Monday, September 7, 2009

Movie Journal: X2

Plot Synopsis:The X-Men band together to find a mutant assassin who has made an attempt on the President's life, while the Mutant Academy is attacked by military forces.

The first and second times I saw this movie were a few years ago. Seeing it again now, I remember just how much I really liked it. In fact, I enjoyed it even more this time. Why? Because I've seen a lot of action films since then and I've realized one thing: there are many films with intense, plot-driven action, and there are many films with cool, over-the-top, visually striking action. But it's very rare that a film has both: intense, plot-driven action that is also cool, over-the-top, and visually striking. X2 is one of these rare instances.

X2 is not only one of my all-time favorite superhero flicks, it's also a personal favorite action film of mine. It's also one of my very favorite sequels. Despite some of it's subtle flaws, it's probably one of the best times I'm ever going to have with a crazy, wild action flick, The Matrix notwithstanding.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Movie Journal: Prince Caspian

I remembering reviewing this film when it was released in theaters. I was in a good mood, and there were aspects of the film that(at the time) I preferred over The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. I rated the film an 8 out of 10, which was essentially stating that it was a "great film". I was wrong.

Why? Well, for many reasons. The new Prince Caspian film has some serious problems, one of the most prominent being the failure to establish a sense of danger and dread. Consider the fact that the very first scene in the original Chronicles of Narnia dropped us right into the middle of a bombing run. People were dying, and if the Pevensie family didn't move fast, they were going to die too. What better a way to establish conflict? Intense scenes like those helped make up for the film's obvious visual misinterpretations of the story in terms of the action.

In contrast, Prince Caspian does not have any bombing runs or crashing waterfalls. Just more of the same, kid-friendly conflict. Only this time, it was cheesier. To tell the truth, I don't think the first film ever really established that the Pevensie kids were really capable of the majority of the violence they inflict in the Prince Caspian film, and that's only part of the problem.

I would again submit that the creators' kid-friendly approach to the action is very unrepresentative of C.S. Lewis' stories. Sure, his books weren't explicit in terms of violence in a sense. But Lewis does mention that it takes place. Having said that, I find the complete and utter lack of true violence simply castrating in terms of the story, not to mention silly and unbelievable. The Chronicles Of Narnia should not be treated with any less authenticity than the Lord Of The Rings series.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Movie Journal: Happy Gilmore

Happy Gilmore is a sports comedy about a pro hockey player wannabe who's grandmother's house is repossessed by the IRS. By sheer chance he discovers he has something of a talent for the game of golf. Being in need of funds for the sake of his grandma, he manages to join a local tournament, after which he is admitted into the pro tour.

Now, from that brief description of the first act, one may be lead to believe that Happy Gilmore is quite typical and standard. But that's quite far from the truth. One thing I really find amazing about the film is, no matter how good at golf Gilmore gets, the plotline still finds ways to retain his status as the story's underdog. It's a sports tale that is less about the main character's constantly pushing himself physically, and more about the calming of his inner conflicts and the harnessing of his emotions. Hence the complete lack of any training montages; the kind that have, quite frankly, plagued the genre for years.

It's really hard not to be impressed by the film's...well, simply bizarre sense of humor. If you just take a few steps back, the whole premise is entirely absurd. And just when you think things are starting to become normal and make sense, there's always that over-the-top twist that never fails to leave you speechless. The utterly incredible final twist of the film's third act is a testament to this.

While it's true that there are a couple major flaws in the plot, they barely register in the first viewing, whereas the sly wit of the jokes get better every time. While it's certainly not perfect, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the very best sports comedy yet produced.

9 out of 10

Monday, July 27, 2009

Movie Journal: Kung Fu Panda

To tell the truth, I initially had every suspicion that this film was all anime spoofs and fart jokes. Turns out, not only is there not a single fart joke, but anime spoofs are kept at a chill minimum. It also turns out that the film's goofy slapstick and quirky humor have somehow managed to compliment the dark and epic themes of the backstory. Who knew?

I didn't, so that was a pleasant surprise. Featuring a great action-oriented plot that stays fresh from beginning to end, Kung Fu Panda is one of the first recent CG animated films I've seen in a while that has truly impressed me.

8 out 10

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

Right from the opening shot, I knew I was going to love this movie. It had this strange sense of genuine visual and emotional focus that all past films in the series have essentially lacked. Plus, it just knew how to do something every past installment lacked the guts for: the altering of the book's original storyline, if ever so slight.

Some may be thinking, "Isn't it bad enough that they can only adapt so much of the essential pieces of storyline in the book, but now they are altering some of the story's events completely?" But I wouldn't say that at all. While it's true that you are not going to find nearly the amount of material the book has in the film, it's really impressive how they've been able to fit all the paramount bits of storyline together as a cohesive whole within the two hours or so that the film runs. In addition, by altering some of the events, or rather the context in which they happen, certain aspects of the story have become much more cool and epic in feel. This is the very first Harry Potter film for which I can honestly say that I did, in many ways, greatly prefer it to the book.

Yes, you heard me right. There are some ways in which Harry Potter 6 is, in fact, better than the book. Even definitive.

Now, I know that the creators have taken a great risk, and that there are just as many praising this movie as accusing it of being unfaithful trash. I, for one, shall stand up for the fact that this film is, in fact, the greatest Harry Potter film yet.

9 out 10

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Movie Journal: The Rock

The Rock is a film that has managed to surprise me on more than a few levels. The plot is engaging, the characters fascinating, and the action truly intense. For better or for worse.

My quarrel with the action in the film hasn't so much to do with it's intensity so much as there being just so darn much of it. For a greater part of the film I underwent an experience rather like that of having a variety of good yet filling treats being shoved into my mouth, often faster than I could properly chew.

Another issue the film seemed to have is that of the musical score, which happens to be, for the most part, very obnoxious. Maybe one of the reasons it was so much so was because of the fact that it never failed to adjoin the action sequences, of which there were undeniably many. In other words, the music rather got old, rather fast.

On the flip side, it is overall, a very intelligent story that sets out to bring to the viewers mind some very important issues that the leaders of every nation must at some point face. The Rock isn't so much a bad movie as an imperfect one.

7 out of 10

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Alice In Wonderland Trailer

Well, this is just cool. Ladies and gentleman, Burton is back.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New G.I. Joe Clip

I remain interested in this movie, even though I know it will very likely fall very short of people's expectations.

Movie Journal: Contact

There's really not much more to say than that this film is utter, undeniable genius. Starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, Contact tells the story of a woman who has been searching for signs of extraterrestrial life for years, in the hopes of learning more about the true meaning behind life and her purpose in this universe.

Though there are aspects of the film's concepts that I don't entirely approve of, it's one of the most inspiring stories I have ever seen all the same. See it at any cost, because movies only get so much more powerful than this.

9 out of 10

Movie Journal: Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express isn't a bad movie, per se. It's just that it's not a particularly fulfilling one. While many of the film's scenes are sheer genius, others become drawn-out and episodic in a not-so-good way. And I guess that that's to be expected when it comes to a story about two stoned idiots trying very hard not to get killed, but there are times when the storylines' excessive eccentricities actually work against the story itself, rather than for it. Although the first act brings some interesting themes and concepts to the viewers' mind, the plot then sort of degenerates into a crazy shoot'em'up. I mean, I'd seen the trailer and I'd known it was going to be a shoot'em'up, but the first act of the story also led me to believe that, just maybe, it would be a little more than that, too. Forget that.

For those not quite following; the film of which I speak centers around a man named Dale Denton who ends up...well, I won't quite finish that sentence because I'm far too prone to giving away spoilers. Let's just say that both him and his friendly drug dealer end up on the run from both the criminal underworld and the local police.

Insanity ensues, and it's not necessarily a bad kind of insanity either. It's just that it's the kind of insanity that doesn't really get anywhere. Think Monty Python, but without the irony and wit. You could say it all comes down to a lack of polish, but I think it goes deeper than that. Now, I can't necessarily know, but it seems almost like the writer had some kind of specific goal, but gave up halfway in favor of an obnoxious, open, and unfulfilling route. I have no particular quarrel with this movie, but I'm sure as heck not delighted with it. Moving on.

6 out of 10

Friday, July 17, 2009

Movie Journal: High School Musical 3

“Plot Synopsis: As seniors in high school, Troy and Gabriella struggle with the idea of being separated from one another as college approaches. Along with the rest of the Wildcats, they stage a spring musical to address their experiences, hopes and fears about their future.”

I have something of a confession to make as a reviewer: I didn’t actually watch the whole film; even though I had very much resolved to do so ahead of time. It's just that when it came down to it, I really just couldn’t make it all the way through; it was too painful. And there’s a reason for that. If you wanna know a good part of why, here it is: the first act of High School Musical 3(the part that I watched) shuns every cherished principle known to man in terms of storytelling, and I mean that in the worst possible way.

No, really. It doesn’t even bother to settle for cliches. The very first scene (the basketball game) just sort of plops you down in the middle of a “dramatic” situation and gets characters singing. In fact, this first scene has every characteristic of an event in a story’s third act. The only difference is that in this case there is no buildup, leaving viewers in a state of an utter lack of emotional engagement, but for the upbeat music pounding in the background the whole time. Yippee.

My intentions of seeing the film from start to finish were further dissuaded by a complete and utter lack of antagonism. Everything was just so…happy. For the whole first act(and for all I know throughout the entire movie), nobody was at odds with one another, and no single person was frustrated or hurt. Also, there were no signs of impending doom or any such circumstances. In other words, there was little or no conflict. Who wants to watch a movie in which conflict, the very essence of drama, is completely foregone?

The result is a story that isn't truly a story, just a mish-mash of cliched characters moving from one predictable sequence of events to the next, none of which have any capacity to engross the viewer on the same levels that almost all other films easily can.

It may have only been the first twenty minutes, but if the writer that wrote the first act of the story – in which even the most basic and self-explanatory principles are in no way taken into account – also wrote the rest, I don’t really think I’m interested.

The very fact the people actually get paid to write this mediocre dung is sickening to me, much less that people actually pay money to go and see it.

4 out of 10

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movie Journal: The Transporter

Imagine this: an ex-military man makes his living by providing the service of discrete, undercover transportation. For the right amount of money, he'll transport anything to wherever you need it, no questions asked. Things run smoothly until one day, when he notices his cargo wriggling around in the back. He opens up the bag to discover a bound and gagged woman who is struggling to get free.

An intriguing idea, isn't it? I'll never tell what happens next; I've revealed far too much of the plot already. But just know that if the structural genius of the first and second acts doesn't win you over, the incredible, nonstop action that takes place throughout the third will. It's not a perfect movie, but at the same time you can't really go wrong with it.

8 out of 10

Monday, July 6, 2009

Movie Journal: Desperado

Desperado as a sequel, is both very satisfying and very disappointing. How can this be, you ask? It's simple, really.

It's satisfying because, whether you've seen the original El Mariachi or otherwise, it's easy to be impressed by Antonio's Banderas' grand and believable performance. He's everything you'd imagine the character Mariachi would become after years out on the run and in search of revenge. In fact, every member of the cast is well chosen and contributes to the story's fun and charming feel.

It's also satisfying due to it's cool, slick, action. The opening gunfight is quite honestly one of my more favorite scenes in film history in terms of style. As Banderas comes in through that door, long hair shadowing his face and a large guitar case in his hand, you know something extremely awesome is about to take place.

Unfortunately, the film is also very disappointing, largely due to it's undeniably convoluted plot.

The ending to El Mariachi positively screams, "SEQUEL!", which is a shame because it will never get one. Instead of picking up where the last movie leaves off, Desperado flashes forwards years and years into the future, where any interesting backstory we so much wanted to see about the events following El Mariachi are eluded to briefly but never shared. This defeats the whole point of what fans wanted a sequel for in the first place. In fact, what we have instead is a very generic revenge story that is not only cliched, but makes absolutely no sense, and because it makes no sense it's really hard to become engaged on an emotional level.

Still, don't let a few shortcomings deter you from what is one of the coolest movies around. It could have been a lot cooler, but what's done is done, so enjoy what you've got.

7 out of 10

Friday, July 3, 2009

Movie Journal: Fireproof

Fireproof is one of the very few romantic comedies out there with a plot that, instead of focusing on a particular couple and the circumstances of their coming together, instead revolves around a young and failing marriage, and the struggle of the two members of said marriage(and no, Fool's Gold most certainly does NOT count). The husband, Caleb, as strong and courageous a fireman he is, has steadily lost almost all interest in his wife, Catherine. And trust me when I say that it's worse than you think. The conflict between them builds to a vocal explosion on Caleb's part, leaving Catherine to draw away, her hope all but gone. It's at this point that she seeks out a lawyer for divorce, but not before Caleb's father and friends light a desire inside him to win her back.

Let me pause for a moment here and just say that I really don't care what some people think about this low-budget film's average acting, partly because each actor did an absolutely unbelievable job considering that they were working for free, but also because, quite frankly, the writing, the part that really counts, is so often nothing less than sheer brilliance. Caleb, a Captain of his own fire station, is no stranger to challenge and competition, which is why it's so darn intriguing to watch him try and pursue his wife. Moments such as when he throws his computer out back and begins smashing it with a baseball in order to avoid his temptation of of pornography are not only cute and funny, but also impressively powerful.

Also, in contrast to other such films, the Christian themes ACTUALLY suit the storyline, and bring depth and meaning to the plot in ways I had not previously been able to fathom.

Sherwood Pictures has completely outdone themselves. In fact, if there's a movie to lead to the way for Christianity in the film industry, it's this one. Good Christian movies CAN be done, and this low-budget masterpiece is a true testament to that.

And no, when I compliment the quality of this movie, I'm not just talking about the realm of budget films. This movie is much better than most romantic comedies I've seen this year, and far more enjoyable than Outlander(which is interesting, considering that Fireproof had approximately 1/97th of Outlander's budget).

8 out of 10

Friday, June 26, 2009

Movie Journal: Outlander

Outlander's basic premise could well be described as such: Aliens meets E.T. meets Conan the Barbarian. Or something like that. Essentially, a humanoid alien(James Caveizel) crashlands on our Earth, accidentally bringing with him the last surviving member of a race of destruction-bent beasts called the Moorwen. The real twist is that these events take place during our Iron Age, and it's up to only the main character and a group of brutal vikings to put an end to the creature.

Now that I've given you a picture of what the story is like, let me just cut to the chase. The plot structure of this film SUCKS. Big time. The pacing is pretty much horrible, and the subplot construction is even worse. If I may, I shall now illustrate my point with a tiny spoiler. In the film's introduction of the character Freya, she's shown arguing with her father because she doesn't want to marry Wulfric, who is heir to the throne. Not only is this kind of predicament totally cliched, but in the case of this story, it's also almost entirely irrelevent. The subject is not brought up at all except for in this one scene, and never again is Freya pressured to marry Wulfric. In other words, the movie introduces what should rightly be an element of conflict and antagonism, and then completely discards it.

As you may have easily surmised by this point, anyone who tells you that this movie is a deep and exciting thrill ride is lying. In this case, no amount of flashy action scenes can make up for such a horrible plot. And even the action scenes themselves are pretty bad. And I mean it. This story offers no true thrill, exhileration, or insight. I only give it such a high rating because some of the visual effects were quite impressive considering the project's relatively low budget. Still, a couple minutes of good special effects is little compensation for two whole wasted hours of one's life.

5 out of 10

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Movie Journal: Battle Royale

If they really end up remaking this Asian film in the United States(and there are those who plan to), Jack Johnson is going to physically explode. And by that, I mean that it would most likely be the most controversially violent movie in recent American history.

Imagine this: in the near future, an act is passed that allows the military move teenagers to remote islands for the performance of what is called a "Battle Royale". In this mandatory game, an explosive collar is attached to every player's neck. If anyone attempts to leave the island, his/her collar will activate and blow. In addition, in three days time, unless there is only one player left standing, every single collar will go off.

That is the premise to this absolutely nuts film. And I meant what I said about the violence. Each player is equipped with a random weapon in his bag. Sometimes it's an Uzi, sometimes it's a hand-grenade, sometimes it's a short sickle, and sometimes it's even a pot lid. In the case of one of the players, it turned out to be a Japanese fan. Another time, it was a container of poison. You get the idea.

Are you getting the mental picture of forty teenagers all tracking each other down and killing each other in bizarre and twisted ways? I'm telling you, man, Jack Johnson would totally lose it.

Of course, not everyone goes the route of death and destruction. Some commit suicide with their lovers, deciding that their not going to play this evil game. In contrast, one of the teens is a complete psycho, who wanted in the game in the first place. Some would normally not do these twisted things, but have grudges against other kids and feel justified under the circumstances. It's interesting to see how all the different characters respond to these bizarre events as they unfold.

All in all, Battle Royale was much more deep and insightful than I expected it to be. It's not like I'd watch it over and over several times, like I would Nightmare Before Christmas. That would almost be psychotic. But it's still a very cool and unique film and I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience it.

8 out of 10

Monday, June 22, 2009

Movie Journal: Bolt

Plot synopsis: "The canine star of a fictional sci-fi/action show that believes his powers are real embarks on a cross country trek to save his co-star from a threat he believes is just as real."

But don't be fooled. Bolt isn't nearly as deep and interesting as the premise has led so many to believe. True, the first act is a lot of fun, and actually quite intriguing as well, but it all goes downhill at around the mid-act climax. Though it may proclaim itself to be different and unique, it's really just like every single other lost dog story you've ever seen, only with a few neat touches that soon lose their luster. Trust me when I say that you know exactly how this story is going to turn out.

True, it's much more consistently entertaining than Meet The Robinsons. If anything, Disney's new model of shallow, goofy fun has been proficiently refined.

7 out of 10

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Movie Journal: Kiss Of The Dragon

What can I say? I mean, don't get me wrong. It's a good movie. It's got awesome action and some impressive actors. But let me say that it's really no wonder that Jet Li wants to quit with martial arts films. Shallow plot + badly cast leading lady + complete lack of a controlling idea = a movie I don't really want to see again any time soon. Not only that, but it's certainly not going to stick in my mind for very long. I just watched it an hour ago and I can already feel it fading, if you know what I mean.

And yeah, I know that Luc Besson directed it. But if you're looking for some real Luc Besson awesomeness, just see District B13; it's about five times better. Or at least four times. Anyway, it's cool.

6 out of 10

Friday, June 19, 2009

Movie Journal: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Over the years, The Nightmare Before Christmas has developed something of a reputation among those who have not seen it. Many will say that it is "weird" and "freaky," and that may be true. But it's also a timeless classic, and a landmark in both musical and animated film.

What an awesome premise, too. Think about it: what if there is a dimension in which there exists a land for each holiday, the inhabitants of which have to work constantly to bring that holiday about? What if the kings of each land have been running and supervising their designated holidays since the beginning of time? In this story, that's exactly the way it is for Jack, the Pumpkin King of the dark and graveyard-infested Halloweentown. Every year he makes Halloween happen. And he's getting tired of of it.

While off on a thoughtful walk through Halloweentown's deep and dark forest, he happens upon a clearing containing a portal to each holiday's land. Drawn to Christmastown's door, Jack enters and is totally amazed by the bright and colorful world of Christmas. Still, as he returns and tries to describe the place to the inhabitants of Halloweentown, he finds that, well, he can't. His explanations are completely lost on his citizens, leaving him questioning whether what he experienced(the emotions, the sights, the sounds, the warmth inside) was truly real. And so, Jack begins to tirelessly conduct tests and experiments, none of which lead to a rational way of defining or explaining Christmas. This prompts him...

Ah, what the heck is wrong with me? Off I go about the exceptionally intriguing plot and premise, yet at the same time I just about abuse one of the greatest things about the film: the music! Not only did Danny Elfman(who needs no introduction) both write and compose the score, but he also performs the powerfully emotional singing voice for the main character, Jack himself.

Elfman's musical score grabs your attention instantly at the very beginning of the story, and doesn't let go until the end. Very few moments pass that are not carried by the emotion of Elfman's music, perfectly transitioning the storyline as it carries us from one scene to the next. There's not a dull moment in the entire plot.

As for the animation, the majority of it is stop-motion, and is shot at 24 frames per second. This may seem a dated approach for an animated film, and it is. But if anything, this film's graphics only lend a more eerie feel to the story, with age. Hence my describing it as timeless.

The Nightmare Before Christmas isn't just a "Christmas movie". It's a deep and fascinating tale that delves into the fact that there are some things in the universe you simply cannot reduce to explanations of scientific logic and reasoning. It's also a somewhat bittersweet story, because while we know that Jack finally gets the message of Christmas, he'll never truly be able to be a part of it, and express it purely; though he can try. Kind of like how us humans try, and yet even in some small way always fail. In a way, we're very much like Jack; dark and tainted, knowing only the world of Halloweentown and barely able to comprehend Christmasland. At the same time, we're given hope in the fact that we may yet someday experience it firsthand, kind of how Jack did.

The result is a controlling idea that reflects meaning, and when it comes to film, that is true depth.

10 out 10

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Movie Journal: Nausicaa Of The Valley Of Wind

Kaze no tani no Naushika (or Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind) is an epic animated adventure, written and directed by none other than Hayao Miyazaki. Originally released in the year 1984, it's one of Miyazaki's oldest films, in addition to being one of his best.

The story of Nausicaa gives us a glimpse of a future in which the world is slowly being overrun by a steadily spreading toxic forest. Some simply try to avoid it, while others are actively seeking ways to destroy. Unfortunately, every time an effort is made to burn a segment of the jungle to the ground, the giant insects within fly into a rage, killing everything within miles until they eventually starve and die, producing new spores that cause the forest to spread further. Eventually a nation of industrialism and war comes forward with a plan to dig up an ancient giant of fire that could potentially destroy the jungle altogether. Supposedly.

This great story based on Hayao Miyazaki's own hit manga is not only epic in scope, but features rich characters and an exciting, action-oriented plot. Over all, it's certainly the best quality kid-centered action film there is. Next to Castle In The Sky, that is. In fact, in many ways, I probably prefer Nausicaa.

This is just the kind of intelligent storytelling that young kids deserve. The environmentalist undertones are undeniable, but underneath that is a deep and gripping message about love and self-sacrifice, in cool and epic ways that most stories for kids cannot boast.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Movie Journal: Labyrinth

Labyrinth is yet another case of what I like to call a flawed masterpiece. While it has it's share of issues, certain subtle qualities retain it's "must-see" status.

Directed and co-written by Jim Henson, Labyrinth tells the story of a teenage, overly dramatic girl(played by none other than Jennifer Connelly in one of her earliest roles). Once again, her parents force her to stay home and look after her baby brother while they enjoy a night out. Sarah takes it all a bit melodramatically, and in a fit of sad angst wishes that the goblins of the far castle would come and take the baby away, turning into a goblin and keeping him within the castle for all eternity. Apparently she didn't at first know that goblins actually existed, but it's too late now, isn't it?

As you can imagine, when Sarah finds out that her wish has come true, she's quite dismayed. She pleads with none other than the Goblin King(played by none other than David Bowie) himself, who finally brings forth a proposal. Surrounding his castle is a gigantic labyrinth, which he himself built. If Sarah can solve it within the next few hours, before the designated time of her brother's transformation, they both can go free.

As the story unfolds, Sarah works hard to navigate the Labyrinth while all around her Jim Henson's bizarre puppet creations come to life.

While flawed in parts, and certainly showing it's age, Labyrinth contains too much genius to be overlooked. For many young kids, and anyone for that matter, Labyrinth is a very valuable story that should be mandatory viewing. Plus, it's just a ton of fun.

7 out of 10

Monday, May 25, 2009

Movie Journal: Say Anything

Don't you just hate it when the title to a romantic comedy has almost nothing to do with the storyline?

No matter. Say Anything may not make much sense as a movie title, but the content of the movie itself is superb.

As for an idea of the plot, I think IMDb sums it up best: "A noble underachiever and a beautiful valedictorian fall in love the summer before she goes off to college."

John Cusack stars in what is probably my favorite role of his, while Ione Skye perfectly portrays the smart and pretty yet unsure girl the main character is trying to win over.

The characters are fun and the sheer complexity of the storyline is quite satisfactory. All in all, it's one of the greater and more moving of the teenage romances of the 1980's, despite some potential ethical issues concerning the very intimate relationship between the main characters. Don't let the unfortunately corny poster above deter you. For any fan of film, Say Anything is well worth your time.

8 out of 10

Movie Journal: Blade II

What possessed me, you might ask? Well, the first Blade wasn't entirely bad, and Del Toro directed this time around. How bad could it be?

Actually, not that bad. Wesley Snipes again returns as Blade, a daywalking vampire who has taken it upon himself to track and kill other vampires. However, a rather interesting twist occurs when the vampires come to him for help hunting a new threat: a hybrid vampire that feeds off of other vampires. Normally, our hero wouldn't care, but it seems that as soon as all the vampires are gone these creatures will turn to the humans for food, resulting in a worldwide catastrophy.

Blade agrees to group up with a special vampire ops team that has been training to kill him for years. They put aside their differences in order to rid the world of a common and much deadlier enemy.

Blade II is almost monumentally better than the first, but it's almost even more shallow. Blade is an awesome character, and he does awesome things, but most everything else going on plot-wise leaves much to be desired.

6 out of 10

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Movie Journal: Spaceballs

When it comes to comedic spoof and parody, who can forget Mel Brooks? He created several undeniably hysterical films in his time, such as History Of The World Part 1 and Young Frankenstein. And Spaceballs.

Of all of Brooks' works, Spaceballs is almost certainly the most popular. Also, it's probably the cheesiest. In this galactic adventure just about every major space-related franchise is almost utterly humiliated, from Star Wars to Planet of the Apes, to even Alien. Shamelessly, too. Still, Spaceballs isn't trying to hurt anyone, it's just trying to share a little fun, and in that it succeeds.

True: it's extremely and unbelievably cheesy. But maybe that's what makes it so memeorable in the first place.

8 out of 10

Movie Journal: Blade

Here we go again. Tell you what; chances are that you already know what I'm going to say, so I'll make this one short and sweet.

Blade features some of the very best choreographed action I've ever seen. When it comes to style, it completely surpasses even The Matrix. In parts. As for the rest of the movie, the pace is slow, episodic, and inconsistent. Also, the plot is totally cliche-ridden, though I have due respect for the original comic's ingenuities.

In the end, if you are looking for a truly satisfying movie, give this one a pass. Yeah, The One was better than this.

5 out of 10

Movie Journal: Ferris Bueller's Day Off

You gotta love the unique style John Hughes was so well known for during the late 1980's, namely in his novel depictions of both youthful bliss and teen angst in his stories; and often together. My favorite of his would probably be Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which he both wrote and directed. It's a masterpiece.

So, what's the plot, you might ask? Well, it's rather hard to say. One of it's qualities is the film is very laid-back and yet very engaging at the same time. However, the one incident that sets everything off is that Ferris convinces his parents he's too sick to go to school, for the ninth time this semester. Knowing he'll have to go to extreme measures to deceive his parents the tenth time, Ferris begins preparations very soon after he has the house to himself. This may be his last day off, and he's going to make it count.

That's the little I'll say on the matter, because it's a movie that has to be seen to be believed. Just know that when it comes to comedic film, this one should be mandatory viewing. It's all but perfect in it's execution.

9 out of 10

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek Review

Don't you kinda despise the immense hype preceding just about every major summer flick? the worst part is that about half the time the film in question isn't nearly as good as the trailers made it out to be. And what has achieved more hype than Star Trek? Not much else, this summer season. But that's why I feel it's my duty to inform readers of one simple fact: the new Star Trek IS just about everything it's cracked up to be.

Star Trek is an epic prequel taking us back to the very beginning of both Spock's and James T. Kirk's journey. Over the course of the plot every character from the series that us Trekkies know and love meet up in an effort to stop a mysterious and deadly enemy. That is all you need to know without having a perfectly awesome plot being spoiled.

To tell the truth, I didn't appreciate Transformers all that much, which happened to be a film that Roberto Orcia and Alex Kurtzman too wrote. It had the fun, but none of the legitimate drama, or so I felt at the time. But this time the expertise of these screenwriters really shows. They have quite successfully combine the dramatic with the visual stimulation so signature of their past action flicks.

One aspect of the dramatic situations being so believable may be due to the fact that each character's intricacies are mindblowing, though much of that may also be due to phenomenal casting. I now consider the new Star Trek cast to be in many ways the definitive one. There's not a single unwanted choice in the lot, and each actor excells in the portrayal of these classic characters.

As for the action, tension builds steadily to each dramatic situation until the characters are completely and totally unleashed, and push toward their goal unrelentingly until the very end of the film. Contrary to what some misguided journalists have postulated, this is action at it's finest in years.

Star Trek is the funnest and most mindblowingly exciting film of this year yet, and I'd advise that you not miss it. This is Star Trek the way it was meant to be experienced.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Movie Journal: Memento

On the day his wife is murdered, a man is injured and wakes up with a case of short-term memory loss. Only able to remember one clear thing(that is, the death of his wife), Leonard is constantly working to track down the killer. Every morning he wakes up in his motel room wondering where exactly he is, and has only bits and pieces of clues to go by that he left for himself to find, such as notes and pictures and tattoos steadily covering his body.

Much like Leonard's disjointed sense of memory, the film's plot manifests itself in bits and pieces of the main character's experiences. Such a plotline is rather hard to characterize. It doesn't really take place in a straightforward and linear fashion, but neither is it nonlinear; rather, the movie shows us every incident in reverse order. Viewers are invited to see for themselves the bizarre things Leonard will never remember he did, let alone understand.

Christopher Nolan writes and directs this masterpiece with true vision. A little tedious to some but gripping to those who enjoy a good psychological thriller, Memento may be the most novel film in said genre ever conceived.

9 out of 10

Friday, May 8, 2009

Movie Journal: Castle In The Sky

Not only is Miyazaki's classic masterpiece of the 1980's instantly captivating, but once the action kicks in things stay in high gear until the final confrontation, thanks to outstandingly structured action. It's like Temple Of Doom for kids. Only better.

The idea is simple, but the execution is not. A young girl who floats down from the sky is on the run from air pirates, who are after her mystical stone, which has been passed down for generations of her family. A boy meets up with her and helps her escape. Turns out that the government too is after the stone, and will do anything they can to obtain it.

That is how the story begins. Sounds simple? Perhaps, but by the story's end more twists and turns occur than I originally thought possible. Cool, charming, and above all nostalgic, Castle In The Sky is one of the very best animated features ever produced.

9 out of 10

P.S. I can guarantee you will enjoy it much more if you see it in Japanese with English subtitles, the way it was meant to be experienced.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Movie Journal: The One

Like many stylized and potential-brimming action flicks before it, this film utlimately falls short of the mark. The action may be incredible, but the plot starts out ambitious and ends up just plain generic. This is a real pity, especially considering the story's stellar premise.

Basically, the world is not made up of a single unified universe, but rather a multiverse. There are hundreds of universes, and chance dictates that every few universes there is an alternate you. So, believe it or not, some psycho in the distant future finds a way to move in between these universes, and thereby begins assassinating all his alternate selves, one by one. It's then up to the members of the interuniversal republic to track down and stop him, before he becomes The One, and throws off the balance of energy between worlds.

Again, it's a cool idea, and the action isn't so bad, either. How they were able to take clearly Matrix-style concepts into a totally new direction is a little beyond me, but it works. Time and again we see Jet Li dodging bullets and running across walls, but he does it in a style entirely seperate from what The Matric accomplished. Kudos to that. Still, there's little that can save a film from a monotonous plot. See it if you must, but just don't expect to be entirely satisfied.

6 out of 10

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Movie Journal: District B13

Did you know that the French are actually well known for their action sequences in film? It's true. A rather recent example is the movie District B13(or Banlieue 13). In it, certain crime-polluted areas of France are being closed off into isolated districts. Cut off from the rest of the civilized world by thick concrete walls, the society slowly degenerates. Chaos reigns.

Things run this course until a gang from district B13 hijacks an armored car and accidentally sets off the timer of the nuetron bomb inside. In 24 hours, it will detonate.

The action itself delivers on this premise outstandingly, and the storyline is essentially eighty minutes of nonstop intensity. The main characters pull off all sorts of crazy stunts on their mission, often without trampolines or wires. Some would say the incredible sense of movement in each action sequence is proportionate compensation for a shallow plot, but District B13 is anything but guilty pleasure. Rather, what it lacks in "complexity" it more than makes up for in intelligent cinematography. In other words, don't get the wrong idea, because the plot is awesome.

District B13 is the best over-the-top action film in years. Wait; scratch that. It's not "over-the-top". The stunts were quite real. Maybe that's a good part of what makes this movie so darn cool.

9 out of 10

Movie Journal: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Mask of the Phantasm is that Batman movie so often overlooked. What is it? It's an animated feature based on the magnificent Batman TV series of 1992. Written by Alan Burnett, the storyline takes some very interesting turns and has the viewer pretty engaged by the characters quite early on, which is note-worthy for a kids cartoon of the 1990's. 

The age of the cartoon shows in the animation, but to this day it's still cool and visually striking. Any fan of Batman and his movie adventures should give Mask of the Phantasm a shot, and chances are that anyone particularly into the show already has. 

8 out of 10

Movie Journal: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

What can I say; it's Indiana Jones. Only on steroids. After escaping an Asian mob boss and his henchmen by plane, Jones crashlands in India and is implored by a group of poor villagers to retrieve a magic stone that was stolen from them by a secret sacrificial cult. 

Leading lady Kate Capshaw's character is a rather obnoxious one, and Ford has to play a somewhat stereotypical hero this time around, but the young and goofy Asian sidekick "Short Round" brings out a side of Jones we haven't really seen before. Not only that, but Temple of Doom's action is so continuous and intense that by the end of the film you're left far more satisfied than by Raiders' inexplicable dropoff. Indy 2 isn't just a good time, it's a genuinely good movie, and deserves to be remembered as such.  

8 out of 10

Movie Journal: Pan's Labyrinth

I'd be surprised if you hadn't heard of this masterpiece up until now, as it's had quite a lot of publicity for a foreign film. It has been nominateda whopping 58 times and won 3 Oscars, one being for Best Writing/Original Screenplay. Who wrote it? None other than Guillermo del Toro, and I can only conclude that the man is an absolute genius. 

The storyline is an adult-geared fairytale starring a young, immortal princess who attempts to leave the underworld and see what life on earth is like. Eventually, the princess dies a cruel death in the world of mortals. In response, the king of the underworld opens a portal in order to reincarnate the princess. However, the girl, Ofelia, cannot proceed to her father's kingdom until she has passed three tests. Ofelia attempts to complete these tasks, hoping to take her baby brother with her to the kingdom when he is born; an event that is quite imminent. Meanwhile, she's currently staying at a camp of the Spanish military, and rebels hiding in the forest plan a means of defeating the camp's cruel and heartless Captain.

That is a very, very small taste of what the story is like. But know this: finally, an essentially perfect cast of actors have come together to breathe life in a nearly flawless screenplay dealing with the truths of both cruelty and innocence in the world we live in. Few other movies so perfectly chronicle man's yearnful search for immortality, and how it is ultimately attained. Pan's Labyrinth could be the single most powerful movie I've yet seen.

10 out of 10

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Movie Journal: Stardust

There's only so much to say about Stardust, and that's mainly that it is a charming film that succeeds in parts but ultimately fails where it really counts. Sound familiar? I used the same words in my review of Indy 4, though I assure you that Stardust is in many ways the better movie.

Why do I say this? Because, again, it's got a lot of charm. The majority of the time characters come across really well and there are more than a few fantastic scenes. However, to go into any detail concerning the first act and a half of the film would be to destroy it for the reader. The fact is that Stardust sets up the story almost perfectly and then fails to deliver.

It's hard to say exactly what doomed the latter half of the film. I have a few hunches, one being the casting choice of Claire Danes as the ethereal and immortal Yvaine. Claire Danes just doesn't do ethereal and immortal, if you know what I mean. She and the main character were a terrible pairing, and the least charming aspect of the movie. As a result it was really hard to be engaged by the events between them. I had initially thought that Danes had been a weird casting choice, but also that there must be something I missed and that the director would make it work. Not the case. In fact, every time I saw Danes I was ripped right out of the experience because she just didn't belong. This was not a good moment for an actress of her caliber, partly because it may be that she was carefully cast but just didn't do a very good job.

It's terribly sad, because Stardust is a very unique and ingenuity-infused film, and with a few tweaks it could have been truly great.

6 out of 10

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Movie Journal: An American In Paris

An American In Paris is one of the greater musicals such as The Music Man and Singin In The Rain, though it tends to achieve far less publicity. Mark my words though that it is every bit as great, if not more so.

This fabulous musical tells the story of...wait for American in Paris! Would you believe it? Gene Kelly stars as a young, struggling artist. He's also the film's choreographer, and boy does he go to town on this one. As the film opens up and the main character is introduced, each movement is like that of a ballet, elegant and precise. And that's far before any singing or dancing even starts, though there's much to enjoy until that picks up. The characters positively come to life on the screen, and give you a guided tour of life in Paris, and what the people are like there. At least, what they're like in a musical.

So anyway, as I was saying: Gene Kelly is Jerry Mulligan, an inexperienced if inspired artist who is barely scraping by. So along comes Milo Roberts, an older, wealth-inflicted woman who has taken an uncanny interest in his work. She wants to help him. It could be that Milo is lonely and attempting to take advantage of Jerry by putting him in her debt, but in his situation, what choice does he have? Things become even more complicated when our hero meets another gal; a young and gorgeous doll he's hooked on almost instantly. This quite visibly upsets Milo, but that's not where the trouble ends. Though Jerry starts going out with this girl named Lise Bouvier in secret, and adores her more than anything in the world, it seems there's something she is not willing to tell him, just like he's not willing to tell her that Milo's financial grip on him is growing uncomfortably tighter.

Sound cookie-cutter? It's not. The storyline is more than the sum of it's parts, and the same goes for the film's rich characters. The dialogue that passes between each one is, to say the least, very well crafted. It's outstandingly clever, and meshes with each song effortlessly scene by scene.

Which once again brings me to the subject of Gene Kelly's choreography, which was almost never better than this. Prepare for your mind to be blown away before the movie is over. "Captivating"? Yeah, it's captivating; your brain will be in microscopic bits. Before the film's end there comes an almost entire act of stylish musical montage madness that leaves you breathless. Musicals don't get much better than this.

Bottom-line? An American In Paris gives us a precious glimpse of the sheer beauty a painter sees in his lover, and it's so spectacular, so amazing, so majestic, that there's no way you're going to watch it just once.

9 out of 10

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Movie Journal: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

To tell the truth, I had actually looked forward to Indy 4 for some while; though not excessively enough to find time to view it in theaters. Nevertheless, I was excited. Now that I've actually got around to seeing it, I have to say that not only is "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" the worst Indiana Jones film ever created, but it also happens to be one of the worst action films I have had the misfortune to see.

Now, don't get me wrong. I haven't seen loads of terrible action movies, but I have seen my fair share. And, truth be told, Indy 4 isn't all bad. But it just doesn't succeed where it counts.

Take Jones himself, for instance. As longtime fans of the series, do we not empathize with his situation when the Soviets are forcing him to assist them in their search of the Crystal Skull, which they believe will lead them to the ultimate power? Of course. But Jones' responses to these various situations gives us more of the impression that he's just trying to stay out of trouble instead of being in search of adventure. And who could blame him? He's gotta be at least fifty years old by now, right? It's unfortunate that he's really not the same Indiana we remember and cherish.

In fact, nothing we've cherished from past Indiana films is present here. Marcus? Dead. Jones' father? Dead. And so what we are presented with are a group of mostly new characters, the purpose of these being to replace the old, which never comes to fruition. True, some chords are struck here and there, such as during Shia Labeouf's character's introduction, when he is portrayed as something of a passive thief; a person who takes what he wants without asking, without thinking, and when he feels like it. But that's never really referenced again, and the rest of his character doesn't really reflect that. Also, Karen Allen returns as Indy's long lost G.F. Marion Ravenwood, but the chemistry between her and Ford just isn't there anymore. Not to mention that her character was really badly written this time around.

Perhaps the only character I connected with besides Shi LaBeouf's was Cate Blanchett's. Blanchett did applaudingly well as a Russian villain, and it's a shame because in the end she received the very worst fate among every bad guy in the movie.

The action shines in some moments, but really grinds in the third and perhaps most crucial act of the film. The creators attempt to keep things rolling with cute little domestic inter-character subplots between the main characters, which are badly hatched and executed worse.

Indiana Jones 1, 2, and 3 feature some of the best action scenes ever created, along with superb dialogue and legendary characters to carry it. Indy 4 is the sequel that should never have been made, because then Indy fanatics wouldn't have to pretend for the sake of the series that it didn't exist. Also, I really expected just a little more of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg both. Granted, it's not the worst movie ever made, but it just falls too flat for many people to care for very long.

What I think it comes down to is that, the rest of the series and any expectations aside, even in it's own right The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an ultimately unfulfilling story. It really is a bad movie.

5 out of 10

Friday, March 20, 2009

Movie Journal: True Lies

The first act of the film starts out with a strong, balanced action sequence that sets up the action-oriented element of the plot: that a group of terrorists are currently attempting to smuggle a nuclear warhead into the United States. Then, as the main character spends time at home with his family while the mission is on standby, the movie moves into the second act, the majority of which is a romantic comedy. The fact that these two elements of action and romantic humor can be juggled so effortlessly is in itself a grand feat, rendering True Lies an absolute must-see.

Just three years after the release of the amazing Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Arnold Shwarzenegger returns to take on the role of Harry Tasker, a character who at first glance makes you think of both Rambo and James Bond. Not only is he tough and efficient, but he's got all the cleverness and playfulness of a ladykiller. So it's something of a surprise when he goes home to an ordinary wife and kid, both of which he absolutely adores, even if they don't know it.

They fact is, they both believe that he is a computer salesman. Harry's frequent and necessary lies for the sake of his work have formed something of a disconnection between him and his family. It's the family and marital issues as well as the terrorist threat that are balanced so well and effectively that we have to keep watching to see how things are finally resolved. Also, this is Schwarzenegger at his totally captivating and very best.

The action is best described as very well paced, very well structured, and very well choreographed. It may be of interest to the reader that there are some action shots that are straight out of The Matrix( or rather, there are shots in The Matrix taken straight out of True Lies). For a movie running at 144 minutes long, it's amazing that True Lies successfully has you absolutely gripped by it's over-the-top yet somehow very intense action throughout it's entirety.

As for the adjoining plot involving Harry Tasker's marital problems...I will tell you that the antagonist of this plot is played by none other than Bill Paxton, in one of his most absolutely hilarious roles yet.

Perhaps one of the only major complaints I have is a stylish yet obscenely sexual scene right at the mid-act climax that very nearly bogs down the pace of the film. It's relevant and short, and it's not particularly explicit, but it's just far too gratuitous for my taste. Overall, I guess it's not really a kid movie, if you know what I mean. Other than that, this film is action, romantic, and comedic gold.

8 out of 10

Monday, March 16, 2009

Movie Journal: Red Eye

Here is a film that, chances are, you've heard about at some point, even though you've probably never seen any trailers, posters, or ads for it. Red Eye is in many ways an underrated film, and mostly because people tend to expect it to be something other than what it is: a short, humble yet superbly acted thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.

Red Eye was released just a month before the thriller Flightplan, which bears many resemblances but is far more remarkable. Rachel McAdams stars as a hotel manager whose father is held ransom in order for her seatmate(Cillian Murphy of Batman Begins fame) to persuade her to adjust which room the senator is to stay in. The course of this conversation takes place aboard an in-flight airplane, and takes up a good majority of the film.

Don't get the wrong idea: Red Eye is every bit the sum of it's parts and more, which include rich, character-oriented dialogue and remarkable acting. Since when can you watch two people sit and talk for minutes at a time and be entertained? Not so often, these days. Usually the filmmakers have to introduce some kind of new element to keep things rolling before people start spacing out. Which is interesting because Red Eye throws little plot twists or surprises to speak of, but I assure you that if it had run much longer than it did my head would have exploded of overstimulation as it is.

Why this movie has such a low average viewer rating on most movie sites is beyond me, because it's truly great. Red Eye is a gripping, intelligent, and worthwhile thriller that deserves at least some of your attention. You will be entertained.

8 out of 10

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gran Torino Review

Though I wasn't sure what exactly to expect, it turns out that Gran Torino is a superb masterpiece, and in many ways a structurally near-perfect story of pain, death, and ultimate salvation.

Yes, Clint Eastwood stars in this movie, and no, it's not a "shoot-em-up". Eastwood plays a bitter Vietnam vet and an elderly widower with a somewhat paranoid contempt for his neighborhood and it's steadily increasing number of Asian immigrants, as well as the lingering new generation of ignorant teens, many of which constitute the proud gangsters prowling the streets. Eastwood's character's bitterness and disapproval is duly noted by his threatening, animal-like growl, as he glances at his teenage granddaughter and happens to sight her pierced bellybutton.

But make no mistake; Eastwood's contempt for the people around him in no way leads to our contempt of him. In fact, his behavior is perfectly charming because we suspect that deep down he's a real teddy bear. And he is. On a case-by-case basis.

For example: when an Asian kid tries to steal his mint-condition Gran Torino, he's not a teddy bear. Anyhow, turns out that the kid was pressured into it by a local gang, who have been haunting the family next door. As one event after another takes place in this man's life, the situation and the events revolving around it grow increasingly intense; from brutal beatings, to rape, and eventual murder.

Sounds rather dim, doesn't it? But despite these dark undertones Gran Torino is a very bright movie that's a great deal of fun all the way through. Though the majority of the supporting actors are brand new and fairly inexperienced(as Clint Eastwood has pointed out himself) their characters come across magnificently, and with a hint of complementary spontaneity that many have falsely accused of being shallow one-dimensionality. Don't listen to them; if anything, these characters come across as all the more authentic.

Eastwood's role is that of a man who struggles both spiritually and physically most of his life, but in the end finds redemption. This isn't just a good film, or a great one either. It's an absolutely superb and ingeniously crafted masterpiece that I'm really glad I didn't miss.

9 out of 10

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Public Enemies Trailer

This is a movie whose premise has me rather intrigued, so of course I've been looking forward to the trailer.

The tone is serious overall, and yet the characters and action are almost stylized to the point of being fitting of a dark superhero comic. Looks glorious.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Movie Journal: Appaloosa

Appaloosa is unlike any other movie of 2008 I've thus far had the opportunity to see. I feel like there's not much to say, but I will say this.

Appaloosa is a movie that has received very mixed reviews. Some say it's stupid, and a complete waste of the talents of both Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris. Read TV Guide's review and you'll see what I mean, and the same goes for Wall Street Journal. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, on the other hand, gave it three-and-a-half stars out of four and called it "a potently acted powerhouse that sticks in the mind and the heart," and "gripping entertainment that keeps springing surprises." I disagree on both counts, but I also refuse to side with Maitland Mcdonagh's impression that it is "dull and preposterous." It may be dull, but it's not preposterous. Upon closer inspection the characters are actually very rich and enjoyable to watch.

At the same time, after almost two hours of watching these characters interact as they pursue their innermost goals, I found the eventual conclusion to be anticlimactic and unsatisfying. In the end, Appaloosa is not a truly great movie, though it is an impressive one.

7 out of 10

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Movie Journal: Horton Hears A Who!

This was a somewhat difficult movie to diagnose for me. On the one hand, it is after all based on a very intellectual story by Dr. Seuss exploring not only the concept of believing in things without proper empirical verification(seeing, touching, tasting, or smelling), but also the sacred worth of any form of life, great or minuscule. As Horton so eloquently puts it, "A person's a person, no matter how small." On the other hand, themes and messages aside, the movie itself is not so intellectual. Not only is Horton himself something of an idiot, he's also a boring stereotype, and undergoes little convincing development over the course of the storyline. The result is that his philosophical musings, which happen to be the whole point of the story, appear to be emitting from a talking head more than a character.

All things considered, the real stars are "the Who's": microscopic creatures living inside a small speck that Horton somehow happens upon. In fact, most of the time, Horton the elephant is just filler, as evidenced by an extensive 2D-animated scene of heroism taking place in Horton's mind that shamelessly and inexplicably pokes fun at Japanese anime and culture. Shame on you, Ken Daurio and/or Cinco Paul; whichever one of it's two authors that came up with that scene. Shame! Shame!

Anyhow, it's the elephant who somehow manages to contact the respectable Mayor of Whoville, who hears Horton's booming voice from above. It's a revelation to the Mayor that, as it turns out, his world is nothing but "an infinitesimal speck floating in space." The ramifications are tremendous: seeing as Whoville is small and fragile, the slightest impact could completely obliterate it. It's then Horton's job to find a soft, safe refuge for the world of the Who's.

Visually, Dr. Seuss' own graphic style has been recaptured fantastically. Not to mention that voice-actors Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, and others do an amazing job of bringing the characters to life. And that's all well and good, but I also can't stand the fact that the plotline itself, aside from Dr. Seuss' original touches, is almost completely uninspired. It may be fun and actually quite entertaining, but somehow I think many of it's creators(aside from the artists and voice-actors) deserve little merit. Seriously: is there some "animated movie" guideline I don't know about that states that unless you're Pixar, at the ending of your movie all the characters must sing a song together? There's nothing worse than uninspired entertainment, so let's just be thankful Seuss had some in emergency reserve.

7 out of 10

Monday, March 2, 2009

Movie Journal: The Family Man

I can't believe I never really heard about this movie before. It's one of those movies whose first act is so well structured and surprising, you figure, "Well, that's just because the author focused solely on the first act, and there will be a drastic decline in quality during the grind of act two." So when the entire second act is just as brilliant as the first, you can't help but think, "Well, they'll botch the ending for sure." But then when the end comes, it works. And it works because the writer structured everything precisely, and everything leading up has been in specific preparation of the plot's climactic conclusion. That's my kind of movie.

One of the reasons the structure works so well is because the ending of the first act(or, "the inciting incident") throws us an almost completely unexpected curveball. Having said that, I had promised myself I would only disclose a very small dose of what the plot looks like in terms of details, because to properly prepare you for it would be robbery. However, I will tell you that Nicholas Cage plays a young man who moves from New York to London in pursuit of a job opportunity. His future wife, played by Tea Leoni, begs him not to leave, fearing that they may slip apart while he's away for a year. He promises that he will never stop loving her.

There. That's as far as I'm going, because the plot is simply too good to spoil. Throughout it's entirety it manages to remain facinating, vivid, and worthwhile, and I'd hate to ruin that. Just know that it is one of the very best movies I have ever seen, and the reason it's so great is because it taps into our basic emotions in an effort to cause us to consider what life is all about. And if, by the time the credits roll, it doesn't cause you to reflect on your life's priorities and values, at least a've got to be dead inside. That, or you are living the perfect life.

9 out of 10

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Movie Journal: Hulk

Hulk is what I like to call a "flawed masterpiece". It may be rough around the edges in parts, but boy does it have it's moments.

As you may already know, Hulk chronicles the rise of The Incredible Hulk. The events leading up to this are portrayed in rapid succession as a science division of the US government attempts to develop human regeneration for soldiers on the field of battle. The theory was that this ability could be inserted as a genetic trait, which would be activated by physical stress: a gunshot wound, for example. But the thing about genetic engineering is that if you alter even one trait, the results are highly unforeseeable. Dr. David Banner discovered this, and was in the process of developing a cure when the government shut him down for failing to follow procedure. The true disaster takes place years later, in the form of David's son, Bruce Banner.

Bruce Banner, though having no knowledge of who his real parents were or what they did, ends up a scientist working in the exact same field as his father did. He(played by Eric Bana) works together with Dr. Betty Ross(Jennifer Connolly) to develop therapeutic regenerative traits using gamma radiation. Eric Bana was very well cast for his part and does an exceptional job. Jennifer Connolly, on the other hand, takes on the role of Dr. Ross almost perfectly. It's not like she did a perfect job because she was perfectly cast or born for the role, but rather because she knew exactly what she was supposed to do. She was able to see something deep and facinating in that character that no one else saw, and then portray it outstandingly. And I expect nothing less from an actress of her calibur.

Yes, if I were to list all the things that made this movie great, one of the topmost ones would be "Jennifer Connolly". At the same time, every other major actor reflected their character notably. This, tied together with ingenious editing, managing to carefully and intricately capture the feel of the comic in outstanding cinematography, alone makes this story worthwhile.

Unfortunately, especially in areas well into the movie, you may find your belief to be suspended at times. Still, giant mutated french poodles aside, Hulk is a faithfully artistic comic book adaptation, and while it does have it's share of flaws it is still a must-watch.

8 out of 10

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Movie Journal: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

There's a reason many people these days have an aversion to animated movies. Why? Because they've become cheap and manipulative of the low standards of children. That's been the truth behind the majority of kid's movies for a long time now, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire was perhaps the last truly great animated movie Disney made.

Released in 2001, it's a movie behind it's time in many ways. First of all, it's a genuine cartoon. At the time of it's release computer generated effects and animation were becoming the norm, and while Atlantis makes use of what appear to be a few CG visual effects here and there, it's mostly the real deal, and it's the better for it. The main plot concerns a centuries-lost civilization and a archeologist/linguist attempting to find it in his father's place, aided by a group of bizarre and charming mercenaries. I don't believe the sense of style, personality, and charm portrayed here could have been accomplished utilizing the CG effects of the day, or even of today's.

And it's really the sense of style, personality, and charm that sucks you in, almost instantly. The main character, Milo, is an extremely dedicated professor who is never given credit, and is always looked down on as a kid. Even his expertise seems to be part of his social problem; he's a nerd and nobody seems to like that. And yet, his child-like fascination and curiosity is infecting for us viewers. The group of mercenaries he works with comprise of a large and rather hyperactive medical doctor, a world-class professional engineer who happens to be a teenage girl, a charmingly dry and unenthusiastic demolitions expert, a(I suspect) psychologically disturbed dirt and tunneling expert nicknamed "Mole", a commander who is clearly in the expedition for fame and fortune, and a blondie named Helga Katrina Sinclair who, despite her very seductive and intoxicatingly attractive gestures and outward appearance, is actually a real tomboy.

The way this group of mercenaries behaves and interacts together, you'd think that they were siblings. It's amazing the small ways they manage to portray this, really. Over time, Milo slowly starts to become one of them. That's how when they finally do manage to find the lost city for which they've been searching all this time, things get pretty intense as the priorities of Milo's friends turn out to be little different from what he expected them to be.

I think that's why I ended up loving this movie so much: it's just incredible how real it manages to be, even behind all the magic and mystery. In a few ways it's actually rather comparable to Princess Mononoke, but not excessively. It's a Disney movie that, for once, manages stands on it's own two feet, and I pity those that would rather miss it.

8 out of 10

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie Journal: Michael Clayton

This is what we call an overrated movie. There's no denying it. Not only was it nominated for Best Picture in 2007, but also rated a score of "perfect" by Roger Ebert, Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly and Claudia Puig of USA Today. I admit that it is an interesting thriller and a profound movie in many ways, but it also fails where so many average movies succeed.

First of all, the script is overflowing with cheap baggage and fluff. Inspired baggage perhaps, but baggage nonetheless, and the overall storyline is forced to haul it around in a rather unseemly fashion.

Secondly, it's controlling idea, if there indeed is one, fails to come across in a gripping or impacting way. It's a message we've seen so many times before, and it's no more profound here. The result is obvious. The lack of a proper controlling idea, as you can imagine, dealt a heavy blow to the pace. All three acts grinded tremendously, to the point that at parts it was just painful. It's very often that the plot, as well as the scenes themselves, appear to be just drifting without true direction. At times, it was a mess.

I watched an entire two-hour movie called Michael Clayton, and yet I still have absolutely no idea just who Michael Clayton is. Which is rather frustrating, considering that the main character took up a major chunk of the screentime. All I know about him was that he was a bad person experiencing a mid-life crisis, wanting to fix what was wrong. At least, that's what I think he was. Some of his actions and statements indicate a different scenario, so I'm not really sure. I doubt anybody will be, perhaps even including Tony Gilroy, the writer and director of the film. Come on, Tony. You've made better movies than this.

And yet, having said all that, Michael Clayton features some really intricate and intense dialogue that grips you. It made me giddy. For that, Mr. Gilroy, I applaud. But know this: I honestly believe your movie could have been so much more.

6 out of 10