Reviews written by registered user
|11 reviews in total|
Given that "Birdemic" has been blasted by many critics, I think I
should say something positive about it to start off with. The scenery
of Half Moon Bay is agreeable, for one thing, and Ms. Moore has at
least a modicum of charisma; also, anyone who appreciates a stylish
blue hybrid Mustang rolling along in a stately manner gets to savor
that very sight in many lingering shots. All positive aspects of this
Less positive aspects of this film are legion, so much so that I'm reminded of my wish that IMDb.com would allow a vote on a scale from 1 to 100 rather than 1 to 10 (in which case "Birdemic" would rate at least a 3 out of 100 for the reasons mentioned, and perhaps a 4 for meaning well (though the message about global warming comes across in a preachy and ham-handed manner)). Still, something about the profoundly amateurish quality of this film makes it feel a little unfair to rate it at all ~ in much the same way that it would feel wrong to grade a term paper on the basis of some rough notes jotted down before writing the paper rather than the paper itself. This film very much reminds me of a rough draft ~ a sort of rough visualization of what the film would have been if the producer had more resources at his disposal (thus making the upcoming larger-budget sequel all the more intriguing).
Yet, I wonder if this film might have been less entertaining if it were better made. If it featured better sound, editing, writing, acting, direction and special effects, it might just be a forgettable homage to "The Birds"; its very flaws elevate (or should I say depress?) it to a special level otherwise occupied by a few special films like "The Room" and "Manos: the Hands of Fate" ~ the legendary realm of films that are so bad they're good. So, giving it the benefit of the doubt as a real film and not just a rough draft, I tender my vote of 1 out of 10 and hope that other fans of this film will also give it an appropriately low vote and insure its rightful place on the Bottom 100 (once it gathers the requisite number of votes).
To start off with the positive, I feel this film features a good cast
of interesting and likable characters, interesting action and visual
effects, and a story which is compelling and human despite the unusual
setting (much of which takes place in a number of distinct dream
worlds). Indeed, the movie features two central stories with emotional
resonance, one regarding the tortured relationship of the main
character Cobb (DiCaprio) with the memory of his late wife Mal
(Cotillard), and the relationship of the industrial magnate Fischer
(Murphy) with his seemingly distant and recently-deceased father.
Cobb's assistant Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) especially shines in wildly
creative scenes inside a dream-world where gravity has been suspended,
and the young architect Ariadne (Page) serves the story well in two
ways, both as an outsider to the world of dream thievery whose training
helps to explain the premise of the movie to the audience, and as a
person curious to get at the root of Cobb's relationship with Mal.
The title "Inception" refers to the idea of implanting a thought in the dreaming mind of another person, and the central plot concerns a thought which the industrialist Saito (Watanabe) wants planted in the mind of Fischer, causing Fischer to break up his father's holdings. Members of Cobb's team seem skeptical about the feasibility of planting such a thought, but Cobb's tortured past has shown him that such inception is indeed possible. Powerfully motivated by the desire to see his children in America again, but constrained by authorities who believe he played a role in the death of his wife, Cobb agrees to help Saito because the latter can pull strings to get Cobb back to his home. As Ariadne discovers, though, Cobb's relationship with Mal ~ which remains very much alive in Cobb's subconscious ~ is a powerful danger to everyone who joins him in the mission.
So the film does deliver on many levels, with good action, good characters, and a story compelling both intellectually and emotionally. However, I do feel the movie dragged in spots, ironically because overdoses of action can slow down a movie rather than help the pace. Also, despite the fact that the movie is largely about dreams, I felt that the dreams weren't very dreamlike. Part of that can be explained by Cobb's use of the architect Ariadne to construct settings for the dreams, but real dreams arise from a non-logical place in the brain, and I think anyone who has kept a dream journal can attest that real dreams have a surreal quality quite unlike the real world. That isn't to say that the dream worlds of "Inception" aren't spectacular in their own way, but I felt the dream worlds of this movie had more in common with the alternate reality of the Matrix in the "Matrix" movies than any dreams I've ever experienced. As in the Matrix, the Inception dreams present a world where physical laws can be bent or broken (to the advantage of skilled and knowledgeable people who are aware of the true nature of the world), but I suppose I was looking for more crazy, unexpected, non-logical content in the dreams. Since the movie is already challenging to follow, such content might make the movie too inaccessible to most audiences, but I still felt the director could have done more to cultivate a bizarre and dreamlike atmosphere.
Still, all factors considered, I felt this was certainly a good movie at the very least, and probably worth your time if you're thinking about seeing it.
After glancing at the voting pattern for this movie, I can't help but notice the fact that fully 78 percent of votes at this time are either a 10 or a 1, which I feel is unfortunate because the high votes are preventing this work from its rightful place of honor on this site's Bottom 100 list. At least one reviewer mentioned the legendary "Plan 9 From Outer Space" in comparison, but I feel this film excels over the latter in certain areas such as crude acting, a muddled plot and strange, unappealing and undeveloped characters. Still, I reluctantly feel compelled to give it a 2 if only because of the appealing visuals of San Francisco (which are nonetheless odd for a film that wasn't primarily filmed in San Francisco, aside from the second-unit footage; wikipedia's article on the film relates that the rooftop scenes were filmed against a green screen with the city added in afterward). Instead of keeping this film in its current anonymous region of mediocrity with a mixture of very high and low votes, perhaps true fans should pitch in to plunge this film downward toward a place alongside other unique visions like "Manos: The Hands of Fate". Indeed, this film reminds me a great deal of "Manos" insofar as both were made by people outside the Hollywood mainstream (not so much the case with "Plan 9"'s Ed Wood); "Manos" is a bit more lucid than this film, but both share a similar kind of entertainment value for people who appreciate just how far this medium can be pushed and still be recognizable.
As other people have noted, the story in "Beowulf" is quite far from
the content of the original poem - so far, in fact, that I feel it was
misleading to call this film "Beowulf" at all. Whereas, say, Peter
Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" is essentially faithful to its source
material, this film twists the source material so far that it becomes
substantially a different story.
In fairness to the film, it does explore some interesting themes. One theme is how legends tend to grow and become distorted in the re-telling, as the legend of Beowulf is shown becoming distorted in the re-telling even during his own lifetime. And corollary to that is the idea that people tend to believe what they want to believe; although Beowulf offers no direct proof of the witch being dead, for example, they want to believe it and so it becomes accepted as part of the story. Also noteworthy is the theme of a hero sowing the seeds of his own downfall.
That being said, I feel this film reflects too much the skeptical point-of-view of modern times, where we tend to receive heroic tales with skepticism and doubt about the real motives and motivations of those involved. Compared to the original character, this Beowulf seems not only flawed but downright devious, and I think that treatment doesn't do justice to the character. Also, the cartoonified style of the film didn't appeal to me personally; since the point of the film seems to be to treat Beowulf as a flawed human being with conflicted motivations (more like one of us ordinary people than a legendary noble hero), wouldn't a realistic film style be more appropriate? That style might work for a film like "300", but here it was distracting at best and jarring at worst, reminding me too much of a video game.
And what to say about the witch depicted by Angelina Jolie - so different from the witch of the poem that she's almost an entirely different character? The titillating semi-nudity is so gratuitous that it's almost comical, right down to the strange detail of modern-looking high heels (in the 6th century A.D.?) That sort of thing makes me wonder if this is the sort of film that's trying to do too much at once - pandering to the lowest common denominators of taste with crude violence and sex while simultaneously trying to deconstruct an epic poem; maybe that's just too tall an order.
This was a very unusual movie for me because I did find it entertaining on the one hand, but also very annoying in its frequent lack of common sense and respect for its genre. Looking just at the entertainment value, one could certainly give the film a 7 or 8 for action that moves along well, relatively engaging characters and a script free of the heavy Trek-jargon that often weighs down television episodes. However, as a science fiction fan I found many details of the film just plain silly. I'm sure a hardcore Trek fan could cite dozens of gaffs, but one of the more obvious is the construction of the Enterprise - a very large ship not designed to operate in an atmosphere - on the surface of the Earth rather than in orbit; also bizarre were starships maneuvering mere meters away from a "black hole" without being torn apart by gravity ~ the sort of detail that makes one wonder if the black hole in question was actually meant to be wormhole but was renamed a "black hole" to sound more ominous. One idea that I do like (actually implied in the script) is that this movie is set in a parallel universe quite distinct from the original Star Trek, and I think the very action of the movie ~ tampering with history for the sake of vengeance ~ would make it easier to free oneself from attachment to the background of classic Trek if one is a die-hard fan. But even so, Kirk's ultimate reward for his heroism (let me avoid a spoiler) is out of all proportion to his gallingly inappropriate conduct at Starfleet Academy. A basically good movie? I guess. But compromising between an 8 for brisk action and a 4 for many flaws in logic and common sense, I offer a 6 instead. The odds are, most viewers will be entertained.
I can't say I was surprised that this movie was a dud (a local paper
gave it 1 1/2 stars out of 4) but I still wanted to see it because I
feel the 1951 original is among the best science fiction movies ever
made. This 2008 version isn't nearly as good. At first glance one might
think this is the sort of role that's made for Keanu Reeves (with his
notorious lack of normal affect), but Michael Rennie's Klaatu was
compelling in the original because he clearly cared about his mission
and the beings who would be affected by it. More importantly, the
scenario in this 2008 film is based on a very vague premise about the
danger posed to the biosphere of Earth by humanity itself - which may
be true, but is never explained in detail; rather, the premise rests on
audience knowledge of media coverage about global warming and threats
to biological diversity - which again may be true, but remains a
nebulous threat to the average person. In contrast, the threat of
nuclear war was very immediate and real in 1951 when the original film
was released (indeed, the film was released in the middle of the Korean
War when use of nuclear weapons was openly contemplated), and it would
not be hard for the average viewer to imagine extraterrestrials being
alarmed by the threat of warlike humans expanding into space with
nuclear weapons. In contrast, it's less easy to imagine a consortium of
extraterrestrials resolving to exterminate humanity because of the
threat we pose to other life on our own planet; notwithstanding the
rather brutal simplicity of that premise (which totally overlooks
genuine if belated efforts at ecological responsibility on the part of
human governments, organizations and individuals), Klaatu posits that a
world like the Earth is inherently valuable because of its biosphere,
but I would think that Klaatu's civilization - having mastery of
biotechnology in particular - would be able to terraform all kinds of
planets, reducing the treasured status of Earth as a haven of
biological life. Also, the aliens' view would seem to ignore the fact
that evolution has given biological life remarkable ability to adapt to
change, and there's no particular reason to expect that the biosphere
of Earth couldn't repair itself even if we humans managed to wipe
ourselves out. Combined with a conclusion to the film that is
unsatisfying both logically and emotionally, I found the remake
Other aspects of the film are also disappointing, such as blatant product placement exemplified by a gratuitous extended visit to McDonalds. Also, Gort was lame compared to the robot of the original; I know the original Gort's death ray may seem very old-fashioned but I was kind of looking forward to Gort doing some old-fashioned vaporizing. The main weapon actually used by the aliens - a cloud of nanobots which grew as it consumed material - is very plausible, but I found it odd that the nanobots so closely resembled terrestrial bugs when the film took pains otherwise to make it clear that Klaatu came from an exotic alien world unlike our own.
Is there anything good about this film? I suppose Jaden Smith was somewhat likable as the kid, and I felt he could have been very engaging if the script were better written. Also, the depiction of the starship as an orb full of swirling mysterious energies was neat as an attempt at depicting alien technology. And I suppose I kind of give the movie points for trying to reveal something about the origins of this particular Klaatu with an opening sequence set 80 years before the main story (although it isn't really very effective and just made a ponderous and boring movie that much more ponderous and boring).
Overall, aside from genre fans who are curious to see how this compares with the original, or very serious fans of Keanu Reeves or Jennifer Connelly, I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone.
A surprisingly good film, with good direction, well-balanced humor and many likable characters making for a very entertaining movie. Other 'teen' movies may be better, but one could do much worse if one is looking for a well-made film in this genre; Alexa Vega and Mika Boorem make for a very likable pair of best friends, Sam Huntington plays his pathetic brother character with just the right comic touch, and Sara Paxton has just the right amount of venom as the loathsome popular-girl antagonist. Although one could fault this film for featuring stereotypical characters, I feel that all the elements of the film are executed very well and I'm surprised that this hasn't garnered a higher score.
I gave this movie a score of 7, but I think I should point out that I see a difference between a "negative" 7 (a movie that's basically good, but suffers from lamentable shortcomings) and a positive 7 (a movie that's entirely satisfying, but which could still be better), since I would consider this to be a classic example of a positive 7. I felt this movie began slowly (not surprisingly, since the animation style of the "living" world is less vibrant than the animation style of the "dead" world), but it was very enjoyable once the main character Victor transitioned to the world of the dead, and I was surprised when the movie came to an end because I would have liked it to go on longer. In all technical respects, this is a well-made film, with main characters I cared about, and attention to detail which was most impressive, and I think most viewers would be satisfied by this film.
Although this film failed to have a deep emotional impact for me,
attractive location filming and an earnest performance by Cate
Blanchett (as the eponymous Charlotte) did elevate it above mediocrity.
Charlotte is a Scottish woman sent to France as a covert courier during
World War II, though her ulterior motive is to find her lover, a pilot
downed in France; after learning of her lover's apparent death,
however, Charlotte's focus shifts to the fate of a pair of Jewish
children being sheltered from the Vichy collaborationist government by
her main resistance contact Julien (Billy Crudup) and his father.
Unfortunately, Charlotte's emotional connection to these characters is
never as well-developed as it could be, and therefore her development
as a character is unsatisfying; I feel that Cate Blanchett probably
does as much with this material as she could (and I suppose a fan of
hers would be satisfied by her performance), but a better script and
better directing would have helped this film a lot.
Other small details of this film also felt unsatisfying to me, such as the fact that most of the 'French' characters (including Charlotte, who is posing as a French woman) spoke English with little hint of a French accent (while the Germans just spoke German), so that when Charlotte flies out of England and is dropped into France it feels like she's just moving from one set location to an adjacent set location - which obviously compromises the value of the fine location cinematography. Also, weirdly, Charlotte types a letter for the two French children at one point in the film and a closeup of the letter clearly reveals it's in English! (Given that the content of the letter is read aloud by Julien's grandfather - and thus the audience doesn't need to be able to read the letter anyway - wouldn't this be an excellent opportunity to give some authenticity to the film by showing a closeup of a letter typed in French? The most important part of the letter is the signature including the words "Mama and Papa", which I would wager an English viewer unfamiliar with French would still recognize if it were typed "Maman et Papa".)
With a better effort from the director, perhaps, I think this could have been a much better film, but I suppose it's still fairly entertaining despite its imperfections.
After renting this movie recently, I was struck by the extraordinary mediocrity of the film - a film that's not really either good or bad, but just sort of there. One indication of its mediocrity is the fact that the airplane scenes cut into the main story are infinitely more interesting than the main plot concerning the rivalry between air traffic controllers Nick (John Cusack) and Russell (Billy Bob Thornton), although the airplane shots really only serve to remind the viewer that this is a major motion picture utterly lacking in substance. Supporting performances from Angelina Jolie (as Russell's wife Mary) and Cate Blanchett (as Nick's wife Connie) are serviceable but fail to compensate for a lackluster story in which Nick's buttons are pushed predictably by Russell. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this dark comedy is that it was produced just a few years before 9/11; if one were to make such a film today (with much of the dark humor focusing on near-collisions of jetliners caused by overstressed air traffic controllers) it would probably be seen as being in extremely bad taste, but I suppose one should judge the movie on its own merits. One might consider renting this movie if one is a fan of any of the stars, but otherwise I wouldn't bother.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |