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It's not highly likely to win many new converts, but for those who already like the original and want to see more of that world, it more than satisfies. The visuals are a wonderful evolution from Tron and the story of a father and son who have to make up for lost time is very touching. The CGI face they developed for Jeff Bridges is not perfect, but it works very well with just a few exceptions and I feel, for my own tastes, that they have actually bridged the uncanny valley with this one. Still a bit of work to get it perfect, but this one works as it is. Oh, and the score by Daft Punk is beautiful. The first thing my brother and I did after leaving the theater was buy the sound track on the way home. It's very suggestive of the original but with plenty of today's newer sensibilities mixed in.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice in the Palace
It's definitely one of the more commercially marketable Tim Burton movies, which may be a result of doing it with Disney. But there are a few little drawbacks for me. I like Mia Wasikowska as Alice in general, but there are a few times when she didn't seem to be emoting quite enough. She seems to act out the gravity of her situation well enough, in general, but, for instance, in the scene where she finds the small door and keeps getting big and small until she can get through the door, it simply felt like she was doing the actions because the script told her to. I may have been expecting too much, but it seemed like she was just going through the steps.
Also, the 3D aspect feels a bit inconsistent. At times, there are some nicely impressive shots, but at other times it doesn't seem all that different from a 2D film. I had heard that Tim Burton shot the film with a standard camera and then had the footage processed into 3D (sort of like what they did with the Nightmare Before Christmas 3D) so that may have made me more critical when I watched it and maybe I'm being a bit too harsh, but there it is.
Other than those issues, the visual aspect of the movie is actually quite creative, inventive, ... um ... made-up-I've, and ... Tim-Burton-I've. Don't expect the original Alice story. (Either one, since many people are content to forget that the Tweedles are actually from "Through the Looking-Glass", not "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".) Tim Burton has restructured the story since he felt--and rightly so--that Alice's stories are more a series of short encounters rather than one overarching story. The restructured story now ties it all into one meaningful adventure, and I think it works quite well.
On the whole, not my favorite Burton, but it's a good movie and I feel comfortable recommending it. (Though unless you feel you really have to see it in 3D, you should probably save your money and see the 2D version as it doesn't really take full advantage of the possibilities of the 3D format.)
Thought provoking and intelligent
This is a rather intriguing movie. You truly have to watch it at least twice to really begin to pick up on much of what is happening. The second time you watch it, you see several things in a completely new light. The technical discussions are very realistic (within a sci-fi framework) and the movie feels quite familiar (up until it starts to get quite confusing).
At first, you may begin to think that, with the amount of layered talking, it may be a heady drama. But that talking simply makes the scientific exploration of the movie more realistic. The engineering terms are not dumbed-down or explained, but it's not important for you to fully understand it all. The parts you really need to know are the parts that the main characters discover along the way, and they are explained adequately.
Personally, I loved it.
Star Trek (2009)
One Trek to Rule Them All
Absolutely stunning! Whether you are a Trek fan or not, this is a great and exciting thrill ride for all. You don't need to know how warp drive works or what makes a photon torpedo go "BOOM"! You barely even need to know who Kirk is at all. (Of course it's hard to imagine being alive today and not having heard of him.) Knowledge of Trek Canon only enhances the experience of this movie. It is not necessary. I repeat, it is not necessary for you to know anything about Star Trek to enjoy this movie.
JJ Abrams and his production team have simply made a great action adventure movie that happens to be set in the Star Trek universe.
The effects are top notch, making you actually feel like they filmed these scenes in space, and the action is very engaging, but more importantly, the character moments give us wonderful glimpses into the people who will eventually form one of the most beloved crews of all time. Top notch performances from all and plenty of humor.
Bad Kitty! Bad Bad Kitty!
This is not the worst movie in the world as some would have you believe. But in a world that has given us "Manos: the Hands of Fate", "Dungeons & Dragons" and "Starship Troopers: Hero of the Federation", that doesn't really say much.
I watched this movie because I have a morbid curiosity about bad movies. Particularly, figuring out where they went wrong. And the consensus here is ... pretty much everywhere.
Let's start with the story. The villain's dastardly plan revolves around marketing a facial creme that rejuvenates the skin, but, if one stops using it, has some very mean side effects. That's about it. MAKEUP! Oh no! The world will never be able to recover from that diabolical blow! Sure, the Joker (in Tim Burton's BATMAN) used personal grooming items seemingly at random to inflict mild cases of death on the unsuspecting public in his sadistic mind game to cause horror among the population of Gotham, but we're talking about a creme here that actually makes you look uglier if you stop using it! NOOOOOOO! Okay, snark aside, I just couldn't care about the "evil plot" except for the fact that they killed our heroine to keep their little secret.
Which brings us to the next point. Giving Catwoman superhuman powers because she is brought back to life by some mystical Egyptian cat? Really? You're going to stick with that? That's not quite the MO for this character. Sure, she may act catty at times, but there is nothing supernatural about her. Adding this mystical element just distances the audience even further from the character. Revenge we understand. Slight insanity? Got it. Superhuman cat powers? You lost me.
Then there's the kinetic, motion-sickness-inducing direction. Do you think you could lock that camera down for a minute or two? Please? The lighting and coloring don't help in the least. It is just way too visually busy. I understand trying for "artistic" filming, but this is ridiculous.
In the end, the only reason I gave this more than one star is that, for those who want to see how to ruin a movie, this is something you could actually sit through and take notes. As the movie ends, you truly don't care about anyone or anything in the whole movie. So it gets some extra stars for the education it gives in bad film making.
Reverse engineered for your enjoyment.
This is a fun concept movie that, yes, could have been more profound. But as it is, it's fun to see how they work the various items into Jennings' master plan in unpredictable ways. I've read the story by Philip K. Dick, and there are points of the story where it has been changed, and the machine works differently here, but the core concept is kept intact. And the question remains: Even if you could see the future, do you really think you'd be able to change it for the better?
Affleck doesn't really amaze anyone here, but he also doesn't detract from the story. Uma is fine and Eckhart is delightfully over-the-top towards the end. This is a man who has received a glimpse of the power he could have if he simply got rid of the obstacles, and he is determined to achieve that power. Even if one of the obstacles is his good friend Jennings.
There are some scientific improbabilities here along with some basic errors, but the driving force here is the philosophical concept, not the scientific possibilities. And the pacing is generally fast enough that you can just relax and watch the action sequences if that's all you care about.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Like a bat outa luck
Amazing. The followup to 2005s Batman Begins satisfies in just about every way. If you liked the action of the first one, this one has action in spades. If you liked the mystery, this one is one puzzler after another. If you liked the gadgets, they're all back with a few new surprises.
The big draw here, however, is the dance between Batman, Harvey Dent and the Joker. Ledger is getting very deserved recognition for his work creating the character of the Joker in this movie. However it is just as interesting to watch the gradual descent that Harvey Dent takes as he eventually becomes the infamous Two-Face. (And that's to say nothing about the great work they did to create Two-Face's horrific face.) Several sections are a bit loud, though, which can become a bit of an assault on the senses at times. And there are those who will be put off by the replacement of Katie Holms for Maggie Gyllenhaal. However, these things are worth enduring if for no other reason than to see Batman in action against such an anarchical foe.
Even the 2 1/2 hour running time isn't terribly bad. I won't say it flies by. But you never feel like the movie is dragging. The pacing is kept up and there isn't really anything that could be cut from the show. It keeps you in the movie the whole time, and you just keep wanting to see more.
One thing to remember, though. is that this movie is also much darker than the first one. At the showing I attended, several parents took their children to see the show. This is definitely not a movie for young children.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
A wonderful slice of Hellboy
IF you liked the first one, this is right up your alley.
I say that mainly because the darker tone, the occult nature and the unusual imagery do have a tendency to put some movie-goers off. But if you simply want to see a movie about a demon who was raised by humans to fight evil, this is a great movie for you.
Guillermo del Toro's direction style is very kinetic and flowing. This helps keep the pace of the movie going, keeping it from feeling like it is dragging. The scenes flow very nicely from one to the next (which is also done very nicely with some creative wipes and overlaps).
The real draw for this film, however, is Hellboy and the team that has been provided for him. Ron Perlman is the absolutely perfect Hellboy. His delivery of the lines is nothing short of perfect in creating an acerbic, yet ultimately lovable (as well as loving) character. He has a wry humor about him that makes the Hellboy character something that we can all relate to. We've all had times when we feel under appreciated. We've all felt like the unwelcome outsider. Yet despite all of the inducements that he has to give up defending these humans, he continues to do it because that is what his "father" taught him to do.
Of course Abe and Liz are here as well, and Doug Jones and Selma Blair each do a wonderful job of portraying their respective characters. But this is not their movie. It is interesting, however, to see one of the story elements of the first movie get turned around to portray the other side of it in this one when the team encounters the angel of death.
In short, as I said above, if you liked the first one, this is just your kind of movie. I look forward to seeing what del Toro has in mind for the third movie. (Of course, we'll have to wait for him to finish "The Hobbit" first.)
An amazing spectacle
This movie is a fun watch, but mainly because of Ron Perlman. The action is well done and the story is great, but Perlman makes the character of Hellboy (a demon raised by "the good guys") just amazingly human, with a wry sense of humor. You would be hard pressed to find anyone anywhere who could do this character as well as Perlman, let alone better. The physicality seems to have been tailor made to fit Perlman's features and the delivery of the lines is just so understatedly comedic that there are few who could pull it off at all.
Of course, there are a couple times when the special effects are a little weaker than you would hope, but it doesn't detract from the movie as a whole. For instance, in the final battle scene, there are a couple shots where the Hellboy character clearly appears to be GC. But the fight moves so fast that you don't have much time to focus on those shots before something else amazing happens.
See it. Love it.
It's WALL-E With the Win!!
This is an amazing movie. Despite the fact that a large portion of the film is spent without any dialogue at all, you never really feel that you are missing out on any of the story. The animators do such a great job breathing life into this little lunch box on wheels that you feel you can actually tell what he is thinking at all times.
The animation and rendering quality of the movie are just phenomenal. Very realistic aside from the decidedly cartoonish human characters. But that's just icing on the cake. Eye candy that draws you in for the full meal that the story puts forth.
There is a definite message here of caring for the earth and not letting technology taking over our lives, but you will find yourself simply longing for more story between Eve and Wall-e. Their relationship evolves slowly and realistically, with a rather heart wrenching scene toward the end.
Go see it. It's just a wonderful story that anyone can enjoy.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
A More Perfect Hulk
Action packed and kinetic. This one maintains a better pace than the first one. The first attempt tried to be very cerebral and focus on the inner workings of the characters, forgetting to put in some real action. Here, that has been rectified.
The action is very well done and the effects of the Hulk character are about as realistic as you could expect a giant green man to appear.
However, a couple of the fight scenes -- particularly the last one between the Hulk and the Abomination -- are filmed a little too close to really be able to easily follow the action.
Other than that, this one is great. Here's hoping Marvel moves forward with the same love of their characters as they produce their own movies.
Could be more, but still fun to watch.
In the end, the main thrust of the story is largely dealt with by Professor Broom while the rest of his team fights off the other evils in the area. Hellboy himself gets a much more spectacular fight, but it is with a monster that almost seems added as an afterthought when they realized they didn't have enough for him to do.
Taking that into account, though, the story is fun enough to watch and Ron Perlman's wry delivery of Hellboy's lines is always fun. There is nobody who could give life to this character other than Perlman.
The animation is well done and the story moves along with efficient pacing. One thing that could prove confusing to some (though I found it an intriguing story device) is the use of flashback in this episode. The main story moves forward, but the flashbacks move progressively backward. It has the effect of putting both a beginning and an end at both the beginning and the end of the movie.
The X Files (1998)
Well-made and involved
The story here is very involved, but it never gets too hard to follow. There's a lot here that comes from the TV series, but it's not crucial for you to have seen every episode to understand what's going on. Of course, you probably wouldn't be watching this movie if you hadn't seen at least a little of the series.
The effects are well done. The tone is solid. The characterization is wonderful. This may not make you fall in love with the series, but it is a wonderfully made sci-fi adventure.
I don't know about you, but I now get scared every time I go outside to stand in our oil pool.
Return to Oz (1985)
More of the books, less of the original movie.
Going into this movie, do not expect a rehash of the original. This movie is intended to be truer to the spirit of the books than "The Wizard of Oz" was. The plot, in fact, is a combining of the stories from "The Marvelous Land of Oz" and "Ozma of Oz"--the second and third books in the series. Though some minor hat-tips were made to the original movie, making it a cursory sequel only.
For instance, the Ruby Slippers in the first movie were Silver Slippers in the book. Here, they make reference to Dorothy using Ruby Slippers in her previous adventure out of deference to that movie.
However, the books have much more of a dark, foreboding tone than the saccharine sweetness of the original movie. (Not too much, since they're still kid's books, but it is still there.) This one captures that feel much more than the original.
If your kids are old enough to handle the slightly dark tone of this film (not too much, but still dark) they should easily fall in love with the imagination and the characters of this movie.
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man strikes Gold
I thought that the filmmakers did an excellent job.
Robert Downey Jr. brings the perfect performance for Tony Stark making him believably both conceited and compassionate (though usually not at the same time). He makes the hero a very human character.
Both the ending and the beginning come across slightly shaky in their storytelling aspects, but the middle of the movie more than makes up for it. The action is well shot and there is a good pacing. It's interesting to see the evolution of the Iron Man suit from the very utilitarian origins to the more finessed version that emerges in the end.
The special effects are very well done, merging practical effect work and physical suit shooting with CG very seamlessly. You never find yourself being distracted by an obviously inserted special effect plate or having to force yourself to overlook certain aspects of the visual that don't quite blend well enough.
And it was definitely refreshingly different to see Jeff Bridges play the heavy. He does it very well.