Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

[3 stars]

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Genre: Animated
87 minutes - PG rating
Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: (voice talent) George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwarzman, Bill Murray

Brief Plot: Loosely based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name - "Angry farmers, tired of sharing their chickens with a sly fox, look to get rid of their opponent and his family" - IMDB

Best Audience: Wes Anderson fans and anyone who is looking for an animated film that looks, sounds, and feels different than any other.

My Review: Wes Anderson's stop-motion tale is, as named, 'fantastic.' The stop motion is beautifully and painstakingly constructed and the result is surprisingly smooth and lucid. It's a joy just to look at. Combine the visuals with a powerhouse voice cast and a delightful script and you've just about summed up Fantastic Mr. Fox. One of the best things about Fantastic Mr Fox is that it is so wildly different than any of the other animated films that are being produced, and that is only a very small part of the appeal. Probably the only film capable of challenging Pixar's 'Up' come oscar season.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Quickfire Update

Let's get down to business. I've neglected the blog for the past couple months but I'm hoping to be able to get back into the swing of things, especially with the December/January movies coming out. So buckle up and browse through these reviews which were neglected until now.

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)
[1 and 1/2 stars]

My Review: This movie just never got very far before it's appeal vanished into thin air faster than Eric Bana. It has the same premise throughout, with only some minor twists in plot development and not enough character development to make you care about the protagonists' lives.

(500) Days of Summer (2009)
[3 and 1/2 stars]

My Review: 500 Days of Summer was this year's most pleasant surprise and possibly the summer's best film. Big Beach Films (Little Miss Sunshine) delivers another gem capitalizing on superb performances by both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. In the end it's the unconventional story line and the willingness to break genre cliche that catapults 500 Days of Summer into the category of unforgettable.

District 9 (2009)
[2 and 1/2 stars]

My Review: The Peter Jackson produced District 9 proved a satisfying dose of science fiction geekness, but the problem is that it may have strayed too far from it's nerdy roots to keep you emotionally invested. District 9 welcomes newcomer director Neill Blomkamp and unheard of actor Sharlto Copely with vigor, dishing up an imaginative alien-filled spectacle which is technically sound; the only trouble is that some may wonder what humanitarian propaganda is doing in a movie they wanted to be a sci-fi getaway.

The Informant! (2009)
[2 stars]

My Review: Matt Damon shows yet another testament to his acting abilities by effortlessly assuming the role that most other stars would have botched. Unfortunately, it isn't enough to save this picture, which often seemed inconsistent in what it wanted to portray to the audience.

Zombieland (2009)
[3 stars]

My Review: Zombieland succeeds where so many of the other summer movies failed: by dishing up a story that connects on all cylinders and cares more about relating a good plot with enjoyable characters rather than overloaded action sequences or forced humor. A cleverly delivered spectacle that combines the best elements of zombie and road movies.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

** (2 stars)

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Genre: Action
118 minutes - PG13 rating
Director: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, and more.

Brief Plot: Duke (Tatum) and Ripcord (Wayans) are two army buds on a mission to deliver some high-tech warheads. When the warheads are subsequently stolen by a crooked arms dealer they are taken in and fight alongside the G.I. Joes, a secret multi-national military organization dedicated to saving the earth from evil villains. Mayhem ensues as the Joes try to stop the evil terrorists from destroying several key cities in the world.

Best Audience: It's an true-fire action movie; that's where the buck stops. You'll enjoy it if you are expecting that when you walk into the theater. Relentless action violence may make the film unsuitable for younger teens.

My Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a movie with a title that just reeks of 'sequel'. And true to that, the film ends with a realm of possibilities to expand for future installments. It is almost as pretentious a notion of 'franchising' as what we saw in the first Transformers movie and, coincidentally, the two films share much in common. I was ready for Sommers to let me down but he didn't do too bad of a job. Despite some terribly cheesy dialogue, the script and story were decent and had a good twist or two to keep you interested throughout the two hour run-time. The action is non-stop with little or no room to catch your breath, and, like Transformers 2, made me antsy by the time the final climactic battle scenes were underway. Besides Transformers, you may find little hints of Star Wars, Iron Man, X-men, and a variety of other action franchises throughout the film. An attempt at romantic subplot did little to break up the action for me, but the ninja back story proved more effective. Altogether, G.I. Joe is a free-for-all CGI-gorging trigger-happy explosions-laden action-palooza that had some enjoyable moments and some forgettable ones. Despite seeming a bit pretentious, the film doesn't take itself too seriously, and, as long as you don't, you won't walk out disappointed.


*** (3 stars)

Up (2009)
Genre: Animated/Family
96 minutes - G rating
Director: Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson
Starring: (voice talents) Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai

Brief Plot: An elderly widower fulfils a lifelong dream of adventure by attaching balloons to his house and flying off to the great unknown. Along the way he grudgingly teams up with a young boy and learns that helping others can be the greatest adventure of all.

Best Audience: A great family picture. Adults and Children alike will get a smile from Up.

My review: Sit back and be ready to smile. Pixar strikes another jackpot, both with viewers and the box office, with their latest gem. A delightful tale that bridges ages, races and even species, Up is that creatively unique and fresh fare that we are used to receiving from Pixar. The company continues to produce first-rate material even after being bought by Disney. Ballooning profit (no pun intended) was even grander than expected considering the fact that Up was released just a week after another family flick: Night at the Museum Battle for the Smithsonian.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

*** (3 stars)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Genre: Fantasy
153 minutes - PG rating
Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Sir Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, Bonnie Wright and Helena Bonham Carter

Brief Plot: Harry and his friends enter their sixth year at Hogwarts but with Voldemort's Death Eaters provoking more and more boldly there is tension in the air almost as thick as the wild teenage hormones. Dumbledore attempts to prepare Harry for the final battle with the Dark Lord that he knows is near.

Best Audience: Harry Potter fans. Need I say more? PG rating is mostly unimportant because if younger audience members are seeing it they have likely seen the PG13 installments Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix.

Review: The sixth installment in the successful Harry Potter franchise transports us to a world of magic and does so with far less hocus-pocus and conjuring than it's other counterparts. The remarkable thing about Half-Blood Prince is that it keeps to it's mission with patient restraint that is very uncommon of Hollywood. There are no climactic battles like in Phoenix or Goblet, but instead the film focuses on character development and plot. In fact, there is far less magic at all, and this allows us to explore the muggle elements of the characters. It would have been easy for Director David Yates to go Michael Bay on us and try to make Half-Blood Prince bigger and bolder than Phoenix, but he has coyly saved room for the last two films. This makes Half-Blood Prince act as a breath of fresh air. More laughs than in previous Potters, and Yates gives the actors more room to explore their characters. Half-Blood Prince may not be well-received by book 'purists' but that is the issue of all film adaptations. As a film, it does a praise-worthy job of telling us another chapter of Harry Potter's saga. Easily up there with Star Trek as the summer's best blockbuster thus far.

Public Enemies

** 1/2

Public Enemies (2009)
Genre: Gangster
140 minutes - R rating
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard and Billy Crudup

Brief Plot: Public Enemies chronicles events from the last year of the life of historic outlaw John Dillinger (Depp) as he robbed banks, broke out of jails and lived larger than life before the fledgeling FBI agency was able to track and gun him down.

Best Audience: Finally a real movie aimed at adults this summer! History buffs and fans of Depp should watch this one, as well as anyone who likes cops and robbers flicks.

Review: Public Enemies was my most anticipated movie of 2009; consequently I was disappointed after leaving the theater. It's not that Public Enemies is a terrible film, it just isn't a classic like it might have been. Depp is very enjoyable to watch as Dillinger and Christian Bale is fantastic as always providing yet another accent for this film. Marion Cotillard was very good as supporting actress. Mann's use of HD cameras for the film give it a very unique and, in my opinion, enjoyable look to the film. The blame for Public Enemies not being as good as it should have been must be placed on the writers and Director Michael Mann. While many things were specifically historically accurate many other moments in the film were outright wrong. Additionally they take 140 minutes to tell a story that seemed to lack any real climax and fails to relate the core events of Dillinger's fascinating life in a compelling manner. Worth seeing, but not the great film classic you may be hoping for.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

** (2 out of a possible 4 stars)

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Genre: Fantasy/Action Adventure
150 minutes - PG13 rating
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro and Ramon Rodriguez

Brief Plot: Sam (LaBeouf) and must find an ancient machine hidden on Earth it before a resurrected Megatron and the evil Decepticons can find it and destroy the sun. It's round two of Autobots and American Military against invading Decepticon baddies.

Best Audience: Fans of film one. What we have here is basically the same story with a new script and more battles. More sexual content than the first movie makes this very iffy for younger teens and tweens.

Review: Too much of just about everything: that's the best way I can describe Transformers 2. The Michael Bay box office giant is essentially the same story but gives a newer approach with Sam entering college and trying to lead a normal life. More explosions, more Megan Fox and the same humor style as the first film mean that if you liked the first one you probably won't be upset by the second installment. What Bay creates is not remarkable by any means except perhaps for the sheer technological achievement that it presents. There are a few new characters that are mostly forgettable, but Bay had to do something to up the stakes so in typical Michael Bay fashion he added more bots more explosions and more sex appeal from Megan Fox. It's a proven formula for generating box office revenue. Yes it's too long, too flashy, too much of everything, but as long as you are ready for what the film offers and are willing to go for the ride anyway you will get what you are looking for. Watch it in IMAX. You might as well go all in for two and one half hours.