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Funny and Dark
I just saw this movie at Fantastic Fest in Austin. I really loved it. Unlike the Potter movies, it succeeds in being dark without taking itself too seriously. The characters were rich, the acting superb, and the pace was neither frantic nor plodding, but just right. John C. Reilly was excellent -- he had a very powerful presence that I'd not really noticed before.
I haven't read the books, but the actors said the books' author also loved the movie. I realize movies rarely live up to readers' ideals, but this movie really stood on its own merits. There was a lot of dark/sarcastic humor (one-liners, mostly) in the movie that I understand wasn't in the books -- and it really worked. Unlike the Harry Potter books, I'm anxious to read these due to my appreciation of the movie.
War of the Worlds (2005)
This movie left us speechless -- literally. As we left the theater, we ran into friends, and simply could not come up with anything to say -- we were still in such shock from this movie. I'm not particularly a Tom Cruise fan, and it can certainly be said that he played himself in this movie, but it worked. We see a lot of movies, and I am rarely as drawn into a movie as I was on this one. Frankly, the last Sci-Fi movie that affected me so was The Matrix (the first one!). I was on the edge of my seat the whole time -- even though I knew exactly how it would end. Spielberg really knows how to pull an audience in.
The special effects were incredible. The characters were developed adequate to the story (which wasn't really about the people, after all). And the bad guys were really scary! The ending might have been a bit too "pat" for me, except that it was so brief, it was hardly noticeable except as a chance to catch my breath after the hell we had all just been through.
I, Robot (2004)
The book, I, Robot wasn't really a single story, but rather a collection of robot stories (previous published) held together by a loose storyline. The original group of stories examined various problems and pitfalls inherent in the 3 Laws of Robotics. Thus, the movie worked as yet another 'story' in that collection. VIKI's extension of the First Law to humanity as a whole later became Asimov's Zeroth Law.
I found the movie quite enjoyable. That the human characters were relatively shallow and showed little development bothered me not a whit. The character being developed was that of Sonny (and the other robots), which was a far more interesting concept, and quite in keeping with Asimov's book. Will Smith did a credible job of keeping his character light and amusing without detracting from the main focus of the movie, the robots. The CGI effects were awesome, far better than I was expecting. The pacing worked and the plot seemed to hold on to more surprises than I have come to expect from summer blockbusters.
The goals of sci-fi are usually different from those of traditional movies. As sci-fi/action, I thought this was first-rate. Bladerunner it was not, but still full of merit. I gave it 9/10.