Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: Monsters vs. Aliens

Grade: A

The premise of this movie is quite simple: Mythical monsters do exist, and the government knows about it and captures them and keeps them in a super secret underground government base. When a meteor containing a powerful substance crashes into Earth, it alerts the attention of an Alien who sends a giant robot to Earth to retrieve it then the titular battle ensues. Very simple but very entertaining. It all starts on Susan's (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) wedding day when she gets hit by aforementioned meteor and then ends up growing to 50 feet tall. She is then captured by a secret government agency that puts her in an underground base where she meets the other monsters: Insectosaurus, a giant, simple minded, insect version of Godzilla, The Missing Link (voiced by Will Arnett), a creature from the black-lagoon-esque lizard-man, Dr. Cockroach (voiced by Hugh Laurie), a mad scientist who transformed himself into a roach-man and the monster who steals the show, B.O.B, a gelatinous blob with no brain and one eye that was the freak accident at a food laboratory of trying to combine a tomato with ranch flavor. When an alien by the name Galaxhar comes to Earth to obtain a precious material known as Quantonium and to conquor the Earth, President Hathaway (voiced by Stephen Colbert) offers the monsters freedom in exchange for defeating Galaxhar and his army of clones and robots.

The visuals in this movie are great and I highly recommend seeing it in 3-D as it made the experience just that much more enjoyable. There are many solid jokes in this movie and I was laughing from start to finish. As I mentioned, B.O.B. really steals the show in most scenes, delivering the finniest jokes, but many of the other characters were funny as well. I don't know why but even though it never speaks I couldn't stop laughing whenever Insectosaurus was on the screen and Will Arnett's character Link kept me laughing as well. Although there is another supporting character that I wish had more screen time because he made me laugh harder than most anything in this movie, that's Stephen Colbert ironically playing the President, with scenes like playing the Beverly Hills Cop theme song to the giant robot, to firing a gun at the giant robot hen being carried away yelling "I'm a brave president", Stephen Colbert had my sides aching after the movie.

There is one thing about this movie that I found to be rather interesting. There is a rather strong pro-feminist message throughout the movie. From one of the early scenes where we find two teenagers in a parked car where the gender roles seem to have flipped, as in the girl gets closer to the guy and tries to kiss him but he starts talking about how he's not ready then giant alien robot flies over the car and crashes of in the distance and the girl is the brave one where the guy is cowering and scared the whole time. To the many scenes that have Susan talking about how she is now strong and can take control of her own life and will never be short changed again. Granted, many of those scenes with Susan are also about embracing your inner-freak and never letting people get you down for being who you are.

I do love all the throwbacks to the classic Sci-Fi and monster movies, sadly many of which I think I was the only person in the theater who got the references. From the scene where they discover the alien ship and a man calls on a red phone yelling "code Nemoy" to the president playing the five tones from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to many more references to classics like Independence Day, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Wolfman, Mummy, Star Trek, The Fly, The Blob, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Attack of the 50ft woman and many others.

Overall I would recommend this movie for anybody and especially take your kids to this, they will love it. There is fun and excitement for the whole family and everybody will be walking out of that theater with smiles on their faces.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Review: I Love You, Man

Grade: C+

I Love You, Man is a bromantic comedy about Peter Klaven, played by Paul Rudd (Role Models, Knocked Up) who gets engaged to his girlfriend Zooey, Played by Rashida Jones (TVs The Office), then realizes he doesn't really have any guy friends to be his groomsmen. He then goes out to try to make some male friends until he finally comes across Sydney Fife, played by Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), an honest and eccentric investor. While the two form a close bond rather quickly, this bond is also putting a strain on Peter and Zooey's relationship.

Paul Rudd is very funny throughout most of the movie, every time he tries to do an imitation or accent he "sounds like a leprechaun", but the gag of "he doesn't know how to make friends with men" gets pretty old pretty quick. After going on a couple failed, but amusing, "man dates" he finally manages to casually meet Sydney, they have a very entertaining conversation and exchange phone numbers. What then proceeds is Peter trying to work up the courage to call for a while, then when they talk on the phone Peter is very awkward and says weird things, then when they start to hang out Peter is again awkward and says weird things that make no sense. This gets dragged out for a little to long to me but once that is over the movie gets funny again.

Peter Segal is very entertaining as Sydney with many great lines and some random scenes of craziness. One of the funniest parts of the movie is when Segel starts a fight with the Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno, Lou proceeds to put him in a sleeper hold. The supporting cast was great as well, Jamie Pressly and Sarah Burns are great as Zooey's two best friends and maid of honors. Sarah Burns is very funny throughout the movie as Hailey who is desperate to find a date. Jon Favreau plays Pressly's husband Barry, who is a bit of a jerk in the movie and really doesn't like Rudd's character. Andy Samburg who really only works well in small doses was great as Peter's gay brother who tries to help find him a best friend. Lastly, Jane Curtin and J.K. Simmons were hilarious as Peter's parents and really stole just about every scene they were in.

All in all I would say that if you are looking for a good laugh to definitely head to a theater and check this movie out. It will keep you laughing through most of it and has a pretty good story about friendship and relationships as well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review: Duplicity

Grade: B

Duplicity is a great movie about a former CIA agent, Claire Stenwick (played by Julia Roberts), and a former MI-6 agent, Ray Koval (played by Clive Owen), who have a past together, team up to pull off the ultimate con on two corporation owners. At first look, as in the trailers they've been playing, this movie looks like a typical Julia Roberts romantic comedy but with a spy twist. This is wrong. This movie does not play out at all like the trailers want you to believe. I wish I could say more about the plot of the movie but there are so many twists and turns that I don't want to risk giving any of it away because it was simply brilliant. However, I will say that Stenwick and Koval work for two different corporations that are bitter rivals. So much so that each company has a counterintelligence department. These departments look like serious government spies with great technology and most of the people working in these departments used to be actual spies and everybody takes their jobs seriously. The best part about all of this is that these corporations are not some government contracted munitions company, no, they are soap and shampoo companies, this just makes the movie even funnier.

This movie was very well written, the dialogue is very smart and the story will keep you thinking until the very end. Filled with clever and witty dialogue this Duplicity does not disappoint. Although the constant "I don't trust you and that makes you not trust me" thing did get old at one point. Some of the best parts are the scenes with the two executives played by Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Shoot Em' Up) and Tom Wilkinson (RocknRolla, Michael Clayton). These two characters are so paranoid and hate each other so much that at one point they end up brawling on an airport tarmac.

Clive Owen was fantastic as usual as the sharp and quick witted Roy Koval. Julia Roberts was surprisingly tolerable and actually enjoyable in Duplicity as an untrustworthy yet resourceful and effective Claire Stenwick, getting away from her usual annoying rom-com character and acting style. As I mentioned, Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson were superb as the corporate execs. The rest of the supporting cast did a great job as well.

This movie was a nice escape from the usual stuff that Hollywood has been putting out lately that give every detail right off the bat and play off typical movie cliché after typical movie cliché. It was a fantastic script that actually makes the audience think and definitely keeps them guessing, I know I was surprised by the ending and that doesn't happen often.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: Race To Witch Mountain

Grade: B+

Race to Witch Mountain is a movie based on (not really a remake of) 1975's Escape to Witch Mountain. This version is about two teenagers, played by AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig, who have extrodinary powers and are not of this world. They get in the cab of Jack Bruno, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (The Game Plan, Doom), who, after they get tracked by a government agency, decides to help them recover their craft and find their way home. Along the way they recruit Dr. Alex Friedman, played by Carla Gugino (Watchmen, American Gangster), an astrophysicist who believes there is life on other planets. What follows is a funny and action packed adventure that is fun and exciting for the whole family.

Dwayne Johnson takes the helm of this movie as Jack Bruno, a Las Vegas cab driver who doesn't quite seem pleased with his job at the moment. What is a little too convenient about his character is that he used to be a wheelman for a Las Vegas crime lord, hence his advanced ability at driving cars and some account for why a such a strong guy life Bruno is driving cabs in Vegas. There is a UFO convention in town that is bringing in a lot of crazy people, but this is how he first meets Dr. Friedman. She is in town to give a lecture at the convention about the fact based possibilities of life on other planets.

They are being pursued by a government agency bent on recovering the UFO and the 2 teenage aliens that came out of it for experimentation and cover-up. This agency is being led by Agent Henry Burke, played by Ciaran Hinds, who is a seemingly evil man with no regard for the teenagers life.

This movie is a fast and very fun movie to watch. Johnson is great as Jack Bruno and is very funny at times. I do however wish that Dwayne Johnson would get back to doing non-kid friendly movies like Doom and the Rundown where he really excels. Carla Gugino was very entertaining as Dr. Friedman. There were also some very funny small roles in the movie like Chris Marquette (Fanboys, Just Friends) as Agent Pope, a dim witted low level agent. Also a great appearance by Gary Marshall as Dr. Donald Harlan, a UFO conspirator and "colleague" Of Dr. Friedman. Also some entertaining Cameos from Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann who played the main characters in the 1975 Escape to Witch Mountain.

I recommend this movie for everybody really. I believe this movie can be enjoyed by all age groups. Also any fans of the Sci-Fi genre or of the original movies will enjoy this as well probably.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: Watchmen

Grade: A+

Unfilmable. That was the word that many movie studios used to describe Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen. They said the material wouldn’t translate to the big screen. Well, after 23 years and several false starts Watchmen has finally made it to the big screen. It has had many ups and downs on the long road, director changes, cast changes, rewrites and the famous legal battle. WB finally gave the project to Zack Snyder, and rightfully so. Zack Snyder knows how to make a graphic novel adaptation. The studio put enough faith in him they allowed him to keep the original time and setting, something that most studio execs wanted to change to a more modern setting. Snyder sticks true to the graphic novel. Most of this movie looks like it was taken straight off the pages of the novel. Yes, he left some minor parts out and made some other minor changes, this is to be expected and only helps the flow of the movie in some parts. Snyder makes a truly faithful movie. Now, I will highly recommend people read the graphic novel, it is a beautiful piece of work and this movie, while it can be enjoyed by anyone, you get a little more out of it if you’ve read the source material. I will also warn people, this is not an action movie, much like the novel, it is a drama based around these people who just so happen to be masked adventurers. It does have action in it but, again much like the novel, it’s not loaded with it.

The characters are very dynamic and beautifully written. It takes place after a piece of legislation has been passed, the Keene Act, that bans masked adventurers. A few revealed their identity and are trying to live a normal life, some are trying to cope with not being able to fight crime anymore and others still do fight crime illegally. Night Owl II is going through somewhat of an identity crisis, trying to figure out who he is if he can’t be Night Owl II anymore. Rorschach finds out that the man Edward Blake who was murdered in the first scene is actually the Comedian and becomes convinced that there is a “mask killer”. Silk Spectre II is trying to find herself as well after leaving Dr. Manhattan because he is becoming increasingly separated from humanity. Ozymandias has revealed his identity as Adrian Veidt years ago and now uses his image as his alter ego to help build his multi billion dollar empire. After Rorschach tells his old partner Night Owl II about his maks killer theory, they begin to slowly work together to find out why someone killed the Comedian and end up stumbling upon a larger conspiracy.

The scenery in this movie is beautiful, from the New York streets to Veidt’s Antarctic premises. The cinematography was amazingly colorful and vivid. The special effects were spectacular and dazzling at times. The editing was great. The kicker about this movie though is the soundtrack. From the fight sequence in the first scene being set to Nat “King” Cole’s “Unforgettable” to Night Owl and Rorschach flying to Antarctica set to Jimmy Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” but the best was the opening credits showing the history of masked adventurers starting in the 20’s and 30’s and leading up to the movie’s setting of 1985 all while Bob Dylan’s “The Times Are A-Changing”, this is probably the most beautiful opening credits I think I have ever seen.

The costume designs were amazing. From Silk Spectre II’s tight yellow and black latex costume to Night Owl II’s (yes, Batmanesque) brown outfit and goggles to the different Comedian costumes he wore throughout the decades. The most well done though was Rorschach’s simple yet mind boggling costume. Basically he wears an over coat with the collar up, gloves and a fedora. What’s so amazing is his mask. What looks like just a sock over his head actually has what looks like an inkblot test on it (hence the name), but that inkblot is ever changing and actually tends to shift with his own emotions. So, even though you can’t see his face you can tell exactly how he feels.

The movie, much like the novel, was so fantastically written. So many amazing lines throughout the movie, from Rorschach’s line of “the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘save us’ and I’ll whisper back ‘no’” to Dr. Manhattan talking about the accident when he gained his powers “I feel fear for the last time”. The writing of this movie and many of the characters will really make you think.

Now for my last warning, many people tend to ignore a movie’s rating and take their kids or basically go see something they are not prepared for. This movie is rated R, and for good reason. There is the usual strong language, but there is also strong and graphic nudity, there are two sex scenes and Dr. Manhattan is nude in many scenes. Also there is strong graphic violence, lots of blood and sometimes even seeing tearing flesh and bones being broken through the skin. So, just know what you are getting into.

As with most movies based on books I recommend reading them, and Watchmen is no exception. While you can still definitely enjoy this movie without ever reading the novel, I fell you could get more out of it if you have. I know many people are put off by the fact that it’s a graphic novel, so it’s like reading a comic book, but there is a reason that Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” is the only graphic novel to ever be on Time’s list of 100 greatest novels of all time. The writing is spectacular and really draws you in. It is easily one of my personal top 10 favorites, maybe even top 5.

Overall, this is a spectacular movie that must be seen. So, who watches the Watchmen? Well, hopefully everybody.