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Iron Man [Feb. 18th, 2010|07:59 am]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

While Iron Man doesn’t pose a serious rival to The Dark Knight, in my opinion, the two franchises have a fair bit in common in the way they make their source material a little more dirty and gritty than many of their predecessors.

full review: http://www.bukisa.com/articles/247591_iron-man-2008
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Avatar [Feb. 18th, 2010|07:56 am]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

Avatar is not just a movie, it is an experience that connects on a visceral level, serving up spectacular visual effects extravaganza without losing sight of character and quite possibly the feather in writer-director James Cameron's cap.

for full review: http://www.bukisa.com/articles/247609_avatar-2009
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Avatar [Dec. 24th, 2009|05:03 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

Ahhh, the Smurfs. You remember the Smurfs, don't you?? Those cute little blue creatures that lived in peace and harmony in the forest picking Smurfberries and Smurfing everything in sight. They live pretty happy lives until Gargamel bombs in making life miserable for them. Oddly, that's pretty much the plot to James Cameron's movie Avatar.

In Avatar a blue skinned alien race called the Na'Vi are discovered and in order to interact with them Avatars are created. Which are human/Na'Vi genetic creatures that are essentially lifeless until a human personality is transmitted into them. Sam Worthington plays a former marine who has lost the use of his legs is transmitted into an Avatar. As an avatar he meets the local population and gains their trust while secretly passing security information to the Marine force on the planet so they can later attack the Na'Vi and get to the planets resources. Resources the Na'Vi consider sacred. Of course the Marine becomes conflicted and slowly becomes more Na'Vi than human.

The plot is really the weakest part of the movie. The hero discovers the magic of a setting and changes sides. It feels like it's been done a hundred times before: The cowboy discovering the elegance of the Native Americans. The kid discovering the magic in a fantasy land. The Smurfs discovering the Smurf of the Smurfs. Once you know the setup, you know exactly how it's going to end. The storytelling is not terribly original and it feels forced.

What is original is the look and characteristics of the Planet the Na'Vi live on. A lot of thought and time was spent figuring out the planets flora, fauna and the Na'Vi people themselves. There is a richness and depth there that the story can't live up to.

The look of the movie is impressive. This is the movie's main strength. The CGI planet and creatures are excellent. Its filled with floating mountains, flying dragons and glowing trees. Quite impressive to look at and fun to study while you are waiting for the plot to happen. There are times when the movie drags, but you don't notice it much because there is always something interesting on screen. This was especially true when seeing it with the 3-D effect where things seem to literally pop off the screen. Bugs, glowing embers, leaves and branches almost seem real and you can get caught up just looking at the picture.

None of acting is great, or terrible. No one stood out. It mostly seemed kinda plastic, (and I'm talking about the real life actors not the CGI actors) especially Stephen Lang who seemed to be channeling the Chip Hazzard toy from Small Soldiers. Sam Worthington plays almost the same type of character he played in Terminator Salvation: a lost hero searching for redemption. And Zoe Saldana. . .who can tell how much was her and how much was the CGI artistry?

Avatar is worth seeing on the big screen for the look of the movie. It may not play as well on the television at home, but it will still look better than those old Smurf cartoons. If you want to see a good cartoon with Smurfs check out the South Park episode "Dances With Smurfs." Which manages to parody the Smurfs, Avatar, and Rush Limbaugh all at the same time.
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Surrogates review [Sep. 28th, 2009|12:21 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

There is an argument out there that technology, despite the fact that it connects us all over the world, can tend to isolate us. We can spend days on the internet interacting with people on the other side of the globe, yet never talk to anyone at all when we do something as simple as going to the grocery store. That's the idea Surrogates explores.

The first problem with Surrogates is the title which conjures up the idea that it's about couples trying to conceive children and all the problems it brings up. But, no, the hook for the movie is people have these personal robots that they can experience life through without ever physically going into the real world. The robots can look like the real person or be totally different, sometimes switching races, ages or genders. You never really know who's living through the robot. Then someone figures out a way to kill the robot in such a way that it creates a feedback that kills the operator. Bruce Willis as FBI agent Tom Greer steps in and tries to figure out how to stop him which turns into a bigger conspiracy.

I'd talk about the acting here, but this whole movie pretty much rests on Bruce Willis. Bruce does what he does best: he gets beat up a whole bunch and despite some major physical fights never seems to sweat the damage. Sure, he carries some scratches throughout the movie, but somehow never gets hurt so bad he can't do his job.

Most of the CGI effects are subtle and aren't really noticeable, like the way the Robots skin seems to glow and looks slightly off. The practical effects like a helicopter crash and chases are well done with some CGI tweaking of the robots so they appear to be able to do incredible leaps and take a lot of damage.

The big problem with Surrogates is the conspiracy and the main villain doesn't make a lot of sense. It's okay and does drive the movie, but there is some real problems with its believability. Despite that, the movie does have a core idea that technology can create problems connecting with other people that worth thinking about.
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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince review [Jul. 19th, 2009|04:33 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

Richard Harris is truly missed. He had a certain whimsy and charm as an actor that many others never manage to achieve. Other than Camelot, he rarely found a role that suited his charm until the Harry Potter movies came along. It's funny, he went from playing kings like Arthur to playing wizards like Dumbledore and even though he was only in the first two movies when watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince his subtle magic is a vast difference to Michael Gambon's bland allure.

This movie focuses heavily on Dumbledore as he and Harry review memories of people who knew Voldemort. Of special interest is the memories of one Professor Horace Slughorn who may hold the key memory that explains Voldemort's tremendous endurance. The problem is how to get to the story when Slughorn is doing all he can to avoid it. The Half-Blood Prince also contains the usual Potter sorcery and strange ends

After all this time with Harry Potter it's difficult to figure out where the the actor begins and the character ends. Is Emma Watson playing shrill and stiff because that's the way she sees Hermione? Is Daniel Radcliff glum and stoic, or is that the way he has to play Harry? Either way it fits the characters perfectly. Particularly, Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood she's quirky and very funny. It's hard to tell if it's just the actress or the character. There is no doubt that Rupert Grint (aka Ron Weasley) is a comic genius. He was very funny in the previous film and absolutely rules in this one when he plays a suddenly lovestruck Ron. Mooning over. . . Well, the moon, falling over stuff and suddenly being buddy, buddy with Slughorn. It all makes for some very good bits in the overall story.

I'm really impressed with the almost throw away CGI magic bits peppered through the movie. Whether it's the owl on Dumbledore's podium or the pictures that move or the wand blasts, they all fit in with out being obvious. In The Half-Blood Prince the effects enhance the story and don't run the story, which a lot of movies don't seem to get. (Cough, Trans, Cough, formers, Cough)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a fine movie with some great things in it. It is said Harris played King Arthur as a man with greatness thurst upon him, but I can't help but wonder how he would played Dumbledore in this key moment for the character. As a man born to magic, or a man with magic thurst upon him?
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Transformers Revenge of the Fallen [Jun. 28th, 2009|04:43 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

Some summer movies are review proof. They could be the biggest hunk of junk in the world and people will go anyway. It's mostly about the explosions and the spectacle over sensibility. Hey, there is a certain entertainment in watching a loud noisy pieces of junk pounding into each other. Which brings us to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

If you saw the first Transformers film the plot of this one is exactly the same. It has as much depth as a coat of paint. Essentially, it's Good robots (Autobots) vs. bad robots (Decepticons) with some dopey humans thrown between them.

The dopey humans are Sam (Shia LaBeouf) and Mikaela (Megan Fox.) Acting is secondary to the action in a film like this and whether it's good or bad is hardly noticeable. The robots almost seem like better actors than the humans. They give a lot more to Megan Fox to do in this picture as she ascends to the throne of hot babe of the moment. Knocking Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johansson to the side with as much force as a Decipticon hitting an Autobot. (Here's a fun game to play while watching between explosions. Whenever Megan Fox is on screen try to get a good look at her odd looking thumbs. I was fascinated.)

The CGI and special effects really sell this film. It's not just that they are totally integrated, but the CGI artists seem to have a weird joy to making walking talking giant robots look as real and as nutty as possible. It's the best part of the movie watching the robots become planes and cars. You gotta appreciate the work and skill it takes to make a stealth plane turn into a geriatric robot.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a bit like going to a demolition derby. It's kinda fun watching giant machines plowing into each other and trying to beat on each other till they are nothing but junk. But if you don't like demolition derbys you'd be further ahead seeing something else.
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Closet Land Review [Jun. 17th, 2009|07:20 am]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them


Closet Land (1991)
Director: Radha Bharadwaj
Starring: Madeleine Stowe, Alan Rickman
Genre: Political/dystopian psychological thriller
Rating: R
Score: A+; 5/5 stars


The highly acclaimed theatrical Closet Land, imaginatively produced on a modest of $2.5 million, addresses the horror of political torture. It's a harrowing, focused two-character piece by first-time director Radha Bharadwaj.

Link to read full review:
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Star Trek - - Terminator Salvation [May. 25th, 2009|04:32 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

In the movies the future is usually depicted with two basic themes: The future where things are mostly good, but some person or group of people have a problem. Or the dystopian future where technology is the problem. The recent Star Trek and Terminator Salvation movies represent both extremes. Yeah, it's Star Trek vs Terminatior.

In Star Trek Earth is threatened by Romulans. Romulans, despite the alien makeup and costumes, are just people with a problem. Whereas in Terminator Salvation technology is the problem . The machines built by man and have spun out of control and the future is threatened. Strangely, both movies touch on that time travel aspect where the future has to be maintained, despite the tampering of others.

Here's a brief description of what happens in both movies: 1. Opening teaser set in the past. 2. Explosions. 3. Familiar characters show up. 4. More explosions. 5. Star crossed love that seems a little rushed. 6. Iconic characters show up for a small part. 7. Big explosion finale. 8. Ending narration promising continuing adventures.

In the acting department another coincidence is Anton Yelchin appears in both films playing semi-iconic characters that were established by another actor. In Star Trek he plays the young Chekov and in Terminator Salvation he plays the young Kyle Reese. He does a good job with both roles and is lucky the movies are so close together otherwise people might not realize he can do more than a Russian accent. Zoe Saldana really stands out as Uhura. She has more to do in this one Star Trek movie than Nichelle Nichols had to do in all three seasons of the TV show. The acting overall is good. The actors find the right tone for their characters keeping it both new and old at the same time.

Both movies have the standard great effects. It's amazing how good these things look. Whether it's the Enterprise flying through space or the various Terminators chasing John Conner it is a seamless melding of computer generated images and real people.

Overall, both movies are entertaining, but they make less sense the more you think about them and there are some plot holes and bad science that take away from the enjoyment. Star Trek has the edge in the characters, but Terminator Salvation has the edge in the technology. The future is yours to choose.
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Treeless Mountain [Apr. 29th, 2009|02:09 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them
A Korean indie drama that follows two young girls who are left by their mother (who goes searching for their estranged father). The girls are sent to live with various, incompetent relatives such as an alcoholic aunt and out on the farm with their grandparents. Writer/Director So Yong Kim does an excellent job of establishing intimacy by using a lot of close up shots on the faces of the two very expressive young actors. Though this film is obviously shot on a low budget, it has excellent cinematography, thanks to Kim's sharply focused aesthetic vision.

My initial thoughts when I heard about this movie was that it would be an overly sentimental tear-jerker, but that turned out not to be the case at all. In fact, if there is a knock on this film, it may be that it lacks strong enough conflict to really resonate. However, to me the movie is a lot like the song used in the its trailer, "Layers" by Asobi Seksu - it's beauty comes from its understatement.

Trailer for Treeless Mountain

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The Watchmen review [Mar. 8th, 2009|05:05 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

Alan Moore has written many great comics, but it is surprising to find that he feels that some of the work was stolen from him. In the contracts Alan signed for The Watchmen all the rights to the work would revert back to him (and co-creator Dave Gibbons) once the book was out of print for a certain length of time. No other comic before had ever been kept in print, but The Watchmen has never gone out of print. It Sold. And it Sold. And then it Sold some more. Now (the inevitable) movie version comes into play.

In the movie version The Watchmen someone has killed the hero called the Comedian and as other heroes try to figure out what happened it uncovers a larger conspiracy that could end the world.

The amazing thing thing about the movie is just how much it looks like the comic. Scenes and dialog are taken exactly from the book. The comics are a template for everything: from the props in the scenes, to the nudity of the characters, to the breakdown of the story. It's all here. In fact, the only real change is the ending is altered slightly from the inter dimensional squid monster to something that makes a little more sense. (I love the book version of The Watchmen but every time I get to that part I think, "Really, A inter dimensional squid monster? You couldn't come up with something better?")

The acting in The Watchmen is mostly average. Usually acting isn't important in super-hero action movies, but in this case acting is very important. The characters drive the story not the action. Unfortunately, Matthew Goode as Ozymandias plays the part like a comic book super villain. He seems very glib about the serious decisions his character makes. Ozymandias carries tremendous emotional weight, but Matt doesn't seem to connect to that fact making the character two dimensional instead of three dimensional. Also, Carla Gugino as the first Silk Spectre doesn't seem prepared to play a supporting role as a mother figure. All the scenes with her daughter seem flat and unemotional. This is a real surprise since she is so good in everything else she's been in.

The movie runs about 3 hours and is as dense as the book and will hold up to several viewings. Alan Moore has had his name removed from The Watchmen and it's too bad since this is a pretty good version of his book, but if you feel your best work has been taken away from you would you really be stoked by a movie version?
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