Tag Archives: movie review

Movie Magic Monday: Despicable Me

Despicable Me starts with the revelation that the Pyramid of Giza has been stolen.  This is the biggest and baddest heist ever committed, and it’s making all the other supervillains look bad.   Really, nothing else could ever compare.

Enter Gru, eager to prove that he can do better and go farther.  The only problem is, everything seems to go against him.  Even the secret villain-funding bank is unwilling to back up his enormous, degenerate plan, though they do like the idea.  Things get even worse when the tool he needs to complete his dastardly deed, the shrink-ray, is stolen by a newer and younger bad guy.  To get it back, Gru must enlist the (mostly unwilling) help of three little girls selling cookies to his rival.  To gain power over the girls, though, he has to adopt them from their girls’ home.  Soon the three little girls are turning his life and his plans upside down in every way possible, while winning over the hearts of both Gru and his masses of little minions.

This movie was just about the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long, long time.  I knew going in that I’d like it—who wouldn’t after that little girl hugging the unicorn in the commercial?—but I underestimated just how much.  I don’t think there was a moment in this film that I didn’t like, and that’s not something I can say about even some of my absolute favorite cartoon movies.  The littlest girl, Agnes, is so cute and adorable that you want to take her off the screen and give her a hug, and maybe pat her on the head and make her cookies.  She is just that cute.  The two older girls are a little more justifiably cautious about the situation with Gru—but watching the four of them grow closer together is fun.

My favorite thing about the film is probably the minions.  They are so cute, and the filmmakers came up with a lot of unexpected things to do with them, a lot of which are laugh-out-loud funny.  I won’t mention my favorite, because the not knowing that it was coming was what made it so fantastically funny, but you’ll probably know when you see it.  The whole film was about as clever and funny and sweet as I could have asked for, and I would have been happy to watch it again immediately afterwards.


Movie Magic Monday: M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender

Okay, going into this, I have to say two things.  Firstly, I never watched the cartoon.  Avatar: The Last Airbender is basically an American anime, and minus a Miyazaki film here and there, I’m just not much of an anime person.  Secondly, I’ve never watched an M. Night Shyamalan movie all the way through.  I like what I’ve seen of The Sixth Sense, I have to admit, but I know too much about the simple twists he uses, and really scary movies just aren’t my thing.  When I heard Shyamalan was directing this (along with a rumor that he was being considered for Breaking Dawn) I wasn’t really sure what to think.  Maybe that he was expanding his portfolio?  Maybe that he was selling out?  I don’t know.

I went to see this with my fiancé, who did watch the show, and I have to say that both of us enjoyed it a lot.  The basic premise is that in this world there are four separate tribes, each who follow and identify themselves with a separate element: Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.  Every generation, an Avatar is born—a person who can control all four elements.  The Avatar is reborn into each tribe in a circulating pattern.  Because of this, it was known that the next Avatar would be born into the Air nation – and the Fire nation destroyed the entire Air nation because of it.  It so happens that Aang, the Avatar, was not with his nation when the genocide happened, though.  Years later, after the Fire nation has taken power over much of the world, he is discovered by members of the Water nation, and together with some new friends, travels to different tribes to learn about the other elements, and to encourage hope and free will in the minds and hearts of the people.

The film doesn’t make a lot of sense cinematically if you’re not familiar with the show – or at least with anime in general.  There are several moments where the focus is very close on the face, and everything behind is blurry, etc, but that’s just a stylistic thing.  It didn’t bother me, though I’ve heard it has bothered others.  My fiancé was delighted with the movie visually, and from what little bits I’ve seen of the cartoon, I thought it was beautifully done.  Shyamalan definitely paid a lot of respect to the original work.  The creatures in the film were beautifully represented, and the powers were fun to watch.

My one criticism actually comes from my sister (who was also a fan of the original) in that it wasn’t half so fun as the cartoon.  Then again, anime-like hysterics probably wouldn’t translate all that well to a live-action film, either.  The film was beautiful, really.   It was a little bit slow, though.  To be fair, I’d had almost no sleep the week before, but I did almost fall asleep towards the end of the movie.  Still, I enjoyed the film a lot.  And it was fun to see Jackson Rathbone in a non-Twilight role.

All in all, I really enjoyed the movie.  I give it a B-. 🙂

Movie Magic Monday: Alice in Wonderland

I have to admit something that’s downright unheard of by now, but I’m not the biggest fan of Tim Burton.  Yes, even when he’s gone and put Johnny Depp in almost all of his movies for quite some time now.  I don’t know what it is about his particular brand of Weird, but it’s just not really my thing.

I also have to admit that I can be fairly trepidatious about retold classics.  Especially if they’re classics I was particularly partial to as a kid, which is true about Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  If you remember, I had this same trepidation about Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars.   I was also starting to think that between Beddor’s work, Syfy’s Alice, and the Burton version coming out, maybe that was just a bit too much Wonderland re-working going on at the same time for all of them to be fantastic in separate ways.

Despite all of these doubts, though, I went and saw Disney’s Alice in Wonderland in theaters and was really surprised at how much I liked the film.  Forget liked, I thought it was pretty brilliantly done.  I very much enjoyed that this was an older Alice, who wasn’t really sure if she believed she’d been there before or not, and was trying to wake herself up all throughout the film until she decided—as some of us do in dreams—that she can take control of her own fate, rather than letting it take control of her.  It was a lot of fun to see the exchanges we know and expected from the original story—Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Jabberwocky, the Red and White Queen—and see them redone in a fresh and honestly fun way.

Maybe that’s the thing I enjoyed most about the film—that it was so fun.  I had the feeling that most of the actors involved—especially Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen—were just having a ball with their quirky and odd characters.  It was also nice to have a relative unknown in Alice, as she was the one character who the audience really had to feel a tie to, and for me, at least, Burton’s regular acting troupe can be a bit distracting showing up in so many of his films.  Mia Wasikowska was refreshing and relateable as Alice—well, as relateable as a girl finding herself in a whole other world full of strange sights and creatures on the eve of her expected engagement can be.  (As a sidenote, I’m really looking forward to seeing her play Jane Eyre early next year… they’d originally cast Ellen Page, but Wasikowska makes a lot more sense to me in the role, and I love that book more than I can say).

I like also that at the end of the film the audience is left to decide for itself whether Alice has really gone to Wonderland, of if she’s simply had yet another dream, as there are clues either way.  The only thing I can’t particularly say I cared for very much, was Johnny Depp’s bizarre dance scene at  the end.  And I do have to mention again how much I enjoyed Anne Hathaway as the White Queen—she was so delightfully strange, and has come quite a long way from The Princess Diaries, though I loved those films too!

Alice in Wonderland gets a solid A from me.

Movie Magic Monday: 2012

I did not expect a whole lot out of this movie.  I didn’t expect to see it at all, as a matter of fact, because it looked like a whole lot of explosions and computer generation, and… really, nothing else.  To be honest, I didn’t even know that John Cusack was in it until weeks after it hit theaters.  I didn’t know anyone in particular was in it… none of the advertising I’d seen had shown anything akin to a storyline whatsoever—just the earth, getting smashed to bits.

And to be honest, there was a lot of that.  I got to watch my entire home state of California fall into the ocean, pretty much (see poster!), along with lots of other catastrophic events.  I really was unfair going into this, thinking I’d already seen the film with Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid, though.  While it really was a roller coaster of ridiculous circumstances, it was dotted throughout with bits of really good acting.  Spot appearances by Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (he’s the Operative from Serenity, remember?) among others made this film something very worth watching.

If nothing else, it reminded me how much I love (and I mean L-O-V-E) John Cusack and Amanda Peet.  And yes, I mean and/or.  Both of them are on my fall-easily-for list, and having them together in a movie is always a delight—though I thought it was a bit funny that in both movies I’ve seen them in (the other being 2007’s Martian Child) Cusack plays a one-book-wonder sci-fi author.  (They were also in Identity together, but that’s a bit too creepy for my bones.)

I also thought it was a bit peculiar that every copy of his book that we see in the film (even the one read and loved by Ejiofer’s character) looks brand-new.  But that’s understandable.  There were a few other idiosyncrasies that caught my attention—like the fact that it was the Winter Solstice, but a newscast talked about interrupting the London Olympics—which are Summer Olympics—but that’s just me paying too-close attention.  I thought the ending was cleverly sought-out, the broken-family-working-together was realistic in its none-too-sappy but loving portrayal, and I liked the message it pushed about humanity—that no matter how selfish the majority are, there will always be some who put others unequivocally above themselves.

That, and the little girl in this movie is perhaps the cutest thing in existence.  It is true.

All in all, I give the film a  B rating.

Movie Magic Monday: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I broke one of my cardinal rules with the new Percy Jackson movie—namely: I didn’t finish the book before watching the film.  As it turned out, though, that was kind of okay, because I’d read enough to know that the movie was not remotely like the book.  Oh the beginning is the same, and (I’m presuming) the ending is probably not all that far off, and there’s an echo or two of major scenes… but  that’s about it.  The film swerves off-path of the book early on—in vital, plot-moving ways.

I have to confess, I was a little disappointed.  After all, the advertising campaign told you as many times as they could that this movie was from the same man who’d given us Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Personally, I would have thought that someone who’d ever been involved with the Potter franchise would realize how much fans appreciate when a film is as faithful to a book as it can manage—but Chris Columbus did not follow through here. Now, I don’t really blame him with messing with the plot a little bit.  The fact is, Percy and his friends have run into more monsters in the first half of the book that I’ve read than in the whole movie, so understandably budget and time had to be considered in which parts to keep in and which to leave out.  The problem I had was that even the characters were fiddled with a little too much for my opinion.

Let’s ignore the fact that Percy and Annabeth are supposed to be about twelve in the first novel (and that girl in the movie is far from twelve years old), but all three characters were made to be… I guess you could simply say “cooler” than they are in the books.  All their endearing foibles in the books have been overlooked entirely and glamorized in the true Hollywood style.  Annabeth has over-inflated mommy-issues that don’t appear in the book at all, and is too confident overall for kids to have much of a connection with her.  Grover the satyr is the cool, funny guy, instead of what he is in the book—a nervous wreck who has trouble getting things right when put under pressure.  Percy is… well, a lot angrier than he is in the book, and he’s given a lot of shining moments in the movie that didn’t belong to him in the book—while having a lot of his cooler accomplishments in the book taken away from him.

Basically, I don’t know what Columbus was trying to do with this film.  Why take an already best-selling book series and flatten it out into a mass-market-appeal cliché?  I’m sorry that Columbus made such a point of his Harry Potter credits in the advertising for this film, because why ring a bell for something that you did really well, in the name of something that came off (at least to the novel-readers… even the in-progress ones) as being halfway-done.  In my opinion, the most enjoyable thing about this film was the actors chosen to portray the Greek gods – especially Kevin McKidd and Sean Bean.  A little bit of eye-candy and earnest acting in a sadly over-Hollywoodized film.

I have to give it a C+.

Movie Magic Monday: Sherlock Holmes

I don’t think I was the only person who saw the trailer for this movie and whose only coherent thought afterwards was: YUM.

Sherlock Holmes as a character has been portrayed in probably a hundred ways, if not more, but like some characters, the more permutations there are, the more we love them.  Holmes is often portrayed as the perfect detective, with a few piquant idiosyncrasies to keep things interesting, but the 2009 film is a little closer to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original portrayal of the man—as an egocentric eccentric who lived almost a bohemian lifestyle, surrounded by the appearance of chaos, but who makes such astute observations that he is able to solve the most puzzling of criminal riddles.  The movie hit this directly on the mark.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking… you saw the trailer, and what was with the hyped-up action segments and the Matrix-method fighting?  In the film, however, none of the action feels over-hyped, and the Matrix-method fighting actually has a pretty awesome psychological twist to it—which I won’t spoil for those of you who see it.

But let’s get down to the real draw of this film—the always beautiful Robert Downey Jr, and the also-beautiful-though-occasionally-you-have-to-overlook-his-life’s-indiscretions-to-appreciate-his-films Jude Law.  (Not that RDJ has led a spotless life, obviously, but that’s a discussion for another day.)  O.M.Goodness Gracious me, are they fun to watch in this film.  Downey is at his zaniest, smartest, and sexiest, while Mr. Law is the most adorable mench you could possibly imagine.  The casting overall was perfection.  Rachel McAdams was fun and walked a perfect line between dishonesty and almost-love, and Mark Strong was deliciously creepy.

The story unfolded naturally and beguilingly, and we’re given the clues just as Mr. Holmes is—well, perhaps not just as he is, but pretty well—and yet the stringing together at the end of all the tiny details we probably overlooked a little bit is done just beautifully—and I do mean that literally, as the cinematography in this film is fantastic.  The movie as a whole was delightful.  Funny, at moments touching, and honestly mind-dazzling, with some heart-stopper moments in there as well.  I loved every single moment of it, and am honestly delighted that it was left open-ended for a sequel.  It certainly left me wanting more, and it gets an A+ from me.

Movie Magic Monday: New Moon!

Probably there are various people who will kick me off the internet for saying this, but I only watched Twilight once.  I’ve still only seen it once.  The first viewing left me no desire to see it again.  I hated the blue color of everything, and Rob and Kristen, while each very good in other roles just were not hitting Edward and Bella for me.  I wanted Edward to be more graceful and charming than Rob’s constant and impressive I-hate-myself demeanor, and I wanted Bella to have a bit more childlike naïveté and clumsiness.  But that’s just me.  So while of course I knew they were going to go and make New Moon… well.  Despite it being my favorite of the three books (I forget about Breaking Dawn) I didn’t know how excited I’d be about the movie.

Even when I started watching the teaser trailer… mostly I rolled my eyes.  “This is the last time you’ll ever see me.”  Yeah, right, Rob.  I believe you there.  But then.  Oh, then.

Yes, watching Taylor Lautner run to protect Bella and fursplode into a wolf had me BEYOND gleeful.  Oh Jacob Black. Somehow even now I underestimate my love for you.  I admit, Taylor still isn’t my dream Jacob Black.  He’s just not who I see when I read.  But the kid is just so darn HOT cute.  And he loves the character so much, that I can’t help but adore him in the film.

My other hesitance to see it was the obvious focus on the action and the Volturi.  I mean… it looked like a vampire movie. hahaha  And I did not read the Twilight Saga for the action.  I read it for the werewolves, obviously. 😛

That said, with the money they raked in over Twilight, of course this was going to be a better-made movie.  You could tell from the trailer alone that this was going to be well… more like a real movie.  And heaven help it, it almost was.

I was impressed right off the bat that they used not only the quote from the beginning of New Moon, but the prologue moment from the book as well.  Immediately I sat up a little bit straighter in my seat, and perked up.  I did mention this was probably my favorite of the books, right?  The pacing was just off from the beginning, though.  It felt stilted and rushed at the same time, if somehow that’s possible.  They were skipping right over all the sweet little moments between Edward and Bella that makes them enjoyable, and while Edward definitely smiled more in this film, the sense of humor that sparkles on the page (yes, even more than his skin, if I do say so myself) just was not  there.  In fact, I kept looking at Rob and thinking, why is he smiling right now?  Wasn’t he just angsting about Jacob?

The minute Edward and the Cullens skip town, the movie picked up, though.  And not just because it takes less than five minutes (or seeme) before they had Taylor’s shirt off for the first time.  There really is something magnetic about Jacob that I think Taylor captured really well—if anything Bella seemed more in love with Jacob on the film than she had in the book.  While Kristen’s stiff performance still isn’t the Bella in my head, I really enjoyed watching her version of Bella hang out with Jacob.  We didn’t get to see as much as their bonding as I would have liked, but movies do have to fit a certain time slot, so I guess I don’t mind too much.  My one complaint (and this is a slight spoiler but just a teensy one) is that they had Bella telling Jacob that she didn’t like music anymore, when in the book, this is something that Jacob knows without needing to be told—a proof of the close attention he pays to Bella and how well he reads and understands her.

I really enjoyed the Quileute presence in this film though.  Firstly—Graham Greene as Harry Clearwater!  I remember Meyer saying on her site once that she’d like him as Billy Black, but that never would have worked for me.  Maybe because I don’t really like Billy all that much?  I just sort of hold a grudge against him for being so cryptic first about the Cullens and then about Jacob’s change.  I don’t know.  I’m just not much of a fan.  But I just about flipped to see him playing Harry Clearwater.  And I loved that they showed it so that Harry’s heart attack was a result of coming face to face with Victoria—if that was in the book I don’t remember it, but that was an awesome visual moment in the movie, and only Graham Greene could have made it what it was.  The man has a grace and presence that outshone almost everyone else in the film, and he was only in it for about five minutes.

I was also delighted that they kept in the moment with Sam’s fiancée Emily.  Beyond delighted.  It was such a lovely moment in the book, and it was nice to see it’s elegance recognized in the film.  Everybody’s been saying it, but it’s really true.  The Wolf boys made this movie.  In fact, even though Italy is where a lot of the hyped-up action happens, my attention wandered a little bit while they were there.  I snapped back into it when they confronted Jacob in the woods that last time.  Even when Bella and Edward were reunited, they didn’t seem to hit the mark of the little funny/sweet moments between them that makes them so enjoyable.  I’ve got to admit, if I’d never read the books, I’d think Bella was a headcase going from the prettyboy wolf to the pale, emo vamp.

I did think that some of the cinematic moments were nicely done, though.  Bella’s imaginings of Edward were almost how I imagined them (though now that I think about it, the movie didn’t so much as try to explain that) and the “time passing” moment was perfect.  Also… dare I say it seemed like they gave a nod to David Yates using footage from the first film so freely in flashbacks?

So was this movie a lot better than Twilight?  An emphatic yes.  Did it live up to my excessive love of the novel?  No.  But it was pretty far from a disappointment either.  I have to admit that after watching it, I later found myself literally hugging my book.  In fact, I sort of want to go hug it now.  And reread it, immediately.  Meyer, whatever disputes I have with you, your books enthrall me, it’s true.

New Moon gets a B- from me.  It was awkward and badly paced… but Jacob Black lit up the screen, and anybody in the scene with him.

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