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Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Genuinely not impressed
Here's what I expected going in to Zero Dark Thirty: a really fantastic piece of cinema that I would grudgingly be forced to appreciate even while disagreeing with its depiction and value judgement on torture (I was aware of the controversy prior to viewing).
What I got instead was a surprisingly boring movie, that had almost non- existent character development, very conventional (mundane) writing, and not much substance. I don't know why critics are in love with the movie; it's not a good documentary, and it isn't a very compelling piece of fiction either.
I would give ZDT an average rating overall (technically, it's by no means a TERRIBLE movie), but for the "small" fact that it ends up being unabashedly apologist for "enhanced interrogation" (torture). We're told time and time again throughout the movie how important the "detainee program" was to finding Bin Laden, we're shown how torture broke the captives, and then how prisoners eventually start spilling vital secrets because of "biology" (the inevitable conclusion to torture, the movie tells us, is the truth). This all is, by most clear thinking and civilized people, morally reprehensible and patently false. Just ask John McCain, himself a victim of torture.
Even a well crafted movie would get a low score from me if it presented torture as a necessary but evil truth serum, and Zero Dark Thirty is not that.
The Walking Dead (2010)
It's a rarity to see a film adaptation of a book done really well and with deference to the original material, but The Walking Dead pilot indicates a series with promise. Granted, one episode isn't a very big sample group, but so far so good. It may even improve upon the graphic novel, which I already thought was one of the best I'd read. The dialogue really benefits from having the time to better tell the characters' stories, and so far the acting has risen to the occasion and added a depth to the personalities that illustrations just can't do. The show is beautifully shot, and doesn't shy away from grittiness. Shots of Atlanta overrun with adequately grisly zombies really delivers the news that life is now officially different for our characters. I really hope Darabont can continue delivering this kind of quality throughout the series. If he can, The Walking Dead will be a bona fide hit, and will certainly belong in the ranks of the best zombie fare ever made.
Great mix of old and new.
I'm surprised at the polarized opinions of Predators here on IMDb. From fans of the original movie (like me), I would have expected a degree of respect for this latest iteration; it seems to honor its predecessors while still offering new twists and depth. Without presenting spoilers, I would simply say that there were developments in Predators that present some exciting opportunities for future films. I also always appreciated Predator for its "gravitas", and Predators continues that somber and grim tradition with arguably better acting.
For new viewers, I don't see what more could have been expected. It's an old concept (The Most Dangerous Game, with hunted humans), but Predators does a good job with it. The acting is great, the lines are not successive groan-worthy quips, the cinematography is delicious, and the soundtrack is fantastic (segments of the original with new score!). Again, the overall plot isn't new, but at least it's not stupid. The characters behave in a realistic manner, and I wasn't plagued by the "why-didn't-they-just-do_____?" question for the entire movie.
Frankly, if you read a review from someone with a rating lower than five, they're just not being fair. Predators AT LEAST deserved to be watched and appreciated for what it offers.
The Book of Eli (2010)
The Book of Eli was getting some poor critical reviews, so I went to see it with pretty low expectations. They probably weren't quite low enough, because I still came away disappointed/disgusted with what I thought was a poorly constructed post-apocalyptic world, and a storyline that was fairly ridiculous. To avoid attaching spoilers, I will simply say that some plot developments are very difficult to accept, and for me, ruined whatever attempt at realism the movie was attempting to portray.
I think the cinematography is appropriate (lots of washed out, grainy scenes of bleakness), and sufficiently compelling to earn some points. The acting is solid, and for the most part, the dialogue isn't offensively bad.
Where the movie just completely runs off the rails for me is in the unlikely behaviour of virtually every character we are introduced to, including Eli himself. Nobody seems to respond realistically to any situation they find themselves in, and as such, I found it hard to buy into the notion that they would have actually survived more than a month in this post-apocalyptic world, let alone years. The intentionally ridiculous comedy "Zombieland" had more believable characters than this solemn tale.
It could have been so much more. 5/10
Enough to make old eyes feel young again
I'm not really that old, but I've seen quite a few movies in my day. After Lord of the Rings was completed, I wondered if I'd ever be truly excited by a motion picture again. Well, James Cameron has done it with Avatar. There are the obvious cinematic innovations to acknowledge: carefully used 3D, the new motion capture technology, etc. The film just simply LOOKS great. I found myself giggling with joy at the pure beauty of so many of the scenes of Pandora (the alien planet) and its fauna. Cameron's time deep sea diving has obviously fired his imagination for strange and wonderful creatures. There is solid acting (particularly Stephen Lang, as the Colonel, who somehow pulls off a gritty depiction of a now very clichéd role), and there wasn't a single line in the script that had me checking my brain at the door. (There are some recycled lines, to be sure, but I didn't find them distracting.) Score by Horner was subtle, yet still moving. Frankly, though, what worked more than anything for me was the overall storytelling. A number of my friends were disappointed with the "gone native" tale, that has been "done to death" through previous works like "Dances With Wolves" or "Last Samurai", but I didn't find it old at all. Rather, this is a fantastic re-imagining of the age old human tendency to colonize and obliterate other cultures and environments. Cameron is definitely spinning us a morality yarn, but it is one that cannot be spun enough times, and he does make every effort to make this iteration the most beautiful you will ever see. 10/10 p.s. Without any intentional hyperbole, I consider this to be the finest movie I've ever seen.
I thought the first Transformers movie was stupid, and it was only on a dare that I found myself watching the second. Every element that bothered me in the original movie (inane dialogue, ridiculous plot, infantile humour, and a pile of unlikeable characters) were amplified exponentially in Revenge of the Fallen. The Witlesswikies are back and more irritating than ever. Their behaviour is not that of a normal family dealing with a serious issue of national security, but rather escaped mental patients whose every utterance seems to be an attempt at humour. Megan Fox is an attractive girl. Too bad her character is written as a bi-polar sex doll. But maybe that's the kind of girl that would be attracted to a blithering idiot like Shia? I still don't get the robots, and why they do 75% of the things they do. I don't get how people can be in the Smithsonian one minute, and then crash out into a country airfield in the next. I don't get how humans can fall hundreds of feet and live. And I really don't get how Michael Bay keeps making money. It's sad.
Edison & Leo (2008)
Cute and bizarre
I just saw this little gem in our local independent theatre in Saskatoon, and I can now understand why the film wasn't rated. I'm not sure how one could actually categorize a claymation film that includes the odd beheading and other somewhat lurid or sexual moments. Edison and Leo is about a somewhat mad inventor who creates a great deal of trouble for his family when he allows his lust for scientific knowledge to overtake common decency or morality. It mixes dark humor with themes of love and loss, mysticism vs. science, good and evil, all portrayed by stop-motion clay characters that reminded me of the old Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Christmas special--rough around the edges, but disarmingly fun to watch. I don't know who I'd recommend this movie to. It's a bit bloody for kids (even though I found the violence comical, since it's clay), and the animation would be too 'primitive' for most Pixar-dazzled audiences, but if you enjoy off-beat, original fare, it won't be the worst thing you've ever seen.
I can understand why Alan Moore wouldn't want his name attached to Zack Snyder's Watchmen. His original material is more nuanced, complex, and, well, just original, and probably can't ever be replicated in another medium as well. But man, if ever an effort was to be made, this version of Watchmen is as good as it's going to get. It doesn't pull punches, doesn't sugarcoat or shrink away from what Moore imagines, and while some details are left out, far more was left in than I expected. Kudos for everyone involved in this movie. I can't describe what a joy it is to see a movie that doesn't talk down to its audience, and isn't, unlike adaptations of fellow graphic artist Frank Miller's work, just about men behaving badly. Watchmen is a beautiful, thought-provoking piece of work, deserving of the name.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Every now and again, a movie comes along that helps destroy the credibility of the IMDb. "Snakes on a Plane" is the best example I've seen in quite some time of such a film. The fact that this stink bomb of a movie has a rating over 7 is a travesty of ranking movies.
I can appreciate "B" movies. I think "They Live" is a classic. I laughed my ass off at "Kung Pow". "Blood of Heroes" was/is a hoot. "Snakes on a Plane" is not a "B" movie. It is a "D" movie, which places it in a category that is not only bad, but bad enough that you can't even have fun making fun of it.
This movie needed a couple of characters that would've, say, enjoyed wrestling a snake or two. Maybe a nerdy snake geek on board the plane, who could've dispensed questionable information to humorous ends. And it would have been way more fun if one or two of the snakes had been given a bit of a personality, so we could at least have had a big showdown between Samuel L. and the "Snake King". This is the kind of goofy junk you need in a movie with a title like "Snakes on a Plane". Without it, you just have a boring waste of time.
Lady in the Water (2006)
Shyamalan continues to make interesting movies that are enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, he is the victim of his own success, and it's hard not to compare "Lady" against his other, probably better, films. I personally don't think this picture has the suspense of "Sixth Sense", or the character depth of "Unbreakable" for example. (On the other hand, I found it more imaginative than "Signs" and more complex than "Village".)
Ultimately, "Lady in the Water" it is different, it is interesting, and I think well worth meandering through. I give it something between a 7 and an 8.