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Half good, half bad.
The first half of this movie does nothing and goes no where. We're stuck with Shia LaBeouf acting goofy, hanging out with his parents and driving around in his car. Really, you can skip to the one hour point and you would be able to pick up from there. There are a few funny things in the first hour, but not really worth it. Ultimately, too many humans who aren't John Turturro and not enough Transformers. Like getting stuck eating vegetables for an hour before the steaks are ready. Also there's all the stuff with the cube; which to me didn't make much sense. It's been on Earth for thousands of years; but the two factions show up at the same time looking for it. Geez, you'd think one faction could be off by a few hundred years or something...
The second half is a rousing, exciting and fun action movie. The second Optimus Prime finally shows up, the movie receives a huge jolt of electricity. It takes a really long time to get to the battle between the transformers; which I think everyone really came to see. I hope in the sequel that they don't spend so much time with Shia LaBeouf and skip right to the Transformers, there was no LaBeouf in the TV series and he's just not really adding much to the movie.
The effects are first rate. The editing, like all Michael Bay movies, seems to have been done by people suffering from ADD, although it's never as bad as it got in Armageddon. The production values are first rate. The girl is kinda hot, although not my kind of hot, looks like she has anorexia or something. The military and government stuff is over the top, unrealistic and exactly what to expect from a Michael Bay movie. Any movie with a secret branch of the government keeping a dangerous secret is OK with me.
So yeah, it's all good.
It was a good try.
Batman has always been a fascinating character. A billionaire who voluntarily goes around in the night and saves people from crime and corruption in a major city while dressed up as a giant bat. Sadly this first Batman movie doesn't really look all that deep in to the Batman character. Batman isn't even the star of the movie, that honor goes to the Joker. The Joker is almost the main character with Batman just there to stop him. The story is relatively weak. The Joker is created from a mobster being dropped in to a batch of chemicals. He takes over the crime organization and starts to kill people with chemicals found in hygiene products. Batman then tries to stop him while trying to start a relationship with Vicki Vale.
The biggest weakness is Michael Keaton who really doesn't give much of a performance. His work as Batman is not all that memorable. Even worse is his stiff and boring performance as Bruce Wayne. As the third and fourth movie proves, Michael Keaton can be easily replaced with another actor and change very little. Jack Nicholson is good as the Joker, who really should have came back in later movies. Robert Wuhl also does a nice job on what is essentially a throw away character. Kim Bassinger is the least successful. Her main job is to look good and provide a love interest for Bruce Wayne/ Batman. She does nothing with the character that's even remotely interesting.
Luckily the movie avoids the bright colors and silliness of the 60's TV series. It has a dark look even during the day time sequences. The city has a moody, Gothic feel that survived for all four of the 90's Batman movies. Also of mention should be look of the bat cave and bat suit. Unlike later on in the movie series, the Bat Cave looks somewhat logical (no smoke machines or laser lights). It looks dark and mysterious. The bat suit makes sense. You honestly think some rich guy's gonna go out there with latex like he's Superman or something? Not only does the bat suit look good but it's functional.
Overall it was a good enough attempt at Batman. It's a good popcorn movie that's not all that engaging or demanding. It has a few good action sequences. A few good one liners. A few interesting ideas. Sadly though, Batman was an under developed character with no depth or personality.
Batman Begins (2005)
Swear to Me!
Finally a great Batman movie. I'm just gonna throw all objectivity out the window right now and say that I absolutely love this movie. It's a lot like Superman I in the sense that even though it's not realistic, it feels like this movie could have really happened.
I never thought much of the other four Batman movies. The first two were too villain centric and Michael Keaton's portrayal of Batman was stiff and boring. There was no sense of depth to Batman, he was just Batman because he was supposed to be. He was given second billing to Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito. Then the third and fourth movies were all camp and stupidity. They insulted not only fans but any person with an active pulse.
Then came this movie. This one completely ignored all the previous Batman movies and started over again. Good move. Batman is given the main stage and we the audience find out about what motivates a billionaire play boy to dress up as a giant bat and fight crime. Batman has three villains to deal with in this movie and none of them over shadow him. Liam Neeson and Tom Wilkinson both do good jobs at chewing up the scenery without looking silly. However the best job is done by Cillian Murphy. His Scarecrow is scary and sadistic. I hope Heath Ledger does the same thing for the Joker in the next movie.
I highly recommend this movie to, well everyone. I really enjoyed it and hope that they make at least two sequels that are as good as this movie. I can't wait until 2008 to see The Dark Knight. For the first time I think Batman is headed in the right direction when it comes to the movies.
Superman II (2006)
I was so happy when i heard that the Richard Donner cut was finally happening. I had always enjoyed the original Superman II, but just wanted a chance to see what had been cut. First of all, I think it's a real treat to see previously unreleased footage of Marlon Brando and Christopher Reeve. A lot of the stuff done by Donner that was replaced is clearly better. The unimpressive Eiffel Tower scene has been replaced by a very charming scene where Lois first gives Clark a hard time about being Superman and then throws her self out the window to prove he's Superman. The Niagra Falls scenes are necessarily cut down to the bare minimum since Donner didn't do any of them before he was fired. All that remains are a few minutes of what Lester did and a test screening with bad continuity. I imagine that had Donner the opportunity thirty years ago, it would have been a more complete set of scenes.
A lot of the silly scenes in that small town with the Super Villains are reduced to a bare minimum. The new Brando scenes are probably the biggest reason to see this movie. They add a sense of continuity with the first movie. We finally learned how Superman got his powers back when he returned to the Fortress of Solitude. Although Brando isn't at his best in the Superman movies, Jor-El's sacrifice make it a much better and more comprehensible movie.
There are a few changes in the epic fight between the villains and Superman, but it remains mostly the same. Thankfully, Donner and his editors resisted the temptation to completely change everything ala George Lucas with lots of CGI that would be out of place compared to the rest of the movie.
Finally the confrontation in the Fortress of Solitude is more serious and stronger. The amnesia kiss is replaced with Superman turning the World back around and going back in time to fix everything, since that was the original ending to II and not I. They were going to come up with a different ending after they used it in Superman I. The payoff is better with going in back in time. Especially considering what Lois does and says at work the next day (don't want to spoil it, but it's priceless).
I really enjoy both of the Superman II's right now. Both for different reasons. They're both excellent movies, although neither of them are as good as the first Superman. I'd have to give this incomplete Donner edit a slight edge. Had he finished it as planned thirty years ago, I think it would have been a much better movie. But because there's still flaws and minor problems, it's not as good as it could have been. If you're a Superman fan, you've seen it already or you're going to see it so I can't say if you'd enjoy it or not. If you're more of a casual Superman fan or just a regular movie watcher, I'd say catch it when you can, I think you'd enjoy it.
Top Gun (1986)
Boring military garbage.
I'd recommend this movie only if you're gonna spend time listening to the audio commentary from the actual Navy pilots and technical advisers. Those guys have some very interesting things to say about the military and aviation. I wish there was just a commentary by them. I'm not a big fan of the US military, especially the stuff that's going on in the middle east right now, but on the DVD, they're the only ones with interesting stuff to say.
It's a damn shame though, that we're stuck watching this boring, pointless and completely routine action movie. So at the beginning of the movie Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (that guy from ER) are sent to the Top Gun flight school and are taught to be even better pilots than they are already. While there, Maverick seems to spend large amounts of time trying to bed a civilian employee (Kelly McGillis) and badly singing Righteous Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis songs. Learning to be better pilots requires spending time looking hunky in towels/white underwear and playing shirtless Volleyball, One day, Maverick is up flying around (like in most of the movie) when suddenly there's a big problem and Goose is killed. Of course he spends a huge chunk of movie time feeling bad and thinking of quitting and all that.
Then suddenly they graduate from Top Gun school and the writer decided that now it's time for a war. So suddenly Maverick has to "grow-up" and fight the bad guys, save some good guys, hang out with Val Kilmer and just plain save the day. He comes back to the aircraft carrier and is told that his stupid name is on the front page of every English language paper in the world and he's now all happy again. He goes back to become an instructor and meets up with Kelly McGillis so that he can jam his tongue down her throat again, probably because she lost that loving feeling.
I'd say that in this move Tom Cruise solidifies the kind of role that will define his career. In almost every single Tom Cruise movie, he starts out as a young cocky guy who thinks he knows everything and is completely full of himself. In almost every case, he'll keep on being cocky until about 3/4 of the way through the movie either a friend dies or he become paralyzed or he finds out that the girl he nailed in the bahamas is pregnant, etc. Then he'll become mature and he'll prove himself to the rest of the world, or at least the people watching it. After a while, one Tom Cruise movie is just like another. Eventually Tom Cruise should find another role because after 20+ years, it's getting old.
The movie itself is a blatant propaganda piece, meant to entice young men to join the military and young women to find shirtless guys playing volleyball. Much like Saving Private Ryan or Pearl Harbor, it's meant to get you all proud about the US military and maybe have you play some Born in the USA while raising the flag in your front yard. It's a feel good movie that ignores more serious problems of bad foreign policy and over spending on the military. But I guess those would be too complex of issues to raise during all the loud stock footage and motorcycle riding....
The Island (2005)
One of Bay's best.
Yep, it's better than Armageddon, Bad Boys II and Pearl Harbor, which isn't very hard to pull off. It's no where near the level of The Rock. The first half of the movie is a fascinating look at a future utopia where people are kept safe from a post apocalyptic world where one island is a safe place for the survivors, of whom if you win a lottery you'll get to leave the utopia to live on the island. However, all is not well in this place and some people are getting suspicious about what this place is, why new people keeping showing up after an apocalypse and so on.
Eventually two of them escape and find out that there was no apocalypse and they are clones of rich people who will use them as an organ bank when the time comes for it. That's when things go wrong for this movie. After this it's just a big loud action flick that doesn't do anything new or creative. Basically anyone who's seen enough movies can guess what will happen after this point.
I liked the way it takes place about 15 years from now and looks like it could be happening at that point. The technology of the future looks realistic for that far in to the future. So that's one good point.
At the end of the movie, all the clones escape and the bad guy dies. I was disappointed the movie ended at that point. I think it would be interesting to see how the clones who lived in an isolated environment for all their lives would react to the real world. I'd like to see how the rest of the world deals with and reacts to the fact that all the rich and famous people have exact clones running around. I just think that this specific story had more interesting topics that could have been covered but weren't.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
That was terrible.
A few years ago, I sat down and watched the first half of the movie, today I watched the second half and sadly it's still really bad. With the exception of the bombing of Pearl Harbor itself, this movie is hardly exciting or interesting. A few years before this movie came out, Michael Bay had just assaulted the American people with Armageddon which had insulted anyone with any scientific knowledge at all. Then came Pearl Harbor which insulted everyone who knows anything about US History at all.
I won't get in to the fact that Roosevelt had browbeat the Japanese into striking first, or that the government knew the Pearl Harbor attacks were coming, or the fact that the Doolittle raid was a propaganda move, or the fact that fighter pilots would never become bomber pilots or you get the idea. Everything this movie knew about history it learned in Kindergarten. The writer/director were too afraid to do anything remotely challenging, write a decent screenplay, end with the battle of Pearl Harbor (Oh gee, did we win WW2?) and decided to throw in an American victory to make it more pleasant for the average American movie goer.
Thankfully this movie was a dud and no more long, boring war/romance movies have been made. United 93 and World Trade Center have proved that Hollywood can make good movies about tragic events. If they cut this movie down just to the bombing and a few tense hours leading up to the bombing, it had the potential to be exciting. Instead, Bay threw in a herd of uninteresting and clichéd characters, nearly an hour of build up, an idiotic last hour where they just had to show the Americans win, and finally where one of the heroes die and his offspring gets to ride a plane a few years later (I'm sure that said offspring likely died in Vietnam anyways...)
What next? Is Bay/Bruckheimer gonna make a movie where they show the Gulf of Tonkin (which is a big of a lie as Pearl Harbor) and then show the Americans winning the war in Vietnam?
Meet the Fockers (2004)
Don't see it.
Please, don't waste your time. I find it hard to believe that this and the first movie is what passes for good comedy today. Once in a great while it seems like a few good comedies show up like Ed Wood or Dodgeball or Army of Darkness. But mostly we're stuck with garbage like this all the time. I regret having my ex girlfriend drag me to this movie. When the movie was over, I realized something. I had seen this movie before. A few years earlier my sister dragged me out to a movie called The In-Laws. Sure it had a different story and the characters were a bit different, but it was essentially the same damn thing. Both this movie and The In-Laws had the same series of lame jokes, silly plot and bad acting with huge names attached. Nothing is surprising about this film, everything ends as expected. No surprises at all. Well, except you never find out if they fix the rental car window, I mean I was wondering about that for almost the entire movie.
Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal (2001)
May contain spoilers.
You have to wonder how movies like this are made. I have yet to see the first two movies, I first heard of #3, watched it and now assume there are two previous movies. I haven't heard of the Turbulence series before this one came along, but I can't imagine the first two made much money at all.
The hero, Slade Craven is little more than a Marilyn Manson wannabe with one big difference. Slade Craven lacks musical talent, William Hung is more talented than this loser. Plus he says "Let's do the hussle" more than anyone should in their entire life time. If he said "Let's go out there and win one for the Gipper", I'd have more respect for him. Heck they could have cut it down to "Let's do it" and he'd seem more Satanic or whatever.
The secondary hero is a I337 h4x0r. Who wears sunglasses indoors, a stupid head rag and dresses like he's stuck in the mid-80's. Yeah, an obvious non-hacker type. If they wanted a real hacker, they would have gotten the guy who was Newman on Seinfeld and would have shown up while he was stuffing his face with Nachos while watching a Dr. Who marathon. He teams up with some girl who's a h4x0r with the government, all though they never quite get what part of the government she works for. She's the stuck up girl with no emotion at all and would look hot if she let down her hair and lost the glasses.
So anyway Slade decides to have a concert on an airplane. It will be broadcast on the net so that the other 27 fans of his can watch it too. Just so happens that the hacker girl shows up to arrest hacker guy just as the concert starts to go all wrong. Satanic terrorist (Osama is a pansy compared to these guys) hijack the plane in order to crash it after getting 15 million internet viewers in to a Church in Kansas in order to release Satan. Slade is put away for a while and comes back later in the movie when we find out that Slade ain't behind the whole hijack thing. Eventually Slade and the hacker guy hook up on the phone and the hacker talks him through some rough situations.
However, the movie goes way over the top of acceptable cheese level when it comes time to land the plane and the hacker uses Microsoft Flight Simulator to help Slade to land the plane. Yeah, ya know that after hours of playing that game as a teenager, I don't feel fully flight certified yet. I get the feeling the writer stole that bit from MST3K: The Movie. If you've read this far, I'm sure you know how the movie ends. With cheese and over acting all around.
Good job Canada, yet another example in why you shouldn't make movies. However, feel good that this movie is better than 2 Fast, 2 Furious and Dinocroc, but not by much.
Bowling for Columbine (2002)
An informative, but flawed documentary.
As someone who is very libertarian about gun control, I thought I would hate this film. I'm not sure entirely what I think of it. At times I enjoyed it and at other times, I thought Moore was dead wrong. At times, Moore goes a bit off the point. For example, he starts talking about Africanized Bees. Why? From the looks of it, to make the movie longer, I guess. Sorry, but Africanzied Bees have nothing to do with gun control.
I think the most important message is that the news media is probably one of the organizations that deserves the most blame. We're told that there's all kinds of dangerous people in our own neighborhoods ready to kill other people. Kids aren't safe in schools. Airplanes are full of terrorist. Sex offenders are probably living next door and ready to kidnap your children. People who listen to what the media and government tells them are probably scared out of their minds. The fact is that despite the high murder rate in the US, we are a very safe group of people. We can never be 100% safe, but most of us will never be the victims of violent crimes. I only know one murder victim in my entire life and she wasn't killed by a gun (she was run over with a car).
I found the interview with the Lockheed Martin guy interesting and the subsequent footage of US foreign policy at work very informative. The US has been a violent aggressor for over 100 years, dating back to such idiocy as the World War I and the Spanish-American War. I think there's a point to be made that such a cavalier attitude towards other people around the world and their governments may lead to children and American citizens picking up that attitude here at home.
Also there was this huge segment towards the end where he got on his soap box about the welfare to work program. He went around blaming Dick Clark for this girls' death because his restaurant employed the woman whose Son shot the girl at school. But there was no blame on the uncle who left the gun laying around for a six year old to pick up. I believe that Moore should have gone after this guy and asked him why he let his gun fall in to the hands of a six year old. But I suppose blaming the evil capitalist makes for better movie making than blaming an extremely irresponsible uncle...
There are two things I found completely inexcusable for any "documentary" filmmaker. One is that stupid cartoon during the movie which tried to link up the KKK and the NRA. The NRA was started in upstate New York by former Union soldiers after the Civil War, two of the first NRA presidents were Union General Burnside and General Grant. During Grant's presidential administration, he worked vigorously to destroy the KKK under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. This idea that the KKK and the NRA are one in the same is an insult to anyone with a hint of historical knowledge. But don't let history get in the way of a funny cartoon, right?
Next up is the way Moore cut footage of Charlton Heston during the Denver NRA speech. I saw the entire speech, unedited and it was no way near as vitriolic and hateful as Moore presented in his movie. I can understand not having enough time to put the entire speech in to the movie, but at least try to be honest. Don't edit the footage of a dying man to make him sound like a nut...
Overall, this movie is right about half the time, which isn't half bad. Moore clearly tried to make an objective film about the nature of the gun control debate and succeeded for the most part. I say, 5 out of 10 because it's not without it's flaws...