Category Archives: Movies

Drive (2011) – IMDb

Drive (2011) – IMDb.

I have to admit, I almost turned off the DVD in the first 10 minutes of the movie. I was expecting a fast-paced car chase action flick, and I was not seeing anything of the sort. But I kept watching the movie. Something small had grabbed my interest. Maybe it was the strong silent treatment we were getting from the primary character. Maybe it was the little boy who refused to blink. I really don’t know what that element was, but it managed to grab my attention enough that I kept watching, and kept watching, and before I knew it I found myself emotionally invested in the story that was slowly unfolding in front of me. This was not a car chase movie, but rather it was a love story, but a love story with a mob connection. The worst part of this whole movie, aside from the horrid 80’s flashback font for the credits, was that in the end the boy doesn’t get the girl, and nobody really knows what happens.

This is a very character driven film, and the lead is a character with surprisingly few lines, and the ones he has surprisingly few on words. You could almost write the character off as being simple, and his deadpan facial expressions really leave you wondering on more than one occasion. Yet somehow, even with so few words something brilliant comes out in the character. Maybe it is the smile of joy, or the look of anguish at doing something that he knows will likely cost him the girl. I don’t know what it is, but the actor did a brilliant job of conveying so very much with body language and expression.

The characters aren’t anybody special, just average people living their daily lives in Los Angeles. They aren’t glamorous model types in any way, simply normal folks doing their best to survive. What made it so special was the actors who really put character into these characters. They really made them come to life, and in the end you had no problem seeing them as somebody just like you. Brilliant job in accomplishing that connection, and I think that this connection, and the brilliance in making the characters so real is what ultimately led to my finding this movie so appealing.

I know that what I am describing isn’t anything that will drive you to want to see the movie, at least not if you are wanting to see a movie like what I thought I was going to be watching. I know that the movie is not likely to become a permanent resident in my collection, but it is one that I am likely to rent from time to time, maybe every few years when I have a hankering for some deep character driven stories. Now if that is the type of movie you like, and you aren’t afraid of some graphic violence in a couple of scenes, then I cannot encourage you strongly enough to give it a try.

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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) – IMDb

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) – IMDb.

I have to be honest here, I went into this movie expecting high levels of camp. That said, I must also confess that I was pleasantly surprised to find that the camp was not as bad as I had feared, and was actually somewhat balanced. What it turned out to be was a fine family movie with a nice balance of humor, action, suspense and just a bit of a love story, albeit teen love.

What I found especially enjoyable was the excellent artwork that went into the sets and backdrops. Atlantis alone was gorgeous, but then toss in the Nautilus and we are having all kinds of fun times with details. The effects work for the underwater segments was also very well done. So…from a technical standpoint this was actually pretty well put together.

The weakness was in the script, and boy were there some issues there. To start with, it is next to impossible to take Duane “The Rock” Johnson seriously when he is spouting pseudo-science lines. They don’t come naturally to him and simply sound ridiculous coming out of his mouth. They don’t flow naturally like so many other lines do for him. Then the pedantic side of me kicks in when he utters a line about the sea level rising 100 feet overnight. The primary driving motivator for this movie is the need to escape the island because it is sinking rapidly back into the ocean. As such, if an island is sinking the ocean is not rising. Keep the pseudo-science straight please!

Alright, so aside from unbelievable dialogue from Johnson the lines for the other actors actually seemed to work well for them, and for the most part they were delivered rather well.  I can’t really think of a moment where a poorly delivered line really pulled me out of the story, outside of the previously discussed lines for Johnson.

In the end it was a very pleasant movie, and I must say that I am intrigued by the open ending they left for a potential sequel.  In the end I gave it 7 of 10 stars over at IMDB.

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The Man from Earth (2007) – IMDb

The Man from Earth (2007) – IMDb.

This is a hard review to write so soon after watching the film, but I am afraid that if I don’t write my thoughts now they will fade. The concept is very intriguing, and exploring the concept as they did in the film is quite believable. A very basic case of “what if?” taken through some interesting twists and turns, and what a set of turns this movie presented. This is one of those rare films that just makes you sit down and think and let your own mind wander down the path of “what if?” with the characters in the film, and it does it superbly.

There are no grand dramatic settings, no huge special effects, no flash and bang in this movie. Instead it has something so much better: characters. This film could easily be done on stage, and for all I know the script may well be used for a stage production. It certainly wouldn’t take much tweaking to make it work on stage since the movie basically takes place in one room. No, what we have here are some absolutely superb character actors coming together to do what they all do so tremendously well, play a character, and do it so that they really do feel real. Yes there are a lot of familiar faces here, but none of them are actors we expect to see as leads in blockbuster films. Instead these are the people who make other characters shine simply by incredible execution of their craft.

This is a movie that is going to stick with me for a long, long time, and it is well worth the 8 of 10 stars that I rated it. Simply fantastic!

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Safe (2012) – IMDb

Safe (2012) – IMDb.

Sat down to watch this last night after putting the kids to bed, but I wasn’t exactly excited by it. The premise is rather good, but the overall plot is a tired formula. I suppose that the action was supposed to carry this film, but it actually put me to sleep. There really wasn’t anything in this to keep the brain involved, or at least nothing that I saw while my eyes were open.

Technically this was a rather well done film. The cinematography was well handled and the shots were nicely composed. The action scenes were well choreographed as well, even if the scenes all started to blend into each other. Even the acting was ok. Nothing spectacular or earth shattering, but not so bad that you feel like your eyes and ears are going to bleed out. The problem with this film wasn’t with technique but rather with originality. How many films have we seen Statham do exactly the same thing? How many films has he taken on the cause of the underdog against overwhelming odds and beaten the snot out of those odds to come out victorious? Yep, movie after movie that he has been in has followed this basic plot. It was great when we first saw him in Transporter, and even in Transporter 2, but by then it was starting to feel forced. Movie after movie has followed this same basic plot, and while the action scenes may be well handled the whole thing when pulled together is just mind numbing rather than pulse pounding.

In the end I have to say that it just doesn’t rate better than mediocre. I was very comfortable giving it a 5 of 10 stars. It wasn’t a bad film, but it also wasn’t a great film, and the fact that I fell asleep in the midst of an action heavy film doesn’t say much for how engaging it might be.

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The Hunger Games (2012) – IMDb

ImageThe Hunger Games (2012) – IMDb. 8 of 10 stars

I have yet to sit down and read the book, and perhaps that is a blessing since I really enjoyed this film. I have been hearing from a lot of people over the last year that I really need to read the book, and when the movie was out in the theaters everyone was raving over it. Myself…I was rather skeptical, and in my mind I painted somebody trying to do a clever adaptation of The Running Man (1987) instead of doing something original. Now, having seen the movie myself I have no problem admitting just how wrong I was in my expectations.

The story itself was ultimately rather predictable, and followed a rather reliable plot formula. What made it all work was the emotional intensity of the lead character. Yes, I know that the role of the lead character is to suck you the reader (or watcher in this case) into the story, and allow you to find a way to become emotionally invested in the story. However, even knowing it for an obvious plot device didn’t save me from the lure, and I was fully committed before I knew it. The story played out in a predictable fashion, with intensity and action at all the appropriate places, and the required hook at the end where the lead character flexes what little leverage she has and exerts some control over fate. Nothing unexpected, but because of the emotional investment that the watcher makes it carried a lot of impact.

As to the film itself, the pacing seemed to be very well handled. Yes, there were some slow points, but they were dictated by the story and not by failings on the part of the director. The story never stagnated when on the screen, and there were always little extra bits of detail to make you watch and wonder. The acting was actually quite well done by the primaries, though many of the secondaries seemed a bit stilted, and that is part of why I rated it down a bit. Even if your part is a bit part, be proud of your work and try to invest something into the role instead of just being a cardboard cutout. I loved that the lead actually seemed to have a solid grasp of the mechanics of using a bow unlike other films where errors in bow use are so glaring.

Effects and props were also pretty well handled with one exception that kept staring me in the face. That bow used in the arena appeared to be metal, and certainly sounded metal, but it acted more fiberglass than metal. Never mind that a recurve bow made from some sort of flex metal at that thickness would be extremely, if not impossible to draw, much less shoot. Yes, it looks pretty, but functionally I would have much preferred something that looked more genuine. Who knows, maybe they were simply trying to match a description from the book… And the fletchings on the arrows…yeah…those were special. Still, aside from the bow I rather enjoyed the effects and the props. They all seemed to melt right in and become a natural part of the landscape. Nothing jumped out as out of place, even in the fantastical settings. They simply seemed correct for the setting, and that speaks volumes to the effectiveness of the props people.

All in all a very enjoyable film, and one that I am certain to watch again in the future.

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