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.

Meet the Robinsons

In a Nutshell: Disappointing. It was just all over the place. I wanted to like it, really, but I didn't.

Quick Plot: Lewis is an orphan with a passion for inventing, even if most of his contraptions never work right. But when a kid from the future shows up at the science fair, asking about a man in a bowler hat, Lewis's life is changed forever.

In Detail: I really did want to like this movie. Space ships, robots, dinosaurs, what's not to like? We're always on the lookout for new movies for the child, but they have to be movies we don't mind, in terms of both content and (infinite) repeat viewings. This is not a movie I care to see again. Not only did I find it slow and not very funny, I also found the bad guy(s) rather creepy, and I didn't appreciate some of the things I know my child would pick up. I'm actually a little surprised it was rated G. Nothing too objectionable, just lots of inappropriate name calling, IMO, something we are currently working on teaching is NOT appropriate. I know this was the first movie that John Lassiter had his hand in after Disney purchased Pixar. [Note: This is NOT a Pixar movie; it was in development at Disney Animation long before Disney bought Pixar. Lassiter then became Creative Director, with final approval of all animated films being released,
whether coming from Pixar or Disney Animation.] If this is what became of it *after* Lassiter got hold of it (I know he threw out a good chunk of what they had, calling it garbage, and made them rework it), I'm terrified of what it was like before. I just wasn't impressed at all. It wasn't a terrible movie, by any means. I just needed it to be more than it was. More humor, more heart, more fun, more.... something. I don't know what exactly it was missing, but it was missing something. It's just not for us.

Will I Buy It? No.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom

In a Nutshell: An excuse for Jackie Chan and Jet Li to be in a movie together. Awesome fights, not much else. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Quick Plot: In ancient China, the Monkey King is imprisoned by the evil Jade Warlord. In modern day New York, a Kung Fu obsessed American teenager finds his magic staff in a pawn shop, which transports him back in time and sets him on a quest to free the Monkey King, with the help of a drunken master, a silent monk, and a vengeful girl.

In Detail: Nothing unexpected here, so don't expect too much going in. Well, that's not entirely true. It was quite unexpected to learn that Jet Li really can smile and express genuine joy. It was rather amazing to see! And he looks terrible as a blond (but that's not really unexpected, is it? LOL). The plot is pretty silly, though it does lend itself to a few chuckles here and there. No one is watching for the plot, though. You see this movie because it is the first time that Jackie Chan and Jet Li appear in a movie together, and fight each other. In this, the film does not disappoint. I do wish they had managed to find a better showcase, but they give their all to make it amazing, no matter how ridiculous the story is. Legend has it that they've been working for well over 10 years to find the right confluence of studios, scripts, and schedules that would allow them to work together, and given their current ages (Li is 45, Chan is 54), they weren't sure they could wait much longer, so they accepted this opportunity when it presented itself. It will be sad if this is the only film they get to make together, but better to have this one than none at all.

Will I Buy It? Not sure. We'll have to think about it. A good intro to kung fu films, but still not really a kids movie (it is PG-13 for good reason).

Miss Potter

In a Nutshell: A perfectly pleasant little movie. Nothing at all unexpected, but I quite liked it anyway.

Quick Plot: The enchanting life story of author Beatrix Potter.

In Detail: To me, this is one of those movies that is greater than the sum of its parts, and I can't really tell you why (much in the same way that I cannot tell you why Hancock was *less* than the sum of its parts). There is absolutely nothing in the story that was a surprise, to the point that it makes me wonder if it is her story that they used as the pattern for many of Hollywood's similar stories. And yet, I really did enjoy it. The chemistry between Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor was unmistakable, and everyone was clearly enjoying their parts and the costumes and the sets. Just a very sweet and lovely movie. Worth watching, if you like this sort of thing.

Will I Buy It? I'm considering it. I have a few similar movies, so I'm not sure if I need another one. If we were still buying DVDs in the quantities we used to, I'd probably say yes.

Get Smart

In a Nutshell: Lots and lots of smiles, if not a lot of belly laughs. Worth seeing, but I'd suggest renting.

Quick Plot: After years of trying, Maxwell Smart is finally promoted to an agent for CONTROL. With Agent 99 by his side, they work to battle the evil KAOS and save the President of the United States.

In Detail: This movie really was a good bit of fun. Nothing spectacular, and we didn't find ourselves laughing out loud too often (though two particular instances do come to mind), but it was a perfectly fun way to spend a lazy afternoon at the theater. Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway were just a delight. They clearly enjoyed each other and what they were doing, playing off each other effortlessly. I will admit that we are both huge Dwayne Johnson fans, so we were a bit disappointed that he wasn't in the movie more than he was. The gadgets were fun (and many of them are actually real, including the tooth radio), and the homages to the original television show were excellent. We couldn't help but leave the theater with big smiles on our faces; hard to ask for more than that.

Will I Buy It? Unlikely. I'm not sure we'd watch it over and over. But it is certainly worth seeing once.


In a Nutshell: Didn't like it much, but I can't really put my finger on why. Just disappointing.

Quick Plot: Hancock is a depressed drunken "superhero" who earns more ire than good will from those he helps. Then one day, he saves the life of a PR specialist (and derails an entire freight train in the process), who makes it his mission to clean up Hancock's image and change his life for the better.

In Detail: I found this movie quite frustrating. I think it is one of those that tried to be several different things, and ended up doing none of them particularly well. The premise was fine, and I found the developments in the story itself really quite interesting. It was just the execution and support for the core story that seemed to be all over the place. They needed to pick a direction and go there whole-heartedly, but they never fully committed. And only Will Smith made the movie enjoyable in some fashion. He made the character much more complex than it had to be, with many subtle shades and genuine anguish over his situation. In most other actor's hands, you wouldn't have cared for Hancock at all, but Smith makes even this very unlikable creature evoke at least a little sympathy. Too bad that wasn't enough. As I said, I can't really put my finger on exactly what I didn't like, I just didn't care for it. It was, unfortunately, much like what I expected it to be from the initial trailers. This means I must give huge props to the marketing department who managed to release a commercial for the movie that showed it to be more of a "typical Will Smith movie" and got me in the theater against my better judgment. So, kudos to their marketing department for weaseling two extra tickets from us. This will teach me to listen to my instincts from now on.

Will I Buy It? No.