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Better than I expected
If you've seen any of Roland Emmerich's previous disaster titles, you probably know what you're in for with this one. That being said, I felt 2012 had better acting and a more exciting storyline than the others.
In order to enjoy this film, you have to ignore the ridiculously absurd premise about neutrinos and the sun catastrophically altering the earth's crust (forget about the Mayan prophecy, which is hardly mentioned). If you can overlook why the world is ending, this is actually an captivating film with some spectacular effects scenes. Yes, there are several perilous close calls that stretch the notion of "luck". Yes, the actors from all parts of the world become interconnected in what stretches the notion of "coincidence". No, it's not going to receive any best acting or screenplay nominations. Nevertheless, it's engaging.
Cusack is great as the everyman hero. Ejiofor grabs your attention as the young government scientist trying to prepare for the inevitable. Glover and Harrison are also effective in smaller roles: Glover as the resolute President, and Harrison as the wackjob conspiracy theorist who might not be so crazy after all. Many other characters are merely stereotypes (like the Russian) or one dimensional (like the wife), but let's be honest, it's not the characters that we're coming to see. If you are, you'll probably be disappointed.
2012 is not great but it entertains as a doomsday thriller. IMO it's better than ID4, Godzilla, Day After Tomorrow, and 10,000 BC. Worth a rental if you're into disaster flicks.
When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)
Very few sequels outdo their predecessor...this is one of them.
If you were a fan of the first movie, "When A Stranger Calls", you definitely need to check this one out. If you were only a fan of the first 15 or so minutes from the first movie, you still need to check out the sequel.
"When a Stranger Calls" is primarily known for (abeit not widely known) its nail-biting, excruciatingly tense beginning. Then, however, the movie drifted off track. It tried to make us sympathize too closely with the killer. A little sympathy is good, but "When a Stranger Calls" went overboard and the overall film suffered for it, feeling unfocused and unpolished.
"When a Stranger Calls Back" fixes all that. First of all, and these are not spoilers to either movie, while in the first film the killer was once caught and escaped, in this one the killer had never been caught. No one knows who he is or even if there is more than one.
More importantly, though, "When a Stranger Calls Back" gives the viewer just enough information to follow the story but not enough to explain every detail. This is a good thing, as it creates a greater sense of unease. For instance, did the children from the beginning die? No one knows, but they've been missing for five years.
The scenes are picked deliberately and each one emits an eerie coating that makes the viewer feel uncomfortable for the entire movie (i.e. the house at the beginning and the hospital room at night). Music, thankfully, is not used to attempt to induce scares out of people. Rather, the scary scenes are deathly silent.
While there are a couple jump shocks, this film relies primarily on atmosphere. This is where the first movie failed. We find out early on that the killer was caught and then escaped from a mental ward many years later. But we the viewers see the killer close up repeatedly in the tiresome second act as the guy does very non-scary and nonviolent things. Here, though, no one knows who the killer is. In fact, the only evidence that there even was one (besides the hysterical babysitter who could have been "seeing things") is that the children are missing.
Much like "The Ring", this film works because it sets up a mystery from the first act, defining several clues, and challenges the viewer to figure out the solution. The first movie had no mystery after the first 15 minutes.
"When a Stranger Calls Back" doesn't claim to be anything other than a creepy movie, and it does this extremely well. Give us the scares, the feeling of dread, and then sends us on our way. The resolution is neither a good nor bad ending; it just "is", and feels all the more real for it.
A must see, even if only once, for any horror fan.
Tiger Heart (1996)
So terrible, it's fantastic
I got a kick reading some of the reviews on this site for this movie, namely the people complaining that this film gave them convulsions and so forth. On the contrary, this movie is so horrible that I was hypnotized. You could not pry my eyes from the TV set.
In any event, no need to describe the plot because it's too ridiculous to discuss. Let's just put it at this: a wanna-be karate kid dork fights gangsters working for a crooked real estate developer. Clichés and bad acting abound. Maybe my favorite was the character "Steve" who is another karate kid wannabe and has an inexplicable rivalry with the main character. (It would be more believable if Steve was actually cool. But nope, he's a dork too, so why no love?)
The "fight" scenes are anything but. It's the same one bad guy at a time procedure...kind of like a movie version of Streets of Rage for the Genesis.
Highlights: - Six-year-olds beating up musclemen gangsters. No really. - Jennifer Lyons and her two best friends (and I'm not talking about the girls the comic sidekick tries to hit on). - The random knife fight in the diner. - The comic sidekick's lame pick-up lines (so lame, I actually laughed). - The inexplicably evil real estate developer. - The stubborn uncle / convenience store owner who "ain't gonna let no one make him sell."
Why did I give it a 5? On one hand, it gets a 1 because sadly the director did not intend for this movie to be a joke. On the other hand, it gets a 10 for all the reasons listed above. So I picked the average.
You MUST see this movie. Preferably with a group of friends.
Decent for a rental
This movie is okay. Decent for a rental. However, if any of the following applies to you, I would suggest you stay away:
- You're a huge fan of the book and are looking for a faithful adaptation. - You can't stand Paul Walker's acting (or lack thereof). - You're an archaeologist. - You are a stickler for exact accents. - You want time-travel in time-travel movies to be described in great detail and/or in a way that would really work.
Since I had read the book, I decided to see this. I heard terrible things about the movie, so I came in expecting it to be horrid. Because I had such low expectations, I found I actually enjoyed it. It was not a great movie by any means, but it was definitely an enjoyable way to spend 2 hours. A lot has been changed from the book, but this is the case in all Crichton movies. Paul Walker sucks as an actor, but I knew this having seen Fast & Furious.
So, in short, if you go into this film looking for 2 hours of entertainment and nothing more, you probably won't be disappointed.
"Enjoyable"...if such a thing is possible for a movie of this type.
"Threads" is an extremely engaging film dealing with the effects of nuclear war on a British town. There's been a lot of talk comparing it to "The Day After". I'm going to side with the minority: "The Day After" (for me) is preferable (although slightly).
In reality, though, although the two films are similar in many respects, they are also very different. "Threads" is more like a documentary following the city (via a specific family) through the decades after the nuclear attack. There's even a narrator. It's like a Discovery Channel movie. As I said, very engaging, but doesn't have much of what makes a movie a movie.
"The Day After", on the other hand, deals with the same issues and presents the same horrific and hopeless outlook, but has more of a running plot and characters who remain throughout the entire film.
It's a toss-up, though. Don't listen to those who say one film is clearly better than the other. They are both too similar to make such a claim.
Best parts of each film:
"The Day After" 1. The Kansas City residents watching as the missiles are launched. 2. The attack itself. 3. Steve Guttenberg chasing the daughter outside, trying to get her back into the basement and out of the fallout. 4. The final scene. (I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it.)
"Threads" 1. The woman with the dead baby. (scares the crap out of me) 2. Getting to see how subsequent generations deal with the aftereffects of nuclear war. 3. The final shot.
And now the worst parts of each:
"The Day After" - could have benefited from a bit longer running time. "Threads" - could have benefited by use of better actors. (Some of them felt like "actors", not real people.)
I recommend seeing both, but neither on a date.
Blue Car (2002)
Definitely worth a look
I find myself in an unusual situation. I've read through many of the comments about this movie, both the glowing and the dismal, and discover that to some extent I agree with all of them! The ones who praise the film accurately point out the high points, and the ones who trash the film accurately point out the weaknesses. However, I think both unabashed praise and utter demonification go too far. I'm going to assume if you're reading this, you've probably seen this movie, so beware of spoilers if you have not.
No need to go through the plot as other users on here have done a good job of dishing it out. Here are the POSITIVE points.
(1) Acting. Not a bad performance in this. Especially notable is Meg (we have a tendency to point out stellar youth performances because they often are few and far between due to lack of experience) who is able to speak a hundred words in each subtle expression and her English teacher. Straitharen is an underused force in the industry and he shows his true talents here.
(2) Complex characters. Meg's teacher, her parents, her sister, and others all elicit different emotions from us. Sometimes we think they are supposed to be "good" characters; other times we think they're supposed to be "bad" characters. The film purposely leaves these terms out. Instead, we get an honest picture of how confusing the world can be, especially in the mind of a teenage girl.
Straitharen's character is the most complex. Here we have a man who at first seems to sympathize with his obviously troubled student, latching on to the one interest which gets her away from all the problems: poetry, and he nurses this interest until it becomes something she is proud of. He comforts her like a father she needs when her already fractured family falls apart. For this, we like him. But the director suddenly turns this on its head, when the teacher begins a romantic/sexual relationship with the Meg which she does not assertively resist. "Is this okay?" he asks over and over as he goes further and further as if they are both twelve-year-olds kissing in a closet. Because she didn't ever say "no", are we supposed to sympathize with the teacher? Meg's answer is obviously in the negative, as she criticizes him publicly at the poetry reading in perhaps a more "honest" piece than her "Blue Car".
Some users are asking what the teacher did wrong. Here it is in short: he should have known better. There are two possibilities. One is worse than the other but neither is good. Either the teacher had foul intentions concerning Meg from the beginning of the film and everything that followed was a rouse to get her into bed (this would be despicable without question), or the teacher honestly wanted to help Meg with her poetry and her troubles and during the course of his teaching and consoling, he developed sexual feelings toward her. Even if the latter is the case, the teacher is a acted very wrong. Why? I said it before: he should have known better. He knows all about this girl's troubles. He knows she has no one to turn to. He knows he is her only "ear" and she looks up to him. And what does he do? He shatters her only lifeline by making her life even more complex by adding sex into a relationship. Sex never simplifies things, especially between a teacher and student. He should not be asking her if it is "okay" as he sexually advances on her. The fact that she is in such a fragile state in that she is incapable of answering this is a resounding NO. He was the adult, he was the one with a more stable life, he selfishly let his own feelings (whether they were genuine or not) complicate a girl on the verge of falling apart herself.
The above was assuming the second option was true. However, there is some evidence that the first, more deplorable motivation, is correct. First, there is the fact that he lies to her early on about his novel. When she asked, he could simply have told her that it wasn't a novel. Instead, perplexingly, he lies to her and pretends to read from it. At the time, we don't know this is a lie, but thinking back now, what were his reasons for doing so? Was he trying to cultivate Meg's trust and appeal? Was he trying to make himself what she wanted in her mind in order to cultivate a trusting relationship he could take advantage of later? Also, there's the interesting situation with his wife. She gets depressed when she sees Meg and the teacher offers to walk Meg home. Some of her lines make it seem that the teacher had been inappropriate with girls (students) before. Is this a habitual practice for him? To gain the trust of young girls and use it for his own selfish and deplorable motives? Finally, there is the issue of the deleted scene (which I haven't viewed but heard others talk about) in which after the sex scene the hotel manager tells Meg to get out and that her teacher had only purchased the room for an hour. This shows where the director was heading. The guy obviously had foul plans from the beginning and was too cold to even give her a place to stay for the night. I think the director cut this out because it unquestionably answered the question of the teacher's intentions. From the final cut of the film, though, there's not enough information to decide either way.
I agree with the NEGATIVES that some other users have brought up (too much melodrama for only 90 minutes and not an uplifting moment in the entire film), but I don't think these detract enough to make this only mediocre.
Field of Dreams (1989)
This movie is one-of-a-kind magic
I am a harsh critic, but I give this movie 10 stars because it carries a magic with it that I haven't experienced in any other. Perhaps it's because the movie focuses more on Why the mysterious events happen more than How they happen (which is immaterial to the story).
Koster is great at playing the everyman, and he lives up to his role here. I enjoyed Madigan as his wife. She seemed so full of life, and only such an enthusiastic wife would go along with the seemingly outrageous decisions that Ray makes.
James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster really shine, capturing the scenes they were in, and they deliver their monologues flawlessly. For me, though, it's Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe who steals the show. He is so mysterious and eerily knowledgeable, yet never poses a threat. He's like a twist of a guardian angel watching over Ray. It's hard to sum up his performance in words, and I'm surprised few commenters have mentioned Liotta.
The overall impression one gets after watching this film, though, goes far beyond the acting. It's a movie about fate and a movie about choice, yet somehow the two don't contradict each other. It had my eyes watering by the final scene, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
The movie is so...real. And that's an odd thing to say regarding a film about a talking cornfield.
Deep Impact (1998)
A great movie
This is a great movie. I think the people who don't like it are (1) people expecting it to be a summer blockbuster popcorn movie with a million special effects, or (2) people upset because they think it's cheesy / has scientific errors. Let me address both points.
First of all, this is not a disaster movie in the style of Armageddon or Volcano or any of them. It's a movie about humanity's struggle to deal with an impending disaster. And in doing that, it succeeds. Most of the film is supported by strong talent, including Robert Duvall and Morgan Freeman. In smaller roles, Max Schell, Vanessa Redgrave, and Ron Eldard really shine. I was disappointed by Tea Leoni's acting. And Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski didn't really do much for me, although they weren't bad.
Second, while the movie is not standard Hollywood flair, it doesn't altogether escape the Hollywood curse. There are a few fairly ridiculous moments and plot points. HOWEVER, compared to disaster movies, I have to say this are extremely minor. To counter this, there are some very touching scenes. I don't want to give anything away here, but most of them occur near the end of the film.
This is not the best movie ever by any means, but it comes as close as a mainstream Hollywood movie dealing with the end of the world is going to get. Also, James Horner's score was terrific.
Definitely worth a watch.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
An excellent version of the stage show
I've seen this musical once on Broadway, twice on tour, and once in London. I have to say this movie does the musical justice. Everything is very very good if not great.
I had/heard qualms about some of the singing and the busyness of the production. I was worried because Joel Scheumacher really ruined the Batman franchise with its in your face gaudiness. Andrew Lloyd Webber must have kept him on a short leash for this one, though, because he was really calmed down.
And the singing? Great. If you're hooked on Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman and that's all you listen to, you may not like this because no two actors are the same. But the people cast have great voices. Butler brings the passion behind the Phantom to the songs. Rossum has a very sweet and pleasant voice.
The sets and costumes are, of course, fantastic. Additinally, everything looks JUST like the stage show, down to set details and even looks. The production staff rightly knew not to mess with a good thing. I've seen a fair amount of stage musicals to movie conversions, and I believe this movie stuck the closest to the stage show.
In short, there are two groups who will not like this film. One, those who dislike the stage show. Two, those who have grown unusually attached to the voices on their particular recordings. If you're a fan of the show and look forward to talented newcomers taking over the roles, you're gonna love this.
The Grid (2004)
No terrorist escapes THE GRID...well, except that one guy
I really enjoyed this miniseries. I was especially impressed by the action-packed and tense finale. I think it was a matter of many good parts coming together at once. It's never excellent, but I would call it "great" without much hesitation.
Solid acting by all, especially Bernard Hill. But really, they all acted well, even the bigger names (McDermott and Margulies). I particularly enjoyed all the agencies involved (Justice Dept., FBI, CIA, MI5, MI6)-this kept things interesting. And the terrorists were just as diverse and complex as the good guys.
Cheesy dialogue surfaced a couple times, but was surprising kept to a minimum (especially compared to most TV movies).
One thing I wish they had explained more is what happened to the terrorist doctor guy who did the Sarin attack in London during the finale. We see him right before the credits, but it appears he has gone back to his normal life. But shouldn't the grid still be tracking him down? Maybe I missed something.
Overall, though, you impressed me, TNT. I may even pick it up on DVD if the price is right.