JT Film Review

60 – Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Slumdog Millionaire REVIEW

3/5 stars

Director – Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan (India)

Cast – Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor

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slumdog-millionaireSlumdog Millionaire barely skipped a straight-to-DVD release and made its way to theatres, receiving amazing critical acclaim and audience popularity. Personally I wish it had stayed in the straight-to-DVD bin, so we could have avoided all this hype and hoopla. I am really at a loss to see why this movie won the Best Picture Oscar. The Wrestler didn’t even get nominated, for goodness’ sake, and that movie was much better. MUCH better.

Now it’s not a bad movie. It’s just not (in my opinion) anywhere near as good as people are saying it is. It’s flashy, yes. It’s “full of life”, yes. But it doesn’t have anything to it. Story-line wise it has nothing. Nada. Zippo. Or at least nothing to warrant the amount of attention that it has received.

The actors are quite good. Dev Patel plays the title character, a young man whose life experiences have given him an astonishing amount of knowledge in trivial matters. He enters the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” show to catch the eye of the girl of his dreams. Anil Kapoor plays the somewhat villainous “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” host, who seems intent on not letting Patel win the final jackpot. He is a smarmy, creepy man, and Anil plays the role to the hilt.

However all the best acting in the world won’t help a lousy story, and that is in general what we have here. The aspect of looking back on his life by seeing how he knows answers to trivia questions is a nice hook, granted. But all the story amounts to is guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy meets girl again and they fall in love for ever and ever. And how can we as an audience be excited about that age-old tale? Not by this, we can’t. Or I couldn’t anyway.

OVERALL

Slumdog Millionaire is a well acted and well-directed movie. Unfortunately the story pulls it down and makes it, in the end, largely forgettable. I know this is something many people disagree with, but ultimately the movie did nothing for me. However I know many will like it, and I do recommend it, but only barely.

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TRAILER

“Slumdog Millionaire” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 27, 2009 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , | 4 Comments

59 – Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Where the Wild Things Are REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Spike Jonze

Cast – Max Records, James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker, Catherine O’Hara, Chris Cooper, Mark Ruffalo

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where_the_wild_things_are_poster2

Where the Wild Things Are is a famous book written in 1963 by Maurice Sendak. It has garnered considerable acclaim for its bleak yet accurate take on children emotions, and I found myself hoping against hope that the feelings of angst (REAL angst, not emo posturing) would be retained. I hoped against hope, and yet after walking out of the theatre I found that not only has the tone of the book been kept, but Spike Jonze has made a touching, smart, and deeply original movie.

Where other directors may have veered towards making the movie more “Family Friendly”, Jonze instead presented the story with absolutely minimum schmaltz. He shows here a wonderful attention to the details that keep the movie grounded in reality. Such a grounding is important, especially when the plot involves such seemingly fantastic details. The tone throughout is consistent and uncompromising. We are allowed here to have an antagonist who is angry, pent-up, a bit of a jerk, but with a real human soul. In other words, a real human child. Thank the Lord.

The acting in the movie is real, honest, and touching. The boy playing Max, an actor called Max Records, deserves an Oscar, or at the very least a nomination. It is the best performance I have seen in ages, similar in its natural feel to Sharlto Copley’s performance in District 9. The voice acting by Gandolfini is excellent, and the rest of the cast do well with the material.

where_the_wild_things_are03Perhaps the best aspect of the movie is the subtle way that Max’s relationship with his parents is compared and referenced in his relationship with the Wild Things. More specifically, when he is in the fantasy world of the Wild Things, each Wild Thing is a representation of either various parts of Max’s personality or of people he knows in the real world. While such a tactic could come across as over-done or full of cliche, here it is done with such subtlety and grace that we are allowed to discover it for ourself. It is not shoved in out faces in the slightest.

OVERALL

Where the Wild Things Are is a movie of grace and subtlety. It is about a child, but that does not make it a kids movie. I think this movie however would be suitable for children, just not the younger ones. Any kids below 10 or 11 might want to keep out of this. It’s too real and emotional for them.

A mature “kid’s movie”. I thought it’d never happen. Where the Wild Things Are is like nothing we have seen.

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TRAILER

“Where the Wild Things Are” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 27, 2009 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , | 2 Comments

58 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets REVIEW

3.5/5 stars

Director – Chris Columbus

Cast – Daniel Redcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Warwick Davis, Julie Walters, Tom Felton, John Cleese, Sean Biggerstaff

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– follows Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

– followed by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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harry_potter_and_the_chamber_of_secretsHarry Potter returns in the second adaptation of J. K. Rowling popular childrens books. The first movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was extremely succesful box office-wise, and was more or less successful as a movie.

This sequel is almost as good as the original. There are some great sequences, and a couple of new characters. The most notable new character is Gilderoy Lockhart, a poncy, pompus prat played admirably by Kennth Branagh. He carries any scene he is in, and thankfully is given much to do. We are also introduced to Lucius Malfoy, the father of Hogwarts bully Draco Malfoy. He will have much to do in the later movies, which again is good as he makes a great villian.

This is Richard Harris’ last movie in the role of Dumbeldore. He died a month after the movie was released. Afterwards he was replaced by Michael Gambon, for the better I believe.

Lack of energy is what almost does this movie in in the long run (and it is a VERY long run, or seems so). In the first movie we were exposed to the wonder of Hogwarts and the world of magic, but in the second movie all that is over with and Chris Columbus seems to be thinking “Allright, lets just tell the story and get this darn thing over with.” But we don’t want that, we want a well done story that tells us more about these characters, or goes new directions with tone, etc. The later movies do this. This does not.

However as I said, there are some good sequences, and the Hogwarts world is thrilling. The plot leaves a bit to be desired, but it doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the film in the moment; most of the nit picky details are thought of in hindsight.

OVERALL

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a passable movie, and it should be seen if you are a Potter completist. It could have been better, but it still worth a watch, but mainly for what it is a part of, not on its own merits.

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TRAILER

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 26, 2009 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , | Leave a comment

57 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone REVIEW

3.5/5 stars

Director – Chris Columbus

Cast – Daniel Redcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, Ian Hart, Warwick Davis, John Hurt, Julie Walters, Tom Felton, John Cleese

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– followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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harrypotterandthesorcerersstoneIt was really only a matter of time before the best-selling Harry Potter books were turned into a film series. The series was shopped around for a while, with names such as Terry Gilliam (Monty Python alumni and director of Brazil, among others), Steven Speilberg (Schindler’s List, Indiana Jones, etc.), and even Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Mosquito Coast, Witness) thrown about. Speilberg even wanted an animated movie with Haley Joel Osment as Harry Potter’s voice. Eventually Chris Columbus was decided on. He has directed Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire, and wrote The Gremlins.

Now I’ll admit to not being the biggest Columbus fan, but this movie actually took me by surprise. I had always heard that the first two films of the Harry Potter series were the weakest, that they were the most child-like and, well, they were just bad. However while I still think the first two are definitely the worst of the 6 (soon to be 7 AND 8! Woot!), I was pleasantly surprised. The world presented in the movie is unique, yet grounded; and the characters are, for the most part, interesting without leaning towards cliche.

There are exceptions of course; Richard Harris’ Dumbledore is quite dissapointing. Richard Harris was great as frail old mentor types (see Gladiator for evidence of this), but Albus Dumbledore is a character of wit, charm, and power. Due to Harris’ unfortunate passing, he was replaced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by Michael Gambon, who played the role with much greater sucess.

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, along with Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as Hermione and Ron, are great in their roles, and we see them getting better and better with each harrypotter1passing movie. Alan Rickman as Severus Snape was an inspired choice for the role. He is one of the best things about the movie, all in all.

The ending of the movie is the biggest problem. It is formulaic, illogical, and opens up too many plot holes. The series also treats the dangerous elements of the story too frivolously, which does not mesh with the later movies at all. However, that could be said to be a problem with the books as well, so I shouldn’t quibble too much. The series was meant to get more adult-like as its readers grew older, so this represents a younger readership.

OVERALL

The Harry Potter franchise is certainly off to a good start here. While some aspects leave a bit to be desired, the good definitely outweighs the bad. The cast is top notch, and the effects are as well. This is a good start to a great series.

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TRAILER

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 26, 2009 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , | Leave a comment

56 – Unforgiven (1992)

Unforgiven REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Clint Eastwood

Cast – Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Jaimz Woolvett, Richard Harris, Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher

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unforgiven_posterUnforgiven is often referred to as one of the last great westerns, and as such it should come as no surprise that the great Clint Eastwood both directs and stars in it. This is a strange sort of western. It uses all the old western tropes; we have the damsels in distress (two points for being prostitutes), a slightly villainous sheriff, and two old partners reuniting for one last job. However despite all these we feel as if we don’t know what precisely will happen, and the movie feels abundantly fresh. It is slow, uses somewhat stereotypical figures, doesn’t have too much in the way of storyline, and is heavily dependent on mood. Essentially it is the western version of Blade Runner.

The movie has a rich supporting cast, and it is a good thing too, as one of the only things holding the movie back is (surprisingly) the performance of the lead, Clint Eastwood. He plays a subdued and tired character, a bounty hunter turned pig farmer who has given up his old ways out of respect for his dead wife, and so that he can raise his two children. The character is supposed to be tired and fairly monotonous to be sure, but Clint rarely breaks out of a caraciture of himself. I was reminded of Jim Carreys short parody of Clint Eastwood in Bruce Almighty. However after the movie really digs in and finds it legs we do indeed start to feel for his character, maybe because of his solitude.

The greatest thing about the movie is that it never absolves any character of what they do, and certainly does not condone violence. This is not A Fistful of Dollars; killing is not presented as being cool, and there is no real good guy or bad guy. The closest we get to a villian is Gene Hackman’s Sherrif “Little Bill”. His motives are of the purest kind, yet the way he goes about his duties is, well, a tad heavy handed. Clint Eastwood is reluctant to kill, but when given a realreason to do so, he goes about it with a certain flair and assuredness that you just know he’s not exactly sad about letting off a little steam. The person who possibly comes off the best is Morgan Freeman’s character, though even he has his moments. Their little sidekick, who aroggantly calls himself “the Schofield Kid” and claim to have killed five men (though he has yet to kill a single soul), is a cocky, worthless, little brat of a boy; a total write off.

unforgivenrichardharrisIt has been said by Gene Siskel and to some extent Roger Ebert that there are too many unnecessary secondary characters. I heavily disagree with them, as I found that they spiced up the movie and gave it some of its best moments. Sure some of them didn’t advance the plot per se, but that wasn’t the point. They weren’t the point of the trip, they were the nice stops at Burger King along the way. Richard Harris’ “English Bob” is one of the highlights. He is followed around by a writer chronicling his exploits who is played by Saul Rubinek (Daphne’s fiance, Donny, in the show Frasier). They all add wonderfully to the movies scope.

The story all builds up to a climax that at first glance seems to go directly against the movie’s message. However if you think about it in relation to the title and while paying attention to the epilogue, it is a bitter and ironic scene. Most westerns are, again, about how badass the main character is. This is about how being badass isn’t worth shit.

OVERALL

Unforgiven is one of Eastwood’s best, and among the best in the genre. The story is steady and carefully played out, and the ending is strangely touching. A character dies, and I was surprised to find that I didn’t want him to die. Such subtelty is unusual in a movie such as this, and I relished the tone and atmoshphere offered up. When a genre movie is excellently done, it creates a must see for everyone, not just the fans of that particular genre. That is what we have here.

NOTE: It has come to my attention that a Wikipedia user has quoted this site on Gene Siskel’s dislike of Unforgiven (on the Wikipedia page for The Silence of the Lambs) and thus that my site has a link on that page. I would like to clarify (as I am getting a fair bit of traffic from Silence of the Lambs page) that I do not hold myself as an authority on that matter, and that another site (At The Movies for example) should have been referenced . Thanks.

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“Unforgiven” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 20, 2009 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Western, Year - 1990-1999 | , , , , | Leave a comment

UPCOMING MOVIES – Oct. ’09 PART II

Upcoming Movies – Oct. ’09 Part II

One list isn’t enough for the trailers coming out! So, continuing on from UPCOMING MOVIES – Oct. ’09, here are some more trailers coming your way from JT Film Review! Just to clarify, this is not a list of My Eagerly Anticipated movies or anything, just an observation of what we see coming to us in the future. Though some of them of course I will look forward to seeing. In no particular order, here is the Upcoming Movies Article, October ‘09 Part II.

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toy-story-3-teaser-poster—– Toy Story 3 —–

Definitely the most anticipated movies on this list, or indeed, of the last few years. The further adventures of Woody and Buzz are guarunteed to generate a bit of buzz, and I think we can all see a huge box office return for Pixar. But will the guality continue, especially with 11 years lapsed since Toy Story 2? Pixar’s latest, Up, wasn’t one of my favorites, but with characters like these, I can’t wait.

Release Date: June 18, 2010 —– TRAILER —–

boondocks—– Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day —–

I haven’t seen the original Boondocks Saints, but it has quite a reputation as a cult classic. Now this is another sequel which has waited a while to be made, 10 years in this case. The director is the same as the original, which is usually a good sign. I’ll have to get around to watching the original, and then see this as well. Here’s hoping…

Release Date: October 30, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

StanHelsingPoster—– Stan Helsing —–

Oh goody… Another movie along the lines of Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans, from “One of the guys who brought you Scary Movie.” I can’t wait… If you can’t sense my sarcasm there you’re probably the exact type of person who this type of movie is aimed at.

Release Date: October 27, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

endgame_poster—– Endgame —–

Political thrillers are fairly hard to come by nowadays, and a good one is even harder to find. I have always liked Chiwetel Ejiofor, from his appearences in Children of Men and Serenity. William Hurt of course has a good rep, but the director did last years Vantage Point. It wasn’t well recieved, but had an interesting premise. Lets hope with a more down to earth story he’ll come out better.

Release Date (US Theatrical): October 30, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

ThatEveningSunPoster—– That Evening Sun —–

An interesting-looking movie which has recieved much critical praise (wherever it has been shown). Hal Holbrook stars as a grumpy old man (similarities seem to arise between this and Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino) but the tone, location, and plot seem to diverge significantly.

Release Date: November 26, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

the_imaginarium_of_doctor_parnassus_-poster—– The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus —–

Heath Ledger’s final role? Heck yeah I’ll see it. Sure it also has Christopher Plummer,Jude Law, Colin Farrel, and Johnny Depp; all of them talented actors, directed by wacko (or genius, depending) Terry Gilliam.

Release Date (N. America): December 25, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

motherhood-poster—– Motherhood —–

Uma Thurman is a talented actress who unfortunatly hasn’t got the best movies recently. Motherhood is a indie “com” without any visible “rom”. The love interest seems to be subdued, the movie instead focuses on the troubles faced by a mother. It doesn’t seem like it will get a huge distribution, but I hope to catch it somewhere.

Release Date (N. America): Apparently October 2009 —– TRAILER —–

amelia-poster—– Amelia —–

Amelia Earhart is one of the great feminist icons, heck, she’s viewed as one of the most inspiring figures in recent history. As such she seems an obvious target for a biopic, and it is strange that a notable one has not been released. Well, here we have it, but I must admit I feel a bit undwerwhelmed. Despite the star power and talent of Ewan McGregor (unfairly underrated) and Hillary Swank, we seem to have a fairly routine movie. Then again maybe it’s just the trailer. Either way, I’ll be there to see it opening night.

Release Date: October 23, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

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What do you think? Interested in any of these? Any other upcoming movies you really want to see? Leave a comment!

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October 19, 2009 Posted by | Upcoming Movies | | 2 Comments

55 – Evelyn (2002)

Evelyn REVIEW

2.5/5 stars

Director – Bruce Beresford

Cast – Pierce Brosnan, Stephen Rae, Aidan Quinn, Alan Bates, Sophie Vavasseur

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evelynPierce Brosnan tried, and tried hard, to upset his Bond image in Evelyn. He is largely succesful in the role, even though it may not have *cough* totally gotten him away from the super spy image. He is great; it is a pity that the rest of the movie isn’t so successful.

The movie overall is charming enough, and the actors certainly do the best they can. However unfortunately a few small things really bog the movie down. One “subplot” involving the title character Evelyn, has her believing that whenever she sees “angel rays” (when the sun shine between tree leaves etc.) it means her dead grandfather is looking after her. While this could have been done fairly well, the way it is dealt with here is trite, condescending, and sappy as all heck.

The “villains” in the movie are the Minister of Education who splits up Brosnans family, and a group of nuns who keep Evelyn (and many other kids) in their convent by the order of the state. The nuns are the real baddies though, as the Minister of Education gives up his stance at the first question Brosnan’s lawyer puts to him. And frankly I’ve had enough of villainous religious institutions in cheap, formulaic movies.

The subject matter of the movie is bound to get a bit sappy, and that must be recognized. The story is tailor made for a “made-for-TV” movie approach, and that is more or less what we get here. Motives for characters are often simplistic, a romantic relationship is barely even touched upon before we see them making out in the courtroom after the ruling goes their way. (That’s not a spoiler, we all know it was going to end their way. That’s how these movies work.) If it wasn’t for Brosnan signing on I suspect this would have been making its debut on late cable.

OVERALL

Evelyn’s setup is promising, but the second half is mired in cliche and sappy, trite subplots. It is formulaic, but to an extent the formula still works. Brosnan is good, but again, barely raises above what is needed for the formula to work. Watch it if you like this type of thing. I personally don’t. At all.

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TRAILER

“Evelyn” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 17, 2009 Posted by | 2.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , | Leave a comment

UPCOMING MOVIES – Oct. ’09

UPCOMING MOVIES – Oct. ’09

A new batch of trailers coming your way from JT Film Review! Just to clarify, this is not a list of My Eagerly Anticipated movies or anything, just an observation of what we see coming to us in the future. Though some of them of course I will look forward to seeing. In no particular order, here is the Upcoming Movies Article, October ‘09 edition.

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menwhostareatgoats—– The Men Who Stare at Goats —–

Geroge Clooney has a habit of using his immense star power to get some otherwise unfundable movies made. And most of he time they turn out pretty well. Solaris, Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana, Michael Clayton, etc. With the added star power of Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Bridges, this could be interesting at the the very least. I’m all for a quirky dark comedy.

Release Date: November 6, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

 

upintheair-poster—– Up in the Air —–

George Clooney here again, directed this time by Indie poster boy Jason Reitman. He directed Juno and Thank You For Smoking, both of which are favorites of mine. Supporting cast includes Jason Bateman, J. K. Simmons, Vera Farmiga, Sam Elliot, and Zach Galifianakis. Many of them have worked with Reitman before, and with great results.

Release Date: December 25, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

 

shutter-island-poster—– Shutter Island —–

Martin Scorsese reteams with Leonardo DiCaprio for what looks to be a good old fashioned mystery thriller. Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Christopher Plummer, and Jackie Earle Haley all have supporting roles. This likes it could be good, though the trailer seems equally cliched and intriguing. Martin Scorsese is a major talent however, and should not be underestimated.

Release Date: February 19, 2010 —– TRAILER —–

nightmareonelmstreetposter—– A Nightmare on Elm Street —–

I must admit I have never seen the original Nightmare on Elm Street. But remakes are all the rage nowadays, so it should come as no suprise that this is being redone. Jackie Earle Haley plays a great psycho (he was one of the only good things about Watchmen), but the trailer looks rather underwhelming.

Release Date: April 30, 2010 —– TRAILER —–

pirateradioposter—– Pirate Radio —–

A quirky-looking British comedy starring Bill Nighy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, and Kenneth Branagh? Hells yeah! Unfortunately reviews have been mixed at best. However the trailer makes me hope against hope. And it is a really great trailer. Kennth Branagh looks hilarious, as do the rest of the cast really. I’ll just hope some rumoured edits improve the film…

Realese Date: November 13, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

law-abiding-citizen—– Law Abiding Citizen —–

Everyone likes a good revenge flick, right? Well, at least I’ve always had a soft spot for them. (I was one of the 3 people in the world who liked Man on Fire.) And whatever you can say about his choice in movies, Gerard Butler is a good actor. Jamie Foxx as well has proved himself in movies such as Collateral and Ray.

Release Date: October 16, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

MAID_OneSheetfinal—– The Maid —–

To be honest I don`t know what to think of this movie, except I can’t wait to see it. (Although something tells me it won’t be coming to my local cinema.) I’ve always liked little movies based on relationships, etc. This looks serious, and the acting extremely naturalistic. It’s already been released, so hopefully I’l be able to gt it off of Amazon.

Release Date: July 17, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

bad_lieutenantorleans_poster– Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans –

Critics who have seen this movie love it. It garnered HUGE buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is directed by critically acclaimed director Warner Herzog, and yet the trailer makes it look like another of the dreaded “Nic Cage with a bad haircut in action mode” movies. Nic Cage is a constantly under-rated actor, so I guess we’ll see…

Release Date: November 20, 2009 —– TRAILER —–

daybreakers_poster_med—– Daybreakers —–

Oh great, another vampire movie. This one looks like it has an interesting premise however. In a world of vampires, one vampire has found the “cure”. A couple intriguing points are touched on; substitutes for blood, vampire cures etc. The cast is stacked as well, with Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill. It has a neat visual sense as well.

Release Date: January 8, 2010 —– TRAILER —–

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What do you think? Interested in any of these? Any other upcoming movies you really want to see? Leave a comment!

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October 10, 2009 Posted by | Upcoming Movies | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

54- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Alfonso Cuarón

Cast – Daniel Redcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Julie Christie, Warwick Davis, Julie Walters, Tom Felton

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– follows Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

– followed by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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prisonerofazkaban

Christopher Columbus (director of the previous Harry Potter movies, Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets) hands over the reigns to acclaimed director Alfonso Cuaron. He directed movies such as Y tu mamá también and after Harry Potter he turned out the definitive (in my opinion) dystopian sci-fi movie, Children of Men. It just so happens he has turned out arguably the best Harry Potter movie to date as well.

While the first two Potter films tended to follow the books to a tee, this one takes a few liberties. This gives the movie a sense of speed that is certainly different than the pace of the first two, whose tone was more of a gradual building up to the climax. And while I appreciated that aspect of the first two, this movie certainly makes it own approach work. This film is more lively and more dark, and there is a sense that real harm could happen to the kids here, rather than the more over the top and child-friendly attitude Chris Columbus took.

This is not to say that the movie is all doom and gloom. In fact there is quite a bit of humour throughout. A scene in the beginning in particular, where Harry is picked up by a wizard’s-only double decker bus, has more wit, charm, and thrills than other blockbusters we could mention. The plot has a few twists to it, which keeps us on our toes as to what will happen next.

This is the first time in the series where I truly felt for Harry Potter. His loneliness is brought out well here (both at his relatives home and at Hogwarts, where he is seen as an outsider, and where he must deal with troubles far beyond his maturity level).

harry_potter_and_prisoner_of_azkaban_004The younger actors really come into their own in this installment; Radcliffe is a strangely empathic actor, and Emma Watson starts to feel a bit more natural. However I’ve always found Rupert Grint to be the best actor of the main three, and here I see nothing to change that. This is also the first movie where Michael Gambon replaces Richard Harris as Professor Dumbldore, due to Harris’ death. In my opinion, Michael Gambon is a much better Dumbledore. Harris played it too stiffly, and due to his illness he always seemed that if he had to conjure up anything serious he’d croak. Gambon on the other hand is energetic, serious, and down to earth.

The only real problem I have with the movie is really a fault with the book; and that is the ending. It involves the trickiest and some would say lamest of plot devices, time travel. What always gets me when such a device is used, is… if they can travel through time, why not go back to when the villain was born and kill him? There are just so many ways that time travel could be used in later or earlier books; it raises too many questions. It’s as if Rowling used it here and then forgot it. All-in-all, time travel just opens too many plot holes.

OVERALL

Alfonso Cuaron brings us a sharp, witty, dark, and emotionally involving movie here. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is arguably the best adaptation of any of the Harry Potter books so far. The three main actors do their best work so far here. The effects work is amazing, but doesn’t overwhelm the story. This was the first Potter movie I ever saw, and I doubt if it’s greatness will be beaten. Highly recommended.

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TRAILER

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 7, 2009 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy | , , , , | 1 Comment

53 – Zombieland (2009)

Zombieland REVIEW

3/5 stars

Director – Ruben Fleischer

Cast – Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray

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zombieland-greyedposter-medsizeZombieland is being described as America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead, and it certainly has some similarities to the (better) British zom-com (to coin a phrase.) The movie abounds with gore and violent light hearted decapitations. However due to the extremity of said violence and gore I think it has more in common with the stylings of Hot Fuzz, the other movie made by the Shaun of the Dead team.

Woody Harrelson is the main attraction here, although Jesse Eisenberg is technically the main character. Eisenberg does very well, and his character is well written, but nonetheless gets overshadowed somewhat by Woody and his antics.

The main problem with the movie is the random sacharine moments inserted mainly in the second act. The voiceover by Eisenberg (which is quite funny at times) gets bogged down in navel gazing moments; all essentially variations of the classic line “I then realized that what I wanted was in front of me the whole time.” or such B.S. However when there are funny moments, they are extremely funny. It’s just that in the second act those moments are few and far between.

This movie gets through on guts alone really. No matter what happens we are just pushed through on sheer ballsyness. Woody Harrleson just pushes through with comedic violence and Eisenberg does his nerdly opptomistic observer schtick. We are never presented with anything new when it comes to the humour, but what there is is done stylishly and with great energy.

OVERALL

I’d recommend this movie if you need a night out with a few laughs and a movie that doesn’t challenge you much. It is a fairly fun ride, but in the end is pretty forgettable afterwards. And most of the surprise cameo that everyone is gabbing about really doesnt work. The end of it is funny, but the rest of it is just prolonged “Oh look a guest star playing himself!” stuff that would make The Simpsons blush.

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TRAILER

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October 4, 2009 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Comedy, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , | Leave a comment