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A very pleasant surprise!
Take it from me. This is not the type of film I usually flock to see. For one thing, it's animated. I'm not one of these adults who likes to flaunt about being a kid at heart. Call me close-minded, but I prefer seeing REAL people with REAL facial expressions. Second of all, "fantasy" is not exactly my favorite genre. I'm a big advocate of realism in movies. I'd much rather watch an indie film where characters sit in cafes and bars, and just ramble on about the mundane details of life than watch the next special effects spectacular. Until this day, I haven't seen one "Lord of the Rings" film. Normally, the minute I see anything too out of ordinary in a film, my mind starts to wander and I become disconnected from it.
Therefore, I'm pleading with people--please, please, please go see this film! I don't normally go on and on about a film's special effects. To me, what's the use of effects when...they look like effects? Watching "Matrix Reloaded" is the equivalent of watching two coats of paint dry in my opinion. "Beowulf," on the other hand, is one of the few films I can think of that uses special effects for GOOD! The animation is absolutely incredible. There are moments in the film where I forget I'm watching a piece of animation, because the characters are soooo lifelike. I know I complained previously about animated characters not showing a range of facial expressions. Not in this case. It's incredible how the emotions of the real actors were able to get converted into animation. It's so complex that I wouldn't be surprised if Anthony Hopkins gets an Oscar nomination for his performance in this film.
I will preface that I saw this film in 3D. I'm sure the regular version will be enjoyable as well, but Robert Zemeckis took full advantage of the 3D technology, truly making you feel like you're part of this world. This is not like back in the days when occasionally you'd see some creature's arms stretch towards you, and that would be the extent of the 3D. There's a moment where Beowulf is about to get his crotch impaled, and I found myself almost gasping (I'm a guy, of course). It doesn't hurt that we get to see a very lifelike replication of Angelina Jolie strutting around almost naked during her every scene.
Now, for all you parents out there, DO NOT take your young ones. I find it funny that the movie is virtually being promoted as a kiddie flick. If this were R-rated, I would classify it as a hard R. I can't come up with any sort of explanation as to why this gory, gruesome film was awarded a PG-13 rating, other than....it's animated. I guess you can get away with a lot more with animated violence. Don't quote me on that, though. We're treated to such images as a monster getting stabbed in the eye and a heart getting torn out. Yet a movie with 10 uses of the F-word gets an R-rating. The MPAA is on crack. It's official.
If I have to make any mild criticism, it's that Robin Wright Penn's character looks a bit too cartoonish and flat. Ray Winstone has a great and powerful voice, and lends it well to the main character. I just find it funny that his character was the only one that had no resemblance to him. His character is tall, muscular, and handsome--the exact opposite of the real life Winstone. I liked the performances for the most part. Some have said that John Malkovich was pretty awful. I disagree. I thought he played a great heavy, as he always does. I suggest everyone checks this movie out in theaters, though. As big of a cinephile as I am, I don't usually urge people to see films on the big screen. To me, if a film is truly great, you can watch on your laptop or your I-Pod and still enjoy it just as much. "Beowulf" NEEDS to be seen on the big screen. It is not just a movie. It is an experience!
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
The worst of the series
I think I enjoyed this movie when I first saw it, but now looking back at it I find it quite mediocre. I still enjoy the other three "Lethal Weapon" movies. I even enjoyed Part 3 (most people seem to feel that the franchise began to decline at that particular sequel). To me, the previous three films had a good balance of action and comedy. The fourth installment is a good example of what happens when too much improvisation is allowed on set. There are times when the script seems virtually non-existent, as the actors play out these lame gags that go on way too long and truly take away from the story. Surely, the addition of Chris Rock to the cast helped ruin the film. I enjoy Rock as a comedian. His stand-up is incredible. In recent years, he's sharpened his acting skills a bit, knowing when to be Chris Rock the Comedian and Chris Rock the actor. That wasn't the case back when this movie came out. I didn't find him even partially convincing as a police detective, and found him to be much more annoying than funny. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover still had the great chemistry, but they seemed more concerned with being an Abbott-and-Costello-type comedy team than being Riggs and Murtaugh. There weren't really any poignant moments between the two characters, like in the previous three films. All in all, this movie is worth buying only if you hope to complete your "Lethal Weapon" collection. Otherwise, it's all pretty forgettable.
A creepy, solid horror flick
I admit, I'm usually rough on many horror movies that come out nowadays, because...well...they suck. "P2," on the other hand, has many exciting moments and I was engaged the whole way through. The acting is solid. The actress who plays the lead does a great job at conveying real terror. I also like that she wasn't the typical big-breasted female lead who seems ripped from the pages of Maxim magazine. She is attractive, yes, but not your traditional Hollywood beauty, who's cast simply so she can have a scene where she's taking a shower and has to flee from the villain naked, with her gargantuan boobs bouncing in close-up. I loved Wes Bentley in "American Beauty," and was quite disappointed to find out that he fell off the radar after delivering that great performance as Ricky Fits. He would only pop up occasionally in braindead slasher flicks like "Soul Survivors." In "P2" he was given a chance to redeem himself, and that he did. He is a perfectly creepy villain, especially with those dark, piercing eyes. The movie is not without flaws. It has some of the expected fake scare moments and, without giving anything away, let's just say that I'm SURE it would take less than 20 minutes for the cops to show up after you make a 9-1-1 call. The filmmakers do a great job at setting up a creepy tone, starting off the film by playing "Santa Baby" over the opening credit sequence. That's ten times creepier than, say, playing a standard horror movie score. If you're sick and tired of many of the braindead teen slasher flicks that have been hitting theaters lately, this should come as a refreshing surprise. I think this film is sadly underrated.
The Brave One (2007)
An extremely powerful, thought-provoking film that will keep you riveted
Sean Penn once said something along the lines of "A great movie is more than just entertainment. It's an experience." Well, I can honestly classify "The Brave One" as an experience. I recall barely touching my popcorn throughout the course of this film, because I was so immersed in its world. First of all, the film is anchored by a pitch-perfect performance by Jodie Foster. I really felt her character's vulnerability every waking second. I don't think any actress could've pulled off this type of complex role the way she did. Recently, I saw an identical film about vigilante justice called "Death Sentence." Though I liked that film very much, after watching "The Brave One" I can genuinely say that "DS" pales in comparison. The movie has almost everything that a film should have. The characters are so richly developed. "DS" was more along the lines of action-thriller entertainment. Neil Jordan doesn't simply try to grab the audience's attention with gratuitous violence. Yes, the film is extremely violent and the R-rating is more than well-deserved. But the violence felt much more organic than your typical action-thriller. Not only is Foster's character richly developed, but so is Terence Howard's. He plays a sympathetic detective with some personal demons of his own. I think Howard solidifies his status as one of our best new actors with his performance. If I had to list a minor flaw, it's Nicky Katt as Howard's partner. Katt does a fine job of acting, but he's given the role of the typical smart-aleck partner who's always ready to blurt out a witty one-liner. I understand that his character was inserted to give some comic relief to an otherwise tragic film, but sometimes his humor took away from the drama of the piece. It's not that rare that I classify a film as adequate or good, but it is rare that I classify a film as magnificent. "The Brave One" falls into that category. It's one of the best films I've seen this year so far. For all you aspiring screenwriters, like myself, who are seeking a film that will give you feedback on what makes a solid screenplay, please please go see this movie! This is what GREAT films are made of!
Mr. Woodcock (2007)
One of the WORST comedies in recent years!
This so-called comedy is horrendous on all levels, and worst of all--it's boring! It's forgettable! This doesn't even fall into the so-bad-it's good category. About the only positive thing I can say about "Mr. Woodcock" is that it's only a little under 80 minutes long. I was looking forward to seeing the flick, since I am a pretty big Billy Bob Thornton fan. Unfortunately, with this movie, he has officially completed the trifecta of duds. First there was "School for Scoundrels," which was mediocre. Then there was "The Astronaut Farmer," which was also mediocre. Now we have "Mr. Woodcock," which is downright awful. There are many actors who I admire and even adore, who have done a fair share of bad movies, but for some reason (before these three movies) I can't think of any less-than-satisfying ones that Billy Bob has done, except for maybe "Waking Up in Reno." It seems like he has reached the I'm-just-here-to-pick-up-my-paycheck phase of his career.
The movie has an interesting premise. We all have had crappy gym teachers in the past. Unfortunately, the plot goes nowhere and flings us into one implausible, sitcom-level situation after another. My main problem with the plot is that we're supposed to believe that Mr. Woodcock is a gem to everyone, except Seann William Scott's character. Susan Sarandon's character supposedly finds this man charming, when in all actuality he doesn't show even an ounce of charm throughout the flick. Maybe it would've been funny if he were really mean towards Scott, yet he acts like the nicest guy towards everybody else. We're even supposed to believe that all the townsfolk in this sleepy Midwestern town think he's a great person.
My second problem with the plot? Seann William Scott transforms from a calm, mild-mannered motivational speaker to an insane wreck...within a matter of 10 minutes! What kind of character arc is that? First of all, Scott is sadly miscast in his role. Personally, I don't think he possesses much range as an actor. He's Stiffler...that's that! Any role that doesn't require him to be a rude, foul-mouthed weasel takes him out of his element. I was never convinced that Scott was a well-meaning motivational speaker with worldwide acclaim. Amy Poehler, of "SNL" infamy, tries to steal the show with her snappy one-liners. Unfortunately, she's just as talentless as the rest of "SNL's" current cast, and does nothing to breathe life into this comatose flick.
The gags are absolutely predictable and brainless. As if this would surprise anyone, this is another one of those comedies where all the good jokes are given away in the trailer. There's one gag involving a video camera accidentally being left running while Ethan Suplee's character gabs on and on about how hot Scott's mother is. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that there's going to be a later scene, where Susan Sarandon walks in as the video is playing on a TV screen. Not to mention each gag is delivered with all the gusto of a student filmmaker.
This movie is such a waste of two brilliant actors. Billy Bob sleeps through his role, keeping the same sneering expression every minute he's on screen. I can't blame him. Like I said before, he probably just did the film to collect a paycheck. Susan Sarandon is forced to play an utterly brainless character, who falls for Woodcock's charm, despite the fact that he has none! I can't recall a worse film she's ever done. I hope her paycheck was pretty huge as well.
Plain and simple, this is another lamebrain comedy you should skip. I wouldn't even recommend this on DVD. If you happen to catch it on cable, please change the channel. I can think of a lot of bad comedies that have come out in recent years, but few as merit-less as this one.
I Think I Love My Wife (2007)
Better than Chris Rock's usual fare....but still not that good
Though I like Rock as a stand-up comedian, he hasn't proved to be very successful in the film world with such lackluster films as "Head of State" and "Down to Earth." "I Think I Love My Wife" is a surprisingly mature romantic comedy that shows Rock has potential as a writer/director, but it doesn't quite hit the mark. Why? Simply because it's not that funny. The comedy genre works two ways: Either it's funny or it's not. It doesn't matter how fleshed out the characters are, how well drawn-out the plot is--if I'm not laughing, it doesn't work. I recall chuckling now and then throughout this film, but got no real laughs. Rock has also proved that he can act. Don't think I'm jumping the gun and saying that he has the potential to be another Jamie Foxx. I don't envision him ever giving an Oscar-winning performance, he shows that he has range. Even in "Nurse Betty," a film that I liked, I felt that Chris Rock was pretty much playing Chris Rock. In this film, he's much more subdued than usual and shows that he can hold his own in the more dramatic moments. Like I said, this is not Rock's usual fare. Other than a gag involving him taking a Viagra that gives him a permanent erection, there are no goofy scenes that look straight out of one of his other lame comedies. Steve Buscemi has a supporting role, and provides some of the film's more entertaining moments. The relationship between Rock and his wife, as well as the one between him and his mistress (played by the gorgeous Kerry Washington), is quite believable. This is not one of those romantic comedies where you think to yourself, Why didn't he just leave her in the first place? You understand his ongoing love for his wife, despite some of her obnoxious habits, and you understand his willingness to be with his more free-spirited mistress. Nothing feels tacked on. But as I said before, the movie's just not that funny and often quite dull. I still hope that Rock writes and directs another movie, though. This is not a good film, but he has shown vast improvement.
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
A fun-filled, action-packed extravaganza
If you're looking for a deep, character-driven drama--then what you are doing watching "Shoot 'Em Up"? You can't sue the film for false advertising. You get what you pay for! It's a popcorn flick, and a damn good one! If you're like me and you miss the early 90's action flicks with stars like Van Damme and Steven Seagal, and loathe a lot of the recent CGI-filled action duds like "Charlie's Angels," you're going to have to a ball. The only difference is unlike Van Damme and Seagal, Clive Owen CAN act. The plot is very thin and altogether forgettable, but the action sequences are not. As you can imagine, there's nonstop action from start to finish, even containing a scene that combines sex and violence. The action sequences are so breathtaking, I kept wanting to break into applause. If you're one of those wholesome moviegoers, go see a Pixar flick and leave the rest of us alone. Let's face it, sometimes you go to the movies to be enlightened and moved and captivated, and sometimes you just want to have a good time. This is an example of the latter. I had a great time! The movie contains every action movie stereotype in the book, but never tries to hide that fact. The soundtrack is full of rock music from bands like "Motley Crue" and "AC/DC." I loved all of Clive's sly one-liners. Having watched this film, it's confirmed that he would've made a great James Bond. He's a suave, multi-faceted actor with great screen presence. Of course, I was mostly looking forward to seeing Paul Giamatti play against type as the film's villain, which he seems to have a lot of fun with. As long as you know what you're getting yourself in for, you should have a hell of a time at "Shoot 'Em Up." I shouldn't have to give this warning, but the movie is extremely violent. If you're an advocate for non-violence, your head will probably explode within the first 20 minutes of the film, if not the first 10. And of course, don't take the kids. After all, the movie is Rated R! Don't act like you weren't given fair warning.
Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007)
Funny and delightful
If you were somewhat disappointed with "Bean" (as I was), don't let that scare you off. I was pleasantly surprised with this hilarious and delightful installment. Of course, I was a big fan of the TV show and I think this movie did a much better job at adapting the lovable character to the big screen. Bean goes through his usual witty antics, and to add to the fun the film actually has a decent plot. I truly cared for all the characters, and found myself totally engaged throughout this wild adventure. I don't want to give too much away, but the plot involves a French boy, who accidentally gets left behind by his father. Bean helps him on his quest to meet back up with his father in Cannes. I felt total sympathy for the kid and desperately wanted him to find his father. Not only is the film very funny, but it also has plenty of heart. Rowan Atkinson hasn't missed a beat, considering he did the show so long ago. When I found out Willem Dafoe was in the film, I figured he'd just be in a tiny cameo. But he plays a pretty significant role as a pretentious director/actor, and does a great job at poking fun at these snobby filmmakers who are totally full of themselves. Unlike "Bean," this film doesn't have too much crude humor, so you can feel free to watch this with the whole family. It's a perfect feel-good comedy!
Delta Farce (2007)
This is the kind of movie that's worth watching if you happen to catch it on cable on a Saturday afternoon. It's definitely not worth seeking out, though. Larry the Cable Guy himself enjoys bashing his first film, "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector," but you know what? I enjoyed that a lot more. It was a much better comedy vehicle for the talented comedian. In "Delta Farce" he's not given nearly as many opportunities to showcase his brand of humor. If anything, I think this is a better vehicle for his Blue Collar buddy, Bill Engvall, who is quite good in the film. The movie is far from awful, but it never made me roar with laughter. Most of the jokes are predictable. How many times have we seen the gag where an out-of-shape man is doing chin-ups, and it's later revealed that someone is lifting him over the bar? There are also many gags where we're forced to believe the characters have no intelligence at all. I know they aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, but how could anyone possibly confuse Iraq with Mexico? Speaking of no intelligence D.J. Qualls (who was good in "Road Trip" and "The New Guy") is wasted in a crappy role as the dumbest of the three guys. Danny Trejo, who's given a bigger part than he normal, is also wasted. This is another one of those comedies where all the good jokes were given away in the previews. Even if you're a fan of Larry, like me, you'll probably be disappointed by the film.
Rush Hour 3 (2007)
OK, enough already
This is officially the worst film out of the "Rush Hour" series, and I was sorely disappointed. I understand that these movies are not meant to be monumental in quality. That didn't stop me from enjoying "Rush Hour 1 and 2." But in this third installment, the jokes have all run dry. This sequel best showcases Chris Tucker's weaknesses as a comic actor. He is undoubtedly a very funny stand-up comic, but unfortunately even the funniest stand-up comics don't always make smooth transitions to film. The problem with putting stand-up comics in movies is they have the tendency to improvise whenever possible. The problem is that they have to improvise within the parameters of each scene. They don't possess the same freedom and imagination they have when using their material on stage. It doesn't help that a lot of Tucker's material was recycled from the previous two films. The film opens with Tucker dancing like Michael Jackson in the middle of a busy L.A. street. Why is he doing that? Because people thought it was funny when he did it in the previous two films. There's no valid reason for his character to be listening to his I-Pod, singing and dancing along, when he should be directing traffic.
Both Tucker and Jackie Chan seem to be going through the motions this time around. The chemistry is only barely there. Besides, the novelty has worn off by now. We get it. One's an Asian, by-the-numbers cop who doesn't speak much English and the other's a goofy LAPD detective who can't shut up. You can't expect to keep milking jokes out of that one premise.
There are some spectacular action sequences, but as a comedy the film doesn't quite click. The jokes in the other "Rush Hour" flicks were pretty cheap, but in this one it didn't even feel like the filmmakers and actors were trying. The plot involves the unlikely duo going to France, so naturally we're bombarded by every French stereotype imaginable. Stereotypes can definitely be funny. As I've said in previous reviews, political correctness is the enemy of comedy. But when you recycle the same tired old stereotypes we've seen billions upon billions of times, how am I supposed to laugh? When the characters get to France, they hop into a cab with a French cab driver who hates Americans....because he's French. With movies like these, why shouldn't the French hate us Americans? And of course, we're bombarded by more tired Asian stereotypes. In one incredibly lame scene, there's a Chinese character named "You" and another named "Me." Hahaha, how friggin' original! So we're treated to another tired rendition of the classic "Who's on the First" act, with Tucker asking the character, "Who are you?" "You." "What's your name?" "You." I don't think I need to go on. It was bad enough when Morris Day and Jerome tried to re-create it in "Purple Rain." We don't need to suffer through it again. I hope Abbott and Costello rise from the grave and punch Brett Ratner in the face.
On a happy note, the film did end with the song "War, What Is It Good For?" with Chan and Tucker dancing into the moonlight. That was one callback to the previous flicks that I can never get tired of.