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.