Sunday, June 06, 2010

A Slew of Movies In Theaters

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I had one really long list (and subsequently, long post) of movies that I've seen in the last few months--some are new and recently in theaters, some are just on dvd, and a few are movies that I haven't seen in a long, long time that I gave another crack at.

So, I figured I'd break this up into a two part post in that very fashion... today, its the movies that are currently in the theaters and maybe Monday, a few new movies I've seen on DVD and a few random movies I've (re)watched and can give my now somewhat refined movie critique on...

But let's start with ones I've seen in the theaters in the last few months... you can read my review of "Iron Man 2", which I thought deserved its own post, by clicking here, and in this post, we're going to talk about "Losers", "Kick A**", "Robin Hood", "Date Night ", "The Book of Eli" and my favorite movie of the year so far...

"How To Train Your Dragon"
Okay... so, this was a film that I wasn't sold on leading up to its release date.  Call me a Disneyphile, or a Pixar snob, but DreamWorks animation doesn't do it for me.  From "Antz" to "Shark Tale" to "Over the Hedge", then toss in movies that everyone tells me I should love but don't, that being "Madagascar" 1 and 2 (and 3 when its released), and Shrek 1, 2, 3 and Fourth, and you've got a studio that I'm just not wild about.   Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Dreamworks, as I enjoyed "Kung Fu Panda" and have heard good things about "Monsters vs Aliens", but put it all together, and "How to Train Your Dragon" was a film that I'd just see when I got around to seeing it.

And if the opening numbers were any indication, I was right.  It opened slow and seemed like another also-ran in DWA's studio.  But... as the weeks wore on, the gross for the film kept going up and up and up, and everyone and anyone who told me about this movie didn't just like it, they loved it.  Kids, adults, old and young, everyone I know liked, if not loved, this film.  So, at some point, I figured The Lovely Steph Leann and I should go see it... we were even told that this is a rare case where 3-D enhances the film, not just enhances the ticket price.  "Avatar" was the only other film I'd seen in 3-D where that was the case, but we went ahead and went 3-D.

"How to Train Your Dragon" follows the story of Hiccup, who lives in a Viking village where the life of a Viking is to hung and kill dragons of every size--and they are aplenty in this movie.  Hiccup is a loser that is made fun of by most of the clan, mostly because his heart is not into hunting anything, much less dragons, but to please his father--who happens to be village chief, no less--he does what he can.

Hiccup ends up taking down a rare Night Fury dragon, but upon finding it in the woods, cannot bring himself to finish him off... and there, the adventure takes flight, pun intended. 

I loved it.  I loved every single second of this movie.  I loved the main character, Hiccup, I loved his love interest, a spry pixie named Astrid, I loved the dragons, including the main one nicknamed Toothless, I loved the setting, I loved the creativity, I loved the story... I thought this movie was brilliant.   This was the first time I'd ever seen a non-Pixar animated movie and thought, "This should have been a Pixar film."

The Lovely Steph Leann loved it too.  As the credits began to roll, she piped up and said, "Wow.  DreamWorks finally got it right."

Its one of those rare movies that I feel like was just the right length, and had very little, if any, wasted minutes.  And, in another rare instance, I fully recommend 3-D glasses on this one, even if you have to see it in a matinee.  Its vividly colored, and I don't feel like the 3-D dampens that, but there's something about the depth of the film and the scope of the picture that you get from the 3-D that you might not get otherwise... again, like "Avatar". 

Great movie, my favorite so far of the year. 

“The Losers”
Okay... so, this group of guys who make up this elite fighting force are framed for a village slaughter and left for dead. And what do they do? They are on a mission to find out who framed them.

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the best thing about “Watchmen” not named “Jackie Earle Haley” or “Malin Akerman” (mmm), is Clay, the leader of this group of “Losers”. Based on a DC Vertigo comic of the same name, its full of guns, explosions, cool vehicles and betrayals, and seriously—it’s a hoot. I think all the actors, including Zoe Saldana (“Avatar” and “Star Trek”), know this movie isn’t to be taken too seriously, and in knowing that, they can really camp it up with not just the one-liners but even with the action sequences which are improbable, ridiculous and at the same time, just plain fun.

Two standouts in this movie make it worth a glance, one being Chris Evans, who played The Human Torch in another comic book adaptation, “Fantastic Four” and its sequel. He’s right on par with the snappy come-backs and comic relief. The main villain is Max, played by Jason Patric, who I can’t decide if he’s mailing it in completely or having the time of his life cause he’s got a job. Either way, Jason from “The Lost Boys” has come a long, long way.

You might remember the director of this film also directing the Oscar winning classic that rivals “Avatar” in its splendor and majesty, that being “Stomp the Yard”, and like his actors, he films in a classic comic book camp style. I’ve never read the original material, so I don’t have a reference point as to how true this film is to the graphic novel… but if you can catch it at the Ghetto Buck Theater, or pick it up on cable, do so. Its worth a 90 minute viewing.

“Kick A**”
Okay... so, for every reason I shouldn’t, I thought this movie was hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Its title that I feel very uncomfortable saying (and don’t, especially on a website that I like to keep PG), its got the same language you’d find in equally as funny movies like “Superbad”, its got comic-book style violence that still produces blood spatter like crazy, and it’s got a bunch of teenagers trying to get some. There is no redeeming quality to this movie.

But still… man this was funny. Dave Lizewski is, like most protagonists of movies such as this, a dork. A nerd who has nerd friends and does nerd things. He decides that there is too much evil in his own hometown, so what better way to combat it than to make himself a “superhero” suit and become a superhero. Never mind that Dave has no skills of any kind, no athletic ability and really no fighting training of any sort. He just wings it, to sad and funny avail.

This amateur crime fighting doesn’t go down to well with two real superheroes in town, Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Big Daddy is played to the hilt by Nic Cage, who you’d think based on recent works, would be in this for the paycheck… not so, I would say, as Nic Cage is an avid comic book fan—this one really might be a labor of love. The controversy comes in with Hit Girl, who is Big Daddy’s daughter and is played by 11 year old Chloe Moretz… and who says some things in this movie that no 11 year old, nay nay, no 21 year old or anyone who keeps a clean mouth, should say. She doesn’t swear a lot, but when she does, its kinda uncomfortable.

Let’s skip that part, shall we? Anyway, Dave calls himself “Kick A**”, a… well, a stupid name for a superhero, but a name that… okay, well, it kicks… you know. Through the course of the movie, Dave figures out he’s in way, way over his head, when a crime boss comes after him. His son, Chris (a “don’t call me McLovin, even though all the characters I do now are like spin offs of McLovin Christopher Mintz-Plasse), fosters his own secret identity as Red Mist. Violence and hilarity ensues.

Anyway, I cannot in any way fathomable recommend this film. It is NOT Emmy Turnbow Safe, and sez Wiki: Australian Family Association spokesman John Morrissey, "the language [was] offensive and the values inappropriate – without the saving grace of the bloodless victory of traditional superheroes". In response to the controversy, Moretz stated in an interview, "If I ever uttered one word that I said in Kick-A**, I would be grounded for years! I'd be stuck in my room until I was 20! I would never in a million years say that. I'm an average, everyday girl.” Moretz has said that while filming, she could not bring herself to say the film's title out loud in interviews, instead calling it "the film" in public and "Kick-Butt" at home. Christopher Mintz-Plasse expressed surprise that people are angry about the language but do not seem to be offended by the many people killed by Hit-Girl.

Let's be clear here... this movie is NOT for children.  As a Christ-Follower, this movie is a prime example of the topic of "what do you place in front of your eyes?", which is another conversation for another day.  I've tried to give you the rundown on the film as best I can, so now its up to you as to whether to see it.  Cindy Jo is probably not going to see this film.  Hurricane Rhett might go out tonight and catch it. 

“Date Night”
Okay... so, the Lovely Steph Leann and I were in Pensacola recently, and that evening, were desiring something to do. We had just had dinner at a restaurant called Hemingway’s Island Grill, and it was fantastic. The best calamari I’ve ever, ever eaten, and I’ve eaten lots and lots of calamari.

Anyway, we decided to catch a movie, one of our favorite things to do as a couple (I say that, and half the movies on this list I saw alone…). “Date Night” was one we had our eye on, and after shooting down “Letters to Juliet”, despite my slight affinity for Amanda Seyfried (is she pretty? Is she not? I dunno).

“Date Night” stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey as a married couple who love each other, but just need a night out, something special, away from the kids. They try to get into an exclusive uppity restaurant named Claw, and after being laughed at when they ask for a table, they sneak in and take someone else’s reservations (the idea of which becomes a running gag throughout the movie)… but when the bad guys arrive and think they are the people of who’s reservations they stole, things get crazy.

What follows is kinda formulaic, kind of been-there-done-that sort of plotline… but Carrell and Fey are awesome. Both are just plain looking enough to be believable as an average couple, but good looking enough, and likable enough, to root for. Throw in the fact that Mark Wahlberg shows up as a former client and former security agent, plus he’s not wearing a shirt, making for total comedy, and you’ve got a winner.

You know how there are movies that you can turn on, and just use for background noise, knowing that if you look up at any point, you’ll enjoy whatever you see because you kinda liked all of it. This would be “Date Night” for me when it comes on HBO in March of 2011.

I really, really enjoyed this film, and The Lovely Steph Leann laughed heartily all the way through. Its got some language, including one F-Bomb dropped at the expense of Mark Wahlberg not putting a shirt on, and the violence is cartoony and silly… catch this one on a matinee.

“Robin Hood”

Okay... so, before this film, there were versions of Robin Hood that I’m familiar with… Errol Flynn’s 1938 original version, the 1973 Disney version, 1976’s “Robin & Marian” starring Sean Connery and one of my favorite women ever, Audrey Hepburn (this was one of her final four movies before her death in 1993), “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, the 1993 Mel Brooks parody, and finally, the most well known version of our generation, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” from 1991.

And now, there’s “Robin Hood”, from Sir Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe.

This was the story of Robin Hood before he became Robin of the Hood. Russell Crowe broods through this film like he does most films, and Cate Blanchett, so ravishing and Sydney Ellen Wade-esque in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, merely passes as Maid Marian. It was rather enjoyable to see LOST’s Martin Keamy and his creepy yet wildly fascinating grin as Little John, though, and in the credits playing “Will Scarlett”, I saw the name of none other than “Critters” and “Critters 2” star Scott Grimes. Looking at his iMDb page, the not often recognized Grimes has made quite a career for himself in bit parts and television appearances, even getting a recurring role in ER.

Neither The Lovely Steph Leann or I loved it, but she liked it more than me I think. Of course, she digs any story that takes place in old England where dudes are wearing chain mail and carrying big swords, while the chicks are in frilly, frumpy dresses and do things like wash clothes in a basin. Not saying she wants to live there, but she loves that crap.

Best Robin Hood? Dunno… never seen the Sean Connery version, but I’d have to give it to Errol Flynn, the original, though Kevin Costner’s merits could be argued. Best Maid Marian? Would be a tough battle between Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio, Audrey Hepburn (because she’s Audrey Hepburn) and that foxy one in the Disney version.

Best Sherriff of Nottingham? Alan Rickman.

End.  Of.  Discussion.

"The Book of Eli"
Okay... so what an amazing movie... the only thing I knew about this going in was Denzel Washington was a man protecting the last Bible on Earth.  And the setting was some sort of a apocalyptic, everything-as-we-know-it-has-been-destroyed, cars burned up by the side of the road and rotting kind of civilization.

Denzel is Eli, a drifter who is following a vision to go to the coast, taking with him the last copy of the Bible... all others have been destroyed.  If it had been said what happened, I might have missed it, but this is a world now where books are scarce, grown people can no longer even read, and communities are many times held under rule by whoever has the most power.  Sex is a bartering tool, and violence is the answer for most conflicts.

We see right away that Eli is not a guy to be messed with... he's got somewhere to be, and he's headed that way.  And when people try to stop him, he stops them from trying to stop him in the most convincing "don't bother me" way possible.   Trouble comes when he drifts through a town and its discovered by the town's "ruler", Carnagie (played by Gary Oldman, who excels in this type of role), that Eli is carrying with him last copy of the Bible. 

Carnagie then determines that he must have this Bible... not because its a collectors item, not because he is a Bible scholar... but because he declares it "a weapon, and civilizations have been built on this book." That is... well, refreshing.  I'm sure the producers of the film didn't intend on making a religious statement, but they did.  The world sees the Word of God as a work of fiction, but this movie hits it dead on--its a weapon.  A holy, righteous, hope filled, Christ inspired weapon used to tell the stories of our Creator and guide those wo follow Hiim. 

Denzel Washington, a Christ follower himself, is fantastic in this movie, and like Robert Downey Jr being irreplaceable as Iron Man, so to is Washington in this film... you take him, out, the movie falls apart.  The supporting cast, though perhaps not irreplaceable, it still strong, including Oldman, Mila Kunas and Jennifer Beals.

Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to see the ending coming, with the final twist.  Most people I know predicted the little surprise in the last few minutes, but that doesn't make the journey there any less entertaining.

The film is bleak in color, as many of the movies with this setting are, and language pervades throughout.  The sexual moments are very few, with only a couple of allusions to it, mostly within the context of the town's danger.  Violence is also heavy in this film, so expect lots of knives and gunshots and big armored vehicles.  All that is to say that this movie is NOT for kids.  I dare say its not Emmy Turnbow safe, but at the same time, I think Emmy Turnbow would like this movie--at least, an edited version that might come on the USA Network in June of 2012 or something.

My third favorite film of the year, following "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Iron Man 2".

Another take on this movie can be found here, by Chandler Wallace, a staff member at Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship)... he also liked the film immensely.

Tomorrow... reviews on "Crazy Heart" with Jeff Bridges, "Orphan" with Vera Farmiga and a few older films that I've re-watched... including... "Money Train"...

1 comment:

  1. We all adored How to Train a Dragon. And I agree - it's one of the few movies of late that are enhanced by 3D.

    I vote for Kevin Costner's Robin Hood though it did always bother me that he didn't even try to fake an accent. It just has too many great moments - "I'll cut your heart out with a spoon!" and a score that has been used over and over again through the years.


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