’s even cooler is how much depth they’re able to incorporate into these animated characters and how many touching moments there turn out to be.

The voice cast is awesome!  Hugh Grant is unrecognizable as Pirate Captain and perfect.  Martin Freeman is the First Mate and again proves he has incredible comedic timing.  David Tennant is Charles Darwin and delivers some great lines.  And Imelda Staunton‘s Queen Victoria is fantastic.  The whole crew is great!

Yes…yes…you can tell I loved it.  Go out and support this wonderful art form and have a few laughs while you’re at it.   And as one of the pirates says, ” This turned out to be one of our most unexpectedly heart warming adventures yet!”  INDEED!

Edgar Allan Poe as the lead in a Gothic thriller? Sounds good, right? Wrong.

What could have been a creative, unique twist to the common thriller ends up being a typical, predictable and uneven movie.  The Raven fails to impress on every level and just recycles tired themes and plot beats.  There was nothing original in this story except for the use the name of Edgar Allan Poe.

Seems like director James McTeigue is unable to recapture the magic of V for Vendetta and although he is a capable director and there are solid sequences, overall The Raven feels…lackluster.  Also, John Cusack‘s usual charm is lost here.  We have seen this anti-hero before and Cusack plays Poe pretty straight forward and kind of dull.  Wasn’t he suppose to be this mad genius?  The supporting cast is promising on paper, but everyone is just dialing in a performance.

That pretty much sums up all the aspects of this film.  We have seen this premise before.  We seen this gore before (Saw anyone?).  We have seen this villain before.  And it has all been done better before.

The blame must be placed on the screenwriters, Ben Livingston and  Hannah Shakespeare.  Sure, they’re both young, inexperienced writers but still…they should know better.  But, let us remember this is Hollywood.  The land of remakes and recycled ideas.  I can imagine the pitch–“Okay. It’s a period piece. You have a grisly serial killer.  But…get this…the hero is Edgar Allan Poe!!”  Answer?  SOLD!

Alas.  I just hope that Poe’s warning in The Raven does not come to pass…how sad would it be if originality is “Nevermore.”

 

Dark Shadows leaves me disappointed–mostly…

I am 1/2 disappointed.  Is that possible?  I have never seen the 1966–1971 gothic horror soap opera of thesame name, so I had no expectations except for the hope that Burton and Depp were bringing back the old magic (I was keeping my fingers crossed).  Well, Tim Burton‘s Dark Shadows has good and bad things, but the magic has NOT fully returned.

Let’s begin with the good.  I enjoyed Johnny Depp‘s performance and that was nice because lately he has disappointed me.  As Barnabas Collins he brings angst, brooding and subtle humor to his fish out of water vampire–even with the ridiculous make up on (sorry–I am starting to worry about the Kabuki-like makeup fetish).  The sets were beautiful–Gothic and grand (and it was not so much of a comedy as the trailers indicated).  The effects are well done and the cast is perfect–especially Eva Green as the witch Angelique, who is the right mix of evil and sadly obsessed.  And I appreciated the premise, but this leads to the bad…

The narrative is all over the place.  This is the classic example of trying to say too much and ending up not saying anything.  There was no focus.  What story were they trying to tell?  I am not sure.  I think it was supposed to be about love lost and yet they did not spend enough time on that angle for me to care.  I also think they should have spent more time in the past if they wanted any of the key elements to resonate in the future.

Sigh.  Oh well.  I guess I should be happy that some of the magic was present, but I can not say I enjoyed it as much as I could have.  If only Burton had engrossed me with his brilliant storytelling, but instead this scattered story was too broad and as a result, it ended leaving me unsatisfied.

 

The Five-Year Engagement? I liked it.

The Five-Year Engagement is delightful.  It may not be as laugh-out funny as some of the other Apatow productions, but it is a warm, charming and heartfelt story.  What I really liked is how real it all felt.  This is not a standard romantic comedy (which is a good thing) and I could honestly believe in these characters and their dilemma.

Romantic comedies are hit and miss with me.  I like a light, fluffy movie every once in a while but I hate the play by the numbers–meet cute–stereotypical character–ones and enjoy the original–realistic–ones. And Five-Year definitely qualifies as realistic. Instead of showing the courtship and ending with a proposal, here we begin with the proposal and follow what happens after you’ve declared your love and life gets in the way.  It helps that Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are wonderful and have a natural chemistry because the story takes its time and watching them maneuver through obstacles is part of the fun.

Writer/Director Nicholas Stoller (Segel co-wrote the screenplay) goes back to Forgetting Sarah  Marshall territory here–focusing on a light touch.  There are a few raunchy and over the top bits but they do not overwhelm the narrative.  The supporting is good–not great and I think that is the weakest part of the film.  (The talent around the stars always helps to elevate the enjoyment factor.)

Overall I enjoyed my time visiting with these characters.  It may not be the best film out there but it is better than most.  And let us not forget…it is a light, fluffy movie and it’s not trying to be anything more than that.

The Avengers fulfills on its promise of AWESOME-NESS!

Okay.  I am a geek.  I know this.  I am proud of it actually.  And The Avengers is a geek’s wildest dreams come true.  Throughout I found myself saying things like–OMG! That’s awesome!–That was so badass!–That’s so cool!–Holy Shit!  Wow!  Yeah…it is that good!    The best part?  Everything.  Yet, I am going to say that the master behind this is Joss Whedon, who takes these distinct characters and allows each to shine and then weaves them together to create an outstanding universe.  There are tons of quotable lines and memorable scenes and this is the first film of the year that I want to see again and again.  Bravo!

Let us also acknowledge that this movie is an accomplishment–four different comic heroes, stars of their own movies, joining forces to save the world.  Having that many egos to contend with must have been a daunting task, yet Whedon makes it look easy.  He is able to strike the perfect balance between character development and story with badass action and comic book sensibilities.  Then in true Whedon style he adds plenty of humor and unexpected depth and heart.  The Avengers is a true crowd-pleaser that also maintains the integrity of each superhero, but never forgets to have fun with it.

I enjoyed all the Marvel movies (Iron Man 1& 2, Thor, Captain A, and even The Incredible Hulk) that were building up to this release–some more than others (Captain America was my favorite and I believe the best film of the bunch), but they were all entertaining.  The Avengers takes entertainment to the next level.  It never forgets what it is and what the fans expect and want–that’s what makes it brilliant!

Robert Downey, Jr takes the helm and delivers some of the best lines in true Tony Stark fashion.  Downey is always a pleasure to watch and has his character down to a science.  Chris Evans is wonderful as Captain Steve Rogers and is the true leader of the group–he represents what a true hero should be.  Chris Hemsworth is a more mature Thor this time around and it works.  Thor is on a mission to save his brother, Loki (played perfectly by Tom Hiddleston) who really is just a puppet for a greater evil and threat.  But the best surprise is Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner and “the other guy” aka the Hulk.  The only actor not proven in the role, Ruffalo was a risk–a risk that paid off!  This is the Hulk I’ve been waiting for!  He is a shy, nervous genius and yet, there is something behind his eyes that makes him dangerous–perfect. (As an avid Hulk TV show watcher I can say…I’ve missed you Dr.Banner.) And for those that may doubt it–do not underestimate the power of HULK SMASH!! 😀

Let us not forget the straight humans in the bunch–Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow is a complete badass!  She has some pretty cool moves and no super powers, which is even more impressive.  Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye is smooth, commanding and formidable.  And of course, there is Mr. Samuel L. Jackson as Fury and well…it’s Samuel L. Jackson!  Enough said.  Finally, I want to give a shout out to under appreciated Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson (“Phil? His first name is Agent.”) who has been the one connecting character in all the movies.  Coulson continues to be one of my favorites and gets some great moments here, especially his interactions with Cap, which are classic.

The special effects are well done and never distracting.  We are given some pretty cool aliens and creatures, but I was most taken by the Hulk (yes, again) who finally looked real!  The plot is pretty straightforward and there are no surprises about who is going to triumph, but that is not the point of this film.  This is a story about how these very different characters become a team.  How they learn to trust and respect each other.  Bottom line though?  The Avengers is meant to be a fantastic escape from our daily lives and guess what?  That it is!

Welcome Summer of 2012!  Let the ride begin…