Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Grade: B+

In medieval Persia, King Sharaman is a very happy and prosperous king. His kingdom is thriving and he has two sons ready to take over the kingdom when they are ready. One day while traveling through a market, he witnesses a young orphan boy’s amazingly selfless act of heroism. King Sharaman decides to adopt the young boy and raises him in the palace. The boy, Dastan, grows up to be a great warrior in the king’s army. One day, the army is told to invade a holy city as they are believed to be making and supplying weapons to their enemy. In the city, Prince Dastan discovers a magical dagger that controls time. During the celebration of the victory over the city, Dastan is framed for the murder of his father and flees the city. Dastan decides to team up with the Princess from the holy city in order to uncover the conspiracy to frame him and discovers somebody wants to unleash a sandstorm that would destroy the world as they know it.

Most movies based on video games don’t tend to turn out all that well. This one, however, was a pleasant surprise and was very enjoyable to watch. The plot is actually pretty engaging and you can tell that the writers put some thought into it for once. The action is a lot of fun mixed in with bits of humor. I was definitely afraid that Disney was trying too hard to make another movie like Pirates of the Caribbean and that they were going to fail and that this movie was going to be a lot of flash but with no story. Well, they proved me wrong, this movie hold itself up very well. The only problem that I really had with this movie is that the movie takes place during the Persian reign and in fact takes place in the Persian Empire and all of the characters are Persian, however, all of the actors are white and seem to be speaking with more of a British accent than a Persian accent.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead, Donnie Darko) plays the lead role of the orphan turned prince, Dastan. Gyllenhaal did a really great job with the role and was better than I was expecting him to be, he really helped hold the movie together. Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans, RocknRolla) played the role of a holy Princess, Tamina. Arterton was fantastic in this role and really made the movie worth watching. I hope she continues to get larger roles in movies. Alfred Molina (An Education, The Da Vinci Code) plays the role of Sheik Amar. I was pleasantly surprised to see Molina in this movie, he was very enjoyable and pretty funny too. Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island, You Kill Me) played the role of Dastan’s uncle, Nizam. Kingsley did a wonderful job with this role, as he always does with his roles, and really helped hold everything together.

I would defiantly recommend this movie to anyone looking to a just plain entertaining actionish movie. It is a lot of fun to watch and like I said, it’s just plain entertainment. If you have to choose between this and Sex and the City 2 this weekend, or ever, pick this movie, you won’t walk out of the theater and in front of a bus.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: MacGruber

Grade: A

Evil master mind Dieter Von Cunth has stolen a nuclear warhead and has a plan to destroy Washington with it. Only one man is man enough to stop him, only one man has earned the rank of Green Beret, Navy SEAL and Army Ranger, only one man is man enough to still sport a mullet, that man is the man known only as MacGruber. After disappearing for 10 years after Von Cunth killed his bride, MacGruber is called back into action to stop his nemesis once again. MacGruber decides to assemble an elite team of experts to help him defeat Von Cunth and his team of assassins. His methods are a bit unorthodox, but if there’s one man who can get the job done right, it’s MacGruber.

Funniest movie of the year, I’m calling it now. I have not laughed so hard at a movie in a very long time. I really do need to go see it a couple more times because I missed a lot because I was laughing so hard. I know SNL has had a really bad track record with their movies for the past, oh, 17 years. In fact, I walked into the theater fully expecting to cringe through the whole movie and probably end up hating it. Instead, I laughed through the whole thing and am dying to watch it again. This movie is the funniest and best SNL movie since Wayne’s World 2. Simply genius. It is an amazing parody of not just the MacGyver character, who doesn’t use weapons but rather his mind and everyday household items to outwit the bad guys, but of every “one man versus an army of bad guys” movies, such as: Rambo, Commando, Die Hard, Death Wish, Delta Force and many others. The jokes in this movie were nonstop and every one of them was absolutely hilarious. Also, the action was really fun and enjoyable too. This movie is rated R and for a very good reason. To start, one of the characters names is an adult word, then the movie is loaded with adult language, it gets pretty violent at times, there is some nudity, mostly male butt, and two “love” scenes reminiscent of some classic 80s love scenes and are hilarious.

Will Forte (Beerfest, TVs Saturday Night Live) plays the man without a plan, MacGruber. Forte is outstandingly funny in this role and really gives perfect deliver to all of his jokes in the movie. He does a really great job at driving the whole movie. Kristen Wiig (Whip It, Extract) plays master of disguise, Vicki St. Elmo. Wiig is as funny as ever in this role as the character who is kind of forced into odd situations by MacGruber. Ryan Phillippe (Stop-Loss, Cruel Intentions) plays Lt. Dixon Piper, an army expert assigned to MacGruber’s team. Phillippe did a really good job with his role and was very enjoyable. Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Top Gun) plays the evil Dieter Von Cunth. Kilmer was perfect for this role and really helped make the movie as enjoyable as it is. One of the best parts about this movie is that the director seems to have told all of the actors, except Forte and Wiig, to play the movie as though they were in a straight action movie. Kilmer and Phillippe really did a great job of doing this and it made Forte than much funnier as MacGruber.

I really have to recommend that everybody go see this movie. I could not stop laughing and I really do want to go see it again. SNL has finally broken their streak of horrible movies with this great 80s action spoof. I cannot get over how good and funny it is.

Great quote: “WEAK!”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Review: Letters to Juliet

Grade: B

An American girl, Sophie, and fact finder for the New Yorker is on vacation in Verona, Italy with her fiancĂ©. One day she visits the location that Romeo and Juliet supposedly met. There, women leave letters to Juliet asking for help with their love life. Sophie discovers that there are women who call themselves the “secretaries of Juliet” who answer the letters. Sophie, who is a talented writer, asks if she can help respond to the letters. One day she finds a letter hidden in the wall that has been there for 50 years. She finds the letter so heartbreaking that she chooses to respond to the letter. Much to her surprise, a couple days later, the woman who wrote the letter, Claire, shows up with her grandson and is determined to find her long lost love she talks about in her letter. Claire then decides to let Sophie tag along her adventure and write an article about it.

I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. The main plot of Claire, Sophie and a reluctant Charlie driving around Italy trying to find Claire’s lost love is actually very sweet and charming and fun to watch. However, the sub-plot of Sophie and Charlie slowly falling in love is very clichĂ©. It starts out that they hate each other and can’t really stand to be around each other but as they get to know each other better a spark forms between them, all very by the book. Really, the show stealer in this movie is Italy itself. The movie is loaded with beautiful shots of the Italian cities and its architecture and amazing shots of the awe inspiring Italian country side. Now, what amuses me about that is that the characters are constantly strolling through the streets or driving through that country side as though they’ve been there a thousand times before and just don’t care, nobodies looking around or even pausing for a second at the scenery. Also, beware, the ending of the movie is about as cheesy as it gets. There is one plot hole of sorts that I get a kick out of as well. When we first meet Claire and Charlie, Sophie and Claire scoff at Charlie’s notion that there is no such thing as “one true love” and that love is simply a mixture of hormones. But Claire and Lorenzo prove Charlie right because both of them married and had children and stayed married to that other person until that spouse passed away.

The acting in the movie was pretty decent. Amanda Seyfried (Jennifer’s Body, Dear John) plays the lead role of Sophie. Seyfried was pretty good in this role and gave her own touch to the character that helped make the movie enjoyable. Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement, Mission: Impossible) plays Claire. Redgrave was defiantly one of the better parts of the movie, she made her character sweet and funny and you really felt for her. Christopher Egan (Virgin Territory, TV’s Kings) plays Claire’s grandson, Charlie. Egan was very enjoyable but fell to the same fate that every character like his in a chick flick like this does, he is very funny and enjoyable in the first half of the movie then he turns into this love sick puppy for the rest of the movie just trying to get Sophie’s attention.

The movie is very enjoyable and well worth checking out. Despite a couple flaws, the movie is actually pretty good and a new take on your usual chick flick. This is an excellent date movie if you’re looking for one.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Shrek Forever After

Grade: C-

The charming ogre, Shrek, is back. He and Fiona are happily married with three children. Although, when Shrek begins to realize that his life has fallen into a rut, he begins to pine for the old days when he was a feared and powerful ogre. After a breakdown at one of his children’s birthday parties, Shrek encounters Rumpelstiltskin who writes up a magical contract that will allow Shrek to live like the ogre he once was. Only catch is he has to give up a day that Rumpel chooses. Unfortunately for Shrek, Rumpel chose the day Shrek was born. Now in this topsy turvy world, Shrek has only one day to get Fiona to fall in love with him again in order to make the contract null and void. The problem is that Fiona is now a fierce ogre planning an attack on, the now king of Far Far Away, Rumpelstiltskin.

I really hope that the people at DreamWorks stick to their word and that this will truly be the final Shrek movie, because they certainly aren’t getting any better. I thought that they would learn their lesson with Shrek the Third, nobody cares if Shrek is having a mid-life crisis. What made the first two Shrek’s so great was the incorporation and twist on many of our favorite fairy tales. This one just didn’t really have that. There weren’t that many great jokes in it and all of the really funny stuff with Puss in Boots is in the trailer. In fact, the only part I really laughed at was when the Pied Piper showed up and started playing Beastie Boys “Sure Shot” on his flute. This movie sadly isn’t anywhere near as good as the first two Shrek’s and is just below Shrek the Third in my opinion. It just doesn’t capture the magic and humor that the earlier movies had.

Mike Myers (Austin Powers, Wayne’s World) is back as the lovable ogre, Shrek. Myers even seems like he’s barely got his heart in it anymore, granted part of that might be the righting, but his vocal performance just wasn’t quite there. Cameron Diaz (Charlie’s Angels, The Holiday) is back as well as Fiona. Diaz did a pretty good job but there just wasn’t anything special. Eddie Murphy (Imagine That, Bowfinger) is also back as Donkey. Murphy could have been funny if they didn’t simply try to reuse jokes from previous movies. Antonio Banderas (The Legend of Zorro, Once Upon A Time in Mexico) does the voice of a now very overweight Puss in Boots. Banderas was kind of funny at times but as I mentioned, all his really funny bits are in the trailer. The rest of the voice cast is rather great, but they do so little, and includes Julie Andrews, Jon Hamm, Craig Robinson, Walt Dohrn, Jane Lynch, Lake Bell, Kathy Griffin, Mary Kay Place, Kristen Schaal, Meredith Vieira, Ryan Seacrest, Larry King and Regis Philbin.

Unless you have kids, I really have to recommend that you wait to rent this one on DVD. It’s not that funny, it’s not that charming and the writing wasn’t that great on it. As I said, I hope this truly is the “Final Chapter.” Also, don’t waste your time with the IMAX or 3D, from what I could tell, it wouldn’t be that great and I wouldn’t want to pay that much to see this movie.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: Robin Hood

Grade: A-

Robin Longstride is an expert archer serving in King Richard the Lion Heart’s army fighting against the French for ten years. When King Richard is killed in battle, Robin thinks of self preservation and he and his men escape. When they come across a band of knights who were ambushed, Robin and his men decide to disguise themselves as the knights, who were bringing the crown back to the castle. One of the knights, Robert Loxley, asked Longstride to return his sword to his father in Nottingham, a town suffering from the corrupt town Sheriff and Prince John’s heavy taxing. Sir Walter Loxley asks Longstride to pose as the fallen Robert Loxley to raise morale in the town and in return he would teach Robin about his own past.

This is another case of horrible advertising for a movie. The trailers for this movie make it look too similar to Gladiator and make it seem like it is going to tell the same Robin Hood story that has been told a dozen times already on film. That just isn’t the case with this movie. First, I would like to say that this movie truly is a part of the Robin Hood story that I’ve never seen or heard. This story, in essence, acts as a precursor to the Robin Hood story we all know and love. It makes me want to research the actual story of Robin Hood to see how much of this is accurate. Many people will probably be disappointed by the movie because it’s showing how Robin Longstride became Robin Hood, in other words, he only steals from the rich to give to the poor once and there’s not much archery.

Director Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down) did an amazing job with this movie. I again mention that the trailers make it look like he was trying to recreate his masterpiece, Gladiator, but in medieval times. Not at all the case, this movie has its own unique look and feel to it and it is a beautifully done movie. Granted, I still wish that he had made the movie he originally pitched, but nonetheless he managed to make a whole new Robin Hood that really surprised me and I liked a lot more than I originally thought I would.

Russell Crowe (State of Play, 3:10 to Yuma) plays Robin Longstride, the man who becomes Robin Hood. Crowe did a spectacular job with the role and really helped make this movie. I will admit though, I feel that Crowe is almost too old for the role as I have always been under the impression that Robin Hood was fairly young. Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) plays the role of Robin Hood’s love interest, Marion Loxley. Blanchett did a really good job with her role too but I have the same concern about her age as I do Crowe’s. Mark Strong (Kick-Ass, RocknRolla) plays the role of Godfrey, a close friend of Prince John’s who is actually French and plotting to kill the new king. Strong just keeps getting better and better in everything I see him in, he definitely made this role. The movie also features great performances by Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Kevin Durand, Oscar Issac, Mark Addy, Danny Huston, Matthew Macfadyen, Lea Seydoux and more.

Robin Hood is a surprisingly good movie that is extremely enjoyable. I have to say once again, you need to keep an open mind while watching it because it’s not really the action movie the trailers are portraying it to be. The story, though, is very well told and a lot of fun once it gets into it.

Great quote: “Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

Review: Iron Man 2

Grade: A+

Iron Man 2 picks up exactly where the first movie left off. In Russia, we see a dying man watching Tony Starks “I am Iron Man” speech on TV, he tells his son, Ivan Vanko, that should have been him. We find out Ivan’s father helped build the arc reactor at Stark Industries, we then see the insane genius start to build a suit of sorts to rival the great Iron Man. Jump ahead six months and we find that the element that makes Tony’s chest piece work and keep him alive, is also killing him by slowly poisoning him. Tony hasn’t told anybody yet but decides to hand over his company to his love interest Pepper Potts. On top of this, the government wants to take the Iron Man suit from Tony as they deem it as dangerous. In Monaco, Tony is attacked by Ivan in his whiplash suit but Tony Manages to fight him off and Ivan is sent to jail where it is believed he is killed in an explosion. What really happened was that rival billionaire, Justin Hammer, helped Ivan escape so that he can help Hammer build suits that would defame Tony and Iron Man.

Iron Man 2 is an amazing movie and rivals the first Iron Man which blew audiences away two years ago. I have been hearing many early reviews that say that there’s too much crammed in it, but I completely disagree. I feel the movie flows extremely well and you never feel like there is too much going on. I also heard that many people feel there are too many villains. I again completely disagree, when you combine the two characters of Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko you barely get one complete villain. Justin Hammer never wants to hurt Tony Stark/Iron Man, he just wants to be better than him and Ivan Vanko is justified in what he does to Tony because Ivan is seeking revenge for Howard Stark's betrayal of Ivan's father. In all actuality, the only true villain in the movie is Tony Stark himself. The character has many demons that consume him and all have his character flaws have been amplified because of the fame and success of Iron Man. I personally was afraid that this movie was going to go more for flash, unlike the first movie that went more for story. I was very pleased to see that this movie works much like the first where it focuses on the characters and story, then throws in some awesome action sequences.

Director Jon Favreau (Elf, Made) did an amazing job again with this character and movie. The movie looks absolutely beautiful and the action keeps you on the edge of your seat. He and writer Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder) did a fantastic job with the story and script of the movie. The story hold together really well and the dialogue is filled with many of the hilarious little witty quips that we all enjoyed so much from the first movie. I really enjoyed the fact that for the most part, they saved the action for an intense and explosive third act in the movie.

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes, Tropic Thunder) does an incredible job again as eccentric billionaire and now super hero, Tony Stark. His quick paced sardonic charm is back and better than ever for this movie. Downey Jr. is really the mortar that holds this movie together by being able to go from serious or afraid to witty and sarcastic at a moment’s notice. Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler, Sin City) shows up as the literal evil genius Ivan Vanko. Rourke does an incredible job with this role as his character is out for revenge for what he believes was a great injustice towards his father as perpetrated by Tony’s father, Howard. I really think Rourke was a perfect choice for the whiplash character. Gwyneth Paltrow (Running With Scissors, The Royal Tenenbaums) is back as Tony’s assistant and love interest, Pepper Potts. Paltrow is great once again in this role and counters Downey Jr. perfectly. Don Cheadle (Traitor, Ocean’s 11) plays Lt. James Rhodes this time around. I usually don’t like it when they change actors in movies and this is no exception. I do, however, really like Cheadle and he did a great job with the part and it was awesome seeing him sport the War Machine suit. Sam Rockwell (Moon, Matchstick Men) plays the role of rival billionaire, Justin Hammer. I am a huge fan of Rockwell’s and it was great seeing him in a much more mainstream movie and he did an amazing job with the role. Scarlett Johansson (The Spirit, Vicky Christina Barcelona) plays Natalie Rushman, a new secretary of Tony’s who has a secret of her own. Johansson did a surprisingly good job with the role and her action sequences are just so much fun to watch. Samuel L. Jackson (Soul Men, Snakes on a Plane) is back as the great Nick Fury, leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. Jackson is great as always and just a joy to watch in this role. The movie also features Clark Gregg, John Slattery, Jon Favreau and Gary Shandling.

Iron Man 2 is a great and fun follow up to the first movie. I will admit, it’s not quite as good as the first but it’s close in my opinion. If you enjoyed Iron Man, than this is an absolute must see movie, you just need to go in with an open mind, much like most people did with the first. Don’t forget to stick around after the credits for a geek-tacular scene.

Great quote: “Wow dad, been dead over 20 years, still taking me to school.”