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.