Elysium – movie review

ElysiumGrade: C-

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge scifi fan. Unfortunately that means I’m really hard on scifi movies. They have to be outstanding for me to give them a good rating. Unfortunately Elysium orbits a long, LONG, way from outstanding. If you’re not a particularly big scifi fan anyway then you may not notice the plot conveniences that make this story possible.

Aside from a lackluster story the movie is pretty good. It’s visually impressive, from the unending slums of Los Angeles to the paradise of Elysium. The fight scenes were better than average. Although the style of the fight scenes is mostly just brutal punching and kicking. There’s nothing elegant about the style of the fighting.

Overall the acting is quite good and Matt Damon is, rather predictably, top notch.

The directing and editing of the movie is good. I never thought the story was dragging on too long. Most importantly the story is easy to follow. When some important information about how things work is delivered it’s done very obviously.

[ spoilers below ]

As I mentioned, my grip about the movie is all of the conveniences that make the story possible. Such as, they have been plotting to brain-jack someone from Elysium for a long time and the first time they do it they end up with someone with absolutely unique information that could alter everything about how Elysium works?

And I didn’t understand how the the businessman wrote some computer code but it was only in his head? We saw it on the monitor. He couldn’t just email it to Elysium? 🙂

And they downloaded the information from the businessman’s head, which didn’t kill him – well, the guy died but not because of that. But later when they have to download it from Max it’s going to kill him. What? How’s that work? It isn’t like they have to remove something from Max. They’re just reading something in his brain.

And the medical regeneration pod-thingys were ridiculous. They did a decent job of realism on most everything else, but those medical pods worked way too fast and it was more like magic than technology. They should have come up with a more believable medical pod.

Movie review : Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses has something in it that everyone can relate to. People you hate to work with. In this case each of the characters have extremely horrible bosses keeping them down in one way or another. Over drinks Nick, Dale and Kurt hatch a plan to kill their bosses. Once they have their plan in motion, anything that can go wrong, does. This movie is a non-stop laugh riot. Funny lines delivered by even funnier people. The casting was an amazing job, right down to the ever pouncing cat at Mr. Harkins house. I saw the first show of the day and the theater was full. I noticed that not one person got up to leave. The laughter keeps you glued to your seat. It is a short movie that doesn’t come up short on LOLs

Movie review : Bad Teacher

[ No Spoilers  ]

If you’re wondering if Bad Teacher really earned it’s R-rating then worry no longer. It did. In spades. It brought the raunchy as good as any movie I can remember seeing.

This is one of those movies that’s hard to capture in the previews because the best parts are exactly the things you can’t put in previews. So don’t go and see this movie expecting a warm, uplifting story like Stand and Deliver – you know, the movie with Edward James Olmos about teaching inner city kids math. It’s not cute; It’s not uplifting and I hope it’s not inspiring to anyone.

Now, was the movie any good? Like all things that depends. I was in a nearly sold out theater and the audience laugh often and hard. There were quite a few moments in the movie where I’m sure most people will be left thinking, “She didn’t just say that did she? Oh crap. She did.” So it has funny covered.

The story was, ehhhh. Nothing to get worked up about. There is hardly any sympathy for any of the characters so it’s difficult to get wrapped up in what happens to them.

And don’t go see it just if you’re a big Justin Timberlake fan. Not that he was anything but good in his roll. It’s just that he doesn’t have much of a roll in the movie. He’s maybe the 4th most important character.

I am very impressed with the job that Cameron Diaz did. She’s an amazingly talented actress who can do comedy and drama equally well.

Movie review : Green Lantern

The power of the Green Lantern gives the wearer the ability to make anything imaginable become reality. The writers/director used their power to conjure up every imaginable cliche ever used to make a super hero comic adaptation. Wait, I take that back. There’s no side kick in this story so they missed maybe one cliche.

Lets run down the list:

  • Under achiever given gift of great power – check
  • Failed relationships – check
  • Childhood friend of eventual enemy – check
  • Techie brilliant friend – check ( wait, he’s sort of a side kick. )
  • Bad guy just wants to be loved – check
  • Rekindling former relationship – check

I can’t think of anything redeeming about this movie. Just wait until it’s on Netflix so you can watch the first half and then quit without actually paying anything for it.

With all that being said I can’t really find any fault with Ryan Reynolds’ performance. He did fine as the Green Lantern. I don’t think anyone could have done a better job in his role. But like my moma says, “It’s hard to not stink when you’re covered in shit.”

Movie review : Super 8

[ No Spoilers ]

I’m going to start off with what’s wrong with this movie . . .

I’m thinking . . .

Just a second. I’m sure I can come up with something . . .

Nope, I’m stumped. Can’t think of a single thing that’s wrong with this movie. It’s great from beginning to end. J.J. Abrams is should get loads of kudos his writing and directing for this. Not since Stephen Spielberg did E.T. has a director gotten so much out of a cast of kids. All of these kids go through a wide range of emotions and never miss a beat. I really have to think that just about anyone can be a solid actor if they have great direction.

There’s not much to say about the story without hinting at some spoilers. Safe to say that it’s a good story and mystery that slowly unravels. So really try and avoid letting anyone give anything away.

The editing is amazingly tight. Finding peetimes for this movie was a real challenge. I had to pick two near the end that basically make the best of a bad situation. There’s just not a lot of downtime in this movie. There’s hardly a 3 minute span that goes by that doesn’t have an important character moment or something that advances the story.

This isn’t just science fiction movie making at its best. It’s pure movie making brilliance.

Note to Mr Abrams: You’ve earned a break after this movie. Enjoy a 2 week vacation and then get your ass busy working on the next Star Trek movie.

Movie review : X-Men First Class

[ No spoilers ]

Going into the theater this morning I had high expectations for X-Men First Class. It has an 88% at RottenTomatoes.com which is very high for a movie of this genre. But after seeing the movie I’m surprised that it’s not much, much, higher. In a word it was awesome. In two words it was f#*&ing awesome. Longtime fans and newcomers to the series will both love this movie.

One thing I was expecting was that the pacing would be a bit slow, especially in the beginning, since this movie has to introduce every single character from scratch. But that wasn’t the case. The character building is intermixed with action and humor throughout the movie instead of the typical examples where they do an hour and a half of character/plot introduction and then finish with 30 minutes of action. In fact the character building runs right up until the very end. Brilliantly done.

I’m not going to go into any details because I don’t want to give anything away but the story is very well done. The basic plot is quite simple to follow. They didn’t do anything stupid by making it unnecessarily complex. And in truth the real story is the character development. Not the historical events themselves.

Best of all the acting in the movie is superb. It’s hard to say which actor did the better job: James McAvoy as Charles Xavier or Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr. And not that they were the only ones who shined. There wasn’t a weak link in the cast.

Finally, if you have never seen another X-Men movie then you won’t be missing anything in this story aside from a few inside jokes.

And oh by the way, best cameo appearance ever. 🙂

Movie Review : The Tree of Life

[ No Spoilers ]

I’m going to do this review as an interview of myself by a person who’s interesting in possibly seeing The Tree of Life.

potential movie goer: So Dan, did you like The Tree of Life?

Dan: [ pause ] . . . ummm. [ pause ] I think so.

potential movie goer: What do you mean?

Dan: It’s just that it’s hard to say. It certainly looks spectacular.

potential movie goer: Well what’s the story about?

Dan: I have no idea. I can say that it’s about a family: father, mother and 3 boys. The father isn’t an especially good father. The mother is playful and loving. But the story skips around a lot. One minute your in a small town in Texas circa 1960 playing with the boys in the back yard. Then you’re suddenly watching jelly fish swim in the ocean for no apparent reason and then you jump to present day watching the older brother – played by Sean Penn – looking miserable.

potential movie goer: Was the acting any good?

Dan: Absolutely. The acting was great across the board. Brad Pitt plays a great old fashioned dad. And the young boy who plays the older brother is spectacular.

potential movie goer: What was your favorite bit of the movie?

Dan: I loved the visuals throughout the movie. Especially the stuff in the first 30 minutes. The dinosaur scenes were my favorite. They could have done the whole movie on primordial Earth and I think I would have liked it better. But maybe that’s just me. I think when the movie is out I’m going to digitize it and edit out all of the people scenes and just leave all of the visuals of space and primordial earth. I could watch that over and over.

potential movie goer: Would you recommend that someone see this movie?

Dan: That depends. That depends. Who is this someone? If, for instance, this someone is a big fan of movies like 2001 A Space Odyssey, Baraka, and Thin Red Line then yes. You’ll like this movie. But if you’re someone who thinks the pacing of Aliens is a little pedestrian then no. This movie probably isn’t so much your bag.

potential movie goer: Was it hard getting the peetimes?

Dan: Boy was it. Since I had no idea what the movie was about – still don’t – it was hard to tell if one scene or another would be important later. Turns out I don’t think it would really matter when you run pee during this movie. But I did manage to get 3 peetimes. I hope they help. The movie is about 2 hours and 13 minutes long – not including the end credits. So it’s likely you’ll need to pee in there somewhere.

Movie review : Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

[ No Spoilers ]

Here’s what I think you should know if you’re trying to decide if you should go see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in the theater or wait for it on DVD.

If you only want to see the movie if they were able to recapture the magic of the first Pirates movie then don’t go see it. Pirates 4, actually this is Pirates 3 because I refuse to acknowledge that Pirates 2 even exists, isn’t nearly as good as the original.  But they did manage to recycled the magic of the first one well enough to be quite enjoyable.

Is Stranger Tides funny? Yes, the audience laughed a number of times. You’re mileage may vary.

Is Depp, Captain Jack Sparrow, as good as ever? I’m going to have to say no. I think Depp had a blast doing the first movie – which accounts for part of the magic. He was doing something new. Something daring. Now he’s just doing his same old Jack Sparrow routine. Which isn’t to say he isn’t awesome. He’s just not magically awesome.

Is it worth seeing in 3D? Well I saw it in 2D because 3D gives me a headache and it’s hard as hell to take notes during the movie with those glasses on. But I didn’t see anything in the movie that made me think, “Wow, I bet this would be really cool in 3D.” So I wouldn’t bother with the cost and hassle of seeing it in 3D – it’s a hassle to see anything in 3D because you must get to the theater early and get seats in the middle of the theater or the 3D effect is diminished. Or at least it seems to be to me.

What about the rest of the cast? I think the only other performance worth seeing is of course Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa. He of course is fantastic and gets plenty of screen time. Penélope Cruz is good as Angelica. Not great by any means. Ian McShane was a good Blackbeard. I think he did as good as he could with the role given to him.  Any shortcomings of his character should, I think,  be heaped upon the writers. I dunno, he just wasn’t blackbeardy enough.

Here’s what I think of the Pirate movies. The first one was magical for two reasons. First, no one expected it to be any good and secondly, and more importantly, it was playful action done in a unique way with great acting. It’s like riding a roller coaster and expecting it to be just another ride but instead they have done something entirely new and novel that is unexpectedly great. Other rides come along and add this new great thing but all they can do is the same great thing over and over with minor variations. Everyone finishes the ride thinking, “That was good but no one has managed to thrill me the way that first one did.”

I certainly don’t think we should consider all the other Pirate movies a failure just because the first one was so awesome – except as I said, the second movie was embarrassingly bad.

Pirates 4 has plenty of fun moments and it’s certainly long enough at 2 hours and 17 minutes. The editing/pacing is done pretty well. There are only a few times that the movie seems to drag a bit. I thought the whole mermaid scene that took up about 10 minutes was about 8 minutes too long – but it makes a great peetime. 🙂

 

Movie review : Thor

[ No Spoilers ]

You already know from the previews that Thor is a visual masterpiece. You won’t be disappointed in the FX. They did a fantastic job of building Asgard. It is epic . . . I mean EPIC. I’ll see this movie again on DVD just to see the beauty of it.

If you want your movies to be full of more than just great FX and action then you won’t be disappointed – much – in Thor. Without going into details the story is pretty well woven and delivered by a fine cast. The only nit I’ll pick is with the love story that develops between Thor and Jane – that can’t possibly be considered a spoiler, right? Everyone had to have seen that coming.

The relationships between all the characters are very well done and explored. Anthony Hopkins did a particularly outstanding job as Odin. But, and this is so often the case in action movies, they sort of gloss over the love affairs that develop. It feels like the writers/directors said, “Look, he’s amazing looking. She saved him, sorta. They shared a few laughs. So of course they’re in love. You can see that, right…right?”

Yeah, not so much. But whatever. Blah, blah, blah, they’re in love. Lets move on to more visuals and action.

Aside from the fine acting and amazing FX I have to say that Thor is a pretty funny movie. It’s actually funnier than a lot of comedies because comedies these days seem to have forgotten how to do comedy – but that’s another story/rant. Anyhow, there are numerous LOL moments in Thor for the whole audience. And it made getting peetimes very difficult. I hate it when I have a good peetime going and then they ruin it by throwing in a funny scene 3 minutes in. 🙂

What did you think of the movie? Am I right about the Thor/Jane relationship or did I miss something?

Asgard

Movie review : Priest

[ No spoilers ]

I generally like movies in the Priest genre – whatever that is. Movies like this are rarely great and the best one can hope for is that they don’t suck, that they have a few decent action scenes, maybe throw in something moderately unique here and there, and that the story is believable within the universe that they create.

With that in mind I’d say Priest gets a B rating compared to similar movies.

As far as the acting goes Paul Bettany is rock solid as always. He brings a sense of purpose to his characters that doesn’t seem fake. I think of him as a talented version of Keanu Reeves. Keanu gets – used to get – a lot of roles like this. Think Constantine. He does that dark foreboding thing pretty well but his characters are shallow and understated. Bettany can take the same role and bring a great deal more depth to it. And Bettany can do comedy – A Knight’s Tale, The Tourist -when it’s called for. Not that Priest has much of that.

Speaking of comedy: that’s probably the single thing Priest is really lacking. There are just a few chuckle scenes and none of them involve Bettany which is a shame.

The action in this movie was adequate. We’ve seen so many outstanding action movies in the past that the bar has been set incredibly high. Just adding a few well choreographed scenes is all I’m asking for these days. There was one particular action sequence when the Priest and Priestess were fighting the hive guardian that I hadn’t seen before – kudos. But make no mistake: this is not an action movie. Sure it has a few decent action sequences and ends with a big fight. But it’s really about plot and characters.

The story was just slightly better that I would have expected. The writers based this on a completely different reality/history to our world. That gives them free reign to go in any direction they want. And this movie clearly sets up a potential series of movies. Many times the first movie in an intentional series are pretty lame. They spend too much time setting up the characters and universe. That wasn’t a problem here at all. The hints to the series don’t come until the very end.

2D or 3D: I saw this movie in 2D. For one thing 3D usually gives me a headache and more importantly I have to take notes for the peetimes during the movie and writing with those glasses on is a huge pain. From the scenes I saw in this movie I get the feeling that the 3D version is one of those that is rather gimmicky and only a few decent scenes might translate into 3D. I wouldn’t bother myself. Let me know in the comments if you think I’m mistaken.