Tuesday, February 22, 2011

True Grit


This is a remake of an old John Wayne western. Although I haven't seen the original I really enjoyed this remake. It had a great mix of western cool and humor. The music was great. The scenery was spectacular. And the acting was superb.

Mattie, A 14-year-old girl (Hailee Steinfeld), enlists the aid of boozy, trigger-happy lawman Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track the fugitive who killed her father. The bickering duo must contend with a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon), also hot on the trail. Together the unlikely trio ventures into hostile territory to seek Old West justice. By the end it leaves you wondering who the title is most describing, Rooster or Mattie.

Hailee Steinfeld was great and really carried her part along side the acting greats of Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, who likewise nailed their parts. The dialog was very interesting, in that by today's standards it sounded very formal. But then I remembered watching the Ken Burns Civil War documentary in school. The letters written by the rank & file soldiers had the same level of formality. So maybe that was just normal talk in those days. Anyway the movie was very well made. Be warned it is kind of bloody, especially one scene. You'll know which one I'm talking about when you see it. And I haven't decided if I am satisfied with the ending or not. It is rated PG-13 for violence.


Review Pending

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1

Review Pending

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Robin Hood

Grade: C+

This was a mediocre film. Not terrible, but not a stand out. Russell Crowe as Robin Hood delivered a great performance (of course), but it was kind of predictable and a few parts were cheesy to the point of making my eyes roll. I watched it at the dollar theater and I don't regret the $1.50 it cost to see it. But it's probably not one that I'll buy.

This movie is kind of a prequel to the Robin Hood story that we are all familiar with. It follows Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) from his adventures on the Crusades with King Richard the Lion Heart on his way back to England and how he becomes Robin Loxley. We see how his friendship develops with the core group of what will become his "merry men" (Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlett, etc.). As well as the budding romance with Maid Marian. But this movie is also full of political intrigue as the palace brat Prince John ascends to the throne and all of England is betrayed to the French by a devious traitor. Who will save the kingdom?

Although the historical person of Robin Hood is almost universally believed to be pure myth, it should be noted that some of the film's plot points regarding King Richard and Prince John are actually based on historical facts (or at least historical theories.) For example, the death of King Richard by a cook with a crossbow as well as many of the details of Prince John's life.

It was fairly entertaining, but not particularly memorable. Not a bad way to spend a $1.00 and a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. Don't sweat it if you miss it. The movie is rated PG-13 for epic battle scenes which include some brief gore and sexuality.

Friday, July 30, 2010



Wow, what a ride! Ocean's Eleven meets The Matrix. This brilliant cross between a heist story, a psychological drama/thriller, an action movie, and sci-fi left me wide-eyed and breathless. Writer/Director Christopher Nolan (Batman: the Dark Night, Momento, The Prestige) has hit another home run with Inception. This film engaged my emotions, my adrenaline, and my intellect. Smart and exciting. I loved it.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief with the rare ability to enter people's dreams and steal their secrets from their subconscious. His skill has made him a hot commodity in the world of corporate espionage, but has also cost him everything he loves. Cobb gets a chance at redemption when he is offered a seemingly impossible job: to plant an idea in someone's mind. If he succeeds, it will be the perfect crime, but a dangerous enemy anticipates Cobb's every move.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I had thought of writing a story about entering people's dreams, and had even toyed with the idea of using the technology for thievery and espionage. But Nolan did something so much more amazing than I ever could have with it. It is the kind of movie that will need to be re-watched several times in order to figure it all out. It is the next day and I am still dwelling on it. I can't wait to discuss it. It is rated PG-13 for violence, action, and peril.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon


This a very fun movie that also had some surprising depth, especially for a summer kids movie. Just like Despicable Me and Toy Story 3, what a great summer for animated movies.

Hiccup is a teenage Viking from the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. Hiccup's progressive views and weird sense of humor make him a misfit, despite the fact that his father (Gerard Butler) is the tribal chief. Tossed into dragon-fighting school, Hiccup endeavors to finally prove himself as a true Viking, but when he befriends an injured dragon, he has the chance to plot a new course for his tribe's future.

This film really brings it. It is funny, exciting, and tender. The animation is very good. The script and voice talent, also very good. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Check it out with or without kids.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Toy Story 3


Another home run for Pixar! They just can't make a bad film. This is the third movie in the Toy Story franchise and it blew my socks off. I kind of feel like I grew up with these toys/characters and their owner Andy. I was worried about how they were going to wrap it all up, afraid that however it ended it would be dissatisfying.

With their beloved Andy preparing for college, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), and the rest of the toys find themselves dumped in day care. Unfortunately, the uncontrollable urchins do not play nice, so woody and the gang make plans for a great escape.

I can definitely say that it was very satisfying. The animation is, again, a step forward T(their animated humans are more lifelike than ever). The story was funny, charming, clever, and heartfelt. I loved it. I highly recommend it for everyone, especially fans of the first two.

Despicable Me


I really liked this movie. It was a pleasant surprise. It was clever, funny, and tender. A homerun.

A man who delights in all things wicked, supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) hatches a plan to steal the Moon. Surrounded by an army of little yellow minions and an impenetrable arsenal of weapons, Gru makes ready to vanquish all who stand in his way, especially his rival supervillain named Vector. However, nothing in Gru's preparations and calculations has prepared him for his greatest challenge: three adorable orphan girls who want to make him their dad.

As i said before. This gem of an animated film had it all. The voice talent was great. the writing was clever and funny. The minions were hilarious. It was a winning mix of wit, humor, originality, and tenderness. I highly recommend it, for kids and grown-ups alike. i took my wife to see it for a date night and we had a blast. It is rated PG for some rude humor and slapstick violence.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Last Airbender


I really, really wanted to like this movie. I loved the Nickelodeon cartoon that it is based on. And I really wanted M. Night Shyamalan (whose movies, after his explosive debut with The Sixth Sense and Signs, have been steadily declining until acheiving an all time low with Lady in the Water) to finally have a good movie. . . . but . . . . I was sorely disappointed. It had such potential. Unfortunately, it fell very flat. Though the movie did capture much of the feel of the cartoons in how it looked, it lacked so much. It lacked the depth of character. It lacked the humor that endeared the characters to your heart. It lacked storytelling. It seemed that Shyamalan (screenwriter and director) tried to move swiftly from episode climax to episode climax from the first season of the cartoon with so little development or background that it felt choppy. The dialog was written and delivered very dryly. Shyamalan does have great talent for framing a shot and creating suspense, he needs to stay away from writing. Get a crack screenwriter to produce a killer script and let Shyamalan work with the camera.

The four nations of Air, Water, Earth, and Fire lived in harmony until the Fire Nation declared war. A century later, there is still no end to the destruction in sight. then, an Avatar named Aang discovers that he has the power to control all four elements. he joins forces with Katara, a Waterbender, and her brother Sokka to restore balance to their war-torn world.

Now to what I liked. The special effects were very cool, the water bending, fire, bending, earth bending, and air bending. I am still bummed that I didn't like it. It wasn't that I was so keen on the cartoon that nothing would have satisfied me. I can control for that within myself. It just wasn't a very good movie. I think that kids will enjoy it more because they will be less critical. Maybe wait for the dollar theater to take the kids to it. It is rated PG for stylized martial arts fighting and some peril.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Karate Kid


There are some things you just don't mess with. . . . This is the case with many of the remakes Hollywood is churning out. This remake of the beloved Karate Kid might have been one of them, but in this case . . . Wow. Bravo! Great job. I loved it. My wife loved is. And my kids (age 8 and 5) loved it.

When his mother's career results in a move to China, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) finds that he is a stranger in a strange land. Though he knows a little karate, his fighting skills are no match for Cheng, the school bully. Dre finds a friend in Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man who is also a martial-arts master. Mr. Han teaches Dre all about kung fu in the hope that Dre will be able to face down Cheng and perhaps win the heart of a pretty classmate named Mei Ying.

Before I continue, let me get this out of the way. I was very impressed by both Jaden Smith (Will Smith's son) and Jackie Chan. Jaden's performance came across as genuine. As a professional teacher I can say that he nails the persona of a twelve year old kid. And Jackie Chan, we all know he can do action, but man he can do drama too!
One big change from the original. This karate kid does NOT do karate, but kung fu! A subtle, but important difference, especially for those within the martial arts world. ( For example, Karate is Japanese, but Kung Fu is Chinese.) Overall, it was a great, family-friendly movie, filled with fun actions scenes, descent character development, and clean entertainment. It is rated PG for some martial arts violence and some mild profanity.