Reviews written by registered user
|59 reviews in total|
"Parental Guidance" is meant to be a comedy on the generational gap in
parenting techniques but Billy Crystal completely steals the movie with
his smooth and silky talking. Billy Crystal, acknowledging that he is
the attraction of the senior crowd, embodies the fuddled grandpa trying
to understand the softness of the suburban life but at the same time
vying for his youth. As clichéd as "use your words" has become of
modern parenting, Billy Crystal is the one who uses his words expertly
and elevates the movie from being another generic family movie.
In regards to the modern methods of parenting techniques, there are two opposites of parenting presented: first, the red haired Russian shrieking "practice, practice, practice" method; and second, the soft version of baseball where no-one given out method intended so that there is no ugly competition and just good clean fun. The first type is deemed to produce uptight children and the second type deemed to produce stuttering, diffident children or children with imaginary friends. So, it is up to the grandparents to come in to the picture and sort this out. The solution of course, you might have guessed, fun in its various forms; feel good but not a real answer or revelation.
Without Billy Crystal, this movie would probably end up like every other movie in the same mold; the shrieking screaming kids running around in a McMansion with busy stressed out parents with one hand managing the kids and with the other hand managing their jobs; the parents desperately in need a change to solve their problems. Throughout the movie, Billy Crystal is relaxed and smooth talking and first provides the calmness to the dizzying hyperactivity of the family and then sparkle with his comedy to take us through the predictable second half.
Overall, it's a generic family movie but elevated by Billy Crystal. However, it's still a movie bogged down by its uninspired family dynamics.
"Jack Reacher" is all about the introduction of Tom Cruise as Jack
Reacher; he is presented here as a superman who can out-wit, out-fight,
out-run and out-shoot anyone and everyone. While Tom Cruise does a
decent job with Reacher, the main problem with the movie is that the
overly elaborate plot setup at the beginning can only offer a minuscule
payoff at the end. The plot splutters and whittles out to nothing in
the end making the whole movie feel anti-climactic and pointless.
The trailers for the movie are misleading. My first impression from the teaser was a Punisher sort of movie. My second impression, from the roars of the muscle car in the trailer, was one that of one of those Nic Cage action movies. It is neither. It's a stuffy cop/crime show movie at first and then a punch out, shoot out and car chase kind of action movie next (though its humble budget only allows for moderately wrecking of three cars with none exploding). Think "Alex Cross" kind of movie.
Jack Reacher is presented here as a sort of GI batman who is great at detective work, combat work and not bad at quick talking either; always there with a heavy punch or a witty comeback. The entire movie, plot and the characters just serve as the canvas to show off Jack Reacher's virtues. As Reacher says, "he has nothing to lose or gain", and so the Reacher we meet at the beginning of the movie is the same Reacher at the end of the movie and so the whole movie feels like one long introduction to the amazing Mr. Reacher. In fact, Reacher is vastly over-developed; things like being off the grid and unable to be contacted, or being an ex-military investigator where his every suspect was a trained killer, are superfluous to the movie plot at hand and just there for the sake of making Reacher look more awesome.
There is a passable low-budget detective action movie underneath all this. This detective story has the feel of an 80s action cop movie mixed in with the style of modern TV crime and legal drama but without any of the Mission Impossible style high budget action sequences. It's a pity the plot can't fully rise up to challenge Jack Reacher which might have made for a good movie. Although, there is engrossing half an hour in the middle of the movie when Reacher is searching for his assailants and the girl Sandy that shows a glimpse of what the movie could have been if the plot had been better.
Overall, "Jack Reacher" doesn't feel like a big action movie; the plot is small and riddled with logic holes and the story is driven by actions because it's the only way for the plot to move forward. But, the charisma of the stars pull this into something watchable. The cynic in me feels like this is a low-budget, low-risk test to see if "Jack Reacher" can be made to a Mission Impossible like franchise rather than a real movie that stands on its own two feet.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" takes us back to middle earth and
this trip back is even better than what I remember of it. The scenes
and locations are more detailed and nuanced, the characters presented
with more depth and subtlety and the action more frenetic and grander.
The movie is an amazing technical as well artistic achievement in all
aspects and absolutely a must see movie.
"The Hobbit" book is a simpler and shorter story than "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Being stretched out into three movies was expected to make it less epic and more mundane of a movie but that is absolutely not the case. Through sheer skill and artistry of movie storytelling, the plot feels absolutely epic and grand. While perhaps there is less at stake on middle earth than in "Lord of the Rings", there are more dimensions to the characters: doubt, guilt, frailty and a little extra space for humor and wit, which all paints a more colorful story.
At every turn, middle earth brims with overflowing wonder, magic and excitement. The technical wizardry and artistry to create the breath-taking visuals and actions are indescribably amazing and everything is given an extra little more than last time around for us to soak in the intricate details and designs. The dwarf city inside the mountain with its blustering industriousness and craftsmanship, the serene Rivendale, the rickety goblin kingdom all are presented with so much more substance and detail that even though they resemble previous "Lord of the Rings" set-pieces, they feel completely new and refreshing. The technical prowess and skills of the visual effects department have gotten so much better and that indescribable feeling of awe I felt we had when I first experienced "Lord of the Rings" set pieces like Moria and Gondor is still evoked watching these new set pieces. Plus, they have also vastly improved their handling of differences in heights of the characters and the interactions feel more natural and fluid. Everything feels like it has multiple layers and depth: from Bilbo's house and pantry to the dwarf and goblin kingdoms to all the skirmishes and battles. Middle earth as is presented here is as close to the perfect fantasy backdrop as it gets.
The new cast seamlessly blend into the middle earth world. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage as Thorin make the characters their own. Freeman's initial bumbling English demeanor and then the growth to an adventurer is skillfully done. Armitage wonderfully projects royalty and authority while still being constrained of being a dwarf. Ian McKellen's return as the wizard Gandalf is a more playful and comedic return while Andy Serkis's Gollum is more vicious and expressive than I remember him to be (this possibly is also due to some animation improvements in Gollum as well). The rest of the dwarf company are too many to keep track of individually but as a group they provide for the expected dwarfian physical humor but also the gravity when needed of a people who have lost their home. This generation of middle earthians are all around as wonderful a group to get to know as the generation from the "Lord of the Rings" movies.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is simply amazing and is one the best movies ever made. With great storytelling, amazing visuals and very skillful acting, the movie grips you in a multiple of levels and never lets go. It is a movie to be seen as soon as humanly possible.
"Not Fade Away" is one of those movies that leaves you with a bad taste
after you watch the movie; it's like watching a movie by the resident
cool kid in town, straddling the prettiest girl in one hand and on the
other hand, going on about how he overcame his meager upbringing,
dysfunctional family, disloyal friends to become who he is. The story
might be genuine and the tribulations might be authentic but it's just
the way it is told that makes it so unlikeable.
The movie does not have an ending (just an absurd tacked on one), creates handfuls of subplots that it never bothers to resolve and indulges heavily in the writer/director's own world of self-references and pointless pettiness. After furiously producing subplots like it's a pilot of a TV show it just ends, giving that unresolved what-ever-happened-to feeling that as a moviegoer I hate. The young Italian-American protagonist who is probably the writer/director himself doesn't have a real story to tell or a point to make. The story just meanders on and on, the key tension points leading absolutely nowhere. Rather than create a compelling story, the movie demands some sort of adulation for what it presents and ultimately insults the viewer assuming the viewer should feel privileged to hear the story rather than earning its merits.
"Not Fade Away" is advertised as a movie about a band trying to make it big; however this movie is more of a bizarre bake of 60s set pieces. There is the vintage music equipment show - the Rickenbachers, the Gretchs, the vintage Fenders and others; the vintage car show and then the 60s records - primarily an obsession with the Rolling Stones that are displayed in their big, shiny and loud glory. While the audience who were teenagers in the 60s might appreciate the shiny items of desire, the rest will find these shiny objects do not fill up a movie or compensate for a story. It's like a glossy vintage advertising brochure - pretty girls, rebellious rock stars and shiny things but not a story to tell.
The other major problem in the movie is the absolute opacity of its sub-characters. The father, the mother, the girlfriend, the band mates, the girlfriend's sister, the families are completely and utterly opaque. They keep doing bizarre things without showing or being to infer why they are doing what they are doing. Perhaps it's some sort of a 60s thing, a band thing, an Italian-American thing or a 60s band thing but I wouldn't know. The movie doesn't bother to really explain or resolve anything and it just bubbles up here and there and then it's gone. The movie is just a sequence of these strung together and it just makes all the characters unlikeable and tiring.
I like rock and roll movies but in this movie rock music neither serves as a backdrop for a personal story nor tells a story about the rock and roll greatness. The 60s backdrop overpowers the movie and the story feels like it's about a bunch of teenagers so in love with themselves that they feel they are the privileged ones. One scene comes to mind; an aunt comments, "I hear rock and roll keeps you young" to which our protagonist churlishly replies, "rock and roll is an art form. Does Dostoyevsky keep you young?"
Eight years ago, in the same Valentine's day weekend, "50 first dates"
hit the theaters and made memory loss into a romantic comedy. "The Vow"
takes another form of memory loss but the same guy-forgetting effect to
a romantic comedy setup. Paige (Rachel McAdams) loses the past five
years of her memories; the past five years where he met and married her
husband Leo (Channing Tatum). Then tada, the plot then circles back to
the same need: he must make her fall in love with him again.
Memory loss makes for good Valentine's day fodder because it can explore the concept of soul mates. If the girl loses the memory of the entire relationship, would she do it over with the same guy or would she forge new lives? After all, couples destined to be together should survive a memory loss.
Away from the main plot engine, "The Vow" is a good romantic drama; it is given to very little of the usual confectioneries and cheesiness that comes with Valentine's day pushes. McAdams expertly portrays the stranger while Tatum expertly does the love-sick but often kicked puppy (or bulldog). Paige and Leo are art-school city "hipsters"; them not being upper middle class, it provides some fresher and more interesting dynamics in the story telling.
As a sideline, I think Leo probably has two really dumb and uncomfortable lines in the movies. The first being something about tingling hands of Thom Yorke's fingers and marriage. The second being when asked about if recording studio is a dying form because people can record on their computers, he goes on a long bubbly enthusiastic blabber about slapbacks and something else.
Overall, "The Vow" makes for good Valentine's day movie but I think it also makes for good drama. Comparing it to the lame romantic comedies that have come to define this week of year at the movies, at least you won't be spend the entire length of the movie rolling your eyes and shaking your head.
First thing about watching "Safe House" in the theaters: do not, I
repeat DO NOT, sit in the front half of the cinema; I would suggest
sitting in the back row unless you want to get nauseated and dizzy.
Why? The shaky cam is really bad on this movie. Even in the non-action
scenes, the camera is never still and constantly moving. During action
scenes the camera all over the place creating headache inducing
jerkiness and bobbling that can only be described by comparing it to
symptoms of deadly diseases. The constant camera movement in the
non-action scenes is also so bad that during each and every
conversation in the movie, it's slowly rocking side to side for
absolutely no reason, giving sea-sickness.
Add to the shaky cam that half the movie is a close up of a close up. The faces take up most of the screen and go beyond even the field of vision. On top of that, add the way too much frequent cuts. It's a real eyeball and brain buster.
However, if you're one of these people who are immune to shaky cam, the next topic is of course Denzel. Denzel gives his greatest hits: the Denzel-against-the-world Denzel, the Training-Day Denzel and the drama Denzel. Denzel is supposed to be playing a character Tobin Frost, but it's like we are watching Denzel Washington do his thing rather than Tobin Frost.
Safe House borrows heavily from the Bourne movies, not just the shaky cam but the large screened command centers at the Pentagon and the mannerisms of the staff there. Another Bournesque element is the fights between trained agents; however in this movie, they just seem to be of lower quality with slower labored movements and the scenes reduced to a frantic blur. The singular car chase scene despite being the highlight of the action sequences, is also unsatisfying.
The real oddity of the movie is how philosophical it wants to be about lives of CIA "employees". The movie gives us these long sullen monologues on relationships, pasts and futures, innocent victims etc. These musings would probably have some gravity if any of the characters were more than half dimensional and possessed some sort of personality. What we end up in the movie are a bunch of really big talking heads, sprouting lots of hollow dialog and adding to that headache.
Other minor things, the water-boarding scene that the trailer alludes to completely flubbed. It is as exciting as watching someone water their lawn.
Speaking of product placements, "Safe House" has been commandeered as a product placement vehicle for a certain brand of car that only makes boxy SUVs. Each and every car in the movie is of this brand; I mean every government car, every bad guy car, all 3-4 cars jacked along the way is a boxy SUV. This way too silly and distractingly sticks out.
In summary, Safe House would have been a mediocre but watchable movie without the shaky cam. With the shaky cam, it's just a big headache inducing mess. Devout Denzel followers might get something out of it but for most action fans, I would suggest waiting for the DVD version which it is more suited for.
"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" is a blue-screen CGI extravaganza
that is mixed in with the picturesque Hawaii locations, but containing
a plot that is essentially all told in the trailer and presented with
the dynamics of an amusement park tour. The "2" in "Journey 2" is
because it is the sequel to the 2008 movie "Journey to the Center of
the Earth"; the "The Mysterious Island" in the title because both
movies are both derived from books by Jules Verne.
Watching "Journey 2" is like being stuck in a vacation with five slightly unpleasant people with slightly uncomfortable dynamics between. Sean (Hutcherson) is bratty and overly entitled, Hank (Johnson) his stepfather and Alexander (Caine) his grandfather are constantly bickering, the tour guide Gabato (Guzman) is overly emasculated and his daughter Kailani (Hudgens) surly.
The 3D, the CGI of the island and the sets are perhaps main draw of the movie. We see elephants as big as cats and bees as big as cars. The effects are mostly impressive all around but it never manages to find the right pace or impact because it just comes in one after another without the dramatic tension. It's hard to care about the perils or be in awe at what's shown when the characters are so thin.
After watching the movie, I get this feeling that the Rock had way too much creative input in the movie. His absurd peck joke from the trailer aside, his character is a prize-winning Navy cryptographer who also knows structural engineering and who can also play a mean ukulele and really hold down a tune (although awful singing truth be told); This all hints at the big guy pretending to be smart and sensitive. Combine this with the almost palpable resentment between him and Caine and the sickening obsequiousness of Guzman towards him, it just feels uncomfortable.
While the movie is impressive as a 3D CGI set piece, it is severely let down by the characters. A lot of kids/family movies lately have this undertone of spoiled rich American kid gets everything he wants but this movie does this in a very ugly way. Kids will overlook all these flaws in the movie and be mesmerized by the 3D and special effects but I think adults would find it a bit pointless and uncomfortable. Empty entertainment for kids is my view of this movie.
How much you will enjoy this movie will rest heavily on how much you
would enjoy looking at Daniel Radcliffe for two hours. For the entirety
of the movie, he is either on the screen or a few seconds away from
being so. Daniel Radcliffe is a handsome man; great posture, very
well-dressed and the sideburns give him a completely new look that is
far and away from Harry Potter. But half an hour into the movie, I'm
already sick of looking at him. If it was Emma Watson for two hours,
then that'd probably be good entertainment for me but I suppose there
are lots of movie goers who would prefer Daniel Radcliffe and this
should prove good entertainment for them.
The movie plot is a ghost story but really is an excuse to get Daniel Radcliffe alone inside a house where he cautiously walks from room to room with sudden jack in the boxes frights. We get long shots of him cautiously walking towards something and then BAM! something pops out and then we have another long shot of him reacting and adjusting. A large portion of the movie is spent simply looking at Radcliffe. I remember a few such movies where we spend half the movie looking at beautiful female leads but here looking at Radcliffe isn't as engaging for me.
As a horror movie, it's around par or slightly below par. The low budget really shows through and the unimaginative use of the limited budget really makes the movie grind. The scares are cheap and as the movie goes on, it only increases in frequency rather than in scale and so, the movie really never takes off instead just plodding along. On the other hand, by not being one of those digital camera horror movies, it has some clear beautiful shots but again, somewhat wastes it by staying indoors and only using glimpses of the beautiful setting and outdoors of the location. However, in my book, its biggest fault is that it is simply without many new ideas, if follows the horror genre recipe to the tee and becomes rather predictable.
The focus, the center, the star and the reason for the movie is Daniel Radcliffe and unfortunately, there is not much more. This is probably a good enough reason for a lot of movie goers. However, I found the movie dour, risk-averse and unimaginative.
Contraband starts like "Gone in 60 Seconds", but instead of boosting
cars it's about smuggling contraband, and like GI6S it's because of an
idiot younger brothers and familial responsibilities that brings an
ex-criminal/smuggler out of retirement for that one last job. Chris our
smuggler protagonist is deemed the Houdini of smuggling but in reality,
he's a general super bad-ass who can talk fast, kick ass and smuggle at
superhero levels. We are then treated to the Mark Wahlberg show where
it's hard to imagine anything adverse happening to him and we just go
along with the ride.
The movie is at its best after it sheds its GI6S intro and moves to the nitty gritty details of smuggling. The movie feels at home at sea where everything is calculated and ordered, but while on land, the movie is always bizarre, violent and out of control. This lends for some really angular storytelling that keeps the movie exciting and interesting.
It's great to see Kate Beckinsdale in the movies again though she plays the wife whose main role is to look great and be in distress, a far cry from her iconic Underworld Selene or from her last movie Whiteout.
On the whole it's a good action movie and if you liked Mark Wahlberg's previous movies like the Italian Job and Shooter, you will also like this.
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is an incredible name for a spy book or
a movie. Pity what lies underneath is an competent but average story.
Starting with the school-boyish obsession with talking in code (where
the title comes from) to the ho-hum Russian characterizations and
overly stuffy and bureaucratic view of the British intelligence
structure, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" becomes as dramatic as a chess
move with a dramatic name.
While I was watching the movie, I caught myself thinking about different things, my thoughts wandering because there is just so much space between what goes on. As we get more characters and sub-characters, each one played by as recognizable an actor as the other, all the alluded bombast, gravity and grandeur of the espionage world just boils down to what seems like petty personal bickering. The old cold war character templates, the beautiful Russian girl and the sadist torturer, just feels tired and one-dimensional and personally, just reminds me of the moldy smell of old paperbacks more than anything.
The huge hype around the movie got me to see this but while perhaps enjoyable in its atmosphere and music, it's probably the making of simple things overly complicated that made the movie feel hollow and pointless.
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