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Fourth movie tight as a drum... a badly tuned drum
It's a very good thing that what most people remember about movies and the like is the first and last things they see, because "Goblet" is one of those movies that has a mostly forgettable middle. The action is tight and quick-moving, but only at the expense of character development. Brilliant moments featuring Matthew Lewis, the Phelps twins, and even a shining moment or two from Emma Watson are swallowed up in that great hulking plot mechanism known as the Triwizard Tournament.
All that said, the first and last ten minutes of the film are good enough for even the most disappointed viewer to rate the movie at least one star higher. With the fun of a Wizarding sporting event and the return of a major player in the series bookending the action, you can take a $10 nap through the middle and not miss much.
My recommendation: Read the book.
Halloweentown High (2004)
A third movie with the Halloweentown name does not a trilogy make (Spoilers included)
As both a fan of the first two Halloweentown movies and a student of Communication Arts, I was very much looking forward to the third movie in the Halloweentown series, especially since said series is supposed to end as a trilogy. However, the movie's narrative proved that this is not the case.
The first problem one encounters is that the flow of the story doesn't match up with that of the previous two movies. Sure, the flow of the trilogy goes from a childish good and evil narrative in the first move, through a revenge plot in the second movie that fits Marnie's status as teenager, into a reasonably adult diversification theme that metatexturally speaks of Marnie's selfishness. The problem, however, lies in the fact that our young protagonist goes about this in a way that is not structured in the exchange students' best interests.
Furthermore, Gwen, Marnie's mother, uses magic. This may not seem like a big thing to a first-time watcher, but throughout both earlier movies, it has been proven that Gwen actively *chooses* not to use her powers, especially while in the human world. The frivolous use of magic in a scene where Gwen and Marnie interact isn't only odd, it's actively confusing. The only times Gwen used spells in previous movies was as self-defense.
Also, certain characters who had a strong presence in the first two movies were noticeably absent. One can understand the under-use of Emily Roeske's Sophie, because the character is noticeably younger than her siblings and therefore probably still in middle school, but the absolute absence of Luke is inexcusable. This is a character that not only plays a major role in the first two films and is a fan favorite, but also the character who throughout the first two movies was positioned as having a crush on Marnie and, in the second movie, being her friend. While one can understand that contract negotiations and so on may have prevented Phillip Van Dyke from appearing in the movie, to completely forget the character's presence and importance is unforgivable. Even a single line explaining the character's absence would have been preferable. That would have explained why the parents and other more sophisticated viewers of DCOM didn't get any sort of triangle between Marnie, Luke, and Marnie's human boyfriend, which would have been infinitely preferable to the plot we were presented.
In conclusion, while the story is good enough on its own, and the costumes and special effects are magnificent, the movie's shortcomings handicap its impact. The movie is skewed, and appears to have nothing to do with Halloweentown so much as Marnie's selfishness in particular. This is, by far, the weakest of the three movies, while it had the potential to be the best. Disney undershot its goal this time, folks. 3/10 stars, for beautiful costumes and set design.
The Santa Clause 2 (2002)
Brand new bag, not same old story.
Saw the first one as a child, saw the second one as an adult. Just so I don't spoil the magic, I will say only the following: Tim Allen was excellent as Santa... he made me feel like I was ten again. The character Bernard was just as bossy as I remembered from the first film, but the quips he fires off were in shorter supply. I missed the sarcastic humor I associate with him. Charlie is growing up, but in the best way possible. He had some touching lines near the end to a new character-- I won't ruin the surprise of whom.
Yes, there was an inappropriate flatulence joke in the movie, but all in all that was the only concession to bathroom humor in an otherwise classy family comedy. Yes, there were plot holes, some of which were large enough to drive a sleigh through, but after eight years and five writers, the end product was satisfactory.
On its own: 10/10 for combined effort and execution. As a sequel: 8/10. Good character continuity, interesting new spin. I'm happy to say I didn't spot large amounts of rehash.
Recommended for: families with small children and college students old enough to remember the first "Clause" and just need to de-stress around midterms or finals.
Reign of Fire (2002)
Balanced but too brief
Action movies have been the bane of human existence for two decades. Dragon movies may well be the bane for the next two. As happens with all well-made movies of any genre, once a standard is set, it can only go downhill. Granted, "Reign of Fire" has elements of both action and horror movies, but from the second the crisis is introduced until the last line, there is so much more to the story than just the outmost conflict of man versus beast. Such addition lifts the story line above the standard usually found in action movies, at least for now.
Quinn Abercromby, the main character, is bogged down by guilt over events he couldn't control, and yet manages to govern a colony of survivors in the time of lawlessness. From the pathetic scene of `Star Wars' Quinn and his best friend reenacted for the children to his choked recitation of the commandments he drafted and drilled into the survivors through rote, Christian Bale shows that there is more to his character than just finding and killing `the beast'. From the beginning when we are introduced to the personal `issue' Quinn has with the bull dragon to the final scenes that involve his rapidly expounding faith in his ward, the audience sees that despite Quinn's tough, weathered face the word at the root of his heart is `family'. The combination of vulnerability and impassiveness makes Quinn a true hero. Van Zan is not afforded that luxury. From the second he breezes onto the screen to the instant he flies off it, Matthew McConaughay's character is nothing more than a cardboard catalyst. Your typical American, Van Zan comes in, shakes things up and, despite an almost tender moment the night after the Americans arrive, is about as emotional as the dragons he hunts. Necessary to do the job? Yes, but Van Zan is detached to the point of madness. After a very short while, his character becomes boring, yet his adrenaline-packed action sequences are enough to draw in the teenage boys and keep them watching. Finally, the real stars of the movie: the dragons. To put it simply, they were a perfect nightmare. From the coloring- thankfully black, showing the production crew did SOME research into the myths- to the malevolent gleam in the bull's eyes as he stalked his final prey, almost everything was `on'. Sure, there was the occasional physical impossibility (how does a creature with huge wings but no arms make its way up an elevator shaft?) but overall, the general effect of the dragons is startling, especially with the real fire.
In summary, the characters were unpredictable in their quality, the dragons were excellent most of the time, and the setting, not mentioned above, was perfect for the plot. The dialogue was real, but could've packed more meaning without being bogged down, and the end was pure poetic justice. The rough, apocalyptic hero of the movie is an excellent departure for Mr. Bale and it was refreshing, if a bit annoying, to see Matthew McConaughay in a role that would have been better serviced by Vin Diesel. My only complaint is the content: the writers could have done much more with the world they created, making the movie longer and showing specific events from Quinn's intermediate past to draw the viewer in. Action movies are no longer exclusively for boys, and it would have been nice to see more of the hero's past, creating a stronger bond between Quinn and the audience.
Tenth time around's better than first (aka, a Lit teacher's dream)
Hook is, overall, an engaging movie. I can attest to this, as I have seen it at least once a year for the past ten. Each time, I find something new to enjoy. And yet, this time is the first I have truly appreciated the movie it its entirety, as both a child and an adult. Perhaps I have been sitting in my Lit class for much too long, but I have found many symbols that can attest to a "deeper meaning" in the film.
(spoilers ahead, first-time viewers beware)
Wendy's being a (great-)grandmother, her line "Why Peter, you've become a pirate", and her quoting of the mother's line from Peter Pan about "watch my sheep" are all symbols that growing up is inevitable, even after Grandma Wendy said there would be no growing up in her house. Second is Captain Hook's snatching the children from their beds, as I believe Captain Hook to be "maturity", as he is the commander of the grownups in a land of children. Also, Hook's slaying of Rufio (there, I said it. Rufio!) was absolutely necessary from the symbolic POV, as Rufio was the oldest boy, and the commander, yet maturity and growing up must come to all children, even the Lost Boys, and steal their childhood away. And yet, time, in the form of the crocodile, swallowed up Hook in the end. Fitting irony in a land where time stands still.
In conclusion, Hook is a modern-day continuation of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, and all the other greats who recorded our favorite bedtime stories. An artful, child-friendly covering to a lesson we must all learn in our own time.
Drive Me Crazy (1999)
Movie Gives Birth to Disappointing Changes
WARNING: Semi-spoilers to follow.
First off, I would like to say something positive about the movie... if nothing else, at least Dulcie was portrayed properly. From that high note, I would also like to add that Mr. Strasser wrote a challenging novel to live up to.
On the other hand, there were loopholes and empty spaces big enough for me to stick my arm through. For goodness sake, they cut the pre-prom procession (one of my favorite parts of the book) and replaced it with a mediocre Senior class unveiling. Also, I believe Dee Vine, an important character in _How I Changed My Life_, a Strasser book, taking place in Timothy Zonin High School, that is almost a prequel to _Drive Me Crazy_, was unfairly cast. I'm all for good acting, but couldn't Dee have been more of a brunette?
In conclusion, the movie was high end mediocre when compared to the book, ranking about a 7.5 on my personal scale.
The ten-year-old is what?
Okay, I'd been wanting to see this movie for some time. I enjoyed the first three greatly, and although Hulk Hogan's in it, I consider it a good investment. Victor Wong III had a brilliant background part as Grandpa, and the toys were fun.(Alright, I'm a teenager. The fact that the two older guys are easy on the eyes doesn't hurt anything, either.)
What had originally enticed me, though, was the action part of the film. After all, the actors playing Rocky, Colt, and Tum-Tum (see the list) are all black belts. Yep, even the ten-year-old! So if you're looking for spills, not kills, and amusement park thrills, rent this today!