Man On Fire REVIEW
Director – Tony Scott
Cast – Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Mark Anthony, Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke
Man on Fire, a remake of 1987’s Scott Glen vehicle of the same name, stars Denzel Washington as the titular pissed off guy, John Creasy. This is an angry, pent up movie; it builds up and up until about two thrids way through, when it explodes into a fury of explosions, gun fire and revenge killings. Dakota Fanning (one of the best actresss around, let alone child actors) plays the young girl, Pita, whom Creasy is hired to protect. She is kidnapped, and he finds himself forced to confront his demons and go after her, dealing with corrupt cops and druggies the whole way, until he must find the head of the Mexico City crime ring himself.
The movie is very good when it is good, but tends to bog down a bit when it vears off track to sideplots of Creasy’s life. Both Denzel and Dakota put in amazing performances here, among the best they have either done. Their chemistry is pitch perfect as well. One scene in particular (where Pita “accuses” Creasy of smiling and they then see who can keep a straight face the longest) was totally improvised, and is extremely touching.
The violence in the movie is extremely visceral, and in a lesser movie it would overwhelm the dramatic elements of the storyline. However Tony Scott (despite what other faults his movies may be said to have) is always pretty good at keeping the story up front; and this is no exeption. The violence adds to Creasy’s motive, and portrays his emotional state. There are also some very quotanle lines in here; Chrisopher Walken has a great line when talking about his friend Creasy: “A man can be an artist… in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasey’s art is death. He’s about to paint his masterpiece.”
A fine collection of stars appear here; Dakota Fanning, Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke, and Marc Anthony are all very good. Despite how it seems to have been marketed, it is quite a character driven movie.
This is quite a good revenge flick; it is more character driven than normal and even though Tony Scott’s streaky editing style is used all throughout it it does not overwhelm the story. It may be a bit long but it keeps you interested if you are willing to put in the time to watch it. Recommended, but not for uneasy stomachs.
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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End REVIEW
Director – Gore Vebrinski
Cast – Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Nighy, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Tom Hollander
The final installment of the Pirates franchise comes to us with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World`s End. This one was shot at the same time as Dead Man`s Chest, in the same way the LOTR Trilogy was shot. The Pirates franchise certainly got darker with Dead Man`s Chest, and this certainly continues the trend, although there are more jokes here. Unfortunately the trend of making the movies longer is also present, and this one is just too long. The plot does move fairly quickly, but theres so much of it that it just tires you out to watch.
However, there are some brilliant performances from Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy, Kiera Knightley, and Tom Hollander; there are some wonderful fight sequences; and the story that blends adventure, politics, and drama (despite being a tad too long). Bill Nighy (and the special effects house Industrial Light and Magic) as Davy Jones gives us one of the best villians ever, and Tom Hollander as the trading comapny chairman who holds his leash is subtley creepy, and has an awesome death sequence. In the end it really is the characters that this movie from being plain boring.
This movie also takes a bit more license with things like the laws of physics. Now I know these kind of movies don’t exactly use documentary realism, but some scenes break a couple more rules than we are used to in the series. It doesn’t ruin the experience, in fact if you get into it the right way it adds to the high flying adventure of the movie. But nonetheless it is there.
A word about the tone of this movie. For being aimed at the family dempgraphic, it sure is dark. The opening features a whole row of pirates from age 6 to 60 being hung, a couple more risque jokes, and people dying and being decapitated left right and centre. To call it dark is an understatement. The younger ones would want to stay away.
At World’s End is very good, but theres too much of it. The amount of material covered in this movie could have made two movies easily. Watch it if you can sit that long, and keep your younger kids away.
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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dad Man’s Chest REVIEW
Director – Gore Vebrenski
Cast – Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander
— followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
The under-rated Pirates of the Caribbean franchise returns for a sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. All the major stars are back, but they’ve picked up Bill Bighy, who stars as Davy Jones, the new villain. He is brought to life through a process similar to the creation of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series, and is a great CGI creation , rivaling Gollum’s game-changing self.
The story is a wonderfully tangled web of back stabbing and plot points; however we are always fairly sure of whats going on, despite the claims of some reviewers. I must admit to feeling a bit confused when other reviewers claim the plot is too convoluted, and yet then turn around and blast and ridicule the rather simple plots of, say, Transformers 2. Here we have a smart, fast moving, and impressive plot; let’s enjoy it folks. As I’ve said before, I’m getting a bit sick of plot lines that can be summed up in one sentence, and love it when I get a good story to keep me interested.
This movie is, granted, less focused on laughs and more on action and story. However the action is endlessly inventive, and provides one memorable sequence after another. The story, as I said, keeps us interested. However, a couple times we get a little jump ahead in the storyline that is a bit confusing, almost like they left out a segemnt. We are told what has happened in these bits, to be sure, yet it feels odd a couple times.
Just a note about the acting: it is great all around, especially Depp, Knightley, and Nighy. The only problem is, again, Orlando Bloom. He can’t act his way out of a paper bag, although he is getting marginally better. He still goes with the puppy dog eyes and wriggles his eyebrows whenever trying to portray emotion. It’s almost funny at times.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is an above average adventure film, though not quite as good as its predecessor. Enjoy it for the story, action, and wit. Keep in mind though, it is a bit dark for the younger kids; preteens and up is what they’re going for I believe.
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MOVIE RELATED WEBSITES
The internet is for more than porn, as is proven by this fine selection of movie related sites. I toyed with the idea of just presenting one in each segment, but so many sites offer such a variety of… stuff. Hopefully you haven’t heard of some of these (though most of them are fairly popular) and will enjoy them as I do.
Putting IMDB on this list is a bit of a no brainer. Whenever a fact is in dispute (no, Keanu Reeves wasn’t in Speed 2), whether you want to find out when Ian McKellan and Robert Downey Jr. have worked together (Restoration and Richard III), or just seeing what movies Christopher Walken has acted in (every movie he is offered), IMDB is the best place to go. With detailed information on (as far as I know) every movie, TV show, and video game ever made, you can’t go wrong. Just avoid the forums; they’re full of trolls, obnoxious know-it-all nerds, and just plain pricks.
One of the best things about Cinematical is the frequency of its updates (it is updated with a new post at least 4 or 5 times a day) and the variety of topics it addresses. The topics are presented in an entertaining yet logical way, and the number of posters ensures that many differing opinions are presented. They are also very quick on the ball when it comes to news. An entertaining yet very informative website.
Coming Soon offers a mainly news based approach. They are often the first site with news of upcoming movies or new developments (that I’m aware of). It also feature many interviews, behind the sets visits, and the occasional poll. They also are updated a couple times a day.
Total Film takes a more fun filled approach to movies and the movie news. They have many features, but one of my favorites of theirs is a “Showdown List” (where the greatest sword, villian, fight, etc.) is decided. They also have many “Best of…” lists with topics and answers not usually seen on these types of sites.
Movie Review Sites
Most of the reviews from the long running TV series At the Movies are available in video format on their website. Rober Ebert and Gene Siskel originated the show, and their reviews are without a doubt the cream of the crop. However, Ebert and Roeper are certainly not bad. As for the “Ben’s” (Lyons and Mankiewicz)… well, Ben Mankiewicz isn’t too bad, and they’re being replaced soon anyway, with Michael Phillips and A. O. Scott. Thumbs Up for that! (Get it? Get it?)
Daily Film Dose is run by Toronto based Allan Bacchus. It features a new film review every single day, from rare foriegn films, to B&W classics, to modern blockbusters. His reviews are written with clarity and are very persuading, even when the reader may have an opposite view point. Very often he disagrees with the majority of critics, which is refreshing.
The big man himself! RogerEbert’s Blog is a great place for educated opinions and thoughful reviews. There is no doubt Roger Ebert knows what he is talking about. He also publishes opinion on other topics, and has been doing so more and more often (now that his health is not what it used to be). His writing is informative and entertaining in a unique way. Catch this site for some excellent movie related writing.
The grand-daddy of ’em all. Rotten Tomatoes compiles reviews from major reviewers to show us what reviewers tend to think about movies. We can actually read all the reviews there as well. Rotten Tomatoes now has its own show, and it popularity is so great that it is now being quoted on DVD covers, etc.
Different opinions? What sites do you tend to visit the most? Which ones do you hate? Feel free to comment below!
Bruce Almighty REVIEW
Director – Tom Shadyac
Cast – Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carrell
Jim Carrey is one of the funniest, wackiest, and uniquely crazy comedians we have. He constantly surprises us with his comic timing and great physical humor. And yet he gets stuck in movies like Bruce Almighty. It’s depressing really.
It is even more depressing when the movie has such potential. The plot, of a bitter complainer who gets saddled with all the powers (and responsibilities) of God Himself, is both rich in possible comedic satire and perfect for Jim Carrey’s bizarre and quirky comedic sensibilities. Yet what we get is an alleged comedy with all the weighty plot points and subtlety of a Billy Graham sermon. Dramatic plot points are over used and full of cliche, and most of the jokes not created by or involving Jim Carrey (or Steve Carrell, who has a minor role and is almost as good as Jim) fall flat. Jennifer Aniston is over used, and her character is just flat out not interesting.
It is rare that Jim Carrey finds a good movie that is well suited to his talents. The Truman Show, for one, is a good example of a dramtic script that worked for him. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is the only good comedic movie of his that I have seen, and that one was perfectly formed for his brand of humor. This movie ignores what Jim is capable of, and that is what ultimately does it in. It goes for the sappy, the syrupy, the overused, the plain and downright awful.
Now having said that some sequences do work. They are usually despite the script though and not because of it. Jim Carrey’s facial expressions and body language make jokes work that might not have otherwise. He is the only reason I could see to watch this movie. Morgan Freeman makes an appearance and granted he is good, but he brings nothing special to the role other than his normal, “good ol’ mentor” schtick which he has been doing since time immemorial. A different actor as God would have been interesting. Someone who could have matched Jim Carrey’s whackiness. John Cleese would have been nice…
This movie relies far too heavily on cliche and overused dramatic plot points. There are a couple funny moments scattered in there (mainly from Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell), however, as it is a comedy, it tries to go for sincerity and preaches far too much to recommend.
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District 9 REVIEW
Director – Neill Blomkamp
Cast – Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Vanessa Haywood
If most movies did the amount of things wrong that District 9 does, it would quite simply be a bad movie. The level of mistakes is incredibly high in such a critically-acclaimed movie. However, what saves the movie is the amount of things it does right; and not only does right but does amazingly well and in a new and unique way. We have not seen a science fiction film recently (or a movie in any genre really) that does so many original things. District 9 combines the energy of Terminator 2: Judgement Day with the social and political awareness of Children of Men, mixed in with the story telling style of Death of a President. This does give us a very unique feeling movie; however it is a double edged sword, as we sometimes feel unsure as to what the movie is going for.
First I will touch on what the movie does right. 1. The acting is really what stands out. The lead actor, Sharlto Copley (playing Wikus van der Merwe), deserves at the very least an Oscar nomination. He creates one of the most fully rounded characters we have seen on film, and does it with the ease and grace of a practiced professional, despite the fact that this is his first acting role. 2. The sheer ideas behind the movie are it’s cornerstone. The idea of aliens landing, helpless and belittled, on Earth, and being herded into concentration camps feels real, credible, and eerily possible. After all, we as humans have been doing that to each other for centuries, hell, millennium. So what would stop us from doing it to these “creatures”? Fear, perhaps. But when the creatures are clearly either defenseless or unwilling to fight back…? Such issues are not so much addressed, as presented. And personally I liked that it didn’t give us any answers or gave us a side to pick. It presented the issues, and did not shove an answer to them in our faces. 3. The movie is almost presented as a documentary, we see several clips scattered throughout the movie with people talking to the camera about what is happening or what will happen soon. This adds a great sense of reality to the movie, and lends credibility. It was a smart idea, I can’t say I can think of another movie which does it.
And now unfortuantely, on to the bad. The alien who features as a main character has many dialogue scenes (in alien-language) with his son. This dialogue is awful, it’s trite, condescending to the audience, and painfully expositional. The first scene in which we see him is the worst, it’s George Lucas level writing. It needs to be seen to be believed. The aliens themselves tend to look a bit “CGI’ed” in close ups, but other than that the visual effects are absolutely top notch (amazing for such a comparitive small budget film of $30 million). But the worst thing is the meandering plot line; one bit involving a drug lord seems tacked on, and the method used to wrap up the plot and give us a climax is similarly contrived. In fact at times its seems the movie doesnt know where its going. However to give it credit it does wrap up extremely well.
One more thing which irked me was the lack of explanation in certain areas. A key plot point involves Wikus’ ability (due to a mutating hand) to use alien weapons. However, he also seems able to use and fully understand how to fly alien spaceships and alien walker machines. An explanation is never mentioned, and I wish there were. But the overall quality and inventiveness of the movie essentially lets you forget details such as this.
This movie is extremely rich in ideas and inovation. However while making leaps and bounds over current movie conventions it forgets some basics such as a flowing plot line, and forgets to give us some fairly basic details. But these do not affect the enjoyment of the movie to any great point, and we are delivered a solid science fiction movie here that will attract may fans I’m sure. When the only other sci-fi movies this summer are Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen and GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra, go see this one.
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Terminator 2: Judgment Day REVIEW
Director – James Cameron
Cast – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eddie Furlong, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick
— follows The Terminator
— followed by Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (or T2) is one of the illustrious group of sequels which are better than the original. I watched the original, The Terminator, a while back and was, I must admit, a bit underwhelmed. The story was a little suspect and the romance scenes between Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn were absolutely awful. However, this movie amps it all up with a much better, tighter script, much better special effects, and better acting. Casting Arnold against type as the hero was a great move, and Robert Patrick, while not seeming so at first glance, is a ridiculously intimidating villian. Everything comes together here.
The tone of the movie is both dark and comedic, alternating between both quickly and easily. The music is a tad “80’s”, but it only intrudes if you focus on it (which means, I guess, that it doesn’t really intrude). But the special effects are the most integral part of the movie, and they still hold up now. However, while the special effects are very important to the movie, they never overpower the story or the characters. Eddie Furlong (who would later do an amazing job in the awful American History X) stars as a young John Connor, Arnold Schwarzenagger is a Terminator sent to protect him, Linda Hamilton is John’s mom, and Robert Patrick is a shape-shifting Terminator programmed to kill John. They all do their jobs well, although Linda Hamilton tends to ham it up a bit.
The only real problem with the movie I had was a plot point which occured later in the film, with Linda Hamilton’s character. I won’t ruin any exact details, but it felt manipulative, and just tacked on to draw the film out a bit.
There’s not too much to say about this movie. It’s a well made action movie with good characterization and a good story, plain and simple. Watch and enjoy.
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Richard III REVIEW
Director – Richard Loncraine
Cast – Sir Ian McKellan, Annette Benning, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristen Scott Thomas, Maggie West, Dominic West, Edward Hardwicke
Shakespeare is old, one of the oldest playwrights to still be performed fairly regularly. His work has been done over and over again, and been done in many different ways. How then to keep it interesting? The only option really is to keep trying new things. And this movie does that with relish.
Transplanting Shakespeare to the 30’s isn’t done too often, and it works here wonderfully. The period works wonderfully towards the theme of the play. After all, the 30’s were one of the most flamboyant and manipulative decades ever, and Richard III is all about intrigue and back stabbing in style. The jazz music played as the soundtrack adds perfectly to the mood, and Ian McKellen is well… Ian McKellen. He plays the role of Richard absolutely brilliantly. In fact, when compared to the other most famous Richard III, Laurence Olivier, even the great Sir Larry (im my opinion) can’t hold a candle to Sir Ian.
While I’m on the point of the cast, I should mention the supporting cast, most of whom are very good. Maggie Smith appears as Richard’s mother. She hates her son, and makes no attempt to hide it. Maggie was a perfect choice to play such a venomous woman. Many other British actors appear, such as John Hardwicke (the second Dr. Watson opposite Jeremy Brett in BBC’s “Sherlock Holmes” series), and Nigel Hawthorne (most famous for his role as Sir Humphrey Appleby in “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister“). Both of these actors “bring their A-game”, and are wonderful to watch.
The only actors who were not so good were, surprisingly, Robert Downey Jr. and Annette Benning. Both tended to go a bit overboard dramatically when they spoke, although Robert Downey’s body language is superb. One sequence in particular, where we are introduced to him, is particularly good. He is a tad drunk, and knows very little of royal conventions. It’s a pity he didn’t reign in his vocal performance as well.
One final word about the last scene. The final two or three shots are almost masterpieces, but the buildup to them is not so great. It’s as if the whole finale is a bit rushed. This is unfortunate, but does not in the end ruin the movie.
If you love Shakespeare and don’t mind a movie that plays a bit loose with the original script, you will love this. Even if you don’t like the Bard I would suggest you give this a try. It is a fun, dark, and energetically atmospheric movie. Highly recommended.
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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire REVIEW
Director – Mike Newell
Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Miranda Richardson, Robert Pattinson
— follows Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
— followed by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter soldiers on in the fourth installment of the frachise. This one continues the darker tone of the third movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but still has more action than the following movies. That certainly keeps the movie interesting, but keeps the characterization down a touch. The ending is a set up for the even more emotionally dark follow ups, with a death of a fairly major character. So, while a couple things at the end aren’t explained, it’s definitely better than the first two movies, and almost as good as the third.
The plot concerns an interschool tournament which Hogwarts hosts. Harry’s name, along with Cedric Diggory’s (played extremely well by a pre-Twilight Robert Pattinson) is presented as a contender by the titular “Goblet of Fire”, despite the fact only one contestant per school is allowed, and Harry is under age anyway. Harry must then fight his way through numerous trials, and by the end he has to force down “You-Know-Who” (Lord Voldermort, the series bad guy) himself. Ralph Fiennes plays the Dark Lord, and is wonderfully creepy. He keeps to the movie traditions of the movie villian, but yet still manages to branch out a bit and put his own stamp on it.
The supporting actors (almost all established British acting royalty) are all excellent in their parts. The main three are really growing into their characters, and into fine actors, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint especially. Emma Watson still has a bit of the “Orlando Bloom Syndrome” (standing there looking sexy, and then trying some screwed up thing with her eyebrows when trying to show emotion) but she’s getting better certainly. Brendan Gleeson and Miranda Richardson deserve extra mention however. He plays the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher who may have more about him than he lets on. She plays a manic wizard tabloid reporter who doesn’t mind manipulating the news to suit her angle. Both roles are crazy and fun, and I only hope they both get more to do in the upcoming movies.
The special effects are good, but not fantastic, except for a scene involving dragons. Harry must steal an egg from one of them as one of the trials, and the scene is quite thrilling. But one scene features him swimming underwater and encountering some mer-people type creatures. They look very “CGI’ed”. It doesn’t affect the story too much however, as the focus of the movie is on the characters not on the special effects.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a very good entry into this increasingly solid franchise. The focus remains on the characters despite some solid CGI scenes, and the story moves at quite a nice pace. If the remaining movies keep this level of quality, we’re in for quite a good series.
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Interview With the Vampire REVIEW
Director – Neil Jordan
Cast – Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater, Stephen Rae
Ann Rice’s best selling book comes to the big screen with Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. Controversy surrounded this movie, from Ann Rice herself denouncing the casting of Tom Cruise, then coming around after actually seeing the movie; to Oprah Winfrey blasting the film for it’s blood and gore (she left after only a few minutes.) And this is certainly a movie that would attract controversy, it features many gruesome scenes involving neck biting, and has a young girl (a vampire, so technically not young) in some fairly disturbing scenes. Yet despite that it managed to win me over.
Which is not to say that this movie does not contain some bad things. This was early in his career so Brad Pitt is well, awful. He does some of the worst acting I’ve seen outside of a Star Wars movie. Antonio Banderas isn’t that great either. The middle of the movie tends to get a bit muddled; and at some points, the movie gets a bit too melodramatic for its own good. However…
Having said all that, the tone and atmosphere in this movie is pitch perfect. We get a grimy, gritty, beautiful New Orleans and Paris, both places that are perfect for the story. Tom Cruise as Lestat is perfect casting, though maybe once or twice he hams it up a bit. However, compared to Brad Pitt his performance is Oscar worthy. A young Kirsten Dunst is wonderful here, and offers up probably the best acting in the film. Christian Slater was cast in the role River Phoenix was originally going to take; he does a decent job playing the reporter interviewing Brad Pitts vampire.
The story is very interesting, Brad Pitt’s Louis is cursed to walk the Earth eternally as a vampire; while most vampires seem to have a lack of human emotion and sympathy, he is different. He feels guilty when he kills humans, while his “mentor” Lestat feels positively orgasmic when he kills. The movie centers upon this relationship. It is a movie about the dilema of being a vampire, not a vampire love story or horror film. It takes a different approach, and that is ultimately what saves the movie from its bad acting and melodrama.
Its certainly a different movie, but one that is worth a watch. Try to ignore the bad acting and the occasional descent into gothic camp if you can. It would be worth it.
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