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Thor: The Dark World (2013)
A Welcome Addition to "Phase 2" to the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
Last summer's "Iron Man 3" turned out to be very disappointing, but "Thor: The Dark World" does a much better job of kicking off this second phase of Marvel movies. I did enjoy the first "Thor", but this movie does a much better job of exploring some of the other worlds and raising the stakes.
The original cast returns for this second film and they are great! Chris Hemsworth is still a great Thor and Tom Hiddleston really gets a chance to shine as Loki. Natalie Portman is still hot and plays a good Jane Foster. The rest of the original cast is good, also, though I really wish that Kat Dennings was not in these movies because she's annoying and pretty pointless. Christopher Eccleston is Malekith, the new villain for the film. He's a bit boring and is honestly pretty forgettable, which is a shame because Eccleston really is a good actor.
The story for this movie is very fun. No, it doesn't always make sense, but like other successful Marvel movies, it keeps you entertained and wanting more. The film also does a much better job at foreshadowing "Avengers 2" than "Iron Man 3" did, so that's an added bonus that all fans should look forward to.
The effects are sort of hit and miss. Asgard and the other realms that are shown look spectacular. The action sequences are well choreographed and make for an exciting time. But some of the costumes look a bit silly and fake.
Final verdict: "Thor: The Dark World" is exactly what it is meant to be. It is an entertaining thrill ride from start to finish, with good characters and great, action packed scenes. It is not a great Marvel movie like "Iron Man" or "The Avengers", but it is a worthy entry that will leave you entertained and wanting to see it again.
Great fun, but again, I ask: WHY DOES IT NEED TO BE SO LONG?!
"The Lord of the Rings" are not just some of the best fantasy films of all time, but three of the greatest films of all time. Period. Jackson's return to Middle-Earth in "An Unexpected Journey" was an enjoyable time, but suffered because of its length, pacing, and effects. Now we have "The Desolation of Smaug", Jackson's second installment in his new "Hobbit" trilogy.
There's much improvement in this film from "Journey", especially in terms of pacing. "Journey" took a little too long to get going, but in "Desolation" you are launched immediately into the action. This film is also a bit darker from the first, with the threat of war beginning to reveal itself.
The casting is still top notch. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, and Richard Armitage do a great job in their respective roles, as they did in the first film. Jackson also does a lot better with identifying the other 12 dwarfs in this film, though some of them still aren't quite too developed. And the newest additions to the cast are great, as well, particularly Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon, Smaug, and the Necromancer.
The problems with this film are still ones that arise from the first film. Why does "The Hobbit" need to be split into 3 movies, each with a 2 1/2 to 3 hour length? If you want to make it a trilogy, by all means, do it. But they don't need to be that long! You can justify that sort of length in "The Lord of the Rings" because they are suppose to be these huge, epic movies. But "The Hobbit" was meant to be a children's story.
The effects in this movie have improved slightly over the first film. The crowning achievement in the movie is definitely the dragon. But the orcs still look really fake in this movie and there's a couple of scenes that you can tell they use too much green screen. This is a huge disappointment, especially considering that "The Lord of the Rings" had so many practical effects that made it look great.
Final verdict: "The Desolation of Smaug" does a much better job of telling the story of "The Hobbit" than its predecessor. It's fun, exciting, and makes for a good time in the theater. But the problems that plagued the first film sadly follow into this second installment, which prevents it from becoming a truly great fantasy film like "The Lord of the Rings".
Jackson's Return to Middle-Earth is a Glorious, Albeit Lengthy, Trip
Anyone who knows my taste in movies knows that I usually favor the fantasy genre. Heck, I even gave a positive review to this summer's "Snow White and the Huntsman". But, and I know many out there agree with me, the crowning achievement in the fantasy genre is Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings". Each film was superbly crafted, with practical effects and great casting that will make it stand the test of time, much like Lucas' original "Star Wars" movies.
So, like many people, I was pretty excited for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". I didn't like the fact that a 300 paged book was being split into three movies, because I knew that a lot of things were going to be stretched out far beyond their natural length to ensure a 2 hour and 45 minute length. And there in lies my biggest problem with the movie; why does it need to be this long? "The Hobbit" is a completely separate entity from "The Lord of the Rings", both tonally and scripturally.
The casting is solid, with Martin Freeman playing an excellent, energized Bilbo Baggins. The dwarfs, while funny, were sort of forgettable, though I expect we will get more development from them in the next two movies. And even some of the characters from "The Lord of the Rings" appear, whether they are minor cameos or are involved more intricately with the plot.
As I said before, I was very impressed with the practical effects in the previous trilogy, so I expected more of that in this movie. And while some of it is practical and effective, too much of it is CGI. And that just looks out of place, especially in a Middle-Earth that is so fresh in everyone's mind.
Final verdict: The movie is too long and too overindulgent to be a great movie like "The Lord of the Rings", but it is a good movie. I didn't get the chance to see it in 48fps, so I can't judge the film on that basis. I just hope that Jackson can either better utilize the length and pacing in the next two movies or just make them an hour and a half, because the length is really the biggest problem with this movie. Still, it's a good movie that should be experienced in a movie theater.
The Best of the Twilight Movies, But Still Riddled with Problems
Finally; let's put a stake in this terrible franchise by review the final chapter of the Twilight movies (no, I will not call it a "Saga").
You know, even though these movies aren't technically that great (actually, they're pretty awful) I will not deny that, much like movies like Dungeons and Dragons or Commando, these movies are a lot of fun to watch. In terms of comedy, I really enjoy the first four Twilight movies. They're stupid, nonsensical, and make very little sense, but they're a good time.
One major problem with this movie is, of course, the story, but for very different reasons. The first four movies are very paper-thin when it comes to the plot, so I can't help but think that the director of this film overcompensates with this final installment by throwing a lot of new ideas and characters at you. This makes the film really hard to follow a lot of the time.
The three main actors are just as bland as you remember them. They show hardly any emotions at all, which make it very hard to connect with them. But, for the weaknesses of our three main characters, the film makes up for it with the supporting cast. The Cullens family is very likable and the Volturi, lead by an astonishingly over-the-top Michael Sheen, ride that fine line of being very menacing and very goofy.
The cinematography is awful and the special effects, most notably in the final battle, look like they have the budget of a sci-fi special. I honestly do not understand how these movies have such poor effects when they rake in millions of dollars per movie.
Okay, this is where I'm going to get into spoilers a bit. The final battle confrontation with the Volturi is exactly what you'd come to expect from a Twilight movie: the effects are bad, the dialogue is lame, and the acting is sterile. But the film takes a very interesting turn when the actual fighting starts: people start dying left and right. Seriously, it's kind of awesome. And, if this is the ending the filmmakers had stuck with, I actually would have considered giving this movie a 5 or 6.
But no, the film pulls the ultimate cop out in any movie: it was all in someone's head. I won't divulge how since the reason makes very little sense, but that ending is really unsatisfying. They probably wanted to stick closer to the books this way (which I haven't read), but if that's the case, why even have a battle at all?
Final verdict: This is the best Twilight movie, but it is by no means a good movie. If you're a fan of the books or like to make fun of the movies (like me), then chances are you've already seen it. If not, you're money would be better off spent on Skyfall.
The Best, and Only, James Bond Movie I've Ever Seen!
You read correctly, folks: This is the first James Bond movie that I've seen, at least all the way through. I guess that's not technically true; I guess I have seen one or two on television, but to be one hundred percent honest, they were pretty forgettable. However, if every Bond movie was like "Skyfall", then I'd go out and buy the entire collection.
Honestly, I had no intention of seeing this movie. I saw the trailers, which looked pretty cool and also had the fortune of having Javier Bardem in them, but they didn't really impress me to such a degree that I'd actually go ahead and see the movie. But, as it turns out, I received an invitation from a friend to go and see it. And I came out of the theater satisfied.
Director Sam Mendes said in an interview that "The Dark Knight" was a huge influence on this new installment in the Bond franchise and it really does show. This movie has deep emotional layers to it, alway staying a step ahead of its audience without entirely alienating them. The camera angles are very unique and really add something to the film.
The nice thing about James Bond is that he's a staple of pop culture to such a degree that I already knew the character before I entered the theater. He's very suave and elegant, but also very hardcore and awesome. And Daniel Craig plays the part very well.
Since I mentioned him when talking about the trailer, you could probably guess that I am a Javier Bardem fan. And he plays a villain that is so intimidating and so confident in how awesome he is, that he literally blows all other villains out of the water. There's a scene in a jail cell between him and M (played masterfully by Judi Dench) where he is so scary that it might as well have been Hannibal Lecter standing in that cell.
Final verdict: I have no complaints about this film. Yeah, there's definitely some stuff to nitpick, but seeing as I'm not that type of person, Skyfall, to me, is a modern day masterpiece. The only reason it gets a 9 instead of a 10 is because I only score movies a 10 if it's one of my favorite movies. Still, if you're a fan of James Bond, I don't know how I could give this a proper recommendation since I haven't seen the other movies. But if you're looking for a great action movie that's a little deeper then you have been lead to believe, Skyfall is the film for you. It's one of the best movies of the year.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
A "Roger Rabbit" for the Gaming Generation
So I was not the biggest fan of the trailers for Wreck-It Ralph. Even though I liked the small appearances from classic video game characters, I wasn't riding the train of "this movie will be awesome" because I'm not a John C. Reilly fan and definitely not a Sarah Silverman fan. But after finally seeing it, I thought it was really good.
The best part of Wreck-It Ralph is the first half of the movie. In fact, it's flawless. The writing, characters, and animation is all perfect. I found myself laughing quite a few times (which I rarely do in a kid's movie) and having a lot of fun!
One of the best elements of the movie is the character if Ralph, which is weird, because I don't really care for John C. Reilly. But he was a really good and likable guy. And the filmmakers know that, despite the fact that this is a movie filled with video game characters that everyone knows and loves, they need to keep the focus on him.
These video game characters are more like cameos. They work very similarly to how the toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit worked; they definitely have some of the best laughs in the movie and are a lot of fun, but they never pull focus from the story or the main character.
Okay, so I've praised this movie so much that you're probably wondering why it has an 8 instead of a 10. Well, the movie sort of loses gravity as soon as Ralph enters a game called Sugar Rush. He meets a little glitch named Vanellope, played by Sarah Silverman, who dreams of becoming a racer. But King Candy, played by the very charismatic Alan Tudyk, forbids her from racing because she is a glitch in the game. Everyone taunts her, but despite all of this, Ralph and Vanellope form an unusual bond.
And you can pretty much guess the rest of the movie from there. They race, defeat the bad guy, and Vanellope is crowned a princess. But, if that wasn't predictable enough, there are more plot points going on involving bugs, a jealous video game character, and a silly, but hilarious, romance between two side characters. All of these elements work, I guess, but it becomes just a little too complicated along the ride. It's not horrible, in fact it's not even that bad, it's just not handled as well as the first half was.
Final verdict: I would recommend anyone, young or old, gamer or not, to see Wreck It Ralph. It has wonderful animation, great characters, and some great laughs. Yeah, I wish the second half was a bit more polished, but this movie was still a lot of fun. In fact, I think this is the most fun I've had in a theater since The Avengers in May, which is saying a lot.
Taken 2 (2012)
If You Enjoyed This Movie, I Will Look For You...I Will Find You...And I Will Kill You
I love the first Taken. To me, it is a fine example of an action movie with solid build up, top notch acting, and, well, memorable action sequences. In this day and age, how often does that come along? And when I saw the trailer for the sequel, I knew it wasn't going to be as great as the first one. Still, I figured it'd be a good time at the theater. Was I right? Well...no.
Let's get the good stuff out of the way first. You will never hear me say anything bad about Liam Neeson. The man is one of the few actors today that just demands respect and awe when he enters the room. A perfect example was in Battleship; the movie was awful, but Liam Neeson was one of the few things about that film that worked. And there's no exception here. They did things with the character of Bryan Mills that I didn't agree with, but Neeson is having fun with the part, so I got to respect that.
I was also glad to see more of Famke Janssen in the movie. With so little screen time in the first movie, I was looking forward to seeing more of her in the sequel. And, whether you love her or hate her, Maggie Grace did a fine job as Neeson's daughter. I actually like her character; sort of a spoiled girl who must be...well, competent in order to survive.
Also, the first twenty minutes began to feel like a solid follow up to the first movie. You see the relationship with the family, how Bryan is dealing with his daughter having a boyfriend. There are some pretty funny jokes you can get out of that scenario and they take advantage of the majority of them.
Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about the bad stuff. The action in this movie is some of the worst I've ever seen, which is a shame because the action in the first movie was very slick and nicely choreographed. Here, the editing is so choppy and abrupt that you can hardly see what's going on. I haven't seen anything else done by this director, but I hear that his action movies are all this way.
Also the story is sort of a mess. I could follow it fine in the beginning, but as soon as the family arrives in Istanbul, things take a turn for the worse. The pacing suffers tremendously here and there's just too much suspension of disbelief going for me to have bought what was happening. Yeah, there was a lot of that going on in the first movie, but because the action was so great and the pacing was so quick, you didn't question it.
Final verdict: This is a disappointing, unsatisfactory sequel to a phenomenal movie. Basically everything that made the first movie great is the opposite here. It's not horrendous, but there are plenty of other action movies that deserve your time and money. I really don't know who to recommend this movie to, especially if you're a fan of the first movie like I am.
The Dark Knight (2008)
My Favorite Movie Of All Time. Period.
After the success of "Batman Begins", when I heard that Christopher Nolan was making another Batman movie, I didn't think it could surpass the first movie. But I was wrong. Dead wrong. "The Dark Knight" truly is Nolan's masterpiece. I know that a lot of people didn't enjoy "Batman Begins" because, even though it took a more realistic approach, it still felt a little bit like a comic book movie. That is not the case with "The Dark Knight". It works as many different types of movie. Whether it be viewed as an action movie, a thriller, or even a romance, I think that it's safe to say that any viewer can find something that they like about "The Dark Knight".
Christian Bale is back as the Batman, and he's still got it. I hear some gripes about his growling voice, but I still stand by what I said about him in "Batman Begins": this guy knows how to portray the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne. He's methodical, intense, and courageous, like all aspiring heroes, but he's not perfect. In the movie, when something happens to a certain character, you see his vulnerable side. Sure, he's learned how to control his fear and prey on criminal's weaknesses, but he's still young and has a lot to learn. I like that about Bale's Batman; it makes him seems so much more relatable.
The supporting cast from "Batman Begins" return, along with a few new faces. Maggie Gyllenhaal replace Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. I didn't mind Katie Holmes in the first movie, but Gyllenhaal plays her with much more confidence and fire. Aaron Eckhart plays the D.A.- turned-psychopath Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Eckhart undeniably plays a great Harvey Dent, but this is really illustrated when he has to flip it 180 and become the psychotic Two-Face. All his ideals are replaced with anarchy and misery, making him just as evil as The Joker. And then you've got all the other supporting characters from the first movie, who are excellent.
But the performance that everyone raves about is Heath Ledger's Joker. In the 1989 "Batman", Joker was played by Jack Nicholson, who, at first, planned to make Gotham City kneel before him. But, about 30 minutes into the movie, Jack's Joker falls in love with Vicki Vale. This made Jack's Joker look really materialistic and envious, which is not the case with Ledger's Joker. The Joker here acts very much like an unstoppable hurricane that came into Gotham City at the worst possible time for the heroes. He's like a demon that can't be destroyed, but the most disturbing part is that he acts like her shouldn't be destroyed because it's part of the bigger picture. This is also attributed to his dark reality and twisted nature. Needless to say, this was a great performance.
Even the minor gripes I expressed in "Batman Begins" are fixed in "The Dark Knight". The action is a lot bigger and edgier, but it abandons the shaky cam that was so distracting in the first movie. The bat suit looks a lot slimmer and easier to move around in.
Final Verdict: "The Dark Knight" is undeniably my favorite movie of all time. Not only does it work as a comic book movie, but as a film in general. the underlying themes and Gothic setting are fantastic, the performances are stellar, and the story is flawlessly told. It embodies everything I love about cinema and much, much more. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it on the highest quality T.V. you can find; I promise you that it won't disappoint.
Batman Begins (2005)
Christopher Nolan Has Given CPR to a Supposedly Dead Franchise
The original "Batman" was released in 1989, under the direction of then-newcomer, Tim Burton. It was one of the first comic book movies to give itself a dark tone. It made for a pretty entertaining, albeit flawed, superhero movie, though this was mostly due to a fantastic performance from Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Burton's second Batman movie, "Batman Returns", was too dark and too stupid, so for the third movie, Burton handed the reigns of this franchise to Joel Schumacher. This is where things took a turn for the worst.
Schumacher's first attempt at the Batman franchise resulted in "Batman Forever". This one was definitely more kid-friendly and manipulative, and even though it wasn't as well received as the first two movies, it was a huge hit at the box office. Because of this, Schumacher was brought on to direct the fourth, and final, Batman movie called "Batman & Robin", which is considered to be one of the worst movies of all time.
1 out of 4 just isn't good enough, unfortunately, so Warner Bros. shut down the idea for a fifth movie and left this franchise. However, in 2005, Christopher Nolan, who was riding the success of the critically acclaimed "Memento" and "Insomnia", rebooted this franchise. And, from both a Batman fan boy standpoint, as well as an avid movie goer standpoint, I couldn't have been more surprised.
Christopher Nolan has taken the character of Batman to a whole new heights with this movie. He takes more of a realistic and prudent approach to the lore of Batman. Because Batman, like all the other superheroes out there, can be phenomenally goof sometimes. Here, Nolan makes you believe that a vigilante could dress up like a bat and fight crime, which, let's face it, could not have been an easy task.
From a casting standpoint, everyone brings their A game. Christian Bale brings more duality to the characters of Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Bruce Wayne, he acts the part of the drunken billionaire without a care in the world. As Batman, he it more intimidating and stealthy. He preys on criminal's fear, and the best part of the movie is seeing him develop this strategy.
Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman are all some of my favorite actors, and, naturally, they all give great performance. Because of the direction and tone of the movie, they act not like they're in a comic book movie, but more like they're in an Oscar nominated film. They each flesh out their characters brilliantly and effectively.
The movie is shot very nicely. Nolan is a master of scenery here; there are just so many moments where he lets you soak up the atmosphere, allowing you to take in the sheer scope of everything that is Batman.
Final verdict: This really is a smartly handled movie. This is the Batman movie that I wanted to see, but never thought I would. It's superior to the Burton/Schumacher era, but the next one takes it to an entirely new level of greatness. But, that's another review for another time.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Amazing? Not Really. A Solid Comic Book Movie? Yes!
I've always been a huge fan of Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy (yes, even the third one), but after watching them again, they aren't exactly the great movies I remember them being. True, they are a lot of fun and did address the dilemmas of being a superhero, but, face facts, folks: they are very corny and very silly. And this re-boot, though I think it came out a little too soon, manages to capture that spirit and energy that the first trilogy had, as well as improve upon the mistakes of the previous movies.
Even though I liked the earlier movies, I never liked Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. As Parker, he certainly played up the part of being socially awkward, but, even after he got bit by the spider, he still stayed in that phase of acting. There was no variation, no passion in him that made me want to get invested in him. Andrew Garfield is very much the superior performance here. There are some aspects in his acting that seem very Haden Christensen- esque, but he is very likable and very funny. I found myself rooting for this Spidey more in this single movie than I did at all in the previous trilogy!
The supporting cast is much better as well, for the most part. Gwen Stacy played by Emma Stone is very cute but wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty. In the original trilogy, I always got tired of Kirsten Dunst's Mary-Jane screaming and hollering until Spidey came to the rescue. Here, Gwen Stacy still needed to be saved, but she was quite capable of defending herself when she needed to. We also have Denis Leary as the tough, no-nonsense Cpt. Stacy and Martin Sheen and Sally Field being very likable and supportive in their respective roles.
Now a common complaint from a lot of people is the villain, Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard. I have to disagree, but not for the reasons you may think. I think Rhys Ifans did a great job as Connors, making him very likable and complex, which makes you all the more heartbroken when this travesty befalls him. I'm also glad that The Lizard did talk instead just being a huge, grunting, CGI mess. But, like everyone, I'm not a fan of his design and he doest hold a candle to the villains from the first two movies.
There are also some problems with the movie. In the trailers, we were promised answers to "The Untold Story"; we were meant to know what happened to Peter's parents. And what do we learn from this plot point? Nothing! I guess that means that they'll save the answers for a sequel, but they could of at least given us some clues as to what's to unfold.
The action scenes, while good, seem much less cinematic and sweeping than the first trilogy. There was this sense of wonder and atmosphere that they captured and, try as I might, I just didn't get that from this movie. Still, the action is decent.
Final verdict: Anyone who's fresh off "The Avengers" and is still awaiting "The Dark Knight Rises" should definitely check out this flick. Die-hard fans of the Raimi movies probably won't enjoy it, but if you're a comic book geek or an action movie fan, this should definitely quench your summer movie season thirst.