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More like two separate films that suffer when mashed together.
British director Danny Boyle (of TRAINSPOTTING and 28 DAYS LATER, among others) apparently wants to become the master of all genres. He stretches into the sci-fi territory with SUNSHINE, an on-the-surface brother to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and other intellectual science fiction films. Yet in an effort to appeal to as many sci-fi fans as possible, plot twists taken in the last half of the film propel it to a whole different, disappointing level. When all is said and done, it goes from a thought-provoking metaphorical study piece to a mash-up of a monster movie and Agatha Christie in Space.
The film starts off fascinatingly; Boyle's touch for visuals has never been more apparent than it is here. Each frame gleams with a polished coldness, only enhanced by the blinding rays of the sun that peek around every corner. The alienation on board the ship all feels familiar; the crew are nameless faces that, though ably played by its cast, could easily have been recruited from other films. There's even an unemotional computer that they hold conversations with. But while the film is not novel in that respect, its impact is not lessened. Several compelling arguments are made about faith, humanity and the limits of survival. Even as the film nears it close, it manages to retain some of these themes.
The major downfall of the film is its second half, when it enters the same horror-movie aspect that played so well in Boyle's earlier film 28 DAYS LATER. The characters are killed off one by one, and it is soon discovered that there is GASP! An unknown person on board. While the suspense sequences that follow this are filmed with gusto, and are indeed frightening, it is a marked difference from the quiet meditation of the first part of the film. It's as if Boyle and writer Alex Garland knew a great deal of sci-fi fans were going to be put off by the lack of action, and were attempting to make the film as marketable as possible. While this is bound to please some, it turns the film into an unfortunately shallow mash-up of two conflicting sci-fi subgenres: the intellectual and the thriller.
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The Simpsons Movie (2007)
A big relief for those expecting the worst!
It's the event 18 years in the making. For lifelong fans of "The Simpsons" on TV, this could very well be the event of the year. Yet the negative word that has haunted the film from day one is the noticeable decline in quality over the past few years. Would the team be able to fight this and successfully expand the show into 90 minutes of pure Simpsons magic, or would it merely be a longer retread of recent episodes? The answer lies somewhere in between; while it by no means reaches the comedic heights of the series' early years, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE is an enjoyable, laugh-filled film that passes by in no time and leaves the viewer satisfied.
The film format and PG-13 rating have allowed for many "shock" laughs, the most effective of which is used quite early in the film. It's a joke that's bound to upset the parents; for a brief moment, we are reminded of the edgier days when the Simpsons team was called on for public apologies. But the formula of joke after joke begins to falter; the film begins to drag near its middle, the gags become repetitive and more typical of recent episodes. When the jokes fail (more often than not, they are the jokes used in the many previews; by now, they've lost their humor), the film seems to die a bit. While the pace picks up as the film reaches its finale, it never quite recreates the edgy joy the writers clearly felt when they weren't restrained to a plot. The film also attempts a number of large action sequences, poking fun at the summer blockbuster while trying to gain some excitement in its own right. These become a mixed blessing; the expanded, almost epic scope is neat for a while, but the film only comes alive when it returns to the suburban-level comedy it knows best.
What is quite surprising about this film is the level of honesty and seriousness it portrays. Unlike other comedies of its type, "The Simpsons" has always seemed earnest, especially when it concerns Homer and Marge. But here they break new ground; a videotaped monologue by Marge halfway through the film may be the most dramatic thing they've ever attempted, and it pays off. In those few moments, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE becomes truly dramatic, almost heartbreaking. It was a risky move to implement such a dramatic element in such a film, yet it is a complete triumph.
The film never reaches the heights of the series as a whole; there are no instantly classic lines, and the filmmakers struggle to create a thoroughly involving 90-minute film, but it is far from a disaster. Actually, the greatest achievement here may be the further characterization of the dynamic Simpson family themselves. Moments of brilliance early in the film show why the Simpsons have lasted all these years, and the rest of the film is solid enough to make THE SIMPSONS MOVIE a successful TV-to-film transfer.
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Great, cheesy fun!
Obviously a big-budget, flashy musical remake of a John Waters film is never going to be as subversive or as comically edgy as its predecessors, but one of the good things about HAIRSPRAY is that it never intends to be. It fully embraces the cheesy, over-the-top aspect of a movie musical from frame one, a trait that most other current films of its type try to avoid. In a welcome change from the summer drudgery of explosions and CGI, this film is a pure feel-good crowd pleaser where excitement and energy rise above all.
Everyone in the cast gives able performances; even Travolta who, in drag and a fat suit, seems at first off-putting, beginning a one-joke "hey I'm a man in a dress!" performance, quickly grows into his own as Edna does, becoming the most crowd-pleasing character by the film's end. It's a pleasure to see a former GREASE-r returning to what made him famous, but Travolta proves surprisingly agile in the comedy department, especially during his song and dance numbers.
The real enjoyment here, however, and the truly great performances are given by the younger members of the cast. Every single teenager in the film, from the leads to the chorus boy in the back of the room are injected with an unshakable, undeniable energy that reaches through the screen and captivates the viewer. This rings true especially for the film's two major finds: newcomers Nikki Blonsky and Elijah Kelly. Both of them have that instant star quality, a charisma and charm that make them instantly likable. Kelly displays simply astounding singing and dancing skills, while Blonsky easily carries the entire film of her shoulders, becoming the heart and soul of the movie with one hip thrust.
HAIRSPRAY has nothing much to offer besides two hours of entertainment and escapism, but it offers it in spades. It is a pure joy to watch from beginning to end and a welcome change of pace from the big-budget action film that surround its release. Yes, it's a musical and yes, it's over-the-top, but the audience is sold on that point from the first moment Tracy opens her mouth and the audience cannot help but be sucked in.
While not the best Potter film overall, it is certainly the most distinguished in several areas...
By the time most franchises have reached their fifth installment, it has either undergone a drastic reinterpretation or has become so tired and repetitive that it's hardly worth a look. What a joy, then, to see that the HARRY POTTER franchise is still going strong, with its newest actually improving upon its immediate predecessor. Also, unlike the first two films, it manages to create a nice balance between the need to be an adaptation of the much-beloved book but also work on an entirely cinematic level for the uninitiated. This balance strips the tale down to its barest bones, which works both for and against the film in the end.
As is the main problem with all the HARRY POTTER films, the key to its success lies in the adaptation of the lengthy novels. At 138 minutes, this is the shortest film yet and the story is cut down as much as it can be. As a result, many of the supporting characters are pushed aside. Veterans like Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson and David Thewlis are relegated to just a few minutes of screen time, popping in here and there to say a line or two. Several subplots are largely ignored, also leaving intriguing new characters (mainly Natalia Tena as Tonks) regrettably underused. In an attempt to speed things along, many important plot points are left to be explained through dialogue, not only jumbling the plot and potentially confusing the viewer but skipping the opportunity to delve even more into the Potter universe. The purpose of the "Order" in the main title is only explained in one line, and the actual group is only seen together once or twice.
The major breakthrough in the film is the performances of those who get enough time to warrant attention. It's been said in many places that the three main stars (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) have improved their skills with each passing film, and this is certainly no exception. Radcliffe is a revelation; leaps and bounds ahead of his admirable work in the past two films, he imbues his performance here with an aggressive frustration that is attention-grabbing, sympathetic and always genuine. Finally the film becomes entirely his and he holds focus like never before. Watson and Grint, while given less to do, are still solid and serve as a reminder of the more carefree days of the past. The three together have an undeniable chemistry that invites the viewer in. Evanna Lynch gives a memorable debut performance as the dazed Luna Lovegood, alternating perfectly between comic relief and genuine sadness. Staunton and Bonham Carter both give delightfully evil, freewheeling performances, with Staunton in particular crafting the careful portrayal every Harry Potter sadist dreamed Dolores Umbridge would be. Returning cast members Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman and Michael Gambon continue their solid characterizations, with Rickman in particular adding a new dynamic to his previously cold character that stretches beyond merely what he says.
British director David Yates makes his big-budget debut here and couldn't be in finer shape. Not only does he guide the cast to series-best performances, but many of the technical aspects are simply superb, from Stuart Craig's intricate production design to Slawomir Idziak's simply stunning photography; a palette of nightmarish grays, blues and greens that help make this film far darker than any others before it. The film is almost too dark for its own good; the level of seriousness is almost relentless, with only a few moments taken off to inject some comedy into the mix.
While not as distinguished as HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, this film is a worthy continuation of the franchise. It improves on several problems in the previous film and shows an irresistibly intriguing development in design and performance. Though the film is bleak and dark, and it rushes through the plot a bit too quickly, Yates has only served to drive up anticipation for the next installment. Once again, HARRY POTTER proves that it is one of the few modern franchises that deserves every single penny it earns.
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