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Solid pirate summer fun
As a huge POTC fan geek I'm going to be biased, so I'll just say that the other five people I had with me on the first viewing all like it "I enjoyed it" - "it was good" were the comments I got over dinner after, and this was from people who may or may not have seen any of the other POTC movies. Had to do a fast synopsis for a few.
The good: For me, Depp holds his own in deliciously fine form through the film, and it's a relief to have lots of Jack, strong and sardonic in some places, fey in others, and as amusing as ever - with an equally excellent performance by Rush as Barbossa (good energy from both). Penelope Cruz turns in a believable performance as Angelica, and Depp and Cruz are a good fit. There's been some complaints about McShane being a less charismatic Blackbeard - but in the original book he is also portrayed that way - very bad, ruthless, but very intelligent. In the book he isn't some fire-breather of a person. Some pains are taken along the way to make sure the audience is carefully filled in, which I thought was funny as the producers were obviously taking care of all those bemoaning how confused they were during POTC3 - even though POTC 4 is pretty straightforward.
Lots of action and some high-energy fencing and escapes, balanced out with some down time. A lot gets crammed into the allotted time, but it's paced evenly. As rich-looking location and set-wise as any of the other POTCs. Thought the mermaid scene was impressive, spooky, even a nice haunting song that threads through the scene.
The bad: A couple of things could have been built up to than to more than they were, and the zombies while impressive didn't really do that much in particular, for me they made less of an impact that the sea critter men of POTC 2 and 3. But that's also true of the book the movie is based on (where it may be hard to tell you are dealing with a zombie). The subplot romance with the mermaid was a nice nod to mermaid folklore but it was just OK. And there is a bit of jerkiness or jumps in the narrative here and there that I thought were "reaching".
Was better in the second viewing as the new setting(s) and characters were expected and could relax into the film more - probably will see it again before it leaves theaters. The audiences I have been with were laughing and seemed to be enjoying themselves. In any case, think a lot of "professional" critics are ignoring all the good things about this film, like the fact that it's a good to very good film.
The Tourist (2010)
Frothy fun - goes down like an éclair
Opening day (a Friday) enough of the critical reviews I read were negative enough, that I was asking 2 friends if they wanted to switch films - money is tight, yah know? But we agreed there was nothing wrong with checking The Tourist out, at worst there would be some eye candy.
Once again, I'm glad I blew the critics off - it's not that the negative reviews are wrong, exactly. There ARE too many scenes of entire rooms of people turning around to look at Jolie, like a perfume commercial (or someone with toilet paper stuck to their behind). Characters and relationships aren't fleshed out enough, and it's a predictable film - North by Northwest is far superior.
But. As one critic said, it's a frothy diversion, pleasant and fun. Thought the rumpled Depp was low-key and charming, and Jolie was gorgeous and a sympathetic character. There are some amusing twists, and our fairly full theater laughed a lot and was entertained by the film; at no point did any of us lose interest. There are far worse ways to spend a Friday night, and I'd recommend to anyone looking for some diversion and gorgeous views of Venice. Good for anyone looking to unwind after a long hard week.
The Expendables (2010)
Kick-ass FUN - kudos to Stallone and the boys!
Just got back from seeing this with a mixed group - hats off to Stallone for this escapist vehicle. It's just pure rockin' fun, well-paced, with a cast of old pros that know how to poke fun at themselves, but damn, these guys look GOOD - a testament to serious gym time. Plus, the story moves along, a nice balance of some drama with spectacular explosive action. I was really impressed with a scene between Mickey Rourke and Stallone, during a serious moment - it was just PERFECT, beautifully done. Not to mention the way the action violence is handled - it's over the top but in the right way, and all six of us laughed our asses off - haven't laughed that much through a movie in a long time.
Flaws? A few, a bit less shaky cam, and the story has some holes and illogical moments, and the bad guy is a real weasel. I wonder if my favorite author Lee Child (the creator of the ultimate intellectual bad ass Jack Reacher) has checked this film out?
Anyway, had a few highbrow friends who turned up their noses, saying this "wasn't their kind of thing.." Well, they can snuggle down with their copy whatever philosophical tome they like, but on a perfect summer evening grab some friends and check these boys out - I was sorry when it ended and have my fingers crossed for a sequel. Great job by Stallone & co., I'd hazard a guess this could be for 12 and up, maybe, take your daughters so they can see some real men who don't sparkle.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)
Easy charming fun - perfect summer fare
The same people who to me are surprisingly rudely negative about this film would probably say I'm too easily pleased, but I enjoy movies as escapism for the most part and see no need to pick this very enjoyable vehicle to death. Actually, some early negatives I'd read had me worried that I would be irritated I spent the money, instead I've already decided to buy this when it comes out.
Overall, I'd say if you like romping easy movies like The Mummy, National Treasure, and Lake Placid you'll like this, plus refreshingly (without being sickeningly sweet) there is not one swear word or sexed-up scene, so take the older kids and Grandma. I thought Nicolas Cage was excellent, he looked great and can wear a leather duster better than most, and there was some nice chemistry between Cage and Baruchel. Alred Molina looked like he was having fun and is such an enjoyable villain. Baruchel does a good job - he is so geeky at times it is a tad painful - and I found myself rooting for him. The 2 main female characters are lovely and appealing personalities.
More pluses: A lively pace and I never lost interest plus a fair number of laughs. Some interesting character twists with the oily young rock-star magician helping Molina, and some very funny cheeky nods to the original animated Fanatasia - watch for the nod to Star Wars. Great and interesting special effects that made sense when they were used. Even the way the actors moved when they were doing magic was very good (for some reason the wand-waving in Harry Potter sometimes reminds me of people using a flyswatter or shaking a bug off a stick, that didn't happen in this film).
So no, this isn't some classic of cinema, it is what it is and is a bit thin here and there, but it's also quite good for a "magical romp" and is in no way a bad film or a waste of money. I could have done without the occasional background songs which seemed designed to emphasize romantic angst or appeal to young teenagers, but that was bearable. I saw this at an early evening show and there were not many people in the theater, but we all laughed and there was applause at the end, and we left the theater smiling. Personally I think the critics panning this are full of BS or are trying to prove what intellectuals they are. In the meantime see this with your family or take your friends, and then go out and get some ice cream and sit outside and enjoy summer. Hope they make a sequel, too.
Robin Hood (2010)
Fresh, rich and intelligent - a big surprise that I loved it
Reading earlier "meh" type reviews had me not expecting too much when I went with two other adults to see this on Saturday. Figured I'd see a few good fights. Having seen it, I'm glad I decided to check it out for myself, as the varied details that seemed to be picked on by other people were no issue for us whatsoever. To quote one of my companions, who wasn't even interested and was just humoring us by going with us, she was "mesmerized from the first screen, and loved it." For me, who was dubious about the supposed treatment (the older Robin Hood who isn't a laughing young nobleman, the various plot lines that needed to be pulled together, the older and tougher Marion), Scott and Crowe made this thing WORK. It's not a "traditional" Errol Flynn hero, but a believable, realistic set of characters and a credible interpretation, even with some historical twists. It was fresh and interesting to see a Robin Hood that was just kind of fed up, with the kind of boots-on-the-ground friends you'd expect him to have (quite a difference from the immediately charismatic Mel Gibson in Braveheart). It's what is, before an "ordinary" person is made into a legend. King John as depicted isn't wholly a weak, silly, weasel. And Marion - Cate Blanchett is simply superb. Even the depicted "forest boys" would be accurate - as in today when a generation is abandoned without parents, as in some places in Mexico and Africa.
Nor was the atmosphere as complained by some, all dreary and gritty. It looked like what I thought England looks like (I've never been). And accurate portrayals of the villages and buildings of the time.
Afterwards, an episode of on the History Channel featuring Scott and Crowe helped me understand more of the incredible turbulence of the times, and the context of what Scott was attempting to do with a depiction of the rise of the "yeoman" class and the strain of the feudal system, and how the well-traveled Robin Hood in this film is bringing new ideas of government to the rigid feudal system.
So, this isn't what we were all expecting, but I saw two movies this weekend, Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood. And while I loved Iron Man 2, hardly thought about it afterward (until the next installment) while my mind has drifted back now and again to think about Robin Hood, and if they don't make a follow-up so we can see what happens next I'll be pretty upset.
May not be a younger audiences' kind of Robin Hood, but to me it is a well-crafted, rich story for adults, especially adults who love a satisfying book that they can sink into. Unfortunately, and I hope it's not the case, that that is why this movie may do better in Europe, sometimes it seems Americans don't have a lot of patience and want it simple, with some color and flash (yes, I'm American). I just don't get why this isn't more appreciated - some flaws, yes, but well worthy of place in the video collection. I hope to see it again, before it leaves theaters. Other people must have liked it too, as our packed mall theater applauded when it was over, and no walk-outs at all.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
What's not to like?
So a mixed-age adult group of around 20 of us went and caught the 3-D version last night. Most loved it, some liked it, one thought it was OK. There were laughs in the theater, and some "awwwwwwws". My take: Tim Burton came through for me again. Although I like his bittersweet work, I was pretty worried when he started tinkering with "Alice" and "Looking Glass" - the travesty! Now I see the advantage (although some critics bemoan the loss of randomness and whimsy) of having a cohesive narrative, we all cared about the story and cared about the characters and how things would end up. To me it seems as those this "Alice" is a well-fitting sequel to the originals.
Great casting with all, Mia as Alice did a fine credible job as the now older Alice. And Depp - due to some negative remarks I was suspicious of what I was going to see, but once again we felt he was superb - his faintly dark, sometimes sad, sometimes scary Hatter was one you didn't take your eyes off on screen, and he pull off another mad, complex, shifting portrayal with intelligence and aplomb. Much has been said about HBC's Red Queen and all the positive remarks are fully justified. As one friend of mine said, with Burton you have to watch carefully as he slyly slips in all these delightful little details within the sets and the actors - as always he is simultaneously tongue-in-cheek, bitter, and sweet.
I would rate this a ten except for what I felt were a few weak details at the end, but nothing that would ruin the movie and certainly all us were happy to have seen it. A few dark Burton details suggest this is NOT for young children, and it wouldn't be appreciated, so rent the young ones the Disney cartoon version. Hoping to see it again and I will be buying it. As far as 3-D, well that was fun too, but I hope having seen it once I can take in more of the set pieces and a few missed lines. When I asked an older gentleman with us if he liked the film, he said "What's not too like?" Definitely worth the ticket price, I see some nay-sayers pick this to death and they are entitled, but what we felt was a little "Burton" sadness about life and growing up, and a lot of joy. For sure on the way out there was no complaining from the crowd, just a lot of chatter about the performances and sets.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
Ditto "I thought this would be better"
A group of us saw the trailer for this, and immediately decided we needed to go see this film, as the trailer made this film to be hysterically funny in a sort of intelligent, sardonic dark humor way, which we found appealing.
I have to agree with another poster that this film's funniest moments ARE in the trailer; I also have to agree with some critic who complained that the film wandered and rambled here and there. Not that this is a bad film by any means, I thought the casting and the performances were excellent, realistic, and gritty, with George Clooney as a standout. I quite liked Ewan Mcgregor as well, found him appealing in the character. Throughout there are genuinely moving and poignant moments.
However, the best I can describe this as is a very good effort that didn't have the tightness, energy, script or direction to turn this film into the laughing/crying/gut-ripping roller coaster of a movie like "Three Kings". From time to time I found myself getting a wee bit bored, though the film pulled me back. I also found myself frustrated over what this could have been, it was almost there.
Worth seeing? Yes, it's a solid effort that is better than a lot of the junk that gets released. But you might want to catch it on a DVD, couldn't honestly say it is a MUST SEE.
Public Enemies (2009)
Visceral and raw - excellent job by Mann and co.
I loved it, as well as the 2 other women I went with - yes, we like Johnny Depp in general and are already buzzing about the planned? Dark Shadows, but even the best actors in the world can make a dog of a movie.
I'm not real familiar with Mann's work or what some of the fussing was about, but I think I caught on fast as to what the director was portraying, and he did it beautifully, with a raw, visceral film - you can feel the rain on your face, and feel the branches scratching you as the actors run through the woods - you can feel the cold. And a kind of building bad coming, with a terrific soundtrack to match. Yet other scenes are simply gorgeous.
Generally disliking romances (not all) I was very happy with the tragic, mature adult treatment of the relationship, and I enjoyed Marion Cotillard's performance. Without question Depp shone in this (I was dubious about this part for this actor) - you forget it's Depp. As an actor he seems to be so completely immersed. I thought all the performances and casting were excellent, the biggest surprise to me was Christian Bale who I have always thought of as the world's flattest and most boring leading man. Here, (especially if you have read about the real Purvis) he conveys an unassuming, dedicated, even conflicted leader with a kind of almost delicate subtlety - impressive. The jail scene between Depp and Bale was particularly good, not over-the-top testosterone but realistic.
Only complaints - our theater had the sound problems as well, as thought the sound would fade and get loud again - obnoxious. Some of the shots made our eyes swim into focus. Overall I would like to shake Mann's end for a fine, fine movie and it's treatment - definitely want to see again and definitely one for the DVD collection. Personally I can't understand what the complaints are about, the approach Mann took was very refreshing and drops you right into the ride. It's like reading a very good, mature, intelligently written, REALISTIC, book - settle in and enjoy, although parts are very grim there are a few laughs here and there to ease things.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Very good - non comic book non-fan comments; Ledger scores
I finally saw this last week, I would have waited for the DVD except for the ENORMOUS hype, so a whole group of us checked this out, none of who were "comic book fans".
I'm a huge big budget fantasy movie fan (POTC, Star Wars, LOTR and even Burton's "Batmans") so I agree with those who say this movie is "epic" - it's a big, big, movie, richly done. Yes, there are inconsistencies and confusion here and there, no movie is perfect, but it wasn't anything that threw me off track. And to me here and there it got a little slow, but not where I lost interest.
Then there's Ledger, and for me he just stole the movie - there are some priceless scenes with him - I agree that this portrayal is the successor to Hannibal Lector as a pure (complicated) move villain and one of my annoyances is that he wasn't on screen more - what can I say? In a way I ended up rooting for the Joker more, although he is such pure chaotic evil he is terrifying, the best Stephen King bad guys haunting your mind - chilling. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman truly shine, totally classy and easy in their parts. I didn't have any problem with the casting, Bale does a very serviceable job as Batman - but as Batman in costume and without I am not sure what anyone could expect - he is a believable Batman. (OK, the suit doesn't do anything for his cheeks, makes them look fat a la John McCain, but the hoarse voice didn't bother me.) I thought the Batman toys, outfits, special effects were pretty cool, it is definitely worth seeing on a big screen. Where it fell off for me without picking it to death was the longish 20-minute ending where the film seemed to get lame with the ferry boat "stand-off" and the threat-to-the family thing. Somewhat cheesy and corny. I wasn't moved at the end, just faintly irritated.
But. A companion with me loved it, overall the whole diverse group thought it was a good/great film, and I can really see why many Batman fans feel this is a cinematic landmark. It is a film made with a LOT of care. I haven't seen enough comic book movies to really compare, but based on the ones I have seen (Spiderman, Superman, etc.) TDK is NOT a comic book movie - it is as the critics say a gritty dark epic crime drama. There are a few funny moments, but you don't enjoy this the way you do "Iron Man", because it's a completely different road. I'm not a fan enough to care, but if I were for this one I would be counting the days to the DVD, and for the rest of us - yes, this one is well worth the ticket price. 7 or eight for the movie overall, 10 for Ledger......
A for effort, C-D for execution
I enjoy reading others' comments about movies, and many is the time "ordinary people" have saved me $$$. Pro and con, IMDb commenters help me get a better picture of a movie ahead of time than critics ever did. I've never commented on film before myself, except for this one, because sadly, the reviewer at NBC summed it up best "Indy lost its joy". And I'm still in stupefied disbelief, because it's INDY, yah know? Something you could count on for a good time. I NEVER thought I'd be telling people well, you might want to go to the cheap matinée. And I can only nod in grim agreement at the multiple, and often hysterically funny, documentation of the ill-done and overused CGI by other posters.
Are negatives nit-picking this film to death, as a friend accused me of doing? No, they are not, I argue. Because when I go to the movies (as a huge adventure/fantasy fan) I want to lose myself. Indy, Star Wars, POTC, Transformers, the Mummy films, Jurassic Park, LOTR, Batman, Iron Man....I want to sit in a theater with my jaw dropping like I did at the first sight of a dinosaur, or be cheering Indy on. I'm not fussy - people pan all these films, but I had a wonderful time with most of them, and can easily blow off bad spots in a film, here and there. I'm looking forward to the Mummy 3 right now. And the Dark Knight. And Harry Potter.
But I couldn't lose myself with this Indy - CGI prairie dogs? Why? All I could think of was the dancing gopher in "Caddyshack". Why is a mineral/crystal skull being handled as lightly as a paper cup? Why are so many of these scenes seemingly rip-offs of the Mummy 1 and 2? The horrible rubber snake - what happened to the lovely pit of snakes in Indy 1? I thought Shia did as well as he could - but as a tough guy - not credible, he looks like a metrosexual. Why is Marion acting like a scatterbrained over-medicated housewife, and why wasn't there more beef, or something, behind the pivotal Indy/Marion reunion? Why wasn't Indy's face pulverized by flying sand in one scene, and why doesn't he (at least) have radiation poisoning? Not a good sign when your brain is ticking off one inanity after another, or you're thinking you should have gone to see Narnia instead.
I'd like to be kind, and think Lucas and Spielberg thought the audiences would really enjoy all the back-references to the first three, the heavy nods to the 1950s, the alien references. Maybe it was just a misfire. Or maybe, annoyingly, just because they love the 50s and aliens and special effects, as many have pointed out, they forgot the heart of Indiana Jones. Because even 20 years later I would never have pictured Indiana as faintly bitter and weary (the first 10 minutes it sounded as if he was reading a packing list), and have the "aging, cunning, adventurer teaching the young arrogant kid" scenario being pounded into my head with a crowbar. It's not his age - it was the flatness. All that was needed was for him to be Indy - we GET IT already that it's 20 years later.
Like many, I could write volumes on what I found mortifying about this film. Not everyone in my audience felt the same, there was some laughter and applause at the end. There were some positives for me - the attention to detail re the 50s scenes, I thought the cycle chase was fun, the cave where the skull was found pure Indy, the initial escape from the Russians. I kept thinking the film would find its way, but 2/3 through it sank and never surfaced. I'm giving it a 5 because I think I see what Lucas/Spielberg were trying to do - but the best I can say is that it was OK. Sort of. In places. My father liked it. But still, you might want to wait for a cheap matinée or the dollar theaters for this one.