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Kung Fu Panda (2008)
I am not a big fan of Dreamworks' non-Aardman movies after Shrek. They used too many jokes, pop-culture references etc. instead of serving real story with real characters. The only exception is, I think, Over the Hedge, which, while not really Pixar-standard, is one where they didn't overuse pop-culture references but gave us lovable characters and a good story. I think Kung Fu Panda is closer to Over the Hedge than other Dreamworks-movies. Actually I didn't find real pop-culture references (while there may be a lot of references to martial arts movies - I lack knowledge of them - there is nothing that does not fit to the story and the characters) at all. Slapstick is very childish in the movie; I can understand that, they wanted to sell it to the little ones too. But other than that, and most of the time, it is a beautifully-animated kung-fu movie with great scenery that is more for adults and kung-fu movie lovers than for children. They even give time for character building, although it is only for the Panda and the two masters; others are really one-dimensional (they even don't really have too much screen time for more). The story is nothing new, but maybe that's not something you would expect from a Kung-fu movie. All in all, the movie is much more fun and sensitive but with less jokes than its ads suggest. i did like it even if I didn't love it - maybe you should be a kung-fu fan for the latter.
10 scenes, each of them with static camera. In all these scenes something happens (usually quite far from the camera). But not really much. They all seem to have some point but usually they are not interesting enough for the uncut 8 minutes (per scene). Just an example: in one scene a very old lady walks to a bench. She sits there for a while, then starts to walk back but then she collapses. A guy comes out from a building and takes her inside. Or another scene: two boys are jumping on a stone pile with their bicycles and then the tree that can be seen in the middle on the picture catches fire. Nothing else, no words etc. I like slow movies but only if they are worth it. It is called an "ambient film" by the creators but I did not feel too much of the ambient, the mood either (e.g. check Kornél Mundruczó's Delta made at the same time: that one has really strong atmosphere). So it would be the little stories that make it worth anything. But these stories are mostly also not worth it. These uninteresting stories which are not even connecting should have had a 1,5-2 minutes length and then all the movie would have been 20 minutes. Maybe I still would not have understood a word from this movie but would find it okay. This 85-minute way it is only a waste of time.
We are not children any more
Did you see Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace? Did you like it? No? Then you were probably not a kid in 1999. Kids loved it very much. Actually they loved the new trilogy more than the old one (22 years difference). Fans of the old trilogy loved the old one more than the new one. It is not too surprising as all these movies were made for 12-year-olds of the time. And it is the same with Macskafogo 1-2, with almost the same time span between the original and the sequel (21 years). Is it weaker than the original? Yes, but just a bit. The story is a bit less and it is less creative (and yes, the middle part drags a bit). Otherwise it's fine, maybe not on the level of Macskafogó but on the same level as e.g. Az Erdö kapitánya or Sárkány és Papucs from the same time. Nice new addition to Hungarian animation. I watched it with children in the cinema. And yes, they loved it.
Astérix aux jeux olympiques (2008)
Worst of the three
The first one looked good but just could not get the humor right. The second one was quite good; close to the sense of humor of Gosciny (and Uderzo as well). So I was hoping for something good. Now the third one is kind of terrible. The visuals are okay (yes you see the CGI but it's not a problem in a funny movie based on comics) but almost everything else... The humor is worse than in the first one, the movie is just too long, the cameo-filled last ten minutes seem to be shot only for the end credits (they just don't make sense in the movie) but somebody must have thought they are funny enough for the movie - they are not. There are strange parts meant to be funny (e.g. the laser sword you could see in the advertisements - if they had to include a star wars joke again then why not make it at least a bit funny?), even the time between intended (forced and overplayed) gags is too long. Alain Delon is moderately funny as Caesar but his part is also overplayed, overly long. The new actor playing Asterix is a, as high as Obelix... b, never as funny/witty-looking as Christian Clavier. So what could go wrong did go wrong with this movie; maybe children will enjoy it but probably it will be too long for them as well.
Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)
I was expecting much worse
A CGI+ live action movie from the director of Garfield 2.? Also, once again a movie with a loser "dad" character and some very bad children (okay, they are chipmunks but behave just as children as they are kids) like Daddy Day Camp and others? Actually, the chipmunks make all the difference and save the movie. What does not work with Garfield (warm Hollywood-emotions and the animal as a fast rock star-type) works perfectly with the chipmunks. Also their animation is never off-setting as it quite often was with Garfield. And even after almost 50 years, it still makes you smile to hear them singing. When you watch the trailer you can see that poo-eating part which I see is in the movie just to bring in that type of audience - I think it is a bad idea as it makes others think twice before buying ticket for this movie which has only one fart joke and this poo joke of this type of "humour". Otherwise it is watchable and the animated characters are even lovable (Jason Lee is not so great in this). It was a fun travel back in the time when I watched them as a child. Not a big movie, also there are problems with the pacing but it's much better than expected.
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
McClane is, surprisingly, really back!
Welcome, John! Before this project came out I had no high hopes. McClane is an old guy, the movies were great back then but time is changing; people want to see something different than old-fashioned action scenes. Luckily, I was wrong. What's more, I was also wrong when I thought 12 years means this movie will have only the name of John McClane as the filmmakers will not be able to make it worthy of the Die Hard title. This is really a Die Hard movie, at least in the most important aspects: action scenes, humor and characters. I don't care if the action scenes are improbable (it's not the reality what we want to see in a summer action popcorn); they are spectacular and also full of ideas (unlike the spectacular-but-boring action sequences in Transformers). The new characters are all right (even if I did not find the baddie that interesting) while the old one really behaves and reacts just like in those old times. This movie is close to being an action comedy as between (and sometimes, even during) the action sequences the audience was laughing a lot; this shift of tone is only a continuation of what could be felt in the previous sequels. Also, nice continuation in opening the space: first a building, the second time an airport, then a city and now the States are the target of the terrorists. But they have to face John McClane...so they don't have a ghost of chance. One of the best movies this summer has to offer.
Plants or fans or both?
I just can't understand how this movie can get 8,4 (this is the score it has after more than 10,000 votes; I guess it will get lower later). Of course the movie has been released only some days ago; there must be studio guys who want to sell their product. But I guess there are also fans who enjoyed this movie very much. Good for them. I don't say I hated it but I really can't understand the hype.
This movie consists of three types of scenes:
- Teen movie - these parts do work (even if the girl is too hot for being believable); nothing special but okay (while the humor is really not that great). 6/10
- spectacular non-action sequences - they are the best part, maybe 10/10. The robots look really great, the effects are superb, the story is alright (yes you have to suspend belief to enjoy seeing the size differences when transforming - not only the transformers but the cube as well - but if you can't suspend your belief when watching a movie about giant robots you are helpless). These scenes really show Spielberg is the producer.
- action sequences - they are totally Michael Bay. But not his finest (like The Rock) but his most maniac. Yes, the movie is fast, spectacular and loud, but these scenes are simply too much; in the end these even started to bore me as hell. If Bay was able limit himself and not include endless boring sequences of loud, mindless and superfluous destruction, that would have helped the movie very much; these sequences are 4/10 for me.
(sorry; I am not a Bay-hater - even if Pearl Harbor was terrible - but it is strange to find the action scenes to be the weakest part of a Bay action movie.)
I was expecting better
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not a bad movie. It's just... I think this was the first case when a HP movie could have been better than the book, as the book is simply too long; it has too many plot points that it has to tell as an exposition for the last two chapters; too many new characters etc. (don't get me wrong, I love all the HP books but I find OotP the weakest of them). This movie runs through the story which results in a very long hour of talking. After the unexpectedly dark, thrilling opening sequence it's all about talking maybe until 1:35 or something like that in the movie, which is actually necessary for the 7-book story but a bit...dare I say, boring. Yes, we can say it is more 'grown-up' but grown-up does not necessarily mean boring; even if politics take part in the conversation. As this is the shortest movie of the five, maybe this time they should have included some quidditch in ten minutes just for fun and excitement (the quidditch story line is, once again, totally missing); maybe there should have been a little more emphasis on the romantic part as well. We see all the necessary new characters like Tonks or Bellatrix but they get way too short time on-screen. During this talking part the director tries to add some momentum several times but usually fails; maybe it's all because of the mentioned 'too much plot, too many characters' problem. It should have become a kind of thriller but even the nightmare sequences can't help creating real tension. Then, in the last 30-40 minutes, action begins and while this action is not really awe-inspiring, it is on par with the spectacular action sequences of the previous movies. So... It's not a bad movie, it is functional and I am sure the next one will be better (partly because that has a much stronger story).
Nowadays I don't believe the first reviews that appear here on IMDb; most of the time they say the movie is excellent etc., yeah, as they are written by plants, studio people who want to generate excitement and make the movie successful. It was a relief to see Ratatouille is really, truly excellent. The reason I did not give it 10/10 is simple: maybe some of the dialogues should have been trimmed a bit; sometimes the talking parts seemed to be a bit slower and longer than they should have been. And that's all what I can say on the negative side. Ratatouille is great. It is heartfelt, it is moving, it has style, great French feeling, it has lovable characters (especially Remy, of course), great story and, again, except from some man-to-man dialogues, every second of the movie shows creativity, care and a really high skill that the team at Pixar has. I loved the talking scenes with Remy as his gestures are great, also seeing his little heart pumping all the time etc. makes him instantly lovable. And the non-talking scenes (call them 'action scenes', not as if it was an action movie) are always so skillfully directed and effective that I was totally amazed. I haven't enjoyed an animated movie like this for years; I think it is among the three best Pixar movies (the other two being Finding Nemo and The Incredibles). I just can't express how much I loved it. Pixar is really the heir to (Walt) Disney as Remy is for Gusto - as both really do know how to serve food that is perfect even for the most hateful critic...
Too much... once again
After Spider-man 3. (which could have worked very well if Sam Raimi was not pressed to include the character of Venom) and Shrek the Third (with about 10 new characters taking away time and plot from the heroes) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End suffers from the same fate: too many characters, too many story lines in one movie. It is not a problem for me that the series transformed from the pirates/horror/adventure genre to pure fantasy by its end; the problem is in this movie we have about ten characters who have their own storyline, their own aims and it's a, hard to follow and really care b, simply too much for a movie (or two movies cut in a half); this many characters should have a TV series not a movie. Of course this also means that the characters from the original have a bit less screen time than they should, while the new characters don't necessarily bring too much to the table. For example, Chow Yun-Fat's character is simply not too well developed and you can see even the writers could not really find out what to do with him. About the 'old' characters: Davy Jones is more interesting now than in the previous installment (and his f/x is even more credible); Will Turner is still not too entertaining (but at least he does not have too much screen time), Elisabeth is okay, Barbossa makes a really welcome return, and Jack Sparrow... Well he is Johnny Depp. I felt his role was overplayed (not by him; by the direction) in Dead Man's Chest; now this is not the case; now he is simply not as entertaining as before due some post-mortal craziness. Actually these 'crazy' scenes are a bit bizarre (but at least this is something really new, not only rehashing old jokes). Compared to Dead Man's Chest: 1. there are less jokes (and still there are some bad and badly played jokes just like in the first and second movies), the tone is more serious which is okay for me 2. no classic fun actions like the one with the wheel or the bone cages; instead of them the last one hour of the movie rocks; very spectacular. 3. between actions and Jack Sparrow scenes DMC had totally boring and senseless dialog's. This one still has lots of quite boring dialog's in its second third but they are acceptable (they could have been trimmed by deleting some less interesting story lines; as I have mentioned in the beginning, this is the biggest problem with the movie).
But unlike Spider-Man 3. or Shrek the Third, the movie is not lower in quality than the previous one; while in some aspects it is even slightly better, for the first two thirds it is a bit less entertaining. Still, quite a good ending for the series.
(By the way, if you are a Pirates fan, watch Sinbad - Legend of the Seven Seas. You will be surprised how many elements were 'stolen' from that movie alone.)