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Kung Fu Panda (2008)
All the makings of an excellent story
Kung Fu Panda is the kind of movie I've been waiting for all year. It is sad to see that a children's movie is what finally rekindled my interest in venturing to the theaters over the course of the past year. However, Kung Fu Panda is difficult to place in the "children's" category.
We'll get right to the meat of the movie--the action. I haven't seen such brilliant action sequences in quite some time, whether from an animated or live-action film. These were exceptionally choreographed, and the best part is that they didn't quite take themselves seriously in executing these performances. It's always difficult for me to enjoy a fight scene in a movie where people are flying and doing absolutely outrageous things unless it is an obvious attempt at humor. Kung Fu Panda achieves this goal with stunning aptitude.
Not to mention that the humor is top-notch, whether you are six or 26. I had trouble catching all the jokes, considering most of them were laugh-out-loud funny, forcing me to lose concentration on the next perfectly set up situation.
One of the prime aspects of this movie, to me, is the casting. Many well-known actors and actresses came together to put together this finely crafted film, and they really pulled off a performance worthy a golden statue displaying their ultimate worthiness. I can always appreciate an actor/actress typically involved in raunchy comedies (ahem... Seth Rogen) who can flip a 180 and manage to keep it clean for a full two hours. Bravo, you sickos, you gained a few more points in my book of notorious filthy acting! And finally, my favorite part of the entire movie is that the director managed to find THE BEST film composer of our time and put him to work! Hans Zimmer is as brilliant as ever, pulling out all the stops with his amazing themes and intense action sequence crescendos. And he perfectly avoids overusing the cliché Oriental touch, only using it in key moments. I can't get enough of his music. There should seriously be a library full of his music. I'd own it and maintain it FOR FREE, and I'm not even joking. Seriously, I have a shrine dedicated to this man in my backyard which plays music from Gladiator 24/7.
You definitely should see Kung Fu Panda. And don't hesitate to take the kiddos.
A cheap Gladiator rip-off.
Troy is one of those movies that seems like it should be in theaters... but then feels like it shouldn't. Like it's a sort of documentary with little more than stone characters, or a multi-million dollar soap opera.
The very first thing I noticed about Troy was the music. Wow, I have never heard such terrible music in my life. Part of it had some blaring trumpets, which attempted to create a "heroic" feeling, but instead felt extremely corny and made me cringe. The worst part about the music in this movie is an odd, high-pitched wailing woman's voice that seems to pop in every two minutes or so. At one point in the movie I actually got so fed up with it that, right in the middle of the theater, I said out loud, "My God, just SHUT UP." While Gladiator had the same type of music, with the wailing woman's voice, this technique was placed strategically within the movie, and wasn't so interfering. Troy's shoved the movie out of the way, slapped you across the face, and screamed until you couldn't think, feel, see, or hear anything else.
The characters are extremely cliche. We have the bad king--he is evil, of course, and wants more land for himself. Greedy. The usual villain. We have the solo hero, who cares only about his countrymen (and cousin). He is very noble, but also very arrogant. There's the good king--good, but blinded by his own beliefs. A noble gentleman who wants nothing but the best for his people. The good king's son, who believes his father, although having good intentions, is really making some mistakes. Throw in a few more villains, place them in ships heading toward the Trojan empire, and you have Troy.
The battle scenes were quite believable, but it was obvious that they were attempting to beat out Gladiator with some scenes, even resorting to using the same kind of camera movements as Gladiator. But it failed in every attempt, as Gladiator pitted real people and characters in the arena, whereas Troy had a mishmash of simple good guys and bad guys thrown in to fight.
The soap opera comes next. The movie begins simply because the prince of Troy takes one of the kings of Greece's wife back to Troy. The king's older brother, who controls most of Greece, uses this as a means of taking his largest army into Troy to conquer it. Achilles is recruited, he meets a lovely young woman who teaches him new things about life, one guy dies and many are sad, one attempts to avenge his death, and so on and so forth, in an almost endless circle.
Troy really may not have been a bad movie. It just felt really phony, really plastic, or transparent. As if it were almost about to reach the reality of the world, but just couldn't wrap its fingers around tight enough.
My main point in all this? Wait for Troy to come out on DVD. Watch it, and decide for yourself. I won't be watching it again.
A little predictable, but that's okay.
SWAT, by all standards, is certainly not a bad movie. It's not one in which you have to "switch off" your brain to enjoy, where the cops chase the robbers and have a stakeout in some abandoned industrial plant. No, this one's a little more realistic, I think.
The movie starts out with a classic scenario--a bank holdup. Kind of cliche, yes, but the SWAT team's tactics are more than just the usual sheriff-and-robber-duel. With the use of special tools and weaponry, a movie focused on a SWAT team can't really go too far in the wrong direction.
There is a major lack in character development. We see each main character for about a day on the job before they join the SWAT team, but other than that we really know nothing about them. Most of them are cliche as well--the quiet guy who is a tactical genius, but who really doesn't want to join back up; the tough black man who respects his fellow blacks, but doesn't have a problem putting them away when they're in the middle of a crime; the hero's rival teammate, who wisecracks at him much of the time; the tough woman who is just as good as the men; and finally, the evil international criminal with plenty of contacts and money who teams up with the main character's former partner. Despite all these noted flaws, there really is nothing wrong in which the way the characters interact with each other. Besides, you can't expect much character background from a movie--that's what books are for.
As far as storyline and plot, it's not all that original, but it's unique in its own ways. The international criminal offers ANYBODY one hundred million dollars as a reward for breaking him out--and this offer is made on live television. Now, from here on, the movie could have been rather exciting. Not only could we have seen the SWAT teams and police fighting off the mobsters trying to get the money, we could have seen the different gangs fighting each other for the money as well. And that chaos could have been very tense and exciting. However, the movie strays from that idea and we don't see any real gang war. Instead, the second villain shows up and adds another hindrance to our heroes.
The movie is, yes, rather predictable, but still entertaining and interesting. While I wouldn't tell somebody they MUST see it, I would certainly recommend it, even if you're not a huge fan of the genre.
Harry Potter was meant for pages, not film.
It is obvious that something has gone terribly wrong. It seems J. K. Rowling is focusing much on the new Harry Potter movies, and I wouldn't doubt it soon if the sixth or seventh movie(s) came out before the book(s).
But I'm not here to talk about the books, I'm here to talk about the movie. To discuss how this movie translated from the book would be unfair, so I'll wipe the book from my memory for now.
First of all, I must say that John Williams was the worst person for scoring the music. Williams has done great things in this area, and has been entirely innovative about his craft. However, the entire soundtrack of this movie is cliche. It sounds like something from a very, VERY old seventies movie. Example: The notes of the orchestra have a "spiraling up and down" feeling, giving the impression of something out of an old horror movie. The themes are practically not new. Williams was trying to go for themes, when what it really needed was an ominous feeling. Not this "magical" stuff that could be found in old Disney movies. It seems Williams is losing his luster, and I'd have preferred Elfman or possibly even Goldsmith to score this movie.
The first thing one will notice upon watching this movie, other than the bland score, is the tasteless acting. While I can understand most of these people are young, never-before actors, it can be quite annoying. It seems the directors MEANT to put Hermione up to saying things in a cliche, "I'm-better-than-you," tone. Ron is a total whiner, and can't seem to control emotions. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is probably the best of the three in this first movie (luckily, the sequel patches up the acting, so it's obvious the problems arose simply because they're new--and, like I said, understandable).
Some of the acting is great. Dumbledore is obvious a top-notch actor (his performance in Gladiator is a good example of his previous, outstanding talent). Hagrid and his, "Nope, shouldn't have said that, uh-uh..." is totally believable, and I find him to be one of the better actors in the movie.
However, probably my favorite actor in the entire movie goes to the person who has only about five lines in the script. Filch. "God, how I miss the screams." His character is just creepy, and the actor puts him into such a great tangible experience.
The plot is nice, as its taken from the book (ah, forgive me!). I'd like to say that it loses some of its charm from its adaptation... but I promised I wouldn't go into that.
Anyway, it has a nice villain, believable central plot (although the movie doesn't seem to explain quite as well as the book... seems to be some holes, but oh well, read the book).
Probably the worst thing about this movie is that it manages to use every single cliche imaginable. Harry flies down from his broom, clutching Neville's Remembrall, and a swarm of young children are cheering simply because he caught the little ball while Williams' "heroic" music plays. That scene is actually sickening... it reminds me of some "young children beats up the intelligent, corporate tough man" movie. Harry says a few words to a snake, then immediately says, "Can you hear me?" Ron states heroically (after Harry asks what happens after the white pieces move their pawn), "Then... we play." Once again, Williams' music only serves to heighten the corniness. It's annoying.
All in all, the movie was an annoyance. Simply geared for younger kids, which cause older viewers to cringe at the sheer stupidity. Good effects, good plot, good story, and some good characters... but those factors can't make up for the total childishness of the movie.
The One (2001)
Intriguing and impressive.
At first glimpse, The One seems to be a Matrix rip-off, with stunning action sequences, bullet time, supernatural stunts, and even the name appears to be pulled from The Matrix.
I assure you, however, that this movie is nothing like The Matrix. In fact, I could almost say that it is, overall, a better movie. It doesn't try to be too cool, and remains serious instead of cheesy like some action flicks. I have some spoilers coming.
The main thing here is that The One is not just any action flick. It's a well thought out science fiction, and the idea of a multiverse is simply enthralling. The subject was approached rationally, maybe even better than Michael Crichton's book Timeline. There were hardly any contradictions, except for one at the end, but that was hardly noticeable.
The One is very interesting, but the ending lacked something. It was too much of a happy ending, and I just don't think it was possible--or necessary. Besides, it brought about the idea that there was a universe in which the main character hadn't met his future wife yet... now, how is that possible? It IS possible, but it would need to be under different circumstances that they met, not the exact same ones. Just something to think about, and it doesn't really mess up the movie. I doubt there will ever be a movie or book that follows this idea correctly without any contradictions.
All in all, this is a really good movie and I would recommend it to anybody who likes stylized martial arts and science fiction.
Fainaru Fantajî VII (1997)
I am simply amazed at how many people hail this game as a "masterpiece", a "genuine work of art", when in reality it's about as shallow as a backwater pond. Why? Allow me to explain.
Final Fantasy games are nothing but interactive movies, and this is why they do so well. What, exactly, makes a movie? Well, a movie needs a plot, a story to move that plot into action, a protagonist, and an antagonist to work against that protagonist. These are the fundamentals of a movie.
But a movie is much more than that. It is character development; it is emotional; it is something that causes a reaction. We must believe in the protagonists, to hope that they succeed and to wish them well on their journey. We must cry if and when they are hurt or killed and jump for joy when they succeed.
Final Fantasy VII does nothing of the sort. Spoilers ahead.
Let's start with Cloud Strife, the main character of FFVII. He's a strange fellow, with pointy anime hair and blocks for a body. In the beginning of the game, he is the tough guy who is in it for the money. But, moving on in the game, we find that he is gentle, caring, and a general good guy. What sparks this change? Absolutely nothing. Cloud has no reason to change, and he switches behavior several times through the game. I understand that he is continually questioning who he is, but that is no reason for him to have schizophrenia.
Tifa. The female member of Avalanche. Who is she? Where is she from? We don't know. We only know that she is paired with Barrett, the big black guy who looks like a gorilla in this game.
Cait Sith, the strange cat riding a mog who is controlled by a Shinra agent somewhere on the planet. It's a terrible attempt at comedy. And when Cait Sith makes his sacrifice, he immediately reappears and says, "Hi, I'm Cait Sith #2!" Pathetic. Truly pathetic.
And so the rest of the characters are formed in this fashion. We know nothing about them, we don't care about them. Moving on.
The Materia system is so stupid that I laugh every time I see it. Granted, it is a little more sane than putting magic crystals in clothing (as in FFIX), but it's entirely stupid. The Summons are not even necessary. I wanted to get Knights of the Round, but I eventually gave up because it was so futile to get a golden chocobo for a summon that I would only be able to use once in battle. The only way to be able to use it more than once is to get into literally hundreds of battles and gain enough Ability Points. Which is quite stupid, considering I would then only be able to use it twice. Wow. Unlike the Guardian Forces in Final Fantasy VIII, these summons do NOTHING for you. They are worthless.
Grammatical errors are extremely common in this game. One summon's name is "Typhoon", but is hilariously spelled "Typoon". When a character stutters, each letter is followed by a comma rather than a dash. It's almost like a kindergartener wrote this script, as it becomes so corny in areas that I felt like crying. But it's anime... what can you expect?
The battle system is not too bad. It would have been much better if the Materia system was totally revamped. The Active Time Battle is brilliant.
Our main antagonist, Sephiroth, is hardly anything worth a fuss over. For most of the game, you will be chasing down this "villain". I found him to be the only likeable character in the game, save for Red XIII. Red, or Nanaki, is the ultimate Final Fantasy character. He is the only thing that kept me playing to the end. His limit breaks are excellent, he is very powerful, and he's just an awesome, sleek cat.
The graphics of this game, even for its time, are poor. These look like Nintendo 64 graphics! I know PlayStation could do better than this! Why are the characters blocks? Why, in certain movie sequences, are the characters smooth blocks and not actual people? I was unimpressed. The only good graphics we ever see of people are during the escape from Midgar, Aeris' death, Weapon's emergence, and the ending sequence. None of these sequences ever have any sound, either. They're just there, and Nobuo Uematsu's music hardly makes them any better.
Probably the only thing even remotely good in this game is Uematsu's music. The battle music is decent, as well as the boss battle music. As in every Final Fantasy games, some of the pieces of music are unbearable. "One Winged Angel" is one of the highlights of this soundtrack, rivaling even that of Final Fantasy VIII's "Liberi Fatali". I was very impressed, and I've often heard that it was the first time vocals had ever been used in a Final Fantasy. Well done, Mr. Uematsu. You and Red were the only things keeping this game going.
All in all, Final Fantasy VII is a disaster. I would recommend it only to hardcore Final Fantasy fans, as I felt it was almost a waste of my time.
Is it true? An anime that is NOT corny?
I was quite skeptical in watching this movie. A friend of mine who is an anime addict suggested it to me, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch it. I generally don't like anime.
This one started off very interesting... and strange. It seems that Metropolis, obviously a very huge city with several layers, has made a new ziggurat that is the tip of mankind's ingenius ability. What this ziggurat is actually for, other than impressing the citizens of the world, we don't really know.
It gets a little boring when the detective and his new robot partner begin searching for a crazed scientist performing illegal tasks for numerous people--including Duke Red, mastermind of the new ziggurat. The newest project involves a robot named "Tima".
Metropolis was a little predictable in the fact that the boy, Konichi, was stuck with Tima and ended up running from Rock, the orphaned boy who claims to be Duke Red's son. However predictable, though, it was very entertaining. Some of the music, such as leaving Fifi's zone, was quite engrossing.
A war eventually escalates, but we don't see too much of that. I was a little disappointed. But the suspense was kept up, as was the mystery, of Tima's purpose and whether or not she was a good guy or bad. The final climax is quite hairraising, and I actually found myself saying, "They HAVE to make it... they will... will they?"
The music of Metropolis doesn't really coincide with the movie. While the movie is based on science and the newer robot generation, you'd expect to hear perhaps some techno (as is very common in anime) or even orchestration. Instead, the composer took a right turn and used jazz. It just didn't suit the movie.
Character development is poor, but hardly any of the characters were corny. There were some awkward parts (such as when Konichi tells Tima how to eat), but overall I was satisfied with how the characters spoke and acted. For once, an anime has understood what humans are REALLY like.
Overall, I was very pleased with the way Metropolis was done. Although not an extremely good movie, it was good nonetheless. If more anime movies are like this, I might actually get interested in the genre.
Fainaru Fantajî VIII (1999)
Quite possibly the best RPG ever created.
Final Fantasy VIII was the first Final Fantasy I ever played. I watched a friend play it for a bit and decided that, one day, it would be mine. I would buy a PlayStation just for this game.
I couldn't have made a better choice. Let me tell you why FFVIII is probably the best RPG ever created.
First of all, the opening scene is tremendous. The song, Liberi Fatali, is definitely one of Nobuo Uematsu's greatest compositions. The battle between Squall and Seifer at the beginning is simply amazing. This scene right here revolutionized how a game should look. The movie sequences are totally amazing.
Squall is a young cadet at the Balamb Garden, a training ground of sorts for SeeD, an elite mercenary group. Squall is not the most optimistic person. He is, however, very realistic, which causes many people not to like him. From this paragraph already, Squall has much more character than Final Fantasy VII's Cloud. Cloud couldn't make up his mind who he wanted to be. Squall knows what he wants, knows how he will act, and does it. His character stays true. About halfway through the game he has a sort of inner climax, in which the conflict within him is so great that he is forced to change views of the world. This is a real character. He grows, he's round, he's not flat. I was very impressed with his ever slow turnaround, from his thoughts before the parade to the scene on the Ragnarok.
The battle system is excellent. FFVIII introduces a "Junction System", in which magic can be attached to stats to make the character more powerful. The Guardian Forces allow the characters to achieve these amazing feats. Guardian Forces are so much better than FFVII's Summons, which were only used in battle. GF's can give characters plenty of new abilities, and ability points will not be wasted in this game. The Summons in FFVII were just there like rocks... the GF's in FFVIII are characters in themselves which serve to better your main characters.
Although this new battle system is astounding, it isn't without its flaws. You could spend countless hours just drawing magic from enemies, and if you wish to get a really good character, you will have to. If you don't use the right abilities from the beginning, you will end up with a Level 100 character giving only 7,000 damage at the end (instead of a whomping 9999). But these are only a few things compared to how much fun the junction system is. It's almost like a sports game. You can sit for several minutes just rearranging your magic, figuring out what works best where, managing your stats, so to say. It sounds complex, and indeed it is. But this system is more rewarding than the Materia system or the Attach-Magic-Stones-in-Clothing system of the deranged Final Fantasy IX.
Some people complain that FFVIII's plot is dull, shallow, and utterly witless. I have to disagree. Although it is very unusual, and it seems to shift entirely too much about halfway, we must remember sappy FFVII's chase-Sephiroth plot. Now THAT was boring. Squall, Zell, Quistis, and the others in your group must complete several missions and get to the third disc before you even know who the final boss is (and that boss does just appear out of nowhere--I'll admit, that's quite awkward).
The music is just like much of Uematsu's work. It is very entertaining in some parts, such as Only a Plank Between One and Perdition, Never Look Back, Liberi Fatali, and the ominous voices in Succession of Witches, but it can be very pointless and dull in areas. Such as when you're up near the moon, or in the final castle. Ugh.
The main flaw I've found in Final Fantasy VIII, as well as all other Final Fantasy's (except, of course, Final Fantasy I), is that the plot gets in the way too much. I never felt like I had any time to run around and defeat monsters for experience points. In certain parts, you will not be on the world map for what seems like ages. But some of the enemies are great, and FFVIII sports one excellent bestiary.
To sum up what I've said, Final Fantasy VIII is much better than it's sappy predecessors, has much better movie sequences, has superior music, astounding character development, an excellent battle system, and a plot that will nearly devour you with its twists and turns. I would recommend this to ANY gamer of ANY skill. Anybody who enjoys pure modern fantasy with a great plot and superb animation can NOT pass this one up.
Tuck Everlasting (2002)
Nice conflict, but a little shallow...
Tuck Everlasting is a movie based on an older, classic book. I have never read the book, and that's probably a good thing. I tend to rate the movie simply in how it compares to the book, and that's not the way it should be done.
It was a pretty decent movie, starting off rather slow, but picking up into an interesting. I was very mystified at the beginning. What secret did the Tucks hold? What was so special about them? If it weren't for my father figuring it out, I would have never guessed until the younger boy said how old he really is.
Like I said, it starts out mysterious, then gathers to a nice point. A certain man in an ugly yellow suit is searching for the Tucks, claiming to be their relative. The Tucks seem forced into kidnapping a young girl, but we don't know why they must. The girl has met the man in yellow, but we don't quite understand the connection. In the beginning, the movie is very interesting.
It starts to slow down a little too much, though, as it starts to focus only on how the girl's parents are searching for her and how she is falling in love with the boy. The pace quickens when the man in yellow finally catches up with the Tucks, but somehow it seems a little too late for that. The ultimate climax is quite humorous (and creepy, too).
I felt that this movie was just a little slow. Very interesting, yes, but it was lacking something. Perhaps the characters weren't believable. Perhaps it was too slow. Maybe it focused too much on the romance story. Whatever it was, it proved detrimental to the movie. It's a good movie, but not something I'd watch more than once.
Robin Hood (1973)
A witty Disney tale!
I used to always watch this one when I was younger. It was one of my favorites, and like all little children, I'd watch it at least once a day. I watched it again today, if only to revive old memories.
Somehow, it's not as good as I remember. Perhaps I was drawn to the bright colors and the funny characters. Whatever it was, it seemed to be missing today.
But still, it's a nice tale of semi-good versus good. Robin Hood is now characterized as a charming young Fox. Little John is a bear (who seems much like Baloo) and Friar Tuck is... uh... a Friar. Not too sure what he is. Maybe a mole.
Anyway, it's a funny movie with some nice songs and good action. It probably has one of the best villains in Disney history. Come on, how many times do you see a guy scream, "Kill him!" in a Disney movie? Not that often. King Richard and Sir Hiss will have you laughing throughout the movie.
However, there are only two climactic moments in the movie, and this makes it out to be just a little tedious. That doesn't deter from the nature of the film, though, and it's an exciting romp nonetheless. Although it's more for the children, I'm sure it can appeal to viewers of many ages.