Posted on 7/16/10 02:00 AM
Disclaimer before I actually get to the review: I just returned from the midnight show and am extremely tired, so please forgive any spelling errors and bad grammar. Also, I will keep this spoiler free.
With all the hype and hoopla over Chris Nolan's next film, it seemed doomed to fail just because of the massive expectations. Well, I have to say Mr. Nolan is proving to be in same league as James Cameron when it comes to dwarfing expectations even when they are sky high. Inception is a rare film, one that blends intelligence and head trippy shenanigans seamlessly with high octane action pieces. While Memento is probably still Nolan's best movie, I must say that this is the one he has made that I have enjoyed the most (that is saying a lot since I am a MASSIVE Batman fan).
All of the trailers and tv spots for Inception have been very cryptic and shady when it comes to plot details, so I am going to be just as murky and say very little as to what it is actually about. Basically, Inception is a heist film. A heist film about dreams. That is all I will say, the rest you will have to go into the movie blind to; which, believe me, is a good thing, as this film is something you want as little as possible to be spoiled for you. The plot is clever and incredibly well thought out. For all those who scream and crave originality in a major Hollywood picture, Nolan almost over delivers with this. Few movies in the last decade, maybe even more, pulse with as many original ideas and creative gusto as this film does. The amazing thing is that Nolan manages to bring all the pieces together in the complex, multi-layered narrative. For those looking for a simple action film, look elsewhere as this flick is working on so many levels at once, and demands the viewers complete undivided attention. I would not be surprised if this is a box-office disappointment for the simple fact that many casual movie goers simply will not like the fact that they have to absorb so much and exert so much brain power to keep up with Nolan's ambitious and constantly evolving narrative.
One reason this movie works so great is the cast. All of the actors fill their roles perfectly, and all of them (with the exception of Michael Caine) get a very good amount of face time, so eventhough DiCaprio gets top billing on the posters, everybody in the ensemble gets their chance to shine. DiCaprio delivers once again as the main character, Dom Cobb, and does a fantastic job at playing the smart, collected, leader of the thieves. He has skeletons in his closet and does a great job at seeming conflicted without getting melodramatic. Joseph Gordon Levitt is awesome and wins the title of the badass of the movie. His gravity defying fight scene from the trailers is a truely awe inspiring set piece. His career is probably going to sky rocket after this flick. Ellen Page is also very good as the female lead, and she does a great job at distancing herself from the teeny bopper Juno image that has come to be associated with her. Marion Cotillard brings her A-game too, mixing love, craziness, and beauty into a nice performance. Tom Hardy is the big surprise in the acting department, with him stealing many of the scenes he is in with his charisma. Cannot wait to see him take up the reigns as Mad Max.
For all the great actors in the film, it is really Nolan who shines the most, eventhough he is behind the camera. This is his first original film since his debut feature, Following, and I cannot wait to see what other original ideas he has in store because this is a truely incredible film. His script is insane and if he does not get at least an Oscar nom for it, then the Academy will prove to be nothing but a bunch of ignoramuses. His skill as a director also continues to show tremdous growth, which is saying something since he has always been a strong director. These are definitely the best action sequences of any of his films, and his use of slo-motion (something I noticed he used sparingly, if at all in the majority of his previous movies) is exceptionally well done, using the often over used (coughZackSnydercough) technique to capture striking imagery, not overdramatize situations.
Bottom line, this is the best movie I have seen so far this year, and easily the best of the summer. It is smart, complicated, epic, and exciting, which are all qualities that are not only missing in the majority of summer releases, but most movies in general. Thumbs way, way up!
Posted on 7/09/10 02:38 PM
The original Predator is one of my favorite action movies ever, and every since the original, there really has not been a sequel that has delivered on being a solid film to follow up the classic first. While Predators will more than likely never be called a classic, it is a solid sequel and a fun movie in a summer that has seriously lacked it.
Predators returns the franchise to its home; the jungle. Eight people, all "predators" in some sense of the word themselves, have been kidnapped and dropped into a jungle on an unknown alien planet. At first they fight with eachother, but soon they realize that they must work together if they want to go from being the hunted, to the hunters. The set-up is simple and straight to the point, with the movie literally wasting no time to jump into the action from the second it begins. We get introduced to the characters right off the bat, and while the movie does not have very deep characterizations, all of the characters are different enough to keep things fresh and make all of them seem like different individuals. The acting by all of the cast is pretty much solid as well, although anyone expecting Oscar calibur performances (why in the world you would be expecting that in a Predator film is beyond me though) will be disappointed. Speaking of the actors; Adrien Brody does a pretty dang good job as the main hero, which surprised me since he is not exactly made for these types of rolls, but he pulls it off quite well and had me rooting for him by the end.
One of the things director Nimrod Antal managed to do very well was mimic the first films formula. That may sound like a negative, and it is in some ways, but I liked the fact that he avoided the nonstop action style of modern action films and went for a more old school approach, which is slowly building up the tension throughout. There are outbursts of action here and there, but for the most part Antal keeps the groups run-ins with the Predators quick and brief during the first portion of the film, which might upset those looking for a nonstop blood bath, but I enjoyed the build up of tension as the characters come to grips with what they are facing. The final twenty five or so minutes of the movie is where the bulk of the action is, and it does not disappoint, and the build up to that point makes it more rewarding.
The negatives I have with this movie are that the ending feels a little too open. I will not spoil it, but for any who have seen it, they will understand what I am talking about. It was not bad really, just a little unsatisfactory. As stated above, the movie sticks to the original Predator's formula rather close in some aspects, and while this is not a completely bad thing, I do wish they would have maybe strayed a way from it a bit more at times. Also, not to sound weird or demented or anything, but I was hoping the violence in the movie was going to be a little more hardcore and grusome. Do not get me wrong, there are spines ripped out and plenty of blood to go around, I was just hoping for something a little more visceral I guess.
Overall, this is a fun summer movie that delivers on its promises. If this film is a success, then I hope Robert Rodriguez continues to have a hand in the creative department for this series, since him and Antal have gotten it back on the right track. While it does not have the same surprise factor as the original, Predators does maintain much of its suspense and fun; thumbs up!
Posted on 6/29/10 08:00 AM
This is one of those movies that could have been great, a real masterpiece if pulled off correctly, but ultimately it has to settle for being nothing more than decent. Many of the ideas on display here are great, and it was nice to see a vampire film where the vampires are not sparkly pansies.
Daybreakers is the story of a plague that has turned most of the world's population into vampires. Humans are now hunted and captured so they can be farmed for blood. The problem is, the human race is now almost extinct, and when humans die off, the vampires will no longer have blood to feed on to keep themselves alive. If a vampire goes too long without ingesting any blood, then they start to mutate and become "subsiders", which are aggressive, bat-humans. The main character, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), is a hematologist trying to find a fake blood solution so that the entire population does not devolve into subsiders and die. Dalton eventually gets caught up in helping a band of human rebels who are trying to keep the human race alive. I am not going to say much more because unlike most horror flicks, this movie actually has quite a bit of plot in it and I do not want to spoil it.
The set up for the movie is fantastic, and felt like a sequel to I Am Legend (book, not the sub-par Will Smith film). The acting from Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe, and the rest of the cast is all solid, and they all take the material seriously, which is fine because the movie rarely feels extremely goofy. One thing I really enjoyed was how the film creates a nice world that is populated by vampires; the ads for things have changed, cars now require daylight driving systems, underground tunnel networks that allow people to move about in the daylight, etc. all adds up to bring you further into the world of the movie. The atmosphere is fantastic as well, and the directors The Spierig Brothers do a great job of making everything dark and seem like life sucks living in a world like this. The opening scenes have a nice neo noir-ish feel that I loved as well. Speaking of the directors, they do a pretty good job directing the film for the most part, and there were a few shots in the film that were very striking and show that these guys could do some great things if they continue to improve with more films.
Now for the negatives, which are what really brought my rating down a lot. Sometimes the movie does fall into some ridiculous situations that kill a lot of the grittiness and gloom that works so wonderfully. The big ending to a car chase scene literally made me roll my eyes from how idiotic it was, and it seemed very out of place with the rest of the movie. The third act is also very disappointing, and seemed like the Spiering Bros. (who wrote the film as well) got into a jam in the middle of the second act and just tried to find the best way to get to the end of the story, and it ultimately does not feel like a satisfying conclusion to the film's brilliant set-up.
Overall, this is a pretty good movie, not a great one like it should have been, but solid on almost all fronts. Some may like the last act more than I did, but I was hoping for something a little less convenient to wrap up the story. Thumbs up.
Posted on 6/29/10 07:05 AM
Movies that have God as a bad guy are few and far between, as most studios do not want to risk upsetting the Jesus freaks of the world. So, it takes some balls to make a movie where The Almighty is not looked upon in such a great light, and having balls is about the only good thing I can say about this movie, as it pretty much sucks. It sucks bad.
The movie concerns an angel, Michael, who has been sent to Earth by God to help bring about the end of days and wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Problem is, Michael has not lost faith in mankind like God has, so he decides he will stand up to Him and protect a woman who is pregnant with a baby that will save humanity if born or something like that; I honestly have no idea because this movie's plot is so boring and idiotic I was too bored to pay close enough attention, as well as too confused by the unclear rules for saving humanity.
The movie has a surprisingly solid ensemble, which includes Dennis Quaid, Paul Bettany, Tyrese Gibson, and many others, but the problem is that the movie devolves into formula very fast, with the formula comprising of the humans getting attacked by possessed people (possessed by angels, not demons), holding them off with somebody getting hurt or dying, then there are a bunch of long, pointless, cheesy conversations between all of them that seem to be nothing more than excuses to inflate the runtime. The action is also boring, as well as illogical at times. The human survivors fight off the possessed people with fire arms, and usually in movies guns have unnaturally large magazines that never run out of bullets; Legion has the opposite problem. It seems as though the guns the heroes use in the movie only carry about four bullets before running out of ammo, at which point they simply swap to another gun or the fight ends. This annoyed me because watching someone shoot three bullets from an assault rifle and then discard it is just dumb logic when you consider they are fighting a freaking army of evil angels.
Overall, this is a bad movie with little redeeming qualities. Thumbs down, avoid if you can.
Posted on 6/16/10 04:36 PM
Wow, this is one powerful film. I will go ahead and say that this is not a film for those who do not like dark movies or disturbing ones. For those that do though, I highly, highly recommend this film. Cormac McCarthy is my favorite writer, and his novel The Road is one of the best books of the decade, and remains one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. That said, the novel has an unrelenting atmosphere of dread and hopelessness, and this mixed with McCarthy's otherworldly ability to burn an image on his reader's minds left me to believe that it would be close to impossible to truely capture what made the novel so great on film. I am happy to say I was wrong.
The Road is a post-apocalyptic tale, but unlike the dozens of other films about a cataclysm changing the Earth, The Road does not offer any hope for survival in the aftermath of the end of the world. Most post-apocalyptic films have a storyline of some sort that drives the characters to do whatever it is they are doing, whether it be defending a book (The Book of Eli), or some other shenanigans. But unlike most films, The Road is about surviving in a world in which a person is almost guranteed not to survive in. The film concerns a man and a boy, his son. Their names are nver spoken because names are not important in the world the movie takes place in. They are heading south in an effort to escape the deadly winter of the north. This is the whole movie. Now things do happen, but as far as the man or the boy getting caught up in some adventure or something, that never happens. The world is dying. No wild animals roam the streets like in I Am Legend, they are all dead. Crops and vegetation are dead as well, and tremors from earthquakes constantly cause dead trees to fall in the forest. Cannabalistic caravans roam searching for people to consume, as food and supplies are almost completely extinct as well. What caused this cleansing of the Earth is never stated, but it does not need to be because this film is not about how the world ended, but what happens to those who survived the end.
The man is played by Viggo Mortenson, who is cast perfectly in the role, as I actually imagined him as the man when I read the novel. The son is played Kodi Smit-McPhee, a newcomer, but he is very good as well playing the boy. How in the hell Mortenson did not get even a nomination, let alone the win for his performance in this film truely leaves me in awe. He embodies the man so well and gives an incredible, riveting performance as a father who will do anything to protect the one thing he has that matters in the world, which is his child. Mortenson brilliantly conveys all the emotions the man is going through, often without even speaking. The man wants to give the boy hope, so he does not always tell the boy when things are really bad, and he struggles with this as he wonders what will become of the boy when he is gone; he tries to protect the boy's innocence while also trying to prepare him for the brutal reality of the world in which they live. Mortensen also does a fantastic job of showing how much the man loves the boy, and how he will do whatever he has to in order to make sure his son is not harmed. It is heartwrenching to watch as the man shows the boy how to properly commit suicide in case of emergency; and one scene in which he is prepared to kill his own son instead of letting a band of cannibals take the boy is incredibly impacting. It is horrible thing to do, but in some strange way it is the ultimate sign of love that he would rather murder his own child quickly than have them suffer. One line of Mortenson's early on in the film gave me goosebumps from how well he delivers it and the truth behind it. Speaking about his son, he says, "All I know is the child is my warrant and if he is not the word of God, then God never spoke." Mortensen proves he is among the best actors alive with this film, and delivers one of the most memorable performances of the last ten years in my opinion. McPhee also does a great job in the movie, and seems very innocent and hopeful, which does a great job of contrasting with Mortensen's knowledge of the deadly reality in which they live. Together, McPhee and Mortensen fulfill the roles fantastically, and hopefully with time, this movie will be looked back upon with greater admiration for just how great of a performance Mortensen gives in this picture. The rest of the cast consists of Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, and Guy Pearce; and while they are all great in their roles (Duvall in particular), this is really all about Mortensen and McPhee, and they all have small (but important) roles in the movie.
The direction by John Hillcoat is also extremely impressive, and I believe him to be one of the most underrated directors alive (for those who have not seen his Austrailian western, The Proposition, I highly, highly recommend it). He captures the imagery of McCarthy's novel perfectly, with everything being grey and colorless, and a feeling of hopelessness and dread is always present. Hillcoat is also a master at showing grisly, disturbing images without exploiting them for cheap thrills. Hillcoat knows how to show you something horrible, but milk it for an emotional punch, not make you vomit from it.
Overall, I am very surprised this movie was not a front runner at Oscar season. It is truely criminal that Mortensen was not noticed more for this performance. If you can handle the dark subject matter, this is an exceptional film. Thumbs up.
Posted on 6/16/10 03:26 PM
Russel Brand is walking across a music video set wearing gold tight pants, promoting an albumb called "African Child", and talking about how he wants people to think of him as a "White African Space Christ". If the above description does not at least make you grin from the absurdity of it, then I would not recommend this film for you. For those that think that the above scene could be humorous on film, then you will probably enjoy it quite a bit!
I fall into the latter category, and I really had a lot of fun watching this movie. The story is a spin-off from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, another comedy I enjoyed a lot, and for the most part, it matches that film's quality throughout. This time rockstar Aldous Snow (Russel Brand) is the center of attention, and the movie gives backstory on his glory days as a rocker, his eventual commitment to get clean, and his spiral back into the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Snow has been a nobody for the last few years due to his last album bombing, as well as his partying ways. A record company is having problems finacially due to the economy as well as a decline in record sales. The head of this record company, Sergio (P. Diddy), is looking for something that is going to boost profits big time. At a focus meeting, a guy named Aaron (Jonah Hill) suggests that they line up a show at the Greek Theatre with Aldous Snow playing it, as Snow's last live album recorded there is one of the bestselling of all time. Sergio likes this and sends Aaron to London to pick up Snow and escort him to the Greek. Problem is, Snow is out of control, and he constantly gets Aaron into situations that are over his head.
I am not a very big fan of Russel Brand, but I love him playing this character, and he does a great job of making Aldous more than just a crazy rockstar. In fact, that was the thing that caught me off guard about this movie; that there is a surprisingly poignant dramatic turn towards the end (while still keeping the comedy going) that makes the movie more than just a crude comedy. The songs by Snow and his ex-girlfriend, Jackie Q (the gorgeous Rose Byrne), are very funny, and make fun of many music industry staples such as dirty double meanings and political stances on hot button issues. Jonah Hill is also great as Aaron, and is very likeable as a guy who is hanging out with one of his heroes, only to keep getting in deeper and deeper over his head. I also want to give kudos to P. Diddy for his performance in the movie, which while not great acting by any means (he is really just playing himself), he steals many of his scenes because of his energy and hilarious dialogue.
This is a comedy, so the most important thing is whether or not it is funny, and for the most part, it is. There are a few jokes that fall flat, but when it is funny, it usually very funny. The scene that takes place in Vegas involving Sergio, Snow, Aaron, Snow's estranged father, a sex toy, "Hairyoke", a "Jefferey", furry walls, and a Pulp Fiction homage is one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time, and I probably did not stop laughing for a good four or five minutes throughout the entire scene as it is pretty much nonstop great comedy gags. This is probably my favorite all out comedy so far this year, and is probably a good contender for best comedy of the year. Thumbs up!
Posted on 6/16/10 03:07 PM
This is a very mediocre movie. I was expecting it to be at least decent from what some other people have told me about it, but I just found the whole thing ludicrous. The means by which Butler exacts revenge in this movie is incredibly far fetched, and the explanation of how he is doing it eventhough he is locked up in prison is incredibly stupid and just lazy in my opinion. If the movie was trying to critique the justice system in any way, and I think it was, it fails miserably because never once are we supposed to look at things with any sort of morals; the bad guys get what they deserve, and the good guys who die are victims. There are no shades of grey inbetween Foxx or Butler's characters. Butler is the typical bad guy who has a righteous reason for vengeance, and Foxx is the hero trying to stop him. The only scene that is interesting and manages to raise some questions about the justice system is one in which Butler, who obviously murdered someone, uses some fancy loopholes and laws in the system to get himself released for the crimes he has been charged with, only to turn around immediately after being granted release to insult the judge for letting him go when he clearly committed the crime, and cusses her out for putting rules above morals. I really enjoyed this scene, but the rest of the movie is just a ridiculous, far-fetched thriller that lacks thrills or intelligence. Thumbs down.
Posted on 6/15/10 08:38 PM
Many people nowadays say that there is not enough story in modern action pictures, and that the action is now shot in a way that obscures what is going on so that you cannot even see the action in an action movie. These people are right of course, and there is probably not a better example of these problems than Ninja Assassin. This movie is a boring, bloody, incomprehensible mess.
The story is about a ninja (don't remember his name, and it is not important enough to look up, so I will just refer to him as "main ninja"), who is tryint to bring down the ninja unit that trained him, but he ultimately abandoned because he did not see things their way. There is also a story about the CIA or some crap, but I literally cannot remember it and I watched this movie a few days ago. That is a bad sign when I cannot even remember the basic plot after only a few days. The main ninja's story is told in flashback; this would not be that big of a problem if two things did not totally screw this up. One, the flashback is really, really boring and plain; nothing interesting happens in the least. Two, this flashback sequence is very long! It almost seems like they through it in so the movie would be twenty minutes longer.
Ultimately, things hit the fan and fighting commences. This is where another major setback hits the film; the action. The action itself is not badly choreographed or anything, in fact if you can squeeze your eyes really hard and process what you can't see on screen (but you know is there) in your mind, the action scenes are very well choreographed and thought out. The problem is that director James McTiegue has decided to shoot and edit the scenes in a way that we cannot really tell what the hell is going on. All you can see is shiny objects flying through the air, spurts of blood (LOTS OF BLOOD!), screaming, and flashes of people getting punched, kicked, and sliced 'n' diced, all edited together so rapidly and obscurely that half the time you are not sure who is killing who.
One other thing that confused the hell out of me was whether or not the ninjas had supernatural powers or not. It never states they do, but we see them practically teleporting at times, and I had no idea whether this was just to add style to the visuals, or whether the ninjas really could just poof out of nowhere; the film never explains. There is also the case of blood loss in this movie; it seems as though the rule for this flick is that as long as you do not get your face pounded into hamburger meat on a urinal, or get a limb lopped off, you could still fight perfectly fine. A fight scene in a bathroom literally has the bad guy lose a couple of gallons of blood, and he does not even slow down, let alone pass out! This marks the lowest of the low for studio action pictures, and what makes it even worse is that there were probably some pretty good fight scenes that were shot and edited horribly. Thumbs down.
Posted on 6/11/10 11:31 PM
I was hoping for another great team up between Ridley Scott and Russel Crowe with this movie, but ultimately what I got was a mixture of greatness and crapiness. Those expecting a darker take on Robin Hood will probably be disappointed to find that this is more like Robin Hood Begins. It tells the story of how Robin became the man who would steal from the rich and give to the poor. I am not well versed in the history of this period, but I have noticed some people complaining about the historical accuracy of this movie, so if that is a big thing for you, you might want to steer clear.
The film starts well and ends well, but it really sags in the middle when it seems as though nothing all too interesting is going on. Ridley Scott does an excellent job directing the movie, and the climactic battle is particularly thrilling, but the movie as a whole is just kind of boring. This is a shame when you consider the incredible cast in the movie, which inlcludes not only Crowe, but other great people like Kate Blanchett, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Max Von Sydow, Danny Huston, and many others. Too bad the plot of the movie rarely gives the cast any ammunition to unleash their talent with. Not a horrible movie, but not exactly a good one either. Thumbs down.
Posted on 6/11/10 11:17 PM
This ranks with Double Impact in the upper echelon of Van Damme flicks for me. This is the one where he is in prison as an undercover cop, trying to uncover why prisoners are turning up dead. I will not say anything else because unlike most Van Damme flicks, this movie has a plot that is not 100% predicatable from the get-go. That said, the plot is not really good, and overall it is incredibly ridiculous.
The main reason to see this movie is the awesome, badass fight scene at the end. It is completely over the top and ludicrous (apparently The Van Damme is indestructible because he is thrown off a four story platform and lands on his shoulder without breaking anything, not to mention he takes several blows from a monkey wrench), but it is awesome in its ridiculousness, as it features several defining Van Damme moments; like the classic part where he yells for his enemy to, "COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" while he has his ridicuously ripped arms flexing in the air, not to mention it has not one, but two signature screaming slow motion jump kicks from The Van Damme! Overall, thumbs down, but great fight at the end!