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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
A fun and witty movie that has a lot of potential, but slips toward the end
Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of those titles that stands out in a list of movie names. The television series is among the biggest cult shows of all time, and this movie has been rattled as a pale ugly cousin. While the final product is not high art, there is a lot to recommend this movie for.
One is that the primary performances are excellent. Kristy Swanson gives Buffy a great change from a airy, flighty Cheerleader to an airy, flighty Vampire Slayer. It's funny to see how she takes the same attitude between those two jobs. Donald Sutherland is an intense, intelligent and somewhat creepy adviser to Buffy, Merrick. Rutger Hauer plays the villain Lothos as a sophisticated, if generic bad guy. Paul Reubens gives a few laughs as a very excitable henchmen. Other performances are mostly okay, if unmemorable. Hillary Swank has an early career role as a friend of Buffy, and Ben Affleck has a two second moment as a basketball player.
The movie plays with the themes of high school life and growing up. Buffy becomes more assertive and learning that there is more to life then the senior dance and the latest fashions. The fights are okay during the movie, but the ending was not very well set up or edited. The movements are stilted and you are thinking how easily one or the other could finish the fight by attacking when they had the chance. The only thing that really hurts the movie is the finale, there is just a fight, and obviously Buffy wins. It didn't involve any creativity and there isn't any indication as to what Buffy intends to do afterwords, the conclusion doesn't satisfy the intention of the movie. Throughout the movie, there are small things that also hurt the flow of the movie. Merrick implies that he is some sort of reincarnation of a person that always guides the chosen one, but it is never explained. Lothos seems to have some sort of vendetta against the slayer and Merrick, but again, is never explained. The love interest played by Luke Perry seems to have some importance, but never really played out. But these small things would have been minor if the ending played better.
Other then that, the humor sets it apart from other generic teen horror/comedies. It is very witty, with a lot of laughs and quick throw away lines. The interaction between Buffy and Merrick are the highlights, listen carefully to the give and go with them in the locker room. Imagine a Mr. Miyagi if Daniel had superhuman abilities.
Take it as it is, laugh at what is good and overlook what isn't.
Superman Returns (2006)
Made me recall a famous Audrey Hepburn line
I've never actually seen the movie 'Charade' with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, but it contains an exchange that most people will find familiar. Audrey Hepburn asks Cary Grant, 'You know what's wrong with you.' He has proved during the course of the movie he can't be trusted, is a liar among many other things. 'What?' is his reply. She finishes the movie with, 'Absolutely nothing.' Why does she say that, because it's Cary Grant. That is probably the best way to describe Superman Returns. There are a lot of things that you can nitpick everywhere, a scene, a line, a moment of complete physical impossibility. Take a center-piece scene where a Boeing 747 is out of control, falling fast from a high altitude, spinning horizontally, barrel rolls, both wings rip off and its passengers are getting knocked around like marbles in a bag. Superman rushes to the rescue and catches the plane just before certain disaster. Checking up on the passengers they all appear shaken but unhurt. From the sheer g-forces alone they should all be dead, but that is besides the point of this movie, which is Superman catches a 747! It's the real Superman. This movie is intended to be a continuation of the first two Superman movies, some of the best movies of all time, let alone comic book movies. The opening credits and the closing scene is done the same way, but with a modern pizazz. In comparison, despite how good the Spiderman and the X-Men movies have been, they have not come close to such a grand, epic scale that this movie embodies. Here, Superman catches the 747, out-flies a gas explosion, and includes a finale that only Superman could do. The story is that Superman left Earth for five years to find Krypton and figure out if he is truly alone. Returning after a depressing search, he learns that people have just gone on without him, especially Lois Lane. Lois is engaged to a decent man, Richard White, and has a young boy as well. Returning as Clark Kent as well, he tries to renew a friendship with Lois and re-establish himself at the Daily Planet. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor has gotten out of jail on a technicality and started a new plan. Stealing crystals from Supermans now dormant Fortress of Solitude, he plans on using the alien technology to create a new continent. When Superman returns to the public eye, he gets ready to keep him out of the way. The performances are good all around, and everyone gets a respectable amount of time to grow. Brandon Routh will forever be compared to Christopher Reeve, but he does a good job with a slight re-visioning of the two characters played. Superman is confident but more emotionally vulnerable and Clark Kent is mild-mannered but less awkward. Kate Bosworth makes a great performance as Lois who is glad to see Superman again, but out of principle is trying to stop herself from falling in love with him again. The only problem is that Clark and Lois don't get much time to interact alone, all their scenes are as Lois and Superman. James Marsden steps as Cyclops to get some screen time as Richard. He gets so much time that he goes beyond just the 'Romantic Rival' to being an important part of the story. And like I said before, he is a decent guy, making everything more complicated. Sam Huntington plays Jimmy Olsen with a lot of fun, youthful energy, and Frank Langella has Perry White be dedicated and hard-nosed about his newspaper without mimicking the fast-talking cigar smoker of Jackie Coopers Perry White or J. Jonah Jameson from Spiderman. Kevin Spacey has fun with Lex Luthor, which is much in the same vein as Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor. But this time Lex manages to keep a balance between comical and being a true foe of Superman. The things that make you laugh are placed completely in context with his sadistic behavior, and with the stolen technology, he is an actual threat. If there is anything serious to complain about, it is that Lex Luthors jeopardy plot is sinister enough, but what hurts the story is what Lex plans on doing with the land. He mentions beach front property and having all this technology to defy the world, but it seems like all he has is the ability to grow land. The danger is still real, but it deflates the plot. But the real joy of the movie is seeing Superman do what he does best. He rescues people, flies, and does all those things we love to see him do. And he is the first, and greatest superhero.
Samurai chanpurû (2004)
A crazy mix of every genre that surprisingly works, but not for everybody
One of the most universally popular and admired animes of recent years was Cowboy Bebop, a futuristic western with complex, entertaining characters and an amazing jazz and blues soundtrack. The movie version was even given a modest theater release in the states. So the creators of that show has to do something to either top themselves, or go in a completely different direction. With Samurai Chemploo they actually try to do both, strangely enough. Fuu is a young girl working in a tea shop somewhere in Japan during the 19th Century. A series of converging events land her in the middle of a duel between two rogue samurai, traditionally trained Jin, and the violent thug Mugen. She strangely manages to recruit them in a long journey to find a specific man, a samurai who smells of sunflowers. Along the way they encounter a variety of people and situations, and kind of gives a historical look at the Japanese culture of the time, involving the Shogunate and the influx of western influence. But there is no mistaking this as a historical piece, as it routinely breaks into modern rap and hip hop style music and dancing, with some animation exaggerations that make it comparable to the Looney Tunes. But the comparison to Cowboy Bebop is unmistakable. All the characters are unique creations, not archetypes or retreads, but distinct human beings who always behave as their personality dictates. Jin is a minimalist, saying what is needed to be said and anything else is punctuated by a soft, 'Hmmm.' Mugen is probably the star of the show, yet he is a loudmouth, speaks his mind, which is usually a swear word, and is actually an efficient slacker. Fuu is a very peppy and energetic girl, who manages to cope well in the foreign situations she is put in, and can talk her way out of and into anything very subtly. Another distinction is the way the music is integrated. The episodes in general have a more classical Japanese music soundtrack, the rap is usually in the more comedic episodes. But often a point will be given by a long period of no dialogue and only a distinctive song is played while characters go on with their lives. You learn what everyone is thinking, and it gives the audience time to let it settle in. The action is also a significant highlight. Every battle is distinctive, smooth, and perfectly paced. They move with superhuman speed, but is still grounded in real life and battle tactics. Mugen is especially enjoyable to watch, as he utilizes break dancing-like moves and often doesn't even need to use his sword. As a whole, the show is a treat to watch under different reasons. The quirky humor will thrill some people and turn-off others. That is the reason many Americans do not appreciate anime, because the visuals and comedy are sometimes culturally specific and very strange to foreigners. But the action is crisp and the characters can hold their own separately. What more can you ask for?
The Batman vs. Dracula (2005)
Far above the series and actually better then first impressions
When I first heard about this movie, I had reservations. The Batman series was straight forward action with too little character depth. Every villain was an evil mustache twirling master martial artist, yet Batman was always able to overpower them. I guess I was hoping for something closer to the Paul Dini, Bruce Timm style complex Batman.
Anyway, this movie started out somewhat similar to a series episode, the Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum and the Penguin uses the distraction and some deft martial arts to make his own escape. Having a lead on a hidden treasure, Penguin goes to a very Gothic cemetery and finds more then gold, but Dracula's remains. Accidentally reviving him, Dracula proceeds to build an army of the undead, targeting Batman partially for using his image to scare criminals, partially because Batman rules the night of Gotham, and that's his territory.
Yeah, I was a little hesitant when I first heard of this story, and the first few minutes didn't do much to dispel those feelings, but it quickly changed into something more entertaining and complex then the series ever achieved, not Bruce Timm, but perfect within its own universe.
Probably the best part of this movie is that Batman has trouble with Dracula's vampire minions, and is completely outmatched by Dracula himself. This means he has to rely on intelligence and improvisation, in addition to plain martial arts skill to defeat him. Batman shows great humility in that luck was the only thing to prevent Dracula's victory in their first encounter.
Make no mistake, this is not a kids movie. Years ago, censors were hesitant to allow a violent Batman Beyond movie go through without changes. This movie has scenes and violence even more intense then the original, uncut version of that movie. You feel the impacts of some hits and see the characters painful reaction. One scene in a blood bank involves vials raining down on the combatants, it is in almost black and white to lessen the image but there is no mistaking what is happening.
Voice work is impressive, many stand out and there are no sub-par performances. Peter Stromwell performs Dracula as calculating, piercing, and outright creepy. Rino Romano gives another strong performance, Bruce Wayne is a charming playboy with occasional philanthropic tendencies, Batman is no-nonsense, plain and simple.
Overall, while some things may not be for everyones taste, it is a rousing 90 minutes that keeps up a strong pace and does not let up until after the credits roll.
Overall, if The Batman