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Maybe the laziest feature film I've ever seen!
If anyone knows how to cut corners in a film, it's Roger Corman. He reuses musical scores, special effects and establishing shots all in the sake of saving money. If one were to watch a movie of his with reused elements, unless they knew the other film elements being sampled, the recycling wouldn't be noticeable. Here is a movie that blatantly reuses scenes from older Roger Corman produced films, and is very noticeably almost completely made out of older (and sadly better) movies. When making a very low budget film, oftentimes creativity blossoms if not to just figure out how to cut corners and still make something believable. There is no creativity here. This movie is lazy, boring, poorly acted and written, and the special effects look like something you could make in Microsoft paint. Even for a Roger Corman produced film, this is extremely lazy.
Andy Colby, has to babysit his younger sister, Bonnie. Things go wrong when Andy rents a videotape that sucks his sister into the TV, where she is kidnapped by Lord Chroma and taken to his spinning animated Umbrella castle. Andy meanwhile is stuck jumping from movie to movie, and meets "The Glitch" along the way, a giant furry monster thing that hangs out in the TV static, and in turn, has no point to anything that happens. It's up to Andy to eventually find out which channel his sister is stuck in and go save her.
The film starts off fine enough, with Andy being told to go to the video store, and then riding his bike off. The bicycle riding scene and music is clearly inspired by Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. The music is very similar to Danny Elfman's score from a few years back, and even the title of the film sounds like it was formulated to somehow capitalize on the completely unrelated Pee-Wee. The opening ten minutes is the best part of the film, in that it's the only part that feels like a real movie. It's poorly written and acted, but at least it feels like a movie.
Once Andy gets stuck in the TV, everything goes horribly wrong. A good 60% of the material here is old footage from movies, with nothing new in it. Occasional reaction shots of Andy on an obvious green screen are thrown in every minute or so, so we don't forget what it is we're watching. The scenes from the movies aren't bad, per se, but the fact that so much of the movie is just aimless scenes from movies makes this movie utterly pointless. Andy gets put in the TV, then the film meanders for 50 minutes before Andy heads to fight Lord Chroma and get back his sister.
The only thing worse than the old footage here are the special effects. I can't think of less convincing effects in any movie. Instead of using practical sets for the villain's lair, they create a wonderland of poorly rendered 2-D computer graphics on top of green screens. Using a four-year old's finger painting as a set would look more believable and visually appealing. Shooting in the director's basement would have looked less cheap and more interesting than the green screen that we get.
It's actually very strange how this movie devolves as it goes. It starts off looking like a real movie, then slowly turns into awful made for video schlock, and then the amateur looking end credits roll, which look like something made by a high school student. It's a movie that tries to trick the viewer. All the effort is put in the first few minutes, as a way to trick the viewer into thinking this is just another mediocre kiddie picture before showing it's true awful face. At least James Horner's recycled score here might lull you into a numb state before being shaken back into the reality that you are wasting your precious, precious time.
My rating: BOMB out of ****. 75 mins. PG for recycled violence from older films.
The Master (2012)
There's a very fine line between terrible filmmaking and masterful filmmaking, and this film rides it.
Paul Thomas Anderson has made quite a few offbeat critical darlings that succeeded because of their performances, visual look and dialogue, but also because of their unwillingness to stick to formula. "Magnolia" features a twist that no one could see coming, and some would consider it an unexplained "deus ex machina", others saw it is extremely original. Anderson's other films, like "Punch Drunk Love" and "There Will Be Blood" have endings that don't conform to the typical Hollywood style, and some dislike how unresolved, or under resolved some elements of his films are. But "The Master" is it's own beast in Anderson's filmography. Here's a film that has to be interpreted by the viewer, because the film does not interpret itself. If the audience member is not actively creating thematic arches in their head, this film will feel utterly pointless.
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is an impulsively violent WWII veteran that will find anyway to get drunk. After drunkenly coming onboard a boat one night, Freddie meets Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a man who has started a new religious movement called "The Cause". Freddie, who's life prior to this, had been meaningless, now has someone to follow, but what are Dodd's motives, and is Freddie actually buying into what is being said?
A lot of movies people can say "Oh, pay attention!", so that people don't miss any important plot points. This film has such a loosely formed plot, that paying very close attention to everything that is happening won't really matter. What's most important, it seems, is the thematic content. As an active viewer, you have to piece together the meaning of the film from what has been shown, and how the characters act. Paul Thomas Anderson has put the meaning completely in the spectator's hands, and as a result, made a film that will resonate differently among different people. Those watching intently, may have found some kind of wonderful meaning in the film, or maybe they found it to be lazily written and underdeveloped.
I personally didn't care about the characters. Freddie is insane, and his insanity starts off interestingly enough, but ends up kind of baffling. Same with Lancaster Dodd. The guy is nuts. Both of these characters make decisions that have you questioning why they did what they did. Freddie will randomly start attacking someone...but why? Is it because he is hugely attracted to "The Cause"? Is he just a violent sociopath? Does he even have a reason? With this film, it's like you're a complete outsider to everything. The characters aren't relatable, and their actions are never rationalized, and their inner thoughts never stated. It's all a guessing game, which can be both exciting and annoying. The film starts off marvelously, but because there's nothing to latch onto except a couple of great performances and some unlikable characters doing weird things, by the end, I felt I had become kind of numb to what was happening, and at times, kind of irritated.
Bad films often has unresolved plot points, and an unclear purpose, and characters that are hard to relate to. This movie has all three of these things, but Paul Thomas Anderson has proved before that he knows what he's doing, so these all must be intentional, right? I would imagine so. Nonetheless, the line between a terrible film and an original and great film is very thin. We have faith that Anderson didn't throw us into a story for no reason, just like we would have no faith if a director like Uwe Boll did the same thing. This film is completely about interpretation and finding your own themes, and everything I disliked about the movie was probably intentional. The characters are distant, the point unclear, and the ending so vague and inconsequential, it makes "No Country For Old Men"'s ending seem like an average Hollywood ending. Basically, the movie is frustrating. It's got a lot of stuff to like, including a very strange score from Radiohead member Johnny Greenwood, but as a whole, it adds up to nothing, or potentially a lot of things depending on what you personally drew from it. It's neat when writers and directors deviate from the norm, but in this case, it just makes the two hours plus invested in it feel somewhat wasted.
My rating: ** 1/2 out of ****. 142 mins. R for sexuality, language, alcohol abuse and some violence.
More than anything else, this film is just pleasant to the senses!
It's doesn't seem like the highest praise to say the best part of a movie is the music or the look over anything else, but here it works quite well. This is a great looking movie with good music, and a drive to all the scenes that make it exhilarating. The plot is what moves the film along, and a sub-plot about an attempted assassination of M (Judi Dench) adds what some consider an emotional depth to the film, but what this movie is really about is James Bond fighting villains and going through beautiful locations, and that's works perfectly fine here!
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is seemingly back from the dead after a misstep on M's part, and now has to stop a computer hacking madman (and former agent), Silva (Javier Bardem), from using his skills to wreak havoc and enact revenge on M.
There is a sweetness to the scenes between M and Bond, almost playing like a subdued mother/son relationship at times. It's nice that Bond is on a mission here that is somewhat personal to him, so that it feels like it's not just another job. But the character development and interplay isn't what this is about...it's about the action.
The action here is great. The fight scenes are well filmed, and cinematographer Roger Deakin takes full advantage of all the locations and awesome sets. The movie from beginning to end looks great! Turn off the sound, ignore the plot, and still this would entertain and thrill on a purely visual level. Add the music, and it's even better. Thomas Newman provides a fun score, using the typical Bond motifs and themes, while also adding it's own unique character. The ladies are sexy (especially Berenice Marlohe), and James Bond is cool. The guy has very few lines relative to how much screen time he has, but instead opts out in huge amounts of dialogue in favor of walking around like he's the coolest guy on Earth. And this is what works best about the film. Bond is awesome, and the places he goes are awesome, and of course, he also has a nice strong villain here in Mr. Bardem. The guy just has a menacing look!
The cinematography, locations, music, action scenes and overall look of the film make this a very solid Bond film. It has a plot about a computer hacker, and M being threatened, and the plot is pretty good for a Bond film, but it's the whole visual experience that make this one to watch. There's never a dull moment, and even if there was, your eyes would be popping out of their head looking at the well filmed sets. It's thoroughly entertaining, and has enough pathos to make us care how the story turns out.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of ****. 145 mins. PG-13 for violence and brief sexuality.
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Emotionally satisfying, and a fun character piece to boot.
After the special effects extravaganza that was "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", Paramount decided to make a smaller, less costly sequel, and this definitely works to the film's advantage. Unlike the first film, this one is not about the special effects. There's no five minute scenes of cool looking model ships moving through layer of matte paintings, but instead is some wonderful character scenes, and an ending that is surprisingly emotional.
The USS Enterprise has to rebound when formerly exiled villain Khan (Ricardo Montalban) attempts to get hold of a device that creates life, belonging to the Genesis Project. It's up to a depressed and aging Captain Kirk, and his crew to save the day.
First and foremost, this is an entertaining film. It still has all the nerdy, faux-scientific Trekkie talk, but it also has an easy to follow plot, and a good amount of action. At the same time, the film is told on a relatively small scale, focused mainly on the USS Enterprise, and on Khan's ship, showing that the giant scale and huge models aren't needed to make a film entertaining. Here, more than anything else, it's the little character moments that makes this such a fun watch. The interplay between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy shows why Star Trek became a popular series to begin with.
Get rid of the last twenty minutes or so, and this is still a good film. With the addition of Spock sacrificing himself to save everyone else, this becomes a near-great film. The ending is handled perfectly. William Shatner, who is known for hamming it up on screen, gives a subdued performance, and Spock's funeral scene is really quite beautiful. James Horner's score hits the right notes perfectly, and accentuates the bittersweet hopefulness that ends the film.
"Wrath of Khan" is an improvement over the first film, mainly because of the character work. While the spectacle may not be as grandiose, the entertainment level is higher, and the end of the film is wonderfully realized and executed. Despite being a space adventure film, it's the human elements that make this movie what it is.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of ****. 113 mins. PG for sci fi violence.
Sweet, nostalgic and chalk full of old monster movie references.
Tim Burton detractors and fans alike seem to agree that his recent offerings have not been up to par with his best, or even his middle works. One criticism is that he is just repeating himself visually, without anything to say or show. This film definitely is a repeat, being a remake of an earlier Burton short, and an homage to monster movies in general, but it's got a great heart, and unlike "Alice in Wonderland", this one is a Burton pet project (no pun intended). As a result, you can just feel that he wanted to make this, and for a black and white movie about death, this is really a lovely tale.
Young Victor's dog Sparky is run over by a car one day, leaving poor Victor depressed. After a lesson from his new science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau doing a cross between Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi), Victor realizes he can bring Sparky back from the dead. Soon, other students at the local elementary school bring their pets and various animals back from the dead also, to try and win the upcoming science fair. Things don't go quite as planned, when the animals turn into monstrous creatures and chaos ensues.
What drives this movie is it's heart. Victor's love towards Sparky is very apparent, and Sparky is such an innocent little thing, that it's hard not to like him. The characterization for Sparky is perfect, having him easily excitable and sweet, but not obnoxious, as dogs can be. This movie should especially hit home for those who've previously or currently have/had a dog. The scene where Sparky is hit by a car is heart breaking, and the ending (which I won't give away) will also stir a lot of emotions in you. Sparky is such a loyal, caring and innocent dog, where anything that happens to him, you immediately begin to empathize.
The visual style is what you'd expect from Mr. Burton. Either characters look emaciated with long bony arms and stretched out faces, or they're morbidly obese with fat sprouting from their back. It works well, and sometimes for comedic effect, like that of Weird Girl's cat Mr. Whiskers, which brings laughs to every scene it's in. Burton rides the line on character designs often between unique and slightly grotesque, but the line is never crossed here. These characters are unique, and they inhabit a visually appealing world. To give the characters life, are the voice actors, all of whom are superb. Especially good are Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short who provide three voices, all of them unique to their characters.
If there's something wrong with the picture, it might be that Victor and his family are the least interesting characters here. Victor is a fine lead, because he has these bizarre classmates and his dog to support him, but by himself, he would be a fairly flat character. Perhaps this is to make him and his family more of the typical townsfolk type (some alliteration there), while most of the other major characters are strange looking homages to movie monsters, and have a lot more personality in general. But, if Victor was more bubbly and bouncy, he wouldn't be the kind of quiet introvert that he is here, so it's a double edged sword. This is a small complaint really, and it's not something that will bother most people.
"Frankenweenie" has the ability to draw on the audience's own personal nostalgia for their own furry lost loved one's, but even those that aren't dog people should feel something here. This is a very sweet film, beneath it's monster movie exterior, and at the heart of the picture is a boy who loves his dog and doesn't want to lose him. Any fans of old monster movies should love the references, and any fan of Burton's past work should find some pleasure in the visual look here. Even Burton detractors may find this one hits pretty close to home for them.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of ****. 87 mins. PG for some violence and thematic elements.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
As a whole this is an effective conclusion to Nolan's Batman trilogy, but it's not without it's flaws
Where the last two films in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy played more or less like fairly intimate stories in the Batman universe, this one feels like it's going for the biggest scale it possibly could, with as much destruction and as many thugs as you can fit on screen. The problem here is the unrelentingness of everything that settles in at about the halfway mark. It grows tiring long before the climax kicks in because it's just too much of everything.
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse and "Batman" has gone into hiding for the past 8 years since Harvey Dent's death. After an encounter with a cat burglar, Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and an inspiring speech from his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), Bruce decides he needs to go back out to social events, and begin fighting crime as Batman again. Meanwhile, masked terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), and a large group of followers take over Gotham city, destroying all ways of leaving or coming in, with the threat of setting off a nuclear bomb located on the island. Meanwhile (yet again), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is severely injured by Bane and stuck in the hospital, a new hot head cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is trying to stop Bane through detective work, and Wayne board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) is given control of Wayne Enterprises. Bane massacres Bruce Wayne and throws him into a prison located elsewhere, and it's up to Bruce to summon his strength to try and escape. Meanwhile the criminals take over Gotham and anarchy ensues.
There are a lot of characters here, but they are balanced in their sub-plots quite well. Anne Hathaway gives a really good performance as "Catwoman", both hamming it up at times, and also remaining quite subtle when appropriate. Levitt is also a good addition to the cast, as we have a character to care about that is fighting crime, but through detective work and not through being placed in the action like ol' Batman. Having so many main characters was nice to try and avoid repetition, though from the last hour plus, it doesn't work well enough.
The film grows somewhat boring by about the halfway mark. The pace becomes unrelenting, and it's just somewhat of a sensory overload. The editing is quick, the shots are quick, and while stuff is happening and Gotham is about to become a smoldering pit, too much is happening too quickly. And when the villains take over Gotham, you begin thinking of scenarios that would happen with the people of Gotham, and how they would react, but nothing does. They pretty much just go into hiding. Unrealistically, no vigilantes even try to take some of the villains out, but whatever, that's not what the movie is about.
This movie is not above running on many action movie clichés that feel like they belong in lesser pictures. People saving others at the last minute after seemingly coming out of nowhere, and the old everybody else gets killed but the main characters (for no real reason), and then of course many coincidences that happen to effect the outcome of the picture. The same clichés you'd see in a movie like "Sahara" from a few years back are prominently used here. Character motives also seem to be slightly off. Why does Batman turn to Catwoman for help exactly? No real logical reason except to pair the two up.
Hans Zimmer's score is effective in driving the action, in that his music here mainly consists of low strings acting almost as drums to move everything along. It drives the action, but at the same time is extremely generic and not very interesting, but it does keep a rhythm going in the action. And unlike Inception, the generic weepy Zimmer music doesn't intrude on scenes that are trying to be emotional. It's a step up from Inception's score in that regard, but is still quite mediocre.
The climax of the film is nice. After all the twists and turns are introduced, it gets down to the heart of the story, and the last ten minutes or so, minus some coincidental and corny moments, are really good and satisfying. For the most part, the conclusion to the film is satisfying and works on an emotional level.
This film concludes the Dark Knight trilogy quite well. It's an imperfect film, with a lot of drag time in the middle of the picture, and just a few too many clichés thrown in, but the ending is mostly very nice, and as a whole, the picture is entertaining, full of action, and enough happens to justify it's nearly three hour length.
My rating: *** out of ****. 165 mins. PG-13 for nonstop action violence.
The Avengers (2012)
It's sort of entertaining, but dramatically uninteresting and shallow.
These Marvel comics obviously have a lot of fans, and apparently whatever it was that fans (and many non-fans) were looking for in a Marvel film was fulfilled here, explaining the huge internet buzz, the vast amounts of money this has made, and it's current spot in the top 50 films of all time on the Internet Movie Database. This movie does have expensive looking action, and some comedic bits with lots of superheroes, but what it's missing is...pretty much everything else. The plot is uninteresting and quite honestly stupid, and nothing really is driving this story along. At times, to me, it grew boring, because there was nothing to get excited about besides action, big stars and comedy.
After Norse god Loki steals the powerful potential super weapon "Tesseract" from the peace keeping S.H.I.E.L.D. agency, and mind controls a few people, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) puts together a team of superheroes known as the Avengers, made up of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and eventually Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Loki is in cahoots with a group of aliens called the Chitauri, and plans to help them take over Earth. The Avengers must stop fighting with each other in order to protect the Earth...can they do it, or will the Earth be destroyed? (Take a guess).
Director Joss Wheddon, known for his work on television series, does a fine job with the direction when it comes to action. The big action scenes are appropriately frenetic, and they look big and shiny. I appreciated that the action scenes were spaced apart from each other also, as to not overkill the action like the Transformers films. The fighting scenes between the Avengers was a bit overkill however. Half the movie is them disagreeing with each other, or Tony Stark being snarky with everyone. These scenes don't really have anything to them either. They aren't exciting. They are meant to be funny, but oftentimes comes off as more infantile in the humor department than anything else. They further the plot along, only in that the plot cannot proceed until these guys stop fighting. These scenes are supposed to work as character development, but it's almost unbelievable how stupid these guys are, and how unwilling they are to put their differences aside.
The middle of the movie takes place on a ship, with the Avengers angry at each other, and this whole section of the movie just meanders. You could say that this part of the movie gives us the character conflicts and whatnot, which it does, but the Avengers' dislike of each other could have been introduced in something more important to the plot, instead of practically stopping the plot to have these guys get angry at each other. And that's really the movie's biggest problem is the plot. There's never really a feeling of dread, or that something bad could happen, and it's hard to care about anything that's happening. That's not to say watching Tony Stark bantering isn't amusing, or watching Bruce Banner go insane as the Hulk isn't interesting, but nothing ever truly feels at stake. When the film decides to kill off a character to add some level of emotion, and serve as a reason for these heroes to stop their childishness, it doesn't work on an emotional level. It comes off as a cheap way to further along the plot.
The Avengers has some good elements to it. It's got a lot of charisma in the cast, and each character is given enough screen time I suppose. The action scenes are satisfying mostly, and some of the comedy isn't bad (while some does come off as a bit corny and pandering to the audience). The problem is the plot, where the villains never really come off as menacing, despite possessing a super weapon, and a main villain is Loki who is about as threatening as a teddy bear. There's nothing to the film, and nothing to really love about it, unless you are a big fan of these actors, the comics, or explosions. There's very little below the surface of the film, and without a good plot to move this along, we've essentially got one long Avengers origin story. Apparently many have fallen in love with this though, so if you like your movies big, dumb and full of buff dudes, you'll probably like this one quite a bit.
My rating: ** 1/2 out of ****. 140 mins. PG-13 for action violence.
Dark Shadows (2012)
A great looking, and often funny movie, in search of a plot and a point.
A Gothic romance about a vampire...this sounds like primo Tim Burton material here. On a visual level, this world here is fully realized, but unfortunately, that's the only place it's realized. The plot is kind of a set piece to set piece episodic one, and the romance here is severely underplayed, making the ending kind of pointless. But what the trailer emphasized was the comedy, and a good chunk of this film features some well played fish out of water comedy. On some levels this film is a surprising success, and on others an complete failure. It's entertaining, but that's about it really.
It's the late 1700s, and Barnabas Collins' (Johnny Depp) family started a small fishing town called Collinsport, and together they live in Collinwood, a luxurious mansion. Barnabas breaks the heart of a spiteful witch Angelique (Eva Green), and she kills his parents, forces his lover Josette (Bella Heathcote) to commit suicide, turns Barnabas into a vampire, and imprisons him in a coffin underground. Two centuries later, a mysterious woman "Victoria Winters" is going to become the governess for David, a surviving member of the Collins family who is deeply disturbed. Barnabas is then freed from his coffin, and returns to find his living relatives in need of help, so he tries to bring life back into his town of Collinsport. Meanwhile, Angelique (who still appears to be the same age) has taken control of the fishing industry in Collinsport, and he must help his family bring their dying fishing industry back.
For those of you who didn't like the visual style of Tim Burton's last picture, "Alice in Wonderland", this one should be a refreshing return to form (visually that is). The sets are really neat, and Collinsport is quite a beautiful little fantasy town. The special effects are also really good when they are featured. On a visual level, this might be Burton's best looking film since "Sleepy Hollow" over a decade ago, and the score by Danny Elfman is also quite good. And what do people think of when they think of Tim Burton movies? Awesome visual style (check), bouncy score usually by Danny Elfman (check) and Johnny Depp (check). But what this movie is lacking is a plot. Something to drive the story other than jokes and neat sets is needed.
The layout of the story and overall tone is quite odd. The film starts off as a Gothic romantic fantasy telling the history of Barnabas Collins. By no means is this portion of the film meant to be humorous. Then we begin to follow a mysterious girl "Victoria Winters" (who becomes lovers with Depp), who has taken on the job of being little David's governess. This portion of the film isn't particularly funny either, but it adds an element of mystery so the movie becomes a bit more interesting. After about 15 minutes of this girl as our main character, the film becomes an unfocused fish out of water comedy for the remainder of the film (sans the last 25 or so minutes). This part of the film is actually quite funny. Then the climax and last portion of the film becomes like a horror action film of sorts.
There is a romance subplot, but it has no importance in the story until the very end. There is no chemistry between Depp and Heathcote, because they are only given like 4 scenes together, and none of them feel very organic. Also sadly underwritten are Victoria Winters, and David's relationship. Ar the beginning of the film seem like they could have an interesting dynamic, but instead they are given very little screen time. Every sub-plot is dropped in favor of Depp's fish-out-of-water routine, which is quite funny, but also makes this movie's plot slight and overall point even slighter.
Visually, this movie is a real treat bringing back memories of older Burton films like Beetlejuice. The performances are also very good, especially Johnny Depp who does some great deadpan comedy here, but what's missing is a point. While it may entertain, in the end, nothing really matters here.
My rating: ** 1/2 out of ****. 124 mins. PG-13 for sexual humor throughout, some language and violence.
The Vow (2012)
Not nearly as bad as it could be, but it's still pretty mediocre.
Here's a glossy, emotionally hollow romance film practically tailor made to be released right before Valentine's Day, and from the box office returns this is seeing, it definitely is having some effect on the movie going audience. And, to make the film even more "romantic", the "based on a true story" sticker is slapped on it, despite a credited three screenwriters, and one writer credited with story. It's a glossy movie, that could easily fall into unwatchable, but instead it rides the line and remains watchable, but also detached emotionally.
Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are a madly in love married couple that suffer a horrible car crash. Both of their lovely faces are left unharmed, but Paige has lost her memories of the last five years. Looks like it's up to Leo to win her back and prove love can happen a second time. But poor Leo has to put up with Paige's obnoxious parents who are both happy about her memory loss, and with Paige who seems perfectly content in having forgotten a chunk of her life, and who is now in her mind anyways, back with her boyfriend she had five years ago.
The writing here is generic bad romantic movie. Not much stands out as being just horrible, but nothing is particularly good either. There's an attempt to make Leo some sort of philosopher or something, so in his narration, and occasionally throughout the film, Tatum gives little "deep" lines, like one about a pie maker and his dreams. It comes off as a bit forced, but again, it could be worse. Other than Tatum's inability to give a dramatic monologue, the acting isn't too bad. Sam Neil gives his typical stern man routine as Paige's antagonistic dad, and it sort of works, despite that it makes him out to be a borderline sociopath. The movie isn't bad looking either. It looks sort of flashy, and at times of love making, it's almost filmed like a soap opera, but it's still sort of pretty to look at.
Channing Tatum is a likable lead here. He isn't a great actor, and scenes that force him to give teary speeches are almost cringe worthy, but he and McAdams do have a slight chemistry on screen, despite the so-so writing. The characters of Paige and Leo are in love. The only reason for this seems to be that they are attracted to one another. There's zero subtleties to this romance, where either the two of them are hysterically giggling at each other's lame lines, or they're making or about to make love. These two, before the accident, were meant for each other, despite the fact that we have no idea why they are, other than sexual attraction.
While Channing Tatum's character of Leo is likable, Rachel McAdam's character of Paige is quite unlikable. She is fully aware that she has gotten in an accident and that five years of her memories are just gone, but she doesn't really care. She doesn't care that she's hurting her husband (whom she doesn't remember, but still...). She doesn't care that she has no remembrance of why things have changed, and worst of all she seems to have become even more superficial and uncaring after her accident. Perhaps the brain damage also made her a dumb, shallow, and uncaring teenager,. Is this how she was shortly before she met Leo? If so, why did he fall for her? It's Paige's lack of any real ambition or care, that makes this chick flick less emotional, and even those going in expecting to cry might be surprised to find that the emotion isn't real enough to allow any shed tears.
Basically what we have here is a dumb Valentine's day movie. The story moves along quickly. It's hard to be invested in any of this, because it feels too Hollywood fake to believe it. And yet it's based on a true story. But then again so is the explosive Red Tails, so perhaps that is meaningless.
My rating: ** out of ****. 108 mins. PG-13 for sexuality, a car accident and some language.
Kind of a decent by-the-numbers mystery caper
David Fincher in recent years has grown to become one of America's best known directors working today. He has an interesting, oftentimes dark visual style that he features, and usually he has an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, in this film, the story is just not interesting enough. It's kind of a typical murder mystery film, with some twists and turns, and an ending that really isn't too shocking. What raises this up from being completely mediocre is Rooney Mara's performance as the title character. Otherwise, this story here doesn't have enough weight or originality to stand out over other pretty good mystery films.
Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a journalist who's fallen out of favor after possible slanderous reporting. He is called upon by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the ex- CEO of a company, to solve the mystery of his missing and presumed dead niece who disappeared 40 years ago. He ends up being partnered with an anti-social computer hacker, Lisbeth (Rooney Mara), who uses her skill and research to help solve the case.
Mikael and Lisbeth ("The girl with the dragon tattoo") don't meet up until halfway through the film, and the first half features them each working separately. All the scenes in the first half of the film focusing on Lisbeth are very interesting. While Mikael gets immediately thrown into the main story, Lisbeth is given almost a character study (that furthers along the plot) for the first half of the film. Rooney Mara is really great here, giving the character layers, with such understated acting. The character is emotionally disturbed and apparently "crazy" but any trait is hidden beneath this straight and unflinching face. Daniel Craig's character, on the other hand, is not nearly as interesting, and for some reason, he mumbles here a lot, so he's also hard to understand at times. The mystery he's trying to solve is interesting conceptually, but visually it's often hard to convey excitement when he's sitting alone reading up on research.
When the characters finally meet, about 75 minutes into this 160 minute behemoth, the mystery story gels a bit more, mainly because Daniel Craig finally has someone interesting to interact with. Where the film is lacking is largely in the story. The revelation at the end as to the connections of murders, and potential villains aren't that interesting. The resolution of the film must take darned near 30 minutes, and the main thing I took away from the film, was what a great performance Ms. Mara gave, and what an interesting character she played. The plot is by-the-numbers mystery, and the film does at times drag. David Fincher's direction is alright, but he doesn't make researching the murder much more than mundane. He throws in a few disorienting movements of the camera's placement, but other than that, this doesn't feel like a really great David Fincher directed film. It feels more like an O.K. mystery thriller, that has a great performance, some tense moments, and overall just kind of slips out of one's memory after a while.
This film isn't bad by any means, it just doesn't have enough going for it to make it anything more than somewhat generic, other than the character of Lisbeth. It is overlong, though not bloated, and really not a lot could have been cut out without either cutting the story, or getting rid of good character scenes. The mystery is sort of interesting, but not nearly engaging enough. The final scene in the film was very good however, and mixed character development with a sort of sadness, giving the film a bittersweet feeling. The title character basically saves this film, and rises it above mediocrity, though not quite enough above.
My rating: ** 1/2 out of ****. 160 mins. R for violence, sexuality and brief nudity.