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Terminator Genisys (2015)
Does something new with the Terminator franchise
I won't say this is a masterpiece by any means but there is a large part of me that really admires this movie for trying something different.
If you're very anal about continuity, the movie is probably maddening. But the timeline in the series is just so messed up, and barely makes sense, so here's a movie that just kind of dumped trying to connect everything together and went off on its own alternate timeline, paradoxal tangents.
For the first time in this series we have our doubts about who exactly plays what role, even John Connor, who for 4 movies was shaped up to be this great hero, has things turn out a little differently for him (if you saw any of the trailers, the surprise is unfortunately given away). It takes guts to switch things up like that.
Emilia Clarke was great as Sarah Connor. Like anyone else I immediately felt the urge to compare her to Linda Hamilton, but this character, being from an alternate timeline, is just so different that it became a non-issue. I thought her chemistry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing the "Guardian" character, was the best thing about the movie.
The worst thing about the movie? Probably Jai Courtney. He has no personality whatsoever. They should have cast someone else. ANYONE else. He sucked. I would probably like the movie a whole lot better if it were anyone else starring in the role of Kyle Reese.
But hey, anyone going into this movie is going into it for Arnold and to hopefully get some good action scenes. It has both those things, so on the lowest common denominator it succeeds in that.
I think they could have been a lot more innovative with the action scenes. We don't just want "satisfactory" from Terminator movies. We want "mind-blowing."
They also could have taken the alternate universe plot elements even further and had even more fun with that but it still has some interesting switches.
I enjoyed it. I wish this would be a rave review, but it has its problems. It's the best since T2, which I guess isn't saying much, but as a lifelong Terminator fan, I appreciated what this movie tried to do and the ideas that it had a lot more than #3 or #4, which were let-downs.
Genisys is worthy.
Stuart Saves His Family (1995)
No belly laughs, but good.
A not-so-well-remembered SNL movie based on a not-so-well-remembered SNL sketch. I watched it last night, and I don't think I've ever seen it before so it was kind of surprising at how unfunny it was. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it just felt more like an offbeat drama than a comedy. It dealt with real issues and didn't have pristine solutions and I've left it feeling contemplative and, to be honest, a little sad, which is sort of a compliment and sort of isn't. But the acting in the movie is great. I have this idea in my head of Al Franken as this gruff, intense comedic force but here he's so soft-spoken and calm so you gotta hand it to him, the guy is COMMITTED. Laura San Giacomo is also excellent and has a heartbreaking little speech. And Vincent D'Onofrio as the pothead slacker brother is good stuff. I don't know. Not sure how I altogether feel about it. I'd probably give it a 6/10, not great but by no means bad. I think it's on Netflix. Check it out.
The Fighter (2010)
Fighting in and out of the ring
Wow, what a movie. It's an inspirational true story of a boxer finally getting his break. It's also a story of addiction, and how it can affect loved ones. And above all, it's about family. There are some great boxing scenes in THE FIGHTER, they feel authentic and brutal, but the true fight is really outside the ring. Which is not to say this is an overbearing melodrama, no, far from it. It handles the subject matter gracefully. It has a lot of heart and can be quite funny, and there are some humorously absurd moments, something director David O. Russell has proved to be very good at providing.
Mark Wahlberg gives a great performance playing the lead character, Micky. This is Wahlberg's most reserved and complex role to date. Micky has an unbreakable devotion to his family, which both strengthens and cripples him. He never really speaks for himself, and would rather suffer than upset those around him. Through the course of the movie the character really grows, thanks to the help of a good woman by his side. Mark Wahlberg shows a side of himself we've never seen before, this isn't the over-the-top badass THE DEPARTED Wahlberg, which don't get me wrong, is awesome too, but he finds a different range here. Truly the guy has come a long way from The Funky Bunch.
Christian Bale is absolutely phenomenal in his scene-stealing role as Micky's drug-addicted brother. This is such a great character that Bale really brings a lot of depth to. Dicky's easily angered, often detached and oblivious to how his affliction is affecting his life. He's also ashamed and vulnerable. He's not the most reliable guy in the world and he's in need of a serious wake-up call. But the thing is...you can completely understand why Micky would stand by him for so long. Underneath it all, he really is a great guy, full of energy and affection- somebody you'd really want in your corner. This is sure to go down as one of Bale's most remembered roles, and hopefully his enormous talent will finally be recognized by winning an Academy Award for it.
Behind every great man is a great woman, and Amy Adams also delivers a fantastic performance as Micky's girlfriend, who really helps him develop some backbone and at the same time is able to find some clarity in her misguided life. She's great in her role, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't thoroughly enjoy the eye-candy she brings to the movie. She has her fair share of revealing outfits and in one scene is shown wearing a see-through bra. Now THAT'S great filmmaking!
Also notable, just because it stood out to me, is that Conan O'Brien's sister, Kate, has a role in the movie, playing one of Micky's sisters. I sort of wish I wasn't privy to this information before seeing it because her resemblance to the goofy talk show host is uncanny...and a little disturbing.
I don't know why a lot of the most involving sports movies happen to be about boxing, I guess there's just something so primal and against all logic about people that get the crap beaten out of them for a living. It's worth knowing what makes these people tick. Yes, this is based on a true story, but I'm sure it's been tailored to fit Hollywood needs. Events have likely been rearranged and certain moments probably fabricated or altered, but THE FIGHTER doesn't attempt to portray the family shown here in a completely positive light. Nobody is a saint here, and everyone has their faults. When it finally arrives at its conclusion it is relieving, satisfying, and yes, inspiring. This is ultimately a happy story well deserving to be told on film but the sad reality is that there are no doubt hundreds and hundreds of similar stories that didn't end up quite as well. I can't tell you what exactly makes the family depicted in this movie so special. Maybe they're stronger, and more willing to compromise, and just maybe a little lucky, too. But I was left recalling a scene from the movie THE STRAIGHT STORY, where Richard Farnsworth lays down some wisdom upon a teenage runaway: he told her how he would give each of his kids a stick and ask them to snap them, which was easy. Then he'd give them a whole bundle, which couldn't be broken. "That's family."
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Freddy for a new generation.
Like it or not, A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 speaks to a new generation. This is a sad generation of repression and apparent Attention Deficit Disorder, with sad, stupid parents, who would rather pump their kids full of pills than confront any issues head-on, and would rather burn an alleged pedophile to death than, you know, even think about calling the police or anything like that. It's a stupid movie about stupid people, and I couldn't have possibly cared any less what happened to any of them.
We learn that this Freddy Krueger fellow was a gardener who lived in the basement at a preschool (as most gardeners do), and he may or may not have molested the kids. Spoiler alert: he did. Surprised? The parents tracked him down and burned him to death without any evidence or police involvement whatsoever, they somehow got away with it scott-free, and as the years went by, the kids not only forgot all about Krueger, but also forgot they even knew each other. As we all know, repressed memories can come back to haunt you in terrible ways, and this case is about as bad as it gets because Freddy Krueger comes back as a ghost or something with the ability to kill them in their dreams for some reason. I suppose he wants revenge. His plan is to pick off all the kids that he molested in the past. Does he enjoy it, does he get some kind of satisfaction out of it? What does he do in his off-time? What will he do once his mission is complete? I haven't the foggiest idea.
There's a lot of problems with this movie. Mainly with the script, which is desperately adapted from Wes Craven's original (ahem) HORROR MASTERPIECE of the same name. Strange, arbitrary changes are made to the Freddy character which immediately strip him of any mystique (an impressive misstep when you think about it, it usually takes about 3 or 4 sequels to do that), key moments from the original are reassembled out of context and make little sense and feel forced (God forbid they'd try to come up with their own iconic imagery), and the dialogue is so full of exposition, it would have Bond villains shaking their heads in disbelief.
There's very little I liked about A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010, though I did like Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy, and when you get right down to it, the only reason you're seeing a 'Nightmare' film is for Freddy anyway, and an interesting plot with likable characters would probably only serve as a bonus, so, in that respect, they got the job done with the casting of Haley alone. I'm not the kind of person who would whine that Robert Englund is the only person who should play Freddy, though I know he planted the flag and he will always be the best, but he and Wes Craven helped create a character that became much bigger than the actors who portray him, so I couldn't think of a better choice than Haley to temporarily fill the shoes. He does a great job as Freddy. He very obviously put a lot of effort and respect into the role; it's apparent every second that he's on the screen. It's just too bad the movie was lousy.
There's always the temptation to get a little nostalgic when it comes to all these remakes, but I'm not a purist, I was actually very excited about this movie but was ultimately let down. I can remember sitting there in that dark theater, trying to convince myself that what I was viewing was really good. I lost that battle. It wasn't good. Remake or not, sometimes a bad movie is just a bad movie. The original 1984 film was limited by its budget, so maybe the special effects don't hold up spectacularly well by today's standards, but you could tell the movie had heart. Wes Craven made a film that delved much deeper than the average slasher flick. Surely the concept of dreams wasn't just an interesting gimmick for new ways to kill teenagers: they were used as an arena where the dreamer is left completely alone, forced to explore and confront their deepest fears. Here we have the polished 2010 update, with all the money in the world a film with such imagination could hope for, and it's really just content to pop up and yell, "boo!" How disappointing.
Bee Movie (2007)
[ Insert "bee" pun here ]
Bee Movie has its moments of brilliance, but they are few and far between, and I think what weakens this movie the most is the fact that most other movies have already beaten it to its punches. There's nothing too original here. Most notably, it bears many similarities to the 1998 animated film, Antz, starring Woody Allen as the insect living in a perfectly functioning society who begins to question his importance in the greater scheme of things. And much like DreamWorks' previous animated film, Sharktale, featured many fish-themed puns, Bee Movie tries the same thing, except with bee puns, and you'll learn fairly quickly that there's not a lot to work with in that area. And, let's face it: Larry King has appeared as himself in so many movies that the gimmick itself has become an irritating cliché. Here he is, in complete bee form. I think they've taken him as far as he can go.
Altogether, though, Bee Movie is not without its charms. It does eventually find itself in some odd, uncharted territories (could a bee really fall in love with a human?), there are plenty of funny moments, and yes, even some of those puns work. Jerry Seinfeld, who has taken a lot of pride in writing, producing, acting in, and promoting the movie, does do a very good job voicing the main character. You sometimes feel like these actors doing voices for cartoons are just phoning it in, but Seinfeld gives a surprisingly energetic performance. I could picture him mimicking Barry B. Benson's movements in a recording booth as I heard his voice; it's obvious he was passionate about every aspect to the movie. The rest of the cast does a good job, too: Renee Zellwegger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, as well as John Goodman in a brief role, who once again proves what an amazingly talented voice actor he is. Whenever there's a need for a big, burly character, John Goodman is the go-to guy, because, well, he IS a big, burly character. Ray Liotta's cameo was also a highlight, and much more inspired than King's cameo.
It may not be a perfect movie, or the most original, and for a 90-minute run-time, it kind of drags on a bit, but for all that it is, I can't say that it wasn't entertaining. It won't go down in the history of greatest animated films, but it may be a decent way to spend a rainy day, when you can't go out and fly.
My rating: 6/10
If you're knowledgeable about your animated films, you may remember the slight controversy surrounding Finding Nemo, which inspired a few children to flush their fishes down the toilet so they could "free" them into the ocean. Bee Movie just may plant some worse ideas in kids' heads. Keep an eye out for news stories about children getting stung by bees after trying to make friends with them once they see the movie. Maybe Larry King could do a special about it.
The Wicker Man (2006)
Five reasons to watch The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man, starring Nicolas Cage, is by no means a good movie, but I can't really say it's one I regret watching. I could go on and on about the negative aspects of the movie, like the terrible acting and the lengthy scenes where Cage is looking for the girl, has a hallucination, followed by another hallucination, followed by a dream sequence- with a hallucination, etc., but it's just not worth dwelling on when it comes to a movie like this. Instead, here's five reasons why you SHOULD watch The Wicker Man, even though it's bad:
5. It's hard to deny that it has some genuinely creepy ideas to it, the only problem is in its cheesy, unintentionally funny execution. If nothing else, this is a movie that may inspire you to see the original 1973 film, or even read the short story on which it is based.
4. For a cheesy horror/thriller, it is really aesthetically pleasing. It's pretty obvious that it was filmed on location instead of using green screen or elaborate sets, so we get to see some very great scenery. There are also many nicely composed shots. It is a very good looking movie.
3. Nicolas Cage is not so much an actor as he is a force of nature. Whether you're a fan of his or not, it seems as if it's impossible for Cage to play a "normal guy". There is always some kind of eccentricity or nerdiness he brings to the characters he plays, and personally, I am always fascinated by watching him in any movie he does. Whether Nicolas Cage is great or terrible, he always brings his unique energy into play, and he is never boring to watch. He is terrible in The Wicker Man, but in the most wonderful kind of way.
2. A student could probably write a hell of a paper on this movie, as it seems to be the strongest anti-feminist movie ever made. "See?" you could write, "this is what happens when women are allowed to run a society!" Also, the similarities between this "Summersisle" society and a bee colony are pretty interesting and worth noting.
1. If you're reading this, there's probably a good chance you may have seen a YouTube video that has become very popular: a collection of "highlights" from the movie, including Cage running around in a bear suit, and of course, the infamous "AAGHH!! THE BEES!! MY EYES!!!" line. These scenes are hilarious out of context, and they are still fairly funny while watching them in the film's entirety.
I bought the used DVD at Blockbuster for about 5 dollars...when you work that out, it's about a dollar per reason. It's a pretty good deal.
NOTE: The Unrated version of the movie is the best to watch, and it's better to watch the Theatrical version just for its little added on epilogue, which features a cameo from James Franco.
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
An entertaining and thrilling film
The Last King of Scotland is not a film about the ruthless, sadistic dictator Idi Amin. It is actually about a lost youth, who lives with such a reckless abandon that he does not care whose lives he interferes with, as long as he fulfills his hedonistic desires. It's no surprise that in the rush of things after he whimsically decides to practice medicine in Uganda (anything is better than becoming an exact duplicate of his father), he unknowingly becomes best friends with the devil.
Most of the politics of Amin and his rule are side-stepped in order to focus on the story of this fictional character, Nicholas, played by James McAvoy. Some may think this is a bad idea, and in a way it is, but surprisingly, the film works incredibly well as this morality tale, as well as a very intense thriller. I felt it was something of a mix of Wall Street and Midnight Express, and you can't really go wrong there.
Forest Whitaker plays Amin, and even though his character is not the central focus of the story, he certainly steals the show. This is one of those rare, amazing performances that always leaves you anticipating the actor's next scene. It's such a delicious role that maybe if Amin actually WAS the focus of the story, it just might not pay off as well. In the case of Whitaker's perfect, career-defining performance, less has proved to be more.
This was not exactly the kind of film I was expecting, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nevertheless. Both Idi Amin and Nicholas are well fleshed out characters. Amin's charm and madness are hypnotic to behold. Nicholas' journey from being a naive fool to finally taking some responsibility unfolds very well and convincingly. He may be fictitious creation, but what is said to him by a certain character at the end, about the role he must finally play, is completely plausible.
The Last King of Scotland features incredible work by Whitaker, all-around great acting, and it always kept me on the edge of my seat. It may not have had much of a political agenda, but it was still one hell of an entertaining film of the highest quality.
My rating: 9/10
Smokin' Aces (2006)
A lifeless, moronic mess
Joe Carnahan's Narc was such an impressive achievement because it breathed new life into a genre that was pretty much dead on its feet. The cops in the film (played by Ray Liotta and Jason Patric) were complex and flawed, and even though they were like characters we've seen in movies before, they exceeded their stereotypes and were fully realized, human characters. In Carnahan's new film, Smokin' Aces, cops play an important part in the story as well, but unfortunately they have about as much depth as extras lifted from a TV crime drama.
This is a kind of movie I just hate: the kind where characters just drone on and explain and explain and explain. They speak lazily and monotonously, as if they want to seem cool and collected, when really just seem to be sleep-walking through a contrived movie. Think of a Quentin Tarantino script devoid of any lively dialogue or pop culture references, and you get the basic idea of what Smokin' Aces is. For a movie that literally spends more than half its time on build up, there is really minimal payoff. We're given extensive background information on nearly every single character but in the end they're nothing more than cardboard cut-outs. The out-of-their-league Bail Bondsmen/ex-cops, the black gangster girls, the sadistic rednecks, the master of disguise, and so on. That's about as far as we can distinguish them. It's a celebration of violence and carnage, but never once tries to have any kind of fun at all. There are very specific characters who are meant to be the comic relief, but the movie itself wants to be taken seriously, which makes it all the more laughable.
This is such a dull, lifeless movie. Alicia Keys' and Taraji P. Henson's acting is about on par with a high school play. Ben Affleck constantly looks about ready to call it a day and ask for his cheque. Ryan Reynolds puts a ridiculous amount of effort into a role that is poorly written. The only role I even liked was Jeremy Piven's character. Maybe because his character is in varying stages of inebriation, he felt the need to actually display some emotion. Piven makes the movie better than what it deserves to be and is the only character in the movie I found to be at all convincing.
Then there's the ending. Oh boy. There's a good way to distinguish good twists and bad twists. If there is some sense that a movie is leading toward this conclusion, like say, it has any importance at all, and perhaps the movie is always unraveling towards it or even dropping clues for it, then the twist is justified. Narc had a twist kind of like that. Smokin' Aces has a moronic, needlessly complicated twist that only exists because Carnahan probably couldn't think of an interesting conflict for the climax. It's not so much a twist or any kind of important revelation as it is merely a curtain call.
Smokin' Aces is a complete mess. There is about 30 minutes worth of good action, and the rest, I guess, is filler. It's an idiotic, pointless movie that has no depth at all, which would always be forgivable if it weren't for the lack of a sense of fun, either. There are too few redeeming factors and there are far too many better movies out there.
My rating: 4/10
Date Movie (2006)
Bottom of the barrel
Date Movie is the kind of piece of garbage that makes Scary Movie 4 look like intelligent satire. It's the kind of movie that makes Fatal Instict seem like it's actually worth remembering. And it's the kind of movie that makes Airplane look like freakin' Gone With the Wind.
It doesn't really poke fun at the genre of "date movies" as much as it plainly and simply emulates popular movies from the past few years and succeeds brilliantly in making them less funny, more stupid, and disgusting. There's a scene in Meet the Parents where Greg Focker opens a bottle of champagne and accidentally knocks over an urn which holds the remains of Jack Brynes' mother. The Byrnes' family pet, a cat named Mr. Jinx, pees on the ashes that are scattered on the floor. So how can Date Movie top this? For one thing, the character in Greg's place now has the surname "Fockyerdaughter." And instead of ashes, the entire decayed body falls out. The cat has sex with it. Fantastic.
That is just one example out of a sadly large, large number of scenes that are just as bad and even worse. Years from now, film scholars could go through this movie scene by scene and lecture on just how terrible it is.
The jokes are bad, most run too long and become not only unfunny, but genuinely irritating. It's clear that the makers of Date Movie are just cashing in on popular movies by mixing them together. The upcoming release of Epic Movie is further proof of this.
I think I laughed once during the movie. It was when Alyson Hannigan is dancing in her fat suit at the beginning: a construction worker nails himself in the head with a nail gun so he can save himself from having to see her dance. In hindsight, I should have done the same and saved myself from watching this terrible, terrible excuse for a movie.
My rating: 1/10
The Matador (2005)
"The best cocktail party story you've ever met"
So, a salesman and a hit-man walk into a bar in Mexico City. The salesman, Danny, is worried about a big deal in progress, and the burnt-out hit-man, Julian, is drinking alone on his birthday. They strike up a conversation and develop an unlikely bond. Over the weekend they attend a bullfight and Julian reveals his profession. Later, he asks for Danny's help in a 'job.' Danny is offended that Julian would ask that of him. Julian is offended that Danny won't help him, feeling as if he's merely a novelty ("the best cocktail party story you've ever met"). They part ways. Later that night, Julian knocks drunkenly on Danny's hotel door, apologizing and pleading. Fade to black. Cut to 6 months later: Julian, in worse shape than ever and with a price on his head, has tracked Danny down and asks for his help.
The Matador is a relatively simple movie that proves to be more about its characters than anything else. Thanks to some switching around of the chronology of certain events, there is always something we're itching to know and it is able to hold our interest. We're tricked into thinking that the one final hit that Julian needs Danny's help with would be the climax of the film, but surprisingly, it is only half of it. The real satisfying revelation that occurs at the end of the film is the flashback to what happens between Julian's drunken knocking at Danny's hotel door and the "6 months later." We find out what truly has made these two guys friends. And that's really what we want to know when it comes to a tired genre like this. The priorities are given to the characters, not the complications of the story.
Peirce Brosnan is perfect in his portrayal of Julian, completely demolishing his Bond persona, and he has eliminated any future typecasting. With a role like this, Brosnan has shown he has a true gift for conveying depth to his character, as well as great comedic timing and eccentricities.
The Matador is a very entertaining movie, and much better than I expected it to be. Not only is it very funny, but it also has some sweet moments, particularly the ending that features a very nice final shot. I'll admit that I'm a sucker for movies about unlikely friendships, and even though the hit-man/regular guy thing has been done before, The Matador does everything- EVERYTHING- right with this concept. It, of course, would be nothing without Pierce Brosnan's performance, and judging by his work here, it's clear his best has yet to come.
My rating: 9/10
The Queen (2006)
It could have been a melodramatic TV movie; instead, it exceeds any and all expectations and is one of the best films of 2006
Queen Elizabeth's actions in response to ex-HRH's Diana's tragic death were held in such a crucial regard that the very Monarchy was is jeopardy. I didn't know this. If information like this doesn't interest you in the slightest, you might not enjoy The Queen as much as I did. Either way, this is an excellent drama. It is framed between two different meetings between Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth. The first meeting is when Blair first becomes Prime Minister, the second meeting occurs a good deal of time after the turbulent week following Diana's death. This is a wonderful film about the changing of times and values, about crucial decisions, and about the importance of compromise. The process of the film is really remarkable. It takes something that essentially could have been a Hallmark movie of the week, but it rises so far above it: there is a lack of pretension in its urgent, quiet scenes. It is a sincere film with a valuable political message that is not at all preachy. I'd compare this to 2005's Good Night, and Good Luck.
Needless to say, the performances here are pitch perfect. Hellen Mirren, obviously, leads the show with a performance that is sure to win her an Oscar. It's more than just imitation of a public figure. She gives life to this role and creates a strong, genuine character. And how sad is it that these days in mainstream movies we have to have an actress play a QUEEN in order to display any kind of strength? It's nice to see a strong female character that isn't overcoming sexism, or the supportive wife/girlfriend, or enduring unimaginable suffering, or battling aliens or vampires. Mirren is just simply breathtaking: she's intimidating, but also warm, and is always true to the character. There is one scene in which she breaks down and cries, but wisely to the part of the filmmakers, we only see her with her back facing the camera.
The rest of the cast is terrific as well. There isn't a single actor or actress in the main cast that doesn't steal the show at some point. James Cromwell plays the frustrated Prince Philip wonderfully("Look at them, pulling out their hair and sleeping in the streets for someone they've never even met-- and they call US mad!"). Slyvia Syms provides some delightfully unexpected comedic relief as the Queen Mother. And just as Mirren perfectly embodies Queen Elizabeth, Michael Sheen also does so with Tony Blair, in a great supporting role for which I hope he also gets an Oscar nomination.
The Queen much deserves the praise its been getting. It is actually a very surprising film. You may expect a melodrama, but you would be completely wrong. You may expect to not be interested in its politics but they are more accessible than you may initially think. Whether you like the movie or not, though, there is no disputing the greatness of Mirren's performance. I hope she wins an Oscar this year: after the perky blonde winning last year, I think it's time for Mirren to distinguish the line between movie star and accomplished actress and bring home her gold.
My rating: 10/10
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Going the distance one more time
There's an interesting moment in Rocky Balboa, it occurs right near the end, during the fight. For the first time ever in the series, we hear Rocky's internal monologue. It's brief, only about two sentences, but it means a lot to this movie, and the series as a whole: Rocky coaches and encourages himself. Many characters have come and gone and have coached Rocky by the ringside, but if the series has shown us nothing else, it's about believing in yourself: having self-faith, and self-worth. People who brush off this series as lame and cartoonish, and didn't bother paying this final entry much attention most likely won't bother considering a detail like that, unfortunately.
This is the last Rocky film. At least, I hope so. Rocky V promised to go back to Rocky's roots, but only did so geographically, much to the disappointment of fans, and even Stallone himself. I can see why he felt the need to revisit Rocky one last time, in a film that finds Rocky in a similar place as he was in the first film: alone and unsure of himself. Some of the films in the series were better than others, I can't say I loved every one, but what's still so appealing about the series is that you're not just watching new opponents and new matches, you're also watching chapters of a man's life. The real appeal is in the character, not the individual movies.
So here we enter the latest chapter of Rocky's life. Adrian has passed away. Rocky is much, much older. He wakes up alone every morning and frequently visits his wife's grave. He owns a restaurant and greets guests, telling stories of the old glory days, becoming a complete cliché of the retired, punch-drunk athlete. I'm sure You probably know the story about the computer-generated match and all of the circumstances leading to his fight with Mason Dixon already, so I won't get into it. But, much like the first film, this is a film about a boxer, not about boxing (which is what most of the sequels transformed in to).
We get some scenes with Dixon. He's not an arrogant, angry enemy that I had expected him to be. He simply cares about his own image, is perhaps over-confident, and to me, he was more reminiscent of the character Apollo Creed than any of the other opponents that appeared in the previous films. Some unexpected characters pop into the story, and key characters in the Rocky saga also return. Guess what? Paulie's still a miserable drunk. He has a little more heart in this one, though.
Stallone has described the film as a "love letter" to the fans of the series, and he has done a good job bringing back some much needed credibility to the over all story. Rocky is his creation, after all. At the beginning the words, "A Slyvester Stallone Film" appear. This may make some people giggle, but it's his baby. There are even moments when Sly displays a keen film-making eye. Other moments, like during the match, however, are almost cringe-inducing.
You're either a fan of the series or you're not. If you only liked the first one and tried to forget the sequels, you probably still won't have any affection for this one. Rocky Balboa is a noble effort and brings an appropriate closure to one of the most iconic film characters of all time.
My rating: 7/10
The Fountain (2006)
Aronosfky the auteur
There is something going on here. If I were to say that I knew what everything in The Fountain is supposed to mean, I'd probably be a damn liar. That said, I feel that I got the general idea. Many people have compared this film's esoteric, pseudo-intellectual appeal to something like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I think this is a wrong claim to make. There are many moments in the Fountain in which the story is too desperately being explained to us. Rachel Weisz is an amazing actress, but God bless her, half her lines in the movie feel like she's just spoon-feeding us important information. It took the joy away from a movie that should (though mostly does) communicate on an emotional level more than anything else. Even if you don't really know why, The Fountain has the ability to provoke some powerful emotions. Unfortunately, it does not do much else.
While watching the film, I sensed that Darren Aronofsky has become a director that believes in his own myth. People have called him one of the great contemporary directors, and now he has come up with this movie, which, at times, is just completely up its own ass. Fans of Aronofsky will no doubt love this and hail it as a triumph of the modern auteur.
If you were to remove the entire concept of past and future from the movie, you'd have a story of a man with a love so intense for the woman he lost, he would never, ever recover. Since we do get the other, more wondrous aspects to it, The Fountain becomes a more memorable, unique film, and has a beautiful sense of hope to it. It is a very one-sided love story though. It is mainly about Hugh Jackman's character's experiences. Aronosky's wife, the lovely Weisz, has to play a character who is never fully realized, and is degraded to an object of affection and goal for the main character, and someone who lays down all the important information to get the plot rolling.
I generally liked The Fountain, it had incredible visual effects that weren't CGI for once, it features a haunting musical score by Clint Mansell, good performances by Jackman and Weisz, and was emotionally hard-hitting. It's the the kind of film that just begs for repeat viewings, but it's honestly not as clever or deep as it thinks it is.
My rating: 7/10
World Trade Center (2006)
Oliver Stone: Hollywood Conformist
I would definitely say that I am a fan of Oliver Stone's work, but the sad truth is that he hasn't really made anything particularly exceptional in the last decade. Alexander was considered a huge failure (though I thought it was good), and ever since its negative response and poor box office performance, Stone seems desperately eager to please. First, he makes a "director's cut" of Alexander, cutting out anything too "gay," and now he has made World Trade Center. His clear intention is to go against every expectation an audience would have when they hear Oliver Stone has directed a film about 9/11. There is no political agenda, it is more about emotion and character, but it just plainly and simply is not good, and drags on way too long.
It isn't completely bad, the first act was actually very good. I had a feeling that it would get even better after the tower collapse scene, and I was more than ready to commit myself emotionally to these characters. However, it did not get better; it gradually became pretty bad, resorting to shameless emotional manipulation complete with an over-abundance of flashbacks to back when the two men were happy in their lives with their families, and the "for your consideration" speeches from the wives.
What really just pisses me off about this movie is that even though it's a true story (and a great, happy, positive one!), it barely takes into account the fact that thousands of people lost their lives that day. It's a sappy, sugar-coated tale that treats the audience like infants, assuming that a movie about a family of the officers that didn't survive and how they have to deal with it just wouldn't sell enough tickets. The message we're left with at the end of the film is unbelievably moronic: apparently, in times of need, people will do what's right, and help other people, and shucks, you know what- that's good in my book. Give me a break. This movie is insulting to peoples' intelligence, their emotions, and it's also insulting to anyone who lost someone they loved on that terrible day.
World Trade Center really is everything you could hope that a 9/11 movie wouldn't be. This is something you'd expect from Michael Bay. What's worse is that it's even getting Oscar buzz, which I feel it is unworthy of. The profoundly superior 9/11 film is United 93, which is blunt, frank, and treats the audience and the 9/11 victims with a courageous respect that we just don't see enough of in films based on true tragedies. I left World Trade Center feeling angry and frustrated for many, many reasons. It is one of the year's most disappointing and unnecessary films.
My rating: 5/10
Butcher's hands, gentle hearts
The 2005/2006 Oscar race was indeed an odd one, especially when you consider the fact that the winner for Best Documentary made more money than any of the Best Picture Contenders. Combined. Munich, directed by Steven Spielberg, was one of those contenders, though I think it was the least hyped of the 5 films, and no one really expected it to win, and it didn't. But I'm very glad it was nominated, and I'm glad to have seen in while it was playing in theatres, even though it turned out to be a very, very unpleasant experience for me. It's a long movie, and if you take the previews into account, it probably runs for about 3 hours. I never really appreciated how long 3 hours actually is until I went in to see Munich feeling perfectly fine, then halfway through I started to feel cold and shivery, and by the time the film was over, I walked out with a terrible fever and could barely make it home.
Now, I could probably make a great endorsement for the movie in my little IMDb comment here and say that Munich is such a wrenching, powerful film that it actually effected me physically, but I know that's not the case. It was winter, there was a flu going around. You know how it is. Anyway, I recently bought the movie and watched it over again, this time with a clear head, and enjoyed it thoroughly. It is one of 2005's best (a great year for movies, by the way), and even though movies about penguins or gay cowboys seemed to capture all the interest and hype, it's still gratifying to see that Munich got its nomination over some other very worthy films. I think that within the next few years, more and more people will discover Munich and wonder why they didn't see it before; it is a movie that will linger for decades and decades to come.
It's a very involving film, it is not afraid to give all of the necessary crucial details, from the actual Munich massacre (spread out and shown in segments throughout the entire film) to a scene in a dark conference room where the Prime Minister of Isreal makes the decision to retaliate against those who planned the murders. Most of the story is told through the eyes of Avner (Eric Bana), who takes on the mission out of devotion to Isreal, but slowly numbs with each murder until he doesn't even care about taking the lives anymore; he just wants to get to his home, and see his wife and child, but even when that finally happens the mission has taken such a toll on him that he is constantly paranoid and distraught. He is hailed as a hero for his mission-a hero that never existed- but he feels no sense of accomplishment as the cycles of violence and vengeance continue and escalate while he is helpless, and spiritually broken.
Munich is a great film and I'd compare it to something like The Godfather. It's a violent film, but it doesn't just throw senseless and brutal violence at the screen. Much like Coppola, Spielberg gives us little details in the violent scenes to keep them in our minds more vividly. We remember that the first person is assassinated while holding his groceries, and we remember the tense hesitation between the two assassins. We remember that that young girl answers a phone bomb that is meant for her father, and the moment of panic before he is actually murdered. We remember Avner's signal to ignite the bed bomb in the hotel room next to him- the lamp being turned off- and seeing the same lamp moments after the explosion on the floor among all the debris. It's those little compositions that make a film like this so memorable.
It's also like The Godfather because of the fact that it holds very familial values. Family is an important theme. Avner comes to dinner with the family of one of his "business associates" and is treated very much like a son to the character Poppy. He offers him advice and anecdotes, and while he helps him prepare the dinner he notes his big hands and offers a similarity between the two: "We are tragic men. We have butcher's hands, but gentle hearts." Avner shows devotion to Isreal, but his most sincere devotion is to his family. That is what makes Avner so likable, but also so tragic. The movie itself is not a tragedy, though it deals with tragedies, but the true tragedy can be found internally- in Avner's moral and spiritual dilemmas.
Steven Spielberg is a director who seems to have unlimited talent. I'm always impressed and delighted with each new project he takes on. Munich is another masterpiece that you can add to the list of an almost uncountable selection of masterpieces from one of the best directors of this, or any other time. As the years go by, I'm sure more and more people will look at Munich and think it deserved the Oscar. It's a timeless and brilliant film.
My rating: 10/10
Will Ferrell: hilarious as always
I saw Talledega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby last night. I was in need of a good laugh, and the flick certainly delivered. As usual, Will Ferrell is unbelievably funny and the main attraction. The actual movie, however, was fairly mediocre.
It feels very fractured; as if there's enough deleted scenes to make an entirely different movie (as the case was with Wake Up Ron Burgundy). I also get the feeling that they left out many funny moments to tell the tale of a man who was destined to go fast, got too cocky, and learned some valuable life lessons blah, blah, blah. I hate to say it, but it almost feels like something Happy Madison productions would dish out. Honestly, if it were not for Will Ferrell, if, say, Rob Schnieder or David Spade was in the lead, I probably would have hated this movie. But because Ferrell is so damn lovable, and because the movie had its share of funny moments and very quotable lines, I liked it. You can already tell by some of the career moves he has been making (many have been flying under the radar), Will Ferrell is slowly gearing towards an image that is more than just the lovable, hilarious idiot. And I think that just establishes him further as a kind of America's Sweetheart type.
John C Rielly is also worth pointing out. He's a great actor, but he seems to be at most ease when he's playing a buffoon. And his character here is about as big of a buffoon as you can imagine.
None of the other actors have many laughs, unfortunately. Sacha Cohen got a little irritating after a while, and every other talent is wasted. Michael Clarke Duncan. They have Michael Clarke Duncan in the damn movie and they don't do a single funny thing with him. Imagine what they could have done with him! Instead, his only laugh comes literally once the movie is over, in a blooper. David Koechner is also in the movie but he merely lingers around like a ghost. He had one scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and that made a more lasting impression than the couple of scenes he had in this one. There's also some cameos, of two famous singers who normally would not associate with each other (I guess that's as far as the joke goes), and they do nothing. They just sit there and don't say a word.
So, put that all together and your main reason to see this movie is Will and John: Shake and Bake. There are big laughs here and there, and some great great lines (the crack dealer line, the highlander line, the big red advertisement, pissing excellence, are some that stood out for me) but I guess when they edited the movie they wanted a plot. And that takes the fun out of it. It's painfully formulaic, and even many of the jokes are predictable, too. There's a kiss scene at the end that you can see coming from miles away. Sure, you can't really believe it (in a good, funny way), but you could anticipate it. Ferrell's other movies like Anchorman or Old School were in their own ways unpredictable, or at least, less predictable than this. It makes a comedy so much funnier if you don't know where it's headed from the second it starts. Anchorman barely had a plot and it turned out amazing because of that. There was more room for the funny stuff. Male Chauvanism. Panda Bears. That's all the plot I need.
If Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay collaborate for another comedy, I hope to see two things: A longer title and a thinner plot.
My rating: 6.5/10
Based on a theme park ride, and feels like one
I came out of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest with an empty feeling. It leaves on a major cliffhanger, and instead of feeling excited and anxious to see what happens next, like one usually feels with cliffhangers, I felt completely ripped off. I felt like I've seen half a movie. Now, it's not exactly a new trend for guaranteed hit sequels to be filmed simultaneously to create some hackneyed "trilogy," but Dead Man's Chest has got to be the absolute worst example of this method to date. It is all set-up and no payoff whatsoever. We learn so little about the characters that we don't already know. It hints towards an attraction between Elizabeth and Jack, it presents a relationship between Will and his Dad, and in what is probably the only significantly developed character, Norrington, who was once engaged to Elizabeth, has now fallen hard on his luck, become embittered, and resorted to the ways of the pirate. The plot, among many aspects, mainly involves the pursuit of the Dead Man's Chest, hence the title. They find the damn thing but nothing really develops after that. I guess we have to find out what happens in the next one. Great.
What sours me on this movie is that it accomplishes literally nothing. There are no resolutions, just bigger and badder problems that occur. The Matrix Reloaded at least had its own small plot inside its larger plot about Keanu Reeves' character dealing with premonitions of his loved one dying and finally having to face it, and Back to the Future Part II dealt with problems being solved in the future, past, and alternate universes that finally led to one one final time-travel accident that bridged into the concept of the sequel, etc. etc. So what was Dead Man's Chest? Jack is stupid and he has to pay for it?
Dead Man's chest has the action scenes that run way too long and the usual hijinks of the beloved character, Jack Sparrow. What I do really like about this series is that the main characters aren't growing to be best buddies or anything. Usually in the first film the characters conflict and get on each others' nerves but by part 2 they're great friends (a la Star Wars), but it is not so with this trio, mainly because of the unreliability of Jack. They are basically only friends when it is convenient for him. The movie ends with Jack "dying" and Will and Elizabeth, along with Jack's crew, mourning him and setting off to find a way to get him back. But, it really wouldn't surprise me if once they do save him in part 3, he'll find some way or another to screw them over. Particularly Will.
I had no respect for the movie but I'll admit it had its fun moments and I thought the visual effects were amazing. Davy Jones (played green-suit style by Bill Nighy) is a really cool creation. Jones and his crew were apparently all CGI, but this was not one of those cases where you role your eyes and think it's so obviously fake. This time, in this movie, I really bought it.
So, what can I really say to sum up Dead Man's Chest? I think it's shameless. And when you think about it, it is exactly- EXACTLY- like a ride in Disneyland. You wait so long in the line (or in this case waiting for the movie to come out), you finally get into it, and by the time it's all over you feel empty and ripped off and need more of it. So, you have to ride it again (or see what happens in part 3), and you have to wait even longer. Terrible! I would say that on the whole, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is an okay movie that pales in comparison to the first. Johnny Depp was great, the action scenes were sometimes fun, and the visual effects were top-of-the-line and probably the highlight of the movie for me. It deserves a slap in the face for its script and plot, but an Oscar for its effects.
My rating: 6/10
Batman & Robin (1997)
This is obviously not the version of Batman people want to see
I can imagine that when most Batman fans saw this movie they could do nothing but stare incredulously at the screen and hope that maybe, just maybe it was all just a bad dream. And afterwards I'm sure they wondered how the hell could Batman turn from a dark and mysterious character to a silly character who has a utility belt of cheesy one-liners and who appears with his buddy Robin as a "special guest" at a Gotham charity auction. Most people immediately blame Joel Schumacher, and can feel their blood boil every time they hear his name uttered.
Yes, Schumacher did do a terrible job. He found something that worked with Batman Forever and made a success, but took it way too far this time. This movie is a horrible miscalculation of the grandest of proportions. But, to be fair, everyone does a terrible job with the movie. The actors, the set designers, hell, I bet even the guy who brought the coffee and donuts to the set everyday screwed up somehow.
You can't really say that this is unfaithful to the definitive version of Batman, because there isn't one. A character such as Superman is generally the same in all his incarnations, but batman has been interpreted in so many ways in so many different mediums that it's impossible to say which is the true. He has many different degrees of "darkness." The 60's TV show with Adam West portrayed the lighter side of Batman, and if it was this movie's goal to stay true to that spirit, then the mission was accomplished. All it missed was the inclusion of the "KAPOW"'s. But be that as it may, there may not be a definitive version, but there is indeed a preferred version, and most people prefer the Dark Knight over the Caped Crusader or Dynamic Duo.
I thought this was a bad movie with very little redeeming factors. However, I can't join the hoards of people who hate it with a passion and say it was a sin to mankind, I don't think it was THAT bad. It's even fun to watch and make fun of and wonder what they were thinking. Even Clooney can make fun of himself for being involved with this awful thing. The man won an Oscar this year, and in his speech he referenced it and joked about it. It's obvious that he's learned from his mistakes but has not forgotten them either. The same goes for the studios that made this movie. They learned from this mistake and ended up making the best Batman movie of all, Batman Begins. How can you argue with that?
My rating: 3/10
Wall Street (1987)
An interesting and entertaining morality tale... that looks awful
Wall Street is the story of a man who goes out looking for power, loses his soul in the process, and attempts to gain it back. It makes for a good concept, and what better setting to have it in than Wall Street? The morals of the movie are pretty simple and archetypal (Gordon Gekko could easily be thought of as symbolic of the devil) but the actual plot of the movie is fairly complicated. You have to give it your undivided attention, as this is not a movie that slows down to explain everything. Buying and selling, buying and selling, insider trading, home renovating.
It really is richly detailed, and the acting is, too. Michael Douglas, obviously, in what is probably his most praised role, does a fantastic job. If an actor can play a character that you know is doing wrong, but is able to entrance you in his little speeches, justifying himself so perfectly that you almost start to agree with him, you know he's done a great job. It's so obvious that Michael Douglas is a talented and committed actor- a great actor- that it really makes me sad that you could probably count his best performances on your right hand.
On the whole, I really liked Wall Street, but my only complaint about it is that it is very aesthetically unpleasing. It must have been shot using a lot of natural light. Many of the scenes are dark and muddled, there are so many scenes taking place at dawn or dusk, and it is very distracting to the story. Sometimes you can barely tell what's happening on the screen. It's certainly not a visual film. It's primarily focused on the plot and the performances.
When you get right down to it, Wall Street is a film with a message that's hard to argue with. The main character, Bud Fox, does gain back his soul, but his bad deeds do not go unpunished. The movie ends with the likely possibility that he will be going to jail for his insider trading. "In some twisted way, it's the best thing that could ever happen to you" says his wise and down-to-earth father, "Maybe now you'll learn to create rather than profit off the buying and selling of others."
My rating: 8/10
A brilliant crime saga
Heat is a movie filled with clichés but as a whole is not clichéd. It has a confidence and skill to its craft that makes you believe that you are seeing this kind of story for the first time, or at least, in a whole new light. It's mainly the story of the obsessed-with-his-cases, badass cop and the professional, by-the-numbers criminal. Michael Mann fleshes out the characters (played by Pacino and DeNiro) extremely well and presents them as two men who are each consumed by their profession. Mostly because they are both very good at what they do, and they would not prefer to do anything else. Each story would make an interesting movie or TV show, but Heat collides these two similar characters together to make a great movie about two skilled men conflicted amidst pressures from their work and personal lives finally meeting their match.
What I liked about the connection Pacino and DeNiro build is the fact that their characters truly respected each other. If the movie were bias to either side of the law, one character would be good and the other would be bad. It's not bias at all, and both characters are very likable. It's hard to root for one character over the other, which makes the film's conclusion all the more emotional. And believe me, it has a great ending.
The supporting cast is top notch, ranging from Val Kilmer to Ashley Judd to William Fichner to a young Natalie Portman, but the main attraction obviously is Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in the leads. They're actors who are amazing beyond words, and have acted in so many monumental movies throughout their careers, and I have to say that this was the last truly great, outstanding film that either has starred in to date. Oddly enough, it just so happens it was the same movie.
With Heat, Michael Mann tells a sincere and richly detailed story within a subject matter that usually isn't treated with such care, and Pacino and DeNiro perform with their usual greatness, but still offer up new things we haven't seen before. It's one of the best films of the 1990's.
My rating: 10/10
Shark Tale (2004)
The cinematic equivalent of fish food
Okay, so let's pretend for a minute that a wizard or something cast a spell on all of humanity and we were all turned into fish and had to live underwater, but had to cope with it in some way. This new world would look something like the one in Shark Tale. They're fish, but they seem a lot more like people anyway (and most of the characters resemble the actors who provide their voices). It's the same principle as The Flintstones, really, except with a nautical theme instead of a prehistoric one; instead of seeing Ed Sullistone on TV, we see Katie Current. You get it.
The movie itself is generally pretty silly. It's not like Finding Nemo, a good family movie that all ages could enjoy, it's aimed more at the kids. It has silly jokes and cheap laughs, but the satire in the plot would most likely go over kids' heads. And even some of the smaller gags will not make any sense, as I really doubt any kids watching this have ever seen A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, or, well, actually, some may have seen Gladiator. The boys, at least. But never mind that all. Because it has enough silliness to distract the kids and annoy the adults.
The cast is great, I'll admit that. It is definitely the highlight of the movie. Whoever thought of using director Martin Scorsese's voice? He is such a great director, but does have that unique voice, added to the fact that DeNiro, who starred in many of his most popular films, plays a role- I just think it was a great idea. But, that does bring me to a big nitpick of mine: If you had DeNiro and Scorsese together in an animated feature, such as this, wouldn't you want to have their characters interact more? They have only have two scenes together (3 if you count one with their characters talking on the phone- and since it's an animated film with only their voices anyway, why wouldn't you count it?) and they were just stupid. It was kind of like a pathetic, dumbed-down version of the "Who's on first" thing.
I don't really think Shark Tale was a bad movie, but with CGI films increasing and increasing in releases, this will be one that probably won't be remembered as well as some others. It was really just a silly cartoon, and you can't really read too much into it. And it's not a movie you need to devote much attention to. It's sort of the cinematic equivalent of fish food. It keeps the fish alive and everything, but I don't think the fish really rave about the flavour. It works, it's fine, but it doesn't stand out.
My rating: 6/10
Superman Returns (2006)
Why the world needs Superman...
The basic premise of Superman Returns is that Superman has returned from an unexplained 5-year absence to find a world that seems to be getting along fine without him, that the woman he loves has moved on and has a family, and that he is- at least in terms of any beings similar to him- completely alone. The amazing thing is, this is the least angst-filled, least melodramatic superhero film in the past 5 years or so. I think the recent trend has been to try to get audiences to empathize with their heroes more by making them more human and actually taking them seriously. Peter Parker battles some very serious demons and is in constant struggle with being Spider-man, the X-Men films are very serious and political and the latest instalment, "The Last Stand," featured some startling and emotionally wrenching revelations, and Batman, well, need I go on?
So, here we have Superman in the first new film in almost 20 years. He has his issues, but unlike all the other Super heroes around, he seems to be very solemn about it all. After all, he is Superman, not Clark Kent; Clark Kent is his mask. Obviously a huge nitpick people will have is that Clark comes back the very, very same day as Superman and not one single idiot in the city of Metropolis seems to notice, right? Well, yes, that bugged me too, at first. But then, the more you think about it, that's just how Clark Kent is designed: completely forgettable (except by Jimmy), always in the background, and always overshadowed by the bigger story, which is Superman. David Carradine has a very great speech about Superman at the end of Kill Bill Volume 2 that justifies everything quite nicely to me, so I suggest seeing that if you haven't already. What this movie does a great job of doing is just showing this classic, iconic super hero doing what he does best: saving the day. There's something so refreshing about finally getting that clear view of Superman for the first time after he saves a planeload of passengers from certain doom, and saying with a smile: "Don't let this turn you off to flying, folks. Statistically it's still the safest mode of transportation."
But that brings us to the actual plot. It goes for simple, safe, repetitive tedious, even? And, honestly, it's the kind of plot that just doesn't justify the runtime. Lex Luthor comes up with a ridiculous plan that even in the world of comic books is pretty hard to swallow. He compares himself to Prometheus, how he is so generous with the "mortals" by sharing his wonderful discovery, though planning on killing billions in the process. Lex obviously forgot the last half of that story, where Prometheus is punished and confined to terrible pain for all of eternity. But maybe that's the point. I mean, we all know from the very beginning Lex won't win, he's doomed to lose, that's just how it's meant to be: Superman wins and Lex loses. Written in the scriptures: is, was, ever shall be, in comic strips, TV shows, feature films, living in an ageless universe, for all eternity.
Bryan Singer is obviously aware of this. Singer also directed X-Men 1&2, and I think his biggest problem as a director is that he lacks a sense of completion in his works. X-Men is not the kind of movie that you watch, and then once it's over, you want to watch it over again. It's the kind of movie that you watch, and then once it's over, you want to see the next one. The X-Men films were each done with the presumption that there would be a next instalment, and that's fine I guess if you like always being on the edge of your seat waiting for the next one, but when his Superman movie does the same thing and drags past the 2-and-a-half hour mark, there's a problem. If nothing else, the movie establishes that Superman is indeed back, and we should expect to see more of him in the future.
Superman Returns is definitely a grand film. It's big, it's loud, it's expensive. I usually don't think to myself, 'hey that looks expensive,' when watching a movie, but I did in this case. It doesn't try for anything new or bold, it doesn't want to, and it's nice to see a super hero movie where the hero is the generic do-gooder, and helps mankind because he really wants to. That's why I think Superman garners more universal appeal than any others. But, honestly, the angsty heroes can be much more interesting. Certainly so with last year's Batman Begins, which I thought was a great, perfect movie, while I though Superman Returns was really good, but probably could have been better.
My rating: 7.5/10
The Punisher (2004)
A good, but flawed action movie
It's getting harder and harder to find good action movies today. I admire The Punisher for its great action sequences, but I don't feel it has the greatest story to back it up. The acting was good enough to make everything convincing, but by the end it feels like low-rent Shakespeare, or something.
I think the general rule of a movie like this, where the main character loses his family, is that he always has to be exceedingly, exceedingly happy. He strolls along the beach with his wife, she talks about how blessed they are, he has a heart-to-heart with his son, his dad makes a big speech about how much he loves every single person present. Stuff like that. We know what's going to happen (everyone before seeing the movie must have read the synopsis or seen the preview!), so it's almost a bit sadistic to linger around at the beginning so much. But no matter. Once the plot gets moving, some great action ensues.
That's the best part of the movie, as I said. There are some truly awesome action scenes that aren't swamped with CGI and aren't too flashy. I thought the scene with The Russian was just pure brilliance. What an excellent and offbeat sequence that was. Definitely my favourite scene in the movie.
I've never read any of the Punisher comics so I really just see this as an action movie, not a comic-book adaptation. I know the movie doesn't promise to be a light-hearted romp or anything, but it was kind of off-putting to have such a cool action movie mixed with such a miserable, gloomy atmosphere. It's hard to cheer for a hero when he's drunk and on the verge of suicide through most of the movie. All this considered, it does a damn good job of it anyway. Thom Jane is perfect in the role and John Travolta keeps up his practice as the slimy villain character.
This is no doubt a flawed movie, there are some things that just don't make too much sense (I won't bother getting into them), and it's certainly not the kind of movie you want to take your grandmother to, but in a generation devoid of Stallones and Shwarzeneggers, this was a small comeback for the action film, and carries some hope for future action films, and this is, quite indeed, a run-on sentence, but I refuse to edit. Goodnight.
My rating 7/10
Matchstick Men (2003)
More than just a con job
"I'm not very good at being a dad, alright? I barely get by just being me." -Roy
In a movie full of cons, lies, and misleadings, truer words could never be spoken by a character. In Matchstick Men, Nicolas Cage plays Roy: an obsessive compulsive, germaphobic con artist. His life is a mess, not in the traditional sense, but in the sense that he has made himself a prisoner to his own tedious routines and arrangements; living a life of repetition, monotony, and misery. Roy is likable because even though he's a criminal and an eccentric, he's sympathetic because he's lost control of everything, and deep down he desperately longs for happiness.
Happiness becomes attainable when Roy's estranged daughter enters his life. He tries to change things around, for her sake. For the sake that he actually finally has a reason to. Usually in a con movie, the main character should have things together and should be in control, but since Roy clearly isn't (calling him a wreck is just a bit of an understatement), we aren't simply rooting for the cool grifter to successfully pull off a con, we're watching a human being's life change, and improve. Ultimately, the movie is not about a mind-blowing con, but about the main character's redemption.
The ending seems to be quite controversial around here, it's a love it or hate it deal, and I absolutely love it. People who ask, "Why isn't he angry?" must not have been watching the same movie as I was. Just look at the opening scene and then the very last scene, and tell me the movie hasn't gone through an amazing process. It's a wonderful ending because the big reward of the movie was not a cash payoff, but something much much more profound.
I loved Matchstick Men. It's a lovely, quirky movie that is unforgettable. Cage, Sam Rockwell, and Allison Lohman create 3 awesome characters that really come to life and light up the screen. Amazing music by Hans Zimmer as always, with the use of a catchy little tango as the main theme. This was an unpredictable directorial move from Ridley Scott, who is among the great directors working today, and this is my personal favourite of his works, and one of my favourite movies altogether.
My rating: 10/10
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Summer starts early this year
Mission Impossible III has a plot that plays little importance to the actual merit of the movie, but it at least has enough respect for the audience to take into account the fact that we already know this. Whatever element of plot that can be found is merely an excuse for Tom Cruise to play dress-up, travel across the globe, and perform spectacular stunts. This is really what you want to see anyway, and everything else (which is the plot) is just filler. His mission involves something called "The Rabbit's Foot." Can it bring down the economy? Hack into government defense systems? Unleash a deadly virus? The kicker is, we never ever find out. All we know is that Ethan Hunt needs to get it. And that's all we really need to know.
We see Phillip Seymour Hoffman post-Oscar win, showing his permanent status as a dedicated actor jumping from art house films to gigantic blockbusters, in a cool, slimy villain role. We get the brilliant inclusion of Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg. We get helicopter chases, brain bombs, parachuting, and some very decent fight scenes including one in which Cruise steals some moves from Russel Crowe by smacking a guy in the face with a telephone receiver. What more could you ask for?
Mission Impossible originated as a TV show, so I think it was a good choice to bring in the popular director of shows such as Lost and Alias, J.J. Abrams to do this movie. I've never seen any of his shows but I can safely assume that MI:III is just a longer, big-budget version of one of his shows. John Woo directed the previous Mission installment, and I think he tried too hard to blow our minds with the action sequences and delved into tedious self-indulgence. Abrams has made a fast-paced, action-packed thrill ride that was genuinely fun. I only saw it yesterday and have probably forgotten most of it, though I'm sure I could have said the exact same thing the instant I walked out of the theatre. It's a perfect summer movie, though it's out in early May. Oh well.
My rating: 7/10