Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

Movie Review – Sex And The City

June 4, 2008

Sex and the City – (7 stars)

The continuing adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda as they live their lives in Manhattan four years after the series ended.

True to my word, I went and saw Sex and the City. Mock me, ridicule me, scoff at me if you must. I’m man enough to take it. I’m also man enough to enter the dark theater of the “Big Newport” that served as the den of over 700 cougars all hellbent on catching up Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. To quote Obi Wan Kenobi, “You will never find a more retched hive of scum and villainy.” Alright, that might be a little harsh of a description regarding the crowd that attended last night’s 7:00 PM screening. But, it was definitely a unique crowd, one of which I had never experienced before. The vibe at the theater while waiting in the long line of attendees showing up at the last possible minute was not unlike that of Return of the Jedi that I saw at that very theater a quarter of a century ago — just the complete opposite spectrum of the demographic chart. These women wanted their Sex and the City.

The movie itself was alright and I enjoyed it for the most part. But, I’m pretty sure that just had to do with the fact that I had some familiarity with the characters having watched most of the six seasons worth of late night reruns. I’ve got my girlfriend to thank (or blame) for that. In fact, it was with her and three of her girlfriends that I went to see the movie with. Had I not felt some sort of connection and familiarity with the characters I’m sure I would’ve been bored out of my skull. It’s a long movie that might have worked better as five individual episodes. Or, maybe even as a seventh season since the movie spans at least nine month’s time, probably more. I think the movie would have benefited by further exploring certain aspects of the movie that seemed to just have been glossed over — but, I wouldn’t have wanted to sit through a three hour plus Louis Vuitton commercial. I doubt I would bother seeing a Sex and the City sequel if one were to be produced.

Breaking it down to the basics — If you like the TV show, you’ll like the movie. If you’ve never seen or don’t like the TV show, then go see Iron Man again.

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Christopher Noeth
Directed by: Michael Patrick King
Written by: Michael Patrick King, Candace Bushnell
Produced by: Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael Patrick King, John Melfi
Distributed by: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language.

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Movie Review – Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

May 23, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – (8 stars)

In 1957, Indiana Jones is thrust back in action, venturing into the jungles of South America in a race against Soviet agents to find the mystical Crystal Skull.

Note: This is going to be spoiler free review. As much as I’d like to cite specific scenes from the movie to prove my points and opinions of this movie I’m not going to hear. But, I’ll discuss these specific points with anybody anywhere over a pint or two.

There has been a lot of “mixed” reviews regarding the latest installment of the Indiana Jones adventures. So, I’m going to start this review off with my first and foremost gripe about the movie — the use of sets. Having seen and enjoying the previous three Indiana Jones movies, as well as countless other movies from other decades and other genres from the same and other creators. But, when you look at the previous three movies from the series — Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — one thing stands out with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and it is the use of sets. The title character is a globe trotting and world weary adventurer, but yet, right from the get go, this chapter had the distinct look and feel of being mostly shot on soundstages and back lots. But, that’s about it as far as my gripes go. Sure, I could nit-pick a bit more, but that’s easy to do when you’ve been involved in a relationship that has lasted some twenty-seven years.

Now that that is out of the way… I liked Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — a lot. The movie was no Raiders of the Lost Ark — but it also wasn’t the major let down that a lot of “fans” are screaming about. There are three other things that this movie was not — Episode I, Episode II, and Episode III.

There is nothing more ridiculous nor unbelievable about this Indy installment than any of the previous three. I’ll give you that it might not be in the same tone as the previous three movies — but really, none of the previous three movies were exactly the same in tone. This movie may set out a bit further than the rest, but it has been 19 years since the last Indiana Jones movie. A lot has changed in nineteen years — and a lot has changed in Indiana Jones life since we last saw him in The Last Crusade. Maybe I saw the movie in “Indy-colored glasses”, but so what. I really can’t think of any better lenses and frames to view such a movie.

Some of the criticism that I’ve read and/or heard has been that Indy IV didn’t contain specific elements that “fans” wanted to to see. That’s kind of a cheap shot. So what if this or that character wasn’t there nor represented “enough.” That’s what I’ve got the previous three Indy movies for, right? it was interesting to see Indiana Jones in a post-WWII world, McCarthyism era. And, speaking of an older Indiana Jones… Harrison Ford pulled it off just fine. The actor wasn’t sleepwalking through this role like he has recently appeared to do in others. I also bought Shia LaBeouf in this flick as well. I like this kid. (I’m plenty old enough to call him “kid,” trust me.) I’ve heard scoffs about some certain actions that LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams pulls off in this movie. Well, if it were the character of Indiana Jones doing the same things there’d be no second guessing or criticisms. And these two play off each other great. And, after twenty-seven years it was nice to see Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) return. Could she have played a bigger part? Maybe. But, the movie really wasn’t about her and Indy. The movie was about Indiana Jones and Mutt Williams.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is good and fun entertainment with a very dear old friend.

Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: David Koepp; Story by: George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson
Produced by: Frank Marshal, Denis L. Stewart, George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images.

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Movie Review – Speed Racer

May 12, 2008

Speed Racer — (7 stars)

Born to race cars, Speed Racer is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless. His only real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized – the legendary Rex Racer, whose death in a race has left behind a legacy that Speed is driven to fulfill. Speed is loyal to the family racing business, led by his father, Pops Racer, the designer of Speed’s thundering Mach 5. When Speed turns down a lucrative and tempting offer from Royalton Industries, he not only infuriates the company’s maniacal owner but uncovers a terrible secret – some of the biggest races are being fixed by a handful of ruthless moguls who manipulate the top drivers to boost profits. If Speed won’t drive for Royalton, Royalton will see to it that the Mach 5 never crosses another finish line.

Wow! Two movies in one week. I’m on a role. Unfortunately, the second movie I saw this week didn’t quite measure up or live up to expectations as well as the first. I wanted to love Speed Racer. I had been anticipating a big screen Speed Racer movie for well over two decades. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t like Speed Racer, I just didn’t love it — but I did like the movie. I probably couldn’t recommend the movie to everyone. I have a special attachment to to Speed Racer, and if it weren’t for that I probably would be as critical or ho-hum as some of the other reviewers out there.

John Goodman is spot-on as Pops Racer. Christina Ricci is adorable as Trixie. And, Emile Hirch pulls off a great sometime brooding yet driven Speed. The visuals are stellar — no doubt about that. But, rather than drive the shortest distance from plotpoint to plotpoint, the movie seems to take more than enough detours.

I remember talking to my other movie geek buddies in high school (over twenty years ago) about how there should be a live-action Speed Racer movie. Is the Wachowski Brothers’ movie the same kind of Speed Racer movie I would’ve made. No. The thrilling car acrobatics and strong sense of family were there, but the movie seemed as if it couldn’t quite make up its mind as to what kind of movie it was aiming to be. It definitely resembled a “family film” — but the over two hour length and the involved of corporate take-overs and industrial sabotage seemed a bit complicated for a “family film.”

It’s a shame that Speed Racer opened up a week later then, and under the shadow of the much more impressive Iron Man.

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Christina Ricci, Matthew Fox
Written and Directed by: Wachowski Brothers
Produced by: Joel Silver, Grant Hill and the Wachowski Brothers
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action, some violence, language and brief smoking.

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Justice League: The New Frontier

February 28, 2008

newfrontierdvdcover.jpgYesterday I took some time off — well, about 75 minutes anyway — to catch a brand new straight to DVD movie that would’ve worked quite well on the big screen. There’s a buzz on the internet that director George Miller (Mad Max) is back on track with the on-again-off-again production of a Justice League of America live action movie that might be out in 2010. (I’m really not sure how this is going to be pulled off, but that’s a post for another time.) But, in the meantime I can highly recommend the artist Darwyn Cooke inspired Justice League: The New Frontier — a stylishly animated epic that shines a new light on the iconic super heroes that you thought you might have known all there was to know about.

Inspired by the best-selling graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke and produced by the multiple Emmy award winning animation legend, Bruce Timm, The New Frontier is the epic tale of the founding of the Justice League. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all here of course, and so are Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Flash — whose incredible origins will be told for the very first time. Strangers at first, these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable, even the mighty Superman can not stop it. If they fail, our entire planet will be “cleansed” of humanity.

I have to admit, I like this current trend of direct to DVD animated “adaptations” (for lack of a better term) based on recent comic book series like Marvel Ultimate Avengers and Superman – Doomsday — though some are better than others. Justice League: The New Frontier is definitely on top of the list with it’s stylish look at super heroes in a cold war paranoia era. This feature offers a fresh alternative to the current string of live action super hero movies such as the current Spider-Man, Batman, and X-men franchises.

While there are a number of top-notch talents providing the voices that seem to be perfectly casts, such as David Boreanaz (Angel) as Green Lantern, Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) as The Flash, Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) as Wonder Woman, and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) as Superman. But, the true star of the movie is really the stylish art and look of the characters that seems to capture the feel of Post-War America. Again, this is credited to Darwyn Cooke and Bruce Timm — both of who can seem to do no wrong in my book.

There are a number of different formats available on disc:

I also cannot recommend Darwyn Cooke’s original DC: The New Frontier that served as the model, as well as the story, for the animated film — DC: The New Frontier, Vol. 1 and DC: The New Frontier, Vol. 2.

Movie Review – Juno

February 2, 2008

ra_juno_poster.jpgJuno — 85stars.gif (8.5 stars)

Juno is a whip-smart teen confronting an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate Bleeker. With the help of her hot best friend Leah, Juno finds her unborn child a “perfect” set of parents: an affluent suburban couple, Mark and Vanessa, longing to adopt. Luckily, Juno has the total support of her parents as she faces some tough decisions, flirts with adulthood and ultimately figures out where she belongs.

Well, I managed to improve my movie-going record and caught Juno last night — good, good movie.

This film was exactly why John Hughes doesn’t make teenage angst high school movies anymore. He just isn’t hip enough — at least not hip enough for the likes of sixteen year-old Juno MacGuff. The most shiniest of shiny elements of Juno has to be 20 year-old actress Ellen Page, who delivers the wickedly sharp dialog of screenwriter Diablo Cody with a subtle delivery that could easily be tripped over or over-extend its welcome. There’s nothing really groundbreaking about this film — a high school girl gets pregnant and finds who she believes is the perfect couple to adopt the baby. There’s no second-guessing of herself as to if she should keep the baby or not. Director Jason Reitman did a quality job of steering clear of the “after school special” quagmire.

Juno’s soundtrack also plays a prominent role in the film, helping establish that this is in fact not a typical high school movie, or even a “woe is me, my life is so tough” misunderstood teenager in trouble flick. Featurerd groups and performers include Belle and Sebastian, Mott the Hoople, Barry Louis Polisar, Kimya Dawson, and The Moldy Peaches. The way that the soundtrack interwove with the scenes in the movie reminded me a lot of Zach Braff’s Garden State — which this film shared a similar vibe with.

And my apologies to Natalie Portman. Ellen Page is now my number one crush. (Good thing she’s not just sixteen like in the movie.) Ellen, if you need a date to the Academy Awards, I’ll clear it with my girlfriend and accompany you. She won’t mind — she’s cool.

Movie Review – Cloverfield

January 18, 2008

ra_cloverfield_teaser2.jpgCLOVERFIELD — 80stars.gif (8 stars)

Five young New Yorkers throw their friend a going-away party the night that a monster the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city. Told from the point of view of their video camera, the film is a document of their attempt to survive the most surreal, horrifying event of their lives.

 

Although there are plenty of horrific moments within Cloverfield, it’s not a horror movie. It is however, a damn good monster movie. In case you haven’t heard (or read), the entire movie is told through the hand-held video camera originally intended to document the going away party for the friend leaving for a new vice-presidency job in Japan. What is actually documented is the events that unfold when a giant monster rises from the ocean and decides to make Manhattan — the entire island — its bitch.

Now, the reason that I pointed out the fact about the story unfolding through the device of the video camera is apparently a number of the people in the theater in which I saw the movie were unaware of this fact and they found it distracting. It is a very chaotic series of events with a lot of shaky, poorly lit, and blurred camera work — which I think works quite well. Not unlike the Blair Witch Project (from nine years back) this “man in the street” approach seems to click in this era of cell phones with video capabilities and camcorders smaller than the originally released VHS format tapes.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the success of Cloverfield will spawn a rash of similarly-styled “eyewitness account” approach to film-making — mostly on the amateur level. This technique of storytelling is by no means groundbreaking, but Cloverfield goes above and beyond what has been done before. In a way, it’s kind of like watching a really mesmerizing episode of Cops, except instead of a drunk, wife-beater wearing, spousal abuser with outstanding warrants, Cloverfield offers up a 50-story tall pissed off amphibious Cthulhu-like creature that does not understand the meaning of “resisting arrest.”

Another aspect of the film that I found refreshing was that we weren’t subjected to a lot of “where did this creature come from and why is it doing the destruction that it is doing?” The monster just shows up and starts kicking ass.

There’s probably plenty of little nuances and background going-ons that I missed with my initial viewing — which is one reason to catch this flick on the big screen as opposed to waiting for DVD — that I’m sure “Cloverphiles” (a term that I’m claiming right now, by the way*) will be chewing over and over, rewinding and slo-mowing, for some time to come.

Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Drew Goddard
Produced by: Sherryl Clark, Guy Riedel, J.J. Abrams
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.

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*NOTE: cloverphiles.com is for sale.