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2008: I died.
The acting is fair enough. There are moments when overacting and underacting bring scenes down, but nothing is ruined. I liked the editing, for the most part. There are times when it makes the story hard to follow, but overall it's well done. The cinematography is beautiful.
My only real gripe with the movie is that the plot is a bit thin. A lot of things happen that feel ultimately irrelevant, and other things happen without much explanation. The conflict gets lost in all the random happenings, which adds to the difficulty of following the story.
I'm not sure where all the hatred for this movie comes from. It wasn't a great film, but it certainly wasn't horrible. The story felt stretched and a bit convoluted, and the title is misleading since the movie has virtually nothing to do with Cthulhu, but I feel like I have to give props to the director for making the film he made. He easily could have made a weightless horror movie with cheap scares, but he attempted something a little meatier.
A soon-to-be forgotten remake of a timeless classic
The 2008 version starts off somewhat promising. Unlike the original, there is a build-up to the first encounter with Klaatu, which is sort of effective in eliciting both wonder and fear. It's reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Independence Day. It proceeds down a similar path to the original for a while afterward, embellishing a bit in some areas.
While Michael Rennie's Klaatu was a complicated character, simultaneously coming off as creepy and trustworthy, Keanu Reeves's Klaatu is hardly more than a robot. He is completely inexpressive and undynamic. There's no way the audience can identify with him, so his fate seems ultimately unimportant. Also, his purpose is largely unclear in this version. He was a messenger in the original; the closest thing he can be related to in this version is a harbinger of death...
Which brings me to my biggest complaint with the movie. Robert Wise's version had a clear underlying message to its audience; Scott Derrickson's version doesn't. Though the "big issue" that the film deals with has been changed from the nuclear arms race to global warming, it is hardly touched upon. The destruction of the human race is triggered with little more than a few lines of explanation.
Not to undermine the efforts of the 1951 classic's film crew, but The Day The Earth Stood Still is a classic because of its message, a message that easily still applies today. Derrickson's version of The Day The Earth Stood Still could have been a marvelous way of touching modern audiences with an old truth. Instead, it focuses more on thrills and special effects. Klaatu would be disappointed...
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Nothing that made Casino Royale so memorable is present in Quantum of Solace. QoS's plot is ludicrously thin compared to Casino Royale's. What could have been a deeply intriguing story is hardy touched upon and left unexploited. The major events in QoS are merely excuses for Bond to kick some more ass.
Quantum's action sequences are stimulating, but far less interesting than its predecessor's. Whereas Casino Royale's action scenes were dynamic and carefully detailed, QoS's are frantic and standard. While it's obvious a lot of time and energy went into them, there's not much to show for it. The cuts are quick and the shots are hard to catch.
I, like many, fell in love with Casino Royale's James Bond. He was young and authentic, capable of failing and getting hurt (both physically and emotionally). Seeing as how Casino Royale ended at what felt like the beginning of Bond's real character development, I expected Quantum of Solace to continue that development. QoS's Bond, however, is the same emotionless James Bond audiences have been watching for almost half a century. He has no believable motivation, so nothing he does feels purposeful.
Finally, the antagonist never poses a real threat to Bond. Mathieu Amalric has a creepy look that could have been put to good use, but Dominic Greene is a painfully boring and clichéd bad guy. Le Chiffre's very presence was intimidating; I wouldn't even cross the street to avoid Greene.
Casino Royale was a powerful reboot for the Bond franchise. It abandoned the old 007 formula and established a new one, gaining a lot of fans in the process (myself included). For whatever reason, Quantum of Solace dropped the ball. While it certainly serves as fun escapism, it disappoints as a continuation of the story Casino Royale began.
Death Race (2008)
A great guy movie that delivers!
The key to enjoying this movie is in your expectations. After seeing cars with guns and a wide array of other BAMF weaponry attached to them in the trailers, I didn't expect Death Race to have much depth. I went in hoping to see the lovechild of the Fast and the Furious and Mad Max, and I saw just that--and I loved it! There are plenty of things in this movie that normally would have annoyed the crap out of me, but giving it a lot of leeway made it a hundred times more enjoyable.
The acting is, dare I say, somewhat decent for a Paul W.S. Anderson film. The actors give the performances they need to give, while still having fun with their roles. The cold, awkward acting that plagued Resident Evil and AVP is kept to a minimum here, if at all present. Jason Statham is the typical tough guy protagonist, while Joan Allen is the usual one-dimensional villain. They play their parts well, as does the rest of the cast.
Death Race is pure escapism. And, oh, is it fun escapism! This is the first Anderson film I've seen that I've been absolutely satisfied with. It never tries to be anything more than what it is and it shows the audience everything they want and expect to see. If you're not into ADD action and gore glorification, this one ain't for you! Otherwise, catch this one in the theater while you still can!
The Dark Knight (2008)
A solid sequel
Nolan made a wise decision in separating The Dark Knight from Batman Begins in that he never tries to mimic it. While the dark and gritty feel of Begins is certainly prevalent in the sequel, Knight is its own film with its own story. It rarely, if ever, feels like Batman Begins 2.
It goes without saying that the performances are stellar, but I can't not praise the actors. Christian Bale is as he needs to be, as is Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman. Even though Maggie Gyllenhaal was cast due to Katie Holmes's inability to return, I think she was a necessary change in order to show Rachel's growth. Aaron Eckhart is always a joy to watch, and he certainly doesn't disappoint here. Heath Ledger deserves an Oscar; I'll leave it at that.
The story is fresh and full of conflict. It's almost as if Gotham is worse since Batman took on its corruption and saved it from annihilation. The absence of any threatening criminals gives the Joker room to stretch out and set the world on fire. He manages to plunge Gotham into anarchy like Ra's Al Gaul before him, but does it without a grand scheme. He is a lethal dose of impulsiveness and malevolence, a dog chasing cars with a bomb strapped to its back.
The music in this movie is haunting. There's the familiar (but not the same) theme from Begins, and the rest is new and frightening. I'm very pleased that Zimmer and Howard combined their musical talents and developed a new score instead of relying on the previous one.
My only complaint with The Dark Knight is that there's too much happening. Wayne's relationship with Rachel is muddied by Dent's presence, the remaining Gotham gangsters are trying to get back on top, the Joker is causing mayhem, the Joker is ousting the gangsters by their own means, Dent becomes Two-Face and goes on a murderous revenge tear... It's all done very well, which is why it pains me to complain, but it's just too damn much for one movie. It's easy to get lost.
Complaint aside, The Dark Knight is everything it should be. If you're one of the 10 people who haven't seen it, see it.
I really can't say enough good things about this film. Generally, I like Danny Boyle, but I'm always a bit weary going into his films since they tend to go against my expectations. I like all of his films I've seen (with the exception of A Life Less Ordinary) but they had to grow on me over time. Sunshine is the first Boyle film that I liked the first time I saw it. In fact, I loved it!
The writing is brilliant. Garland has a gift for expressing huge ideas through his characters' words and actions. One of the many things that separates Sunshine from all other disaster movies is its humanity. The characters here are all important, each playing a specific role within the group. None of them are "victims." The cast is dynamite. It's a good mixture of familiar faces and new blood. Everybody puts 110% into their performances. It's difficult to pick out favorites since they're all so good. (That being said, Chris Evans's performance impressed the hell out me.) The special effects are stunningly beautiful. Every color on the spectrum gets screen time, making the film very pleasing to the eye. The sun's beauty is indescribable. The yellows and oranges are very deep and rich. Also, the FX are frequent but used effectively. Nothing looks fake or unrealistic.
John Murphy and Underworld work together to deliver a great soundtrack. It's unlike a typical science fiction score. They, like Garland, tap into human emotion to give weight to the scenes with music.
Another thing this movie does effectively is express the vastness of space, which is something that is overlooked by most other science fiction films. It really adds to the feeling of isolation and tightens the screw on the tension. Some of the science is inaccurate, but nothing comes across as absolute bunk.
I can't get enough of this movie. Everything is so damn good it never gets old. This is one I strongly recommend to everybody. It's definitely a must-see for sci-fi fans, but I think it's got enough human drama to appeal to non sci-fiers. In conclusion, Sunshine is a triumph for Mr. Boyle, who proves he can direct any genre he sets his eyes on.
Death Proof (2007)
I love Quentin Tarantino's movies. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are among my favorites, Jackie Brown was a great movie, and Kill Bill Vol. 1 was pure fun. Up til now, Kill Bill Vol. 2 was my only Tarantino disappointment.
Death Proof had a lot of potential. Besides being paired with Robert Rodriguez's crazy fun Planet Terror, it had an intriguing story with a seductively creepy antagonist (brilliantly executed by Kurt Russell). It fell short, however, more than it succeeded.
I'll start with the good stuff. Kurt Russell is without a doubt the highlight of the movie. Tarantino's unique characterization really allows Russell to perform in ways I've never seen before. The end product is, in my opinion, Oscar-worthy. You can't help but root for the guy, even when he is being a total bastard.
The story is very interesting. It's very grindhouse and quite original. The action sequences kick ass, too. The car chase near the end of the movie is extremely suspenseful and honestly unpredictable (up to a certain point, that is).
That's about it for me. Now the bad.
The plot is good, but it unfolds very unevenly. It starts off really slow, picks up a bit, then slows down even more, then picks up again and leaves you hanging in the middle of an adrenaline rush. Maybe some folks like that, but it didn't sit well with me. I like closure.
My biggest qualm with the film is the dialogue. Normally, I love Tarantino's quirky dialogue, but there's way too much of it here. And worse, it's all girl-talk. "I'm doing this guy," "She's such a whore," "I really like him, but I'm not sure." No guy is going to sit though forty minutes of that. And the stretches between action sequences (all two of them) are so long that it's easy to forget what movie you're watching.
Death Proof is worth seeing once or twice for Kurt Russell, but certainly not worth owning. Don't expect much and you'll be entertained.
Underworld: Evolution (2006)
There are plenty of things I could fault Len Wiseman with, but I'll single out the one that annoys me the most. His movies are melodramatic to the point of being unenjoyable. Nobody laughs in this movie, and what very little comic relief exists is horribly stilted and out of place. Since when does a serious movie have to be so watertight that watching it is the equivalent of holding your breath for two hours? Aliens and Terminator 2 were sober action flicks, but they found time to let the audience laugh.
I loathe the dialogue. It's a hideous bastardization of Shakespearean form that makes me want to scream. The complete lack of emotion in the majority of the film makes the few emotional scenes feel alien. We're in the twenty-first century, for crying out loud. People don't talk like this. They never did, for that matter. Stop trying to make classy movies out of train wrecks! There's a lot more CGI in this movie, and it looks terrible by modern standards. I felt that the first movie utilized CGI rather well, mixing it with prosthetics and other techniques to hide its presence. Evolution, on the other hand, unleashes a barrage of CGI that looks rushed and underdeveloped.
There are a few great actors here, but none of them are used to their full potential. Bill Nighy and Derek Jacobi are the only ones to even come close to showing off their abilities, but neither of them get enough screen time to make lasting impressions.
I feel like what happened with Underworld is like what happened with the Matrix. The makers thought they could only make one movie and had too much story, so they shaved off what they felt they could do without. Then, when they got their chance to make another movie, they had more money but less story than before. Naively, they must have believed the two would balance each other out, which may prove true at the box office, but not for the test of time.
Legends of the Fall (1994)
The acting is OK. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant (which goes without saying), Aidan Quinn is good, and Brad Pitt is Brad Pitt. The supporting actors are good enough to keep the illusion of reality up.
The music is what you would expect from a movie like this: loud and gushy. James Horner has never been one of my favorite composers. With a few exceptions, his scores don't differ much from each other.
The cinematography is pretty nice. Bright colors, nice contrasts, very pleasing to the eye. Good costumes, props, all that jazz.
My biggest qualm with this movie is the story, which is colossally convoluted. It jumps from event to event without much purpose other than to make the audience cry. Plus, I don't have much patience for movies centered around love triangles. They should add tension to the plot, not BE it.
I gave this movie six stars because of how it looks. A lot of time and money obviously went into it and that I can appreciate. But every other aspect of the film is shamelessly narcissistic, trying as hard as it can to be a classic.
Bad, boring, and...something else that starts with B
If I didn't know any better, I would have thought Resurrection was made in the late 80's/early 90's, when crap sold as film in Hollywood.
I don't understand why people like Christopher Lambert. He speaks like he's reading off of cue cards and turns into a fountain whenever he has to emote. He was easily the movie's weakest aspect. The other actors were OK, nothing horrible.
It's easy to see where the majority of the budget went: the special effects. The killings look pretty professional, but hardly make up for the film's dullness.
I wouldn't go as far as to say Resurrection is a carbon copy of Se7en, but it certainly bears a certain resemblance to it. Centering on a religious-minded murderer on a modern crusade, the detectives investigating his work have to rely on Bible passages and Christian history to piece together the killer's puzzle. Resurrection, however, is bereft of Se7en's clever storytelling, cinematography, acting...well, everything that makes it good. Instead, Resurrection lies to the audience and uses the Scooby Doo method of mystery to surprise it.
In conclusion, Resurrection was about as bad as I expected it to be. I almost feel bad for criticizing this movie since I knew it would be bad going in, but...sue me.