The Dark Knight

IMHO, the movie thankfully exceeds the hype.  Heath Ledger’s performance is impressive, but does not carry the movie.  The sheer endurance and onslaught of the story is magnificent in itself  Christian Bale’s raspy voice ‘behind’ the mask isn’t ideal.

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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.