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When it was good it was very very good, when it was bad...
The producers hoped they would give Wormald his "Bacon" break, but unlike Bacon who was a good actor who surprised everyone with his dancing, Warmald is a good dancer who really isn't a very good actor. However, this film could easily become the breakout roles for Julianne Hough and Miles Teller. Julianne Hough often carried the film when her costar couldn't.
The film is a respectful update to the 84 classic, often stealing scenes and dialogue verbatim from the 1984 script. Normally I am critical of such "lazy" writing, but with this film, I couldn't think of anything better to replace them with. So it's forgivable.
The film did bog down frequently at the worst times. The key to the 84 film's success was the "economy of words". Nothing was explained if it could be showed and nothing was shown if it was already explained.
In this film the initial accident was fine, but then became redundant when the reason for the dance laws were later explained to Ren. It is a basic "either / or" choice for the story. Bogging the story down with over explained or over dramatized scenes don't help. The purpose of the destruction in Ren's private dance was lost on me.. The idea was to get out his anger in a creative way, not to trash a warehouse! Why the fight outside the dance was extended was beyond me completely. It was never meant to be a pivotal scene, just a short resolution to the Chuck conflict, a blip to amp up the excitement to the final dance sequence.
Many things about this remake /update worked and others fell completely flat.
As I said initially, this film showcased that Julianne Hough has real acting chops, something even I was skeptical about going in. The real break out from this film will be her not Kenny Wormald.
I believe she and Miles Teller will get a lot of work from this film.
Space Battleship Yamato (2010)
Good but not Great
For an SF film to get a budget this size in Japan would have to have the iconic battleship in it, and it does.
Yamato, was a valiant effort and unfortunately despite the very polished SFX of the film several plot holes came through.
As a writer I will stick to a writer's critique of this film.
I will say from the outset that I can only rate this film based on Western standards of story telling. What may seem superfluous and long to a Western audience may well be a very dramatic moment to Japanese audiences.
That being said I will share a few notes.
In general, the film was well paced, but suffered from too many "talking heads" moments and instances where the dramatic momentum was sabotaged by what seemed like overly extended scenes.
Several questions were not answered at all. How did a re-enlisted pilot suddenly qualify to operate an experimental weapons system aboard the a brand new ship as well as somehow retain CAG status of the fighter squadrons?
Where did the sudden romantic attraction come from between Kodai and Mori?
How did Kodai merit the "acting Captain" position when there were clearly more senior officers on board?
What evidence (outside of dialogue) that Mori still retained any of the Iskandarian "mojo" to fix an irradiated world?
Why did the Gamilas decide to use a giant nuclear missile to attack the Earth when they are from the same civilization that created the Wave Motion engine?
Would it not have been more plausible that they would have a Wave Motion gun too?
I found many plot points were forced into existence instead of the writer figuring out how to create those moments. I really can't fault the Japanese writer any more than I can extol current Hollywood trash coming out of the California movie mills.
This film was clearly an homage to the beloved original anime series and I'm sure the producers hoped to bank a few Yen on the "Yamato" name as well. Unfortunately it suffered from the common ailment of most adaptations of TV series, it failed to deliver a strong script to the director to build a cinematic story on.
As it is, "Space Battleship Yamato" can enjoy a position of being one of the few live action anime movies to get a lot of it right, just not all.
Sucker Punch (2011)
Live Action Anime Film
Sucker Punch = anime fan's wet dream! The best sentence to describe this film - "Live Action Anime!" All the fight choreography and the poses were ripped right out of Japanese anime. I'm not sure if Snyder or Shibuya are anime fans, but the film definitely had that vibe. Which leads me to believe that this film will do well in the overseas Asian markets where anime is far more prolific in the market.
Visually amazing of course, Snyder never fails to deliver the visuals, however the story was a bit disjointed at points. It is very unfortunate that the foreshadowing very early on essentially offered up the end of the film. The audience should be allowed to discover it on their own. Perhaps a lack of objectivity by one who co-authored the script? Blue Jones came across as a weak antagonist, even when he got mean I didn't find it really believable. Maybe it was because there was a problem nailing down what the antagonist was? Blue or the short time Baby Doll had to escape. Some focus on this aspect would have helped to drill the story down to it's essential parts.
The whole step-father aspect seemed to be some sort of MacGuffin or a loose thread left dangling, I couldn't really tell since it was abandoned early on without explanation or clear reason. This happened a few more times during the movie.
If each of the girls were a splinter of Baby Doll's mind, then where does Sweet Pea fit in since she is supposed to be real? If they were not, then why wasn't that made clear? We see the girls in the asylum early on, and then the story focuses exclusively on what appears to be Baby Doll's "fantasy world"- what happened to the asylum?
"Inception" this is NOT folks!
Many aspects were introduced in this film and then never really revisited. The asylum, the step father, the other patients, it became initially puzzling, which then turned to annoying...
Ambiguity as a gimmick is really sloppy story telling, IMHO.
To revisit the asylum and the parallel events (we suspect) is to reinforce the idea of Baby Doll's fantasy or psychosis, which would have helped the film round out the story.
The segway into the various "missions" was rather smart and the anachronistic touches were clever, however after the second one, they began to appear rather generic as they didn't appear to have any discernible theme outside of different war eras.
Scott Glen as the wise man throughout didn't work for me. It stretched my suspension of disbelief too far to see an American as the wise man in Japan (even if this was an American girl's fantasy).
The first sequence should have had a Japanese actor like Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa playing the wise man and for each segment a different appropriate wise man would appear with a common iconic catch phrase or article of clothing that would make Baby Doll recognize him. Perhaps a Frenchman for the second like Jean Reno, a Brit for the third, like Daniel Craig and finally Glenn for the last. That would lend sense of period focus to each war era mission.
I found the Action sequences were merely there-visually stunning to be sure, but not very thematic as far as I could tell. I hoped they would become progressively more challenging and difficult to complete, but they didn't go there. They were action vignettes for the sake of action, not so much to progress the story along in any meaningful way.
For the record, as a frequent movie goer I am really getting tired of the shaky hand-cam shots in recent films lately!
NEWS FLASH to DIRECTORS! :
Shaky cameras don't give the audience sense of frenetic action. It only serves to confuse the visuals and annoy the viewer. Take a cue from Stanley Kubrick's work on "Full Metal Jacket" and master action shots with the damn steady cam!
Ultimately what "Sucker Punch" lacks is a heart, a soul to draw people into the plight of Baby Doll. That never happened. Perhaps it was the weak antagonist or the various dangling story threads abandoned to allow more screen time for extended fantasy sequences with the "wow" factor.
The real life peril Baby Doll was in, was a dramatic story unto itself and it never seemed to be fully exploited, which was unfortunate.
All in all, Sucker Punch is a fairly descent anime styled film, with several shortcomings. Those who love pure eye candy action will love it, others who are more discerning or require a strong narrative may not care so much.
The smartest thing the studio did for this movie is to go for the PG-13 film rating. Adolescents will certainly appreciate all the flash of the "Goth Girls with Guns" action. A more sophisticated crowd might quickly pass on the picture.
I saw a lot of potential, that was never realized. Maybe Mr.Snyder should stick to making films he DIDN'T write...
I wish more producers would at least have enough business acumen to send a director's script to a screenwriter for the final pass.
Too often a film maker shooting their own words lacks the necessary objectivity to cut or change the film so that it works.
Better than Chicago, but
Mr. Marshall utilized film much better in this musical than he did with Chicago, which was simply a regurgitation of the Chicago Broadway show.
A few sequences are superfluous and largely unnecessary. The Fergie sequences didn't add anything to the story and quite frankly confused the audience. Granted the musical number was well done, but largely pointless.
Judi Dench's musical number was also pointless. It didn't advance the story any and was largely unnecessary eye candy. Both the Fergie and Dench numbers may have had more relevance in the Broadway show, but in the movie they could have been cut out and never been missed.
The childhood sequences should have been heavily trimmed or tightened up much more. Again, they didn't clearly advance the story or tell us much more about Guido that we didn't already know.
The performances were outstanding, however it seemed to me that paying Nicole Kidman's salary for such a small part seemed a waste. Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and Daniel Day Lewis gave great performances. Who knew Lewis could sing? Though I question the need for his accent.
Sophia Loren and Kate Hudson gave great performances as well.
Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz were two of the shining stars of this film. Their performances both dramatically and musically were brilliant! Dramatically, Lewis was his usual excellent self, however he struck me as a fish out of water in his musical numbers. Judi Dench was excellent in her supporting role.
Sophia Loren's screen presence albeit limited, was still effective. Unfortunately it was unnecessarily long in certain parts of the film. Not because of her performance, but due to the need for story economy.
I particularly enjoyed the Euro style ending, which very much fit with the European setting.
The majority of the movie was very good and Mr.Marshall's use of the film medium worked quite well.
The thing about movie musicals, particularly one's based on Broadway shows is that the director needs to resist the urge to be nostalgic about the show and focus the film on the principle story. If a number or sequence isn't necessary to clearly advance the story or characters, then it needs to be brutally cut from the script or truncated to economize the time for more relevant sequences.
Mr.Marshall is getting better at film musicals, but he isn't quite there yet...
One-Eyed Monster (2008)
Brilliant Premise- Epic Fail in Execution
Despite the surprisingly solid performances from all the cast, the script and story failed to deliver on a fresh and unique premise.
The film either had a genre identity crisis or was quite simply pushed on to celluloid before the script was properly polished. It's like watching a professional crew film a first draft script.
It ran the gamut between clever and stupid and often found its cruising speed on the ridiculous and mundane. A better knowledge of the initial setting would also have been helpful.
I was expecting / hoping for a solid dark comedy with horror undertones, but was painfully disappointed. So many obvious comedic dialogue opportunities were missed, plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, and story choices that defied common sense, left me with the impression of a family funded backyard film project, despite the professional production values.
I would recommend this film to aspiring screenwriters to see what their 1st draft scripts would look like on screen...
JJ Abrams & Micronauts = Win!
Abrams has an amazing ability to develop intelligent and compelling films and if he chooses to develop the Bill Mantlo / Michael Golden scripted first 12 issues of the Marvel comic, I think we'll be in for a fun ride at the movies! The comic series (initially a 12 issue mini-series) was definitely a child of the Star Wars mania. So many elements of the comic were inspired by Star Wars, particularly the "enigma force" and the "time travellers".
The initial 12 issue comic series chronicled the adventures of Arcturus Rann who returns home after a 1000 year deep sleep space voyage to find the home he loved has become a foreign land under the thumb of a tyrant named Baron Karza. The legitimate Royal family is on the run. Allied with an exiled Acroyear prince a bugman thief, a dancer called Marionette with her robot side kick and his robotic co-pilot, Arcturus Rann wages a war across the "Microverse" to free his universe from the iron hand of Baron Karza and his infamous "Bodyworks". He is the "One" the enigmatic "Time Travellers" have been waiting for!
The story is an outstanding yarn and certainly worth of big screen treatment.
Star Trek (2009)
Enjoyed the Reboot except
Loved Mr.Abrams new vision and how he integrated it with the existing franchise.
Biggest complaint was the Kobyashi Maru scene where Kirk was strutting around beating the program. Very much an out of character moment in my opinion. The scene could have played better had Kirk taken the simulation very seriously and upon his success we saw Spock and the observers shocked and puzzled as to how he managed to win. Then the controversy and investigation after the fact would have more resonance to the viewer.
Kirk would not give away that he cheated the simulation but also wouldn't deny he did it when confronted. That to me, seemed more like the Kirk style rather than the strut he had during it. He's a cocky character, but not stupid! The only other complaint was yet ANOTHER revenge story as the point of conflict for this Trek film. It's been done too many times before and let's face it Nicholas Meyer did the definitive Star Trek revenge film back in 1982! Something fresh next time please!
Confessions of a Go-Go Girl (2008)
Decent premise, interesting story, poor ending
The story was interesting a bit forced at times.
We never truly got a sense of how repressed she was or for how long. Not enough time was given to explore that side, so we didn't really buy into it.
Chelsea is a very good actress, however the final stage scene struck me as very stiff and didn't really portray the inner change the character came to describe in her monologue. I never got the sense that she honestly felt what she was describing, but rather simply described it like reading a passage from a book or script.
The ending is what I hated. A woman who described herself as "taking the confidence" her gogo persona had given her, then when faced with an old boyfriend who dumped her, reverts back to the insecure girl she once was.
It lacked the honesty of what her experiences were supposed to have transformed her into.
I'd have rather have seen her offer him the "opportunity" to win her back. THAT would have been true to a character who had discovered and understood the power of her own sexuality. A person who found and exercised her new found confidence and didn't need her man, but rather wanted him to want her for who she became on equal terms.
Makurosu furontia (2008)
The latest installment of the Macross franchise commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Macross in Japan
This series does not take any cues from the Robotech adaptation. Unique unto itself like all previous Macross titles that came before. It is arguably the best of the franchise thus far.
Ultimately, with all Macross productions, the show invariably comes back to the enigma of the ancient Protoculture race and their far reaching influence and legacy over the galaxy.
The series focuses on the activities of a group of combat test pilots of the SMS (Strategic Military Services) group who are testing out the new cutting edge variable fighter VF-25 in combat exercises, the amnesiac orphaned teenage girl who is the ward of the squadron commander, a visiting pop idol Sheryl Nome on tour among the colony fleets and their comrades.
The mysterious Vajra appear to attack for no apparent reason and yet have far superior firepower to any enemy that humanity has ever encountered before. Equally mysterious is this girl's ability to affect the enemy's behavior through this unusual song she only vaguely remembers from her dead mother.
Over the course of the 25 episodes, we learn what the Vajra really are, how Ranka Lee can affect them with her singing and the many manipulations that have brought the Frontier Colonization fleet into conflict with this unusual species...
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Great action film, if only they'd just SHUT UP!
Now I am a great fan of the cheesy 80's action films. I loved them and still do.
This film is an obvious homage to that lost genre, similar to how Grind House was to the 70's cinema.
However, where Grindhouse succeeded is precisely where Shoot em Up failed.
Dialogue! Now 80's action films did have cheesy dialog, but it was appropriate and often tongue in cheek for the day. To make a similar film today, the producers need to recognize that today's audiences have grown up on witty, ironic and pun filled dialog in action films. This is the legacy of those films, it doesn't need to be re-invented.
I don't know how many times I said to myself "This would be great fun if they'd just shut up!" The Paul Giamatti was perfectly cast, but had so much verbal diarrhea that I just wanted to throw hammers at the script writer and producers! The action was so over the top and vintage 80's that very little dialog was necessary. As a matter of fact a few phrases peppered here and there would have enhanced the action as opposed to the lame windy retorts the audience was subject to.
The premise was weak, but it's purpose was to set up the action, so that is easily forgivable.
All in all, I gave it a ranking of 6 out of 10, mainly because the action was so fun. The loss of 4 points was because the production staff were either too young to understand why the 80's action films worked, or were simply not paying attention.
Folks, study First Blood, Commando, Predator, Aliens, Robocop, all the "successful" action films and see how the dialog "worked" in those films. They had cheese, but the films didn't need to be swimming in it to work.
A truly great action film, killed by the spoken word, who would have guessed...