Monday, December 2, 2013

review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (movie)

Again, I know this review is really late and that The Hobbit has been out for a long time. You'll just have to stick with me until I get these older reviews out of my system and off my to-do list so I can focus on important things. Like the new Veronica Mars movie trailer from Sand Diego Comic Con... or, you know, grad school. Whichever ones grabs my attention.

So, like all LOTR fans (lord of the rings for those of you who don't speak geek), I was of course super excited to hear the Peter Jackson had signed on to make a "Hobbit" movie. What I was not excited about was that they (the producers and other money grubbing folks) had decided to split it into three movies... why you ask? For no logical reason. One of my, and many other people's main complaint, is that The Hobbit is a smaller story than The Lord of the Rings trilogy: it's Tolkien's first story, the world is much smaller, and the book much much slimmer... and only one book. From a narrative stand point, it seems like the only reason that it would be split into three parts is to gain more money.

Despite my personal reservations about how it would be split up, I was still enormously excited to see this movie. I knew that with all the returnees, be it actors, writers, directors, or composers, this movie was going to be a treat for the eyes.

Now, I'm going to try not to give away any plot, but c'mon on!!!! The Hobbit has been around for freaking decades, people! Bah! Go read you illiterate peons! But, quick lesson for all of you who haven't read it - this is J.R.R. Tolkien's first book and the prequel to Lord of the Rings. It tells the story of how Bilbo Baggins, Frodo's... uncle (?), left the Shire to have an adventure and finds the One Ring and meets Gollum. There's dwarves, elves, wizards (and not just Gandalf), and even a dragon (if we ever get to see it). 

So Gandalf, being the crazy wizard that he is, is going on a journey to help some dwarves reclaim their long lost kingdom under the Lonely Mountain where a dragon, Smaug, has taken up residence and expelled the former occupants, the dwarves. They need one more member to round out their group and for some reason Gandalf decides to recruit Bilbo, citing his non-existent skills as a "sneak". The dwarves are of course skeptical and so is Bilbo, but everyone gets over it and off they go on an adventure!

Now there are many obstacles that get thrown in their way from weather, trolls, lightning elemental, and even a peak at *gasp* Sauron! The filming is spectacular with breathtaking vistas and seamless CGI paired with sweeping, grad music. All good. The acting is well done and the characters are real... for dwarves, wizards, and hobbits. I give The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can check out the preview here!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

review: Wreck It Ralph (movie)

I loved this movie. And yes, I know it's a kids movie, but for some reason I almost find kids movies to be more pure in their motives... minus the product placement. This is the second of Disney's new CGI animated films, Tangled being the first and thank god it's not a musical. I kinda am enjoying the new, more positive, liberal, direction Disney seems to be going in. It's fun to see how far we've come since Snow White and the majority of the other Disney princesses who typically wait for their prince to come and save them and then marry and live happily ever after.

Wreak it Ralph stars John C. Riley as Ralph and Sarah Silverman as Vanelope von Schweetz. Ralph is a bad guy with a heart of gold who doesn't want to be a bad guy anymore. In fact, he attends the bad guy equivalent of AA (kids won't get it but you will - that makes it even better). Vanelope is a racer in the candy equivalent of Mario Kart who gets kicked out because she's a glitch. Their worlds collide when Ralph leaves his game in search of a medal to prove he's really not a bad guy. Cue adorableness, humor and a heart-warming moral lesson. Too cute. And yes, a little cheesy.

This movie reminds me a lot of Shrek - it has a heart-warming plot, big named actors, and all the humor that children won't understand (which for some reason makes it more funny). And of course, the all important lesson, that it doesn't matter how you look, but it's what's inside that matters. *tear* Isn't it just lovely?

Anyways, I know this review is really late but, grad school. Whatcha gonna do? I give Wreck-It Ralph 5 out of 5 stars. If you haven't seen it already in theaters, I know it's out on DVD. Don't feel awkward if you're over 12.

You can check out the trailer here!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

review: Pitch Perfect (movie)

Alright, so I know that this movie really isn't going to win any awards, but is it bad if I say this was one of my favorite movies of last year? Now most people know that comedy really isn't my thing, especially the awkward comedy that seem to dominate every TV line-up... at least stateside. And yes, I will admit that this is riding on the coattails of the musical TV hits Glee and SMASH but still, I can love the whole song and dance combo... when it's done well and not ridiculously like both Glee and SMASH have become with their odd moments belting their hearts out on a stage with no one around just so you can truly understand the pain that is in their hearts. *single emo-tear*

This... this isn't that. There's no emotional solo singing in the rain and in fact the only time they sing are times when they are supposed to be singing like: rehearsals, competitions, performances, and the only stretch - the sing-off but even then it's like an in-house competition so it works. There is only one moment that doesn't fit in which is the girls singing on the bus on the way to a competition, but even that's understandable if you've ever been in a car with friends and an awesome song comes on the radio.

So, on to plot, yes? Beca, played by Anna Kendrick (you might recognize her as Jessica from the Twilight series), is an "alt. girl" with awesome piercings and plugs who can't seem to shake her scowl and headphones. And truth be told, she'd rather not be at college but she's there because she get a free ride since her father is a professor at Barden University. Beca would rather be in LA paying her dues and on her way to producing music. So her father makes a deal with her - spend one year really trying college (make some friends, join a club, do well in her classes, etc.) and if she hates it she can move to LA next year and he'll even help.

So Beca strikes out to prove to her father that school is not the place for her. She obviously wants to do something with music so she joins the the campus radio and then gets strong armed into auditioning for the "Barden Bella's" - the all female acapella group. Joining the cast at this point is Rebel Wilson, a tremendously talented comedian known for her roles in Bridesmaids in the US and a bunch of TV shows in her native Australia. In this movie Wilson plays "Fat Amy" a very eccentric, confident, vocal powerhouse that kept me laughing through out the entire movie. I love her for her quick, biting one liners and her sassy confidence (as a big girl - I can appreciate that since the majority of big women just seem to lack confidence or are portrayed as un-sexy by the majority of media sources). Now the Bellas got pwned in the nationals last year by their rivals the Barden Treble-Makers and this year's captain, Aubury (Anna Camp who has appeared in GLEE, Mad Men, and True Blood) is determined to get back to the nationals and beat the Treble-Makers. She also is a control freak, zealously "protecting" the Bella's image. Needless to say, things don't go according to Aubrey's design and she clashes with Beca throughout the entire flick. Beca also has a love interest named Jesse (Skylar Astin who has been in some big name broadway hit hits: Spring Awakening and Rent). And since he becomes a Treblem-Maker, Aubrey gives Beca no small amount of grief for their implied relationship.

Pitch Perfect was a fantastic movie - ridiculous in the face of the more serious releases. Rotten Tomatoes gave it "81% Fresh" and I must agree - despite the musical trend Pitch Perfect sticks out for it's fantastic comedy, singing routines and Rebel Wilson, I give Pitch Perfect 5 out of 5 stars.

You can check out the trailer here!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

review: Zeale, Imagine Dragons, AWOLnation (music)

So I'm really behind on my posting - sorry! I wish I could tell you I was doing something amazing like curing HIV in that baby, but... no. I'm not. I'm just being reallllllly lazy. And having a social life.

In October, a friend and I got tickets to go see a concert headlining AWOLnation, although I was super excited about one of the openers, Imagine Dragons, it was actually the other opener, Zeale, who blew me away.

Zeale defines himself as a Hip-Hop/Indie in sound. And initially I was too excited for the other artists at the concert to really pay much mind to them as they were setting up. That is until 2 things happened. First, the guy setting up the mics went "Guest mic, check 1". Oooooh, guest! Always a good attention grabber. Then the guy next to me pointed out that he was already onstage mixing his track right then - like a freakin' boss. Alright - interest piqued.

Now, what you must understand about me and concerts is that I'm kinda... well, a beast when I'm there. My friend and I were in the second row of standing room (with some ridiculous old couple in front of us who was obviously there with a kid somewhere - although why they had to be in the front when they probably didn't care eluded me). And there I am, in a dragon t-shirt, bouncing up and down. So when this Austin boy comes out, spitting rhymes I start grooving. And with a song like "Hope Dies", featuring Patricia Lynn, it's easy to get into their sound. And he works that stage going up and down and calling out to the crowd. And there I am: second row, going all out and he looks down and goes: "This girl knows where it's at". Needless to say - that put a smile on my face.

The coolest thing he did was take two words from the crowd and make a rap on the spot. Our words were rhino and poka-dots. It was an awesome rap. Zeale's other hit is "Black Mr. Rogers" featuring AWOLnation. But, by far, the coolest thing that Zeale does is offers his music for free online at http://www.zealerapz.com/ and the only thing you need to do is sign up for the mailing list which never spams (at least in my experience). I give Zeale 4.5 out of 5 stars for bringing down the house and excellent free music!

Imagine Dragons was the band I was super excited to see. I'd heard their song "Demons" on (don't judge me too harshly) So You Think You Can Dance and it was awesome. Their song "It's Time" I heard about 6 months later starting to make it's round on the radio and was reminded about how good they were. So, when I saw that they were opening for AWOLnation (who I love too - review coming up!) it's was an obvious decision to get tickets.

Now despite their recent success, Imagine Dragons was formed in 2008
with it's only surviving member since it's inception being lead singer Dan Reynolds. They've have numerous EPs, extended play albums focusing on a major hit with a few other songs thrown in totally about 8 songs, but their first studio album was released in 2011. And since then they've been achieving huge success: making their rounds doing all the late night shows: Leno, Letterman, Jimmy Kimble, Conan, Jimmy Fallon and have been listed by Billboard as one of "2012's Brightest New Stars" and voted Amazon.com's "Favorite Rock Artist of 2012". They've also been featured in tons of TV shows, movies, and trailers. As to way their called Imagine Dragons, the band as said that it's an anagram made from letters of different words but no one knows what those words are.

As a live band, Imagine Dragons delivers. Dan Reynolds is charismatic and enthusiastic and the band sounds great. By the time they were on the old folks had left, so there I was in the front row. And although their set was kinda ruined because of the drunk whore who kept trying to elbow me out of the way, that is until I set security on her, they were still awesome. I even got to touch Dan Reynold's hand *squee*! Now, my favorite song off Night Visions is definitively "Radioactive" despite the fact that the music video is rather odd juxtaposition of a driving, intense song with apparently a Muppet cage battle as the backdrop for the music video... yup. Very odd. If you like soulfully intense and a band that can swing from bouncing up and down to epic waving this band is for you. It took a while for me to get into the rest of their album but once I did it was great. I give Imagine Dragons 5 out of 5 starts!

AWOLnation was the headliner for this show and their hit is "Sail" which is an odd hit mainly because you can't really understand what he is saying  and it really doesn't match the upbeat tone of the rest of the album, Megalithic Symphony. Aaron Bruno is the front man and writes all of his own music and the name AWOLnation came from his highschool nickname. Bruno has been with many different bands over the years but most recently with Under the Influence of Giants which he left in 2009. AWOLnation was started in 2008 by Red Bull Records. Megalithic Symphony was released in 2011.

They are classified as electronic rock - how can you not love that combination! It tends to be kinda quirky, full of energy, and great lyrics. Also Aaron Bruno loves to crowd surf. He did it three times that night. Almost got his boot. They were crazy on stage. My only complaints were that is was hard to understand him and the sound system was screwed up a bit so the bass was kinda wonky. My favorite song is "Kill Your Heroes" or "Burn It Down" both are awesome songs, fast, jumpy tracks perfect to amp up to. Their entire album is excellent. And wikipedia tells me they'll be dropping another album in June. Can't wait! I give AWOLnation 5 out of 5 stars!

How's that for an update?!

Friday, March 15, 2013

review: Grouplove (music)

I can honestly say that when my cousin offered me tickets to go see Young the Giant back in April, I had no idea who the opening act was. Grouplove didn't ring any bells. Although I had heard their hit "Tongue Tied" I always seemed to miss the band name whenever it came on. But my cousin said they were awesome and I wanted to see Young the Giant and I had an afternoon to kill. So, with no preconceived notions about who they were and if I would like their sound- I went to the concert anyways.

In 2009, five more or less random strangers met on a retreat in Crete. Liking each others' sound they remained friends for a year before forming a band together. And though only newly formed they needed that first year to earn the money to a recording studio in LA. They played their first show in May of 2010 and then later that year toured with Florence + the Machine and Joy Formidible!!! Talk about a quick rise!

They have excellent stage presence - being very carefree and kinda wild but still incredibly engaging. They're also perfect for the Portland scene as they have a quirky/nerdy/hip image. Their sound is upbeat and incredibly catch. When asked to describe their music, they said "It's like best friends skydiving." Their ballad "Slow" is incredible. Their album - Never Trust a Happy Song - is an excellent and one can easily listen to the whole thing. I give Grouplove 4.5 out of 5 stars!