Sunday, July 26, 2009

Friday, 7/24/09

Orphan - 3 1/2 stars

They didn't screen the movie for critics. For some reason the studios figure that horror fans don't pay attention to critics, so why screen them? Well, why bother screening Transformers for critics then?

I'm pissed that they didn't screen this because it kicked ass. I would have talked about it on the radio, but I didn't see it until Sunday night.

Esther is an evil child. Kate and John are the parents who adopt her. Kate starts to figure out that Esther is a little psycho, but John won't believe her. This is one of those thrillers where the main character knows the truth and can't convince anyone else.

Kate and John already have two kids - Daniel and Max. Max is deaf, and I'm not sure how old she is supposed to be, but she is young enough to ride in a child set and old enough to know sign language. Not sure how many kids that young know sign language that well, but what do I know about it.

I went into this movie without high expectations. I figured it would have some good scares and then I would forget about it in a week. But this is one of those horror movies that I can't wait to take someone else to. Just be aware that it is long (just over two hours) and it doesn't get good until an hour or so in. You just have to be patient.

The Ugly Truth - 2 1/2 stars

The best I can say about this movie is it could have been a lot worse. Katherine Heigl plays a TV news producer (basically her same character from Knocked Up). She doesn't do well with men because she is so controlling that on a first date, she tells the guy how many items on her checklist he matches. When the conversation drags, she also pulls out a list of talking points. That made me laugh, but only because it reminded me of a scene in Monty Python's Meaning of Life where the waiter says "would you like something to talk about?"

Gerard Butler is a guy who has a public access talk show (I didn't know public access existed anymore). His show is called The Ugly Truth. Its the kind of show where he takes calls from lonely women and tells them what men really want and think.

He gets hired by the TV station where Katherine Heigl works and she hates him at first, but eventually she warms up to him. She recognizes that he is good for ratings, but more importantly, she wants him to help her get the good looking doctor that lives next door to her.

If you have seen the trailer, then you know the whole story. Its no spoiler to say that they end up falling in love. I honestly didn't laugh for the first 15 minutes of this movie. Once Gerard Butler shows up, it gets tolerable. I did laugh a few times, but I don't recommend the movie.

Every Little Step - 2 1/2 stars

I feel like I should like this more, but I honestly didn't enjoy it much, and I don't really ever want to see it again. I guess I'm just not into Broadway. At all.

Its kind of like watching an episode of American Idol, but there is no Simon Cowell to keep things entertaining. We watch thousands of singers/dancers/actors auditioning for a revival of A Chorus Line. We get to know a handful of them, so we can be excited when they make the cut, or disappointed when they don't make it. But I didn't think we got to know any of them well enough to really care about them. At least American Idol gives you the back story on a singer or two.

As we watch the hopefuls audition, we are also learning about how A Chorus Line came to be. Michael Bennett interviewed a bunch of his friends, all show-biz hopefuls, and he turned their stories into a show. We also see interviews with a couple of the people who were in the original production in the 70s.

I think how much you like this movie will depend on how interested you are in being a performer. Anyone who has ever gone through an audition can relate to how these kids are feeling. And there is one really powerful moment when one guy gives such a good audition he brings the judges to tears.

G-Force - didn't see

This wasn't screened for critics until Thursday night. This means that the newspaper critics aren't able to make their deadlines for Friday's paper. This means that the movie sucks.

Also, why the hell is it called G-Force? Don't the producers know that G-Force is a cartoon from the 70s? They shouldn't have been able to use that name.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - 3 1/2 stars

First of all, I should tell you how I feel about the Harry Potter franchise, since it's very hard to judge this film on its own merits. I liked the first two Potter films (Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets), but I didn't love them. I saw them once or twice in the theater, then I didn't bother to see them again. When the third movie (Prisoner of Azkaban) came out, I was amazed. It was much better than those first two movies. But I still didn't become a fan.

I saw the next two movies (Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix), and it was after the fifth movie that I decided I liked the characters enough to finally give in and read the books. I wanted to know what was being left out of the movies, and I wanted to be able to say for myself whether the books were any good. Well, as anyone who has read them knows, they are quite good. And after reading the books, I had to go back and watch all the movies again.

Now, I could have stopped after reading the fifth book. Maybe I should have. Since I started out watching the movies, the actors are the ones I picture when I read the books. I considered waiting, but I couldn't help myself. I quickly read the sixth and seventh book.

So now, Half-Blood Prince is the first Harry Potter movie I have actually looked forward to. It's also the first one I have seen after having read the book. For the first time, I am able to complain as much as anyone about how they left out my favorite parts, or how they got other parts wrong. Well, let me first say that this is a great movie. Next to Prisoner of Azkaban, this is the best of the Harry Potter movies. It may even be the best. I need to see this one again, then go back and watch Prisoner of Azkaban to decide.

This movie focuses on the kids falling in love, or at least lust. Ron gets a girlfriend, and Hermione realizes she has feelings for Ron. Harry is also starting to notice Ron's sister Ginny. This makes for some great comedy and great drama. We feel for Hermione when she sees Ron kissing Lavender Brown. We want to see Harry hook up with Ginny. And the scene where Ron is slipped a love potion (intended for Harry) is the funniest in the movie.

This movie also has more of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Snape (Alan Rickman) than usual. This is a very good thing. I can watch Alan Rickman for two and a half hours and be happy. Unfortunately we don't get as much of McGonagall (Maggie Smith) or Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). They pop up and have a line or two, but they don't get much to do.

The entire cave sequence at the end follows the book very closely. I was particularly impressed with the way the scene where Dumbledore has to drink the potion played out. Then when the inferi attack, that was as scary as it should have been.

Now as for the things that I missed (as a fan of the books). Oh, and beware of spoilers. I'll try not to give anything major away.

First, the Dursleys. Except for the fourth movie, every movie has opened with Harry at the Dursley's house. This is important because there is a very good reason (explained in the book) why he has to return to the Dursley's every summer. In fact, in the movie he tells Dumbledore that he has been riding the subways around all summer. That doesn't seem like a good idea if Voldemort is after him. I miss seeing Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths) and Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) for story reasons, but more importantly, they are such great actors. Go back and watch Griffiths in Order of the Phoenix and try not to laugh. Also, check out his performance in Venus with Peter O'Toole.

Next thing I missed: Harry getting in trouble with Snape after the sectumsempra scene. In the book, he almost killed Malfoy, so Snape is incredibly pissed off at him and gives him like a month's worth of detention. In the movie, after the fight is over, Snape just looks at Harry, Harry walks out, hides the book, and that's it. No punishment, no discussion.

Also I missed the fight at the end. In the book, the death eaters fight with the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army. I know they wanted to make the death of ***** bigger and more dramatic by focusing on that, but that would have been a great bit of action at the end of the movie.

Another one? Ok, how about the final confrontation between Snape and Harry? In the book, there are a lot of words exchanged. In the movie, it's over much quicker. Snape reveals he is the Half-Blood Prince (oops, big spoiler) and walks away. And the funny thing is, if you haven't read the book, you wouldn't know what the Half-Blood Prince was. Ok, we know who it is, now what is it?

Last I thought the movie ended too quickly after the big death. In the book, there is more shock and reaction from the faculty and students, and there is a big funeral. In the movie, everyone stands around and raises their wands (lame). Then the next scene is the main three talking about what they are going to do next year. It sets up the final two movies nicely in an Empire Strikes Back kind of way, but there should have been a little more of a denouement. Maybe if they threw in that scene where Harry is talking with the staff about whether the school should close or not.

Anyway, all that aside, I loved the movie. I can accept the changes and omissions because the movie and book are completely different forms of entertainment. What works in a book doesn't always work on screen, and the movie can only be so long. But I REALLY wish they would do extended edition DVDs, the way New Line did with Lord of the Rings.

Friday, July 10th

Bruno - 3 stars

Don't go if you are offended easily. Even if you aren't offended easily, there is still a good chance you will be offended by this movie. But if you can handle it, go. It's very funny. But not as funny as Borat. Borat was such a great character that he was funny all by himself. The character of Bruno is only funny when he is in a funny situation. As a character, he is kind of boring. When I watch Da Ali G Show, I usually skip the Bruno segments.

But some of the things in this movie are so funny you will be laughing for several minutes at a time. I can't believe Sacha Baron Cohen didn't get killed making this movie.

The Hurt Locker - 3 1/2 stars

This movie is about a squad of soldiers who dismantle bombs in Iraq. There are sequences of such suspense that you may forget to breathe. It's exciting in a way Transformers can only dream of. That just made me think of something: imagine how good Transformers might have been if Kathryn Bigelow had directed it?

Jeremy Renner plays Staff Sergeant William James, the guy who actually goes in and disarms the bombs. While he is doing that, the two guys in his squad cover him and look for snipers. James is reckless. If he doesn't like what his Sergeant is telling him, he will just turn off his radio. If he is too uncomfortable in his protective suit, he will just take it off. It's fun to see a guy who knows his stuff and is so cocky about it. After one particularly scary operation, his sergeant punches him in the face. James just shrugs it off and lights up a cigarette. Very cool.

Moon - 2 1/2 stars

This is one of those sci-fi movies that just moves really, really slowly. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut who is working out a 3 year contract mining on the moon. One day, he has an accident and wakes up in the infirmary. When he has recuperated enough to go outside and do some work, he finds a clone of himself that seems to have been injured. Is it a clone, or is he going crazy? He has been alone for almost 3 years.

He is kept company by GERTY the computer, voiced by Kevin Spacey. GERTY is very reminiscent of HAL from 2001, but then every talking computer in space makes one think of HAL. GERTY seems to know something about the clone, but he won't tell Sam what is going on. The rest of the movie is a mystery as he tries to figure out what is going on. And why can't he communicate with anyone on Earth?

I almost liked the movie, but the pace keeps me from recommending it. If you go in with the right mindset and are patient, you may like it more than I did. But it's not too hard to figure out the mystery, and once you do, you are just sitting around waiting for Sam to figure it out too.

Tulpan - didn't see it
I Love You Beth Cooper - didn't see it

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Missed a couple of weeks or so ...

Yeah, I know. I'm lazy. But trust me - I was very busy. So here are a few reviews:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - 1 1/2 stars

It's all been said already. I don't know what else I can add. The first hour, I was going along with it. I overlooked the stupidity of Sam having a shard of the All Spark in his pocket. What, he didn't wear that hoodie for 2 years? And if shards came off the All Spark when he destroyed it, why didn't a decepticon just grab a shard and revive Megatron right after he died? And after the introduce the idea of the shard in his pocket, they abandon that storyline. There is another shard kept in some secret underground base, guarded by the army. What??? Why?

I also overlooked how rediculous that Decepticon was that looked like a human. I mean, really. If they could do that, why haven't they done that before? And why don't we see any more?

Anyway, the first hour was still pretty good setup. If I could overlook the first movie's faults and still enjoy it, I could do it again. The problem is the movie gets dumber and dumber as it goes. The Jar Jar Binks twins? Annoying as hell. And how about the way they keep adding elements to the story as it goes? It's like Michael Bay said "What else can we do here? I know - how about a machine inside a pyramid that can destroy the sun! Brilliant!" And I'm not going to mention the worst part of the movie - Sam going to robot heaven. Not going to mention it ...

Rudo Y Cursi - 2 1/2 stars

It was nice to see Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal together again (if you've never seen Y Tu Mama Tambien, you should). But this was not that good. It's about two brothers in Mexico who want to be professional soccer players. One has a gambling problem and the other wants to be a pop star. Very forgettable movie.

Away We Go - 2 1/2 stars

John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph star as a couple who are about to have a baby. They travel from city to city trying to decide which city they want to raise their baby in. In each city, they meet up with someone they know - a former co-worker, a former girlfriend, a former roommate, ect.

There are some parts of the movie that are really funny. And between the funny parts, there are some nice moments where the couple is discussing their fears about raising a child. But the rest of the movie is kind of tedious. I was bord a lot of the time.

And there is no discussion of money. How can they afford to not work and fly at a moment's notice? To buy a plane ticket the day of travel costs a lot. That kind of bugged me.

Public Enemies - 3 stars

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as Neal Purvis, the FBI agent who hunts him down. The performances were great - this almost makes up for Terminator: Salvation. The movie was exciting and I was never bored. It was 2 1/2 hours long and it never felt it.

My only complaint about the movie is the way it was filmed. It was shot on digital video and it looks it. Sometimes it looked more like a newscast than a film. That can work for some movies but not a period movie. It was kind of distracting.

Whatever Works - 3 stars

I haven't seen many Woody Allen movies, so I can't compare this to his best movies. But I love Larry David, and this is the perfect part for him. I didn't laugh out loud that much during the movie. Instead, I was just sitting there amused. Kind of strange for a comedy, but I enjoyed it.