Tag Archives: adventure

Movie Review: Aww Crap!! I Really Liked ‘G.I. Joe’!

1 Sep


G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (PG-13)

Ok, so now that I’m back from Myrtle Beach and vacation, I’m going to try to get things caught up here at the blog and then launch into a more structured schedule for the rest of the year. First things first, though. I got a chance to see several new movies over the break, and I’ll be putting the reviews for all of them up over the course of today and tomorrow.

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Let’s start with arguably the most surprising movie I saw last week—G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I had briefly contemplated seeing this proudly obvious feature-length toy commercial a few weeks ago when it was initially released. Some friends were going, and a project prevented me from joining them.  Jen was not interested in the least, so we skipped it. Afterall, there were plenty of other movies out that we wanted to see and there was no need to take a chance on something that was likely a disappointment.

Fast-forward to mid-afternoon last Wednesday, in 95 deg South Carolina heat, after several days of swimming, shopping, mini-golfing, and wandering about. Outdoors it felt hot enough to roast a chicken, so we headed over to the Carmike Cinemas at Broadway and the only movie that worked for our timeframe was G.I. Joe. Add to that the fact that matinee prices in SC are 5.50 and we decided to take the plunge.  

And to my delight—and a little dismay—I really liked it. After the final scene had played, and the lights came up over the techno-rock-rap credits tune, I turned to find an equally surprising sight; my wife was smiling and she too had enjoyed it. It would be easy enough to chalk up our entertained state to our surroundings, the fact we were on vacation, or that the nearest similar film, Transformers, had been an epileptic violation of every storytelling rule ever set down. But no, that’s not the case. Continue reading

Cinematropolis Review:16 minutes of ‘Avatar’ in 3-D! Pretty Darn Impressive!

22 Aug


August 21st, 2009—

UPDATED: Read my full AVATAR review HERE.

 Well, now I’ve actually seen some of James Cameron’s Avatar the way it was intended to be seen—on the Imax and in 3-D. Let me just say that the venue really does make a difference. Like most of the rest of us, I watched the teaser trailer online yesterday and I was underwhelmed by what I was seeing. As a sci-fi geek and a genre hound, I was expecting something more breathtaking, more original, and, I dunno—more daring. On the computer screen, even in HD, the film looked like little more than a cartoon.  The story appeared a basic amalgam of every “outsider meets a new culture” film I’ve seen and the environments and wildlife were interesting but I wasn’t any more convinced by the animated landscapes than the cluttered cgi worlds of the Star Wars prequels. In fact, one of the only reasons my wife and I ended up going to the preview tonight was so I could write about it here. I was curiously ambivalent otherwise. Continue reading

Now Playing: ‘Ponyo’ swims the dazzling sea of Miyazaki’s imagination

13 Aug

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Ponyo(Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea) (G) 100 min. Directed and Written by: Hayao Miyazaki.  Featuring the voice-work of: (English version) Ponyo: Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Sosuke: Frankie Jonas, Koichi: Matt Damon, Lisa: Tina Fey, Gran Mamere: Cate Blanchette, Fujimoto: Liam Neeson. With Betty White, Cloris Leachman and Lily Tomlin. Art Direction: Noboru Yoshida. Cinematography: Atsushi Okoi. Chief Animator: Katsuya Kondô. Original music by: Joe Hisaishi.

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 Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo is a welcome breath of fresh air for the world of animated film. For starters, the Japanese master’s latest is a delightful throwback to a not-so-distant time; the era of hand-drawn 2-dimensional, cell-animated films. While it’s true that cell animation is still a viable means of expression internationally, American theaters have not seen such product  in quite awhile. Thankfully, Walt Disney, prompted byPixar head John Lasseter, is attempting to reverse that. Tomorrow, Ponyo will be given a wide-release in theaters (the largest a Miyazaki film has had here in the West) and in November, the mouse-house will release The Princess and the Frog,  its first traditionally animated film(I’m not counting the opening of Enchanted or all of those DTV cheapies) since 2002’s  pathetic Home on the Range.

Ponyo offers all audiences, both the newcomer and the Miyazaki faithful, something both artistically beautiful and conceptually original. Created in a simple, elegant style with water-color pastels, this fantasy is driven by its vibrant, otherworldly visuals and by its creator’s keen sense of child-like wonder and knack for off-kilter, human details. Skewing to a younger audience than some of Miyazaki’s other animated ventures, like Princess Mononoke or  Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo is an honest-to-goodness family film; it isn’t just appropriate for all ages, it has the potential to entertain all ages. Continue reading

Now Playing: ‘Big Man Japan’ trades zero for hero

29 Jun



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 Giant monsters tromping around wrecking cities sounds like alot more fun than it actually is. I’ve been listening to nearly every beleagured friend who has seen the new Transformers movie complain; ‘it’s just giant things punching each other–that’s it!’ Well, duh. In their case, though, I have the perfect remedy; Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Dai Niiponjin, or the english translation, Big Man Japan. Continue reading

Movie Review: ‘Land’ gets lost in silliness

18 Jun


Land of the Lost (2009) (PG-13) 101 min.  directed by: Brad Siberling. Starring: Will Ferrell, Ana Friel, Danny McBride, John Boylan. cinematography: Dion Beebe original score: Michael Giacchino.

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I wasn’t expecting epic storytelling or thoughtful science when I went into Land of the Lost.  It obviously doesn’t have those things and neither did the original series. What I was hoping for was a reasonably exciting adventure, some good laughs and most importantly a creative use of the prehistoric setting. Unfortunately, what we get instead is a series of Will Ferrel bathroom jokes, out of place sexual references and a ‘plot’ that basically consists of notes taken on a napkin while browsing through an episode of the original series. Continue reading

Movie review: Angels and Demons pits science and faith against pulp

21 May


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Ron Howard’s adaptation of Angels and Demons might be based off of a Dan Brown novel and linked to the controversial The Davinci Code, but the film itself couldn’t be more tame. I never saw Code because of the film’s absurd premise that married blasphemy with popcorn thriller–no thanks. Add to that the fact it was poorly recieved and that Tom Hanks seemed to be letting his toupee do all the heavy acting and you had a perfectly crafted ball of “I could care less.” Now along come the follow-up adventures of Robert Langdon and I was surprised to find myself intrigued by the trailers. The film itself is a fun little bit of escapism, eschewing anything heretical or antagonistic and instead focusing on jaunts into underground tombs, perusal of old libraries and sequences where dark matter threatens to swallow the Vatican if Tom Hanks can’t stop it. It’s all pulp and no edge, and strangely that’s the biggest problem.

Ron Howard does a nice job of making an old-school matinee thriller with great set pieces, tons of atmosphere and a few action scenes that do the work of raising the adrenaline. On top of the film’s handsome design and straightforward pacing, it focuses most of it’s energy on art, architecture and research. It makes the librarian tactics of Langdon as appealing in their way as Indiana Jones’ punch and kick method of info gathering. I imagine that Angels and Demons will have the most impact on dvd, where it can play a sunday afternoon after dinner and tantalize with it’s historical head-scratchers and it’s Six-Degrees of Renaissance Painters game trivia. It’s the kind of movie that doesn’t have much value in andof itself but can inspire art gallery outings, interest in historical writings, and maybe even a trip to Rome. It’s more of a travelogue of ideas than a fully formed story.

The plot? Well, it boils down to a rogue faction known as the Illuminati(dude, it’s ALWAYS the Illuminati) striking out at the Catholic Church at a time when the Pope has passed on and the current power in the Vatican is being overseen by the Camerlengo, played gamely by Ewan McGregor. The pope himself was actually murdered by the order and they have broken into the Hadron Collidier and have plans to unleash its fury at the end of a killing spree that will claim the four preferati(potential candidates for the Papacy) and throw the Church into darkness. All of this is being done to avenge themselves for persecution that their ancient order of scientists faced at the hands of the Vatican. Langdon, the Camerlengo and token femal sidekick Vittoria Vetra, who was working at CERN when the Illuminati stole the anti-matter, are now racing against the clock to uncover the clues hidden around Rome and in the Vatican’s dark past. As in most movies like this, everything comes down to big pulse-pounding conclusion that requires the characters to think fast while stopping to deliver helpful speeches about historical events.

Most of all that works. It’s exciting and I had a good time while I watched it, but there isn’t so much as a single bit of distinguishing character work for anyone who isn’t Langdon and even in his case, it amounts to only a few scenes. No matter, the spice of the film actually comes from it’s propping up of science and faith as mysterious, enticing and sort of wondrous. Most might think Brown’s work is anti-Church, and that might be true, but it relies on the mystique and tradition of Catholicism for its power and atmosphere. The same is true for the realm of scientific discovery, which could only be adored more if this were directed by Spielberg. Howard displays the same sense of reverance for the lab at CERN as he does for the church’s  hallowed cathedrals. And all of that makes sense. The intersection at the heart of the story is the one between faith and science. Instead of drawing out that tension and conflict, as the far superior Knowing recently did, Angels and Demons only uses it as window dressing between chase scenes.

Angels and Demons makes for a perfectly swell matinee feature that will likely draw an older audience who might be tired of stuff like Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s just a shame that the movie doesn’t work on any other level than as an A to B rote thriller. It has a compelling centerpiece, but it doesn’t even reach the cohesiveness of National Treasure. The movie’s best scene takes place early on when the Camerlengo asks Langdon if he believes in God. Langdon says he is an academic and that he believes it is beyond his mind to determine the existence of God. When the Camerlengo questions what he feels in his heart, Langdon remarks that “faith is a gift, and that his “heart is not worthy.” It’s an interesting scene, and one whose complexities could have been useful throughout the film. I would have gladly given up a few scenes of Langdon thumbing through books or escaping ridiculous death scenarios for its inclusion.