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Movie review : Extraordinary Measures

Extraordinary Measures
Extraordinary Measures
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This was a major disappointment, sad to say. The sick children were perky and adorable, and it was neat to watch Harrison Ford play a crotchety misogynist. And…that’s about it. B- and rent the DVD if you must.

Here is the screenplay, in a nutshell:

Investors: Do it our way if you want the money. Bwahaha.

Father: My kids! My sick kids!

Investors: So your kids are sick, so what? We need to make this profitable; also you represent a conflict of interest.

Harrison Ford: I love rock n roll. So put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

Lab Techs: Sir, there’s a problem with the quantum polarity generator in the graviton field! We need to align the variances in the isolinear emitter of the multidimensional subspace amplifiers!

Father: Did you know my kids are sick and really cute?

Everyone: [Together] Awwwww. Hugs and bunnies and pooping rainbows!

Harrison Ford: I hate all you people.

Brendan Fraser: I thought I saw a mummy around here somewhere.

[Fadeout]

What did you think about Extraordinary Measures? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Legion

Legion
Legion
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Legion. Big sigh. I wanted so much more.

It’s about Revelations, sorta, and that is a really big deal in Christian mythology. Four horsemen, the holy host, avenging angels. The legions of God, right? Thus the title? We got boils and locusts. And…strangely enough, zombies.

So the world ends by God Matrixing people into flesh eating zombies? Whut?

Where were all the angels? The wrath of the Almighty? Why does this movie devolve into a languid morass of exposition, recycled Terminator plotlines and lackluster zombies? Even for a zombie movie, this is uninspired drivel. There is one cool moment with a creepy ice cream man, and the nice old evil dead lady offered a promising tease.

And then? A whole lot of nothing, paired with a random cast of morons to get picked off before you gave a turd. Turd. Yes, that is what this movie was. It makes me mad. It makes me want to go back and see Daybreakers again, which was a GOOD monster movie, to flush the disappointment of Legion out of my system.

B- for okay production values and fine work by Paul Bettany as Archangel Michael. Bettany conveys power and majesty, even wingless and armed with automatic rifles (again, whut?), in this sad excuse for a horror-action event. His scenes with Archangel Gabriel are pretty good. More of that would have been nice.

Finally, the denouement was plain old dumb: “I gave him what he wanted.” Fail. I am all testy now. Testy, huh, like Old Testament testy.

Perhaps some other writer will try to mine this rich field again and give us a blockbuster film about God giving up on mankind, with all the philosophical resonances, mankind’s struggle, the horror of angels wielding death brands and smiting humanity the forsaken.

What did you think about Legion? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli
The Book of Eli

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[ No Spoilers ]

If you’re a Denzel Washington fan then worst case scenario is you’ll just barely enjoy this film. More than likely you’ll enjoy it a lot. Maybe even love it.

What will probably be the determining factor in what most people think of this film is how well they take to the style that it is filmed in. The lighting is always stark and washed out. It’s almost looks like it was filmed in black and white. The lighting isn’t just for some stylistic impression. It’s that way because this takes place after a nuclear war.

I personally loved the style and cinematography that was used. Very dramatic, and it sets the mood well for the story that is being told.

As for the story: immediately after the film I would have given it a solid 8-out-of-10. But after thinking about it more and more, I find myself liking the movie more. Usually it’s the other way around. So good work on putting together something that gave us a nice revelation at the end that hardly anyone will see coming. Yeah, you’re going to want to steer clear of any spoilers for this film. If someone starts to tell you how it ends, then just stick a knife through their throat. That’s what Eli would do. 🙂 That being said – now that I know what’s what – I’m looking forward to seeing this movie again on DVD.

What did you think about The Book of Eli? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Leap Year

Leap Year
Leap Year

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With its stunning on-location southwest Irish landscapes, Leap Year is a sweet treat for the eyes. The leads are easy on the oculars also.

We don’t get anything new here – our characters share in their disdain for each other, bickering their way from Dingle to Dublin, occasionally revealing emotional baggage while inwardly denying the building romantic attraction. Do they end up together? DO THEY? What do you think?

I’m okay with all this. It’s a romantic comedy. Most movies of this ilk trod such ground – it’s what we buy with our ticket. What makes something in this genre worthwhile is how the characters get there. Where we experienced utter FAIL last month with tired romcom Did You Hear About the Morgans, Leap Year is actually a pleasant 105-minute diversion.

Some of the humor works, in particular a running verbal gag about Anna’s suitcase, and a sweet beach scene with drunken Anna declaring Declan an irritable, beautiful lion. The director should have stuck with such story-based comedy, because the slapstick moments (a flying shoe, slipping in the mud, stepping in poo) are merely embarrassing.

[Spoiler-ey comment ahead, although, honestly, what else do you expect in a romantic comedy?]

By the time Anna returns home to Boston we feel her dismay in seeing her old life through newly adjusted eyes. This makes more real her snap decision to head back to Ireland and confront Declan. What she says to him is highly awkward – I was squirming through her speech – but earnestly heartfelt.

[No more spoilers]

Ireland herself steals most of the scenes, with endless rows of ancient stone walls lining narrow country roads, sheer ocean cliffs, romantic tumbling castles overlooking lush valleys, and quiet bed and breakfast inns tucked under statuesque trees.

Next best is Matthew Goode, a marvel at turning mediocre lines into something fresh and intriguing. Declan is a joy in his rudely insightful, gruff way, and has a knack for eye-rolling expressions of disdain. Goode carries this film, infusing delightful charm into his old boyo persona.

Amy Adams is serviceable, reprising Meg Ryan’s ebullient control-freak tendencies from When Harry Met Sally. Her Anna is a snotty yet likable Boston socialite, intent on getting exactly what she wants in the exact manner she envisions. How cute little Adams manages to totter around on those heels – on those roads – is a cinematic mystery.

Leap Year was light and enjoyable. Goode’s charm tugs this B movie into an actual B+. But be warned: you’ll leave the theater planning a trip to Dingle and the spectacular southwest Irish coast.

What did you think about Leap Year? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Daybreakers

Daybreakers
Daybreakers

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Do all angsty, brooding, attractive vampires have to be named Edward? Oh, wait, we also had Angel and Louis. Okay, strike that, but it’s still weirdly coincidental.

I saw this movie yesterday and have a lot to say about it. Still compiling my thoughts and will add a full review this weekend.

So far it gets an A from me for being stylish, intriguing and intelligent. The projectile blood and juvenile gore drags the score down from a potential A+.

What did you think about Daybreakers? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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Avatar – plot too simple? Actually, a good idea.

Avatar is interesting in the context that the world of Pandora is a huge fantasy treat to an aging geek like me. The storyline is predictable; the acting is pedestrian; there is really nothing “new” here in terms of plot or character. I’ve read all the complaints from people expecting more from Cameron.

People whinge about the simple plot. It’s enjoyable, but retread ground for sci fi buffs. And it didn’t bother me one bit. I didn’t even mind how crazy that Colonel gets; I assume he’s a habitual steroid abuser. It all fits if you think about it that way. Maybe the director’s cut will prove me right.

So, okay. So I didn’t cry in this film. I did come close a couple of times and I did care deeply about what was happening. I think Cameron was wise in weaving a simple story – he wasn’t out to tweak your mind in a Matrix way. That would detract from the canvas he’s created, in having a theater experience be so immersive! This is the most beautiful film ever made. I might have thought that previously about the New Zealand sets in Lord of the Rings…but honestly, there is simply no comparison.

This movie must be seen in 3D to truly understand the hype about Avatar. I normally dislike 3D films – I find ‘flinching’ effects cheap and exploitive. They take me out of the experience. A solid film doesn’t need to resort to this; Cameron proves 3D can be used in service to a good movie. After the first half hour you even forget you are wearing the glasses. The timing is just about right for when you need to get lost in the wonders of planet Pandora.

In fact, I want my next vacation there. Can I sign up for my own Avatar? Can I tame a dragon and swoop around the Hallelujah Range?

Since this kind of jaunt isn’t likely any time soon, I’ll just have to see Avatar again, and in IMAX 3D.

Read Dan Florio’s full review of Avatar

Movie review : It’s Complicated

It’s Complicated
It's Complicated
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This is easily the funniest movie of the year. If you exclude The Hangover from the list then It’s Complicated is funnier than all the other comedies that came out in 2009 combined. It’s that funny. The middle third of the movie was almost non-stop laughing. Sometimes it was even a raucous laughter.

I felt that the cast worked very well together. Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin make up an almost unbeatable trio. They played very well together and seemed to have great chemistry. Many people feel that Streep will get an Oscar nod for her work here. I feel that Alec Baldwin is just as deserving.

And don’t forget that John Krasinski – Harley the son-in-law – is in here. He provided his fair share of laughs despite limited screen time. No question that he did a lot with a little.

Nancy Meyers – writer/director – deserves 10-fold more kudos than all the actors are getting. She provided the cast with a great vehicle and gave them excellent directions. For all the crap that Hollywood produces it’s refreshing to be reminded that there are talented people there who can entertain us with a funny and real life story.

What did you think about It’s Complicated? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
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Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes legions can relax; this Holmes outing isn’t too egregious. In fact, it’s even a good time for all.

The plot isn’t really afoot, here. In other words, the plot is only okay – it has notes of Hound of Baskervilles, mixed with a whole lot of Voldemort (sort of like a grown up Harry Potter and Tower of London). But since this is an introductory movie for – one guesses – a new franchise, we can forgive a weak plot.

The real game is the relationship unfolding between Holmes and Watson.

Fans of House, MD will recognize and appreciate this Holmes and Watson. House and Wilson have the same sort of obvious male domestic partnership. The chemistry between Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law is brilliant to behold.

Downey’s Holmes is a pugilist (and indeed, so was Doyle’s) who instantaneously sizes up an opponent’s weaknesses for intellectual entertainment.

Between cases, Holmes is a wreck, unable to stop the accretion of sensory input when he ventures into normal, polite British society. He prefers seclusion in the dark, imbibing whatever is at hand, concocting bizarre experiments and bemoaning the banality of existence. Only on the case, it seems, can Holmes’ high functioning autistic tendencies be put to use. Downey manages to make his quirky character believable, extraordinarily amusing…and also pathetic. This is a flawed Holmes, to our delight.

Our man Watson is an equal here, no bumbling fool merely present to receive Holmes’ expository brilliance. Watson is a well-dressed member of London society, a respected surgeon. He is also a skilled sharp shooter, a quick study, and – to his dismay – itches to throw himself into almost any fray. Law’s Watson alternately brings Holmes back to reality and enables his obsessions.

London herself has certainly never looked so luxuriantly grimy. This steampunk version of London is stylish, very wet, and bursting with industrial zeal. The final set piece on an unfinished Tower Bridge in particular is beautifully rendered.

Watson’s Mary is a wonderful addition, adding a realistic portrayal of a bright, strong 1890s woman. By contrast, the love interest for Holmes just doesn’t work. Actress Rachel McAdams can’t pull off enough the gravitas necessary to lend credence that THIS is the one person – in all the world – who outwits/ensnares Holmes.

Director Guy Ritchie is an odd choice to direct this genre and it shows: his modern stylized quick cuts, so admirable in Snatch, only drag the viewer away from the impact of a period epic tale. With more seamless editing and a better plot, we’d have a solid A film here. One hopes the follow-up with a certain arch nemesis will be just right. A-

What did you think about Sherlock Holmes? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Did You Hear About the Morgans?

I ‘ve been dragging my feet to review this movie. Good lead actors in a C level film. How did this happen?

The Morgans movie commits the worst entertainment sin there is – it is dull. If I didn’t have to get the PeeTimes and end credits info, I would have walked out and sat in on the end of some other movie. Honestly. It is that boring.

This movie fails as a romantic comedy in two ways – the romance is not believable; the comedy is flat. What remains is a predictable city mouse/country mouse story that plods along between small town bingo parlors and a rodeo. There’s a cowboy dance; there are salt-of-the-Earth townspeople. Check. Check.

What was good? Sam Elliot does his well-trod cowboy thing with expected panache. I chortled at the reference to Sarah Palin. The overworked NYC assistants had a few good moments together. Um. Okay, I am out of positives here.

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, two usually reliable actors in the genre, have zero screen chemistry. I kept looking, watching and waiting for some – any – kind of spark between them. I got bupkis. I don’t think they even made eye contact. Were they in the same movie at all? Do the actors dislike each other?

Grant seemed to be in actual pain, for some reason, while Parker looked old and worn. These actors are still attractive people, but you really don’t see any of that here.

Grant and Parker work hard to sell their usual film personas, but neither saves this flick from the Land of Misfit Movies. Wait for the DVD, or just give it up and rent When Harry Met Sally again.

What did you think about Did You Hear About the Morgans? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

New Disney Princess Celebrates Racial Diversity

I must say I’m excited about the newest Disney princess movie, The Princess and the Frog. I love all the princess movies (it’s my girly side) but have wondered for at least a decade when we’d have a black princess to add to the lineup.

We’ve had some welcome racial diversity with Native American Pocahontas, Chinese Mulan, Middle Eastern Jasmin from Aladdin, Hawaiians in Lilo and Stitch, and a dark-toned gypsy gal in Hunchback of Notre Dame. Jasmin is considered the only official “princess” from this list, from among celebrated Disney Royals including Ariel, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Cinderella, Snow White and Belle.

Happily, a black character finally joins the lineup of mostly white girls in Disney filmation history. The Princess and the Frog’s Tiana is an African-American girl set in Jazz Age New Orleans, who has something to do with kissing a frog, and, one supposes, fights evil (there is always a villain in these movies).

I hope the story is as enjoyable as we’ve come to expect from the princess movies, without falling into racial cliches or embarrassing tokenism. I’ll be seeing the film to get PeeTimes on opening day Friday and add PeeTimes on my return home. I hope to have my movie review up that weekend.