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The Ring (2002)
Ringu did it better, and without the Hollywood excess.
I saw the original Ringu first, so there's no way I can talk about the remake without comparing the two. I really did enjoy the remake, particularly Naomi Watts' performance, but I do think the original is marginally better. In both versions, the tension is extremely tangible and builds slowly, the atmosphere is equally creepy, but the original isn't riddled with Scary PartsT designed to make you jump, which American horror movies just can't seem to leave out. I appreciated that, and because of it, the ending was more effective in the original. Not to mention during the end sequence they didn't need to (but probably didn't have the budget to anyway) use digital effects to make it look "cool".
Seriously, the ending of the original is much more well done. And much creepier. As so many great foreign and independent movies have proven, a bigger budget does not necessarily equal a better movie. With a low budget, the movie's not going to be clogged with pointless special effects and filler, but instead concentrate more on telling a story. In that respect, Ringu succeeded marvelously. The remake did as well, it just did it flashier. It tired to impressive its audience with eye candy, instead of just letting this great story tell itself.
Also, the video tape sequence is better in the original. When a movie gets Americanized, I always dread what invariably happens--it overexplains things. Such is the case here. I completely got the all the elements of the story in the original, even if the video tape didn't make sense. In the remake, they just felt the need to explain everything, severely detracting from the supernatural mystique of the story (which is at its heart, a traditional ghost story--the best kind of horror story). The original doesn't need to beat you over the head to get your attention, particularly in the case of the subliminal reference to the title, and I appreciate that as well.
The remake definitely has better actors going for it, but I don't think it stands up quite as well. Whichever version you see first will probably have the scarier ending though, and thus may appear a consistently better film. I'd give the original 8/10, and the remake 7/10.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
This is my kind of cheese.
Now this is how you make a low-budget horror movie. Just throw some soldiers together in the woods, and toss some extra-cheesy looking werewolves at them, piling on the blood and guts as needed. A few explosions here and there, and a bit of well-placed comedy, and you've got something. Love the Matrix reference by the way. 8/10.
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Not really a war masterpiece.
Maybe there's something nostalgic about Russians and German characters not speaking with their proper accents in war movies, because that's how a lot of war movies used to be made, but it's something that just gets on my nerves. The opening battle scenes are on par with Saving Private Ryan, the tension of the two snipers' duel is nail-biting, but the love triangle subplot is forgettable, and the filmmakers fail to utilize and comment on the propaganda used by both the Soviets and Germans in any meaningful way. The movie does get points for showcasing the Eastern front of the European theater. Hollywood would have us believe the US won the war single-handedly, but the Russians were in fact instrumental in the defeat of the Nazis. Still, I just can't get past those Russians with British accents. 6/10.
If you'd like to see movies that highlight the Eastern front even more effectively, check out Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron from 1977, or the German-made Stalingrad from 1993.
Doesn't live up to the original.
It seems this is one of those movies whose audience is divided--those who hate it and those who love it. I can see merits in both sides. Jodie Foster was a much better Agent Starling, and not only that, the character was better written in Silence of the Lambs. But Anthony Hopkins is as good as ever, Ridley Scott's direction is superb, and Hans Zimmer's score is outstanding. A lot of the blood and gore is unnecessary however, and seems to dumb down the Lecter character. The idea of him committing these heinous acts is much more frightening than actually seeing him do it. Gary Oldman does the best he can with what he was given, but his character comes off as cartoony, as does the infamous scene with Ray Liota. Giancarlo Giannini does a great job however; his character's tension is practically palpable. Worth seeing I guess, though far surpassed by both Silence and Red Dragon. 6/10.
Gojira ni-sen mireniamu (1999)
A Godzilla fan's wet dream.
This is the big lizard at his cheesy best. Crappy CGI, big rubber suits, cardboard buildings, bad dubbing, it's got it all. The effects have improved since the days of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, but not by all that much. The dialogue is as corny as ever, taking a back seat to the main attraction rather than trying to incorporate him into a silly storyline. You can't spend $80,000,000 importing Godzilla to Hollywood and expect the same magic as the original. We've seen the results. But never fear, the guy in the rubber suit is back and better than ever. You can still almost see the zipper. 7/10.
Not even state-of-the-art CGI can save this clunker.
Seriously, what is it with the Japanese? It's like they're trying to replace flesh and blood actors altogether. It's still gonna take them a while, because as impressive as this movie looks, it's still nowhere near as realistic as live action. I cringed every time I noticed a character wasn't moving properly. What we need is a happy medium in CG animated films. Something that isn't trying to be ultra-realistic, but also something more mature than say, Pixar's stuff (I'm seriously getting sick of all that cutesy CG animation).
Besides the animation, Alec Baldwin's character is a flat stereotype, James Woods' motivation isn't explored enough, and the plot is confusing at times, not to mention hokey as all get out, crammed with corny new-age spiritualism. And other than the name "Cid," it bears absolutely no resemblence to any of the Final Fantasy games. Everything that makes those games great is missing from this. How can they even call it Final Fantasy?
Nice job Square. 4/10.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Only worth it for Jolie.
Okay, this pretty much qualifies as one of those no-brainer, excessive budget, summer action flicks I detest so, but frankly, I enjoyed it anyway. Sort of. Tomb Raider was exactly what I expected it to be, so I can't say I was disappointed. The plot was clunky and riddled with horribly cheesy dialogue, the soundtrack was annoying, the CGI creatures looked really fake, and most of the cast, especially Jon Voight, didn't look like they were even enjoying filming. But that's all excusable when you realize what the best part of this movie is: Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. It forgives everything. Well, not everything, but a lot. 6/10.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
All I can say is--WTF?!
Spoilers I guess.
The absolutely absurd logic of the ending ruins the entire movie. I just couldn't get over it. And what is wrong with Mark Wahlberg's character? If I suddenly found myself crashed-landed on a planet full of talking apes, I'd be all like, " AAAAhhhhHHH!!! Run for your lives! The monkeys have inherited the Earth!" But he's all like, "talking apes, okay. Next?" That's pretty jaded I'd say. He must run into even stranger things on a regular basis. Besides that, this is Rick Baker's best work yet. This film is a true testament to how far we've come in the monkey makeup field. 3/10.
I feel vindicated.
This ranks up there among the greatest comic book movies ever made. Thank you Bryan Singer. Thank you David Hayter. Thank you Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, and Hugh Jackman. And most of all, thank you Ray Park. In my eyes, you guys have done a fair bit to redeem the genre. Fans of the comic will probably find this a lot more satisfying than non-readers, though it's a pretty enjoyable movie regardless. Hugh Jackman is incredible. He simply is Wolverine. I'm so glad they chose not to cast an established movie star in the role. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are great as always, though the fanboy in me wants to have words with the wardrobe department about how silly Magneto's helmet looks. The biggest surprise by far is Toad. Ray Park breathes life into the pathetic little troll, turning him into an exciting, dangerous, and formidable X-Villain, even paying homage to his Darth Maul role for a moment. Magneto's lackey no more, he was beyond a doubt my favorite character in the movie.
I'd only venture some minor critiques. Firstly, we all know how that one line of Storm's is. You know the one I mean. It's not Halle's fault entirely I guess, but it still makes me cringe every time I hear it. And Storm's character wasn't nearly developed enough in the first place. Then there's Magneto's plan. Though it does make sense and provides an interesting plot, it's just not his style. Genetic-engineering and DNA manipulation is Mr. Sinister's bag. Other than that, it's all good. 8/10.
Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Okay, we get it. Tom Cruise is "cool".
Spectacular belief-defying stunts... and not much else. Apparently not many people fully grasped the plot of the first installment (a much better movie), so its sequel was dumbed down to a generic summer action flick. And isn't MI supposed to be about a team of covert agents? That's what I remember when I used to watch the show as a kid. So where's the team? All I saw was a movie about how "cool" Tom Cruise was supposed to be. I used to admire John Woo; he's a better director with a smaller budget and no big-name American movie stars. 2/10.
I don't think many people realize how lucky we are to have had such a brilliant and imaginative writer share his astoundingly detailed, rich, and colorful fantasy epic with the world. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings for his grandchildren, but if it wasn't for him the fantasy genre as we know it today would not exist. Everything that followed The Lord of the Rings borrowed from it in one way or another. Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, Final Fantasy, and Harry Potter, among countless other fantasy worlds, wouldn't be around if The Lord of the Rings was never published. We owe Tolkien a great debt of gratitude. Everything, from the expansive and awe-inspiring natural surroundings of New Zealand, to Sir Ian McKellan's triumphant and thoroughly entertaining portrayal of Gandalf the Grey, contributes to make The Fellowship of the Ring a film for the ages, a wonderful tribute to Tolkien's masterful vision. Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup, Best Original Score, Best Director (Peter Jackson), Best Picture of the Year. 9/10.
Time for the bad guys to shine.
I've always thought the bad guys were the coolest. The Empire Strikes Back is perfect. The introduction of the Super Star Destroyer is my favorite scene of any Star Wars movie. It still gives me chills every time. A great character--Boba Fett--was originally introduced in Empire. The saber duel between Luke and Vader remains my favorite in the series. While the duel in The Phantom Menace is probably the most visually dazzling and awe-inspiring, it's far too short, and there's no motive or emotion involved. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fight Maul based only on the fact he poses an immediate threat, and it's their duty to combat evil. Luke goes up against Vader because the Force guides him to it. He's destined to confront the Dark Lord and learn the truth about his father. The ending of Empire is the most dramatic of the series without a doubt. It's the only one of the bunch that doesn't end on a happy note, like a fairy tale. 10/10.
Star Wars (1977)
Escapist Entertainment for the Ages
One of the most revolutionary movies ever made. It's not often Hollywood has to invent new technology and techniques to film a movie. I can still remember seeing it as a kid on my parents' tiny little black and white TV when it aired on CBC. Even then it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. And it stands the test of time. The opening sequence from the 20th Century Fox fanfare to the Corellian Corvette being pursued relentlessly by Vader's dreaded Star Destroyer is now one of the most memorable in the history of film, and it still gives me chills every time I see it (upwards of fifty by now I'm sure--I think the only movie I've seen more is Batman).
Though Lucas did borrow a lot from The Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, and Akira Kurosawa's movies, he blended them together in a really unique way, along with the tried and true elements that made westerns and Saturday afternoon serials so popular. At its core, Star Wars is just a fun adventure movie. It wasn't made to win Oscars, but to simply entertain. And it does that like not many other films can. Out of the original trilogy, this was by far the most improved upon with the release of its Special Edition. Though the extra scene with Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt was completely unnecessary, and of course Greedo shooting first ranks up there with Jar Jar Binks as one of the worst ideas Lucas ever conceived, the movie as a whole seems so much more alive and enjoyable to watch. Too bad the same can't be said for the other two movies' Special Editions. What happened? It's like they stopped trying once they got to Jedi; it's barely improved at all. The Rancor scene still looks horrible. Guess they spent too much money on that slappy-ass musical number. Anyway, I give the original Star Wars 9/10.
Shyamalan is one ignorant person
If he thinks that's how and why people become atheists anyway. I think the man is shaping up to be a great director. His two previous efforts rank among my favorite movies ever. But I couldn't help but be offended by Signs.
Visually, the movie is stunning. Very suspenseful as well, and in that respect I applaud Shyamalan's work. He's the next Alfred Hitchcock. But I just couldn't get past the religious BS this movie is riddled with.
Someday, someone's going to write an intelligent script about a character losing their faith, and nobody's ever going to see it made into a film because from the tripe we've seen in recent years (ie. Bless the Child, End of Days, etc.), filmmakers believe us godless heathens could never be heroes. Everybody triumphs in the end if they just have faith. Excuse me, I need a barf bag.
Lola rennt (1998)
This is the most overrated movie since Titanic
I seriously don't get what's so great about this piece of garbage. The concept, time repeating itself until the characters get what it is they're supposed to do, has been done to death. See Groundhog Day, as well as episodes of the X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'm sure there are earlier references as well.
Granted, Franke Potente is good, but the characters are unsympathic (I couldn't care less about what happens to Manni, he's a loser's loser), the cheesy Euro-trash techno soundtrack is unbearably annoying, the animation is godawful, and the ending is so ludicrous I want to scream too. What am I missing? What is so great about this train wreck?