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"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" If Only That Were True
The third installment of the "Pirates" saga kicked off and I got to screen it a day early. I really enjoyed the first entry and thought the second one was over-budgeted and ended up taking the series in a direction that I didn't like. "At World's End" wouldn't be much different. It ironically turned out to be similar in structure to the third "Spider-Man" movie which opened up only a couple weeks earlier being that it was a little too long, had corny love scenes, and was extremely confusing to a majority of the viewers. However I think that "Spider-Man 3" was the better film as this one exceeded to excess on all those factors. While there was action aplenty and even scenes I liked, when I left the theater I harbored an empty feeling.
It was evident that while the action was there, a really satisfying concrete story wasn't. For example a new type of all-powerful character was introduced and built up for the first two-thirds of the movie, but when they finally do come to fruition it's an extreme letdown. In fact many new elements were introduced that weren't fully explained that just left me wondering why they even needed to throw these in the script in the first place. It was if they were more concerned about creating a long running time than an understandable story.
The swashbuckling was decent and there were many fights, however not as many important ones as there were in the first two where it had more one-on-one duels. Here there were many every person for themselves free for all's. Another problem was the blur of succeeding betrayals. This made it hard to distinguish who was who. I like knowing whom to root for, or at least thinking I know who to root for. The special effects were amazing and the actual production itself was pretty flawless but it was a clear case of all style and no substance. Well maybe not no substance, but very little.
Johnny Depp while having some funny moments didn't build on his character whatsoever and didn't even have the most comical parts this time around. They seemed to have gone to the parrot and the monkey. At least half of Sparrow's humor fell flat, as they were just rehashed jokes and retorts that I heard back in elementary school. Orlando Bloom's acting was safely bad as usual in his case. Keira Knightley was okay, but she's more there as a pretty face than a legitimate thespian. The supporting cast was exceptional though just as they had been in the first two movies, and luckily for the ticket buyer they had a lot of screen time. So between the good and the bad here it about evened out.
At least all the open-ended conflicts were resolved at the end and there weren't anymore real cliffhangers. However it's appearing pretty favorable that there's going to be another trilogy on top of this which I'm not looking forward to as the series quality has declined steadily with each film. It's basically one big money making scheme now by just throwing a bunch of special effects on the screen along with a few cute people and have the young masses come teeming in spending their parents not so hard-earned dough. This is why I wish they just ended everything here while there was still a shred of dignity left, but Hollywood can't seem to let anything be if there's a shred of money to be made lately.
Even though this was a long movie it actually goes by somewhat quickly which was especially surprisingly given how slow moving some of the scenes are and the fact that a lot of inane dialog is thrown into the mix. It actually is worth watching and is probably even above average but falls far short of what it could've been. I also predict that this will break box office records without a doubt, as a film doesn't have to be good to achieve that anymore. "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" was decent but didn't live up to the anticipation that was generated and if these epics are continued to be made like this I'll certainly be at wit's end!
28 Weeks Later (2007)
"28 Weeks Later" Not Late At All
An intelligent horror film goes a long way in my book and "28 Weeks Later" did exactly that. I enjoyed the first one but thought it was only slightly above average. Although the extreme low budget utilized did add to the credibility of the impressive box office underdog that resulted. Usually when money is added to a sequel, havoc is wreaked and the franchise tends to get washed down the tubes. This was not the case here as the second installment proved to be just as intelligent, if not more so. While it was a zombie-type film, it contained everyday concerns that our world faces.
Technically those infected aren't zombies, so while it isn't a zombie movie per se they do possess very similar characteristics to them. The way the virus can be transmitted has properties of HIV, but I don't think there was a social statement there as it was probably more coincidental. On the other hand, references to the war in Iraq were a little more poignant and while I don't think it was a direct blow the director definitely wanted to point out how us Americans love our guns. Which is true. Chances are the U.S. soldiers here behaved exactly the same as they would in an actual confrontation such as this could it occur. They'd operate under the same short fuse and eagerness to bring out the big guns rather than sincerely try to rebuild a lost civilization.
As good as the story was, it wasn't without a fair share of errors. For starters there were huge gaps in the continuity between both movies. Rules that were set in "28 Days Later" went ignored in the sequel, and even some new ones were put into effect. Also the editing was so jumpy that any viewer who succumbs to motion sickness should steer clear, as the camera tends to bounce around mercilessly. I thought some of the action sequences were put together too messily as it was very hard to make out what was going on in some of them as well.
The acting itself was very appropriate for its genre and there were no extreme over-the-top theatrics that usually make me want to strangle some of the characters myself. My absolute favorite had to be Jeremy Renner though. I've been following him ever since his first underground film and while stardom has managed to elude him for quite some time, I think he is an excellent artist. Idris Elba I also adore ever since I've seen him on "The Wire", and he was great here, however his part seemed much too small for a gentleman of his caliber. Imogen Poots was visually stunning and I must say I was rather impressed with Rose Byrne who often tickles me as an annoying character. Robert Carlyle was good as usual in a creepy kind of role that he seems no stranger to. A lot of the audience seemed to pan him early on for a life changing decision he makes that is easy to find fault in. However in a survival viewpoint, he really did the right thing given the sure doom layout that was set before him and due to the fact that he only had a split second to determine what to do.
Now that the year is almost at the halfway mark, I must admit that I've been very impressed with what has been laid out so far. The cinema was getting so bad that I agreed with all the people that stopped going because of how outrageous the prices were getting. The costs have grown even worse in the meantime but they are almost worth it again and I wouldn't doubt it if the cycle reverses soon. "28 Weeks Later" is the best horror film I've seen in 2007 and I can't imagine what it'd take to beat it. This was an intellectual gore fest that combined great writing, excellent acting, and a break from formulaic slashers. I highly recommend this to just about anyone that can handle the jumps it dishes out and am willing to bet a third chapter will be on the way. Hopefully they can think of a better title than "28 Months Later" by then!
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
"Spider-Man 3" Summer '07 Officially Swings In
Ultimately I was highly impressed by the last installment of a trilogy that due to its immediate success has spawned a supposedly unplanned follow-up trilogy. "Spider-Man 3" starts off on a happy note and all is well for Peter Parker, however things quickly go awry as his web gets even more tangled than ever before. A big warning to all potential viewers should be that if they're not familiar with the comic books with at least a general knowledge of the new villains, then there's a favorable chance that they will become completely lost along the way. This is mainly due to the fact that so many characters and subplots were crammed into too short of a time and the story moves along at a lighting fast pace. If you aren't paying attention I can see how it'd be very easy to get confused about who's who.
Even though there was a mostly younger cast they all did supremely well. Tobey Maguire was probably the only exception but even he was okay. J.K. Simmons was absolutely hilarious and even though he was cramped for screen time, whenever he was present the audience was laughing. The same went for Bruce Campbell who despite only having one scene, made sure all eyes were on him for that whole time. The biggest surprise for me was Bryce Dallas Howard who I normally haven't been thrilled by, nevertheless was very pleasant here both on the eyes and acting-wise.
The biggest weakness of this film besides squeezing too much into it, was the cheese factor. The worst of the worst was when Spider-Man runs past an American flag. This was tied with the jazz club dance routine. The audience was literally groaning out loud at this and ruined the momentum that was built up until these points. Plain and simple they just didn't belong. I'm not even going to comment on when Peter Parker develops a darker side since that sequence was too corny to capture the essence of in mere words.
On the brighter side there were many pluses, the first being the CGI as it was incredible. So much work must've been put into making the Sandman character as they fine-tuned him down to each grain. I also was impressed at how so many separate stories were tied together so well. The musical score was invigorating and set an appropriate pace. Even though the running length clocked in at around two-and-a-half hours, I couldn't tell since there weren't many slow moments and it seemed to fly by. The producers could've easily added on another half-hour and I wouldn't have noticed. That might've even been a better way to go.
Any true fans of the "Spider-Man" franchise should see this. The tone and style are a lot different than the first two, but in some ways this is better since it adds a darker feel to the experience. There are some great quotes as always, which is a bare essential of any worthwhile comic book adaptation. To all those cynics that are complaining about the lack of clearly defined villains, well welcome to reality. Even the most ruthless bad guys either have some good to them in real life, or there were mitigating reasons for what made them into what they are. I thought that touch made it easier to identify with the antagonists since they had actual human aspects to them.
Sam Raimi stuck to his artistic vision as best that he could and the successful completion of a blockbuster such as this deserves the high box office results it'll certainly produce. I'm very glad that they will continue the series even if it means bringing in a new cast and crew. Spider-Man was one of my favorite superheroes growing up as a kid due to his sheer ordinary daytime persona and the horrible things he'd have to endure. Yet he'd keep on going, not by relying on his superhuman powers but by getting by with sheer determination along with the love from his family and friends. Thankfully "Spider-Man 3" didn't stray too far away from the comic books that it was based on, and was one of those movies that really make you stop to think about the fairness in life. It strives to be more than it is and in most cases, that's exactly what it does. As Stan Lee would say himself, "'Nuff said!"
"Fracture" A Break into the Abnormal
I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed watching this film as I heard many positive critical reviews before going into it so I had high expectations to begin with. However I was not let down one bit since "Fracture" more than held its own. It contained a very simple plot structure but also offered a very original take on a different type of court case. While it might not be possible in real life, it worked magic on the big screen and transformed into an excellent film almost within the first few minutes.
Even though Sir Anthony Hopkins played a role almost exactly identical to that of his previous Hannibal Lecter, it was still great to see him back in this form because that's what I always thought he was best at: the maniacal genius. Although I will admit he does have an incredible range. He didn't add anything new to his character that we haven't seen him do before, yet I still loved watching him whenever he was on the screen. The big shock for me was Ryan Gosling. I knew he was a good actor and that he has been in some great movies but this was his best performance by far. He just calmly waltzed into each scene and was able to hold his own against the veteran Hopkins. Gosling's natural ability is simply breathtaking with how much of it he was blessed with. Any doubts of him I had before are now officially thrown out the window. The rest of the ensemble was at least adequate and the only one who I was a little disappointed in was Billy Burke since he didn't seem completely convincing.
There is somewhat of a twist waiting for the viewer at the final showdown and what I loved about it was it wasn't thrown in there for no reason. It actually went with the story, which is what's supposed to happen but hasn't lately in numerous other cases. It won't throw you for a complete loop but rather ties up some loose ends that had me scratching my head up until then. While there's elements of the legal proceedings that are completely Hollywoodized and could in no way happen in real life, I didn't seem to mind at all and was actually glad they did that. This was most likely because it flowed with the story and offered a fresh perspective.
"Fracture" will be one of those small cinematic feats that goes overlooked and prematurely fades into oblivion but for those that do get to see it you won't be disappointed. You may not agree with some parts and might even spot some dead on plot flaws, but if you can overlook that and instead focus on the film as a whole you are in for a treat. The courtroom drama is suspenseful and is presented just as it should be. The quips taken from both sides are clever and offer some well-timed comic relief. The love story while not necessarily essential didn't take anything away from the other parts either. Job well done to mostly everyone on this production, this was a tightly wrought law thriller that was no chip off the old block by any means!
Hot Fuzz (2007)
"Hot Fuzz" Sizzling Entertainment
It has been awhile since I've seen "Shaun of Dead" but I definitely enjoyed it and was really looking forward to this installment. The best part of the British spoofs is they offer a far more intelligent sense of humor than their American counterparts. Unfortunately most of the mainstream audience here hasn't quite fully seemed to have grasped that concept, but there are those that can appreciate it. Luckily it appears to be catching on. I readily admit that sometimes I'm in the mood for the quick and easy laugh but more often than not I'd like to work for it.
"Hot Fuzz" wasn't as funny as "Shaun of the Dead", although I thought the story was a lot better. Another thing that I like about these British spoofs is that the film was good enough to stand on its own, even if the viewer didn't catch on to any of the references shown. Granted it won't be as humorous but still enjoyable enough. Whereas the American spoof movies usually rely on them alone, which is why they become quickly dated. The tough part is classic movies were paid tribute to here as well so if you aren't a huge film buff then you'll be left in the dark for at least a few instances. That should be enough incentive for you to brush up on some much needed cinema knowledge!
Some critics have stated that some of the parodies are way too over the top and completely unbelievable. Well that's the point as it was poking fun at how many of the action movies are the same way. Others asked, "could the people in a small town really be that blind and not see or want to believe what was actually going on?" Yes they could, it happens all the time in rural areas, as sometimes their people aren't fully equipped mentally to realize that there's more than meets the eye from time to time.
The acting was great and no one dipped below the charts on this one. This is certainly one talented comedic troupe. Even though they're all mainly classified as comedians, they are excellent dramatic actors, which is what adds to all the warped fun since they all basically play it straight. I really hope that this bunch continues to make another film in this fashion and that it won't take another three years to do so. "Hot Fuzz" was fiendishly clever and got the whole audience involved in its crazy antics mixed with a serious backdrop. These are definitely some short arms of the law you won't want reaching for you anytime soon!
Blades of Glory (2007)
"Blades of Glory" Skating in the Laughs
I finally got to see "Blades of Glory" three weeks after its initial release and I had only heard positive things about it. Someone even told me that it was a laugh-a-minute thrill ride and came out much funnier than "Talladega Nights", which I happened to enjoy. However after getting to watch for myself I have to disagree. While "Blades of Glory" was funny, it was achieved in a cutesy kind of way. But the real Grade-A laughs were few and far between. Instead I was placed under a barrage of smirk-inducing gags that made me smile, but came short of laughing-out-loud.
The plot was fairly unique and simple enough for everyone to understand rather quickly. Also the short running time made sure that the story didn't start to sag. The two leads were perfectly cast as Will Ferrell and Jon Heder put in excellent turns as the bad boy and effeminate heterosexual, respectively. It was also great to see Craig T. Nelson back on the screen as he always does an excellent job. The notable appearances from Nick Swardson and Andy Richter were appreciated as well. Actually all the ensemble cast was up to speed except Amy Poehler in my opinion. She just does not seem to be up to par as an actress and I don't think she's funny.
This was a decent film that even breathed out moments of inspiration and had it not been built up so much beforehand I'm sure I'd rank it as excellent. In the end I can't help but feel somewhat letdown by it to a point as far as the humor was concerned, but at least the story was there. It appears that it was meant for a younger audience then Ferrell's latest installments. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone but especially teenagers since this offers more appeal to their age bracket. I'm looking forward to seeing both Ferrell's and Heder's next films still, hopefully they'll both be much cooler...without the ice.
"Shooter" A Shot in the Dark
I normally have mixed feelings toward Mark Wahlberg movies. Mainly because he's in some spectacular films, but I usually don't approve of his acting, which causes a paradox for me. This however was the first one that I thought he actually was suitable for. The end result was a production that I thoroughly enjoyed much more than I originally expected. I had heard beforehand the novel was simply amazing and while I'm sure the book is better as that is pretty much always the general rule, I don't think this translation will be too far below the high standards it set.
"Shooter" had many strong points and it got off to an excellent start. It kept up its momentum until about a little over halfway through when an ever so slight cheese factor popped its ugly head up. The frustrating part was it really didn't need to throw in a slow-motion walking scene and the worst part was the ending as it just screamed, "we should've just let it finish at the prior scene but wanted to throw in more action for the sake of it." There were some corny quotes but nothing I couldn't tolerate. Possible plot holes did appear but only if the viewer engaged in some hardcore analyzing, which the typical one probably won't for this. The tiny disruptions in the flow of logic are easily overlooked however and the picture is honestly very enjoyable.
The comic relief was blended in smoothly and really polished off what would normally be some rough edges as there is some depressing ideology thrown around. There was definitely a sneaky reference made to Dick Cheney's hunting accident which was really funny as it happens so fast that it's hard to catch until after the fact. The action was great and very fast-paced. The coolest factor was that despite most of the situations being either improbable or even impossible, they were shot in a way that didn't make them seem too unbelievable at the present time. This was by no way a mindless flick either. The concept wasn't completely original, but new paths were followed and did branch out into uncharted domains.
Already controversy has emerged that anti-American themes are displayed a lot. I have to disagree with this because while dissatisfaction with the sleazy way things are being run under our current administration is the underlying theme. By voicing that opinion is a perfect demonstration of the true American way. The oil crisis is looked down upon, as are some of our other questionable foreign policies. Specific monstrous atrocities are used as an example, but since they're in other countries no one over here really cares. This rings a true bell. Another moral that is stated by the attorney general near the end is that, "justice doesn't always prevail." That couldn't be anymore on the money either. Lately it seems the bad are the only ones being rewarded since they're willing to do things honest people won't.
The acting was varied and Mark Wahlberg's voice actually changed at least three times. It might've been intentional but if it was, it didn't need to be. Everyone else was at least halfway decent and it was nice to see Ned Beatty appearing in a quality picture again. I highly recommend this film as it offers an interesting perspective on our present nation's status and is a great way to pass two hours. It offers edge of your seat entertainment and is the first straight up action movie that can spark fairly intelligent conversation afterward that I've seen in a long time. "Shooter" will blast away most audiences and should snipe its way to the top of this weekend's box office.
"Breach" A Crack In and Of Itself
Another one of a bunch movies in the past couple weeks to be released where the viewer already knows how it'll end. While most of the other ones were at least moderately successful in still being able to add an element of surprise, "Breach" wasn't. It was a supposed to be thriller that turned into a drama with only the slightest hint of suspense. Not only was it a slow-moving movie, which can sometimes be a good thing
but it was at times flat-out boring. This was hard for me to find because I'm always already a little bit intrigued when the words, "based on a true story," flash across the screen at the beginning of a film. However while that piques my initial interest, there has to be some substantiation for my fascination to remain
which this severely lacked unfortunately, even though the potential was there.
It's a crazy concept how a double agent was able to dupe the FBI for so long in real life and had the opportunity to be refined but the characters weren't developed fully. Robert Hanssen was whom the story should've been built around as for lack of better term I found him to be cool. There were so many levels too him that it was very hard to figure him out. Instead it focused on Eric O'Neill who I honestly didn't care too much about. The way he was portrayed he would've never been able to outfox Mr. Hanssen in a million years. This lead to a lot of head scratching on my part and as for others, at least two groups of people left the theater at some point well before it was over. If only the complexities of a spy, sexual deviant, religious fanatic, and family man wrapped all into one person were delved into this flick would've been so much better. O'Neill told Hanssen that he didn't matter and apparently the writers didn't either. On the contrary, I thought he did matter just as Robert retorted.
Chris Cooper was the one saving grace of the film as he was an exceptional force to be reckoned with. However Ryan Phillippe was outmatched and put in a pretty bad performance. He's a very one-dimensional actor and was miscast here. The only other parts I liked were a few great quotes coming from Cooper's character and the actual message of the film, that being the why behind things doesn't matter. This is very true because no matter how good an individual's intentions are when they do something, no one will care and will just judge that person based on the action taken itself which is a sad thought. My favorite speech was when Robert Hanssen goes on about how America is much like a retarded child. It does sound horrible but he did have a valid point.
I wouldn't say this is one to miss completely but should be saved for the rental shelf and for those that know that it doesn't play out as it was advertised. All in all there was more good than bad in it, but barely. As a spy movie it was too inept by not even telling us why Hanssen betrayed his country for so long. Granted it could've been to make you think but that's a question it would've been better to have given the viewer a definitive answer to, since that's probably the main reason why most people will go see it in order to find that out. Also too much time was spent on unnecessary symbolism such as the pen he used, and on the DVD's of "Entrapment" and "The Mask of Zorro". These two movies he had in his trunk represented his character being cornered in and his hidden identity, respectively. But we didn't need those objects to tell us that as it was only stating the obvious. Overall "Breach" was better than average but only because of a few redeeming factors. Besides that, it was just another mediocre February film that only makes this cold month seem that much colder. While Hanssen was always looking for more ways into the system to steal, I was looking for a way out out of the theater that is.
"300" An Epic of Even More Epic Proportions
I really liked this one a lot. It wasn't the best film I've ever seen or even the best epic that has been made, but it was quite exquisite. I was actually blown away by the time the end credits started rolling and something happened twice that I absolutely love
a round of applause. Not only after the movie was finished did people clap but also at a powerfully unexpected event about three-quarters of the way through. These were very pleasing moments as I haven't witnessed a show of acclaim such as that since "The Lord of the Rings Return of the King". The theater I viewed this in on opening night sold out quickly and since there were a good deal of younger people in the audience I was worried about having to deal with every distraction known to man. This wasn't the case though as "300" was so powerful that it had the ability to silence everyone and keep them that way until it was over.
The new film-making techniques were a very fresh look into what can be done now with today's technology and the way the script was written put a different twist on a historically true story. In a way I'm glad it wasn't completely accurate as it stated right from the beginning that it wasn't and it also made the plot more interesting. Frank Miller is such a highly creative individual and I think it's great how he uses such ugly fantasy creatures to really capture the aura of evil people. The use of slow motion was simply riveting and nothing like that has ever been done before for such a long duration.
As a fan of machismo cinema the battle sequences were my favorite part. It did take a little bit of getting used to with how they were done but they really ended up growing on me. In fact I was caught off guard by how much sheer hardcore violence is shown ranging from decapitations to every type of goring imaginable. However I didn't find it in bad taste because it goes hand in hand with the type of story it represents, I'm sure not everyone will feel this way though. Another great aspect was the comic relief. Some of the characters had such funny expressions and quotes in inappropriate moments, which really drew a surprising jolt of laughter from the audience at unexpected times. The score is also a huge strength as it blasts during pivotal scenes to really get the blood pumping.
The acting was great and I couldn't think of anyone else except Gerard Butler playing the title character, as he was so fitting that it was hard to imagine him as an actual regular guy in real life. Despite Gerard being in only a handful of roles before this I have always thought he was an encapsulating performer but he certainly took the cake here. David Wenham also did a remarkable job as both a warrior and a storyteller. The ironic part for me was the only one I wasn't too crazy about was Dominic West, who is usually one of my favorite character actors turned leading men. I will admit though that this might be since I'm not used to seeing him in a villainous role and he played pure weak sleaze here. Nevertheless a very robust cast was utilized that shows every emotion off imaginable to a remarkable effect, at least once.
"300" is what going to the movies is all about and what has been lost as of late. This is what a trip to the cinema should be and it blew a breath of fresh air into an industry that needed revitalization more than it knew. Whether this alone will be capable of pulling off a new era of quality probably not, but hopefully if it succeeds which, I can't see how it won't, it will encourage more invigorating filmmakers to follow in director Zack Snyder's footsteps. There wasn't any aspect that was neglected and it was the excellent combination of sound, music, colors, contrasted cinematography, story line, and wonderful performances that blew my mind. The morals also were near to my heart as it taught how beneficial it is to work together as a team and why one should always do what they feel is right no matter how slim their chances of success are. Overall the best blend of movie-making meshed together in probably at least the last couple of years. If you don't take my word for it that this is a worthwhile view, well then do it, "for Sparta!!!!"
The Number 23 (2007)
"The Number 23" Interesting Concept but Lackluster Result
I had heard terrible things about this movie before watching it so luckily I went into the viewing with low expectations. While it wasn't as bad as some people were making it out to be, it was nothing special either. What boggled my mind is that there was actually potential to make a quality film here but it wasn't utilized. This was stupid since there's so many historical experiences and anecdotes that deal with the number 23 theory. The historic ones make sense but the formulas conjured up for the movie were absolutely ridiculous. They completely overlooked any real laws of mathematics and apparently the theorist could apply any rule he wanted to over and over again to obtain the results he was looking for.
However there was some good to this disappointing feature. I liked how a main concept was that an obsessive person could formulate anything because they'll keep going until they see what they want to see. This essentially shows that most conspiracy theories have probably came to being through acts of compulsion and really aren't based off of concrete facts. The twist ending was also fairly original but due to the heavy saturation of twist endings audiences have been bombarded with these past five years, it didn't really have much of an effect on me. As for acting, Jim Carrey was very impressive and he really carried the weight of the film on his shoulders. Even though he's often overlooked by the industry each year, he can really take on an incredible dramatic role and is probably the best actor out of all the comics to this day. He also teaches his son sound moral judgments throughout and exemplifies what a good father should be. All the other performers were suitable but no one else really stood out.
Joel Schumacher has turned out to be such a heinous filmmaker that it'll be forever beyond me why studios keep hiring him to direct. "The Number 23" was supposed to be suspenseful, and it was really anything but. The murder mystery aspect didn't hold my attention and I really could've cared less what was happening in those regards. The plot was confusing and the beginning contained so much unnecessary filler that it seemed to go on for way longer than its runtime. I absolutely hated the Fingerling scenes and thought they were pure drivel. They exemplified absurdity in its purest form and it was if they came out of some cheesy made-for-TV erotica flick on a late night premium channel.
There is absolutely no way I could recommend to anyone that this is a movie they should catch in the theater and hesitate to do so for even a rental. Unless you're still one of the unduly shrinking Carrey fan base or you enjoy any kind of paranoia theme there is no matter how dull it is along the way, then you'll do better off checking something else out and not wasting your time with this muck. This was a perfect example of an ending that puts together a twist just for the sake of having a twist, and it really showed. Connections were made that were obviously purely coincidental and no justice was done to an intriguing question that has plagued man over time. If only the film was only 23 minutes long, that's one enigma I could've lived with and it would've been a better movie for it too.
"Zodiac" A Favorable Sign
I knew a good amount about this case going into the film as I always found the famous serial killer ones very interesting when I'd see a TV special about them on. It's also no secret that it's one of the few that went unsolvable to this day, so I really didn't know what to expect from a thriller that pretty much everyone already knows how it'll end. However "Zodiac" was made with a style that allowed the perspective to seem fresh, even if it ultimately wasn't. This is a must see for any true lover of real police work that gets down to the nitty-gritty of what detectives have to go through in actuality. No one's job is glamorized and in fact it's portrayed as the other way around
people get fired, demoted, or simply go flat out crazy. What fascinated me so much about the 'Zodiac Killer' more than the other murderers I've heard about was how he kept changing his methods, which is the main reason why he was able to elude capture for so long. All in all this made for one excellent cinematic puzzle that remained that way.
The biggest surprise of this movie was that David Fincher directed it. Even though he doesn't come out with many new films with the exception of maybe "Panic Room", those that he does direct are both highly innovative and entertaining. However this effort strayed away from the beaten path and was very different from the type of flick he usually churns out, which turned out to be a worthy venture. While I still prefer the likes of "Seven" and "Fight Club", this was close to them in overall quality. So much detail was taken into account when recreating the time period and crimes. Even though the film was shot digitally they edited it so the appearance had a grainy texture as it did back in the 70's. Also the costumes, settings, modes of transportation, and everything else was matched to a T.
The acting was strictly topnotch here and the biggest kudos goes to Robert Downey Jr. He was absolutely amazing! It's sad that he's at his best when he's playing a character that gets lost in a world of drugs and alcohol as his life has imitated this art for quite some time. Nevertheless he was so amusing to watch and added a playful quirkiness to Paul Avery that I don't think it would've been possible to play him any better. While Robert easily stole the show, a very honorable mention was Mark Ruffalo. He did quite well too and while he usually does, this went above and beyond what he's normally capable of. It's evident that as decent as Mark always has been in the past, there's always room for improvement. Everyone else put in great turns too, and there wasn't a single performance that came close to being unbelievable.
Potential viewers should also be warned, this film isn't for everybody. There are a few very disturbing sequences, that while they aren't even terribly graphic still manage to be creepy beyond belief due to their realism pertaining to the sheer coldness in which they're displayed. Another factor is the 160-minute running time, which except for the first third when the actual killings are taking place, quickly starts dragging on following that. All the facts had to be included though, so it really couldn't have been much shorter without losing its potency. You also have to remain open-minded if you watch it and can't demand any kind of closure except for what you can conclude on your own; otherwise you'll leave awfully disappointed. Finally it can be argued that only one viewpoint is being showed here and that is the author's, this automatically leads to a bias. I personally think it's the most logical account of events, but if you want an impartial take on what went down, your best bet is to watch a documentary on the history of events that took place.
It's very scary to think that such a gruesome individual could go about undetected for so long and that we'll never get to find out the real answer on who it was behind everything. Fincher's latest contribution is a compelling view for all those with strong stomachs and was eerily refreshing compared to what junk has been streaming out of Hollywood lately. There are many notable guest appearances and is quite simply a well-done movie, even if it did get hammed up a little bit. I personally am going to avoid secluded places for awhile just in case my astrological sign reads anywhere near the same as it did for all the poor victims.
Reno 911!: Miami (2007)
"Reno 911!: Miami" A Different Kind of Road Trip
Whenever I saw the regular series on television I definitely enjoyed it. "Reno 911!" is a highly creative and very funny show. However much to my dismay I've only caught bits and pieces of it so I went into this film not knowing nearly as much of the characters' backgrounds as many others in the theater on opening night. Fortunately, enough was explained that newcomers could quickly pick up on what went on despite some in-jokes definitely being present. Now even with bearing my limited level of "Reno 911!" expertise in mind I thought it was hilarious. The biggest problem this film will face is it was setup in a very similar style to last year's "Borat". Between the carefree male nudity and how sex was addressed, the resemblance was very much alike. Despite this approach being taken, this was very much its own movie and accomplished what it set out for.
The real-time mockumentary comedy that "Reno 911" represents has been prevalent on television for the past few years and recently it appears as if it's now being a preferred alternative on the big screen as well. This is with good reason because the characters seem more like actual everyday people than some ridiculous caricature that doesn't resemble anything close to a human being. Viewers can identify with these personalities more and thus stand a better chance of becoming sucked into the different situations no matter how over the top they are. I predict that humorous films will start adhering to this relatively new formula and will be the kick-start to a whole new generation of cinema.
Notwithstanding some of the downright hysterical moments, there were some pieces that didn't work. To start off with, the first half was much funnier then the latter part. As if the writers began running out of jokes and settled for any suitable finale. Also most of the dialog in the show is improvised where it appears that for the movie it was scripted the other way around and this certainly took away from the actors' spontaneity. Finally some of the scenarios are almost a little too far-fetched, even for a notorious farcical ensemble cast such as this.
All in all I found myself laughing out loud a lot and was very glad I caught this one. It appears it won't beat out the television show due to the advantage of getting to compress the running time, but it's still a very comical motion picture that'll guarantee to put just about anyone in stitches. I'd say there's a very good chance a sequel will be in the works and surely look forward to it. Law enforcement is no stranger to either parodies of itself or becoming a target for instances of goofiness that could never really happen, but this is a new take on big-hearted police officers that can't seem to get anything right that'll have you mimicking them for hours on end. Between the witty quotes, the oddball lawbreakers, and the refreshing celebrity guest list Miami didn't know what hit it!
Ghost Rider (2007)
"Ghost Rider" Blazes, But Not Nearly As Expected
"Ghost Rider" was never my favorite comic book series as a kid but I did enjoy it a lot and overall it was probably one of the better ones. However while the movie adaptation was decent it wasn't nearly as good. The biggest difference I noticed is they took a lot of the darker edge away from the story, which seemed to now cater to a much younger audience in obvious anticipation of boosting ticket sales. This'll undoubtedly work monetary wise but as far as quality is concerned it definitely took a hard blow.
The film itself is entertaining enough and is kind of cool considering how it blends a mix of genres such as fantasy and western. The acting was okay but some people were completely miscast and not just by how they appeared in the comics but also how they behaved. A grand lesson the filmmakers hopefully learned afterward is that dialog which works in print does not necessarily translate well to the big screen. Some of the one-liners were absolutely heinous and literally made me cringe each time I heard an utterance of either, "you innocent," or, "you guilty." Some raw nacho cheese quotes to say the least. The special effects are great, however somewhat overdone. It seems CGI was thrown into just about anything the editors could get their eager hands on and this added to the corny factor as well.
Nevertheless I still think Johnny Blaze is a neat character and contains a very alluring back-story. Not to sound trite myself but I really like how the allegory is based on solid morals and life lessons. The main plot is what sets this apart from a run-of-the-mill movie for me. That being how long should an individual have to pay for a stupid mistake? Surely it's not fair to have to suffer for the whole duration of one's life and that's what Mr. Blaze here discovers, that he can't be scared anymore and he must move on to learn from the past and fight the good fight.
I also can't help but complain about the soundtrack, as that was procured for the teenyboppers too. The one huge exception was when "Crazy Train" was blasting during a well-suited stunt that synchronized perfectly. That whole warm up and death defying leap will forever be ingrained in my unforgettable moments of cinema. On the other hand ghost rider's nemeses were wholly unimpressive. The biggest of all disappointments had to be the final fight since it led the viewer to believe there'd be this giant showdown between two titans well let me just say this idea fizzled fast into one immense letdown instead.
The irony is that although this film is flawed beyond belief, it's enjoyable and worth watching as questionable as that sounds. My best prediction is that this'll be one of those installments where there'll be a much better sequel as the first in the series usually serves as the establishing point and has to contain the more obligatory conception sequences. True fans of the comic might be a little disappointed but it's by no means a complete catastrophe and any teenager will love it. It appears that "Ghost Rider" will be setting down the path of justice after all with this debut, but it might not be the right one just yet.
Hannibal Rising (2007)
"Hannibal Rising" Makes Its Ascent
To start off I should state that Hannibal Lecter is one of my favorite film characters of all time and I've enjoyed all previous movies based on him. I really have an insatiable desire to see as much of the good doctor as I can. Needless to say I was very excited to hear not only was Thomas Harris writing another book but he'd also take control of the screenplay as well. Upon viewing it's safe to say that he delivered again. This was a very satisfying tale of revenge and how the desire for retribution can consume any individual if it becomes too strong. A tale many people can probably relate to, if only on a much smaller scale.
This was a very necessary movie as it thoroughly explained what could create such a monster. It didn't throw out any ridiculous explanations either just for the sake of having them; the whole puzzle really came together very convincingly. The background set during World War II in Lithuania added a nice touch that showed a set of circumstances, which could transform a tender child into a complex serial killer. To this day no one knows why people turn into mass murderers but in an instance as the one presented at the very beginning, it could plausibly happen to anyone depending on what we get exposed to early on.
On the acting front it was amazing. The whole cast did great. In fact they probably could've gotten away with a lot less effort sometimes but this must've been a personal project for most of them, as they just seemed completely lost in their roles. The biggest surprise I've received so far this year came from Gaspard Ulliel's turn as the younger version of Hannibal himself. I never heard of this guy whatsoever even though I have seen a previous flick or two with him in it but he just scored off the charts. One would have to possess some tremendous gall to begin with in order to take on the villain Sir Anthony Hopkins turned into legend but to do it with such success is an incredible task that Gaspard pulled off. Granted he obviously wasn't nearly as perfect as Hopkins was, however he landed close enough especially when you consider Ulliel's young age. This guy will have a tremendous future, and without a doubt not just as a desensitized comeuppance-dealing psychotic. Li Gong added her tremendous skill and beauty with ease and is remarkably pleasurable to watch. Dominic West is an incredible talent and one of my favorite character actors, needless to say he was incredible as always. Many of the other actors were basically unknown to me, which added to my astonishment of how well they did. To the untrained eye it may appear that some of the thespians lacked chemistry but this was done on purpose to add a general sense of apathy to our unlikely protagonist.
"Hannibal Rising" will certainly become a target for needless bashing because this is the first time our anti-hero is not portrayed in a brilliant light. This was a must though since Hannibal was still developing and a monstrosity like that would have to be molded over time no one could start out like that, sheer hatred has to be learned. Another setback was there weren't any noteworthy original killings that every other feature contained, nor were there any specific memorable quotes. Finally the comic relief was lacking and there was only one instance of it that helped revive my attention from the intensely dark tone we as an audience were saturated with for nearly two hours.
The cinematography was suitable and generated a very creepy effect. The biggest negative had to be the pacing as it was unnecessarily slow at times and took away from the thrills as there really weren't that many. This was the least suspenseful installment yet because it decided to focus more on back story and character development. That being said, it'll take mainly die-hard fans to fully appreciate this prequel. However I'm sure those that are passionate about a well-developed story will enjoy it too if judged on a stand-alone basis. After "Silence of the Lambs" this was the next best motion picture if established on overall quality. Even though it still hasn't convinced me of converting to cannibalism, I have developed a new hunger to fill in the gaps between this and "Red Dragon".
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
"Letters From Iwo Jima" First Class Mail
This movie was just about perfect. It easily conquered in all aspects that film is critiqued on and I recommend it for everybody. What a shame it was that it didn't get released into a theater near me until way over a month after its initial release. I'd also like to address the commotion about the historical inaccuracy of how the Japanese are portrayed, because it doesn't seem as if they really were. Granted they were extremely ruthless and hostile, especially towards POWs, but that is implied. Americans really have to realize that some of us can act just as inappropriately brutal at times. We're not perfect either. The main represented point is that not every single Japanese soldier felt the same way about this conflict. There's always the good and bad on both sides
even though the comparative ratio can be heavily leaned towards one side. Unfortunately, it appears that the good more often than not hold a position farther down the line and their opinions don't count for nearly as much. Or when a good leader is in charge in times of war, apparently the bad veer off and do what they want to anyway.
Accusations of Clint being unpatriotic for making this film are outrageous as another message was that both sides see the enemy as the monsters, when in fact despite minor differences, we're all basically the same. This is because we're all human. Due to cultural variation, we have different ideals that we're taught but deep down everyone has very similar needs and wants no matter what part of the globe they're from.
The final issue that was great to display was how fighting rationally was much more effective than following guidelines due to a nation's code of honor system as it would really inhibit their soldiers. Whether the restrictive conventions were put in place due to religion or just by laws, the opposing force could walk all over them. In this case the Japanese were limited by rules their emperor set forth and only a few of them were able to realize how dumb the sacrificial rite was as doing so screwed over their comrades who were vastly outnumbered on other parts of the island in need of support.
All aesthetic aspects can be shortly summed up: the acting was flawless and no one put in an unbelievable performance, the cinematography was beautiful and tense which was very fitting, and the script was incredible but at the same time being very tear-inducing. The screenplay is extremely dialogue based and is in subtitles, plus the action sequences are limited so to those that hate history movies or ones not in English then it's safe to say you won't like it at all. The runtime is long and the pacing slow when compared to regular American cinema but it goes by really fast and upon viewing it makes you feel as if you're right there alongside these men.
Clint Eastwood is such a masterful director and it'll be interesting to see where this ranks come Oscar time. Personally I think it stands a tremendous chance of winning, however since he's won before so recently that might be held against him. What really made me think is the striking similarities of this battle to what's going on now in our whole mentality. It's as if we're fighting the same enemy just with different faces this time around. This definitely brought truth to that old saying, "history repeats itself, if we don't learn from it." Apparently we're not learning from it. The average Joe gets stuck fighting a war that is not his nor does he understand for reasons he'll never get to enjoy. All the more reason to realize how wrong and pointless the declaration of war certainly is in the first place and in the end, the sad truth is that no one really wins.
Smokin' Aces (2006)
"Smokin' Aces" Sets Off a Blaze of Its Own
I'm speechless. This is one of those instances where I don't think any person will have the same opinion of the film. It's pure contradiction in effect. There are some moments of pure genius followed by levels of stupidity that aren't even measurable. The clashing of clarity with insanity leads to one big jumbled mess. However when all was said and done, I liked it despite the many, many, many flaws.
The first problem is the main part of the plot twist is very predictable but some of it is impossible to guess, so it's not completely pointless to stick around that way, as there is some element of surprise. Another blemish is there are some situations so far-fetched the audience would be left scratching their heads at the sheer idiocy of even trying to comprehend the plausibility of some of these scenarios. The envelope of utter ridiculousness was pushed on like no other standing before it. Lastly, this was a textbook case of style being focused on much more than the actual substance. While the coolness factor was, well cool; it also took away from what could've been even better as a bunch of parts just didn't mesh together at all.
What I liked most about "Smokin' Aces" was the comic relief. It was amazing and couldn't have been done better. However since it was so dominating, it far overshadowed the dramatic effect and almost canceled it out to the point where even the serious scenes became funny. Also despite some of the mind-numbing drivel that crept out of the screen, there were instances of complete realism that paid close attention to the tiniest detail which showed that a lot of effort was actually thrown into this production. Minute characters were written in and executed with perfection and generated an aura of confidence that sucked the viewer right in and held right on to your attention span for the entire duration.
There's that old saying, "nothing exceeds like excess." After watching this film if you don't already know what that means you will. The violence meter was off the charts and had so much non-stop action that even the biggest craving of gratuitous gun fights will be satisfied and then some. Most shootouts don't even hint at being remotely possible and letting your imagination fly is definitely a requirement.
As for the acting it wasn't Oscar worthy but suitable nonetheless. Ray Liotta probably did the best followed by Ryan Reynolds who really put in a great turn at his first real dramatic role. He vastly underestimates his potential as a dramatic actor. If this were the first time I saw him, I never would've guessed he always did quirky comedic characters before this. Jeremy Piven was fine but nothing new here as he's now probably forever typecast in the role of pompous jerk. Jason Bateman threw in the funniest performance since some of his lines had people rolling on the floor. The only disappointment was Alicia Keys. She did fill out the role well but didn't add anything else besides being a pretty face. While she was the worst that way, even she wasn't that bad as far as that goes. It should be also be added that Ben Affleck was surprisingly bearable and blended in with ease.
In order to appreciate a flick like this, it's imperative you go in with an open mind. There are moments where you will be wowed and others that you'll find unnecessary. You'll most likely be right on both counts. Anyone can find out what didn't work right off the back, but at a closer glance there are diminutive displays of precocity flashed about. The basic formula has been done before but this was surely no copycat and did contain many strains of originality. Due to the how easily it is to write this film off it'll no doubt be overlooked, but don't be one of the ones that miss out. "Smokin' Aces" is by no means a classic, however love it or hate it you'll be blown away wondering, "what the heck just happened?"
The Hitcher (2007)
"The Hitcher" A Ride into Familiar Territory
Another horror remake? No real surprise there. However what did catch me off guard was this one was actually halfway decent. While it didn't offer anything new, as it basically was a hash between the original and the straight to video sequel, the movie as a whole was good especially when compared to the garbage remakes we've been bombarded with these past few years. But considering the original wasn't all that great of a film technically speaking, then it'd be impossible to really consider this in that caliber either. It is safe to say though that "The Hitcher" accomplished what it set out for.
The plot is utterly unbelievable but if you can let that go it's enjoyable. The acting is appropriate and Sean Bean was great. While I did wind up preferring Rutger Hauer, it was mainly due to the dark sense of humor he added to his character. Another difference between the two was Sean came across as detached and suicidal, while Rutger was the more cunning and evil nemesis almost like an alter ego of the protagonist. Nevertheless, Sean was thoroughly able to creep the hell out of me with great success and achieved it with more subtlety. Sophia Bush was really good and to call her a sight for sore eyes in this would be an understatement. Neal McDonough as always played his typical supporting role with ease, despite being slighted with very little screen time. This was the first time I've watched Zachary Knighton on the big screen and he came through perfectly as an everyday real-looking college guy. For what this flick was, there surprisingly wasn't any really bad acting as usual. In fact even the 1986 version had many moments of straight cheese. So praise is in order for the cast without a doubt. That is if the characters themselves were written in better, as enough depth wasn't provided for them that made the audience actually want to care about anyone in particular.
One odd thing I noticed that while there were many scenes which were exactly the same as its predecessors, about three of the more important ones from the first installment weren't incorporated, and did add a strike against it. As for the gore factor, it was certainly bumped up a notch even to a horror level at some points and did show an incredible amount of violence. Another factor that made the original work slightly better was its cooler back-story. The role reversal in this one actually worked against it in the end, as it didn't make as much sense and took away from the overall storyline.
As far as thrills go it was sufficient in this regard and had a lot of parts that made the viewer jump however nothing too shocking. My personal favorite scene was the car chase since it utilized the perfect blend of cinematography, music, and action. Other factors that this movie had going for it was there wasn't much downtime. Even the slower parts didn't get boring. This was mainly due to the overall short length of the film in general but can also be attributed to excellent pacing. The blend of genres alternating between thriller, horror, and action was also carried out very effectively. That and the ending does provide the desired level of gratification. But that's about where the praise stops.
If you want to be swept away or completely engulfed into extravagant cinema then this isn't what you're looking for. If you're looking for an okay experience as far as remakes go then you probably won't go wrong with this. True fans of the original will doubtfully be enthralled by this rendition though and I'd advise them to steer clear as nothing worthwhile is added in any sense. Ultimately Sophia Bush learns to never slow down again for any hitchhikers, but this is one time that in the end, it was worthwhile for me to stop for just this once.
Children of Men (2006)
"Children of Men" The Brainchild of Humanity
There has been a lot of emphasis in movies lately that depict the topic of the ending of both humanity and civilization. However this is the first one to breach on the idea of is that really such a bad thing? At first look, yes it is terrible as all humans no matter what they feel at times have an inherent survival instinct. But on the outside looking in, it's being said now that people are too destructive in their consumerism to be able to blend in peacefully with the rest of Mother Nature.
"Children of Men" examines the pure chaos that would result if every person in the world knew that the end of life as they know it was coming to a screeching halt in less than a century. Instead of life being put up on a pedestal it has the reverse effect and becomes even more worthless than it is considered today, which says a lot. Terrorism runs rampant and the government has gotten out of control, deliberately abusing all of its authority. The ugly side of human behavior is flashed at the viewer just about every chance there is and the worst part about this fact is it's completely realistic. While this film shows what will happen to societies in the world if nothing is done about the growing intolerance we share towards one another, it's actually being done right now in more parts of the world than we'd like to think.
A good amount of symbolism is relayed throughout the duration such as dogs and cats get treated as children and water represents life. Also many potshots are taken at American practices, some are hidden while others are direct blows. The most obvious hits were at Homeland Security, foreign refugees, and the illegal alien policies which mostly criticized the Bush administration. While it wasn't officially declared, it appeared as if a state of emergency had been activated in London and emphasizes why we should never consider that as an option here.
Every aspect of this movie tried to produce a sense of realism and the result was very effective. The cinematography was gritty and contained one amazing lengthy take towards the end that would stop the harshest critic dead in their tracks. The script was great and highly unpredictable. The scenes contained so much information that this'll be one of those films where you'll catch something new with each viewing. Many clues were lurking in the background. It's very easy to miss a small detail so make sure you pay close attention as the pacing can get extremely fast without warning. What really stood out above anything else was the tremendous success of humor. There was such a mix between subtle, dark, and even downright twisted comedy that helped make all the horrible scenarios bearable to the audience.
Finally the acting was superb as everyone really put in the work. The two that stood out the most had to unsurprisingly be Clive Owen and Michael Caine though. Clive must be the best actor with the most limited range and I say that with great admiration. He never plays anything different but we all love him anyway and rightly so. Starting out as a detached alcoholic that had an ambitious past, he begins to regain his sense of responsibility and the belief he can make a difference which he does. Michael is cast here as a hippie, yes you read that correctly, and was absolutely delightful. An honorable mention is Chiwetel Ejiofor who easily brought to life a cold-hearted villain with a purpose. While everyone in the government is basically portrayed as bad, the terrorists are split into those that possess good intentions and the ones that are downright radical lunatics, which certainly shed light on an important issue.
This film is not for everyone, but on the other hand everyone should see it. It's meant to require all watchers to do some soul-searching and realize that positive change is needed. But even if everyone stopped his or her hatred dead in its tracks and reached a pinnacle of self-realization, there'd always be at least one idiot out there who'd ruin it for everyone else. While preservation of our species is a priority, should it be and does it even matter at this point? As the movie itself shows, human attempts at correcting the wrongs of the world are always short-lived and hence it very well may be too late.
The Departed (2006)
"The Departed" Won't be Leaving Anytime Fast
There were a couple complaints about this film's length during my screening, as clocking in at just over two and-a-half hours, it's a long movie. But there's a big difference between good long movies and bad long movies, which this is most certainly the former. The time flew by and not once did I find myself checking my watch. That being said it was also a fairly original idea, despite actually being a foreign remake. I think it's definitely safe to say that none of the important parts were lost in translation during the conversion. The finished product easily did justice to the original, especially considering how poorly the majority of Americanized releases have turned out lately.
As far as the acting as a whole was concerned, it was way above par. Jack Nicholson effortlessly played a great insane gangster, whose level of psychosis steadily increased. Alec Baldwin was hilarious as the dedicated but extremely sarcastic administrative officer. In fact I think it was the combination of these two characters that led to the perfect blend of comic relief that made it much easier for the conservative audience members to digest some of the harsher subject matter. The star turn was definitely put in by Leonardo DiCaprio, who displayed such naturally conflicted emotions and added so much inside depth to his role that at times it was even scary. Leo's both physical and various forms of mental anguish could be felt by all. I could really feel what he was going through the whole time without ever having those exact same experiences. This is one time where it'll be tough to ignore him at the Oscars again. Matt Damon gave a pretty flawless performance, but it also felt that he had the least interesting of all the characters despite having a lot of screen presence. Mark Wahlberg was surprisingly good in a different role than he's accustomed to, although he did drop his accent a couple times. Somewhat newcomer Vera Farmiga was passable, but not overly convincing and did seem to get clunky.
Overall the character development could've been better as the viewers just received a surface glance at them, but I wound up caring for most of the individuals regardless. The cinematography was excellent and contained some beautiful scenes of Boston along with some not so desirable shots of its seedy underground. The soundtrack was amazing and not just for the wonderful songs themselves. They really heightened the emotions by being blasted at some intense scenes as well. Needless to say this particularly grabbed my attention. Finally, the editing was tight which also helped with the quick pacing and the script was smoothly written into several layers but at the same time not being formulaic. Even if the scenario mainly dealt with translating the "Infernal Affairs" story for audiences over here.
This was a highly enjoyable flick and I fully recommend it on just about every level. In fact, my only real problem with it was that the ending felt rather contrived and was a letdown. It turned messy quickly and was going all over the place when the filmmakers were trying to tie everything together. Not too mention also highly improbable. Notwithstanding, if you can overlook that, then you'll be in for a real treat as usual from Martin Scorsese. This is without a doubt his best film so far this decade, and could quite possibly be right there under "Goodfellas". It's fairly ironic that the title is "The Departed", because I was so intrigued that I didn't want to leave.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
The End of an Era
I have to admit that when I first heard they were going to be making this film I thought it would be a disaster. Something about an aging Sylvester Stallone just didn't appeal to me, as it seemed like a ludicrous idea. Then I started hearing through the grapevine that the critics said it was actually a worthy approach so I had to see for myself. Wow, they were right. I simply found this to be a delightful way to finish off the series. Even though the first two installments were slightly ahead of my time I grew up on this franchise and found it to be the most inspiring saga I think is out there. The only possible exception is the fifth one, which I still liked regardless.
While it can be argued that Stallone can't make them like he used to as the concept just doesn't fit in today's society, I thought he was able to adapt the storyline perfectly to modern times. Boxing has become a joke (like most professional sports) in recent years and Rocky seemed to represent back when they used to be pure. When strength came from the inside through heart and determination and not only what's on the outside.
There was a few times when various members of the audience applauded which shows how much this movie can get you wrapped up in it. There is so much reminiscing that it's even sad at certain points as it stays very true to real life and what it's about. How neighborhoods change, the people change, and pretty much everything else changes over time. It also exhibits that good memories do hurt, even more so than the bad one's sometimes. The most important lesson "Rocky Balboa" covered is that life is relentlessly tough and is in fact probably the hardest thing most people come across in general, but you have to do your best and persevere. The one true motif of any Rocky film is that he would never stay down, whether it was in or out of the ring and that is what he tries to pass along to his son and us.
The writing was excellent and I really loved the dialog along with some of the small speeches Rocky gives. The end fight scene might not be as great as the prior finales, but it still is way above par nonetheless. My favorite part of any of the "Rocky's" has almost always been the training montage and this one was suitable, however not the best either. It definitely passed inspection though and still made me want to get up out of my chair to start working out right there.
What hit me the hardest when the movie ended was that this is really it and not only did I see it as the end of a legacy but also the end of a part of my childhood. Rocky symbolizes much more than just a fictional boxer; he depicts simpler times to a whole generation of young adults. Make sure you stay through the credits as there's a very beautiful scene at the end (although it only last a couple seconds).
Both familiar fans and new watchers will find this film enjoyable. I hate to know Rocky is over now but I couldn't think of a better way to do it. "Rocky Balboa" brings great closure to the better days! "Yo, Adrian," he did it!
Good, But Not That Good
This is a movie that could easily and effectively be turned into a successful remake. One message to all the counterparts of CGI out there should watch this because it could've easily been saved had the special effects been somewhat comprehensible. The other big complaint I have about this movie is that the villains are too incompetent to be scared of. I mean they were like the complete opposite of evil and were seemed more of a comedy relief than anything else. Without real bad guys there was a big hole where I could sense immediately that the storyline would fall flat before the big finale. Gene Hackman and even Ned Beatty are so much better than they appeared in this...it really did them no justice. I also don't see what the big deal about Christopher Reeve was either. I mean yes he's tall and he's good looking but I wasn't amazed with his acting at all. They talk about how much he worked out and everything but the plain and simple truth is that he didn't even get that big compared to the bodybuilders of today. Unless they're all on steroids now which could very well be true.
Movies: Maybe back in the day.
DVD Purchase: Didn't enjoy it.
Rental: Yes, but once was plenty!
Just Don't Know
Well it certainly appears that someone out there wanted to give David Lynch a run for his money! Calling this film weird would be a vast understatement. I did like the idea of being able to give and take away luck and how different people could use their gift of it but as mentioned by others there were some blatant plot holes and some scenes that just didn't fit in with the rest of the movie. Max Von Sydow was awesome and he is such a good actor it's a real shame that he wasn't used by more American directors because I don't think he has ever given a bad performance. While I didn't really recognize the other people I think they did a pretty stand up job themselves. My favorite scenes had to be the Russian Roulette ones as they got fairly intense. What I didn't understand however is why they threw in characters that had no relationship to anyone else and had them making quick cameos. This completely baffled me to no end! All in all I think it was a great idea, incredible acting, but ridiculed with some bad writing.
Movies: Say it with me...NO!
DVD Purchase: One more time...No!
Rental: If you're in the mood for a peculiar foreign flick.
Bit the Big One!
This was not a good movie. It wasn't scary, the acting was virtually terrible, and the plot was tough to follow. Why they didn't get Craven back as the director beats the hell out of me! The deaths were so cheesy and the special effects looked so fake it was totally unbelievable. The school bus rides made no sense and you basically needed a guide book just to understand what was happening. The scenes were in a completely illogical order and got confusing way too quickly! Freddy didn't have his snappy one-liners yet which also didn't help the overall cause either. I personally feel that this film basically was devoid of any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It's one where I'd be constantly checking my watch (even though it was short in length) and I even broke up viewing it since I was becoming so bored with it. What's scary is this was rated higher than some of the other sequels so I can only imagine how bad they are. Take a strong word of advice to stick to the original and don't stray too far away or you could become lost in the kingdom of boredom forever!
DVD Purchase: No way, Jose!
Rental: I wasted my time.
Super Size Me (2004)
This is the best documentary I have seen recently! It's very hard to watch though so buyer beware. If only Michael Moore was a quarter as talented then his movies might actually start to influence people. This one had far less propaganda than the garbage Mr. Moore spews out and was much more effective. It really made me stop and think about what I was destroying my organs with each time I get lazy and hit up the nearest fast food joint in town for a quick, easy, and relatively cheap meal. I became very nervous at the end because I thought the main character was either going to die or do irreversible damage to himself in only a month nonetheless. It pained me to see him get so fat and become so unhealthy that it made me realize I have to start making better decisions about my diet in the future starting now. I mean fast food does taste good and it's convenient but it honestly doesn't seem worth it in the end. It's going to be sad when my generation is all grown up, I have a feeling that we're going to turn out messed up because of this horrible society we live in.
Movies: Rarely are documentaries worth seeing in the theaters.
DVD Purchase: No, only because its important facts are going to be lodged in my brain for awhile!
Rental: You'll learn something!
This was a movie that I had never heard of but saw the cover in a department store and was intrigued by it because it had Christian Bale on the cover and he is always amazing. So I put it in my rental queue and when it was over sure enough I was right on the money about him but what really caught me off guard was that it was actually an awesome movie as well! Taye Diggs is good but he always plays the same character in every single movie he's in, so he basically was my only complaint acting-wise. The plot was great and even though the writer/director borrowed ideas from a couple of previous successors they still turned a lot of it around so the premise was original.
The special effects were very similar to "The Matrix" movies but they do differ slightly and still have a great effect. The action was fast-paced and the raw human emotion was incredible in certain instances. This was such a pleasant surprise as exciting films like this are becoming scarcer each year and I make sure to cherish the moment when I am fortunate to finally get my paw's on treasures such as "Equilibrium"!
Movies: I wish I did!
DVD Purchase: No question about it!
Rental: If I wasn't going to buy it I'd rent it over and over.