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Rocky Balboa (2006)
An excellent and fitting finale to the series
"Rocky Balboa" is excellent and a very fitting finale to the series. Everything about it, including its poster, pays tribute to what's come before while at the same time carving out a piece for itself in the Rocky mythos.
I really can't recommend it enough and if you're even a casual fan of the series you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't check it out. Preferably while its still in theater. If for no other reason than to simply hear Bill Conti's bombastic score again the way it was meant to be heard. Although that's just one of many, many positive things about "Rocky Balboa."
Star Wars, eat your gorram heart out...
Okay, so besides being set in space, the Star Wars and Firefly universes do not have much in common, but in light of the ever increasing chorus of voices hailing Serenity as the new Star Wars, I thought it a fitting title for this entry.
If you haven't guessed it by now, Serenity kicks all kinds of ass. It has just the right blend of character development, secrets revealed and action sequences to satisfy. Although there are a couple of developments I could've done without, the movie is everything I hoped and an entirely worthy and appropriate follow-up (I won't call it a conclusion :P) to the TV series.
I won't go into it much more than that, but I'm confident that any fan of Firefly will love Serenity. I plan on seeing it in the theatres at least a couple more times.
As for the rest of you... I'm not entirely sure. I think it's a safe bet that you'll like it, love it even, but there may be a few things you don't immediately "get." Not so much "get" as in understand about the plot and characters, but "get" as in "feel the vibe of." If that makes any kind of sense...
Oh! I almost forgot, the only real complaint I have about the movie is due to something that was done entirely for the benefit of Firefly virgins. The first sequence following the credits is layed out real pretty like, with each character saying just the right words at just the right time to bring everyone up to speed with who people are and what they're doing. There's nothing really wrong with that, and I'm glad Whedon took the time to do it, but there's something about the wording and the delivery of that segment that simply seem stilted.
But, you know, since that's the best (worst?) complaint I can come up with, it's pretty obvious that I'm nitpicking.
See it sometime soon. You can thank me later.
Cinderella Man (2005)
An Excellent and Suspenseful Underdog Drama
"Cinderella Man" is easily the best movie I've seen so far this year. It's a very well crafted film that takes its time establishing characters and setting before it launches into one of the greatest underdog stories ever told. One advice to anyone who have not seen this movie: If you do not know the story of boxer Jim Braddock (as I didn't) then do not look it up. Maybe you shouldn't even read reviews, as some have a tendency to contain spoilers when they discuss stories that the reviewer considers common knowledge. The reason I encourage you limit your knowledge of this story, is because the final 20-30 minutes of "Cinderella Man" are some of the most suspenseful I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing in a movie theater.
As mentioned, the beginning of the film is spent establishing and developing the characters, showing what kind of man Jim Braddock is and where his values lie, and the hardship that is affecting him and many other people during the Great Depression. There are a few moments here which some may find overly cliché filled or sentimental, but they work really well within the framework and mood of the story. Some of of these moments also serve to set up events that take place later in the film. Events which actually occurred, as per Braddock's living relatives.
Once characters and setting have been sufficiently established, the film goes on to tackle the boxing underdog story that got this movie made in the first place. While this part is heavier on the boxing aspect of the story, it does not leave behind what it carefully spent the first part building up. Braddock's family and neighbourhood are still playing a central part of the story, and serves as the emotional core and anchor point for the main character. It's in large part due to this very careful setup that the audience comes to care for Braddock as much as they do, which in turn serves to deepen the suspense felt during the finale.
It's on purpose that I've avoided describing the plot in detail. I feel that this is one of those movies which benefit from its audience knowing as little as possible about it. Instead, it's easier to say that if you are the kind of person who loves a good underdog story and who do not mind a slowly building storyline that takes its time to do it right, and who are not so cynical as to not be able to deal with sentimental storytelling, then "Cinderella Man" is right up your alley.
The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)
Terrible, terrible, terrible. Stay away for your own sake.
I tend to be pretty forgiving when it comes to movies. I feel that worst-of-the-year lists and other such things are usually not reasonable. Quite often I find that movies which certainly are bad, but not direct-to-video bad or home-movie bad, end up on such lists unfairly. I find that anything with high production values usually have some saving graces, be it good acting, good directing, nice sets, or something else, that saves it from ending up on my "worst" list.
None of the above applies to "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" however. This movie is one of the most vapid pieces of trash I've ever had the misfortune of watching. I can accept a corny and implausable plot just fine if everything else gels together. Here it doesn't.
The movie is littered with montages of Lizzie being escorted around Rome with a huge goofy grin on her face, giggling every half-second. No human being would actually react like that. Not even a 14 year old girl on her first trip abroad. And add to that the fact that these montages did nothing to further the story. They were just mere fluff to lengthen the movie and therefore also lengthened my misery. For which I hate them even more.
Add to that one of the most predictable "plot twists" of recent memory, so the audience wasn't even permitted the slight thrill of being surprised at what was happening on screen.
And then there's obviously all the glaring plot holes, such as Lizzie's version of Isabella not knowing how to speak Italian and all other Italians accepting that at face value and responding in English. Or the completely un-rehearsed but obviously over coreographed dance number. As I said above, I could accept these things if the rest of the movie had some merit to it. Sadly, here it just adds to further dragging it down.
In conclusion I'd like to say that this was the first movie in a really long time were I was p***ed off at how bad it was and how much time I wasted. "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" is not worth seeing in the theatre, on video or TV. It's not worth seeing, period.
Terrible, terrible, terrible. Stay away for your own sake.
Red Dragon (2002)
An Excellent Follow-Up
After the trash that was "Hannibal" it was nice to see this much better film do the Lecter franchise justice. While many moviegoers, myself included, will list Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins) as one of their all-time favourite movie villains, "Hannibal" was simply too much of a good thing. In "Red Dragon" Lecter is once again in the supporting role where he belongs. The focus of the film is instead on Will Graham's (Norton) efforts at tracking down a serial killer specializing in families. The killer goes by the name Francis "The Toothfairy" Dollarhyde (Fiennes) and is just as creepy but more multi-dimensional than "Buffalo Bill" from "The Silence of the Lambs." The cast is of exceptional quality and are all turning in great performances. Some of them (Keitel) may have less to work with than others (Fiennes) but there are no rough spots to be found in the acting. The directing is spot-on too, even if it is a little bit of a homage/rip-off of "The Silence of the Lambs."
If there are any bad things to be said about "Red Dragon" it is that it perhaps is *too* similar to "The Silence of the Lambs," but I for one have no problems with that.
Oh, and finally I suppose I should also mention "Manhunter," the earlier film based on the same book ("Red Dragon"). I saw "Red Dragon" and "Manhunter" for the first time on the same day, within half-an-hour of each other, and I must say that I prefer "Red Dragon." This is partly because "Manhunter," a movie filmed in the eighties, has not aged very well at all. It is also because of the higher caliber actors involved in the "Red Dragon" project. That being said, I can certainly see why people love "Manhunter" and why someone might prefer that version of the story.
Overall I can heartily recommend "Red Dragon" to anyone, fan of the series or not.
Surprisingly good & surprisingly faithful
I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Having read the book(s) several times, I was expecting the worst in terms of the film being faithful to the book. I'm very happy to have been suspicious for naught, as Jackson and his team have adapted the book very well indeed. Not only have they managed to keep the story true to the original source, but they have also kept it true to its spirit and feel. Highly recommended!
3000 Miles to Graceland (2001)
I honestly don't see why this movie received such bad reviews and reception at the box office. While it may not be a cinematic masterpiece, it certainly delivers when it comes to style and gunplay. I'm not one to say that those elements alone make for a good movie, but in combination with a good script and cast it certainly makes for an enjoyable couple of hours - if this type of movie is your thing. For those that have a problem with stylish ultra-violence set to energetic, bass heavy music, this movie may prove to be a bad choice. For those of us who like that sort of thing from time to time, it's a must-see. If you're a Costner or Russel fan (which I am, especially the former) it's just icing on the cake. My only complaint about this movie is the character played Courtney Cox-Arquette. She plays a very unsympathetic character, and got on my nerves a little too much - but ces't la vie I suppose. 7/10 (would've been 8/10 if not for Cox-Arquette's character)
Mission to Mars (2000)
I just saw "Mission to Mars" for the first time, and I can't say that I understand the POV that it was a horrible film at all. To me the movie was well-acted and directed, had an interesting concept and premise, and had an engrossing story line.
I didn't find the movie boring, as I don't mind slow-moving films, but I can certainly understand why someone might feel that way. What I don't understand is how someone can say that it's one of the worst movie they've seen. IMHO, comments like that should be reserved for really horrible direct-to-video films - I won't name any particular title, you all know of what type of movies I'm talking about.
I'm not trying to pick a fight here and I realize that we all have different tastes, I just wanted to say that maybe some people have judged the movie a little too harshly and that IMHO "Mission to Mars" deserves better treatment.
Mission: Impossible II (2000)
This is What Bond Films -Should- be Like
I'll keep this short and sweet.
The other day I wrote a review of the James Bond movie, 'The World is Not Enough', and said I didn't like it too much. After having seen "Mission Impossible 2" I feel that I should have criticized TWINE a lot more than I did. In my opinion, M:I2 is -exactly- what a modern Bond film should be like.
There will be plenty of lengthy reviews written by people more talented than me at dissecting this film, so I won't go into any details here. Watch M:I2 if you haven't already, and see if you don't agree with me.
Oh, one more thing, I truly hope that this marks the start of a Bond-like franchise...
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Otherwise good Bond movie ruined by bad one-liners and Denise Richard
I realize that part of what makes a Bond movie a Bond movie are the tongue-in-cheek one-liners, but in this particular outing the one-liners are too many and too corny. With one notable exception; (BEGIN SPOILER) When Bond cracks 'See you at the lodge' and then grins smugly after having tricked one of the snow-mobile type vehicles to drive right over a ledge. The one-liner in itself is pretty standard, what makes this my favourite part of the movie is Bond's 'what-the-f***' facial expression when the bad guy transforms his vehicle into a para-hawk and attacks Bond yet again. Priceless. (END SPOILER)
Now... what about Denise Richards? I don't know why, but when I saw 'Starship Troopers' and 'Wild Things,' both in which she starred, I didn't realize what bad an actress she is. Perhaps she just got lucky, perhaps in those films she had a part that was closer to her own personality... Whatever the reason, in 'The World is Not Enough' the poor girl couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. My main complaint with her is the way she says her lines. There's no gusto, there's not emotions. It's almost as if she didn't memorize them, but is only reading them off of a monitor hid out of the audience view.
The bottom line is: If you like Bond and can stand many, many corny one-liners and extremely bad acting from Ms. Richards (you can catch better performances in day-time soaps) you'll probably enjoy this movie. It certainly has a twisted villain and enough action, gadgets, pretty girls (while Denise Richards can't act, she's certainly easy on the eyes) and nice scenery to pass as a Bond flick.