Expendables, The – A Movie Review

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Sep 122010

A group of mercenaries is hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator. Once the mission begins, the men realize things aren’t quite as they appear, finding themselves caught in a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal. With their mission thwarted and an innocent life in danger, the men struggle with an even tougher challenge — one that threatens to destroy this band of brothers. Barney Ross is a man with nothing to lose. Fearless and void of emotion, he is the leader, the sage and the strategist of this tight-knit band of men who live on the fringe. His only attachment is to his pickup truck, his seaplane and his team of loyal modern-day warriors. His is a true cynic who describes what he does as “removing those hard to get at stains.” The team behind him is made up of Lee Christmas, former SAS and a savant with anything that has a blade; Yin Yang, a master at close-quarter combat; Hale Caesar, who has known Barney for ten years and is a long-barrel weapons specialist; Toll Road, a skilled demolitions expert and considered the intellect of the group; and Gunnar Jensen, a combat veteran and an expert in precision sniping who struggles with his own demons. When the mysterious Church offers Barney a job no one else would take, Barney and his team embark on what appears to be a routine mission: overthrow General Gaza, the murderous dictator of the small island country of Vilena and end the years of death and destruction inflicted on its people. On a reconnaissance mission to Vilena, Barney and Christmas meet their contact Sandra, a local freedom-fighter with a dark secret. They also come to learn who their true enemy is: rogue ex-CIA operative James Monroe and his henchman Paine. When things go terribly wrong, Barney and Christmas are forced to leave Sandra behind, essentially giving her a death sentence. Haunted by this failure, Barney convinces the team to return to Vilena to rescue the hostage and finish the job he started. And to perhaps save a soul: his own.

Genres: Action/Adventure and Crime/Gangster; Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.; Release Date: August 13th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language.

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone

I tried to take the past week off. One of the things I like to do when I take time off is go see a movie in the afternoon. Somehow it’s a great feeling of playing hooky. It definitely makes me feel like I’m off. I elected to go see The Expendables, as Lay wasn’t interested. That would make him the smarter of the two of us.

It is a typical action film. If you’re expecting any sort of Oscar Award performances or screenplay, you will be disappointed. If you want to see typical and predictable action, this film offers about as much as any.

Barney Ross (Stallone) leads the his mercenary group ‘The Expendables’ across the globe, taking care of hostage situations, government reorganizations and all manner of dubious military undertakings. His right hand man, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), helps run the crew and has an ongoing debate with Barney regarding Lee’s penchant for knives vs. Barney’s love of guns. To round out the crew there is the martial arts specialist who is constantly (and inexplicably) asking for more money, Ying Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (Randy Couture), the automatic shotgun toting Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), the possible junkie giant, Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and the retired patriarch,Tool (Mickey Rourke). They are going up against General Garza (David Zayas) who is backed by the mysterious James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his hulking bodyguard, Paine (THE Stone Cold Steve Austin). Usually I wouldn’t go through the entire cast, but so much of the little enjoyment in the film is realizing ‘HEY, I know that actor from before, in my childhood!’

The film is nothing if not violent, with bodies exploding, cars riddled with bullets and many, many throats getting knifed. Unfortunately, for a film that is so manically driven, none of the action seems fresh. The martial arts feel redundant, the Mexican stand-offs predictable in their lunacy, the explosions so commonplace they become yawn inducing. Even the ‘casual banter in a high tension situation because they are so professional’ gimmick wears painfully thin.

So, it’s probably best to wait until you can get it at a Redbox, and don’t have any high expectations, and it could be fun to watch.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 10)

Robin Hood – A Movie Review

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May 172010

In 13th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. And whether thief or hero, one man from humble beginnings will become an eternal symbol of freedom for his people.

“Robin Hood” chronicles the life of an expert archer, previously interested only in self-preservation, from his service in King Richard’s army against the French. Upon Richard’s death, Robin travels to Nottingham, a town suffering from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation, where he falls for the spirited widow Lady Marion, a woman skeptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader from the forest. Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marion and salvage the village, Robin assembles a gang whose lethal mercenary skills are matched only by its appetite for life. Together, they begin preying on the indulgent upper class to correct injustices under the sheriff.

With their country weakened from decades of war, embattled from the ineffective rule of the new king and vulnerable to insurgencies from within and threats from afar, Robin and his men heed a call to ever greater adventure. This unlikeliest of heroes and his allies set off to protect their country from slipping into bloody civil war and return glory to England once more.

Genres: Action/Adventure and Drama; Running Time: 2 hrs. 11 min.; Release Date: May 14th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content.

Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, William Marshall, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Kevin Durand, Max von Sydow

Directed By: Ridley Scott

We went to see this film at an earlier showing Friday evening to avoid some of the crowds. The film is no Gladiator, maybe one of the best films, but it is a decent movie. I got my money’s worth.

One of the problems with the film is a sense of urgency. Instead of sometimes lingering to develop the story, it often charges ahead and can seem somewhat aimless. Also, often the music overpowers the dialog. Combined with the accents, it can be hard to understand.

Crowe and Scott reunite again and Crowe gives a solid performance as a rougher and tougher Robin. Blanchett too is solid as an older Maiden, showing she is a tough woman who also willing to fight: a woman that properly would not have existed in this period. Strong shows once again that he is an excellent villain, having stared in Sherlock Holmes and Kick-Ass, a man who thinks about his own self-interest. Strong has been making a good career as villain for hire and he was the strongest actor in the film. The American in this English set film did well, William Hurt was very strong as the wronged advice in the King’s court, whilst Huston seemed to be having a blast as Richard I and obviously shows he is not as noble he seems.

This film felt like an origins story, a start to a new film series. This is Robin Hood that has not been seen on-screen like this before. I actually hope there is a sequel and the Merry Band get more film time.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Clash of The Titans – A Movie Review

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May 052010

The ultimate struggle for power pits men against kings and kings against gods. But the war between the gods themselves could destroy the world. Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus is helpless to save his family from Hades, vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing left to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus and unleash hell on earth. Leading a daring band of warriors, Perseus sets off on a perilous journey deep into forbidden worlds. Battling unholy demons and fearsome beasts, he will only survive if he can accept his power as a god, defy his fate and create his own destiny.

Genres:     Action/Adventure and Remake; Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.; Release Date: April 2nd, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality.

Actors: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Mads Mikkelsen, Izabella Miko, Liam Cunningham, Hans Matheson, Ashraf Barhom, Ian Whyte

Directed by: Louis Leterrier

We watched this at the theater a couple of weeks go. Let me direct. Skip this movie and watch the 1981 Harry Hausen version of the movie. It’s much better.

Remakes tend to be very good, or be epic failures, and this was an epic failure. This film tears to shreds the “Perseus vs. Medusa” myth and replaces it with mindless power chord progressions, endless action sequences, and a trivialized view of the Greek gods. If you believe this film, the Gods simply stand around on pedastals watching the world below.

Sam Worthington has proved himself to be a competent actor recently, but his performance is just nauseating with his embarrassed delivery of wooden dialogue. The script is awful, and the overblown spectacle of the entire thing is so self-indulgent that I was bored within the first 15 minutes. They spent no time setting up the story. The actions sequences were not that great, and there is absolutely no reason to watch this movie in 3D.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Avatar – A Movie Review

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Jan 202010

Avatar Movie PosterAVATAR takes us to a spectacular world beyond imagination, where a reluctant hero embarks on an epic adventure, ultimately fighting to save the alien world he has learned to call home.

We enter the alien world through the eyes of Jake Sully, a former Marine confined to a wheelchair. But despite his broken body, Jake is still a warrior at heart. He is recruited to travel light years to the human outpost on Pandora, where corporations are mining a rare mineral that is the key to solving Earth’s energy crisis. Because the atmosphere of Pandora is toxic, they have created the Avatar Program, in which human “drivers” have their consciousness linked to an avatar, a remotely-controlled biological body that can survive in the lethal air. These avatars are genetically engineered hybrids of human DNA mixed with DNA from the natives of Pandora… the Na’vi.

Reborn in his avatar form, Jake can walk again. He is given a mission to infiltrate the Na’vi, who have become a major obstacle to mining the precious ore. But a beautiful Na’vi female, Neytiri, saves Jake’s life, and this changes everything. Jake is taken in by her clan, and learns to become one of them, which involves many tests and adventures. As Jake’s relationship with his reluctant teacher Neytiri deepens, he learns to respect the Na’vi way and finally takes his place among them. Soon he will face the ultimate test as he leads them in an epic battle that will decide nothing less than the fate of an entire world.

Genres: Action/Adventure and Science Fiction/Fantasy; Running Time: 160 min.; Release Date: December 18, 2009; MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang and Michelle Rodriguez.

Directed by: James Cameron

I am skipping ahead a little by writing this review, as I’m behind on a couple of other movies I’ve seen recently. I went to see this Monday. It was a holiday, Lay was working and didn’t want to see this, so it was a good time to go. I saw it at Westshore Mall, and the theater was nearly  full.

There is no doubt this is a visually beautiful film. Cameron, with WETA Workshop and ILM, have truly outdone themselves. They have created a very real seeming alien world, and made it a work of art besides. I saw the 3D version after some debate (I don’t generally like 3D), and suggest that is the only way to see it. I appreciated the fact they used the 3D effect merely to help immerse you into this world, and not using it as “device” merely for the sake of the effect (no scary creatures jumping out of the screen at you).

The actors played their parts well, and the characters came through as realistic and believable. It was a good screenplay, but frankly could have easily been 30 minutes shorter. It was also a bit predictable and clichéd. I read a comment somewhere that it was like “Dances With Wolves” meets “Star Wars”, and I can certainly see how that was an apt comparison…in nearly every detail.

I can see why some neocons and others of the believers in “American Exceptionalism” would be unhappy with this movie. It is clearly an indictment of colonialism, and points out how Americans (and everyone in this movie from earth appears to be at least english speaking) abuse natural resources and have a sense of entitlement about it. Also, it clearly portrays our own sense that “our way” must always be better. So, yes Virginia, there is a political message here, and it comes through loud and clear. Maybe some people will take it to heart.

This would normally be a film I’d recommend seeing, but suggest waiting to see it on DVD. However, because of the stunning visuals in the film resulting from the colorful world Cameron has created, and the 3D effect, I have to suggest watching it in the theater on a big screen.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (2 votes, average: 6.00 out of 10)

Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 – A Movie Review

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Jan 172010

In early afternoon, four armed men hijack a subway train in Manhattan. They stop on a slight incline, decoupling the first car to let the rest of the train coast back. Their leader is Ryder; he connects by phone with Walter Garber, the dispatcher watching that line. Garber is a supervisor temporarily demoted while being investigated for bribery. Ryder demands $10 million within an hour, or he’ll start shooting hostages. He’ll deal only with Garber. The mayor okays the payoff, the news of the hostage situation sends the stock market tumbling, and it’s unclear what Ryder really wants or if Garber is part of the deal.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Thriller, Crime/Gangster and Remake; Release Date: July 24th, 2009 (wide)

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Brian Haley

Directed by: Tony Scott

I’m behind on writing reviews. We watched this on DVD a couple of weekends ago. We never saw this in the theater. I wasn’t expecting much from this remake of the original, especially with Travolta in a starring role, and because it was a remake by an explosion-happy director (Tony Scott). But, it was actually not too bad, with some nice plot twists.

Of course, the biggest reason the movie succeeds is Denzel Washington. Washington plays a disgraced (investigation pending) transit executive who’s currently slumming as the control chief. On his shift, naturally, a 1:23 train out of Pelham (New York City) suddenly stops in the middle of its run, and a hijacker demands $10 million to be delivered in exactly one hour, or passengers start dying unnaturally.

What makes this a little more than your typical cat-and-mouse game is the undercurrent of what’s gotten Washington’s character into hot water, as well as Travolta’s character’s actual motives.

Washington and Travolta play off each other very nicely, with Washington’s flawless portrayal of a flawed man far more convincing than Travolta’s garden-variety unhinged wacko. Essentially, Washington was good enough to counterbalance Travolta’s overacting.  Washington’s Walter Garber is unsure of himself, an actual Everyman thrust into a madman’s master plan.

There are some changes from the original, true, but they don’t seem contrived; for example, Walter Matthau was a transit cop in the 1974 version, not some under-investigation suit.

The action is tense throughout, especially since you assume that the hijackers are going to have to murder someone at some point (otherwise, why have a deadline?) Somehow, the movie manages to be gripping and realistic without being over the top. There are some minor bouts of nonsense, and maybe in the final 20 minutes or so it’s a little by the numbers in its approach to action, but overall it’s not bad at all. It’s certainly a lot better than I’d expect a John Travolta movie to be, but maybe that’s because he’s the bad guy here, and they’re expected to be over the top.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day – A Movie Review

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Jan 022010

theboondocksaints2_smallposterWhen a priest is murdered in Boston, the MacManus brothers abandon their secluded life in Ireland to look into the case. Don’t let the lack of promotion for “Boondock Saints 2” fool you. The plot picks up in Ireland where brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flannery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) McManus are hiding out after the events of the last movie. A priest shot in Boston, in the same style the brothers are known for, makes them the prime suspects. Writer/ director Troy Duffy is going for the old-school Charles Bronson-style vigilante movie, and achieves something pretty close to that.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama and Sequel;  Running Time: 1 hr 27 min.; Release Date: October 30th, 2009 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, language and some nudity.

Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly, Clifton Collins Jr., Julie Benz

Directed by: Troy Duffy

For those of us who have been cult fans of the original,  it’s a film that should entertain most, if not all fans. While not perfect, it’s a very well done sequel. We watched this a couple of weeks ago.

The gun play here is even more stylized, and it makes for some very entertaining action packed scenes that should please everyone who loved the first film. Most of the old cast has returned, and then there is the new cast, who bring some entertaining acting chops with them, mostly in the form of comic relief.

Unfortunately, All Saints Day isn’t quite up to par with that first film. Where the first film had a natural flow to it, the sequel is somewhat disjointed, and the cast seems to try too hard.  Julie Benz and Clifton Collins Jr. try to make up for their first films counterparts, that being Wilem Defoe and David Della Rocco respectively, but are poor substitutes. Where these characters from the first one seemed to be very natural and perfect in their element, the new cast members seem to be trying to make up for a lack of said characters, and it shows. There are also several silly and useless scenes that, while creative, are out of place and could have very well been left out of the film.

Fortunately, the end of the film is saved by a fantastic climax headed by Billy Connely and Peter Fonda. Their scene at the end is some of the best written stuff in either of the films and these veteran actors bring all their chops to this film. Adding to this is a very pleasant bit part from a Boondock Saints favorite that should leave fans smiling as they leave the theater.

Saints II is a film for the fans, that’s for sure. It may even encourage some to go see the first if they haven’t seen it already, though this isn’t all that likely. But, this is a very entertaining and decently written film that continues this great vigilante tale and may even lead to more. As fans, we can only hope to see more of the Saints in the future.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Boondock Saints, The – A Movie Review

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Nov 032009

boondocksaintsEncouraged by the public’s praise, Catholic brothers Conner and Murphy MacManus bring a bloody brand of vigilante justice against Boston’s Russian mafia and crime lord Yakavetta.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Thriller and Crime/Gangster; Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.; Release Date: January 21, 2000; MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, and sexual content.

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly

Directed by
: Troy Duffy

We decided to watch this movie this weekend after seeing the trailers for the sequel due out soon. I was speaking to the neighbor Saturday evening prior to the trick or treaters. He was planning to watch the movie also. He said it’s one of his favorites.

I have seen some truly woeful films featuring Willem Dafoe, and he’s not great in this movie either. He tried to subtly affect an effeminent gay man, but it just didn’t work.

That the rest of the film around him is good was a complete surprise to me. It has been compared to the work of Tarantino but really, aside from skirting a common genre and a bit of messing with the narrative structure it bares little similarity. Certainly it has a completely different look and feel. For a start Boondock Saints is consistently funnier (particularly Rocko, who is so pathetic you can’t help but feel for the guy despite his attitude and intentions). And secondly Saints is much more straight forward (unashamedly so) than either Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown or Reservoir Dogs.

The film is simple enough, but its style and characters add a layer of complexity that such a plot would not ordinarily deserve, yet here the film makers run with it enthusiastically. On the surface it is a low budget action/thriller I suppose, but the end result is infused with a clever script, incredible characters, some terrific set pieces and a really twisted sense of humour. I would imagine that it looks more expensive than it actually is.

Towards the end it really starts to look at vigilantism as a political issue, and I feel that the social commentary it offers after the finale might be a good thing to start a discussion on the subject. Yet this does not really detract from the entertainment value of this film.

It was pretty good, and I’ll give it a 8/10.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 8.00 out of 10)
Nov 022009

monstersvsaliens_smallposterWhen California girl Susan Murphy is unwittingly clobbered by a meteor full of outer space gunk on her wedding day, she mysteriously grows to 49-feet-11-inches tall. Alerted to the threat of this new monster, the military jumps into action and Susan is captured and secreted away to a covert government compound. There, she is renamed Ginormica and placed in confinement with a ragtag group of other monsters: the brilliant but insect-headed Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D.; the macho half-ape, half-fish The Missing Link; the gelatinous and indestructible B.O.B.; and the 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus. Their confinement is cut short, however, when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins storming the country. In a moment of desperation, The President is persuaded by General W.R. Monger to enlist the motley crew of Monsters to combat the Alien Robot and save the world from imminent destruction.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Comedy and Animation, Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.; Release Date: March 27th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language.

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Paul Rudd, Stephen Colbert

Directors: Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon

I rented this on DVD last weekend, but we didn’t get around to watching it until this weekend.

It stars the usual big Hollywood names in the trendy fashion that is voicing a CGI kids film. This time we had the talents of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogan (who is more than everywhere these days), a British Hugh Laurie as one of the Monsters and Keifer Sutherland hamming it up voice style as General W. R. Monger. I don’t know what it was, maybe because I actually liked the actors voicing the characters but I thought they were all great. Reese Witherspoon did a great job as Susan (Ginormica) and Seth Rogan is apparently just as funny doing voice work (and gaining most of the laughs) as the literally brainless B.O.B.

The story is as basic as it gets. Monsters are imprisoned. Aliens attack. Monsters fight Aliens and are accepted into the world. Although the story is basic that isn’t a criticism. It was simple enough for the young kids to follow but it is the telling of the story and all the little side scenes such as those involving the President of the United States and all the daft clichés were for the adults.

The animation was fantastic to look at. It had all the polish of Pixar without the over schmaltzy Disney-ness that usually accompanies it and was just as funny as the rough and ready Ice Age series. There were some very funny set pieces and the action was fast and exciting. There was nothing too scary for very young children but there is enough action that the older kids (and adults!) will be impressed. I will admit to laughing out loud more than once especially at the “global warming – convenient truth” quip.

I would give the movie 7/10. It is an animated movie that you can actually volunteer to take your kids to and enjoy it just as much as they can.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Next Day Air – A Movie Review

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Oct 282009

nextdayair_smallposterWhen two bumbling criminals accidentally receive a package of grade-A cocaine, they think they’ve hit the jackpot. But when they try to cash in on their luck, it triggers a series of events that forever changes the lives of ten people. Smalltime hoods Brody and Guch have seen better days. But when a wacked-out courier accidentally brings them a box containing 10 kilos of high-quality cocaine meant for their next-door neighbors, it sets in motion a chain of events that could cost all of them their lives. Brody and Guch immediately arrange to sell the coke to Brody’s drug dealer cousin and his tightlipped bodyguard. But when the intended recipients of the package, wannabe gangster Jesus and his feisty girlfriend, realize the box hasn’t arrived, they set out on a desperate search to find it before ruthless drug kingpin Bodega Diablo notices it’s missing. But they’re too late. Furious over the loss of his shipment, mob boss Bodega will stop at nothing to get the drugs back. With Brody and Guch’s drug deal about to go down, all parties are on a collision course that’s almost certain to end in heavy gunfire. And whoever’s still standing when the smoke clears could walk away with nearly a million dollars in cash and drugs.

Genres: Action/Adventure and Comedy; Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.; Release Date: May 8th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, drug content, some violence and brief sexuality.

Starring: Mike Epps, Wood Harris, Donald Faison, Omari Hardwick, Emilio Rivera

Directed by: Benny Boom

Produced by: Bryan Turner, Bruce McNall, Steven Markoff

We watched this on DVD Sunday before last. (Yes, I know I’m running behind on some of these.) I found this movie to have a few ha ha moments, but it was low key and a little slow.  There’s some fun watching how we think delivery services handle our packages. But it was, otherwise, a bit predictable.

The plot had no real dynamic and all the plot twists were not surprising at all, if you can even call them twists. add to that a bunch of stereotype characters with no depth and personality and you can imagine how captivating the movie was.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 10)

9 – A Movie Review

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Sep 202009

9_smallteaserThe time is the too-near future. Powered and enabled by the invention known as the Great Machine, the world’s machines have turned on mankind and sparked social unrest, decimating the human population before being largely shut down. But as our world fell to pieces, a mission began to salvage the legacy of civilization; a group of small creations was given the spark of life by a scientist in the final days of humanity, and they continue to exist post-apocalypse. With their group so few, these “stitchpunk” creations must summon individual strengths well beyond their own proportions in order to outwit and fight against still-functioning machines, one of which is a marauding mechanized beast.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Animation and Adaptation; Running Time: 1 hr. 19 min.; Release Date: September 9th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and scary images.

Starring: Alan Oppenheimer, Tom Kane, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly

Directed by: Shane Acker

We finally were able to watch this last weekend, after several tries. Friday night it was sold out. Saturday the theater was packed and the crowd was obviously going to see how loud and talkative they could be. Se we watched in Sunday afternoon out at Brandon theater. And we were both impressed.

I have not seen the 2005 Oscar nominated short for which Acker has expanded this from, but he has definitely infused enough plot and fantastical science fiction elements to warrant going from 11 to 79 minutes. The soul stealing of the original is ported over, yet the reasoning becomes deeper as the life source’s origin of these inanimate objects comes into play. This is a post-apocalyptic world that has been eradicated of humans by the machines they created. A scientist crafted an artificial intelligence powerful enough to advance technology to the nth degree, but as most stories of this ilk go, was usurped by the government to manufacture weapons, breeding violence and the eventual takeover. The scientist saw this failure and did all he could to breathe life into nine little stitched burlap humanoids to hopefully save the planet from complete extinction. It seems he put a piece of his own character into each one. So the challenge is to determine what nine elements make up our complete character.

The tale begins as the titular “9” awakens for the first time, without a voice, and curious as to what he has been brought into. We are as confused as he, until the window shutters are pushed open, revealing the destruction that once was urban landscape. Adventure ensues as “9” stumbles upon others like him, older and wiser, some hiding to survive, others fighting to keep going. A small metal half-sphere, foreign markings on its face, soon becomes a crucial piece of paraphernalia too, both as a device to destroy them and save them. So it goes to these keepers of humanity to bring life back to the dying planet, a task realized while on the journey to save themselves as the original fabricated brain is awakened. It becomes a test of time and courage, learning to work as a team and sacrifice everything for the greater good of life itself.

There is always something bigger lingering in the background—stakes much higher than the more evident plot at the forefront—hidden behind the more minimalist action/adventure of these humanoids and their survival. The bigger questions of why “6” continually draws the metal half-sphere or even of how these beings came to live and breath will be answered as the characters themselves discover the truth. “1” has been leading the way since the beginning, guilting them all to follow him because he’s kept them alive thus far, but to what end? Always hiding and running, “1” does what he can to squash any opinions of leaving to find out what is truly out there, driving “7”, the self-made warrior, away to fend for herself and “2” to cloak his scientific curiosity and stick with the herd. It isn’t until “9” arrives that the status quo is shaken up, either from his bravery or from his naivety—making the mistake that puts them all in danger—allowing for the necessity to chose whether to live or die.

9 has a pretty stellar voice cast with Elijah Wood as “9”, Jennifer Connelly as “7”, Christopher Plummer as “1”, John C. Reilly as “5”, and the underused Crispin Glover as “6”. However, the real acting prowess comes from the animation driving it all. The original short had no language and relied solely on expression and movement, something that definitely carries over here to enhance each being’s realism and humanity. It is a dark landscape with great use of light and atmospheric elements. Every action sequence is well-crafted and composed to stay interesting.

Its runtime may seem short, but rest assured that its story is distilled to the necessities without any filler to kill momentum or pacing. Visually stunning and unique, 9 is a great alternative to the kid films generally utilizing the medium. Don’t forget that this thing is rated PG-13 and may have the goods to scare some youngsters unprepared for the battles or heady themes. It isn’t a movie that works for children with hidden treasures adults can find; it’s an adult film holding ideas of technology’s future, humanity’s fate, destruction and rebirth. I can see Acker eventually moving into live action as the storytelling is there as is the direction to hold an audience’s attention by being inventive and interesting. Even his use of sound excels due to one short moment of music, a climatic scene changing from relieved joy to scared trepidation in a heartbeat, all while “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” plays on an old Victrola; a beautiful juxtaposition indeed, and just one of many in a film smarter than appearances may initially infer, full of heart and hope for the future.

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International, The – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on International, The – A Movie Review
Aug 252009

theinternational_posterInterpol Agent Louis Salinger and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman are determined to bring to justice one of the world’s most powerful banks. Uncovering myriad and reprehensible illegal activities, Salinger and Whitman follow the money from Berlin to Milan to New York to Istanbul. Finding themselves in a high-stakes chase across the globe, their relentless tenacity puts their own lives at risk as their targets will stop at nothing — even murder — to continue financing terror and war.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama and Thriller; Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.; Release Date: February 13th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for some sequences of violence and language.

Starring: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Thomsen, Brian O Byrne

Directed by: Tom Tykwer

I finally watched this on TIVO from Amazon Sunday evening. It was a bit better than I expected, but I’m glad I didn’t spend the full theatre price to see it.

It is formulaic with some evil guys who run a bank, and create debt to control countries. No surprise there, and fairly easy to pull off. We don’t view bankers as heros much anymore.

Naomi Watts character was a bit stiff, and her dialogue very predictable and forced. Clive Owen played his part well, as he usually does. One of the holes seems to be that the characters were able to travel to far distant reaches of the world in mere hours. I’d love to have their corporate jets.

I’m usually not very aware of camera shots so the fact that i’m saying Tykwer really makes you think about perfect camera movement and angles really says a lot for what he does here. Not only does he start the suspense up early with strong verbal encounters/hard stares between characters but the way he frames and pans along the beautiful design of places like the Guggenheim Museum and the IBBC headquarters or the ancient buildings, narrow, bustling streets, and rooftops of Instanbul is fantastic. Nearly every scene has a lively visual quality. His one mistake actually comes with the movie’s one big action sequence. It’s a bloody shootout inside the Guggenheim but it just seems messy and hard to make out, a Paul Greengrass imitation without the exciting energy of a “Bourne” movie.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 6.00 out of 10)