Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Beware the Batman (2013)
New Show, Same Old Story with Fans
It's been the same cycle with every new animated interpretation of Batman since TAS. "I don't like the way it looks!" "The writing's not as good!" "They ruined (insert character's name here)!"
A few years go by, cooler heads prevail, and eventually most seem to come around and appreciate each of these shows for what they are rather than holding them to up to their own preconceived notions of what Batman "should" be.
I get it. You're a "hardcore" Batman fan. You know what it's all about and every little nuance of the mythology. But here's the thing - there is no one true Batman. The character's been around so long and gone through so many permutations that there is no definitive version. There are depictions that strike a chord with certain generations for different reasons, but in the end the Adam West show is a valid as Christopher Nolan's films. Each incarnation highlights and honors different aspects of these characters. That's what's so great about Batman. That's why he's survived as long as he has. He's malleable. As long as you keep the cornerstones of his mythology in place, he's pretty flexible when it comes to adaptations.
This is not TAS. I think we can probably all agree that that's still one of the better representations of Batman and the most successful show overall. But we live in a world of hyperbole so if something's not amazing, that means it must suck. I don't think Beware the Batman is as good as TAS. Not by a long shot. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it.
Adjusting to a new look always takes some time, but I've grown to like it. And I think the voice cast is strong. For a show aimed at kids, the writing strikes me as more sophisticated than anything from The Batman - and especially The Brave & The Bold.
I like seeing new villains. I like the detective side of Batman getting more attention. And I like the risks they're taking with characters like Alfred. Borrowing from the Earth One/Sean Connery take definitely sets this apart from previous series. In my opinion, the more traditional take on Alfred makes more sense - but I do admire their decision to do something different.
It's not a perfect show. But I'm interested to see how it evolves. Fans always hate anything new or different. Give it time. When they roll out another new Batman cartoon in a few years, everyone will probably be moaning about the good old days of Beware the Batman.
What a waste...
Let me clarify something right off the bat... I am not a fanboy who rated this thing a 10 and down votes every negative review here. But I'm also not a hater. I enjoyed parts of the original movie when it came out. Sure it gets a little sillier with each subsequent viewing and there's nothing terribly original about it but it had an infectious style and a solid cast.
To be blunt, I can't even believe this sequel is for real. And I'm shocked how many fans of the first film say they enjoy it. For me this was a complete misfire every step of the way. The plot is ludicrous. Not because it's too complicated but because it just defies logic. It is not a compelling story on any level. It's an excuse to get the boys back in their pea coats and shooting guns in slow motion. There isn't a single plot point that's credible or followed through on. The movie keeps changing what it's really about. It doesn't feel like layers in a mystery are being pulled back. It feels like Duffy had no idea what this was really about and just kept letting the script wander. Characters are introduced halfway through with no real purpose or development.
The acting just flat out sucks. And I like a lot of these actors. Aside from Billy Connolly and Peter Fonda no one understands how to be subtle. They all crank it to eleven and turn themselves into cartoons, not characters. I thought the first one did a much better job of balancing the humor, action, and drama. Duffy appears clueless on how to accomplish that this time out. The bad guys aren't remotely threatening and even the returning detectives are made to look like buffoons at every turn.
The action scenes in the first film contain a lot of creative ideas that aren't shot as well as they could have been. They're not terrible, but not mind blowing. This one is just embarrassing. Every action beat consists of slow motion, techno music, and the brothers standing in plain view and not getting hit once (until the end when the script requires them to).
It also just feels smaller and cheaper than the original. The settings in the first one seemed real and dirty. We got a sense of the blue collar life in Boston. This one feels like it was shot on sitcom sets. And with hardly any extras it feels like our main characters and villains are the only people in the city.
I know you're all going to bury this review because you don't agree but there wasn't a single thing I found redeeming about this movie. Bad script, bad acting, bad directing, bad music, bad editing... it's just bad.
Didn't expect to like it
Let me start by saying I'm grading this on a sliding scale. Given that this is a straight to video action flick and the second sequel (fourth if you want to get all nit-picky about it) I thought it was extremely successful with what it set out to do.
Maybe it's the my expectations were so low going into it. I liked the original but I'm nowhere near as fanatical as its die hard supporters. I've forgotten almost everything about "The Return" except that I thought it was the worst possible direction they could steer a potential franchise in. I've never seen the made for cable movies. Lastly, after his impressive turn in JCVD, I admit I thought this was a step backward for Van Damme.
But you know what? This movie is better than it has any right to be. The story is nothing spectacular (falling squarely between the original and "The Return" in terms of quality) but I only have one major gripe with it. I don't mind that they basically ignore the last one where Luc was completely normal again. The approach they take here makes a lot more sense and is much more interesting. The way they set him up as not being able to function on his own and having a doctor trying to reinsert him into society is pretty compelling stuff. And there's some early indications that they're going somewhere with all of it. So I was pretty disappointed when it became clear that once Luc straps his armor on, it's all action till the credits role. No character arc. No pay off for anything that came before. No indication that anything that happened to Luc prior to the climax had any impact on the overall story.
What really doesn't help this problem is Luc's late introduction into the film. We have no clear protagonist for the first third of the movie. No one to really care about or relate to. We're introduced to all the supporting cast and the story certainly moves forward, but there's a lack of clarity to the proceedings because there's no main character that any of this is happening to. Stuff's just happening.
By the time we do catch up with Luc we have minimal time to fill in the details because the clock's ticking and we only have one or two scenes before he inevitably has to be recruited for this mission. Had this story been told from Luc's POV from the get go (after the kidnapping and ransom demands were established) and had they actually given him a more defined character arc we would have an incredibly tragic hero and a film on par with the original. But honestly, after the last one and some of the other DTV action movies I've seen I'm pretty astonished they attempted to give him any character depth at all.
The film's biggest strength is its direction. John Hyams really elevates this material and I'm dying to see what he could do with a bigger budget and more resources at his disposal. He certainly knows how to shoot action. While there is some influence from the Bourne series and even stuff like Children of Men, it's shot and choreographed in a way that's still easy to follow. You always know what's going on. From the opening car chase all the way to the final fight, it's brutal and realistic and totally cohesive for a change.
The performances are also pretty solid. He even got a decent one out of Dolph (and given his recent fare that's no easy task). I'm not sure why the NGU got top billing but he's certainly a more formidable opponent than Goldberg. I've read a lot of reviews complaining that Van Damme & Dolph didn't team up at the end. This didn't bother me on my initial viewing but in retrospect it was a little strange having two "final" fights and not ever having all three of them in the same scene.
It's a dramatic shift in tone from the original but unlike the last sequel they use the low budget creatively and appropriately instead of making it look like it was shot in someone's garage.
You've probably heard people make comparisons of the score to early John Carpenter stuff. That's not totally off base. While it's essentially just a series of drones and tribal drums, it really does work with the film. It's never distracting and the minimalistic approach really does help the desolate and dangerous feel of the movie.
While I still feel the movie had a giant missed opportunity with Luc's character, the fact remains that it's extremely successful at what it set out to do and while it's not going to win any awards it should be an extremely welcome addition to any fan's collection.
Star Trek (2009)
Perfect? No. Necessary? Absolutely.
A lot of Trek fans will be quick to dismiss the alternate time line of this film and the more action oriented approach to a franchise typically more cerebral. And I understand those grievances. It would be tough to feel so connected to forty years worth of material only to have someone who isn't a fan come along and shake it all up. I grew up with TNG. The original cast still had movies coming out in the theaters when I was a kid. I've seen all the movies and every episode of TOS and TNG. I still loved this new Star Trek. And I didn't think I would.
It's been ages since a Trek film had this many scenes that left an emotional impact on me. The pre-credits sequence is one of the best moments in the entire history of this mythology. And the film that follows hits so much more often than it misses.
I had such mixed feelings about re-casting these iconic roles but wow... some of these guys blew me away. For me the stand outs were Chris Pine as Kirk (who has that trademark swagger down to a T but NEVER feels like he's doing a Shatner impression) and Karl Urban as McCoy (who was my favorite part of the film, he just completely embodied the character). Zachary Quinto is more that serviceable as Spock and the only detriment to his performance is putting Leonard Nimoy in the same movie as him. There's just no comparison.
Yes the plot is filled with some major contrivances and conveniences (it's a mad dash to get the crew acquainted & Kirk promoted) but the momentum it builds and the energy is exhumes make it hard not to forgive most of them.
For me the biggest let down was the villain, Nero. I read reviews that talked about a layered performance and I just didn't get that. He seemed to be cut from the same mold as most forgettable Trek villains with a pretty rudimentary back story to boot. He's certainly no Khan or Chang. I think Eric Bana is a wonderful actor, the script just never lets the character become anything more than a plot device. I've heard there's a prequel comic that details his origin a bit better but that shouldn't be required reading to get the most out of the movie. It was the only part of an otherwise exciting film that just fell totally flat. At least for me. I found myself bored every time they cut back to him.
Sure I miss the more philosophical and moral questions the best Trek stories touched on. But I think there's still room for that. The foundation has been laid. The set-up's been taken care of. Now there's an infinite number of possibilities for the Enterprise and her crew. I remain optimistic that future installments will have a mix of the best elements from both takes. I love that they widened the scope and amped up the action. I love that it finally felt dangerous and everything had very tangible consequences. I think that was an important first step. If this cast and these filmmakers are afforded the opportunity to continue I truly believe strong thematic elements will rival the visual ones. And hey, they're already off to a much better start than the original cast was with their first movie.
I'll always have a soft spot for Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly, etc. But I love that it's all still canon. No one said to ignore all of that. This isn't a remake. It's a new series that runs parallel to the Trek we all grew up with. And honestly, I'd take this over what Trek became over the last decade.
It needed a good shake. It's not a perfect movie. But a necessary one. I left the theater today with a smile on my face and the knowledge that Star Trek would live on. The same could not be said just a few years ago.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
I'm no die-hard X-Men fan. I read the comics for awhile when I was a kid, watched the cartoon, and had a basic understanding of the mythology. I thought the first film was good without ever really reaching its full potential, the second was MUCH better, and the third... well, I try not to think about that one actually.
I have nothing against Hugh Jackman in the role. He's an adequate actor and physically a good match for the character (though fanboys would probably argue). But like I said, I'm not a nitpicker when it comes to these characters. I didn't have as much an investment in X-Men as I did other comic books. So while all the popular complaints thrown at the film regarding Deadpool, Gambit, Emma Frost, Cyclops, etc. do irk me a bit they were by no means a deal breaker. All conflicts over film vs. source material aside, this just isn't a well made movie. Period.
After a seemingly irrelevant first scene (seriously... tell me the point. Where was the payoff later?) there's an even more ludicrous opening credits sequence that while fun to look at it carries very little emotional weight. Nothing's at stake. There's no motivation for any of it in play. Do these guys just like blowing stuff up and killing that much? On the surface the changes they made to the Wolverine/Sabretooth relationship make sense. One character embracing his animal instincts and the other fighting them is a cool dynamic. But it's not one that's ever really allowed to play out in a satisfying way. Wolverine never comes close to the edge. There's no moment where we think he might give in and compromise his humanity. There have been traces of that trademark "berzerker rage" smattered throughout these films but they were teases at best. The real Wolverine has yet to show up in a movie. And here was a story begging for him. One free from the baggage of previous installments. They could have done something reminiscent of Clint Eastwood in The Man With No Name trilogy. But no, it's just our usual huggable, soft, family friendly Wolverine. He's less threatening here then he was in the trilogy. At least then he had the mystique of an unknown past. This movie's biggest revelation? The X-Men's "baddest" member is really a bit of a softie.
Stryker's black ops team is brimming with potential but don't get too attached to these guys. Look, I get it. The movie's called Wolverine. There wasn't room to tell all their stories. So why include them at all? Don't show an audience how potentially awesome a Ryan Reynolds Deadpool movie would be and then be surprised when they cry fowl for ditching him five minutes later. Same goes for Gambit. Why keep crowding the story with more mutants when there's barely enough time to flesh out the two we're supposed to care about? The Weapon X scene has a few moments that cause a genuine stir but honestly it was handled so much better in X2. There it seemed dirty and scary and dangerous.
And it just keeps getting worse the more the plot tries to advance itself. Ridiculous double crosses and plot twists ensue and pretty soon we reach an out of left field climax that provides a silly deus ex machina for Wolverine's memory loss and supremely unsatisfying ending for our bad guys.
To be fair, Liev Schreiber does a lot with very little. He seems to be having a lot more fun with his character than anyone else. And while there's still no explanation for how Victor became the caveman Sabretooth was in X1 I really did enjoy his performance. And as I mentioned before, Ryan Reynolds was great even if he was essentially the same character he played in Blade: Trinity. His action scene was also the only one that got a smile out of me. Although the thought of these guys riding up in the elevator on their top secret mission still makes me laugh.
Look, I don't mind the idea of more Origins movies or even another Wolverine movie. As long as they make as much of an effort on the basic premise as they did trying to figure out how to shoe horn a bunch of cameos into this one. The bulk of my disappointment rests squarely on the script.
Iron Man and The Dark Knight showed us we don't have to accept the old "pretty good for a comic book movie" attitude. These can be great films period. Wolverine is not. And there's no excuse for that.
The Happening (2008)
It really IS as terrible as you've heard...
The Sixth Sense was a decent enough movie. Unbreakable is probably the only M. Night film I ever really got into. Beyond that I think this guy is a terrible, terrible filmmaker. And the worse his movies get, the louder his fans seem to think they need to be in their support of him. And for some, it's not enough that they like his movies. They also have to point out that the anyone that doesn't is WRONG.
Well, you know what? It finally feels like a decent chunk of his audience is figuring out what I've known for a long time... this guy is totally overrated. Go ahead. Defend The Happening. You're only embarrassing yourself. Because no true student of cinema or fan of film could ever possibly believe this isn't an unintentionally hilarious disaster of unimaginable proportions.
It's impossible to throw the blame onto one thing in particular but the "acting" is most certainly a large contribution to this sinking ship. Say what you want about Mark Wahlberg but the guy is perfectly capable of giving a great performance. But this is a train wreck. The scene where he asks the house plant if it's okay to use the bathroom is so unspeakably bad you'll swear it's a joke. The skit on SNL where he talks to animals carries more credibility.
And Zooey Deschanel. WHAT HAPPENED???? She's a genuinely talented actress. But it's like she's not even trying. Which simultaneously makes her the worst actor in the film and the smartest person in the cast. John Leguizamo is the only one who manages not to look like a complete fool. The bottom line is all of the performers have been fantastic in other films. I blame the direction. It's always felt like M. Night's striving for something minimalistic or restrained with his actors' performances. Yet somehow it always nosedives into melodrama instead.
The script is ludicrous. A lot of people feel the premise is a strong one. I disagree. But I do feel another filmmaker could have taken the same basic story and done something much stronger and more resonant with it. Plot points aside, the dialouge is flat out horrendous. The very definition of cringe-inducing. Anytime the characters try to slip in exposition it feels clunky and awkward. And the rest of the time they simply tell us exactly what they're thinking or feeling instead of showing us.
There are some nice touches here and there. The model home billboard with the slogan "You Deserve This!" immediately comes to mind. And the scene at the construction site early in the film is pretty grotesque. But the rest of it fails to be remotely frightening, suspenseful, engaging, or insightful. I'm not sure what the goal here was but this is completely disposable work.
Sometimes movies are so bad they're fun. In this case it's just plain bad.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Good, but not great
Here's the thing about comic book heroes. Most of them have silly names and often sillier costumes. But there's something so fundamental and human about the ones that have survived half a century. Spider-Man isn't just some dude swinging around New York. He's a young kid trying to balance so many competing parts of his life and spreading himself too thin. We all know what that's like. With the X-Men it's not just people with cool powers kicking the crap out of each other. It's about being part of a minority and others discriminating against you. Who hasn't had a taste of that? And with the Hulk, it's ultimately anger management. Literally having a monster inside of you and how difficult it is to control it. It's about being at war with yourself. So yes... his name is ridiculous. The idea of a giant green monster is a little out there. But when these movies have enough small character moments peppered in with the action there's a chance to really connect with them and allow yourself to forgive how unrealistic they dare to be because you're so immersed in their universe. The Incredible Hulk is not the best comic book movie ever made. It's not even in the top three. But it's a solid film and it could have been so much worse.
I have fond memories of the old TV show. Back then it was a waiting game until the Hulk showed up. Now it's the hardest part of the show to swallow and I find myself really intrigued by David Banner's plight. I didn't hate the Ang Lee movie but I have no desire to ever revisit it. This new incarnation has elements of both but for the most part does a satisfactory job of establishing itself as something new. The first act was the best part of the film for me. Everything until the battle on the college campus. The introductory scenes of Bruce were really effective and the first Hulk-out was almost legitimately frightening. The later action scenes are bigger in scope but they're never as creative.
Norton's been making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately but there's no denying he's got the goods. I have a feeling there were a lot of character moments left on the cutting room floor but what's left is still an admirable performance. And even though it's an underwritten role, Liv Tyler is a complete sweetheart as Betty. There's such a charming girl-next-door quality to her and even though I don't completely buy her as a scientist I totally believed in the connection she and Bruce shared. I felt like William Hurt and Tim Roth both received pretty thankless roles. They weren't bad by and means but the script (or this cut anyways) never allows them the chance to do much other than beg to fight the Hulk again or scream for more firepower.
The CGI isn't fantastic. That's just a fact. But it only pulled me out of the film a couple of times. And the Hulk looks about a million times better than he did in the last movie. As expected it does take over once the third act hits and for me that stuff just isn't as enthralling. The film never lost me, it just never reached the heights of the opening thirty minutes. Not for me at least. If I were thirteen I probably would have drooled over the last fight scene.
In the pantheon of comic book movies Hulk stands above Fantastic Four and Daredevil but never quite makes it to the top tier of films like Spider-Man 2, X2, Batman Begins, or even Iron Man. It's comfortably in the middle. I don't feel like I wasted my time or money. But I'm not anxiously awaiting a sequel either.
You really could do worse.
Less a story and more of a cut & paste job
I did not walk into this movie wanting to hate it. Far from it. Despite early reviews and rampant skepticism that seemed to plague most fanboys, I was still excited. How could I not be? Like most of you, Indiana Jones was part of the cinematic foundation of my childhood. I was humming the theme all day before I saw it. And listen, I realize we're dealing with twenty years of nostalgia. No current Indy film is going to come out and be able to compete with the memories of the others. But I'm not dealing with just memories. I just watched the first and third film a few days ago and was amazed how well they stood up, how witty they were, how incredible the action was, and how many little things I'd never noticed before. They're not just movies I liked when I was a kid. They're just well made films period.
Crystal Skull starts off interestingly enough. I like how they establish the cultural climate of the 1950's. In fact, the first half of the movie is truly solid. Not perfect. But definitely on par with Last Crusade. And I could have lived with that. I wasn't expecting much more.
It's basically the introduction of Marion and everything that follows that made the film take a complete nose dive for me. My complaints will sound a lot like other peoples and for that you may decide to disregard them completely. That's fine. I don't understand why we have to be so antagonistic with reviews or comments that contradict our own feelings. Or why anyone's opinion is less valid than another's.
You're either going to accept the Area 51/alien angle or you're not. It's that simple. Your overall enjoyment of the movie is going to greatly depend on which camp you fall into. Me, I didn't accept it. Sorry. It's just not my taste. I realize all of the Indy movies have moments where they tread into the fantastical. I'm not upset that it wasn't plausible. How is the end of Raiders any more so? It's just not my cup of tea, that's all. Watching Cate Blanchett make faces at a terribly rendered CGI alien who then turns her into a firework is just a little hard for me to get excited about. I'm sure if I were a little kid I wouldn't have had a problem with it. But I'm not and that's the sad fact. I would have preferred something a little more subtle and ambiguous. Not a climax where Indy stands around and watches things happen rather than taking part in them. And when the giant UFO comes out of the ground the movie just lost me completely. It doesn't make Indy 4 a terrible movie. I'd never say that. It just comes down to your personal taste. For some it may be perfectly suited to the franchise. For me it just didn't feel right. Sue me.
I also couldn't believe how underwhelming a lot of the special effects were. It's impossible to get caught up in the jungle car chase when it's so obvious none of the actors are in any real peril because they're in front of a green screen 80% of the time. It's not that the sword fight or Tarzan moment were too ridiculous. I have no problem with these movies going over the top. It's just that they looked so fake.
No one stages an action sequence like Spielberg and for the most part they don't disappoint. The motorcycle chase, the temple warriors, and the giant ants were all great moments. But the comedy that usually goes hand in hand with all that action was missing. There were a few genuine moments of it. And a lot of attempts at it. But nothing that even comes close to the perfect balance the earlier films exhibited. CGI is killing the action genre. The sequences in the other films were twice as exciting and imaginative without the aid of computers.
The most disappointing aspect of the film though is the script. How can someone as brilliant as Spielberg keep such a tight grip on someone as mediocre as David Koepp? The best moments from the script come from other people's drafts. I recognized at least 70% of the material as being borrowed. The mythology of the skull is tedious to listen to. Especially when it's essentially irrelevant. We're not there to listen to a lecture. We're there to go an adventure with Indy. The film is so talky and gets weighed down in its tendency to over explain everything. And there's zero character development. The Indy/Mutt relationship works well. Especially when it's just the two of them. But the rest of the characters (including Marion) are just set dressing. They're completely thankless roles.
I know it doesn't sound like it, but I didn't hate the movie. I would be all for another Indiana Jones film. Especially if they get an original & cohesive script and not a hodge podge of other people's idea.
I think it's totally okay that other people loved it. I just think it should be okay that not all of us did. Or that it means we're "haters" or that our nostalgia has clouded our judgment. I didn't expect another Raiders. I didn't expect perfection. Just more than this.
The Mist (2007)
A faithful adaptation, but only pretty good
I love the novella this film was based on. It's one of my favorite Stephen King stories. And I was incredibly excited that Darabont was finally able to bring it to the screen. I knew that no matter how great it was I probably wouldn't be able to get into it as much as the original story simply because what your imagination cooks up is always scarier than what a filmmaker can show you.
That being said, The Mist is successful in a lot of ways. There is some genuine suspense, tension, and horror in the film. A lot of the sequences are extremely well crafted and executed. While the acting isn't consistently stellar, there are some standout performances and moments. It follows the story beat for beat until the very end (more on that later) and does a great job translating from page to screen.
My biggest complaint is the quality of the effects. The monsters looked pretty fake most of the time. The incredibly high level of tension that's built up is often released the second we get a good look at one. Most of them look like they were created for a video game.
The novella benefits from the interior monologue that the film obviously couldn't give us. And even though the time frame is accurate, the film moves a lot faster (naturally) which makes it feel less desperate and frightening.
I'd like to talk about the ending so be warned that massive spoilers lay ahead. Skip to the next review if you don't want to know...
Alright... here's the thing... David not being able to go back for his wife in the novella was a stronger narrative choice. Realizing she's probably dead but never getting that closure is heartbreaking. Turning that car around without knowing for sure is just devastating.
And then of course there's the addition of running out of gas and now what do we do. I liked that. I liked that a lot. And I totally buy the decision they make. Some people have said the moment doesn't play out long enough to be believable. I disagree. Think about everything they've already seen and what they've gone through. They know this is a hopeless situation. They can hear their impending doom right outside the windows. The thing is, I don't feel their needed to be time to wrestle with the decision because for them there was no decision. The choice was clear. They were at the end of the road. They went as far as they could and really, what was the other option? They had no way of knowing a solution was right behind them.
That's why I thought the film should have ended a few minutes before it did. After we hear the gunshots and see David in the car with the bodies.
Because when the army shows up it's just a slap in the face. A tacked on addition that robs the previous moment of its power and resonance just to try and be ironic. Instead of feeling like "Well... there's no other way it could have ended" it's like the filmmaker saying "Haha! Look!" So instead of leaving the theater unnerved and trying to wrap your brain around the fact that he had to kill his son, you leave thinking "Oh why didn't he wait just a few more minutes???" and to me that's just not as strong. It's cruel just to be cruel. It didn't feel genuine. It felt like a great big cinematic middle finger to the audience.
The controversy of the ending aside, the film ranks as pretty good and not great for me. I don't regret seeing it but I can't help but feel a little let down and that maybe there was a better movie in there somewhere.
RoboCop 2 (1990)
Before this film's release fans must have been in a whirlwind of excitement. The director of Empire Strikes Back (widely regarded as one of the top sequels ever made) and the writer of The Dark Knight Returns teaming up for RoboCop. At first glance Miller seems like an ideal choice. DKR is brimming with social satire and the news broadcasts that infuse that comic are eerily similar to the Media Break segments in the first film. And maybe Miller was a great choice. We'll never really know since only fragments of his story were worked into the final script.
RoboCop 2 is vastly inferior to the original but it's not the train wreck a lot of people make it out to be either. It's a movie bursting at the seams with wasted potential. They had an interesting subplot with Murphy's widow, a charismatic villain, and OCP stealing the city right from under the Mayor's nose. All interesting subplots that are never given any development or payoff. The film doesn't even really have a coherent story. It darts off in so many directions and ends up feeling like a mish mash of their favorite moments from all the different drafts. OCP refusing to bring RoboCop back online, his eventual re-programming, and even the third act introduction of RoboCop 2... these are all elements slapped together and none of them has a chance to evolve or resonate.
Kershner is a competent filmmaker. Some of the scenes are incredibly well done: RoboCop's dismantling, Cain's assault on his former gang and the mayor, the last moment between Robo and the kid... but I'm not sure he was a great choice. 95% of the film takes place in daylight and everything seems so bright, shiny, and unthreatening. It looks like the film was made for a fraction of the cost of the original but that's not the case. How can the production value seem so low? Where did the money go? Robo's absent for a twenty minute stretch of time. Lewis & Reed are barely cameos. The Old Man is suddenly a vicious antagonist. The cops inexplicably end their strike and risk their lives to help Robo get revenge. But one of the biggest offenses is the score. Not only did Basil Poledouris not return, but none of his themes were used either. His RoboCop theme is iconic. This is like Superman without John Williams. The music is too hokey and chipper and the end credits overture borders on ridiculous (a choir chants "RoboCop!").
Perhaps the flaws wouldn't seem as glaring if there wasn't the amazing first film to compare this to. It's certainly not one of the worst movies I've ever seen. And it's certainly not as bad as the next sequel. But it ain't the original. Not by a long shot.
Twenty years later it still blows me away
RoboCop was one of the first R rated movies I ever saw as a child. Back when they had this allure of being forbidden and dangerous. I'll freely admit I was much too young to catch its satire and a lot of the plot points flew right over my head. I was more affected (and to a degree traumatized) by its graphic violence and the horrible circumstances of Murphy's fate. But the film stuck with me. It was such a compelling character surrounded by equally interesting supporting characters. The villain gave me nightmares and I was flat out terrified of him. It was also one of the first movies with morally ambiguous individuals I'd ever seen. Until then the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad. But it wasn't that simple in RoboCop. And even at that young age that resonated with me.
As I got older I began to appreciate the film on entirely other levels. And now, at 25 I love it even more. What we have here is something that could easily have turned into straight to video silliness. A mediocre script and laughable concept made into something revolutionary by great film-making. The lower points on Paul Verhoeven's resume can be forgiven because of gems like this. So many of the sequences in this film are just brilliantly shot and conceived (Murphy's death, the slow introduction to RoboCop, the Rock Shop bust, and the entire third act). He took subpar material and managed to shape it into so much more. But Verhoeven doesn't deserve all the credit. Peter Weller's performance is suitabaly repressed but somehow still so emotive. Not an easy task when all the audience sees is the lower half of your face. Kurtwood Smith takes corny and clichéd dialogue and makes it haunting and believable.
The film has a down and dirty tone that no subsequent versions of the franchise have ever matched. There's beauty in its brutality and a cohesiveness sorely missing in the sequels. It feels epic and intimate at the same time. It's imaginative and awe inspiring.
There were so many places to go with this character and so many possibilities. It's a shame the films and TV series that followed wasted all of them. Now the franchise inspires laughs and is all but dead. It's too bad because it's easy to forget how powerful and truly rock solid this first entry is.
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Second best in the series
It was with extreme cynicism that I entered the fourth Die Hard film. The original is a classic, the second is late 80's/early 90's over indulgence at its guilty pleasure best, and the third left me horribly disappointed. Twelve years later and I'm seeing pictures of a bald McClane, reading that the Underworld director is helming this, hearing all this talk of a PG-13 rating, watching lackluster trailers, and wondering why of why are they further desecrating this franchise? The film started and I began to worry that all my fears were not irrational. Something was a little off. From the under-whelming opening titles to the awkward introduction of John's character I thought it was true: it was going to be a Die Hard film that felt nothing like a Die Hard film.
Fifteen minutes later and this baby finally found it legs and delivered an intense and gratifying ride that literally left me exhausted by the time it faded to black.
It wasn't without its flaws. I'm a fan of Timothy Olyphant but his casting as the lead villain was a mistake. In the pantheon of Die Hard villains he ranks as the blandest. This is due in no small part to the script which never bothers to make him anything more than a cardboard cut out with a cliché motive and long expository chunks of dialogue. There is no hint of a personality, just endless spurts of information.
And yeah, it gets a little bit too over the top at some points. I personally took little issue with this but I can certainly understand where some might feel that they've turned McClane into a superhero without a costume.
The music is nothing to write home about. I wouldn't say it's bad, but it's certainly no better than average.
As for the PG-13 rating... I didn't mind it one single bit. I'm surprised they got it. The lack of profanity is apparent but honestly- it's a strange thing to complain about. And an easy fix once the unrated DVD is released. The violence on the other hand is sufficiently brutal. The blood doesn't spray as explicitly as it did in the second film but truth be told it's more violent than the third. It's definitely a Die Hard film in that capacity.
Len Wiseman... I was not a fan of this guy. The Underworld movies are boring and unimpressive. But he really delivers here. You don't understand how surprised I am to be admitting that. The action sequences in this film are nothing short of spectacular. The tunnel, the elevator shaft, Matt's rescue... not only are these scenes busting at the seems with adrenaline but they also manage to incorporate something sorely missing from action films these days: genuine suspense.
But for me the best part of the film was that John McClane was BACK. It was always so obvious that the third film was not written as a Die Hard film originally and they just changed the names of the characters. It didn't feel like John. His sidekick in that film was more of a bad ass than he was and that was just wrong. But this is McClane in all his familiar glory. It was nice to have him back.
I loved Justin Long as Matt. A popular criticism is that his character is whiny and annoying but I disagree. I'm a big fan of that actor and his style of humor so it completely worked for me.
I'm not as enthusiastic about Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy. Here scenes were pretty hit or miss. The "That would be my dad" line was probably the worst one in the movie. And she goes from hating her father to having him be the only person in the world she wants to talk to with no explanation. But for the most part she was pretty good.
Kevin Smith. I don't know. He seemed out of place and he's definitely not an actor. But I didn't find him as awful as some people seem to.
Overall, this was the most fun at the movies I've had yet this summer. I'm anxious to see it again. I know Die Hard fans are all over the board with their reactions but face facts: if you're a fan you know you're going to see it eventually. I'm just hear to say that if your experience ends up being anything like mine quit waiting.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Third time's the harm
It's really painful for me to write this review. I think the first half of Spider-Man is nearly perfect. I consider Spider-Man 2 one of the greatest comic book movies ever made. I could not have been more excited for part three. After reading all the early reviews I prepared myself for the fact that this might not be as good as the first sequel. But I had no idea I'd be this disappointed.
But let's start with what works. There are some genuine and amazing moments in this film. The first half is loaded with them. Peter's backstage visit with M.J. after her show, sharing "their" kiss with Gwen Stacy, his thwarted proposal attempt, J. Jonah's first scene, and the first battle with Harry... these sequences are as strong as the best moments from the earlier films.
But even when it's working it's clear very early on that all is not right this time out. There's too much being crammed into too small a running time. All three villains are handled fairly well... but each one deserved their own film. We get one scene of exposition with our soon to be Sandman and his daughter and then she's never heard from again. Venom (who's never even referred to by name) is essentially just a cameo. And the New Goblin, who has the best character arc in the film, is simply building off the momentum the first two started. The story is ludicrous. It's filled with too many contrivances, coincidences, and plot holes. It's a mish-mash of half baked ideas never allowed to reach their full potential.
The whole marketing campaign is built around Peter's descent into darkness and the whole black suit affair. This literally encompasses two or three scenes in the film. That's it. It would have been a solid subplot had Harry been the only villain. Lots of parallels could have been drawn. Instead, we hear Peter talk about having all this power and never see him use it. In fact, the culmination of this descent is a ridiculous dance sequence that belongs in another film. Not a Spider-Man movie. And Tobey Maguire just does not pull off the bad@$$ type at all. I don't know whose idea it was to make an emo Spider-Man but wow... emo is probably the least intimidating look on the planet. The audience actually laughed every time he showed up on screen with his silly new hairstyle and (*shudder*) eyeliner. There was no fear on the audience's part for what Peter was becoming. It was the worst kind of hilarious... the unintentional kind.
I couldn't believe the leaps in logic the film asked the viewer to make. A meteorite from space carrying a deadly symbiote happens to land right next to the only super-hero in New York City? Sandman just happens to be chased into a molecular testing ground? Eddie Brock actually goes to church to beg God to kill someone? Harry gets amnesia just so they don't have to deal with his revenge subplot for half the movie? And how on earth would the butler have ANY idea that Norman Osborn died at his own hand? And WHY WHY WHY did he not tell Harry the second he became obsessed with killing Spider-Man???? And so much is left unresolved by the film's end. What exactly was Harry's plan before he redeemed himself? What happens to Sandman? Or Gwen Stacy? Characters and entire subplots are just dropped without conclusion right before the climax.
Venom is clearly not Sam Raimi's villain. And it's obvious he was forced upon him and not included at the director's will. There's no slithering tongue, no referring to himself as "we", and no reason it should have been just Topher's voice coming out of this alien looking creature.
Aside from the script, my biggest complaints are with the cinematography and score. Not once does this film ever achieve the scope the second film had. That one was beautiful, vivid, and looked like a comic come to life. This one looks dreary, claustrophobic, and very drab. And while no one can one up Danny Elfman, Christopher Young could have at least tried a little harder. He plays the "hero theme" every time Spider-Man swings into the screen, whether it's appropriate or not. The cue that plays during Peter and Harry's second fight is laughably inappropriate, and why at the end when Peter & M.J. are mourning Harry does the soundtrack blare some heroic and oddly happy piece of music? It does the worst thing a score can do... it contrasts to what's actually happening on screen and calls attention to itself.
How did three years and $300 million translate to something that feels so rushed and cheap? Again, it's not all bad. But there aren't enough great moments to make up for all the terrible ones. When it faded out and the credits started to roll I honestly felt like this was Sam Raimi's way of saying "I dare you to let me make another Spider-Man movie".
I love Raimi. But it's clear it's time for this series to let some new blood step in. It feels like he's all tapped out and a little bored by all of this. The passion that infused every scene of the last film is sorely missing.
I can't recommend this movie. And it's actually painful for me to admit that.
Not as good as the first, BUT...
When I first saw this in the theater I was horribly disappointed. And while I still can't understand how anyone would prefer this to the original film, repeated viewings have caused this entry to grow on me considerably.
My biggest problem is still that they spent so much time repeating jokes and situations from the first film instead of delivering something new. In fact, it's all the ties to COTBP that really hurt this one. They had an opportunity to tell any number of amazing stories in this world. The way that the Indiana Jones series took the same character and supporting cast and dropped them in the middle of a brand new adventure each time out. Same people. Different story. I really thought that's what this franchise would end up being like. And even on the writer's commentary they acknowledge that this was an option but instead decided to try and unify the movies and turn it into a trilogy where each one was strongly connected to the others. I think this was a mistake. Soooo much time is spent finding excuses to get the characters back together and keep them tied into each others stories. And perhaps if it had seemed more effortless this would have been okay. But it feels like they're grabbing at straws and relying on your love for the first one. But nothing in this film is as clever, funny, or awe inspiring as COTBP.
But it's certainly not a total failure either. The cannibal island sequence, while having nothing to do with the overall plot, is an amazing piece of film-making. The stunt work there is just phenomenal. And it's the perfect balance of humor and breathtaking action. I believe it's the strongest chunk of the film. Which is odd considering it does little to move the plot along. I also love the three way sword fight near the climax. I've heard complaints that it goes on too long but I was too enthralled to notice. I thought it was expertly devised and executed. These two moments made it feel as if I were watching something I'd never seen in a movie before.
But the exposition scenes seems endless and it hinders character development because so much time is spent talking about what's happening. And then talking about it some more. And some more. And then some more. And then when the characters are given new places to go it just feels off. The biggest offense being Elizabeth's sudden attraction to Jack. Their dynamic in the first film was perfect: him thinking she was hopelessly in love with him and her being completely repulsed by him. It seemed like a lame attempt at a love triangle. And while the commentary did clear up their intentions a little bit, I still feel this was a mistake. I just never bought into it.
I was secretly hoping they'd shy away from the supernatural stuff this time out. In the original, aside from the curse itself, it felt as if this was all taking place in a some kind of real world. In this one that's impossible. This is like a whole other universe. While I dig Bill Nighy as Davy Jones (and WOW is that CGI incredible) I don't think he holds a candle to Barbossa. And with Barbossa's crew we had unique characters with their own personalities and not just cardboard cut out villains who are pretty much indistinguishable from one another like Jones' crew. And the whole thing with the Kraken just felt like it belonged in some other movie. That was really pushing the supernatural elements. At least for my taste.
There's still A LOT to like about the movie, but like I said... I don't think it comes close to the original. It's too bloated, overly-complicated, and shamelessly steals most of its humor from COTBP. I hope At World's End fares better. But I still wish they'd concentrated on making stand alone films instead of relentlessly winking at the audience with in jokes to the original.
Hook, Line, & Sucker...
There was a time when another sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer might have made sense. But eight years later, this is not that time. The fact is that the slasher films the Scream franchise breathed new life into have once again run their course. And the IKNWYDLS series never shared the same acclaim as Scream anyways. All these years later it's been written off as what many of us then already knew it was: a second-tier effort meant to cash in on the latest craze. So the question is: Was anyone waiting for a third installment?
Let me admit something here before I continue. I was 17 when the first film was released and I liked it quite a bit. I didn't see Scream until it was out on video which meant that IKWYDLS was the first slasher film I ever saw in a theater. And it was a hell of a lot of fun. While future viewings have revealed that it ultimately isn't that great of a film, the nostalgia is hard to let go of. There's no point in going into detail about the second film because I feel the same way everybody else does. It sucked. Big time.
Which brings us to this one. Even with all new characters and an all new setting it's still the same old story. This is less of a sequel and more like a remake. They reference the others via newspaper clippings but it's really just a recycled telling of the first movie. Which is unfortunate because that one was far more effective.
For starters, the acting just flat out blows. There's no way around it. It's not even soap opera bad. It's high school drama class bad. A few of the supporting characters are alright but our main group of teenagers is just abysmal. They were by far the scariest part of the film.
Not that the script gave them a lot to work with. Within the first fifteen minutes we're treated to lines like the Frat Guy with a bad temper saying, "It was an accident!". To which Badass Rocker Chick asks: "Was it...?"
The worst part is that it actually was just an accident. Which just makes rocker chick look like a moron. And the rest of us look like fools for wasting money on a movie that's treating its audience like idiots.
Some of my favorite scenes...
The first is when the kids that are still alive decide to leave town before they're gutted like their friends. But right before they head out rocker chick informs them that there are going to be industry types at her gig that night and she can't pass it up. There's a couple of problems with that. 1)No matter how badly you want to make it, when you're being chased by a zombie fisherman that's probably a good time to says "nuts to this, I'm outta here". And 2) It's hard to enjoy a record contract when you're dead. But fine. Rocker chick wants to stay? Let her stay. Except that the other three decide to stay behind with her because they "need to stick together". Are you kidding me? Are you like those kids from Captain Planet whose powers will combine to create some superhero that will defeat the fisherman? Short answer: No. You're not. So hit the road. And ditch the moron that wants to stay.
Also, in the opening scene a kid gets killed at a carnival. So this 4th of July they decide not to have said carnival in case the fisherman is still out there. Instead they hold a giant talent show that is attended by everyone that would have gone to the carnival. Maybe the fisherman was just drawn to all the blinking lights on the ferris wheel. There's probably no reason to suspect he'd show up at this function too. Good thinking.
I also love when the Sheriff confronts the main characters during the climax and suspects they're the murderers. They try to tell him that the fisherman is after all of them and that they didn't kill anybody. "Well where is he then?" The sheriff asks. Probably not in the shadows right behind you. Because things never pop out of the shadows in a horror movie. And I'm not even talking about a little shadow. The entire background is pitch black! Where could Captain Hook be hiding?
Then of course there's the character whose about to commit suicide when the fisherman shows up. Then he of course fights for his life. The life he was about to take. And how does the fisherman dispose of him? He slashes his throat open. But guess what? The other characters find his suicide note so that's clearly what happened. Now I'm no genius but I'm pretty sure that there's no way that this kid was capable of building up enough momentum to rip open his own throat like that. But oh right... the note. Duh. If that says he killed himself than that must be how it went down. And only one night after the main character gets all those threatening messages. What a coincidence.
The music is also pretty wretched. It just kind of drones on and on with the occasional obligatory sting. But the most irritating element of the movie is the editing. The constant jump cuts are amateurish, distracting, and kill any semblance of tension. And I'm amazed that with all the rapid cuts the film absolutely drags. It's only in the last fifteen minutes or so that it starts moving.
With personalities, situations, and even dialouge lifted from the first film you're better off just revisiting that one. This is direct-to-video exploitation at its worst. I can't think of a single reason to recommend it. I've sat through my share of bad horror films and this is easily one of the worst.
Superman Returns (2006)
There's a scene in this movie where Superman lies on a hospital bed in critical condition. The Daily Planet has two papers ready to roll depending on what happens to him. One says "Superman Lives" and the other says "Superman is Dead". That's the ping pong game of opinions I had while watching this movie. Back and forth from one to the other.
I really, really wanted to love this movie. You'll read comment after comment from people who grew up with the original Superman movies. I'm no different. So when this movie started and I heard the familiar theme music and saw those dated but wonderful opening credits I got goosebumps. But guys, there's just no way around it... Superman Returns is not a bad movie, it's just not great.
Before I break it down let me tell you the biggest problem I had with the film. The mother of all problems as far as I'm concerned... it's no fun. That's it. That's 90% of what I didn't like about it. Remember how witty the original was while still taking itself seriously? Remember how awe-inspiring it was to watch Superman use his powers? Do you know how many moments in that film STILL make me smile ear to ear? "You've got me? Who's got you?!" "Doesn't it give you kind of a... shudder... of electricity through you to be in the same room with me?" "Fly. Just fly. We got... something. I ain't saying what it is. Just... trust me." Why is it that modern superhero movies have to overload on the angst? With someone like Batman I get it. That's a darker character. But for a better example look at the Spider-Man movies. They're emotional without being depressing. Superman Returns is a bit of a downer. It simply isn't a lot of fun. And for a director who was trying to copy Donner's world verbatim, that's a pretty important piece of the puzzle to forget. Those first two Supermans are movie escapism at its best.
Let's talk about Brandon Routh as Superman/Clark Kent. There's no doubt the guy has the look (though he doesn't strike me as the Christopher Reeve doppleganger most people see). He's a pretty suitable successor to the role. But no one will ever embody this character the way Reeve did. There will never be a more lovable Clark or a more idolized Superman. Routh has the physicality for the role, but his charisma pales in comparison to Reeve.
I found the rest of the cast to be similarly acceptable (if not underwhelming) with the exception of Kate Bosworth as Lois. It just didn't work for me. I believe Margot Kidder casts as large a shadow over that role as Reeve does as Superman. She's not the spunky, sassy, and opinionated woman she was before. She's not even a woman. She looks like an intern lost in the abyss of the Daily Planet, not someone who commands it. Singer has a habit of casting his comic book movies a tad too young. This is no exception.
I did like Sam Huntington as Jimmy and James Marsden as Richard. Those were probably the two biggest stands outs for me. Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey are predictably good in roles that don't require them to do much we haven't seen before.
There are some pretty big problems with the story (the poor foundation on which this unstable film was constructed on). For starters, no one finds it a little strange that Superman and Clark both disappeared at the same time and both came back at the same time? If Superman can fly at almost the speed of light, why did it take him five years to look for Krypton? Does Lex realize that his big scheme will kill all of the people he's counting on to buy land from him? If this follows Superman I & II, didn't Superman wipe Lois' memory at the end of Part II? How does she remember sleeping with Superman? And if she remembers that, why doesn't she remember that Clark is Superman? In almost every interview conducted with Bryan Singer before this movie was released he said this movie was about Superman returning to a world that didn't need him anymore. Really? Because I didn't get that at all. We see one article that Lois wrote and no evidence that anyone anywhere on the planet feels that way. In fact, the second Superman reappears at the baseball stadium everyone is giving him a standing ovation and celebrating this return. For a world that doesn't need him, they sure are glad to have him back.
A lot of people say that beat for beat this movie is almost identical to the first one. That's not true. It starts a lot faster and the ending is a bit sloppier. There's something really unsatisfying about Luthor's last scene. I was waiting for something else to come next. But it never did. I was also a little disappointed that Superman and Lex have one, count it ONE, scene together.
This sounds overwhelmingly negative but I didn't dislike the movie. I just wanted it to be so much more than it is. The fact is it's not a lot of fun to spend two and a half hours with characters who mope around and don't seem to like themselves very much.
What's fascinating about posting a review to a movie like this is that anyone that disagrees with me immediately clicks that this review wasn't helpful. Maybe they're hoping it gets buried so that some other visitor to the site doesn't stumble upon it and agree with me (God forbid!). If you genuinely think my review sucks then click away. But if it's because you hate my opinion and not the way I expressed it, why not try sending me a message and trying to explain to me your point of view?
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
One of the greats
I always loved the first half of Spider-Man. I thought it was perfect. Right up there with Superman's origin in Donner's original. Tobey was perfect as Peter. Even Kirsten Dunst who is not one of my favorites radiated with a genuine girl next door quality. It had just the right sense of humor and it was wonderful to look at.
Then the Green Goblin showed up.
The movie nose dived pretty hard for me after that. It still had some good moments but it never stood as firm as it did in the first act.
The sequel doesn't have that problem. This is a solid piece of work from start to glorious finish. This is not just a definitive Spider-Man movie. This is one of the best comic book films PERIOD. Maybe only second to the original Superman. It sure as hell beats all the Batman films (Bats is my fav and I can still admit that) and I think it's even better than X2.
Everything works. Every character. Every action sequence. Every subplot. They packed so much into this that it's ready to burst at the seams. What other action films should pay attention to is what Sam Raimi has mastered with this series: it's character driven, not plot driven. Each major character has a strong and identifiable arc. John McLane is the same at the end of every Die Hard movie as he is at the beginning. Blade has had three movies and we don't anything more about him now than we did when the first one began.
It's one of the first lessons of screen writing: create characters that the audience cares about and invests in. Because then when they're in those life or death situations it literally becomes an edge of your seat experience. For my money, there might not be a better scene in any superhero film than the train sequence in this one. It left me breathless.
The biggest thing this has going for it is heart. Peter Parker has to be one of the most sympathetic heroes ever committed to film. You feel for this kid. You want him to get the girl. You want him to reconcile with his best friend. You feel his anguish when he has to admit to his role in his uncle's death.
This is everything the first film got right with everything that didn't trimmed off.
I cannot give any higher recommendation. I loved this movie.
Silent Hill (2006)
I'm not ashamed to say I liked it... a lot.
Look, I'm a fan of the games. In fact, they're the only reason I own a PS2. I'm not a big video game guy. But I rented Silent Hill 4 last year and I was absolutely blown away. It was scary as hell and I'd never felt so immersed in a world as I did when I was playing that game. It didn't take long to figure out that SH fans hold the second game up to be the greatest of the series so that was my next purchase. Followed by the first and then the third. Even now, SH4 is still my favorite. Probably because it was my first experience with all of this. The only reason I bring this up is that I think my love of this mythology was essential to getting the most out of this movie. And a dense mythology it is. It would be very ignorant of someone to shrug off SH as being "just a game". They spin circles not just around other horror games (man do they make Resident Evil look wimpy) but around most other horror media as well, be it movies, books, etc. They did not follow any of the games verbatim. Which was probably a good choice. And I think all things considered they delivered a very solid adaptation. What you need to understand is that this is a movie made for the fans. And in that respect it is a glorious success.
This IS Silent Hill. This is the town from the games. It's been brought to the screen with astonishing detail. Even those who find faults in the story have to admit the film looks gorgeous. The cinematography and the score are reason enough to give this a look.
This is not a jump out of your seat scream your brains out horror movie. It doesn't aspire to be. This is a film more concerned about instilling you with a sense of uncomfortable dread and making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. This is not Scream. This is not Saw. It's surrealism. It's fantasy. And perhaps in some ways it's a triumph of style over substance. But I was too involved in it to care. I was too anxious to see what was waiting around the next corner. There are images in this film that will be impossible to burn out of your brain.
It's not perfect. The scenes with the husband and the cop seemed to exist mostly to pad out the running time. If that subplot had been regulated to just exposition about what happened to the town it would have been more bearable. But there are way too many scenes of them running around in what we know is a safe reality so there's no sense of suspense or danger.
I hear a lot that people didn't understand the movie or that it was too confusing. I could not disagree more. I think once the identity of the girl in the hospital bed is explained so is the entire plot. I also don't feel that the ending is open to interpretation. It was pretty clear to me what had happened. But then, maybe I'm wrong. All I'm saying is that this is hardly the mind trip a lot of people are making it out to be. I think the problem was revealing too much too late. The information should have started earlier and come more frequently. Because I think the first half does get a bit repetitive.
Video game movies automatically have this stigma attached to them. And I can't help but feel that if it weren't based on a game people would be taking it much more seriously. But it doesn't matter, because this was not made for those people. As I said before, this is for the fans. And if you consider yourself one you have no business not seeing this film.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Why is it Impossible to make a great M:I?
This is a very tricky review for me to write. The reason being that I don't remember the last time I felt so wish-washy about a movie. I believe the biggest problem was reading too much about the film before I saw it. Countless articles and interviews explaining how we finally get to see a fleshed out Ethan Hunt who was an actual human being this time and not just a super spy who looks cool in shades. And all those early reviews were so incredibly positive and eagerly proclaimed this to be the best in the series. Maybe there's no way to live up to that kind of promise. I feel that the film certainly tried. But in the end my gut tells me that it was just incredibly average. Right down the middle. Neither here nor there.
The biggest letdown for me was that I was lead to believe that this was the movie where we finally got to see the teamwork. The other agents were all supposed to be colorful and necessary and make the whole thing radiate with the same vibe the TV show had. But make no mistake, this is still The Tom Cruise Show. His team in this installment is only slightly less cardboard than the team from Part II. Personalities? Character development? Don't count on it. We get Ving Rhames who still has nothing to do as Luther, Maggie Q playing a character whose main purpose seems to be to look hot and has a name I don't even remember, and a totally wasted Jonathan Rhys-Myers as "the driver". And that's it. I just gave you all the info the movie gives us about this "team".
Ethan himself never completely emerges as a character either. The glimpse into his life away from IMF was nice, but ultimately useless. There aren't enough scenes with him and his wife to completely buy into their relationship. It's the same problem most action movies have. They expect the audience to believe these two are in love because they're telling us that they are. But they rarely show it. You rarely feel it. It's not there to flesh out Ethan. It's a plot device.
But there was also a lot to like about the movie. The scene at the Vatican is the only moment that the film lives up to its full potential. It's the only time in this entire franchise that you really get a taste of what an M:I movie should feel like. I also loved Hoffman as the main villain. His screen time is minimal but he milks every second of it.
I'm not familiar with J.J. Abrahams' TV work. I don't watch Lost and I never saw an episode of Alias (gasp!) and I've seen a few complaints that he recycled ideas from both. If he did, I wouldn't know. But I liked his approach to the material. The only scene that reeked of rip-off to me was the bridge sequence which was right out of True Lies. It even looked like the same location. It was too similar to even be considered an homage. It was theft.
This was sort of a hybrid of the first two films. If you put them in a blender you'd get this. It never feels as dense or layered as the first film. And it certainly never feels as light and over the top as the second. It's somewhere in the middle.
For my money, the first one is still the best. I know it has some glaring errors but it's still the strongest. This one is definitely better than the second, but not as much as many would have you believe. I would say it's worth a look but do your best to check your expectations at the door. You'll probably have a better time with it that way.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
How the mighty have fallen...
I really can't believe what I've just witnessed. Let me preface this review by saying that for a long time I believed both X-Men and X2 were slightly overrated. I guess we all walk into these films with our own ideas of who and what the X-Men are and what they mean to us. I'll admit that my enjoyment of the first two movies was hampered by the fact that I couldn't let go of those ideas.
But over time I grew to appreciate very strongly what Bryan Singer had done. It was not the X-Men I had known as a child but it was something equally as complex and entertaining. The world these heroes lived in felt like one that could be right outside my door. I had a deep investment in them and their relationships with one another. You could feel seeds being planted for further adventures. There was a big picture. A grand design. And it should have culminated with the X movie to end all X movies. The point where each story reaches its inevitable climax. I'm not sure three movies would have been enough to tell the story Singer had in mind (I believe his original plans were to shoot X3 and X4 back to back), but I don't think it would have been impossible. But we deserved better than this. X3 does not send the series out with a bang, but with a whimper.
The whole thing reeks of a second tier crew picking up the reigns left dangling by their first tier predecessors. Everything from the script to the production design to the direction is lacking. It's not awful, just average. And incredibly inferior to what's come before it. I never pegged myself as a Bryan Singer fan, but he was sorely missed through every frame of this travesty.
The single worst part of the film for me was the way it mishandled Magneto and Professor X. They both behaved so completely out of character. Xavier going in and manipulating Jean's mind runs contrary to everything we've ever heard him say in the previous films. And taking a verbal swipe at Logan just seemed off. And Magneto... where to begin? First of all, he would not have abandoned Mystique. I just don't buy it. I also don't buy his "What have I done?" moment at the end. But the worst was probably his "That's why the pawns go first" comment. Ridiculous. Those were his "brothers" he was sending in there to die. Calling them pawns immediately sucks away any sympathy you might have had for him up to that point. The Magneto from the first two films would have been on the front lines with them.
And yeah, they biffed the whole Dark Phoenix thing. Big time. That whole storyline should have been dropped and saved for its own film instead of squeezing it in here. There is no phoenix. Just a lame excuse to bring back Jean Grey as a mute zombie who stands behind Magneto.
Oy, and Cyclops. You bastards. That's borderline unforgivable. Granted the first two films pushed him in the background but here he was just erased completely. Literally. Guess what? We didn't need anymore of Storm. In fact, the consensus seems to be that Halle Berry sucks. It should have been Cyclops that had to get a handle on his emotions and take charge of the team once Xavier was killed. It should have been him and Logan facing off against Jean in the end. Their proverbial triangle should have become a literal one. One could have been ready to destroy her and one could still have been trying to protect her. Huge opportunity missed. Those three words pretty much sum up the whole film.
There's no end to the errors. Why is Rogue in the danger room? What on Earth is she going to do??? Why are the Sentinel's eyes white in the sky and red when they hit the ground? Why is it daytime one second and night the next? Could they have picked a worse actor to play the president? Is this all Ratner's fault? Of course not. I think most blame belongs to Tom Rothman and the screenwriters. But Ratner definitely didn't help. Imagine a scene like Warren cutting off his wings or Mystique losing her powers in Singer's hands.
There is no emotional resonance here. It's hard to care about anything we're watching. No one mourns the death of Cyclops. Even seeing his and Jean's tombstones later in the film didn't affect me at all. Watching Magneto fall or realizing Rogue gave up her powers... nothing. Didn't feel a thing. Wolverine is reduced to wallpaper. Set dressing. There is no character arc for him or anyone else.
And if you're going to try and be so bold as to kill three beloved characters and neuter three others, have the balls to stick with it. But they don't. By the end of the movie there's an explanation for how to undo everything that's happened. The movie is essentially pointless. There are no lasting consequences for future films. If there is an X4 it would take only the first act to bring these characters right back to where we left them at the end of X2.
Speaking of which, THAT was a solid ending. As they stand in front of the president you think "Holy crap, it's the X-Men!" But in X3, it doesn't feel that way. It feels instead like these are the leftovers.
Fox, you should have waited for Singer. As long as you had to.
The Crow: City of Angels (1996)
So much potential wasted
By now, the stories about the extensive cuts made to this film are probably common knowledge (on the slim chance you have no clue what I'm talking about read the 'alternate versions' page or find the screenplay somewhere on the net). Like most Crow fans, I think the film would have been helped tremendously by the additional footage. But unlike my fellow fans, I don't think that even with all deleted scenes restored the movie would have been very good.
The problem is not the direction. I think Tim Pope, along with production designer Alex McDowell, brough a great style to the film. Nor is the problem the acting. Despite what many others have written, I like Vincent Perez in the lead role. And although Mia Kirshner is basically Sarah in name only, she is still very good in the film. No- there is one thing that sunk this project: bad writing.
David S. Goyer is one of the worst screenwriters working today. I find it interesting that on the commentary for Blade II, the director and producer rip apart his script and talk about all the work they had to do to turn it into a servicable movie. The man is full of great ideas and p*** poor execution. His dialouge is crap. For all of you who attack the film's acting, YOU try reciting lines like "Does the corpse have a familiar face" and "I am all your nightmares rolled into one" and not sounding like a total fool. Add to that his complete lack of character development and you've got yourself a doomed movie.
Everyone complains that the relationship between Ashe and Sarah that was hinted at needed more fleshing out. Even in early version of the script, and in all that cut footage, there is still NOTHING that makes that aspect of the film believable. You can't just tell us two people are in love and expect us to buy it. We have to see it. We have to feel it. The same is true of the villains and their motivations. In the original Crow each gang member had a distinct and memorable personality. In COA, there is nothing of the sort. Just comic book bad guys wearing flashy costumes who basically just wait to get picked off one by one. Goyer basically says: "Here's the good guy. These are the bad guys... now watch them fight." I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way. How about taking a lesson from Crow 1 and injecting a little soul into your action?
Even the alternate ending bothers me, it makes absolutely no sense. The idea itself is good. The intentions were good. Like I said before, it's the way it's executed that ruins it. It really is a shame. When you consider the film they were trying to make, you can really appreciate it. But they should have hired a different screenwriter. Goyer killed this film. I can't believe he's still working. I'm heartbroken they're letting him near the new Batman film.
To be fair, COA is not as bad as I thought it was when I first saw it in t he theatre. But the dialouge is groan worthy and you run a high chance of it stimulating your gag reflex. But it's almost worth watching for the atmosphere they create and for the music that accompanies it. Just don't expect much else. Especially if you're a fan of the first film.
American Wedding (2003)
I give it a B-
There's something missing from this latest American Pie movie. I can't put my finger on it, but the fact is it didn't feel like an American Pie movie. Yes, the gross out humor was there. Yes, most of the cast was there. And yet, it felt more like a spin-off than a sequel. Here are a few reasons I've decided it comes off that way: for starters, the lack of half the cast is much more evident than I thought it would be. While it's completely understandable how Nadia, Vicky, and Jessica would be left out of this one, it really would have been nice to see Oz back with the gang (and by extension Heather, even if she just gave a cameo). I know he wasn't all that funny in Part 2 and writer Adam Herz said there wasn't a lot of comedic potential left for his character. I remember going in thinking "As long a I've got Stiffler and Jim's dad I'm a happy guy", but I really did miss the other characters. And no Sherman??? He could easily have had a small role somewhere. I mean Lord, they gave Stiffler's mom a cameo that makes absolutely no sense. So I'm not buying the "I couldn't find a way to work him in" excuse. It was a family reunion with only half the family. There's something strange about seeing Jim, Finch, and Kevin sitting at a bar without Oz right there with them. I wasn't expecting that. I thought by getting rid of some of the less amusing characters, trimming the fat if you will, sounded like a good idea. But the absence is felt. Oz should have been there. There was even a great oppurtunity to bring back Nadia had they chose to. There's a subplot that they start to explore and then forget about where Jim wonders if he's sure he's making the right decision. He asks his dad if he was wrong to pass on Nadia. I thought it would have been logical for him to test himself by contacting her. And of course he'd have realized his true love for Michelle in the process yada yada yada... but it would have been a better personal story for Jim. As it stands in the finished film, he does not have one. He, like the other friends, exist only to tell Stiffler what a horrible person he is.
Another thing that bugged me was the shifting of an ensemble story to a strong emphasis on just one character. And it's not even Jim. It's Stiffler. He is essentially the main character of the movie and while Sean William Scott is unbeliavably hilarious, that character worked better as a supporting role. I did enjoy seeing another side of him, but not at the expense of reducing Jim to his sidekick and cutting Kevin out of the picture completely. I know Stiffler's a popular character, but I think the film would have been better had it focused more on the pre-wedding fiascos of Jim and Michelle(Hell, that's the title!). I also didn't like how out of character some of the cast behaved. Michelle was just not herself. She was not the same person she was in the last one, which was a great performance. I know they had to make her the leading lady, but even when they try for some genuine "Michelle Moments" they come off as forced and illogical. This is the girl that shoved a trumpet up Jim's fanny. This time around she had little to do except cry over some dead flowers. They completely wasted her and Kevin. A lot of people didn't like Kevin in the last one and I say it's because they never gave him a chance to do anything good. His best scenes were cut from Part 2 and in this one he's just set dressing while the spotlight shines firmly on Stiffler. Big mistake. The whole bond of these four guys (Jim, Oz, Kevin, and Finch) is thrown out the window so we can see the sensitive side of Stiffler.
Don't get me wrong, the movie accomplishes its most important goal: it's funny. Very funny. I know this review sounds negative, but I don't feel like I wasted my $10. I came to laugh and that's exactly what I did. The gross out humor and fantastic one liners did not disapoint. I just wish it had stayed true to the tone of the first two. It's not a bad movie at all, but like I said it just doesn't really feel like an American Pie movie.
Better than I expected!
I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to see this movie. The fact that Johnny Depp was in it guaranteed that I'd have to watch it at some point, but with Bruckheimer producing and some non-impressive trailers I wasn't that excited about it.
X2 was a fair effort. Terminator 3 sucked. I was convinced this was just a summer of duds. Thank God for Pirates. It blew those other films out of the water. Johnny Depp is a God send. Never before have I been so enthralled in a character. He was unbeliably fun to watch. His performance alone raises the film from above B-movie level. The actual script isn't funny enough to be a lot of fun, nor is it creepy enough to be a genre effort. But Depp's interpretation of his character transforms this movie into something awe inspiring. It gives it a completely different feel and actually helps it retain that sort of innocent goofiness the ride has.
Geoffrey Rush was also great as Captain Barbossa. The sword fight between him and Sparrow was a stand out moment in a film full of stand out moments. Orlando Bloom was pretty boring, but then again the role didn't require much else other than a 'straight man' to Depp's colorful Captain. I'd heard all these comments about how Depp was the best reason to see the film and I can sincerely say that none of that was exaggerated. It truly is reason enough to go see the film.
The special effects are average. Nothing spectacular but nothing horrible. The scene of the two ships doing battle is awesome. And all of the landscapes and towns they created digitally look perfect. From start to finish you are immersed in this world. Speaking of start to finish... waaaay too long. While it rarely ceases to entertain, there a few patches where you'd wish they could just move on to the next thing.
Bottom line: I thought it was a great movie. Better than the previews made it look and a lot more fun and worthy than other summer fare. I don't think it's bold to say Depp has created one of his most memorable characters. No small feat for a man whose resume is loaded with memorable characters. While its essentially a B-movie, the A-List cast and tongue in cheek attitude help raise Pirates to something else entirely. Well worth checking out. I give it an A-
A shadow of its former self
To each his own, but I cannot believe there are so many positive reviews for this movie. Doesn't anybody care that underneath the action and special effects there was nothing going on in this movie??? From Hollywood that's nothing new, but I thought Terminator fans had grown to expect more than that from these films. You can blow up as many things as you want, if I don't care about the characters on the screen than it's pointless.
Look, the action scenes are nothing short of breath taking. Probably some of the best ever captured on film. That's about all the movie has going for it. The so-called story contradicts rules and plot points made in the first two films. There's never even a logical explanation of why T3 even occurs. Every time someone's about to explain that, or something else of importance, they either end it with a one liner or someone interrupts them. Lazy screenwriting. I don't mind them changing the theme of the movie, too bad they didn't change anything else. This is T2 with a woman and no subtext. The subtitle was fitting since like a machine, the movie was cold and emotionless. The humanity the was stressed in T2 is completely missing. Those of you calling this the best in the series need to rewatch the second film. Why is it nowdays that the minute a budget goes over $100 million, all semblance of originality, character development, and logical thought goes with it?
This is not a Terminator film. This is a very expensive fan film that almost parodies its predecessors. Like Friday the 13th or Halloween, they turn the character into a cartoon. They actually make a fool of the Terminator. You laugh AT him. Way too much humor that just doesn't work.
Before seeing this movie I thought T2 had wrapped everything up and there was no need for a third. After seeing it, I KNOW there was no need for it. The only thing it was successful at was showing me what a skilled director Cameron is. This is crap, folks. I can't be nice about it. It was just a bad, bad movie that played its audience for idiots. The last line is a slap in the face. It's an insult to the intelligence of movie-goers.
Everbody complains about the state of the movie industry. Then everyone fills these boards with positive reviews of crap like this. Only reassuring Hollywood they're making the right decisions. T3 may be bigger, louder, and faster than the first two but it's also a lot dumber. You can put the body of a ferrari on top of a Toyota, but just bc it looks good doesn't mean its worth getting into.
And Arnold clearly needs Cameron to bring out the actor in him. Thanks for ruining the Terminator guys. One more thing I loved that Hollywood's 'Nothing Sacred' attitude has ruined.
Makes the typical "bigger=better" sequel rule work...
X2 was a vast improvement over the extremely disapointing original. That one merely scratched the surface of the X-Men mythos, while this one finally digs into the meat of it. Marvel is really on a roll with its comic book movies and unlike some of their DC counterparts, celluloid has stayed very faithful to their pen and ink roots.
When basing something on source materal that's existed for years and years its next to impossible to cram all of its splendor into two hours. So I imagine everyone walks away wishing there was something the filmmakers had done better. For me, it's a somewhat trivial list. For starters, tons of editing mistakes and plot holes. Stuff that usually doesn't stick out until a second or third sitting was absolutely glaring. My biggest complaint is how some of the characters are treated. It's very easy to see which ones the writers/director are truly in love with. It's clear that Cyclops and Storm are not some of them. In both films they're completely over looked. While most of the others are allowed a degree of fleshing out, these two are as rigid and flat as when they first appeared on the screen in the early moments of X-Men 1. Even Jean Grey got her own personal demon to face down in this film. Poor Storm... all you do is fly the plane. And Cyclops? Well, I hope he's not your favorite character because he's literally in three scenes.
I also think the script is slighly disrespectufl towards the more established characters. Both Wolverine and Proffessor X have moments where I was groaning, "They'd know better than that!". Xavier is another character who doesn't have much to do this time around. Put Rouge in that category as well. No growth, no real drama. Just a tiny subplot that is quickly forgotten. She was much better in the original. Just too many characters competing for precious screen time.
Praise for making both Magneto and Mystique much more interesting this time. What great, great characters. Mystique and Nightcrawler give the film some of its best moments. There's also that fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike... ooooh-wee! That's all I can say about that.
Bottom line: better action, better special fx. Low on story, high on adrenaline. In the end, I feel it was worth the price of the ticket. You can't say that very much anymore.