Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Simpsons Movie
In theaters: 2007
Runtime: 87 minutes
Seemed like: 120 minutes
aaaaaaa out of 10 checkmarks

I am a Simpsons fan from the start. I watched them on the Tracy Ullman Show. I remember the first Christmas special before the premier of their primetime show. I purchased cels from their first season. The Simpsons were fresh. Bart was irreverent. The comedy was complex and simple at the same time...the only way I like comedy.

This movie was a tame reflection of what the Simpsons used to be. The movie should have been called Homer's Odyssey, based on its obsession with the father figure. Where was the ironic banter of all of the sidekicks? The beauty of the Simpsons is the depth provided by the Patty and Selma's, or the Apu's, or the Barney's. Their ability to make Homer seem even more simple is what makes the show tick.

I will give kudos for the roles of Chief Wiggum and the comic book guy("worst episode ever"), but what happened to Monty Burns, the billionaire we love to hate. He just had a cameo. Lisa was strong at the outset, but essentially pushed aside by the end. Marge was classic Marge. But Bart was NOT Bart. When would Bart EVER want Flanders for his father??? Bart was barely mischievous.

Maybe I'm too close. The animation was the best I've ever seen on the Simpsons, but that's not saying much. Part of the Simpsons charm has been the lousy animation. Great music...kudos to Hans Zimmer.

I'm glad I saw it, just for history's sake. If you're not a Simpsons fan, and are over 25 don't waste your money.

PS If you go...wait through the credits!

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bourne Ultimatum
Released in theater 2007
Runtime: 111 minutes
Seemed like: 95 minutes
aaaaaaaaa out of 10 checkmarks

Wow! A movie in the theater! The big screen, the big speakers, the way the Bourne movies were meant to be seen. Lots of great chase scenes, great action scenes and fantastic music make this a great show to spend money on. Fortunately, we didn't have to spend any money to see this sneak preview (thanks Marcey!) we just had to put up with some local radio personality for 10 minutes.

This is a fun summer movie. If you haven't sen any Bourne movies, this guy is an uber-spy that the CIA is trying to rub out. That's all you need to know. The rest is just rooting for the underdog against the big bad government. Matt Damon gives as much expression as he can to this nearly robotic character. Most of the acting is understated, shall we say. Since there's no humor or intimacy throughout the movie, it's really just a matter of being very tense.

So, if it's not up to the actors, the success of this movies lies with the director and writers. What a fast-paced movie! Paul Greengrass must have stock in Red Bull. This movie never stops. But the writing is the glue that rises above the action and transcends the series of chases and fights into a fun, semi-intelligent, suspenseful thriller.

But I can't give it a perfect score. I wonder if the DP ever heard of a tripod? It's a great device that holds the camera steady. I understand the use of handheld cameras to enhance action and suspense, but give my eyes a break when the action slows down. Finally, Greengrass pushed my suspension of disbelief too far a couple of times. It's great to see Bourne escape from terrible predicaments with only his wits and resourcefulness, but he crawled out of one too many car accidents for my taste. The guy's supposed to be human after all.

Watch this movie. It's fun.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

DVD Released 2007
Runtime: Approximately 124 minutes
Seems like 150 minutes
aaaa out of 7 stars

Let me preface this review by telling you I never liked the Rambo movies. I always thought the vigilante shoot-em-up movies over-simplified things. Good vs bad, violence solves all problems, and no wrong goes unavenged. I'm sorry, but life can be unfair, and no amount of fighting back can change that.

That being said, Shooter is OK, even if it is a Rambo rip-off. Lots of fun action, good plot twists, and pretty girls. It's a great way to hate the crooks in the government without really having to do anything about them. The soundtrack doesn't detract from the movie, in fact it actually adds suspense in a few key scene. The explosions were great, the chases believable. The acting was fine, if you like stereotypes, but the dialogue was lame and cliche ridden.

Mark Wahlberg portrays the latest uber-human with incredible shooting and survival skills. No real complexity or back story, just a military machine. Danny Glover is a government crook who whispers instead of talks. This is one of his weakest roles I've seen in a long time.

Except for the first plot twist, the movie is predictable. There's the classic thriller scene of the bad guy stalking the underwear clad girl, all alone in her bedroom. There's the classic plea for patriotism. And there's the classic conspiracy. It was a classic movie from a template.

Don't bother watching this if you want to expand your mind. If you just want to escape a little, sit back and watch the explosions!

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Children of Men
DVD released 2007
Running time: 109 minutes
Seemed like: 90 minutes
aaaaaaaaaaaaaa out of 15 checkmarks

This adaptation of the pre-apocalyptic novel by P.D. James makes me want to get the book from the library. Set in a British landscape not quite as desolate as the original Mad Max movies, the movie created a world just over the brink of disaster in a mostly believable way.

Acting is secondary to the story and directing. This appears to be Clive Owen's largest role. Ever hear of him? neither. He's a little bit of a British Nicholas Cage, always has kind of a smirk, but conveys a wide array of emotions nevertheless. This character wasn't a real strong acting role, so maybe that's why he was so capable. Julianne Moore did fine, but the scene stealer was Michael Caine as an ancient hippie, of course.

The directing was crisp and riveting. The story never slowed down, and the expository revelations really created a believable world. Alfonso Cuarón is virtually unknown to me. I enjoyed Y tu mamá también, but he is apparently breaking into the mainstream with a Harry Potter flick and this. I'll be looking for his next features.

There are some excellent, looooong shots in this movie. In the uprising scene, one shot appears to last for 2 to 3 minutes with an incredible amount of action. On further review, it appears they were extremely excellent editors.

If you don't like futuristic movies, don't watch this. If you like carefully crafted story-telling, solid direction, head-scratching plots, true suspense, plus realistic revolution scenes, this movie is a must.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Check out these previous blogs of current Oscar nominees:

Little Miss Sunshine :
  • Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Original Screenplay
    Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest :
  • Achievement in Art Direction
  • Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Achievement in Visual Effects
    Cars :
  • Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
  • Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

          • Little Miss Sunshine
            DVD released 2006
            Running Time: 101 minutes
            Seemed like 90 minutes
            * out of 1 star

            This nominee for Best Picture is one of the best movies I've seen in a while. Since it is already getting so much publicity and press, I'll limit my comments to gushing.

            This is a low-budget Vacation, but funnier. There's no WallyWorld, no Chevy Chase or Beverly D'Angelo, but there is an insanely funny dysfunctional family that pulls together to create a family moment Capra would shed a tear for.

            The characters:

            It's a great recipe that makes the line: "Everyone pretend to be normal" hilarious.

            Make sure you watch this pithy commentary on death, morality, society, and love.

            Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest
            DVD released 2006
            Running time: 150 minutes
            Seemed like 175
            *** out of four stars

            Dead Man's Chest (or Curse of the Sequel of Curse of the Black Pearl), carries a lot of dead weight. It relies heavily on the first movie for both the storytelling and the humor. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember enough of the first movie to understand a lot of the jokes or the story.

            I enjoyed the first POTC. Johnny Depp was a hoot, Orlando Bloom was secondary enough to not reveal he's just eye-candy, and the novelty of associating the movie as the back story to the Disneyland ride gave it a sentimental edge. My favorite part was the guys in jail trying to get the keys from the dog, JUST LIKE IN THE RIDE I RODE WHEN I WAS 10! The rest of the story was just fun.

            Dead Man's chest tries to take itself seriously. They want us to care about the intrigue of family relationships and trysts with the devil (or Davey Jones.) WHY? Can't it just be silly action? The special effects, BTW, were very good. The makeup for Davey Jones' crew was gruesomely grand, and the digital octopus was quite lifelike. The soundtrack was well done and will be a great addition to my mp3 collection.

            Depp's role stole the movie, of course. His flaming selfishness, and cowardly ambitions are conveyed through this weirdo. And what great makeup with the eight eyes.

            None of the other actors deserve mention in this forgettable film. While some productions manage to entertain both children and adults at the same time, this film got lost and probably scares kids and bores adults. Then, horror of horrors, it sets up another sequel at the end.

            Don't bother with this.

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            Thursday, January 18, 2007

            DVD released 2002
            Running time:98 minutes
            Seemed like: 80 minutes
            ********** out of 11 stars

            Emma Thompson shines again. This HBO movie revolves around Thompson as a scholar dying from cancer. Her delivery pulls in the audience with flair, humor, emotion, and...wit. Amie warned me that it was a chick flick. Instead, this was more of an intellectual exercise into metaphysical matters.

            It's also a refreshing and distressing look at hospital life. The agendas and protocols that strip dignity from patients are startling. Clearly, the playwright who wrote the original play has experienced it herself. Emma and director Mike Nichols' wonderful screenplay transfers this sentiment to the screen.

            As for Mike Nichols, director and co-screenplay writer, he breaks a lot of rules - the fourth wall, the time-space continuum, and keeping actors in character. The flashback juxtapositions - putting a chemo induce bald Emma into her college professor's office, putting her father from childhood into her hospital room - enhances the whole metaphysical dialog. Who ever thought John Donne would play a prominent role in an HBO flick?

            Be prepared for uncomfortable scenes of nausea, pain, and death. They aren't exploitative, rather they complement the underlying themes.

            Get this DVD. It's entertaining, mind expanding, thought provoking, and well executed.

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            Friday, December 29, 2006

            DVD released in 2006
            Running time 116 minutes
            seemed like 90 minutes
            19 out of 20 stars

            Who knew Pixar was 20 years old? My wife and I have watched computer generated animation from this house since the desk lamp and ball appeared in an International Tournee of Animation. Pixar's ability to mesh the new technology with the timeless art of storytelling sets them ahead of the rest of the field.

            I am an animation fan. This movie ranks along side Monsters, Inc., Toy Story, Fantasia, Cinderella, and Snow White. They made the right move in Cars by not animating anything human. Too often the human computer generated (CG) animation is creepy, and this hurt both Monster's and Toy Story. I think Cars captured the beauty of animation through anthropomorphism.

            The story is still aimed for youthful audiences, but of course Pixar does the usual remarkable job of keeping it entertaining for adults. They are the pros of self-conscious humor. But be prepared for a lesson on who friends really are. Also be prepared for the extended Randy Newman quirky songs.

            If you want some fun... get this.