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The best of the new "loser becomes superhero" genre
The "loser becomes superhero" genre has gotten a lot of play in the last few years, with this movie, "Kick-Ass," and "Defendor." Clearly, the entire "regular guy becomes superhero" genre requires suspending actual morality. We are looking at fantasy wish-fulfillment here.
That said, I like this one best. Rainn Wilson is far and away the funniest of the actors playing superheroes. Ellen Paige performs her first role that goes past cute into the realm of sexy. Best of all, the scriptwriter made hard decisions. Things often don't wrap up neatly. Some scenes are truly, even intensely, cringe-worthy... in that "it makes you laugh because it makes you uncomfortable" way.
Don't take your mom to this movie.
City of Ember (2008)
Review for Science Fiction Fans
Rating for Family Audiences: 8 Rating for Science Fiction Fans: 6
I checked this movie out on the basis of some internet reviews, and to my great surprise, I wasn't sorry!
Although clearly intended for family audiences, the makers managed to stick mostly to hard science fiction tenets. Some sequences towards the end were over-the-top in execution, and a couple were poorly filmed to look like a Disney World ride -- but the pieces fit together well, and the mythos was never violated.
My tipsters tried to compare the set and design to various things, Mad Max, etc. It struck *me* as a cross between Harry Potter and Brazil.
*** BEWARE YE WHO ENTER SPOILERS, THOUGH THEY OCCUR EARLY IN FILM ***
Virtually my only science fiction complaint has to do with the persistent idea that man-made apocalypse leads to gigantic animals. (This is not really a spoiler, happens early in the movie.) The kids aren't shocked or mystified enough when they get evidence of huge creatures. And the huge creatures were completely unnecessary for the plot. A half hour in, the boy actually pets a giant moth fearlessly without ever having seen one before. Duh??? Fraggle Rock, anyone? Did the someone watch The Island, and decide this movie also needed a moth?
Still, fun movie, watch it with your kids to teach them The American Way, and it's much better than most sci-fi tripe.
Laugh-out-loud, broad appeal
Easily the funniest and most broadly appealing of Wes Anderson's movies. Enjoyment of some of his movies (cf. The Darjeeling Limited) requires the Wes Anderson mindset, an unusual, and sometimes acquired taste. This movie remains distinctively a Wes Anderson comedy, while simultaneously providing plenty of belly laughs and heartfelt moments for the uninitiated masses.
If you haven't seen this movie, watch it either as Wes Anderson at the top of his form, or as a great introduction to his unique comic vision. Either way, it will reward you on multiple levels. This is a must-watch member of the canon for lovers of comedy.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Best movie of 2007
Belly-laugh funny, but totally serious, deep, and sensitive... sometimes simultaneously! I was expecting to enjoy this movie -- I have an odd sense of humor. But I think any adult would really enjoy this movie. Even a member of the Christian Right could appreciate it, if he or she were to actually watch it, because the subject matter is handled so sweetly and sensitively, with an emphasis on family and community values.
I just can't get over how good this movie was. Absolutely spot-on performances from every actor, great directing, perfect pacing, simply wonderful. And it re-defines "laughing through the tears."
Very funny - very, very dark
Wow, I'm glad I finally got around to seeing this movie. It's a deeply felt drama exploring strength through adversity -- not!
Actually it's the darkest black comedy I've ever seen that is actually laugh-out-loud funny. None of this gag-based gross-out humor, but honest-to-goodness character based humor. Great comic performances from everyone involved. (Sutherland obviously thinks sucking spit through his teeth makes for menace, but in this movie it totally works, perhaps his best villain role ever!)
Not for kids or the faint at heart, but those that enjoy dark humor will love this film. If you're hoping for a horror film, skip it. There is plenty of gore, but it is only used for comic effect, and not the laughing at the slasher film kind of "comedy." Don't expect depth or substance -- in the end, this is a feel-good flick for the crowd that drank cosmopolitans while watching COPS.
Won't say much more, but if you rent this -- take note of the black cop. One of the funniest minor supporting roles ever!
Undermines its own premise brilliantly
Good movie - not a good comedy, not a good sci-fi movie, not a particularly deep social commentary - but the parts fit together in such a way to make a very entertaining, somewhat thought-provoking, occasionally funny movie I'd recommend to just about anyone.
The quality that really made this movie seem smart to me was that I was constantly reminded that it couldn't have worked without Al Pacino in the lead role. Change nothing else, but cast Brendan Frasier in Pacino's role, I bet it would have got a 5 from me. It could have so easily been derailed - and almost was towards the end, I got the sense a re-write was done to artificially add some dramatic conflict - but Pacino's unique charisma, perfect for his role, held it together.
And for us Science-Fiction folk out there: The "digital star" never abruptly and incredibly becomes self-aware. About time someone wrote a Pygmalion myth for the digital age about Pygmalion's psychosis instead of falling back on technobabble!
30,000 Leagues Under the Sea (2007)
really, really, really terrible
Execrable acting, directing, editing, dialogue. Others have already covered that.
Also, in the first 10 minutes I counted 4 blatant science errors... When a submarine captain said "It can't be a fish, there's nothing but plankton this far down," I knew this was a real stinker. (The truth is the reverse, there are big animals but *not* plankton in the deep.)
It costs millions of dollars to produce a project like this, even with the pitiful special effects and no-name talent. Can't they at least invest a couple hundred dollars to hire a science fiction writer to do a little fact-checking? I'm available!
what is *wrong* with America?
Now that was one funny movie!
How could the test screenings have bombed? Easily the funniest sci-fi movie I have ever seen. Makes Galaxy Quest or Spaceballs look like yawn-fests. It even works as cultural criticism and actual science fiction. (Though, science has shown people are actually getting rapidly smarter, not dumber...google "The Flynn Effect.")
The only explanation I can came up with is that a substantial portion of a carefully selected test audience will be of lower than average IQ. Those with IQs below 100 or with mentally challenged family may feel insulted, and the very stupid may not understand that the fart and penis jokes are not about farts and penises but about lowbrow idiocy and rampant commercialism.
Anyone who enjoys Mike Judge's more famous projects, "Beavis and Butthead" and "King of the Hill," will most likely enjoy this movie.
one of the strangest movies ever
The acting is simply amazing, the cinematography bizarre but effective -- but at times you find yourself wondering "what the heck am I watching?" The "Psycho/Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and drug use elements were actually less disturbing to me than the "Lolita/The Professional" elements. (Perhaps because the older target of the seduction was mentally challenged and sexually abused?)
I suppose I should have expected it to be disturbing -- it is Terry Gilliam after all -- but I was anticipating something more like Gilliam's "Baron Von Munchausen" mixed with Danny Boyle's "Millions." Instead, it was more like "Pan's Labyrinth" on a very bad acid trip -- and "Pan's Labyrinth" was very dark already!
I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone that isn't a fan of the dark and bizarre in cinema. Even a fan like me took issue with some odd pacing in the middle of the film that undermines much of the dramatic tension, but the character development made up for that. Watch this movie only if you think you might enjoy one of the most bizarre, twisted, deranged non- pornographic films of all time...
Children of Men (2006)
candidate for best sci-fi pic of all time
Great actors, perfect for their roles, that aren't overused. Future dystopia scenes that make Blade Runner or 1984 look like kindergarten. Intense action scenes, and combat that easily rivals Saving Private Ryan. A simple, intelligent science fiction plot. Cinematography that goes beyond "dark and gritty" to also comment on the action without intruding.
Best of all, deeply emotional character driven conflict. What sci-fi movie have you seen where the manly hero spontaneously breaks down into tears, totally believably? As I run down the list, I've got to say: This may be the best science fiction movie of all time.