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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – movie review

Spider-Man-2Grade: C+

Overall I’m not terribly impressed with Spider-Man 2, but I’ve not been much impressed with any of the movies in either Spider-Man series. My general feeling is that the characters, especially the villains, lack depth and believable motivation – more on that later.

The story was a little jumpy to me. There’s apparently a jump of a month, maybe more, between the opening scenes of the movie and the next bit, but there wasn’t a transition that spelled that out. In retrospect I realized that there was one particular scene that was used to bridge the gap between the two time frames, however they should have used a short montage.

Then there’s a huge amount of stuff that happens all on the same day. So much that it feels, even now, like there’s no way that much could happen in such a short period of time, not that it even needs to. They could have spread it out for a few days, a week maybe,to make it feel right.

It’s ironic that the most unrealistic thing in most super hero movies is the motivation behind their personal problems. I’m here to tell you that Peter Parker isn’t going to feel the anguish that he feels over Stacy’s dads death – from the first movie. I know, they have to make a story, but find something else. No young man is going to take things so seriously. Would it bother him, sure. But to the point that it does? No way. We have to suspend our belief to enjoy this fantasy world where these super hero’s can exist, but don’t make us suspend our beliefs about character motivation. To me this is the primary difference between most of the Avenger and X-Men movies and the Spider-Man movies: the character motivation, usually, works in the prior.

The motivation for the villains is especially heavy handed. It’s like decent people are just looking for an excuse to be evil. It’s hard to buy on a consistent basis.

There was practically no humor to speak of. Sure, a few chuckles, but nothing memorable. Such a shame. A movie like this needs at least 2-3 scenes that give the audience a good hearty laugh. I’ll have to blame the writers on that.

Not that anyone goes to these movies for the acting but I thought Emma Stone, and of course Sally Fields, were fantastic.  Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker) did okay with what he was given. He may have shined if the writing had been better.

I saw it in 3D just so I could include it in my review. Normally I avoid 3D because it’s hard to take notes and it costs $4 extra. Overall it was decent. The video was crisp, which has been a problem in other movies. The brightness was pretty good, which can also be a problem. There were a few cool 3D scenes. Specifically the fight with Electro worked pretty well. The background is dark which makes nice contrast for the lightning and energy effects that light up the screen in 3D. Also the fight in the clock tower was good in 3D. Other than those scenes I pretty much forgot I was watching in 3D. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it in 3D unless you’re a big fan of that format.

Transcendence – movie review

transcendenceGrade: C

I didn’t find Transcendence to be bad, but I didn’t think it was very good either.

First, the opening scene in the movie is 5 years after the events that transpire. It leaves no room for suspense during the movie because you already know pretty much how things turn out – not well.

My biggest complaint with the movie is how they built the Artificial Intelligence up to be almost God like in power but were able to defeat it so easily. I know a good bit about computers, networks, nano technology and how they presented the AI was reasonable, if just a little over the top for the sake of effects. But the way they defeated it was total nonsense. So, there’s that.

All in all I think the story just needed a little more time in the oven.

One cool thing that they have in the movie is a new type of zombie. Really, it’s sort of like a nano-tech zombie thing. We’ll probably see more of that in the future.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that they had a great cast. Depp, Bettany, Freeman. That’s a class-A lineup, and Rebecca Hall was pretty good as well. It’s really just the story that’s lacking.

Draft Day – movie review

DraftDay
Grade: B+
I’m a huge football fan. (Roll Tide) When I first saw the previews to Draft Day I thought, “Okay, maybe hard core football fans can get behind this but no one else is going to want to see it.”

Then I discovered that it’s directed by Ivan Reitman, who also directed Dave, Ghost Busters, Kindergarten Cop, et al. The man is a master craftsman in the director’s chair, and he showed his talent again.

Draft Day isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than I thought it would be. A nice character story is told in the midst of the draft drama in such a way that they enhance each other.

Kevin Costner was fantastic in the lead roll and everyone else played their parts wonderfully.

The one thing I think could have been better was the humor. There were some good chuckles but nothing that was laugh out loud. That would have pushed it over the top.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – movie review

Grade: A-

CaptainAmerica-winter-soldierCaptain America: The Winter Soldier has everything you want in an Action/Adventure: action in spades, well paced, great acting, largely believable, and a few good laughs sprinkled throughout.

The Action was pretty much all you could ask for. Chris Evans, as Captain America, is a great combination of grace and brute force. His fight scenes were awesome. However, the one thing that kept distracting me is the number of times he used his shield to protect from gun fire. Can’t the bad guys shoot his legs? Okay, whatever, just don’t question that bit. Everything else was fantastic.

Who isn’t a fan of Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow? Too often we see female action figures fight toe-to-toe with men much larger than they are, and exchange blows like it’s no big deal to get punched in the face by someone who’s four times stronger than you. But Natasha doesn’t fight like that. When she gets hit it hurts, but she doesn’t often get hit. Her fighting style looks like that of a terminator ballerina hybrid – maybe her nick name should be the Terminina…nah, that’s stupid. 🙂

There was drama. You know the good guys are going to survive and win, but you never know at what cost. I think that’s the single most difficult thing the writers have for these stories. You know certain characters can’t die, because they have a contract for 5 more films, so how do you ratchet up the drama? The answer is you put them through emotional turmoil, and make the characters question their own motivations. The writers did that to great effect.

A word on 3D. I saw it in 2D because I had to take notes throughout the movie. However, there wasn’t anything in the movie that seemed like it would make for a great 3D film. Personally, if you’re on the fence about which format to see it in then I’d suggest 2D.

Need for Speed – movie review

NeedForSpeedGrade: B

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Need For Speed for months. For a Mustang lover this movie delivered the goods at 234 miles per hour. The cars were amazing. They were the stars of this film.

If you are looking for a realistic movie, keep searching. There were some far fetched scenes but I didn’t care because it was all about the Need For Speed. The acting wasn’t bad either. The cast seemed to have pretty good chemistry and there wasn’t too much extra stuff thrown in to weigh the real plot down. There were even some LOL moments.

I walked out of the theater quite pleased. As long as you are a car lover that sometimes has a lead foot, I’d recommend going to see this one. You want the experience to be in a theater. It not only looked great but the sound was amazing.

Veronica Mars – movie review

VeronicaMarsGrade: A

I wouldn’t consider myself a Marshmallow, but I did watch, and enjoy, the Veronica Mars TV series. The movie is everything you would expect from a great two part TV episode. There is Veronica’s familiar sharp witted dialog, and the pacing is just like the TV show.

They did a great job paying homage to the TV show, and even Kickstarter. You’ll love all the references they give to the show, especially early on.

The one knock I’d give it is the vast number of names that get thrown around. I had a hard time keeping track of who they were talking about sometimes. Fortunately they do a good job keeping everything in context to minimize the confusion.

There are plenty of laughs and a few “Oh no she didn’t” moments. Lets hope that this movie is a stepping stone to more movies or maybe a comeback of the TV series.

Note: my grade of an “A” for this movie assumes you watched the TV series. I have no idea how well this will be recieved by non Marshmallows.

300: Rise of an Empire – movie review

300RiseofanempireGrade: C+
This is no 300. I loved that movie and have seen it many times. However, Rise of an Empire was better than I thought it would be because from the previews it looked pretty horrible. It’s just as overly dramatic as 300, maybe even more so because Sullivan Stapleton, who plays the main character Themistokles, doesn’t have the same gravitas as Gerard Butler from 300.

Lets face it, the action is the main reason anyone’s going to see this movie. From that angle it’s almost as good as 300. However, there were a few scenes that looked like they were pulled out of a video game. Not that the entire movie doesn’t have the video game look but some of the scenes leaned too heavily on CG – like the horse scene near the end of the movie.

If you’re a fan of 300 then I think you’ll like this movie just fine as long as you don’t go in with high expectations.

Non-Stop – movie review

non-stop
Grade: C+
Non-Stop was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, however, I wasn’t expecting much.Liam Neeson, as always, is a fantastic choice for the flawed hero character. Even in his 60s he’s still great at close combat action scenes. He’s only getting better at action/fighting due to the number of movies he’s made recently playing that role.

The story was pretty good. It keeps you guessing and trying to solve the mystery. When it was all over I felt that the explanation was a little weak but good enough if you don’t think about it too much.

Son of God – movie review

son-of-godGrade: B

This movie isn’t going to win any critical awards but it’s a crowd-pleaser. If you’ve watched some of the dramatic retellings of the life of Jesus on History, BCC, Discovery, type channels then think of that but a good bit better.

I found it interesting that they often used a characters name in conversation, as in, “John, hand me that bread,” instead of just saying, “Hand me that bread.” The writers/director went out of their way to make sure we knew which actors played which characters. That was a good choice.

The first half of the movie is mostly a “greatest hits” from the life of Jesus leading up to the days before his crucifixion. The second half of the movie dealt with just the final few days of his life. Personally, I wish they had spent a little more time with the early days. It felt rushed in contrast to the second half of the movie which felt like it dragged on a bit. In fact Jesus has less screen time than Pilate, or even the High Priest of the Temple, over the second half of the movie – not counting the crucifixion which occupies a long stretch of screen time at the end.

This obviously reflects a huge matter of debate among Christians regarding what is more important: the life or death of Jesus. I’m solidly in the “life” camp so I wish they’d featured it more.

It’s a longish movie. About two hours and fourteen minutes, not including the credits, so it’s likely you’ll need to use one of the Peetimes. Fortunately I was able to find three good ones so you should be in good shape.

 

Pompeii – movie review

PompieeGrade: D-
When it’s all said and done Pompeii will be remembered as the movie that reacquainted the world with one of the best actors of his generation. He commanded attention in every scene he was in, even when he had no lines to deliver; and when he delivered his lines it was with precision and force; by the end of the movie his presence cast a shadow over every character, every line, every scene – even the ones he wasn’t in. Yes, I’m talking about the volcano.

Honestly, if you go see this movie for any other reason than to see 3D pyroclastics then you’re in for some disappointment.

I can’t tell you how bad the acting was because the dialog was so astoundingly bad. I think Carrie-Anne Moss and Jared Harris, both of whom are award winning actors, rolled their eyes at their own lines a few times. Kiefer Sutherland, who plays the bad guy, had cringe worthy lines, even for him. It’s that bad.

Case in point, the actor Jared Harris actually uses the word “bloody” a few times, as in “bloody Romans”. Hint, they didn’t talk like that. The shame is that Romans used lots of colorful metaphors. There’s an entire wikipedia page devoted to “latin profanity”. Translating that to English would have given the dialog some interesting quirks, oh well.

Do yourself a favor and wait to see this movie on DVD. If you’re lucky you’ll forget about it by then and save yourself a little time and money.