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The Dark Knight (2008)
Best movie of the 00's and arguably the best movie of all time.
As with all my favorite movies, I find it hard to write a review of this movie because I am afraid I might not do it justice. I am normally very stingy with the score 10 because I can usually always find something that I both like and dislike about any movie but I will now attempt to justify why I think The Dark Knight deserves this much coveted score.
First of all, the main reason this movie is as good as it is, is Christopher Nolan. Nolan is not necessarily a believer in the term which plagues so many sequels, "Bigger is better". But he knew that he would have to up the ante for this one and the best way of doing that is to bring in the only character who can give the Batman pause, The Joker.
Christian Bale returns as The Dark Knight (the first actor since Michael Keaton to return as Batman) and Bale is every bit as good as he was in the first movie, deepening the character and giving one of the best performances of a career filled with some great acting. Batman being quite a stiff character doesn't allow for a lot of showing off but Bale uses his eyes as portals into the man beneath the mask with great effectiveness. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman return in their respective parts and both are excellent. Gary Oldman is thankfully given more screen time and more relevance to the story and being the great actor that he is does not shrink from the challenge, giving us a hard but sympathetic portrayal of Jim Gordon. New arrivals count Maggie Gyllenhal (a vast improvement over Katie Holmes) and Aaron Eckhardt who delivers a tragically fantastic performance as Harvey Dent. The true showstopper is of course the late, great Heath Ledger. Ledger understood that The Joker character is greater than the sum of any actor who portrays him and as such what we see on screen is not Heath Ledger but rather the increasingly psychopathic being otherwise known as The Joker. I have rarely seen an actor become a character so fully that it chills me to the bones.
There is always something at stake in every scene in this movie and Nolan, who personally directed every scene in the movie, made sure that every character who appears on screen have some sort of purpose or relevance to the story. It is a complex drawing and may well be one that requires repeat viewings to fully understand. Also the action, because you better believe there is action, is very character oriented and thus becomes increasingly tense for the audience to watch unlike so many other action movies. The editing is flawless and helps to draw the audience into the fantastic action sequences.
The action on screen is helped along greatly by Hans Zimmer's fantastic score, while very similar to the one he did for Batman Begins there are a few noticeable differences. The Joker score makes my skin crawl because it kind of reminds me of nails on a blackboard and the heroic Batman theme, used only a few times to great effect, is one that can truly make goosebumps break out all over my body. Truly a great score, that is already being copied for various other inferior action movies.
The story is multi layered and one of the main reasons that I can just keep watching. Thematically, we're really watching three abstracts fighting each other on screen, Order (Batman), Chaos (The Joker) and Chance (Two-Face) and these abstracts are behind every action the three character make and adding layers to the lines they deliver.
Overall I would have to award this movie with the label Best Movie of All Time, simply because I enjoy it so much but watching The Dark Knight is an experience that deepens every time I watch it as something new always pops off the screen. Calling it a superhero movie almost seems like mislabeling it, as it is so much more.
Batman Begins (2005)
After departing from the screen in 1991 with Batman Returns, the dark brooding Batman has been sadly absent (the less said about Joel Schumacher's Batman movies, the better). However, after rejecting Darren Aronofsky's vision of Batman, citing that his ideas were too dark, Warner turned to the able, if somewhat unknown young director Christopher Nolan. What an excellent idea!
Nolan brought the darkness back to the Batman character but chose to stick closer to the original comics and the result is nothing short of stellar. What he gave us was not only the best Batman movie (at the time) but also one of the best action movies of the 00's. Nolan had the vision that this movie should be for the Batman character, what Superman (1978) was for its title character. A truly larger than life movie with a mammoth cast. Did Nolan fulfill his vision? Yes, and then some.
Christian Bale gives us a nuanced and humane portrayal of The Dark Knight and being the master of subtlety that he is, his portrayal can stand repeat viewings. He brings both great credibility as well as humour to the character and is physically the first actor to truly fill out the iconic suit. He is supported by an unbelievably great cast. Michael Caine is fantastically likable as Alfred and the great Gary Oldman has done another of his patented transformations and truly becomes the character of Jim Gordon. Other great actors such as Ken Watanabe, Rutger Hauer and the always dependable Morgan Freeman fill out the other minor characters with great success. Special mention is reserved for Cillian Murphy (runner up for the character of Batman), Tom Wilkinson and Liam Neeson who all do spectacular jobs with their characters. They seem to having a lot of fun which more than rubs off on the audience. All in all a stellar cast.
Soundtrack-wise Nolan did another stroke of genius in getting Hans Zimmer as composer. Zimmer is in my honest opinion the best composer in the business today and his score for the Batman movies are filled with passion, darkness and intensity. I have a lot of nostalgic love for Danny Elfman's score for the first two Batman movies but I have to admit that Zimmer has him beaten hands down.
In terms of telling the story Nolan can't resist his trademark of jumping in time. But it is done in such a well-rounded fashion that the viewer never lose track of where we are in the story and his efforts to base the Batman character in a much more realistic universe pays off in spades as the villains actually seem to be a genuine threat to The Dark Knight. One could argue that the films' main weakness is that it takes it a long time to actually get Batman on screen and get the story moving forward but I think that the pacing is brilliant and that the origin story is told with a lot of thought and a lot of love for what Batman will eventually become.
Visually the film is very akin to Ridley Scott's masterpiece, Blade Runner and the constant darkness of Gotham city help to underline the increasing darkness of Bruce Wayne's mind as well as the theme, fear.
All in all Batman Begins is arguably the best Batman movie out there. I, myself prefer the much hyped sequel The Dark Knight but one cannot overlook this movie's obvious qualities.
Batman & Robin (1997)
How to make the worst movie EVER! In 10 easy steps.
1. Cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as a scientist and have him spout nothing but one-liners for the entire movie. I cannot stress how bad his performance is. Even by his standards the level of acting is shockingly poor. Also Mr. Freeze was an intelligent guy in the comics then it doesn't do to cast a guy who can't even speak American without a heavy accent. Despite Schwarzenegger's intellect (he is one of the governors in USA with the highest IQ) he comes off as an ignorant person because of his accent.
2. Allow George Clooney to play Batman as gay. I am actually a fan of Clooney but his performance in this movie is disgraceful to say the least. He has stated himself that he found it amusing to play Bruce Wayne as gay. I, a great fan of the comics, did not find this amusing at all.
3. Move away from the serious tone of the first movies (which made them successful) and do a poor imitation of the 60's camp show with Adam West.
4. Cast Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. I usually think Uma Thurman is hot but her overacting in this movie is so distasteful she loses all kind of sexual appeal, which in turn destroys any kind of menace the character should have had. Poor, poor, poor.
5. Allowing Joel Schumacher free reins over the movie after seeing which direction he was taking the franchise with the previous movie. This is just the sign of a bad producer.
6. Remove all tension in the fight sequences by dumbing them down to the point where it is beyond stupidity. Batman and Robin playing hockey with a diamond is not my idea of a cool fight scene. Several fight scenes actually had me gasping with shock as to how poor they are.
7. Cast Alicia Silverstone as a bad girl (Batgirl). She cannot pull it off.
8. The nipples people. THE NIPPLES!!! How ridiculous is this?! Batman and Robin's suits have nipples but when Batgirl makes her entrance notice the lack of the same.
9. Write a script that makes no sense whatsoever.
10. Turn one of the most memorable villains of the comics into a brainless henchman. I am referring of course to Bane who in the comics is one of Batman's worst enemies because of his strength and intellect. Bane has actually beaten Batman on several occasions and although The Joker is undoubtedly Batman's nemesis Bane isn't far off. I squirm with the way they treated him in this movie.
In my honest opinion this could in fact be the worst movie... no scratch that... worst thing man has ever created. So with that I give my final score.
Batman Forever (1995)
Batman Forever! Camp, but fun!
OK, so Burton was butted out for being too melancholic and dark to the extend that the audience could no longer identify with the characters, so in comes Joel Schumacher, a directer of questionable skill, to bring a more lively feel to the franchise. Well, he succeeded but he also started the beginning of the end for the original Batman franchise. His campier approach to the source material is indeed fun to watch (at least in this installment) and for what it is worth really quite entertaining. You do get the feeling, however, that he had been curbed just a bit so as not to make the franchise succumb into camp and silly one-liners. Too bad the producers didn't continue to hold him back because I, for one quite enjoyed this installment into the Batman series.
Michael Keaton chose not to return as Batman because he wanted to prove that he had the versatility to play something else than Batman. Val Kilmer was cast as the lead instead and wanted to play the character in the same vein as Keaton, with a great measure of seriousness (much to Schumacher's dismay who already wanted to go all out camp) and for what it is worth I actually think Kilmer managed to pull of a reasonable Batman. I don't think he holds a candle to Keaton but an adequate performance. He balances Bruce Wayne out quite a bit and never becomes as manic or as brooding as Keaton was. In light of the obvious return to the camp values of the 60's series Robin was introduced. Not so much to lighten the tone (hardly necessary) but more to give the Bruce Wayne character some new interesting challenge. Chris O'Donnel got the part (ahead of Christian Bale, how weird is that?!) and while not the most talented of actors he is kind of fitting as a sidekick. As the new love interest Nicole Kidman was introduced and she is smoking hot. Her character is really kind of pointless but she serves her purpose as eye candy perfectly. Two new villains are introduced, Two-Face and The Riddler in the forms of Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey. Jim Carrey is a riot to watch. Not really faithful to the original character but fun, fun, fun. His performance is much in key with what he was known for at the time. Overacting wildly and while he pulls it off, the other villain is not so lucky. Tommy Lee Jones is painful to watch. While Carrey pulls the overacting off Tommy Lee only aggravates and annoys. While Carrey was not really faithful to the original character he still stayed within the limits. Tommy Lee (not really his fault I suppose) completely goes against everything the character stands for in one little scene where he repeatedly flips his coin to get the outcome he wants. Something he stated earlier to be the only true justice. This kind of alteration to the character is just not acceptable.
The soundtrack is not nearly as catchy as the one in the two previous movies. I guess they really wanted to distance themselves from the original movies and that means that instead of Danny Elfman's brilliant notes we have to settle for mediocre Elliot Goldenthal's only acceptable score. The score is bombastic like Elfman's but it has no charm and is not a score you will hum to yourself once you've seen the movie. Much in key with the soundtrack the sets have been revamped into a neon-filled neo-noir style which is appropriate given to tone of the film but it is just not as interesting to watch as Burton's Gothic version. The neon lights are used excessively in one scene in particular which just comes off as ridiculous.
The action is decent, not as tense as in the original movies but fairly entertaining. The action was dumbed down quite a bit and some more or less ridiculous sound effects were added but they were fun to watch. Now I'm not saying that Michael Keaton had the perfect physique to play Batman but they film makers had the good sense not to let him show of his torso in full screen. They do this in one scene where you can quite obviously tell that Kilmer's physique was inferior to Chris O'Donnel's. I'm not a film maker myself but I'm pretty sure something like that will ruin the credibility of a man who is supposed to be able to fight something like fifty people when his sidekick is stronger than him.
All in all Batman Forever is not an excellent let alone even a good film. The direction is lacking and some of the characters were obviously miscast. But somehow I cannot bring myself to hate this movie (like I hate Batman & Robin - worst movie, no wait, worst thing mankind has ever created) because it is so much fun and make no pretension of being otherwise. Val Kilmer is solid and one half of the villains is fun to watch. I did/do, however, dislike the general direction the franchise took with this movie and its sequel proved to be everything a movie is NOT supposed to be.
Batman Returns (1992)
A dark and brooding vision!
We're in the year 1992. Its been 3 years since the release of the critically acclaimed Batman (1989) and the fans are standing in line eagerly awaiting the follow-up. There premiere arrives and the fans are... divided. Batman Returns has a stellar cast who provided excellent performances and the film was even darker than it predecessor and it featured even more action so why was the film not as successful as the original. I am a great fan of Burton and I love his work but I have to blame him for not making as good a film as the first. "Why?" You ask. Burton had complete creative control with this one and therefore it is a much more personal film but he did turn Batman into a side-kick in his own movie (he did in the first film as well but in this one we barely get to see him). Without any reins Burton went completely overboard in darkness and brooding. He also turned a sophisticated villain from the comics into a bloody animal. That being said this is far from a bad movie it simply falls into the category; not as good as the original.
The performances from the cast are good, no exceptions. Michael Keaton returns with his wonderfully manic interpretation of the character that is Bruce Wayne/Batman and I for one believes that he deserves the cult following he has as the character because he is excellent. Luckily Batman's love interest was replaced with an actress with talent this time around. Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent as Catwoman and arguably gives the best performance in the entire film. Her transition from boring office secretary to irresistible temptress is excellent and more importantly believable. Danny DeVito does a great job in spite of a character that just doesn't cut it. I love DeVito but I just can't take the character seriously and he never becomes a true menace to Batman the way the Joker did. Christopher Walken is great as well. His portrayal of the power-frenzied maniac is pure joy to watch. He is a true scene stealer and a much more credible villain than the Penguin in this movie.
The score is pretty flawless but that is what one has come to expect out of Danny Elfman who is one of the most talented composers in the industry. His score elevates every scene, be it a quiet scene in front of a fireplace or a fight scene on a rooftop. In short he is brilliant. Two thumbs way up. In fact the soundtrack is one of the only things that are superior to the original which was marred by Prince's very 80's sound.
The film certainly has merits and quite a few but in spite of these merits the film is simply too Burtonesque and too many liberties is taken with the source material and therefore Batman Returns stands as a good albeit flawed addition to the Batman franchise. However, this was the last good Batman film in 13 years. Burton made the Batman franchise only for Joel Schumacher to kill it. In the end though Batman Returns is an entertaining film with a few problems.
Its been more than 15 years since Batman ravaged the box office and took in more than 400 million dollars world wide and it still holds up beautifully in the recent competition with other super hero movies. Tim Burton's Gothic masterpiece is still just that, a masterpiece. Even in spite of the now dated effects and Prince's very blatantly 80's soundtrack. Some still herald it as the best super hero movie and in my opinion that is not far from the truth.
he story is not completely faithful to the source material. Batman kills people without any seeming moral qualms about it but the power of the film's style easily transcends the flaws that are indeed few and far apart. In short Batman (1989) rocks! Acting wise the movie is excellent with an all star cast that provides us with some great performances. Michael Keaton was cast as Batman in a controversial move by Burton and despite the initial uproar from the loyal fans he has since gained a very loyal following who names him as the best Batman even in these post Batman Begins days. This is not hard to agree with. Despite Jack Nicholson getting by far the most attention Michael Keaton does a great job in bringing Bruce Wayne to life. He balances the guilt and brooding melancholism well with the character's wish for justice and brings some of his comedic talent into the character as well giving him a lot of edge. Kim Bassinger, however, is mercilessly boring to watch. Sure she has some appeal in the looks department but lets face it. She was never much of an actress. The supporting cast does very well as well. Billy Dee Williams proves he can do more than back Han Solo up and Jack Palance's performance is truly unique. Michael Gough is also good and unflinchingly loyal as Alfred Pennyworth despite a relatively small amount of screen time. The shining star, however, is of course Jack Nicholson who proves himself one of the most versatile actors to this day with his tour de force performance as the Dark Knights ultimate nemesis, The Joker. He literally steals every scene he is in and in spite of his joking nature he proves to be truly menacing. It almost seems as though the rest of the cast is struggling to keep up with him because he is quite simply brilliant as The Joker. Heath Ledger has some big shoes to fill, even though I know Christopher Nolan's vision of The Dark Knight is drastically different from Burton's.
In terms of how the film looks it is easy and perhaps a bit obvious to label it as Gothic which is of course Tim Burton's favored style. Its not only in the settings of the movie but also in the wardrobe and general make-up. The film has some incredible shots of Gotham with its towering spires and dark alleys and is always interesting to watch. The design of the Batsuit is dark to say the least and actually a little bleak. Luckily this was remedied in the sequel but it still looks great. The Batcar looks incredibly cool and is one of my favorite car designs for any movie I have ever seen. All the gadgets are in place as well and they all look great.
In terms of storytelling the film is excellent. The flow is great and the advancement of the characters is very satisfactory and the birth of The Joker is one of my favorite film moments ever. What I feel the movie lacks, however, is any real character development for Batman himself. Even though Burton struck gold by casting Jack Nicholson as The Joker it was also Batman's unfortunate undoing. Despite Keaton's sincere efforts the film feels much more like a movie about The Joker than Batman. This is, in my opinion, a shame because as Batman Begins proved, Batman himself can be an interesting character. This is one of my only beefs with this otherwise excellent movie. The story works, however, and despite being a movie about a man who dresses up like a bat has a lot of credibility.
All in all Batman is a great super hero movie. Easily still one of the best in the (sub)genre. Tim Burton's vision defies time and is still as entertaining today as it was when it was first released. Kudos to Mr. Burton and all other involved.
4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Fantastic? By no means! Better than the first? Indeed it is!
Just like the first movie in the series this one had problems but somehow it just seems a lot more polished. The dialog is better, the story seems less like a pilot episode for a TV-series and the villain actually seems like a threat to the Fantastic Four this time around. So while your money might be better spent going with Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is by no means a bad choice either. The entire cast from the first movie returns (always a plus, I hate it when there are changes in the cast in sequels) and rehashes their characters and in some cases improves on them.
Acting wise the movie is not far removed from its predecessor. Which is both good and bad. Ioan Gruffudd returns as Reed Richards and does pretty much exactly what he did in the first movie. He does, however, have a little more to work with and while his motivations seem a little vague he does do a decent job of it. Jessica Alba is once again smoking hot and just like in the first movie her performance is a little dodgy. She is not always completely believable but it can be forgiven. Michael Chiklis has a lot less to work with this time around and has been reduced to serving almost entirely as comic relief which he is great at but given his emotional range is a shame. We saw in the first movie that he was capable of portraying the emotions of the character through all the prosthetics (which must have been hard) and therefore we/I would have liked to see more from him. On the other hand Chris Evans gets a chance to show a little more of the character in this installment and it works great. Its fantastic to see cracks in the armor of a character who has previously seemed so unshakable. Evans is completely believable and once again 100% lovable. We expect great things from him in the future. Julian McMahon returns as well and he ups the stakes for Dr. Doom who becomes more menacing that he ever was in the first movie. Nice to see. The major draw in this movie is of course the emergence of the Silver Surfer one of the most beloved characters from the comics and he looks great and with the majestic vocals of Laurence Fishbourne he truly comes alive on the screen and his first appearance is nothing short of spectacular.
Effects wise the movie has taken a great step in the right direction. The effects seem to have matured greatly from the first movie and this makes the film so much more interesting to watch. The Human Torch still looks fantastic on the screen and Mr. Fantastic's stretching powers seem much more credible this time around. The real money shots, however, are of course of the Silver Surfer who looks nothing short of spectacular. As previously stated his first real on screen appearance is one of the most entertaining sequences I have seen this summer. His powers look great as well and every scene with him has a spectacular effect of some sort. Galactus also makes a very brief appearance and he looks nothing like in the comics and for what its worth I think he looked great with some nods to his comic book appearance. All in all I think the movie looks great and this has to be a kudos to Tim Story who received a lot of bashing for the first movie.
In terms of the writing the film still has a few issues but is indeed a definite improvement on the first film in the series. The villain has true menace this time around and a lot more is at stake. Both personally for the characters but also globally. The exchanges between Chiklis and Evans are still filled with humor and charm. Their scenes also seem to have a profound sense of warmth and despite their differences their friendship is indisputable. The scenes with the Silver Surfer are the most dramatic and in my opinion they work great and the Surfer has great authority (helped greatly by Fishbourne's vocals). The scenes between Gruffudd and Alba are sadly still a weak point. They seem forced and not always believable.
All in all Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is an entertaining summer movie that takes the franchise it builds upon to new and exciting levels and is a clear improvement on the first film in the series. However, it is still not without its problems but works on the basis that you don't expect it to be a revelation.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Spider-Man takes a Venomous turn!
First of all, this was a very entertaining movie. Not without its problems but surely this is quite definitely the popcorn entertainment movie of the year. Upon immediate completion of the movie I was torn because I was aware that what I had just watched was indeed a great entertainment movie but I was ever so slightly disappointed because of the inevitable comparison to the second movie of the series which remains the best of the bunch by far.
First lets start with the acting. Tobey Maguire is quite clearly having fun with the character this time around. He gets to delve a little more with Peter Parker's negative sides. We see a more confident (bordering on complacent) Peter Parker and Maguire suits this change in the character. Maguire gives great credibility to the character despite some very foul overacting when Peter turns 'bad'. However, Maguire still looks and sounds incredibly like Peter Parker. Kirsten Dunst does a rehash of the character from the first two movies. J.K. Simmons is as always hilarious and all the scenes with him are loaded with charm and humor and he truly steals every scene he is in. James Franco returns as Harry Osborn and this movie is truly his swan-song. He produces the greatest acting I have seen from him yet and he makes his character truly interesting to watch and his personal enigmas are at the very least as interesting as Parker's. Thomas Haden Church is one of the new additions to the cast. He is Sandman a lowly thug who by mere chance gets powers that make him almost unbeatable. Unfortunately he doesn't get that much character to work with and Sandman becomes just a reason to show off some admittedly awesome special effects. He only shows his talent by the very end of the movie (you'll know when you see it). Topher Grace gets the honor of playing the arguably most beloved villain in the entire Marvel universe, Venom and surprisingly he's very good. I was a little worried when I heard he had been hired to play Venom because of his history of comedic parts but he turns out to have dramatic flair as well. I have to admire Sam Raimi's guts for hiring such a new name for the part. Grace works hard and it shows. Eddie Brock Jr. becomes a very likable character and that is almost to his credit alone.
Story wise the film is solid if a bit uneven. The pace is like in the previous movies well structured and there are very few slow points. The films primary strength is the central conflict with Peter, Mary-Jane and Harry Osborn because this part is very well told and filled with tension and emotion. The dialog is like in the previous movies not always completely believable but that hardly matters taking the source material into consideration. The new characters are introduced well enough if a bit hastily and this is the films primary flaw. There are simply too many characters to keep track of and unfortunately this means we do not get nearly as much of Venom and Sandman as we should have. And since we are on the subject of villains I should say that Venom is every bit as menacing as he should be. He proves to be more than a match for Spider-Man and that is the way it was in the comics so kudos to Mr. Raimi for that. However, my primary grudge with the entire movie is that Venom simply isn't enough in it. Had it been up to me I would have split the movie in two. By that we would have gotten more screen time for Sandman who would then have become a much better villain. Also it would have given us the opportunity to get Venom as a primary villain in a possible fourth movie.
Effects wise the movie is of course breath taking. We see some of the most spectacular action sequences ever committed to celluloid and taking the film's budget into account that is hardly surprising. The action and effects in the previous movies were spectacular but in this one they go completely over the top and I for one enjoy this development. It somehow brings the movie closer to the source material and I have always claimed that this is what the series needed to do to attract the hard core fans. The end sequence is simply stunning and indeed a very worthy finale. Comparing the effects to the other big summer movie event, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, I would say that Spider-Man comes out on top as the effects are nothing short of groundbreaking.
Christopher Young was chosen to compose a score instead of Danny Elfman after Elfman and Sam Raimi had a falling out at some point while making the score for the second film and while he did produce a decent score it is by no means memorable like the scores from the previous movies. However, credit must be given where credit is due for Danny Elfman casts quite a shadow and the score is adequately bombastic and grand for a super hero movie of this kind of scale.
Spider-Man 3 is a great summer movie but try not to judge it by the standards set by the second movie because it does not add up. All in all, however, Spider-Man 3 is a fantastic movie loaded with special effects and a good story. I know that the Spider-Man movies have generated a lot of money and there will in all probability be a fourth Spider-Man movie and I for one welcome the prospect because I believe that there are a lot more stories from the Spider-Man universe that deserves a chance to be seen on the big screen. I do hope, however, that in the fourth movie they try to simplify the story somewhat.
One of the worst action movies of the decade!
My first question in regards to reviewing this movie is 'why'. Why did they decide to continue a story that had been finished? Why did they not get James Cameron to direct? Why, why, why? Obviously the answer is money. They wanted to use a formula which generated big box office, which it did. Unfortunately this movie completely shattered the point of the previous movies, which is very hard to do. Usually when I talk about the terminator series I casually ignore this third installment about which is hard to say anything flattering.
First of all following in the footsteps of James Cameron is a hard thing to do. After all Cameron wrote and directed the first two installments in the franchise and did a wonderful job. He created two of the best action movies I have ever seen. In comes Jonathan Mostow who has but a fraction of Cameron's talent. To be fair there isn't a lot Mostow can do with the material he is given. The script seems rushed and casually ignores what made the previous movies so successful. Why the heck wasn't Linda Hamilton brought back. Her character should be treated with more respect than this. Once again the movie never should have left the drawing board.
Acting wise the film has taken a huge step down. Schwarzenegger received an enormous pay check to return in this second sequel and you feel the lack of interest from his part. His performance is the least of my concerns regarding the acting, however, and Schwarzenegger gives a decent performance as he still has the stiffness and commanding presence required to be the terminator. Nick Stahl is brought in to play John Connor and while not my primary point of critique he is still frightfully dull. I don't understand why they didn't just let Edward Furlong reprise the role. Claire Danes is equally dull and much of her acting seems forced and unbelievable. Stahl's and Danes' chemistry in the scenes where they bond is pretty stale and lifeless. You don't feel the tension there was between Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn. My primary point of critique is in the choice of villain. Kristianna Loken's villain, T-X, has none of the menace that T-1000 had or that Arnold had in the first film. It's hard to get too excited in the showdowns between her and the protagonists, sadly.
Effects wise the movie has also taken a step down. Obviously the effects are more complex but they have lost their edge. While the effects were impressive they were outmatched this year (2003) by The Matrix sequels and The Return of the King. Terminator has in one stroke been reduced to second fiddle and provides only adequate CGI. One misses the ingenuity of the effects revolving around the T-1000. Once again, what a shame.
All in all Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a massive disappointment and the series really deserved more respect than this piece of garbage. One of the worst movies of the year and definitely one of the worst action movies of the decade.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
One of the best action movies of the 90s!
It happens only very rarely that a sequel is as good as the original film and it happens even more rarely that a sequel will be even better than the original film but Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of those movies. The movie has more action, emotional involvement and even a better script than the original Terminator movie. Also this movie contains two of the most brilliantly played out character changes ever in movie history. Mainly, however, Terminator 2 is quite simply a lot of fun. This is James Cameron's third masterpiece.
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the title character but much has changed since the first film. Schwarzenegger was a superb villain in the first movie but proves in this movie that he is even better as a protagonist. Even though he still has the mannerisms of the original terminator you will soon see that there have been made subtle changes in the character which all work beautifully. The movie also plays on the fact that Arnold is the unofficial king of one-liners and gives him plenty of these to play with. The most memorable one-liner is probably "Hasta la vista, baby" said with the usual Schwarzenegger stiffness. Linda Hamilton returns as well and the changes in her character are far from subtle. She is almost a completely different character. Tough and incredibly strong while retaining the vulnerability that made us identify with her character in the first place. At first glance she will appear almost detached emotionally but on further inspection this proves to be far from true. A genuine tour-de-force by Hamilton. The movie also introduces Edward Furlong as a young John Connor and his performance is very much above average. In a world of annoying child actors he does the impossible and produces a likable character. One of the strengths of this movie is in its villain which is even more memorable than Arnold was in the original movie. Robert Patrick is quite simply one of the best screen villains of all time.
Another strength is found in the effects which garnered the movie one of its Oscars. The effects are breath taking and like the effects from the original movie they hold their own even today. One could even go as far as to say that the effects in this movie are better than in most movies today which is saying something. Almost every scene involving the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) contains some memorable effect. Needless to say Terminator 2 is an effects masterpiece and the movie industry today owes a lot to the innovations which are found in this movie.
James Cameron did the impossible. He produced a movie that lived up to the hype and expectations set by the previous movie. The movie even improves upon the terminator lore and in retrospect the series really should have ended here. The story really didn't warrant further continuation.
In conclusion Terminator 2 is one of the best science fiction and action movies of the nineties and indeed one of the best movies ever and it is deserving of all the praise and a place in the history texts as one of the best movies ever.
The Terminator (1984)
One of the best action movies of the 80s!
This movie is something of an enigma to me. It comes from an era in the history of film where a lot of really bad movies were made. Especially sci-fi movies suffered a lot of indignities (not counting Blade Runner, Aliens and the two Star Wars movies made in the decade) but also good action movies were quite far apart. For this movie to be a success in both genres is quite something. This is James Cameron's first masterpiece.
Acting wise the movie is nothing short of excellent. Arnold Schwarzenegger produced the role that would turn out to be his signature role in the terminator. His acting is wooden, stiff and very emotionless which is of course perfect as he plays a robot from the future and even though he was outmatched villain wise by Robert Patrick's T-1000 in the sequel he is still very memorable in this movie and the "I'll be back" line is one of the most memorable of the 80s. Linda Hamilton is great as Sarah Connor and creates a very likable, vulnerable and at the same time strong character and you can't help but sympathize with her. The strongest performance in my opinion is that of Michael Biehn who very unjustly never became a really big name in the movie industry because his performance as Kyle Reese is everything movie acting should be about. His character is both very strong but at the same time emotionally crippled. The way he plays the role with the exact right amount of desperation is pure genius. Lance Henriksen is critically underused in his role and unfortunately doesn't have enough screen time to really create a lasting impression and that's a shame.
The effects and action sequences are remarkably well construed, breath taking and exciting. James Cameron proves that he has a flair for action with this movie and even though the effects are dated they still somehow hold their own in a time where computer effects are dominating action movies. Especially the ending is very thrilling mainly because of the editing which basically makes the ending. The stop-motion elements of the movie work remarkably well, once again because of the editing. The film also uses full size puppets molded after Arnold's face and body and because of the lighting (and again the editing) you barely notice the change between real actor and puppet. Brad Fiedel's score has a very 80s feel to it and is practically the only thing that is not timeless about the movie.
All in all The Terminator is definitely one of the best action and sci-fi movies of the eighties and indeed any age. If you haven't seen it yet, you should. Don't think it's just another Schwarzenegger movie, it is so much more.
If only there was a score of 11!
So The Lord of the Rings comes to its inevitable conclusion and shatters the so-called rule of three where a third film dramatically reduces in quality (e.g. Terminator 3 or The Godfather Part III), for The Return of the King is simply breathtaking in any- and every way imaginable. Peter Jackson's genius is with this film underlined in a way no-one could have imagined. Both the majority of the critics and general audience agrees that this is the best of the Lord of the Rings series and I would have to agree. In terms of general film making the Return of the King is by far the best of the series. The narrative structure is flawless, the acting is undoubtedly the best of the series and the effects are brilliant and are even today, three years later, better than anything we see in the new films. In short, this is the film to watch and it is a mistake if you haven't already.
As I said the acting is the best of the series which, when you think about it, makes complete sense as the characters have become more and more interesting throughout the first two movies obviously because of the amount of things they experience. Elijah Wood does an incredible job with his character and during some scenes the character I remembered from the book really came to life. Especially his eyes are extremely expressive and has a somewhat haunted look to them which is very appropriate to the character. Viggo Mortensen does an equally impressive job with his character and you really see the changes in the character as he gradually accepts who he is. Ian McKellen who had been absent throughout the most of the previous movie makes a welcome return as one of the chief characters and while I prefer his performance as Gandalf the Grey his performance in this film is staggering as well. The supporting cast is only a few steps short of brilliant once again. Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan all do exceptional jobs with their characters who have all turned towards the more serious and they handle these changes very well. Bernard Hill does a great job as well and David Wenham makes the character of Faramir closer to the one we remember from the book (his character was the subject of much critique in the second film). Andy Serkis has to be mentioned as well because the job he did with Gollum was brilliant. In short brilliant acting.
The effects are of course better than ever and with this movie Peter Jackson usurps the title of King of the Effects from George Lucas' grasp. Not only are the effects brilliant they also seem to blend seamlessly with actors and the environment which means that some effects are overlooked as effects because they almost seem to real to be effects. This is achieved by a very healthy balance between actual real life effects and computer effects. The Gollum character is an excellent example as they first Serkis' movements and interactions as a reference point and then add the Gollum character afterwards and this is done in such a seamless way that you sometimes take for granted the enormous amount of work going into making the character work. The action effects are still completely brilliant and jaw-dropping, and considering how high the bar was from the battle for Helm's Deep in the previous movie that is quite an accomplishment. In connection to this we get some previously unseen stunts that make all involved in the battle scenes seem even more skilled.
The film is as most people know almost 3½ hours long and some people have claimed that the film dragged. Particularly towards the ending. With the chance of sounding arrogant that is an ignorant conclusion. The series is comprised of three movies each over three hours in length. With that amount of material there will obviously be a lot of loose ends that must be tied up in a satisfactory manner and some 10 minute ending would undoubtedly seem hurried and far fetched. Peter Jackson sticks to his ending and so do I. The fact that the film is so long is in my opinion countered by an impeccable pacing so you don't really think that your watching a 3½ hour movie.
In terms of film-making this is the ultimate film which mixes good acting with brilliant effects and a eternally interesting story. In fact in terms of form and style this is probably the best film ever made and it certainly deserved every award it was given.
10/10 - my all time favorite movie.
The Two Towers! What Is It? The Answer Is: My Precious!
The second part of The Lord of the Rings saga maintains the style, momentum and integrity that made the first film as brilliant as it is and thus what Peter Jackson gives us is one of the best sequels ever and certainly the best film of 2002. I prefer the first film for being closer to the book but I completely understand the changes made from book to film and I see why they are necessary to keep the film's narrative flowing instead of dropping dead. The film is not without a few weaknesses mainly because of it being a middle part linking The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King and therefore not having an obvious beginning or an end. This doesn't stop the film from being an experience that people shouldn't be cheated out of.
The acting is, like in the first film, very good and at times even brilliant. Viggo Mortensen improves greatly and provides a more well rounded and believable Aragorn and proves his qualities as an actor especially in the quit moments (of which there are too few in the theatrical release, this was remedied in the extended cut). Also Elijah Wood deepens his character considerably and shows many of the darker sides of his character in the film. This provides for some interesting exchanges between Wood and his faithful companion played by Sean Astin. Bernard Hill is introduced in this film along with the method actor, Brad Dourif. Both of the aforementioned are excellent in their respective parts even though there are some inconsistencies in Hill's character compared to the character from the book. These changes were obviously made for dramatic purposes and are very plausible. Ian McKellen's character, Gandalf, has been somewhat reduced in the second film but instead he steals every scene he is in. Likewise, Hugo Weaving's character has been reduced but he is still very good and keeps his character in the same style as in the first film. Orlando Bloom and John Rhys-Davies returns as well and I have to comment on the choice to make Gimli into comic relief, because while I understand the necessity given that Dominic Monaghan's and Billy Boyd's characters have taken a turn towards more serious characters there had to be someone to relieve the dramatic tension, I found it a shame that Gimli had been reduced to some bumbling clown. Fortunately most of his comic remarks worked. Among other characters introduced are Faramir, played by David Wenham, and Gollum, played beautifully by Andy Serkis. I'll get back to Faramir but for now I have to comment on Gollum. Gollum is quite simply the most interesting film character in the last decade and this relates both to the ground breaking special effects but also Serkis' performance, which was most unfairly not deemed fit for an Oscar nomination. Overall the acting is excellent like in the first film and all actors manages to develop their characters in ways that are at the very least acceptable.
The effects and fight scenes in this second film are among the best ever and is perhaps only bested by some of the effects in the third film in the series. The Gollum character and the battle for Helm's Deep seem to be excellent examples. Gollum is quite simply the most stunning and beautifully created CGI character of all time and he displays extraordinary emotional range. As previously stated The Battle for Helm's Deep is among the finest battle scenes ever created. Well paced and choreographed and above all the editing in between the hectic battle sequences and scared citizens provides for some emotional depth as well (something that was sorely needed in the battle sequences in Star Wars: Episode II). This gigantic battle isn't the only battle in the film. There are many other interesting battles but I'm not going to spoil them so you'll just have to see the film yourself. The battles are consistent with the style that was laid down in the first film they are simply on a much more epic scale.
Some people have raved that the changes made from book to film were too radical but I completely understand and condone the reasons which were obviously dramatic purposes. Especially David Wenham's character has been criticized and after watching it the first time I was a bit unhappy with his character as well but when you think about it the changes in the character were at the very least essential to maintain the narrative structure. There are other examples but it would really be pointless to mention them because the reason is exactly the same as in the case of David Wenham's character. Dramatic purposes.
Overall The Two Towers serves as an excellent link between the Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King and it deserves every bit of praise coming to it. One of the very best films of all time.
10/10 - On my top 10 of best films
Middle Earth according to Peter Jackson!
This movie is quite simply brilliant. Nothing more, nothing less. Why is it brilliant? Well for starters it very faithfully captures the spirit of the book (which was coincidentally said to be impossible to film), second, it brings Middle Earth alive in a way that I never would have believed and thirdly it creates an illusion unlike any I have ever before witnessed in a film. There is nothing in this film that doesn't work the way it is supposed to. Critics have pointed out that there are a large number of mistakes in the general film making but I say that these trivial mistakes do little to subtract from the otherwise stellar film. In short it is hard to find enough superlatives to adequately describe the film.
Having seen all the films Peter Jackson made before taking on the giant task of making the ultimate fantasy book into film, I can understand why many people had reservations about him getting the job of making the trilogy. He really put any reservations to shame, didn't he? He does not only make the effects work brilliantly but he also brings out the best from the actors involved. Elijah Wood plays Frodo Baggins and does an excellent job of portraying the character. In this first film we only get glimpses of the darkness that will ultimately almost consume the character and thus provides for a somewhat lighthearted portrayal of Frodo. There is nothing wrong with this and Wood creates a likable, charismatic Frodo Baggins. Half-Danish Viggo Mortensen plays the tormented character of Aragorn and his performance has rightfully been compared to Harrison Ford's performance in Star Wars because he is brilliant in portraying the mixed emotions and reluctance of the character. The only negative thing that can be said about his performance is that his accent isn't always completely believable. The supporting cast including Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Ian Holm and Sean Bean all do excellent jobs with their characters. Especially Sean Bean who completely nails the essence of his character, Boromir, and he was most unfairly cheated out of an Oscar nomination for his performance. A final note must be given to Ian McKellen who, for lack of a better word, embodies the spirit of Gandalf (a nerdy way to put it, I know) and creates perhaps one of the most memorable characters in a fantasy film of all time and if it was unfair that Sean Bean wasn't nominated for an Oscar it is a travesty that Ian McKellen didn't receive the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
The characters all work but if Middle Earth hadn't seemed convincing it would have all been for nothing but fortunately everything works. All sets are 100% convincing and the use of digital effects is seamless and for the most part you don't even notice the effects which is of course the biggest compliment you can give to special effects. The effects don't seem plastered on or done "just because we can" like it is the case with the Star Wars prequel trilogy. There is a purpose with every effect in the film and it all works beautifully. Obviously there has been use of blue screen but it some how seems much more believable and therefore a better effect than in the Star Wars films. George Lucas has to vie for the new master of "eye-candy" because The Lord of the Rings is the most visually stunning experience that has ever graced the big screen. Its not only the visual effects that helps create Middle Earth but also the unbelievably beautiful nature of New Zealand and this film has actually given me a desire to travel to New Zealand to witness the nature.
This film gives you anything you could possibly ask for in a film: Convincing emotions, thrilling action sequences, laughter and tears and of course the original and best fantasy tale ever told. Peter Jackson created an unparalleled masterpiece with this film-trilogy and deserves every bit of praise it gets. Writing this review a year after the hype has died down I can safely say that these films will go into history perhaps as the greatest series of films ever to grace the big screen.
10/10 - on my top 3 of best films.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
X-travagant but lacks the sharpness of the previous films!
My one line summary pretty much sums up my thoughts about the third film in the X-Men series and while the effects are better than ever before there is something missing. The previous installments had a sharp, witty intelligence to the dialog that made the characters seem extremely well rounded and interesting. The witty dialog didn't seem like one-liners in the first films. They seemed a natural consequence of the characters' relationships with each others but as the characters didn't have the same edge in the third film it came off much more like one-liners. Especially some of Beast's dialog. Not to say that it didn't always work, it did, but it seemed much more synthetic and that really is a shame. In my opinion Brett Radner was the wrong man to direct the movie and Simon Kinberg (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) was definitely the wrong man to write the movie.
Some of the characters did work. Wolverine was still pretty interesting but I'm saddened that they didn't follow up on his sub-story from the previous movies. In the previous movies his character was largely about finding out about his mysterious past. This thread was dropped completely in this movie making him much more of a team player which is not really what his character is about. Wolverine is a loner and you don't change that. Hugh Jackman's portrayal is relatively faithful but I still prefer his performance in X2. Halle Berry's character has been enhanced dramatically, something I can't really go into without spoiling the movie, but her character seems hollow somehow and while Berry goes through the motions there really isn't a lot of substance in her character. Kelsey Grammar is very good as Beast and is a satisfactory substitute to Nightcrawler and in this role Grammar proves that he has dramatic talent as well as comedic. The best performance belongs to Ian McKellen who does a lot with his character which was actually quite poorly scripted. Other characters have been reduced dramatically. Cyclops is an excellent example. He is only in the film for about 5 minutes and that is just not enough for a character who was a major character in the previous films. Other examples are Rogue and Mystique. All in all the character development is inadequate and if not for the saving graces of Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman I could have been tempted to say that the acting was below average in a series that has previously been known for excellent performances.
The effects are of course stellar. Some of the best effects I have ever seen and it is in the effects that the true saving grace for this film is found. In every scene there is some form of effect and fortunately they are all perfectly done. Storm's powers in particular seem more credible than ever before and her status as a semi-goddess is more justifiable. Fortunately the action is very well choreographed as well allowing for some very interesting and innovative fight sequences easily on par with anything from the previous films in the X-Men saga. The only negative thing that can be said about the fight sequences is that because we don't care for the characters to the same degree as in the previous films its a little harder to get emotionally involved in the fights. However, I do believe that the third X-Men film deserves recognition because of the effects and I'm tempted to say that the effects have become a leading character in this film.
Overall X-Men: The Last Stand doesn't seem nearly as polished as the previous films but in terms of entertainment value the film is on a very high level and the only reason I give the film a small 7 instead of a 6 is because of the excellent effects. It is hard not to feel a slight sting of disappointment though but I think I'll get past it and at least the X-Men series has come to a close with a bang that will surely make it one of the most financially successful films of the year.
Moderately entertaining but ultimately too stupid and repetitive!
When I try to think of just one line to start this review, the phrase: "Not Stiller's best" keeps turning up because this film is definitely not the best we've seen from him. Apparently the character of Zoolander was one that Stiller has given quite a lot of thought and has spent some time developing. I can't see how you could possibly spend time on a character as flat as Zoolander, however, because the character is only funny for about half an hour and then he just becomes annoying.
Much of the comedy in the film is based on how stupid the male models are and while it is funny watching Stiller pose and making an ass of himself it grows thin quite quickly (I did find his three identical facial poses extremely funny). Stiller fills out the character and you can see that the character is important to him but the character was in my opinion probably better off as a sketch-character and not a character that would warrant an entire movie because he simply isn't interesting enough. Owen Wilson does a mediocre job at best and his character comes alive only in the scenes with Stiller because of their chemistry. Christine Taylor is in my opinion probably a below average actress and her performance in this film in particular is pretty stiff to say the least. She has no real presence. Milla Jovovich has a quite funny role in the film but unfortunately she is critically underused. Will Ferrel and Jerry Stiller are both decent and both of them never really become memorable. Jerry Stiller does his best but his character is just too limited.
The trailer looked relatively funny but the actual film lacked spirit resulting in a very uneven comedy. There are a few funny scenes and only about one scene where I laughed hard and that was just not enough as I had expected more from it. The film also has another problem. Its too repetitive. Many of the jokes are recycled throughout the movie which would have been acceptable had the jokes been funny the first time but the problem as you have probably guessed is that they weren't.
Zoolander is definitely a comedy you have to be in the right mood for because if you're expecting something witty and well scripted this probably isn't were you would want to place your money. You have to be in the mood for something that is stupid and at times lame but if you can settle with that you should give it a try. I, myself, did not enjoy the film particularly but I was probably also in the wrong mood for it and as always watching a film is a highly subjective matter.
V for Vendetta (2005)
I will remember the fifth of November!
Many people had a very negative reaction towards the second and third part of The Matrix trilogy, something I didn't quite understand but it seems that all the Wachowsky brothers needed to do to get back people's attention (in a positive way) was a change of scenery. Even though they didn't direct V for Vendetta their presence in the film making process and in the dialog is very evident. James McTeigue directs this slightly off key blockbuster and he certainly makes it his own. One could have feared that V for Vendetta would be just another Matrix copy but it isn't. Watch the film and you'll know.
The acting is generally on a very high level in the film but because of great casting but there are a few, just a few glitches. Natalie Portman who we know can act (at least those of us who have seen Closer and Garden State) is fairly good. When I say fairly good it is not because there is anything wrong with her emotional range as she portrays all the emotions of her character with great skill. No, its her accent. Her accent is not always completely believable. I'm not saying that her accent is downright bad because its not (its not like Kevin Costner's accent in Robin Hood) but there are a few moments where it is obvious that she is an American and not British. Stephen Rea does a good job with his character as well and he portrays both the urgency and the doubt of his character in a very satisfactory manner. Tim Pigott-Smith is decent as well. We don't really see his character that much but we see him enough to dislike him which is just what his purpose is. John Hurt is absolutely wonderful as the dictator, Adam Sutler. Even though we only see his face imposed on a wall screen for most of the film he manages to steal every of these scenes with his amazing facial expressions and confident tone of voice. Absolutely marvelous. Hugo Weaving who most people know as Agent Smith plays the title role and he is brilliant. Having to wear a mask throughout the entire movie he has to rely on his voice and on body language and it is here that he proves how incredibly talented he is because his character is incredibly diverse. Also he is given some of the more heavy dialog and he is very good at dealing with it possibly because of his experience from the Matrix films. He also has great sense of comical timing and is sometimes genuinely funny. Hugo Weaving is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. Two thumbs way up.
In terms of style the film is very unique. It isn't like any other action movie spit out by the Hollywood machinery, no. It has its very own style and it sticks to it throughout the entire movie making the overall impression much more polished and believable. The trailer promotes this film as very action packed. Its not. There are only a few excellently choreographed action scenes but that doesn't matter because when you're not thinking about the well written dialog you're looking at some beautifully atmospheric scenes. There are a few slow points in the movie and in these scenes it really helps that there is something to look at because it really helps the movie so that it doesn't come to a complete stop. The soundtrack is a little too vague for my taste, you don't really remember it after the film but at least its not intrusive.
V for Vendetta has come early here in 2006 but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it winds up being one of the best films of the year because it really is a clever, moving and very entertaining film with great acting, suspenseful plot and great action.
Fantastic Four (2005)
A new day is dawning! The day of the Fantastic Four!
This film is hilarious! It is also highly entertaining and light hearted and more importantly it has the spirit of the comics and opposed to many other comic book features it doesn't have any pretensions to be something its not. I don't know why people are so negative towards this film. Obviously its not as good as Batman Begins the other super hero extravaganza of the summer but it is definitely entertaining and most actors are very well cast.
Ioan Gruffudd who was extraordinarily bad in King Arthur proves that he does have talent and is worthy of being a leading actor in Hollywood. His performance as Reed Richards is unique. Not exactly like in the comics where Reed is a much older man. Instead Gruffudd makes Reed a nerdy science rat and that worked too. Rising superstar Jessica Alba plays Sue Storm and she is smoking hot. Seeing her in the blue Fantastic Four outfit really had my heart pumping but there is more to her than her pretty face and her body she actually does a somewhat decent job in bringing Sue to life. Unfortunately the chemistry between her and Gruffudd is somewhat lacking and this makes their scenes together seem a bit forced. Chris Evans is just plain funny and provides some of the best laughs in the film and his persona fits the character of Johnny Storm very well. I could not imagine anyone else in that character. He is hot-headed, brash childish and 100% lovable. Michael Chiklis has the best performance in the film and really brings out all the characteristics of Ben Grimm. He works great both as a comedic actor but also in the dramatic scenes. In short, he is excellent. The only part where I feel the casting falls short is in Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom. He spends too much time being suave and sophisticated so when the time comes for him to start being menacing it doesn't work. He is decent enough, however, but I guess the fact that in the comics Doctor Doom is pretty much the ultimate bad guy and with that kind of expectations you're bound to be a little disappointed. Stan Lee has his trademark cameo. Unfortunately this time around they gave him dialog and he is not much of an actor and his scene comes off a bit ridiculous.
In terms of writing the film is not as sharp and well written as other films in the genre, most notably X-Men, but the dialog is light hearted and entertaining and some of the exchanges between Chiklis and Evans are genuinely funny. As previously stated the scenes between Alba and Gruffudd are somewhat forced. This comes, in large part, down to the writing. Their scenes are painfully American and clichéed and can be strainfull to watch. When critizising the script Dr. Doom much be mentioned as he is by no means the bad guy you could have hoped for. Much of McMahon's dialog is pretty dodgy and not as good as it could have been. The origins of the characters are almost exactly what they were in the comics and this was good. Also I found it good that not too much time was spent on the origin as this could have slowed the film down considerably. Another slight point of critique is that the movie is too short. I would have liked it to be just 10 - 15 minutes longer just to get more out of the characters.
The effects were generally very well done and had a comic book feel to them which is of course appropriate. Chiklis' costume was very well done and it was probably better having it this way rather than have The Thing done in a computer as it would probably have lessened the humanity of the character. Besides the only computer generated character to date that have worked fully as it was intended was Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. Speaking of computer generated images The Human Torch is undoubtedly the best eye candy of the movie and he does indeed look absolutely amazing. Not completely believable but then again it is a comic book movie. Two thumbs way up! Doctor Doom and The Invicible Woman work as well and Doom's mask is pretty menacing and contrary to popular belief he is not inspired by Darth Vader it is the other way around. Mr. Fantastic work the first time you see the film but after having seen the film a few times you get to see that he is obviously computer generated.
Overall Fantastic Four is not the best film of the year but it is very entertaining and definitely worth a look. The market is flooded with superhero movies these days and Fantastic Four doesn't really bring anything new to the screen which is probably why it scores so low on IMDb.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
It makes me mad...
...that this film is not getting the credit it deserves. It is in my opinion one of the most underrated films of all time along with The Matrix Reloaded. Revolutions is undoubtedly different from the previous films both in general and in terms of tone but why is that necessarily a bad thing? I won't be so arrogant as to say that the people who don't like this film are unintelligent. Whether or not people like a film or not is a subjective matter but I can't help feeling that the people who dislike (or even hate) this film are missing something because Revolutions is an intelligent, entertaining, beautiful, sad and moving picture.
The acting of all three films have been a mixed bag and although I usually join in the bashing of Keanu Reeves I find him strangely fitting for the part of Neo. His voice is not the perfect voice due to its monotonous tone but his body language is very good and sometimes even great and that is the case in Revolutions as well. Carrie-Anne Moss plays her character like she did in film two and that is neither particularly good or bad but a decent performance. Laurence Fishbourne's character has been reduced somewhat for the final part of the series but I found that the lines he did have were delivered with conviction and experience. As most people know Gloria Foster died before finishing her scenes for Revolutions and thus a different actress was cast to take over. The choice fell on Mary Alice and while she is no where near as good as Foster she is decent enough. Ian Bliss gets a chance to show his worth in the third film and personally I found his scenes to be among the most interesting of the film and his uncanny imitation of Weaving was spot on. Most of the secondary cast from Reloaded returns in their parts in Revolutions and they all do decent jobs with their characters. Harry J. Lennix (Lock) improved his character tremendously in spite of limited screen time. Hugo Weaving still provides the best acting in the film and steals every one of his regrettably limited number of scenes. He is probably my all time favorite screen bad guy. He manages to show the change in his character remarkably well considering how limited his screen time is. Agent Smith exhibits an increasing amount of human traits including anger, hatred, jealousy and even a sly sense of humor. This change happens to mirror Neo's growing understanding of the machines. Neo and Smith are linked in that way as well.
The effects are of course extraordinary which was to be expected after the stellar effects in the second film. Although there weren't as many scenes inside The Matrix this time around I still found the effects of the "real" world to be awe inspiring at the least and the battle for Zion was an incredible display of special effects. Of course the directors never lost sight of the people involved in the battle making it more tense had it only been effects. The climactic battle between Neo and Smith is quite simply stunning. It takes roughly 15 minutes and I for one hardly breathed in those 15 minutes. All three Matrix films have been inspired by Japanese animé comics and that is very visible in the final battle as one can't help but think of Dragonball for instance. The action in that particular scene is frighteningly well done and I got the chills when I watched it in the cinema. Very well done.
The story is darker in this film than in either of the previous films but that is to be expected as the first film was about birth and the second about life. Obviously that means that the third is about the inevitable end that must come to us all: Death. This does that the tone of the film becomes much darker and I felt that was good. This did that the film distanced itself from the previous films in the series and rather than become another rerun the film becomes its own entirely and that is both its weakness and its strength. I think it is its strength as it increases the originality of the film but apparently a lot of people didn't like the interpretation that the third film represents as is clear from the bashing the film has gotten from audiences and critics alike. The film does still have great symbolic value and you can interpret the film in a great number of ways like the previous films. For me this improves the film(s) greatly as you can watch it again and again and still find new things that will renew your interest.
Sadly I cannot make you love this film as much as I do because that would defeat the purpose of the film which is to make people think for themselves. My conclusion about Revolutions is that you will either love or you will hate it but in my opinion Revolutions is almost as good as the first one and one of the best films I have ever seen.
9/10 - On my top 10 of best films.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The only thing this film lacks is the element of surprise!
The Matrix Reloaded has everything you could possibly want from a summer blockbuster but it like its predecessor has a heck of a lot more and while Reloaded is not as good as the first Matrix film it sure is close to the standard of the original. I don't understand the seeming reluctance to accept this film a suitable continuation of the original film. I'll be the first one to admit that Reloaded has a few slow points and that the story line has a tendency towards the pretentious but the film is also highly intelligent and entertaining but most importantly the film gets the story from A to B with adequate and in some cases remarkable character development.
Acting wise the film is in the same kind of league as the first film of the series with a few mediocre performances, a few decent performances and one or two excellent performances. Keanu Reeves plays Neo pretty much like he did in the first movie and that is not bad. His monotone voice is canceled out by his clear and well defined body language. His overall performance is very fitting for the character which, lets face it, is somewhat square and Keanu's acting fits that kind of character very well. Carrie-Anne Moss has taken a small step down. I don't blame her as much as I blame the writing. Her character, while still ass-kicking, is too dependent on Neo. I know they love each other but come on. Laurence Fishbourne shines as Morpheus. His performance is slightly more stylized than in the first film but he steals almost every scene he is in. Other semi-known actors make glorified cameos. Actors like Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci and Lambert Wilson are great examples. Gloria Foster returns as the Oracle in her (sadly) last performance as she died during the filming. Her one brief scene is both highly interesting and well acted. As it was with the first film Hugo Weaving provides the best acting by far. Although his screen time is somewhat limited he manages to leave a lasting impression and becomes one of my favorite screen baddies of all time. His performance is for lack of a better word fantastic.
Effect wise Reloaded is a feast. There is literally something to look at in every scene. The "real" world has been given a face lift to make it more interesting. The real effects, however, take place inside the matrix and just like in the first film the effects are absolutely ground breaking. Rivaling the likes of Star Wars and LotR and that is saying something. The people who think the story is pretentious and the dialog stubby will undoubtedly get their adrenaline fix in the action scenes. Some scenes had me holding my breath and gasping at how beautiful and overwhelming it all was and as much as I love the philosophical aspects of the film I can watch it for the effects themselves as well. Without spoiling anything I can say that lovers of cool fight scenes and fx are in for a hell of a treat with this one.
In terms of costumes the film has really grown into its own. Especially Neo's costume in The Matrix is very cool and is a great improvement over the previous film. Morpheus' and Trinity's costumes are the same with minor changes and they still look cool. Agent Smith's costume has changed slightly in the color scheme. His suit has become a bit darker as if to signify that he is no longer an Agent of the system but a rogue agent now. Also his sunglasses have changed so that they look more rounded so they look more like Neo's sunglasses which of course implicates their connection. Many of the secondary characters have their own costumes as well mirroring their own personalities.
Were the film separated itself from other action packed films is of course in the underlying philosophical and religious aspects. Once the film has been watched a few times for the effects you can begin to see some of the elements. I don't think its possible to fully translate and analyze every element of the film. Mainly because every element can be analyzed in a bunch of different ways. Without spoiling too much I can say that if you look hard enough you will be able to find Plato, Baudrillard, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian elements and some more. The people who tell matrix lovers to get a life for searching the Matrix for a deeper meaning ought to open their eyes and watch the film one more time. With that I'm not saying that you can't be intelligent if you don't like the Matrix I am simply asking you to give it another chance. You really won't regret it.
The Matrix Reloaded is an excellent film and it deserves a lot more respect than it is getting and it is definitely underrated. I don't expect people to agree but I do expect people to respect those who love the Matrix sequels like me. I for one think that its hard to go wrong with Reloaded as it is funny, moving, awe-inspiring and very intelligent. I highly recommend this film to anyone.
Finding Forrester (2000)
Superb acting and involving story!
Connery has always been one of my favorite actors and in Finding Forrester he really proves why. Finding Forrester is in my opinion underrated simply because of the similarities it has with Good Will Hunting which Gus Van Sant also directed and that is a shame because Finding Forrester deserves to be recognized as a film on its own. Connery isn't alone in making this film as good as it is as both Rob Brown and F. Murray Abraham perform excellently in the film. The third "character" that makes this film as good as it is, is the story which is extremely well put together.
As you have probably gathered from what I have written above I really enjoy the acting in this film. Connery doesn't appear for quite some time but when he finally does appear you get the feeling from his first scene that what you are about to see is not a typical Connery performance. His performance has the usual Connery traits. He brings his usual indescribable something to the character which becomes almost instantly likable. He is also a teacher character which he is in many of his films. Where the character truly differs from many of his previous roles is the emotional involvement which is almost awe inspiring. It really is quite a sight watching Connery struggle with his demons from the past while at the same time mellowing out to Rob Brown's character. His overall line delivery and presence is excellent and his experience really shows. In short Connery is great. Rob Brown does an excellent job as well. You can feel that this is his first film in the fact that he has a little difficulty with complex emotions but his performance and especially his scenes with Connery work great. F. Murray Abraham is thoroughly despicable in his character and he serves his purpose beautifully. Anna Paquin appears in the film as well. She isn't great but she is definitely good. Her relationship with Brown's character isn't always plausible but overall she does a good job.
The story is aside from being very well told brilliantly paced. There are basically no boring scenes because of the pacing. The editing is sometimes a bit rough but nothing serious and it certainly does not lessen the value of the film. The story is both heart warming and intelligent and the dialog is also very well written. I dare you to watch the film and not be moved by the story. For me the story was very engaging and once I started watching I was hooked until the end. Very well done.
Finding Forrester is one of the most emotionally engaging films I have seen in recent years and it is definitely one of Connery's best performances and that is saying something because the guy is brilliant.
Another X-ellent movie!
Some people would tell you that X2 is more conventional and mainstream than the first movie and to that I can only say: What a load of rubbish! Not only does X2 continue in the style set by the first film but it also improves on it greatly. This is achieved by adding more characters, making a deeper story and making the ever expanding universe even more chaotic so as better to capture the essence of the comic book. Two thumbs way up! The story picks up after the events of the first film in a way that pleases the viewers of the first film and is satisfactory to new viewers. The story is still well written and the pacing has improved a lot from the first film. There are no real slow points during the movie and the director takes special care to cram many of the scenes with breath taking visual effects so the audience will never lose interest. The dialog is once again both very sharp and witty and intelligent and allows for adequate character development. The character development is something some people have seen fit to criticize as they claim there isn't enough of it and except for only two characters I whole heartedly disagree. The character development of the main characters happened pretty much in the first film and therefore it is only necessary to add a bit more depth to the characters instead of repeating the character development from the first film. I did feel, however, that the film seemed somewhat rushed at times and that is a shame as it definitely had potential to be a 2½ hour film.
The acting is still sublime and I, of course, have to emphasize Hugh Jackman who is still absolutely brilliant as Wolverine. Both in bringing out the animal sides during the fight sequences but also in keeping the character human like in the comics. Ian McKellen returns as well and further fleshes out his character of Magneto and makes the character every bit as devious and charismatic as in the previous film. Patrick Stewart returns as well and does what he did in the first film and he is still the only one who could play Xavier. Among the new actors are Brian Cox and Alan Cumming. Cox does what he does best and plays the new villain with the exaggerated style he usually does. Cumming on the other hand shows remarkable depth as Nightcrawler and is in spite of his appearance one of the most human characters in the film. I will miss him in the third film. Lets hope Beast is any bit as good as in the comics. Some have had their characters lessened in the sequel. Most notably James Marsden while Famke Jansen's character is developed further. Halle Berry's character Storm is still kept in the background but I'm sure she will get more screen time in the third film. Aside from the ones I have now mentioned the acting is quite good all round.
Action wise the film took a major step up from the first film and many of the action scenes are quite simply awesome. We get to see more of Wolverine's feral rage which is always worth a look. All fights scenes with Wolverine are awesome and some of the most entertaining I've seen. Also we get a brief glimpse of Collosus kicking some ass and he does look cool I must say. In fact many of the individual mutants' powers are fleshed out in X2 and like in the original X-Men film they look absolutely beautiful. My only concern regarding the effects and action scenes is how on earth they are going to top them in the coming third X-Men film.
In regards to music and sound the film improved upon the first film with a much more catchy soundtrack and more audible effects. For example the sounds of Wolverine's claws shooting out and retracting have been amplified making him even more menacing than he was in the first film. Very well done.
All in all X2 is an excellent continuation of the original film and we are nearing something that is more like a saga than a series of films. I'm really beginning to see Bryan Singer as a master director after these two brilliant films and I am a little sad he opted to do Superman Returns rather than finish what he started with the X-Men films.
If this film had been given to the wrong director it could have been incredibly cheesy. Being a reader of the comics I know that there are a few things that works on the page of a comic book but not in a film and let me say that the costumes is one of these things that in all probability wouldn't work. Singer chose to go with black leather outfits and I, for one, am very thankful for this choice. There are many things in this film that works but unfortunately there are a few things as well that prevent the film from being truly great.
Lets start with the things that work. Acting wise the film is very good. This is above all attributed to some excellent casting. Hugh Jackman is simply perfect as Wolverine and brings out the duality of the character in a very satisfactory manner. Also the scenes were we see a glimpse of the rage in the character work remarkably well. The only thing that could be said about him is that he is too tall but it seems most people, including myself, have accepted this fact. I think also that it was a wise choice to let a relatively unknown actor play the part because in that way we have no preconceived notions about him. As for Professor X no other man than Patrick Stewart could/should play him. Stewart simply becomes Xavier both in presence, voice and looks. An example of perfect casting. Ian McKellen is brilliant as Magneto and succeeds in creating a human villain rather than the usual cliché like villains we see in Hollywood productions. The acting aside from the ones mentioned above is pretty good. Not spectacular but good. The only one who does not look and act like the character we know from the comics is Anna Paquin who plays Rogue. The character is nothing like in the comics and Paquin's performance doesn't help the character.
When it comes to music and sound effects in general the film is a notch above average. The musical score has a very grand, even epic, feel to it and this suits the film very well. The score is not as memorable as the score from Batman (1989) but it is very adequate. As for the general sound effects they are both very fitting and believable adding to the overall credibility of the film which is considerable. The sound Wolverine's claws make when they come out is exactly as I imagined it. Very well done. The effects in general are also very well made. Not as good as in Spider-Man but still very good. A lot of care has been taken to make the effects seem as believable as possible and from where I'm standing they work. The only character whose powers I did not fully believe in was Toad's. Ray Park is an excellent athlete but many of his stunts look like obvious wire work. This is a pretty general complaint I have as some of the action look rehearsed. There is, however, some interesting action scenes and overall the action is acceptable.
The story is pretty well written and the dialog is both witty and sharp. Especially much of the dialog between Wolverine and Cyclops (James Marsden) is very entertaining and true to the comic books. Where I feel the story is lacking is in the climax which I am afraid to say is a little silly. Magneto's plan for world domination is actually pretty stupid when you think about it and that is a shame because much of the exposition is very well done. Generally, however, the first film is all about setting the stage for the films to come and it does do that in a satisfactory manner.
All in all X-Men is definitely one of the better super hero movies out there and although it was surpassed by the sequel it still stands as a true testament to Singer's skill.
The Matrix (1999)
Immensely entertaining, intriguingly philosophical and just about one of the best films ever made!
Writing a review of The Matrix is a very hard thing for me to do because this film means a lot to me and therefore I want to do the film justice by writing a good review. To tell the truth the first time I saw the film I was enamored by the effects. I remember thinking to myself that this was one of the most visually stunning films I had ever seen in my life. Also having always been a comic book fan and a fan of films that were larger than life, the transitional element of the story was very appealing to me and this probably heightened my enjoyment of the film very much. It wasn't until some time later (and after having seen the film a few times more) that I started to think about the film. I recognized the Christian elements quite quickly but it wasn't until I wrote an actual 15-page essay on the film that I tapped into some of the philosophical and religious elements and that made me appreciate the film even more. I won't say that I have recognized all elements because the film is quite literally packed with them.
Acting wise the film works excellently. I won't say that there aren't any issues because there are but overall the acting is pretty flawless. Keanu Reeves plays the main character, Neo, or Thomas A. Anderson and while he is not the perfect actor I think he does a pretty good job in The Matrix (and the sequels). He doesn't have the longest of lines which was probably a deliberate choice from the directors and it works because this gives him a better opportunity to work on posture and facial expressions and I must say that overall his body language is very good. Very clear and well defined. Laurence Fishbourne plays Neo's mentor Morpheus and he does an excellent job of it. His lines flow with a certain confidence and style that makes his character somewhat unique and interesting. Carrie-Anne Moss does a good job as well and succeeds in looking both cool and sexy in her leather outfit. Joe Pantoliano, a critically underrated actor does a brilliant job of bringing his character, Cypher, to life. I can't say much about him because his character is pretty essential to the plot and I certainly don't wan't to spoil it for anyone. Gloria Foster appears in a relatively small role that will have greater significance in the following films and she does a very good job. The best acting is provided by Hugo Weaving, however, in his portrayal of Agent Smith. It is really something to watch him act out the changes in his character. Agent Smith gains some human traits like anger, sense of dread, hate and eventually even a sly sense of humor (mostly in the sequels). Two thumbs way up to Weaving who has created one of the finest screen villains of all time.
Effects wise the film is simply stunning and it deservedly was awarded the Oscar for best effects (and was regrettably cheated out of a nomination in the Best Film category) ahead of even Star Wars. The reason that I think The Matrix deserves the Oscar for best effects is simply that the effects in The Matrix are more innovative than the ones in Star Wars. Just take a look at how many times the effects have been spoofed and you'll probably agree. The effects also help in the symbolism of the film and in creating a very dystopian atmosphere not unlike the one seen in Blade Runner and this works brilliantly. The film looks beautiful at all times and today 6 years later (my God has it already been 6 years?) the effects still hold their ground against new science fiction films. Add the effects to the brilliant editing and you have a visual masterpiece on your hands. Very well done.
The reason that I think The Matrix is more reviewable than pretty much any other film is the story and the philosophical and religious elements of the story because with every viewing I catch something I didn't see the previous time I watched it. Without spoiling the film I think I can mention a few of the more obvious elements. Obviously the film draws on the Messiah myth as Neo is a clear reference to Jesus with the analogy of his name (Neo = one, as in The One) but also hidden in his other name, Thomas A. Anderson. The first part of his last name, Anderson comes from the Greek Andros meaning "man" and combine this with the second part of his last name "son" and add a little creativity you will come up with the combination "son of man" which was a title Jesus came up with about himself. Also the first time we meet Neo a man calls him (and I quote): "You're my Saviour man. My own personal Jesus Christ." It doesn't get any more obvious than that. Aside from the Christianic elements the film also gets its inspiration from Budhism, Gnosticism (Gnosis = knowledge) but is also inspired by Plato and his analogy of the Cave and Jean Baudrillard's essay, Simulacra and Simulations. Explaining these elements would make this review go on forever so aside from mentioning them I will not comment on them further.
To all the people who doubt the profound nature of The Matrix I can only give one advice: Free your mind and watch the film again. You won't regret it. If I had to choose a favorite all time film my choice would probably fall on either The Matrix (obviously I don't expect people to agree but if they do thats great) or The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and I recommend it to all fans of sci-fi and people who like philosophy.
10/10 - on my top 3 of best films.
Not faithful to the source material but very entertaining!
Troy was the first of the recent epic film wave (I'm not counting The Lord of the Rings) and it is by far the best. Alexander was too flawed, Kingdom of Heaven's protagonist was far too weak and King Arthur was... well King Arthur was just plain crap. Not only is the main protagonist of Troy very strong but the film seems much more polished than any of the two other films and the overall cast is only a few steps short of brilliant. Troy is as most people know based on The Illiad but only very superficially. Some of the characters from the book are used but overall the film is very different from the book and in my opinion it was probably for the better. Don't get me wrong the book is excellent but the God element would make the film way too complicating as the Gods would need to be introduced for it to make sense at all. Also the siege lasts about 10 years in the book but in the film it only lasts a couple of weeks and that was another thing which was probably necessary for dramatic purposes.
The cast is mainly very good. Brad Pitt is brilliant. He really conveyed the energy of the character, Achilles, very well. His sense of timing and overall presence is undeniable. He does an incredible job in the action sequences he is in and brings the menacing nature of Achilles very well to life. However, he also does a good job in the more intimate scenes where he seems to have great chemistry with Rose Byrne who plays Briseis. Eric Bana was the greatest surprise for me as he did an excellent job in bringing Hector to life. Like Brad Pitt he is brilliant both in the action scenes and emotional scenes. He matches the intensity of Pitt and this makes their final confrontation a true climax. Brian Cox and Brendan Gleeson do excellent jobs with their characters as well and especially Cox who acts in a way that makes Agamemnon seem very devious. Two thumbs up. Peter O'Toole is great and does a seemingly impossible feat in stealing a scene from Brad Pitt. Where the casting fails, however is in that of Orlando Bloom and Diane Kruger. Orlando was never a good actor but in Troy he doesn't even look the part like he does in The Lord of the Rings. He spends his time with a pathetic apologetic look on his face. Its pretty much the same with Kruger. Their chemistry is heinous. The worst I have ever seen. There is absolutely no spark whatsoever between them. I've seen better chemistry between two rocks. Aside from the two aforementioned the cast is very good. One last actor worth mentioning is Sean Bean who produces a very likable character in Odysseus.
The action is overall very well done and feels very epic. The combat scenes with Pitt and Bana are very well done and you really get a sense of the different combat styles used. Pitt has a very refined way of fighting. It almost looks like a dance whereas Bana's style seems more like he taught himself and thus looks nowhere near as graceful and this kind of difference in style is very appealing to me. There is another character, Ajax, who is all about brute strength just to name another. There are a few epic battles where the computer effects work great. The effects aren't brilliant like in LotR but they are decent and convincing enough. The true climax, however, is in the final battle between Hector and Achilles which is one of the best choreographed fights I have ever seen. Overall the action is very satisfactory and entertaining. Kudos to the director.
The story is well written and much of the dialog is both very sharp and witty and the complete refrain from contemporary expressions was in my opinion a nice touch. Instead the writers came up with other expressions like: "You sack of wine". which I found was highly entertaining. The story progresses in a satisfactory manner but after the climactic battle between Hector and Achilles the film does lose some steam. Overall I thought it was a good idea to leave out the whole story with the gods and instead focus on reality was a good thing as the including the gods would have made the film too confusing and far too long.
All in all Troy is a very good film and aside from a few glitches in the casting the film is nothing short of excellent and definitely a must-see.