A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Summation of the summer movies

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2009 at 1:08 am

So, since there have been a number of movies this summer that I’ve not written about – and repeatedly mentioned this failing on my part – I have actually been writing mini-reviews on Fandango.com,  as a true movie nerd would.  It also seems that I’m actually going to have to revisit these movies once their on DVD – so I can talk about them with fresh eyes – here are my reviews (limited to 1000 characters each) of some of this summer’s movies, in order of release. I’m also breaking my rules a little, and going to throw in the couple movies I didn’t particularly like, as well as the reviews for the movies that I have already mentioned here.

Click the title to go to each movie’s mini-review:
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
STAR TREK
ANGELS & DEMONS
THE BROTHERS BLOOM
TERMINATOR: SALVATION
UP
DRAG ME TO HELL
THE HANGOVER
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123
MOON
THE PROPOSAL
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
THE HURT LOCKER
PUBLIC ENEMIES
HARRY POTTER & THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE
FUNNY PEOPLE
JULIE & JULIA
GI JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA
DISTRICT 9
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

——————–

:

Jackman is always great, but the movie is disappointing

Since the first X-MEN movie, I along with pretty much every other fan, had hoped to get a movie that focused more on Wolverine, unfortunately I’d like to ask for another one and take this one back. I had high hopes for this movie, its director has a pedigree of some pretty good movies – one was even nominated for an Oscar (for whatever that’s worth) – and with some of the characters that they were wedging in; it seemed like they could have made something really fun.
And it is fun, in a sense. I didn’t hate the movie, really but while laughing at bits (both the parts that were supposed to be funny and quite a few that probably weren’t) I kept just thinking the phrase, “cheesy”. So, not the worst movie ever made, but I’d suggest skipping it and going to see Star Trek, or even something like THE BROTHERS BLOOM or THE HANGOVER.

——————–

:

This is the movie that properly kicks off the Summer movie season

JJ Abrams has given us a STAR TREK that pretty much anyone can enjoy. The movie is fun and action-packed. The performances are all great – with the standout being Karl Urban as “Bones” McCoy, who was my favorite character; which honestly, I was surprised with because Urban was really my main reservation in the casting. Pine and Quinto as Kirk and Spock, respectively, do great jobs. Quinto more accurately portrays the Spock we all know – which is kind of necessary, since the original Spock is in this movie too. Most of the other actors, while not bad, aren’t really left with much to do.
——————–

:

Better than the previous movie, but still not high art.

I’m in the minority on this one, I think. I like the Dan Brown novels – and even the books that aren’t about Langdon, which amazingly also kind of follow the same formula – and I liked THE DA VINCI CODE movie as well. I think that casting Hanks as the main character is a pretty good choice, although I have to wonder if the fact that the book(s) was such a blockbuster, not having a face that we don’t already have a whole career of relating to has hurt this series.
ANGELS & DEMONS is fun, and better than the original movie (which was actually a sequel to the novelization of this movie) but missing are more of the puzzles and mystery that helped to make The Da Vinci Code more interesting and drawing the audience in. There’s also some good usage of casting – can’t really go into it further without spoiling things.

So, it’s definitely not going to ever be a high standard of cinema, but for fun, simple action-suspense movie, this series works.

——————–

:

A great con-man story…

The second film from writer/director Rian Johnson (BRICK) is a fun little story about two brothers, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody), who grow up to become con-men after a childhood of misery and ill-fortune. The mark that they try to take in this particular story is Penelope, played wonderfully by Rachel Weisz (The Fountain and The Constant Gardener), who just happens to be a millionaire heiress who has spent her life in seclusion “collecting hobbies”. She masterfully shows off her skills at playing the piano, violin, accordion, banjo, skateboarding and juggling…chainsaws.

Johnson provides us with a stylized storytelling structure that always keeps us guessing and completely enthralled in what’s happening onscreen. All of the performers – particularly Bang Bang, played by RInko Kikuchi, who only says three words in the entire movie, but steals the show completely – are so engaging that you never know who the bad guy is, but in the end you’re cheering for them all.

——————–

:

Come for the explosions, stay for the other explosions…

There really isn’t much of a story here. It’s a fun movie, and really grabs you pretty much from the opening scene – in the future – and doesn’t let go. But, it didn’t feel like it really needed to be called a Terminator movie, until about the last third part of the movie. And it kicks off with a blasting of Guns-n-Roses.
The effects and action scenes are really great in the movie. My favorite part probably being towards the end of the movie, where a certain someone comes on screen. The effects used to bring this character to the screen really looks great – and I think looked better than Brad Pitt in THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. The cast is not given much to do other than yell at each other, and run and be shot at while shooting.

It’s not the future war movie, that I think most fans would have wanted, from the glimpses we’d seen in the previous movies, it certainly gives you your money’s worth, as long as you’re just paying for the action scenes.

——————–

:

Great film about life, not necessary to see it in 3D though.

This movie is the story of Carl Frederickson’s life. It starts when he is a little boy, and continues through his life in a sweet and touching opening segment – until we get to the point where our adventure starts. The movie is kind of all over the place in how it sticks to, and stretches reality. And really, besides the housing floating on helium balloons and the talking dogs, it’s better when it’s realistic.
I did see the movie in the Real 3D, and I have to say that while it does create some nice depth to the screen in certain moments, there’s not really much to recommend seeing it this way over in a regular theater. And while, I think that this is a great movie, with spectacular animation and in a number of cases almost photo real looking effects – I’d probably recommend other Pixar movies over this one.

——————–

:

Sam Raimi doing his horror thing…

Drag Me To Hell, is a great movie, if you already like the kinds of horror movies that Sam Raimi has made in the past. There’s gross-outs, and over the top action and character abuse. Alison Lohman, who in this movie replaces Bruce Campbell as the hero who is abused and tortured, and kind of deserves everything they get. the story is light and fun and worth seeing, but in the end, it’ll be forever worshipped by the Raimi-hardcore fans, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
——————–

:

Excellent comedy!

Really the characters make this movie. All of our main characters bring the funny, and in more than one occasion create some awkward and disturbing – yet hilarious – moments. Galafianakis is the standout, both having to sport nothing but a jock-strap to carrying around a baby (as shown on the posters). The other two main guys, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms, also do great jobs. The latter, being hilarious as the straight man, who is kind of the outcast of the group (which is saying something considering Galifianakis’ performance).
While not as dark, this movie really reminded me of the mid-90’s movie VERY BAD THINGS, and Cooper is pretty good at sort of stepping into the Christian Slater role in that film. Highly recommended, if you enjoy dark comedies – like the director’s previous movies: OLD SCHOOL and ROAD TRIP.

——————–

:

Closer to the original than expected, but totally it’s own creature.

I have to hand it to Tony Scott; when he’s on, he’s on! And this movie brings it all. It’s not quite as good as the creative team’s (besides Scott, writer Brian Helgeland and actor Denzel Washington) previous effort of MAN ON FIRE; but I’d say it’s defintely better than Scott and Denzel’s DEJA VU. This is a movie that grabs you from the beginning, it earns it’s R-rating – if for nothing else the prolific use of the language!
The weakest part of the movie is the ending, that unlike in the original ends on a fun, yet not action adventure note – does fall into generic action movie and sacrifice cliche. Overall though, this is a solid, grown-up action film that will fit the bill nicely if the more family-oriented movies of the summer are wearing thin. Go see it, but also look up the original for it’s great performances by Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam and Hector Elizondo. (It’s available online for free, via a couple of sites)

——————–

:

An indie sci-fi movie, with some great performances…all from the same guy.

Duncan Jones’ first feature film, is a classic science fiction story. Sam Rockwell’s performance, as Sam Bell, is truly fantastic and worthy of all the praise that he’s received. There’s no way of really commenting on the movie without giving some spoilers; so if you want to know nothing going in, I just say “Go see it!”.
The movie that kept popping up in my head as I watched this was the recent Spanish language film, TIME CRIMES. (Also a must see!) With most of the characters we see on-screen, mostly being Sam Rockwell, playing a number of clones. Each one, though the same person in body, is an individual character in mind. The only other main performance is the robot GERTY, as voiced by Kevin Spacey, who at times had a little too much attitude in his voice, but the smiley faces used to try and emote are fantastic.

This is just one of a number of smaller sci-fi movies that have been come out this decade, and I think that MOON may be one of the best, if not most ambitious.

——————–

:

Not bad, but not really anything special…

Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock have great chemistry and Betty White, as always, is a hoot to watch. The movie itself, is awkward and clumsy. It takes the worst parts from movies like Meet The Parents and whatever awkward romantic comedies, and manages to be funny in bits, but overall doesn’t really add anything to the genre.
It’ll be a fun date movie and has a nice end credit sequence, but other than a few awkward laughs – mostly either provided by Oscar Nunez (The Office), Betty White and the cutest little white dog, not much to say about it, since most of the funniest bits were already shown in the trailer.

——————–

:

So much worse than the first movie, but still fun overall…

Everyone’s going to see this, so I rated it as a “So-so” to express my opinion that it’s not really worth seeing, despite it being such a landmark movie of the summer. It takes all of the middle of the road humor from the first movie (cars urinating on people) and goes low-brow with it. The ridiculous, but “just go with it” story of the original is replaced with “let’s thrown in bits of every great action/SFX movie ever made.” The human characters are fun – especially the parents, again – and the detail in the robots are great. But I really feel that this movie could be made much better just by redubbing a great deal of the dialogue and deleting some of the features from the robots that just seem out of place – both of these mostly apply to the characters known as “The Twins”, who have gold “teeth” and speak in ridiculous slang. But it also applies to things like characters calling each other “master” and “apprentice” or “the Matrix”. We’ve seen that before. I want to see TRANSFORMERS!
——————–

:

A beautiful ode to 30’s gangster movies, by a modern master

Public Enemies does everything right and if HEAT had taken place in the 1930’s, it would probably look a lot like this. Which makes sense, since both movies are by the same storyteller. Michael Mann embellishes every detail, from the clothing to wallpaper and the music, this movie screams “period piece”. The acting is all fantastic – and the movie is loaded with actors whose names you may not know, but faces that you will recognize -especially with the movie’s star Johnny Depp as John Dillinger.

Depp, if he were a supporting character would steal the show. Since the movie is basically his already, he holds our attention, and draws us in and brings to life all the mystique of depression era gangsters. With his cocksure grin, and brazen personality – there a number of times where he blatantly flaunts his presence in front of the very men hunting him. The movie is worth seeing, and a welcome respite from the large explosions and silly ideas for plots.

——————–

:

Final moving of the chess pieces before the big showdown.

The new, Potter movie is fantastically stylish. Unfortunately, it’s also kind of anti-climatic after the ending of the previous film. There’s still the looming threat of Lord Voldemort, and his death-eaters, but the movie spends much more time focussing on the hormones of the teenagers at Hogwarts. In itself, the movie is funny and charming, and the performances are great all around. Especially a scene with Harry Potter, where we actually get to see a bit of range from the usual dour Daniel Radcliffe. The other performance that would have been great, if it wasn’t treated like so much repeated action, that would only probably make sense to someone that’s read the book – is Tom Felton, who has been great as Draco Malfoy. The way the movie’s put together he’s more mopey and whiny than actually conflicted and tortured. Lastly, Jim Broadbent as Prof. Slughorn, was a scene stealer in the film – and even the slight bit, lascivious in his preoccupation with “collecting students”. Worth Seeing!
——————–

:

A charming comedy about two women that love cooking

The newest Nora Ephron film is a wonderful look at two women, both empowered by the men in their lives and the food they create. Amy Adams is Julie Powell, a writer who has failed at completing her novel; so she decides to start a blog centered around her cooking all 500+ recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child and her partners, within a year. Running along with that story-line is Julia Child herself – played marvelously by Meryl Streep – struggling to turn her passion for food into actually doing something with it.

The movie is fun, and whimsical. It drags just a bit in the middle, when both women are discouraged a bit. But, for the most part it’s light and funny and while I’d never thought I’d see them share a screen together; Jane Lynch is great in her few minutes on-screen as Julia’s sister. Stanley Tucci is amazing in the role. But, it’s Streep, who steals the show (as expected), as the larger than life (literally) character of Julia. She’s hilarious.
——————–

:

Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler grow up…a little bit
Funny People contains all the vulgar humor that you’d expect from a Judd Apatow movie, but really this is a grown-up movie about grown-up things, and it also shows us that celebrities are people too. Sandler’s George Simmons has spent his life basically alone. Alienating people with his abrasive personality, appalling people with his obnoxious humor and movies, and then one day everything changes. And that leaves him with a new assistant (Rogen), reconciling with family and ex-love (Leslie Mann). And the movie takes us through all this with “****” jokes and raucous humor, but this isn’t a 40 Year Old Virgin, or even Knocked Up. Apatow, here becomes a filmmaker, as opposed to a sitcom producer. The movie contains laughs that lead to tears and never leaves you with one or the other and by the end, the characters, while not really changed; have matured. And for that, that makes Funny People a must see!

——————–

:

An hilariously bad adaptation of a toy property.

GI Joe is ridiculously cheesy from the opening moments. Starting in the 1600’s, we see a man sentenced to wear a metal mask for the rest of his life, for selling weapons to two sides of a battle. This man is the ancestor of Christopher Eccleston’s weapons dealer – who amazing is attempting about the same thing. This is where the “elite multinational task force” steps in to try and stop him. We are introduced to a flurry of characters, who only the few who resemble their cartoon counter-parts we’ll recognize (Scarlett has red hair, get it?!). The action is big and loud and I have to disagree with people that say this movie is for 8 year olds – it looks like it was made by 8 year olds (with $200 million). That story is cliched, the characters are lame and two dimensional, but the action is fun and loud. If you’ve got an attachment to the old versions, or expect high-quality art, this won’t be the movie for you. The question for the summer has to be which is better this, or Wolverine?

——————–

This is the Summer movies, all the other Summer movies wish they were

District 9 is an amazing first feature, from South African writer/director Neill Blomkamp. The movie is a fantastic piece of science fiction, and puts every other Summer blockbuster to shame. Especially considering the meager $30 million used to make it (as compared to the nearly $200m, of most of the other movies). The main character is sort of a “Michael Scott” from The Office, type of bumbling fool, and two of the aliens turn out to be the most human characters in the film.
The movie revels in it’s R-rating, exploding people, aliens and all manner of other things. There’s shoot-outs and large robots And even though the final moments end on kind of a bittersweet note, the last twenty minutes are filled with dread and the looming fear that the “bad guys” are going to win. That’s not a spoiler, I’m just talking about the mood. There are no good or bad guys, and there isn’t a happy ending. But, there is a story of a greedy man who tries to save himself.

Go see it, right now!

——————–

Tarantino becomes a master filmmaker, instead of chronic “homage” producer.

Inglourious Basterds brings to the screen, everything that Tarantino has been working towards in his 15 year career. I was kind of hesitant about this being his masterpiece, because I thought that Kill Bill was supposed to be that. But, he’s now become a director who has made more than one movie that adds a lot to cinema history – even if he had to change our real history to do so.

All of the actors are fantastic in this movie. Pitt, Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth and Til Schweiger are all fantastic and get at least one moment to shine and create a fun, whole character, but the movie belongs to Christoph Waltz, who as the movie’s “villain” – as much as you can out-villain Hitler, I guess – is menacing and scary and always plotting, with a smile on his face. The opening scene, will show you how treacherous this man is and can be.

Overall, this is a great movie, that will shock you, possibly appall you; but overall it’s going to entertain you and leave you wanting more.

——————–

So the Summer movie season has been big and loud; but it’s been the smaller movies that have shined and given me the kind of experiences I go to the movies for, with a few shining examples (Basterds, for one). Let me know (yes, I’m going there) what you thought of this summer’s cinema fare.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s