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Weakest of the three
I thought Skyfall was the weakest of the three Bond films starring Daniel Craig. It was a sentimental mess with none of the hard edge of the previous films. The whole story of disappointment with M was childish. M wasn't being a nice mommy. Where is the professionalism of a double-o agent? SPOILERS ahead. I had three scenes that were a major problem to me. First when Eve was told to "take the shot" why didn't she fire again? If the hard drive was the most important item then the thing to do would be to shoot Bond and once he was out of the way to shoot Patrice and knock him off the train. Instead the scene was wrapped in this sentimental emotionalism. "Oh no I shot James Bond!" Weak. The second was the escape of Silva from the glass cage. Okay I can accept some deus ex machina reason for his slipping away, just to keep the story going, but why weren't the underground passages and tube guarded or secured. This facility was supposed to be highly guarded and top secret and all Bond had to do was to lift a grate and voilà a ladder leading to the tube. They had to know the ladder and tunnel were there when they built the place or did the entire British secret service not think about looking under the grates. It was a HUGE security hole. Did they rent the place at the last minute from an ad in the newspaper? It is a wonder some wino living in the subway didn't wander up the ladder and fall asleep in the glass cage. Come on. Why not have Patrice blow a hole in a wall that led to the tube? The third problem was the ending. If Bond knew that people were coming to kill he and M then why not get some help. I assume Britain has an army, or Special Forces, or a police department that could have been utilized. If they were out of communication then how did Patrice find them? Couldn't that dork Q do something to help? Was this action over a weekend and no one was available? How could Silva commander a helicopter and troop of men and the British secret service had nothing. The whole scheme was so amateurish. Silva should have won since he seemed more capable than the whole British government. The whole end fight sequence seemed from a different movie that would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Disappointing. Lots of action and big bangs but a weak script. I thought Javier Bardem was good as the bad guy, given the weak script. Naomie Harris is likable but the love interest part was not believable. Bérénice Marlohe was sufficiently babeish. Ralph Fiennes seems to be a good replacement for Judi Dench and the whole ending in M's office was fun.
Watch "Love Crime" instead
"Passion" was not as good as the original "Love Crime" movie. The story was the same but "Passion" added some surrealistic touches that really made no sense. The original "Love Crime" starred Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier playing the roles that Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace reenacted in "Passion". Ms. Thomas was believable as a glamorous cut-throat executive where Rachel McAdams seemed like a high school mean girl in comparison. Noomi Rapace was decent playing the Ludivine Sagnier role, in fact maybe a bit more believable, though not as much of a babe. I never got into the story that Rachel McAdams was anything but a catty girl, not some powerful executive. Maybe it was because the age difference between the executive and the assistant was greater in "Love Crime". Much of the dialog in "Passion" was stilted and flat. The story by itself was powerful but the telling of it in "Passion" seemed so amateurish, as if there was no confidence that the story could hold the audience's attention so other aspects had to be added to improve it. Those added touches made no sense and the ending was just confusing. "Love Crimes" told the story straight out and the performances held it together. I wanted so much to like "Passion" and in the end I was disappointed. "Love Crime" was a far superior movie. I rate "Passion" a 5; "Love Crime" an 8.
Good but Swedish version is better.
I enjoyed this version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". It was a well made and well acted movie and I gave it a 7/10 rating. But I enjoyed the Swedish version more, 8/10. The Swedish version was truer to the book and a bit more coherent. The acting in both movies was fine, some great performances in both and I can't really fault either movie. I thought the American version could have been a bit confusing since they took such liberties with the book's narrative. The main character of Mikael Blomkvist in the American version was a bit less conspicuous which is a good thing since I got rather sick of Mikael Blomkvist by the end of the third book. He wasn't a believable character since he was so self-righteous and such a ladies man. His portrayal by Michael Nyqvist in the Swedish version was also underplayed, and well acted. The really big difference between the versions was the portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. She was the biggest draw of the books and the movies and her character drove the narrative for me. Noomi Rapace portrayed her in the Swedish version and was wonderful in the role. She was Lisbeth Salander to me. Rooney Mara in the American version was good but not in the same league with Noomi Rapace. In the American film she came across as a more deliberately rude, petulant little girl, like a spoiled ,rich, high schooler who did what she did to get attention and anger people. Noomi Rapace's version came across as a more disturbed person, someone who just didn't have social skills or even thought about them. In the books she was more of a idiot savant or someone who could have Asperger syndrome. She was horrible mistreated as a youth but was extremely intelligent and talented. Noomi Rapace had that down. Her most interesting scenes were as Lisbeth sitting and thinking. You could see the wheels turning. You could see her figure things out. Rooney Mara didn't have that. She just was shock value. Not that she was bad in the role but just not deep enough. She bragged more and was more out there with her personality. Noomi Rapace was very internal and disliked anyone getting close to her. She had few friends and even with them she was very reserved. It was a wonderfully intriguing portrayal. Both movies are good but if you are a fan of the books you may like the Swedish version more with Noomi Rapace's portrayal of Lisbeth Salander.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
I did not enjoy this movie. I have to admit I had very low expectations for this movie and I wasn't disappointed. The animation was poor. The characters looked and moved like Bizarro marionettes. They were all acute angles and stilted jumpy movements. The character development was perfunctory and the story purely a derivation of the past Star Wars movies. I saw no innovation or original thoughts. The special effects only work in juxtaposition with human actors. The viewers can relate to the human and place themselves within the movie and be part of the action. They can relate to the actor walking into a strange, alien setting and vicariously enjoy the scene. All this is lost in animation. Anything can happen in animation. Reality becomes animation reality. The light saber is just a bright light on the screen not a dangerous weapon wielded by a human. There is no danger or excitement since it is a cartoon. The poor animation pushes us further away from our reality towards cartoon reality. The previous Star Wars movies drew us closer into its reality by having us identify with the humans. If this is the final Star Wars movie the ending is a real whimper.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Good summer movie. No masterpiece.
It is a good movie. It is not a great movie. After all of the hype I was a bit disappointed. I enjoyed the movie but thought it was just a run of the mill superhero action flick. The performances were good. All of the actors were believable and Heath Ledger's Joker was a great character but it was a one note performance. There was no real depth to the character for me. Each time he appeared he acted in the same psychotic manner but there wasn't an exploration as to why he was doing what he was doing or where he planned to take the story. The story was just a simplistic hatred of Batman and a want to unmask him. Sorry, same old, same old. Superhero movies suffer from clichéd story lines. Superman in each movie will be exposed to kryptonite. Profess his unfulfilled love for Lois Lane, (why I don't know. She is usually portrayed as some skinny, ambitious harpy), and is eventually saved from the bad guy by some babe. Spiderman yearns with unfulfilled love for his girlfriend and fights off some bad guy while reminiscing again about his Uncle, who we get to see die again. Batman will struggle with his demons while fighting off another bad guy punctuated by corrupt cops and double crosses.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is a fine actress and is attractive but she is not an outstanding beauty who would attract the Joker to her in lieu of all of the other babes in the room. It is not helpful when the script has to tell you that the character is beautiful. The character's looks should tell you she is beautiful. Monique Curnen was there to provide the corrupt cop. One of many. She was wasted. Give me something new and fresh. Not a new gadget but a new story line. Explore more than the obvious. This movie was a series of vignettes of action scenes and simplistic twists. There were way too many deus ex machina moments and the twists did nothing but provide excuses for more action scenes. SPOILER ALERT. The scene with the cop being goaded by the joker to beat him up was clumsily telegraphed. Gordan appearing again at the exact opportune moment rang false. Aaron Eckhart's accident and metamorphosis into Two-face was rushed and hardly used. It became more of a distraction from the main story of the Joker. The Joker's character could have been examined in more depth. As it was the ending felt like it was there only to provide grist for the sequel. Heath Ledger's unfortunate death, which added hype to the movie, also destroyed the ending of the movie. There was no closure. It seems more like coming attractions for the next movie. Don't get me wrong it was a fun movie but it is just a summer popcorn movie and not a wondrous masterpiece it is being touted as. See it, enjoy it and then forget it until the next installment.
I thought it was a fun movie with an odd lack of suspense. Action sequences were OK, entertaining but they lacked spark. The cast was wasted except for Cate Blanchett who was the best thing about the movie. Ray Winstone, a good actor, was almost invisible and Karen Allen was little more than a nice smile. Shia LeBeauf was a nonentity. John Hurt's character was fun but it could have been played by anybody and his enormous talent wasn't on display. Besides Cate Blanchett the cast, including Harrison Ford, were just going through the motions. I would have like to have seen more unknowns play the parts then maybe you could suspend belief long enough to enjoy the story. The beginning with the blast and rocket sled was fun. The cycle chase was good but it went down hill from there. The rest was a rerun of action scenes from past adventure flics and totally PG. A hot babe is wet jungle gear would have helped. Cate Blanchett was too cool to sweat. It was an entertaining 2 hours but really totally forgettable soon afterward. As a summer blockbuster it pales next to Ironman.
I thought "Hitman" was a stupid, poorly made movie that would appeal to teenagers who don't get out into the real world much, i.e. gamers. The dialog was trite and stifled. The acting was wooden and the characters were clichéd. I've seen "HighDef" movies and TV. This movie will never be mistaken for "HighDef". It was definitely "LoDef". Scenes were out of focus and the resolution even in set up scenery shots was poor. Most of the movie did not make much sense. The story was minimally just enough to provide some reason to show events on the screen but each scene was hardly tied to an overall structure. It was just one gory action scene after another just for the sake of having an action scene. I gave the movie a 3 rating only because Olga Kurylenko had nice long legs. Her character's personality wasn't in the least appealing but the legs were nice. Miss this movie. Miss this movie. Miss this movie.
The Kingdom (2007)
I did not like "The Kingdom". It had a bad case of shaky cam. Why film makers persist with the shaky camera to generate interest is beyond me. It seems they are incapable of framing a shot. They tend to move the camera all around and maybe think there is a good shot in there somewhere. I think they should study a movie like "Seven Samurai" to understand what a well framed shot is like. If there is some reason for a shaky camera, maybe in kinetic action shots, I can accept it but a shaky cam during a conversation plus obscured shots. Why? Is it because the actors and the conversation alone won't hold anyone's attention then consider a decent screenwriter or better actors. It is style over substance. Maybe the lack of substance in movies is the driving force. Also I have to comment on the extreme close-ups. Why? What is next, nostril cam? The elite FBI team in this movie seemed to be portrayed with the mentality of high school students. There was this snarky background banter and the jokes. Not repartee but jokes, stupid boorish jokes, and this is coming from supposedly well educated, highly trained individuals who are in Arabia investigating the death of colleagues. It was poorly written. Jamie Foxx did a good job despite the weak script. Poor Jennifer Garner obviously was suffering from some virus that caused her to look wan and misshaped and puffed up her lips. Chris Cooper, a fine actor, was wasted. My wish that Jason Bateman got shot went unfulfilled. The Arab cast was very good and seemed much more mature and realistic than the Americans. The last half of the movie was action filled and moved quickly thankfully free of the snarkiness of the rest of the movie. I did not like the anti-Arab or the anti-Islam tone of the movie. You can have bad guys and an enemy without disparaging, or joking, about a culture we seem to be ignorant about. If you like things' blowing up real good and your view of world is basically jingoistic then you may like this movie. I didn't.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The film editors had to have been on Dramamine. I disliked the shaky camera and the half obscured views. I can understand a partially blocked view if there is a point to it. Like to represent some surreptitious filming but to have the camera view blocked by intervening objects, thus bring to the forefront that the character is being filmed, i.e. that they are actually actors doing a job, seems counterproductive. I would think the goal is to get the audience to forget that they are watching a crafted production and have them suspend disbelief and get involved in the story. The stylized camera work did the opposite. I was constantly reminded that the camera was purposely obscured with blurry objects for no reason but style, like look at this I'm blocking half the shot. Aren't I cleaver? I found it very irritating. This was the weakest of the three Bourne films with the action sequences shot in a way that obscured what was actually happening. I don't like the jittering hand-held camera and extreme close-ups. I think it detracts from the movie. Maybe it makes the cinematography easier since shots don't have to be composed, just move that camera in and most of the filming could be done in a broom closet. "The DaVinci Code" sucked for the some reason. Also the 21st century deus ex machina of computers was abundantly evident. A couple of keystrokes can replace intelligent writing easily plus the computers can be fickle and reveal all if needed while being conspicuously absent when suspense is needed. Matt Damon was good in his role, looking serious and troubled, and he was effective in the fight sequences, as far as I could tell. Joan Allen was very good as an intelligent mature woman, rare to see in the bimbo age of movies. David Strathairn, who I typically like, was too much of a cliché for my tastes. A standout was Julie Stiles. She had this tight lipped intelligent look. You could just see the wheels turning as she analyzed each situation I believed she was an intelligence operative who was trained to keep secrets and revealing very little of what she was feeling. She was great. Albert Finney did a competent job in another clichéd role. It seems that in these movies the idealistic, good people are young and the bastardly, manipulators are all old fogies. I would rate this movie as a weak 7 out of 10 on the basis of the strong performance of Ms. Stiles and Mr. Damon and on the basis of a continued compelling story. The camera work downgraded my rating.
"1408" was an effective scary movie. I typically do not go for this type of movie. I don't believe in ghosts or supernatural phenomena and so just the depiction of either leaves me unimpressed. How well the movie tells the story and pulls you into its world is very important. Too often the premise and execution is just silly and not in the least scary. Frank Booth in "Blue Velvet" was scary. Anyway I enjoyed the movie. It was paced well and slowly revealed the scary bits. I think it was effective because it could be seen as just a mental breakdown of the protagonist, that what was happening was just happening inside his head. I'm going to issue a SPOILER warning here so I don't wreck the watching experience for others but I really want to comment on the false ending. I thought the false ending was effective since it was the way most of these types of movies end and I was ready to leave when things started to go weird again. I was surprised and amused at how effective it was. SPOILER warning defunct. John Cusack was effective in the role of the disbelieving author. He plays the world weary part well. Samuel L. Jackson was good as always. The movie is not a gore fest but is more of a physiological thriller and I recommend it. I give it 7 out of 10 stars.
4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" was a childish movie. It was obviously meant for a teenage crowd. I found it ridiculously saccharine. The whole story about the wedding and the delays and Reed Richards' divided attention was just so adolescent. I know the movie is supposed to be comic book but couldn't the producers create something that appealed to people over 15 years old. The effects were technically impressive but pretty devoid of any real suspense. The characters were just clichés and the acting was just good enough for you to know that. Jessica Alba can't really act. She is really hot looking but utterly unconvincing and rather boring. I can't really say that this film is worth seeing. Maybe it is good enough for a rent, maybe.
Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
Better than 12 but not by much
Ocean's Thirteen was better than Ocean's 12. That isn't saying much since O12 was horrible. O13 was a tad better. Al Pacino helped by creating a character who was believable and entertaining. Ellen Barkin was terribly miscast. Her role would have been played better by some riper, younger actress. Brad Pitt look very please with himself and George Clooney avoided being too smug. Neither were all that entertaining and the movie focused on them most of the time. I thought the movie was slow. The caper consisted of solving a series of problems in rigging all of the gambling at Al Pacino's casino. The rigging was accomplished with a bunch of unexplained, magical devices. It felt more like Wily E. Coyote's Acme products than actual plausible products. The mine digging machine was ridiculous. It was way too fantastical to be believed. The rigging of the diamond prize was clever and believable. The trouble with sequels is that the characters are not developed further but are just referred to in a kind of role shorthand. The whole screenplay was a shorthand version of a caper movie. The Ocean story is that these really clever guys have to rob an entire casino against great odds which they accomplish with neato devices and tricks. This movie followed the outline but failed to develop the robbery techniques beyond magical Acme devices. How did pouring powder in the dice raw material actually make the dice roll over by pressing another magic device? It wasn't engineering it was magic. The movie required one to suspend too much belief in reality to make the caper work. A drilling machine in the middle of a major city, that breaks and has to be replaced in a day, and bores a huge tunnel under the city with no one noticing. Come on! It would take months for a team of engineers to accomplish the task of just getting the machine started. The caper just didn't work. The ensemble casting wasn't an ensemble. It was three stars with other people around. The acting wasn't terrible but just egocentric. Wait for a dark and stormy night and rent it.
Knocked Up (2007)
"Knocked up" had some funny moments and I laughed occasionally but I left the movie feeling very disenchanted. This is another California movie. It is all about this materialistic, drug ridden, shallow, selfish, youth obsessed, crude, rude and distasteful California lifestyle. I would not want to meet any of the people portrayed in this movie in real life. In fact I have to deal with this type in real life, the self-obsessed, cell phone gabbing, SUV driving bores. I think we are bombarded with this stereotype so often in the media that we start to believe that that is the way to be. I found the so-called adults in this movie to be immature and obsessed with instant gratification. If they didn't get what they want immediately then they had grounds to act crude and childish. Leslie Mann's character was distasteful. She was a foul mouthed child. Her husband, played by Paul Rudd, griped about not being able to do what he wanted so he was forced to lie to get some free time. Of course his free time meant dumping his kids on his wife. They lived in a sumptuous house and he drove a Mercedes sports car. Of course because of a spat he had to take off to Las Vegas with Ben to cavort with strippers and indulge in psychedelic mushrooms. Did they have any appreciation for their lifestyle? No. I saw them being angry at not being instantly gratified and entertained. Really how many of the audience would have the time or money to indulge in this behavior. My neighbor works two jobs and struggles to send his children to State Colleges. I don't see him portrayed in California movies. Katherine Heigl played her role well but her character's success was based not on talent or hard work but on her good looks. How Californian. Seth Rogen's character was crude, crude, crude. He played it well. I could almost smell his character's acrid body odor. This movie will be a hit with the lucrative 18 to 25 crowd. That is a scary thought that this portrayal of boorish, self-involvement would resonate with a group of people. I noted that more drug related killings happened in Philadelphia recently. Drugs and the violence they breed are a problem because there is a ready market for the product and lots of money can be made from it. This movie glorified drug use. Is there no social consciousness? Do we rate social consciousness by how much the box office pulls in this weekend? I wasn't alone in my dislike. People got up and walked out on this movie. I go to see movies often and it is rare to see people disgusted enough to walk out. This was a morally objectionable movie.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Not too good.
This movie was very disappointing. I saw the first two Spiderman movies and I thought they were entertaining. They brought the feeling of the comic to film very well. This episode was very flawed. First it was too, too maudlin. Second, there were too many references back to the original movie. Give it a rest. I don't want to see Uncle Ben die again. Is Cliff Robertson in financial trouble and in need of a job? I'll donate to a Cliff fund just to not see Uncle Ben die again. Third, the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane has to advance beyond the grammar school hand holding. What is the target audience? Twelve year olds? It is so goofy. It is so boring and there's way too much time spent on it. Get over it. The movie bogged down so much without the action sequences. I heard audible sighs from more than one patron and the sighs weren't over the love story. It was exasperation. Even the ending, after the climatic fight scene, was overly long and saccharine. I watched people leave before the end shaking their heads. But on the plus side there were the effects. The Sandman effects were fascinating and the black gooey stuff was good. What happened to the stuff in the lab? That was a bit of a plot hole. The New Goblin fight sequences were exciting and Spiderman's city swinging was fun but again they had to drag Willem Dafoe back into the movie along with the immature Harry Osborn. I'm glad he died since maybe, please, we won't have to go through that story again. The Venom character was good but he was too much. There were too many villains and because of that each one was only superficially developed. The franchise has to move beyond the original story and develop new story lines. It seems difficult for these comic book heroes to move beyond their superficial story lines. Batman is troubled and brooding and you have to watch the moody, pouty scenes. Superman will have some romance with a skinny Lois Lane then some villain will get some kryptonite and trap Superman only for it to be foiled by the villain's moll. Spiderman will appeal to shut-in pre-teens. The plots are predictable and frankly boring. The special effects are the draw and I wish the back stories would just disappear. I enjoyed Hellboy but expect a sequel to repeat lots of the original story. I rate this movie low because too much of it was saccharine hand holding and repetition of the original movie. The action was fun but too interrupted by sentimentality.
Too referential; too long
First, it was too long. My bladder was too insistent and I had to leave in the middle. I hate that. I usually adjust my liquid intake to avoid any interruption. Three hours plus, without an intermission, is too long. I'm sure the length of the movie turned people off. Second, the plot of the "Planet Terror" sequence was nonsensical. I know it was meant to emulate the plots of the type of movie that was shown in the grindhouses in the 1970's but they were lousy movies to begin with. I got the reference five minutes after it started then I was pretty bored for the rest of the movie. It was not a very good movie. A homage not only references the parent material but it has to be entertaining for itself. "Planet Terror" was not entertaining enough for me. If I had watched that movie at home I would probably had been reading at the same time. There's not enough there to keep your interest. OK another zombie gets blown away, big deal. There was lots of action and hot babes but not much else. "Death Proof" was a much better movie. The references were there but the movie stood up by itself. There was the obligatory missing reel, an over told joke, that really didn't detract from the story much, and the Tarantino touches like the extended dialogs and the cursing. I found the dialogs, with the cursing, to be a bit over the top. I thought the information imparted by the dialog meant little to the plot and that the dialog was just a stylistic flourish, too much of a flourish. The beginning of the story was a bit slow. Luckily there were enough hot babes to sustain one's interest until the action started. The action was great. Zoe Bell was okay as an actress but as an action star she was great. The car chase scenes were nicely done. It just seems so satisfying to see vintage muscle cars in a car chase being wrecked. The acting was decent and there were a multitude of good performances. Rose McGowan looked better in "Planet Terror", maybe it was the stump. Overall "Grindhouse" was an OK movie. "Planet Terror" could be improved by missing a couple more reels. Its plot is just repetition anyway. "Death Proof" was a much better sequence. I think it needed more plot and less characters. I have to get involved with the characters and care what happens to them. With multiple characters I cared more for the Dodge Challenger than the drivers. Kurt Russell was despicable enough to want to see him get his comeuppance but the women, the many women, were too interchangeable to care about. Maybe it was meant to be referential but I thought the women characters, at least the first bunch of women in "Death Proof", were nothing more than sexual poster girls to sustain your interest until something else happened. The turn around in the second half of "Death Proof" was refreshing. I enjoy strong women characters in movies, like Pam Grier in Tarantino's "Jackie Brown". Too bad Hollywood just churns out hot babe movies. I guess the supply of young women willing to be exploited is endless.
Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)
I can't say that "Romeo Is Bleeding" is the worse movie I've ever seen but it ranks up there as a memorable stinker. The over-acting was horrible. I thought I was in a ham factory. Gary Oldman, who is a talented actor, is prone to over emote and in this movie no one tried to rein in the ego and self importance. He was ridiculous. The story was ridiculous. Lena Olin was ridiculous. Annabella Sciorra was depressing. The other characters in the movie were a cross section of Hollywood stereotypes. There wasn't an original idea in this mess. The pacing was abysmally slow and that was interrupted by cartoonish violence often in slow motion. The narration was laughable and only showed how poor the screenplay was. If you have to be told what the story is then the movie is not doing its job. It was a bad, bad movie. Please miss it.
Smokin' Aces (2006)
"Smokin' Aces" was a very uneven movie. I enjoyed some of its inventiveness but much was lost in the uninspired typical gangster story and the maudlin scenes with Ryan Reynolds. I thought many of the scenes didn't make sense like when Andy Garcia showed up at the hospital at the end of the movie he had changed his clothes and changed his glasses. The time line, as far as I could follow, wouldn't have allowed enough time for the change and the glasses were a huge continuity flaw. He wore these distinctive, and rather dorky, plastic frames in the beginning then he shows up with completely different rimless glasses at the end. It was just sloppy. The ending was just goofy and very disappointing. The rest of the movie was typical Hollywood. Drugs, women dressed as hookers and guns. Most movie goers have seen it all before. Watch any TV cop show and you'll recognize most of the players. There were some performances I enjoyed. Zach Cumer as the young karate enthusiast stole the movie. Alicia Keys and Taraji P. Henson were entertaining as the hired killers. Jason Bateman as the alcoholic lawyer had some of the best lines in the movie. Most of the other players were stock Hollywood types. The old Mission Impossible show was used as a template for some of the plot but the TV show did it better. Jeremy Piven hammed it up so much he should get the Spam award and go back to bit parts. Overall I think there were too many players and they weren't developed enough for you to root for any of them. The movie was fast paced and superficially inventive but it went nowhere. It kind of ground down to this goofy, overacted, nonsensical, emotional ending.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Maudlin same old.
If you liked the previous "Rocky" movies you'll like this one. If you didn't this one won't change your mind. In fact it is the same old story over again with the same characters, though some played by other people. The first Rocky had a sort of charm and personality that was appealing and likable but after all of the lousy sequels and the repetition of the same old maudlin story over and over I was sick of it. I went to see this final, I hope, movie after hearing some good press about it but I was disappointed. I did not like it. I'm from Philadelphia and I enjoyed seeing the shots of the city but the characters were such a bunch of whiny, depressed losers that I couldn't wait until the whole thing was over. The fight scene was OK but not in the least believable. I thought the movie focused too much on Rocky and did not develop any of the other characters. Geraldine Hughes was decent but not given too much to do. The story was way, way too maudlin for me.
Good Genre Movie
"Invincible" is a genre movie. It is a sports hero movie and of the type it was good. The genre calls for lots of male bonding touching, big handshakes, back thumps, hugs with back thumps, hugs sans thumps, etc. It also calls for a certain maudlin feeling in the absence of thumps and sports and this was in abundance in the life is hard dialog. A love interest is also needed and was provided by Elizabeth Banks whose tonsils were examined by Mark Wahlberg with their first kiss. I thought the photography outside of the football shots was pretty bad. I thought it was dark, blurry and grainy maybe trying to look depressing when contrasted with the footballs scenes. In short the movie provided just what you expect from the genre. Don't get me wrong I liked the movie but I just wasn't impressed by the stereotypical set ups. The football scenes make the movie. Once they are start concentrating on the Eagles and Greg Kinnear as Dick Vermeil the movie was much better. I am not an especially rabid football fan but the Eagle's scenes were exciting. They were well photographed and choreographed and were exciting and affecting. Mark Wahlberg and Greg Kinnear were very good in their roles and the rest of the cast were good given the dialog they were given. The basic story of a bartender given a chance to play professional football, especially since it was true, was uplifting and this movie portrayed the excitement and hope that this event gave to the city. If you're a football fan the movie is a must see. Others may find the maudlin tone of the non-football scenes too much. I liked the movie and recommend it.
All the King's Men (2006)
"All the King's Men" was way too slow and tedious. The movie could have been 90 minutes and been much better. Too many scenes drug on and on and I found myself saying "OK, I get the point.". I saw this movie in the afternoon at a local megaplex and I was the only one in the theater. I fell asleep in the middle of the movie it was so slow. There were some good performances from Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins and Patricia Clarkson. Mark Ruffalo was wasted. Kate Winslet was good but it seemed she was very restrained. She did do a quick nude scene but she often does nude scenes. She must think she has a wonderful body. I do. Anyway, the movie, yes, it was slow and there was Sean Penn. There was a Sean Penn to chew up the scenery and dominate every frame he was in. I think he is a good actor but he seems to need to overact and fill the screen. Jude Law did much more with his quiet glances and stares. Sean Penn was too much for the role. True the role of Willie Stark calls for a larger than life figure but Sean Penn was large all of the time even in scenes where less would have been more. He was too much too often. I didn't care for him in his role and felt nothing for his fate. Speaking of his fate, the end of the movie was excruciatingly slow and ponderous. I saw the original version and I knew what was about to happen and I just wished they would get it over with. And the blood rivulets, cut me a break, get to the point! I was standing and straining to leave the theater at this point. To be fair I'll mention the good points. Kate Winslet did a quick nude scene. The movie was nicely atmospheric and well photographed. Some scenes worked well and, as mentioned, some performances were good. The actor who played Sugar Boy, Willie Stark's bodyguard, was played, well, by Jackie Earle Haley who was Moocher in "Breaking Away".
The Departed (2006)
"The Departed" was good but not excellent. Jack Nicholson hammed it up through most of the movie. If he had less screen time I would have thought he made the movie but there was too much of him being too much. Matt Damon portrayed the nasty little sh!t I always thought was in him. He was great. Leonardo DiCaprio was also very good portraying the mental stress I would think a mob mole would have. Mark Wahlberg could have been a bit over the top but I think his character's personality evolved from working with big ego macho cops and, for me, he was very believable. Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone were good in their supporting roles. Vera Farmiga was OK. I guess I didn't believe her as a therapist. I think she need a bit more meat, emotionally, and as the girlfriend, physically. I didn't see the original, "Infernal Affairs" so I can't compare the two. This version's story, especially towards the end, seemed rushed and forced to finish with the big gun battle but the mechanics of the movie's cop story was secondary to the story of the two moles. If the movie is examined for the story of the cops trying to get Jack Nicholson it comes up short but the mole parallel story was intriguing and Matt and Leo were great. It was a violent movie and the ending was a bit much. Well worth seeing but not Scorsese's best. His best are icons, "Raging Bull", "Taxi Driver", "Mean Streets". "The Departed" was just a good movie
The Black Dahlia (2006)
Okay, "The Black Dahlia" has problems. Still it wasn't a bad movie I gave it a 6. The problems were mostly in the last reel with the ridiculous, overly complicated, almost campy ending. The truth revealed about the brutal murder of the Black Dahlia seemed tacked on and made up on the spot. I wasn't convinced by the story or the portrayals but was a bit disappointed at the lack of work put into coming up with a satisfying ending. The ending contained one of those long expositions where the whole complicated story is explained by one of the bad guys. These scenes just prove that the movie was a failure at telling the story. If a character has to tell you what happened what is the use of the movie medium to begin with. They took this brutal murder and used it as an excuse to tell the story of these two cops and their relationships with a couple of hot babes. The sensational murder was almost an "oh and by the way" event even in the way it was filmed. The story of the two cops was even disjointed where events weren't fully explained but they just happened to further the movie. It was all very confusing. I thought they had too many story lines going on and none of them were examined sufficiently to be interesting. The movie did look nice. The cinematography was very good and many scenes were interestingly and expertly setup and executed. I enjoyed the actors, generally. Josh Hartnett was much better than he was in that stupid Slevin movie. Aaron Eckhart was hammy and Scarlett Johansson was, again, disappointing. She is such a babe with that flawless skin, those plump lips and, of course, those boobs but her acting in this movie and in "Scoop" was wooden and mechanical. I think she is taking roles that are not suited for her. I enjoyed her in "Lost in Translation" and loved "Girl with a Pearl Earring" but she doesn't impress me lately. I think she is going for the Hollywood glamour girl roles but seems too much like a little girl playing dress up. Hilary Swank was good. She was very believable and can act far, far better than Ms. Johansson. Ms Swank was sexual in the movie; Ms Johansson tried to look the part but didn't convince me. Mia Kirshner was good as the victim. She convincingly portrayed the sadness and vulnerability of a not too talented actress using her wiles to get ahead and being exploited by those in power. Fiona Shaw was good as the crazy wife and portrayed the character as written well even though the writing was poor. William Finley was nicely creepy and many others played their roles competently. The movie is worth seeing even though it is flawed. It is not a murder mystery, though a murder is committed and it is a mystery, nor is it a cop buddy movie even though there are cop buddies in the movie nor is it a love story. There isn't much love presented just lots of lust. It was a confused mishmash. Nicely filmed and directed but confusing.
The Descent (2005)
Good Scary Movie
When I read that "The Descent" featured an all women cast I expected a T+A extravaganza with spelunkers in too tight T-shirts and panties cavorting beneath the earth. I was disappointed. What I saw was a scary movie. I am not by nature claustrophobic but a few scenes of the close quarters they were climbing through left me squirming in my seat. I can't continue the review without issuing a SPOILER alert since I will be discussing critical movie facts. The movie was very spookily lit with looming shadows and false colors and was expertly designed. The creatures living below ground were creepy and scary since often they were only glimpsed in the shadows. I hadn't expected the death count to be so high nor the movie to be so bloody. I flinched often during the movie due to the sudden appearance of the creatures or from the wounds suffered by the cast. The pace of the movie once they began the cave exploration was very fast and of course with this type of movie a deeper examination of the facts reveals some plot holes but events move too fast for reflection. I can't say I liked or agreed with some events in the end of the movie. I think Juno, maybe not the best person in the group, was unfairly judged and condemned. None the less the movie was very effective in scaring me and holding my attention. The fact that it had, primarily, an all women cast was hardly noticeable. This is not a chick flic. Worth seeing.
Lady in the Water (2006)
I liked it.
I was apprehensive about seeing this movie since the reviews have been generally bad. I liked Mr. Shyamalan's previous movies so I ignored the reviews and went to see it. I liked it. The movie had its flaws, one big one, and a few smaller ones. The small ones were mostly pacing issues. I thought it slow at points and a bit maudlin but overall I enjoyed this movie. Paul Giamatti was very good playing the rumpled lead. He was very believable, likable, funny and touching. He did a wonderful job. Bryce Dallas Howard was ethereal The rest of the cast including Bob Balaban, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Irwin, Cindy Cheung and many others were very good in their roles. There was one huge miscast, M. Night Shyamalan. He is not a good actor. He is not believable nor likable. Given his recent bad press due to his big ego, his inclusion in the movie just turned off the movie goers. He would help sell his movies more by being the first person killed by the monsters or by playing off his big ego reputation. Instead he casts himself as a pivotal character the audience is supposed to feel for. It didn't work. In fact it could have possibly destroyed the movie's chances. Maybe the strength of Paul Giamatti's likability may overcome Mr. Shyamalan's dis-likability. I hope so because this movie has a lot to offer. It is a fairy tale. If you expect a monster movie or a slasher type movie you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a typically morally corrupt Hollywood movie with product placement, blazing guns and copious cleavage look elsewhere. Once you accept the premise of the movie and allow yourself to get into the story the movie is very enjoyable. I laughed at the characters and I enjoyed the craft of the movie. As much as I dislike Mr. Shyamalan's acting I like his skill at making movies. The photography was excellent. The scene construction was excellent. The cast was excellent. The story was preposterous but it was a fairy tale and you have to accept that. I would give Mr. Shyamalan a well done for the movie but stay away from the acting side of the camera. I think it is worth seeing. It has a unique style and contrasts with the derivative crap coming out of Hollywood. By the way the theater I saw the movie in, a Regal Entertainment Group theater, was dirty. The picture was blurry at times and the staff was inattentive and rude. About par for what passes as customer service in the suburban multiplexes. The movie deserved better.
Nacho Libre (2006)
The major problem with "Nacho Libre" is that it isn't funny. It tries very hard but the jokes are excruciatingly slowly set up and painfully executed. Given the elaborate set ups the payoff is small change. I grinned a few times during the movie but looked at my watch twice as often. It was not very good. Jack Black and Ana de la Reguera were good in the movie and the script had lots of raw material to work with but the execution was really bad. Just having a funny looking character does not make the character funny. Too often a character is introduced and they do nothing but stand there, trying to look funny. Don't waste your time seeing this mess. It just isn't funny.