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Dreamgirls first attracted me because it was released as a movie 'loosely based on The Supremes'. 'Great' I said, The Supremes had a fascinating story, it will be interesting to see what they do with it, considering such a fantastic cast and the overall hype.
Well, don't believe the hype. This is sappy, Disney-influenced crap that should never have been made. Yes, it was based on the MUSICAL DreamGirls, rather than being inspired solely by various music acts during the 20th century, but does that make it any better? Hell no.
Lets start with the positives though, shall we? Well, most aspects of the acting was pretty great. Eddy Murphy was simply superb, highlight of the movie for me. Jamie Foxx? Meh, he was okay I guess. Can't complain but he wasn't superb by any means. Jennifer Hudson? Overrated I thought, she was not worthy of Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. Yeah, she can sing like a frickin' whale on steroids, but acting-wise she wasn't spectacular as so many critics deemed her. The lighting and Camera work, was really good. Excellent in fact. great use of light, balmy blues and reds while they were onstage, and slick, sophisticated camera work. Top notch.
*possible spoilers* However, that's all the positivity I could extract. On to the negatives. The music was shocking. Considering this is 90% music, you can see why I thought it was such a failure. Every time there was a ballad I'd cringe and those Hudson songs just dragged on forever and the lyrics were hardly inspirational. The music wasn't apt in the slightest, it was so disgustingly modern that I felt like throwing up. I never heard a Supremes song sound like any of the ones they had on offer. The overall ending was just poor, why did everything just end up so perfectly? Everyone reunites? Everybody is as happy as Larry? The script-writers really did catch the Disney virus while writing the ending for this one. Shocking.
If you like glitzy, sugarcoated, fake musical equivalent and a bastardizing of former artists then please watch by all means, everyone else, pick up a copy of Ray or Walk the Line. Forget this crap.
Well, what can I say? The movie is simply a reinvention. With all the crap being thrown at us from the Horror genre it's very hard to tell whats decent or not. All horror movies these days are just hack and slash, poor dialog, poor execution, token hot people and flashy camera's. Oh yeah, and the occasional girl screaming. What you get in Saw is excruciatingly painful scenes that will have anyone averting their eyes at some point. Coupled with this, the means of torture, both physically and mentally, are excellently crafted and incredibly imaginative. There is a genuine unnerving feel about the inventiveness of the various instruments used to bring his victims to insanity.
The superb thing about Saw I feel, is that it actually has a great plot, one you don't expect and particularly NEED in a horror, but Saw delivers a brilliant one anyway. The psychological killer behind the whole thing, AKA Jigsaw, doesn't simply torture his victims, but uncovers their deepest flaws, exploits them, and punishes the person for them. They are given choices, often both ending in some sort of tragedy, but the sheer cruelty is just mind-blowing and a breath of fresh air to the boring, formulaic route most Horrors these days take.
The fact is, Saw is clever. Saw is psychological. Saw is thought provoking and Saw is excruciatingly hard to watch at times. Saw is a classic horror of our times and coupled with a great twist, well, it simply makes Saw one of the best Horrors ever. You must watch it!
Splinter Cell: Double Agent (2006)
A Grittier, Meaner, far deeper edition to the Splinter Cell series.
*NOTE: This is a review of the XBOX 360 version of Double Agent.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent is a welcome change to the normal strictly stealth based game-play of old. This time its far more action-packed, the graphics of course have improved and the story is far more deeper, involved and intriguing. But there is one element of the game that truly sets it apart from the series and video gaming in general; the captivating integration of working for two organizations and the decisions Sam is left with, creating a dynamic and original form of game-play, to which you can choose whether to turn your back on the NSA by adapting to the terrorists way of thinking, or stick with your primary objective of successfully infiltrating and destroying the terrorists organization from within. For every objective in each level, there is a possibility of losing or gaining trust from either the NSA or the JBA. These such elements makes this game slightly in contrast with the previous editions, mainly due to the fact that the first 3 had a mildly involving story, while Double Agent couldn't be any more interesting.
This being said, the game is not without it's flaws. Firstly, the style of graphics may not suit some and frankly, I for one preferred the old. The new style indeed has more details and such, this is a given considering it's on a more powerful console, but this does not necessarily mean it's an improvement. The familiar style of the first 3 had amazing lighting effects and a slight contrast between dark and light, which was visually original and fresh, while Double Agent loses this imagery somewhat. Secondly, the camera angle can be a nuisance, it is very close up and take a bit of getting used to and sometimes gets in the way of things, for instance, seeing nearby enemies while hiding behind a wall etc.
But the quality outweighs the flaws by a mile, this game is a fantastic, intense tour de force and a revolution in gaming storyline. Double Agent is an essential purchase and sits proudly at the top of the not-so-populated Stealth Genre and is a fantastic edition to the ever-so-great Splinter Cell franchise.
El laberinto del fauno (2006)
Pan's Labyrinth - A Triumphant Achievement
Pan's Labyrinth tells the tale of young Ofelia, who is stepdaughter to a fascist Captain in 1944. When she strays off into the forest near her new-found home she discovers a dark, eerie, fantasy world.
Visually, this movie is stunning. I was surprised that a movie outside the U.S. could produce such an amazing use of special effects and cgi, easily comparable and more-often BETTER than ANYTHING the U.S. coughed up that year. This movie truly pulls you in to it's fantastic world and does not let you leave and it's plot is enchanting and captivating. But this is far, far away from some children's fantasy, the movie is 18's for a reason. It's violent and truly brutal at times, leading to some very squeamish moments. This combination of violence, dark themes and fantasy is rare in the mainstream cinema, making this film a breath of fresh air and quite unique.
The fact that it is in Spanish can't be taken as a negative element, I for one hardly noticed due to the fact that I was so enthralled in the movie itself and it really portrayed how ridiculous award ceremonies such as The Oscars are, that simply because of the language this (far superior) movie couldn't contend against movies like 'Little Miss Sunshine' for Best Film.
I highly recommend this, BELIEVE the critics view on this, it truly is an amazing movie and like all amazing movies, it is not simply about the story irt offers, but delves far more into underlying themes than a first watch might suggest. I loved it.
In fact, 'Epic' would be an understatement. To put it simply, 300 is a revolution in modern cinema, bringing back the classic 'epics' of old (Spartacus for example) and refining it to the point of perfection. No movie that I've seen has come close to the sheer power and ferocity that encompasses 300, coupled together with the fascinating story of the might of the Spartans against the incomparable number of Persians.
Visually, well, it's just mind-blowing. Reminiscent of Sin City and Gladiator, the direction and color offers a unique and awe-inspiring feel and energy to the movie. The CGI is just fantastic, portraying some truly frightening beasts and unsettling warriors. The battle scenes make The Two Towers battle scene look like a bunch of drunken hooligans at the bar, but then again, 300 did not hold back on the onslaught of blood and gore, no complaints there.
The only possible negativity I could see in the movie is that maybe the excessive violence won't suit some, but the fact is, the genre it's in, the comic it's based on and the story that ensues, you'd have to be crazy to think it isn't apt. 300 is a classic of our time and a milestone in cinematic history. Simple as that.
An exceptional masterwork in animation with a cluttered conclusion
First of all, watch this movie with subtitles. I cannot stress enough the amount lost with the americanized translation and the unnecessary dialog used to satisfy over-sentimental western audiences with the dubbed 'Disney' voice-overs.
Spirited Away is a visual splendor like no other and it's unusual technique of being completely hand-drawn does not create a lack of quality but in contrast makes you appreciate the astonishing imagery and magical burst of color. Indeed, this alone makes this movie stand-out above all others. But it doesn't rely on its excellent animation alone.
The story is simple but no doubt carries complex themes, to which immediately makes this more than a 'kids' movie, as cynics would suggest. In saying that, this movie can appeal to all ages and equally be interpreted differently to children as to adults. It will keep you intrigued to the end as the fantasy tale twists and turns and brings you to an enchanted land of mystical madness like no other.
But unfortunately, I was of slight disappointment with the ending, seemingly rushed and disorganized and not justice to the spectacle just witnessed. Without this fault, it would surely be a classic in my eyes, however, it is incredible nonetheless. I would recommend it to anyone, not just animé fans, as it manages to serve up a great plot and dialog to match its beautifully crafted animation. Excellent.
Not Great - Consistent Mediocrity
The story of 'Premonition' is pretty much in the title, Sandra Bullock starts to wake up to what seems to be any random day in the near future and then is flung back into the present the very next day she wakes up, presumably to prevent any events from happening, to fix something and so on and so forth.
Unfortunately it's execution is quite poor. It's very clumsy in its approach and there's a frightening amount of plot holes. Very few elements of the movie are satisfyingly resolved at the end and it's attempts at tension are clichéd at best, to which they play unsettling violin music until it's so loud that you predict a shocking event to occur, but it's just not very thrilling in its delivery.
I for one, was never sure where the movie was going, it was messy in it's approach and it had that hint of confusement that you know after few watches would just make you more disinterested. Also, what was with those over-sentimental scenes that dragged on for no apparent reason? They certainly didn't give the characters any real depth or likability, which made those scenes even more pointless.
Not great. I'd say the only positivities I could draw from the film was that it had an interesting concept, and through the consistent mediocrity you were 'somewhat' intrigued as to how it concluded, only for the simple reason that you couldn't really fathom how they could string all the dodgy events that occurred together.
I suppose it's not terrible though, pretty harmless hour and a half. I just wouldn't recommend it.
The Illusionist (2006)
A great, entertaining movie, but ultimately quite flawed.
The Illusionist is a tale set in early 1900's Vienna, to which it tells the story of a Magician believed to have superpowers beyond the realm of 'illusion', but when he meets with his lost love, who is now being married to the Crown Prince, accusations fly from the Prince himself as to if his tricks are indeed illusions or in fact 'magic'.
The music is great, but there's not really enough of it, the movie seems almost empty in places. The acting is superb, a great cast and a fantastic leading role played by the ever-great Edward Norton. The costume and set designs notably, are visually great and the direction is unusual but well done, especially considering the (until now) unknown director.
The movie however, has far too much missing. The ending especially, seems to be going for that 'we'll leave it up to the audience' conclusion, but the fact is it doesn't make you wonder, it just makes you frustrated. The most obvious example would be how the movie explains quite freely how a lot of the 'illusions' are done and indeed quite easily pieces together a lot of the unsolved scenes of mystery, yet refuses or even IGNORES the explanation of the most significant parts of the movie.
However, This movie is quite entertaining, it tips along at a nice pace and is VERY intriguing, but it certainly left me disappointed. But then again, maybe I just didn't think hard enough about it. I'd still recommend it though.
Donnie Darko (2001)
One of the greatest cinematic achievements
Donnie Darko tells the story of a delusional teenager who begins to see visions of a a man in a blue bunny suit, who orders him to do certain tasks through suggestive clues and voices, to which he insists he MUST do, or the world will end.
Now, really, this is a movie you must see to get the plot, if I were to give the full, detailed, complex plot it would take far too long (And will probably you leave you more stumped) to which reveals the majestic brilliance of Donnie Darko; which is that their are endless amounts of theories and interpretations, making it one of the most thought-provoking fantasy of recent years.
The acting is superb (Maggie Ghyllenhal, Jake Ghyllenhal and Drew Barrymore to name a few), the music is perfect, subtle and atmospheric and the fantastic direction, coupled with a roller-coaster ride of a storyline will leave you of utmost interest and intrigue like no other movie. Not only that, but you will find yourself watching it more than a few times, as it will stick in your mind until you reveal your own personal interpretation (To which you may experience a Donnie Darko 'phase' which I did, warning: It WILL take up a sizable chunk of your life).
But adding to the already deep and complex storyline, there are also a vast amount of underlying themes, most noticeable the character Patrick Swayze plays, in which it represents a false 'superior', referring clearly to religion.
Donnie Darko is truly a classic, one of my favorite films and I recommend it to anyone. Incredible.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Not bad at all
...And certainly the second best 'Rocky' out there.
The story is pretty simple, one would expect for such a movie and there'd be nothing worse than trying to be over-complex with the subject matter. Basically, Rocky is pretty bummed in life, his son is annoyed with him for over-shadowing his own achievements, his wife Adrian has died and times are changing. Alas, when a computer-generated mock-up fight of current heavyweight champion, Mason 'the Line' Dixon, against The Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa, is shown on television, demands amongst boxing fans ensue for an actual fight between the two. Rocky regains his fighting spirit and a determination to take up the opportunity, which leads to an unforgettable Rocky grand finale.
A lot of the movie however, is surprisingly slow-paced. Not necessarily a bad thing though, it does allow for intriguing scenes of character depth, especially in Balboa himself, but don't expect a fast, intense 'boxing' movie, as it primarily aims towards more of a sentimental story of Rockys fall and rise, which no doubt implies a strong sense of morality.
The last quarter however, on the contrary, is an adrenaline fuelled tour de force shining Rocky's impeccable strength and determination, which is not only emotionally inspirational, but an excellent ending to the Rocky series.
It is a great movie, not quite as good as Rocky, but I hardly expected it to be. Although flawed in parts, perhaps one too many clichés, it will definitely satisfy Rocky fans and movie fans alike.