Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Director – Michael Bay
Cast – Does it matter? (Shia LaBeouf, Megean Fox, John Turturro)
— follows Transformers
Michael Bay returns to the summer blockbuster circuit with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And it seems Bay finally agreed with critics; his first movie was flawed. So he tried to fix it, by throwing in more action and explosions, cornier dialogue and plot points, more infantile humour, and less plot. And whadya know, this movie has already made more money than God, so to speak. It says something, doesn’t it.
To put it simply, this movie goes for the lowest common denominator in all aspects. As I said, the humour is course and immature, the action is loud and in-your-face, and the dramtic plot points… to call them cliched would be an understatement. Megean Fox exists just for eye-candy, slow motion shots abound. We also get some ridiculous plot points; for instance ex-Agent Simmons (John Turturro) in the later parts of the film calls up the nearest US destroyer and tell them “Oh, you know that secret rail gun thingy you got? Look, I know you don’t know who I am, but fire that off will you? It’d be a great help…” Eye rolling will abound, I assure you.
There’s no point trying to explain the plot. You know it already, we’ve all seen it million times; so much so that it is almost a spoof. Any up-and-coming Mel Brooks-type need just copy the exact script and he could make a brilliant parody of the Bay-action genre.
This movie is formulaic, trite, and mediocre at best; but a hundred million people will love it. It’s loud and obnoxious crap; well produced, well shot crap certainly, but crap nonetheless. If you want brainless action this is the movie for you.
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UNDER RATED MOVIES
Sometimes a movie just doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. There can be many reasons for this. If a movie delves into politics it invariably distances itself from those who don’t agree with the political side being presented. Sometimes a movie is too slow. Sometimes it is released opposite a bigger movie which grabs the headlines, or a director who generally works in an established genre will try something different. Whatever the reason, there are many movies that are good, even great, but are not recognized by the general movie going crowd as such.
Here is a list of my favorite…
“Under Rated Movies”
8. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
I’ll start off with an oft-maligned Bond pic. This is my personal favorite of the pre-Craig Bond movies; now granted I haven’t seen many. However, this is still a great movie. The climax has Bond getting a bit meaner and rougher than we would expect, and it makes a nice turn for the character. The theme song is among the best in the series, and we get a nice dose of Bond double entendre along with the action. Whats not to like?
7. The Thin Red Line (1998)
Due to being released the same year as Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, this other WWII movie didn’t get as much attention. This movie is a bit long, to be sure, but has some excellent sequences. During the best sequence the Americans are attempting to storm a Japanese position, and they must approach it under “cover” of two foot grass. The camera stays at the men’s eye level, making the open grass fields seem just as inclusive and dense as a jungle, and excellently conveys the men’s feelings. It’s a very meditative movie as well, which you don’t see too often.
6. Phone Booth (2002)
This is an extremely tense film about a man forced to stay in a phone booth by a sniper. It has a couple slightly un-realistic points to it, but they are the type that you’ll only think about later, after you’ve watched the movie, and even then they won’t really affect your enjoyment of it. Despite the fact that the whole movie is stuck in and around a phone booth, this movie is a thrill-ride and a half, guaranteed to keep you glued to the screen the entire time. It’s thrilling, it’s exciting, and features (another) amazing acting job by Colin Farrell, who (as in Hart’s War and Tigerland), shows not a hint of his Irish accent.
5. Battle of Britain (1969)
This movie is rarely, if ever, mentioned when it comes to the great WWII movies. This is one of the best, involving great aerial sequences, an all star cast, and intriguing “behind-the-scenes” bits taking place in War Rooms and offices. It is almost a documentary on the “Battle of Britain” part of the war, featuring “whos whys and wheres” of many of the strategic decisions made during the war. It does have a little side plot involving Christopher Plummer and his girlfriend which I think we could have done without, (much like the romantic side plot in The Caine Mutiny). But, it is still an excellent movie.
4. Matchstick Men (2003)
Nicholas Cage, Sam Rockwell, and newcomer Alison Lohman all put in admirable turns in this wonderful con-man film made by none other than Ridley Scott. It is a pensive, schizoid take on the genre, and Nicholas Cage performs wonderfully as the lead phobic con man. It’s a movie that has a quirky heart-beat to it, which is what Nicholas Cage tends to do best. (If only he’d stop making these crappy action movies he’s doing now! Do I hear an “Amen”?!)
3. Lord of War (2005)
Nicholas Cage again appears on this list with Lord of War. It follows his character as he slowly gets more involved in the illegal arms dealing business, at the same time destroying himself and those he loves. It’s a snappy, fast paced movie, heavy stylized in parts. It’s fast, it’s fun, and most of all it’s very smart and emotionally engaging. The slightly political message at the end may rub some the wrong way,but regardless, it is a wonderfully made movie. Definitely recommended.
2. 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)
People tend to disregard this as a vastly inferior sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, putting aside the difference in style, this is a wonderfully engrossing science fiction movie. True science fiction, I may add. It has a solid dose of Cold War era politics mixed in, which actually adds to it I believe. One sequence involving a space walk is flat out one of the best sequences ever in science fiction film. This is a smart movie, grounded in reality; where 2001: A Space Odyssey was ethereal, focusing on the fantastic. Both are great movies on their own terms, and I highly recommend this one.
1. Mosquito Coast (1986)
Peter Weir directed this after Witness, another collaboration with Harrison Ford. It features Ford playing far from his usual roles, a slightly paranoid, obsessive inventor who decides it is for the best for his family to move into the jungles of South America and start their life fresh. He is a rigid anti-conformist, and flat out rejects most ideas other than his own. We see this man through the eyes of his son, played by River Phoenix, as his father descends deeper and deeper into an obsession with living off the land, free of civilization. This is one of my favorite movies, and should definitely have greater recognition.
Any more movies you think should be on this list? Do you disagree with any movies already on there? Please feel free to comment!
Director – Richard Attenborough
Cast – Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger, Joseph Mazzello, Edward Hardwicke
Shadowlands follows C. S. “Jack” Lewis (the author of, among other things, the Narnia series) and his relationship with Joy Gresham, an American fan and later, his wife. It is a rare romantic drama where both figures are in at least middle age, and where romantic love is treated in a mature and deliberate way. Their actions are thought about, discussed, and deliberated. Richard Attenborough, who directed this, (and one of the greatest World War II movies, A Bridge Too Far) has a wonderful directing style. He presents us with a series of events and characters and lets them influence us, instead of taking some events and jazzing them up and shoving them in our face. The result is a real, thoughtful, moving experience, instead of fake manipulation.
Anthony Hopkins as C. S. Lewis is, in some ways, a strange choice. He doesn’t look alot like him, except perhaps when he wears the glasses. But he performs well, presenting us with a man who pretends to be sure of everything, but really has many doubts. Debra Winger plays the American woman with whom C. S. Lewis falls in love, and shows us a brash, confident woman (apparently an extension of her own personality.) The son is played well by Joseph Mazzelo, and C. S. Lewis’ brother, Warner, is played by the criminally under-rated Edward Hardwicke (some may know him as the second actor to play Watson to Jeremy Brett’s Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes series.)
This is an emotional movie, but in a restrained way, and that will turn some people off I think. However, I found its sense of restraint to be the best thing about the movie. It’s beautiful in a realistic way, not the bloated “romanticism” of most Hollywood movies. I believe the best way to describe it is that this is a very English movie. Stiff upper lip, restrained, yet sweetly endearing underneath. I found it to be wonderful, but viewers used to more simmering romance or a quicker pace may not enjoy it as much. It is unfortunately, their loss.
This is a good movie, if a bit drawn out. It offers thoughts about the nature of love and loss, and should be enjoyed by anyone with a bit of patience. Another good, solid movie from frequent collaborators Richard Attenborough and Anthony Hopkins (A Bridge Too Far, Magic, Shadowlands, Young Winston, and Chaplin.) Recommended.
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Director – Chris Wedge and Carlos Sandanha
Cast – Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Drew Carrey, Jim Broadbent, Amanda Bynes
Robots is the newest animated offering from 20th Century Fox, who also gave us the Ice Age series. It concerns a young robot called Rodney Copperbottom, a young inventor who has dreams outside of his station. He discovers that his idol, inventor Mr. Bigweld, is being replaced at Bigweld Industries, and his successor, Ratchet, is an evil son-of-a-gun (with a doubly evil mother pulling the strings to boot. And to top it all off she’s voiced by… Jim Broadbent?) Rodney journeys to the city to make his fortune and makes many friends along the way, who eventually fight against Ratchet and his gleaming robot army.
The problem with this movie is… well, just read the tagline: “You can shine no matter what you’re made of.” You can see the formula coming a mile away, can’t you. The whole story is filled with pat sayings and condescending emotional messages that were old when Disney decided to make his living off of them. Rodney’s journey from robot-adolescence into robot- adulthood has been seen a million times and would be embarrassing on kids TV; we don’t need to see that kind of stuff at the theaters, we really don’t. We’ve seen it too much already.
Thankfully, the same thing can’t be said about the animation and the “sets”. The movie is absolutely beautiful visually, the colours are vibrant when they need to be, and perfectly moody when that is called for. The world the robots live in is supremely imaginative; Rude Goldberg-like devices abound as transportation, and the action is staged quite well.
There is alot of inventiveness in this movie, just in the wrong proportions, and in the wrong places. It’s as if they spent the minimum time on scripts possible, and then spent the remaining time on animation. The movie is certainly a good try, but it doesn’t quite get to where it wants to go.
If you’re a kid you will probably enjoy it. There’s enough fart jokes to keep kids laughing nonstop, but the adults may leave feeling they wanted something a bit more. Pixar it ain’t.
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28 Weeks Later REVIEW
Director – Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Cast – Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Renner, Catherine McCormack, Rose Byrne
– follows 28 Days Later
28 Weeks Later follows a group of people trying to survive in the aftermath and resurgence of the “Rage Virus” outbreak, a virus which turns people into raving lunatic zombies. This movie differs from most “zombie” movies in that it deals with the aftermath of a virus outbreak, and showcases the army shutting down the area, the cleaning up process etc. This gives a wonderfully fresh take on the genre, and it keeps us interested the whole way through because we haven’t seen it before, as compared to the former in the series, 28 Days Later, which, while certainly being a new take, was still the typical zombie movie.
To be frank, I loved this movie. And the second reason (the first being its uniqueness) is that while it is still a “zombie” movie, it actually has some intense drama. Theres a scene in the beginning where a married man and his wife are escaping from zombies, and the man has to run and leave his wife behind when she is taken. We actually feel what it must be like to have to do that, and it hurts! We feel what the characters feel, and it brings credibility to the movie.
Another great thing is the widening of the scope of the movie, when compared to the first one. This one shows London after it has been ravaged by the virus, we see the American Army coming in to help in the re-construction of Britain, and we follow many more people. It is also more mature and we explore more emotions. Whereas the first movie was mainly interested in fear, this one deals with sadness as well. It’s a very well rounded out movie.
The cast should be mentioned as well. While they are for the most part not “names” thy definitely manage to hold their own. In fact we believe them even more due to the fact that we have not seen them before. Robert Carlyle, an actor apparently known for his method acting style, plays one of the central characters of the movie, and brings a flawed everyman sensibility to the role. Jeremy Renner, who plays an American soldier, is an actor that I believe we will see great things of, in fact he is starring in the upcoming The Hurt Locker. Also of note is the appearance of Harold Perrineau, who plays “Link” in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
This a good movie, regardless of genre. It is ambitious, emotionally complex, exhilarating, unique, and mature in its outlook. I would recommend this to absolutely anyone, providing they can stomach it.
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28 Days later REVIEW
Director – Danny Boyle
Cast – Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Christopher Eccleston, Naomie Harris
— follows 28 Weeks Later
28 Days Later starts off with an ecological Greenpeace type group raiding an animal lab. They smash open cages containing monkeys, disregarding the scientists pleas and warnings that they must be caged. “They are infected!” they keep on shouting. “Infected with what?” one activist finally asks. “Rage!” is the answer. At which point the monkeys break out of the cages going berserk, biting left right and center. It’s a scene that starts off well, and ends with a bit of a “…what? Infected with …rage?” And that is a great explanation of the movie. It starts well, does some great things, but the climax is a bit … out of left field I would say. Not enough to ruin the movie, by any means, but it’s there nonetheless…
I must admit to not being a fan of zombie movies, or horror flicks in general. I have not watched that many, nor do I really have that much of a desire to. In fact, the only real reason I picked up this one was because Danny Boyle had directed it, and I wanted to see some of his movies, never having seen any of his before. And I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by and large. He has made a movie here that works on many levels, horror, action, and certainly a drama. We relate to the characters, and we desperately want them to survive the “Rage Virus” which turns people into zombie-like creatures intent for blood that is the centerpiece of the move.
Cillian Murphy as the lead character is haggard and lean. This was his biggest movie yet, and the one that brought him to the attention to most people. He plays with a naturalism that admirably suits the movie. Brendan Gleeson is greatly suited to his role, and so are the rest of the cast for the most part.
Danny Boyle shot the movie in DV and in mainly natural light; he was going for a natural feel. For the most part that effect is achieved. However, once in a while he goes nuts with weird angle shots that in some ways ruin that feel. Some of the plot points, and the climax of the movie also are a tad “out-there”, which sends the natural feel spiraling out of the window. However, the rest of it is so good that it holds up better than I thought it would.
28 Days Later is a pretty good movie, and certainly is a new look at the “zombie” genre. Recommended to anyone with a stomach for such movies.
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Children of Men REVIEW
Director – Alfonso Cuaron
Cast – Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clare-Hope Ashitey
Theo, an apathetic everyman (played by Clive Owen) must escort the only known pregnant girl to freedom in the marvelous Children of Men. The film is set in the near future, in a dystopian England. (Aren’t all the best ones set there and then? 1984, etc.) The film delves into politics now and then, but not (as others seem to think) in a heavy handed way. Instead of dwelling on the politics, they are presented as a backdrop against which an every day man must fight to survive.
One of the most striking things about Children of Men is the colour pallette. It is seeped in greys, blacks, and grimy greens. It is the epitome of the dystopian vision, but instead of being merely a copy cat of the typical dystopian film, it elevates the material into the best of the genre. One of the reasons it does this is the editing and camera movment. Most of the movie is shot in long single takes that remind the viewer of a documentary style. This brings greater impact to the sets and tone (mise-en-scene), and also brings a great sense of realism to the action scenes, which are staged marvelously.
For example there is one scene where the camera stays in one cut for 7 and a half minutes straight, and during a raging urban battle no less! Now some of these scenes were helped by CG, but the impact is not in the fact that they were or were not filmed in one take, but the impact we see as we view it. And then what happens at the end of that particular scene is absolutely heart breaking, and is probably my favorite moment ever on film. It involves soldiers, and a baby crying, and is sheer beauty.
The acting is wonderfully naturalistic. Clive Owen reminds us of a grimy Cary Grant, and holds our attention thoroughly. Michael Caine plays a John Lennon-like hippy character, in a nice break from his butler/English gentleman roles. Juliane Moore may be the only weak link in the movie, but that may come down to my personal bias against her. I’ve never found her to be that natural or interesting on screen, but that is just my own personal view. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Pam Ferris do wonderful jobs as well in their supporting roles.
This is one of my top five favorite films. It’s extremely original, it’s very thoughtful, has a great visual sense, and characters about whom we actually care. In my opinion, this is one of the best movies ever made.
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Good Night, and Good Luck. REVIEW
Director – George Clooney
Cast – David Strathairn, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson
Good Night, and Good Luck follows journalist Edward R. Murrow in his famous fight against McCarthy and his anti-Communist witch hunt. It is a movie about journalism and the responsibility journalists have towards thir viewers. Superstar George Clooney directs, writes, and costars in the movie, reportedly only recieving $3.00 up front, and a percentage of the profits. He does an admirable job, and has created a subdued, tense drama which actually is about something; and it actually treats its subject matter in a mature way, without resorting to over the top emotional manipulation.
The black and white cinematography is wonderful, most of the shots could be framed and hung up on the wall, it’s that beautiful. The lead actor, David Strathairn does a wonderful job recreating Edward R. Murrow. He comes across as intelligent and as a man full of convictions. George Clooney does a decent job as well. There are a few other big names sprinkled around the cast as well; Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Daniels do well.
The creativity with which George Clooney approaches this story is astounding. A wonderful sense of straight-faced humor is maintained throughout, with many characters exchanging barbs and verbal slight-of-hand that brings a great sense of liveliness to the whole thing. I can see a few people having problems with the slow-ish pace and un-rousing climax, but I believe they fitted the tone and message of the movie wonderfully. This is a movie that we in the media crazed “Western world” need to see. And thank God we have a man in George Clooney with the clout to make these kinds of movies.
Good Night, and Good Luck is a wonderful movie. It’s slow pace may put some off, but they would be missing a gem of a movie if they skipped over this. Highly recommended.
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Finding Neverland REVIEW
Director – Marc Forster
Cast – Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman, Freddie Highmore
Finding Neverland follows J. M. Barrie ( played by Johnny Depp), the author of Peter Pan, in his relationship with a fatherless family of boys, which gives him the inspiration to write his most famous work. Now if the events and conflicts in the movie had actually happened, the movie would have a bit more credibility. Now I am not a stickler for historical accuracy in moves, but this movie really takes liberities. It removes characters, adds conflicts where there were none, and generally does what it wants just to add emotional punch (and at times, rather contrived emotional punch at that).
However, if you were to look at the movie as just that, a movie, without delving into the historical background, it will not in the most part dissapoint. Johnny Depp is great (as always) and he definitely creates a distinct character. Dustin Hoffman plays the role of Barrie’s producer with calmness and proffesionalism, also creating a distinct character. The standout performance however, belongs to Freddie Highmore. In his breakout performance he is responsible for most of the dramatic wieght in the story; and it is an amazing performance, doubly so because of his young age. He went on to star (recommended by Depp) in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has since starred in many movies (of varying quality, to be sure), and has made quite a name for himself.
The movie has many good parts and a few bad parts. The biggest problem is the rather heavy- handed treatment of the emotional points, and an unbelievable character transformation near the end of the movie rubbed me the wrong way. However, the performances are excellent, and the movie has a fair degree of charm and magic. One sequence has Barrie and his wife going to bed in seperate rooms; she goes into her room and shuts the door, but when Barrie opens his door we see a brief glance of (as he sees it) a fairytale world of green valleys and misty forests. It is a surprisingly touching scene.
Finding Neverland is a decent movie; magical at times, a tad manipulative at others. It’s worth a watch for the performances and charm. A good all-round family movie.
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Director- Joel Schumacher
Cast- Colin Farrell, Mathew Davis, Shea Whigham, Cole Hauser
Coincidentally, Tigerland is the second war movie review in a row I have reviewd that features Colin Farrell and Cole Hauser. The other one being Hart’s War, this is by far the better movie. Joel Schumacher has a strange track record, having directed crap like Batman Forever, Batman and Robin, and The Number 23; decent movies like A Time To Kill and The Phantom of the Opera; and then quite good ones like Phone Booth and Tigerland. He’s a strange director in that way. I guess he’s only as good as his material.
It is perhaps a tad misleading to call this a “war movie”, since the movie just follows the characters through training, and ends as they are being shipped off. However, the movie is about the relationships between the men themselves, and as such does not need any actual combat to up the tension.
This movie follows a young soldier, Roland Buzz (played by Colin Farrell, in his star making role), who has a perpetual chip on his shoulder, and an attitude towards war that certainly doesn’t endear him to his superiors. He also knows the Army rules and regulations inside and out, and is able to exploit loopholes to send men home if he feels they should. Predictably this makes him an enemy or two.
Now this is obviously quite a low budget affair; Saving Private Ryan it ain’t. And thank God for it too. Where Saving Private Ryan is big loud, and emotionally manipulative, Tigerland is quiet, low key, and in some places has a wickedly dark sense of humour (mainly relayed through the character of Roland Bozz). On that topic, Colin Farrell does an amazing job with the character, which so easily could have gone over the top. He plays it wonderfully, and without a hint of his Irish accent.
This is one of my favorite war-related movies, pure and simple. Colin Farrel takes the material and really elevates it higher than it would have been with most other actors. It is a tight movie, well acted and paced, and intense all the way through. Defintely recommended to anyone.
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