cdmiller's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Hot Tub Time Machine
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

A woefully unfunny, ironically misguided romp that fails to do anything new with its subject matter.

Through a series of plot contrivances involving bar fights, duels, and empty-headed ex-girlfriends, the plights of our four increasingly juvenile and unsympathetic main characters feel to hinge entirely on the lame plot of the movie. They are forgettable and cartoonish; neither the writing nor the performances are strong enough to foster a character with an endearing legacy like, for example, McLovin' from Superbad.

Hot Tub Time Machine is not nearly as unabashedly silly as it promised to be. The film had an imperceptible layer of amateurish gloss, or to be more clear, it strived for a technical sophistication that sort of contradicted the simple stupidity of its title and concept. Gags are poorly developed and feel unfinished with weak punchlines.

I wanted to smack my hand against my face and say "oh my God how dumb!" as I tried to catch my breath between belly laughs. But that was regrettably just not so...sadly, this excursion into Stupidom was not meant to be.

The Lovely Bones
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I started reading the novel The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold over last summer. It?s a pretty quick read until you reach the last few chapters where the book labors to make its point, finally achieving the denouement promised by the novel?s title. It was such a slow process to reach the end I found myself only able to plod through a couple pages a sitting.
The novel is quite good overall, but I could not picture a film version of it, hence my trepidation in seeing filmmaker Peter Jackson?s vision of the novel.

Now, I understand it?s impossible to include everything from the book in the film, but when the filmmakers choose to excise key points from the novel, and in turn deliver malnourished characters, and a story lacking in depth, then there is a problem.

Furthermore, the film?s supernatural elements overshadow what is at its core, a simple story about a grieving family. In the movie, we never get a good enough sense of the characters, whereas in the book each one is developed fully: the characters grew; they matured, and learned things. However, in the film, things move far too quickly; scenes are too short, not allowing for any emotional resonance.

I don't like Jackson's use of the camera: it always moves, never stopping to give the audience a little time to breathe, or to feel and experience the loss with the characters. Having said that, I do like how the camera seems to float, capturing Susie's fleeting ghost-like presence among her family and friends.

The Lovely Bones also makes the mistake of romanticizing our dead protagonist, turning her into a saint.

Finally, there is nothing thought-provoking about Peter Jackson?s The Lovely Bones; I just sat there passively, waiting for it to end.

Confession: My #1 reason for seeing this movie was to see how the film?s composer, one of my favorite artists, Brian Eno, would incorporate my favorite song, The Big Ship, into the movie. I was satisfied the music:

The Book of Eli
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

It was the cold, blue opening sequence of The Book of Eli that had me reaffirming all my negative notions surrounding another post-apocalyptic suckfest; the obligatory skull on the ground, a gust of wind stirs up the dead sand. Then, like a flash, everything glowed orange, the dawn of a new day. Yet, I still doubted the film, even as it consistently surprised me.

The setting: the world has been reduced to a rust-colored poop; humanity lacks essential resources, water is scarce and society seems to have broken into two factions: those who are cannibals and possess no morals or sense of culture, and those attempting a sort of makeshift civilization, but one that is predicated on fear. Decidedly, none of these are proper alternatives.

Enter Eli (Denzel Washington), a lone-wander who appears to be guided by God to head West. ?Keep to the path? he says repeatedly, reminding himself that he serves an important purpose?to deliver ?The Book.? On his way he crosses paths with the film?s villain, Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman. It was around this part of the movie where I began to ignore all my preconceptions of the genre, and conform to the considerate nature of the film itself...

The movie is filled with surprising touches. At the beginning, Eli is wearing a black and white knitted scarf of some sort. It looks strong. He even slaughters a few baddies while wearing it. The viewer begins to assume the garment is apart of our hero?s ?costume.? But as soon as he gets to a town, he trades it away. In that moment I felt like I lost my initial connection with Eli, and would have to find some other iconic image to attach myself to. But as the movie wore on, Eli lost even more of what I figured to be his trademark ?features.? The movie revealed itself to be quite different from what I expected. As the story slowly came into focus, I discovered the components of Eli?s wardrobe and weaponry to be solely utilitarian, and had nothing to do with contriving an image of our hero.

Another thing I found surprising was the character arc of one of Carnegie?s henchmen. He bargains with Carnegie to keep Solara (Mila Kunis) to himself. Now, this guy was most likely born after the flash, and despite his brutish behavior does have some sort of longing for a real-life human connection, which looks to have evolved out of a misplaced need for companionship. Like a child, he manages to gain our sympathy.

Some issues: not enough background on Carnegie. Yes, he is old and along with Eli is one of the few remaining humans who can recall what the world was liked before it all went away, but how did he come to rule that town? The film also did not give a good enough sense of how far west they are traveling, or the amount of distance covered.

Also, the last third of the movie does have its share of plot holes and contrivances, but there is a simple answer, whether or not it satisfies is entirely different: ?Faith heals all plot holes.?

BUT I did not feel preached to. Most of the overtly religious bits were discussed in passing between Eli and Solara who has no concept of religion, so we only got a very elementary examination?

The action scenes are directed with such kinetic energy. In one scene, the camera glides in and out of bullet holes creating a realistic sense of space; the editing is kept to a welcomed minimum, making the action feel exhilaratingly ?in the moment.?

Even though The Book of Eli masquerades as an action/thriller, above all else it is the surprising substance of the story that kept me interested throughout. The film does not linger, it does not focus on the obvious, nor wallow in action; instead it tells a meaningful story with conviction. Now, I?m not remotely religious but I can certainly appreciate the message of the film as a piece of allegorical fiction: ?Do unto others, etc.?

The Book of Eli is not filled with supernatural foes like zombies, or vampires, just corrupt human souls, and it is through faith and believing in oneself is Good able to triumph.

Rating: 3 Stars

Rewatchability Factor: 8.0

Avatar (2009)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Avatar is writer/director James Cameron's long-gestating, 20+ year project finally come to life (and out of his mind). It is his first film since 1997's Titanic, and needless to say, expectations were big with this one. Not just because of Cameron's track record, but also because of the much-hyped revelatory special effects the film would utilize to tell its story?

It finally arrived in late 2009 capping off a decade that made great strides in digital filmmaking. Now, Avatar is the new benchmark the industry needs to aspire to.

However, this is a movie not a science project, nor is it a predatory chest beat that establishes Cameron as the new king of CGI and modern filmmaking. There are still age-old movie practices that must be adhered to in order to tell an effective story, which above all else is the reason I go to the movies. The special effects should always be in service of the story? and it is in the writing department Avatar comes up way short.

The fact that I focus on this aspect of the film says how ineffective the special effects ultimately are; they could not save the movie from its lazy dialogue, and lackluster plotting. Dare I say the effects were even "wasted" on such a mediocre story.

I've never seen a movie so wonderfully lavish in its technical creation of another world, yet so lazy in its narrative. There is an alarming discrepancy between the two I was conscious of throughout, which dragged the film down.

All is not bad with this picture. It is strongest when there is no talking, and the action is cranked to 11. Yeah, I found the ending action to be the best part of the movie, that?s what I came to see, and where the effects were best utilized. The movie should have been more action oriented, and less of a preachy, recycled cautionary tale on the destructive force of man.

Some other notes:
-I tend to prefer more realistic effects?meaning more representative of ?real-life,? and not the ?fake,? cartoony type found in Avatar.
-3D was cool, but it made the screen dark, and dulled the vibrancy of the images. (I sometimes took of my 3D glasses to look at the screen.)

Up in the Air
Up in the Air (2009)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Rating 4 Stars

-George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man who makes his living firing people. He travels from city to city, state to state, person to person, relieving them of their employment. He loves his job, and in a way, I envy him.

-As a soon-to-be college graduate who is unsure of what lies ahead there is something comforting in Ryan's chosen lifestyle: he relies on the amenities of the service industry to get him through his days; a constant stream of anonymous hotels, and random rental cars, but he is loyal to his airline. Including the contents of his meticulously packed suitcase, these are the components of Ryan's rootless existence.

-But Ryan Bingham is not the grim reaper one may think, he is cooly understanding, and even a bit hopeful as he recites his trademark motivational lines.

-One viewing deep, I could not detect a false note in Up in the Air. Every moment rings true thanks to the sharp script which manages to simultaneously make us laugh at its critique of an increasingly impersonal internet culture, and ache for the newly jobless individuals Ryan has just let go; their uncertain futures mirror the current recession, and make us quake silently as we ponder our own.

-This a movie that does not benefit from hyperbole, so I shall not praise it using big, boisterous words. The film's strength is in how it subtly weaves different complex themes, and manages to be both humorous and dramatic. It also does this in a highly entertaining and mainstream way.

-Thank you, Jason Rietman, for answering Juno's warped childish sensibilities with this mature, poignant story of man coming to terms with his own self-worth.

Rewatchability Factor: 9.5