Godzilla: A Movie Review

May 20, 2014 at 10:22pm

To sum this movie up in a word:  solid.  I know some people have been talking a lot of smack about this most recent incarnation of the G man, but I would like to say that this film stands reasonably well on its own merits and leaps and bounds above the 1998 version with Matthew Broderick.  The cinematography is good and well constructed, the monster action is very enjoyable and while the acting is just passable, it doesn't get in the way (which is more than can be said for other films, *cough* sucker punch *cough*).

There is admittedly some padding before we get to the good stuff, but honestly it's really not that bad and at least it's not overly dull.  The entire way the movie is framed feels, in my opinion, like a very believable framing of an actual monster attack.  These giant creatures come smashing into our tiny little world and start wrecking all our shit, while we stand by effectively helpless to do anything but watch.  Say what you like about the acting, but the movie does an excellent job of "show, don't tell."  What you see is so much better than what you hear, aside from the big man's roar.

I don't want to say anything to give away much of the plot, so I will simply say that Godzilla proves once again why he is and always has been the king of monsters.  Go check it out.

Dredd: A movie review

So first question to get out of the way:  is this movie better than the 90s version with Stallone?  Answer:  yes, by leaps and bounds.  After all, any film is generally improved by the absence of Rob Schneider, who is to comedy what cancer generally is to a healthy human body.  Now don't mistake me on this point, I'm not saying Rob Schneider single-handedly ruined Judge Dredd, although he is fully capable of such a feat.  The 90s version was simply cheesy in general, which is not bad all by itself, but this is a comparison inevitably and I'm not going to waste time with quibbling.

So getting right down to it: Dredd is gritty, brutal and totally unapologetic.  It pulls no punches and doesn't shy away from its deservedly harsh subject matter.  After all, I would expect law enforcement after a near breakdown of society following a nuclear world war to be pretty brutal.  I understand that there's an entire concept of realism vs. reality (where sometimes real life truly is stranger than fiction), but in films the audience really does have to feel like they can believe the premise of a film or at the very least suspend their disbelief.  In this case I feel that Dredd very neatly satisfies the criteria of realism as far as movies are concerned.  The story is believable, the characters are convincing, and I was very impressed with the set design which managed to convey the sense of heavily populated chaos that defines the mega city.

So, for the acting:  Karl Urban is phenomenal as Dredd.  His taciturn performance and amazing chronic scowl really sold the character of Dredd for me.  Judge Joseph Dredd is a hardcore badass and doesn't waste any time saying anything that isn't absolutely essential.  His body language, his attitude, his general demeanor all point to a man who is wholly committed to his duty and is utterly unflinching in carrying out that duty.  Olivia Thirlby turns in a respectable performance as the rookie Anderson and while I never read the comic books, I think her portrayal makes perfect sense for someone in her position in the Dredd universe.  Lena Headey does an excellent job as the primary villain Mama and really does sell the idea of a crime boss who is smart, vicious, and more than a little psychotic.

The story is actually pretty compelling combining equal parts desperate struggle for survival, crime drama, and over-the-top explosive action.  I can't really say much about the 3D, even though I went to see it in 3D.  The theater I went to didn't have their cameras focused properly for 3D so that messed things up for me a bit and I was actually a bit miffed by that.  I generally like 3D in movies where it's done well, but I understand a lot of people aren't really big on it, so just make up your own mind on that.  Although I will say that the parts where the movie was doing the portrayal of the Slo-Mo drug were particularly interesting to see with a curious opalescent effect that I think would have looked even better if the theaters projector had been properly focused.  Those Slo-Mo moments were also just kinda cool in general.

I was actually quite surprised by the level of extremely realistic gore in the film.  I'm not talking ridiculous unbelievable movie magic crap that's obviously fake, I mean blood spray and organ damage that matches up with my understanding of crime scene forensics and ballistic wound behavior.  I haven't seen blood spray this convincing since Stallone's Rambo and as twisted as it may sound I found it refreshing.  It seems the current trend in films is to shy away from anything that might offend anyone which translates into toning down any language, violence, and gore.  This is fine in general, but honestly if you're trying to make a film that gets across ideas like brutality, horror, and violent desperation, a PG-13 approach really isn't particularly convincing.

So final analysis:  this film is good, but most definitely not for the kids.  If you have a problem with gore, this isn't the movie for you. If you actually read the comic books, from what I've heard around the web you will probably like this a lot.

Peace out folks.

The Avengers: A Movie Review

If I was to describe the Avengers in a single word it would be this:  Nirvana.  The film wants for nothing.  There's action, story, character development, and well placed humor bits.  It's everything we were promised and nothing we weren't.  You want super hero conflicts?  You got 'em.  You want gratuitous amounts of action?  You got it.  You want Stan a Lee Cameo?  Better question:  could it be an Avenger movie at this point without one?  You want Hulk Smash?  You bet your sweet candy ass Hulk Smash!

There are a few nit-picky things that I could say about the movie, but they all fall wildly short of what the movie gets right.  This movie is a rock star affair from start to finish, with the screen play by Joss Whedon (geeks try to hold it together), and visual and sound effects done by none other than Weta studios and Skywalker light and sound.

You already know the cast, we all know the score.  So its time to strap in and enjoy the ride.  And you had best strap in since the pace for avengers after the intro sequence is somewhere between frenetic and murderous.  There really is no lull in the story or the action that lasted longer than my attention span, and that's saying something for a man with ADHD.  There really is an awful lot crammed into that 2 hours and 23 minutes and believe me they make use of damn near every second.  With so many stars though, it is true that some character development got sacrificed, most notably for Hawkeye, but it seems to have done very little to diminish the film as a whole.

In a somewhat cross-related issue, the substitution of Mark Ruffalo for Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk was a much welcome change in my opinion.  The skinny around town is that Norton wanted more money than Marvel was willing to put up and negotiations broke down.  Bet he'll be kicking himself in the ass for that choice come Monday.  Especially considering how many fans of the hulk this film is likely to generate.  But I've always found Norton to be a little annoying and Ruffalo does a great job, but that's just my opinion.  All the other characters are amazing too, Cap is great, Iron Man steals the stage whenever he can (but not as much as I thought he would) and Thor actually levels out a bit to make a fuller transition from brash youth to wise veteran warrior.

A final word on 3D and IMAX:  See it in IMAX 3D, it's absolutely astounding!  Catch the matinee showing if you have to, but don't miss your chance because it really does impact the cinematic experience.  And as always STAY AFTER THE CREDITS and I do mean STAY AFTER ALL THE CREDITS.  Seriously, YOU WON"T WANT TO MISS IT.

Peace out.

So will Avengers change the entire world as we know it?  No, probably not.  But it will set a precedent and a higher standard for all other films to follow.

The Hunger Games: A movie review

If I was to describe the hunger games in a single word, yes I know this is becoming a habit with me, it would be this:  Stark.  Having read the entire hunger games trilogy, I feel that this is appropriate, but does not necessarily make for the best movie.  Let me clarify though:  the very austere and even severe impression that I get from the movie isn't bad, it just isn't fun.  Interesting, compelling, provocative yes, but fun, no.

A brief word to those that are fans of the series:  the movie is fine.  Structurally there isn't anything wrong with it and all the most critical details are left intact, as they had damn well better be if these people hope to make a trilogy out of this.  Being a fan of the series myself and having read all the books, I notice the glaring differences where small or large details have been left out and while I'm not thrilled, it didn't prove to be a deal breaker either.  On the whole, I would say that this film is a perfectly adequate adaptation of the novel, not good, not bad, but adequate.  It is kinda neat to see some of the elements you read about visualized and I gotta say at least a handful of them are pretty satisfying.

On the positive side, I have to say that the casting is pretty good, with Lenny Kravitz being the biggest surprise and in my opinion, a fantastic choice for Cinna.  The acting is good.  The sets are at least mostly believable and the overall plot of the novel is left largely intact.  This is quite an achievement when you consider positively Godawful adaptions of masterful works of literature like Michael Crichton's Timeline, which was thoroughly butchered into some schlock of cinema featuring Paul Walker.

On the negative side, people who did not read the books may likely find the film somewhat inaccessible, and need to either read the books or have friends fill them in as they go.  While I fully understand the significant challenges of adapting a novel into something that gets squeezed into 2 hours and 20 minutes, this is something that has hurt the movie.  Details from the book that helped to flesh out characters or events just aren't there and end up leaving the plot feeling thinner than it really is.  Things that were included are over and done with so quickly you barely have time to register them or their significance.  And lastly, the soundtrack, or to be more precise the distinct lack of a soundtrack.  The entire film feels so muted and while that may be good for conveying the naked despair the general population feels, it really doesn't get the audience into the film.

I know it sounds like I've had a lot more bad than good to say about the film, but it really is a decent movie.  If you're a fan, you're probably going to see it anyway and its not like anything is going to be spoiled for you in terms of plot twists.  If you're not a fan, go ahead and check it out, you could certainly do a lot worse.

The Grey: A Movie Review

To jump right in, the grey is a movie about a group of men that survive a plan crash in Alaska and their struggle for survival as they are hunted by a vicious pack of wolves.  Now, while that simple description does roughly cover the movie, it really does not do it full justice.

For such a seemingly simple concept, there is a surprising amount of depth to this movie.  While the characters are not all that well fleshed out, the acting is quite solid so you still do manage to get a sense of them as individuals and there are some small glimpses into their lives here and there that give perspective on their motivations as they struggle to continue living.

This movie is not a fancy exercise of intricate story telling.  The plot is very simple.  But even so, it is striking and forceful.  In the scene where the plane crashes, there's an incredibly visceral feel to it that I've not experienced in many other films.  I've seen a lot of movies where they use erratic sound and jarring camera angles with frantic jump cuts to convey a sense of panic and confusion, but nothing like this.   In fact, there are multiple scenes within the movie that just forced me to react because they just seemed so convincing as a result of good directing and cinematography.

To be clear:  this is a movie for the guys.  It's not a feel good affair and I honestly have difficulty imagining that many of the ladies would enjoy this and it is most definitely not a family film.

Oh, one final word:  some people might find the ending very frustrating, if you do, make sure you stay all the way until the end of the credits.  It makes a difference, believe me.

In Time: A movie Review

       When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought to myself "this looks kinda neat, I think I'll enjoy it."  So after that I promptly stopped watching any trailers for it and avoided all news media concerning it.  Didn't even look on IMDB for the filmography.  Yes, I review movies and remained willfully ignorant of as many of the pertinent details of the film as possible.  Why you might ask?  It's simple really, when I saw TRON, it was the same deal:  I avoided being saturated by news media about the film like some of my friends and was thus able to enjoy the movie more than they did.  I was actually really excited when Daft Punk showed up because I had no idea they were going to be in the movie.

Anyhow,  what's this movie about?  The simplest and fastest explanation is this:  it's a dystopian future where time is quite literally money, and life.  Everyone has been techno-organically wired with clocks that keep time, which they use as currency to purchase everything and also determines how long they will live.  One of the side effects of the process is that no one ages past 25, which does make things kinda funny since you have no idea how old anyone really is.

     When I started writing this review, I finally looked up the filmography and found out that the movie was directed by none other than Andrew Niccol.  Now this name probably doesn't mean anything to you and I don't blame you if that's the case.  However, Andrew directed at least one film that is very near and dear to my heart called Gattaca, which is a terrific sci-fi gem from that 90's that quite frankly deserves a review of its own even now (at least I know what my next review will be).  Oh yeah, he also directed the Truman Show if you liked that, I thought it was interesting at any rate.

     The two thing about Gattaca were that it didn't get a lot of attention at the time it came out and still doesn't have the kind of recognition I think it really deserves, the other thing was that it really got across an important message about bio-ethics without being heavy handed and preachy.  This is reflected somewhat with In Time, where the message is about wealth and class.  I feel it has some similarities to brave new world, but feel free to disagree.

  So, the review proper:  the acting is pretty good and the writing is solid enough for most discerning palettes I think.  I've never really hated on Justin Timberlake too much, but I have to admit I was a bit incredulous about his skills as an actor until this realization dawned on me:  he was able to fool entire hordes of teens into thinking his work was legitimate music for years; the man has definite experience in suspending disbelief.  But seriously, he's a really solid lead in this and Amanda Seyfried is no slouch either (the fact that she's really hot doesn't hurt either).  The action is not as intense as I would have liked, but it is serviceable and Timberlake's tongue-in-cheek attitude towards a lot of what happens is actually rather refreshing when compared with the usual smug self assured or dark archetypes of most action leads.

Final analysis:  this movie is interesting and somewhat compelling, go see it and if you don't feel like there's an interesting message, just sit back and enjoy the eye candy anyway.

Colombiana: A movie review

The story of Colombiana is pretty standard, but it comes from a writer and director that I like very consistently: Luc Besson. I've been following him more or less ever since he wrote and directed one of my personal favorites; Leon: The Professional. He also did The 5th Element and a bunch of other stuff I really liked, even the transporter trilogy, which admittedly isn't the most intricate storytelling ever, but its still a lot of fun.

But anyhow about the movie: it's got good acting, solid action, and reasonably good pacing. Some parts are a bit far fetched, but that's par for the course with a Luc Besson production. It is a little on the short side at an hour and forty minutes (most movies these days being 2 hours or longer) and that's good because it gets straight to the point and doesn't waste your time with a bunch of superfluous junk.

Admittedly there are a few shortcomings in the plot development and it feels a bit rushed and while that would be crippling for most films, it only ends up being a minor hindrance in this case. Some of this could be attributed to director Olivier Megaton (I thought that last name was funny too =P, if you've played fallout 3 anyway). He directed Transporter 3, which was a perfectly competent popcorn flick, but I think Colombiana needed a little more finesse than that to really be a success and sadly it just ends up being ok.

One thing I will say strongly in this movie's favor is that it has one of the most brutal and convincing hand to hand combat sequences I have ever seen. I really can't do it justice with words, you just have to see it for yourself.

Don't bother seeing this one in theaters, but definitely add it to your netflix queue.