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Favorite movies: In Bruges, Garden State, Se7en.
Favorite TV shows: Scrubs, Mad Men, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Castle, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Big Bang Theory, Southland.
Favorite Bands: Senses Fail, Anberlin, Atreyu, Shinedown, A Day To Remember. Countless others.
I'm 24 and attend UCF in Orlando. You can generally find me on the Sports board.
I was on another planet. Cameron's just showing off at this point.
The ground shook, and the crowd cheered. They wept. They gasped. They laughed. And finally, they applauded. What they experienced was something only a master can make, an adventure so spellbinding, so memorable, and so exhilarating that it's worth holding your bladder for almost 3 hours to sit through. It's worth tearing up behind 3D glasses. It's worth admitting that to your friends later. Finally, it's worth telling people that you saw this movie. I'm lucky to say I was a part of that group.
Can anyone possibly set the bar higher than James Cameron? I think the only one who can set the bar higher is Cameron himself. He described it as his masterpiece, and that it is. Make no mistake: when seeing Avatar, know that you're witnessing cinematic history. Something directors like Peter Jackson only flirted with, Cameron mastered. Not only is Cameron's creation of a character astounding, but what truly sets Cameron apart from the rest is his ability to create a whole new world, where you can escape to, learn from, and bond to. At first, you'll be asking a lot of questions. "Who's he?", "What was that?!", "Is that real, or CGI?". But soon after...I can't say at what point, because I imagine it being different for each viewer, you'll become immersed in Cameron's beautiful Pandora, as he opens the box and reveals a beautiful new world to us as viewers.
There are two kinds of Visual Effects, in my opinion. The first kind is the "Transformers" kind. These effects are the kind that wow you with their showy exterior, but are just there for entertainment. The second kind is the kind that enhances the background, works within a setting, and improves the overall viewing experience. Cameron did it with Aliens. He did it with Terminator 2. He did it for Titanic. And now he's done it again. At this point, he's just showing off. Cameron's incredible immersion into the world of Pandora is what makes it work. Without it, this is just some other alien movie. Cameron's impeccable attention to detail, such as whenever our characters are roaming through a forest, or flying on a winged beast...this is what gives the movie its life, its energy...which is what the entire theme and point of the movie is. Life is connected through us all, and Cameron's incredible work will bond every viewer through their love of movies and the very escapism Cameron provides.
You'll notice that I've spared you a plot description. I believe this movie is best viewed with little or no knowledge. It helps with the immersion. Don't watch a trailer. Don't read a synopsis. I will say, however, that the true stars of the film are Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang, who will undoubtedly go down as two actors who played their classic-in-the-making characters to perfection. Yeah, the screenplay is not a truly original product, and the film does play out in a semi-formulaic fashion...but this doesn't matter. It's the experience of Avatar that will move you, by what you're seeing, what you're hearing...and what you're experiencing. A beautiful score makes this seamlessly edited film flow even better, while the colors of the movie, so bright and vibrant, assure the viewer that they're about to have the most unique movie-going experience of their lives.
I can't really recommend an experience like this more than I already have. I was on another planet for almost 3 hours. This is truly a movie to experience, a movie that makes us glad that we live in these times. It's the best motion picture of 2009, and one of the most revolutionary, immersing, and incredible movies ever made. I can say this without a doubt. Do not miss this.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
Despite bright spots, it's downright terrible. It's time to get a new writer.
It's hard to believe only a year has gone by since the last Twilight film came out, which is weird, because this summer, I'll be saying something like, "it's hard to believe only a few months have gone by since the last Twilight film came out". This is the running joke throughout the entire film. Is Summit's fear of financial collapse so great that they feel they have to churn out these movies as fast as a printing press distributes newspaper? Or is it that they secretly don't have faith in the franchise's long term prospects, making their only blockbuster series unable to truly stand against the heavyweights like Harry, James, and Jack? Whatever the reason, the biggest problem with "New Moon" is how rushed it is. Strangely, I've got to hand it to Chris Weitz. Few directors could have handled the production schedule this film probably had, and he's managed to do a better job than his predecessor. That said, another reason I'll give Weitz credit for doing a job well done is his ability to handle what is easily the worst screenplay of the year. At least Street Fighter and Dragonball had heart. There's no passion. Almost every line is a false cliché, something that in the end makes the film one of the funniest of the year, and takes away from people that actually did well on the film.
Before I continue onto the bad, I'll state the good. As far as acting goes, it starts and ends with Taylor Lautner and Michael Sheen. Weitz did a great job as far as picking some crew members, but not all of them. For example, he pulled off a miracle when he got Alexandre Desplat to score this film, and Desplat's score does not disappoint. It out does the first film along with the cinematography, but that's where it stops.
I don't know what happened to Kristen Stewart's ability...I know it's there, but she simply just doesn't care, isn't trying, or is just flat out bored the entire film. I found myself begging her for expression, in between my laughter at almost everything the absurd character of Bella did. I found that one of the strengths of the first film, the slightly charismatic Robert Pattinson, isn't one anymore. His reduced screen time is not to blame, as Pattinson just lost all charm he had before, and he also forgot how to act. I liked Peter Facinelli and Ashley Greene, while Nikki Reed annoyed me. Anna Kendrick's role is still a scene stealer, while I had a hard time determining if Jamie Campbell Bower was a man or a woman, or if he could be any creepier if he tried.
The work of Michael Sheen and Taylor Lautner are two of five good things about this movie. Sheen delivers a delicious turn as Aro, and I enjoyed every minute he spent on screen. By far the best performance from any of the Twilight films. It was the perfect balance of slight scenery chewing mixed with a deliciously devious line delivery, reaffirming him as one of my favorite actors. Lautner is someone I've got to give credit to, mostly because he's not cringeworthy like Stewart and Pattinson (well, until he says a stupid line that's not his fault, but he played the character well), but the main reason that Lautner did a good job was because almost everyone I've talked to sided with his character and liked him better than the main characters. This is the mark of an actor playing a role well. Lautner's physical transformation is also quite impressive, as every female will have no problem saying.
I just can't get my head around how awful Rosenberg's script is. How anyone can include some of the lines that are in here is beyond me. Sure, some of them were probably from the book, but as a writer of film, you have to know what works and what doesn't work. Sure, New Moon has its intentionally funny moments that Weitz inserted to break the serious tone for a bit...But what Weitz and Rosenberg seem to have forgotten is this: because the film is so rushed, the dialog so cringeworthy, the visual effects so terrible, etcetera...New Moon ends up as a parody. The entire beginning of the film, and Jacob and Bella's friendship, plays out like an episode from an MTV reality show, providing laughs for even the most die hard fans of the series (I know this because the entire theater was cracking up whenever Bella would be sad or Jacob took his shirt off for whatever random pointless reason).
What's even more unsettling is the subliminal messages these films send...Bella is willing to give up her soul to be a vampire with Edward, which he refuses to oblige. How can Bella be the role model Meyer and Rosenberg obviously want her to be when she is literally the biggest pushover I've ever seen? Her character is so unbelievably flawed that it's next to impossible to root for her, and it's also next to impossible to see how two actual nice young men fall in love with her. She has no redeeming qualities, and only shows how easily persuaded a young girl is. To all the young girls reading this, it's fine to want an Edward or Jacob in your life, but it's entirely something else to want to "be like Bella".
So, in short, if you want to laugh, look no further than this "film". I honestly don't think the next movie will be worse than this one, because the crew would literally have to not film anything and sip margaritas on set for it to be worse...wait, actual footage of the crew sipping margaritas is probably better than this abomination of a film. The few bright spots are overshadowed by the terrible script, and the only guy I feel bad for at the end of the day is Weitz.
Neveldine/Taylor do it again.
"Gamer" really isn't a movie of a lot of depth, nor is it a movie that requires a ton of thought. In fact, overthinking this one may cause you to like it less, because when it comes down to it, "Gamer" is another typical Neveldine/Taylor product that goes balls out to get the crowd engaged and entertained. If you want mindless, unrealistic, futuristic sci-fi ridiculousness, look no further than this one. However, I never said this was a bad thing.
Is "Gamer" going to surprise you with any twists? Nah. Is "Gamer" going to go beyond its extremely generic sounding title to provide the viewer with a completely ridiculous ride that's at least worth laughing at? You bet. Like "Crank" before it, "Gamer" prides itself on being as much fun as it can. I found that it started off pretty slow, trying to develop as many characters as it could, when it really didn't need to. The film bears obvious stylistic imprints of its creators (raves, strip clubs, gratuitous nudity, and bright colors), who are really two of the biggest examples of escapist, and flat out ridiculous modern film-making.
Despite how easy it is to describe Neveldine/Taylor's films, there is a noticeable difference here...That would be the strength of the actor in the lead role. Jason Statham is flat out incredible in the "Crank" series. His Chev Chelios is really one of the most ridiculously hilarious and awesome action heroes around. The same can't be said for Gerard Butler's dull and uncharismatic performance as Kable. I really felt like he was just here for a paycheck, not absorbing himself in the world of Neveldine/Taylor the way other actors like Statham and Amy Smart have...and trust me, there's plenty here that feel completely at ease in this world, none moreso than the phenomenal Michael C. Hall. You know what I'd really LOVE to see? A movie where Statham's Chelios takes on Hall's Ken Castle. That would be a freakin' amazing movie. Hall's over the top and incredibly unrestrained performance has got to be amongst the most fun to watch of the year. I really can't give him enough praise for just taking the role and running with it. Chris "Ludacris" Bridges fits his part well enough, while it was funny to see Milo Ventimiglia in one of the most hilariously bad cameos of all time. Terry Crews played an interesting part, while I'm still coming to grips with the fact that Kyra Sedgewick was in this movie.
First off, don't take "Gamer" seriously, because it'll only hinder your viewing experience. That's what it's really made to be...an experience. It's got good-not-great action, some witty one liners from Michael C. Hall that are to be cherished forever, as he simply steals every scene he's in, including the end. I thought the concept of the movie was cool enough to work as a film, but the major selling point for me was the presence of the Neveldine/Taylor names, as they really don't hold back when making their movies, and that's part of what makes their work so entertaining.
A comedy that really doesn't know what kind it wants to be.
Awkward situational humor has really been the staple of all of Mike Judge's films and TV ventures (besides the immortal Beavis and Butthead), and his latest effort, "Extract", is really no different. The viewer, I'm guessing, is supposed to laugh at these situations and just take it from there, allowing the actors to feel around. This takes the emphasis off the actors and more on the story, and therein lies the problem. "Extract" is a comedy built for one thing and written for another, and in the end, it becomes a mildly, yet forgettable movie.
"Extract" is so obviously written to be the next "Office Space", which will forever remain Judge's crown jewel as far as films go. The situations are awkwardly funny, yet there really doesn't seem to be a balance to most of it. Judge's newest is rather repetitive in its approach - Joel goes to work, is unhappy. Joel comes home, is interrupted by his annoying neighbor. Joel goes to the bar. Ben Affleck says something witty. Mila Kunis looks hot. The film continues down this path aimlessly, not really offering to build up any suspense as to what could happen with our characters, until a really useless event in the plot causes the movie to end. It experiments with a bit of character development in the lead role of Joel, but everyone else is either a cliché, someone who is not worth developing, or a plot device.
You'll notice that I said the film is written to be an awkward situational comedy, and it clearly is - however, the comedians cast in parts are not really meant for these kind of roles. For some (Jason Bateman, Dustin Milligan), it works and they fit their characters well. For others (Mila Kunis, Clifton Collins Jr.), both actor and character seem out of place, like they belong in a more slapstick or more vulgar and/or stereotypical comedy. The real plus comes from Ben Affleck, who is hilarious just about every time he graces us with his presence, while Kristen Wiig is VASTLY underused. Clifton Collins Jr. is great as well, while Mila Kunis is almost as out of place as she was in "Max Payne". If anything, this film has the most random cameo of all time from Gene Simmons.
Maybe Judge has lost his touch, though I doubt that, because he has a great cameo in the film as well...but his writing is done in a way that it feels like he's building up to one huge punchline that never comes. Don't get me wrong, most people will have a few chuckles and smiles at "Extract", but with Judge's name on it, you'd expect it to be a bit better than the occasional laugh and grin. It doesn't know whether to be absurd, as some characters and jokes are, or the awkward comedy that Judge is so great at doing.
To put it simple, "Extract" lacks the strength of plot, relatability, and character development that Judge's previous works have had. Joel is no Peter from "Office Space". Ben Affleck's character, an obvious rehash of Deidrich Bader's character from the same movie, is the one saving grace, and even he isn't good enough to stop this from becoming nothing more than a mediocre comedy that's best saved for a DVD rental.
District 9 (2009)
A classic in the making.
Modern warfare is a tough genre to master in terms of film. There's no doubt about it. What's even tougher is futuristic warfare, especially when dealing with aliens. When it comes to that, it's easy to make mistakes and make your film extremely cheesy, unrealistic, and boring. Fortunately, Neill Blomkamp's "District 9" is none of those things, and may be one of the most innovative and genre defining films of all time. I might even go as far to say that it's the most innovative and potentially classic science fiction film of the decade. "District 9" is immersing and absorbing in the beginning, and once Neill Blomkamp firmly grounds us in his reality, he takes us on one of the most exciting action packed rides I've ever been through.
I think one of the major selling points of this one is the extreme realism. Like "Cloverfield", it starts out as a documentary style film, however, the interviewed subjects tell the story in retrospect, as the events of the movie have already occurred when they are being interviewed. The hand-held camera is always present, though the film doesn't rely on it for cheap effects, nor does it remain a pure "day in the life" type of film that "Cloverfield" did. It tells a compelling story that is never cliché, and the narrative is what ultimately drives the film, not the action...which is more than I can say for most of the recent science fiction "films".
The story here is more than just about the alien presence on Earth. It's a common story: a fight for survival, on both sides. Both the humans and the aliens are unfamiliar with each other, therefore it results in the more powerful of the races (the humans), almost enslaving the aliens into a pseudo-prison, District 9. Rather than taking the cliché action movie approach, Blomkamp's incredible storytelling ability allows him to focus on a select story within this massive existence. "District 9" is so immersed in an alternate reality that Blomkamp could easily tell numerous stories from within this world he has constructed, but he chose the most human and natural of stories to connect to the audience with. It is because of this that the audience not only becomes totally pulled in by the story, but is able to connect with the characters on a different level, especially the non-humans. There are clever parallels between this and modern racism, apartheid, and of course, World War II, but the similarities are never broadcast right into the viewers face, so it is acceptable.
It really is rare to find a film that tells such an immersing story that ensnares the viewer in addition to providing top of the line entertainment. If you're looking for the most thrilling action of the year, look no further. Forget about mutant humans, transforming alien robots, Skynet, or teenage wizards. Blomkamp's simply stellar direction makes the last 40 minutes of the movie one of the most riveting 40 minutes of any movie I have ever seen. While the film is a bit slow in the beginning as Blomkamp sets the foundation for his immersing reality, the final act of the film is almost non-stop action that will have you on the edge of your seat.
"District 9" is definitely amongst the most well made movies I've ever seen. The aliens, while they might look like colorful ripoffs of the main villain from Men In Black, are incredibly detailed and meticulously put together. You really can't tell if it's CGI or a guy in a very well made suit. The set decoration and art direction...wow. You want to see what a slum looks like, forget about "Slumdog Millionaire", it's this one. The titular District is part of what makes the film so realistic, and the look of everything in it is simply stellar. Makeup also plays a large role in the film, and it is very well done. "District 9" also has an incredible sound mix and edit going on. To put it simple, it's definitely one you need to catch in the theater. I'm not really going to discuss the acting in the film, though I will say the film's protagonist and antagonists were all very good, well written characters with very human and realistic actions running through them. In the end, however, despite all these other great benefits it has, "District 9" is driven by the story to the very end.
I really believe that I watched a classic tonight. It's a film that will revolutionize everything we know about the classic "alien invasion" story, and carve out its place amongst the all time action classics like "The Terminator". In fact, in the end, I felt like "District 9" was a "Terminator" for the modern age (I'm not talking about the two post-2000 entries in the series). The film is a can't miss for anyone who enjoys science fiction, or the art of film-making. I really can't find a flaw in this incredible work from Neill Blomkamp.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Take it for what it is, and you'll have a bit of fun.
This isn't a movie one expects much depth or detail from, so you won't get much from this review, either. What I will say about G.I. Joe, is that it knows what it is, who it's going to entertain, and why it's being made. I credit this to Stephen Sommers, who is actually pretty good at entertaining an audience with less than acceptable story lines and actors, as his entries to the "Mummy" series have proved (notice how the third one was dreadful without him?). Sommers may never win an Oscar, but he, like Michael Bay, knows how to entertain an audience (though it's an insult to put Sommers on the same level as Bay, as I think he's a better director than good ol' Michael).
G.I. Joe is about as subtle as a brick through a window. You know what you're getting from each scene, character, and action sequence. The guys with guns are loud. The leaders (good and bad) are cheesy. The girls are hot (all of them). Yes, the movie is basically Sommers pointing the camera in a direction, then making whatever is in the camera's line of sight either explode or host a fight scene (all of which are incredible). Another plus of this film: all the action is extremely well choreographed and planned out. All of the fight scenes are of very high quality, especially those with Snake Eyes.
As for our performers in the film, it's really a grocery store variety when it comes to how good they are. Let's start with the bad. I'm really not holding back here. Channing Tatum has got to be one of the worst actors I've ever seen. At least Keanu Reeves makes his monotone performances badass and can make even a few facial expressions. There is no emotion in Tatum's performance, which I feel compelled to tell you is one of the worst I've seen this decade. Marlon Wayans is basically a stereotype with more to do than usual, while Rachel Nichols was a lot of fun to look at, and she was good as Scarlett as well. Sienna Miller looked like she was having a fun time as the Baroness, while Christopher Eccleston took himself way too seriously. The performers who were having the most fun were Dennis Quaid (seriously?) and the always wonderful Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who's over the top, loud, and cheesy performance is ever so appropriate for this film. I couldn't wait for him to reappear every time he left the screen.
When it comes down to it, G.I. Joe is one loud, well designed, poorly CGIed, and hilariously acted ride that really, honest to God, is never boring. Stephen Sommers makes a movie that entertains, is BETTER than Transformers 2 (though that's not saying much), and has a bit of heart to go with it. Really, everyone involved looked like they were having a blast (besides the god awful Channing Tatum), whether it be older comedians (Wayans), All American actors (Quaid), or former indie darlings (Miller and Gordon-Levitt), and though I didn't quite have a blast, it was a fun way to spend 2 hours, as it never outstays its welcome and is exactly what it presents itself to be.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
An absolute gem of a movie. Hilarious and true, it should resonate with anyone.
"This is not a love story. This is a story about love." The following quote is too true about this film, and is the perfect description of it. "500 Days Of Summer" is a wonderful tale about love, loss, heartbreak, and dealing with those emotions. The story is beautifully told through one of the most original and captivating scripts of the year, and carried by the phenomenal breakout performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I don't really think I've ever seen a movie, or an actor, capture the emotions as well as this movie and its star do.
There's no question that this film is the breakout indie comedy of 2009, like "In Bruges", "Little Miss Sunshine", "Juno", and "Sideways" before it. But the question is, why is it that movie? Like those movies listed above, "500 Days Of Summer" is so realistic and true in its approach that it never feels redundant or clichéd, despite being in the most formulaic and clichéd genre of film. Whether its approach be comedic, tragic, or just all out absurd (wait for the musical number!), "500 Days Of Summer" hits every note with perfection, whether or not the audience will like what they see.
There are those who simply know Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the kid from "Angels In the Outfield" or "3rd Rock From the Sun", but from now on, this will be what he's remembered for until he tops this (which, with his talent, is definitely going to happen). Gordon-Levitt's tactful and emotional take showed me something I rarely see: the ability to connect with each audience member on a personal level. It's one of the most emotionally stirring performance I've seen in many years. Throughout the film, I knew I was watching some of the best acting of the year because I not only recognized similar events that occur throughout Tom's relationship with Summer, but I remember feeling exactly what Gordon-Levitt portrays on screen. He really is a gem of an actor that should be watched for years to come (this is of course, something I've been saying for years, (but no one seemed to listen). An Oscar nomination is not out of the question here.
I don't know if it was just me and my date, but Zooey Deschanel's performance, while good, seemed more like the script being tailor made to her abilities as an actress. In short, her performance was enjoyable, and at times adorable, but I've seen her do the same thing in almost every role she's played, especially in "Elf" and "Yes Man" (in fact, her take on Summer is nearly identical to her performance in "Yes Man"). I just don't think I'm as enamored with her as everyone else, but in no way does she detract from the film at all.
Perhaps the only romantic comedy cliché that is present here is the strength of the supporting cast, who I loved. I couldn't get enough of Geoffrey Arend as Tom's friend McKenzie, as he delivers some of the movie's funniest moments (and trust me, there are plenty, especially in the beginning and middle). Clark Gregg hits all the right notes, while Chloe Moretz is the sometimes hilariously great voice of reason that is Tom's little sister. Cameos from Minka Kelly and Ian Reed Kesler are also very well done.
If I had to pick out some problems, which would be nitpicking, I'd say that the movie is really short. With a story that literally encompasses 500 days (which are conveniently all in the same season...well, I guess that's Los Angeles for you), you'd think they'd need a little more time to cover it, as the film runs under 2 hours even with previews. I also didn't necessarily like a turn the script took later in the film, but it made sense and worked in the end, so it's really a non-issue.
Back to the things I liked about this one. There's a great amount of laughter and smiles in this movie, despite it taking a very serious tone towards the end. My face hurt from smiling so much. I also really loved the music, whether it was the composed music or the songs used throughout. This is a very stylish movie that, like "Juno" and "Garden State" before it, should spawn a bit of a mini-cult of people emulating the style (I know I want Tom's wardrobe). It's a good natured movie that will bring out your emotions and make you think about love in general, and how you've experienced it. It really is a crowd pleaser at its core, even if it's not a typical crowd pleaser.
A question a lot of people might have is, "is this a good date movie?". The answer is yes, but only if that date is someone you genuinely care about and/or - shocker here - love. It's not something you want to take someone to unless you know them well enough to see a movie like this, because...remember, it's not a love story, it's a story about love. In fact, it may be the best romance film I've seen in many years.
Far and away the best in the series
Harry Potter. The name alone induces screams across the world, and may make movie theater managers such as myself fall on the ground when the prints arrive in the building. Just because I did get to watch it early does not mean I didn't do my share of waiting around the theater. More than 7 hours after I got off work, I was still at the theater and ready to watch what I had been waiting for ever since the wonderful 'Order of the Phoenix' two glorious years ago. Not only was 'Half Blood Prince' my favorite book in the series, it was also one of my favorite books of all time. My expectations could not have been higher, possibly the highest for any movie I'd ever had.
So is it absolutely crazy that my expectations were still surpassed?
Whether it be the shockingly wonderful script from Steve Kloves, the perfect acting across the board, dazzling effects, or the absolutely excellent direction and cinematography, 'Half Blood Prince' is EASILY the best film in the series, and is a great cinematic achievement that becomes the first Harry Potter film, in my opinion, that stands alone as a fantastic film, one that could even be Oscar worthy.
It appears as if the book series finally being finished has done wonders for the films, as this is the first film produced since the end of the series. Steve Kloves' for films 1-4 were average at best, as he often struggled to write compelling dialog for the younger characters. Not only has he vastly improved, but for the first time in the entire series, I was more interested in the younger characters than the absolute gems of characters played by the adults. 'Half Blood Prince' probably has the least amount of action in the series, but it is by no means boring. Kloves' script assures us that this ride is just as mental as it is physical. There are some minor problems, such as the backstory of the title character, the Half Blood Prince, not really being explained at all, but these flaws are outweighed by Kloves' seamlessly weaving plot points from both 'Half Blood Prince' and 'Deathly Hallows'. Some characters, such as Rufus Scrimgeour, Bill Weasley, and Mad Eye Moody are sorely missed, while others, such as Ginny Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange, benefit from much more to do than they had in the book. To put it simple, Kloves' adaptation this time around is his best yet.
To me, the lines a writer writes are only as good as the actors that say them, and this flick boasts what could be called the best ensemble cast of the year. The bright points for me were Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, and Bonnie Wright, who both really got the chance to flesh out their characters in this one. Wright nails the passionate, hot tempered Ginny very well in brief opportunities, while Rickman is once again perfect as the icy Severus Snape, though to reveal why he's perfect would be robbing the viewer of a wonderful show. Felton packs a world of emotion and nails the character once again. The main newcomers to the cast were all excellent. Jim Broadbent is perfectly cast as Horace Slughorn, while Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Frank Dillane are positively chilling in their cameos as the younger incarnations of Lord Voldemort. Dillane in particular is nothing short of brilliant in his two scenes. Helena Bonham Carter's over the top performance as Bellatrix Lestrange is something that would only work in a Harry Potter film, as she is hilariously psychotic and sadistic in her role. The biggest surprise of all is Michael Gambon, who plays Dumbledore to perfection this time.
The faces of the Harry Potter franchise are the three actors that now appear to have grown up with their characters long enough to actually be them. Emma Watson is at her best for once as Hermione, while Rupert Grint brings everything back to the table after basically taking a movie off. Daniel Radcliffe tops what was his best performance in 'Order of the Phoenix' in this one, but for different reasons. Radcliffe is showing real all around talent as an actor, as he exudes the sarcastic confidence that he's always been missing that is integral to Harry's character. It should be noted that Radcliffe is definitely the best at comedy of the trio.
While I viewed it to be perfect, this might be because I've read the book and plugged in what few leaks there were. All the non-readers I saw it with said that they didn't have that many problems keeping up, and that this one really gelled with the previous installment. I credit that, and the movie's overwhelming excellence to David Yates, who really just gets this franchise. He has recreated the magic I felt when first reading the book again and again, with classic moments meant for readers that non-readers will still find entertaining enough.
This movie definitely strays the furthest from the book, but I really didn't care. I didn't miss any of the things that were cut, nor did I object to any changes in the movie. In a word, it was perfect. Bruno Delbonnel does a marvelous job with the cinematography, which is amongst the most beautiful camera work I've ever seen, especially with the colors and lighting. The art direction is equally brilliant.
'Half Blood Prince' is an exciting thriller, that is as charming and sweet as it is mysterious. It is as suspenseful as it is angsty, and that's saying something. Hormones and chaos are abound at Hogwarts, and Yates manages to handle it with perfect grace, as his film does not, for the first time ever, feel choppy or rushed. The film flows wonderfully, and builds to a climax that will keep your emotions running high for at least 20 minutes. I really could not have been more pleased with this movie.
Star Trek (2009)
It's so good I had to see it twice, and I'm not a Trekkie. A landmark accomplishment.
The science fiction genre hasn't seen a real landmark hit in quite a long time. It seems like people have been waiting for a movie to invigorate the genre again, bringing back the feelings of the glory days of the 1980's, when Star Trek, Star Wars, and other science fiction landmarks like Blade Runner reigned supreme. Well, the new 2009 version of 'Star Trek' appears to be the film to take up the mantle this time around, mixing together a blend of science fiction and action, sprinkled with a bit of comedy, and topped with a dose of humanity.
Before we get into this, I'd like you to know that I've never seen an episode of Star Trek, and I've only seen one other movie (The Wrath of Khan). However, this didn't affect my viewing experience for the worse, in fact, it made it even better, as I was introduced to a glorious, grand, and epic world by the action visionary J.J. Abrams. I call him visionary because his story in this film not only serves as a prequel to the longstanding series, but through his story, Abrams reinvents the story of the series without ignoring the previous landmark achievements. It's a bold, respectful, and tasteful move on his part, one Trekkies everywhere should appreciate. Through his storytelling actions in the film (and those of the writers Orci and Kurtzman), a new beginning is created for the series, one that should be cherished and embraced by fans and non-fans alike. It's a clever metaphor that you won't notice at first, but once you notice that a certain plot device is Abrams way of changing everything, it's a peaceful transition.
Now...the film itself. I don't think I can start anywhere other than the technical marvel of the film. It features visual effects that are flash, explosive, epic, and even some that are simple subtle changes. It boasts marvelous set decoration (Oscar worthy in fact), as each set contributes to this new, yet familiar world Abrams is creating. The design of everything is so intricate and meticulous, while it is flawlessly edited together with seamless (and sometimes flashy) transitions, backed by an Oscar worthy sound mix and escapist film score. 'Star Trek' is the most technically perfect film of 2009, and is the 2009 equivalent of 'The Dark Knight' in this regard.
As if it wasn't perfect enough, the cast of the movie is marketed as an ensemble (despite holding numerous high profile names and faces), and performs as such. Each character plays off the other so well, you'd think these people worked together for 10 years (and if any sequel is half as good as this is, they'll be working together a lot longer than that). Zachary Quinto is probably the best cast member of the movie, as his portrayal of Spock is exactly what the character calls for...a brilliant being that seems emotionless, but packs a world of anger, love, cunning, and wit under his motionless scowl. His counterpart Chris Pine as the legendary James Kirk is no less satisfying, as he brings the charisma, charm, and leadership presence to the character as required. Eric Bana disappears into his role as the villainous Nero, a villain who is much more than he seems. I really appreciated that he was not just a man bent on universal domination. The rest of the supporters, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban...all fantastic.
'Star Trek' is a thrilling ride that will appease pretty much any kind of viewer. Despite the extreme roots in science fiction and fantasy, this is a film with even deeper roots in a more common theme - humanity. It's a movie full of raw emotion stemming from problems and conflicts we all see and maybe even deal with ourselves every day...such as the loss of a loved one, or sacrificing oneself for a greater good and cause. It's a heroic movie, a landmark in the genre that should go down as one of the best of its kind. Whether it be for the technical perfection of the film, or the enjoyable story, or for the nostalgic Trekkie to get their fix, 'Star Trek' is unmissable.
Though the film clocks in just over two hours, I felt like it lasted both for a lifetime, and as if that life wasn't enough. It's a movie that will leave you feeling satisfied with the story, but insatiable in that you'll hunger for more the second Abrams' name pops up on the screen. It's an adventure that will undoubtedly end up both as a classic and as a prime fixture in my DVD collection. Basically, to sum it up, 'Star Trek' is so good that it became the only movie I've ever watched twice...in one day.
17 Again (2009)
A delightful surprise, albeit very awkward at times.
You know, I've never really understood the craze around this film's star, but the supporting cast of Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, and Michelle Trachtenberg was enough to make me interested. However, the best thing about the movie is the charisma, likability, and flat out wonderful leading man show from Zac Efron, who is definitely a lot better than I gave him credit for.
'17 Again' really isn't anything you haven't seen before, but what sets it above other movies like it is the cast, especially Efron and Lennon. Efron plays a role similar to what he's done in the High School Musical series (actually, I thought I was watching the wrong movie when this one started), but this time it's his ability to channel the mindset of a man 20 years older than he actually is, in addition to being the same charismatic young man that teenage girls fall over for that makes him a big winner in this one. I definitely see the reason why he's so liked.
Thomas Lennon leads what is probably the best comedic supporting cast to date, and he had me falling over in my seat from laughter. His antics were over the top, yet perfect, and though they will seem a little out of place at first, it works so well, and makes Lennon more than memorable here. Leslie Mann and Jim Gaffigan are criminally underused, as Mann doesn't stretch any of her comedic muscles here, as she's just playing a textbook wife/mother. Matthew Perry is also underused, but it's Efron's version of the character that really counts, and Perry does his best to channel Efron's mannerisms while blending some of his own (everyone loves the sarcastic side of him).
This movie is not without its faults however, the biggest one being the total awkwardness brought on by the events in the movie...subplots involving the main character's daughter and awkward scenes with Efron and Mann ultimately fail on screen (while they sound funny, they just don't play out in the way the film makers hoped), making for some moments that should have you squirming in your seat.
'17 Again' is a simple movie that should please its audience. It goes above similar movies because of a great and likable cast, and doesn't fall victim to becoming a kid's movie despite its star. Efron carries the film extremely well (he really has a future ahead of him), and it's a good movie for a teenager (or family of a teenager) to enjoy.