Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: A Christmas Carol

Grade: A-

Disney's A Christmas Carol is the latest movie adaptation of Charles Dickens famous story. It tells the story of a lonely rich man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who only looks out for himself and holds everything that embodies the joy and spirit of Christmas in contempt. One Christmas Eve he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner who pleads with Scrooge to change his life before it's too late. That night Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who take him on a journey of self-exploration and self-redemption.

This version of A Christmas Carol is adapted and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Beowulf, Forrest Gump) who uses the same motion capture technique he used in Beowulf and The Polar Express to create the best adaptation of the story I've ever seen. Thanks to the animation style, the actors are able to portray multiple characters which is very necessary in this story in my opinion. As I mentioned, this is a very accurate representation of the original story, so even though it's animated and is rated PG, I would not consider this a kids movie. Pretty much the entire movie, except the last 10-15 minutes, is very dark and very scary at times. For instance, as we all know, the third ghost is Death, there is a part of the movie where Scrooge is being chased by a carriage driven by Death being pulled by two demon horses that look just like the demon horse standing outside DIA.

Jim Carrey (Yes Man, Horton Hears A Who) really does most of the voices in the movie. He voices not only Ebenezer Scrooge in all ages that they show him but also the Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present and Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. This is the part of this movie I really liked, reading the story I always felt it was implied that the three ghosts were, in essence, parts of Ebenezer's soul. Jim Carrey did a fantastic job with all aspects of his roles. The movie also features the voices of Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth and Robin Wright Penn who all did a wonderful job as well with their roles.

I know that this story has been turned into so many different movies and TV programs so many people are turned off by yet another adaptation. I must say though that this one is well worth checking out as I believe it is the best and most honest adaptation of the original story I have seen yet, trust me.

Great quote: "Being haunted by three ghosts is my one chance at redemption… I'd rather not."

Review: Ninja Assassin

Grade: C

Ninja Assassin is about a secret clan that, starting at early childhood, trains people to be stealth ninja assassins. One young assassin, Raizo, falls in love with a girl during their training but the clan kills her for trying to escape the village. Raizo shortly after decides to defy the clan himself and wishes to seek revenge for her death. Also, a Europol investigator has stumbled across a secret, that many assassinations over the last couple centuries can be traced back to a possible secret ninja clan. This agent finds Razio and they team up together to destroy the ninja clan.

This movie was pretty fun and entertaining. The action was great and the fight scenes were very exciting. It is a very bloody and gory movie. However, the dialogue is pretty terrible and overall the movie is very cheesy. Pretty much every cliché thing you can think of in terms of ninjas is put into this movie. Also, when they are being surrounded by ninjas the ninjas would whisper a lot like "the others" in TV's Lost, pretty ridiculous and corny.

Korean popstar/actor Rain (Speed Racer, plays the main role of Raizo. Rain definitely has the look for the part (extremely fit) but he is not that great of an actor, very bland and monotone, granted that did kind of help at points for the character. Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, Street Kings) plays the role of Europol investigator Mika. Harris' job with this role was alright, she seemed pretty naïve at times but again, it all kind of worked out.

If you want a mindless movie about ninja assassins fighting other ninja assassins than Ninja Assassin is just the movie for you. But if you are looking for substance and plot, don't go anywhere near this movie.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: 2012

Grade: B+

2012 is the latest effort by director Roland Emerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow). It is a big budget end of the world movie. In the movie in 2009 a scientist discovers that the Earth's core and sub-crust are heating up and in a couple of years a major natural disaster will occur that will that will destroy most of the world. The government starts making preparations for this event and decides to keep the event a secret from the general public. In 2012, in accordance with the Mayan calendar, the world literally starts to come apart. The movie mostly follows a writer who is trying to save his family and get to some giant arcs in China that he found out about from a crazy conspiracy theorist, who happens to be right this one time.

If that sounded sarcastic I'm sorry, as much as I did enjoy this movie it is a little ridiculous at times. This movie was very visually stunning. The massive amounts of special effects were great. This is by far the most destructive end of the world movie ever. In 2012 you watch Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Vatican crumble and collapse under the force of massive earthquakes that create huge new canyons and most of LA sinks into the ocean, you watch Yellowstone explode with the force of a nuclear blast and turn into the largest volcano ever, you see Washington, India and several other locations get slammed by tidal waves that rise thousands of meters in the air, Hawaii is completely destroyed by it's volcanoes. This is all just simply fun to watch if you like apocalyptic movies, which I do.

Emerich's pacing gets better with this movie. Despite the movie's 160 minute runtime, it goes by pretty quickly. Unlike some of his past movies, Godzilla and Independence Day were the biggest offenders, where there is a little bit of action at the beginning then nothing but mushy plot for two hours then a bit of action at the end, this movie had the action nicely spaced out in between the mushy plot. Even though I don't think he'll ever make a movie as good as Stargate again, this movie shows improvement in his story telling and that his movies are getting better again after the horrendous 10,000 B.C.

The cast of the movie was great. John Cusack (High Fidelity, War Inc.) plays Jackson Curtis, a writer whom the movie mostly centers around. Cusack is great and I'll watch anything he does. Amanda Peet (Whole Nine Yards, Martian Child) plays Kate Curtis, Jackson's ex-wife. Peet did a good job even though I still feel like she didn't do much in it. Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster, Children of Men) plays Adrian Helmsley, a scientist who helped discover the phenomenon that was about to occur. Ejiofor was great in this role, very passionate, and he did a great job showing how his character felt they should save as many people as possible. Oliver Platt (Year One, Frost/Nixon) plays Carl Anheuser, an aid to the president who helps come up with the plan to build the arcs. Platt did a great job showing his characters greed. Danny Glover (Be Kind Rewind, Lethal Weapon) plays president Thomas Wilson. Glover did a really good job with this role. The movie also features Thandi Newton as the president's daughter and Woody Harrelson as a crazy conspiracy theorist.

This movie was just plain fun to watch and if you are a fan of Emerich's or a fan of disaster movies, this is an absolute must see. As I mentioned before, so very much destruction, it can be so much fun to watch. Best part of this movie, in the end it is a utopia because the twilight movies were destroyed, haha, sorry had to say it.

Great quote: "When they tell you not to panic, that's when you run."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Review: The Men Who Stare At Goats

Grade: A

The Men Who Stare At Goats is a movie based on a story so incredibly bizarre that it has to be true. It is based around a small town Michigan newspaper reporter, Bob Wilton. Bob has realized that he has played it safe his whole life and that hasn't exactly been a good thing as his wife is now getting ready to leave him for not being adventurous enough. So Bob decides to try to go report on the war in Iraq. On his way to Iraq he meets a man by the name of Lyn Cassady who apparently used to be a psychic spy for the U.S. government. Lyn then begins to slowly tell Bob the incredible story behind the "Jedi Warriors" of the U.S. Army, a secret unit of the military that has been trying to find new ways to fight, or end, wars as we know it.

This movie was absolutely brilliant, I could not get enough of it. The great opening credit "more of this is true than you would ever believe" is a perfect way to start it all off. The movie itself is contemptuous, sarcastic and funny beyond belief at times. It is wonderful how they have Bob tagging along with Lyn as Lyn tells him about how it all started. In flashbacks we learn that Bill Django, a military man, left shortly after Vietnam and became a part of the New Age movement. After a while he returned to the military and convinced the powers that be that he could train soldiers to hone psychic abilities and create super soldiers. The story and plot are outrageous and the movie moves along pretty smoothly and quickly because of it.

Ewan McGregor (Angels and Demons, Star Wars Episodes I-III) plays the role of Bob Wilton, a reporter who got a little more than he asked for while looking for adventure in Iraq. McGregor is great and he really pulls off this role well and really helped make this movie so enjoyable. George Clooney (Burn After Reading, Michael Clayton) plays the role of Lyn Cassady, the former psychic spy. Clooney is always brilliant in his roles and this movie was no exception. Clooney's take on Cassady and psychic spies is great and hilarious. I will watch almost anything with him in it. Jeff Bridges (Iron Man, The Big Lebowski) plays Bill Django, the founder and trainer of the New World Army. Bridges is great and he has played a one of the best hippie-esque stoners in the past so this role was nothing he couldn't handle. Bridges is very funny and keeps the movie going. Kevin Spacey (21, Superman Returns) plays Larry Hooper, a fellow psychic soldier who is jealous of Lyn's abilities and ultimately leads to the end of Jedi Warriors. Spacey is great as always in this movie. The cast also features Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick and Stephen Root.

The Men Who Stare At Goats is a brilliant and funny movie with one of the best casts of the year to make it even better. I really enjoyed this movie from start to finish and would encourage everybody to go see it.

Great quote: "More of the is true than you would ever believe."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Review: Bronson

Grade: A

Bronson is a movie based on the true story of Britain's self proclaimed most violent criminal, Charles Bronson. Charles Bronson was actually born Michael Peterson. While he was still a young man, Michael decided he wanted to be famous in a very unusual way, so he decided to hold up a post office. Michael was sentenced to seven years in prison, he has now been in prison for 34 years, 30 of which have been spent in solitary confinement. During his stay in prison, the boy Michael Peterson seemed to slowly disappear as his alter ego, Charles Bronson, took center stage. All Charles Bronson wants: to be known as Britain's most famous and violent criminal.

This movie was absolutely brilliant. I can't get over how good and dare I say, mind expanding this movie can be. It truly is A Clockwork Orange for the 21st century. The direction was superb as the director seemed to take a lot of his cues from Kubrick himself. This movie delves into the mind of a man who is convinced that if he goes to prison and causes enough trouble, that he will become not just famous but rather infamous and have his name live on forever. This movie is smart and funny dark comedy. It is a little slow at the beginning of the movie, but once it gets started it is a great ride that is well worth taking. This movie often comes off as a brilliant one man show as told by Charles Bronson.

Tom Hardy (RockNrolla, Star Trek: Nemesis) plays the titular role of Charles Bronson. Hardy did a fantastic job with this role as he showed Bronson's many ticks and mannerisms. I could hardly recognize Hardy at first as he put on a lot of weight, all in muscle mind you, for this role. Hardy also does spend a good portion of this movie completely naked and as a warning to some, you can see everything as he is fighting off guards and yelling at a hostage to help butter him down as he waits for coming battle. As this movie really does completely revolve around Bronson, Tom Hardy had to basically carry the whole movie, and he pulled that off so well. This movie proves even further the star power and acting talent that Tom Hardy possesses and in my opinion should help launch his career to much bigger and better things.

This movie was really great and fun and one of the best movies that I've seen this year. If you are a fan of movies like Clockwork Orange go see this, it is amazing. This movie really did not disappoint, it is fun, witty, charismatic and completely psychotic. The only thing I felt this movie lacked was a better soundtrack but that really didn't hinder this movie either. It is currently playing at the Chez Artiste, go and check it out before it's gone.

Great Quote: "I was Britain's most expensive criminal, not quite the moniker I was going for."