Friday, 29 April 2011

Source Code Review

I'm conflicted on this one.  In some ways, this is a very good movie and in some ways it is not a good movie.  It is very well acted.  It is almost a given that Gyllenhall is going to give a superior performance.  He's one of Hollywood's best.  The rest of the cast is quite good too except for Russell Peters.  Fortunately, his part is very small.  The one that really surprised me though was Jeffrey Wright.  His performance of a socially awkward scientific genius was, well, genius.

The story line is also a very good one.  It's sort of a Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap type of thing.  The problem is that they do not let the audience in on any of the secrets to the program until halfway through the movie (I checked my watch because it was that confusing for that long).  All of Gyllenhall's behaviour is explained eventually.  But it drags on a little too long to hold the viewer's interest.

The continuity is also very full of holes.  With a movie like this, I'm willing to give the film makers a bit of slack because the whole thing is quite unrealistic.  But, given the parameters of the source code program set out by the Rutledge character, what happens to the characters is outside of the realm of their own reality.  If you do watch it, that sentence should make sense.  (I always try to give as full a review as possible without spoiling the movie.)  That poor continuity leads to the ending.  I won't give it away but I will say that it is a cop out that does not fit with the theme of the rest of the film.

The bottom line is that this film is very well acted but that's about it.  It is a shallow movie that tries to find some depth and is not able to do so.  Don't bother seeing it.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Hanna Review

I pretty much got what I expected with this one.  There are no real surprises.  I'll start with the negatives because there are less of those.  First, they use some shaky camera work when it isn't necessary.  I hate shaky camera work because it just makes it hard to watch the movie without adding any value.  Second, Cate Blanchett should be ashamed of herself.  Everyone else gives a terrific performance in this movie and she goes and does the worst American accent I've ever heard.  Her performance is just that bad.

Everything else about this movie is good.  It uses humour when it is needed to lighten the mood.  While it isn't the fastest moving thriller, it doesn't get bogged down into any moral issues.  And with this subject, there was a lot of potential for that. It's a simple story about a special girl who is trying to figure out who she is.  It is a movie that seems to have had a bi-polar director.  But that's a good thing.  During the action/thriller portions, it is quite dark and frantic and well done for that.  It kind of reminded me of a cross between Resident Evil and Run, Lola, Run.  But when it has to slow down to focus on Hanna's transition (or regression) to innocence, it becomes quite light.  So the film does a really good job of directing the viewer's emotions to what it wants.

The bottom line is you should see this movie.  It is more than just a thriller or an action movie.  It has some depth and makes you think a little too.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Salt Review

I pretty much got what I expected.  The good things about this movie is that it moves very fast like an action thriller should.  The action is cool and they do a very good job creating tension with the music.  There are, however, two irreparable problems with the film.

First, I cannot believe Angelina Jolie as a spy.  Uber sexy grave robber, yes.  Incestuous mother of Alexander the Great, yes.  Computer animated succubus, yes.  But her look is too distinct to be an action thriller spy.  She's one of those actors that is always more than the role and, as a result, the film tends to suffer in its credibility.  She's great in the more comic book like stuff.  But she detracts from a movie like this.

Second, the movie is just too confusing.  We're supposed to spend our time wondering what side she's really on.  But, the suspense and twists are just too confusing to hold the viewer's attention.  By the time anything is resolved, the viewer just doesn't care anymore.

Don't bother seeing it.  Better films in the same vein are the Bourne movies and Taken.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Red Riding Hood Review

I really hate it when movies are set in days of yore yet the bare chested young men are still able to get their hands on the latest hair styling products.  That sums up this movie.  It is flat out ridiculous.  It was like I was watching a live action version of a bad romance novel cover.  It really has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  And it's really sad because the premise for turning the classic fairy tale into a horror/thriller is a really good idea.  With today's special effects and movie standards, it had so much it could have been.  But instead, they decided to try and make it like Twilight.  It was billed as a horror/thriller.  It is neither.

On the technical standpoint, it is still a very, very bad movie.  The acting was horrendous.  Not that the actors had much of a script to work with in the first place.  Gary Oldman's performance was so bad that I actually got the feeling he was contractually obligated to do the movie but phoned it in out of spite.  Besides that, there are so many plot holes that it makes the whole story unbelievable even in it's own reality.  In a story like this, the audience has to suspend belief and let the fantasy unfold.  But there just seemed to be no logic to anything.  For example, rather than go rooting through everyone's stuff to find out who is the wolf, why don't they just make everyone step onto the church grounds?  The wolf cannot set foot on holy ground.  And take your damn helmet off if you're going to shoot a crossbow at a wolf!  No wonder you can't hit anything.  I could go on and on but this post would get too long.  So, you get the idea.

The verdict: (surprise, surprise) DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE!  The only time it should be watched is if you're with a bunch of smart ass buddies and you can make fun of it while you're watching it.  In fact, I wish I had watched it in Karl's basement with Darren, Jason, Robin and Dave.  The jokes we came up with would have made it slightly more bearable.

Centurion Review

As a big fan of ancient Roman history, I had to watch this movie.  However, there are some inaccuracies that I just cannot get past.  First, it starts by saying it is set in 117 AD.  But they show the building of Hadrian's Wall.  Construction on the wall began in 122 AD.  This error is just plain sloppiness and could have been avoided with two different keystrokes on a computer.  Second, the Roman soldiers slash too much with their swords in hand to hand combat.  The gladius sword was short and used to thrust in hand to hand combat.  Sure, there would be some necessary slashing but not as much as this movie depicts.  Third, any general that wore a purple cloak would have been seen as a usurper by the Emperor and likely done away with.  (Maybe this is why the ninth legion was sent to certain death.)

Anyways, enough of the history lesson.  Let's get down to the movie.  I really like the way it was shot.  The scenery is breathtaking and the cinematography is very solid.  I also like that it was brutally graphic.  I believe it accurately portrays how nasty battle was back then.  The plot line and story for Centurion is also quite good.  There is a lot of speculation as to the fate of the Ninth Legion and destruction at the hands of the Picts seems like a plausible explanation.  In this, it's almost a prequel to the Eagle.  It really is the beginning of that story.  The problem is that I had to rely on my own research to find that out.  It should have been explained at the start.  The average movie goer would not know the history behind it.

Speaking of the Eagle, Centurion is better.  It takes the concept of a historical drama and makes it seem very realistic without going Hollywood with the non-convincing pretty boy flavour of the month in the lead role.  It also doesn't have the dumbed down cheesiness of the Eagle in its writing.  I give credit to the fact that it is an English made movie.  When the English make a historical movie, it tends to be more credible and believable than American ones.

On the down side of Centurion, it kind of grinds to a halt in the middle.  The beginning sets you up for what you think is going to be something akin to Gladiator.  But it just doesn't get there.  Then, it gets good again with about twenty minutes left.  The bottom line is that, at the end, I was glad to have watched it.

So, I'd say see it.  But keep in mind that I would likely give that recommendation to anything that deals with ancient Rome.  I am an aficionado.  Be aware that it is very graphic and never gets as philosophical as it tries to.  But it is decent and worth a look if you come across it.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet Review

A great adaptation of the Shakespeare play.  This movie is fun from start to finish.  It's got very clever jokes and a really good modified Elton John soundtrack.  Lately, I've felt that the animated kids movie has suffered in the fact that they are having a hard time making them so adults will be entertained as well.  This does not suffer from that.  It's got all the cute little gags that kids will love and plenty of the higher end comedy that adults enjoy too.  I particularly liked all of the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) references to other Shakespeare works.

But what really struck me as excellent about this movie was the amount of detail in the art.  Animation has come a long way and there always has to be a lot of work done in anything now to make people like it.  The amount of detail in these gnomes really raises the bar.  The dirt, scratches and even paint flaws were very meticulous and made them look almost real.

See it.  It's a great way to have fun and lift your spirits if you need that.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Dilemma Review

I wanted to see this movie because of four words: Kevin James Jennifer Connelly.  But two words kept me from going to see it for so long: Queen Latifah.  Sadly, neither Connelly nor James is actually on screen long enough for me.  Fortunately, Latifah only has three (albeit very difficult to watch) scenes.  She's just not good.

The problem with this movie is that they tried to rely on one hook for almost all of the humour.  And that's Vaughn's ranting.  Let's face it.  That can still be humorous in moderation.  But it cannot save or make a comedy anymore.  It's just been done to death too much.  It's very much like Will Ferrell's "Ron Burgudyesque" antics.; always trying to recapture lightning in a bottle.  So, for this movie, they took a premise that had a lot of potential with a great cast making up the two couples and completely wasted it by focusing too much on Vaughn's rants.  He's a good actor.  But to keep making him do that in the quantities they do reminds me of the way show business ruined Chris Farley by wanting to see nothing but "Fatty Fall Down."

Don't get me wrong.  There are a few funny moments.  James cold-cocking Vaughn was good.  As was the interaction between Tatum and Vaughn.  But other than that, this movie just doesn't have it.  Although they did find the perfect role for Channing Tatum: Pretty Boy Douchebag Number One.

Don't bother seeing it.  It pains me to say that because Kevin James is in it.  But that is the verdict nonetheless.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Drive Angry Review (Minor Spoiler Alert)

I'm pretty sure that the film makers had a conversation that went: "OK, let's make a movie.  What are the last two movies you saw?  Faster and Hobo With A Shotgun?  OK, we'll combine those two.  Can we get Chad Kroeger to play the lead?  No?  OK, let's get Nicholas Cage.  But can we get him to visit Chad Kroeger's tailor and hairdresser?"

Going into this, I fully expected to use words like ridiculous, moronic and completely unecessary to describe it.  I was pleasantly surprised.  This movie is actually quite entertaining.  I knew it was going to be a bit hokey.  After all, it bombed and the premise is just plain stupid.  But, for what it is, it isn't badly written and the acting is actually very good.  Especially from Cage and William Fichtner.  Particularly Fichtner.  He's an absolute treat as the Accountant.  Yes, there are some roll your eyes cheesy deliveries all around.  But in this genre, that is unavoidable.

There's one minor problem that I can't seem to get over though.  Why does the first shot from the "Iron God Killer" not knock Cage right on his ass?  I know it's inconsequential and all but, while I don't care if the violence is unrealistic, I do expect it to be consistent.

Finally, any movie that ends with two guys driving a 1950s Chevy across a crumbling bridge into Hell while Meatloaf's Alive plays has got to be at least a little cool.

Anyways, I think you should see this movie.  But only if you're in the mood for over the top violence and explosions, cool slow motion action, hot cars and a lot of swearing.  Don't expect anything too deep.  And, thank goodness it isn't deep.  An attempt at that would just ruin it.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

I didn't expect too much from this movie.  It did very poorly at the box office, Nicholas Cage has not made a superior movie in a while and Wal Mart only wanted $5.00 for it.  And while it isn't a classic or anything like that, it is still a very decent movie.  It is well written and Werner Herzog does a very good job of setting a story in post-Katrina New Orleans.  I've been to New Orleans.  It really is a collage of different types of city and this really captures the desolate urban-ness side of the town very well.

All around, the acting is quite good.  But Cage does a fantastic job.  It is really reminiscent of his Oscar winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas.  Given the fact that he seems to be going more and more insane as time passes, this performance really combines the old Cage with the weirdness we've come to expect.  He does a fantastic job of bringing out the changes in the character.

The only real drawback is that the story doesn't seem to have any real direction that it wants to stick to.  It bounces from plot line to plot line and that causes the viewer to lose interest a little bit.  And the way it ties up is a little too convenient and reminiscent of a 60 year old Christmas movie.  But that notwithstanding, I would still say you should see this movie.  The Bad Lieutenant is a really good caricature of how humanity is basically good in its intent but severely flawed in its execution.  Go into it with the attitude that it is allegorical rather than a traditional cop movie and you should enjoy it.

Gran Torino Review

It took me a while to see this one which is odd.  Normally, I really like Clint Eastwood and anyone I knew who saw it said it was really good.  One problem that it has is that it starts out at an unbelievably slow pace.  Once it does pick up, it isn't a bad movie.  But it does suffer from some problems.

First, it seems like the writer was trying to see how many racial slurs Eastwood can spout in a two minute span.  While I understand that the Walt character is a bigot, I have a hard time believing that such an old curmudgeon would be that creative with his slurs.  Second, speaking of writing, I thought this movie was barely average in its script.  Third, Eastwood was not at his best.  His grunting was distracting and made me think he was trying to channel Slingblade.  And what's the deal with the finger gun stuff?  While trying to be cool, it just comes off as cheesy.

Now, the positives.  The guy who played the priest did a very good job as did the Hmong characters.  The use of Daisy the dog to evoke emotions from the audience was also well done.  Finally, the story is very good.  It is just not written well.

I'd say see it if you're in the mood for an emotional drama.  But, thankfully, you probably don't have to pay for it now.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Leaves of Grass Review

This was Steph's pick for the Wednesday night movie.  She went to Rogers to find something last minute and hit a home run.

I need to meet Tim Blake Nelson.  I need to ask him if he was trying to just tell a quirky thriller story with this movie or if he was going for something more allegorical with a moral.  I couldn't tell.  It seemed through the whole picture that he wanted to say something very profound but it just never came as to what it would be.  That being said, this is still a very good movie.  It's funny and dramatic when it needs to be.  The tempo is kept at the right pace and it never really seems to drag along.

It's a really cool story about the relationship between twins that have become very different people as time has gone on.  The acting performances are solid all the way around.  But with a cast like Ed Norton, Tim Blake Nelson, Susan Sarandon and Richard Dreyfuss, you would expect them to be.  Norton, in particular, gives two fantastic performances as the twins.  They are supposed to have taken very different paths and they are so different that you can see this.  But because they are played by the same guy, you can obviously see the similarities.  To top that off, as the movie progresses, you can see their tendencies start to come back together a bit.

Nelson also does a great job in writing this movie.  Although their is one point where characters make unrealistic yet correct assumptions that seems to be impossible, it doesn't take away from the film.  Over all, it's quite solid with no real holes.

See it.  It's too bad it never got the release it should have.  It is very entertaining.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

44 Inch Chest Review

I'm normally a fan of English gangster movies.  Their grittiness and wit usually entertain me.  This one, sadly, did not.  It isn't really a gangster movie as much as it is a morality play about catharsis and existentialism.  Because of that, there is no real story or plot and it doesn't get going at all.  It would be better suited for stage rather than screen.  I spent most of my time feeling like I was watching the retirement home for Guy Ritchie characters.

However, for what it is, it is done very well.  The acting all around is very good, especially from Ian McShane.  That is saying something because I am not an Ian McShane fan.  It is also very well shot and the lighting is perfect to set the mood.  However, I did find that it felt like a BBC drama at times rather than a film.  Also, it was difficult at first to tell the difference between real time and the flashbacks/Colin's mind scenes.  They should have been shot differently.  Otherwise they get a bit confused.

The bottom line for me is that you probably shouldn't see it.  But if it can be seen on the stage, it might be better.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason Review

They really should have just let sleeping dogs lie.  In trying to capture the brilliance of the first one, they fail quite badly.  There are some good bits, though.  It's always worth it to watch Firth and Grant fight.  And Jones' stint in the Thai prison is mildly amusing.  But this movie takes way too long to get moving into any kind of plot and doesn't have the jokes to keep you interested until the plot does materialize.

Another problem is that they took two fairly major characters from the first movie (Jones' parents) and brought them back.  But they did it in a badly diminished capacity.  This wouldn't be so bad but there was really no reason to have them at all and their appearance seems superfluous.

Finally, Renee Zellwiger is never my favourite actress but she is downright difficult to watch in this.  Everything seems awkward and wooden to the point that you want to ask her if she's in physical pain.

It really isn't worth a watch.  Watching the first one again would be better entertainment.  Don't bother seeing it.

Batman (1989) Review

When you consider that the Gotham City universe is absolutely absurd, this isn't a bad movie.  It was made at a time when we were just on the verge of superior effects and makeup.  I must say it does a good job with the makeup.  But back to the absurdity.  Gotham is just that.  It's a campy and ridiculous setting for a super hero.  That's why picking Tim Burton to direct this was just what it needed.  While I am not intimately familiar with the comic books, I do know enough of the setting.  I believe Burton did a good job staying true to the old school comics which is basically all this movie had to go on.  The Batman of today is a much darker and more human-like character.  But this is a true comic book movie.

The acting from Nicholson is brilliant.  Never mind the Dark Knight's Joker.  Nicholson and Ledger were really playing two different roles.  Nicholson's was a much more fun psychopath with less of a grip on reality.  He really makes the character fun and, considering who he is, is a perfect man for the role.  The rest of the acting ranges from OK to pretty bad.  But that isn't a huge deal because the movie really focuses on the Joker.  Speaking of which, I could have really used more Batman and less Bruce Wayne.  After all, I watch these kinds of movies to see the cool action stuff.

Bottom line, it really is a "see" due to the performance by Nicholson.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Friday Review

This week's Wednesday movie night pick comes from Karl.  Anyone who knows this group would have to have guessed Karl would pick this one (his college nickname was Soul Train after all).  It took me back 15 years.  It had a great nostalgia factor and it ages well.  I forgot how good the soundtrack was and didn't realize how much I actually still use a lot of the lines from it.  The one thing I like most about it is that it doesn't overpower you with weird jokes or even too much of the weed smoking.  You can tell that Chris Tucker is getting high continuously but it doesn't hit you over the head with it like a Cheech and Chong sketch.  The characters are all very funny and slight caricatures without being over the top.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that Friday does a really good job of compromising subtlety with humour.

Of the things that didn't work too well, the first would be the acting.  The best performance is given by Chris Tucker.  His antics, while annoying in another setting, work well when playing "Ghetto Pot Smoker."  Ice Cube is weak.  The timing when he's in dialogue is way off and you can tell he is constantly trying to remember his next line.  His only funny bits really come when he's high or his glances at the camera.  But, remember, this is some of Ice Cube's earlier work.  Much like Will Smith, he does get better the more movies he makes.  And I can always use more John Witherspoon.

If you haven't seen it, you might want to give it a pass or have it lower on your list of comedies to see.  Don't go out of your way.  But, if you saw it years ago, it's good to see it again for the nostalgia factor.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard Review

This is one of those 89 minute "classics;" a movie you know isn't going to be good but it still entertains.  It's a goofball comedy that is not realistically written at all.  None of the characters are believable and the situation is just absurd.  But it works.  I've seen lots of movies like this that just fall completely flat.  This one delivers.  I spent most of the time laughing.  And that's all you're supposed to do in this situation.  For the type of movie it is, it has an absolute all-star cast.  All you have to do is turn off your brain and get in the mood for something like Billy Madison or anything by Chris Farley.  Yeah, it's predictable and nothing special, but the jokes are actually very funny and somewhat unexpected in spots.  The only thing I could have really done without was the Will Ferrel cameo.  The whole "making the obvious in a weird situation funny" isn't actually funny anymore.

See it.  It's only 89 minutes and a few of that is the closing credits.  If time is your currency and laughs are the product, you get a really good value for this one.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sucker Punch Review

So, what happens when you take Girl, Interrupted, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the Fifth Element, and Inception and put them all together?  You get a Frankenstein's monster of a movie (not to mention Carla Gugino with a bad Russian accent and Samurai bazookas).  Frankenstein was visually interesting and wreaked a lot of havoc.  But he was bumbling and incoherent.  He brought together parts that technically should work together.  But they're not designed to, so they fail.  Much like Sucker Punch.  Don't get me wrong.  There are some really good aspects to this movie.

First, it is very appealing visually.  The four fight scenes are fantastic in their layout and camera work.  I could have used a longer samurai fight scene.  That one seemed to end too abruptly but it probably would have made the movie too long.  That layer of the movie is quite entertaining.  But the other two story layers are not.  They never properly link the first two layers and the dialogue in them is just so laughable that the movie really can't be saved.

Second, the soundtrack absolutely kicks ass.  Music is used very well to evoke the proper emotions from the audience.  It is used to bring about a unique mix of adrenaline and sadness all at the same time.

Going into a Zack Snyder movie, I never expect too much (especially after that Watchmen snoozefest).  I know it will be visually appealing but not very deep.  This was achieved in both 300 and Watchmen because neither of those stories are very deep.  He tried to go deeper with Sucker Punch but just didn't have the script to do it.  The story is a good idea but it just got derailed.  It's too bad because I really wanted to like it.

Don't see it.  Watch the four movies it mixes and be better entertained for longer.