Pacific Rim (2013)

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okay, this new iron man suit is pretty frickin' sweet...

okay, this new iron man suit is pretty frickin’ sweet…

Well, at least it’s better than Transformers.

This movie isn’t hateful.  It doesn’t make me mad watching it like some other big budget explosion-fests, but it does frustrate me.  Why?  Because it’s the kind of movie that could be so much more.  I watch it and realize that, with a few changes, it could satisfy the inner child in me that wants to see people in giant robot suits fighting huge alien monsters, as well as the adult part of me that would enjoy an interesting story as well. Something with well-developed characters, a plot with a few unexpected twists, and maybe even a story line that challenges me in some way.  The only challenge in this movie is trying to name all of the movies that it reminds you of.  There were many for me – Independence Day, Transformers, the 1998 Godzilla movie, and of course, Robot Jox.

That is not an impressive list of movies to borrow from, and while Pacific Rim thankfully isn’t overloaded with as many comedy relief attempts as most other big budget blockbusters, it still falls into the same bad habits as most of those movies.  Seriously, is it too much to ask to do something unpredictable?  Not one single thing happened in this movie that was unexpected.  And I do mean not ONE THING.  It is movie-making autopilot of the worst kind.  But hey, as long as it looks cool, right?

Well, about that…

While admittedly these robot/monster fights are less muddled and headache-inducing than the fight sequences in Transformers, they still occur almost exclusively either at night, in the ocean, in the rain, or all of the above.  A few daylight fights would have been nice.

I could go on a long rant about logic problems and various other issues, but CinemaSins and Screen Junkies already did a nice job with that.  (Big time spoilers in both those videos!)

In the end, this is actually an okay movie if you’re looking for totally mindless entertainment.  Like I said, it doesn’t make me angry watching it like Transformers and some other movies.  It’s stupid and could have been SO much better, but it is what it is.

5.5/10

Fin (2012)

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...and I feel fin...

…and I feel fin…

And by Fin, they mean THE END.

The end of what, you may ask.  Well, the end of everything it seems.  A group of old friends have reassembled at a mountain cabin that they spent a lot of time at in their younger days, and the first sign that something is amiss is that Felix (Daniel Grao) notices that the star Sirius, the brightest in the night sky, is missing.  Shortly after that, there’s a strange flash, accompanied by a loud rumble, then the sky takes on an eerie glow. Everything electronic is knocked out, including transportation.  The group is stranded, and when they wake up in the morning, one of them has vanished.

They work through personal issues, as well as the issue of what the heck is going on, as they trek across barren lands in search of any other humans.  Of course, there’s also the minor issue of which one is going to vanish next.

I think I need to just go ahead and accept that most low-budget sci-fi/supernatural movies are going to have ambiguous endings.  Closure is not a cornerstone of indie film-making.  Actually, I’m not even sure this is an Indie movie.  Maybe this is mainstream in Spain, where it is made, but it has that low-budget feel of American independent film.  It’s character driven, with minimal special effects.

I like the core mystery of it all, and how it’s sort of a picture of life sped up.  You never know when somebody is just going to…not be here anymore.  The characters are okay, but there was maybe a little too much anger and drama between all these folks who are supposed to have been so close for so long.  Maybe that was the point?  That they’ve grown apart so much that they just yell at each other now, but it didn’t make for an overly pleasant experience at times. Gotta say, though, the atmosphere and the impending doom of the inevitable end kept me interested until the foggy (literally) finale, and even though exactly what was going on wasn’t necessarily need-to-know information, I suppose it’s a sign of a fairly well made movie that I really wanted to know.

7.2/10

Ruby Sparks (2012)

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is somebody over there trying to be quirkier than me!!??

is somebody over there trying to be quirkier than me!!??

Ah, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  Whether it’s Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Winslet, or…Zooey Deschanel, it’s a character that has become all too familiar in movies – particularly indie movies – in the past decade or so.  A quirky, unpredictable girl who brings the male protagonist to life and turns his life into a constant adventure.

In this case, it’s Zoe Kazan as Ruby Sparks, who is, quite literally, the dream girl of writer Calvin (Paul Dano).  He dreams about her, then begins writing a book about her.  Then, to his understandable surprise, one day Ruby materializes in Calvin’s kitchen, seemingly unaware that she had no existence before he dreamed her up.  At first all is wonderful and happy for the two (once Calvin comes to grips with this odd occurrence), but eventually Ruby gets bored existing for the sole purpose of making Calvin’s life better.  She’s unhappy.  So, Calvin writes more in his book, this time making her happy all the time.  Her constant joy grows tiresome, so he must write her differently.  Needless to say, these rewrites go on for a while as Calvin tries to achieve the perfect balance in Ruby.

This movie, written by star Zoe Kazan herself, takes the idea of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and reveals why this male fantasy puts so much pressure on the girl in question.  At one point Ruby says something to Calvin about him not having any friends.  He says, “I have you. I don’t need anyone else.”  To which she responds, “that’s a lot of pressure.”  This MPDG concept puts all the onus on the girl to make a relationship exciting, with the guy just going along for the ride.  All he has to do is accept her for who she is.  “I love your mess,” Calvin says at one point.

This whole idea was explored to a similar extent in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  That’s another character, Joel, who simply wants to go along for the ride with Clementine, and she lets him tag along because he’s nice and accepts her manic ways.  Though, only for a while, until she gets bored with his lack of emotional intimacy.

The performances are all good enough, including smaller roles featuring Annette Benning, Antonio Banderas, and Elliott Gould.  Though, I feel like the concept/story succeeds more entirely than the execution of it.  It drags a little at times, and that ending wasn’t so hot…

7.8/10

Sound of My Voice (2011)

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hey, four-eyes, how's the film coming along?

hey, four-eyes, how’s the film coming along?

Well this was something sorta different.

This is a little movie about a documentary filmmaker, Peter (Christopher Denham), and his girlfriend, Lorna (Nicole Vicius), infiltrating a small cult in order to get the scoop on what’s going on there.  The group is led by Maggie (Brit Marling), a woman who claims she has traveled back in time, bringing with her tales of a horrible civil war.  Posing as members of the group causes a strain on Peter and Lorna’s relationship as one of them starts to wonder if Maggie could be on the level.

This is not a thrill-a-minute type of movie.  Most of it takes place in the small basement of an average American house.  There is a lot of dialogue, but it is also a very quiet movie.  That’s not to say there aren’t some tense and mysterious moments, as Peter and Lorna are at risk of being revealed as impostors at any moment.  The drama is a little Hitchcockian in that regard, which I like.

The performances are mostly good, especially Brit Marling as Maggie.  She has a little bit of a creepy, other-worldly vibe going, but she can also seem very down to earth, which is exactly what this kind of leader should exude.

This one seems just a couple steps away from being pretty great, but as is, I’d call it good for sure, and worth a watch if you like interesting indie movies.

7.5/10

Iron Man 3 (2013)

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c'mon, make it a true daily double!

c’mon, make it a true daily double!

In short – not as good as the first one, but definitely better than the second.

I liked the feel of this one better, and it certainly felt like there was a real threat from the villain (Guy Pearce), even if I was never quite sure of his master plan.  Maybe I just missed it, or maybe he’s like the Joker and just wants to watch the world burn.  Either way, he was an angry, bad dude who racks up quite a body count in this one.

Robert Downey Jr. is still good, Don Cheadle is still underused, Gwyneth Paltrow is still there to be put in harm’s way, Jon Favreau keeps getting larger, and Ben Kingsley teeters between show-stealing and show-grinding-to-a-halt.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about Sir Ben’s performance.  One actor I know I did like was this kid Ty Simpkins.  He was surprisingly un-annoying and had a lot of chemistry with RDJ.  I really enjoyed that portion of the film.

If you’re looking for a few thrills, some funny moments, yet another villain with a vague overall scheme, and several references to The Avengers, this is your movie.  If not, then may I suggest finding some other movie with much fewer Avengers references, like Casablanca, Jaws, or Return to the Blue Lagoon.

7.3/10

Prometheus (2012)

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He's got the whoooole world...

He’s got the whoooole world…

Well, it took me long enough to finally see this.  I guess all the hate scared me off, but I really didn’t think it was quite as bad as some were reporting.  Disappointing?  Sure, but not terrible.  Just…a bit too straightforward for this series.  Basically it’s just another story of people landing on a strange planet, encountering a life form, and then being turned into monsters by that life form.  It reminded me a lot of another movie I reviewed on here not too long ago called The Last Days on Mars, which I guess could just be a ripoff of Prometheus.

I like some aspects of this story, mainly the explanation of the black biological substance they encounter and what it was intended for, but other aspects were disappointing.  The alien race our human protagonists come to meet turn out to be just as uninteresting as most of the human characters in the movie.  Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are pretty good, but the rest of the cast (save for maybe Idris Elba) are fairly dull.  And what’s with Guy Pearce being buried in some of the most unconvincing makeup I’ve ever seen?

Basically there are some good moments, nice visuals, and a few good ideas, but it all seems so typical that it’s hard to muster much excitement about the movie.  And yes, I agree with anybody that was yelling, “just run to the side!”

6.3/10

Safe House (2012)

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go inside, this house is safe...i think...maybe...

go inside, this house is safe…i think…maybe…

On two separate occasions in this movie, the lead characters find themselves in a so called “safe house”.  In both instances, the houses prove far from being safe.  People keep getting killed in the safe houses.  I think they need to change the name.

Other than that, this is a fairly adequate thriller.  I mean, there’s intrigue…and spy stuff…and betrayals…and things like that.  It will have you guessing at who the real villain is…for about 2 minutes, but then you’ll figure it out pretty quickly because it’s really obvious.

Denzel is his usual Denzel-self, and Ryan Reynolds is okay.  The cast as a whole is fine.  But the movie itself is just…there.  Not much unexpected happens, but there are a couple of good fight scenes and chases and such, if you’re into that sort of thing.

“Run of the mill”…that’s a good descriptive term for this one.  I guess it has a touch more realism than some other movies in the genre, but it still feels like something I’ve seen before…many times.

6.1/10

 

Admission (2013)

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i'd hang up, but they said my call is very important to them...

i’d hang up, but they said my call is very important to them…

This is one of those movies that just passes through your brain without really having any effect at all.

It’s not particularly funny (doesn’t even really try to be actually), and the emotional moments are all really low-key.  No characters or scenes have enough energy to be annoying, so you just drift through it with ease.

I will say, though, that the ending is actually somewhat depressing.  Tina Fey’s character is left a bit adrift and sad at the end in some regards, and it gives the movie an overall downer feel.

It seems like this movie should have been an indie drama but somebody decided to morph it into a romantic comedy.  It doesn’t work as either.

But it’s easy to sit through…so it has that going for it…

5.5/10

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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careful driving today...there's a good chance of smaaauuug

careful driving today…there’s a good chance of smaaauuug

Let’s face it, this entire movie series was just leading up to the scene in this movie towards the end where Bilbo meets Smaug and all hell breaks loose.  And hey, that scene delivers.  It’s intense and fun, but it results in a bit of a let down when the movie ends shortly after it.  After a lot of padding and unnecessarily drawn out scenes, we get to the good stuff and then the movie is over!

In some ways I don’t mind Jackson fleshing out this story and adding a little more depth, but at times in this one (more so than in the first film) I found myself getting a little frustrated with some scenes that just went on too long or didn’t seem to belong.  I could feel it being pushed out to 3 movies.

That being said, it’s still a pretty fun ride.  I saw it in 3D IMAX and that was a bit much.  I need to see it again in 2D just to catch a few moments in the action scenes that I missed the first time around.

One last complaint to voice – I wish they had added a couple more dwarves.  Why? So that Smaug would have had something to munch on.  There’s no real sense of danger in the action sequences because you know none of these characters are going to be killed off.  The journey would seem much more perilous if occasionally a dwarf or two were lost.  Just sayin’…

7.8/10

Man of Steel (2013)

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only ONE american flag in this shot?  c'mon...

only ONE american flag in this shot? c’mon…

What do you get when you take Superman, sprinkle in a little Jesus, pour in a few cups of Battlestar Galactica, and then smother it with Matrix Revolutions?  You get this…mess of a movie.

Superman has always been a problematic hero since he’s just too powerful.  Thus, either his powers have to be taken away, or he has to face a villain with equal powers.  This movie basically combines the 1978 and 1980 Superman movies into one, but layers even more convoluted plot lines on top of those stories.  Oh, and more explosions and stuff.  There’s more of that too.  A lot more.

Would someone please make a Superman movie where we see what being Superman would really be like?  The emotional turmoil experienced by someone who could easily just take over the planet and be its ruler in the name of creating real peace.  Yeah, Superman IV touched on this a little with his “quest for peace”, but that movie was awful in ways that most movies could never dream of, so…it doesn’t count.

Or maybe we could see how frustrated Superman is by not being able to save everybody all the time.  He’s only so fast.

I dunno…something besides…this.  This is just indestructible people throwing each other through buildings over and over again.  It lacks…humanity.  Superman doesn’t really seem to care about people in this movie the way he does in the first couple with Christopher Reeve.  If he did, he would have led these villains away from the big city and out into the country somewhere.  But no, he’s happy to throw them through populated buildings and city streets causing incredible amounts of damage.

Just one of the many things in this disappointing movie that doesn’t make sense.

Oh, and the special effects are pretty crappy at times.

5.9/10 

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