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Rating History

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

[b]Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

[img]http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/warner_brothers/charlie_and_the_chocolate_factory/_group_photos/johnny_depp19.jpg[/img]

[/b]The key thing to remember when attempting to enjoy Tim Burton's adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book is that this is not the 1971 Mel Stuart-helmed film. Comparing the films only makes you see what's missing, not what's actually there; however, comparison on an even playing field does separate Burton's film, allowing its differences either to succeed or fail on their own terms. The stories are different with Burton's film being less magical and more message-oriented. Burton's film focuses more on a complete Willy Wonka character arc, including showing his childhood and some of his past exploits. [i]Charlie[/i] and the Chocolate Factory pushes its titular character aside and other than leaving behind poverty, Charlie doesn't do much or change in any non-superficial way. [b][i]Willy Wonka[/i] and the Chocolate Factory [/b]doesn't lose its focus on Charlie during its middle, but keeps Wonka on a slightly less humane, incomplete level (the approach to the material I prefer as it results in mystery).

The visuals are never that awe-inspiring as they often needed to be. Some of the close-ups of the children reveal strange CGI work meant to generate a colorful creepiness, but which come off as odd for all the wrong reasons.

It's hard not to notice how much better the child actors were in Stuart's film, but while a lot of that film's impossible-to-calculate magic doesn't strike again, all the acting in Burton's film is kooky enough to keep the spirit alive. Particularly, Jordan Fry as Mike Teavee and Missi Pyle as Mrs. Beauregarde are hilarious even when not saying anything. Johnny Depp's Wonka is a different character than Gene Wilder's Wonka. Depp's version is haunted by his past, a little nervous, clumsy, and speaks with an affected shot of lunacy. Helena Bonham Carter's Mrs. Bucket stands-out as with one simple facial expression she conveys heartbreaking sympathy. Freddie Highmore has a couple heartfelt close-ups, but, with such few lines, is otherwise useless. The Oompa Loompas don't leave a strong impression, although a few of their musical numbers definitely will get you tapping your toes enough to maintain interest. Danny Elfman's music is energetic and a high-point in the film.

The film's structure reminds of one of my favorite films, Burton's own [b]Edward Scissorhands[/b]. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's self-referential flashbacks don't elicit enough of an emotional response to provide the proper set-up to allow the film's ending to resonate. The tone of the flashbacks is pure Burton, but like the rest of the film, is often infused with humor that didn't always agree with me. While it didn't work that well, there is no inherent problem with the flashbacks unless you're not able to separate both adaptations.

Other, non-childhood flashbacks are shown, too, such as Wonka's discovery of the Oompa Loompas. Scenes like that are indicative of the interest the entire film demands, but also shows the much more family-oriented (in more ways than one) approach Burton has taken with the film. The drama was completely ineffective and while the moral is a meaningful one, the film fails to make us feel anything. Still, there is a lot to be said of the details in Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it's nice to have a different take on Dahl's material and I suspect the further away I get from this film, the more I'll anticipate a possible rating-increasing second viewing.

The Island
The Island (2005)
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[b]Fantastic Four

[img]http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/twentieth_century_fox/fantastic_four/ioan_gruffudd/fantastic4.jpg[/img]

[/b]As a child I was a fan of all things Marvel, so naturally, the first official film adaptation of The Fantastic Four excited me. Unfortunately, the film comes from the man behind last year's [b]Taxi[/b], and boy, does it show! Right from scene one I knew this film was Doomed (the capitalization is two-fold). The dialogue embarrasses nearly as much as the acting; each character is lifeless and boring with Julian McMahon's Dr. Doom being the only possible exception. The plot momentum is generated by absurd and muddled motives stemming from Doom's desire for revenge, or maybe it's greed; the specifics of his character's struggle are lost in the shoddy writing. Tim Story's direction is bland and the movie operates using a value system I found antiquated and neutered for mass appeal. Nonsensical scenarios are invented to demonstrate the Four's powers, but are often so forced the only thing Fantastic Four succeeds in is comedy.

[b]The Island

[img]http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/dreamworks_skg/the_island/_group_photos/ewan_mcgregor3.jpg[/img]

[/b]Maybe I should have known better (Michael Bay!), but this was much more of a real action movie than I had anticipated. Much of the film's running time is spent watching high-speed car chases or people running from point A to B; for those not big into action that isn't always focused, you may find your mind doing some major wandering. On the less noisy side of things, Ewan McGregor is fine in a dual role, if a bit smug. Scarlett Johansson, someone whose work I normally appreciate, has very little to do and falls into the trap of a few bad line readings. Sean Bean is intelligently menacing and Djimon Hounsou suffers an unbelievable character revelation that makes his character worthless. The story is interesting and the middle of the film is unpredictable. The two worlds of the future are well-designed and plausible (save for some extremely awkward product placement during the film's first third). The end of the film is anti-climactic to an extreme, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth when the end credits rolled. Bay's direction is shaky and disorients when the editing becomes too abrupt; The Island is an enjoyable two-hour experience, but falls flat during its lazy finale.
[size=1]
Note: Special effects and music were not complete in the print screened (effects seemed fine to me, however).[/size]

Fantastic Four
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[b]Fantastic Four

[img]http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/twentieth_century_fox/fantastic_four/ioan_gruffudd/fantastic4.jpg[/img]

[/b]As a child I was a fan of all things Marvel, so naturally, the first official film adaptation of The Fantastic Four excited me. Unfortunately, the film comes from the man behind last year's [b]Taxi[/b], and boy, does it show! Right from scene one I knew this film was Doomed (the capitalization is two-fold). The dialogue embarrasses nearly as much as the acting; each character is lifeless and boring with Julian McMahon's Dr. Doom being the only possible exception. The plot momentum is generated by absurd and muddled motives stemming from Doom's desire for revenge, or maybe it's greed; the specifics of his character's struggle are lost in the shoddy writing. Tim Story's direction is bland and the movie operates using a value system I found antiquated and neutered for mass appeal. Nonsensical scenarios are invented to demonstrate the Four's powers, but are often so forced the only thing Fantastic Four succeeds in is comedy.

[b]The Island

[img]http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/dreamworks_skg/the_island/_group_photos/ewan_mcgregor3.jpg[/img]

[/b]Maybe I should have known better (Michael Bay!), but this was much more of a real action movie than I had anticipated. Much of the film's running time is spent watching high-speed car chases or people running from point A to B; for those not big into action that isn't always focused, you may find your mind doing some major wandering. On the less noisy side of things, Ewan McGregor is fine in a dual role, if a bit smug. Scarlett Johansson, someone whose work I normally appreciate, has very little to do and falls into the trap of a few bad line readings. Sean Bean is intelligently menacing and Djimon Hounsou suffers an unbelievable character revelation that makes his character worthless. The story is interesting and the middle of the film is unpredictable. The two worlds of the future are well-designed and plausible (save for some extremely awkward product placement during the film's first third). The end of the film is anti-climactic to an extreme, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth when the end credits rolled. Bay's direction is shaky and disorients when the editing becomes too abrupt; The Island is an enjoyable two-hour experience, but falls flat during its lazy finale.
[size=1]
Note: Special effects and music were not complete in the print screened (effects seemed fine to me, however).[/size]

War of the Worlds
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[b]War of the Worlds

[img]http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/paramount_pictures/war_of_the_worlds/_group_photos/tom_cruise13.jpg[/img]

[/b]As a huge fan of Steven Spielberg and of [b]Minority Report[/b], I found myself very excited to see War of the Worlds. Watching the film is an entertaining and interesting experience, but while Spielberg has nailed down a solid, often exceptional, directorial style when his characters are quietly hiding or loudly fighting, the familial drama seems like a requisite part of the story with a conception that seems all too easy. A divorced-dad-rekindling-his-relationship-with-his-kids storyline has become so obvious as a plot device that true depth must be achieved for such a story to be successful on a meaningful level. All the acting is good, closely watching Tom Cruise's face during a few key scenes turned out to be rather impressive, but all their loaded-with-heart actions and resolutions seem like an excuse for filmmakers with brains to make big action movies.

Of course, an excuse shouldn't be needed when the action scenes are inventive and exciting, which is expectedly where War of the Worlds finds its strong points. The effects are all wonderful, except an odd shot or two of something as surprisingly simple as birds flying. The whole movie feels rather intimate, as there isn't much cutting to incidents taking place outside of the immediate world of the characters. In terms of drama, the strength of the resonance at end of the film is proportional to how much you mind being manipulated. Otherwise, the story's resolution is thought-provoking, unexpected, and possibly a little silly. With this film, what's on screen is exactly what you'd expect; War of the Worlds is an exciting, well-directed action film that says a lot about human nature (you know, survival mode) riddled with a cancerous, ill-executed, "real meaning" of the movie subplot that ultimately just gets in the way.

Me and You and Everyone We Know
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[b]Me and You and Everyone We Know

[img]http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/ifc_films/me_and_you_and_everyone_we_know/_group_photos/miranda_july1.jpg[/img]
[/b]
Meshing performance art with film, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is episodic and clearly a movie by a first-time filmmaker. Much of the film is rough around the edges with acting that is almost painstakingly earnest; however, July creates a grand, swooping tone that makes you feel like she is pouring her heart out in every scene and line of dialogue, whether it's her or another actor who delivers it. July has an acting style that reminded me (but no one I was with) of Laura Dern; a kind of slow speech that is affected with wit and honesty.

Certainly, the biggest bone to pick people will have with this movie comes in deciding whether or not the film justifies its quirks. Fortunately, July presents unusual, fantastic behavior as a lifestyle and as a conduit for all the unlived dreams that life has to offer. She never makes fun of her characters even when the opportunity is there, avoiding any potentially lazy humor. The film is poignant and even finds room for the abstract before reaching its unexpected final scene. July entertains and provokes, hard to ask for much more.