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The Last Airbender (2010)
A few thrills, but awful dialogue
To say that The Last Airbender is a bad movie mostly because it was not faithful to the source material that inspired it is like saying that The Wizard of Oz is one of the worst films ever created for the same reason. In fact, one of The Last Airbender's primary problems is that it tried to be TOO faithful to the eight-hour first season of the TV series. The Last Airbender takes place in a world where three tribal nations are at war. Each of the nations, fire, water, and earth, has the power to manipulate, or "bend", the element the nation represents. The film starts off with two young members of the water nation, Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), running into Aang (Noah Ringer), a young boy from the thought-to-be-obsolete air nation. With him is an inexplicably flying bison. Peltz's performance is expressionless and boring; however, most of the fault here lies with the script. Ringer's is decent, and he is also able to show off pretty impressive martial arts later in the movie. The appearance of the flying bison is very random and seems to be only used as a deus ex machina to conveniently get the characters out of trouble. Through some awkward plot developments, Katara and Sokka realize that Aang must be the Avatar, the master of all four elements, who will be able to hold the world in balance, and that he must be protected from Zuko (Dev Patel), the exiled prince of the fire nation, who wants to capture the Avatar to reclaim his honor. Patel, who had given a critically acclaimed performance in the Academy Award-winning picture Slumdog Millionaire, does a pretty good job in this role. Zuko is really the only interesting character in the entire film, being portrayed as a sympathetic, but still menacing, villain. The whole movie is full of bad dialogue and awkward transitions, but the worst part of The Last Airbender is its third act, which takes place during a huge battle of fire and water. Although the special effects are spectacular (the horrible post-production 3D aside), the whole thing seems very rushed and difficult to understand. There is a horribly clichéd and cheesy romance between Sokka and some random water princess. There's that classic line, "No! There must be another way!" repeated word-for-word. The reasons for everything happening during the climax, unless you watched the TV series, are indecipherable. Overall, a few thrills, twists, and memorable visual effects don't make up for The Last Airbender's singularly bad script. Although The Last Airbender may be worth seeing, just be sure not to see it in 3D.
The Eye (2008)
It may not be the gripping thriller that some might ask for, but as a chilling horror movie, The Eye is skillfully terrifying
It may not be the gripping thriller that some might ask for, but as a chilling horror movie, The Eye is skillfully terrifying. The Eye, a remake of the 2003 Hong Kong film Gin Gwai, is about a young blind woman named Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) who, after receiving a cornea transplant from an anonymous donor to get her eyesight back, begins to see (and even hear) terrifying visions of ghostly beings and dark images of death that no one else can see. Understandably, the most effective fright scenes take place at night when Sydney is alone in her bedroom. Even though most of the scares here are predictable and in part the result of jump shocking thrills, they nevertheless work. I came to find myself dreading the scenes where Sydney goes to bed, and sighing with relief when she woke up. The alone-in-the-dark scenes are fun, horrific rides, greatly helped by great camera-work and Marco Beltrami's eerie soundtrack. However, the film deserves kudos for having more than one scary scene in crowded, brightly-lit places - a café, an apartment hallway, a highway, a restaurant. Although The Eye does not, for the most part, live up to the original, fans of Gin Gwai may be pleased by the many scenes in this remake inspired from the original, most notably the classic elevator scene. Unfortunately, like so many other movies I've reviewed, it's the third act of The Eye which causes a drop in my and most of the professional critics' scores. This part of the film focuses too much on who Sydney's donor is and why she is experiencing visions, and it does so poorly. The climax of the film, although having cool visual effects, is a huge mess story-wise, having very little to do with the main plot of the film. However, I really don't believe I'm being very generous in giving this film a positive rating, as the downsides of the ending don't outweigh the superb thrills of the first half. This 2008 remake The Eye is recommended to any fan of supernatural horror.
He's Just Not That Into You (2009)
Silly, but surely recommended to anyone who knows what they're about to see
He's Just Not That Into You, a romantic comedy about nine ordinary people and typical relationship problems, has an ensemble cast that supports two entertaining and engaging story lines, and two far more uninteresting ones.
One involves Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), a young woman who frequently seeks relationship advice from her friend Alex (Justin Long). When Alex begins spending more time with her, Gigi excitedly and erroneously concludes that Alex is interested in her. Goodwin and Long both give solid performances. There are great scenes involving Alex's frank but realistic advice to Gigi, and a rather amusing scene in which Gigi passionately makes out with a very surprised and confused Alex. What's great about this storyline is that most of the words from Alex can actually pertain to real life.
Ben (Bradley Cooper) is a man cheating on his wife Janine (Jennifer Connelly) with the young yoga instructor Anna (Scarlett Johansson). This is the storyline I felt most absorbed in, as all three characters were rather likable, contrary to what I would have expected. Although clichéd, there is a tense scene in which Anna hides in a closet of a small room Janine is walking around in - for obvious reasons, the whole audience is constantly thinking "Don't open the door, don't open the door" to themselves. Connelly gives a stand-out performance in this storyline.
Unfortunately, two other, dull story lines take away space for the good ones to develop. One of these story lines involves Beth (Jennifer Aniston) breaking up with her boyfriend of seven years (Ben Affleck) when he refuses to get married. Affleck has very little screen time, Aniston having little more. The conflict itself is interesting, but its main problem is that it is underdeveloped. Another is about Mary (Drew Barrymore), who has problems with online dating. Like the Beth storyline, this is underdeveloped, but even more so. Although Barrrymore's acting is fine, she has, if I am remembering correctly, a grand total of four scenes in the whole movie.
The worst part of He's Just Not That Into You is the third act. Two of the story lines in particular seemed to satisfyingly end realistically, but the characters end up contradicting themselves (and what appeared to be the whole message of the story) to create a generic Hollywood ending. Almost every character ends up with somebody else. Now, predictable or not, I love feel-good endings, but although there wasn't anything terrible about the way this film ended, it all felt very contrived and syrupy. In conclusion, even though too many characters take away development, He's Just Not That Into You is still pretty good as a romantic comedy, and is surely recommended to anyone who knows what they're about so see.