Aug 11 2011

Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

I loved almost every minute of Captain America. I had high hopes for it, and Joe Johnston (who also directed The Rocketeer) did an amazing job with it. It was both faithful to the original story as well as new and unique. The cast was amazing: Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, and that guy that played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies playing the lead. Hayley Atwell, who I had never heard of, was excellent as well. Almost the entire movie was amazing.

And now for my only complaint. Warning: big fat spoiler ahead.

My only complaints are in the ending. You know how the SHIELD storyline in Iron Man 2 was like a tumor on the plot? Same kind of thing, though not nearly as bad. If they had focused on tying up the story after Cap crashed the plane instead of trying to make a segue to next year’s Avengers movie, this movie could have been perfect. They really should have shown the price of Cap’s sacrifice: by crashing Hydra’s plane and getting frozen for the past 70 years, everyone he ever cared about is either phenomenally old or dead. That kind of thing can really affect a guy. How will he be a different person because of this? What will this to do him as a character? As a viewer, I want to find out. Instead, we get, ‘Sorry, Cap, you been froze for 70 years, time to join the Avengers.’

Also, think about Cap back when he was just short, skinny Steve Rogers all the way up to the moment he died. Who did he respect? Who did he want to be? A man in uniform. A soldier. If there was anyone Cap would have responded to when he woke up from his glacier nap it would have been who? A man in green with a bird or a star on his uniform. Instead, in the movie, he listens to who? Nick Fury, agent of SHIELD.

So what’s wrong with that?

My problem with Cap listening to Fury is that ever since Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, has been appearing in Marvel movies, he looks like this:

Who was the last guy that Cap saw on this earth? This guy:

THEY’RE DRESSED THE SAME! If I was Captain America, and I see some big guy dressed like my arch-villain, I’m not only not going to listen to a thing he says, I’m gonna kill ‘im.

Anyhoo. If I could recut the movie, I would cut out the entire ending, shift the entire 1940’s story to the beginning, and shift the prologue to the end, and the last thing you would see would be them dusting the snow off of the shield.

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Jun 1 2011

Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

You may remember that Kung Fu Panda made my ‘Best Movies I Saw This Year’ list of 2008. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a decent sequel. It’s not nearly as awesome as the first one, but not nearly as bad as a lot of sequels.

A minor complaint was the overuse of the slow-motion, over-wide panda mouth, which is funny maybe once or twice, but not as much as it was used in this movie. A major complaint was that where KFP was so original in that it refused to give in to so many animated feature dramatic-part-of-the-movie cliches, KFP2 shows none of that hesitance. Also, they tell you the backstory for the movie at the very beginning–and then spend 3/4 of the movie bringing Po (the panda) up to speed with what you, as the viewer, found out an hour before. It’s kind of liking watching a magic trick when you already know it’s done.

Overall, it was fine. It doesn’t rock, it doesn’t suck, it had a few laughs–it’s fine.

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Sep 10 2010

Movies better than their books

People usually say that books are always better than the movies made from them. I can think of a few exceptions, whose movies are markedly better than their source material. I don’t intend to provide any justification for my view; it’s just a list:

  1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, based on Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
  2. The Quiet Man, based on the short story The Quiet Man by Maurice Walsh
  3. Die Hard, based on Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp
  4. Stardust, based on Stardust by Neil Gaiman
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Aug 12 2010

Review: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

It was Heath Ledger’s last film (he died during filming), and it was directed by Terry Gilliam (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Brothers Grimm). It also stars Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Christopher Plummer.

I realized going in that Terry Gilliam films are guaranteed to be weird, that the storytelling is kind of a crapshoot, and that my favorite, Munchausen, is probably low-proof Gilliam. Still, the movie was so many kinds of weird, and most of it for no real reason other than the sake of being weird. The plot was hard to follow, and it was hard to figure out who the movie was about. So much of the weirdness detracted rather than enhanced the plot.

I really wanted to like Imaginarium. The overall visual look of the film is beautiful. Besides singing sad songs like Cookie Monster wearing a blood-stained shirt stained with whiskey, Tom Waits was born to play the Devil (complete with Waits’s trademark bowler hat). The funniest moment was probably when Verne Troyer (Mini-Me) was describing midgets.

Unfortunately you find out virtually nothing about the characters, and you don’t care about them. You don’t really want to root for anyone, don’t want to see any of the characters really succeed.

It just isn’t good storytelling. Also, if you’re already sick of CGI overuse, you’re in for a bad time.

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Jul 29 2010

So I Watched a Boring Movie

Before my wife met me she had gone on a date with some dude, no doubt neither as smart or handsome as me, and they went to see Mike Myers’s So I Married an Axe Murderer. She said it was so boring that she fell asleep.

Years later when I started my current job, Jimmy talked incessantly about how hilarious this movie was. I never could find it to rent it, and was so close to buying it a couple of times. Anyway, now that we have Netflix, we watched it. More accurately, we watched the first 20 minutes and then decided to watch something else.

Now I can see why Heather fell asleep the first time she saw it.

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Apr 20 2010

Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox (movie)

I really can’t say enough good things about this movie. I love the story, direction, music, animation, and acting. I went into this movie with no preconceived notions (I barely knew a thing about it, not even that it was based on a Roald Dahl book), and it was awesome. George Clooney is hilarious as Mr. Fox, and it also features Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and some other cool guys.

I really hate to even mention the plot for fear of spoiling it. However, if you insist on knowing a little something about it, here goes:

Mr. Fox is unhappy with his current middle-aged situation and decides to do something about it. There. Just go see it.

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Mar 26 2010

Review: Ladyhawke

Heather and I both remember loving this movie, and we rented so we could watch it with the girls.

It was not the best around. The movie was directed by Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies), so I was expecting better. Matthew Broderick is the only great part about the movie: he is totally natural and believable as a medieval smart-aleck. Michelle Pfeiffer is fine. However, the Rutger Hauer puppet is rather wooden and unconvincing as a real person. Wait, that actually was Rutger Hauer.

The swords, fighting, and special effects are all kind of lame; not the worst ever, but certainly not great.

But the one thing that absolutely ruined the movie was the soundtrack: while some parts of it were orchestral, all of the action sequences and the main title were done by Alan Parsons. His cheezy 80’s synthesizer bits 1) totally date the movie, 2) are incongruous with the tone of the movie, and 3) completely un-immerse you from the movie.

Overall, worth watching again, but I’m glad I didn’t buy it.

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Mar 17 2010

Review: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (movie)

I saw this movie before I had read the book. In fact, I had barely even heard of the book. So I had no expectations going into it, either good or bad.

It wasn’t very good. The very first conversation in the movie already seems out of place–stating a situation that already seems to defy any explanation. The rest of the movie isn’t much better. The plot is pretty lame, and the surprise villain couldn’t have been more obvious if he had one of those Snidely Whiplash mustaches. The plot seems kind of cheezy.

None of the characters are interesting or likable, and I actually kind of disliked Percy. Also, none of the obstacles he faced were really that challenging for him; everything, including facing a Gorgon, is just mildly inconvenient.


Since then I have read the book (I’m actually on the third of the five books). The book, unlike the movie,  is well-written and interesting; I was hooked by the fourth page. Having read the book, you realize that the movie is not just ‘not very good,’ but actively terrible, and a really crummy interpretation of the book. For the sake of comparison, imagine if they had made a movie of The Hobbit that left out Smaug. And Gollum. And Gandalf. And the plot wasn’t about the dwarves going to reclaim their treasure. And Bilbo was already a seasoned fighter. The movie is that untrue to the book.

It’s a real shame, too. The book is tailor-made for a brilliant film franchise, but they would really have to reboot it already.

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Mar 16 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland (movie)

The new Alice in Wonderland movie is not terrible, but it is not that great either. The basic premise is that 13 years after her original adventures, as recorded by Lewis Carroll, Alice falls down a rabbit hole and returns to Wonderland, finding it a much darker place, and must fight to save it from the clutches of the Red Queen. Somehow this became a boring movie.

All of the characters except one are rather flat and uninteresting, and you don’t care about any of them. The sole exception is Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen, who is the only character that seems to have any depth and is interesting to watch.

Overall, the movie is just more Tim Burton (everything kind of goofy-creepy and corpsey) and more Danny Elfman (oopa-OOPA-oopa-OOPA).

And yes, in case you heard, there is a pretty dumb breakdancing scene at the end.

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Feb 2 2010

Review: Did You Hear About the Morgans?

Unfortunately, yes.

Heather and I went out on a date Saturday afternoon and saw the aforementioned romcom.

It was not that great.

The premise is that native New Yorkers Paul and Meryl Morgan (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) are a couple that have been separated for three months. Paul is trying to make up for the act of infidelity that caused the separation. After they finally go to dinner together, they witness a murder and have to be put into the witness protection program, and are sent to live with Clay and Emma Wheeler (Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen) in the tiny town of Ray, Wyoming. Hilarity does not ensue, spoilers follow.

The movie doesn’t stink, but it doesn’t rock, either. It’s just kind of boring, really. Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant don’t seem to have much chemistry together. The distance between them seems to put a distance between them and the audience, and it’s hard to connect with either character. She is unforgiving, and he spends about the first third of the movie groveling. The only healthy marriage you see in the movie is Clay and Emma. Side note, Mary Steenburgen is 57 and seems to have aged very gracefully. And no, I do not still have a crush on her from Back to the Future III.

The only common theme I could find among the couple was that the men in the three male/female relationships you saw in the movie all showed their devotion to their partners by groveling, buying them things, and being obedient, and you didn’t see any kind of reciprocity from the women. On that note, Paul spends three months trying to get forgiveness for his unfaithfulness, while Meryl is upset that Paul doesn’t immediately forgive her the same day she reveals her own infidelity.

My advice: skip it, and don’t wait for it to hit DVD.

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