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Kong: Skull Island (2017)
fun monster movie
I grew up watching classic monster movies at my Great Grandma's place - Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Blob, etc. This movie made me feel the enjoyment of discovering those movies again.
I liked the fact that the movie was chronological, and made it very obvious when it changed time or place. I hate flashbacks, and am happy to be able to say that this movie did not make use of them. Thankfully, it also did not make use of the "shaky camera footage" that a lot of movies are using these days.
Some big monster movies also tend to be kind of slow at the beginning, and hide the "main character" until towards the end of the movie. Not so with this - Kong makes his appearance right at the beginning. The movie also doesn't really bog down anywhere. On the other hand, there are plenty of movies that scream "eye candy" - where it seems quite obvious that there is not much of a plot, so they are just throwing things around to distract you. While the focus of this movie is definitely on the giant monster battles, it is done very well.
Both my wife and I give this film an A+ - it's a nicely done foundation for the upcoming Kong vs Godzilla film.
pretty good movie to watch with kids
I've been hooked on video games, especially the classic ones, since I played Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Wizard of Wor, Frogger, Donkey Kong (etc., etc., etc.) at the arcades from the late 70's through mid 80's, and of course on home systems afterwards. My kids have played many of these classic arcade games on MAME and on compilation disks on the Gamecube. We absolutely loved Wreck It Ralph, so when I heard that there was another video game themed movie coming out, I was looking forward to watching it.
I wasn't able to get to the theater for the first month, but then it was showing at a local drive-in as the second feature. I went to watch it with my oldest son, who is not quite a teen yet. We were pretty bored by the first feature, which was a failed attempt to reboot yet another 60's TV show. However, Pixels really captured our attention, and we both loved the humor and the video game action.
I could have done without the reference to Martha Stewart that they put in there, and I would have liked to see maybe 4 or 5 more classic video games featured. I also would have liked for there to be some form of personal appearance by the alien A.I. in charge. Overall, however, I think it was the most fun my son and I had watching a movie this summer, and we've watched more than a dozen. After we watched it, he came home and played a bunch of the old video games for a few hours. I finally bought Pac Man Championship Edition DX+.
It certainly isn't a blockbuster, but with the international box office, it will finish at about 2.5 times its budget, so it will ultimately be another profitable movie. Is it the greatest movie of the year? No, but it would be a good choice for anybody who has played classic arcade games through the mid 80's.
White Men Can't Dance (2012)
pleasant family entertainment
I gave my wife the Roku remote, asked her to pick something for us to watch, and she picked this movie. It was actually titled "Daddy Can't Dance" on the Epix movie channel. I'll admit up front that this movie runs a little long, and probably would benefit from trimming about 15 minutes to improve the plot flow a bit. We actually got interrupted during the viewing, and had to pause the movie in the middle.
The movie is essentially about a Dad who finds out his daughter is sick and tries to win a dance competition. There are also subplots about an ethically impaired co-worker who tries to steal one of his inventions as well as another about a lack of communication leading to his wife's increasing suspicions of marital infidelity. The only part that I really didn't like was when the Grandpa was trying to justify why he never had any time to go eat ice cream with his son.
I was surprised to find that overall, the movie works fairly well. I was rolling my eyes a bit at the silly 'bad teeth' gags, but others in the room thought they were pretty funny. The dancing in this movie was very interesting to watch, since I've never really paid any attention to break dancing before.
I'm not sure why people are giving it a 4. Ultimately, the movie is based on real world events, so it isn't going to have huge battles, alien invasions, or anything like that. I think the movie is a solid 8.
Christmas with a Capital C (2011)
surprisingly good movie
I had never even heard of this movie when I saw that our local second run theater was screening it, but decided to give it a chance after watching the trailer. (and especially since it is the week before Christmas, and it seemed very relevant) I was not left with a "schmaltzy" (is that a word?) feeling of having my emotions manipulated, after watching this. The acting was spot-on and the characters were believable, thanks to the script. I really feel that the movie is one of the few to have a realistic discussion about conflict that can arise due to free speech/expression of religion on one hand, and diversity of belief on the other. It also has some entertaining subplots. When I looked over to see how my daughter was reacting, I was happy to see a big smile on her face several times during the show, so evidently she really enjoyed it as well.
A bid letdown for any fan of the original
My wife and I went to see this on the first day of release. We had watched the original at the 25th Annual 24 Hour Science Fiction Marathon earlier this year, and it had reminded me of how much I liked the original. (which stands the test of time quite well) I didn't want to get my hopes up too much for this one, and was just hoping for it to have a coherent plot and decent special effects.
I ended up rather disappointed in many respects. My gut feeling after watching this movie was that it was just a waste of time politically correct bunch of drivel.
In a nutshell, the writer wants us to all agree that if another species on earth goes extinct, we should all feel that humanity should die in order to preserve all of the little critters on Earth.
The dumbest part of the movie is that evidently the destruction of our technology is supposed to accomplish this. Technology has allowed a great increase in population, but has also at the same time slowly been bringing down barriers to tackling some of the very same ecological problems that the film brings up.
If the world governments collapse, and we all go back to burning coal and trees to stay warm, does anybody really believe we are going to make solving ecological issues a primary concern? I didn't think so. As someone who graduated with a BS in Environmental Studies, I would have hoped that the people who made this film would have been a bit more grounded in reality.
Also, a big disappointment for me was that the famous line from the original did not appear to be uttered during the movie.
I Am Legend (2007)
I must admit that I was looking forward to this movie, since I had read the book about 6 months ago, before I even knew about the upcoming movie. As such, I probably had high expectations.
I was especially interested in seeing it since it was: A) one of the few books where the main character dies in the end, and B) one of the few times where the entire human race is destroyed at the end of the story. In the book version, humanity is completely wiped out, and a new race of mutant vampires takes humanity's place in the world.
Not much of that is present in the movie. Oh, sure, there are zombie mutants. Yes, they come out at night. However, it is only alluded to that they could be becoming more resistant to light - that aspect of the movie is not explored, as it is in the book.
One of the main plot points they left out of the movie was the fact that one of Neville's co-workers had become infected, returned from the dead, or what have you - in other words, he was a vampire. Every night, he would come out of hiding and scream Neville's name, trying to get him to come out. It was obvious that his co-worker remembered some things about Neville and their life together. This whole aspect was ignored in the film.
Another main point of the book was where the vampires used drugs to make one of their woman look more like a regular human, and sent her in to spy on Neville. This was one of the scariest parts of the book to me, when he realized she wasn't human, but he had trusted her, and let her into his life.
Finally, the worst part of the film was how they twisted the meaning of the book. In the book, the vampires finally capture Neville, and sentence him to death. He doesn't give them the satisfaction, opting to take some poison pills and commit suicide instead. However, before he dies, he learns that he will always be the stuff of legend to the new race of mutant vampires - he will always be remembered as the awful "last man", in stories told to children - about how he came in the day while people slept, and killed entire families of vampires.
The twisted ending of the movie, where he manages to find a cure and save humanity, almost seems like they changed the ending after shooting one more like the book. It's probably a change forced by the studio heads, in order to make the ending more acceptable to the everyday person. Instead, a bunch of people stood up and laughed at the ending in the theater where I was watching it. I really can't recommend this movie to anyone who has read the original book. In fact, I wouldn't recommend it to any of my friends or relatives, either. The movie doesn't really get what the book was trying to relate.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
I enjoyed the first one more
I just got back from watching this film, and found it to be a middle of the road picture. I would have rated it higher if it hadn't been so "shaky" in parts, especially in the beginning. It seemed as if they employed some film students to shoot parts of the movie that should have been still, and it looked like someone with a palsy was holding the camera. I found this to be very distracting from the movie. I am truly hoping they can figure out how to keep the camera still if they do another sequel. The movie is essentially Bourne running and trying not to be killed. There is a minor subplot with a reporter who finds out a bit about a clandestine operation. There is also another bit with an internal CIA operative who believes in Bourne, and works to expose the director, who is abusing his power, and seems to have something to hide. These small portions help keep the movie from sliding over the edge to complete predictability. However, I feel that the frenetic pacing of the movie is really used to keep you from noticing the lack of a real plot. My wife suggested that the whole thing could have been compressed into a half hour TV show, and I think she is right. Next time around, just make Bourne an agent working for the US, and get rid of the whole bit about him running from the good guys.
first half is so-so, but second half is downright lousy
My wife is a huge Dukes of Hazzard fan, and I enjoyed it as a kid as well. When I found out they made this 'sequel' to the movie, I really was looking forward to watching it. We sat down and watched it last night. Although I found the first 1/3 engrossing, the second third of the movie went downhill, and the final 1/3 was just plain boring. I got out a book and ended up reading and not paying very much attention towards the end. Yes, I thought it was that bad. I figured that maybe it had a fantastic ending or something that might have made up for how far downhill it slid, but my wife says no. The main reasons I have for not liking this thing at all are 1) predictability - just about everything in this movie goes by the book, and is terribly formulaic 2) the acting - over the top, not very believable 3) the writing, and some of the lines are particularly unbelievable and off putting. They could have made a great movie out of this if they had simply paid the writers for Frasier (or some equally talented folks) to come up with a witty take on the whole concept. One thing that really made me mad was the fact that my favorite character from the series was the most annoying in this - Cooter. I just found myself hating this clueless buffoon, yet also feeling sorry for him because he was in this movie. Please skip this one - you've been warned.
Enjoyable movie, but nothing really distinguishes it
After hearing all of the negative reviews of this movie, I decided to wait until it hit the cheap theaters before taking it in. I am happy to say that my fears did not come to pass - this is not a bad movie at all. It just isn't a GREAT movie. This is probably not the type of movie that people will have as a personal favorite, and watch over and over through the years, as in Star Wars. However, it also doesn't fall at the other end of the extreme. Eragon is somewhere in the middle. If you are out for gore and extreme violence, you won't find it here. If, on the other hand, you are one of the folks who looks forward to just about any movie that features magic, artifacts, supernatural creatures and the like - you will probably enjoy it. If you are a nitpicker, though - someone who sits through a movie and looks for every little thing that isn't perfect, you might not enjoy it that much. You have to have a good suspension of disbelief to enjoy this one. Sure, it could have had much better breadth of characters and plot if it had been another hour long, but then a lot of other folks would have thought it was long winded and boring. You can't please everyone. Overall, a good movie, and one that I will probably pick up on DVD.
Fantastic Four (2005)
It's not Star Wars, but I thought it was better than X Men
This may not be one of those movies you can watch over and over like Star Wars, but I found it to be quite enjoyable the first time around. My wife and I watched the 1994 Roger Corman version of Fantastic 4, and having seen what this might have been, I must say that this was a real improvement.
That having been said, I really wish they hadn't changed the origin of Dr. Doom. I subscribe to the Fantastic 4 comic, and I don't understand why they feel they have to mess around with something basic like this. It just makes fans a mite angry deep down. Not enough that I didn't thoroughly enjoy the film, mind you, but with just a bit more work, they could have made us purists really happy.
Excellent spy thriller, reminiscent of Hitchcock
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and would have to say that it is one of the best spy thrillers that I have ever seen. The movie gets off to an offbeat start, using unconventional camera techniques, and with the main character wryly commenting about how much crap hollywood puts out each year. Right away I got a good feeling about the movie. One of the things that bothers me when I watch a movie is that you can usually tell what is going to happen 5 minutes ahead of time - they are so formulaic. However, despite my best efforts of guessing and second guessing, this movie kept surprising me, again and again. Do not make assumptions when you watch this movie, because it certainly does not follow the hollywood formula. It is probably one of the most original films in the past 2 or 3 years. *vague spoilers ahead* It is also one of only two movies that I can think of where the 'bad guy' doesn't lose in the end. Of course, is he really the bad guy, or have you just been making assumptions through the entire movie? There is much more to it than that, and you really need to take a look at this one to see for yourself. Be warned, however, if you are just looking for another formula movie, you will not find it here. You will, however, find an excellent action movie with a plot that will make you think about it for a few days afterwards.
Eye of the Needle (1981)
Better than average spy thriller
***SLIGHT SPOILERS*** If you've seen the preview trailer for this film, forget that you've seen it. I watched the DVD version, and almost didn't watch the film, because the preview does such a poor job of portraying the film's essence. I enjoyed the movie, and instead of feeling let down at the end, I felt that it had done a better than average job of portraying the life of a spy in WWII. The film centers around the activities of a top German spy living in England, informing his superiors of troop activities, and avoiding detection at all costs. At first, he blends in with his surroundings quite well, and goes about relaying information without arousing suspicion. Eventually, several figures take notice of him, and the movie kicks into a higher gear, as he attempts to escape with film proving that the Allies have been misleading German air reconnaissance about the eventual point of invasion of the mainland. He escapes in a small boat during a storm, and is shipwrecked on a small island, barely escaping with his life. On the island, in near isolation, live a crippled man and his very lonely, neglected wife. She and the spy have something in common - neither has felt appreciated or truly loved in years. The two have an affair, and as he attempts to covertly contact a German submarine for retrieval, the truth about his past is thrust upon her.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Never captures a sense of urgency
While I certainly can't fault the special effects or pyrotechnics in the movie, it never seems to capture a sense of urgency. In short, the movie comes across as surreal, unengaging, and the characters remain shallow and undeveloped. The portrayal of americans as bumbling, lascivious drunks and playboys almost makes you want to root for the Japanese, who viewed the attack as a necessity to preserve their way of life, and to keep the Empire from crumbling. During the dogfighting scenes, you find yourself wondering who is shooting at whom, and when a plane finally explodes, you are left with a feeling of indifference. After watching this film, I felt as if I should have done something else for 3 hours, such as perhaps watch two other movies instead.