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Stephen Bradford Lewis
This movie is fairly weak, but okay
I'm a big fan of pixar movies, I think finding nemo, ratatouille and Wall-E (though to be fair I didn't like Wall-e either the first time I saw it) are some of the best examples of narrative storytelling in the last 20 years. Simply put, the Pixar clan know how to tell stories.
That's why I was so surprised when I saw up. Now, maybe my expectations are too high, but I found it to be one of the weaker Pixar efforts. And here's a few reasons why.
1. It draws on associated emotion, not real emotion. Much of the sadness in the film (and this is a sad - not happy movie) isn't earned. It comes from referencing other films and our own associations - specifically at the beginning. The opening montage goes by so quickly, as a scrap book, that it falls upon cliché to create the emotion. Granted, for many people this will work, because to be honest, there's something affecting about seeing cartoons go through "serious" emotions. Yet, these scenes lack the depth of having our characters go through real actions and real feelings. Things happen, the characters don't do anything - they let things happen to them. (and example is that Russel's (spoiler) parents are divorced. This scene is handled in a clichéd and associated way. So and so's not my mom! Heard that one before...) If you enjoyed the opening montage, watch Mr. Holland's opus - that movie does this same thing better.
2. This movie isn't funny. All of the best jokes are used in the trailers/commercials. Much of the comedy is played too subtly (not subtle, but too subtle) and passed over too quickly. There's never a clear moment of what the movie is trying to make us feel at any given time - which brings me to
3. Tone. Is this a comedy, is it a melodrama? The movie doesn't really know what it is or is trying to say. It's inconsistencies constantly set up a new series of expectations which are never followed through on. It's serious...I'm thinking it's going to ... oh wait, a joke...wait...
4. The narrative. The movie takes about 2 acts to find itself as a movie. Carl meanders though the film trying to take his South America. He wants to put his house down, and every 2 minutes a new complication arrives. Then, in the third act, he battles the old and now evil (how old is this guy supposed to be if Carl is 78?) Charles Muntz. He comes to defend russel and dug, and the bird. He finds a purpose - the movie finds itself as a movie! Finally...but by then we've spent 2 acts trying to get into another story completely.
4A. there are a lot of clever storytelling devices, there is a good story here. It's a matter of the storytelling and dramatic devices the filmmakers use to elucidate that the story that are weak.
5. The characters. Between Carl and Russel (shout out to the Asian community) we have a weak set of characters. The most interesting character, Ellie, dies. Her passive husband is left - the into to him shows how awesome she is. What did she see in him anyway? what did he do? Russel is kind of an idiot spaz. why should I root for someone who's so incompetent?
If Pixar can animate characters with big heads and big eyes, everyone will think it's cute. Great date movies, great for kids, and hipsters. The overall storytelling I felt was pretty weak in UP. It felt like it was rushed off without knowing precisely where it was going - which is a joy to watch in the other pixar movies. Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton make you feel like you're in the hands of a master who is taking good care you - who is guiding you and surprising you, but never doing something you're not enjoying. Up is very muddled film-making. It's not horrible, but it's much weaker than the other films.
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Made me want to see Die Hard 3 again
This is not a good movie. I liked the previous die hard movies, 1 and 3. The second one, well, Bruce is right when he says it suffers from lack of claustrophobia - but then again so do 3 and 4. The trailer looked bad, I said no to it, then it got good reviews and I was persuaded to go to a midnight showing for fun. I was looking for some good action.
Like Die Hard 3, this movie is a sprawling action adventure movie spread out over many cities. Unlike the third movie, this takes place over two days. Like the third movie, this is a buddy cop movie, where the villain is a super-genius white dude with an exotic assassin woman as his lover/bodyguard. She of course gets killed brutally, and we the audience of men, cheer when a woman gets killed because, let's be honest, we're living out our male fantasies. We can't hit women anymore, not like the good old days, so we give them a kung fu kick or a sickle and that makes them enemy combatants, so it makes them fair game.
The third movie works better because it wasn't an accident that it was John Mcclane. Therefore, we have a reason for the movie, for him being in it. This movie could have easily been an action movie where the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Bruce Willis himself even said that were other scripts that could have been Die Hard movies that were made into other movies.
The third movie involves the audiences through it's riddles, silly, but be honest, you were trying to figure it out. Also, stealing money still made sense at that point. The third movie features bad guys that mis-direct the government in order to steal money - guess what happens here? What Americans are really afraid of, now, isn't terrorists stealing money. It's terrorists killing without demands. Killing just to kill. The movie has action, but no violence. No blood, not enough cursing. We never feel emotionally involved. We never feel scared. No good guys die, the stakes are never really raised. We've seen this movie before and before it was bloodier, and harder-core. This movie was made by geeks, not by cowboys.
The technology in the movie is too sleek, too futuristic, too unreal. There's an french assassin who has superhero abilities on par with the guy from the opening of casino royale (which ruins that sequence).
The film's dialectic is between the real and unreal - the digital and the analog. A fair point - a film that boasts no CGI (or minimal) is therefore about itself. Die Hard 4 is about why Die Hard 4 is awesome. Digital movies are bad, live-action movies are awesome. Die hard is a live-action movie. Therefore, Die hard is awesome.
There are some good set pieces here, and some cheesy speeches about what being a hero is all about. There are some good moments, action without violence, by which i mean blood. Justin Long is fine, Willis is beautiful as always. There's no plot, but I know you don't care about that. But seriously, the plot doesn't make sense, okay, okay, shut up, watch the movie, enjoy it, don't think about it. Right? Cheers
Don't worry, Jack Bauer is well rested
This show only seems intense. In fact, the show, with commercial breaks is only about 40 minutes long (give or take). That means, that Jack Bauer gets gets 20 minutes of sleep per episode. Over the course of 24 episodes, he gets 8 hours of sleep. Why he's so frantic is beyond me. (No I don't actually believe the character is getting 8 hours of sleep. But you know someone's gonna go, "that's stupid").
Anyway. I know all y'all love the show, and that's great. I just have to disagree with most of you. I don't think this show is interesting, well written, or well acted. Every line is a cliché and every actor is acting so hard all the time. It's the most "acted" show I've ever seen, and not in a good way. It's not that these folks are bad actors, it's that they're acting in a format that requires them to be charactures and archetypes rather than people. Ultimately it's a show built on a novelty, and it's presented in a way that would any kid with ADD say "too much!" I need to go watch Tony Scott's Domino to calm down.
It's hard, when pretty much every episode is my favorite one, because each one brings something completely new, funny, and awesome. Shindig is a great episode because it's upbeat and amusing, without getting dark or "series-plot" heavy. It really isn't about River's past, or Book's identity. It's a day in their lives. It shows us what they do on a day to day basis, more or less. Again, the effects are used wonderfully and not over done, the acting is as tight as it gets, and the humor...my god the humor. Nathan again proves his range as an actor having some of the funniest lines in the series while still being completely serious. It's a beautifully shot episode, and paced near perfectly. It's a great window into Whedon's universe and we really get a great deal of information about the "upper" culture (whereas we mostly got the "lower" before). As any Firefly fan I'm sure I could rant on for hours about my love of the series, but I figure 2 minutes is long enough.
The Low Down on the Life Aquatic.
Word. This review shall be written mostly for huge/obsessive Wes fans, as I am indeed one myself. This review's aim shall be to put an end to the disparity of reviews I've seen so far. People either love it or hate it, it seems.
Here we go. The good: The Life Aquatic seems much more openly funny than his previous films, all of which are hysterical, but with few deep belly laughs. This film has those laughs. It's got great performances and is is deeply confident in itself. The film is an adventure comedy, even if it's not too heavy on the adventure. It should be taken as an adventure comedy. It's not the dramatic piece that tennebaums was. It's really funny and has these moments in it that will make your heart skip with joy. The look of the film is great. Wes's mise-en-scene is better than anyone else working out there today. He seems conscious of his auteurism, and you'll definitely see the things that you've come to expect from wes films. That's part of what's great about his films is that you can walk in and tell it's a wes picture just from style.
The not so good: While it's a great film, it seems unfinished in some regards. This might be because the film was a bitch to shoot (from everything I've read) but it just doesn't seem completed. Shots cut in the middle of them, and there are continuity problems. I'm not ready to dismiss these as unintentional, but there's something about them that didn't work for me. It might have been trying to be documentary-esq like "the life aquatic with steve zissou" but it wasn't as executed as well as it could have been. Also, (and there may be a spoiler) I didn't really feel that Wes earned the death at the end. There's so much going on the film that we never really get to focus in on one thing, and therefore are not as emotionally invested as we could be. Yeah, I know that Wes's films see thing ironically, sad and funny. I just feel like if you're going to get that serious (and he's been working his way up to killing someone throughout, ie. Luke Wilson attempted suicide) you should do more to earn it. I think style clouds a little bit of the substance and there could have been more real emotion, which, while I know it's not what he's going for, could have elevated this film from 10 to 11.
I'm really going to have to see it again before I can really figure it out. There's so much going on that it might be hard to digest after having only seen it once.
The film is definitely worth seeing, for wes and non-wes fans alike. While I delight in every awkward pause, every offensive joke, every pan, tracking shot, zoom, and sad joke, I think other people will enjoy how wes plays with convention. Wes Anderson is reshaping the way movies are made and in 5 years all comedies will be like Wes comedies - it's happening already (I heart Huckabees, Garden State.) The man is a genius, and while this film stumbles and might not completely succeed, it rocks harder than anything you're going to see this holiday season.
Peace, mam, (sbl)
Shrek 2 (2004)
weak at best
this movie is a waste of two acts. The first two thirds of the film start off without any clear direction or story of any kind. The films seems to be everwhere, neither funny nor serious. It slumps along to played out pop music, without really taking any direction or making any choices.
Now that i've vaugely repeated myself enough. The third act is really funny and works incredibly well. Shrek, at it's best is a tounge-in-cheek reference to the intersection of pop-culture and fairy tales. At it's worst, it's cliched and uninteresting. The picture finally picks up in 3rd act with quick with, fast paced (real) humor, and also a little bit of poppy-sugary-sweetness.
Ultimatley, the last act can and should never be able to redeem the rest of the movie, and it certainly doesn't here. So, take it for what it's worth. It'll probably be good for little kids.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
a B film
It's a B movie. The first act is a C, the second act is a B-/B and the third act is a B+/A- (and only for story elements)
I'm tired so i'll make this short.
The story is there - the explanation scenes are not. They are poorly written, too long, and overblown. We go from ADD fight scenes to complex philosophical statements - which don't even seem to matter.
The action is there - good action, not breaking new ground like the original but some good stuff that's worth look. -- however, it seems forced at times. It seems like they were trying to hard to make another matrix movie - and didn't try hard enough to make a good movie first.
Some stuff goes on for too long. Some of the writing isn't great. Some scenes are campy and forced.
The ending is great it's cool - I did feel that a lot of it was contrived. With sequels you end up with a first movie - complete and original film - and the sequels are contrived (their existence contingent on the success of the first).
The first movie is about an A- for me, this one is about a B. There's good stuff in it, don't get wrong. But i don't think it's told as well as it could have been.
Jeepers Creepers (2001)
And they're making a sequel? What? This is one of those movies that's really frustrating to watch. It's not scary. It's not interesting, it's not even funny. It's not even funny to make fun of! It's got this weird sort of "texas chainsaw massacre" wannabe sort of vibe to it, that just takes away so much. And the fact that we see the demon guys, makes it all the less scary. The scariest thing you'll ever see at a scary movie is the what you imagine in your own head. Showing us the villian, and high key lighting, do not a scary movie make. The plot wasn't interesting, and there were no redeeming qualities to this movie whatsoever. The chick didnt' even get naked. Man, what a baaaadd movie.
25th Hour (2002)
Very good. Great? no. I didn't think the double takes or repetition worked, and I think Brain Cox's voice over, to the montage of Monty's future ran on a little long. I would have liked that to end a little sooner.
Other than that it's really an excellent film. It's not afraid to set it's characters in a post 9-11 world, and it's not afraid to let the characters say what people are thinking. There's a lot of great dialog in the film, and the performances by, really everyone were really quite terrific. The film doesn't try to make Ed Norton seem like a hero, we know what he's done, and we know that he deserves punishment. There aren't really any surprises, yet the action and dialog are captivating. It's a very well directed movie, with a lot going on it in. It is complicated, and there aren't really any easy answers to any of the questions posed by the film.
I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys dialog/character driven pieces. It runs a little long, but I think it's worth it. It's not experimental in anyway, but it is not afraid of itself. It goes after a lot of issues, and I think does a very good job with them.
Beat the Devil (2002)
Wow, tony scott is horrible
I have a growing appriciation for Ridley Scott's films, but a declining appriciation for brother Tony's. Top gun was cool, it was fun. But really his films have been on their way down since that endevour. Beat the devil is horrible. It's like ADD on Crack. Gary Oldman is just annoying, and plain bad. James Brown . . . well, godfather of soul or not, he signed up for an unfortunate production. The use of subtitles is really great. I know Tony's not a performance guy, but come on, at least make the actors speak clearly. The whole thing is very silly, very stupid, and very bad. The visuals did nothing to enhance what story there was. Clive Owen is cool. If you want to see a good BMW film, watch the one by the guy who made Amorres Perros -- Be honest, you can't spell/pronounce his name either. Ang Lee's was good, Woo's was okay, Ritchie's was nice, Scotts was terrible. Don't see it.