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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!
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!
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.
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.
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.