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Bad movie all around.
I've figured it out. The fans are so loyal to this franchise now that they can't bear to speak an ill word about it, even though we now have TWO sequels that absolutely suck. Most of the negative reviews have mentioned the serious problems in this one, and they are very obvious, but I will summarize:
*Way too many characters and different ship crews, all with different motives. Impossible to follow or keep track of. Who is with whom? And why?
*No character development. There isn't much dialogue, period, but no one really learns anything or does anything interesting. Elizabeth is the same brilliant swordsman and pirate that she was (inexplicably) in the second one, and Will is still hardly in the movie at all, and has no interesting scenes. Then there are all the new characters like the Singapore pirates and the new English officers, whom we never learn anything about. They have no character whatsoever and I didn't even know their names by the end of the movie.
*Calypso... What a retarded plot device. No one cares about this character or knows anything about her. Half the time you can't even understand what she's saying, because of the accent. Then she turns into crabs and disappears; the whole thing was built up to be important, but actually it does nothing and is pointless.
*Confusing elements. There is no explanation for how Barbossa came back to life. Like a lot of the bizarre stuff in this movie, it is just assumed to be the case, and it is not questioned by anyone or seen as unusual. The new British naval officers in particular, are totally emotionless and don't find it remarkable to be working with undead mutant pirates. It's just like any other day.
*Not fun. Even if it doesn't have distinct humor, a movie like this should have charm and flavor like the first one did. But this is just dark all over with almost no fun moments. Sparrow is the only character who has any real life in him, and they milk that at the expense of everyone else. Even the enjoyable culture clash between Elizabeth, Will, and the pirates is totally gone now, because they are all pirates and act like they always have been, so there is no variety in character types.
I didn't walk out, because I was expecting it to get better at any moment, but it never did. There were maybe 2-3 good scenes in the whole movie. The rest of it was just mindless and overblown, and often very long. I am also surprised that it squeaked by with a PG-13, as it is the most violent so far and has one particularly disgusting and graphic scene. It is so weird how this stuff is considered "ok" for little kids, when the same content in any other live action genre would be out of the question.
Even weirder... Can kids really sit through this?? At my showing, even the adults were restless and clearly not entertained by this long and confusing saga. I would think anyone under 10 would be crying or begging to leave, purely out of boredom.
At the end of it, there is a pretty distinct setup for another sequel. I will definitely be skipping any more to come.
Bambi II (2006)
WOW. Better than the original, I'd say.
NO Spoilers. Read on, all ye who dare !
I say Bambi 2 is better than the original Bambi. YES.
This is the best Disney sequel yet, even better than enjoyable efforts like the Lion King sequels. The animation is absolutely gorgeous, brilliant, and overall the best in 2D production you've seen in a good 10 years. The portrayal of Bambi's world is beautiful and moody, making the forest its own, living character. They use light and darkness and just solid artistry to give it even more depth and color than the original film had. I'm sure CGI was used in some scenes, but it is not obvious or even noticeable. They went for beauty and surrealism rather than photo-realism, and it's glorious. The drawing itself is superb, with Bambi looking as he did (actually a little better), and the Prince is just masculine splendor in every step.
The story is a lot like the original film's, but without the very slow pace. Bambi 2 moves nicely and doesn't plod around in overly-long forest pans or minutia (a million rain drops falling). Some might say this means its "magic" is gone, but I prefer the adult pacing that gives you something new and interesting happening every few minutes. At the same time, the film pauses where you want it to, gives you a silent moment to watch Bambi's ears fall slowly when he is disappointed, or freeze with him when he's terrified. Sometimes there is silence in the forest, and a character standing still while the light falls just so, to convey wonder or loneliness.
This is a kind of beauty in storytelling that we haven't seen in a long time.
Best of all, the characters don't sing, there are very few modern, trendy references to ruin the timelessness of it, and the whole feel is a good blend of natural, serious scenes and lighthearted innocence in Bambi and Thumper's more fun escapades. The methods here in conveying emotion are excellent; you really feel it when Bambi is sad or trying to earn his father's pride, and there are moments when you feel him growing up. And not just emotional growth, as modern animation is often so limited to, but also that he is maturing in a natural/physical way, so that you can really imagine him becoming a strong and brave prince.
Dad grows, too. Patrick Stewart is wonderful as we get to see the prince struggle with his role as a leader vs. being an affectionate parent. So the film has some modern influence in the way it addresses character development and everyone *sort of* learning a lesson, but it's not bashing you over the head with it the way Nemo and similar films do. This is a natural story that manages, just, to keep to deerhood and not lose us with too many humanlike gestures or colloquialisms.
One aspect about the technique that *is* more humanized is the exaggerated facial expressions, but I did not find this too distracting or overdone. There has thus far been some kind of rule in Disney sequels that characters constantly have to be rolling their eyes, lifting one eyebrow drastically, or saying "Eeeeyew !" with way too much lip action (this seems even more important than the other modern sequel clichés like characters' pants falling down to reveal red-heart boxer shorts), but Bambi 2 largely avoids such annoyances, and it's actually really interesting to see the deer (especially the stag) rendered with facial expression.
The voice acting is excellent all around, and the film resolves itself very well without intruding on or changing the original film in the least. It's simply a very good film that is definitely worth a buy. I suspect the people scoring it a "1" have done so out of spite without having seen it. This movie does its original justice, if not surpassing it in many regards.
Oh, and one more time.... Patrick Stewart !!
Grizzly Man (2005)
Well done, but a sad story.
This film proves what little we already know about wildlife: 99% of the time, it will leave you alone as long as you don't harass it, but the 1% is a differential that ends with you screaming and some guy finding your arm later.
It also proves that we know even less about human nature than we do about bears, as Tim Treadwell is a mystery even to his own species.
It's obvious that he has some kind of disorder or drug-related brain damage, what with his extreme lability of mood, delusions of identity, neurotic and repetitive speech patterns, and general paranoia about the activities of his fellow humans. He knows a lot of interesting people, from his geeky friends who state the mundane as though it is profound ("I don't think he had a death wish at all." "I don't think anyone really deserves to be eaten alive by a bear."), to the Friend/Actor who is not even believable when portraying himself, to his very ordinary parents who are just as confused by him as we are.
In this film, we learn that Treadwell switches addictions from alcohol to bears, and descends into functional madness while attempting to integrate himself into their "secret, inner world." He is paradoxical throughout, both disliking humans and yearning for a love relationship, being fully aware of the dangers that the bears pose, but doing nothing to protect himself from them. (Well, he is fatalistic in his devotion to them, but seems to think that they will not harm him as long as he behaves properly around them. That an older, aggressive bear could become hunger-crazed enough to attack him indiscriminately seems beyond his scope.) At times he shows a thorough understanding of animal behavior and the natural world, at other times a grand ignorance of the reality of life in the wilderness. He seems forever stymied trying to enforce human concepts like justice and righteousness upon the jungle. His sentimentality with the bears and perceived relationships there show in stark relief when the animals display constant indifference or even aggression, and when it is clear that some near-altercation with them has occurred off-camera.
In the end, he is really no more successful with bears than he is with people, understanding the basic rules but never seeing the whole picture in clarity enough to know how to avoid crashing and burning.
Perhaps most indicative of his dysfunction is how he responds to the fond relationship he develops with the foxes, who actively play with him and seek his company and interaction. While he loves them, they are but a footnote on his path to destruction; he prefers the ambiguous and imagined affection from the dangerous bears, to the foxes' genuine displays of it.
"Grizzly Man" is not about a man at all; it is a sad, true story about a wayward being without a species.
On this journey, the audience meets a lot of bears that look alike but who we know were distinct to Treadwell, a creepy coroner who is probably not acting, and a slew of observers who all have their own biased and often badly distorted views of "what really happened." In the creamy middle is the quirky pilot who knew Treadwell best, and the director himself, the voice of reason in this well-crafted work.
The moral: Van Halen was right. "It's business as usual in the woods." Animals make sense; it's people that don't.
WOW... What a ride !
People who compare this movie to the original Star Wars are exactly right. Firefly and Serenity have something that nearly all modern films (and absolutely all modern Sci Fi films) lack. That is character development and the ability to make the audience care about the people they're watching.
My theory is that Joss Whedon knows something that no one else in Hollywood does. He knows how to incorporate humor and personality into his characters so that they are solid as human beings, and how to avoid modern clichés. He can also create a story that anyone will get wrapped up in. Forget your boring "Deep Space Nine"s and confounding "Babylon 5"s. Throw Andromeda into the fire (PLEASE) and ignore everything you've heard about Science Fiction being for geeks or dateless wonders. I wouldn't even call Serenity a 'Sci Fi' since it has so little in common with everything else that is falling under that heading nowadays.
Serenity is like what Sci Fi USED to be. The original Star Wars is for everyone to enjoy, as is the original Star Trek, and Serenity takes its cues from these. At the same time, it is fresh and funny, and sometimes sad and shocking, but it leaves you with this beautiful hope that there really are brain cells firing in Hollywood.
Don't judge this film by the horrible previews you saw. They tried to sell it on the lowest denominator possible, which is an insult to this great series and its characters. See it and be amazed. Then be sure to pick up Firefly, and get ready to fall in love like the rest of us have.
Fox canceled THIS ?!?
OK, so I'd never seen an episode of this until someone sent me the DVDs and insisted that it was excellent. And WOW, it is really a great show. This isn't a lame, futuristic snore like some of Fox's other (ahem) "attempts." Harsh Realm. Space: Above and Beyond. The Lone Gunmen. Oh wait... I forgot. That's all ass from the same person !
Well, if Fox's other crap has left you with a sour palate generally, if you'd rather stare at a wall than watch "Dark Angel" or the horrible show that is "Andromeda," or even if you're just appalled by the painfully tired direction the Star Trek franchise has taken, Firefly is for you.
Yes, Firefly makes "Enterprise" embarrassing. And we all know that Fox has spent the last four years becoming the Jerry Springer of networks. Well, it had no other place to go after The X Files, and now people avoid it like stinky death until Sunday night, which is the only time it is respectable. So we've all been lulled into Fox's Harsh Realm of Low Expectations, and Firefly was poorly promoted right off the schedule.
Now, this isn't to say that the series is perfect. It has some awkward elements that need to be tweaked, but this is still one of the best series to come around in years, and *somebody* would do well to renew it based on the obvious fan concentration.
In the meantime, buy those DVDs and cheer for great writing and character-driven stories.
La marche de l'empereur (2005)
This beautifully made film is one of the best I have seen in years. While movie experiences lately revolve around teen horror, urban violence, and trashy sexual situations, it's a welcome diversion to see what another species goes through just to survive, and it can make a human feel like the laziest, most spoiled life form on earth! The penguins struggle so much and each of their lives is precious to them, and they truly are a loving collective that rely on each other to endure horrid environmental conditions.
The stateside version of the movie is apparently better than some, as the narration by Morgan Freeman is perfect and there are no awkward musical or vocal distractions.
Most amazing is how this film makes the audience reflect on human habits of life and procreation. While some will criticize that penguins are acting more on instinct than "love" when it comes to their chicks, this relates exactly to humans, who only reproduce out of a biological imperative to spread their DNA, and love is a by-product of that rather than the purpose. So humans will deride that fact while unknowingly replicating it, as proved by the overwhelming preference of humans to have "their OWN" offspring rather than adopt a less fortunate one abandoned by someone else. This is especially embarrassing in light of how easy it is to survive as a human and what a surplus of food and resources we have, while the penguins struggle by the day just to provide enough food for a single baby, and would never think of abusing, neglecting, or abandoning it unless their own lives were at stake. It is so poignant to see how one penguin in the film reacts to the loss of her chick, and should make people reconsider their affirmations that human love is superior, or even different in the least, from what penguins experience.
Overall, this was an excellent and moving experience that was enjoyed by everyone at the screening I attended. There are even some funny moments, and the baby penguins really stole the show with their fuzzy, waddling cuteness. Too, it was realistic without being traumatic, as the G-rating is strictly adhered to and there is no blood or serious brutality (it is a lot less violent than your average nature documentary on TV). This is a good thing, since the film is gritty enough due to the environmental factors, and would certainly evoke excessive tears if it were too gory or morbid.
This is definitely one of the best films you'll see all year. Take the kids, and hopefully reflect a bit more on how many orphans there are in our over-stuffed, over-sexed society. The message is what a better society it would be if only people could be more like penguins...
I think I'm just getting WAY tired of the whole CG Animated movie formula, what with the famous comedians voicing all the characters, the outrageous animation style, and the annoying pop culture references. This sometimes works and can add to a film, but it shouldn't BE the whole film. Even more dull here is the lack of character development synchronized with dialogue and mannerisms that are totally exaggerated to the point of being just irritating. I don't know where the "Acting" went in these movies. it used to be that you could find all the subtlety and realism that is found in live action; now animated films are just one long comedy routine, everyone is at some wild end of the emotional spectrum ALL THE TIME, and every action is punctuated with falling over or hitting someone else in the head. No animated character is "annoyed" anymore - he has to be raving and outraged. And and no one is "pleased," but must be jumping up and down and doing backflips. I think the believable acting standards must have disappeared as soon as animators stopped having to actually *draw* them.
And those are the *developed* characters. You also have the ones that are nothing and go nowhere, like the hypochondriac giraffe that has no other personality traits, and the hippo that has no purpose beyond spouting urban slang that will soon be very dated and embarrassing - if it isn't already.
Basically this is one of those movies that has to be throwing something AT you all the time, either physical pratfalls (it felt like someone fell over comically every two minutes), animation that is trying too hard to be amazing, or babbling dialogue that is neither funny nor character-deepening. And as far as the design goes, these characters *have* to look ridiculous because the movie can't read any other way.
Overall, it's an example of everything that is annoying about computer animated films, and resolves very little beyond the conflict created by the lion's dietary needs once he's displaced in the wild. It's so depressing that a movie like this is already considered a "blockbuster," while a much better film like Brother Bear was not even given a chance. Hopefully, time will prove that it isn't the animation style that makes an animated movie good.
The Incredibles (2004)
8.6 ?? This movie was LAME.
Right about now I'm thinking that there must be something wrong with *me.* After all, the world is saying that this is an 8.6 movie, and people are giving it 10s. And I thought it SUCKED.
The pacing is horrible. The first hour is positively boring, unfunny, and the action scenes are so fast that you can hardly tell what's going on. There were a few great moments, but not enough to make me really care about any of the characters. I was actually going to *walk out* because it was simply dull. But then every once in a while, something interesting would happen and I'd want to keep giving it a chance.
OK, so in the last 20 minutes or so, the story actually picks up. And by that I mean you can *follow* what's happening, because the pacing is better and not all crazy and frenetic. For a while the characters slow down and reflect on what's happening to them, and they seem to be real people. There's also some good (creative) action toward the end, and the villain's plot is the only truly well-crafted part of the story.
It's annoying that the humor attempts are mostly just cheap things that they throw in on the side (kid on big wheel) that have nothing to do with the story, or repetitive sight gags like Mr. Incredible accidentally breaking some household object because he doesn't know his own strength. Meanwhile, there are HUGE tracts of dialogue that are absent of cleverness, or just too fast, mumbled, or obscured by FX sounds.
I did not care for the design of this movie generally - often the characters' eyes were dark and flat. They did not have that shine in them, the living sparkle that would draw me in. While I sat there I thought about other animated films where the eyes seemed positively beaming with emotions, and here everyone seemed like a wind-up toy. Maybe I am just too "old-school" animation, but it seems like there is so much focus now on light and shading and detail of the surrounding scenes that the distinction and liveliness of the characters has been lost.
I loved The Lion King and the Toy Story movies as much as anyone else. I saw Shrek 2 three times. I also disliked Home on the Range, Treasure Planet and Atlantis for the same reasons the critics did.
But for some reason this movie just did NOT deliver for me. Bland script, uneven action, minimally sympathetic characters... Not to mention some rather annoying, obligatory add-in scenes like the goth daughter who is suddenly more popular at school and the cute guy asks her out, and Samuel Jackson's character who is totally undeveloped.
I also found it really weird that the villain did not have *ONE, single* humorous or clever line.
So apparently I'm in some 1% that disliked this movie. But be warned, people:
I was once like you.
One day you're going along enjoying all these movies, and then suddenly they all suck but no one agrees with you.
Deux frères (2004)
Slow in spots, but entertaining.
I'm not sure this film is worthy of its 7+ score here, but it's at least interesting. Some parts of it are very gripping and get you feeling like "Wow, this is excellent," but there are just as many places that drag. Overall, though, it was worth the ticket price. The tiger cubs are adorable, and the adult tigers steal the show. Too bad there were so many unexplored human characters that kept popping up randomly, as it gave the thing a feeling of generalised unconnectedness. It was like a series of 10-minute stretches of dull material punctuated by several really amazing and involving scenes, and the whole movie goes like that.
Re: "Not for Children" : If by "children" you mean the whiny kind that has been raised on Teletubbies and has never watched the Discovery Channel or seen a wildlife documentary, then Yes. This movie is not for *that* kind of children. It's really sad that Kids' entertainment is so filtered now that the occasional moral lesson that is actually founded in reality is not allowed to get through.
Van Helsing (2004)
Proudly in the "Liked It" Camp !
NO SPOILERS. NONE !! Charge forth !!
I was pretty sure (nay, *positive*) that I was going to hate this one. Well, it's another CGI Action movie (budget was over $150 mil, so you know what's coming), as has become the trend recently, and I generally hate those.
This one would be a flop without Hugh Jackman, but thankfully he's here and looking better than ever, and playing something like a shallow version of Wolverine. The movie is an aggregate of several types: A vampire movie, an action movie, a classic monster movie, and an Eye Candy movie that totally delivers. MOST of the effects are pretty good - only a handful miss the mark, and Jackman, well... He is the Ultimate Eye Candy, especially when clad in Turn of the Century romanticism. The female viewers will surely be satisfied (no complaints here on the detailed leather costumes, glittering weapons, and flowing black cloaks!) and the vampire people and action movie buffs will get their fill, too.
Some aspects of it are annoying, like the constant use of computer effects, unfortunately at the expense of dialogue and character development. And that strangling outfit Beckinsale wears is ugly and eventually irritating to look at. Some of the dialogue is a little "off," too, but I guess that's to be expected in this type of flick.
Where you'd expect it to crash, 'Van Helsing' does provide a detailed and almost believable plot that gives the monsters credible reason to interact. There were a few times during the screening I attended when you could hear people muttering worried "Oh no"s at the key points of the story; the thing was pretty darn involving, perhaps disturbingly so.
It was obvious that some explanatory scenes had been sharply cut (unfortunately), but the film was coherent and tended to answer its various questions as it went along. It was nice to see the characters and the audience simultaneously confused over certain plot elements, and then learn the reasons together.
Most of all, 'Van Helsing' could have been helped by fewer effects and much more dialogue. And as others have mentioned, it goes too far toward making the main characters invincible. Part of a great action movie is a great hero (and a beautiful co-star and a bumbling sidekick, of course), but that relies on his being human enough to fail sometimes and feel pain, or at least lie on the ground for a while after he's taken such a pummeling. Maybe that is the distance between Van Helsing and Wolverine.
Overall, this was a terrific, guilty pleasure, even for someone who isn't into monster flicks. Go for the antiquity, the scenery, the incredible costumes and cool weaponry, and an awesome Dracula, too!
Score: A solid "B," for doing what it sets out to do.