28 September 2012

Looper (2012)

          Essential plot rundown:  In a future where time travel does not yet exist, a hit-man must face a future version of himself.  When I first saw the trailer 5 months ago, I knew I had to see it.  And I was not disappointed.

          Similar to Dredd 3D, Looper begins with a v.o. narration setting up the world we are about to enter.  And, likewise, this world is very interesting.  JGL explains the world and his job.  It creates a sense of realism, like this world actually exists.  You really get a feel for this world and the people who live in it.

          I thought the acting was good.  JGL did a really good job  portraying Bruce Willis.  Besides the hair, they look really similar, even down to the nose and squinting.  And there is a child actor here.  Normally, child actors aren't the best and can bog the movie down.  However, 5 year old Pierce Gagnon can hold his own.  The kid can act better than I can.  Even the supporting characters were believable.  But, there was one person that totally took me out of the movie for a second, thought he was only seen for 2 seconds.  And that was Josh Perry.  He is probably best known for his character "The Retarded Policeman" from the YouTubes.  So, it was a WTF moment when I saw him.

          The story is also well written.  And there is so much more to the story than what is seen in the trailers.  The trailer is only the tip of the iceberg.  The movie is deeper and raises some interesting thoughts.  However, due to the time travel aspect and because I'm dense when it comes to story lines that aren't clean cut, I was a little confused at parts.  There is one event that happened twice (maybe?) that I didn't understand.  And, I thought I understood the ending, but then realized I didn't right this second.  But the ending does wrap up nicely.  And there was this part at the end that literally made my heart stop.  And yes, I did get a little teary eyed.

          So, overall Looper is an awesome movie.  Interesting world, good acting, and compelling story.  Though, I personally didn't understand a few things (and it did drag a little in the middle), that didn't stop me from enjoying it.  I would highly recommend it.

     But that's just my opinion...

27 September 2012

Dredd 3D (2012)

          Essential plot rundown:  Two judges must survive after being sealed in a gang controlled building.  So, if you have seen the trailer for this, you will immediately see that it looks exactly like The Raid: Redemption.  (And that's assuming that you have seen the trailer for that one too).  And yes, these movies are super similar; the core idea is identical.  But, each movie is it's own.

          And Dredd 3D was an awesome movie.  It was basically everything the trailer made it out to be.  The world that is created here is very interesting.  Most of the movie takes place in one giant building, but there is a little intro and outro that sets the world we are entering.  It 's your typical giant, rundown city, but I thought they did a good job creating it.  I also liked how the judges were portrayed.  The judges are every part of the justice system: judge, jury, and executioner.  And I liked how it showed them going through all of those phases when interacting with criminals.  They would look at someone, list of their crimes and then state the verdict.  It made them feel like real people.  In a lot of action movies the good guys just shoot the bad guys (well, they do do that here too).  But, in this world of Mega-City One, these judges have their rules they follow.

          I thought all of the acting was pretty good.  I was a little worried after seeing that Olivia Thirlby was in the movie.  But she did a fairly decent job.  Karl Urban was good as Judge Dredd.  Though, at times it sounds like he's trying to pull a Christian Bale; but, according to the internet, he's going for a Clint Eastwood feel.  But, the best was probably Lena Headey as the main crime boss.  She totally took that role and made it hers.

          I also thought the 3D was well done; though it wasn't prominent throughout the whole movie.  But, there are scenes where the 3D is just amazing.  They even do this cool matte/VFX layering that helps enhance the 3D.  And the 3D worked really well with the slow motion.  Most movies just throw in slo-mo for fun.  But, here, it is actually worked into the story as a drug and that makes its use that much cooler.  They have quite a few scenes like this

where there is water, blood or smoke flinging through the air in slow motion and it looks really gorgeous.  Couple that with the 3D and it's nigh poetic.

          However, these things also created some complaints.  Whenever somebody drugs up and slows down, everything brightens up.  I don't know if it was an aesthetic decision or if it had to do with them filming at that speed, but it looked weird.  Also, there were a lot of times where the image looked grainy.  Not film stock grainy, but filmed with really low light and then fixed in post grainy.  And then the 3D made it pop out a little.

          Dredd also has a paranormal element to it.  And, when it was first introduced, I was rolling my eyes.  Great, now it's going to get cheesy on me.  But luckily, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting, and actually had some cool moments.

          Like I said earlier, this movie is really similar to The Raid.  So, when I went to see it, I was expecting the same intense, fast paced movie.  But, that's not what I got.  It's still a solid action movie, but not as fierce as The Raid; so I was slightly disappointed at first.  But, like The Raid, Dredd 3D is extremely violent, brutal and bloody.  Definitely not for the weak stomached.

          But overall, it is a really good movie.  And it makes me sad that it only opened at number 6 at the Box Office.  It has a solid story, good acting and amazing visuals with the 3D and slo-mo.  I thought it was everything it needed to be.

     But that's just my opinion...

24 September 2012

'Movies Recently Watched' Ratings System

          So I just added something new to my blog.  On the right hand side, there is a "Movies Recently Watched" list.  I don't write a review for every movie I watch.  Sometimes I just don't have time to do so.  Or, with some movies, I don't really have anything to say other than "It was good" or "I didn't like it".  So why bother with a post?  So I'm going to just keep track of the 5 most recent, link them to their IMDB page and give them a rating.  I rate my movies from a scale of 1 to 5.  I find keeping the numbers lower is easier on my brain.  And to keep things kind of consistent, I've borrowed my mode of rating from Netflix.

     1 out of 5:  "Hated It" - If I watch a movie that I absolutely hate, I'll give it 1 star.  Though, that has yet to happen.

     2 out of 5:  "Didn't Like It" - This happens more often.  Sometimes the movie is just bad or not my cup of tea.

     3 out of 5:  "Liked It" - A lot these movies are good and have potential, but fail in at least some aspect.  An example would be The Time Traveler's Wife.  I liked the idea and story, but I didn't connect emotionally with the characters.

     4 out of 5:  "Really Liked It" - These are movies that are a lot of fun or connect with me on some other level.  These are movies that I could watch again relatively soon.

     5 out of 5:  "Loved It" - This rating is also rare.  I generally reserve these for my favorite movies (ie RoboCop, Pan's Labyrinth, etc).  So this rating is generally exclusive.  Though, I may try to broaden it a little.

          But this is just a general breakdown.  I don't like all 4/5 movies the same.  I really liked The Island of Lost Souls.  And I really liked The Raid: Redemption.  But I like them for totally different reasons.  And some movies may be bad movies, but are really entertaining, such as Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, so they will get the same rating as good movies that don't quite connect.

          So, I guess you could look forward to that.  Or not; that's cool too.

     But that's just my opinion...

21 September 2012

More Transformers 4

          So, some new news(?) has come out about the new Transformers movie.  And I found it a little interesting as it does not concern directors, actors, plot or any of the news that normally accompanies new movies.  It has to do with the Transformers themselves.  And it comes from Hasbro, not Paramount.

          So, apparently Hasbro is a little disappointed with the Transformers franchise.  And their complaint is that the movies didn't generate enough toy sales.  Cuz, I mean c'mon, what is the point of making movies about giant robots if nobody buys the toys?  So they are going to use all different Transformers for the upcoming installment to try and sell more toys.

          That came as kind of a surprise to me because I never really connected the two (movies and toys) together like that.  But it makes sense financially.  But it seems weird that they would complain about lack of sales considering a huge part of their toy-line was Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.  And I was a little disappointed that they didn't have an action figure for Dino/Mirage.

I didn't buy any toys, but if I did, he would have been one.  I thought he was one of the cooler supporting Transformers.

          So that is the news.  There is nothing official, as far as I know, as to whether they will just introduce new existing Transformers (such as Hound or Kup) or create entirely new ones like they did with the Twins or the Fallen.  But either way, I'm interested to see where this goes.

          Oh, and HERE is the article.

     But that's just my opinion...

13 September 2012

Spawn (1997)

          Essential plot rundown:  A CIA agent is betrayed and killed and then comes back from the grave to seek revenge.  This movie was based on the Spawn comic.  And I have not read the comic.  However, I have seen some of the animated series that was on HBO.  But, I digress.

          This was an ok film.  It has more going against it then going for it.  The only good thing about the movie was the fact it was about Spawn.  Spawn is a sweet character.  He has cool powers and a bad ass costume.  (See above.  I really liked his costume.  I especially liked whatever they used to make it.  It actually looks like something he would be wearing).  So, naturally, any movie about him is going to have at least some coolness to it.  But, other than being about Spawn, there's not much else going on.

          Some people might be offended by the idea behind Spawn.  But, I was offended by the opening (and closing) credits.  They are horrible.  They look like they were taken from some low budget TV show from the early 90s.  They also use this weird green light/smoke combo.  And they use it a lot; to the point of distraction.  Spawn's eyes will randomly glow green and emit smoke.  Or Clown will fart green smoke.  Or  Spawn will get shot and green light and smoke will leek about.  It was way overused and looked kind of dumb.

          Speaking of looking dumb, the hell depicted here was atrocious.  It is by far the worse CG I have ever seen.  Every time Spawn descends to the pixelated inferno, it literally looks like he stepped into a video game like Doom or something.  And the Devil/Malebolgia was...I don't even have words.  He looked like Blizzard from the Primal Rage video game.

Can you guess which one is which?

So, anything and everything that takes place in hell looks horrendous.  There was no depth, no texture, nothing.  Which was odd because all of the rest of the CGI looked pretty decent.  Whether it's the Violator or Spawn's armor, the VFX were good.  (Though, not always consistent).

          And the story was not very good.  Nothing really seemed to happen.  After an hour, I checked to see how much time had passed because the story didn't feel like it was going anywhere.  (The movie is only 1 and 1/2 hours long).  It wasn't engaging or compelling.  Even the characters don't seem engage.  When our hero wakes up after being killed, he doesn't seem bothered by it.  Nor does he seem bothered when he makes a pact with the devil.  There are no reactions; he acts like these are normal activities.  And the bad guy's scheme to take over the world was a little confusing and a lot overly complicated.  And there is this old guy who doesn't really do anything.  I imagine he was there only because he was important in the comic.  Spawn also has a pet dog and a homeless kid for a sidekick.  Who does he think he is, Indian Jones?  Also, there is a CIA agent that dresses like this:

Why?  I don't know.  Presumably because she is a bad guy, so she has to look bad.  Well, if all CIA agents dress like that, I'm going to serve my country.

          So, overall it is an ok watch.  The only saving quality is the fact that Spawn is the main character.  Him alone is worth watching.  Everything else isn't really that good.  The worse part is that it's not even bad enough to make fun of.  So, maybe check it out, if you want to?

Oh, the poster was cool too.

     But that's just my opinion...

12 September 2012

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)

          Essential plot rundown:  After being rescued from the island, Crusoe invents space flight and lands on Mars.  But not really.  The title says it all: it is the story of Robinson Cruse set on Mars instead of an island.  We watched this today in one of my film classes during our discussion of "elemental narrative."

          So, let's get some things straight first.  Technology and science and information change, constantly.  Today's audience watching this movie might scoff and it and its depiction of Mars.  However, the filmmakers did research and they tried to create a world as close to how Mars was understood at the time.  Or, at least, I understand they did.  I wasn't there.

          This is an interesting movie.  I really liked the idea of taking an already super familiar story and giving it a new twist by changing the setting.  It was engaging to see how our our astronaut tries to survive on the alien planet.  Like I said, the filmmakers did research, so his attempts to survive feel authentic.  (Except for when he sticks his air tank up to his lips and breathes straight from it.  Wouldn't his lungs explode?)

          However, this movie did not age well.  The pacing is slow.  Some parts aren't as intense as they should be.  The "interplanetary vehicles" don't look real at all.  He uses cassette tapes.  And such and such.  While it may have been good for the 60s, it does not hold up to today's standards.  Therefore, I think Robinson Crusoe on Mars should be remade.  With today's VFX and acting/story telling styles, I think it could be a really compelling story.  But then again, I am a supporter of remakes.

          Overall, it is a decent movie.  Interesting concept, but didn't age too well.  I would recommend this to cinephiles and sci-fi aficionados.  I'm not sure how the average movie goer would receive it, though.

     But that's just my opinion...

09 September 2012

The Green Mile (1999)

          Essential plot rundown:  The lives of a few guards are changed when a new prisoner is brought into their care.  So, like a lot of movies, this has been on my "to see" list for a while.  But, after Michael Clarke Duncan's tragic passing, I had to move it to the top, right above Spawn.  (Weird, huh?)

          I don't have much to say about this other than see it.  Now.  This was an amazing movie, truly touching.  The story is good.  And the acting is great.  I loved everyone and believed them in their roles.  Everybody, major or minor character, was spot on.  I grew to know these people and care for them.  Except for Percy; him, I grew to hate.  I don't think I have hated somebody that much in a long time.  Every time he would come on screen, I would get sick in my stomach and expect him to do something awful.  And, that is how good the acting/writing was.  The movie runs just shy of 3 hours, but never did I feel like it was dragging.

          I really only had one complaint.  Whenever John Coffey used his gift, it was too supernatural.  I understood why certain things would happen, but it still drew me out of the movie for a second.  By the end, I kind of got use to it.  But, I still felt that it was a little too much.

          So, I would highly recommend this movie.  Everything about it is amazing, specifically the acting.  And I couldn't help but think of Jesus as I was watching this.  A great film.

     But that's just my opinion...

07 September 2012

Life in a Day (2011)

          Essential plot rundown:  There is none.  Rather, what happened here is that people from all around the world recorded something during 24 July 2010 and sent it in.  And the resulting footage was edited into this documentary.

          I found this movie moving and thought provoking.  And manipulative.  At the beginning, it shows people getting out of bed, set to some really dramatic music.  It made it feel like these people had accomplished something truly great, even if all they did was get out of bed.  But, then again, isn't each day something great?  Shouldn't we be grateful for each day?  So, like I said, it is a little thought provoking.

          There is a lot of footage of normal people doing normal things, like cooking eggs or brushing their teeth.  But, there is also footage of extraordinary things.  One of the things that stood out to me was how different we are.  We all live differently, eat different things, fear different things, etc.  We are all very different and unique.  However, even after displaying all of our diversity, the film unites us.  The core of everything is the same.  I felt that we were really brothers and sisters of the human race.

          And there were a few statements that were made that seemed profound to me.  There were also quite a few touching moments.  Whether it was a boy catching up with his dad or a wife calling her husband who is out on deployment.  Whether they are talking about what they love or what they fear. It makes you reflect a little.  It also shows a cow getting butchered (which was kind of cool) and some creepy-ass monkeys.

          So, overall it is a really good documentary.  It shows how different we can be, but yet, how closely related we really are.  It's amazing that they could take all of that footage, sort through it, and create this documentary.

     But that's just my opinion...

06 September 2012

The Expendables 2 (2012)

          Essential plot rundown:  Some more old guys get together to kill people, while trying to stop the villain.  But, who really care about the plot, right?  The story isn't the attraction here, it is seeing all of our favorite action heros together on the big screen.

          This is a fun movie.  But, there were a lot of things that irritated me.  So, let's start at the beginning.  The movie kicks off with a high explosive action sequence.  However, the editing was bad.  This whole scene felt really choppy and disjointed.  And the following scene felt weird too.  I don't know if it was the editing or the dialogue, but it felt kind of choppy and off too.  So, it was kind of a disappointing start.  However, the rest of the movie flowed fine.

          At one point, it was announced that The Expendables 2 was going to be rated PG-13.  I didn't find out it was R until like a week before it came out.  And that is one of the film's weaknesses.  (I also had the same complaint with the first one).  It feels like it was filmed to be PG-13, then in post, was spruced up to get an R-rating.  There is a lot of blood in this film; but it all looks CG.  There were like two shots that looked like they were practical FX, and not done it post.  BUt, everything else looks fake.  It looks like they were planning for a PG-13, then decided to go for an R during post.  So, they had to digitally add in the blood, but got carried away with it, adding way more than necessary.  Somebody gets stabbed and blood squirts out like 5 feet.  It was distracting.

          Another thing that bothered me was the sound during two specific scenes.  I am no expert on sound, but it sounded like they literally had only one sound effect, that they were forced to reuse multiple times.  Also distracting.  And the dialogue was bad.  There were a few times where somebody would say something, but it felt out of place.  The dialogue itself was something that any normal human being would say in that situation; but it was weird hearing them say that in the movie.  Also, because it is full of action heros who became famous by using one liners, they try to force those same one liners into the movie.  I didn't mind the fact they they were referencing and using these lines, but they don't do it properly.  A lot of them feel forced, like they were written into the scene only so they could be checked off the list of one liners.  And some are overused.

          And Jet Li disappears after the opening scene.  Why didn't he stay the whole time?  I don't know.  However, he was replaced by another Asian actor, but her acting was horrible.  In fact, most of the acting was subpar, save a few exceptions.  Liam Hemsworth is among new faces in the film.  And he feels out of place.  Everyone else is pretty much well known, middle aged action people. He is some twenty year old who's been in like two movies.  But, after seeing the purpose of his character, I could understand why he was cast.  It also was fun/cool/whatever to see the other new faces.  I knew they were in the film, but for some reason, I had forgot until they appeared on screen.  It was exciting to see them.

          And I'm not sure exactly who "they" were, but from judging by the credits, they were probably a bunch of Bulgarians.

          So, overall, it is a fun movie.  It is not well made, but there is something about seeing all of our favorites together on the big screen.  If you get the chance, watch it.  But you won't be missing out if you don't.

     But that's just my opinion...

02 September 2012

God of Wonders (2008)

          Essential plot rundown:  This documentary shows how all of creation is a testament to God's existent.  I was just browsing Netflix, seeing if there was anything of religious content that looked interesting.  God of Wonders and ...And God Spoke were two that stood out.  But, for today, I chose the former.

          The main theme of this documentary is the teleogical argument for God's existence: the fact that there is creation denotes the need for a creator.  One thing I liked about this documentary was the use of science.  A lot of religious propaganda is anti science.  But, here, they use it to support their claims.  It talks DNA and other science stuff.  However, the science is used to a bear minimum.  Basically, they say that such-n-such thing is too complicated to have evolved, so it had to been God.  I did like the fact that they tried for a scientific approach; I just wished they went deeper.

          It takes different parts of nature and uses them to exemplify different aspects of God.  DNA is super complicated and way more effective than our computers; therefore, God must be a God of wisdom.  Butterfly wings are highly intricate and stunning; therefore, God must be a God of beauty.  However, during the last 20 minutes, it does get a little preachy, saying that the greatest thing that God has done is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Up until then, they only talked about God as a creator with no subtext as to "which" God they are referring too.  If the Bible passages were removed, any person believing in a higher being would agree with what was being said.  But, at the end it was like "Just kidding, we only speak of the Christian God.  You must believe in Jesus or go to hell."  And that bothered me, though I should have seen that coming.  I feel that it would have been a more efficient documentary if specific religions weren't brought up.

          However, if all of the religious aspects were removed, it still makes for an interesting nature documentary.  Obviously, there is a lot of footage of cool looking animals and time-lapse photography of plants.  There were a lot of interesting things I learned.  (The coolest part was when they were talking about how a caterpillar makes its chrysalis.  I didn't know that).  It also puts a lot things into perspective:  the size or our sun compared to other stars or how much information is stored in DNA.  So, I found all of the nature aspects really interesting, even if it's probably nothing you couldn't find elsewhere.  Like HERE for example.

          So, overall, it's an interesting documentary, but nothing special.  It would probably be fun to watch for those of Christian faith.  But it won't do anything to persuade those that are not.

     But that's just my opinion...

01 September 2012

The Illusionist (2010)

          Essential plot rundown:  An aging magician travels, looking for work, while accompanied by some girl.  This is not to be confused with The Illusionist staring Edward Norton, which came out in 2006.  This one is a cartoon.

          I have mixed feelings about this film.  So, let's start with the bad.  This movie has little to no dialogue (a la Mr. Bean).  That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  However, it does create some confusion in a few scenes where things are not explained.  I don't know, maybe they really did make sense and I'm just dense.  And, there is no clear, overall story.  The main character just travels around, looking for gigs.  And that's it; there is no real character arch.  Also, there is this random girl, following him around.  And it never says why.  She just leaves her home and goes after him.  She is also a shallow character and makes the magician buy her lots of pretty clothes.  There is a small clue at the beginning of the movie, and another at the end, that explain her character, but they are real subtle and can easily be missed.  At the end of the movie, there is a reveal.  But it comes out of the blue.  It kind of explains things, but there is nothing leading up to it for it to bear weight.

          The good was that it was aesthetically pleasing.  The animation is splendid.  The backgrounds look like they were done using watercolors, giving the film a lovely, soft look.  The music is also charming.  It is mostly simple piano, that accompanies the scenery quite well.  (I like using the thesaurus.)

          And a warning:  While not a bad thing, The Illusionist is a depressing film.  It is about a man looking for a job; and there are others in the same boat at him.  So, it is sad to see them being replaced by other forms of entertainment.  They even throw in a maimed, crippled dog for extra measure.  It could even be described as poignant.  So, don't go into this film expecting something happy and uplifting.

          The Illusionist is worth watching.  It is artfully and beautifully made.  But, there were too many things that didn't quite add up for me.  And it lacks a strong story, which for me, doesn't work too well.

     But that's just my opinion...

Fitzcarraldo (1982)

          Essential plot rundown:  An opera enthusiast goes through great lengths to accomplish his dream of bringing an opera house to a small town.  I just watched the documentary about this, so I had to watch this too.

          This movie is just shy over 2 and 1/2 hours.  And considering its topic and production date, I was expecting it to be really boring.  But to my surprise, it wasn't that boring.  Yes, it is really slow paced; an hour passes before the boat even sets sail.  It does feel its 2 1/2 hours, but it was interesting enough; it walked a fine line.

          But, I really liked the message the most.  Fitzcarraldo is a dreamer.  And will stop at nothing to accomplish his dream, even carrying a steamboat over a mountain, if he has to.  At one point, he says (or was it his wife? I can't remember): "It's only the dreamers who ever move mountains."  After watching Burden of Dreams, I could see a lot of Herzog in Fitzcarraldo; he is 110% dedicated to his idea, even nigh unto lunacy.  Fitzcarraldo is to the title character as Burden of Dreams is to Herzog.  Even with huge complications, Fitzcarraldo always plays a record of his favorite opera singer to keep him motivated.

          The visuals were good.  It was filmed on location in South America; so, there was a lot of pretty scenery.  And also seeing them move the ship uphill was impressive, knowing that they actually did it.  Now a days, it would have been completely CG and wouldn't have been as dramatic.

          One thing that bothered me was that the actors' lips never seemed to be synchronized with the audio.  It always seemed off.  But, then I just found out that the whole film was done in English (for the benefit of the cast and crew) and then later dubbed into German.  So, that makes sense.

          But, overall, it is worth watching.  It is long and slow paced, so I wouldn't recommend it if you have a short attention span.  I would probably not watch it again, myself; once was enough.

     But that's just my opinion...