Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Movie Review: Transformers 2

Main Players:
Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Megatron, et al.
Calling the shots: Michael Bay
What's it about? Decepticon forces return to Earth on a mission to take Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) prisoner, after the young hero learns the truth about the ancient origins of the Transformers. – from imdb.com

What did I think? ~Transformers, robots in disguise. Transformers, more than meets the eyes!~ C’mon, sing it with me. Who didn’t see the first one? And who wasn’t looking forward to this one?

This second installment is the first’s bigger, dumber and more expensive degenerate brother. It’ll entertain you through out the whole 2 hours and a half. It’s your quintessential Blockbuster movie. It’s everything you’d expect from a big, dumb, Hollywood action movie and it’s great!

It is however not the smartest movie you’ll ever see. I missed the first five or so minutes of, what I’ve later been informed as, jibber-jabber and it pretty much ends in the same manner. It’s almost like Michael Bay decided that scripts weren’t necessary and just used most of the budget on explosions and CG. The final face off between the über amped-up Optimus and The Fallen ends quicker than it took Optimus to amp-up. Though by that stage you’re so over all the explosions and robots fighting, you just want to get out and go to the bathroom.

There’s also the sappy factor that I’m not a big fan of. The whole “Don’t leave me, I need you” thing. As touching as that might have been under “real” circumstances, it feels sooooooo out of place in this movie. Not to mention that it’s not exactly carried out by the most talented actors. In fact, the humans in this film are almost irrelevant and play completely to stereotype. See Tyrese spurting out token black guy lines like “We’re about to get our asses KICKED!” and…“Damn!” (Okay the last one I just threw in, not sure if he actually said it but it wouldn’t surprise me).

Did anyone else think the sound was a little off? The explosions and action scenes should have literally “blown us away” but it didn’t have that “umph” that it should have. Also when that old ass robot started talking, I couldn’t understand half of what was being said (and why did he have an accent?) No? No body else felt that?

It also tried a little too hard to be funny. The robo-twins got annoying, the mum high on “special” brownies, the annoying roommate and the know-it-all from the first one (the one played by John Turturro). Or lines like, “do you need a tighter shirt?” “There isn’t a tighter one, we looked.” Now, some of it was genuinely funny but most got overused.

Other than that it is very entertaining and the seamless integration of humans and robots using CG is something to behold. It is actually quite amazing. It’s the type of movie that movies were invented for; A blockbuster that lets your imaginations appear on screen. Between the robots, explosions and Megan Fox (every girl paints bikes like that, right?): it’ll tickle the little boy in all of us. (That didn’t sound right, and no disrespect to the recently deceased MJ. Rest In Peace.)


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Movie Review: The Unborn

Main Players:
Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Meagan Good, et al.
Calling the shots: David S. Goyer
Running time: 87mins
What's it about? A young woman (Yustman) fights the spirit that is slowly taking possession of her. – from imdb.com

What did I think? Welcome to our generation; a generation where horror movies go for jump scares and creepy/gross images to scare rather than with a spine-tingling plotline or tense set pieces. This movie is another in a long line of horror movies that doesn’t quite get the job done…it probably even goes beyond that, because this, really is not even worth your time and more importantly money.

Horror fans might get a kick out of the latest from Platinum Dunes, company responsible for the recent spat of remakes (such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), with their first original effort. Apparently kids are still creep little bastards and it is more important to get you to keep jumping out of your seats with loud, sudden noises/music rather than create a story that has any kind of coherence to it.

It is particularly disappointing given that it’s coming from David S. Goyer, who did a so-so job with some of the Blade series and a excellent job in having a had in the new Batman movies. I guess one thing doesn’t relate to the other because this is complete and utter rubbish. Some of the things are quite laughable. Are we meant to be scared when we see a dog with a mask on? Or a glove on the street?

It’s probably a good thing the cast is mainly no-names and or up-and-comers. Odette Yustman (last seen in Cloverfield) is hot, but really doesn’t need to do much but put on contacts and act scared. You see a veteran like Gary Oldman in there and you can’t help but think that he was just bored and needed his quick buck because it’s not really something you want your name against.

This is a really dumb movie. You are constantly wondering “wtf” and most of the jump scares I mentioned early are so obvious you have to not be paying attention to actually jump. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. I don’t know what it is about horror movies, but I just like them. I know they are going to be bad, but I can never stay away. Then I wish I’d stayed away…


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Movie Review: W.

Main Players: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, et al.
Calling the shots: Oliver Stone
Running time: 129mins
What's it about? A chronicle on the life and presidency of George W. Bush. - from imdb.com

What did I think? What a shame. There are so many things going for this film, it is such a shame that it is what it is. It is the most boring-interesting movie I have seen in a long time. Some of the performances are mighty impressive and other not so. We are all interested in the presidency that was Dubya, but this movie doesn’t do anything to shed any light on it.

First the good parts I suppose. Josh Brolin (possibly one of my fave actors at the moment) is spot on as Dubya. His mannerisms and speech patterns are so perfect, you forget that he’s not really Bush. He essentially looks like him, without looking like him. He is ably supported by an impressive cast, some of whom do better (Cromwell, Burstyn, Glenn, Dreyfuss, Jones, Banks) than others (Newton, Wright, Gruffudd).

The problem lies in the structure and plot. Apparently this movie was churned out really quickly, in time for the US elections last year, and because of that it seems like it came out of the oven too early. Oliver Stone’s movies are often hit and miss, but when it is something about the US, he usually has a lot to say. Not so in this one, we leave the theatre wondering what the point was.

As if to emphasis that point, all of Bush’s Bushisms are in this movie but not at times when he actually said them. We hear the “misunderestimated me” line as well as the “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…we can’t get fooled again!” line. We also see his pretzel choking incident. But it’s almost like it’s in there for the sake of being in there. Not for the story.

That’s the other issue. We see flashbacks to his earlier days that doesn’t seem to make all that much sense in the scheme of things, except to show that he was essentially a drunken Texan. It would have been better had it come a little later, and if the movie had concentrated more on his presidency. As it is at the moment, it’s rather disappointing.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Movie Review: The Reader

Main Players:
Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Kate Winslet, et al.
Calling the shots: Stephen Daldry
Running time: 124mins
What's it about? Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg (Kross/Fiennes) re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial. - from imdb.com

What did I think? As with anything else that’s overhyped or talked about too much, this movie was a bit of disappointment. So much so that, I’m not even sure that it deserved its Oscar nomination as a Best Picture or Best Director movie. Kate Winslet’s break through win was well deserved but it can also be argued that her role was that of a Supporting Actress not a Leading one.

It’s not that it’s a terrible movie. It’s far from that actually. It’s well directed and the storytelling is done fairly well. The performances or rather “the” performance of Kate Winslet is what might elevate this movie to that higher echelon. The problem is it doesn’t grab your attention like it should. The story is compelling enough; it just takes a long time to get there.

The first half of the movie is extremely draggy. It’s essentially softcore porn and slight romance between the Hanna and Michael which is important in itself, but unnecessarily overly long. It is only when we begin the trial of the war-crimes that she is accused of that it even gets interesting. Even when that arrives though, you are not as emotionally connected to either character because of what’s happened before hand.

You’re more curious about whether she actually did it and whether she is in the wrong or not. Then the movie throws you a major revelation that proves to be the movies “wow” moment. And from there it suddenly picks up steam and becomes increasingly interesting and intriguing, but it all comes too late as before you know it, it’s over.

It’s an extremely interesting subject matter and important in terms of our history, but this movie is too laggy for it to be considered a great film. First half is too slow paced, though it may be important in the scope of things, and because of it, it doesn’t get interesting until well into the second and third act. By that time, you’re pretty much over it and are basically enjoying Kate’s handy work.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Movie Review: He's Just Not That Into You

Main Players: Ginnifer Goodwin, Justin Long, Jennifer Aniston, et al.
Calling the shots: Ken Kwapis
Running time: 129mins
What's it about? The Baltimore-set movie of interconnecting story arcs deals with the challenges of reading and misreading human behaviour. - from imdb.com

What did I think? Here’s your first contender for chick flick/romcom/date movie of the year and boy is it drawing the, mostly female, crowd. It’s not really hard to see why. It might not be the most original movie you’ll see, but it has enough moments in this film for you to enjoy; some funny, some cute and some emotional and touching.

Those that know me, know that I’m a bit girly at times and do love my chick flicks; so needless to say I did enjoy this one. The ensemble cast and interconnecting storylines work well for this movie and has a feel like Love Actually. The connections between characters are not all that surprising but the crowd seemed to think it was. They were gasping in unison and there were several “aww”s as well. There are a lot of characters and stories introduced, but it is delivered very well.

The cast is most definitely impressive. And because of the numbers involved, not all of them get their share of screen time. But each of them leave the required impression and you watch each story caring about what happens because of it. I’ve listed Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long first because they seemed to have the central story (and because they bothered to visit Australia) but you could argue otherwise.

The stories themselves, as mentioned, aren’t all that new. A naïve girl looking for her true love, married man tempted by a hot new encounter, a world-wise man getting his own, etc. etc. You’ll have your favourite stories and characters and that’s the beauty of this one. All of it is also very “true” apparently and makes it all the more relatable in some aspects.

In the end you might be dragged along by your significant other, or go with a group of friends, or see it because there’s nothing else, you’ll still enjoy it if you take it for what it is. As I said, it’s cute and touching at the end. If you want any more of reason to see it, it made Ben Affleck likeable. I usually hate him in movies but he’s so gosh darn hard to hate.


Movie Review: The International

Main Players: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, et al.
Calling the shots: Tom Tykwer
Running time: 118mins
What's it about? An Interpol agent (Owen) attempts to expose a high-profile financial institution’s role in an international arms dealing ring. - from imdb.com

What did I think? Sigh. This movie is like watching a family member perform in front of everyone and though they may think they are hot shit, they really aren’t. From the outset of this movie, it tries to be a Bond/Bourne type movie with international locations, a kinetic paced and intense music and some decent action but that’s all it does; tries.

The movie starts all of a sudden and at first it’s a little hard to keep track of what exactly is going on. And because it tries to be the said type of movie, it actually deters it from making any sense for a while. When it starts to flatten out become coherent enough, it begins to lag. You really do feel the full blunt of its running time and by the end if its uneventful climax, you are bored out of your mind.

As appealing as Clive Owen seems to be (he was set to be the next Bond at one stage, remember?) he is like you seem him in any other movie; nothing out of the ordinary for him here. And for those who are fans of Naomi Watts, you’ll be disappointed as you’ll have a hard time finding her on screen at all; the least work done by a leading lady and second headline name in a while I reckon.

The rest of the cast are solid without being spectacular. Most I imagine are European actors and I’ve never heard of them, so that helped a little with authenticity factor of the accents and characters.

Tom Tykwer is a very hit and miss director. When he stays within his limits or has decent material to work with (Run Lola Run and Perfume) he is great. This might be borderline; attempts to have the pace that Lola had but like I said it just deters it from the storytelling. It really is a wannabe movie. The music at certain points will remind you of a Bourne movie and they even use the same stretch of Road in Italy, as seen in the opening sequence of Quantum of Solace.

You might be inclined to see it if you are a Clive Owen fan but be warned. If you’ve seen the trailer, not only have you been deceived (because it did look good), you have also pretty much seen the entire movie.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie Review: Doubt

Main Players:
Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, et al.
Calling the shots: John Patrick Shanley
Running time: 104mins
What's it about? Set in 1964, Doubt centres on a nun who confronts a priest after suspecting him of abusing a black student. He denies the charges, and much of the play’s quick-fire dialogue tackles themes of religion, morality and authority. - from imdb.com

What did I think? I’m not sure I like this movie. And that could be because it felt more like a play than a movie. It’s definitely a picture that relies heavily on the performances of its cast, as the interaction between them is what drives this movie. And in that sense this movie has succeeded by casting some fantastic actors.

The movie was written for the screen and directed by the man who wrote the play itself (Shanley). You can’t help but feel that he needed to give the directing duties, at least, to an established director. As I mentioned, it feels very much like a play and it isn’t helped by the direction. Unlike Frost/Nixon which was also based on a play, there is too much emphasis on the dialogue between characters rather than each scene as a whole.

The performances are outstanding, if not all that spectacular, as each play characters that seem to come easy to them. They all definitely deserve their nominations for Oscars but I doubt any of them will win…no puns intended. Streep is in full flight bitch mode and only someone of Hoffman’s caliber can stand toe-to-toe, though at times he is outshone. Amy Adams plays the naïve young nun well and Viola Davis as the conflicted mother.

Without the performances though, the film doesn’t have much to stand on. Once the suspicion is raised, it becomes a battle between a head strong nun and a legitimately caring priest. We never truly find out if he did it or not, but that never is the issue here. The film tries to state the power of having “doubt” about anything you believe in, be that a person, religion, or otherwise.

It’s a message that gets through but you really don’t see the point of it. Appreciate this for what it is. A strong character driven play with some impressive performances and you might enjoy it. Otherwise, there’s not much to take note here. A good piece of work for all involved, but nothing they will be remembered for.


Movie Review: Changeling

Main Players: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Michael Kelly, et al.
Calling the shots: Clint Eastwood
Running time: 141mins
What's it about? A mother’s (Jolie) prayer for her kidnapped son to return home is answered, though it doesn’t take long for her to suspect the boy who came back is not hers. – from imdb.com

What did I think? It was very interesting to see two Clint Eastwood directed features so close to each other. They tell a very different tale, at a very different time, yet they both have the same unmistakable feel to them. The grainy, almost colour fade, blue wash screen that you see is almost his trademark as most of his films are about something tragic or emotional.

It is amazing how seamlessly Clint takes you back to the 20s. The decadence feel is definitely there and the backdrop, almost picture-like, is a fine touch to the unique, almost dream like setting we are brought back to.

Getting the best out of his actors is what Clint certainly does in a majority of his films. Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Sean Penn have all benefited from his direction. And in this case, Angelina Jolie is fantastic as the mother who never gives up finding her son, no matter what obstacles she comes across. You can argue that it is most definitely tailor-made for her to succeed. The role is so beefy and emotion charged, it’s what every actor should thrive on.

The other actors do a fine job as well, especially Jason Butler Harner (who plays Northcott) and Jeffrey Donovan (who plays Capt. JJ Jones). These two in particular perform in such a way that it draws out the right kind of emotion from us, the audience. Northcott turns out to be a frighteningly weird character and you literally just want to slap Jones in the face. In contrast, John Malkovich, though important in his role, was completely underutilized and looked like he always wanted more things to do.

As with Clint’s previous features, this leads you in one direction and completely throws you in another with a massive plot development. It is based on a true story, but how much of it really is factual is anyone’s guess.

Regardless, if catches the outrageous 20s well and leaves you with his trademark emotional ending which is neither happy nor sad but hopeful.


Movie Review: Gran Torino

Main Players: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang, et al.
Calling the shots: Clint Eastwood
Running time: 116mins
What's it about? Disgruntled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino. – from imdb.com

What did I think? Leave it to Clint to get the best out of himself. In years gone by most of his films successes have come because he does such a wonderful job in them himself. He is a fantastic director with a certain feel to his movies that is undeniable, but you often forget that he is also a screen veteran with such presence on screen; he is a joy to watch.

Although for most of the film, it seems like he is just angry and growling all the time, you can’t understate that performance. He has the right balance of showing disdain for the world, the world that’s changing all the time around him, and showing his softer side when he takes Thao under his wings. He still yells insults at him, but you know there’s nothing to it.

That’s where the surprising humour of the movie exists as well. Kowalski’s continuous racially charged insults becoming increasingly funny as we know he says them much like mates bad mouthing each other. And Clint does well to deliver these lines and he doesn’t discriminate, he hates everyone.

It’s a shame then that the films weaknesses are its most important parts. The gang in comparison seems very one note and stereotypical. They aren’t Hmong gangs as much as they are Asians-in-black-clothing gangs. The young actors that try to keep up with Clint on screen at times fall terribly with Bee Vang (who played Thao) particularly terrible in one scene.

Regardless, the film is touching and particularly relevant in the multicultural world that we live in, though it might be slightly dated. It would have felt more at home, had it come about ten years earlier.

It is surprising to see that it didn’t garner many, if any, nominations or awards. Clint surely deserved it for his understated direction. As I said he brings a certain feel to it; something almost foreboding. You can definitely feel the emotional end coming but in what way? …you’ll just have to see to find out.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Movie Review: Milk

Main Players: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, et al.
Calling the shots: Gus Van Sant
Running time: 128mins
What's it about? Based on the true story of openly gay politician Harvey Milk; his life, rise in the political world and his tragic end. It’s US in the 1970’s and the discriminations against them are obvious and wide spread. Yet he remains positive and strives to rises up against all odds to stand up for the rights of all.

What did I think? In the movie industry’s silly season, these gems start popping up every where. It’s a shame that the like of this and Frost/Nixon aren’t getting the wide spread releases that they deserve because unlike other these movies are worth your time.

Again it’s based on historical events so seeing it brought to life in such a magnificent fashion adds to the films achievements. The realness we feel due to the direction and performances delivered in this film are second to none and with such an engaging story, for all its money you’d expect to be depressing, is actually uplifting and very enjoyable.

Sean Penn, I must admit, I think often overacts. He is great but sometimes he will just do that little bit too much to draw attention. Not so in this one. The mannerisms and speech patterns are near on perfect and, though I doubt he’ll win an Oscar for it, deserve all the praise. As does the rest of the cast Hirsch, Franco, Brolin all do a fantastic job with only Diego Luna being the weak-link.

Their incredible performances as emphasized at the end of the film when we see snippets of the real people the cast members were portraying and how close they had come to bring them to life. Some of it is just simply uncanny.

It does have its flaws though. They could have explored more about Harvey Milk the person and not the later parts of his career. But that would be considered a minor detail given how well constructed the rest of the film is. It’s also quite funny in some parts showing that lighter side of an otherwise hard life he lived.

Milk is probably not going to win the Oscar this year; because of both its gay-overtones and the quality of the rest of the field. However it is a movie you should definitely see. If nothing else for Sean Penn and the rest of the casts performance but it truly is an enjoyable film. And let’s face it, that’s why we go to the movies right?