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.

Movie review : Bridesmaids

The bright side to hitting rock bottom is that there is only one way to go from there. The correct answer is up, unless your name is Annie and you have just become your best friends maid of honor.

As the story unfolds, we meet Annie, played by Kristin Wiig. Her life is in utter chaos. She has lost her business, lives with two terrible roommates, has a car that is falling apart and her love life stinks. On top of dealing with her own issues, she now has to plan her best friends wedding. She thinks she is up to the job but at every turn, things go horribly wrong. It all starts to go downhill for Annie when she meets Helen, one of Lillian’s bridesmaids. Helen seems to have it all, wealth, a fancy home, carefree lifestyle and always looks perfect. An instant rivalry forms between the two of them and it leads Annie to her breakdown. Wiig does an amazing job of portraying a neurotic person losing control over their life. I would go so far as to say, even better than Charlie Sheen has done. I spent the whole movie sitting there thinking, I want to just slap her silly. How can a person be such a basket case? This leads to my next thought. The acting was marvelous. The entire supporting cast was splendid.

Melissa McCarthy absolutely stole the show. Her character Megan was magical. Every line she had was so perfectly executed with humor and sincerity that I fell in love with her.

Rose Byrne, who played Helen did such a perfect job of playing the bitch that wasn’t trying to be a bitch that really was a bitch. Or is she? We discover that what we take at face value, isn’t always the case.

Officer Rhodes played by Chris O’Dowd, was also integral to this wonderful ensemble. His character, with his cute little accent and sweet smile had you wanting to meet a police officer and eat carrots on the hood of their cruiser, like Annie gets to do.

Rita and Becca (Wendi McLendon-Covey and Elle Kemper) are two of the other bridesmaids, their roles were smaller, but they proved quite funny.

Interestingly enough, Lillian, the bride, played by Maya Rudolph, didn’t seem to be such a perfectly developed character. I didn’t really feel for her. I couldn’t understand why she was having issues. She was getting it all, everything little girls dream of. The writers didn’t do so great with her role.

So as I sit here writing this review, I realize, I like it better today than I did yesterday. I was thinking back on some of the hilarious scenes and I’m actually laughing out loud. Again.

Bridesmaids is like a bottle of wine. it improves over time. I can admit that I’m as cheap as they come, but I will buy this on DVD when it comes out.

Movie review – Source Code

[ No Spoilers ]

Source Code is just like a Phillip K. Dick story except that it doesn’t suck – which is often the case with movie adaptations of P.K.Dick stories. In fact as soon as the movie was over I was checking my IMDb app just to be sure.

The plot is well thought out and the story unravels at a rapid pace. The audience gets to understand more and more about what is going on along with Capt. Stephens, the main character played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Best of all the science fiction behind the movie is incidental to the story. It’s mainly about characters and choices. The story manages to avoid the pitfalls that usually accompany parallel universe, time travel, alternate reality type plots.

I really can’t say much else without getting into essentials of the story which are best left to be viewed. And fortunately the previews don’t give anything important away. So go see it before someone tells you about it and ruins it for you. Because unlike the movie you can’t go back and change things. 🙂

Or can you…?

Movie review – Sucker Punch

[ No spoilers ]

Sucker Punch wasn’t bad at all. But it wasn’t very good either. It is easy to see the similarities with Watchmen since both are products of Zack Snyder. So if you liked the style of Watchmen you’ll certainly enjoy Sucker Punch. But don’t expect to get the same depth of plot and storytelling from Sucker Punch that we got with Watchmen.

The plot/story of Sucker Punch is supposed to inspire a message that the key to our salvation lies within. It’s a good message and if a story delivers that message via the plot and action then you have the potential for a solid film. I don’t think I would have gotten that from Sucker Punch at all if it hadn’t been narrated at me right at the end of the movie. It feels like Zack got to the end of the movie and realized that the message was a little obscured by the glitz of the action in the movie so he decided to just tell us what we were supposed to get.

Throughout the movie I was trying to figure out what exactly was going on with the dance and the cutaways to fantastic action scenes with the girls. By the end of the movie I had stopped trying to make since of the plot and just waited for the next fantasy scene so that I could enjoy the hotness of watching women with guns and swords take down legions of robots, orcs, German WWI soldiers, whatever.  Okay, even that got a little old by the end.

Movie review – Limitless

[ No spoilers ]

I wasn’t expecting much out of this movie. In fact I thought it had limitlessly bad written all over it. Surprisingly it’s a pretty decent movie.

Bradley Cooper is certainly a solid actor and gives a fine performance. In fact he’s ideal for this roll. And of course Robert De Niro is his usual fantastic self and has much more than just a bit roll that I was expecting.

It was really the story that I thought had lameness written all over it. That’s where I was most surprised. The plot and pacing move along really well and stays grounded.

The real question is: should you watch this movie in the theater or wait for the DVD? I would lean towards watching this on DVD in a few months. There’s nothing so fantastic about it that you won’t miss anything watching it at home.