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The Death of Superman (2018)
A servicable presentation of the Doomsday story, with very little extra.
In 2007 we got an animated film covering the full Doomsday/return of superman saga. For some reason, I guess DC wanted to do it again.
The good- the film looks very good; the animation is great, the drawings are detailed, and the characters have their authentic look from the comics. The fight scenes are also quite good, and make the battles epic without going into Man of Steel level carnage. The presentation of Doomsday is also top-notch, he's never felt more dangerous or unstoppable. The "graphic" violence adds a degree of danger, but I wouldn't oversell it- anyone over the age of 11 has probably seen worse on network television. Also, lots of nice little touches to the world, like people trying to take selfies with Superman, give this film a little more character.
The middle- the voice acting left me cold. Nothing is too bad (although Rain Wilson is kind of hammy as Lex Luthor, which I didn't like). Superman and the rest certainly have conviction, but the dialogue doesn't really stand out. The script is also a bit simplistic- generally kind of blah and predictable.
The bad- the pacing is inconsistent. The film takes *forever* to get to "the good stuff," and the time before that is not exactly captivating. They're trying to build suspense and world-build and everything, but we already know what Doomsday is and what he's going to do! The subplot about Clark and Lois also didn't do much for me- the overall point of it was fine, but the pacing just dragged it out too much. In this regard, the 2007 film wins out. That film was much more "cartoony," but it had quick pacing and covered twice as much material in less time.
So basically, we have a more "adult" version of the Doomsday story (but not the entire story). What the film adds in production values and fighting choreography, it lacks in pacing and originality. Although the 2007 film was less popular, I'd much rather watch the 2007 one again, as it was more entertaining, had better pacing, and tells the entire story in less time than this film.
Christopher Robin (2018)
Good for children, but kind of blah for adults.
They took the least interesting character from Whinnie the Pooh (Christopher Robin), and focused the entire movie on him...uh oh.
This was not the layered, witty film I was hoping for- it has all the sensibilities of a film whose target audience is 5 or 6 years old. In other words, very "safe," very slow, and very predictable for anyone over 7. The story itself is a good one for young children, but adults and even older children may be bored with the lack of drama and tension.
It is fun to see Pooh and the gang in a very realistic film, and although the characterizations are pretty one-dimensional, I found myself longing for the next time we got to see the animals speak or play again.
The film may be deliberately slow-paced, perhaps to remind us to slow-down in life, or perhaps to add a sense of history...regardless, it just felt too slow for me. The dialogue is rather sparse, and most of it is fairly predictable.
The jokes were also pretty disappointing for me- they often lacked any attempt at layering for adults, and many of them are pretty bland. Again, good for young children, but kind of bland and predictable for adults.
So what about heart? There is definitely heart, the scenes between Pooh and Christopher are frequently touching, and the acting (especially by Jim Cummings) is quite nuanced. As for the film's "message," it's a decent one, but it is pretty belabored, and the lack of drama kind of takes away it's impact.
Overall, I'm being a bit hard on the film because we've come to expect high quality writing from Disney again, and this film falls flat. It lacks the layering, sophistication, and wit of other, more energetic films. But all my complaints can be brushed aside if you respond "...but it's a movie for little kids."
Recommended for families with young children, or possibly even adults who are very sentimental about their childhoods, but anyone expecting anything close to Toy Story or Inside Out may be disappointed.
Incredibles 2 (2018)
A good, but not great, sequel.
I love the original Incredibles, it's probably my favorite Pixar movie, or close to it.
The Incredibles 2 hits many of the right notes, but suffers a little bit from sequelitis.
The good: The characters are still lovable and are consistent with their previous movie. The action sequences are great, and there are more of them than in the first film. The animation and visuals are "incredible," and somehow match the aesthetic of the first film while taking full advantage of the 14 years of computer graphics advancements. The comedy is also "pretty good," although some of the best jokes are in the trailer. The graphic design of the film is also stunning- on par with the first film, if not even more polished.
The bad: Feels like a "monster of the week" episode of a TV show more than a movie. The timelessness and gravitas of the first movie don't even come close here, and the philosophy feels a bit more forced and less digestible. The comedy, though generally enjoyable, also isn't quite as polished throughout. There's also a weird flavor to the writing here, like the movie knows it's being watched, and so it's treading a bit too carefully...nothing too detrimental, but I found it harder to relax with the film because of it. Things just didn't feel as natural.
Another thing that might throw some people off, the balance of character use is very different here. It's almost inverted from the first film, so that's good in the sense that it's something new, but some people may be disappointed if their favorite character doesn't really "do much."
Anyway, this is a good film, and a good sequel, but it definitely has flaws. I'm a little saddened that the film didn't match the first one in terms of timelessness and relatability, but to re-visit the Parr family one more time, it was worth it.
Solid peice of by-the-numbers entertainment.
Upgrade rides the line between "cliche" and "interesting."
In a world where pretty much every "damaged hero out for revenge" story has been told, Upgrade knows exactly what it is, and just lets you enjoy the ride.
For being so "done," I was kind of hoping for a more original cast of characters, and although the actors give us great moments, the script doesn't linger too long on character development (apart from our protagonist). The movie generally feels like it only exists to provide you with a few entertaining action scenes, and I would fault it for not aiming a little higher, but at least they play it safe. There's also a couple of plot holes, but what they lose in logic they gain in pacing, so...maybe not a big deal.
The story has some pretty satisfying turns in it, and I won't spoil them here, but I'll just say the writers knew how to write an ending that will stay with you.
So if you're a fan of Robocop, Bourne Identity, Iron-Man, or even Gamer, give this one a play.
Game Night (2018)
A fairly "safe" comedy without too many jokes.
I'm a fan of Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, and I thought the premise was cute, so I figured the movie was worth seeing.
It reminded me a lot of "Date night," with Steve Carrel and Tina Fay. I think Date Night was funnier, but if you like one you'll probably enjoy the other.
The trailer gives away pretty much everything- not that it really matters, but I was kind of disappointed the film didn't throw in a few more genuine surprises. The characters (actors) were good, but I was disappointed the film didn't give them more chances to shine. Jesse Plemons is the best part of the movie, and he's used *just* enough. The other characters felt underused.
The script feels a bit light. I expected a bit more humor about playing games- the premise was there to play up more of the banality/irony/sadness of adult game nights, but those moments are glossed over fairly quickly. The film balances telling the story with inserting humor fairly evenly, which means a few scenes feel like they are (unnecessarily) humorless. I suppose on the flip side, the film holds on to some integrity and stands out from a more "over the top" farce.
Overall, It wasn't a bad comedy, but it's pretty low-energy. Nothing too offensive or wild, fairly "safe" material. Most of the jokes felt safe for PG-audiences (or course, the language and violence are very R-rated). I'm not sorry I saw it, but I probably won't see it again. I'd wait for it on Netflix if I were you.
Not what I was hoping for, but not terrible.
I was a big fan of Force Awakens, and although I didn't like Rogue One as a Star Wars film, I thought it was a decent movie. This film feels kind of like a weird blend of those two, and that doesn't always work out.
The action scenes are pretty good, as were the effects, but don't we all take that for granted now? :-P.
The plot is surprisingly thin, and the pacing is cluttered with subplots that are very inconsistent in timing and scope.
The script is noticeably different from any other Star Wars movie, and for me this was a bad thing. Some pretty lazy scenes in this movie. Some humor too, which I actually enjoyed (except for those stupid little CGI-bird creatures that belong in Episode I). The writing showed a lack of awareness for the history of the star wars universe, despite lip-service to older films.
The tone of the film is a bit mixed too. Sometimes it's light and funny, and suddenly it's dark and somber. The tone jumps around about as much as it did in the prequels. (not a good thing). Overall, like Rogue One, this film feels more like a real "war" film.
My biggest problem with the film is the pacing. Scenes that should've been built up to over the entire movie happen suddenly, and other scenes feel so pointless it's a mystery why they're in the movie at all. We meet new characters here, which bogs down the film because they take away screen time from characters we already like.
There was a lot I liked about the movie too. Unfortunately, most of that would include spoilers, so I'll just say a few scenes felt "right," and inspired the good kind of star wars nostalgia. I also liked most of the new characters, despite my complaint that they diffused the focus of the film.
Ultimately, this feels like the first draft of a potentially great movie. If they trimmed out the unnecessary sub plots (and characters) and focused more on the main characters, this film would've been as good as the critics (inexplicably) say it is.
Watchable, but with some overarching flaws in direction.
I am a fan of Pride and Prejudice, and I love comedy-horror as a genre, so this film was a must-see for me. I can't say it met all my expectations, but it could've been worse.
I thought the film should have been funnier. The premise is so absurd- yet the film refuses to admit the inherent joke. For me, this was constantly a source of frustration. I couldn't tell if the over-seriousness of the film was a conscious decision by the director, or due to his lack of finesse.
Giving up on the direction itself being funny, Matt Smith is amazing, and for me made the film worth watching. He is hilarious. And naturally, Jane Austin's novel has tons of wit to begin with, so some of that humor survives here, as well.
The acting is pretty good, and satisfied my desire to see the authentic Pride and Prejudice characters in a zombie apocalypse. Although Mrs. Bennet was too nice, it still worked.
The action was fairly run-of-the-mill. None of the fight scenes are too memorable, but it's definitely awesome to see these Victorian ladies and lads kick-ass against zombies anyway.
I'd say proceed with caution on this one; only for fans of Jane Austin who have a sick sense of humor. Might be a safe date movie come Halloween.
A film about a very important topic- though rushed.
I'm glad I saw this movie, there's much to like in it: Bryan Cranston is wonderful. Again he creates a very unique character that's both interesting and believable. I mean, it's based on a real person, so he didn't "invent" the character, but it's still very good.
John Goodman is much like his role in Argo- a necessary comedic element in an otherwise somber film. He's great.
The other supporting actors are all good, some better than others, but they all suffer from underdeveloped character arcs.
The story itself is compelling. The film does a good job of creating an atmosphere of intolerance and fear-mongering. You feel like it's all really happening.
Being set in Hollywood's silver age, it's hard not to get excited when now-famous films and actors are mentioned or shown on screen.
That said, there's much in the movie I didn't like.
The pacing was just rushed. Sure, the film has many years worth of story to tell, but it moves from one era to the next so abruptly that we start to lose our tension/focus. Besides making a longer film or choosing a shorter period of time to focus on, not sure how they could've fixed this.
Most of the supporting characters are underdeveloped. We meet characters that you're sure the film is going to make you love, and they don't quite get you there. There are many missed opportunities to create meaningful characters and relationships, it ends up being frustrating they alluded to them at all.
The dialogue feels forced at times. Many scenes are so short that they rely on "on the nose" dialogue way too much. The actors do a good job with what they have, but some of the lines are way too direct.
I don't mean to pick on Michael Stuhlbarg, but I think he was terribly miscast as Edward G Robinson. I just couldn't see him being the iconic actor we all love from the gangster pictures.
So in summary, it's a mixed bag. Unlike most mixed bags, however, there's no glaring flaws in this film. It's proximity to greatness is shot down only by a rushed script that tries to do too much in two hours. Shame, since some of the dialogues and scenes are great, and I only wished I cared more about them. I'll still recommend it to film and history buffs, but casual moviegoers might not be so impressed.
Project Almanac (2015)
"Primer" for tweens.
So I had low expectations going into this movie, and I was pleasantly surprised!...
...then I wasn't.
So basically, the movie starts out great! We meet David and his friends, and they're all average but believable (and likable) characters. "Plot" happens and "time machine!" blah blah blah. The point is, we actually want them to succeed, and we're excited for them. So the movie gets a solid commendation for that.
Then, for some reason, everything has to get complicated and dark. They follow all the time travel clichés, and they do a pretty good job of showing them all, but said clichés seldom mean "a happy third act." If you have seen Butterfly Effect and Chronicle, you can see how this film is going to end pretty early in ('nuff said).
Getting dark isn't a bad thing, but unfortunately the film completely stops developing the supporting characters in Act II. Which really sucks, because we were *just* starting to like and care about them. But they get so bogged down with their own plot that it's all the film can do to even resolve the bullet points with just the main character.
Another quick complaint, I didn't think the "love interest" added anything to the story (other than a plot device), and I'm so sick and tired of the "found footage" style of film-making! That said, this does found-footage very well, so I can't complain too much about that.
In summary, it's a promising little film that has just enough fun in the first half to make you feel like you enjoyed yourself. A more interesting third act would have made this a solid recommendation, but sadly it fades into obscurity really quickly. "Rent before you buy."
Into the Woods (2014)
So close to greatness, yet so maddening. (spoilers)
I saw this movie, and everything was *awesome!*...
...until Act I ends.
Before I get to negatives, let me say the music is very faithfully reproduced here. The singing is good (in some cases great), the acting is good, the costumes and "sets" are also often good. Everything was in place to make this the definitive version of Into The Woods...
...and then they threw Act II out the window.
People unfamiliar with the musical might not notice or care about the changes to Act II (or technically Act III), but fans of the musical should be warned that this show is completely drained of all gravitas and pathos. Also, several wonderful songs have been cut- it will tick you off.
So if you've seen the musical, you know how Act II goes. More importantly, you know the great songs there. Well for some reason (PG rating, perhaps), Disney has cut everything about Act II that gives the entire show meaning.
#1- Rapunzel does not die. This ruins the Witch's arc in Act II. No reprise of Children Don't Listen, and the witch leaves the movie rather abruptly in Last Midnight. And of course, Rapunzel is almost completely pointless to the story now, since nothing bad ever happens to her and her prince stays happily married to her, which brings me to...
#2- No second "Agony." This was my favorite song in the damn show, and they cut it. Of course, the cut everything building up to this too- We don't get to see the princes and their wives tire of married life, nor do the baker and his wife, which comes to...
#3- The Baker and his wife have no troubles in Act II. There's no fall from grace for these two- they never have to deal with a stressful marriage. The wife only kisses the prince (no sex), and the action leading up to that point is far from justified. Her lyrics about "And/Or/Both" are groundless here- it's still a fun song, but there's no reason for her to be singing it.
#4- No Narrator. He shows up as an apparition, but does not get to sing "no more," which is the other best song in the musical. This also hastens the Baker's journey- while he still hits the main points of his arc, we're denied any real struggle here.
#5- Arguably, the entire point of the musical is missing. The stage version breaks down "happily ever after" and teaches a real lesson about loss and how gray the world really is. The movie...does not.
So I can't really recommend this to fans of the musical, unless you can accept the loss of Act II. People unfamiliar with the musical might still enjoy it.
John Wick (2014)
What's all the fuss about?
I saw this movie- can't say I loved it or hated it. It was "passable." What baffles me is how many people seem to love this film. There are much better films out there that do the same story...why latch on to this one? Keanu is used wisely- meaning he doesn't say much. The supporting actors are all great, but they're not given much to do.
The choreography is "passable." It seemed to be that this was the only reason the movie exists, and in that case, I'd say it's a bit of let-down. It starts off great, but it doesn't really go anywhere...plateaus early.
The cinematography is very good, and the music is appropriate.
Like I said, a passable film, but I couldn't find anything that stands out here- Payback, Taken, and Borne Identity all do it better.
Saw it all at once- didn't quite win me over.
So first let me say that I'm a huge street fighter fan.
A lot of people seem to love this, but I was kind of left cold. Also, I didn't know this was a TV series- I saw it as a "movie" (all 180 minutes in one sitting). As you can imagine, I was constantly annoyed that this "movie" felt like a really drawn out TV show...so I'll try not to complain too much about pacing and call-backs, but I still have lots of positives and negatives to share: +The attention to visual details is awesome- especially in the choreography. The moves and poses the characters make could be taken directly from the game. This is the only street fighter movie/show I've ever seen that consistently keeps the choreography consistent with the game for every fight (for better or worse...).
+Ken. He is the best part of the show, and for the most part he's fun to watch (when he's given something to do).
+Acting (for most). Goki and Goken were very good, and Gotetsu was amazing. The show could have just focused on him.
+Imagery. Occasionally, the show has some great shots- but these are few and far between...
+True to canon. For the most part, this is what I thought the back story should be based on the video game.
So now what I didn't like: -Too limited! My major complaint is that the show feels too limited in scope. Seeing the same sets used for 180 minutes straight was very tiresome. I was dying to see them leave the damn dojo and go do something! Maybe this is because it was a low-budget thing? Even so, the writing didn't quite sparkle on its own either, which leads me to...
-Lackluster script. My second biggest complaint is that the script lacks heart. I didn't care about Ryu at all (and he's my favorite character!) and though the actor playing Ken was great, he was barely given lines to work with at all. Even the all-important back story with Goki and Goken was so abrupt and choppy that it felt completely unreal to me. Everything that was supposed to be important and emotional felt rushed and under-developed. The actors tried their best, but almost none of the lines gave them any personality or edge. The characters felt 2-dimensional (so to speak) and lifeless.
-Sterile action. I love the attention given the individual moves and imagery from the game, but there comes a point where you need to loosen up a bit and get gritty. The camera work is all so controlled and remote; it felt like the whole damn movie was one medium shot and one wide shot. I always felt aware of the camera, and the characters were always at a "safe distance." There is so much redundancy in the camera moves, the action, and the choreography that the whole thing really lost my interest (visually) after the first hour.
-Repetitive story structure. What bugged me the most about the "story" is that nothing happens or is motivated. Every "day" in the characters lives is the same; they're always sparring, or getting lectured, or standing still, and it gets old really fast. On top of that, their training is just plain dull. There's nothing at stake, and no reason for us to want them to succeed. There's ONE scene that takes place in the city, and it's the only time these characters even *remotely* feel like real people.
So that's pretty much it. Overall, I think it's a wonderful tribute to the game, but apart from a few good fight scenes and spot-on imagery, everything else in this productions feels sterile, limited, and unmotivated. Maybe it works better watching it 21-minutes at a time, but I find it hard to believe it would be much more intriguing that way.
Check out the anime series instead- Street Fighter 2 V. It's so much more satisfying and tells a much more interesting story.
The Judge (2014)
Competently made, but lacking character.
I only went to see this movie because I like Robert Downy Jr. and Robert Duvall. And for sure, they were only good things about it.
I can't say the movie was unwatchable, it wasn't. It definitely holds your interest and maintains flow as well as many TV shows, but the movie lacks any character or real heart.
The script is actually quite poor- the "funny" parts are hit or miss, and most of them only work because Robert Downy is awesome. The "dramatic" parts are all quite safe...like a "PG" rating for intensity. And the Characters are all fairly stereotyped. You can write everything you learn about these characters on a post-it note. There are times where you'll scratch your head and ask "...really?" Basically, it's the lowest quality script you can run with and still make a watchable movie (so yes, it's still watchable, just not that satisfying). The only positive part of the script is the dialogue given Robert Downy's character. He's a smart character and does have a way of saying exactly what we want him to.
Even then, the whole thing has a very "just out of film school" feel to it- some really obvious editing, and blatant music cues (that try to make you think you're feeling more emotion than you are) also add to the amateur feel.
So in conclusion, I wouldn't really recommend this unless you love Robert Downy and Robert Duvall and don't mind an otherwise mediocre 2.5 hour film. There's nothing special going on here.
I wanted to like this movie...I really did.
I saw the trailer, and even though I knew the "science" behind it was all wrong, I thought it could still be fun.
Well, it was a little fun, sure, but frankly it was a poorly made film with a terrible script and hackneyed ideas.
Have you seen Limitless? They did the same plot better. Have you seen The Avengers? Better use of Scarlett Johansson. Even The Lawnmower Man has the advantage of not being so pretentious over this film.
The script is probably my biggest complaint- nothing is natural. Every line is "on-the-nose," and clearly just there to move the story forward, without giving us any reason to care about the characters or to believe what's happening is real. Who is Lucy? We never really know, she's been instructed to act like a robot the whole movie. There's one scene where she talks about her past, but it's so unnatural and sudden that I couldn't care about it. The supporting characters also have terrible lines...Why are they after Lucy? It doesn't even matter, they're only in the movie to give Lucy and excuse to fight them.
The editing and "symbolism" of the movie is also amateurish. There is no subtlety in this film- everything hits you on top of the head with a lead mallet. For example, the film starts off by juxtaposing images of animals with people...which was a little cheesy but I was willing to forgive it if the film kept up the motif. Nope. Just some random images of animals in the first 10 minutes and then never again. Why even bother? It's like the film is trying to impress some "film school" teacher. Random shots and juxtapositions happen for no other reason than "because it makes the film look smart." It's not, though- it's just obvious and cheesy.
There were also no clever ideas or insights to the human condition here...just clichéd messages about life that you can get from any 9th grade biology book.
OK, so before you say I'm taking it too seriously, and this is just supposed to be a popcorn action flick, I will admit some of the action scenes are awesome. However, they're the same scenes we saw in the trailer, or we've simply seen them done before in other films, but better.
I would not recommend this film, at least not in the theater. Rent it or stream it or whatever, but this isn't a film to pay good money for. There are much better films out there about the same idea.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Fear not, it's better than X3 and the Wolverine movies.
It's hard to review this movie without spoilers, but here it goes:
It's a very "epic" X-men movie...probably the most epic yet. For better or worse, there's a lot going on in this movie- future and past time-lines and characters...if I have one complaint, it's that there's so much to the story that some scenes happen too quickly just because they need to.
There are also some head-scratching lines of dialogue and plot elements (don't even get me started on how the time-line is supposed to work with the previous movies).
But that's all being technical, the movie succeeds where it needs to: the story is interesting, the acting is good, the action is pretty awesome (though we don't get as much as I wanted), and the effects are the best yet.
A lot of people are raving about this movie, and I hate to say I don't really know why- it was good, but not great. I wouldn't say it's the best X-men movie, but it's a welcomed addition.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Better than the first one, but seriously flawed.
I'll be positive here- the movie did a very good job whenever spider-man was in the suit, doing his thing.
It maintains (and expands) the humor of spider-man (which the Rami films really lacked), and the choreography is the best yet- Spider-man finally moves like you think he should from the comics (or video games).
The villains are over-the-top (again), but for me that's part of the fun. The movie knows it's predictable, and I respect it for just kinda going with it. The acting overall is pretty on target, except from Garfield himself, who doesn't seem to know what to do during the serious scenes.
The ending actually kinda surprised me. You might see it coming, but I wasn't sure...I'll give them props for that.
Some of the scenes also just look really good- the CGI is *almost* to the point where it can seamlessly integrate into real footage...almost.
The music was also pretty good. Not as melodic as Elfman's score, but still a fun addition to the action.
Now to get all the negatives out in one paragraph: the dialogue is clichéd at best (lazy or aimless at worst), the tone of the movie is all over the place (is it campy? Is it serious? It tries to do both). The pacing is a bit off- starts with a promising sub-plot that gets a very rushed conclusion. Many characters are seemingly introduced for no reason, other than "they're in the comic, so we'll mention them here too." The plot over-relies on forced actions (meaning we see people change from good to bad or vice versa in the course of one scene). There's also just tons of little stupid things that are funny but unintentionally so (cinemasins will have a field day with this one).
So overall...I'd recommend it if you love spider-man and just want to see some fun spider-man action, and are willing to put up with a pretty terrible script and awkward pacing. On the other hand, if you hated the "first" one this one might not be enough of an improvement.
Veronica Mars (2014)
Feels like watching new episodes of the show!
Very well done! This is the most unabashed Fan-Service film I've seen since Serenity...and I daresay, it caters to its fans even more than Serenity did.
In fact, my biggest complaint about this movie is that it might cater too much to fans, leaving newcomers in the dark. The movie re- introduces you to Veronica, but virtually everyone else gets no exposition and no character development (beyond what you'd see in a typical episode, that is).
For fans of the show, this movie is a gift. You basically get a new episode of the TV show here- a bottle episode that's roughly 100 minutes long.
There were a few differences- namely, I didn't remember the show being this funny. Veronica always had a good sense of humor, as did her dad, but in this movie there were a surprising amount of laughs.
Also, the mystery isn't as deep as the full season one and two story lines (obviously). What's worse, I don't think the resolution of the mystery has that same "I should have seen it all along!" genius that made seasons 1 and 2 so special. I'd say the plot is comparable to one of the mini-arcs from season 3.
Lastly, as good as this movie is, it still doesn't exceed (or even meet) what the show already did at the top of its game. The emotional highs and lows are the same old thing as before, and the plot isn't nearly as neatly connected. I'd say I rate the movie as slightly above season 3, but not as good as seasons 1 or 2.
But what the Hell, you get to see Veronica work again, and it's too much fun to pass up!
Fans must see this movie.
One of the better remakes so far, but still not as good as the original
I love the 80's Robocop, so I was a hard sell on the new one, but actually it's not bad.
What I really liked was that they made this a new interpretation of the story. It wisely updates the politics and technology for the 21st century, and they changed many of the major characters- introducing new ones and leaving out old ones. Gary Oldman is especially good; his character is what kept me interested in the film most of the time.
The performances are also quite good- Keaton, Jackson, and Oldman steal the show, but everyone is good- the supporting actors give it 100% and, though often humorless, it's nice to see that the cast did their best to make this film work.
The film does have its flaws, though...quite a few. The film tries very hard to make the plot "make sense." And while it succeeds in connecting the dots very logically, it's so focused on making sure the plot makes sense that it forgets to sit back and let us feel for the characters. Like I said, the actors are great, but they aren't given a lot of unique dialogue or character to work with. The script is fairly generic- everyone is somewhat of a stereotype, and we don't spend long enough on any emotional beats to care that much about them. Similarly, the action is a bit sterile. None of the action scenes had me emotionally invested- it all felt like there was nothing at stake, or visually it was too hard to tell what was happening to get worked up. I would say the choreography was "on par" with your typical current action movie, but nothing stood out to me. The effects are good, but the new Robocop suit itself is somewhat generic too. Lastly, while there are some jokes or funny moments in the movie, it all takes itself very seriously- it doesn't have the "fun" of the original. This is most evident in the character Robocop himself. There is such an added emphasis on how Robocop feels and thinks that it destroys much of the mystique and "cool" of the character.
So all in all, I would recommend this movie to any fan of Robocop, I think you'll enjoy the new take on the character and there's just the right amount of homage vs new ideas. The performances are great too, it's just a shame the overall movie feels too controlled, and also too smoothed out.
About Time (2013)
Less "Groundhog Day" and more "Love Actually"
This is a great example of a movie without real drama. Or rather, without melodrama.
I can't quite fit it into any genre because everything is so understated. The acting, the plot, etc- everything has a sort of dulled "real life" flow to it. There's no emotional outbursts, no unbelievable comic mishaps (with maybe one or two exceptions), and no real clear ending to the story.
It's like we're just watching some guy live out some of his life, and like real life, not a heck of a lot actually *happens* (in a movie sense, anyway).
But that's not necessarily a bad thing; the movie's strength is in its characters. I loved the main character, and just about all the supporting characters are enjoyable. They all have a sort of level- headed-ness that is usually omitted for the sake of movie-drama.
But therein lies my disappointment with the film- with such a great premise, I wonder why they decided to play it down rather than up? The hook was seemingly made to be an all-out comedy- with the ability to "undo" your mistakes or actions, why not let the characters go to extremes? The events of the movie and the character's use of his power remain frustratingly low-key.
This film is less Groundhog Day and more Love Actually. And that's fine, I love Love Actually, but if that's the movie you're going to make, why give your character a super-power? The "gimmick" is never exploited to its full potential, and despite a smooth script and lovable characters, I was left a little disappointed.
Ender's Game (2013)
Not bad, but should've been two movies.
This was a decent movie- the acting was great (especially for kid actors), the script was sound, and the ending hits the right notes. That said, it was also a flawed movie, and I'm somewhat disappointed this film will settle for being "good" when the book was so great.
This review is from the perspective of someone who read the book- those who haven't read it might feel differently, but here's what I thought.
PRO's: The casting, the sets, and costumes.
First and foremost, the casting and acting in this film are its best assets. Ender (Asa) is perfect, exactly how I wanted him to be. Gaff (Harrison) is also terrific. This is the most fun I've had watching Harrison Ford in a long time. That said, there were some scenes, some lines that I thought should have been more emphasized. Bean, Valentine, Bonzo, and Bernard are the others who will leave an good impression...even if they change some things from the book.
Next, the sets and costumes- again, nearly perfect. Loved the school uniforms and the corridors. The battle room and spaceships are also very well realized- and more or less make the story feel real. The special effects in general are good, but it's so hard to create original special effects these days, so not much really stood out to me (except the zero gravity scenes).
CON's: Rushed story, some unimpressive choreography.
First my minor gripe- the space choreography and battle room scenes left me unimpressed. The battle room scenes especially kind of let me down- they seems a touch over-simplified, and don't show Ender's genius as well as they do in the book.
Another minor gripe- didn't care much for how the aliens looked. It was another run-of-the-mill bug-alien design- seen it before, didn't leave an impression.
My major gripe is that the movie moves WAY too fast. Things happen so quickly, they often feel "too easy" or insignificant. The whole video game subplot is done in about two scenes. Those scenes in the book are really stretched out, and we see how they torture Ender and wear him down there. But here it's over almost as soon as it begins. Similarly, Ender's progress through the school happens so quickly that we never feel like he's being pushed *that* hard. If Ender isn't really suffering, we don't really care. You could argue that the key events of the story are still there, and that's true- but the book is more about Ender as a person than the war going on in space. And of all the secondary characters, only Gaff and Bonzo are given decent development in the movie- everyone else is clearly there to fill a gap in the story progression (a real shame, since in the book everyone interacted with Ender organically, and nobody felt like a contrived "device."). Even Valentine, for all Abigale's effort, resorts to being a fairly simple character- not like the conflicted, emotional yet brilliant person she was in the book. And lastly, Peter is hardly in the movie at all. I suppose if it's from Ender's point of view that makes sense, but we don't get any sense of Peter's twisted genius here- a true loss.
So in conclusion, if the same production values could have focused on two movies instead of one, we would have a true work of art here- a film on the level of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Instead, we get a rushed version of a great story- which results in a pretty good movie.
Escape Plan (2013)
Not bad for a genre flick.
Movies like this can be utter trash, or a popcorn-munching good time. Escape Plan is much closer to the latter, but not without its flaws.
I think it's impossible not to compare this movie to The Expendables, and I have to say, I thought Expendables 2 was better than Escape Plan. So if you're going into this hoping it will be Expendables 3, you may be disappointed.
That said, there are some great scenes in this movie, and it's a different genre than Expendables anyway. Expendables is more action- comedy, and Escape Plan is just action.
The cinematography is actually quite good- it doesn't "try too hard" like a lot of modern movies do. It knows how to be shot, how to present a story, and it does it well.
Stallone and Schwarzenegger are great- their "chemistry" is much easier to take here than in Expendables, and Arnold is finally getting back into the swing of these movies again. Stallone never misses a beat, and continues to play his tried-and-true quiet tough-guy role. It is Arnold who gives us the comic relief in this film, and we're thankful for that, because without it the film would truly sink a few notches in rating.
Also a great performance by Jim C as the villain. He made the character a James Bond-worthy bad guy, and I enjoyed him a lot. Also, Sam Neil. Yeah, what? He's in this too! Though probably not more than 4 minutes of screen time, but he definitely leaves a strong impression on the film too.
It's hard to talk about the movie itself without some spoilers, so I'll just say that it delivers what it promises- a straightforward "watch the hero try to get out of this mess" film that doesn't try to be more than it is (thankfully).
My complaints are pretty small- though I applaud the movie for keeping things simple, I think they could've developed the characters a little more. Conversely, it also goes out of its way to explain some things that it doesn't need to. In fact, sometimes it just makes things more confusing by trying to explain them.
So overall, there's just a sense that this "could've been better," but at the same time, it could've been much worse. I didn't get that "blood pumping rooting for the hero" feeling as much as I wanted, but I did enjoy watching the events unfold on screen. And that's really all you can ask for.
In a World... (2013)
Not what I expected, but refreshing.
I didn't know anything about the movie other than the synopsis, and so I thought it was a documentary. Nope!
That said, this was one of the most laid-back movies I've seen (and liked) in a while. It feels so much like a typical "independent" movie from the late 90's/early 2000's, that it was very refreshing. The dialogue felt very authentic (a few scenes felt improvised, even), and the main character is awesome. I hope this movie becomes more popular just to showcase this character to a wider audience. She's the female lead character we're not shown too often in Hollywood- she's just kinda...normal.
Demitri Martin is also awesome, and I wish he had more screen time (though his character was wisely kept in small doses). The supporting roles, as well as the B-plot characters, are mostly great, though there are a couple of two-dimensional characters who feel written in for convenience, or cheap gags.
The movie is not without flaws, either. At times the characters' dialogue overlaps each other and comes out a bit too quick. Especially in the beginning, I had trouble figuring out what was going on because I couldn't pick out what the people were saying. But then again, that did add to the authenticity of the film overall.
Also, one person's "authentic" is another person's "boring" or "unmotivated." Like real life, stuff just kinda happens and people just kinda do things. It felt very much like just suddenly watching somebody's weekend. I can see how that might irritate some people, who'd want a more audience-friendly flow and script.
I only mention it because it threw me off at first- since I expected a documentary, I had no idea what the movie was trying to be for the first 10 minutes or so. But it did all come together in the end, and I liked it.
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Not as bad as they say. Not as good as the first one.
Kick-Ass 2 is, if nothing else, a mostly fun juvenile fantasy. It picks up where the first one left off in terms of tone and reality and goes a bit further with it. What you can expect...
-The world is a bit less realistic, more comic-booky.
-The fight choreography doesn't come close to matching the first film- probably the biggest disappointment in the whole picture.
-the violence feels oddly nerfed...it felt like a PG-13 movie somehow. I mean, there's violence, yes, and it's bloody, yes, but...everything feels "safer." Remember in the first movie, when you really felt like the heroes were in danger? There's much less of that here...if any at all.
-It's still funny. A few of the jokes are ruined for you in the trailers, but I definitely laughed out loud a few times.
-The characters are, for the most part, likable or enjoyable. I definitely left with a sense of wanting to see more of them.
-Lastly, I won't give any spoilers for the plot, except to say that I have read the comic book too, and there are some differences here. Like in the first movie, however, I think the movie changes things for the better.
Speaking of the comic, I think the reason a lot of critics panned this film is because of the plot. Which isn't the movie's fault, even, it faithfully follows the plot of the comic, which, frankly, just isn't as interesting as the first one's. Though the screenwriter did a great job adapting it to a 100-minute film.
The first movie had a great hook, but the second movie doesn't. It just kind of follows the lives of amateur superheroes. Still enjoyable, yes, but not unique, and not as interesting. It's a story nobody would tell except that it's a sequel.
Also sorely missing from this film are Nicholas Cage and Mark Strong. They both added a great deal of validity to the first film, and nobody can fill their shoes here. Jim Carrey is great, but his character is no Big Daddy.
So ultimately, it's not as good as the first movie, but it's still fun. For people who've read the comic, definitely go see it! For fans of the first movie, go see it if you love the characters and want more of them. For people who haven't seen either...you might actually enjoy it more than anyone else.
Evil Dead (2013)
Fan of the original- not happy with this version.
First I must post a disclaimer- this is not a poorly made film. It was shot very well, edited well, the effects are awesome, the sound and music is appropriate. Technically, this is a well made film.
And I'll admit, it has a good ending.
The original had none of that- and somehow is much better.
I will put it this way- the original had heart, and this movie does not. This movie has an "agenda." It coldly moves down the checklist of "cool things from Evil Dead" and connects the dots without any fresh ideas or uniqueness.
My biggest complaint is about the characters. This movie could have been good if the characters were better. There is only one character I liked in this movie (the sister), and even then she wasn't directed very well in every scene. Every other character in this movie I disliked. The girlfriend is pointless and we don't get to know her, the men are fairly stereotypical and don't have any endearing qualities, and the other woman has personality, but she's bossy and aggravating. Even with the awkward acting of the original, each character there was like a real person, and nobody was defined by their role in the movie (Ash wasn't even the "hero," he was just a guy!).
The other problem is the writing. In addition to some painful exposition scenes, the writing is uninspired. It just takes the "Evil Dead top 10" tropes and inserts them in wherever it can. Sometimes this even results in scenes that repeat themselves. Other times it results in drastic shifts in tone- a movie that is mostly serious that suddenly has over-the-top dialogue and violence (for no other reason than "the original did this").
Finally, the tone is a mess. It was marketed as a serious scary movie, and having seen it, I honestly can't say if it's supposed to be "so bad it's good" camp, or a "serious scary movie" that just fails to be scary. Now, the original had the same problem, but the original failed so badly at being scary it's quite entertaining. This movie doesn't fail bad enough. It either tried to be scary earnestly and ended up having a few scenes that just feel out of place or forced, or fails to be "so bad it's good" because it's so damned heavy-handed in the beginning.
So the result is a polished, stylized version of a story that was too silly to be taken seriously 30 years ago, that continues to take itself too seriously now. But lacking the charm, the camp, the endearing characters that made the story tolerable (if not enjoyable).
So to end on a higher note, I do have to give the film credit for a strong visual style, "fan service" (I suppose), and a good ending. The ending was great- it almost made up for the entire movie. It was the only part of the movie that felt fun, and *inspired* by the original rather than *stolen* from the original.
Bottom line, if you're a fan of the original, you're likely to be disappointed, but many fans of the original also like this one, so maybe I'm the exception.
And if you've never seen the original films, then this will probably strike you as a well-made gore-fest of a horror-flick by today's standards.
Les Misérables (2012)
Good- but a little disappointing to a fan of the original.
I think I was less impressed with this movie than most people, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It's just...different.
This movie chose to go with an "acting first" approach to the songs, meaning that they were sung on set, and the actors had the freedom to express the lyrics however they wanted, and how you feel about this decision will greatly affect how much you enjoy the movie.
Personally, I think it was a neat idea, but hinders the enjoyment of the music and pokes holes in an otherwise tight musical score.
This musical was written to be a stage show, and the songs written to be sung as if they are songs- not acting soliloquy. To miss melodies that belong in the song because the actor "went a different direction with it" felt like a bad trade. Most notably, Valjean's songs have a sort of rambling, unprovoked nature to them- and in many cases the "acting" style of performing them feels awkward or forced.
What the director didn't quite count on, is that people don't naturally sing their feelings in real life. So trying to make a show "more realistic" by making the songs seem more extemporaneous doesn't work- it just makes the *songs* feel less structured, but it doesn't make the fact that they *are singing* more believable.
It's still a cool idea, and it might have worked...for a different show. This musical doesn't give the actors motivation to sing rather than speak because it doesn't need to; it's always singing; that's the suspension of disbelief that we make going to see this show.
The movie tries to add that motivation, and then gambles that it can do so if it makes the songs less "song-like"- sort of like each song builds from emotional talking to full-blown signing. Some songs lend themselves well to this, but the musical already exploited that device for those songs. Forcing it to others just feels...well, forced.
Another gripe I have is how they changed the words of many lines. A couple lines might be easier to understand now, but many of them feel overly simplified or dumbed-down. What also hurts here is that often the new words are less lyrical than the original- the words just sound wrong, or too casual.
My last complaint is how they changed the musical score of the prose. Les mis is a musical that re-uses melodies a lot as is, but they take it even further in the movie. We become a bit over-saturated with some of the musicals best melodies- which is too bad.
All that said, many of the best songs are faithfully recreated her on screen. Anne Hathaway is perfect (and I say that as someone who is not a fan of Anne Hathaway). All the women are wonderful, Enjoras is also wonderful, as are the supporting actors. Jackman and Crowe are great actors, and it shows. They both know how to sing, and that shows, but I miss the voices I'm used to for songs like Who Am I and Stars.
Ultimately, I was disappointed because I wanted what I already had- the musical. The movie will definitely appeal to musical fans, though, and perhaps newcomers or people who are ready for something different will enjoy it more than I did. Just be warned- you are not getting the Broadway musical here- you're getting a "hollywood gritty" version of it.