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Fringe is a More than Satisfactory New Television Show
I'll admit, at the beginning of the show I saw a promising concept that yielded minimal satisfaction, but the character of Walter, played to perfection by John Noble, kept me interested long enough for this show to finally start to reach its potential.
Sure, it's a storyline that's been done frequently what with the X-Files and other similar but less lucrative series, but Fringe has a lot going for it. The show has a good cast that sometimes displays a bit of wooden acting here and there and the protagonist Olivia started out seemingly frigid and more bland than rice and beige combined, but as the season carried on, everything started to improve episode by episode.
There are twists and turns at every corner, a lot of cast members to keep things fresh and chemistry between leads Olivia and Peter that is played to perfection so as to offer the obligatory but not overwhelming will they/won't they angle that most crime shows feel the somewhat unnecessary need to touch upon. But at least thus far the show has been successful in keeping the possibility as a background afterthought and have only made efforts to develop their friendship, which is a safe bet so early in the series.
While in the beginning the show took itself too seriously, the writers and producers seem to have finally decided to go with what works, especially evidenced in the blossoming of Olivia Dunham. And while she won't be a fan favorite any time soon, she has become increasingly more likable and easier to relate to.
Only time will tell if Fringe will age like fine and well-cared for wine or simply turn vinegary from neglect, but the twists, turns, the increasingly bizarre story lines and Walter's presence are enough to make a sci-fi fan or crime show buff want to tune in.
Too Loyal of an Adaptation that Suffers from Corny Dialogue
Let me start off with a basic disclaimer, though it almost seems silly because most people judge a review by the rating and subheading. I am a fan of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. The books, and even the movie, is a fun form of escapism for people of all ages...though primarily the target audience seems to be adolescent girls with stars in their eyes over the fictional Edward Cullen.
The movie is made quite well, though some of the casting is suspect (the choice of Carlisle leaves much to be desired) and whether you are a die-hard fan of the books or not, one must acknowledge the corniness that is Twilight. Admittedly it's different when you're reading two teenagers profess their undying love and swear an eternal commitment, but when you see it on film it is undeniably cheesy, and there is nothing Catherine Hardwick, Robert Pattinson or Kristen Stewart can do about it.
The high school awkwardness is endearing and rings true as opposed to what Hollywood typically portrays adolescence to be (re American Pie, Gossip Girl, almost any teen movie of the nineties) it's easy to identify with Bella Swan, fish out of water and chock full of clumsiness.
The script simply reflects the novel, and it suffers accordingly. Some of the hackneyed lines could have been removed without detriment, and some of the cringe worthy scenes even evoke laughter from the crowd. The meadow scene, a fan favorite, is disappointing and almost silly, evoking awkward giggles when the bad CGI kicks in.
It's an entertaining movie that followed the popular book, but a less loyal adaptation would have been better.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Worth Its Weight in Fun
Once upon a time August was considered a sort of dumping ground for subpar films that couldn't make the grade for the May through July season, but recently late summer films have been triumphant.
Ben Stiller's latest film takes place on the set of a Vietnam War movie based on memoir by Four Leaf Tayback, who is an intense veteran and amputee played to perfection by a nearly unrecognizable Nick Nolte.
Thanks to the unreasonable and ridiculous behavior displayed by the four main actors, the studio threatens to pull the plug on the war epic. Fear of failure drives the desperate director to take Tayback's advice and drop the divas into the wilderness.
The cast is led by Ben Stiller, who both acted in and directed the film, playing fading action star Tugg Speedman who sees this as his last chance to stay afloat in the movie industry.
The amazingly talented Robert Downey Jr. takes an unforgettable turn portraying Kirk Lazarus, a passionate method actor who undergoes a controversial surgery in order to portray the black platoon sergeant.
Some of the funniest moments come from his attempts to embody a stereotypical African American. Lazarus's extreme submersion into the role leaves him incapable of dropping the character, cleverly satirizing the lengths actors are willing to go to in order to perfect their 'craft.'
Jack Black portrays Jeff 'Fats' Portnoy, a lowbrow comedian hooked on everything but phonics, suffers through withdrawals throughout the course of the film and his crudeness opens up many comedic avenues.
Actual African American rap star Alpa Chino, portrayed by Brandon T. Jackson, butts heads with Lazarus, disgusted by the actor's ridiculous dedication to becoming and acting like a black man.
The cast of the epic catches the attention of the jungle's prime drug manufacturers, the Flaming Red Dragon Gang, who initially believes that the oblivious thespians are a threat to their organization.
Speedman continues to believe that the whole experience is doctored and remains convinced that the cameras are still rolling even after the team is ambushed by the drug dealers and real landmines explode.
It is levelheaded rookie actor Kevin Sandusky, played by Jay Baruchel, who holds the team together when Speedman goes off on his own to continue making the movie that everyone else realizes is long over.
When Speedman is captured by the malicious drug lords and forced to perform his critically panned role of Simple Jack for the locals, his costars must think of a way to rescue him as well as save their own skins.
While the action is well spaced and the film is punctuated by many belly laughs, Tropic Thunder is not for the light of heart and is rated R for good reason. There's vulgarity enough for everybody as well as grossly realistic severed limbs and bad language galore.
Downey Jr. leads the pack, portraying the preposterously serious Lazarus with a straight face, despite all of his laughable absurdities, but he does not stand alone. The cast is strong and the dynamic between the five clueless actors creates the perfect environment for both clever comedy as well as the occasional cheap laugh.
The controversy surrounding the film is not without merit for there are many risqué moments and vulgar jokes that could easily upset the sensitive.
However, the offense taken by Lazarus adopting black face and the debate besieging Speedman's portrayal of a mentally challenged character is taken out of context. One can only presume that those who take such great offense to "Tropic Thunder," never bothered to see it.
The point of both controversial depictions is to poke fun at the movie industry and how actors, like fictional Lazarus and Speedman, can take both themselves and their roles far too seriously.
Tropic Thunder succeeds as a great ensemble piece, the main and supporting actors playing off each other perfectly. There is even a hilarious bit part by a nearly unrecognizable Tom Cruise.
This is a movie best taken with a laugh and a grain of salt and true fans of Downey Jr., Stiller and Black will not be disappointed. The politically correct and easily offended should do their best to avoid it.
How dare they?
The latest in the epic series of "Indiana Jones" has completely messed up my ideas behind the worthiness of a film due to its chronology. Before this installment, Raiders of the Lost Ark was by far my favorite, followed by The Temple of Doom and, in last place by far, The Last Crusade. Now Spielberg, Lucas and Ford came together again and made a complete mockery of my belief that movies and their sequels diminish in value by the order they are created. I'm happy to be wrong.
The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull holds up to the hype, it has that old Indiana Jones feel surrounding it, with action, suspense, romance and the supernatural neatly tied into one explosive package. While The Last Ark is still, in my opinion, the best of the series, this forth installment certainly holds up to the precedent set by the previous films.
Harrison Ford is amazing, even in his mid sixties he can give those Commies a run for their money. Cate Blanchett is a great villainess, Karen Allen is fantastic as Jones's returning love interest, even Shia LaBeouf, who I had reservations about, served the film well as a sort of aspiring tough guy who bumbles along the way. It's a must see, and those who are already whining and complaining need to take a deep breath and realize that all the elements that made the series great are still alive and well in this movie, though perhaps not quite so strong as in the beginning.
Leatherheads Entertains, But Ultimately Fizzes
While the dialog is clever and the acting is up to par, the mix of sports and romance ultimately falls flat. The legitimizing of football in the 1920's is the main plot point, with Clooney's Dodge Connelly attempting to popularize it through recruiting war hero turned college football phenomenon, Carter Rutherford, played by Krasinski.
The plot thickens when an officer who fought alongside Rutherford claims that the golden-boy's actions during the war are less than heroic.
Zellweger's ambitious Lexie Littleton doggedly pursues the truth behind the tall tales, all the while being pursued by the meant-to-be charming football has-been Connelly and the bright eyed Rutherford, who's reputation she is meant to dismantle. While Zellwegger looks the part of a '20's bombshell, Littleton is little more than an instigating character meant to stir up rivalry and trouble.
Though Littleton and Connelly's repartee is meant to mirror that of classic characters, she remains a shadow of prior female protagonists and never comes fully into her own. Her wavering affections for Rutherford and Connelly do not fit into the classic feminine archetype she was meant to embody.
While Clooney's smooth-talking Connelly was written with the intent of being charming, his actions oftentimes appear more arrogant than anything else. He is an unabashed trickster both on and off the field, but instead of coming off as an artful beguiler, he instead appears dishonest and at times unworthy.
Krasinski's Rutherford is by far the most charming and likable character in the film; his aw-shucks demeanor is disarmingly enchanting.
While Rutherford was built up as a rival for the aging Connelly, it is difficult to perceive in what way they are meant to compete with each other. He is stuck in a lie that snowballed into epic proportions, and his naiveté shows when he is genuinely wounded by Littleton's betrayal.
The remotely villainous CC Frazier, played by Jonathan Pryce, is an amusing feature of the film. His immoral approach to business and his eager desire to take advantage of the talent of others, namely Rutherford, shows a different and less promising side to the professionalizing of football.
While the conflict between Rutherford and Connelly appears somewhat stilted, the banter between the two is unequaled throughout the film. Most of the truly funny moments are between the two, honoring slapstick bits made famous in early cinema.
Randy Newman's swinging score is jazzy and jaunty, adding light excitement and highlights the screwiest scenes.
The Mention, and the ignoring of, prohibition also added legitimacy to the film, leading to an entertaining old-fashioned police chase involving Littleton and Connelly.
The football scenes were initially exciting, with Connelly's dupes and playing dirty rallying the spirit of football and Rutherford's clean and direct approach offering an interesting parallel. However, the final game is rather anticlimactic.
What was meant to be the pivotal scene in the football game was dissatisfying and confusing, using old suspense-building clichés to mount a weak scene. The final game was meant to be dull in order to put across Connelly's assertion that the rules of football ruin the game, but nonetheless it results in disappointment.
The costume designs, including the old-fashioned football uniforms and Littleton's various old time dresses make one feel as if they are taking a look back into the past, as does the beautiful cinematography.
"Leatherheads," is entertaining and fun, but its attempt to emulate the past genre ends up ultimately dissatisfying.
The Departed (2006)
Best film of '06, hands down, feet up. This is not a point on which I am willing to argue, because while Babel was well-acted, Little Miss Sunshine was hysterical and Letters From Iwo Jima was fascinating, no movie that year came close to being the cinematic masterpiece that "The Departed" is. The leads and supporting actors were not good, they were fantastic, gritty and raw. The moral fiber is shredded, the line separating good and bad faded, and drugs, money, and crime reign dominant. There was no one shining star in this film, Wahlberg, DiCaprio, Sheen, Damon and lets not forget Nicholson were superb. The camera angles were innovative and the writing was amazing, if there is one bone to pick its the semi-weak performance of the only central female character, and even that is only in comparison to the extremely talented cast surrounding her.
Magical and fantastical
There are not many movies around that have given me a feeling like Stardust did all throughout the course of the film. As magically fairy-tale-like as The Princess Bride, Stardust is most definitely the most wonderful fantasy spectacle of the 2000's as well as the 1990's. Exciting, hilarious and equipped with wonderful imagery as well as unforgettable characters, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro's especially, I challenge anyone to watch this movie without a smile. From the first ten minutes of the film you know perfectly well how it will end, but it is the journey and not the destination that enthralls the viewer from start to finish.
Ten stars, and not a decimal less.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
For once, I'm laughing with them...all the way to the bank
I may be in the minority, seeing as I was shocked to read all of the negative impressions on the third installment of the Spiderman series, and I found myself enjoying it more than the former two. This combines elements of campy humor consistent with the comic books, action and a mushy love story-turned-betrayal and whatnot, making it the sort of film you cross your legs real tight to avoid having to take a bathroom break and missing a moment. It was sheer entertainment, exciting and nerve-wracking with dialog that should be hovering from a speech bubble overhead. The second film had so many eye-rolling, lame, supposed-to-be-cute moments with formulaic elements and predictable story lines that I feared the worst when entering the theater, and I was delighted to find that instead of a continuation of this, we were faced with a script that pokes fun at itself and its roots justly, making the characters sympathetic and understandable instead of infuriating.
I give it an 8/10 because I enjoyed every second, and for once it seemed that the parts I was laughing at were supposed to be funny.
Not Bad At All
Seeing as I had no choice in seeing TMNT this weekend, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised to find myself not repulsed by the movie. It was lame, it was hokey and the jokes were targeted toward younger people (fortunate seeing as I went with my seven and five year old cousins) but it was well done and definitely entertaining. The pace was a good one, the story was interesting but not so complex as to lose the target audience. The actions sequences were cheesy, but what is to be expected in a movie called 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'? As a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan I was glad to see something recent of hers that I am not ashamed of, and happy that this film will definitely be a favorite of many kids, as well as it already acquiring a bit of a cult following in high school students.
I give it a 7 out of 10 because while it is by no means a perfect movie, it certainly keeps you interested from start 'til finish.
Glorious and wonderful masterpiece
As an avid Lord of the Rings, Pulp Fiction and Departed fan (I know, a bit of a geek) I must say that seeing 300 in theaters gave me the best feeling I have ever experienced in my history at the cinema. The concept of an 'army' of 300 men plus allies being able to do what it is that they did is unbelievable...until you see it for yourself.
With no 'big names' this movie, in it's entirety, centers around itself and its characters and its own story lines and visual effects, opposed to many films nowadays that seem to revolve around the actors they lasso into playing the roles.
Every moment depicted is breathtakingly perfect, the cinematography unbelievably fascinating as well as the battle scenes that embody the Frank Miller-esquire manner of fighting, making the deaths almost comical and quite drawn out.
There is nothing about this film that I would change, given the opportunity, and for this I award 300 with a 10/10, because I just can't rate it any higher.