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)

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.

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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

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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)

Band of Brothers – A Mini-Series Review

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Aug 162009

bandofbrothersThis is the story of “E” Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division from their initial training starting in 1942 to the end of World War II. They parachuted behind enemy lines in the early hours of D-Day in support of the landings at Utah beach, participated in the liberation of Carentan and again parachuted into action during Operation Market Garden. They also liberated a concentration camp and were the first to enter Hitler’s mountain retreat in Berchtesgarten. A fascinating tale of comradeship that is, in the end, a tale of ordinary men who did extraordinary things.

Genres: Adventure, Drama, History, War; Running Time: 10 one hour episodes with an additional special features disc – 705 minutes; Release Date: September 9, 2001; MPAA Rating: As a TV series, there was no rating, however there is strong language and graphic scenes.

Starring: Damian Lewis, Donnie Wahlberg, Ron Livingston, Scott Grimes, Shane Taylor, Peter Youngblood Hills, Rick Gomez, Michael Cudlitz, Robin Laing, Nicholas Aaron, Philip Barantini, James Madio, Dexter Fletcher, Ross McCall, George Calil, Nolan Hemmings, Neal McDonough, Rick Warden, Frank John Hughes, Dale Dye, Doug Allen, Michael Fassbender, Matthew Leitch, Tim Matthews, Rene L. Moreno,     Douglas Spain, Richard Speight Jr., Kirk Acevedo, Craig Heaney, Eion Bailey, Peter McCabe, Matthew Settle, Ben Caplan, Mark Huberman, Phil McKee…

I had watched a couple of installments of this mini-series over the past couple of years when they were on regular TV. I thought each of the single installments was excellent, but I’d never watched the complete series. Lay and I watched the entire series on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night a couple of weeks ago.

“Band Of Brothers” tells the true and incredible odyssey of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st “Screaming Eagles” Airborne Division, U.S. Army – from their formation in Georgia (1942), to Berlin and the end of the war in Europe (1945). The demand for, and on, elite paratroopers was unending and they were deployed as “the tip of the spear” of every major allied offensive (and many minor ones too) on the Western Front. Jumping behind enemy lines, often without critical equipment and supplies or lacking enough rest and under terrible conditions, they saw more than their share of hard combat and E Company itself took nearly 150% casualties. (Statistically at least, that’s 100% of the company – 140 men and 7 officers – and half again of their replacements, lost).

The entire production represents quality writ large: Beautifully filmed on various European locations (including the UK and Austria), the movie is noble without being the least bit pompous or austere, and it manages to humanize a large cast of essential characters with small touches of humanity and humor, all of which serves to heighten the sense of terror as they descend into the maelstrom of conflict. The first – and longest – episode is deceptively staid, featuring David Schwimmer (a long way from TV’s “Friends”) as a cowardly, bullying commanding officer whose tyrannical methods nevertheless shaped Easy Company into a fighting force which eventually cut a swathe through the heart of occupied Europe. Brit actor Damian Lewis takes the spotlight thereafter as Easy Company’s most respected platoon leader, with Ron Livingston as his right hand man. Other standout performances in a flawless cast include Matthew Settle as battle-hardened platoon leader Ronald Speirs whose wartime career was distinguished by numerous acts of bravery (fuelled by a unique – if morbid – personal philosophy), Shane Taylor as company medic Eugene Roe, Neal McDonough as 2nd lieutenant ‘Buck’ Compton (laid low by his horrific combat experiences), and Donnie Wahlberg as 1st sergeant C. Carwood Lipton, who maintained the morale of his fellow soldiers, even when the odds seemed stacked against them. Every episode has its merits, but stand-outs include David Leland’s ‘Bastogne’ (ep. 6), which recounts the horrendous circumstances surrounding Easy Company’s involvement in the Battle of the Bulge, and David Frankel’s ‘Why We Fight’ (ep. 9), in which the full horror of the Nazi regime is uncovered in a German forest. Additionally, the closing moments of chapter 10 (‘Points’, directed by Mikael Salomon) are truly heartbreaking.

It’s doubtful that a more fitting tribute to the men of Easy Company could have been devised than BAND OF BROTHERS, a truly remarkable film in every conceivable way. By turns engrossing, provocative and deeply moving, it stands as a testament to those who fought and died for our freedoms, almost a lifetime ago.

I’d have to say it’s worth every one of those 705 minutes to watch.

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May 172009

startrek_smalltheatricalThe fate of the galaxy rests in the hands of bitter rivals. One, James Kirk, is a delinquent, thrill-seeking Iowa farm boy. The other, Spock, was raised in a logic-based society that rejects all emotion. As fiery instinct clashes with calm reason, their unlikely but powerful partnership is the only thing capable of leading their crew through unimaginable danger, boldly going where no one has gone before.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Adaptation and Sequel; Running Time: 2 hr. 7 min.; Release Date: May 7th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence and brief sexual content.

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Ben Cross, Bruce Greenwood

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

I have tons of time off available from work, and in fact, have to take some of it or loose it. So I took some time off Friday afternoon and went to see Star Trek. Lay didn’t want to see it. This is certainly one of the better movies.

Let me start off by saying that I suppose I might qualify as a trekkie. I don’t own any memorabilia, I can’t speak Klingon, and I’ve never attended a convention. However, I did love the TV show as a child, and I’ve seem all the movies. I’ve been disappointed with a number of those.

I thought the overall theme and general spirit of of this movie was consistent with that of the original series. I did have a little trouble with the opening scenes, as they seemed a little bit too much like “today” for something taking place 300 years into the future.

Otherwise, I liked the movie. I could see all the younger versions of these characters turning out as they did in the TV Series. The cinematography was good, and the music was a good fit, including the original TV theme. The writing in this film is fantastic. Though some standard science fiction plot devices are used, what they say about this film is true. It can appeal to Trekies and non-Trekies alike, even though being one does help you understand the nuances of the characters, especially Kirk and Spock. The main accomplishment of the writers is their simplicity. Sure, the plot may look familiar, but it is fluidly and BELIEVABLY executed. Keeping Trekkie-level complexity out of the plot not only expands the viewer base, but also allowed the writers to focus on delightfully placed humor and character development that is consistent in the eyes of Trekies, and intriguing in the eyes of newcomers.

I loved how Leonard Nimoy was brought in for a small part, and I thought Scottie was introduced in a fun way. I would recommend seeing this movie.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Apr 262009

Hellboy II Movie PosterAfter an ancient truce existing between humankind and the invisible realm of the fantastic is broken, hell on Earth is ready to erupt. A ruthless leader who treads the world above and the one below defies his bloodline and awakens an unstoppable army of creatures. Now, it’s up to the planet’s toughest, roughest superhero to battle the merciless dictator and his marauders. He may be red. He may be horned. He may be misunderstood. But when you need the job done right, it’s time to call in Hellboy.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Suspense/Horror, Thriller, Adaptation and Sequel; Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.; Release Date: July 11th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, Doug Jones, Luke Goss

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Another Netflix rental, and I know that I’m way late watching this movie. For sometime I had felt like, based on the trailer, that it would be a stupid movie. Then I read a few reviews, and it got reviews very different from my expectations. Lay and I were both surprised at how much we liked this movie.

Ron Perlman returns as Hellboy, the reluctant, cigar-chomping hero with red skin, sawed-off horns and a massive right hand, who was once rescued from another dimension and raised (more or less) as a human. Hellboy usually enters the fray with a sigh or maybe a muttered, “ah crap.” He’s part of a secret government organization and works with another agent, a kind of telepathic fish man called Abe Sapien. He is now in a full-fledged relationship with his beloved Liz (Selma Blair), who can conjure up fire at will, though they have entered the arguing stage (over toothbrushes, etc.). Things get worse when Hellboy blows the organization’s cover by appearing in front of a gaggle of reporters. Henceforth, Washington sends a new, strict liaison to set things right. He’s called Johann Krauss, and he’s basically a wisp of fog contained in a kind of space suit. The team’s latest challenge comes when Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) returns to claim an enchanted crown that will enable him to control an army of golden warriors; he’s an oddly sympathetic villain, and a step up for Del Toro. (A young Hellboy learns about the prince, in the form of a bedtime story, in the film’s flashback prologue.) The Prince’s sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton), teams up with our heroes to try and stop her brother. Unfortunately, Abe falls in love with her so hard that he gets drunk and listens to Barry Manilow. Jeffrey Tambor also returns as the stern, nervous government agent Manning in charge of keeping the peace between the heroes and the rest of the world.

Honestly, I loved this movie. It was pure fun.  The visual aspects of this film is classic are nothing short of amazing. The movie has some flaws with a few strange possible plot holes, but at the end of the day, the humor rules, and the humor hit spot on, to make a very funny film. I can’t get the song “I can’t Smile Without You” out of my head now after seeing this film. That segment was hilarious. Hellboy succeeds in being a film with a decent story, good visual work, and great characters with great humor, all to make just an overall fun movie. For someone who believes any film that doesn’t win 11 Oscars isn’t worth watching, I’ll be honest, you’ll hate Hellboy II. For someone who goes in expecting only to be entertained, to just to have a fun time, I recommend this film.

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop – A Movie Review

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Mar 232009

Paul Blart: Mall CopA single, suburban dad tries to make ends meet as a security officer at a New Jersey mall. It’s a job he takes very seriously, though no one else does. When Santa’s helpers at the mall stage a coup, shutting down the megaplex and taking hostages (Paul’s daughter and sweetheart among them), Jersey’s most formidable mall cop will have to become a real cop to save the day.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Kids/Family and Crime/Gangster; Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.; Release Date: January 16th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG for some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor, and language.

Starring: Kevin James, Keir O’Donnell, Raini Rodriguez, Adhir Kalyan, Jayma Mays

Directed by: Steve Carr

Lay and I took his nephew to see this movie last weekend, but we both admitted to wanting to see. I’ve always liked Kevin James, and this movie was pretty good for the genre. While managing to leave out the gratuitous violence, sex and foul language, they still made a very funny spoof of the Die Hard movies.

It was consistently funny, and the characters were actually believable. Kevin James carries this movie. As it begins you feel for Paul Blart and your affection for him grows as the film progresses. It is easy to feel for a man whose dream is to be a New Jersey police officer, but for now is only a mall security officer. Blart is a lovable character who downs pixie sticks to keep his sugar up. The mall gets taken over by X-game rejects who ride their bikes and skateboards around the mall chasing Blart on his Segway. Blart takes it upon himself to save the mall and his love interest and does so in comedic fashion.

This isn’t a movie that is going to win any awards, but it is a feel good action/comedy in which a down and out Paul Blart overcomes the circumstances to save the day.

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Dec 292008

In a country in the grips of evil, in a police state where every move is being watched, in a world where justice and honor have been subverted, a group of men hidden inside the highest reaches of power decide to take action. Based on the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and the daring and ingenious plot to eliminate one of the most evil tyrants the world has ever known.

A proud military man, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg is a loyal officer who serves his country all the while hoping that someone will find a way to stop Hitler before Europe and Germany are destroyed. Realizing that time is running out, he decides that he must take action himself and joins the German resistance. Armed with a cunning strategy to use Hitler’s own emergency plan – known as Operation Valkyrie – these men plot to assassinate the dictator and overthrow his Nazi government from the inside.

With everything in place, with the future of the world, the fate of millions and the lives of his wife and children hanging in the balance, von Stauffenberg is thrust from being one of many who oppose Hitler to the one who must kill Hitler himself.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Thriller, Biopic and War; Running Time: 2 hrs.; Release Date: December 25th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.

Cast: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Carice van Houten, Eddie Izzard, Thomas Kretschmann, Terence Stamp, Christian Berkel, Kenneth Branagh, Halina Reijn, David Bamber, Kevin McNally, Jamie Parker, Tom Hollander, David Schofield, Werner Daehn, Harvey Friedman, Matthias Schweighoefer, Waldemar Kobus

Director: Bryan Singer

Lay and I went to see this movie on Christmas Day at its first showing in Gastonia, NC, so the theater wasn’t packed.

A story such as this can be a very difficult story to tell. Because it is based on a true story, it only has credibility if the movie is true to the story, but that can be difficult when the topic is complex, and so much of the story known only to a few. Because the outcome is known, it can be hard to maintain the suspense and tension needed to make a good movie, and a movie about a takeover attempt like this is hard to setup, as the real action doesn’t come until the event itself.

Despite these challenges, Singer does a good job putting out the story. I’m no historian, but have read a couple of reviews by people who purport to be historians, and they seem to feel the movie was reasonably true to the actual events. Perhaps the one gripe (and this is understandable due to the time constraints of a movie), in some cases the approach to possible fellow-conspirators was rather abrupt. I would expect more caution in such situations.

Singer managed to maintain a surprising level of tension and drama throughout the movie, and I found myself rooting for the conspirators and forgetting that the plot actually failed. It was also interesting to learn of the many considerations involved in such an action that go beyond the mere killing of Hitler.

I thought all the actors did an excellent job with their parts. I’ll admit to having been a Cruise fan for a while after “Risky Business” (but then what gay man wasn’t hot for Tom Cruise after the underwear scene in that movie), but my attitude towards him has cooled. But he did a nice job playing the part. The other actors carried off their parts in a very believable fashion.

All in all, a movie well worth seeing.

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Quantum of Solace – A Movie Review

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Dec 272008

Betrayed by Vesper, the woman he loved, 007 fights the urge to make his latest mission personal. Pursuing his determination to uncover the truth, Bond and M interrogate Mr. White who reveals the organization which blackmailed Vesper is far more complex and dangerous than anyone had imagined.

Forensic intelligence links an Mi6 traitor to a bank account in Haiti where a case of mistaken identity introduces Bond to the beautiful but feisty Camille, a woman who has her own vendetta. Camille leads Bond straight to Dominic Greene, a ruthless business man and major force within the mysterious organization.

On a mission that leads him to Austria, Italy and South America, Bond discovers that Greene, conspiring to take total control of one of the world’s most important natural resources, is forging a deal with the exiled General Medrano. Using his associates in the organization, and manipulating his powerful contacts within the CIA and the British government, Greene promises to overthrow the existing regime in a Latin American country, giving the General control of the country in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of land.

In a minefield of treachery, murder and deceit, Bond allies with old friends in a battle to uncover the truth. As he gets closer to finding the man responsible for the betrayal of Vesper, 007 must keep one step ahead of the CIA, the terrorists and even M, to unravel Greene’s sinister plan and stop his organization.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Thriller, Adaptation and Sequel; Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.; Release Date: November 14th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content.

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jesper Christensen, Mathieu Amalric

Directed by: Marc Forster

Boy, I am way behind on blogging and reviewing movies. We saw this movie probably a month ago. More on my lack of blogging in another post, but let’s get on with the movie review now.

I admit to sharing the disappointment of some reviewers in the lack of a Q and all the gadgets of old. This film lacked most of the humor and double-entendre’s of the other bond films. In this movie, Bond was portrayed as a dark character driven by a sense of vengeance. As a Bond fan, I missed the older style.

However, it must be noted that the film is of an early Bond, not yet “matured” into the Bond of the later books (already done as films). So while I missed some of the traditional Bond flare, I still found this movie well done. The characters all played their parts well, and the action scenes (mostly fight scenes) were reasonable and well choreographed.

This movie is definitely worth a viewing, but be prepared for a very different experience than most of the previous Bond movies.

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