Movie Review: Fantastic Four – Rise of the Silver Surfer

I think this Fantastic Four sequel comes off as one of the better sequels this year, except for the point that the plot is glaringly obvious very quickly.  That and the fact that you know a major character isn’t going to get bumped off anytime soon (otherwise they never would have managed to make enough comic sales out of it).

Think Terminator 2’s T-1000 android in liquid metal human form and a bit more athletic looking and you get the Silver Surfer.

The basic premise for this movie is that Sue Storm and Reed Richards are having difficulty trying to get married, with their fame and Reed’s compulsive working habits getting in the way, when along comes this surfer dude to prepare the world for certain doom from a world-foe that really doesn’t have a presence in terms of a character.

If you’ve seen a preview, you know that there are some power swapping antics involved, though they really don’t have as much fun with this as they could do.  This time Chris Evans (Johnny Storm) and Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm – the Thing) are comic relief though largely settled into their mainstay of evil-doer fighting, noting that we don’t see any of their day-to-day hero antics other than in relation to the main plot, i.e. not like your average Superman movie where you get to see a few old ladies saved from improbably disaster.

Apparently there are already plans for a Silver Surfer spin off.  With the charisma of a statue, I’m not sure how this will play out – will they keep Laurence Fishburne’s voice on Doug Jones’ body?

The movie was fun, but Jessica Alba (Sue) still seems too young for Ioan Gruffudd (Reed), largely because there really isn’t any chemistry there.


Movie Review: Ocean’s Thirteen

Yes, Ocean’s Thirteen is the third (and hopefully last) in this series of movies.

This one really wasn’t too complex (i.e. disappointingly no real brain power required to figure out the minor twists), though entertaining enough.  It wasn’t really that funny either.  I think we’ve all become just too familiar with the banter between Danny and Rusty and the play of Linus as a parallel running character.  Watch it if you liked the first two, but don’t expect something better.

It’s been a less-than-stellar sequel run this year overall.  Of course there have been a few opening records set.  What amuses me is that all the professional reviewers seem surprised that sequels don’t have any staying power passed the first weekend.  Perhaps it’s because they are highly anticipated but not that good, plus they are all coming out one after the other each weekend stealing each other’s trailing thunder.

So in terms of major franchises, I think that leaves Fantastic Four, Harry Potter, Die Hard and Bourne to give it a go this summer.

Movie Review: Mr Brooks

Kevin Costner is back with some style as the disturbed but structured Mr Brooks.

Ever since Waterworld (which I personally liked), he’s not had any major successes, though the Guardian last year was quite good (except for laying the Hero angle on a bit too thick).

Apparently it’s Kevin’s custom to take a year off after making a movie, so he would seem to be in no rush to boost his box office presence.

The movie gets right into it from the beginning and has sufficient suspense throughout in terms of what will be Brooks’ fate.  His alter-ego cohort is played by William Hurt, though there’s nothing that William can make his own in this script.

There’s a parallel story going on with his police nemesis played by Demi Moore (though she also couldn’t really bring any distinct differential to this character).

Mr Brooks’ wife is played by the lovely Marg Helgenberger, and you’d almost expect her to get out her CSI kit but for the fact she’s oblivious to what’s going on.  She doesn’t really factor into the story as much as their daughter does – and is somewhat underused.

The big ‘surprise’ actor in this movie is comedian Dane Cook who does a reasonable job of focusing the stereotypical self-deprecation or insecurities of a comedian, into the curious and disturbing nervousness of a wannabe bad guy.

The movie’s pace is a patchwork of slow and steady (a reflection of Brooks’ meticulousness) combined with bouts of stark violence or action.

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Don’t go into this POTC movie expecting to see a lot of Jack Sparrow humour, or in fact any of the chaos-driven outlandishness, wit and funny out-smarting/lucking that made for great entertainment in the first two.  There are a few laughs, but a whole load more action this time around.

Expect a swashbuckler of an action movie with lots of complex allegiance switching.  Expect to be totally lost if you have not seen the first two movies or have forgotten most of the plot.

If you put those two paragraphs together, you may like me, be a bit disappointed that you have to watch 2 hours and 48 minutes, waiting for Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) to do something really humourous again, instead of overusing one particular special effect on his character.  On the subject of special effects; it’s very easy to take them for granted in this movie, because none of the main characters have any cool magical attributes so no new crews of supernatural monsters – Caption Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) doesn’t even turn into a skeleton in the moon light anymore and just “arghhh”s a lot when he talks.  No real scary creatures or a spector of supernatural mystery.  The one big character reveal isn’t very well hidden.

Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) wins on character acting.  Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) was a wasted character as were the other pirate lords – they served as follow-on obedient merry-go-round stereotype humour figures.  Keith Richards‘ involvement was over-hyped.  There’s just one line in the movie that confirms his connection to Jack Sparrow, though you’d have had to miss a lot of TV to not know what the connection is.

If you blink, you will miss some of the single lines that explain the plot (which can be hard amongst all the sound effects), that is, if you even care about keeping track of it by the second hour rather than just watching the action.  With a movie this long (are typically shot out of order) isn’t not surprising that the love tale between Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) held little magic until the end – and be sure to wait until the end of the credits. 

There’s one character from the previous movies that does die in a last minute heroic way.

This review is probably as much relatively longer than other reviews I’ve done, as the movie was, compared to what it could have been (and that sentence was probably just a little less complex than the movie plot), and I’ve picked out quite a few of what I believe to be disappointments in the movie.  However, I’m waiting for CNN to post the movie earning for the weekend (a long weekend in the US) to see if it’s beaten any of Spidey 3’s recent records.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

UPDATE: According to CNN, it broke the US Memorial Day weekend record, but not the Spidey 3 record.

Despite all I’ve said, this was a highly anticipated movie, likely appearling to a wider audience and it did deliver high entertainment/action value for money.  It is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie with the all-out intensity and heroes-win(ish)-by-incredulity finale that you’d expect – though not quite dumb enough luck to make it Jack-Sparrow-amusing.

Movie Review: Shrek The Third

Shrek the Third is not surprisingly the third of the Shrek movies.

It has plenty of gags and is reasonably entertaining, however (as with many 3rd movies) it’s lacking in a few ways:

  • There really aren’t any new characters worth speaking of.  Fortunately it’s easy to not notice that it is Justin Timerlake playing the main additional character.
  • The old characters are getting a little weary and Mike Myers sounds very despondant throughout most of the movie, and the reason for the fear his character gets, is not really explained.  The finale is lackluster compared to previous endings.
  • The fairy god mother is not in this movie and her son makes an insubstantial villan.
  • A lot of the gags were shown in the previews.  The best scene for me is still the one where Pinocchio is trying not to lie.  This was shown in early previews, but was fortunately held out of more recent ones.

A reasonable end to a now tired trilogy.

Movie Review: 28 weeks later

Hoping to build on interest from 28 Days Later in 2002, the new 28 Weeks Later continues the story.

Robert Carlyle is probably the best known star in terms of world-wide viewers (from The Full Monty).  When you consider that it was mostly a cast of 7 (Robert, two women, two army guys, and two new child actors), they did a good job of carrying the movie.  The use of different scenes and locations likely added to this.  I think location change and pacing is what makes many good action movies appealing including James Bond movies.

The movie begins with an incident of moral scruples and anguish (shown very well through Robert’s character) that will prove doubly haunting (albeit in a very co-incidental/human-radar way) through the rest of the movie.  It ends with the option of a wider playfield for another sequel, which only occurs because adults fail to communicate something important to children.  That depth of moral dilema (and the fact that not everyone ‘good’ survives) is what makes this movie rise above the average gore-fest.

The movie was entertaining and worth seeing if you liked the first one – just don’t expect any conclusion.

Movie Review: Next

I saw Next last night, starring Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore & Jessica Biel.

While Nick fit the part, there was no wow to his performance.  Julianne’s FBI agent part could have been played by a no-one.  Jessica walked around in her underwear a bit which was OK, but as with the other characters, this wasn’t a real deep-character kind of movie.  There was the opportunity for romance between Julanne and Nick (which seemed more logical given that they appear to be close in age than Nick and Jessica who didn’t make a convincing couple).

There’s a brief appearance by Peter Falk which really felt like they were just rolling him out to show you that he’s still kicking.

Don’t go to this movie if you are looking for explanations.  Go to it if you want to see how cool a foresight ability could be.

Some people have said the end was disappointing.  I’d say that if they had played on further from the end shown (which I can’t explain without spoiling it) that the ultimate end would have been boring because nothing exciting would have resulted, other than perhaps some canoodling a few weeks later.

This should have been a Jerry Bruckheimer movie to have made the action sequences really pop and appeal to a younger audience (marketing-wise) though I’m not sure they would have appreciated the end either, or that he could have squeezed enough out of this relatively short movie.

I enjoyed watching the character’s talent in action – his skill combined with a specific limitation made for a novel but consistent (e.g. superman+krypton) fallible, if perhaps somehwhat too jaded/bitter, super hero.

Movie Review: Spiderman 3

It’s 01:30, and I just got back from watching the 10:30 show of Spiderman 3.

Here are my no-plot-spoiler (though it’s hard not to know the plot if you’ve seen all the entertainment shows fighting for their 10 second exclusives) comments:

  • Plenty of action
  • Scary bits that warrant the PG (or 12A in UK)
  • Sam Raimi still can’t pace romance scenes (and they make crappy endings for these movies) – the audience giggled or groaned in all the emotional pieces, but what the hell – it’s an action/comic movie – at least there’s plenty of action padding it
  • Tobey Maguire grinned far too much for contrast effect in the first part of the movie, but he still fits the part well and did show more versatility
  • For all the money spent, some of the tumbling scenes had poor lighting on the computer graphics such that the characters didn’t blend in correctly
  • J K Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson got the best laughs though the last Chris Tucker line in the trailer for Rush Hour 3 got a far better audience laugh
  • The movie could have been shorter
  • Don’t expect true-to-comic storylines
  • If there’s a forth one then make it an original bad guy (not from the comics); bring in a fresh director, no matter what Kirsten (at least I wasn’t grinning all the time) Dunst said in an interview; spidey could do with a better love-interest; in fact let’s lose the Joey Potter/Lana Lang efforts shall we?
  • Keep Tobey Maguire for financial and character continunity reasons; make him cockier still but not a grinning idiot
  • It was still a good spidey movie

Movie Review: Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz is the movie that everyone should go to see if they like good entertainment, comedy and action movies. It has all three, but only for those who are 14 and over. The film does feature some choice comedic use of swear words, including in writing :)! When one of the biggest cheers from the audience occurs when an old woman is hit, you should get the idea that this movie has some outrageous moments. Also, when an audience in a small theatre is cheering, you know the movie carries some clout. I should point out that there were probably 14, 41 and 61 year olds in the audience and they all seemed to have a good time. The pace reaches pure brilliance in the last 15 minutes of the movie, and isn’t too shabby starting up either. My only negative comment was that the ex-girlfriend story was redundant.

It’s clear these guys did watch many movies (as the trailer claims) to master the technique of grabbing the audience’s attention and then getting the laughs by bringing on the absurd or non-PC. It’s just a shame this movie didn’t have a bigger marketing budget.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star with a collection of other great supporting actors in this fantastically entertaining British movie. And I’m not just saying that because I’m British – any bias is totally drowned out by actual quality entertainment.

Did I mention that while is has no nudity, sex or drugs (other than beer), it pulls off its achievements with comedy, action, violence, smut, beer, cranberry juice, profanity, buddy humour, murder, mystery, and a dark comedy twist?

Movie Review: Fracture

Fracture brings together Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling in a battle of legal/life wits.

The best aspect about this movie is Anthony’s acting and character (Ted Crawford), the worst is that it was quite predictable – it was practically obvious from the start, how the gun thing was done.

The arrogant brilliance of Ted Crawford seemed worth rooting for, vs. the naive arrogance of Ryan’s Willy Beachum. Anthony does play this in a way that is distinct from Hannibal Lecture, but then he is a great actor who seems to effortlessly deliver the part.

Perhaps the lack of a soundtrack in parts made the movie about 15 minutes longer that he should have been. I don’t regret seeing it and I was entertained, but mostly just by the pleasure of watching great acting when Anthony was on screen.

Watch out for Fiona Shaw, more popularly seen as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter movies.

Like Hannibal Lecture in Silence of the Lambs, will Ted Crawford walk away scott-free from a homicide?