Archive for March, 2010

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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

March 30, 2010

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe

A summer action of type of film that you can shut your mind off for and completely enjoy.  It is a ton of pointless action and very little in terms of a story.  It works in quite nicely with the original characters and TV show, it does change some, but they have the greatest line ever: “Knowing is Half the Battle”.

The story is pretty simple, it is the rise of cobra, as it says.  The Cobra Commander has to come into power and he gets help from Destro or James McCullen to take over the world.  The plans are slowly put into place as the crack team from G.I. Joe tries to stop them.  Lead by General Hawk, they try and take out James McCullen and stop his plan at every move.  This leads to a lot of high paced action scenes.  This film works on creating it’s story early and goes for a ton of action late.  There is plenty of action early, but the second half of the film is where it really shines as a great mindless film.  And they keep the plot tight enough so they don’t distract from the action that comes on.  The love stories are pretty typical, but fairly humorous.

The acting is pretty humorous, it isn’t bad, but there is a lot of action talent in there.  Channing Tatum plays the lead, playing Duke.  The surprise in terms of acting is Marlon Wayans.  I was extremely worried by that casting of Ripcord, but he delivers some of the funnier lines of the film, and his acting isn’t all that bad.  The fact it is an action film covers up most of the acting deficiencies.  Christopher Eccleston plays the main bed guy in the film, and is the big name in terms of acting.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sienna Miller are the other big names in the film.  Sienna Miller does as good a job as normal acting, but is wonderful eye candy along with Rachel Nichols, who is stunning as a red head.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is probably the biggest name in terms of acting talent, but he is woefully miscast in this role.  The last name that I want to mention is Dennis Quaid who played General Hawk and delivers the line of the day, “Knowing is half the battle”.  He is good in that role.

Visually this film is entertaining to watch.  It mixes the CGI nicely with the live action in the film, and while it isn’t anything special in either area, it doesn’t really detract from the film.  It just compliments the pointless action that this film is about.  The CGI is well enough done, even though compared to other big summer films, such as Transformers, the CGI doesn’t live up to the standards.

I think what best describes this film is the MPAA rating and how it is described: “strong sequences of action and mayhem throughout.”  This film is all about the action, which is pretty entertaining.    If you were expecting more, you would be disappointed, but in terms of a summer action film that is about pointless entertainment, this film is pretty good.  It was definitely better then the sequel to Transformers that came out the same summer.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: C-

Overall Grade: B-

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Up

March 29, 2010

Up

Another one of Pixar’s great films.  It is an entertaining story that is really touching at the very beginning of the film and then jumps into its zany adventure.  Pixar makes another masterpiece of a children’s film that is enjoyable for all.

The story is about a boy who wants to grow up for be an adventurer like the famous Charles Muntz.  Carl Fredrickson finds a kindred spirit in Ellie.  As little kids, they have their adventures and plan their grand adventure to move to Paradise Falls, where Charles Muntz went off on his last grand adventure after people had thought that he had become a fraud.  Carl and Ellie grow up and fall in love.  They get married and their plan of adventure keeping on getting put off longer and longer, until Ellie passes away.  Carl is eventually going to get moved nursing home, so instead he fills up a few thousand helium balloons and takes off in his house for Paradise Falls.  He finds that he has a visitor on his porch, Russell, a young wilderness explorer.  Then they have a series of misadventures and find the famed explorer Charles Muntz and meet up with some other fun characters.

The voice talent in this film is very good.  Christopher Plummer makes a very good Charles Muntz.  Ed Asner does the voice of Carl Fredrickson and does it extremely well.  He plays a great old gentleman.  Jordan Nagai does the voice of Russell.  The other voice of note is that of Doug the dog played by Bob Peterson.  He has some of the best lines and I must say, Peter Doctor and Bob Peterson, the writers of the story do a great job of writing lines that a dog would be thinking, which isn’t all that much and is very simple.  The voice talent is a lot of fun and they do a great job.

Visually it is as entertaining as Wall-E.  It has many of the same larger shots as other Pixar films.  But Pixar always works so hard on their films, and the style of animation is simply brilliant.  They put in so much detail into their films, and while it isn’t as absurdly detailed as some animated films or characters, it is very entertaining and good for what they are doing.  The stories don’t need to be extremely detailed as the stories aren’t extremely detailed, and they are really meant to be children’s films, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have good stories that adults will enjoy, but they don’t try and confuse people.

Overall this is another great Pixar film.  It isn’t in their top three, for me, but it is very entertaining.  The story is simple and it was well deserving for the Best Animated Feature win at the Oscars, and the nomination for Best Picture.  With all the films that have been put out by Pixar, they don’t disappoint and I look forward to the next Pixar film that comes out.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-

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The Descent

March 28, 2010

The Descent

The Descent

This is one of my favorite recent horror films.  Neil Marshall is one of the up and comers in terms of directing and in terms of horror he is also there.  The Descent is a quickly paced psychological thriller and is very open in how you read the ending.

The story is of a group of ladies who go out on spelunking missions every few years.  Things go wrong the year or two before and the main characters husband and daughter had died.  They go off into a cave system in the eastern United States and become trapped in a cave in.  While they are underground, a strange breed of predators starts picking them off as they try and find their way out.  It is made more difficult because they should have had their spelunking listed with the park, but one of the ladies had lied about the caves in which they were going.  The one thing that I will say for sure is that you need to watch the directors cut.  If you watch the US version, it just a typical horror film, but the directors cut is much of a psychological film and might take a viewing or two in terms of getting the subtle main twist.

The acting is what you would expect for a horror film.  All of the actresses are relatively no name actresses and there really aren’t any big actors period or many male actors to speak of in the film.  They play some of the monsters, but all the monsters look like monsters, and aren’t nearly as cheesy as most horror movie monsters.  Shauna Macdonald is a solid lead, but the main point of most of the actresses is to be attractive, which is normal for a horror film.  And the acting doesn’t need to be all that great as it isn’t a film that needs to be strongly interpersonal until you come to realize the twist.

Visually it is a nice film.  It basically takes place in a cave the whole time, and that works really well.  The best aspect for a lot of horror films is the confined space in which they use.  It is darkly lit and the tiny little amount of space that they use just makes the horror aspect so much more intense.  As you can sort of tell, there is a lot of red coloring use in the film.  Which isn’t typical for a horror film which is generally much more on the blue end of things.  This is just a whole lot stronger this way because while it does go in many ways that are typical horror films, the visual aspect is so much stronger.

This isn’t a film that everyone will love.  It is purely a horror film and people who don’t like horror films and the psychological aspect won’t like this film.  It is a well done horror film and Neil Marshall does a great job making this film.  It isn’t my favorite of his films, that would be Dog Soldiers, but it is still very entertaining and creepier then most horror films without becoming something that is purely about gore.  Also, if you are claustrophobic, this film might not be for you.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B

Overall Grade: B+

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Dark City

March 27, 2010

Dark City

Dark City

This film is an entertaining sci-fi romp that is beautifully shot.  It comes to life with a fascinating world that is created and keeps you interested throughout as it throws interesting twists that don’t detract from the story.

The story is of a world, that seems to be fairly normal, except that it is always dark.  No one realizes it though.  The only two who know what are going on are Dr. Daniel P. Schreber, played by Kiefer Sutherland, and John Murdoch, played by Rufus Sewell.  Murdoch only has part of the story though in this film that is a retelling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.  I feel like I shouldn’t go any further into the plot as it revolves around the great twists, which aren’t twists if you know the Allegory of the Cave.  It is definitely a good sci-fi film in that it isn’t just an action romp, like film like Knowing, but has that extra meaning.  Alex Proyas, the screenwriter and director, does a great job getting this story across the screen.

The first thing that you notice about this film are the visuals.  They are very well done and entertaining to watch.  It is a blend of many eras of time.  It mimics what you’d expect from the 40’s and 50’s, it goes all the way back to the Greek culture that the story is taken from, and it mixes in many futuristic aspects as well.  This blending works perfectly to create the world for this film and the lighting is simply stunning even though it is always very dark.  It works wonderfully since this is a story about that which is hidden from view.

The acting in this film is solid as well.  I am not that big a fan of Kiefer Sutherland (besides The Lost Boys) but this is a very solid acting performance by him.  Dr. Daniel P. Schreber is a very eccentric character and he plays it to a tee.  Rufus Sewell is very solid in his role as well.  He gives an emotional enough performance for the film as he goes on the same journey of discovery as the viewer.  There are times during the film that he even knows less then the viewer, and he does that very well.  William Hurt gives a solid performance, but not all that memorable, and Jennifer Connelly is beautiful in this film and gives a solid acting performance.  This helps the film out a lot.

This is a film that isn’t as well known as it should be.  Roger Ebert called it the best film of 1998.  It actually might be.  It is a smart sci-fi film that tells a great story and has solid acting performances.  The visual aspect is simply stunning and combined it makes a very good film.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B+

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MirrorMask

March 25, 2010

MirrorMask

MirrorMask

This is a small film that most people won’t have heard of, but is a very interesting story and visually stunning thanks to the Jim Henson Group.  It jumps off the screen like very other films do, and is shot in its own unique style.

What makes this film pop is the story.  It is written by a great writer Neil Gaiman who is mainly known for writing adult fantasy books and has had two other other books made into films, Stardust and Coraline.  MirrorMask balances itself between being a film that both adults and kids and enjoy.  A lot of the visuals are going to be entertaining for the kids and a story that adults can enjoy.  It is definitely targeted towards kids.  The story is of a girl who doesn’t like her family, they are traveling circus people, and thrill of it just isn’t the same as you’d think.  When her mother becomes seriously ill, the girl slips into a world of all her own.  A balance of two sides of a sheet of paper, the light, the front side, and the dark, the side that is taped up against the wall.  And she has to find her way out of the world where everyone wears masks.  It sounds like a pretty simple story, and it is, but Neil Gaiman puts in a lot of good jokes and little quips that his character say.

The acting talent in this film is basically unknowns, but they all do a good job.  Stephanie Leonidas plays the lead and does a good job playing the main girl.  And Jason Barry plays opposite of Leonidas in the MirrorMask world that is created.  They do a good job playing off of each other and the fact that the talent can hide behind their masks in the fantasy world.  However, they are very entertaining in their roles.

Where this film really comes to life is the visuals.  The Jim Henson Group does an amazing  job creating the world.  It comes across as the paper world and the characters that are created are stunning.  They aren’t the super detailed as compared to some of the creatures created with huge budget films.  There are some giants who are floating above the world who are mainly just giant shapes, no hair or extreme details like some films, but they work perfectly with the world.  And there are many other absurd creatures that come to life on the screen.  It also works really wonderfully in the coloring that it is shot.  So much of it is shown with a golden hue to it.  It almost has the feel of the paper because of that and it has a completely different feel, besides all the absurdities of the fantasy world, simply by looking at the coloring of the world and the styling of the buildings.

This is a small film, and I know that not everyone will like this film as much as I appreciate it.  But it is a good story and it is simply enjoyable.  It is a kids film and it doesn’t try to be too deep (but adults don’t let this turn you off, there is a good number of quips that kids won’t get) the only thing I’d warn about this film with kids is that it is a little dark at times.  However, with most of the films that are out there that aren’t rated G, this film is pretty clean.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

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The Gamer

March 24, 2010

The Gamer

The Gamer

This high action film doesn’t quite work at the same level as some of the other so bad that they are good, but it is quite entertaining.  The plot just falls apart in the film and everything else is pretty B.  It just doesn’t keep going quickly enough to put it up to the level of a film like Crank.

The story is very absurd and in many ways a new age version of Death Race 2000.  Dangerous criminals are pitted against one another in a game to the death and they can survive by making it to a save point.  To make it even more interesting, the criminals aren’t controlling themselves.  People are paying big money to control a criminal.  This is a second game put out by Michael C. Hall’s character, Ken Castle’s, already popular game of life.  Gerard Butler plays a criminal, falsely accused of course, who is the best at the game.  The guy who is controlling him is about ready to win and get him out of prison.  However, that can’t happen, obviously, so Ken Castle conspires against him and puts in a non-user controlled killer who has an advantage because he doesn’t have any lag time slowing him down.  He breaks out of the game and starts searching for his wife and daughter.  From there he tries to take down the company and show that Castle is trying to take over the world.  The problem is that the end just falls apart.  I don’t care if it is a dumb action film, but it has to wrap up neatly.  Instead of tying it all together nicely in a bow, they superglue it together however is easiest.

The acting in this film is very suspect.  Michael C. Hall gives a hilarious performance as Ken Castle.  It is an absurd character and Michael C. Hall just hams it up for his performance.  And he has an amazing song and dance routine in the film.  Gerard Butler is fine in his role.  He really doesn’t do much in terms of acting, but he does a good job kicking some ass.  There are some other actors of note, or people of note in this film.  Chris ‘Ludacris’  Bridges plays the head of the insurgents trying to take down Ken Castle’s company and it is a very uninspired performance.  Kyra Sedgwick plays a TV reporter who is interested in what Ken Castle is doing and is on the fence until she meets up with the insurgents.  She has a series of inexplicable actions towards the end of the film that just leave you scratching your head as the whole end of the film does.

Visually this film is interestingly done.  The action sequences in the game are shot as if they are in a video game.  The whole thing works extremely well that way.  It isn’t amazingly shot, but it works for what they are trying to do.  When they get into real life it is just kind of boring, but the action is well shot.  Some of the shots are reminiscent of Crank, which makes sense, since it is by the two writers and directors of both of the Crank films.

What hurts this film is that it can’t help be compared to Crank.  And while the end of Cranks is completely absurd, but they give you a tightly wound ending to the film.  With The Gamer it is just to off the wall and they appear to try and end it quicker then they need to.  However, when the action is in full swing, Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine are at their best.  They definitely can shoot the action very, very well.  Just for their action sequences and absurdity, this film is kind of worth checking out.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: D

Overall Grade: C-

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Sherlock Holmes

March 23, 2010

Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes

This new telling of the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle takes an extravagant romp through the world of Sherlock Holmes and while it delves into the elementary  side of the investigation, it also shows off Holmes need for thrill seeking and adventure that are hinted at, at times in the books.  Guy Ritchie brings Holmes to life like never before and creates a fast paced entertaining story around him.

The first thing that helps this film along its way is the acting.  Robert Downey Jr. steps in admirably as the iconic character of Holmes.  He has enough charisma in his acting to play that messed up character that Holmes is.  And he fills up the role.  The show stealer, though is Jude Law.  Law takes on the role of Watson, Holmes’ sidekick, and does so wonderfully.  He is always at the edge of being fascinated by the madness that follows Holmes around and he tries to stay out of the biggest messes as he is engaged.  He knows the trouble he could get into and he still follows Holmes around, and Law does a good job of balancing this conflict in his acting.  Rachel McAdams comes in as an American crook who Holmes has tangled with before.  She carries herself on the screen with a similar swagger to that of Holmes and McAdams plays off of Downey Jr. wonderfully.  The villain is played convincingly by Mark Strong.  Strong doesn’t overact his role as the villain but instead plays Lord Blackwood in a more brooding manner, which is impressive with the feats that Blackwood pulls of in the film.

The plot is pretty simple.  Holmes catches Lord Blackwood who has been murdering young girls across London in a ritualistic manner.  Lord Blackwood hangs.  Lord Blackwood comes back to life and all of a sudden, Holmes has to catch him all over again.  And Watson gets dragged back into the mess as Holmes and he have to clear their name and show off how Blackwood did it, besides magic as Blackwood would like everyone to believe.  McAdams’ character comes in as someone who tries to “help” Holmes throughout the film.  She has her own agenda and when it works to her advantage she helps Holmes, and when it does, he gets handcuffed to her hotel room bed, naked.

One thing of note in this film is the music.  It was nominated for the Academy Awards for a reason.  Hans Zimmer has worked on many big films before and has won an Academy Award for best score before.  The music is all classical, but always very upbeat and hi-tempo, which it needs to be for a film like this one.  It compliments the story wonderfully.

Sherlock Holmes was also nominated for an Academy Award for Art Direction.  This again is very much deserved as it takes London as it would have been years ago when Sherlock Holmes was written.  It creates a massive world for them to work with, and it is beautifully shown.  If you note the picture that I posted, that is what the film is like.  It often delves into the slightly more blue to blueish gray side of things, and it works wonderfully giving this film that older feel that it is looking for.

Some people might not appreciate this film as much because in their mind Sherlock Holmes is more of a sedated thinking man who solves crimes.  Guy Ritchie allows him to think, but there is no time to ponder anything as it is all a very fast action filled film, in the line of the rest of Guy Ritchie’s films.  It works out nicely, though, as I don’t think Robert Downey Jr. would have been able to play a more sedate Sherlock Holmes.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+