December 4, 2008

The X Files: I Want to Believe - $1

I'll make this short, this movie sucked.

I used to love the X Files TV show and it's previous movie incarnation was quite good too. This movie just felt like the most boring X Files episode I've ever seen. The plot was simple, the characters were flat and had no chemistry, there was nothing frightening or creepy, no aliens, no conspiracies... what the heck was this piece of crap?

This should have gone straight to video.

I put The X Files: I Want to Believe on my 'Please Don't Ever Watch It' list and give it a value of $1. The dollar is for Amanda Peet, no movie with her will ever get a 0 from me.

November 22, 2008

The Incredible Hulk - $6

I didn't mind Ang Lee's Hulk (2003), it was interesting and worth watching if only for the unique way it was made. For all the comic book movies out there these days, Lee's version was the closest any movie has come to the feel of a comic.

This new incarnation of The Incredible Hulk is a much more typical comic adaptation movie. Lots of action, explosions and CGI. Interestingly neither Hulk movie has made much money at the box office and I have some theories there. Ang Lee's Hulk was too different for your typical comic movie fan and this one, while a continuation of the first, was not really a sequel either so the interest level wasn't there. There was some confusion when it came out as to whether it was another remake of the first one from only a few years earlier or if it was a sequel. It really wasn't either. Rest assured, both Hulk movies are far superior to Spider Man 3.

The Incredible Hulk begins with Bruce Banner living in a very poor area in South America and working at a drink factory. He is of course hiding out from the military that created his alter ego, the Hulk, as he attempts to find a cure. Once day in an innocent factory accident a drop of Banner's blood falls into one of the drinks. Weeks later a man dies from the same kind of radiation poisoning that created the Hulk and the military finally knows where to look for Banner.

The rest of the story revolves around Banner finding Betty Ross, the woman he loved and left behind when he went into hiding. When he finds her she helps him hide and look for answers and a cure to his condition. There is also a member of the special forces team trying to capture the Hulk who voluntarily undergoes procedures to give him similar powers as the Hulk, that being the ability to transform into a monstrous like thing with super strength. His procedure goes wrong of course and he turns in the Abomination. In an ironic twist the very military trying to capture Banner/Hulk have to turn to him in the end to help stop Abomination.

Though it's predictable and somewhat formulaic, I'm recommending The Incredible Hulk. Ed Norton turns out to be a very good Bruce Banner and Liv Tyler is actually pretty convincing as Betty Ross. William Hurt is, as usual, fantastic playing Gen. Thaddeus Ross, the man in charge of the experimental program which made Banner become the Hulk. He also happens to be Betty Ross' Father, insert drama here.

The Incredible Hulk manages to be intriguing and finds a way to further the Hulk story without truly being a sequel to the 2003 movie. The CGI is good, as it always is when more than 100 million dollars is spent, but more importantly there is actually some character development and a bit of a story told here.

I'm putting The Incredible Hulk on my 'Watch It' list and giving it a value of $6.

October 25, 2008

Two Quick 'Don't Watch It' Reviews

Street Kings - $1

This predictable action movie tried way too hard to be epic and ended up simply being not very good. Needlessly overdone violence and terrible dialogue dominate this story about cops who break the rules to get the bad guys.

Despite having a few actors in it that I like I'm saying you should skip this one, it's on the 'Don't Watch It' list and gets a value of $1.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - $4

Ok, full disclosure, I almost recommended this one. I grew up loving the Indiana Jones movies and really Lucas and Spielberg got a lot right with this newest incarnation of Indy. There was goofy dialogue and unrealistic action galore but really, those things were in the other classic movies as well. Harrison Ford is way too old to be doing this but at the same time the movie acknowledges and pokes fun at his age instead of trying to pretend he's still in his prime.

So while Indy 4 could have been a lot worse, it still wasn't good. I never felt the darkness and fear of the enemy that was prevalent in the old Indy movies. I never once worried that Indy was in any danger or that anything bad was going to happen to him. It was all just a little too simple.

Still, if you like Indiana Jones and you want a brainless and fun movie night, you'll have a good time with the Crystal Skull.

It's on my 'Don't Watch It' list though and I'm giving it a rating of $4.

October 17, 2008

Twin Peaks - $9

I don't want to say too much about Twin Peaks yet because I'm just finishing season 1 tonight but so far it has been just about the most quirky, creepy, funny and entertaining TV I've ever watched.

Twin Peaks centers around Agent Cooper, who has to be one of the best TV characters of all time. He's an FBI agent visiting the small town of Twin Peaks to investigate a murder. He's weird and eccentric but smart and strong at the same time. Obsessed with good coffee and finding the meaning of his dreams, Cooper would be dismissed as unstable if he weren't right so often. The picture above is from my favorite scene so far, it's a dream Cooper has and it's better seen than described, but essentially the murdered girl and a little person talk to him in voices that sound as if they've been recorded backwards and played back forward.

This is just good television.

The characters in Twin Peaks are all either crazy, mysterious or solid every day people. As weird as the show is it might be a pretty accurate portrayal of a normal town.

I can't wait to finish watching it and I highly recommend you see it if you never have. I give it a value of $9 and it's obviously on the 'Watch It' list.

September 1, 2008

Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 - $6

Just a brief review today, August was busy as you can tell from my lack of reviews. To fill the void I'll have a guest reviewer post for you in the next couple of days. Stay tuned for that, the guest reviewer is someone a few of you know.

Onto the review at hand here, Kill Bill. It's a cop out to review both Volumes at once as they are different and distinct movies, but that's what I'm doing.

I saw Kill Bill back when it was first released and I really liked it then. I watched it again recently and was entertained enough to remember why I liked it so much the first time.

Kill Bill is a tough movie to define, it has a martial arts feel at times, classic western moments, cheesy action movie moments and lots of comic book type moments. All in all I found that it works as one coherent movie, though I know some people find it choppy and inconsistent. I liked the pacing of Kill Bill and I find the transitions between the dramatically different parts are affective.

Kill Bill is fun and extremely unique. Uma Thurman is great as the main character, The Bride and David Carradine is pitch perfect as Bill.

The writing is so cheesy it usually works but there were definitely times I laughed when I know I wasn't meant to.

Overall Kill Bill is worth checking out if you need some entertainment and you're in the mood for a unique action movie. I put Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 on my 'Watch It' list and give the two part movie a value of $6.

August 17, 2008

Top 5 Comedies of All Time

Here they are, the Watch It Top 5 comedies of all time. I'll start from #1 this time just to mix it up.

1) The Big Lebowski

I LOVE this movie, it has grown better each time I've watched it. John Goodman puts in the performance of his life and Jeff Bridges is perfect. If you haven't seen this you've missed out on an epic movie. Full Review

2) Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber actually seems to get..well..dumber every time I watch it now, but I have to put it on this list, in fact I almost put it first. No movie has ever made me laugh as much as this one did the first 47 times I watched it. The Cam Neely (Seabass) cameo alone makes it worth watching.

3) The Darjeeling Limited

This one has had very mixed reviews but I was hooked from the opening scene to the very end. I laughed, I almost cried, I loved it all. Wes Anderson is one of my favorites in the writer/director field as you'll see by my choice for #4 on this list.
Full Review

4) The Royal Tennenbaums

I couldn't help but put 2 Wes Anderson movies on this list. I could almost have put another one but that would get silly. The Royal Tenenbaums is a brilliant comedy and like Anderson's other movies it got me right from the start. I think it's his attention to detail in the imagery and his great characters that I like best but I could also sit and just listen to the dialogue in this movie and still laugh.

5) Old School

Vince Vaughan, Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson...enough said.

August 15, 2008


UPDATE 2: It worked! Go to the LAMB and check me out, I'm #1 this week! Thanks to everyone who clicked the link and checked out the fast growing site that is the LAMB.

_______Original Post_________
Faithful readers, thank you for voting in such massive numbers on my poll to the right. Overwhelmingly you chose Comedies as the topic for my next Top 5 list, you will get your way in a post to come this weekend.

In the meantime how 'bout doin' me a solid and visiting the Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB) site? Each week the site posts the top 5 members who are sending visitors to the LAMB. It seems to only take 25 or so to get into the top 5 and I've never been there.

I'm a LAMB member and it's actually an interesting site to check out, so come on, at least once go check it out by clicking the link in the sidebar or clicking the picture below. I really want to get in that list.

- Tony

UPDATE: I've been told by the guy who runs the LAMB that I'm in a close race for first this week. One more click below everyone and I can win this thing! (Top 5 Comedies nearly completed, I will release it today)

August 5, 2008

El Orfanato (The Orphanage) - $9

I've said more than once on my site that I'm not a big fan of the horror genre. By that I mean movies like Texas Chainsaw, Saw etc... I do enjoy a good thriller from time to time though and the distinction to me is in what is being done to frighten me. I don't mind being scared of something mysterious or haunting, but I'm not fond of seeing disgusting gore designed to terrify me in a very simplistic way.

The Orphanage is exactly the kind of thriller I like. The story revolves around a woman named Laura who has bought the orphanage she spent her childhood years in prior to being adopted. Her and her husband intend to turn it into a boarding house for mentally challenged children while also living there with their own son, Simón.

In one of the movies' more eerie scenes Laura finds Simón talking to someone in a cave near the beach they frequent. Laura never sees anyone and assumes Simón is talking to an imaginary friend. That day Simón leaves a trail of shells that lead back to the house so that the friend he met in the cave can find it and come over to play. The next day Laura finds the shells in a pile by the front door and from that moment on she begins to hear and see things in the house that prompt her to believe that this imaginary friend of Simón's may not be imagined after all. When Simón goes missing Laura is convinced that the spirits in the house are to blame.

The Orphanage is beautifully shot and is frightening for all the right reasons. There is mystery and story to what is happening in the house and the fear the movie makes it's audience feel is a powerful fear of the unknown. There is a purpose to the horror as well as it adds to the story being told rather than being the only part of the story. The Orphanage even manages to give you an almost touching ending.

The Orphanage has an amazing tone and mood with imagery that makes it far more than just a horror movie. The acting and writing are great though I'm always left wishing I spoke the language of a subtitled movie especially when it impresses me. How much more impressed would I have been if I could understand the dialogue as it was intended?

This is a must see, I'm putting The Orphanage on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $9.

July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight - $8

I went into The Dark Knight with high expectations and it delivered - for the most part. This is a comic/superhero movie which, unlike the many others in this genre, tries very hard to also be a good movie and a compelling story. Director Christopher Nolan has succeeded in making a very good movie here and in a way he has transcended the genre while perfecting it at the same time.

I won't go into a big plot summary, since you've all already seen it according to box office numbers, but essentially you've got Batman saving people from the Joker and assorted other criminals while wrestling with his purpose and the question of whether he is actually helping Gotham in the long run. I like that Nolan has given the Batman story something more than it's other incarnations by focusing on moral dilemma's and Batman's own lack of innocence.

The Dark Knight works on a lot of levels, the effects are amazing but great effects alone never make a good movie. Dark Knight also gives it's audience fairly good writing which is the last thing I expect in a big budget comic book adaptation.

Everything you've heard about the acting in this movie is true, if a little over hyped. Ledger is incredible as the Joker and Bale turns in another great performance as Batman. For me Aaron Ekhart's performance as Two-Face/Harvey Dent stole the show a bit from the bigger names around him. The supporting cast is good as well and I agree with most that Maggie Gyllenhaal playing Rachel Dawes is an improvement on Katie Holmes. Thankfully though she's not different enough as to distract the audience. Normally using a different actor to play the same character is a huge distraction for me (Fresh Prince of Bel Air anyone?) but it worked here.

As I said, I enjoyed this movie. The hype is overblown for sure, especially when you look at it's IMDB rating, but it's still the best blockbuster to hit theatres in a long time. I still think Batman Begins is the superior of the two but I'm a sucker for origin stories. I'm definitely hoping Nolan doesn't stop with Dark Knight and continues to redeem the Batman franchise from the horrific Warner Bros versions.

The Dark Knight is on my 'Watch It' list and I'm giving it a value of $8.

July 23, 2008

Four, Five and Six - $9

Four, Five and Six is a short film by Nathan Davies and Jeff Coutts.

The film follows a man through six scenes of life, in the first he learns that his Father has passed away and throughout the rest of the story we see how this passing affects every day moments in his life and the lives of those around him.

Four, Five and Six is a great film and well worth watching. The dialogue is smart and the scenes are well shot and well performed.

For those who live in Edmonton this film is in consideration for the Edmonton International Film Festival so I hope the selection committee has the good sense to show it and that you get the chance to watch it.

For my part I put this one on the 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $9.

July 21, 2008

Two Quick Reviews

I've been away and will be seeing and reviewing The Dark Knight this week but for now here are a couple lightning quick reviews of two movies I saw last week.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - $9

4 Months is an incredible movie and may be the most emotionally intense film I've seen in years. The story follows a University student who is helping her roommate obtain an abortion in communist Romania during a time that this is illegal.

Regardless of what your opinion is on this divisive issue the images and story in 4 Months succeeds in bringing both sides to light without ever giving an opinion or even directly addressing either side of the issue.

This was a movie experience I will never forget, though I'm not sure I want to duplicate it. I put 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $9.

Lars and the Real Girl - $6

Lars and the Real Girl was a surprisingly touching and funny movie. While it was never incredible it was often good and was well worth watching.

I put Lars on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $6

July 9, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War - $8

This one will be brief, I'm on holidays.

Charlie Wilson's War was an endearing and fun character movie. This is the true story of US congressman Charlie Wilson in the late 70's and early 80's. Charlie isn't your typical congressman as he drinks a lot, sleeps around and dabbles in drugs. Charlie does however care deeply about what's happening in one part of the world other than the US and that is Afghanistan, where the Soviets at the time had invaded the country and were killing Afghan citizens who were horribly underarmed to fight back.

Charlie convinces the decision makers to spend a lot of money on a covert operation to get weapons to the Afghan fighters willing to fight the communist Soviets without the Soviets being able to blame it on the US.

No matter what your opinion is about the history of Afghanistan this is a fascinating story which is well told by one of my favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin's strength is dialogue and the dialogue is performed to perfection by Tom Hanks (Charlie) and Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays the CIA advisor that helps Charlie make all this happen. The often vulgar and always entertaining dialogue between these two made me laugh out loud more than once.

Charlie Wilson's War is definitely on my 'Watch It' list and I give it a value of $8.

June 21, 2008

The Happening - $6

I know I'm going to take abuse for this one, but I liked The Happening.

M. Night Shyamalan brings his unique writing and directing style to the screen once again in a story about people fleeing from something, but not knowing what they are fleeing from. The Happening begins in Central Park in New York City where everyone suddenly stops talking and walking and they begin killing themselves with a varied series of slow and eerily unemotional actions. It begins to be reported as a terrorist attack and then the suicides begin happening all over the North East coast of the US.

The main story centers around a high school science teacher in Philadelphia named Elliot who is fleeing from the affected areas with his wife Alma. As it becomes more and more clear that terrorists could not be responsible for these events Elliot becomes desperate to determine the cause so that he can keep his wife safe.

Let me start by saying what I didn't like about The Happening, because don't get me wrong when I say I liked this movie, it was not great and it is by far M. Night's weakest movie so far.

The Happening does not develop its characters with the exception of Elliot and Alma. The usual long pulled back shots that make M. Night's movies so visually stimulating weren't on display here nearly as much. My main problem with the Happening was an extremely out of place series of scenes at about the 3/4 mark of the movie. The scenes were eerie in their own way but the movie got away from its main plot for a while there and it was distracting. I'm attempting to not give a spoiler her but I'm sure that those of you who've seen The Happening know what I'm talking about.

I liked a few things a lot in this movie though. The pacing was great, I love the slow methodical way that M. Night tells a story. I also found the opening scenes extremely creepy and affective and I loved the way that the story focused on the calm exodus of people who really weren't sure what they were running from. The result is people who aren't in a panic, though their fear is tangible. There were moments of humour in The Happening that worked very well also.

I read a bunch of reviews of The Happening to see if I was the only one who liked this movie and I was relieved to find that the man himself found more to like than dislike here, "It is no doubt too thoughtful for the summer action season, but I appreciate the quietly realistic way Shyamalan finds to tell a story about the possible death of man." - Roger Ebert

I enjoyed most of The Happening but I didn't love it. Mark Wahlberg was good at times as Elliot, but he was out of place at other times. I thought Zooey Deschanel was great as Alma but unfortunately there weren't really any other well developed characters to talk about. John Leguizamo actually gives a very good performance as Elliot's best friend and he really should have had more screen time.

I'm going to do something I've never done before on this site and that is to not recommend a movie that I liked. I'm putting The Happening on my 'Don't Watch It' because I don't think many people will enjoy it. For me the value was good though and I rate The Happening at $6.

June 18, 2008

Lions for Lambs - $7

Lions for Lambs has been widely criticized and rarely recommended, frankly I'm not sure why.

This is a three part story and though the three parts don't collide as well as they could, they do relate. There is a Professor trying to convince a student to give a crap about something other than himself by relaying a story about two of his former students who fought in Iraq. The third story brings us a one-on-one interview with a powerful US Senator who is making very high level strategy decisions for the war.

Lions for Lambs is a subtle movie with a less than subtle message, I found it to be fair to the issues as it presented multiple sides of multiple arguments.

I honestly can't understand how anyone who likes great acting could dismiss this movie. Cruise, Streep and Redford are fantastic and some of the best performances come from the lesser known actors involved here like Michael Peña and Derek Luke. Even if you don't enjoy the stories being told here the lengthy and well written dialogues being performed by these actors make this movie well worth watching.

I put Lions for Lambs on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7. I think I'll have to bring you another edition of "When The Critics Get It Wrong" soon starting with this one.

June 9, 2008

Iron Man - $8

Despite predictions to the contrary from one of my favorite readers, I did enjoy Iron Man immensely and I line up with the many critics who are praising this entertaining movie. I can't wait for the sequel.

Iron Man is based on the Marvel comic by the same name and is the story of Tony Stark, the head of a US weapons company who is taken captive in a war zone and forced to make weapons for terrorists. Rather than making them a weapon, he makes himself a nearly indestructible weaponized metal suit and escapes. This experience changes the arrogant and greedy Stark and inspires him to focus on improving the suit rather than on weapon sales.

Stark's right hand man at Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane, turns out to have been selling their weapons to the enemy for years and a stand off between the two becomes the climax of the movie.

There were a few things I didn't like much about Iron Man. The initial scenes, where Stark is first making the suit and his captors think he's making a missile for them, are hard to believe at best. There are cameras on him at all times in his cell and yet they can't tell he's making a suit of armour? He's trying stuff on at one point, who tries on a missile? There is also some very cheesy humour in Iron Man that would have missed the mark completely if not for the delivery of Robert Downey Jr.

With that let me transition into what I liked about Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic as Tony Stark. He made the transition from jerk to hero believable and he brought a lot of charm to a movie that could have been merely a special effects showcase if not for his performance. The cast is rounded out well with Jeff Bridges (Stane), Terrence Howard and my favorite - Gwyneth Paltrow.

The special effects in Iron Man are spectacular but they aren't in isolation, there is some surprisingly good directing here from Jon Favreau.

Big budget action movies are pretty hit or miss with me, especially in the comic book adaptation genre, but Iron Man hit the mark. It was entertaining and it's weaknesses were overcome by good casting.

I'm putting Iron Man on the 'Watch It' list and giving it a rating of $8. You may ask; why not a higher rating considering the praise I've lavished here? It's simple, this is still a comic book movie and the best of those can never be the greatest of movies.

June 6, 2008

Entertainment in the Air

I was on two 4+ hour flights this week and both times the planes were equipped with those seat back screens that allow me to scroll through movie, music and TV choices and start and stop them when I want. I love these types of planes.

I want to go through some lightning quick reviews of everything I watched or started to watch and didn't finish. (Iron Man review still coming)


Shine a Light - $7 (watched 1/2)

This film by Scorcese which documents a Rolling Stones concert was shaping up to be amazing but I stopped watching it once it really got into the concert itself as I'm not a huge Rolling Stones fan.

Jumper - $3

Good special effects meet average acting and uncreative writing in this lame movie. Hayden Christensen continues to show the world that he should be modeling, not acting.

National Treasure 2 - $4

National Treasure actually had its moments but in the end it came off like the movie adaptation of a choose your own adventure, except I had no choices.

10,000 BC - $0 (watched 10 minutes)

I only made it through 10 minutes of 10,000 BC before putting it out of its misery. In that 10 minutes I saw special effects that looked on par with a used car commercial and costumes and make up that appeared to have been borrowed from a high school play. And don't get me started on the writing... Thank you to all of you who warned me not to waste my money on this one.

The Bucket List - $6

I actually enjoyed The Bucket List. Jack Nicholson gave dimension to an otherwise predictable plot. It was worth watching and even a bit moving.

TV Shows

The Class - $1 (5 minutes)

Horrible, cheesy, bottom of the barrel television.

The Big Bang Theory - $4

Despite having the feel of a 90's sitcom this one actually made me laugh a few times. Still not great TV though.

Til Death - $2

Just don't bother, there's nothing new here.

The New Adventures of Old Christine - $3 (15 minutes)

Just plain boring most of the time.

That Mitchell and Webb Look - $7

A very funny sketch show from England. I laughed out loud several times to the annoyance of the gentlemen on either side of me. (Yes, the travel agent screwed up royally and grabbed me a middle seat on the way home.)

Psych - $0 (10 horrible minutes I'll never get back)

One of the worst TV shows ever made. It was like a train wreck, it took me 10 minutes to look away.

May 27, 2008

Dan in Real Life - $7

Dan in Real Life is a pretty good character movie. Dan's struggle to be a good single dad to his three daughters is somewhat touching and believable. Dan also struggles to find romance and move on years after the passing of his wife.

The story revolves around a family holiday with uncles and aunts and cousins filling the old family home. Dan falls in love with his brother's girlfriend and off goes the movie.

Steve Carell is quite good as Dan and the supporting cast are good as well. Nothing really stood out to make this movie unique or really incredible but it was good and well worth watching.

I put Dan in Real Life on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7.

I'm Not There - $4

I'm Not There is a take on the life of Bob Dylan. Or at least that's what it claims to be. Dylan is played by different actors who each seem to represent different parts of his personality. Creative idea, poorly executed in my opinion.

I was really looking forward to I'm Not There. My brother got me into Bob Dylan a few years ago and since then I've become a huge fan. This movie was a big disappointment to me though.

The story jumps around chronologically and the metaphors seem so obvious I kept wondering if I was missing something.

In the end I'm Not There is a meandering and directionless movie that tries way to hard to not be a biopic and ends up being a series of disconnected artsy short films that are sort-of about Bob Dylan. There were some intriguing scenes, some great imagery and some brilliant acting but way too many times where I was totally unengaged.

I'm putting I'm Not There on my 'Don't Watch It' list and giving it a value of $4.

May 22, 2008

Two Quick Reviews

I've been a bit quieter than usual here lately. It's not for lack of movie watching but more for lack of time. I've got an Iron Man review coming but for now here are two brief reviews of other movies I've seen in the last month.

Juno - $8

Juno was fun to watch, creatively written and well acted. The dialogue is quick and funny and the characters were developed well. Juno managed to be cute as well as touching while not being cheesy, a challenging line to walk.

Ellen Page was good but not brilliant. I need to see more range from her before I jump on the bandwagon. She was perfect for this movie though. Jason Bateman is subtle but great and Michael Cera steals the show in my opinion.

Juno is a good movie, nothing groundbreaking here though so I'm giving Juno a value of $8 and definitely putting it on my 'Watch It' list.

Cloverfield - $9

I loved Cloverfield. This was a very well executed movie in a genre that is hard to define. The opening 15 minutes dragged a bit but were necessary for making me care about the characters later on in the story.

When Cloverfield first ended I was disappointed that they didn't take the story further but after thinking about it I was happy the movie makers decided to leave it the way it was.

Cloverfield is creepy, thrilling and even a bit moving. I believed in the plausibility of the actions of the characters, this is an important point because often movies like this make their characters do things a person would never do just to advance the story or create a tense moment.

I am tempted to give Cloverfield a $10 rating but the beginning could have been better and it was too short. This is on the 'Watch It' list and I give it a value of $9.

May 10, 2008

The Golden Compass - $3

The Golden Compass is one of the most poorly executed book-to-movie adaptations I've ever seen. To bring it to the big screen major changes were made to the characters and situations in this story, unfortunately none of these changes were improvements.

The Golden Compass has a completely different ending than the book it is based on and omits enormous amounts of the story. The order of circumstances is changed and the screenplay writing is simplistic and awful.

The book is a wonderfully told story which reveals the mysteries of this fantasy world slowly whereas the movie does not allow the audience to figure anything out but rather has characters explain things as if to assume the audience is too dumb to follow along. The movie even has the audacity to open up with narration which explains major parts of the plot which are not revealed until the end of the book.

At this point you may be asking why I am giving a rating of $3 to a movie I have nothing but negative things to say about. The answer is simply that as a movie, judged apart from the far superior book it is based on, it's not terrible. Leaving aside the truly horrible screenplay, The Golden Compass contains brilliant visuals, pretty good acting and almost perfect casting, including the incomparable Sam Elliott.

This is definitely on my 'Don't Watch It' list though and I give The Golden Compass a value of $3. If you've read the book don't bother with this movie, but if you like fantasy movies and don't mind bad writing you may want to give it a shot.

May 7, 2008

Amazing Grace - $6

Amazing Grace is not an amazing movie, it is however a pretty good one.

Amazing Grace is the story of William Wilberforce, the late 18th and early 19th Century British parliamentarian who is credited with ending the British slave trade. He is an heroic figure of history and his story is well worth telling.

Where this movie misses is in the big moments, it seemed to me that several opportunities for powerful scenes became fairly mundane scenes passing facts along about this incredible person's life. Wilberforce is played only adequately by Ioan Gruffudd who is overshadowed by the performances of cast mates like Albert Finney, Rufus Sewell and Romola Garai.

Amazing Grace is worth watching if you like true stories told well through film. It will not blow you away but the life and accomplishments of Wilberforce should.

I'm putting Amazing Grace on my 'Watch It' list as I do like a good true story and I'm a sucker for political heroism. The modest rating of $6 reflects my feeling that this could have been better, but it wasn't bad.

April 22, 2008

There Will Be Blood - $7

I've gone back and forth on what I thought of There Will Be Blood over and over again since seeing it. Quite honestly I was bored at times but at other times I felt I was watching an epic masterpiece. The passage of time and another viewing may increase or decrease my rating, I haven't decided yet.

There Will Be Blood is a story about Daniel Plainview, an entrepreneur in the early 20th century who attains great wealth drilling for oil. There is much more to this story but it's better viewed than summarized.

My initial reaction after watching TWBB was that I didn't quite get all the hype, as I've mentioned, it bored me at times and that's a sign that I'm not fully engaged with a movie. This was due to some slow pacing and some wildly out of place music in the soundtrack. In reflection I acknowledge this movie was very good, I'm not sure if it was great though.

The visuals in TWBB are breathtaking. I loved the subtle and minimalist settings which were frequently shown in long, pulled back shots. This only added to the ability of the movie to showcase it's great performances. In a recent online discussion I was involved in this person summed up the setting well, "Plainview is such an enormous character that I think he needed an equally large canvas to play on, or else he would have burst the seams of the film."

Daniel Day Lewis was brilliant in this movie as Daniel Plainview. He made me love and hate his character at different times in the story, sometimes even at the same time. Paul Dano is also incredible as the local church leader, who Plainview seems to loathe from the beginning.

This is a good movie, there are those who feel it is great and maybe I will want to increase this rating some day. I still can't get past the fact that I wasn't drawn in for the entire 3 hours. Maybe that's my weakness.

I put There Will Be Blood on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7

April 12, 2008

When The Critics Get It Wrong

I frequently visit a site I'm sure many of you have been to, Rotten Tomatoes (RT). Unlike IMDB where average ratings are based on regular site users, RT gives you the average ratings by critics by giving each movie a percentage based on how many recommended seeing the movie being critiqued.

I find both sites useful in their own way but every once in a while I am astounded at a rating at RT considering that so many critics contribute to it.

Let me give you a few examples of times that I think the critics on RT got it horrifically wrong.

Spider Man 3
RT rating = 62%
Watch It rating = $2

I liked Spider Man 1 & 2, in fact #2 was a great movie, but Spider Man 3 was terrible. The writing was on a much lower level than the previous two superior installments and the dark side of Spider Man was extremely unconvincing. This movie contained some of the worst scenes I've sat through in years and yet somehow 62% of RT critics recommended it! Are you kidding me?

Live Free or Die Hard
RT rating = 80%
Watch It rating = $4

Live Freed or Die Hard was OK. The complete and total implausibility of most of the action scenes lost me though and the villain was lame. An 80% recommendation from RT is shameful.

Knocked Up
RT rating = 91%
Watch It rating = $3

I've taken a lot of heat for my low rating of Knocked Up. I still say that it's a simple and vulgar movie with far less laughs than I expected. A 91% level on RT should be reserved for Oscar contenders not comedies that revolve around masturbation and poo jokes.

RT rating = 57%
Watch It rating = $8

Transformers was a fun and entertaining movie. One of the knocks against it has been that it was weak on plot but did people really expect more from a movie based on a cartoon which was based on a toy? While 57% of RT critics saw it as good enough to recommend I don't know what the other 43% were hoping for, especially when 62% of them recommended the retched Spider Man 3.

Just my opinion though.

April 9, 2008

Rendition - $8

Rendition is a well executed movie with a political statement to make. For me it was very effective.

Rendition is the story of an Egyptian man who has lived in the US for 20 years and has a family there. As part of a terrorist investigation this man is taken while on a business trip and handed over to American officials who utilize a process called Rendition to send him to a country where they can have him tortured. There is also a connected story which follows the life of the torturer and his struggles to save his relationship with his daughter who has run away to avoid an arranged marriage.

This is well made movie, the settings are convincing and the story is intense and captivating. There are several effective twists and turns and a great ending. There's really nothing brilliant here but it's very good.

As I've said before on this site I'm really into performances and while the acting is good in Rendition, nobody amazed me.

All in all this one of the better options on an otherwise underwhelming rental shelf these days. I put Rendition on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $8.

April 3, 2008

Occupato - $7

Occupato was well worth watching. This is an entertaining short film by Shea Sizemore and the rest of the aspiring movie makers at (un)Heralded films.

When I started reviewing movies as a hobby at this site one of the first people I stumbled across in the movie-review-blog world was Shea Sizemore, pictured above. Shea has become one of the more regular visitors to my humble site and I've always appreciated the comments he makes. Shea's film company (un)Heralded has a few projects under their belt and you can order a collection of these films here.

I ordered this collection and have enjoyed everything I've watched. The headline movie of the collection is a comedy/horror called Occupato. Occupato revolves around a portable toilet that pulls it's victims in with long toilet paper arms. Sounds goofy and while it is humorous and entertaining, Occupato manages to make the viewer fear the portable toilet, at least a little bit. (picture below not actual toilet in Occupato)

Visually this is actually a very impressive movie, I really like some of the shots and there is a lot of potential shown here. I'm really looking forward to future film projects from the (un)Heralded filmmakers.

All in all I put Occupato on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7. Check out the (un)Heralded collection and again you can order it here.