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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The Not So-Amazing Spiderman Movie...
I felt something was off from the moment I laid eyes on the first trailer for this movie.
And here's the gist of it: Whatever bad impressions you got from the movie based on the promotional material, I'm sad to say that all the negative impressions came true in this 2 hour action flick.
What's wrong with it? Plenty. TAS tried to imitate The Dark Knight and it did OK. This one, however tries to take the same approach: One main antagonist that spawns another major antagonist, but everything here reeks of Spiderman 3.
But these villains are simply all setup with next to no payoff. Jaime Foxx's character is billed as one of the central antagonists, but really nothing more than a hired muscle with a motivation that would make even Joel Schumacher cringe. He also wears an outfit that feels like a rejected Fantastic Four costume. Harry Obsborn at the beginning has some promise but ultimately he's barely a presence in the movie. He's Two-Face, if he were written by The Farelly Brothers instead of Jonathan Nolan.
Oh and that amazing revelation 'bout Peter's parents and their tragic "accident"? All this setup (with a fairly impressive opening scene) for a 3-minute grainy Youtube video in which Pete's Dad gives us some exposition that can summed up in "Oscorp is evil". Thank you, I wasn't aware of that.
Romance is still awkward, the actress who plays Aunt May seems to have forgotten how to act.
You can argue that TAS did too much in trying to expand upon Peter Parker's life, Ben's death and the hunt for said killer and all that. But the sequel on the other hand seems to think that "less is more", when really it feels like "stuff just happens".
Since when did Spidey develop Jedi-like evil sensing powers? Why does Pete only see Captain Stacey when the plot demands it? Why are the police and firefighters more than willing to let Spidey call the shots since he is still technically a vigilante? Was Gwen fired from Oscorp? And if not, did they pretend she didn't exist after she walked out of the building? They were keeping tabs on Harry hanging out with Peter and the electric guy that nobody gave a flying hoot about and nothing was done to the one random employee that happened to search for Max Dillon's name? Oh and Harry doesn't get killed yet because he knows his way out? How does that work? Is Peter in colleague yet? 'Cause it's a little hard to tell, since he's either fighting crime or making a meager wage sending photos to the Daily Buggle. How come a genius like Peter doesn't know 8th grade science? How does a damaged webshooter work to magically save a whole lot of people from being shocked? Who is Mr. Friers? And does Harry get back to normal?
So much stuff that doesn't work...
Lucas gets crucified and Cameron gets a free pass for this?
Avatar is a look-at-the-pretty-scenery movie, it tries to distract you with pretty scenery and amazing CG creatures, while in the meantime you might not even notice the movie's political message that will likely take you out of the experience if you happen to get bored from the CG half- way through and actually start paying attention to what the characters are implying.
Let's brake down to what I dislike, considering it's 80% RT count with so many five-star reviews, I have to ask did everyone set the bar lower for the term "best movies of the year".
In order for a movie to even begin to qualify as the best movie of 2009,you need a strong story, you need memorable characters and you need good twists.
Avatar has none of the above.
Starting with it's main hero, Jake Sully, played by an obviously bored Sam Worthington, whose animated Avatar actually has more charisma than his real life counterpart.
Sigourney Weaver's character is fun, but pointless, Michelle Rodriguez does not play a bad girl, except for the latter part of the film where she stands up to Quarricth and has one of the most brainless death scenes I've ever seen.
Shame we never get to see Zõe Saldanha, as she is quite attractive, but her Na'vi character is that first quite smart(she does have one great dramatic scene) but her character later loses her charisma.
Quarritch is a forgettable villain and well as the head of the RDA who is a jerk and greedy for no apparent reason other than the script demands him to be so.
The Na'vi are for the most part a mix of the most clichéd aspects of the noble warrior, a common myth that has no ounce of truth to it anywhere but in popular culture.
And let's talk about the plot, for a plot this derivative and look while I understand that there have been homages and more shameless rip-off than Avatar and that it's really not a big deal, but for Cameron to hype his script as 14 years in the making, he's not being honest.
The movie offers very little surprises and for it's derivative nature it plays it very safe. TDK, as an example again, takes the superhero clichés behind the tool-shed and shoots it right between the eyes. Avatar does nothing of the sort.
Instead, it plays on more modern themes, such as environmentalism, hence almost spoofing Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and also seems to say something about the military and not in the most flattering way, as Quarritch arrives on the scene to get the Na'vi to leave and with his army tries blows up the Na'vi's home in a scene that pretty much mimmicks the September the 11th attacks. Except that in the context of the film, it's greedy white military/mercenaries that commit such an atrocity against foreign natives in order to steal their wealth.
And that's when you see the movie's true heart of darkness, when it parallels the mindset of "blood for oil". It's scary, I know...
Avatar is basically a gross revisionism and reinterpretation of political zeitgeist of the past 8 years.
I was both shocked and rolling my eyes during that climactic scene. But with villains this basic and one note, how could you not feel for the Na'vi?
At that point, all the Na'vi, including Neyfitri are angry because at Jakesully(that how they call him), because he betrayed and they have every right to be so. But what does our hero do? Do something that no Na'vi, considering the context of the film even thought, but Jake Sully who has been a Na'vi for roughly 3 months, by catching a mythical bird that like I said before, no Na'vi ever remembered and presto, Nefitiry already forgives him and he becomes a leader to them, just like that.
It gets even more idiotic that the same Na'vi who pray to their trees when the inevitable showdown looms and Ewya does nothing except when Jake Sully uses his naturally grown USB port and asks for Eywa to help.
And so the final showdown between Quarritch, his men and the united Na'vi tribes begin. As things look bleak for the Na'vi, who instead of just marching right into the line of fire, since they are a warrior tribe, Ewya decides to intervene, making animals and general wildlife fight the invaders, all thanks to Jake Sully, of course, Eywa could have been much nicer to it's people if she had decided to act before most of the Na'vi had already been shot. What a beatch, if you ask me.
Avatar is just not as good as many critics will have you believe.
Bruno is so 2006...
Somehow I saw this coming. This was to be expected, after Borat took a lot of people by surprise, 3 years later, Bruno's antics seem roughly calculated and staged. Nothing's changed much, it just seems more obvious. Another dead give-away is that Bruno sparked considerably less lawsuits than it's SBC's previous work, so either real people actually went along with the joke or the whole thing was entirely staged. Now, Bruno is not without it's merits, it can be at hilarious and outrageous(even more than Borat naked wrestling scene), but the film can be at times inconsistent. It's a loads of fun during the first 40 some minutes, then we get a much weaker second half when the set pieces get the really good bits are too far and between. Sasha Baron Cohen is great, never breaks character, so no complaints there. The rest of the cast do a decent enough job. But even they can only do so much, I think the worst scene in the whole movie would be the baby casting bit, no serious person would laugh at that, it might have worked in back in Ali G sketches, but not here.
Race to Witch Mountain (2009)
If you smell what cooking up on Witch Mountain
I like Dwayne Johnson's work(even his kid friendly stuff such as Game Plan) and since watching him steal the show from Steve Carell on Get Smart, I always wanted him to go back to making good PG-13 or heck even R-rated action movies, so I'm proud to say that we get a bit of that "action"-Dwayne in RtWM. A remake of 70's movie that I never saw. It's kinda fun, something along the lines of a typical sci-fi conspiracy movie with a dash of what could be considered a G-rated version of Predator. So we get Jack Bruno, a taxi driver, frustrated by his work that consists of picking up sci-fi geeks in Vegas, while being harassed by his former employer's henchmen, until he picks up two mysterious kids who appear out of nowhere, they sound weird, they act weird and even more troubling an evil organization is after them, which is apparently some sort of spin-off of the Department of Homeland Security who want to take in these kids. And they are evil, why exactly? I have no clue, the writers forgot to give us any indication as why the movie's main villains do what they do, apart from general vagueness of it all and an eye-rolling random and out-of-context mention of The Patriot Act.
Heck, the alien stalker(which could be mistaken by some as The Predator's baby brother)should've been the true main villain and he has a far more solid and clear motive. Oddly enough, for a movie based on sci-fi, they also pokes fun at the tin-foil mentality of the science fiction and nothing really changes with the main characters, Jack Bruno doesn't go gaga after all is revealed and Carla Gugino's Dr. Alex is amazed but never warped. On the acting side, Dwayne Johnson performs his little act with both physical prowess and some subtle acting, the kids are generally likable, though the little girl who plays Sara got a little on my nerves as she at times was either over-acting or just being over- dramatic. The main villain is well, evil, has an evil stare, it's a completely different contrast to his own henchmen, namely Chris Marquette who looks like he's in a completely different movie, though he gets kudos for his delivery on that particular gun stand-off that seems like it was taken from a John Woo film. My advice: It's worth watching at least once, if you haven't seen it yet, Rent it. It's 90 minutes worth of good family friendly action fun.
12 Rounds (2009)
Too similar to Die Hard
I went in expecting a complete disaster, but I was somewhat surprised. This is leagues better than John Cena's last star vehicle which was the awful The Marine. Of course, that's not saying much. However, John Cena is by no means a good actor but his delivery was acceptable so something good can come out of this. Cena's matured a little in this movie, though there will still be some cringe-worthy deliveries, though not many this time around. What hurts the movie most is that it's just too similar to Die Hard. People who've seen any of the Die Hard movies are already 10 steps ahead of any of the characters in this movie, none of it's plot twists will come as a surprise. Even character archetypes follow a predictable pattern such as the obviously Euro-trash villain that in no way looks, acts and sounds like Simon Gruber, OK sorry about the sarcasm. It's a shame, because apart from the shaky cam(through I've seen worse), it's a well made and shot action thriller, it's just that by 2009 standards, it feels outdated. Still I gotta give them kudos for showcasing a little more of New Orleans, which looks like a wonderful city. I say the movie's at least worth a rental.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Not quite there...
Terminator Salvation is the forth installment in the sci-fi trilogy that started way back in early 80's. Who knew that such a film would become a franchise of it's own spawning TV spin-offs, comic and eventually a fourth film.
How does Terminator: Salvation hold up without it's most recognizable star? It does a decent job, actually...however... be prepared for a different kind of movie.
It starts with a convict named Marcus Wright on death row, the year's 2003, then we shift to 2017, with John Connor, played by Christian Bale, who has greatly matured from the T3 Nick Stahl days, trying to understand what is Skynet plotting and how Marcus who suddenly wakes up in that year, fits in to all of this.
This fourth Terminator movie starts off with a very different kind of scope, the story cuts away between Marcus's POV and John Connor's POV until they cross paths, in which a somewhat predictable twist appears.
Like I said, it's a different movie, we no longer have one relentless machine stalking our heroes as they team up with a slightly inferior model, we kinda only get something along that template near the end of the film.
It's a little disappointing to see that the future doesn't hold as much menace as the other movies have mentioned. The trailer gives a glimpse of despair and complete loss of hope, a bleak picture, but the finished product reveals humanity as capable of facing such a threat as John Connor outsmarts and outfights a Terminator early on, as the movie goes on, machines are most of the times bested, particularly in chase scene with Kyle Reese, Marcus and a little mute girl we never actually get to know, who sorta seems to be thrown in to have a kid character.
Of course, if you're looking for loads of action, T:S delivers just that, but in the scope of a war movie. Some catchphrases from previous films make their timeless appearance. Though slightly out of place, but I have to admit that when Bale says "I'll be back", it does sound kinda cool.
But when I think about the plot, I think they could've done something better. My main beef is that Skynet never had any possible way of knowing that Kyle Reese is Connor's father. It doesn't even make the slightest bit of sense, I mean, was Skynet making a list of hits, was it randomly generated? Was it a coincidence Reese was in the hit list? That was a might big coincidence...
We never know, it's not clear, equally silly is how Marcus was only under influence of Skynet, but never truly controlled by them. They do nothing to stop him. Again, very silly.
Now, acting-wise, as much as I praised Bale in his other films, I have to admit that his modus operandi has become slightly predictable, his deep voice really sinks in, but there was nothing in there that could be considered extreme(this because, that fight with Shane Hulbert was still fresh in everybody's mind), but he passes the test. Finally get to see that brave John Connor, almost Rambo-like, instead of the annoying wimpy teenager, young adult from the Sarah Chronicles series and T3.
The Australian actor who plays Marcus Wright, Sam Worthington, also makes for a great performance, a half-man, half-machine with an identity crisis, at least when the twist arrives.
The rest of the cast do a terrific job and I have to give props to Roland Kickinger with his cameo, with the digital Arnold slapped into his face. I admit, my heart nearly stopped and I felt the urge to shout"Oh, yeah, I payed my ticket to see this!". Short, obvious CG Arnold, but a very nice touch.
The Dark Knight (2008)
There are no rules, anything goes...
The Dark Knight is the second installment in the re-imagining of the Batman movie mythos. Chris Nolan along with sibling screenwriter Jonah Nolan and most of the returning cast and a few additions(one of which is no longer with us, sadly), created what could be essentially the greatest superhero movie of all times. Many people can look at this movie and see it as either: a) An action packed superhero movie b)a crime drama c)A case-study on human morality d)all of the above. There are a lot of layers to this film. It starts with Batman, Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon team up to take down the remaining crime bosses, but not all goes well when a new criminal mastermind wearing clown make-up starts to wreck havoc in Gotham City, which ultimately leads to the big issue of this movie: No one is safe. As a superhero movie, we are told that everyone's safe, nobody gets hurt, the hero will save the day, good always thriumps over evil 100% percent. But no, The Dark Knight enters a realm of darkness, something we haven't seen since The Empire Strikes Back. I can't think of any superhero movie, save for that piece of trash Daredevil, where the hero's main squeeze gets taken out of the picture. It's simply scary, even more terrifying because it's real, it's plausible. The main villain in this film is perhaps the greatest evil of them all. It's more than his disfigured look, mannerisms and twisted sense of humor, he is crime's logical response to someone like Batman, of course, the Joker is someone that nobody understands. But somehow, his train of thought makes some sense in some creepy way, that's what scares me. The Joker is perhaps the most terrifying incarnation of evil and it lies mostly on his nihilism, his complete and utter disregard for human life and rules, we can thank Heath Ledger's performance for this. To the Joker nobody is pure. Everybody has a price, even Batman. The Dark Knight's greatest challenge is fighting this monster without crossing the line himself. Batman ultimately in the face of apparent defeat near the end, sacrifices all he accomplished for the greater good, albeit in a slightly unclear manner. The rest of the cast does their job well. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman never go beyond their mentor/assistant roles, though Alfred continues to be the voice of reason and Bruce's father figure. Rachel Dawes, by Maggie Gyllenhall certainly washes off the bad taste brought in by Katie Holmes and Aaron Eckhart plays a little like what you expect, but he too reaches the heart of darkness and can be at times as disturbing as the film's main nemesis. It's a shame The Dark Knight was snubbed at The Oscars, this movie as well as The Watchmen prove that comic book movies can be serious, intelligent and still be fun to watch.
Diary of the Dead (2007)
The missing link... where is it?
What is the correlation between editing media footage and a zombie plague? George Romero's lastest indie work seems to throw in a below-average zombie flick with scenes taken from the Loisiana Katrina-riots in order to get make a point. Oddly enough, all the scenes edited where said social commentary fit in are featured, not in the actual footage, but non-sequitur segments. Anyway, here's yet another story where a group of people stumble, in this case a group of colleague filmmakers are doing a b-movie and they get the news about a mysterious outbreak of dead rising from their graves.
A group of mid-20s complete with stereotype Texan, jocks, nerds, camera obsessed dude and his girlfriend(can you guess that it's going to them in trouble?), skeptic dude and a charming British professor, arguably the movie's only character worth rooting for. Also throw in generic army types with a face carrying a "I'm gonna rape you" smirk. They spent most of their time recording everything that's happening and of course, it's all shaky cam.
Occasionally, they'll even shoot it with the camera looking down on the floor as they strut, which does the opposite effect of what filmmakers want, that is bore the heck of you. It's not as horrible as the one I've seen on REC, but as far as fear and tension go, Diary of the Dead is substantially weaker than the Spanish shaky-cam zombie fest.
Occasionally you might jump once or twice, though the biggest scares seem to happen roughly at the start of the film when our hero goes to pick his girlfriend at the colleague campus, which is a creepy atmosphere that could set the tone for what's to come, but the movie never follows through.
As you've seen dozens of times, one zombie pops up here and there and then things always get out of hand and all humanity is lost... yadadadada(however the ending is strange). It's noticeable even though it feels small scale. The protagonists aren't too bright, unfortunately, instead of finding bunkers, they try to crash into their respective parents or friend's house, assuming that they'll be safe there and that they are all right, then things go wrong, oh what could possibly go wrong?
What can I say? There's nothing here you haven't already seen. Save of course, the need to feature Youtube and other social networking websites that should serve a purpose in this. But then we get to the subliminal Katrina riots that are used on this film, why I'll never understand. It's hard to immerse yourself in the experience, when they use that unrelated footage that really adds nothing to the story. "There are more sides to a story" doesn't fit into the context of a zombie flick, because walking dead isn't exactly the sort of thing that no serious press would lie about. In Romero's world there are rules and meshing them into a real world setup doesn't quite work as it should.
Mummy 3 shows signs of fatigue, but this has spunk
During Dr. Jones's long hiatus, at least two characters have been successful as adventurers/tomb raiders. We have Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Gates as a smart scholar/treasure hunter, the other one is no other than Brendan Fraser's Rick O' Connell, in two action packed films that pray tribute to the old Mummy movies. A third movie as been a long time coming, I missed the film premiere, but I rented the DVD yesterday, so does this movie fly like an eagle or does it just crash and burn?
Taking cues from the original film, we get about 10 minutes worth of an evil Chinese Emperor(Jet Li) who seeks out an attractive sorcerer(Michelle Yeou) that can give him everlasting life,however, his own general steps on his toes and pays with his life, the sorcerer then curses the emperor and his army which in turn are turned into stone. It's an unusually long setup(it almost feels like another movie) and it takes even longer to jump start the actual plot.
Right off the bat, continuity is a mess, Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello(filing in for Rachel Weisz) are now apparently retired, seeing how this now takes place 10 years after the second movie. However no of them look any older than they were 3 years ago, yet self-referencing age jokes proliferate in this one, which is an odd choice. It might fly with Indy, but Brendan Frasier hasn't even turned 40! Anyway, continuity is a complete mess, Rick and Evelyn look like they barely aged at all, yet they've already retired, but his son goes from a British boy to an American-speaking treasure hunter and colleague dropout(what's with this obsession nowadays?). He also seems to be enamorated with a mysterious girl who seems to be guarding tombs. Evelyn's brother returns, but this time given much less to do, aside from being comic filler. Maria Bello isn't quite a miscast, but Rachel Weisz's absence makes her interaction with the other actors feel awkward, at least to me as a viewer, but c'est la vie.
Like I stated before, the plot takes forever to get going, it really starts at the 30 minute mark, when the crew suffers an unthinkable betrayal to help an aging Chinese extremist general resurrect the dragon emperor. Aside from that, and the continuity goofs, this third installment is a satisfying, if average action movie. Nothing that you see here is remarkably different than the older films. As action set pieces rage on and quirky one-liners are mixed with the usual family torn apart sub-plot, with Rick and his son's occasional arguments about everything from him not taking his son seriously as well as weapon analysis.
As far as acting goes, Brendan Frasier is a notoriously bad actor, but the Mummy movies and well as the new Journey to the Center of the Earth, really make him stand out as a decent action movie star, there's some charm and I do appreciate the references to the earlier movies. Luke Ford takes a while to get used to, as he sorta fades in and out of focus, especially before he reunites with his parents, afterwards, he is mostly stuck with action pieces and his romantic subplot with Isabella Leong's Lin, who later reveals herself as the sorcerer's daughter. Jet Li is always a welcome addition to this film. I guess he does OK as a villain, but then again with a fully fleshed out back story, who wouldn't?
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Quantum of Disappointment
Today, as I re watched Casino Royale, I can't seem to shake the feeling that that movie was indeed better than I had judged. With brings me to Quantum of Solace, to which I had never felt so indifferent about it during it's full 2-hour run.
The director and producer must've thought it was a good idea to make a movie that would be fit for our favorite Austrian turned California governor and Bruce Willis, except that they forgot that Arnold and Willis were generally very colorful, in here we have a stone faced Daniel Craig who takes himself so seriously that the movie at points feels un-intentionally funny as it provides some embarrassed laughs.
Anyway, the first shocker would be to learn that this movie takes place just a few hours after Casino Royale, I'm impressed at how Bond magically goes from the occasional screw-up into a perfect fighting and killing machine, British spies do make the world safe,'cause in this world, CIA agents are worthless pencil-pushers with mustaches that spout endless platitudes and are willing to work with nefarious organizations just for a taste of black gold.
But anyway, Bond becomes the perfect killing machine and all it took was to snuff out his Vesper and in the process sets out on the hunt for the organization Mr. White works for and in the process uncover that terrible conspiracy by it's leader, the new Bond villain Greene, or at least standing in for an actual villain.
Be prepared for some action, shooting, flirting, a bit of tought interrogation, intense close quarters combat and no endless card game in sight, I thought it was a pretty good thing, but like I said before, I felt so indifferent to the whole thing. Every action set piece looks calculated, sometimes unnatural(like the hotel in the desert that seems to have explosions set on cue) and just too flashy. Not is to say that it's bad, far from it, but underwhelming.
As an action movie, The Dark Knight overshadows Quantum of Solace because TDK feels like a heavy and dramatic roller-coaster ride, while QOS is a tamer, less exciting and often predictable ride.
Like I said, the set pieces are unexciting and have a feel of dejà vù, as it they tried to much to make it feel like the older Bonds of days passed. It also hurts this movie's chances that the opening theme song is perhaps one of the worst I've heard in years, what were they thinking? I miss Chris Cornell's intro from Casino Royale.
Also part of the blame falls on the actors as well, I concede that Daniel Craig's Bond is what he makes it to be, a cold and efficient killer, but his entire motivation for this quest is revenge and the trailers make it seem like he's losing it, when you see the actual movie, he feels so calm and restrained, it feels more like a routine job than a personal quest, no offence to Craig. By contrast, Judi Dench's M is so distrustful of Bond that she will jump to conclusions on the slightest twitch, I wonder,why does she let him be on the force at all, since Bond to him, does nothing but steps on everybody's toes and kill off the people whom he's after? In short, if you miss on Casino Royale, Bond's motivations are very unclear.
The bond girl this time played by Olga Kurylenko has considerably less screen time, just barely more than her previous 2 movies, based on video game properties. But her screen time was worth it, it was enjoyable, she was hard-hitting, expressive and had no-nonsense attitude about her mission, which is also a personal vendetta as we later discover.
Dominic Greene fails at the highest level, you want to pass off this character as the owner of an evil eco-friendly company(That surprised me, I never thought they would go there) as a bad guy, nay... the leader of that terrible organization? Not that I didn't enjoy the twist, which is really was he is after, but other than that, he feels like a stand-in for the real bogeyman.
To cut this short, Quantum of Solace is a decent if underwhelming action movie. To watch this, I would advise watching Casino Royale first, or else it will feel like a generic action movie.