Friday, July 3, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen

In a Nutshell: Robots pretty! The rest? Eh. Go in with low expectations, and you might be okay.

Quick Plot: What plot? An ancient robot seeks an equally ancient power source that is hidden on Earth, to the detriment of all planetary inhabitants.

In Detail: Um, that's really about it. Most of the story development of this film could fit in a haiku or two. As another very pithy reviewer put it: not much more than meets the CGI. (That reviewer's full remarks at and it is too funny. DH fully agrees with him, more than he agrees with me.) Don't get me wrong, the CGI is awesome. If you have any inclination to see it, do see it on the big screen. Well, when you can actually see it. Why they spend all this money on the robots and then *not* pull the camera back so you can actually see what's going on is beyond me. I thought it was just blah. DH thought it was terrible, though I do think he's a little more emotionally invested in Transformers (in general, not necessarily Michael Bay's incarnation) than I am. We both agreed that it committed the cardinal sin of any major action blockbuster: it was boring. Not sure how that is even possible, but it was. And I'm not one who is a stickler for location accuracy, but I am pretty darned sure that there is not a desert with distant rocky mountains out the back door of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, not even the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Looked a whole lot more like Arizona (where it was filmed), which I am quite sure is nothing even remotely like Washington, DC. Just one glaring example of the many many things that were very wrong with the film.

Will I Buy It? I genuinely do not know. Pretty sure we're both leaning towards no. I don't particularly want to see it again, and I know DH doesn't either. We'll have to discuss it.

A Knight's Tale

In a Nutshell: Cute, fun, not deep, and Heath Ledger. A perfectly brainless movie, which is just what I wanted at the time.

Quick Plot: Only those of noble birth may be a knight, and only knights may compete in tournaments, but a young peasant squire decides to change the stars and compete anyway.

In Detail: I have had several people tell me over the years that they thought I would enjoy this movie, and I did. There wasn't much to it, which was to be expected. Historical accuracy is neither its forte nor its purpose. One of the most memorable features about the film was the anachronistic music, which I actually thought was pretty fun (knowing it was coming in advance). I did find the love story, in particular, especially lacking, though. No chemistry there at all, IMO, and certainly no depth (not that I wanted Romeo and Juliet, but something deeper than a puddle would have been nice). It was great fun to see a certain actor featuring prominently, even if the red hair was distracting (we know him as a blond). I won't ruin it by saying who, but it made us bust out laughing. A fine fluff film, worth seeing once if you like knights and/or Heath Ledger.

Will I Buy It? No. It was fun once, but I don't think we would watch it a lot. It was a little too light on plot for that. For light and fun period film with Heath Ledger, I prefer Casanova.

Night at the Museum

In a Nutshell: It was just there. Not good, not bad, just eh.

Quick Plot: In order to pay his rent and keep seeing his son, a man takes a job as night watchman at the Natural History Museum, which takes on a life of its own (quite literally) after dark.

In Detail: I don't really have a lot to say about this one. We're not big Ben Stiller fans to start with, though this was a straighter roll for him than average (probably because he had to keep it PG). The main reason we saw this one at all is because we are looking for a good movie to take Luke to his summer. Up didn't really pan out for him, and I'm afraid Ice Age 3 isn't going to be worth seeing (the second one certainly wasn't). Several people had suggested this one as a possibility (the sequel is currently showing), but we wanted to check it out first. There were a few objectionable things (the monkey peeing for absolutely no reason; I *hate* that kind of thing), but overall, I just found it blah. We barely smiled, we never laughed. It was sweet, but that's not enough for me. I can't find any reason not to recommend it, but I can't find any reason to recommend it either. ::shrug::

Will I Buy It? No.

Friday, June 12, 2009


In a Nutshell: As with most recent Pixar films, I liked it a lot, but I didn't love it. Hopefully, as with most Pixar films, it will grow on me with repeat viewings. We did not see it in 3-D, so I can't speak to that aspect.

Quick Plot: As a child, Carl always wanted to be an adventurer. Now a widower, he keeps a promise to his wife to visit South America. The former balloon salesman takes his house up, up, and away, and he settles in for the ride. A knock at the door, in mid-air, reveals an unexpected passenger on his journey, a young Wilderness Explorer named Russell.

In Detail: I have been sitting on this review for 2 weeks now. We actually saw it opening day, but I still really don't know what to say about this movie. Even DH said to me as we were leaving, "I don't envy you having to write that review!" I think I am going to have a recurring problem with movies like this, though. I was so intent on watching it to see if it would be good for our son (now age 4.5) that it is hard for me to enjoy the film on its own merits. (I had the same problem with WALL-E last year.) It was a good movie, and we enjoyed it. I cried twice, so how bad could it be? It was very sweet, very touching in places, and just a feast for the eyes (as usual for Pixar). The sunlight coming through the balloons and casting colored shadows on the ground was just stunning. As far as characters go, Dug is priceless. (Squirrel!) We really did like it. But I can also tell you that we will not be taking our son. In general, I think it is fine for kids around his age, but he is *very* sensitive to animal violence. There is no blood or anything that I recall, but some dogs fighting each other and they were pretty menacing to the main characters. For my child in particular, even though it turns out okay with the dogs in the end, I think the dogs would scare him, especially in the theater on that huge screen. At home on a smaller screen and in a secure environment, I think he'll be okay, but we won't be taking him to the theater for this one. I do think that is a big reason why I am slightly disappointed with the movie, because I so wanted to take him to see it. That's not the movie's fault! It's just hard for me to separate the two. So, good movie, probably better than I think it is right now, and you should definitely see it. (No coda, BTW.)

Will I Buy It? Yes. It was good, and we love Pixar, and I'm sure it will grow on us like the others have.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

In a Nutshell: Loved it. Accept it for what it is, and see it. May not be awesome Trek, but it is an awesome movie!

Quick Plot: Um, well, see, I really can't tell you because most anything about the plot is a spoiler. How about this: a group of seemingly familiar cadets save Starfleet from a crazed man seeking revenge. That's about the best I can offer you.

In Detail: As a summer popcorn action flick, I truly loved it. Other than one picky science bit at the end, I was totally engrossed. As a Star Trek film, I am less certain. I think almost all of the actors did a great job with at least embodying the essence of their predecessors. I will single out Karl Urban for being the most spot on with really working to capture the speech patterns and mannerisms of the late DeForest Kelley. Truly excellent! Yes, the physical resemblance of Zachary Quinto (totally love him) to Leonard Nimoy is truly uncanny (particularly in profile, wow!), but as far as making me *believe* he was Spock (as opposed to Zachary Quinto (or Sylar, though I will admit I never "saw" Sylar in his performance)), Quinto didn't always manage. Mostly, but not always. But I never for a moment doubted that Karl Urban was Bones. In the other direction, I will have to disagree with my BB friends; I did not care for the physical embodiment or the attitude of Scotty's "younger self." He just didn't seem dignified enough to be Scotty.

As for canon, I give kudos to the writers and creators for coming up with a very "trekkie" way to get around it that I feel really works within the existing Trek universe. I see it opening up innumerable possibilities for future familiar-yet-not scenarios. There were plenty of "little things" thrown in there for hard core fans as well. (Listen for the Archer reference; we missed it!) They did miss one golden opportunity to include one of the most memorable "Old Trek" lines in an appropriate place: instead of "I implied," the response should have been "I exaggerated." :-) There were two things I think should have been cut out completely, as they were totally unnecessary: the ice monsters and the water tubes. Waste of film and time, IMO. I also have some issues with Uhura in the turbolift scene, not so much with the implications of what she is doing (trying not to spoil it here), but it was just too much (too intense?) to me. I think a little less would have been better. (I can be more specific if you want to email me.) So, overall, a great summer movie! And a nice shift in the direction of Trek. I'm just afraid some of what Gene Roddenberry really wanted to demonstrate - peace and exploration in the galaxy, diplomacy, thinking through your problems instead of fighting about them - may get lost in the amped-up movie format. The most loved episodes of Trek are usually the "thinking" episodes, and I don't want that aspect of Star Trek to get lost in this new, slick, action-packed universe.

Will I Buy It? Oh yeah!

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

In a Nutshell: Very disappointing. Not enough effort at plot, too many unrelated (and unimportant) gags.

Quick Plot: The glaciers are melting. Those who live in the area must flee the impending flood, and everyone's favorite mismatched herd picks up a few new wacky members along the way.

In Detail: First, let me say upfront that the original Ice Age falls into a very rare and special category for us: movies that were much better than we expected them to be. We were not expecting much at all from when we went to see it in the theater. We thought it would be rather ho-hum, in fact (you know, back before the child when we had the time to see "just okay" movies). So the fact that we so thoroughly enjoyed it probably put its sequel at a disadvantage. I had heard from several sources that it was disappointing, so I didn't have my hopes up too much, or so I thought. Even with lowered expectations, we were still disappointed. It reminds me of a quote from Bolt: "I was, like, 'What?' And then I was, like, 'Huh?' And then, well, I got a little bored." That pretty much sums it up. Too many "asides," too much potty humor or "almost cursing," too much that the first movie managed to successfully avoid, all wrapped up with not enough plot or even effort at having a plot. I never realized how much the baby held the first one together, and without that bond, this one just couldn't make it. It felt like a string of gags that they couldn't fit into the first one, so they tried to piece them together into a movie. I hear the next one is better (due out this summer, with dinosaurs; the child is already begging to see it). I surely hope so.

Will I Buy It? Not unless we *totally* love the next one and I feel that it is required for continuity. If we like #3, and if it can mostly stand on its own, then we'll skip purchasing Ice Age 2. If we don't like #3, we'll do like we do for The Matrix and pretend films 2 and 3 don't exist! LOL


In a Nutshell: We really enjoyed it! A little intense at the beginning, but very fun with a lot of heart. The child loved it, too.

Quick Plot: Bolt is the star of his very own television show as a dog with super powers. The problem is, he thinks it is all real. When he accidentally ends up out in the real world and on the other side of the USA, his "powers" aren't working. How will he ever get back home to his person?

In Detail: This movie was just so much fun. When we found ourselves still chuckling about more than one scene several days later, we knew we would end up buying it when it was released for home viewing. The gags are funny (it's styrofoam! LOL), the banter is hilarious (Rhino in particular), but the story doesn't get lost, and the emotion is there as well. Just really well done. That's not to say that it's not predictable, but hey, it's a Disney; that comes with the territory. I actually don't mind predictable most of the time. We took the child to see it (age 4) at the theater as well. I will say that the opening sequence is a little intense (and a little long at such intensity for very young children, IMO), so you may want to preview it for the little ones. But L was riveted, and it is now one of his most favorite films.

Will I Buy It? Already did, on Blu-ray, no less!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight

In a Nutshell: Didn't live up to the hype, but then again, no film could. Generally good, with moments of greatness. Dark for sure, but should have been darker, IMHO.

Quick Plot: Batman has the common criminals running scared, and there's a new DA in town determined to keep hold of the newly gained ground. But the common criminals turn to an uncommon man, The Joker, a self-admitted agent of anarchy, to take down Gotham's protective dark knight, and much of the city burns in their wake.

In Detail: Good, just not as good as I'd hoped. It had moments of brilliance, no doubt about it, and it is a good movie, just not a great one. First off, it was too long by a good 20 minutes at least, which made the first hour or so drag quite a bit. And I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I think it should have been darker. If you're going to go there, then GO there! Don't take huge strides toward the line, then stop just short. I understand they need this movie to be a commercial success (that $180M US budget is looming large), and I understand that they wanted the movie to be rated PG-13, which I don't think could have been managed with a movie much darker than this one. But there was at least one scene in particular, and perhaps a couple more, that did not pack the punch it could have in terms of suspense and/or emotional tension, simply because I *knew* they weren't going to carry through due to the PG-13 rating (if they had, I swear to you, I'd have fallen out of my seat).

I also think they tried to cram too much in there (see too long comment). I *really* think they should have let the Joker and Two Face each have their own film. Introduce Harvey Dent, fine, but save his arc for a separate movie. That would have allowed for a shorter, tighter story this time around, and yet still allowed for more Bruce Wayne (lots of Batman, but not much Bruce this time; shame to hide Christian Bale behind the mask and suit and voice for the whole film) and more Joker. And believe me, more Joker would have been a good thing. Heath Ledger is just as amazing as everyone said; you simply cannot take your eyes off him when he's on screen, and you can't wait for him to reappear when he's off camera. The make-up, the voice, the phrasing, the sheer presence, and the overlying melancholy of knowing that this brilliant man will never be seen on film again in a fully completed performance. It makes him all the more riveting. Ledger alone is reason enough to see it, so do rent it if you don't make it to the theater. And FYI, no coda (thanks Melissa!).

Will I Buy It? I don't know. Will have to discus with the spouse. Personally, I think I need to see it again just to fully appreciate such a fabulous performance by Heath Ledger. But after that, I don't see myself watching this movie over and over. I'll think about it.


In a Nutshell: Very cute, very sweet, quite funny, perfectly cast. Definitely worth seeing.

Quick Plot: The evil queen of an animated fairy tale kingdom decides to get rid of her rival for the throne by transporting her to the real world. How does such a sweet naive girl manage in modern day New York? Remarkably well, as it turns out.

In Detail: This was such a cute movie. It takes classic Disney archetypes and shows how ridiculous they can seem when compared to reality, sometimes with hilarious results. But it also emphasizes why having those archetypes at all can be important. And it definitely shows that Disney has a sense of humor about itself! The scene with the chipmunk trying to tell the Prince what was going on had both of us just dying. BTW, for anyone trying to figure out why the Prince looks familiar but can't place him, he's Scott/Cyclops (Jean's boyfriend with the laser eyes) from X-Men. Yes really! Speaking of which, all of the casting was simply perfection. I don't think they could have done a better job with any of the parts. One extra bit of casting trivia: The receptionist at the law firm, who has to watch Giselle during Patrick Dempsey's meeting, is Jodi Benson. Think you don't know who that is? Of course you do; she's the voice of The Little Mermaid! Anyway, I really did like this movie, more than DH, that's for sure. He liked it okay; I certainly enjoyed it more than he did. Which actually brings me to my primary criticism: it is definitely a girl movie (little girls and big girls). I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just something you should be aware of. Not much in there for boys, young or old. Still, definitely worth seeing if you're a Disney fan. And huge kudos to Alan Menken (and Stephen Schwartz) for doing such amazing work, as always. You'll be humming the music for weeks. And just so everyone who has seen the movie hates me equally: "How do you know that she loves you?" Feel the calypso beat! That song is almost as bad as It's a Small World.

Will I Buy It? Not sure. As I said, not much there for boys, so I'm not sure how much we'd watch it. But do see it!

Addendum: Every once in a while, a rare film comes along that I originally said I would not buy, and I change my mind. This is one of those. The more we watch this movie, the more we fall in love with it. It is now one of our favorites, and even the child likes it. We haven't bought it yet, but I promise you, we will.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

In a Nutshell: Quite a fun way to fill a boring weekend. Not deep, not serious, not boring; good but not great.

Quick Plot: John and Jane Smith have been married for five years (six!), and things have gotten stale. He goes to work at a contracting company, and she is CEO of an IT company; dinner is always at 7. But it's all a lie. They're actually competing contract killers, and things begin to quickly unravel when they are assigned the same mark.

In Detail: Not a lot of detail to give, actually. A totally disposable movie. You enjoy it in the moment, but it is pretty forgettable once the credits roll (no coda, BTW). Fun to see Brangelina before they were a couple (or so they say; the chemistry is unmistakable), though it is a total waste of their talents. That said, everyone should do something fun and frivolous from time to time, be that starring in such a movie, or watching it on DVD. So indulge and enjoy, if you like this kind of movie, and don't feel guilty. It will have evaporated from your consciousness by the next morning.

Will I Buy It? I don't think so. It was fun once, but there are others of this type of silly fun films that I enjoy more.