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The Godfather Part II
Family Guy (2009)
Top Gear (2010)
Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
Fun but lacks the Heart of the first one
After the very successful animated film Ice Age we get treated too a sequel. 4 years since the release of the first film and in that time frame you would expect that the filmmakers would come up with a good sequel. I will say that the film is creative and fun but the film is missing something that the first one had makes the sequel decent but not great.
In this film we have our three heroes returning for another adventure. When it seems like the entire world is melting, Manny, Diego, Sid all set out to find a "boat" at the other end of the valley when Manny begins to think that he might be the last Mammoth on Earth he finds another one with a very unusual problem.
The story I find in this one to be much more creative than the first one. Enough though to some existent it a "Noah's Ark" story but the first one was really a hybrid between Shrek and Monster's Inc but the film had enough charming characters and laughs to let us look away from that problem. So I give this film a lot more credit for trying to come up with something different than the rest. The film does get pretty creative in the environment that it is set in. There is a lot more personification in this film than the last one making the animals more human than the last one. I think this takes away from one of the aspects that made the original so charming and funny was the characters were pretty much just like the animals they were portraying and didn't involve too much human like behavior. In this film they have schools and pools and swimming and granted this is an animated kid's film but I think sticking to the first one's style of play would have been better.
The Humor in the film is also for the most part very good. Just like in the first one we get a little bit of everything. There is some smart humor that might blow over the heads of the young children however not that much. We get some great slapstick humor which will have the children and adults laughing and some dirty inside jokes that is kept very low key and very much implied but as quagmire once said in family guy (paraphrasing slightly), "You know where this is going, it's all implied. The kids don't know but we do."
However with that being said the humor just doesn't match the humor of the first one. Although this film is funny and does have some great laugh out loud moments it just doesn't have the same charm and comedic timing and trimmings that the first one had. This one lowers itself down to mostly potty and slapstick humor. It feels a bit lazy and the younger ones won't mind and it will entertain all but for most of us we were hoping for a bit more. That's not at all to say this movie isn't funny.
There is something else that is missing in this movie that the last one had. That little something is a very basic element of the human spirit. That basic element is the heart and soul of this movie. The first one we had Manny's dark past and Diego's change of heart and Sid's lovable, want everybody to be a family type character and all that wrapped into one big quest to big a lost child home. That was the heart and soul of that film and it succeeded because that emotional heart and center. Also all those themes and stories were all interconnected and played in and out throughout the film. In this we don't get much of that and this is the main reason why I think this film is not nearly as good as the first one. This one we get mostly a comedy with not much of anything else. In this we get a silly romance that doesn't hold much weight. Manny has insecurity issues with the possibility of being the last Mammoth. Diego has a fear of the water and Sid thinks he deserves more respect (and nearly kills himself in the process of trying getting some). All in all there isn't much here. That's not to say the film isn't entertaining because it certainly is and you will have fun watching it but don't expect any more of it.
The stars have returned from the original first film to the sequel and deliver some good voice work. Ray Romano returns as Manny and is funny as he always is in whatever he does. Denis Leary also returns as Diego and his role is dumbed down to a funny sidekick but Denis does great voice work. John Leguizamo is back as the funny; stupid but lovable Sid the Sloth and we get the same funny character we got last time and always provide us with a great laugh.
Scrat is back! The little dopey Wild Coyote of this generation. He has absolutely nothing to do with the main storyline and you know what? I could not care less he is a welcome distraction as his quest for the nuts continues and gets himself involved in more wacky situations.
A newcomer to the cast includes Queen Latifah as the Mammoth that is having an identity crisis and is funny but nothing special as Ellie. Josh Peck and Seann William Scott play a possum gang of brothers who loves causing trouble and is the best new addition to this film. Both brilliant with great chemistry and remain funny throughout.
The film with everything together is a very entertaining film and remains funny throughout however lacks the good heart that made the first so great and the humor is up to par with the original however it is a decent sequel.
Ice Age (2002)
Although it may not be Original we are Won Over by the Great Characters and Humor
Around the early 21st century computer animated family films had really taken off. Through the recent hits of Shrek and Monster's Inc, people started seeing money in this business. So in Blue Sky's first ever animated film they may have not been very original but the film known as Ice Age has enough charm and laughs to be very acceptable.
The film takes place in the Ice Age when a sabertooth cat, a sloth and a mammoth take in the care of a lost baby and attempt to return it to the humans who have lost it.
Now the story is really a cross between Shrek and Monsters' Inc. In Shrek we have the lonely character (in this film is Manny) getting crossed in the path of a lovable idiot (Sid the Sloth) that is faced with a quest and in this film it's returning the baby. Returning the baby part is just like Monster's Inc. where the characters have to return a little girl back to her room. So really story wise the film isn't that original and it's not like a good homage, it feels a little too noticeable in places. Usually when a film does this it takes me right out of the movie but because of the characters and the funny stuff they get themselves into I can't help but ignore this "big" problem.
The characters are the best part of the film. Manny the Mammoth is the lonely character that would rather be left alone then be bothered by anyone else. He doesn't like people (or the other animals) and he really doesn't want to deal with stupid things. Yet for an animated film he has a rather deep character with a dark past that is explored in more detail later in the film. But also he is really funny making the sarcastic remarks and other smaller jokes that is really funny. Ray Romano really shines in this part and makes a mark as a different character and doesn't play Raymond Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond.
The next character is the stupid and lovable and funny Sid the Sloth. He isn't that deep of a character but he really doesn't need to be. All we need to know is that he cares a great deal about the rest of the characters and just wants to be accepted. Other than that he really is "the funny guy" and he is really funny. John Leguizamo creates a very memorable character filled with great jokes and gags and memorable lines.
The final character out of the main ones is Diego the sabertooth cat (tiger)and he is another fantastic character. He is at first set up as the villain and throughout the film you can never tell whose side he is on but you can tell that he starts to care for the other characters. Denis Leary voices him and is a great talent and a great voice. He can be serious and funny at the same time and just like the rest gives us a great show.
As a bonus we get a side character named Scrat. He is the Wild Coyote of our times. He presents us with no dialogue but a good dose of some fantastically funny slapstick humor that will always make you laugh. The character has nothing to do with the story and he is just there to give a few extra laughs and the character works.
The humor is the film is very well done. It may not be ground breaking by any means and some jokes are recycled from other films but really the rest of it works completely. We get slapstick humor, smart humor and some plan old good old fashion jokes. All work well and should be enjoyable for every age group.
There are also some good animated action sequences, some of them really fun (like the ice cave sequence) and some of them very tense and exciting. All of them of course have jokes in there even the more serious sequences with the exception of the fight at the end. These sequences are great for people of all ages and will be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Another thing the film has is a lot of heart. Throughout the film you get this theme of family and love and even loyalty along with friendship. Parts where Manny's Character is explored more is very touching and might even come as a surprise. Also near the end where we finally see Diego as he true self is also very touching and well done. Also where the characters first save the baby after the rest of the humans lose it is also very well done. In fact this film was originally supposed to a Drama instead of a family animated film but Fox would not accept it as a Drama and wanted it to be a family film. But I think a lot of the Drama Elements still carried over to the final film without being in your face about it. The film has a lot of themes and really a lot of heart which is something that is missing is a lot of recent non-computer animated films.
The animation on the film is really good too. It might not be as good as Pixar or DreamWorks buts it wasn't trying to be. The film has animation that looks very good and state of the art but it maintains a more classic animated film. So the animation is good but it's nothing grand and I think it works for a film like this.
The Bottom Line is this is a very funny animated film that has some great animated characters and is very well drawn out and funny and even though the film sometimes feels like a copy of other films the film has enough charm and touching moments to make us forget about it.
In Time (2011)
Such an Intriguing Idea Gone (for the most part) to Waste
What an intriguing idea. This is the type of SC-FI that I usually tend to like over just another film with space battles. SC-Fi films that make you think and make parallels to real life. Once I saw the previews to this film I thought this film would be something special. Not only did the film have an intriguing idea but only draw from mythic arc types like Robin Hood and numinous of great themes but the film falls short on such a great idea with a failure to really understand what type of scope there really could have been with this story along with a less than stellar cast the film is entertaining but only a footnote of what it could have been.
The film's concept is a future where humans have been genetically engineered to stop ageing after age 25 but after that you have only one more year to live. Time is the currency of the time, no such thing as money. You work to get more time but it is a bleak future where the rich have all the power and all the time. Meanwhile the rest live in the ghettos where almost everyone has only has 24 hours to live and they live by the clock.
While the story opens with a man in the ghetto named Will Salas is given the gift of time from a man who doesn't care to live anymore from the rich-infected lifestyle. Will is then accused of murder and on the run from a police force known as "timekeepers." With a rich man's daughter at his side he hopes to effect change in the system.
The film's story should have been one of the best of the decade. I mean the idea is so good it feels awful that it was a bit wasted. The film story does a good job on laying out the ground rules of the universe they live in. This was great about it a short speech in the beginning and then you are trusted into the life of Will Salas. You get a pretty good picture on how he lives just from the first 10 min. You learn a lot about the world and the film starts to set up some story lines but that's where a lot of the film's really strong points end.
The film starts up several story lines and just never delivers. Some just seems abandoned by the end and others that kept building and never got the final "crescendo" or pay off. It seems like not only that with these great ideas and scary parallels to real life class warfare the idea could have been bigger than it ended up being, It hard to say exactly what it was missing. I feel like the film could have been even bigger with its ideas and themes. It fact with this idea the film could have been a great long SC-FI epic. Maybe my expectations for the film was just too high but I feel I was let down by story because of the potential it had and that's just aside from the plot holes and incompletion of certain story lines. There were also some scenes I honestly thought could make for some classic scenes like when we finally get to see what "a fighter" is and how they fight. The scene was too short and was a number of others felt a little short in fact the film overall felt a bit short without a real good conclusion.
The film seems to leave the possibility of having a strong story oriented film instead opting for an action fueled story. The film has no shortage of action sequences and that is properly the saving grace to the film. It does keep the viewer entertained and it does keep the story moving. Without this factor the film would unsalvageable. There are some good car crashes and also on foot chases. A good number of gun battles to be boot. Even with the PG-13 rating it is able to have some real action and violence. However I think I could have done without a couple of these so we would have a stronger story.
The acting is also questionable. I would have made different choices. Justin Timberlake stars a Will Salas and Justin is good here for the action sequences but he isn't the greatest with the dramatic scenes. This is a shame because I thought he would because I really liked his performance in The Social Network (2010). Amanda Seyfried's performance falls flat in my eyes even though she had some nice chemistry with Justin. Cillian Murphy is amazing as the timekeeper Raymond Leon. This is an outstanding performance from Murphy as he usually delivers. The rest are decent but nothing special. Shyloh Oostwald is okay; I liked Johnny Galecki as Borel. I didn't love Olivia Wilde even if she didn't have a big part. Alex Pettyfer is finally getting better roles since his role in Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (2006). He is good here as Fortis the "minutemen" which a "gangster of the future."
Andrew Niccol is a great talent behind the camera and I don't doubt that either. His look to the film to perfect for this film. Also his of practical effects over CGI heavy effects is defiantly noticeable in a good way. The music by Craig Armstrong fits perfectly.
Really with this type of idea it really could have been something special. The acting hurt the film a bit with the exception of Cillian Murphy. But with a talented director behind the camera and talent behind the scenes also with some really entertaining action sequences makes the film watchable but you can't help but feel it could be so much more. If there was a film that I would like to see remade, this would be it.
The Best Planet of the Apes film since the original
There was a lot of hype going into this film. I was very excited to finally see another Planet of the Apes film. I am a big fan of the original and had fun with the sequels and even after Tim Burton's remake I was still excited for this film and I got to say this is the best Planet of the Apes picture since the original.
This story is an origin story about how the Apes began to rise to power and about a man who is bent on curing Alzheimer's and raising an ape who has been past on the genes of the cure from his mother and what the effects this has on this one ape named Caesar.
The very surprising thing about this film is how story based and character based it really is. From the trailers it looked like just another cure gone wrong and a lot of violence happens but I was truly surprised by this film's story and how well told it was. I do think it needed to be just a tad longer in the beginning showing a little more of Caesar's childhood but it's a small fault and can be overlooked. But it is something truly wonderful to see how truly well fleshed out these characters are in this film especially for a "summer blockbuster." All character motivations are known throughout the film. James Franco's character named Will Rodman really wants to make this cure so he can cure his father. So a lot of us can really connect with him and in seeing he is making this cure for the best intentions. And his boss is the classic wants the cure for money type of character. But the best most drawn out character is the character of Caesar. The chimpanzee that becomes increased in intelligence is the true star of the film. He cannot talk and he is a computer made image and yet you really understand him, love him, and feel for him. Caesar is played by motion capture actor Andy Serkis (his second film as an ape, the other one being King Kong (2005)) brings so much to the table. He breathes so much personality into this ape and it's just truly something to wow at and the writers are very wise to really shift the story over from Will to Caesar as Caesar gets sent into an Ape refuge. While there he gets smarter and learns of the true nature of how apes are treated inside there and decides to take action.
I think it was very smart on the filmmakers to shift the apes from makeup to cgi. I wasn't thrilled when I first heard they would make the apes in the computer but after viewing the film I've realized this was the only way to go really. It would look incredibly cheesy if they tried to do what they did in this film with makeup. The motion capture is some of the best to date and the apes look very real. None of the makeups did as good as job as the motion capture did at creating real ape behavior and also by not making them talk I think was a smart move. I don't think making them be able to speak would make it very realistic which seems to be more of the way the film tries to go with rather than a fantasy.
The action is all mostly at the end of the film which is mostly seen in the trailers. While granted there is a little bit here and a little bit there it's all really at the end. It all is very entertaining and the apes do fight like real apes. There are moments where the filmmakers truly capture an ape aggression and what they are truly capable of. Not a lot of people know just how strong and fierce they can be and the film does a good job of showing that.
But something I don't think is mention a lot is that there a nice magical quality to it. The scene in the redwoods is a very magical scene and I really liked it and never liked how it isn't mentioned.
The acting is all very good and is a driving point of the film. James Franco is great, so are John Lithgow and Brian Cox. Also Tom Felton and David Oyelowo are good. Freida Pinto is good and all but I wish her character was given a better purpose and is one of the few faults with this film.
The Music I thought was very good too. It had a very magical yet dark and exciting feel. Composer Patrick Doyle really gives out his best score in years. It will by no means become be considered a masterpiece it just is an above the average movie score and is a score that I would buy when the soundtrack was released on CD.
The Directing by Rupert Wyatt is very good too. He handles the story written with such care. His choices in camera movements and how to properly handle the story is makes him a great choice. Also he uses cgi to better the project and only really uses it when he needs too which is something I always respected in a director these days.
The writers Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa have crafted a great story and pay so much tribute to the original films. There are so many nice nods to the original which Planet of the Apes fans will enjoy. They also really know how write convincing dialogue and leaves the door open for a sequel but it could be just an make you think type of ending.
The Bottom line is this is a very good story driven film that includes great special effects and matches the original and is the second best film of 2011
Final Score 9/10