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Rating History

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

This one only gets better with age. If you've never seen this film, it's a far departure from what was (at the time) a "Russell Crowe" movie. Coming off of historical-era epics and war-dramas, this one was supposed to be just another film like that cut from the same cloth.

They were wrong. This movie is a near masterpiece.

Firstly, this movie is a brilliant adaptation of the novel and that's nowhere more evident than in the pacing of the movie. After walking out of a theatre in 2003, I heard a lot of movie-goers groaning about how "slow" the movie was...because they were expecting an action-filled epic fireworks display. What they got instead was a character study of a man torn between keeping HARD discipline on a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean with 112 other men, and his duty of capturing or destroying a far-better French warship. The film has two gloriously realized action set-pieces, serving as a dynamite opening to the film, and a wonderful action climax after we've spent over 2 hours getting to know the characters on this boat - making the tension of war that much more significant.

Russell Crowe gives the finest performance of his career as Capt. "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, dominating the screen with a prescence of a man who has been trained since birth to command this ship.

Paul Bettany is the yang to Russell Crowe's yin, the only man on the ship who's friendly enough with (or stupid enough) to tell Aubrey exactly what he thinks of endangering the lives of his fellow shipmates, and what he thinks of Aubrey's increasingly Moby-Dick-like obsession with capturing the French. What's he trying to prove? And to whom? Himself? Country? The audience is left to ask these questions to themselves.

The production design and look of the film is stunning. What really sells this film, and most good historical epics, is the almost maniacal sense of realism and detail given to every rope, officer's uniform, but more importantly language and behavior. There's no winking, faking, or Hollywood crap here...the film does -not- dumb itself down going for the easy thrill.

While Crowe and Bettany's philisophical conversations about duty, rights, and honour are the centre of the film, Master and Commander still touts a very strong supporting cast of bit-parts, all well done.

Surprisingly, very little of the film is scored. The battle sequences are very seldomly, and classical music-sessions between Captain and Doctor are common, but the film relies upon its sound team to really transport the audience back to the early 19th century.

This film is a must-see for any history-buff, fan of epics, or really any fan of adventure films. Be warned, this film is a slow burn, but given time to digest, you'll see why it was nominated for best picture of the year in 2003.

To those dissapointed when leaving the theatre expecting an action movie, I have no sympathy for you. This film is a breathtaking adventure on the high seas

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Another attempt at catapulting a franchise into money-heaven. Sadly, it doesn't look like such a franchise will come to pass, but Percy Jackson & The Olympians was a fun movie, and one that the early-teens will really enjoy.

Right from the outset of the film, there's a lot of Chris-Columbus-esque establishing shots. Big sweeps and mysterious thematic score. It worked in Harry Potter, and it works here's a big compliment when you can watch a movie from a known filmmaker and instantly recognize his style.

Columbus launched the Harry Potter franchise directing the first two of those films, and although the 2nd was 30 minutes too long, he knows how to tell an origin story.

Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Rosario Dawson, Sean Bean and incredibly underrated Kevin McKidd are all standouts, and their performances as God-like figures run circles around those in Clash of the Titans.

The movie does move at a break-neck speed, a seemingly impossible trend to overcome when it comes to adaptations these days, but it'll hold interest, and although the 2nd act lags a bit, the 3rd act was a lot of fun.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is at its best in its opening act, establishing the heroes and villians of the story, and really coming through in establishing a sense of wondrousness - a whimsical trademark that Columbus is really good at presenting.

Sadly, the action doesn't follow through on the promises, but strong performances from a surprising and talented cast made this movie worth watching.

Grab the 12-15 year olds, and rent this one.

Date Night
Date Night (2010)
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Date Night features an extremely likeable cast, sadly paired with an unlikeable movie. Although this fact reigns true throughout the 90 minutes, Steve Carell and Tina Fey are funny and charming enough to evoke sporadic laughter peppered throughout the entire film.

Starting with the good, Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Both great comedians, and who can blame them for doing a film like this? It's a vehicle for both, they're better comedians than the situation that they've been placed in offers them. Their brand of extremely silly absurd one-liner humour illiciting a "what the hell" kind of laughter is reminiscent of 30 Rock at times, which is a very good thing! They're often at their best when mocking other characters in the film at a dinner together, making up imaginary lines of what others are saying in funny voices, or making fun of Mark Wahlberg's insistence on not wearing a shirt at any moment of the film.

The good continues in the form of guest cameo's, which aren't really one-off's! A lot of the "hey that's ____!", cache value I don't find that funny, but they're followed in this film by some really great moments with some decent screen time. The standout being James Franco as a lowlife with his transient girlfriend Mila Kunis.

Sadly, what really kills the film is the sheer insanity of the situation in which these two characters are placed. They are -extremely- relateable characters at the beginning of the film. Both exhausted all the time from raising a family, working a million hours a week, debating if they should have sex, a mouthguard for Tina Fey signalling that friskyness is a no-go, etc. These are all very very relateable things, and I got very excited at the outset. The film takes a very poor and head-scratching turn at the quarter-way mark, where this "Date Night" becomes a life-and-death shootout with gangsters in an alleyway in literally one minute to the next. The story is so out-there, that I stopped WORRYING about these characters, and the situation in which they were placed. Because the situation was so cartoony, I knew they were eventually going to make it out O.K.

Now, obviously I understand that a challenge needs to be overcome in this film to have any payoff at all, but seriously...married couple running away from gangsters shooting guns in a public park doesn't cut it. This is a storytelling flaw, a concept flaw, and the writers do a decent job of writing their way around it by keeping the stars saying funny-things. The happy-ending is still there, and it was really really nice to see the characters throughout the film still attempt to keep the realism of their marriage in check. This is the films strongest point; those moments where the two talk about themselves, and their REAL LIFE situation, not the gangsters trying to run them over.

For that reason alone, if you ARE doing a dinner-date-night thing with the Mrs., Date Night is -maybe- worth a rent, but only if she really-really wants to see it. It's just not as "creatively" satisfying as I initially hoped it would be.

If you're cooking dinner and have a bottle of wine on hand, Date Night is still difficult to reccomend, but pick it up.

Bad dates can last all night...this one only lasts 90 minutes.

Panic Room
Panic Room (2002)
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Panic Room is a tense, above average thriller, but suffers from a longer running time than needed and some fairly predictable writing. Don't let that stop from one from seeing the film though if you have 2 hours to spend, and are in the mood for a thriller.

The good first, the cast is extremely good. They do the best with the dialogue they're given. A film like this, relies a lot of tense "listening" and "scared" shots, and only fine actors like Jodie Foster, Forrest Whitaker, and the under-rated Kristen Stewart (see The Runaways) can pull it off without making things look silly.

David Fincher, coming off of some fine directorial efforts like "Se7en", and "Fight Club", a lot of folks in Hollywood were looking forward to Fincher doing something a bit less stylized and a bit more mainstream. What's really well-done about the art-direction in this film, is that essentially the ENTIRE film takes place in the same house. It takes a very good eye to keep making the house looking fresh and new every few minutes, and Fincher accomplishes this.

From that house though, a few negatives arise. Even though Fincher's effort is admirable, by the end of the film the flow does start to feel a bit stale. We have spent an hour and 55 minutes in this house, and I was feeling anxious to get out as well. This is understandably the desired effect, but a little more variety would have been nice. The predictable twists regarding the assailants "turning" is inevitable, although there are some legitimate story-shockers every now and again to keep one interested in the fates of Mother, Daughter, and these burglars. For what it's worth, the film could have easily dropped 20 minutes and likely would have felt more 'fresh' in the process, make the story turn and move a bit quicker.

All negatives aside, Panic Room has some great moments to keep you into it. A fine acting and directing effort, coupled with an interesting setting and storyline make this film feel like a very-high-production independent film, which is a great thing!

Lock your Panic Room, grab some popcorn, and check this one out if you happen to come across it on TV, or are in the mood for renting a thriller.

Pan's Labyrinth
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Giving a film a perfect score is often difficult. One tries to weigh what the film means to them, it's a really personal thing. Some people struggle with giving films perfect scores, I know I certainly do.

This is an absolute no-brainer for a perfect score. Pan's Labyrinth is a perfect film.

It's a film that's executed to perfection on every level of the screen. For anyone who has a sense of imagination, the film is an absolute must-see. Firstly, Guillermo Del Toro, like many of the finest directors of our time, understands the use of practical special effects and what they can do for engrossing an audience in the realism of a given world. Lord of the Rings did this extremely well. There's never any winking at the camera when something happens fantastical, it's haunting, extremely scary at times, and riveting from the first frame to the last second.

The acting is tremendous. Ivana Baquero is a perfect Ofeila, a perfect amount of trepidation and innocence in her voice and look. Guillermo must be terrific with kids. Sergi Lopez at Captain Vidal is a very well known Spanish actor, noted for playing villians, and mainstream audiences finally get to see him work his magic.

The art-direction, for which this film won the Acedemy Award that year, is spellbinding. And not due to its fantasy-element, although those environments are fantastically well-realized. The films look of Civil-War Spain completely sells us on a very unique and different setting. The unfamiliarity of the environment really sells us on the film many films have you seen that perfectly render a period of Civil War in Spain? I can't even name one.

Enough about the technicalities, what makes this film perfect is its heart. Ofelia is the fulcrum of two sides pulling her equally in either direction, the realistic post-war world which she must inhabit, and the fantastical legendary world that's willing to do terrible things to get their Princess back. How terrible? Well...prepare to be freightened, in the same fashion that old stories and fairytales made you scared. Witches snatching up babies to boil in the woods, and monsters that would eat little children if they misbehaved. With an ending so riveting and heart-wrenching, but so ironically happy and wonderful at the same time, I dare anyone to watch the film and not have a single tear rolling down their cheek at the ending.

The only dissapointing part of the film for me, is that upon it's 2nd and 3rd watch, I find it hard on my emotions to go on such an up-and-down rollercoaster. For me, this is truly the sign of a perfect film. It really affected me so much to the point that I find it difficult to watch over-and-over, just because those first few times were so perfect.

This is a masterpiece, plain and simple. A fairytale for adults to get lost in for 2 hours. Don't waste another day, go rent or buy Pan's Labyrinth and remember what it's like to feel genuine emotion for film-making once again.