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Good in a Psychological Sci-Fi Way
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was heralded as the big resurrection of the franchise. The original series lasted three seasons. They managed a two season animated series that wasn't much remembered at the time. But it became a huge phenomenon in syndication. After the enormous success of Star Wars, studios looked to any science fiction franchise and Paramount had Star Trek. The genius Gene Roddenberry was at the time making a second live series and essentially reformatted some ideas into a feature and thus TMP was born.
The movie follows James T. Kirk after being promoted to admiral as he retakes control of the revamped Enterprise. His mission is to stop an unknown force that destroys everything in its path from reaching Earth. He butts heads with the Enterprise's new captain, William Decker, and reunites with Spock, who has been away on his own mission.
V'Ger is the kind of story that the series did quite often. Unfortunately, the story as it is comes off as a single episode stretched to two hours. There's a lot of filler and sequences stretched out to overly long lengths. The warp sequence is one that is largely unnecessary except to show that Kirk doesn't know all about the new design, which they did in other ways. The shuttle trip around the Enterprise is nice to see the new ship, but goes on too long. And there's far too many long shots of going through V'Ger where nothing happens except the ship moving. They could have fleshed the story out, but instead they padded it. The ending is nice and thoughtful in the way the show was. However, it ultimately lacks that personal touch. Voyage Home would do the overpowering object attacking Earth story much better.
The entire main cast returns. That in itself was special considering that some had disliked their time on the show and they all had moved on to other things. The characters are a mixed bag. They don't have much of a story besides Kirk and Spock. Kirk is dealing with his "desk job." Spock is searching for peace between his human and Vulcan sides. McCoy provides the same great humor but he, Uhura, Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu are just there. Decker seems to have the beginnings of a story, but he is only really interesting because his relationship with Ilia is the prototype for Riker and Troi in The Next Generation.
The special effects were considerably good for its time. The redesigned Enterprise is absolutely gorgeous, probably the best looking ship in the franchise. While going on too long, the scene of Scotty and Kirk flying around the ship is a beautiful scene to see. The look of V'Ger and the dissolving effects are top notch. It is still great to look at. Honestly, I would love to see this rereleased in theaters in 3D.
Promoting Kirk to admiral was a great storytelling device that served the franchise well. Sure, the following movies would deal with it better. Stuff that paid off in Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home, and Generations started here. The fact that he's jealous of his subordinate Decker for commanding "his ship" really speaks to his character. The scene where the two argue following the comet incident was well written.
The music made for this movie became the iconic music of the franchise. The main theme here became the recurring theme of every following film through Nemesis and the main score for The Next Generation. Goldsmith's score is fantastic, and easily as iconic as Williams' Star Wars music. The soundtrack is worth buying, especially for the bonus disc with all the insightful interviews.
This was the movie that introduced the redesigned Klingon make-up that would be featured in the franchise to come. In the series, they came off as just recolored Oriental-looking humans. This made them look truly alien.
In retrospect, it's really only notable as the movie that brought the franchise back into public attention. I will say that the movie works in a slow, methodical 2001: A Space Odyssey way. There isn't any big action sequence, besides the Klingons and space station getting attacked. It's more contemplative, allowing you time to think. If you don't mind the slowness, it is enjoyable. It may not rank among the best of Star Trek, but it's a fine movie on its own. The movie helped revive Star Trek. Though it was Wrath of Khan that saved its life.
Gears of War: Judgment (2013)
Should Have Been Gears of War 3 DLC
Gears of War: Judgment is both a prequel to the first game and midquel to the third. That's because the game is broken into two parts: Judgement which follows Baird's Kilo company shortly after E-Day, and Aftermath which follows Baird and Cole's adventures during GoW3. Each part plays like two completely different games simply put together because of the similar characters.
The graphics are just as good as GoW3, though no better. The voice acting is still good. The basic game mechanics are still fun. The controls have changed from previous games, such as no longer having to switch from guns to grenades to use them. It's a little strange at first but they're quick to get used to. They also add some fun new guns.
Judgment is simply too different from other Gears. Normally you play long drawn out sections, but in this section you play very short parts. At the end they add up your score and give you stars. It feels very much like an Arcade game rather than regular campaign. It seems like just as you're getting into the groove you have to stop and see your score. The series has never had an outstanding story, but this really ruins what story the game has. If you are playing for points or difficulty, you can add an extra wrinkle to the game like tougher enemies, less ammo, or a time limit. They call it declassified missions, but it adds nothing to the story. It's okay, but only worth it for those looking for a challenge.
The story follows Baird leading Kilo squad just after E-Day. They've been put on trial for disobeying orders. Each of the four get their own section where you get to play as them. None of them play any different, it's just cosmetic. It's nothing too important to the series, just go after some general named Karn. Given the title, it would have been better to follow Marcus' trial since that actually impacts the overall story. Or maybe the actual E-Day rather than some random battle after. It doesn't feel like there's any real weight to the story here since we already know the ending. It's nice to see things before the Hammer Strikes left the world in grey ruins. Baird is there, but not his snarky self. I guess it's because he's supposed to be in charge, but it just feels off. Cole hardly says anything which is very weird considering how talkative he is in the other games. At the very least they could have brought in some story from the books and explained that he's so quiet because his family just died. Sofia is nice to look at, but mostly there for exposition. Paduk, a former enemy of the COG just trying to fight the greater enemy, is incredibly dynamic. He makes the section worth it. However, the whole thing just feels like a set-up for the story in Aftermath.
Aftermath is basically GoW3 DLC. Remember how you spent that one level playing as Cole trying to save Delta from events in the previous level? That's pretty much what this is. While in GoW3 you went after the submarine, this takes place at the same time as you find a reinforcements. Carmine shows up, with no introduction here, and you team up with Paduk, set up in Judgment. It plays like the classic Gears, with the new controls, but it's not particularly long. It felt like the deleted scene from GoW2, like it was something they just didn't have time for the GoW3 release.
Sadly, this hardly feels like the full-fledged game they charged. It's a little less than what we got with Halo: ODST. Instead of the Horde mode that the last two popularized you get Overrun, which you have to defend three points until they're all destroyed. It's okay but not as fun as Horde. There was so much potential that was wasted. If you enjoyed the Gears of War series you would enjoy it if you don't expect too much from it. But this won't make any new fans.
The Tomb of Dracula
I love Marvel Comics. I love all the shows (for the most part) and the movies (again, mostly). I find the characters incredibly interesting and love to know about it. I'm particularly interested in animation. I had read all about Marvel's modern animated movies, but learned that there were two relatively unknown movies: Dracula and The Monster of Frankenstein. Marvel and Toei Animation made a deal to make several of their properties, but those were the only two produced.
Dracula is inspired by The Tomb of Dracula. The comic features Dracula's grandson finding his body and encountering vampire hunters like Blade. I picked up a collected edition and it's quite...odd to say the least (it was the 70s). This film is loosely inspired by the comics and features a few of the characters, but greatly alters the story. Oddly enough, the comics weren't available in Japan at the time so it's an odd choice that this was made above Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, or Hulk.
The film follows both Dracula and his grandson Drake. Dracula meets a woman, falls in love, and has a child. Drake meets a team of vampire hunters and searches for his grandfather. Satan, angry at Dracula for stealing his bride, plans to destroy the vampire lord. The meeting of the three stories eventually leads to a big climatic showdown.
The tone is all over the place. There's a lot of late 70s and early 80s camp, silly hairstyles, plot devices that stretch believability, and other problems that were common in anime at the time. On the other hand, there's a lot of dark stuff. Early on, Dracula graphically kills two women on screen. There's a flashback to his days of Vlad the Impaler which is more historically accurate than most other screen versions (violence-wise). Some of the characters even take a side-trip to Hell. And one female character appears fully naked from the side. I wouldn't say it's scary, but there's a shot of birds picking at dead bodies on pikes (hence the real-life Vlad's nickname) that could be disturbing. I actually applaud the darker elements. That's something almost no one in animation deals with. The problem is, the campier elements make it too silly for adults but the sex and violence make it a bit much for children.
The voice acting is, again, standard for anime at the time. Unless it was Disney or Don Bluth, no one took animation seriously and certainly not anime (Akira being nearly a decade away). At the time, translations were done quickly and cheaply. It seemed that the same ten people did everything anime. The voices work for their purposes but not a one is anything more than adequate.
The animation is astounding. Anime has always featured terrific animation. Characters look realistic, not the oversized hands and eyes that American animation often has. There's a great richness to the images and backgrounds. Lots of interesting looking set pieces, even for tiny little scenes or just single shots. They do have the occasional problem, but it was typical to cheat every once in a while.
Dracula is an interesting tale. I would recommend it to anime and/or Marvel buffs looking for something different. There's actually a lot of interesting ideas. For example, Dracula resents his life as a vampire and his need to consume people, though Let the Right One In would do that idea better. If only this movie was simply a better movie. There's simply too many problems to take this seriously.
Alan Wake (2010)
One of the Best Games Ever Made
Alan Wake is a third-person shooter where you fight darkness with light. You have to burn off the darkness (basically a shield) before you can kill them. Enemies will pop out of nowhere and sometimes surround you easily. You're not some invincible soldier with unlimited ammo, but a simple guy scrounging what you can find.
The story is fairly straightforward. You've lost your wife and a week of your life. You search the Washington wilderness encountered people, objects, and even animals possessed by a dark force. Meanwhile, you find pages to a book you haven't written but is coming true around you. As you go on, you learn that there is an evil force in Cauldron Lake that takes control of creative people. You battle this ancient evil using only the tools you have.
I really enjoyed the story. I'm a big fan of Stephen King books, horror movies, and suspenseful shows. I very much appreciated the media references, almost like a video game Scream. One of the big things about the story is that it is quite scary. And not just a pop-out and say boo kind of way. There were times when the dark fog would roll in and I'd almost be too afraid to move ahead.
I play a lot of shooters (Halo, Gears of War, etc), but I enjoyed playing a game with a different kind of mechanic. It's not just point and shoot. There's a lot more thinking involved. One enemy can easily overwhelm, so being surrounded is a big problem. They also don't drop ammo so you have to be mindful of how you fight. On the other hand, there's only so many enemies in an area (none of that annoying unlimited enemies other games use) and then you can explore without harassment. There's several collectibles (cans, manuscript pages, caches), though only the pages contribute anything to the story.
The thing I like is that this feels like a real place with real people. The women aren't all bustling supermodels (Alice Wake aside). The town seems like it's living and breathing, or what little you experience is. The characters are all written well with believable dialogue. The voice acting is really good, not just the same five voice actors that are in every other game. Alan is amazing, and his narration never gets dull. Barry is funny and is dynamic enough to be more than mere comedy relief. The amount of detail in the levels is amazing. I know it was originally supposed to be open world, and I kind of wish it was since there seems like so much to look around. Though, I really like the structure of the game as it is.
If I have any complaints, it's just two. First, while the animation is generally fantastic the mouths sometimes move like they're made of rubber. Second, there are times when enemies can be too overwhelming and others when ammo is too scarce. The level where you first run from the cops, I had to play several times cause I kept running out of flashbangs. There were some big battles where I seemed to be burning through all my flares and ammo cause there was simply too many enemies or too many tough enemies.
Alan Wake is drastically underrated with audiences. I recommend any gamer to try it out. I also played through the two DLC and American Nightmare. All of it was fun and exciting and makes me wish Alan Wake 2 was on the horizon.
As Good as the First, in Different Ways
I really liked Alan Wake. It was a different shooter game. I was quite disappointed that it didn't do better with audiences. Certainly not getting the recognition it deserved, thus not making enough to warrant a sequel. So I was very happy to hear that while we may not be getting Alan Wake 2, we got something more than just DLC like The Signal and The Writer.
American Nightmare isn't Alan Wake 2 but nor is it just DLC. It's a full game in its own right. Not really part of the story but a part of the universe. The closest thing I can think of is Halo 3: ODST. Fans of the game will certainly enjoy the new story, characters, settings, weapons, and enemies. Though I don't think it will draw in new fans since so much of the story relies on the previous game.
The game follows Wake, still trapped in the Dark Place, as he navigates a television show he wrote that came to life thanks to his evil twin Mr. Scratch. He meets three women who help him along the way. I'm a little disappointed that the only three people he meets are gorgeous supermodels when the first game featured more realistic women. When he reaches a certain point, Scratch resets the story and Wake tries again. Scratch is constantly tormenting Wake with what he's doing while the good guy's trapped. Each cycle Wake and his friends do a little better until Scratch is finally defeated. As I said, it doesn't seem part of the story as it doesn't have much to do with Wake leaving Cauldron Lake, but we'll have to wait for Alan Wake 2, if any, to see if this does matter.
The game play is essentially the same. Burn off the darkness before you can kill Taken. There's new enemies like those who split in light and can be defeated right away, flocks of birds that form into men, and giants. I don't care for the giants as they're a bit too stereotypical of video game enemies, and Alan Wake was anything but typical. You're given much more weapons than the first game. In the other, you had two shotguns, a rifle, pistol, and two "grenades". This features a wide variety including nail guns, magnums, semi- and automatic weapons. You can also access weapon caches basically for unlimited ammo. It makes the game slightly easier as it's easier to take down bigger foes and no real need to watch your aim.
If I have any complaint, it's that the game isn't as scary as the first. The first was tense, suspenseful, and fear inducing. I've read some reviews saying this is more like a Tarantino film, and I generally agree. I had lots of fun, but there was never any part I was afraid to go on. At times I felt a little too invincible. I don't think I actually died at all. This time around, only concentrating the light burns off darkness (rather than the first game where it simply burned it faster). But then the batteries quickly refill so I almost never had to replace batteries except in tough battles. The story is somewhat short, though I didn't bother with the arcade mode. Also, beyond The Twilight Zone, there's not really the book, television, and movie references that were a big part of the first game.
This is another entry is a very enjoyable series. I'm saddened that it doesn't sound like Alan Wake 2 is coming any time soon. But what we did get was worth the ride.
Dark Shadows (2012)
Poor Effort from Burton
I don't know what to make of this movie. I really don't. It tries to do so many things and ends up doing nothing. The plot is all over the place. There's a lot going on so it's hard to find the important details.
I've been a fan of Tim Burton as long as I can remember. I grew up watching his two Batman films, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands. I've followed his work from Pee-wee's Big Adventure through Big Fish. His recent efforts (Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland) have noticeably lacked his earlier charm. I've only been disappointed with two of his movies: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which was more due to how good the original is) and now Dark Shadows.
The movie is based on a Gothic soap opera from the 60s and 70s. Johnny Depp plays a vampire who awakes to find his dysfunctional descendants plagued by the witch who made him. I have very vague memories of the show, mostly when I caught the last five minutes while waiting for The Incredible Hulk on Sci-Fi Channel. I know little about the series, and it seems the movie is made for fans of the show with little effort to create new ones. Besides Barnabas and Angelique, there's little development in the other characters. They all have the occasional scene but nothing memorable. These seem mostly to reference some event in the show and not really help the movie in any significant way. Worse yet, Angelique makes a horrible villain. She has no reason to act other than she loves a man who doesn't love her. The whole time I kept waiting for some dynamic motivation that never appeared.
The movie is trying to be a comedy, Gothic horror, and romantic drama but never really succeeding at any. The problem is, anytime the movie starts getting into one particular genre it changes gears. The separate elements never really blend together. I understand that the show has a certain camp factor to it, but I've read that this was mostly unintentional. Perhaps if they had simply made it a comedic Hammer films style film, or romantic comedy, or Gothic romance. But the three together never work as a cohesive whole.
The finale (not really spoiling anything here) is representative of all the problems of the movie. By the time the third act came out I had somewhat zoned out. I knew what was going on, but simply didn't care. It felt like the movie was just going through a series of checkpoints but without any feeling. There are revelations that mostly come out of nowhere, but apparently are based on the show. The whole thing screams of committee filmmaking, like the studio put too many demands on the film without letting Burton be Burton. Either that, or since Depp and Burton were such fans of the show they tried to hit too many major story points and forgetting to make it into a single film. It's okay to cut stuff out for a sequel. The first Terminator and Indiana Jones films cut out material that they ended up putting into the second. It's okay to not include every single idea.
Had the movie stuck with the fish out of water story, this would have been great. The best scenes are Barnabas encountering "modern" life like roads, television, and pot-smoking hippies. Depp makes these moments quite hilarious. I found the line confusing McDonalds with Satan to be very effective.
The only really good thing about the movie is that Burton certainly has his unique look. He is definitely one of the most visually distinct directors out there, if not the most. Every frame of the movie has his visual stamp on it.
Honestly, I can't really recommend this to anyone. It's not even an okay-at-best effort from Burton like Alice in Wonderland was. The movie won't win over any new fans for the show. And fans of the show will probably find this to be little more than a overly-silly CliffNotes version. It's too dark to be a comedy and too silly to be a drama. The series is fondly remembered. The movie won't be.
Scream 2 (1997)
Exception to the Sequel Rule
In one early scene, Randy claims that sequels are inherently inferior. The characters then list several examples of sequels that have matched and possibly surpassed the original. And Scream 2 ranks among them.
Scream 1 was great. I gave it a wonderful review. But somehow, Scream 2 managed to do it all better. The suspense is greater, the kills gorier, the laughs funnier, and cast better.
With Scream 1 having been made into a movie within the movie, Sydney and the other survivors are all trying to move on with her and Randy in college finding new friends and loves. They're reunited when the killings begin again as someone sets out to make a sequel. A new setting means new rules with some twists and turns along the way.
Just as before, we have no idea who the killer(s) is until the final act. We get the same kind of false leads and misdirect, such as people being gone at Ghostface's appearances and wearing the same boots as the killer. Once the identity(ies) is revealed, it's great to go back and see how the person(s) manipulated events without the mask. SPOILER Mickey's motivation works well within the movie. Ms. Loomis' also works well, but I don't like that they never really built her up. She comes out of nowhere with little basis before the finale. END SPOILER
The cast are all wonderful. Neve Campbell shows a great progression in her character, and of the four movies this is the one I think she's sexiest in. Cox, Arquette, and Kennedy all return as wonderful as before. O'Connell, Gellar, Schreiber, and Neal are great in new, or at least expanded, roles. None of them are merely copies from the first movie. Though it's Kennedy and Olyphant steal every scene they're in, much like Randy and Stu did in the first. Their dialog together is great, especially as they keep referring to various sequels. At least none of them look quite as "evil" as Billy did.
Of course, being a horror movie it's the scares that are really matters. The suspense is built up much better than the first. The scene where Sydney must escape the cop car is probably the most suspenseful in the entire series, maybe in the genre. The movie also plays on the fact that audiences know the standards set by the original.
Scream 2 is definitely on par with the original, and in my opinion the best of the series. This is definitely a must-see for fans of the original and of horror. There's really nothing to disappoint here. It may share the same general story as the original, but like Terminator 2 it adds enough to be its own experience.
Modern Horror Classic
Scream was made at a time when slashers were on their way out. Michael, Jason, and Freddy had lost their touch. They were battling psychics, going to New York, and all sorts of weird stories that went completely against what the franchises built themselves on. Wes Craven had some luck with with New Nightmare, a meta return to the franchise he built. But it was this movie that really rebuilt the genre and brought it back to glory.
The movie is about a group of horror movie buffs who find themselves in a horror movie. Much like the original Friday the 13th, there is a mystery as to who the killer(s) is. It focuses on Sidney, the incredibly sexy Neve Campbell, whose mother was killed a year before and learns how she is tied to the killings. They are all aware of the movies this film references.
New Nightmare may have been the first, but Scream was the first to popularize the idea of self-aware characters. Any movie buff will recognize the references (Halloween, Friday the 13th, Prom Night, etc) beyond those the movie directly references. The movie is a love letter to the genre and will make film buffs out of anyone. I know this movie is probably the reason I'm such a film buff, particularly of horror movies, myself.
I love that the movie is a mystery. There's so few horror movies that include mystery aspects. The original Friday the 13th tried it, but Ms. Voorhees came out of nowhere. Prom Night did it, but the killer was pretty obvious. This is very much like an Agatha Christie story. The suspects are all there, and they're all guilty until they're gutted or the mask is taken off. The reveal is quite satisfying. Their motivation is fitting. Screams 3 and 4 would be disappointing, but this one was really good. And the movie just gets better with multiple viewings so you can see new layers to the real killer throughout the movie.
The cast is good. Campbell looks great and is a great heroine along the lines of Alien's Ripley. McGowan isn't just a dumb, horny blonde. Cox proves she isn't just her Friends character. Arquette is hilarious. Though it's Lillard and Kennedy who steal the movie. The two are terrific and hilarious in every scene they're in, especially the "Rules of Horror" scene. My only complaint is that Ulrich looks a little too "evil," though he otherwise does a great job. They all are convincing as high school students.
Of course, what really makes this movie great is the frights. This is an incredibly effective scary movie. Like all the best slasher films, this one relies on suspense over gore. There's plenty of blood, but it's the build up to the kills that really scare people. The opening scene is probably one of the best in the genre. Anyone can make a person jump and enough gore will gross even those with the best stomachs, but suspense is the best way to really scare someone. The movie really spends the time to make you care about the characters, so when their time comes you're actually rooting for them rather than the killer, the main problem with later Friday the 13th films. This is one that will have you hiding behind blankets and pillows on your first watch.
The movie's use of cell phones may date the film somewhat, but Scream is a terrific film otherwise. The movie knows the genre and is one of the best of it. This is a can't miss for any horror fan, and will likely make some new fans.
Good Introduction to R Horror Movies
I don't know when I first saw this movie. I know I was young, ten or eleven maybe. I remember being scared, and probably had some trouble turning off the light that night, but it never traumatized me. I've picked it up every so often ever since and always enjoyed it. It was one of the first R rated horror movies I saw, and now I'm hooked on the genre.
This is a great film when introducing children to "harder" horror. For those ready to move on from Scooby-Doo but not ready for Night of the Living Dead or The Exorcist. It's scary and suspenseful but never terrifying. Tension builds and there are plenty of jump scares, but the frights never last for long. Take the closet monster for instance. Tension builds as Roger goes to the door and there's a big scare when it comes out. But afterwards it becomes almost silly. Same with the fish and witch. It's a lot like Evil Dead 2 in that it's never too scary to not be funny and never too funny to not be scary.
There's also a good story to go along with it. It follows Roger Cobb who grew up with his aunt in a haunted house. He went to war and saw horrible things. His son disappeared at the haunted house and he's separated from his wife. Obviously, all this ties together in some way when the aunt dies and he moves back into the house. None of it ever becomes hokey or clichéd. The film allows time to get to know Roger before the haunting begins so we like him and understand his plight. There's also an interesting aspect regarding whether all the hauntings are real or just caused by the stress of his life.
George Wendt from Cheers plays the lovable neighbor that Roger befriends and helps. He isn't that much different than Norm but provides lots of humorous moments. The only thing I wish they did better is to make the supermodel neighbor more interesting. She's fine for some T&A and the house does something with her (which I still can never get whether that was really her or if it was just the witch), but she never really serves the story well. It's little more than a cameo just to have a model in the movie.
Each of the actors do well in their parts. All are great, though Richard Moll hams it up just a little too much in his Vietnam scenes. It features William Katt, who genre fans would know as the prom date from Carrie. This film certainly shows some range for him. The film is made by the crew who did Friday the 13th, Parts 2 and 3 and has the same visual style.
The special effects work very well for the story. The "ghosts" are practical effects using puppets, like Star Wars, which looks a lot better than stop motion. As I said before, they look scary at first but grow silly the more they're seen. The walking hand is equally disturbing and funny.
The movie may not be a classic of the genre, but it's well worth checking out. It's a descent ghost story with plenty of suspense. As I said before, this is a good movie to test children before showing them something like The Shining or Nightmare on Elm Street. Those used to more terrifying horror should know that this isn't the scariest thing on store shelves. It's a good, solid B-movie that won't really disappoint.
Regarding the sequel, I say skip it. As light as this movie is, House II is much lighter and far campier. In fact, it's more like Weekend at Bernie's than Evil Dead. It's more of a fantasy-western than horror and never scary. If you're watching this movie and want more, go with the Bruce Campbell trilogy.
How Ron Howard Stole the Grinch
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a film adaptation of the always memorable 1957 book by Dr. Seuss. The story was already adapted into the classic 1966 television special featuring Boris Karloff the Uncanny. How does it hold up compared to these and other Christmas movies? Not particularly well.
To say something nice first, the film looks great. If ever you wanted to see a Dr. Seuss book come to life, this is it. The set design is terrific. The blend of miniatures and computer generated imagery is fantastic to the point where stuff looks very convincing. The make-up effects were good enough to win an Oscar.
Jim Carrey does a great job. He obviously is having fun with the role, getting to play as over the top as he wants. His usual silly improvisation works well with the role. He also does very well in the make-up, able to perform many facial expressions that don't look real. That one iconic grin appearing to be digitally enhanced, though it wasn't. And once the movie gets to the book/special parts where the Grinch is actually stealing Christmas, Carrey shines and makes the movie incredibly fun.
The rest of the cast is okay. They are all overplayed bordering on camp, but I guess that was what Ron Howard was going for. Taylor Momsen does a decent job in her first starring role, but Cindy Lou is portrayed as far too over-the-top sweet. Every scene she's in seems to punch you in the face with how sweet she is and how cute she looks. Anthony Hopkins is fantastic as the narrator, but he's got such a good voice he could make the phone book sound interesting. This is about where the good stuff ends.
The TV special had directly adapted the book, so to turn it into a full length feature extra content had to be added. Some is welcome, most is not. I do like how they expanded on the relationship between the Grinch and Whoville since the original story did not have much. The concept of why the Grinch hates Christmas is good in theory but the way it was done was lousy. The whole "Made fun of as a kid" thing has been done dozens of times before and doesn't help the original story's true message (more on that later). The entire Whobilation sequence is dumb, tedious, and seems to exist only to fill up space. Howard had some fun and Carrey got to be silly but it hardly helps the plot in anyway. You can skip past it and not miss anything.
Ron Howard is mostly known for his dramatic movies. Backdraft, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon, and even Parenthood was more of a dramatic movie with comedic elements. And he seems out of his element by doing this campy, silly style. He would have done better with a dramedy like Parenthood. But this just isn't his style and it shows. Other directors can pull off camp with style but Howard, like Spielberg, is better suited for drama with comedy added.
The biggest problem with the movie is that it completely reverses the message of the original story. Originally, the Grinch didn't understand the true meaning of Christmas and it was the Whos who made him see the truth. In this movie, the Whos are over-commercialized gluttons who only care about material things and it is Grinch who makes them see the truth. What? Did the producers ever even read the book or watch the special? Didn't anyone involved ever say, "Hey, you got this backwards."? The reason the Grinch is a grinch is supposed to be because he just sees the material things and thinks that's all there is. Later, he realizes that stuff was only a representation of feelings. Here the Whos are all self-centered jerks, except for overly sweet Cindy Lou, who represent all the negative things about the Christmas season until the finale.
As with any adaptation, fans will tolerate any change as long as the spirit stays true to the source. But this movie was not faithful to what Seuss was trying to say. If the movie had just stuck to the original story and just expanded on Grinch's misconceptions about the season, the movie would have done very well. After all, he's supposed to be the hero and villain whereas here he is simply this green goofball doing random things up until he actually performs the title deed.
Children will probably enjoy the silly antics and goofy setting. Though my little brother (who was three when the movie came out but I don't remember when he did see it) was terrified of the Grinch for years after seeing the movie because Carrey can be intense for the younger ones. Adults will probably find the story to be dumb and full of fluff. Fans will enjoy how Carrey performs the role but may find the story to be too drastically changed. If you're looking for a good Christmas movie, there's plenty better about finding the true meaning of Christmas. Plus the classic TV special is readily available wherever this movie is sold.