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I, Robot (2004)
I really wanted to hate this movie.
I've been a huge Asimov fan for many years, and I've thus far been very disappointed by all of the 'adaptations' of his stories for Hollywood. I expected even worse from this one. But the fact is, I couldn't help but enjoy it.
Obviously, Hollywood took great liberties with Dr. Asimov's style. They turned Susan Calvin into the eye candy of the film, and cast Will Smith as the hero. But the fact is, making this into an action movie and staying as true as they did was an impressive feat.
The screenwriters here were obviously well versed in the good doctor's works, with numerous references embedded throughout. The most important thing is, in the end, they did just what Asimov always did, tie everything together to show that what happened was not only allowable, but inevitable under the Three Laws.
Aside from all that... it was just really cool. The special effects were top-notch. The scenery, stylings, cinematography, all done very well. The action sequences were great. Sure, there were your dumb, action hero one-liners, and some fairly sappy attempts to be philosophical, but it wasn't nearly as puerile a movie as you might expect. At the end of the day, anyone who can make an Asimov story into a battle royale of killer robots and with any degree of success is a good writer in my book.
Man on Fire (2004)
Pretty standard, but surprisingly poignant, action fare
Ex-special forces bodyguard is hired to protect family, little girl gets kidnapped from under bodyguard's nose, bodyguard lays out some major firepower and goes after the bad guys. The setup is pretty predictable, and goes about according to formula, but somehow, the movie still moves me. The various twists and surprises along the way aren't what do it, instead, it's how much emotional depth the movie manages to achieve. Creasy (Denzel) is a veteran of some pretty shady operations in service of God and country. Like his old combat buddy (Walken) he's haunted by a past that he seems incapable of escaping. He's had his fill of death, but fighting is about the only thing he knows how to do. So he takes the jobs, and buries his pain in Jack Daniels. He winds up in Mexico, guarding a little girl who takes an instant liking to him. At first, it merely annoys him, but she slowly wins him over, and starts to bring him out of the black hole he's been trapped in for so long. He acts gruff and unapproachable, but he desperately needs someone to care about him. The love of a child gives him back some of the hope he'd lost. The development of the relationship between them is excellently done, much better than I'd expect from a shoot-em-up. Of course, everything goes horribly awry when the abductors show up. When they drag the girl away, screaming for Creasy, we're angry not just because we supposed to be, we want these guys dead just as much as Creasy does. When he first showed up, this was just a job. Now he's willing to put his life on the line for her, and we can't help but sympathize. The action is well-done and the cinematography powerful, but they bring it all together by actually getting us emotionally invested in the situation.
Red Dawn (1984)
When war leaves the classroom
The opening scene of this movie was killer. A bunch of high school students are bored out of their minds learning about historical battles, when suddenly paratroopers land on their football field and commence a takeover of their town. It's a poignant, moving, and pretty realistic look at what happens when America becomes a war zone. Like any resistance, this is just a group of kids who never planned to be soldiers. They were just going about their lives when everything they knew collapsed around them.
Whether this kind of invasion was ever plausible or not is debatable, and ultimately beside the point. The point is that it's not something we usually imagine happening here. What if it did?
"God help you if you use voice-overs in your work, my friends!"
"God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character. " -Robert McKee
I'm told that to really appreciate 'Dune', you have to have read to book first. I don't doubt it, because having seen the movie without reading the book, I came away utterly lost. The dialogue and action were stilted and confusing, perhaps because of an almost pathological need to follow the book precisely. And the constant use of voice-overs bordered on amateurish. Maybe it was impossible to portray everything they needed without them, but if that's the case, maybe the story wasn't movie material.
And even with the constant, blatant attempts to explain to the viewer what was happening, it's almost impossible to follow the story. I usually enjoy complex plotlines, but this came away feeling like they were trying to cram a six hour trilogy into a two hour movie. Most of the characters were briefly introduced, and then quickly died or whatever, and we're supposed to have any kind of emotional response? It's like sprinting through an art gallery and expecting to enjoy the paintings. As I said, I haven't read the book, and maybe the movie only works for those who are already fans, and just want images to go along with the story. For those of us who haven't read it, it definitely doesn't stand on it's own.
What was FOX thinking?!
FOX must have the greatest talent scouts in the world, but the worst executives. "Firefly" is the best example. It was simultaneously the best new show, the best western series in decades, and the best sci-fi show on TV (and coming from a die-hard Trekkie, placing them above "Enterprise" is saying something). They didn't have a single bad episode, and some were spectacular. The premise, the characters, the plots and the dialogue were all top-notch. And FOX cancelled it without even really giving it a chance.
Maybe the show couldn't stand in the end. Maybe I'm alone in this, and there aren't enough fans to justify what the show cost. But making that call after half a season, with half of the episodes pre-empted for baseball playoffs was a phenomenally stupid thing to do. That show should have been here to stay, and it got axed without a chance to prove itself. I only pray the movie works out. At least we'll have something.
Horrible dialogue, pathetic dubbing, nonexistant plot. I loved it!
If you're looking for a good example of cinematic technique, this is not for you. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a pure action/martial arts movie with some of the best fighting scenes in the history of the world, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better movie that this.
I've yet to see a Jackie Chan movie I don't like, but I have also never seen one I like more than this. He takes on groups of ten guys in hand to hand combat, and it actually looks real. That scene with the ladder is about the most incredible thing I've ever seen. If you have any appreciation at all for martial arts movies, this is something you have to see.
There's Something About Mary (1998)
Could not believe how good this was.
This is possibly the funniest movie I have ever seen. Several times during the movie I literally fell out of my seat laughing. I could barely breathe it was so hysterical. You might not want to take your grandmother to this movie, the zipper and hair gel scenes are particularly offensive, but the humor is well worth it. If you have any appreciation at all for humor you will want to see this movie.