Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Incredible Hulk


Okay, so I finally got around to seeing the Incredible Hulk. It was pretty good. I enjoyed the experience. A little disclaimer, I am one of the only people in the world that liked the older version (2003) of the Hulk. The 2003 version was poetic, beautiful, and dripping with symbolism and Freudian psychology. Perhaps where it failed with the public was that they were expecting more "Hulk Smash!" and less beauty. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this new Hulk movie.

Five years have past since the last movie. Bruce Banner is hiding in South America desperately searching for a cure to his hulkish condition. In the meantime, he has practiced martial techniques of relaxation in order to maintain control over his hulking-out episodes. General Ross, however, relentlessly pursues Banner back to New York City. A new creature, The Abomination (a sadistic soldier who becomes an evil version of the Hulk) threatens the city. Banner is the city's only hope, but only if he can summon the Incredible Hulk and direct his blind fury at the right target.

This film was more of the "Hulk Smash!," high action movie that the Hulk fans wanted. I recommend it as a great addition to the franchise and as a great action movie. It is rated PG-13 for comic book style violence and intensity.

P.S. For those superhero fans who have been following it, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and a couple future movies (Thor, Captain America) are setting us up for a combined movie with all of the superheroes: The Avengers. Notice Samuel L. Jackson's appearance after Iron Man, and Robert Downey Jr.'s (Tony Stark/Iron Man) appearance after the Hulk.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Grade: B-

In assessing my grade of it, please take into account that It was meant to be viewed in 3-D, which I did not. This was a fun movie, a fine popcorn flick, though there was nothing long lasting about it.

During an expedition to Iceland, professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) and their guide, Hannah (Anita Briem), get trapped in a cavern. As they follow their only escape route deeper and deeper below the Earth's surface, they pass through strange places and encounter incredible creatures, including dinosaurs. But as volcanic activity around them increases, they realize they must find their way out -- soon.

It was a little scary for my 3 year old, but my 7 year old loved it. The special effects were good, and there were some genuine laughs. If it comes out on DVD in 3D, it might be worth rented from Redbox, (with the glasses, of course).


Grade: A-

Visually stunning with a touching story. I (and more importantly my 3 and 7 year old kids) loved this movie. Pixar has done it again! I am amazed how they can continually reinvent the genre to avoid stagnating.

In the distant future, the Earth has become uninhabitable. WALL-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying up the planet, one piece of garbage at a time. But after 700 years, WALL-E has developed a personality, and he's more than a little lonely. Then he spots EVE (Elissa Knight), a sleek and shapely probe sent back to Earth on a scanning mission. Smitten, WALL-E embarks on his greatest adventure yet when he follows EVE across the galaxy.

The overarching message is one of love which is displayed on many levels: artificially intelligent machines learning to love each other, people learning to love each other, and people learning to love the planet. In addition to the environmental message, we find a humorous social commentary on sedentary life. The animation was incredible. I was surprised at how much emotion the animators could evoke from robots who don't even really speak. The first 30 - 45 minutes was almost entirely dialogue free, but it was still mesmerizing to watch. I recommend this film for kids, parents of kids, Earth-lovers, and hopeless romantics. (If all you care about is action and blowing up stuff, then maybe this is not the movie for you, even though there are a few explosions.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Clone Wars

Grade: B

I really liked this movie, understanding that it was meant for kids. (My own kids loved it.) It was a fun little romp in the Star Wars universe. In fact, it is intended to kick off a new TV series with the same name on the Cartoon Network (I think).

The Clone Wars is a computer animated film that takes place between Episode II (Attack of the Clones) and III (Revenge of the Sith). We find Kenobe and Anikan fighting in the clone wars when Yoda sends a young apprentice to Anikan. They immediately butt heads as both are headstrong and somewhat arrogant and reckless. Together they embark on a mission to rescue Jabba the Hut's infant son from kidnappers in an effort to win his support in the Clone Wars. Both learn valuable lessons along the way, and we get to see a lot of action.

The action was exciting. The animation was adequate. It was fun.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight

Grade: A

Just brilliant!

The action was great, the acting superb, and the story compelling. Christian Bale turned in another great performance. Heath Ledger as the Joker knocked it out of the park. Aaron Eckhart, although overshadowed by the untimely death of ledger, was equally brilliant in his role as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. the story was definitely dark (as all Batman stories are), but they seemed to balance it out with having more of the events take place during daylight.

It is a year after the events from Batman Begins and Gotham City is again in trouble. The efforts of the vigilante Batman from outside the system, and Lt. Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent from within the system have made great strides in reducing the city's crime and corruption. The Joker emerges as the city's "new class of criminal," one that is not interested in personal gain but only in spreading chaos and terror. He holds the city in his grips as a homegrown, psychopathic terrorist with no agenda but destruction. The Joker represents all that is evil, Gordon represents all that is good and both the Bruce Wayne/Batman and Harvey Dent/Two-Face are in the middle. Harvey Dent, the "White Knight" who begins by giving the people hope then falls to his demons after personal tragedy in contrast to Bruce Wayne who begins in darkness (see Batman Begins) and rises above his demons to become the Dark Knight. The two characters are like mirror images, identical in every way except exact opposites, or like opposite sides of the same coin. Who will prevail, the ever good Lt. Gordon, the ever evil Joker, the White Knight turned villain Two-Face, or the Dark Knight turned hero Batman?

If you are a fan of the Batman franchise, you will LOVE this film. In fact, I am loving this new direction the Batman movies are being taken. The older generation of these movies were fun at the time, but these new ones are better in every way. It is rated PG-13 for very scary images and intense action. (Definitely not a movie for the light-hearted, or for children).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Grade: A

This may be Dreamworks’ best animated feature. It had the perfect combination of voice talent, script, cutting edge animation, humor, action, and emotion. I thoroughly enjoyed the film from beginning to end.

The chubby panda Po (Jack Black) works in the family noodle shop, but has dreams of acheiving kung fu glory with the five masters in the Jade Palace. In a twist of fate, Po is chosen to become the next “dragon warrior” charged with the high task of defeating a masterful enemy, despite his martial ineptitude. Sifu, the renowned kung fu instructor voiced by Dustin Hoffman, is equally skeptical of the unimpressive Po. Will he be able to defeat the ultimate enemy and save the village from destuction?

My children were totally enthralled for the entire 91 minutes, and I was too. The laughs are genuine, and the story has a great mix of comedy, cartoon martial arts action, and deeper themes for the adult watchers. It has something for everyone. I highly recommend Kung Fu Panda. It is rated PG for martial arts action and some scary images of the villainous snow leopard.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Grade: B

The famous book series "The Chronicles of Narnia," by C.S. Lewis, holds a special place in my heart. These stories found me during a critical and formative period of my life and have directly and indirectly shaped much of who I am. That is why I was very worried about “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” worried that the filmmakers wouldn’t do it justice. I was pleasantly surprised. It was fantastic! So I went in to “Prince Caspian,” the sequel, with high hopes.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. It was fast paced and full of action. The acting was good enough. The special effects were pretty good (most of the time). And I liked some of the artistic license taken with facets of the story. But for some reason, which I can’t quite put my finger on, it lacked a little something. Perhaps the feeling comes from the fact that it is targeting kids. Or perhaps it is because the messianic message of The Wardrobe is tough to top.

The story begins in Narnia when an orphaned prince, Caspian, must flee the castle for his life soon after his power-hungry uncle fathers a son. At this point in Narnian history, the magic has all but gone extinct, including the plethora of magical creatures, exiled to folktales and myth. The story begins in our world when the four siblings Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan are once again magically whisked into Narnia. Although only 1 year has passed for them, 1,300 years have passed in Narnia. They must team up with the exiled Prince Caspian to once again fight a powerful enemy, bring freedom to the endangered Narnians, and restore the land to its fullness of magic and splendor.

As I said, overall I enjoyed it. The action/adventure was good and the story is great. They did a pretty good job with it. Despite my reservations, I do recommend it, especially if you liked the first one. If you have not seen the first one, however, you will be totally confused because it jumps right back into the story. It is rated PG for peril and battle scenes. There is a lot of killing, but no blood. It might be a little too scary for younger kids.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Iron Man

Grade: A+

I can't think of anything I didn't like. I must admit a few things first. When I heard that Robert Downey, Jr. was playing the lead role, I was very skeptical. And some of the movie's trailers made it look like it was going to be very corny. BUT, it was great. Downey was brilliant playing the likable prick, and soon to be superhero, Tony Stark. His supporting cast (Gweneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, etc.) was equally brilliant.

The mechanical genius and billionaire Tony Stark made a fortune creating and selling cutting edge weapons. However, after he is kidnapped by terrorists and forced to build a super weapon for them, he must use all of his ingenuity to build a weapon that will help him escape. He decides to devote himself to a superhero life, instead of that of a self-absorbed playboy, which he had led to that point. He becomes Iron Man, a hero who, like Bruce Wayne's Batman, holds the world's true superpowers: money and smarts. He builds a metal suit for himself that gives him strength, armor, projectile weapons, and (of course) flight.

I highly recommend this movie. It is PG-13 for some brief sexuality and epic superhero combat.

P.S. Stay until after the end credits for a little surprise.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Man On Fire

Grade: A-

I really enjoyed this movie. I know that it was released several years ago, but I hadn't seen it until a couple of nights ago on TV. It was exceptional. The film had a unique look to it, it felt gritty and real, yet it maintained an almost mythical quality too.

The story revolves around Creasy (Denzel Washington), a former CIA agent, who is hired by a wealthy Mexican (Marc Anthony) as a bodyguard for his daughter (Dakota Fanning). Creasy is to protect her from potential kidnappers, as kidnapping is wealthy children is a booming business in Latin America. In an ambush, the girls is indeed kidnapped and Creasy is shot and almost dies. Word gets to the family that the girl was killed and Creasy goes on a personal mission to track down every kidnapper and bring them to justice. I know it sounds like a cliche, but the filmmakers pull it off with great beauty, tenderness, and realism.

I highly recommend this film. It is rated R for violence. I watched an edited version on TV, but I could tell what had been edited out.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Battlestar Galactica

Grade: B+ (so far)

Okay, so this is a TV show. But each episode has the production quality of a feature film.

For those who are not familiar with it, it is a remake of the old TV show. In the distant future, mankind is traveling the Galaxy. Humans had invented artificially intelligent machines, which inevitably evolve to become our enemy, (pretty cliched back story, I know). These machines, the "Cylons," have actually destroyed all of mankind except for around 40,000 people that populate a fleet of star ships.

So here are the major conflicts in the series: (1) the Cylons are roaming the galaxy looking to wipe out the rest of the humans, (2) the humans are roaming the Galaxy searching for the mythical planet "Earth" to restart their civilization. Of course, there is plenty of political intrigue, twists, and action along the way. For example, there are 12 Cylon models that are indistinguishable from humans (they look like people, not robots), but here's the catch, we the viewers do not know who they all are. So, there is always the real possibility that any character is actually one of the unidentified Cylons.

I must admit that I hadn't watched Galactica until this season, which is the fourth and final season. It really blew me away. I was drawn in by the plot, the cinematography, and the overall production quality. One major "pro" to the series is that it began with the end in mind. It will not be like those shows that outlive their prime and spiral, out of control, into outlandish stories just to stay alive. It is able to maintain its epic feel through the life of the series.

One major drawback: there is some blatant sexuality. Although not in every episode, when it is there, it is pretty in your face. I find myself simply changing the channel and returning to it after a couple of minutes. It really bothers me, especially when there are always other ways to communicate what has happened to the audience. Viewer beware.

I am hooked and can't wait to see how the whole sweeping plot unfolds and resolves.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Am Legend, PG-13

Grade: A-

Wow! What a movie. Will Smith, once again, proves why he is one of America's national treasures. This post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller was full of emotion and action. The first half of the movie reminded me a lot of Cast Away, where Smith is the only person on screen, indeed in the "world." His means of coping with the loneliness came across as genuine and convincing.

Many critics say the end was disappointing, an opinion with which I can sympathize. It felt a little abrupt, and left a few unresolved plot points. An alternate ending is available (I found it on YouTube), which I am told more closely follows the book. I like both endings for different reasons. The original ending has a messianic quality to it: a savior must sacrifice to save the world, hearkening to the Time Magazine cover page displayed at the beginning with a picture of Smith's character and the title "Savior?" The alternate ending, however, does tie up the loose ends (even the ones you didn't realize were loose at the time), manages to portray the humanity in the "bad guys," and is "happier."

Overall, I really liked it. I am sure that I will watch it again.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Top 10 Animated Films

The best cartoon movies ever. I am including computer generated cartoons in this category. As always, in no particular order:
  1. Mulan
  2. Hercules
  3. Toy Story 1 and 2
  4. Emperor's New Groove
  5. The Incredibles
  6. Lion King
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Shrek
  9. Prince of Egypt
  10. Treasure Planet
  11. Jimmy Neutron

Top 10 Romantic Comedies

This is the only list here that even remotely resembles "chick flicks."
  1. Princess Bride
  2. You've Got mail
  3. Sleepless in Seattle
  4. Joe Versus the Volcano
  5. Miss Congeniality
  6. While You Were Sleeping
  7. Dan in Real Life
  8. It Could Happen to You
  9. Two Weeks Notice

Top 10 Scary Movies

I hate the horror genre. But these movies are really good without being too gory or horrific.
  1. The Village
  2. The Sixth Sense
  3. Wait Until Dark
  4. I Am Legend

Top 10 Action/Adventure

Here they are, in no particular order.
  1. Armageddon
  2. Hero
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  4. Matrix
  5. Mission Impossible (1)
  6. The Bourne . . . trilogy
  7. Indiana Jones
  8. Batman Begins & The Dark Knight
  9. The Fugitive
  10. Italian Job
  11. Ocean's 11
  12. The Jack Ryan series (Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, Etc.)
  13. Transformers

Top 10 Fantasy

The line between sci-fi and fantasy is not thin as many claim. It is wide and gray. For example, where do superhero movies fit? (I chose to include them in sci-fi.) Orson Scott Card classifies both into the larger genre of "Speculative Fiction." I need to add to this list when I have some time to think more about it.

  1. The Lord of the Rings
  2. Harry Potter
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  4. The Chronicles of Narnia
  5. Willow

Top 10 Historical Dramas

Movies realistically set in a historical period, though not necessarily "based on a true story." Again, in no particular order.

  1. Chariots of Fire
  2. The Last Samurai
  3. Saving Private Ryan
  4. Gladiator
  5. The Count of Monte Cristo
  6. The Right Stuff
  7. Hotel Rwanda
  8. Hidalgo
  9. Life is Beautiful
  10. The Mission
  11. Braveheart
  12. The Patriot
  13. Forrest Gump

Top 10 Sci Fi

In no particular order.

  1. Star Wars
  2. Signs
  3. Matrix
  4. Minority Report
  5. The Hulk (I think I was the only person in America who liked it. But it was Freudian deep)
  6. Spider Man
  7. I Robot
  8. Serenity
  9. X-Men
  10. Independence Day
  11. Back to the Future
  12. I am Legend
  13. Gattaca

Top 10 Comedies

Tough to narrow down to just 10. Impossible to place in an order, except that Dumb and Dumber is #1.
  1. Dumb & Dumber
  2. What About Bob?
  3. Tommy Boy
  4. Nacho Libre
  5. School of Rock
  6. Napoleon Dynamite
  7. The Man Who Knew Too Little
  8. Zoolander
  9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  10. One, Two, Three
  11. Christmas Story

Top 10 Movies of All Time

My version of the Top 10 Movies of All Time, drawing from all genres. My top pick definitely belongs in the #1 spot, but the rest are in no particular order.

  1. Chariots of Fire
  2. Lord of the Rings
  3. The Chronicles of Narnia
  4. Saving Private Ryan
  5. Indiana Jones
  6. Braveheart
  7. Life is Beautiful
  8. The Mission
  9. Star Wars
  10. The Matrix
  11. Armageddon
Okay . . . so there's 11 . . . sue me

First Launch

Okay, here us the first post of my newest blog. I have a keen interest in movies, but am in no way an "expert." I've just spent a lifetime watching and admiring America's favorite art form and story telling medium. In this blog I will post my reviews of new movies as well as give my thoughts on all thinks film.