So, I’ve seen a lot of movies during the past few months. A lot of movies. However, because I’ve been trying (and mostly failing) to make progress on my thesis research, I have yet to write about them. I’m going to remedy that with this post, and provide short reviews of every movie I remember seeing in theatre in the last little while. If I forget any, I’ll add them over the next few days.
Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland was only okay. It was pretty, and had some cool and funny moments, but was generally just “meh”. The plot didn’t make much sense, it had the same creepy Burton-esque imagery all of his films have, and the ending was uninspired. Also, I saw the 3D version, which was crap—the movie wasn’t filmed in 3D, and the “conversion” process left a lot to be desired. Anyway, this movie was passably entertaining, but there’s no need to seek it out.
She’s Out of My League
This movie is a bit out of my normal viewing habits, but it was that rarest of all creatures: a romantic comedy with a male protagonist. This is not to be confused with the sex comedy, which is about guys trying to get laid and the wackiness that ensues. This is an actual romantic comedy about a regular joe (played by Jay Baruchel, to whom I have been partial since seeing him in Fanboys and who is turning up all over the place these days) who ends up attracting the attention of a super-hot woman, and the wackiness that ensues as he tries to figure out how to get over his own insecurities so they can actually be together.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It’s rare to find a modern romantic comedy that doesn’t irk me in some way, but this one worked for me overall. If you’re looking for such fare, you could do worse than this one.
Clash of the Titans
I saw this movie in 2D after hearing that the 3D sucked. (Experience with the “converted-to-3D” Alice suggested such conversions were no good, anyway.) Though unfamiliar with the original movie, I had high hopes for this one—I figured, giant monsters fighting each other, how could it go wrong?
Alas, the title misled me, and the movie was a confusing jumble, with a demigod and his companions on a quest to stop the Kraken. The visual effects were fine, and some of the battles were pretty sweet, but the hero and his companions were all stock characters without a lick of inventiveness about them, and you could pretty much predict the order they’d die in.
I think that this was possibly the most disappointing movie of the last two months, simply because it would have been so easy to make this better than it was.
Now this was a tremendously awesome movie. The girlfriend described it as Kill Bill with an 11-year-old, and that’s damned accurate for parts of it. The trailers made this look like as if it was a “teenage boy decides to become a superhero”, which does happen, but what the movie actually does is show how awful and horrifying such a life can be for everyone involved in it. It pulls this off with a lot of profanity, graphic violence, and touching moments of humour and kindness. This is certainly one of my favourites so far this year.
Iron Man 2
The original Iron Man movie was a tough act to follow. It came out of nowhere, and was so good at balancing action and character depth and development. Thus, I had a lot of trepidation about the sequel. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.
Iron Man 2 was a good movie. Not as good as its predecessor, not quite becoming great. But it was entertaining. Lots of great action sequences. It was fun. I think, however, that they tried to cram in too much character development without giving enough screen time to do it right, leaving it feeling rushed and superficial. I would have happily given up some of the action sequences in favour of the character depth.
My fondest hope is that the inevitable Iron Man 3 raises the bar again, rather than dropping the ball as all of Marvel’s other part threes have.
This was a Canadian Western movie starring Paul Gross. That may tell you everything you need to know. Overall, it was pretty entertaining. It had genuinely funny moments, but also its share of cliches. It doesn’t redefine the Western genre or anything, but is well-produced and well-performed. Fun, and worth watching if you come across it.
This movie was much better than I expected, although it was severely lacking in Alan Rickman. While it is supposedly an origin story of Robin Hood, there was very little about it that had any meaningful connection to various Robin Hood legends other than the character names. Other people have referred to this as “Gladiator in England”, and they’re not wrong. Still, the story was coherent and compelling (although my medievalist friends were less than enamored of certain aspects), the soundtrack was good, and—apart from some shaky-cam—the battle scenes were fun. A quality movie overall.
Shrek Forever After
The fourth Shrek movie was another pleasant surprise. I had felt that the second and third movies in the franchise veered a little too much into self-congratulation and knowing winks to the audience in the form of wall-to-wall pop culture references, but this movie was closer to the original in form. It didn’t beat you over the head with pop culture references (though it still had them), it did beat you over the head with the character arc (as all of the others have done), and it worked as a fun, lighthearted movie. I liked it almost as much as the first.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
This may be the best movie ever made that was based on a video game. By that comment, I certainly do mean to damn with faint praise.
Apart from the more general issues (none of the princes of Persia look especially Persian, for example), my major criticism relates to the action and parkour scenes. Unlike Jenn, I found the parkour scenes uneven. The sequence when he was a kid was great, with all the action and moves visible and easy to follow. Once Jake Gyllenhaal takes the screen, the camera zooms in so all you can see are his rippling pecs, and none of the actual parkour. Admittedly, Jenn and I are in different demographics, and so her appreciation of the “parkour” may have a different motive than mine.
Anyway, the movie was entertaining, even though a number of the characters acted in completely arbitrary and/or stupid ways in order to further the plot. The rationale behind the ending was unclear, and the ending itself was a bit of a cop-out, undermining everything that happened in the movie itself. I think this is best considered as the sort of movie that you might watch on late-night TV rather than seeking it out on purpose.
[Update 02 July 2010] How could I forget the best part of this movie? The ostrich racing, ran by Alfred Molina’s character. That was almost worth the price of admission itself. (To clarify, this is ostrich racing where the ostriches have riders. So like horse races, not dog races. Awesome.)
The Karate Kid
I went to see this movie because, well, it was a cheap weekend morning movie and nothing else was out at the time. I was sort of appalled when I saw the trailers for a movie called The Karate Kid where they were clearly studying kung fu, and also that they were remaking a cheesy 80’s movie series. I mean, I think Jackie Chan was a great choice for the mentor, but they turned it into a little kids’ movie.
But it turns out the movie wasn’t so bad. I found it a little slow to begin with, but I was actually pretty impressed with the fight choreography when stuff started going down. They gave Chan’s character a bit more depth than Mr. Miyagi got in his first movie, and had some nice training montages. Jaden Smith did a good job as a lead, too, for such a young actor. I was rather surprised to see full-contact martial arts tournament in a kid-oriented movie, too, but I certainly enjoyed it. Perhaps not worth heading out to see, but not a bad watch.
This movie was delightful. The cast was solid in taking over roles from the classic TV show, the plot was delightfully ridiculous, and the action non-stop. In fact, my only criticism might be that there was too much action, and so the audience was left with little down time. I think I would have enjoyed some longer, more in-depth planning sequences than we were treated to, but that’s a minor quibble. The movie poked fun at itself and its origins, cleverly acknowledging how ridiculous their plans could get and mocking the action movie genre in general.
Oh, one other thing: the final action sequence was perhaps a bit too explosive. Without giving anything away, let me just say that the same people who built the hotel in Quantum of Solace turned their hands to shipbuilding, leading to a climactic battle that was just a little too CGI-heavy and over-the-top (a.k.a. Michael Bay-like). But the movie is super-fun overall.
Toy Story 3
I ended up seeing this movie twice, once in 3D and once in 2D, for two reasons: both showings were cheap, and it was really good. Now, I’m not really a fan of the Toy Story franchise. I’ve only watched the first one on TV while doing something else, and I don’t think I had seen the second at all. (I came to Pixar around Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo, and have been stuck with them ever since—except for Cars.) I say this to clarify that I don’t have 15 years of history with these characters.
Nonetheless, the movie was tightly plotted, with well-paced plot and emotional arcs (as I have come to expect from Pixar) and an ending that left me teary-eyed both times. (Not Up-weepy, but still not bad.) It’s just a really well-done movie, and should be satisfying to fans of the other two.
Regarding the 2D versus 3D: I saw the 3D one first, and honestly didn’t notice it much, except for the two or three occasions where they did something up really high and I thought, “Now there’s a shot put in for 3D.” More to the point, I didn’t miss anything at all in the 2D version—it seemed perfectly excellent to me. So maybe saving your extra $3 is not a bad thing, but see this movie. Highly recommended.