Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Giver – review

The Giver, an adaptation of a young-adult book of the same name, gives a glimpse into a dystopian science-fiction world of 2048. After a large war a “community” has eliminated human emotions, colors, and anything else deemed different that would cause strife or conflict.  All memories of the past have also been blocked.  There are changes in the translation from book to film, but the film works on it’s own.

Jonas has recently reached the age of graduation and is preparing to receive his occupation, an annual right of passage in his community. He was chosen to be the receiver of memories. He begins to meet regularly with an elderly man he affectionately calls “the Giver.” The Giver is able to give him the memories and emotions of the past through physical contact. As Jonas learns more about the past, he comes to discover more about human cruelty and suffering as well.

The actors of the movie give great performances. The Giver, played by Jeff Bridges, and Jonas, played by Brenton Thwaites, have great chemistry and work really well together. Jonas’s parents, played by Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes, seem like they are characters taken directly from the novel. The choice to make Meryl Streep the Chief Elder was an interesting one since the character was inflated in the film to be a villain.

The overall look of the film is really impressive. Much like the movie Pleasantville, the movie begins as black and white.  As Jonas begins to gain emotions and memories, he begins to see muted colors that become incredibly vibrant. The story is entertaining and the changes between the novel and the movie are at least well meaning. The addition of a love subplot and the changing of Asher’s occupation just to make him an adversary, are odd choices. The changes don’t interrupt the flow of the story so it’s difficult to be overly upset by them.

The Giver is a good adaptation. If you were a fan of the book or wanting to see a new sci-fi movie, I’d recommend catching it as a matinee or as a rental. The movie feels shallow compared to the book but it is more exciting to watch. While not a perfect movie, it is at least entertaining. You will likely have an enjoyable time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Review

The 2005 film Sin City was an impressive display of comics to film. Nine years later, the stylized sequel is here with four new tales of Sin City. The writing sets a gritty and noir scene where the booze is cheap and so are the broads. The cast delivers   fun performances for the most part. The element of the film that continues to shine is that of the style; visually, it looks like the movie was story boarded directly from the art style of the comics.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has four separate stories that take place in various areas of the Sin City time line.  In the first, Marv tries to figure out why someone called him “Bernie.” In the second, a cocky young gambler joins a poker game and it becomes more than he bargained for. The third tale is about Dwight, played by Josh Brolin, and a femme fatale, played by Eva Green, that he used to be married to, crossing his path.  The forth story is about Nancy, played by Jessica Alba, getting revenge for the death of Hartigan.

The cinematography in this film is great. For the most part, it is black and white with the occasional splash of color. While pretty, it still carries the same noir mood of the last film but does not bring anything original to the table. The action is standard but not at all unique. The acting is also pretty standard, with the exception of Eva Green who is dynamite as always.  As for the writing, the script was written in the misogynistic way you would expect from Frank Miller.

The stories have a Deus ex Marv element to them. Without Marv, the characters wouldn’t be able to solve anything. The stories are entertaining with the exception of the last, due the fact that Jessica Alba is not believable as a physical badass.  When she fired a gun I honestly thought the recoil was going to break her wrist. The movie also ends so abruptly it will give you whiplash.

If you were a fan of the last Sin City then you will probably enjoy this movie, especially if you save some cash and see the matinee or wait for the rental.  If you get the opportunity, I recommend seeing the 3-D version- it’s worth it. I’m still confused as to why it took nine years to make this follow up. It would have been more effective if the creators struck while the iron was hot and made this when it was more relevant.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – review

Let me take you back to 1990 when the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie came out. I was super excited to see a live action version of the characters I loved as a kid finally on screen.  Looking back on that movie now it seems very silly, but I appreciate the effects and the stunt work that went into it. The writing and plot is lacking which is completely excusable from the mind of a child.  This is the case a with the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.

April O’Neil, played by Megan Fox, is a reporter trying to find out more about the Foot Clan crime wave taking over New York.  After being attacked, she is saved by four CGI mutant turtles.  As it turns out she had a pivotal role in their mutation and thus they become fast friends.  Now they must band together to stop the Foot Clan and it’s evil master the Shedder.

The biggest problem with this movie is that it is called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It should probably be called April O’Neil.  Everything centers on her and the turtles have become secondary characters to their own movie.  April O’Neil is not that interesting nor is Megan Fox that entertaining of an actress to carry that weight.  At times she seemed to struggle with the words from the script. 

The action scenes are fun to watch and are well shot.  You can honestly say that there was care to make it look fun and interesting. The Shedder is pretty much a joke. He looks like a metal bird at times.  Master Splinter is nightmarish; his eyes display a soulless abyss of blackness while he dons a bizarre fu-manchu and is voiced by none other than Tony Shalhoub.

There are so many plot holes in this movie it could have come from a Swiss cheese factory.  The bottom-line is that it is a bad movie. That being said, if I was the kid I was in 1990 and I saw this I would have enjoyed it. I think that makes the difference. I am not the audience for this movie at all. It’s more of a movie for kids with a couple of cheap jokes for the parents that had to take them to the theater. If you are curious rent it. If you have kids that are into the Ninja Turtles then they will probably have fun and you’ll be the hero.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy – review

Guardians of the Galaxy is the tenth of the Marvel cinematic universe franchise films. It is both entertaining and funny, for the most part. While being a very watchable film, there are still a few things that it could have improved upon. For example, the villain was fairly one-dimensional and some of the air battle scenes made it difficult to see what was happening.

Peter Quill/Star-Lord, played by Christ Pratt, steals an orb that draws the attention of all manner of bounty hunter and mercenary in the galaxy.  Starlord is eventually arrested while fighting off a few of these attackers. While in prison, he teams up with a rag-tag group of misfits including a living tree-man, an anthropomorphic raccoon man, a green skinned assassin woman, and psychotic thug who understands the English language in a purely literal way.  Together they must stop an alien creature from obtaining an object that could spell doom for many planets.

The protagonists in Guardians of the Galaxy are a lot of fun. They are basically space pirates and each have interesting quirks and traits that make them memorable and dynamic characters.  The only problem I found was that the main villain was not given a lot of screen time. His costume and make-up look great but that was not enough to make me feel that he was an unstoppable threat. I thought Ronan’s lackey, Nebula, played by Karen Gillian, was much more intimidating.

The action itself is fun to watch. Some of the space battles did leave me wondering exactly what it was I was looking at. This is the sort of movie that will give you hope for when Disney finally gets Star Wars ready for a theatrical release.  I expected to see much more of Benicio Del Toro’s character, The Collector, but his screen time was really bare bones. The special effects are good and the soundtrack is even better.

As a whole I’d say Guardians of the Galaxy is worth checking out.  The mood is fun and the movie doesn’t take itself as seriously as other superhero movies tend to do.  See it if you can.  Make sure you stay until after the credits in order to see the silliest reveal of a character in a long time.