Pinhead Max's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

22 Jump Street
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I haven't seen the show, but I loved the first "21 Jump Street" movie. Watching it was like being at a really wild party: a flurry of inspired jokes constantly subverting the hyperreality movies usually create. Imagine my disappointment, then, that that sensibility is completely lost in this sequel. The jokes this time around are few and far between.
On top of that, it's one of those sequels that simply repeats the original formula. Literally: it's almost exactly the same, beat for beat. The movie constantly makes it clear that it's aware of this, but it barely makes any effort to make fun of it. Most of the time, the same jokes are just blatantly recycled. So no matter how self-aware the movie tries to be, that doesn't make it any less redundant.
But thankfully, the climax saves this movie from being a complete disappointment. It's completely insane and over the top, and is packed with genuinely good jokes, so that's when it *finally* starts resembling the first movie. That last half-hour is the main thing I took away from this movie; I doubt I'll ever laugh so hard again this year. :)
Aside from that, there are *some* good parts along the way, like the twists involving the photograph and Captain Dickson. But with its reliance on copying from the first movie, as well as some all-too-familiar cliches, it's mostly just kind of a bore.

My rating: 50%

Batman: Year One
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Like with most of these DC animated movies, the main focus of my attention was the story. It's a fascinating look at Batman and Jim Gordon's early days: Gordon's efforts to rid the Gotham police force of corruption, and Bruce Wayne beginning his life of crime-fighting as the Batman. I especially like how they didn't make Batman perfect from day one: he's still an amateur who has to hone his skills. I also loved Catwoman's story arc and her frustration at always being second to Batman. The Harvey Dent cameo was welcome, too. :) The only thing I didn't like was Gordon's affair with Detective Essen: not only is it completely unfounded -- Gordon never implies that he's in any way unhappy with Barbara -- but it ultimately proves pointless. Overall, this is a well-written and insightful look at the back-stories of your favourite characters that makes you wonder what happened to all that talent Frank Miller clearly used to have.

My rating: 75%

X-Men: Days of Future Past

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The title of this movie is a bit misleading: this isn't a strict adaptation of the classic story from the comics. Yes, it involves time travel to prevent an assassination, but it's still within the continuity of the other "X-Men" movies. And, in a word, wow! :)
The movie is impressive in almost every respect, but I'm especially amazed at how well written it is. The story is everything that a comic book movie should be: very well written, and exciting thanks to being witty with both its clever ideas and its endearing characters.
One personal highlight for me was that they actually addressed a continuity hiccup between "First Class" and "X-Men 2" involving Beast. It's revealed that Hank has developed a serum that controls his mutation -- which leads to a character arc with Xavier using it to allow himself to walk, at the cost of his psychic powers.
All the performances are top-notch, but Michael Fassbender stands out in particular: he had me convinced by about five minutes in that he *was* Magneto! :)
But the main thing the movie did for me was the last half-hour. The tension in the climax is nothing short of exhilarating. Mild spoilers here, but what's especially poignant about it is Xavier's attempts to convince Mystique not to kill Trask.
In conclusion, I have no doubt that this will be proclaimed one of the best "X-Men" movies, but I personally don't even have to think twice: it *is* the best. :)

My rating: 85%

Godzilla
Godzilla(2014)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I'd need a full review to properly describe this one, so consider this the abridged version. :)
Most of the time, I'm against American remakes, but I think, considering what a betrayal the last American "Godzilla" was, they really didn't have a choice with this one. And thankfully, this movie completely blows the 1998 version out of the water, creating an affectionate tribute to the whole franchise. (I'm guessing; I've only seen the original, and my knowledge of the rest of the series comes from Cinemassacre's "Godzillathon".) For example, they mention that Godzilla and other monsters have been feeding and growing on radiation, which presumably refers to the other monsters in the series. It never forgets, however, that Godzilla will leave destruction in his wake.
The human characters are boring, and they take up so much of the movie that that can be a little disappointing. But the story, and the plan they devise, still consistently held my interest.
But the final monster battle was definitely the highlight. :) In particular, when Godzilla actually unleashes his trademark atomic breath, it was all I could do to keep from crying out, "YEEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!"
I didn't like how Godzilla's head looks disproportionately small -- which could be where all this "bloated Godzilla" stuff came from.
In short, while I could have used a little more focus on the monsters, I was still more than satisfied with what I got. Just don't let the trailer fool you: it's nowhere near as grim and serious as the original.

My rating: 80%

X-Men
X-Men(2000)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

While it does have its share of witty character moments, overall I found this movie a little too slow and unfulfilling. It has about as much content and stakes as a TV episode, and feels about as long as well; nothing particularly grand ever happens. Still, it does have its highlights, like the accident with Rogue in Wolverine's bedroom, and especially the teamwork in the climax. But on the whole, it's not really anything special. Now, "X-Men 2", on the other hand... we'll get to that awesomeness here: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/user/750204/reviews/?movie=10568 ! :) I'd actually recommend watching the two back-to-back, because that's exactly what this one feels like: a warm-up before the feature presentation.

My rating: 65%

X-Men: The Last Stand

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This one's a mixed bag -- both in terms of quality and as a jumble of storylines. For a start, it was great to see the Beast embodied perfectly -- though it's never explained how he became the Beast in between film two and this one. As for the Phoenix... at least the character's reinvention still fits in with what we've seen in the previous movies. A lot of people complain that nothing more is revealed about Wolverine's past, but I always felt the second movie revealed all he needed to know. But the movie's main detractor, besides the truly *awful* CGI, is that, just like the first movie, the final climax doesn't feel nearly grand enough, especially compared to the second movie. To sum it up, it's definitely the weakest of the series, but not as bad as people make it out to be.

My rating: 60%

X2: X-Men United

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

To put it simply, this movie delivers in spades everything the first one lacked. The script is far tighter, the stakes are much higher, and the characters really come into their own. The plot centres around a plot to exterminate all mutants, and you actually find yourself really impressed by how close it comes to succeeding. There are a couple of welcome cameos in Kitty Pryde and especially Colossus. My favourite moments include Pyro's character arc and the scene where Mystique exploits Wolverine's feelings for Jean Grey, and the final climax is just incredible. *Everything* in this film works, and in my opinion it blows the original out of the water.

My rating: 80%

Transcendence
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Dr Will Caster's wife Evelyn transfers his mind to a supercomputer in order to save his life, creating a sentient, omnipresent machine. But as the AI's thirst for knowledge grows, it becomes increasingly clear that it can't be stopped.
I was really looking forward to this one, because it's the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, who constantly works with Christopher Nolan. And... I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but "Transcendence" is a disappointment.
A lot of my initial complaints are actually negated in hindsight, but some character actions still come across as just plain idiotic. For example, the construction of Will's facility is hardly inconspicuous.
But my main issue with the movie is that the neo-Luddites are portrayed as the villains at first, but then readily unite with our heroes with no tension whatsoever. I know they're uniting against a common enemy, but it just seemed to me that something was missing. Speaking of which, I never in a million years thought I'd agree with Luddites, but they were absolutely right: it was plainly obvious that this AI *had* to be stopped! The moment where he basically possesses someone who's connected to him is frankly horrifying!
Also, what the hell are those particles that float up from the ground? It *begs* an explanation!
Overall, this is a movie that had great potential to be a smart, compelling sci-fi thriller, but suffers from pretentious philosophy and incomplete ideas.

My rating: 50%

Rio 2
Rio 2(2014)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The original "Rio" was a surprisingly effective family film, but this sequel is a different story. For one thing, it's simply one of those half-hearted, sloppy sequels that does nothing to justify its existence. But it also has *way* too much going on: half a dozen wrestling plotlines that seem like they're there just to pad the movie out. We have Blu trying to fit in with Jewel's family, Nigel seeking revenge, a talent show audition subplot that goes absolutely nowhere, a turf war, and a completely unnecessary second villain in the poachers. Plus, one of the great things about the first "Rio" was that there were very few song and dance sequences, but this one is just one step away from a full-blown musical. On top of all that, it throws in that tired old in-your-face "save the rainforest" message that people complained about with "Avatar" -- complete with the corny "this is our land" motivational speech; that moment was where I lost all faith in this movie! In conclusion, I went in expecting an unnecessary sequel, but this actually turned out to be a little worse than that: unfunny, hackneyed and overly cluttered.

My rating: 40%

Calvary
Calvary(2014)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

An unblemished priest receives a death threat in the confessional, and is given until Sunday week to set his affairs in order. Honestly, I don't have too much to say about this one. It's from the writer/director of "The Guard", but it's actually far more serious than I would have thought -- there aren't nearly as many laughs as I was expecting -- so it really depends on how invested you get in this man's situation. And for me, maybe it was the main character's indifference to just about everything, but I didn't particularly care. The other characters were boring, and the whole narrative was a little too disjointed for me, just showing how the priest interacts with his community one day at a time. You could probably talk for hours about the scathing critique of corruption within the church and the government, but none of that interests me. Being a Sligo resident myself, I had far more fun recognising the various locations on which the film was shot. :) The ending certainly has a powerful impact, but overall this movie did very little for me. It's not bad by any means, but it's not very engaging either.

My rating: 60%

Noah
Noah(2014)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Hands up who *doesn't* know the story! :) When you're doing a tale so engrained in our culture, you've really got to bring something special if you're going to stand out from the crowd. And thankfully, this film does. :) But to explain the genius of it, I might have to give some minor spoilers.
What holds it all together is Noah himself. I still think Russell Crowe is miscast, but I just *adore* the way the character's written. He's more of an antihero in this version, who believes that God has tasked him with making sure humanity *doesn't* survive, so that the Earth will be pure again.
Oh, and they never actually call Him God in this version, instead referring to Him as "the Creator". That's the other thing I really love about this movie: it doesn't attach itself strictly to Christianity. Instead, it seems to agree with me that the core of all religions in general is morality.
There's also a great bit of symbolism involving a snakeskin.
It's a movie that acknowledges both the good and the bad at the roots of human nature, putting both the two in constant battle, and ultimately reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

My rating: 75%

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I get the feeling this is going to be this year's "Catching Fire", where everyone but me seems to think it's a superior sequel.
"Captain America: The First Avenger" was my favourite of the pre-"Avengers 1" movies, mostly because of how well it developed the main character. And that's my main problem with this sequel: there's not an inkling of the character's ideals and integrity that I grew to love in the first place. Instead, he just comes across as a generic run-of-the-mill protagonist in a story of political corruption -- a subject, by the way, that *really* doesn't interest me. It just doesn't feel like Captain America anymore.
That and it simply failed to deliver on the one thing I most wanted to see: Captain America trying to adapt to the modern world. He just seems to fit in *way* too easily.
Now, what *did* I like? Well, the twist involving Nick Fury certainly took me aback. I like how Cap's expertise comes in handy in the army base scene. Falcon was awesome! :) And the reveal of who the Winter Soldier is leads to a fantastic dilemma on Cap's part for the climax -- even if, to quote one of Linkara's running gags, it just raises too many questions. It's a well written movie, which depresses me all the more that it just never piqued my interest.
So, to sum up, while I didn't dislike this movie, it's easily my least favourite of the Marvel Studios canon to date.

My rating: 65%

The Grand Budapest Hotel

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

With its exaggerated sets and deadpan performances, this is unmistakably a Wes Anderson movie. I haven't yet seen his earlier, more familiar works (I've only seen "Fantastic Mr Fox" and "Moonrise Kingdom", both of which I thought were okay at best), but if this movie is anything to go by, I'd say I'm in safe hands! :) It's basically a mystery story about a hotel concierge being falsely accused of murder and setting out to clear his name. And, as a straightforward mystery, it works really well; I was genuinely invested. Wes Anderson's trademark humorous direction may have enhanced that considerably: the actors are so straight-faced and so serious that it makes the cartoonish world around them seem all the more hilarious -- particularly the overly speedy ski chase. :) The only thing I wasn't overly fond of was how it's told in flashback, and then in a flashback within a flashback. But the rest was a real treat: both a dryly humorous comedy and an effective mystery story all in one.

My rating: 80%

Juno
Juno(2007)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This review is going to mark a change in pace for me. I've long since lost the passion, the drive I used to have for writing reviews; it's just becoming a chore by now. I now have all the more respect for people who can keep it up long-term! :) So, depending on how much I have to say about the movie, the review may be reduced from the 200-250 words I used to write to something short and sweet -- as is the case here.

I'll be honest: when this film started, I thought I was going to hate it, what with all the made-up slang. But, as the film progressed, I began to gradually grow more fond of these characters, to the point where I was completely along for the ride. To me, that's the mark of a good drama (comedy or not): how much you get invested. The performances are all top-notch, and Jason Reitman's direction strikes the perfect tone. It's also been quite a while since I came across a movie that even inspired me to buy the soundtrack! :) The only slight disappointment is that it doesn't really go into how the pregnancy affects Juno's school life. But overall, this is a funny and increasingly charming movie.

My rating: 75%

Face/Off
Face/Off(1997)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I was intrigued by this movie's premise: a secret agent and a terrorist swap faces and pretend to be each other. But, sadly, it turned out to be the kind of action movie I don't typically enjoy.
First of all, the overabundance of action scenes and all the panning shots... any movie that reminds me of Michael Bay is not on good terms!
But more importantly, the first action scene, for me, sums up why this movie doesn't work. The characters are barely set up at all before they're thrust into a big action scene, so it's hard to get invested. And when the entire premise depends on playing another character, you really need to make sure the characters are fully developed and understood. We know absolutely *nothing* about them before they're transformed, so we don't have a clue what they're supposed to be like as each other aside from the basic disposition.
Also, the film is so stylish that that actually works to its disadvantage. For example, in the Mexican standoff scene at the end, what does it do once the guns start firing? It goes into slow-motion, which completely ruins the impact.
Now, what *did* I like? Well, John Travolta and Nicolas Cage are both excellent, especially at playing both personalities and demonstrating how they clash. I also really like the "let's kill each other" scene with the mirrors.
But overall, this movie puts style so firmly before substance that it's distracting and disappointing.

My rating: 50%

The Host
The Host(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Needless to say, I went into "The Host" expecting to hate it. And... I *knew* this would happen! I expected the absolute worst, so I didn't get it! I mean, don't get me wrong -- it's bad -- but I was expecting it to be potentially the worst movie of the year.
The premise is that mankind has been almost completely taken over by parasitic aliens. Melanie Stryder is the latest victim, but her own mind remains intact and starts to fight back against the foreign entity in her head, so she's always in two minds.
Now, that sounds like an intriguing sci-fi premise. But the reason Melanie clings on is for the people she loves most. So yes, the aliens are foiled by the power of love! Oh, fuck off!
Another big problem is that, just like "Twilight", the characters are all flat as pancakes. So, for instance, we're told that Melanie and Jared are in love, but we never see their relationship develop, so we don't believe it.
You want to know the moment this movie died for me? Early on, when Melanie's fighting for control of the car, the car suddenly leaps into the air just so it can roll off the road. Uh, bullshit! That road was perfectly even; there was *no* reason for the car to leave the ground!
To sum up, while I didn't *hate* this movie (again, because I was expecting to), it's still shoddily written and about as sappy as it gets.

My rating: 25%

Gravity
Gravity(2013)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Gravity" follows Dr Ryan Stone after her shuttle is destroyed by satellite debris, leaving her stranded and drifting in orbit.
I ignored all the hype surrounding this movie, intending to go in with neutral expectations. And... it was pretty good. :)
I can see why James Cameron declared it the best space movie he's ever seen, because it perfectly nails the illusion of being in space. The way they simulate zero-gravity is utterly convincing -- even down to the little details like tears and flames. Also, naturally, they keep in mind that there's nothing to carry sound. Even when there are explosions in the background, they're completely silent.
This flawless recreation of space only enhances the inherent desperation of the story, too. At first Sandra Bullock came off to me as pretty wooden, but I found myself progressively feeling for the character more and more as she succumbs to loneliness and the pressures of the danger she's in.
But (and I never in my life thought I'd say this!) what really makes this movie stand out is the 3D. I saw it in IMAX, and I could go on forever about how well it suits the format! I do have to wonder how well it's going to hold up on the small screen, though.
Still, on its own terms, this is a good, solid thriller whose single greatest strength is how well it captures its atmosphere. So my conclusion is: not quite a five-star rating, but close. :)

My rating: 85%

Thor: The Dark World

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The ancient race of Dark Elves are reawakened when their ultimate weapon, the Aether, finds a host body in Jane Foster, forcing Thor to team up with his convicted brother Loki to escape Asgard and confront them.
I liked the first "Thor", but did think it was a tad uneven. So I may be in a minority on this, but I actually enjoyed this sequel even more. It's more focused and more consistent.
Even as the movie started, however, I didn't think I'd come to that conclusion. Though the first act is often laugh-out-loud funny, tone-wise it feels like a typical lesser sequel. But as it progresses, it keeps building on top of itself at a seemingly constant rate, to the point where I was on the edge of my seat during the climax -- helped all the more by the concept of hopping through portals! :)
On the whole, I was very much satisfied with it. The only nitpicks I can think of are so minor and far between. For one thing, I really can't stand the character of Darcy: annoying as all hell! And maybe it's just because I'd read about it in advance, but Anthony Hopkins seemed very unenthusiastic.
But most of my nitpicks are ultimately negligible. This is a standard blockbuster in many ways, but with enough wit and enough focus on its simple premise to keep it consistently entertaining, and its sense of momentum is almost perfect.

My rating: 85%

Diana
Diana(2013)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Diana" chronicles the last two years of Princess Diana's life, with particular focus on her relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.
This one, I only saw out of morbid curiosity. And, while I didn't think it quite lived up to its overwhelmingly bad reputation, it's still pretty lame.
The biggest problem with it is just the fact that the love story takes up nearly all the screen time. And on top of that, it doesn't seem the least bit realistic; it feels like a trite piece of Sunday afternoon TV fluff. Even though I know nothing about Princess Diana myself, I can understand the animosity there: it's applying such a feeble story to a topic that, for a lot of people, is a very delicate subject.
Diana's public life is hardly ever shown, and whenever it is, it always comes completely out of nowhere, like the movie suddenly remembered, "Oh yeah, maybe I should talk about that stuff too!" For God's sake, her divorce is completely skipped over and only mentioned in passing!
Not to mention, the stereotyping is just absurd. There's one scene where the Princess is at a jazz club in disguise, and she howls with laughter when the host drops an F-bomb.
So yeah, this movie's pretty ridiculous! But the reason why I give it two stars (out of five) instead of one is because I never found myself truly angry at it; it was all just dull and unremarkable.

My rating: 35%

Rush
Rush(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Rush" is an account of the 1976 Formula One season, especially the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
Ordinarily, I probably would have skipped this movie, thinking it wouldn't be my cup of tea. But then I saw Film Brain's positively glowing review, and I decided to give it a chance. And boy am I glad I did! :)
In a word, wow! This movie does something that all good sports movies should: it pulls you into the sporting mindset so that even someone who doesn't give a shit about the sport itself can still understand what makes it so exciting. (I can vouch for myself!:D) You can tell that the filmmakers are huge Formula One fans, and that passion is conveyed so absolutely and so effectively that the audience can't help but feel it themselves. That's what makes the racing scenes so exhilarating -- as well as how perfectly they nail the sense of danger.
The cinematography is also remarkable. It completes the period setting by adding a grain effect to the footage, so that you can't tell where the re-enactment ends and the stock footage begins.
The performances, needless to say, are all top-notch, particularly the bitter but respectful relationship between the two leads.
To sum it up, I found this movie every bit as exciting as a real Formula One fan would find the sport itself. And to think, I almost overlooked it! Hands down, my favourite movie of the year so far.

My rating: 90%

Captain Phillips

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Captain Phillips" is an account of the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009, in which Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by Somali pirates.
When I first heard about this movie, the first thing that struck me was how unbelievably lame the title was! I mean, how much more generic can you get? I thought, "That *can't* be the official title!" Luckily, the film itself turned out to be *much* more interesting. :)
Since I don't know the true story, I thought it was going to take place entirely on the ship as the pirates' attacks are fended off. But actually, that's only the first half. The second half takes place on the lifeboat, as the pirates attempt to get the captain back to shore and the Navy tries to stop them peacefully. That adds a great diversity to the movie, constantly keeping things fresh and tense.
This also applies to the character of Captain Phillips himself: he's given a good range of emotions to work with, from determinedly defending his ship to fearing for his life. I'm a huge Tom Hanks fan, and here he delivers yet another performance to be proud of. The only thing that *might* prevent him getting an Oscar nomination is that apparently the movie seriously twists the facts in order to portray the captain as more of a hero than he really was.
Still, in its own right, this is a very enjoyable movie, rich in suspense and momentum.

My rating: 75%

Prisoners
Prisoners(2013)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Prisoners" principally follows two characters in the search for two missing girls: the distraught father trying to torture information out of the apparent culprit, and the police officer on the case.
It's strange that, among so many movies this year based on true stories, this one apparently isn't! :) It plays itself so seriously that I kept expecting "a true story" to appear on screen.
And it's that sense of realism that's the movie's greatest strength. That approach perfectly fits the grim, sombre tone the movie sets up -- but never to the point where it gets depressing. Nothing feels farfetched or artificial, and the characters all seem like real people. In particular, major kudos to Hugh Jackman! :) Even though the character is being driven to horrific torture, every mannerism of his performance makes him seem just like an ordinary guy every step of the way. When he flips out, you really believe it!
But while it's executed so brilliantly, it's not tailored completely to my taste. A lot of the dialogue is a little too simplistic for my liking, and the overall pacing is maybe a bit too slow to be truly engaging or suspenseful.
It's also pretty disappointing that Hugh Jackman's wife gets tossed aside for almost the entire movie, but now I'm just nitpicking.
Overall, while it plods a little too much for me, this is still one of the most impressive movies I've seen all year.

My rating: 80%

The Iceman
The Iceman(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"The Iceman" is a biopic of the notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski, who kept his true professional life hidden from his family.
I have to admit, this is a hard movie to talk about. Since I don't know the true story, my only hope was the film would tell it well enough to hold my interest.
Well, it half succeeded. During the first half, I was really struck by the earnestly morose tone, and could follow the proceedings without any difficulty. But, as the film progressed, I found it increasingly hard to understand what was going on and how the various events were connected -- probably because I was having trouble cracking the dialogue. While I wasn't completely lost, it did leave me increasingly confused.
The brilliance of Michael Shannon's performance as Kuklinski never faltered, though. :) He's portrayed as a very cold, professional killer, completely unflinching. But he still truly loves his family -- indeed, as he puts it, they're the only people who mean anything at all to him. So, when they're threatened later on, you start to get desperately worried just as he does. Also, after "Man of Steel", it's such a relief to see Michael Shannon give a performance to be proud of within the same year! :)
To sum it up, while I might need to see it again to fully understand it, I'd still recommend this to anyone who wants to see a solid contract killer story. It's not great, but it's very effective.

My rating: 70%

Olympus Has Fallen
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

A former Secret Service agent happens to be in the White House when it's taken over by North Korean terrorists, and must stop them with a little help from his contacts on the outside.
Does that sound like a rewrite of "Die Hard" to you? Well, surely no one would be *that* creatively bankrupt. To quote the Nostalgia Critic, they are when they frigging advertise it like that! Right on the front cover, it says "'Die Hard' in the White House". Subtext: "Throw out all originality, ye who enter here!"
Even my impression of it as a movie is tired and unoriginal. Like so many other modern action movies, it's not fun: it's boring. It's full of shaky cam that's not fun to watch: just disorientating and frustrating.
I also can't help noticing how grossly misogynistic the movie is. There's the death of the First Lady at the beginning, and the first hostage to be killed for a cheap shock death is a woman.
But my biggest problem with the movie, and the main contributor to its insufferable boredom factor: it takes itself way too seriously. When the terrorists strike, the gunning down of innocent civilians makes it feel too much like a real terrorist attack. There's just no escapism to it.
So, while it's at least bloodier and bolder than most action movies today, it unfortunately takes its authentic brutality too far. It's just all-around devoid of fun.

My rating: 30%

Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Tony Stark's world is shattered by a ruthless terrorist known as the Mandarin, forcing him back to basics with minimal hardware as he sets out to find his nemesis.
As a fan of all these interconnected Marvel movies, naturally I was looking forward to this one. And, while I don't think it's one of the best overall, when it's good, it's really good.
There were a few things that bothered me, so let's get those out of the way first. It tries to be more psychological than the first two movies by making Tony prone to panic attacks following the events of "The Avengers", but nothing significant ever comes of that. It's also far more unexpectedly gruesome than the first two, including several scenes of torture. And the ending seems like it's trying to wrap up a trilogy, but nothing about the ending makes sense.
But of course, where the movie shines is its action scenes, especially the big climactic battle. It's so entertaining that you're willing to forgive many of the film's shortcomings.
But now let's address the elephant in the room: the Mandarin twist. :) I never read the comics myself, but I can understand why fans would feel betrayed. Personally, in the context of the movie, I think it works.
Overall, while I would advise approaching with caution because it does get far more grisly than its predecessors, I'd still say this is worthy follow-up: equally humorous and exhilarating.

My rating: 70%

Good Luck Chuck

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Charlie Logan is under a hex that any girl he sleeps with will marry the next guy she meets, which complicates his relationship with Cam, the girl of his dreams.
When I saw Film Brain's review of "Good Luck Chuck", I was so appalled at the movie that I knew I'd have to watch it myself to officially confirm whether or not it really was one of the worst movies I've ever come across. And, as expected... seeing the review first kind of softened the blow a bit.
But that doesn't make the film any less reprehensible! Right from the opening scene, with the ten-year-old children experimenting with sex, I was thinking, "What sick fuck came up with this?!" The sex-obsessed Stu is by far one of the most annoying characters in all of cinema. I even hated the movie's attempts to prove that Charlie's a good guy by making him a complete Good Samaritan: it's blatant overcompensation -- especially since he steps into full-blown insanity later on! And let's not even get into how despicably sexist the movie is!
Oddly enough, though, Charlie and Cam do seem to legitimately hit it off in their first scene. But the whole curse aspect shoots any of that potential dead in its tracks.
In conclusion, while it's not one of the absolute worst movies I've ever seen, it was still a tough sit. Apart from being immature, annoying and sexist as all hell, a lot of the humour is just sickeningly tasteless.

My rating: 20%

Gladiator
Gladiator(2000)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When Roman general Maximus is betrayed and his family murdered by the emperor's corrupt son Commodus, he gets his chance for revenge when he comes to Rome as a gladiator.
I don't like to use the word "overrated", but I certainly couldn't get into "Gladiator" as much as everyone else seems to. Why? Well, several reasons.
For one thing, I'm not a Russell Crowe fan. I've always found him soporifically bland, and this is no exception.
The movie does so little to effectively establish its many plot threads that the whole thing just seems unfocused. Even Maximus's central quest for revenge ends up getting lost in a sea of other wrestling plot points. Some of them did perk my interest, like the Senate's plan to get rid of Commodus, but nothing ever comes of that. The third act in particular devolves into a completely disjointed mess; I was just thinking, "What do any of these events have to do with each other?" And *how* does Commodus find out about the scheme against him?
The fight scenes are some of the worst ever! This is one of those movies that succumbs to the sad cliche of over-editing, so sometimes I couldn't even tell what was going on.
I really wanted to love this movie, but in the end it just came off to me as okay at best. I liked parts of it, but they were just a few bright spots in an otherwise confusing, pretentious mess.

My rating: 60%

Footloose
Footloose(1984)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Ren McCormack moves from the city to a small town where dancing and rock music have been banned, and his rebellious spirit threatens to change that.
So now I've seen both the two 80s dance movies I've seen get the most attention. :) Perhaps surprisingly, I liked "Dirty Dancing", but this one just didn't do much for me.
It's interesting, though, that this movie is the polar opposite of "Dirty Dancing" in some ways. :) What really made "Dirty Dancing" was the bond between the two leads, but the romance here is not in the forefront of the story, and it's just kind of mediocre. Ariel is established as a fiercely rebellious spirit before we even meet Ren, so it just seems like they were meant for each other anyway.
Also, I felt the only letdown of "Dirty Dancing" was the villains. But the main antagonist here, the Reverend Shaw Moore, is not just a simple stick-in-the-mud who won't listen, but is actually a three-dimensional and kind of sympathetic character.
But I think the main reason I couldn't get into this movie is because the prejudiced environment comes off as very peripheral. Ren getting into trouble at school, the townspeople violently turning against him and his mother... all these ideas are hinted at, but none of them are fully fleshed out.
So if you like "Footloose", if it inspired you, great. I just found it to be really nothing special.

My rating: 55%

50 First Dates

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Henry Roth meets Lucy Whitmore and thinks he's finally found the girl of his dreams, until he discovers she has short-term memory loss and forgets all about him the next day.
Just because Adam Sandler was in this, I was already dreading it, but I'll give anything a chance. But it turned out to be far worse than I could have expected!
First of all, as you can probably guess, the overly crass humour just annoyed the fuck out of me. Any of Rob Schneider's screen time was especially insufferable. But on top of that, the romantic side of the story is so sappy that it really gives you whiplash when it's playing off such vulgar humour. So it fails as a romantic comedy because the romance and the comedy contrast too sharply.
And don't even get me started on my issues with the film's morals! That's a discussion for a full review. But here's the gist of it: even though everyone had good intentions, I just felt like they were all simply exploiting Lucy regardless. Henry himself clearly has a conscience and knows it'd be wrong to take advantage of his fear of commitment... but he does so anyway. And as for Lucy's father and brother... well, the longer you keep up a charade, the harder it's likely to bite you in the ass.
So there you go. I hated almost everything about this movie, and I just felt bad for Drew Barrymore for appearing in it.

My rating: 20%

Yojimbo
Yojimbo(1961)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

A wandering ronin comes across a town torn apart by two criminal gangs, and decides to end the town's trouble by playing them both against each other.
Now, I'll be tackling this movie in perhaps a very different way. I saw "A Fistful of Dollars" (the spaghetti western remake) first, so I couldn't help comparing the two as I was watching it.
In terms of story, "A Fistful of Dollars" follows "Yojimbo" almost beat for beat. The key difference is the attitude of each movie. "Fistful of Dollars" plays it with much more humanity: you sympathise more with the law-abiding Baxter family. But in "Yojimbo", both sides are as corrupt as the other, so you can't help but agree with the samurai: the town would indeed be better off with both of them dead.
The samurai himself is a fascinating character, too. He seems completely uninterested in almost everything unless it involves violence. I especially love the scene early on where he gets both clans on the brink of battle and he just sits back to watch! :D
By a certain point, the proceedings were just different enough for me to start to appreciate "Yojimbo" in its own right -- helped all the more by the fact that I felt as if I'd settled into the town environment.
Overall, this is an excellent tale of bringing balance to a savage community, and I certainly look forward to seeing it again when I don't have "Fistful of Dollars" on the mind.

My rating: 80%

True Romance
True Romance(1993)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When Clarence and his new wife, former call girl Alabama Whitman, unintentionally steal a suitcase full of cocaine from her pimp, they attempt to sell it in Hollywood. But the gangsters who own the drugs are on their trail.
"True Romance", to my knowledge, is one of only two movies that Quentin Tarantino has written but not directed. And this movie definitely spells "Tarantino" all over it, with its sardonic overall tone, its gleeful depiction of violence, and conversations on pretty trivial subjects. And boy is it awesome! :D
One of my favourite scenes is when Christopher Walken is interrogating Dennis Hopper, because you never know if he's going to be diplomatic or turn violent. And, when Alabama is getting brutally beaten, I was actually laughing in that the guy had the sheer balls to beat a woman like he would anyone else!
Sadly, though, the overall direction does let the film down quite a bit. In terms of acting and camera work, it all feels a bit too raw; it's not as polished as Tarantino would have made it.
On a side note, the Drexl character really fascinates me. Maybe it's because I know it's Gary Oldman, but it just sounds like he's putting on an accent. Does the character talk like that just to fit in with his peers? I really want to know! :)
Overall, if the movie had been a little less sloppy in its direction, I might rank it up there with the best of Tarantino.

My rating: 75%

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

After her release from prison for the kidnapping and murder of a young boy, Lee Geum-ja begins to orchestrate her plan for revenge against the real culprit -- while reuniting with her estranged daughter.
Just to let you know, this review will contain a spoiler for the climax.
I'll probably get some flak for this, but I think this is easily the weakest of the Vengeance Trilogy.
For one thing, while "Sympathy for Mr Vengeance" and "Oldboy" were presented relatively straightforward, I feel as if this one is trying way too hard to be artsy, with its nonlinear narrative structure and philosophical moments.
I *really* didn't like how the daughter subplot was handled. There was great potential for the mother and daughter to develop their relationship despite the language barrier, but that's barely touched on. As a result, the daughter seems completely secondary to the revenge plot (even, dare I say, expendable), so I just didn't care how their relationship worked out. I think they needed to either devote more screen time to that, or just cut that subplot from the film altogether.
The highlight, however, was the final scene, where the families of all the killer's victims take turns exacting their revenge. That's brutal! :)
In conclusion, while I don't dislike this movie, I certainly think it's a big step below the other two. It might grow on me more with repeat viewings, but for now at least, I think it's just okay.

My rating: 60%

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

A deaf-mute man kidnaps the daughter of his former boss in order to pay for his sister's life-saving kidney transplant. But at a certain point, things start to go disastrously wrong.
When you get down to it, this is a very simple premise, especially compared to the other two instalments of the so-called "Vengeance Trilogy". It's just a domino effect of one thing leading to another in a never-ending spiral of revenge. But for me, its simplicity is what makes it so compelling.
What I especially like is that neither of the two leads are good or bad guys per se; it's just two men who are both seeking revenge for entirely personal reasons: one for the death of his sister, the other for the death of his daughter. Even the kidnappers aren't detestable: they actually get friendly with the girl and make sure she enjoys herself. While you could make the argument that this only makes the kidnapping worse, at least they're by no means sadists.
Now, I obviously won't spoil the details of either main character's ultimate fate, but let's just say neither makes it out okay. You could say they're either both justifiably punished for doing bad things, or that they both end up as victims of a most tragic set of circumstances.
I love this movie. I don't know how many of you will agree with me, but I'd say this is my personal favourite of the trilogy.

My rating: 85%

Green Lantern: First Flight

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Test pilot Hal Jordan gets a power ring handed down to him by Abin Sur, a dying Green Lantern who's crash-landed on Earth, and is recruited to the Green Lantern Corps. He is taken under the wing of senior officer Sinestro, and they set out to find the truth of Abin Sur's death.
This is more what the 2011 live-action "Green Lantern" should have been like. It doesn't try to cram three films' worth of material into one; it picks one plot and sticks to it. This allows for much more manageable pacing, meaning the film as a whole is a lot more fleshed out and so much more entertaining.
The story itself is nothing really special, but it's still a terrifically fun adventure; every scene fits perfectly into place. Plus, Sinestro is one of the best villains ever: his motivation does almost get you on his side.
There's really only one problem with the movie, and sadly it is kind of a big one: Hal Jordan himself is so depressingly bland. What especially bothered me was how, at the beginning, he just takes an alien encounter completely in stride; nothing about it fazes him! I think the movie really could have used some build-up where he gradually gets used to the ring.
To sum it up, this isn't a great movie, but I didn't really expect it to be. I just wanted something better than the live-action movie, and I most certainly got that! :)

My rating: 75%

Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman(2009)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When fighter pilot Steve Trevor crash-lands on the peaceful island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons, Princess Diana is tasked with bringing him home again. But a second purpose is soon added to her mission when Ares, god of war, escapes from his prison and sets out to regain his power.
I have to admit, I'm having trouble structuring my thoughts on this movie. But in short, I really liked it.
I don't read comic books, but I still understand the essence of the Wonder Woman character, and this movie seems to stay pretty true to it. Besides, it's right up my street anyway, since I'm a huge fan of Greek mythology. :)
It's a dark enough movie that I really wouldn't recommend it for young children -- in fact, right off the bat, it starts with a surprisingly brutal battle scene -- but it's not completely mean-spirited. There's a brilliant dry sense of humour to the whole thing. I especially love the scene where Steve is speaking his mind completely honestly, then realises it's because his foot's in the Lasso of Truth! :D
Speaking of comedy, as soon as Diana and Steve arrived in New York, I was expecting a lot of painfully awkward attempts on Diana's part to interact with the real world. But, to my huge relief, that didn't happen! :)
So on the whole, I'd definitely recommend this to non-comic readers as an introduction to the character. It's equal parts funny and intense; it takes itself seriously, but not *too* seriously.

My rating: 80%

The Wind in the Willows

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I haven't yet read the book, so the only other incarnations I can compare this to are the Disney version and the 1996 live-action version. And, while the Disney version is also very clever indeed, this version is just so heavy on atmosphere that it's quite possibly even more engaging.
The stop-motion animation is of course delightful -- and, I think, the best way to bring these characters to life.
I also like how, looking back, it's implied that the weasels planned to get Toad out of the way.
I can definitely see children having nightmares over the scene where the weasels terrify Mole in the Wild Wood. It's not like the film's very upbeat to begin with, so the idea of having a scene like that, that's *meant* to make you feel low, is just downright cruel! :)
One thing I can say: since this film shares a couple of songs in common with other versions, that got me curious to see if those songs came straight from the book. (Yes, they do.) It's interesting how my two favourite songs in the film -- "The Open Road" and "When the Toad Came Home" -- both happen to be associated with Toad! :D And, ironically, one is from the book and the other isn't. :)
Its only downfall, in my opinion, is that the final battle isn't all that spectacular.
But overall, it's endlessly charming, and one of the best "Wind in the Willows" adaptations you could ask for.

My rating: 85%

The Conjuring
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Based on the true story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, "The Conjuring" focuses on the case of the Perron family.
I was really hoping this movie would live up to the hype, but I didn't realistically expect it to. I'm usually not the least bit scared by supernatural horror, and I didn't like James Wan's previous film, "Insidious". And, as it turned out... it *was* the breath of fresh air I was hoping for, but nothing mind-blowing.
The main reason it trumps so many modern horror films is because it doesn't rely on jump scares. It doesn't just shout and scream and yell and try to make you jump every thirty seconds. Instead, it builds up a genuine sense of unease through a string of very believable false climaxes. There are many, many times when you *think* it's building up to a jump scare... and it doesn't. For example, there's a scene where one of the daughters goes to look under her bed, but then shrinks back again -- as anyone would. Beautiful! :)
And whenever there *is* a jump scare, it's not conveyed through a stupid orchestral sting, but from a loud crash in the next room or something.
All this means the fear comes from the situation itself, not manipulation on the part of the filmmakers. It didn't give me a *complete* sense of authenticity, but close.
In short, this is one of the best horror movies in several years, but it's more impressive than it is scary.

My rating: 75%

Trance
Trance(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Simon, a fine art dealer, double-crosses a gang during the theft of a highly valuable painting, and ends up with amnesia so he can't remember where he hid the picture. They send him to hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb to try and get it out of him.
So you can probably guess from that premise that "Trance" is equal parts psychological and straightforward thrills -- and director Danny Boyle has always been brilliant at that. The depictions of Simon's mind always ring very true, especially in how Elizabeth sometimes appears in the rooms he imagines as she talks to him. And later on, after Elizabeth finds out about the gang and has them sit in on the therapy sessions, they too start to appear in Simon's mind, making it clear that he feels crowded and can't concentrate with them around.
The movie does take a very predictable turn by suggesting that Elizabeth may have ulterior motives, but to be fair, I was still interested in how it would all be resolved.
Sadly, though, the last act is where the movie really falls apart. Obviously I don't want to spoil any details, but the climax throws first one plot twist at you, then another, and another -- almost to the point of lunacy! Not to mention, one particular reveal is a ridiculous lapse in logic.
In conclusion, while it's not Danny Boyle's best work, this is still an interesting psychological thriller -- and probably the best 2013 release I've rented so far.

My rating: 70%

The Place Beyond The Pines

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"The Place Beyond the Pines" starts out following Luke Glanton, a stuntman who turns to robbing banks to support his former lover and her baby. Then, for the second act, the focus abruptly shifts to Avery Cross, an ambitious detective in a corrupt precinct. And then the third act follows Avery's son fifteen years later.
When I first read the plot summary for this movie, I was expecting the stories of the detective and the criminal to be told in parallel. But instead, it tells three entirely separate stories one after the other. So imagine my confusion when Ryan Gosling's storyline ended abruptly early in the film, and Bradley Cooper's storyline was then resolved equally quickly!
It may be because of this story layout that the movie felt very long indeed. It's 134 minutes, but it feels more like three hours! It has a rather slow, methodical pace, so each section feels like a whole movie in itself.
Not to mention, each story is less interesting than the last. Despite Ryan Gosling's characteristically wooden performance, his character is such a good parent that I really did start to root for him and felt he should absolutely be a part of the baby's life. But, on the other hand, I couldn't care less about Avery's son's story, centred around drugs.
In short, while it's well written and does have its moments, on the whole, its jarring narrative structure makes it seem increasingly longwinded.

My rating: 60%

Oblivion
Oblivion(2013)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The premise of "Oblivion" would take *far* too long to explain, but here it is in a nutshell... In 2077, Earth has been devastated after an alien invasion destroyed the moon. Now mankind is being relocated to Titan, with only a crew of two left on Earth. They're in charge of maintaining the power stations that harvest energy from seawater for the future of humanity.
There's a tonne of other stuff going on besides; I could literally spend this entire review just talking about plot details! But obviously I won't. :) So let's get down to some of my own personal thoughts.
One thing that bothered me was how long it took to get to the actual story. In the first act, there are *two* fake-outs that lead you to believe it'll be about Jack stranded on the ground.
While the plot did keep my interest and I wanted to know where it was going, a lot of it is very predictable. For example, the true identity of the alien bandits, or "Scavs", can be seen coming from a mile away. Plus, spoilers here, but there's a scene where Jack meets a clone of himself, and all I could think about was Duncan Jones' "Moon".
And the last thing I'll mention is the music. It's all wrong. A lot of it's just the same melancholy piece that sometimes sets completely the wrong tone.
So my overall impression is that it's interesting but sadly lacklustre.

My rating: 55%

Welcome to the Punch

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Former criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives Detective Max Lewinsky a second chance to take him down.
Wow, I've finally rented a 2013 release that I actually kind of liked! :) And I think a lot of that comes from the character of Jacob Sternwood. Not only does Mark Strong give an expectedly top-notch performance, but the character is cunning and ruthless, but sympathetic; he is trying to help his son, after all. I just love the scene at the hospital, where he finds a way to test the police's defences.
The film itself does a terrific job at playing detective and criminal against each other: how the criminal always manages to slip through the detective's fingers. But I think the second half is where it starts to lose its footing. The conspiracy ends up becoming a little too complicated, perhaps one too many people involved.
One major disappointment was Andrea Riseborough. She's a great actress -- one of my favourites -- so I couldn't help feeling that her character being in so little of the movie was kind of a waste of her talents.
Still, of all the movies I've rented so far this year (not counting "Silver Linings Playbook"), this is the first one that I actually feel inclined to buy. It does have its problems, but it at least has the makings of a solid action thriller.

My rating: 65%

Passion
Passion(2013)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This remake of the French-language film "Love Crime" revolves around manipulative advertising boss Christine Stanford and her talented protegee Isabelle James. The rivalry between them starts out as Christine simply taking credit for one of Isabelle's ideas, and soon escalates to the point of insanity.
You know, I did imagine myself saying, "I haven't seen the original, but it can't be this bad," to describe this movie, but I didn't think it actually *would* be that bad! I mean, *wow*! This is one of the shallowest movies I've ever seen.
Christine is a completely one-note character: a smug manipulative bitch that I despised not for her actions but because there was *nothing* more to her. That just makes the escalation from stealing credit to public humiliation all the more ludicrous.
With the entire basis for the story being so one-dimensional, it's like this movie was purposely made just to annoy me! In a good story, you're angry at the villain. But in this case, I was angry at the creative team because I felt like I was being manipulated, expected to take such despicably bare-bones rivalry seriously.
The only redeeming factor is Dani, the only sensible character in this entire travesty.
So yeah, indeed I haven't seen the original, but it must surely be more fleshed out than this! This is right up there with "Movie 43" and "Die Hard 5" as one of the worst movies of the year so far.

My rating: 20%

Evil Dead
Evil Dead(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

So, the "Evil Dead" remake. It was a long wait for this one! :) Way back in 2007, I heard this was planned. But anyway, it's finally out, and in some ways, it exceeded my expectations. But in a lot of other ways, it's just kind of mediocre.
I'm not the biggest "Evil Dead" fan myself, but I still like the movies enough. And the filmmakers here also clearly have a great deal of respect for the franchise. There are several homages to the second movie as well as the first one, and they're pulled off well enough that they're recognisable but still different enough that they fit perfectly within the context of the new story. I'm usually flat-out against horror remakes, but *that's* how you do one properly. :)
But sadly, the reimagining itself is where the movie falls flat. The characters are boring (Natalie in particular is completely superfluous), and the new plot is so much more involved than the original. It revolves around a demon who needs to claim five souls before dawn, so that... actually, I have no idea what his goal is! It's so drastically different from the original idea that, in a way, it doesn't deserve to be called a remake.
To sum it up, as its own horror movie, this does very little to stand out from the crowd (aside from being gleefully gory!), but as an "Evil Dead" remake... it's a mixed bag, but you may find it's a pleasant surprise.

My rating: 55%

Side Effects
Side Effects(2013)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The plot revolves around Emily Taylor, as she's prescribed a new experimental medicine for her bouts of depression -- and at first, it seems like it's going to be a straightforward tale of her trying to live with it. Then, after she kills her husband while sleepwalking as a side effect of the drug, it becomes a completely different movie: a legal drama first, as it's debated who should be held responsible for her actions, and then a conspiracy thriller, as her psychiatrist, Dr Banks, tries to uncover the truth.
I have to admit, this is a tough one to review. It's definitely well written; I can't see any plot holes or loose ends in the mystery. The acting, for the most part, is solid, especially from Rooney Mara.
But I wasn't totally impressed. While I got the basic gist of how the mystery was unfolding, the conclusions that Dr Banks comes to -- or rather his explanations for how he came to those conclusions -- went right over my head. So his various attempts to get information left very little impact on me, because nothing that was being said really earned my interest until the very end. And, without actually giving away the final revelation, let's just say it's clear why those involved would want it covered up! :)
To sum up, I can understand perfectly if you were fully invested in this movie. It's just that, personally, I wasn't. Honestly, I found myself wishing for the conclusion to just hurry up.

My rating: 60%

Jack the Giant Slayer
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

In this take on the classic fairytale, Princess Isabelle runs away from home and takes shelter from the rain in Jack's house. Then the beanstalk grows up through the floor, pinning the house on the top, so Jack joins a team sent by the king to rescue the princess.
In the opening scenes, the movie was just what I thought it would be: a predictable but still interesting story with straightforward fairytale sensibilities. They play the adventurous princess who's being forced to marry card, which had me calmly thinking, "Yeah, yeah. Get on with it." But the villain is painfully obvious right from the start; he is straight-up boring.
The CGI looks just as fake as I thought it would. And, as the film progresses, it just seems to get worse and worse. There's one moment in the final battle where a boulder sails over the battlements, which looks laughably bad.
I did like parts of the movie, though, like when the beanstalk's coming down and it really simulates a plane coming into land.
Ironically, for a movie called "Jack the Giant Slayer", he hardly slays any giants at all!
But overall, I don't have that much to say about this movie. It was entertaining, but nothing special.

My rating: 50%

Stoker
Stoker(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When I first heard the plot to "Stoker", I thought it sounded like a rip-off of Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" -- right down to the uncle being called Charlie! But here, instead of fearing that he's a murderer, our main character, India, just sort of mistrusts him.
Now, don't get me wrong: I was still looking forward to this movie, since it is Chan-wook Park's first English-language film. Alas, I didn't like it. But not for the reasons you might be thinking.
The opening scenes really set the tone for everything to follow. And I thought the beginning of "Beautiful Creatures" (which I rented along with this one) was pretentious! I'd seen *nothing* yet! Not even the most talented actors could make these lines work; a lot of them state the obvious.
And I hate to say this, but the movie is at times pretentious in a technical sense as well. For example, that weird thing with the light in the basement.
It's a shame, because the story itself does have potential. The whole narrative is basically about how the homicidal Uncle Charlie gradually influences India. Though I think that scene where she masturbates to the murder he committed in front of her was a step too far; that was just plain fucked up!
In conclusion, no other movie this year, and probably none of the ones to come, left me so crushingly disappointed. I'm just going to go and watch "Oldboy" (and "Shadow of a Doubt") again.

My rating: 35%

Beautiful Creatures
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Beautiful Creatures" is basically "Twilight" with witches. Ethan falls for Lena, the mysterious new girl at his school, and soon discovers she's a witch -- or rather a "caster". And her sixteenth birthday is approaching, when she'll definitively become either good or evil.
Now, perhaps equating it to "Twilight" was a bit harsh -- this one does have more of a story and actual stakes to it -- but, as it's a supernatural love story that came out in the wake of "Twilight", the comparisons are inevitable.
At first, I really thought I was going to hate Ethan, because he does nothing but quote pretentious poetry. But I did kind of buy into his relationship with Lena: he's the only one who's nice to her, and they do bond over their shared interest in poetry; that at least gives them more of a foundation for a relationship than Edward and Bella!
Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson's southern accents are really distracting, though, Irons in particular.
One thing I *really* hated was the Emily character. She does nothing but chastise Lena for religious reasons. She's that cliched one-dimensional asshole that I hate for all the wrong reasons!
But my *real* issue is that the movie has no regard whatsoever for pacing. Spoilers here, but the plot just meanders to the point where I honestly thought the mind-wipe scene was the end.
Overall, this movie is terribly flawed, with bad visual effects and inconsistent pacing... but it's still better than "Twilight"! :)

My rating: 45%

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I saw "GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra" a few weeks ago, and it was one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life. So, with the sequel, I figured the only way it could go was up.
Zartan, under the guise of the US President, wipes out the GI Joe team, but three Joes who survived are out for revenge. Meanwhile, Cobra Commander is sprung from jail and plots to take over the world via nuclear weapons.
Well, at least this sequel is better paced than its predecessor! :) It doesn't rush along like a runaway train; it plays out very naturally. But it also plays out like a very typical action movie; pretty much every beat is predictable. The plot is much easier to follow than the first movie, and it almost works. But the action scenes are over-edited (though not torturously so), the CG effects look like shit, and it's a continuation of a story I never cared about, so I was sitting there indifferent for most of the movie.
The inclusion of Storm Shadow did confuse me, though: I seemed to recall he died in the first one. And yes, I checked: there's no way he could have survived!
In conclusion, this movie's *way* better than the first one, but it's still a below-average action movie. I wasn't mad at it; there's just nothing remarkable about it.

My rating: 40%

Monsters University
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I have very mixed feelings about "Monsters University". On one hand, I was pleasantly surprised at how relentlessly fun it was. On the other hand, I still think what I thought before: this movie has no reason to exist.
It is, of course, a prequel to "Monsters, Inc.", in which Mike and Sulley enrol at Monsters University to learn to become Scarers.
Our heroes are both familiar stereotypes: Mike's the bookworm who knows it all but lacks the talent, while Sulley's the slob who gets by on nothing *but* talent -- and his family name. The story is about as predictable as it gets, but the sheer level of glee and humour with which it's told is what keeps it interesting. Plus I loved seeing the tasks of the Scare Games and how our heroes' team triumphs.
But the problem with any prequel is that you already know how it's going to end, because it has to lead in to the original film. So Mike's singular desire to be a Scarer basically renders this whole film moot, because we already know that's not going to happen.
Also, Mike had a line in "Monsters, Inc." where he implied that he'd known Sulley since the fourth grade. So this whole movie is essentially one huge continuity error!
Basically, "Monsters University" is this year's "Prometheus" (though don't get me wrong: it's a *much* better movie): as its own movie, it's entertaining, but as a prequel, it's inconsistent and unnecessary.

My rating: 75%

Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The plot is that giant monsters, known as Kaiju, have been appearing through a dimensional rift under the Pacific Ocean, so giant robots called Jaegers have been built to combat them. But now things are getting desperate.
I can't vouch for how good a tribute this is to the giant monster and mecha genres, but I *can* say how well it succeeds simply as a piece of entertainment! This is more what the "Transformers" movies should have been like. The characters may be archetypal, but they're still effective and well-executed archetypes. And the action scenes are terrific. The effects work is absolutely top-notch, and although I sometimes couldn't tell what I was looking at, at least there's no shaky cam making it worse.
On top of that, the movie is actually witty. For example, the Jaegers are controlled by two mentally linked pilots, and I like how they actually do address how delicate and dangerous mind-melding is.
However, there was one major letdown for me. The dialogue was pretty hard to follow at times. It may be for that reason that, during the climax, I was actually sort of burned out; I no longer cared much about what was happening.
Still, on a side note, the idea that this lost to "Grown Ups 2" at the box office is just sickening!
While I might need to see this movie again to understand it better, I can definitely say that it's a very solid summer blockbuster. It's fun but not brainless.

My rating: 75%

The World's End

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Okay, "The World's End", the third collaboration between the double-act of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. Being a huge fan of "Shaun of the Dead" and especially "Hot Fuzz", this is one of the movies I was most looking forward to this year. And for the most part, it didn't disappoint. :)
The plot is that Pegg's character, Gary, gets his gang of childhood friends back together to relive an epic pub crawl that they never completed. But as the night progresses, they realise that something's very wrong about town. To say much more would unfortunately mean getting into spoilers. Especially, the moment that first reveals what's happened to the town is hilarious not just for what happens but because of just how out of the blue it is. (Ha! Blue! Those who've seen it probably get my drift.)
What else can I say? It's just really funny, so it works. :) I especially liked how, contrary to "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", Pegg plays the wild and free character, while Frost is the stick-in-the-mud.
The tone of the film sort of walks hand-in-hand with the characters' mindset: as they get more and more drunk, things get more and more insane. The ending *really* flies off the deep end.
Overall, it's not as good as "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", because the developing plot is a little too involved, but it's still a rollicking good time.

My rating: 85%

The Island
The Island(2005)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The plot follows a man and woman in an underground hive who discover the truth behind their living conditions and escape into the outside world.
Well, among all of Michael Bay's movies, I'd say this one is the most story-driven. ...But that's not saying much! It still prioritises action and visceral thrills over the actual plot, and the plot itself gets increasingly predictable anyway.
The idea of containing a civilisation in an enclosed facility and feeding them a false past is nothing really new. Some aspects of this movie's take on that idea were interesting, especially the reason behind it all, but on the whole it just didn't win me over.
Like I said before, the movie clearly cares more about action than the plot, and the action itself is always that over-edited, disorientating Michael Bay action that I HATE.
I also hated how, like several other Michael Bay movies, many lines are unnecessarily shouted.
Not to mention, the two leads' attempts to interact with the real world are just painful to watch.
But the movie *really* lost me quite early on, when our hero gets probes implanted in his eye, which I got the impression would record whatever he saw. And NOTHING ever comes of them!
To sum up, out of all Michael Bay's movies, this one is probably the least bad. It has a more defined premise than most of his other movies, but it still finds a way to be boring as hell.

My rating: 30%

Bad Boys II
Bad Boys II(2003)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Dear God, this movie sucks! The first "Bad Boys" had me tearing at my hair every five minutes, but this one fails in an entirely different way.
The plot is that Mike and Marcus have joined the PD's drugs department since movie one, and are investigating an ecstasy shipment.
I've made it abundantly clear that I can't stand Michael Bay's hyper, jumbled direction and editing. Well, here, it's worse than ever before! The action scenes couldn't possibly be less exciting, because half the time you can't even tell where people are in proximity to each other. The lead-in to several of those sequences certainly doesn't help! It's all down to poorly established dialogue that I don't understand or care about.
All the characters returning from the first movie are just as annoying as before. Right from Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's first appearance, I knew I was going to detest them all over again.
The humour is still painfully unfunny. In particular, every joke in both these movies that focuses on corpses is just straight-up tasteless.
There are a couple of good ideas here and there, like the boat on the road, but it just made me wish they were in a better movie.
In conclusion, while it's not as annoying as the first "Bad Boys", it *is* the most insufferably boring Michael Bay movie up until "Transformers 2". This movie is two-and-a-half hours long, and believe me, I felt every minute of it!

My rating: turkey

The Rock
The Rock(1996)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Like "Bad Boys", this is one Michael Bay movie that sounded like it might be somewhat tolerable.
The plot is that a rogue general is holding tourists on Alcatraz for ransom, so a team is sent in to stop him, led by a chemical weapons expert and the only man ever to have escaped the Rock.
First of all, the performances are all just as wooden as any other Michael Bay movie. Right from the first line, where Ed Harris says, "I miss you," at his wife's grave with no conviction whatsoever, I could tell what I was in for.
But my main issue with this movie is just the fact that it's boring. The action scenes are almost relentless -- and I probably wouldn't mind that if it were *good* action, but it's not. It's that incomprehensible Michael Bay action. There isn't a single camera angle that works, and the editing is just a random mess. In particular, the scene with the derailed tram could have been awesome, but it's ruined by an overreliance on shaky cam.
But, to be fair, this movie did have potential. The second half is actually pretty well paced and has enough momentum that, in the hands of a good director, it probably could have been enjoyable. Michael Bay really seems to have a talent for ruining anything he touches!
In conclusion, while I didn't *hate* it, this was just as underwhelming as I probably should have expected.

My rating: 25%

Oz the Great and Powerful
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I guess you could call this a prequel to the classic "Wizard of Oz" because, although it says it's based on the whole book series, it makes many attempts to keep continuity with that movie.
The plot is that a carnival magician nicknamed Oz is whisked away to the Land of Oz in a tornado (what else?), and learns that a prophecy foretold he'd save the land from all evil.
I obviously wasn't expecting this to be as good as "The Wizard of Oz", but maybe it'd still be fun. Well, parts of it were, but the overall tone of the movie was a bit of a letdown. For the most part, it just felt like it was being aimed exclusively at young children, especially in how a lot of the dialogue is either overly simplistic or states the obvious.
On top of that, the acting is pretty wooden, and the CGI just looks too artificial to make Oz seem real.
But like I said before, I did really like parts of it. The climactic battle had some very clever moments that I won't dare spoil. I'm glad they didn't go for the cliched "liar revealed" scene. But for me, the main highlight was the little china girl: she was simply adorable, and her introductory scene was actually genuinely heartbreaking.
Overall, the dialogue and visuals were constantly disheartening, but the good parts were still good enough that I can't quite say I disliked it.

My rating: 45%

Movie 43
Movie 43(2013)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Movie 43" was probably the most infamous movie at the start of the year. Many people billed it as so repulsive that they wished they could unsee it. And to tell you the truth, with all that bad press... I'm surprised I wasn't *more* disgusted.
I mean, don't get me wrong: it was still sickening! It's basically an anthology of aggressively gross-out short films. It's a movie that mistakes simply being tasteless for being funny. But I guess the reason it didn't completely appal me (besides all the negative hype perhaps lessening the effect) was that I was actually kind of fascinated by it. I was like, "How did they come up with this shit?!"
I don't have time to describe all the sketches, but I will say this. "The Catch", "The Proposition" and "Beezel" were the three worst: I could barely look at the screen during those ones. "Homeschooled" and "Middleschool Date" were just uncomfortable. During "Happy Birthday", I did get a laugh out of the insults the leprechaun threw, but that's it.
One thing I have to say: the overarching interlude binding the shorts together was completely different from what I'd heard. Instead of a Hollywood producer pitching movie ideas, the version I saw had teen brothers finding the films online. I guess the difference is between the British and American versions of the film.
Whichever version you see, if you watch it from beginning to end, you'll just ask yourself, "What the fuck am I watching?!"

My rating: 20%

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

In this reimagining of the classic fairytale, Hansel and Gretel have grown up to be witch bounty hunters. Now a massive witch ceremony is approaching, and they have to stop it.
I had somewhat low expectations for this movie: I was just expecting it to be violent trash. What I wasn't prepared for, though, was how pathetically predictable the story was. Literally every single turn the story took was no surprise at all. I don't usually complain about formulaic stories, so long as the movie is doing something to entertain me, but this one just didn't. If the movie had been as gleefully violent as I'd been expecting, that might actually have helped. The acting isn't nearly good enough to compensate, either.
The gore itself is really underwhelming. For example, early on, there's a moment where a guy gets all his limbs ripped off, and it's so obviously CG that it's really distracting.
But I think the worst aspect of the movie by far is the sheriff played by Peter Stormare. I've complained before about one-dimensional villains being a waste of screen time, but this guy takes it to a *whole* new level! He just doesn't listen to reason *at all*! He's so clearly out of his mind that I don't see how anyone would ever follow him!
Overall, I sat there indifferent to almost the whole movie. I wasn't entertained, but I wasn't mad at it either.

My rating: 35%

Man of Steel
Man of Steel(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Okay, I know I'm late to the game on this one, but I went to see "Man of Steel" yesterday. And I... didn't like it.
First of all, it fails in the same ways as many other modern bad blockbusters. The acting across the board is astonishingly wooden, and it's shot entirely in shaky cam, making it impossible to tell what's happening at times.
On top of that, the characters aren't given any humanity at all. Any attempts at character development are quickly glanced over to move on to another loud, abrasive action sequence. It's completely shallow. I think Mark Kermode said it best: the movie gets half the title right, but it clearly doesn't care at all about the man, only the steel.
And, as other people have pointed out, it does NOT properly represent the character. I'm not a *huge* fan myself, but I still understand his virtues and ideals. This movie does bring them up, but completely betrays them. I could rant on about this for hours, but I'll just let this sum it up: in the massive final battles in Smallville and Metropolis, Superman isn't making any effort whatsoever to prevent all the destruction! It seems all the movie cares about *is* the destruction.
I hate to say this, but honest to God, this is like if Michael Bay did "Superman"!
Overall, because of the unconvincing effects, universally wooden acting and complete lack of substance, I was bored stiff throughout.

My rating: 30%

Bad Boys
Bad Boys(1995)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Bad Boys", to cut right to the point, is one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life! Since this was Michael Bay's first movie, before everything got super-exaggerated, I thought *maybe* this might be even somewhat tolerable. But boy was I wrong!
You would not believe how many times I had to pause the movie for a minute and collect myself during the first half! There was literally something else to annoy me every FIVE MINUTES! And that was even before the lie that dominates the storyline, where Marcus has to pretend he's Mike! The phone call scene, the fact that Marcus is so bad at lying that anyone with half a brain cell would immediately see right through him, that STUPID scene with the photographs... God!
On top of that, I swear half the dialogue in this movie is yelling, which also drove me nuts! There's one point in particular where Mike is interrogating someone and Marcus is carrying on in the background, where I actually said out loud, "SHUT UP!"
As is typical of a Michael Bay movie, the performances are all flat as pancakes. Even Will Smith is boring!
Also, to prove my point how terrible Michael Bay is at action scenes, the last thing I should be during your final massive shootout is bored!
To sum it up, I've seldom been more annoyed by a movie. It's not funny, the characters are irritating, and it's all just insufferable yelling and chaos.

My rating: turkey

Mama
Mama(2013)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Of the three movies I rented this week, I only saved this one till the end because it was the one I'd heard the most talk about, not because I thought it'd be the best one or anything. In fact, as it turned out, quite the contrary: this is the only one that I actually didn't like. Now, don't get me wrong: it's not horrible. It's just conspicuously flawed and uninteresting.
The plot revolves around two little girls who've been living alone in the woods for five years, and share an apparently imaginary mother figure, which soon starts to cause havoc with the couple that takes them in. The main driving force of the movie is to solve the mystery of who this "Mama" is.
As you can probably guess, my main problem with this supposed horror movie is that it's just not scary. Well, there is one fantastically creepy moment involving one of the girls silhouetted in the shadows of a hallway, but that's it. None of the jump scares made me jump, and it's a little hard to develop atmosphere when you're constantly being distracted by painfully obvious CGI!
I also hated the girls' aunt, Jean. She's just the typical one-dimensional type of antagonist that I think is a complete waste of screen time.
I do like how one of the girls gradually turns away from Mama and warms up to the adoptive mother, but it's otherwise not a particularly compelling film -- again, especially in terms of horror.

My rating: 45%

I Give It a Year
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

A newlywed couple, played by Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall, are told that if they can make it through the first year of marriage, they'll be set. Nine months down the line, the hardships of marriage are starting to take their toll, and they're both cheating on each other.
Now, because this is from the co-writer of "Borat", I'm surprised I didn't go in expecting to hate it: I had heard it was good. But, during the opening scenes, the "Borat" similarities definitely showed, and my heart sank. A lot of the humour is derived from being straight-up crass, especially with sex jokes. But, to my surprise, the movie as a whole wasn't painfully unfunny, like I'd expected: for most of it, I was just sitting there indifferent.
But now let's talk about the film's message. Through most of it, I was thinking the moral was for married couples to embrace each other's imperfections, not hold them against them. But (spoilers here, sorry) the ending completely reverses this by turning it into an admittedly *hilarious* joke where they're as joyful about the idea of a divorce as they should have been about the marriage. Some might say that this shamefully promotes infidelity, but I don't think that's meant to be taken as a serious moral: it's all just part of the writer's twisted sense of humour.
But overall, it's not very funny or emotionally satisfying. So I'd just sum up this one with, "Meh."

My rating: 50%

Broken City
Broken City(2013)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The plot follows Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg), a former dirty cop turned private eye, who's hired by the Mayor of New York City (Russell Crowe) to find out who his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having an affair with. After he seemingly finds the answer, things get even more complicated.
Honestly, I have very little to say about this movie. It was middle-of-the-road, it was mediocre, and it didn't leave much of an impression on me *at all*. I'm not entirely sure why, though.
Maybe it's the familiarity of it all. As the film progresses, it gets increasingly predictable, and the ending packs no surprises at all.
I do kind of like how Billy turns against the mayor halfway through the movie, but I just didn't care for everything that followed. The mayor's grand scheme just comes off to me as a cliche.
Also, there are two action sequences in the second half, and they're both incompetently filmed.
In any case, I simply didn't care what was happening throughout the movie, and I just found the whole thing bland and forgettable.

My rating: 45%

Sideways
Sideways(2004)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Sideways" follows two best friends, Jack and Miles, who are spending the last week before Jack's wedding in California's wine country.
I always have a tough time reviewing movies like this -- comedy dramas that are fairly grounded in reality -- because there's not really that much to critique. But in short, I really liked "Sideways".
The movie basically invites you to share Jack and Miles' journey and follow their trials and tribulations, and it's definitely a fun and even enlightening journey.
Jack and Miles themselves sort of contrast each other: Jack always believes in living life to its fullest, but often acts on impulse without thinking ahead, while Miles is more cynical and reserved, especially since his divorce. I can't psychoanalyse the characters the way Doug Walker did, but I will say this. I don't know what this'll say about me, but I'd say I'm more like Miles (minus the divorce), so I'd need someone like Jack to encourage me to take some chances.
So much of the movie is very down-to-earth that, whenever there *is* a funny moment, it's all the funnier because it seems genuinely out of the ordinary. For example, I won't dare reveal the pickle that Jack ends up in towards the end! :D
To sum up, if you're looking for a movie that takes you on an experience that feels very real, with some bumps in the road but is overall a good time, I say give "Sideways" a watch.

My rating: 80%

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra"... is one of the worst action movies I've ever seen in my life! Yes, this was one of the most miserable two hours I've ever had! It's almost as bad as "Transformers 2" -- and believe me, coming from me, that is very, very bad indeed!
I should clarify first that I never watched the 80s "GI Joe" show, and I don't know how well this movie represents the characters from the toy line-up.
I *can* say, though, that the performances are all dull and uninspired, and the CGI is AWFUL -- some of the worst I've ever seen!
But I think the biggest problem is that the pacing is too fucking fast! The whole narrative rushes along far too quickly to allow you to take anything in. Even by about the five-minute mark, I was going, "Slow the fuck down!" Every scene feels like the movie's in a hurry to just get it over with.
The fact that the action scenes are so frequent, and so terribly shot and edited, makes things even more insufferable. Again, it's all cut far too quickly, and the pacing doesn't let anything set itself up properly, so no moment is given the chance to be exciting.
And the last act is a symphony of woefully predictable cliches.
In a nutshell, this movie is way too fast-paced for its own good. The inconsiderate pace and absolutely abysmal effects make it a raw showcase of pure frustration.

My rating: turkey

The Happening

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Some people label this as a "so bad it's good" movie, but I had a feeling I wouldn't be laughing that much at it. And I was right. But neither did it have me tearing at my hair, like "Lady in the Water" did. At the end, it just left me wondering, "What the hell did I just see?"
The plot is that a strange epidemic is causing mass suicide, which turns out to be the plants releasing an airborne toxin. Supposedly, it's because the plants see the growing human population as a threat and it's their only way to defend themselves. I know it's supposed to be an environmental message, but it just comes off as stupid.
The characters are stupid too -- sometimes insufferably so. For example, there's a scene where a large group of people learn that the attacks are occurring in populated areas, but then they decide they'd be better off staying in big groups. Did you not just hear yourselves, you morons?!
I did laugh a few times, though. Like why does Alma feel that she cheated on Elliot just because she had dessert (yes, dessert!) with another man? And Mark Wahlberg, at one point, delivers one of the most outrageously awful pieces of acting I've ever seen.
Overall, I think the Rotten Tomatoes consensus says it best: it's just an incoherent and unconvincing mess. You just sit there watching it, going, "...What the fuck is this?"

My rating: 25%

Lady in the Water

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Right before this movie started, I said to myself, "Let's get this over with." I knew it was going to be bad... but I didn't think *this* bad! This was damn near intolerable!
The plot is that Cleveland, an apartment complex handyman, finds a mysterious woman (named Story) in the pool, discovers that she's an entity from an old bedtime story, and has to use clues from the tale to help her get home.
First of all, the dialogue in this movie is *hideously* bad, especially from Story herself!
But it was Cleveland's asking around for information that constantly aggravated me. He's making himself sound insane, but no one ever questions him! And it's just ludicrous how the group of people he assembles just goes along with it, no questions asked! I swear, I was facepalming for more than half the movie!
Also, this movie is basically Shyamalan giving a big "fuck you" to critics. The character Shyamalan himself plays is a deeply inspirational writer. And there's a critic character who's described as arrogant and has no right to determine people's positions.
Overall, "awkward" is the best word to describe this movie. It's just really, really awkward.

My rating: 15%

The Village
The Village(2004)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The residents of a small rural village live in harmony, except for fear of the mysterious creatures in the woods beyond the village. Now the villagers believe that the alliance between them and the monsters has been broken.
Most people agree that this is where Shyamalan definitely went downhill. I may not have liked "Signs", but at least it had potential to be a good movie. "The Village", however, just flat-out fails.
First of all, the acting is just as wooden as "Signs" -- except for Adrien Brody, who easily upstages everyone else. And I guess Shyamalan was trying to make the dialogue sound old-fashioned, but that's all it sounds like: an imitation of that dialect.
But perhaps my main problem with the movie is that it's SLOW! Painfully so! It feels ironed out to its hundred-minute length!
The opening scenes raise plenty of questions about where things are going to go, but the movie takes a long time to establish what its real focus is.
It's towards the end, however, that the movie hits rock bottom. The last half-hour is a constant barrage of weak twist after weak twist.
It's dull, boring, unfocused and just all-around tedious.

My rating: 35%

Signs
Signs(2002)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I know a lot of people like this movie, but at the same time, many other people have already pointed out how flawed it is, so I don't feel I have anything significant to add.
I understand what the movie was going for: an alien invasion scenario that focuses entirely on an ordinary rural family and how the crisis unfolds from their perspective. In this regard, the movie *could* have worked. Other movies, like "Night of the Living Dead", have used that idea of a limited focus to great effect. But here, it's all ruined by terrible acting and some really stupid writing -- too many examples to get into.
Yes, the acting is a major problem with this movie. No one ever shows any emotion whatsoever, which completely kills any tension. I know Shyamalan usually goes for a downbeat tone, but for a movie like this, you really need something more realistic.
To sum it up, this is basically "Wasted Potential: The Movie". It has its moments, and could easily have been an engrossing and bone-chilling horror film, if only the story had been thought out a little better and the acting had actually been competent.

My rating: 45%

Unbreakable
Unbreakable(2000)
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The plot is basically that David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is the only survivor of a horrific train crash -- completely unharmed. Then he's approached by Elijah Prince (Samuel L Jackson), who believes that, because David has never been injured in his life, he's a real-life embodiment of a comic book superhero.
Elijah's theory seems absurd at first, but gradually starts to make sense as the movie progresses. I especially like how, as a security guard, David has an instinct for wrongdoing, which Elijah sees as a human trait that's the basis for super powers. It gets to the point where he can tell if someone's got a skeleton in their closet just by touching them. :)
But sadly, this is one of those movies that seems to end too soon. The climax doesn't give you any indication that you're nearing the end of the movie; it feels like you're only at the end of the second act. (I had the same problem with "Rambo 4" and "Hostel: Part II".)
But on the whole, my first impression of "Unbreakable" is that it's pretty good. It's a well-written and thoughtful take on heroes combined with life imitating art.

My rating: 75%

Silver Linings Playbook
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Silver Linings Playbook" rounded out my trio of rentals this week because there aren't yet any films from this year that I thought would be good enough to offset "Die Hard 5" and "Gangster Squad". And it turns out I made a very good choice indeed! :D I loved it!
I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking mental illness is a very delicate subject, but I don't think any movie should be interpreted as a parable. I think of this more as a character study of two people helping each other to stand on their own two feet again. (I have heard from Film Brain, though -- whom you can usually trust considering how meticulously he researches these things -- that it's a pretty realistic depiction of mental illness.)
It's also astonishingly well acted across the board -- including, surprisingly, Chris Tucker! :)
I was thoroughly enjoying the movie... up until near the end, when the DVD started skipping to the point where I couldn't watch any more! :( Imagine my frustration! You know, that *really* pisses me off! Why can't people take good care of DVDs they rent? They're supposed to be public property! Letting a disc get scratched up is downright insensitive to anyone else who wants to rent it! So my final comment is a resounding "fuck you" to whomever let the DVD end up in that state!
But even though I haven't yet seen the ending, I think I can quite safely say that, had I caught this during 2012 itself, it would definitely have been on my favourite movies of the year list -- top three easily.

My rating: 90%

Gangster Squad

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Gangster Squad" is loosely based on a true story, about a band of Los Angeles police officers who go undercover as renegade gangsters to take down mob boss Mickey Cohen.
Since the movie claimed at the start that it was inspired by a true story, I was expecting something somewhat serious. What I got instead was a ridiculously over-the-top blast of camp. Right from the opening scenes, the movie made it clear what tone it was going for -- the violence was deliriously outrageous -- and my expectations plummeted through the floor. It's a movie that basically embraces and glorifies cops chasing gangsters in a pulp fiction kind of way.
The characters are underdeveloped and, sadly, underperformed. Jerry and Grace's relationship falls especially flat.
And the action scenes are poorly edited; in the first couple, I could never tell where anyone was in proximity to each other.
I would have preferred if the movie had gone for a more serious tone, tried to properly represent the true story. But as it stands, it's ludicrous, thoroughly predictable and unimpressive.

My rating: 40%

A Good Day To Die Hard

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Well, it's that time of year again. :) The time when I start renting three new releases a week from Xtra-vision to catch up on whatever I missed in the cinema during the first few months of the year.
The first of this week's trio is "A Good Day to Die Hard", the fifth instalment in the franchise. I actually went back and watched the first four again in preparation for this one. :) So I'm left in absolutely no doubt that to say this is by far the worst of the series is a massive understatement!
As the series progressed, it increasingly lost sight of the vulnerability that made the character of John McClane so appealing to begin with. By this point, he doesn't seem to care about anything anymore.
But that's not the only reason this doesn't feel *at all* like a "Die Hard" movie. The film itself is every bland, generic action movie you've ever seen before. It really does seem like the name "Die Hard" was slapped on it just to make more money.
The story is so poorly set up that, even by the time it got to the first car chase, I had no idea what was going on. So, even though it had some admittedly cool stunts, the action wasn't the least bit exciting, because I didn't know who these people were or what was at stake. Doesn't help any that the action is shot and edited about as clumsily as you can get -- again, like so many other action movies these days!
Still, at least this movie isn't pussified, unlike the fourth one. :) Neither the language nor the violence is tamed down.
To sum it up, my main problem with this movie is not just the fact that its narrative is confused (and confusing), but by God is it boring! The original "Die Hard" really is one of the most perfect action movies ever made, so to see its sequels degenerate to this point is pretty disheartening.

My rating: 25%

Daybreakers
Daybreakers(2010)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

In a future where vampires have almost completely replaced humans, vampire scientists are trying to find an effective blood substitute before humans are completely wiped out and the vampire population starves.
"Daybreakers", quite simply, is one of the most inspired vampire stories I've ever come across! The vampire-dominated world it sets up is just fascinating to watch, with too many clever ideas to count. The cars equipped for daytime driving, the "subsiders" (vampires who've deformed from lack of human blood) -- the list goes on.
It's also every bit as violent as you'd want a vampire movie to be. It doesn't go off the wall or anything, but whenever violence *is* called for, the screen is positively splattered with bloody, gory goodness. :) Especially, the final climax is straight-up *awesome*!
By the way, the main protagonist's name is Edward! Yeah. :)
But the big problem with this movie -- sad to say -- the acting's not very good. All the performances are a little too subdued, so even the big dramatic moments (like the relationship between Sam Neill and his daughter) fall a little flat.
Also, whenever CGI is used, it sticks out like a sore thumb because it looks *awful*.
But on the whole, the setup and story are so wonderful that I'm willing to let the poor acting and bad CGI pass. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to catch a breath of fresh air by watching a real, kick-ass vampire movie.

My rating: 80%

Star Trek Into Darkness

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Okay, I know I'm late to the game on this one, but I just got back from seeing "Star Trek Into Darkness". :) And in short, I liked it a lot; I enjoyed it even more than the first JJ Abrams "Trek".
First of all, this one demonstrates more of the true essence of "Trek": exploration and diplomacy. The opening scene, for example, and the problems that spring from retrieving Harrison (Khan) from Klingon territory.
It also stays true to the characters, and their personalities are so strong that their interactions occasionally made me laugh out loud. :) I especially like how, when Kirk is forced to cooperate with Khan, he still has a plan in case Khan double-crosses him.
Benedict Cumberbatch makes for an amazing villain: manipulative, menacing and ruthless. Though am I the only one who thinks his performance gets a bit over the top at moments? And yes, IMDb flat-out spoils the surprise: it's Khan!
My favourite scene in the whole movie is, during the meeting of the Starfleet commanders, the moment Kirk realises they've walked right into a trap.
But the *major* problem with this movie is the ending. As many people have already pointed out, it blatantly retreads a classic moment from "Trek" lore, and at some points it just gets plain ridiculous.
Still, on the whole, it's a very enjoyable movie: cerebral as well as superficially exciting. I wouldn't say either of the JJ Abrams "Star Trek" films are five-star movies -- they're not perfect films -- but they're certainly very solid summer blockbusters.

My rating: 75%

8 Mile
8 Mile(2002)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I was under the impression that "8 Mile" was a fictionalised account of Eminem's rise to fame. But it felt very cinematic and predictable as I was watching it, particularly the low point at the end of the second act -- and, sure enough, it says in the credits that it's purely a work of fiction. It does seem it was inspired in part by Eminem's own life, though; it makes me wonder just how much.
As a movie, it's okay. In essence, it's just your basic inspirational tale of self-confidence. Its effect depends on how much you like the characters and the urban setting. I myself was never all that invested in it, but I didn't mind it, and there were a few moments I did enjoy. For example, Jimmy and Future making up their own lyrics to "Sweet Home Alabama" and beaming broadly all the while. All the freestyle rapping scenes gave me a whole new respect for anyone who actually can do that! :) And the intent of the climactic rap-off battle is summed up in the moment where Jimmy and Papa Doc are glaring at each other nose-to-nose, almost like Rocky and Clubber Lang! :)
My only real complaint is the villains: the Leaders of the Free World gang. They're just the same old cardboard-cutout bullies that I find *so* boring.
To sum it up, I don't really feel too strongly about it either way; it was okay. I can understand its appeal, but personally I wasn't totally impressed.

My rating: 60%

Dude, Where's My Car?
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

To cut right to the point, this movie sucks! Big time!
I've heard people say that "The Hangover" is basically a remake of "Dude, Where's My Car?" Well, they're right: it's more or less the same formula. Two guys wake up, can't remember a thing about the previous night, and discover increasingly just how much they got up to. But the characters' goal here is paper-thin, and none of their actions are in any way fun.
As you can probably guess, I *really* don't like these characters. They're obviously trying to cash in on the 90s stoner craze, but they fall completely flat. Doesn't help any that the acting across the board is God-awful!
On top of that, the movie just isn't funny. It's not painfully unfunny, though; I was mostly just sitting there indifferent. Except for several times when the movie keeps extending the same joke to the point where it gets torturously repetitive. Even more maddening is that those extended jokes are the *only* reason the movie barely passes the eighty-minute mark!
For most of the movie, I wasn't really mad at it: just bored. Until the last twenty minutes, that is, when the movie plummets off a fucking cliff! Without actually giving away the ending, let's just say shit flies off the deep end so drastically that it just makes you slap your forehead -- hard! It's a jaw-droppingly stupid climax!
There's really nothing else worth mentioning with this movie. It just sucks. It's just two really unlikable people doing really uninteresting things, and there isn't a single gag that works.

My rating: 30%

Dirty Dancing
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Spoony One once said that "Dirty Dancing" is one so-called "chick flick" that guys can actually enjoy as well. And he's right. :) Yes, to cut right to the point, I liked it.
I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we follow Jennifer Grey's character, "Baby", right from the start, which puts everyone watching the movie into the mindset of a teenage girl; we can understand her thought process. It certainly helps that the guy she falls for actually is talented! :) "Twilight" should have learned from this movie! The romance here has a much more substantive foundation.
The dance sequences themselves are a lot of fun to watch, and sometimes irresistibly sensual; they could almost tell the whole love story in themselves.
The film's only real detractor is the villains. Good God are they boring! It's just the cliched oppressive higher-ups, and they're all stick-in-the-muds who simply won't listen.
Honestly, I'm having trouble articulating my thoughts to properly describe this movie. All I can say is that I did get wrapped up in it -- again, because the two leads do share a genuine connection. The opening was pretty confusing, not really establishing the characters and the resort well enough, but the central relationship doesn't put one foot wrong. And you couldn't have asked for a better ending! :)

My rating: I'm torn between 65% and 70%

Doctor Zhivago
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Today's classic that I've finally got round to seeing is "Doctor Zhivago".
It's a romantic epic in the same vein as "Gone with the Wind": it's seemingly less about the romance and more about how the characters survive in a harsh war-torn world. In this regard, it works very well. I especially love the sequence where Yuri escapes from the partisans: you feel the same sense of relief he does when he sees Lara's house again after so long.
The one downside to the film, though -- and it is a big one -- is that it doesn't explain its historical backdrop very well for uneducated slobs like me. With "Gone with the Wind", you don't need to know the history beforehand to understand the context of the film. But here, I just didn't understand the purpose of the war, who was on which side and what they were fighting for. And since so much of the story revolves around that, the film as a whole really lost me.
One thing I have to say: I was very much surprised when I realised the Christmas Eve party scene was over an hour into the film! :) "We're an hour in," I was thinking, "and very little has happened." I had no idea; I thought I was only about half an hour in. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Overall, because the film doesn't have a three-act structure, it all depends on whether or not you like the characters enough to share in their meandering adventures. I personally liked them okay, but it would help if I understood exactly what their peril was.
So my conclusion is: it's a good movie, but it's not a great movie.

My rating: 70%

The Longest Yard

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Just saw the original "Longest Yard" -- or, as it's apparently called in the UK, "The Mean Machine". Yeah, imagine my confusion, especially knowing about the Adam Sandler remake!
This is the second American football movie I watched today, after revisiting "The Blind Side"! :D And I... didn't like it. I'm sorry: this seems to be a very popular movie, but it didn't do a thing for me at all.
I am *not* a sports fan myself, but that doesn't necessarily mean I won't like a sports *movie*. It all depends on whether or not I like the characters enough to cheer for them. But here, I just didn't care. They're all prisoners -- hell, we even hear about some of the grisly crimes they committed -- so why *should* I care?
Even in the climax, when (spoilers) Crewe keeps going just to defy the warden, I *still* didn't care. And, since I don't understand the rules to American football, the game itself made no sense to me.
On the whole, I just found the movie dull and far too long.

My rating: 40%

A Cinderella Story

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Okay, "A Cinderella Story". I *only* watched this for the sake of completing the Movie Compatibility Test on Flixster, since I don't like to use the "not interested" rating: I'll give any movie a chance. And this is one of the movies on that test that I was looking the least forward to seeing (okay, not *the* least, but we'll get to that later).
Now, I'm not one to diss girls' movies just because I'm not their target audience; I try to keep an open mind. But this one... it's terrible, plain and simple!
I understand that it's basically just telling the straight-up "Cinderella" fairytale but in the modern day. But superimposing a modern-day setting just draws more attention to how one-dimensional fairytales are. It doesn't work.
I *can't stand* the stepmother or the male lead's jealous ex-girlfriend because, again, they're just one-dimensional bitches with no character other than to simply be antagonists. Especially, with the stunts they pull at the end of the second act, I just wanted to punch them square in the face -- but not for the reasons the story wanted. It's because they're such base, cardboard-cutout bullies that I just wanted them to get a clue! I just wanted to get their comeuppance over with and move on.
The only thing I liked was the character of Rhonda. Again, she's just meant to be a stereotypical supportive offset to the cruel real family, but at least her screen time isn't a chore to sit through!
Bottom line: just stick to the fairytale itself, not this pig drivel!

My rating: turkey

Planet of the Apes
½

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I used to post full reviews on this site right after seeing movies for the first time, but just found it too damn difficult. I think most will agree that the more times you see a movie, the easier it is to form a concrete opinion. So I've decided to revise my reviews, holding off on full ones until I see the movie multiple times. But, since they say the first impression is very important, I think it's only fitting to still make my initial gut reactions known. So here's my first short "first impressions" review.

So yesterday I finally got round to seeing the original "Planet of the Apes" -- but I didn't comment on it right away because, as yet, I wasn't thinking straight. But suffice to say, for me, the movie definitely lived up to its hype! :)
For one thing, it's a much darker movie than I was expecting! Not only are the humans in this world brutally oppressed, but what happens to Charlton Heston's comrades is actually really shocking.
But on top of that, the humans being in the reverse position of the apes, in terms of the contrast it creates, is a hilariously brilliant idea. But it also makes for a fantastic parallel of the big religion-versus-evolution argument. The movie doesn't come out and preach all that social and theological satire, though: it all blends right into the story.
The ape makeup effects are stunning, even if the lips don't always sync up properly and you can tell that the makeup is impeding the actors' speech.
I love the music -- anything by Jerry Goldsmith, I think is gold.
And the ending, even though it's since been flat-out spoiled because that iconic image is now on every poster for the movie, is still a great twist.
So, on the whole, I think this is one of many movies whose reputation precedes it. "Planet of the Apes" is a great movie.

My rating: 95%

Saw