Saturday, 16 November 2013

No Country for Old Men Review

Well, it's been a while.  i haven't been watching a lot of movies lately because I have been engrossed in Breaking Bad and want to get through them before someone spoils the ending for me.  but when you're on a plane from Toronto to Regina, there's not a whole lot else to do and I had wanted to see this one for a long time.

It starts out really well.  It's a tremendously well acted movie with superior performances from Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem.  While it seems to move a bit slow, you don't seem to mind because the story is quite gripping and very well shot.  I can see why it won best directing.  But I don't quite understand why it won best picture.  It's moving a long quite well for most of it and then it just derails to an ending that really doesn't make a lot of sense.  It does have a philosophical air to it throughout so I can see what the Cohen brothers were going for.  But it was almost as if they realized they had two hours with no resolution so they just ended with some non-sensical soliloquy from one of the characters and fade to black.  After all, the Academy eats up that artsy crap; and it worked.  Not having read the novel, I can also only assume that is what they had to work with for the source material and probably stayed true to it.  Unfortunately, that works better in the written word than it does in film and I'm not sure why.

The bottom line is that I'm of two mids for this one.  On the one hand, the acting is great and the directing is superb.  On the other hand, a couple of twists send it spiralling into something they desperately try to save and, in my mind, fall short of doing so.  But, all in all, it isn't a waste of two hours.  See it.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Gravity Review

I'm glad they finally turned Space Oddity into a movie.

Seriously, though.  It's a good thing this movie is only 90 minutes long.  Otherwise I may have blacked out from not breathing.  It is absolutely riveting from the opening shot right until the end credits.  In a way, it reminded me of Buried.  You know, the movie where all it is is Ryan Reynolds in a coffin talking on a phone?  It's like that in the fact that, through the use of excellent acting and a great score, they make you feel like you're there with the characters.  Add in that they could do so much more with camera work and the 3D, and you feel what I can only imagine is close to the same helplessness in the void that Ryan Stone does.  I think it's the 3D that really puts it over the top though.  The movie obviously had to have a lot of CGI in it and it still felt so real.  I guess you can spend a lot on that when you only have two or three on screen actors in the whole thing.

The only beef I have with the film (and it's very minor) is that it beats you over the head with its metaphors and allegory.  It's an obvious tale of persistence and moving on through adversity shown in an extreme case.  There are moments where they move past subtlety and almost say to the audience, "get it?"  But by then, you're so engrossed in the visuals that you don't care.  There are also instances where I'm pretty sure they bent the laws of physics and ignored actual space travel protocols but I can live with that.  I'm no physicist or rocket scientist so I'll defer to their judgement on how far you can take artistic license.

Acting wise, it's very strong.  While it isn't either of their best performance, both Clooney and Bullock are above average.

Definitely see it.  If you suffer from motion sickness, maybe take some Gravol with you.  But don't let it stop you.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Art of the Steal Review

It's nice to see Canadian cinema making some real strides into the mainstream.  Many of the films that come out of Canada have this artsy vibe to them as if to say that we're either above making a Hollywood style movie or we're just not ready yet.  The Art of the Steal breaks away from that and proves that Canada can make a decent quality movie and make it distinctly Canadian and not one big stereotype of lumberjacks and maple syrup.

I'll start with the story.  It's a fairly basic heist movie that has a lot of the same elements of the Ocean's franchise.  There's a big score, a twist or two, and clever dialogue that keeps it light.  Unfortunately, the writing is a bit inconsistent as there are a few spots where it slows down quite a bit.  But, for the most part, the dialogue is engaging enough for a 90 minute movie.

The movie is also helped out by a very good cast.  Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel and Matt Dillon are not the biggest stars in Hollywood but they are all competent at what they do.  It shows in this film.  They play off of each other very well and all seemed comfortable in their roles.  Even Baruchel who seemed comfortable playing someone who seemed to always be uncomfortable (which is his forte).  Baruchel steals every scene he's in and keeps the audience laughing throughout.  The same can be said for Jason Jones.  He provides terrific comic relief as the witless Interpol agent.

But what I liked the most was the feel of this movie.  It had a lot of bleak shots which is not surprising seeing as how it takes place in Canada and Detroit in the winter.  Rather than stylize the lives of the criminals and have them be these suave and cool people like Clooney and Pitt in the Ocean's movies, they made them out to be regular people.  While the story is a bit far fetched, it still felt real.

See it.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Great Gatsby Review

I read this book back in college but don't remember most of it.  Steph read it just recently and said that it was fairly similar to the movie.  I had forgotten that, on the surface, it is a basic tragic love triangle story as told by someone from outside of the web.  When you dig a bit deeper, it becomes about the dangers of excess and selling your soul.  I won't go into how I came to that conclusion because Baz Luhrmann hits you square in the face with it.  There is nothing subtle about this movie at all.  Sets, costumes, dialogue, scenes.  Everything is over-stylized to give the viewer a sense of over-extravagance.  Even the Valley of Ashes is so far on the other end of the spectrum that you can't wait for them to leave it.  I can see the need for some of that.  If over indulgence is a theme of the story, they need to translate it from the written word to the visual medium.  But Luhrmann went a bit overboard with it and it dominated the movie to the detriment of the rest of it.

That's what makes me a bit disappointed.  Even though the script was a bit campy in parts, all of the actors from the top billed right down to the bit parts did a very convincing job of delivering their lines.  Leonardo DiCaprio in particular was magnificent.  He seamlessly goes from happy party host to sinister villain to heartbroken lover and everything in between in a believable manner.  He is truly one of the best our generation has to offer.

If you like fantastic visuals that take you to a slightly different reality, this may be the movie for you.  Personally, I would have preferred a better balance but I still enjoyed it.  See it

Monday, 26 August 2013

The World's End Review

The third instalment of the "Cornetto Trilogy."  But it isn't really a trilogy because the three movies (this, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz) really have nothing to do with each other.  The stories are completely different and so are the characters.  In each of the three, you don't even have the actors playing similar roles to the others.  But they are a trilogy in styles.  There are similar jokes, shots and gags that run through all three.  But, most of all, they all place significance on seemingly insignificant things like colours, names, etc.  Because of that, these are more than just action comedies.  You really have to watch and pay attention to get the whole effect.

The World's End had a bit of a different feel than the others.  While there were some of the same gags, it felt more formulaic than the other two.  This is probably because the basis is a set out pub crawl that the characters have to wind their way through.  It made the flow seem a bit choppy and episodic.

But that is overshadowed by some very clever dialogue writing and superb acting.  The film is excellently cast with each of the five guys in the group playing the role that is perfect for them.  It was good to see Pegg as the clueless one and Frost as the level headed one in a bit of a switch.  Add in Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan and there is a terrific chemistry in virtually every interaction.  They keep it moving very fast with some superb comic timing.  They also do a terrific job of showing all of the characters' progression into a continuing state of drunkenness.

While it does feel different from the other two and has what seems to be a tacked on ending, it still entertains all the way through.  I laughed out loud a lot and it never felt forced.  It's another home run from what is, for my money, the funniest group the film industry has to offer right now.  See it.

Friday, 23 August 2013

RED 2 Review

I liked the first one.  The premise of quirky, past their prime spies running around and blowing stuff up while delivering witty dialogue appeals to me.  But, I knew when it was over that there would be a sequel and that it would be an ill-advised venture.  I was right.  This had all the potential to be quite good with a good cast.  But it ended up being very disappointing.

I've said before that a good sequel has to take the things that were successful in the first one and build on them.  After all, you should want to give people more of what they want.  It's what made The Empire Strikes Back better than Star Wars.  People wanted more Darth Vader so that's what they got.  In RED 2 I can see that they were trying to give us more of what made the first one good.  In RED, it was all John Malkovich.  He stole every scene and was hilarious.  They did give us more of him but his character went from being delightfully insane to just a bit quirky.  He still delivers it well but it isn't the same character that we wanted to see more of.  The same goes for Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker.  Their characters were off from what we saw before.  I'd say that Bruce Willis might be losing his edge but it only seems to happen in sequels (A Good Day to Die Hard, The Whole Ten Yards, etc.).  And Parker played inconsistently between sassy, badass, and demure.  It was just all over the map for both of them.

Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins both deliver but they could phone it in and still be the best thing on any screen.  Catherine Zeta Jones is what she is: very average in every way.  Finally, I liked Storm Shadow.  He fit the role quite well.

As for the plot, it is very thin and shallow.  There are no surprises and it's actually quite mundane and boring.  I guess a movie about retired spies would have to deal with digging up stuff from the past.  But Cold War grudges and such just aren't interesting any more; especially when you try to intertwine it with relationship therapy between Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker

Don't see it.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Man With One Red Shoe Review

If you want a fun little movie with a few laughs and that isn't difficult at all to follow, this is the movie for you.  It's the story of a guy who is unwittingly a pawn in a chess game between two rival CIA factions.  While the potential for a lot of twists and confusing turns is there, the film makers did a very good job of making sure that didn't happen.  in fact, it may have been too good because the movie is actually very shallow with little to no intrigue that a spy movie should have.

But this is, first and foremost, a comedy rather than a spy movie.  So ensuring that the intrigue is there is a much lower priority.  They focus on keeping it light and the result is some very funny bits with Tom Hanks being unaware of what is going on around him and the CIA agents suffering the consequences of his inadvertent bumbling around.  And Hanks plays this very well.  Even back in the 80s, he was a top actor.  Throughout this movie, his performance is stable and convincing even when his situations were not.  he is supported by a competent but not stellar cast that allows him to be the spotlight.

Like I said, it's pretty thin and there are a lot of holes and problems with the script.  But it is funny and only 1.5 hours long.  It's a fun diversion to turn your brain off.  See it.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Wolverine Review

I guess it's just time to stop.  The first three X-Men movies were OK but did get progressively worse.  The origins movie was quite forgettable.  There were significant problems with First Class.  But, in spite of all of these warning signs, I still wanted to see The Wolverine.  It's probably because Hugh Jackman as the titular character still seems pretty badass to me.  And, in this movie, he's still badass.  But that's really the only thing that is.

Jackman, as mentioned, delivers.  But, after playing the character five times, he would have to have it down.  He oozes cool and has always had the right look.  There is a lot of witty, sarcastic dialogue from him that adds to a decent level of comic relief.  So, on that front, it's OK.

The problem is the rest of the film.  It's an action movie and should deliver on that.  But the action sequences are few and far between.  When there is action, it's very good; especially the bullet train scene.  But if they are going to have so little of it, they need to rely on the story to keep the audience interested.  The Wolverine does not do this.  The story is very thin, predictable and, frankly, quite boring.  The villain has no personality and are pretty pathetic.  There is nothing that happens that makes you care about the fate of any character past Logan and you know that he's going to survive because Hollywood refuses to do anything against the same old tired formulas.

Don't bother seeing it.  I'm sure you'll be able to watch the next one without much need to catch up.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Smurfs 2 Review

As we all know, sequels (especially those to kids movies) have a well deserved reputation for being disappointing.  One of the things about the first Smurfs movie that annoyed me was the introduction of a completely unnecessary Smurf for the sole purpose of having a wisecracking Scottish gnome on screen to sell Happy Meal toys.  So when I saw that they were introducing two more new and "sassy" Smurfs for this one, I cringed.  But, being a child of the 80s, I went anyways.  And I'm glad I did.

While Gutsy Smurf was a superfluous combination of Smurfs we already knew, Vexy and Hackus are creations who's existence is central to the plot and even the story of Smurfette.  While I'm not a fan of the drastic changes and additions to the Smurfs, I can accept it if they work it into the story in a meaningful way and they did so here.  But I'm not sure two of them were necessary.  Vexy is important but Hackus was a little too much.  His moronic antics are cute at the start but are over used to the point that you just wish he'd go away (up until one part right close to the end that had me laughing out loud).  I understand why they had him and why he stopped short of being all there mentally. (Gargamel was trying to create an army and only had enough Smurf essence for 1.5 brains and needs to get more. - that isn't a spoiler.  It's the basic premise.)  And the kids were laughing at Hackus throughout and this movie is in their world now, not mine.

Back to the Gutsy thing, I was really glad to see them move all of the "new age" Smurfs to the background and give them moderately humourous one-off jokes while they stuck to the basics of five Smurfs we all loved as kids: Papa, Smurfette, Clumsy, Grouchy, and Vanity.  In doing this, they proved that you can take classic, bare bones elements and still update them through witty dialogue and make a decent movie that will entertain both generations.  These five Smurfs had changed very little but were still able to entertain.  It also helps that they ramped up the bumbling Gargamel and slapstick with Azrael.  That kept me laughing as well.

The movie is nothing too special.  The writing is average.  The human acting is passable.  The effects are very good but nothing innovative.  But the bottom line is that this movie is meant to entertain children.  It isn't like Pixar where they layer them to appeal to all generations.  This is out and out a kids movie and in that, it delivers.  It throws jokes like snowballs and has Chris Farley levels of characters running into things.

If you want a nice little entertaining diversion, see it.

2 Guns Review

I knew very little about this movie going in.  All of my information came from the TV ads.  I thought the idea of Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington engaging in witty dialogue and shooting a bunch of stuff would be fun.  As it turns out, I was right.  It is fun.  But it is also pretty basic too.

One thing you need to know about this movie is that it is based on a series of graphic novels.  I didn't know that until the end credits.  If I had known that going in, I would have had an easier time accepting the over the top comic-like qualities of the villains.  In that, it is reminiscent of The Losers.  It isn't enough to make you dislike the movie but it does take away a bit from the experience.  Had that been changed to be a bit more realistic, it would have made a better movie throughout.

That being said, the dynamic between Washington and Wahlberg is top notch.  Denzel has always been able to deliver terrific dialogue especially when working with another strong actor.  Wahlberg is decent at what he does especially when he's allowed to be a bit quirky and comical.  In 2 Guns, that's exactly what they did and it works as long as the two are on screen together.  When they are separated, the pace slows a lot and neither one performs as well as they do when together.

At the start, I felt like I was almost watching a remake of Bulletproof with some elements of the Last Boy Scout thrown in.  This made me think that I wasn't going to like it at all.  But then they moved past that with a couple of twists that grabbed my attention again.  Even though it did slow down at times, they were able to hold that attention throughout and make me care about the outcome of the film.  This is largely due to the fact that both leads were engaging.  And Wahlberg's fast talking is better than anything Adam Sandler or Damon Wayans can deliver.

It's nothing that is going to set the earth on fire but it is still worth a watch to see Washington and Wahlberg work together.  See it.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Forrest Gump Review

Do I really have to convince you to see this movie?  Chances are, if you care, you already have.  And then the chances are good that you would also recommend it to people.  For my money, this is flat out one of the best movies ever made.  For its time, the effects were unbelievable, the writing is solid, and the story is gripping and engaging.  The comic relief is well spaced and just funny enough to make you laugh while remaining in the seriousness of the moment.  It's one of those films that can make you laugh out loud and still bawl your eyes out later on.  Finally, the acting is some of the best I've ever seen.  In fact, for all of the movies I have watched over the years, Tom Hanks' performance as Forrest Gump is the most well-deserved Best Actor winner in history.

But it isn't just the solid technical aspects that make Forrest Gump so good.  There are two further reasons why I love this film.  First, I love history.  To be able to see some of the most important events in history through the eyes of a simpleton brings a unique perspective to the study of the past.  Even though Forrest's involvement in these eras and events is purely fictional, it shows how the world is becoming increasingly tumultuous and complex but humanity, at its core, remains fairly simple.  While the world changes, our basic needs and desires stay constant.

Second, using the hyperbole of the most simple of people being thrown into the most extraordinary of situations hammers home an even more philosophical point.  Even though many of us are just trying to live our lives without any grand outcome, the little things we do can have a profound impact on others and the world.  Forrest was just trying to save Bubba in the firefight.  He just felt like dancing while Elvis played guitar.  Bear Bryant told him to run with the football so he did.  And he just felt like going for a jog.  But these and the other events changed lives and history within this film's universe.

The only problem I have with this movie is the part about him running across the country for three plus years.  While all of Forrest's life events are far fetched, the running for that long was just a little too far over the line and seems oddly out of place in the film.  But by the time it gets to that part, it doesn't matter.  You will have already seen one of the greatest movies of all time.

And, because my "thing" is to give a see or don't see recommendation at the end of every review, I guess I have to say it to keep the streak alive: See it.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

PCU Review

Ah, the 90s.  When a guy could wear mom jeans with a t-shirt tucked in and be considered the cool guy.  As long as there are movies, Hollywood will continue to pump out hastily written and made comedies that are designed to do nothing more than distract the masses for a couple of hours.  That's really all PCU is.  Sure, they try to make a commentary on political correctness getting out of hand by exaggerating it on a college campus.  But, in the end, it's Animal House, Old School, and House Party 2 and every other college party movie.

That's not to say that it isn't enjoyable.  It is.  Jeremy Piven, John Favreau, and David Spade do bring a half decent level of smartly delivered comedy to it.  And the different cliques of campus students provide some laughs in their over the top antics throughout.  The problem is that it seems it was slapped together very hastily.  Political correctness exploded in the early 90s and is still a nuisance much of the time for people who want to just relax and have a few laughs and a good time.  Had they taken a bit more time and effort with this, it could have avoided being a forgettable movie and been a decent statement on fighting the establishment.  Instead, the writing is very shallow and the story suffers.  It has become that movie you see in the bargain bin and say, "oh, yeah.  I remember that."

And, because it does provide some laughs, it is worth the bargain bin price; especially if you get the double feature pack that also includes Airheads.  If you stumble across it, see it if only for the nostalgia of the early 90s.  But, whatever you do, don't go seeking it out.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Pacific Rim Review

When I first heard of this movie I thought it would provide a fresh look at dealing with an alien invasion.  It actually looked like something that was mostly new and quite exciting.  After all, it has 250 foot robots fighting giant monsters from another world.  Then, I watched it and realized that it is actually nothing really new.  Almost everything in this movie is derived from another sci-fi/action source (right down to referring to a rift in time/space as a "breach." Guillermo del Toro took a lot of things that we found cool or interesting in other movies and TV shows and mashed them together into Pacific Rim.  This isn't overly surprising given that Hollywood has been suffering from a lack of creativity lately.

Pacific Rim does have decent story progression.  It gets to the point (let's see giant things smash little things while beating the crap out of each other) very quickly without a lot of origin exposition and discovering how to deal with Earth's sudden dramatic paradigm shift.  It gives you what you need to know and then moves on to the smashy smashy.  The problem is that the actual delivery of that story is quite bad.  The writing (especially dialogue) is done very poorly and it is delivered atrociously by the actors (especially Charlie Hunnam).  There is too much emphasis on getting the dramatic camera angle and not enough on telling the story.  Then they went a little overboard in making the characters seem to be straight off the pages of a comic book (the Russians, Mako Mori, Hannibal Chau, etc.) making them unrelateable (this would be forgiven somewhat if it was based on a graphic novel).  It's made worse by the large number of plot holes and logical flaws that can be seen throughout; in particular, how the Jaegers are used.

The good in this movie is in the effects, makeup and action.  The monsters and robots are fantastically created and I liked how they were all different.  Everything looks very realistic with minimal flaws.  They also stayed away from the overly shaky camera work that film makers love now for some stupid reason.  This lets the viewer see and take in the maximum amount of action and those parts are a joy to watch.

Visually, it is good.  But del Toro's efforts to make it more light-hearted than other recent summer action blockbusters wind up actually making it more of an eye-roller and forehead-slapper.  So it narrowly misses a See recommendation and gets pushed into Don't See.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Man of Steel Review

The popularity of comic book movies combined with reboots and remakes made this a foregone conclusion.  Superman is the iconic go to superhero in most people's minds.  So, the question is: did they do a good job of modernizing Superman for today's movie going audience while still maintaining his everyman superhero status?  I think they did.

You can't do much to alter the origin story of Superman or most other superheroes.  The hard line fans will kill you if you do.  So, you know that you're going to have to sit through a long, drawn out story of Krypton's destruction and Clark kent growing up in Kansas while learning to come to grips with his powers.  They alleviated this somewhat in two ways.  First, they made all of the stuff on Krypton very nice to look at.  While we can turn our minds off while they tell us a story that we all know, we can just sit back and enjoy the view.  And they are visuals that are superb all the way through.  Second, they wove the coming of ages stuff within the movie with flashbacks.  This allows the story to move forward with a decent pace while still showing the viewer the entire struggle that Kal-El faces on earth.  It made a 2.5 hour movie move fairly quickly.

The action sequences are a little sparsely placed.  But when they do show up, they are done very well with minimal shaky camera work.  There are a lot of exposition and slower "brooding" scenes which could have slowed the movie down.  But this version of Superman is very well cast and the actors really do step up to the plate.  I had never heard of Henry Cavill but making him Superman was absolutely brilliant.  He has the perfect physique and look to play the All-American hero.  Amy Adams isn't the stereotypical Lois Lane but Lane takes a different direction in this version.  I love that they didn't make her an idiot who can't tell the difference between glasses and no glasses.  Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe are both solid as Kal-El's fathers.  Finally, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White was a very good choice.  He has a air of authority and father figure that plays very well as editor of the Daily Planet.

Lastly, I want to give a nod to their portrayal of Metropolis.  There are numerous famous buildings from around the world in the shots of the city and this gives it a real "every city" feel.  Their use of the International House of Pancakes works in the same way for Smallville.  And having Clark go to Canada to work on the fishing boats was a nice touch when they could have easily just sent him to Maine.  While they do Americanize the whole story a bit, these elements do allow for Superman to be a hero for the whole world.  It's something this Canadian reviewer appreciates.

See it.

Hot Fuzz Review

I've reviewed every movie I've seen since March 2011 and I am just now reviewing Hot Fuzz.  I can't believe I haven't watched this movie in over two years.  It is one of my absolute favourites.

The second instalment in the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy is a hilarious spoof of cop (and to a lesser extent, slasher) movies from start to finish.  But what makes this a movie with such great rewatchability is the fact that almost everything that is said, done, or even shown in this movie is important to the plot and story development.  So, when you watch it for the third or fourth time, you'll likely notice something that you didn't before.

I've said it before but it warrants repeating: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the best comedy duo since Wayne and Schuster and they're maybe even funnier than that.  In Shaun of the Dead, they both played best friend slackers and played very well off each other.  In Hot Fuzz, Pegg is the straight laced city cop and Frost is a doofus that wants to be just like his idolized cop movie heroes.  It's a different dynamic and I think it works even better when the two are thrown into more of an odd couple situation.  The dialogue between the two becomes much quicker and wittier when there's a bit more conflict.

Throughout the movie, you'll see things that you saw in Shaun of the Dead.  That is intentional.  The movies are part of a non-sequential trilogy that use the same elements and many of the same gags in slightly different ways.  It just adds to the fun factor when you notice them throughout.  Normally, it would be just rehashing jokes but they do them differently.  It's hard to explain why it works.  it just does.

See it.  This is one of the best comedies of the last ten years or so.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

World War Z Review

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the quality of this movie.  After all, zombie films are never that good overall.  It used to be because the monster is horribly flawed by an inability to move quickly.  Now, they've gotten rid of that and have them move at almost lightning speeds.  Still, in spite of the tremendous popularity of the genre, there is still a huge struggle to go from cult following to great action movies when it comes to the undead.

Most of the problems with this film stem from the lousy choices made with the camera.  When will Hollywood learn that the shaky camera does way more harm than good.  It never makes you feel like you're in the action because your brain and eyes aren't working together with the film makers to compensate for abrupt movement.  It is just difficult to watch.  It is used to hide the flaws in the tremendous amount of CGI that is used for the zombie effects.

And speaking of which, those effects aren't that spectacular to begin with.  While the makeup is decent, the actions of the zombies in their docile state are like ADHD stricken children trying to pay attention during their T-ball game.  Their jerky movements and chattering teeth were way too comical for a movie that was trying so hard to be serious and break away from the stereotypical zombie films.

Thirdly, there are numerous plot holes throughout the entire film.  These are exacerbated by many very poor decisions that the characters make.  And it isn't just one character.  The whole of humanity seems to completely lose their common sense.  Granted, there is worldwide panic.  But if the UN has enough on the ball to have a flotilla ready for this contingency, you'd think there would be some other proper protocols in place as well.

There are a few good things about the film though.  It moves very quickly with very little down time.  Even the expository scenes have a good pace.  It gets to the crisis right from the start without that boring buildup that apocalyptic event movies seem to want to force on us.  It gets right to the point of why went to see it: zombies and destruction.

Still, the pace is not enough given all of the flaws.  Don't see it.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Back to the Future Part III Review

I like the way they handled these movies.  Originally, it was supposed to be a stand alone movie with no sequel.  But then when there was a demand for a sequel, they planned two right away and filmed them back to back.  Finishing the story over twp more movies allowed them to give the franchise a decent sense of continuity and closure that can be lacking in time travel movies.

While the second one took another stab at the events of 1955, they were smart not to go to that well again.  Instead, they continued the story by going even farther back to the wild west.  They were able to do all the same gags and elements that we all wanted to see but in a brand new context that didn't make them feel stale.  So in spite of it all being basically the same, the third movie is still entertaining.  And even though you start to get the feeling that the McFly family has been inbreeding for a very long time, you're willing to look past the fact that Marty's paternal great grandmother looks suspiciously like his mother.

Ultimately what makes these movies good is that they keep the fun factor high.  They never take themselves seriously and try to make it some sort of grand morality play.  I recently heard about a fourth installment and I'm torn as to my opinion of it.  On the one hand, I would like to see what they will do with an older Marty and the leaps that CGI has taken.  On the other hand, by the time the third one rolled around, I was starting to get tired of hearing "great Scott!" over an over.  So a fourth right away would have been a mistake.  But maybe they've waited long enough.

But, back to the review of this one.  Even though it is still fast paced and fun, you can tell that it is starting to go a bit downhill.  Still, I say you should see it.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Back to the Future Part II Review

It's almost impossible to watch the first one without watching the second one as soon as you can after.  When the first finished the other night, Steph hit the record button for the other two on Space on the DVR.  So, we watched the second one the next night.

Often in a trilogy, the second installment is the boring one.  That isn't the case with these movies.  The second one has a very high level of entertainment value.  Granted, part of that entertainment is laughing at just how off their vision of the future really was.  But I'm pretty sure that they never really thought that hover boards and flying cars would actually emerge.  Or that CCDC sunglasses would make a comeback.  The exaggerated predictions were basically a vehicle to amp up the fish out of water theme for the rest of the movie.  In fact, everything in this one is basically the first one but just more exaggerated.  The characters are all the same but more melodramatic and the situations are even more bizarre.  It worked in the first so they did it in the second.

They did go a little too far though.  Doc Brown and Biff go overboard with their antics and it actually draws away from the story.  Had they kept them on the same level as the first film, this one would have been even better.  I believe they reshot most of the scenes that took place in the first film so keeping the characters on a more even keel would have provided for a more seamless sequel.  But that isn't really enough to take away from the fact that it is entertaining.

The one thing that does irritate me a bit about the movie is that Doc, a guy who is so adamant about paradoxes and catastrophic consequences of interfering with events in time travel brings Marty to the future specifically to interfere with events.

Still, see it.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Back to the Future Review

Because of the whole notion of paradoxes and catastrophic consequences, time travel movies tend to be very bleak.  That's why Back to the Future will always stand out from the crowd.  The bleakest part of this movie is close to the beginning when Doc is confronted by the terrorists.  It's a light and humourous film that never takes itself too seriously even though it had the potential to do so.

You need to know going in that this movie (and its sequels) is wrought with contradictions, plot holes, and time travel paradoxes that are almost enough to make your head spin.  But most time travel moves are simply because it is scientifically impossible so there's no way to properly reconcile all of the questions.  When you realize that and decide to just focus on the characters (especially Marty McFly) and less on the ridiculous situation,  this becomes one of the most entertaining movies of its generation.

I think it's Michael J Fox's crowning achievement and he's had a lot of good performances.  But to people my age, he will always be Marty McFly (and to a lesser extent, Alex P Keaton).  In Back to the Future, he is able to convey just about every emotion from humour (playing Johnny B Goode) to awkward (his mom has the hots for him) to fear and sadness (his future and existence is in doubt).  From when he goes back in time right up to the end, he brings a sense of panic and urgency that makes the movie fly and keep the viewer interested.  All of the other characters are pretty much over the top cartoony simply to be able to give focus to the absurd situation that McFly has gotten into.

See it.  Chances are, you already have and, if that's the case, see it again.  In fact, make it a great Saturday night and sit down with all three.

Mary Poppins Review

I think I'm one of the few people in the developed world who had never seen this movie.  So when it was offered on the big screen, I figured why not go see it.  I found out quickly that, even though I had never seen it, Mary Poppins obviously influenced my life significantly because I knew pretty much all of the songs.  That, in itself should reveal the quality of this film.

The movie, itself, is pretty stripped down.  There isn't much to it other than the song and dance numbers.  There is actually very little in the way of a plot or story or even character development.  The purpose is really to entertain (and to a lesser extent, tell a story) through song and dance and it does that very well.  It is a fantasy movie with a magic nanny and chimney sweep and a retired admiral firing a cannon from his roof twice a day, so it needs more than just basic special effects, sets and makeup to be done well.  Given that it was released almost fifty years ago, the effects and makeup are fantastic.

Finally, the best parts of the film are the performances from Dick van Dyke and Julie Andrews.  Both were more than solid and very convincing of the characters.  I have to give a stronger nod to van Dyke simply because his character actually has more significance to the movie than Andrews'.  Being a story about a magic nanny turning a family upside down should have more of a focus on the dynamic and friction between the head of the household and the nanny.  But there is actually very little of that other than the implied progression of the relationship.  But it doesn't really matter because, as I said, it's all basically about the song and dance.

See it.  The bottom line is that it is downright entertaining and fun.  Except for the song Feed the Birds.  The movie grinds to a screeching halt during that one.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure Review

Sometimes, you just have to turn your brain off.  I saw this movie way back in the day and remember laughing my arse off but also recognizing that it wasn't a very good movie.  It was just funny and I was about 14 years old.  A recent turn in Draw Something where I drew Keanu Reeves saying, "be excellent to each other" caused me to want to give it another go to see if it would still be funny.  (Note: I subsequently found out that Bill said the line, not Ted.  So my drawing was inaccurate.)

While watching it the second time around, I was struck by just how much of this film was stolen to make Dude, Where's My Car?.  It would be easy to see it as a ripoff of that but Bill & Ted did it first.  And while the cinematic quality isn't there from an acting, story, effects, etc. point of view, let's face it.  This is one of those movies where they couldn't give a rip about making a great film.  The entire intent was to make a goofball, stoner comedy that makes you laugh because it is so ridiculous.  They succeeded in doing just that.

Sadly, the movie isn't aging as well as it could.  It was made at that awkward time when CGI was just starting to be used a lot and everything winds up looking too fake.  The acting is also atrocious throughout.  It is possible to do these stoner movies with some halfway decent acting quality (Dude... and Pineapple Express come to mind) but what they did in Bill & Ted was sufficient for the late 80s.  It wouldn't cut it now if they tried to do this the same way.

So, would I recommend the movie?  For nostalgia and some mindless laughs, yes.  But if you're looking for just a goofball comedy without the trip down memory lane, there are better options (see above).

Monday, 10 June 2013

About a Boy Review

The late 90s and early 00s are proving to be the golden age of British romantic comedy.  From the original Fever Pitch through Love Actually and more, these movies have been able to create a fantastic mix of melancholy and comedy that entertains the viewer on many different levels.  It's a formula that only the British seem to be able to do and one of the best is About a Boy.

Part of what makes this film successful is the source material.  Nick Hornby is an absolute master of combining serous topics with comedy that make you reflect on an issue while not taking it too seriously.  About a Boy takes depression and loneliness and makes you laugh at it without ever thinking you are making light of a serious situation.  This is not an easy thing to do.  I would think taking it from a novel to the screen is even more difficult.  Rather than dealing with it in a traditional good guy, douchebag, girl love triangle, the story has no bad guy.  The villain is really relationships themselves.  The characters need to conquer whatever is holding them back to win what they want.

The light-hearted theme throughout is achieved through some very strong performances by Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult.  It helps that they are cast perfectly.  Grant is always able to play aloof yet relatable.  Hoult just had the look of the awkward kid who just doesn't fit in.  It is likely a stroke of luck that they were able to get two actors that fit their parts so well and get a terrific on-screen chemistry from them.  Luck or not, it worked and that's all that matters.  From their first interaction right to the end, there is an authenticity in the development of their relationship that grips you.

In its writing, acting, music, pace, etc.  This movie excels in everything that a romantic comedy should be.  And it achieves the end result that all romantic comedies should: a happy and satisfied feeling in the viewer.  See it.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Fast and Furious 6 Review

I wanted to see this because I like half of the Fast and Furious movies and I was really interested to see how they would do elaborate car chases through the narrow, crowded streets of London.  As it turns out, the best way to solve that problem is to just not do much driving in London.  Right from the get go, this movie is largely a disappointment.  Yes, it has a relatively flimsy story but so do all of the other films in the franchise.  Nobody goes to see these for the story.  We go to see these movies to increase our adrenaline output through watching fast cars and things getting destroyed.  But, when you don't have much of that, the story is all you have to fall back on and that's where this franchise can become boring.

For this one, they tried to go too far with a ridiculous "doppelganger" gimmick and allegedly clever dialogue.  I'm guessing this was an attempt to ramp up the on screen dynamic between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel that was good in the last film.  However, no matter how well those two can work together, it will all fall apart when the writing relies too much on moronic metaphors and allegedly clever witticisms.  And then having a lot of those lines delivered by Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson is guaranteeing an eye-rolling audience.  This is made even worse by having a flimsy plot that they start and then ignore for almost two hours.  I wouldn't mind if they had filled a lot of that two hours with something happening on the screen.  But this one just goes nowhere.

That being said, when there is action, it is decent.  There are a few spots where they leap over the boundaries of realism (jumping out of cars, comically long runways, etc.) but it's a shallow action franchise and I'm usually willing to let reality slip somewhat for that.  The problem is that the action sequences are too few and far between (especially for a 2.25 hour movie) which makes you notice the numerous plot holes , shake your head, and become bored.

Don't see it.  I'm hoping 7 is better and I would just recommend you read a synopsis to get caught up before going to see the next one.  It can be done.  Right before the movie started Steph asked me, "so what happened between the first one and this that I need to know?"  And she wasn't confused at all.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness Review

I had been looking forward to this one as soon as the credits started rolling on the last one.  JJ Abrams' reboot of a very popular franchise is the perfect example of how to appease the hardcore fans while still making something fresh for a new generation of casual movie fans and action fans.  So, after doing it right on the first one, it would be interesting to see if he would be able to ride the momentum with a quality follow up.  He did not disappoint.

Right from the start of this film, the action and tension never let go.  Even in the slowed down, expository scenes there is a chemistry between the actors that keeps the viewer engaged.  They struck gold with the ensemble a couple of years ago and were able to keep them together for another go round.  This is amped up with the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain.  If you haven't seen him in the BBC's Sherlock, I highly recommend you do.  He is terrific as a loner-type that is cold and calculating.  While Holmes is a hero, Khan is far from it.  Cumberbatch is able to adjust and create a villain that anyone would be scared of (I've never seen The Wrath of Khan so I cannot compare it).  He does over-enunciate his lines a bit but I felt it kind of added to the character's intensity and motivation.

Visually, this movie is near perfect.  In an action and sci-fi movie, we demand superior effects and Into Darkness delivers on that.  Everything looks very real and plausible.  The only drawback would be Abrams overdoing the lens flares a bit but that is his signature.  At least he doesn't slow everything down like John Woo.

See it.  Even if you aren't a Sci-Fi or Star Trek fan, these movies are just flat out, great, funny action.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Oblivion Review

Another movie that had a tremendous amount of potential.  It has some very good actors in Tom Cruise, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman.  It also has a story that could be quite intriguing.  The problem is that the story is written with a lot of holes that it leaves the viewer wondering "what the hell?"  This can sometimes be overcome with some great action (see Transformers).  But they decided to try and make this a philosophical play rather than a sci-fi action movie.  The problem is that, in order for a philosophical movie to be good, it has to make sense and not contradict itself over and over.  Oblivion fails miserably in this.

It was marketed as an action film and inferred that Morgan Freeman would be a central actor in it.  Freeman doesn't show up until almost an hour through (I checked my watch) and the action is almost non-existent except for very close to the end.  By then, you just want it to end quickly.  It's almost as if the executives knew they had a horrible movie on their hands and the only way to get anyone to see it was to completely deceive the viewing public.

Right from the start, there is nothing to keep the audience motivated.  The characters of Jack and Julia are so boring that you really don't care if they live or die at all.  Then, Jack puts on a Yankees hat and, in a world where if you're a baseball fan, you either love or despise the Yankees, all they do is make a large portion of the audience hate him even more.  So, you start thinking about the story.  Maybe that will be good.  But, as I said, it is so full of holes that you just roll your eyes for most of it.  Here's an example that won't spoil the movie because it happens very early.  Jack has had his memory wiped.  The only thing that keeps coming back is a vague dream with some bits and pieces.  He's completely cut off from the memories of history.  Yet, he is able to describe, in great detail, the final play of the last Super Bowl ever played which he acknowledges, happened before the war.  Granted, he tells Julia that this memory comes from reading about it.  But she's not supposed to know about his little "man cave" haven that he goes to.  So, either she's too stupid to ask him where he got access to this book or his mind isn't wiped.  And it just gets more ridiculous from there...

Don't see it.  I paid $3.50 to see it and even that was too much.  The Sci-Fi genre is so rich with better movies that this will never be worth your time.

Sherlock Holmes Review

A recent trip to London and a visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum combined with the new show, Elementary, caused me to want to wach these movies again.  I knew I already liked it from the first time.  I wasn't surprised because I do like most of what I see from Guy Ritchie.  I always like the lighting and cinematography in his movies.  Normally, I am not a huge fan of slow motion action but, for the most part, in this movie, he limits it to what is going on in Holmes' head before he actually engages his opponent in a fight.  So it actually is used very well to show how Holmes can predict how things are going to play out.

The best part of this movie is the dynamic between Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law.  Both are fine actors to begin with.  Downey was basically born to play the over confident jackass and his portrayal of Holmes is basically Tony Stark in Victorian England.  But he does it well.  Law plays the frustrated Watson to a T.  And while he can carry a film on his own normally, he is a great David Spade to Downey's Chris Farley (or any other movie duo you can think of).  Their timing and chemistry is some of the best you will see.

The only real problem with this movie is that the story is a bit convoluted and hard to follow sometimes.  This is often true of detective/mystery films because they have a very finite amount of time to show you the things you came to see (action) while still making the story tight with its twists.  So the viewer really has to accept that there will be confusion for some time but it will all make sense as long as you remember all the stuff that has gone on along the way.

After my trip to London, I did notice a few other problems with how they worked through the city and portrayed it.  First, the Boudicca statue on the North end of the Westminster Bridge wasn't erected until 1902 and this takes place well before that due to the construction of Tower Bridge.  Also, the characters would have to have the speed of the Flash to get from parliament to Tower Bridge through the sewers in the time that they did.  But those are small continuity errors that happen in every movie and are largely ignored for dramatic effect.

See it.  It is a fast paced and very well acted detective tale that keeps you intrigued even if a little confused as well.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Ned Kelly Review

I'm a fan of history so I tend to like historical movies especially if they are based on true events.  I had never heard of this one until I got Netflix and I thought I should give it a try.  I grew up in Central Saskatchewan so the story is actually quite familiar to me but with different names.  The story of Ned Kelly is eerily similar to that of Louis Riel.  So is the attitude towards the characters over a century later.  A man in an oppressed minority rises up against the ruling class and is labeled an outlaw.  The troops come in and a series of bloody battles ensue.  To this day, both Kelly and Riel are viewed as either folk heroes or traitors depending on how you view the story.

There are two ways this movie could have gone.  It could have been upbeat and fast moving like Young Guns 2 or it could have been brooding and artistic like The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.  While it is almost a hybrid of the two, it leans more towards the former and that is a good thing.  There are times in this film where they try to delve into the mind of Kelly through Heath Ledger's mannerisms and scenes with no dialogue.  But they do it sparingly and, for the most part, the plot progresses through a well written and acted story.  This does lead to some inconsistent pace which can be a bit distracting to the viewer but it isn't enough to make it poor.  Sadly, I think they may have stuck to the truth a little too much because, overall, the movie lacks any fantastical drama that movies like to have.  It took a good true story and kept the whole thing plausible.

The acting in this film is really what makes it good.  There are no poor performances right from the stars through to the minor characters.  Gregor Jordan was able to get what he needed out of everybody to make it believable.  Heath Ledger gives a fine performance as Ned Kelly and, while it wasn't his absolute best work, it was very solid.  He truly was a very good actor that we lost all too soon.

See it, especially if you like historical movies and those set in the 19th century.  It's an interesting twist on a western-like movie being set in rural Australia.  But is still has the feel of a good old western.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Iron Man 3 Review

I don't read a lot of comic books.  When I do, I tend to lean more towards the heroes of the DC universe.  So my understanding of the entire Avengers franchise is really limited to the movies and what I read on Cracked.com.  I can't compare this to the comics and have no idea if Iron Man 3 is staying true to any canon regarding villains, heroes or other such things.  I can only review it as an action movie and judge it against the numerous other films about the Avengers characters.

Looking at it in that light, I would have to say that this one lies in the middle of the road.  The main problem with it is that it takes forever to get moving into any kind of real plot.  The introduction and exposition into the actual crisis is really quite long and boring.  The best action movies are able to build these elements while throwing the action at us throughout the whole movie.  This one spends a little too much time brooding on Tony Stark's mental issues in dealing with the events of the Avengers.  While it does humanize a superhero character somewhat, it causes the movie to wait a little too long to give us what we paid our money to see.  But when it does start to deliver that, it does it very well.

Like the other two in this Avengers vein, it delivers on a strong mix of action and comedy.  We've come to expect a certain level of wit from Tony Stark and Iron Man 3 is able to bring that.  I found myself laughing out loud at a lot of his witticisms just like in the other two movies.  Another performance that I thought was done very well was that of Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian.  I would never say that Pearce is the cream of the crop in Hollywood but he has the look and attitude to play this character quite well: the guy who was ignored and bullied but has done good with a chip on his shoulder.  Him and his band of Extremis powered villains provide a very chilling evil that is played perfectly.

The rest of the performances are decent but nothing to write home about.  I've come to make peace with Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodes and with the amount that the character is actually in this movie, they're pretty much interchangeable.  I normally find Gwyneth Paltrow to be rather annoying but she was tolerable here.  Ben Kingsley is quite entertaining as the Mandarin and I would have liked to have seen more of him on screen because he is such a great performer.

Ultimately, these movies are about watching Robert Downey Jr be Robert Downey Jr while a lot of stuff blows up in your face.  It takes a little long to get there but it does.  See it.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Contagion Review

This is what happens when you merge Love, Actually with Outbreak.  You get an ensemble movie where all of the performances are very good, the premise is one that has the potential to be very tense, and all of the characters are interesting with compelling stories and motivation.  For some reason, that worked in Love, Actually.  The sometimes loose, sometimes not connections between characters kept us interested in what they were up to and we wanted to know what would happen next.  Contagion took the same type of formula and applied it to a new virus that has started killing people.  We see how it affects different people and their methods for dealing with it.  While it is written, filmed, and acted very well, something about it made it fall a little flat.

As I said, it is made very well.  Having it set mostly in the time between American Thanksgiving and Christmas gives it a bleak, wintry feel.  This sets the mood for the whole movie which is good because there is nothing "bright and sunny" about dealing with a killer virus.  They cast strong actors across the board and each one is placed into a role that suits them perfectly.  Jude Law plays a jackass conspiracy theorist perfectly.  Kate Winslet makes a great middle management scientist that is in a bit over her head with containment.  And Matt Damon did very well as the father dealing with the loss of people to the virus when he, himself, can't be affected by it.

I think the problem with the movie is that they may have made it too realistic.  This is exactly how I think an outbreak like this would occur in the real world.  There would be quarantines, deserted streets, etc.  But the efforts to find a vaccine and eradicate the disease would march on with very little fanfare and other pageantry that Hollywood would like us to believe would be present.  The press conferences, lab work, etc. in Contagion happen quite quietly with people who are remaining calm.  They never underestimate the importance of what they are doing but they also go about it like normal people.  There is some of the panic from the masses that we would expect in some looting and supply lineup violence.  But this film focuses less on that and more on managing the fallout and eradication of the threat.  Because of this realism, a lot of the tension that a film like this needs is lost and it makes it move quite slowly.

If you want a drama that has some good performances, see it.  If you're looking for more of a thriller, don't.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

42 Review

It's no secret that I don't like Harrison Ford.  He's one of the most over rated actors in Hollywood.  Going into this one, you got the feeling that his portrayal of Branch Rickey as a crusader for human rights was supposed to be an Oscar bid.  If it was, he failed miserably.  Everything about the character is overplayed.  The gravelly voice and forced delivery comes off so cheesy as to be completely unbelievable.

And that's a shame because, almost everything else about this movie is actually very good.  The rest of the acting performances are quite strong (with the exception of the kids but they're too young to be great actors).  I was especially impressed with Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson.  Everything about his performance was convincing.  it would have been easy to try and make the character bigger than the movie given the subject matter. but it was restrained just enough to be able to tell the story well.  I also like John C McGinley as the radio announcer.  His old-timey sayings and voice gave the right feel to baseball scenes that were well shot and thought out.  it really felt like I was watching a game from 70 years ago.

Finally, I liked that the movie didn't think it was bigger than it actually was.  In an era of ultra political correctness, it is easy to try and make a story like this bigger than it really is.  Don't get me wrong.  What Jackie Robinson did was groundbreaking and unbelievably important for human rights and the game of baseball.  I don't want to take away from that.  But in movies like this, they often put the characters on these soap boxes and have them make these grand speeches about how what they are doing is so important.  In 42. they addressed the overall good of what they were doing without being overly preachy.  It stayed grounded in a baseball movie and balanced it very well.

See it.  Ford is difficult to watch but the rest is done just fine.

Top Gun Review

It's been about 18 years since I've seen this movie and there are a few things I didn't realize back then.  First, Tom Cruise is Dorian Grey.  Take a look at all of the actors' current headshots on IMDB and you'll see that the guy is not aging at all.  Second, the guy in the back of an F-14 exists solely to jerk his head around and panick while looking for "bogeys."  Third, I think the beach volleyball scene was there only to reward girlfriends for allowing their boyfriends to drag them to a movie about fighter pilots.  Finally, the best part of this movie is Anthony Edwards.  The Goose character is a fantastic Millhouse to Tom Cruise's Bart.  He steals every scene he's in and when he dies, it's still heartbreaking.

But that's not to say that the rest of the movie suffers.  It's still quite good.  Many action movies don't age well but this one does extremely well.  The aerial scenes are still able to put the viewer on the edge of the seat.  Danger Zone is still awesome to sing along to while planes are taking off.

There's not a whole lot to say about the rest of the cast's acting.  Michael Ironside and Tom Skerritt are solid in their supporting roles.  Val Kilmer is as good as he can be (which isn't much) and Tom Cruise is pretty solid even if there is more brooding than is necessary.  I think they tried to make the character too complicated with his sense of loyalty to Goose, angst over his father, and reckless attitude.  So there's a lot of confusion there.  The fact that Cruise could work as well as he did within those parameters is a testament to his abilities.

The one thing I don't like about this film is that the romantic interactions between Cruise and Kelly McGillis bring an otherwise fast paced action movie to a halt.  The pace is quite inconsistent.  It isn't enough to ruin the movie but it does make an above average movie out of something that could have been near perfect.

See it. It's always good for a nostalgic trip.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

48 Hours Review

The original buddy action comedy movie.  This is the one that inspired things like Lethal Weapon, the Last Boy Scout, Tango and Cash and even Turner and Hooch with its odd couple pairing and fast paced dialogue.  If those were the only requirements, this would be a great movie.  However, in order to make a great cop action comedy, you need more than just a run down dirt bag and a motor mouth colleague.  You also need to have decently written dialogue that not only moves the story along but also makes the viewer laugh.  You need memorable one liners.  48 Hours does not have that.  It's basically an hour and a half of Nick Nolte spouting racial slurs at Eddie Murphy.  There are a few instances where Murphy's reactions are well written and acted but these are too few and far between to save the movie.  I will concede that the delivery is done fairly well by both actors.  But the writing is so ham and cheesy that even the best actors wouldn't be able to save it.

Another thing a movie like this needs is great action.  While it may have been good for 1982, the action does not age well into today.  The shootouts are over acted and chases are nothing special.  I did enjoy the fist fight between Nolte and Murphy because it was reminiscent of Hugh Grant vs Colin Firth in Bridget Jones' Diary in the fact that it was two guys who can't fight but attempting it anyway.  Whether this was by design for the characters or just bad choreography is irrelevant.  It did entertain.

To wrap up those shortcomings, the movie is just out and out boring.  The story has no real intrigue or twists.  Without that, one would have to rely on entertaining dialogue or great action.  And as I mentioned, this movie has neither.  Instead, they use a lot of filler like a useless montage of Nolte driving towards the club that Murphy is in while an entire song is played.

I'm glad it was made because it paved the way for one of my favourite subgenres.  But what it spawned is so much better than what it is.  Don't see it.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Inbetweeners Movie Review

An acquaintance told me that the TV show was really funny.  So I gave it a shot and he was right.  The TV show is absolutely hilarious.  It's very raunchy and almost like a British version of American Pie.  So I figured the movie would be great as well.  I must say I was a bit disappointed.  The American Pie movies were able to take the same subject matter and make it funny in a feature length film.  The Inbetweeners should have been able to do the same thing.  But in taking their half hour format and stretching it over an hour and a half, they didn't add enough to fill the gaps.

They do push the envelope a bit with the blue humour but it isn't enough to really shock the viewer that is familiar with the TV show.  After all, in England, they can show some nudity and swear a lot more on their TV shows than they can in North America.  So it really had to just be a capstone finale to the series.

It does achieve that end.  The show was about four average high school kids and the movie ends that era of their lives.  However, in the show, the funny insults and crazy situations come fast and furious.  In the movie, they really don't.  The pace and content lends itself well to a 30 minute show where, when it's done, it's done.  But in a movie it was almost as if they said, "OK, we've used a funny slang term for female genitalia.  What do we do now?"  Rather than find some other jokes, they just have the kids walk around and argue for a bit longer.

If you are a fan of the TV show, see it just to wrap it all up.  There are enough laughs that you will get because of your familiarity with the characters.  But if you are just looking for a funny coming of age story with a bit of a raunchy edge, this one isn't really for you.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Rounders Review

I find it odd that I had never seen this movie.  I've always been an Edward Norton fan and I do like Matt Damon.  And it was released in an era where I was going to see just about anything that was released.  But, thank goodness for Netflix because it allows me to dig up films like this on those evenings when Steph is out and there's nothing but reality TV on the networks.

Rounders starts off entertaining enough.  Once you get past the crash poker lesson so you can follow the story, the character development and interaction is witty and quick.  It was almost as if they were trying to capitalize on the success of Swingers with their fast talking, hip "lingo."  It does slightly cross the "reality vs ability for everyone else to understand" line with the terminology used.  I do play poker on occasion so I did understand most of the language used.  For the other, more confusing terms, I was able to get the meaning just from the context.  But if you aren't a poker fan, you may find yourself in need of some sort of poker to English dictionary and quick access to the "pause" button.

The acting performances are very strong all the way through with one exception (which I will get to).  Matt Damon and Norton have a solid chemistry and their timing is impeccable.  They make a very good team that I would like to see more of.  John Turturro also impressed as the "angel on Damon's shoulder" and voice of reason.  Turturro can often come off as a bit simple in his roles but he really stepped up his game as a wizened veteran of the poker scene.  The exception to the acting was John Malkovich.  If movie makers just let Malkovich be himself, he can be a very intense and scary individual.  But as soon as you give him a fake accent, he always comes off as phony and comical (just as he did in Johnny English).  The KGB character did not have to be Russian.  He could have just been a very, very bad American like Con Air's Cyrus the Virus.

I said it starts out entertaining enough.  But when Marvin Hamlisch has his advisory scene with Damon in the bar, the movie comes to a grinding halt that it never really recovers from.  By then, you have enough invested emotionally to care about the outcome.  But you do want it to wrap up quicker than it does.

Because it's likely available for free somewhere for you, I say see it.  But I don't know if it's worth a second viewing unless you really loved it 15 years ago.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Wizard of Oz Review

I have been known on these reviews to be critical of movies that don't age well with their effects, stories, acting, etc.  So how do you review a movie that is widely considered one of the greatest ever made and has entertained generations since 1939?  Part of me is a bit critical because the sets are shallow with hand painted backdrops.  The acting is that over the top melodramatic style that was all Hollywood used back in the day.  The effects, while the best they had at the time, really are nothing spectacular.  But this is all looking through the eyes of someone watching the film about 75 years after it was made.  For its time, this was a very elaborate production and, to an extent, it still is.

While the sets are obviously in a sound stage, what they do use is very elaborate and very well done.  The costumes, with the exception of the lion, are spot on.  And the only reason the lion is a little too human is because they just couldn't do song and dance numbers if they tried to be more realistic.  But I think the aspect of this movie that has aged the best is the makeup.  The Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Wicked Witch all still look fairly lifelike even if it is basically just paint.

If you made this movie today, it would be done a lot differently.  Just compare it with Oz, the Great and Powerful and you'll see what I mean.  Both go into the same magical land with a lot of the same aspects.  The new one relies a lot on the visuals to bring its story to life.  The original relies on light-hearted songs and a strong moral to basically reach the same end.  And I think that's the best part of the whole thing.  The songs keep this movie timeless.  We're Off to See the Wizard and Ding Dong the Witch is Dead are ingrained into our culture.  And it doesn't stop with the production songs.  The score for this movie is perfect as well.  It sets the mood brilliantly in every scene.  Even now, I get chills when the witch sends her army of flying monkeys to capture Dorothy.

Even though it is 75 years old, this movie still entertains.  The songs are catchy and it has an upbeat pace throughout.  It is an absolute classic that every one should see.  See it.

Friday, 12 April 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Review (Spoiler Alert)

Nobody has been in the gym for years yet the power works.  That pretty much sums up the inconsistencies and nagging little questions that this movie has.  If you can get past those, you may enjoy it.

Many people (especially purists) did not like the first G.I. Joe movie.  And I'm guessing that many will not like this one for the same reasons.  It strays a bit from the canon of the franchise.  But, look at it this way.  If you made a G.I. Joe movie that was true to the campy 80s toy/comic book/cartoon franchise, it would flop completely.  G.I. Joe always had technology and weapons that were just out of reach of the time it was made.  They've actually done a very good job of doing the same thing and bringing it into the 21st century.  They have updated the uniforms, technology, and weapons to fit with the not-too-distant future feel that the original franchise had.  Anyone who says they need to stick to the character-specific uniforms and physically impossible vehicles needs to accept that these are movies, not comic books, toys, or cartoons.  As kids, we were able to accept and even embrace every outrageous aspect of the fantasy military world Hasbro thrust upon us.  But now, we are grown up and part of the disposable income masses.  As grown ups, most of us have left our puritanism behind and demand some sense of believe-ability and realism while still being to accept that it is an unlikely fiction.  When you look at it in that light, the G.I. Joe movies are actually quality updates to the franchise.  They upgraded the technology but kept the over the top cheesiness and camp that made G.I. Joe so enthralling for us as kids.  They've also kept the Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow story which was a very compelling aspect of the comics.

This is first, and foremost, an action movie.  Writing, acting, continuity, and story is secondary.  In the action elements of effects, makeup, etc., Retaliation gets an A+.  All of the action sequences are top notch and edited perfectly.  It also turned out to be a good thing to delay it so they could add the 3D.  Not only does a lot of stuff fly around and make you move, it really gave the rest of the movie a depth that was well done.  Sadly, as for the rest of the technical aspects, this movie is actually quite poor.  The film is mainly buildup to the plot and very little actual plot happens.  With the exception of Dwayne Johnson, the acting is quite poor.  Johnson was a great choice for Roadblock.  But the rest of the cast goes from phoning it in to downright hard to watch (RZA - who should never be on screen again).  The overall story seems pretty weak but it is actually something Cobra would have tried so I could actually embrace it.

But, the action outweighs the crappy acting so I give it a see recommendation.  If you don't want spoilers, stop reading.  But now I will address their use of characters.

G.I. Joe is very character driven.  It's a unit made up of very specific and unique soldiers.  I was and am a huge fan of the franchise and, as a result, have my own favourites.  I am disappointed in how the movies have used them.  They have killed off some of the most important characters in the franchise.  Duke, Hawk, and Zartan (especially Zartan) are some vital characters and they have all been killed.  Duke and Hawk are the leaders.  Roadblock, while important, is not a Joe leader.  (But Johnson makes a better leading man than Channing Tatum so I see what they were doing.)  (I also lament that Firefly is gone but that's just because I liked him.  He's not overly important.)  But what is worse is that they declined to use the Baroness and Destro for Cobra and Scarlet for the Joes.  In the overall story of G.I. Joe, these are vital characters that need to be included.  Scarlet has a calming effect on Snake Eyes that Jinx just cannot fulfill.  Destro is Cobra Commander's Starscream in the fact that they have the same goals yet hate each other.  The Baroness is a fantastic right hand for Cobra and they killed off the Commander's other two (Firefly and Zartan) in this one.  If they go with the idiotic Mindbender in the next one I may write a nasty letter (an probably not send it).

So I had to take a step back and realize that this is a film franchise and not a comic book that can go on indefinitely.  As a film franchise, it has a life of one (maybe two) more installments.  Then it may get a reboot a la Spiderman where they can go in a different direction and resurrect all of these characters.  If they keep this franchise as a contained story like that, they have to do something with these characters like kill them off or write them out.  There's only so much screen time to go around and in a franchise where everyone is a compelling star character in his or her own right, some difficult choices have to be made.  It's not like we have one hero with multiple villains.  We have a group of heroes fighting one group of villains and an insatiable demand from the audience to see all of their favourite characters.  The biggest problem is that same audience will also demand some sort of resolution in the story and we can't just leave a character in the background and bring him back 10 issues later when the comic book story allows for it.  So, the characters' shelf life falls dramatically.  Once I saw it as a smaller, finite story and not a video version of the action figures that I could play with over and over with new plots, I was able to accept the death of Zartan (and Firefly).

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

I've often said that I want my nine hours of Lord of the Rings back.  So why would I watch a prequel to the franchise?  Especially when it is based on a book that I still lament being forced to read in high school?  Well, 9 hours on a plane from London to Calgary makes you do odd things.

One thing I do have to give Peter Jackson credit for is that he knows how to use landscapes to his advantage in a fantasy movie.  That is one of the things that the Hobbit excels in.  The sweeping visuals on the screen and settings are quite well done.  I did notice, however, that the effects tended to be inconsistent.  There were times when it all looked so real but then there were other times when the green screen effects were fairly obvious.  I also thought that the animatronics were also substandard for such a big budget epic fantasy (especially among the Orcs and their dogs).  None of the animals seemed lifelike at all.

That aside, I do have to admit that the story is actually quite entertaining.  I guess it's something I didn't appreciate in high school.  It moves quickly (except for the scene with Gollum) and that could be because it's a set up for another trilogy.  So this one is all build up and doesn't have that mid-movie lull that most stories have.  So I imagine the second one will be fairly boring much like The Two Towers was.  The acting was also very good but I would expect nothing less from Martin Freeman and Ian McKellan.

I'm a bit torn.  Some of the technical aspects were a let down.  But, coming out of it, I did feel that I had been entertained.  So I would say you should see it.