Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Nutshell Movie Reviews

Some movies I saw fairly recently in no particular order. You might notice I mention the lengths of these movies. I don't mean to suggest that the length has anything to do with the quality of it, but it certainly figures in there somehow. That is, if a movie feels like its dragging, you're probably not enjoying it and vice versa. Just meant as a relative scale to let you know how much of your life you might regret living by watching one of these movies.

Blades of Glory (2007)- Funnier than I thought it would be; like most movies of this kind I think a lot of the gags were ruined/spoiled by the trailers when it was in theaters. Clocks in short (around 93 minutes) but not in a bad way. Amy Poehler and Will Arnette are a pleasant surprise as the rival team. If you like Jon Heder and Will Ferrell then you should check it out.

Shoot'em Up (2007)- I wanted to see this when it initially ran, but it was open for all of two weeks I think. Basic no brainer action movie however, that is what the director intended. Michael Davis' previous directorial adventure was the direct to Sci-fi channel Monster Man, which was sort of inexplicably bad. Sequences in Shoot'em Up were over the top ridiculous fun, with that it does not disappoint.

3:10 to Yuma (2007)- Another movie I wanted to catch on its initial run but never got around to. 3:10 to Yuma was hyped up by many and yet another remake of a classic film. I think that it lived up to the hype and Christian Bale and especially Russell Crowe's respective performances really sell the film. Though being a remake, based on what others have said of the original film, it manages to expand characters from the original without losing the direction and feel of the original film.

Ratatouille (2007)- Shouldn't be surprised but I was, I liked Ratatouille more than I thought I would. Patton Oswalt does a great job of getting sympathy from the audience as well as a bunch of other tip of your tongue actors/actresses (Brian Dennehy, Peter O'toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garafolo et al.). Typical, that is to say good, Pixar quality exudes in this movie.

Rambo (2008)- Between having heard Sylvester Stallone was doing another Rambo and actually seeing the initial uncut trailer, I was skeptical to whether or not he could pull it off. Not having seen Rocky Balboa but hearing he did pull that off, I remained cautiously optimistic. The uncut trailer gives you a glimpse of what to expect. Rather than try to throw a back story with some fictitious place, Stallone wanted to bring to light the genocide in Burma that no one wants to talk about. Politics aside, the movie provides almost a typical action movie formula. Humanitarian group wants to travel to badlands, Rambo refuses and eventually caves and they are captured. Rambo must rescue them with a band of ragtag mercenaries ironically enough hired by same humanitarian group superiors. The violence and gore in this movie is almost astounding, that alone should warrant viewing. Seeing Stallone run around and eviscerate Burmese soldiers is also enough to warrant viewing. The movie does a great job of villainizing the Burmese army and the conclusion comes somewhat quickly, if I had to complain about something. Another short movie clocking in around an hour and half. One somewhat unbelievable aspect is that John Rambo sports a Panerai Luminor Marina which they make a point to show several times. Sly is a big Panerai nut, big enough that they named a model after his movie Daylight and did some variations of their watches as "Sly Tech" pieces. Even still its kind of hard to suspend disbelief that living in the conditions John Rambo has, for that period of time he has one.

I Am Legend (2007)- Another remake based on Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, the previous films being the Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth. The film had great potential but I think the shortcoming was how thin the premise is. There was room for it to be more fleshed out, but it seems as though they wanted to keep it true to the source material. The first half to three quarters of the movie is the most interesting, showing Neville's daily routine and search for the cure. The conclusion comes far too quickly and almost as though the original author were either bored or wrote himself into a hole. The CG for the infected humans was unusual and at times suffered from the "rubber" body syndrome.

Death Sentence (2007)- This movie was embarrassingly bad. I was eager to see it in theaters but thankfully missed it. If not for the ending which wasn't really all that special I would have no reason to recommend this. Kevin Bacon ranges from acceptable to down right awful at some points. Generally speaking I've liked him in the movies I've seen but for some reason this movie just doesn't fit him. Typical revenge story that doesn't really kick in until the last quarter of the movie. The action is somewhat realistic though there are a few moments where you must suspend disbelief to proceed. Gang members respective portrayals are extremely corny (pouring 40oz for a fallen comrade) and poorly written. The other problem was that there wasn't really anyone even close to likable in the movie.

The Kingdom (2007)- Surprisingly better than I thought it would be though it begs a lot of questions. A lot of cliches though I don't think they can be avoided with the subject matter. Ending raises some questions as to the intent of the movie. I can't say much more without getting political (which I'm not good at).

Dragonball: The Magic Begins (1989)- AKA "Xin qi long zhu" Chinese live action story loosely based on the Dragonball world. This is easily one of the worst/best movies I've ever seen. I'm not sure I can categorize it as a movie that's so bad its good, I think it transcends that. The version I saw was a 'remastered' edition that had some added CG added for this release. I'm not sure if I can re-iterate what I saw into words, I would suggest if you have a friend who likes or has an inkling of interest in Dragonball, check this out (some alcohol wouldn't hurt either). This movie is really something that needs to be seen to be appreciated. There were moments where I wasn't sure I was watching the same movie and parts where I thought I went momentarily insane. I think both aforementioned parts involved Master Roshi/Kame Senin. Below is a taste of Master Roshi:

Zeiram (1991)- Japanese live action adaptation of anime/manga Iria. Film follows an intergalactic bounty hunter Iria and her partner Bob as they try to capture intergalactic space menace Zeiram. This all takes place on earth. Iria enlists the assistance of two bumbling Japanese electricians to capture Zeiram once and for all. I saw this movie when I was younger on VHS and couldn't appreciate it then. For what its worth, not an awful live-action adaptation. I'd say its a good adaptation considering the year it was made and the source material. Yuko Moriyama does a great job portraying the tough yet feminine Iria. The Zeiram costume is pretty impressive and does the trick of being intimidating/imposing in scale. The special effects were also good for its time, a healthy dose of stop motion and wire maquettes get the job done. The Zeiram head monster is a bit unnerving in its tentacle/phallus-ness. English dub is surprisingly good, they did a great job lip syncing.

Daywatch (2006)- I had heard about the novels this movie and Nightwatch were based on, however not having seen or read Nightwatch, left me very confused. The introduction was very cool, but sort of sets the viewer up for failure. The movie is quite long as well somewhere around 2 hours 26 minutes. Special effects are very well done, the dub was atrocious making the already incomprehensible plot more difficult to follow.

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