jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
I saw OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN this past weekend as well and thoroughly enjoyed it. I consider it the first action/adventure blockbuster movie for the upcoming movie season.

Mike Banning is a secret service agent protecting the president. During a snowy night, an accident kills the president's wife and because of this the president ships Banning off to the treasury department, not because Banning did anything wrong, but because he doesn't want to be reminded of his wife's death by Banning's presence. Over a year later, a faction of terrorists attack and take over the White House, seizing control of the president in his underground bunker and making demands of the Speaker of the House, who's now in control of the government. Banning manages to get inside the White House as everything is going down and is the lone survivor. So, a la "Die Hard", he has to find a way to save the president, even as the bad guys begin to make demands.

I'm a fan of "Die Hard" so this movie tapped into that vein and bled it dry. In a good way. But this isn't "Die Hard", because Banning is not just a regular guy in an untenable situation. He's trained for this kind of thing, and because of that, the movie does diverge from the "Die Hard" trope. It still has that feel to it for the basic premise. The bad guys are prepared and smart. The good guys are generally as well. Both sides make huge mistakes at certain points. But the entire movie is high action, explosions left and right, intrigue, betrayals, and good guys with little resources battling against bad guys with an arsenal at their command. And of course, the bad guys aren't after what they seem to be after at the beginning of the movie. (Although unlike "Die Hard" this isn't all about money.) I thought it was well plotted, well played by the actors, and it took a few twists and turns that I wasn't expecting.

You do have to suspend your disbelief a little bit. While taking over the White House was not made easy in the movie, I would still hope that we have better defenses than what was presented here. Making such a thing believable in a movie like this is always tough and I think the movie does a respectable job in this regard. If you get past this, then the rest of the movie is great. I bought all of the characters in their roles. In fact, a few of the actors seriously impressed me. In particular Melissa Leo, who played Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan. There was only one plot moment where I rolled my eyes (when the good guys go in to attack against Banning's warning), but this was a standard element of this kind of movie. The violence is rather . . . well, violent. Not in a gratuitous way, but realistic for the situation, in my opinion.

Overall, I think the movie rocked. Intense action, some good character moments, great acting, and a good plot. Definitely recommended for the action/adventure lovers out there.
jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
So I went to see THE CROODS this weekend, in 3D, with a friend and her son. It wasn't high up on my list of movies to see, but it did look like it might be fun. And it was!

The premise is that we have a family of cavemen named the Croods. The main character is Eep, essentially a teenager, who's starting to get antsy about all of the rules that her father uses to keep the family safe from everything that's attempting to kill them. Which is literally everything. All of this gets interrupted when Eep runs into a boy who's good with ideas and who warns them all that the world is ending and they need to leave the safety of their cave and routine if they want to live. The rest of the movie is about the family being forced to flee toward the nebulous safety of a distant mountain, experiencing all new wonders and learning how to adapt to new situations and new relationships along the way.

I did enjoy this movie, however it is targeted toward the kids, with enough for the adults to be entertained as well. The real heart of the movie is the relationship between Eep and her dad, who's simply trying to protect everyone and doesn't realize that he's also stifling his daughter and needs to let go . . . at least a little. But the entire family is great in the movie and they all have defining moments and shifting relationships with each other along the way. So the characters are interesting and involving and keep you riveted to the movie. The visuals are also stunning, but in an appropriately stunning and non-gratuitous way. what I mean is that they were stunning when they should have been stunning (such as when the characters find themselves in a totally different environment than they're used to, so they're stunned as well) and even then the director didn't linger on the "stunning" so long that it became a gratuitous use of 3D special effects. It was stunning for as long as it needed to be stunning and then it became the background again, with the characters and their situation at the forefront. Which is as it should be.

My only real issue with it is that I can't say that it necessarily covered any new ground. Part of this is because it's targeted toward kids, and there's only so much ground you can cover with a kids movie. There were some darker moments in the movie that may bother some kids if they see it, but nothing that would make me recommend that you not take your kids to it. Everything works out in the end, as it should. But because of the "no new ground" thing, there wasn't anything that elevated this movie to the TOY STORY level.

But don't get me wrong. It was fun, entertaining, enthralling in places, humorous in others, and certainly a great way to wile away a few hours on a weekend. Based on the reactions of the kids around me, they'll thoroughly enjoy it. The kid inside of me certainly did.
jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
I have to admit that I went in to see Oz the Great and Powerful with some tribulation. I mean, there’s no way you can make a movie as good as The Wizard of Oz. It just can’t be done. And there was so much that could go wrong in trying to revisit this magical land. But I decided it needed to be seen.

I probably don’t need to explain the premise, but here goes: This is the story of how the Wizard of Oz became the Wizard of Oz as seen in the original The Wizard of Oz. We see Oscar (who’s stage name is Oz) performing magic in a small traveling circus while schmoozing all the ladies. When one of the husbands (or perhaps boyfriends) finds out, he tries to escape in a hot air balloon and is caught in a tornado, which transports him to the land of Oz. There, he’s seen as the prophecied wizard who will save them from the Wicked Witch. But he finds himself surrounded with witches—good and bad—and sets off to kill the Wicked Witch, along with a few sidekicks he picks up along the way. Of course, along the way, he finds out more about himself and what kind of person he could and can be, if he only believed and wanted it.

This movie had some really great moments . . . and it also had some issues. I’ll start with the great moments. First, it is obvious that it was lovingly written and directed by people who love the land of Oz, its character, and its feel—both the books by L. Frank Baum and the original movie. This movie has the same feel and the same heart as that movie, and pays homage to it rather well. There are loveable sidekicks (in fact, the China Girl pretty much steals the movie), the sets have the same feel, and for the most part the tone of the movie is the same as the original. You have the parallels between people in the real world and people in Oz. You have Oscar unable to solve his problems in the real world, but manages to face them all in Oz and become the person he’s always wanted and dreamed himself to be. And you have some of the “origin” stories for more than just the wizard. There are small nods to the original movie throughout, along with some major setup for that movie in terms of characters and situation.

All of this is good. In addition, there are some really strong plot elements in this movie. The way the movie resolves itself is the best part of the movie altogether, and that ending was slowly set up in bits and pieces throughout. Not just the plot but the character arcs as well. In particular, the real relationship character arc for Oscar, which was played perfectly in my opinion (both in the real world and in Oz). There were some good plot twists; a few that weren’t expected. And of course some of the visuals were spectacular and true to the Oz in the books. [Aside: I saw the 2D version, and while the visuals were good throughout, there were some obvious scenes that were thrown in just to wow with the 3D effects and came off as just unnecessary filler in the 2D version.]

So there were some really good elements in this movie, and those elements in the end outweighed the issues I had with the movie. But those issues still make me wince when I think about them. And what they? Well . . . there were some rough spots in the acting. I did not buy, for an instant, the smarmy Oscar in the first half of the movie (with an appearance of this at one spot later on as well). James Franco just didn’t pull this off. Oscar is supposed to be a philanderer and for this part of the movie his entire persona is essentially supposed to be an act. You’re supposed to be able to see the smarm and get hints of the real Oscar beneath. But Franco doesn’t pull it off. It’s a subtle little characterization and it just didn’t work for me. I cringed in each of these scenes. I would like to say that I completely bought Franco when he WASN’T playing with the façade. But unfortunately, if you’re supposed to be a spectacular con man, you need to be able to con the audience into believing the façade and that just didn’t happen.

There were also some rough spots where the movie just didn’t know what audience it was shooting for. Some scenes play to a younger audience, while others to an older one, and they just didn’t fit together smoothly. And I’m not talking about the womanizing here, which I thought struck a decent middle ground. Most of this came down to the acting—a little too over the top, which made the scene seem like it was targeted toward a younger audience when it shouldn’t have been. In fact, now that I think about it, most of my issues with the movie all boil down to acting issues, where a scene or part wasn’t played right or with the subtlety that was required. Yet it wasn’t a particular actor that was always bad; the actors were in general all up and down throughout the movie. (Except for Michelle Williams, who played Glinda and was great throughout, along with Joey King, who played the China Girl. Both of them were great.)

In the end, I thought it was a good movie, worth seeing, but it definitely needed some more . . . polishing. The spectacular ending, where all of the little bits and pieces of the plot and character come together, and where Oscar finds the true Oz within himself, is what saves the movie overall, but there were good bits and pieces all over the place. If someone had simply gone through and reshot some of the cringe-worthy rough spots in the acting in places (again, not restricted to one actor in particular), it could have been a great movie.
jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
I went to see A Good Day to Die Hard yesterday. I'm a fan of the "Die Hard" movies, although the first movie is by far the best in the series so far. It had a rock solid plot and worked in the family relationships perfectly. It was an action movie, but the character development wasn't compromised either. It will always be one of my all-time favorite movies. So I was excited to learn that there was a fifth movie coming out and of course had to see it opening weekend.

The premise of this fifth movie is that John McClane has learned that his son has been arrested for killing someone in Russia and even though they've had a rocky relationship and a falling out (they haven't spoken to or seen each other in years), he heads to Russia. Meanwhile, there's a political controversy brewing in Russia between the current leader and a political prisoner who's about to go to trial. We learn pretty fast that John McClane's son, Jack, is somehow mixed up in this trial. Of course, as soon as John arrives, things start exploding and he gets caught up in whatever his son is mixed up in. And of course, it's about more than just politics as the plot begins to twist and turn, as "Die Hard" plots are wont to do.

First off, the good stuff. If you're going to see this because you like explosions and chases and gun fights and some interesting plot twists and turns, then you're in luck. I thought the plot of the movie was great. It snaked through the usual betrayals and sudden revelations as Jack and John fight to stay alive and figure out what the hell is going on, as their initial assumptions are shot to hell around them. It's a plot in the grand "Die Hard" tradition. One of the best things about this franchise is the way the plots start off being about one thing, but morph into another along the way in a believable way. (I am willfully ignoring the plot of the second movie here . . . and to some extent the fourth.) I'm not saying the plot was rock solid, but it was cleaner than many other action movies out there.

The plot was the best part of the film. I had major problems with the father-son relationship. Basically, I just didn't buy into it at all, at any point during the movie. The scenes between John and his son Jack were awkward and sometimes painful. There was maybe one or two sections that felt genuine (like the time his son overheard John talking to the guy their attempting to keep alive, and perhaps the moment near the pool), but pretty much I squirmed in my seat during all of the other "touching moment/reconciliation" scenes. The good news is there weren't many. In fact, the best family characterization scenes were those involving John's daughter (who reconciled with him in the fourth movie). THOSE scenes felt real, even the one at the end. Unfortunately, the daughter was only featured in two scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end (plus a phone conversation early on, but that doesn't really count). In any case, the family dynamic and characterizations in that respect fell flat for me.

Another issue I had was with the plot (yes, even though I said it was a good plot earlier on): mainly, the plot wasn't set up as well as it could have been. I felt the first part of the movie was far too rushed and that a few key scenes here and there would have gone a LONG way in establishing things before they all started going to hell. I'm not talking big things, but the first "Die Hard" movie took its time setting things up--how McClane got there, what the relationship with his wife was like, how the bad guys seized control, etc. This movie didn't do that. Some of the plot turns early on were not fleshed out and explained as much as they should have been. It was mostly a problem with clarity. The essential pieces of the plot and why it turned are there, but they aren't set up and explained well enough. For example, at one point Jack and John's hiding place is found. If you watch closely and pay attention, you can piece together that the bad guys have discovered John is there and is involved and that they tracked his cell phone to find them. But all of those connections are left up to the viewer, and even though the pieces are there, it would have taken a couple of second of (perhaps great) conversation between John and Jack to establish those connections. This issue happened early on in the movie, but lessened as it progressed. The movie was only about an hour and forty minutes; they could have spent 10 more minutes at the beginning giving us just a little more in the set-up and the rest of the movie would have worked much better.

And lastly, John's reactions to many of the events in the movie were just . . . off. He wasn't acting like the John McClane we know and love from the first movie. I'd say Bruce Willis phoned this in, but I don't think he did. Any scene that was longer and involved decent screen time with him was good. But many of the connecting scenes involving action were not. We didn't get to see the great facial expressions of "Oh, shit!" and such that were such a part of the other movies.

So, some issues with the movie, yes. But overall I did enjoy seeing the movie and would recommend it to those who just want to see John McClane in action, with an emphasis on the action, rather than thought or family drama. I can see why this movie wasn't released over the summer blockbuster season--it isn't really a blockbuster--but it was still great entertainment.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
I have just returned from the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes . . . and I have to say I really enjoyed it! It was smart, it was thoughtful, and it presented a believable reason for how the apes ended up gaining intelligence and, more importantly, how they managed to take over the earth. The actual "taking over the earth" doesn't happen in the movie, but it does cover exactly how that takeover began AND gave you all of the necessary seeds for how the apes ended up on top, over humans. In fact, it set up the entire Planet of the Apes movie concept as well.

You have to realize going into the movie that this is NOT a summer action/adventure thriller with explosions and robots and aliens. (Sorry, Patricia.) This movie is in line with the original Planet of the Apes theme, in that it's sci-fi with some social commentary woven into it. What I liked about this movie is that it doesn't attempt to pound you over the head with the social commentary. It's really a great story about a man and his ape. Er, well, you get the idea. They kept the story SIMPLE, and yet all of the little plot threads that needed to come together DID. So go to the movie without a preconception that it will be the popcorn summer movie that we've been inundated with and I think you'll enjoy it.

One of the big things everyone has been talking about is the stellar special effects, and they are stellar. But at no point did I end up NOTICING the special effects really. This was not a movie that relied on the special effects for its impact, which is a good thing.

So, a great thoughtful, well-put-together movie and great edition to the Planet of the Apes line/series. The best movie I've seen this summer. Not necessarily the movie that was the most FUN (in terms of mind candy) but definitely one of the best.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
This movie was my most anticipated movie of the summer, because it was a new idea, not Smurfs 5 or soemthing. I watched the first trailer and thought, WHOA! and ever since have not allowed myself to see any trailers because they usually spoil a ton of stuff in the movie for me. (One of the disadvantages of being a writer: you can piece together plot fairly easily with little to no details.)

So, this past weekend I was bouncing in my seat waiting to see this. And now that I've seen it . . . well, it didn't live up to my expectations. This is not to say it wasn't a good movie, but I had high hopes that it would blow me away, like Inception did last summer. I WANTED it to blow me away, and there were some cool scenes in here, but the whole package just didn't make it up into the "great" category.

The premise is fairly simple: aliens have come to earth and have landed in the great American West, during the time of cowboys, stagecoaches, and riverboats. Jake wakes up with no memory and with a metallic wristband. He saunters into town to find out who he is. Just as things were going bad to worse for him, the aliens attack. Of course, no one knows what they are at this time period, but they know they're abducting their family and friends from town. They want Jake to help them rescue them all. Initially, he doesn't help out, but then he remembers that his girlfriend was abducted as well, so he goes along to try to save her.

My basic issue is with the first half of the movie. It takes a while for the setup, although I don't see how that could have been shortened much. But then there's a long sequence where they're following a wounded alien trying to find their main base, and that's where it drags a little. Once they find the main base, things pick up and the movie ends with a bang. So I felt it could have been tightened up more and certainly that lull in the middle needed to be dealt with.

Some of the good elements were that they did spend some time on actual character development. And as I said, the action of the last half of the movie worked fairly well. The plot held together, but it worked better as a western than a sci-fi movie. (I stole this last from Patricia Bray [ profile] pbray.) I was simply . . . hoping for more. The premise appeared to have so much potential.

That said, it was much better than a couple of the other SF&F movies that have come out this summer. I look at you, Green Lantern. *evil eye*
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Fellow author Patricia Bray ([ profile] pbray) and I went to see Captain America last weekend and I have to say that I was rather surprised. I thought it was the best superhero/comic action movie of the summer, better than Thor and certainly better than The Green Lantern (both of which I need to review here as well).

Here's why I liked it: First of all, even though the plot was a fairly standard "this is how I became the superhero" deal, the character who becomes Captain America was actually interesting and complex enough to follow. So I was invested in him as a character. I also liked the secondary characters, who were their own people and not just there as props for the superhero.

I also liked the fact that this was set (for the most part) in the 1940s, which gave it a flavor far different from most of the other comic movies out there. And I think the filmmakers captured that flavor perfectly, even while mixing in the "over the top" elements that comic books require. All of the high-tech gadgets and even the bad guy had the perfect visual touch to make it fit into the time period. And one of my main beefs with comic movies IS the "over the top" elements. They usually go too far; this movie didn't.

I also think the filmmakers captured the right feel for the tongue-in-cheek factor. I mean, a shield during WW2 as a weapon of choice just doesn't make much sense, especially with the new weapon that's introduced . . . but you can't take the shield away from Captain America without all the comic fanboys crying foul. So I think the filmmakers struck the right cord with keeping the sheild (and the outfit and such).

So, overall, I thought it was a great summer flick, with a good story behind it, and it doesn't have the ending that you'd expect. It actually has a REAL ending, in my opinion, given the situation that the filmmakers wished to set up. And if you stay to the end of the credits there's not an "egg" so much as a preview of the Avengers movie to come, basically a trailer. I'm certainly looking forward to that, even though there are certain Avengers that I'm more interested in following than others.
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Patricia Bray ([ profile] pbray) and I went to see HP7, Part 2 this afternoon. My general impression of the movies up to this one has been . . . meh. They are fun, they are entertaining and good way to spend a few hours (especially if the theater is ACed and your apartment is NOT and it's 90-something out). I've read the books, so there isn't going to be much in the way of a surprise, and honestly, it's the surprises that make the book/movie for me. If someone can surprise me, then they've done something special.

There were no real surprises in HP7, Part 2, except that I thought the way the screenwriters altered the ending made MUCH more sense than some of the stuff that happened at the end of the book. It was just . . . cleaner. Some of what was in the book just couldn't happen onscreen, and that was probably a good thing. Once again, I thought it was a good movie . . . not great, but again . . . no real surprises.

One of the things that I've complained about regarding ALL of the movies is that the directors, especially of these last few, haven't edited the movie so that the battles and drama escalated and put me on the edge of my seat. I WANT to be on the edge of my seat. There was huge POTENTIAL for me to be on the edge of my seat. And the directors would start to GET me to the edge of my seat . . . and then they'd back down and the intensity would die for me. So the movies were never as intense for me as I wanted them to be, and there was plenty of opportunity to make them intense.

Patricia pointed out after the movie today that she thinks this is because they could never decide who exactly their audience was. I want the intensity, but making the movie that intense starts pushing it out of the young crowd and into the adult crowd exclusively. The kids just can't take the emotional intensity that I want. So the directors start pushing the action toward the adult intensity, but then have to tone it down before the really BIG moments because they want to include the kids in the movie as well. After some thought, I think this is correct.

They should have made 2 version of the movies--one for the adults and one for the kids. I'd really like to see the adult, high-intensity version.

But this version was good. In fact, as most have been saying, it's nearly the best out of all of them (Prisoner of Azkaban is still my favorite). There were some really good scenes and sections in this one. There were some better emotional scenes in previous movies, but this one had the best action/drama.

But I still think they should have had a major battle at Hogwarts at the end of the sixth movie, like in the book. Saying they were "saving" everything for this last battle was a cop out.
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So, Patricia Bray ([ profile] pbray) and I went to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon this past weekend. I grew up on Transformers (still have a ton of the toys, old and *ahem* new), and Optimus Prime is Patricia's boyfriend. So of course we had to go, even though the second movie was so hideously bad (and the first was fun but also not that great). After seeing a single preview of this movie, I had hopes that this one was better. In fact, it appeared that perhaps not only was it better, but that they'd actually taken a risk and done something significant with the Transformer universe.

Well, half of that was right.

The first half of the movie was actually pretty damn good, giving me hope. The set-up, with the conspiracy about the 1960s and Sam unraveling what had happened and what was currently happening was great. Even the idea behind what was really going on was great. There was certainly a spectacular idea behind it all. Sure, the humor with Sam and his family was over the top and not really at an adult level (more for the younger generation), and as Patricia pointed out, it makes no sense for the government not to give Sam a job, if for no other reason than to keep track of him since he knows so much. But that plot hole (hey, KC buddies) aside, it was actually a good set-up.

But then the movie hits Chicago and everything went to hell, not in a good way. Oh, the plot point where Chicago becomes involved is great. I love the initial scenes, love the fact that they took the risk and had the assault on such a scale and that the Transformers are actually impacting and affecting our world to a huge extent now. They need to continue this (and I hope they do, since another movie is almost certainly guaranteed). I love the fact that the Decepticons actually become evil here, are not just stated evil, but are actively evil regarding the human population. All of that was great.

But the plot died here. There are some spectacular scenes, visually and dramatically. I love the entire sequence with the glass building and the escalating tension there. But then the plot holes become so huge and so prevalent that you can't find any solid ground. I think part of the problem is Michael Bay's love of the fight sequences. There were too many here and each one was too long. It was like he needed to have an individual fight sequence for each robot, as well as each human. People ended up by themselves for no apparent reason, when the groups should all have been converging toward the central goal. Instead, that central goal (which I'll leave out for spoilerage reasons) was lost for a good portion of the later half of the movie. They set it up and then everyone just seemed to forget it. Various other plot threads were also lost: What happened to the distraction Optimus sent a few of them off to set up? How the hell did Bumblebee get caught along with Q? How did Megatron end up sitting on the street during the height of the battle? What happened to the whole "the element of surprise is our only strategy"? Why the hell didn't the Autobots attack at the Nest, why did they stand back and do nothing? I could go on. The number of abandoned plot threads in the second half of the movie was . . . astounding.

But shit did blow up. And as I said, they certainly pushed the envelope (in a good way) and seriously dealt with a Transformer war brought to Earth. Chicago got ripped to shreds. And it was definitely a significant game changer for future movies. I'm not sure what happened to Cybertron (they never really explained all of that). It's up in the air as to what will happen next. They've left the field wide open for the fourth movie.

I just hope they get someone to write a consistent, coherent plot. You CAN have that, and still blow shit up and have fight scenes and such. If you need help, Michael Bay, I'll be more than willing to help out. I do have some writing credentials after all. And I'm sure Patricia Bray will help as well. All you have to do is introduce her to Optimus.
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[ profile] pbray and I braved the frigid weather and went to the movie theater today to see The Green Hornet. I wasn't certain what to expect. I never heard the radio version, nor watched the TV series or read the comics. I basically went into it blind.

But I enjoyed the living hell out of it. *grin*

It was fun, it had actual characters (even if they were a little over the top, but not too far over the top), and at no point during the entire movie did anyone take themselves or the plot seriously. The director struck the perfect note with the acting and the action, so it ended up being an enjoyable ride with characters that were fun to be with and a plot that certainly wasn't new or startling in any way . . . but it didn't matter! It was supposed to be fun, and to be mocking of itself and the comic genre in general, all at the same time.

If you need a little break from the stressful world, this would be a good way to take a break. I'd recommend it. I know that Patricia and I had much more fun than expected (and we certainly had more fun with the movie than the rest of the people in the theater). And we saw it in 2D and I never once felt that I was missing anything.
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I remember what movie I saw that I couldn't remember in the previous post! The reason I couldn't remember it (I think) is because I didn't actually attend this one with Patricia Bray. Nope, I sent to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I with my mom over the Thanksgiving weekend.

My main thought going into the movie was that I hoped they didn't spend SO MUCH FREAKING TIME with Harry, Hermoine, and Ron wandering from place to place doing nothing, which was the incredibly boring part of the book. Just do a quick sequence indicating that they're spending lots of time hiding in various places, and then get to the real plot, where things happen and move forward.

No such luck. They spend as much time in the movie going from place to place as in the book. In fact, my biggest complaint about the movie overall is that they stuck so close to the book I wasn't really surprised or awed by anything. But the worst was the jumping around and doing nothing parts.

That said, and ignoring those parts of the movie, the rest of the movie was rather good. I really like the invasion of the Ministry section, probably the best part in the movie. I also liked the beginning, with Voldemort meeting with the other Death Eaters. This was suitably dark and deadly and gave me great hope for the rest of the movie. The section later on, when Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are captured and taken to the same house . . . didn't quite live up to this opening, however. They did push the limits with Bellatrix torturing Hermoine; THAT part was great, because it wasn't shown on screen, but still made me wriggle in my seat. They needed to go darker with Harry and Ron's reaction and actions after that though. They could have gone darker with other scenes as well, and they should have.

But all of the actual action scenes were good (revisiting Harry's birthplace, going to see Luna's father, etc) individually. The problem was the balance between those scenes as the other parts. And that's the issue I had with the previous movie. The director doesn't seem to have the right balance between the lulls and building the tension to that final moment. There's too much time spent on the lulls, some great buildup, and then not enough time spent on the action scenes. He builds you up to something much greater than what actually happens, in my opinion. Maybe this is just my own internal sense of pacing that's taken control here, but I don't think so.

In any case, in the overall ratings of the HP movies so far, this one ranks up there as one of the better ones, although not the best. I like the more adult nature and themes of the laster movies, but the pacing balance is off and the follow-through of the action skewed. With the earlier movies, the magic and sense of wonder is great and the pacing better, but they were targeting an audience much younger than me. So far, the movie that balanced everything the best for me--both age of the audience, content, and pacing--has been the third movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

We'll see how this director handles the second part of this last book this summer, I guess. I'm hoping that he treats the action/pacing balance well. I don't remember any long, boring parts in the book for this last part.
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Today, co-conspirator and co-editor Patricia Bray ([ profile] pbray) and I went off to see the movie Tron: Legacy, and I realized that we've seen a few movies recently and I haven't reviewed any of them. So let's play catch-up, shall we?

First up, Tron: Legacy: I've been waiting for this movie since I first heard they were making it, months and months ago. I only vaguely recall the first movie from the 80s (and surprisingly, you can't even buy a DVD of it now, which is utter FAIL for the marketing department at Disney), but I remember being wowed by the idea and I can remember certain scenes from the movie rather vividly. And today, all of that came back to me in a warm little glow of nostalgia. *grin* The new movie has all of the same flavor of the original, and contrary to some rumblings I heard beforehand, does indeed have a plot. I think what people are grumbling about is that the plot is more sedate and character-involved than they were perhaps expecting. There are some good moments between father and son, the distance that can grow between them (especially when one is trapped on The Grid, let's say), and a touch of what father's might expect of their sons, etc. There wasn't anything heavy-handed in the character department, and there were certainly some new ideas in the Tron universe. I like how they took some of the elements of the original Tron movie and extended them in new and interesting directions. They didn't push it far enough to capture the new generation though. I do think they left the end of the movie open enough that they can do a much more updated version of "Tron" for the new generation, with this movie being a good bridge between the two generations. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, even though it didn't completely blow me away. I'd recommend it for everyone who might have seen the original movie, and think the new generation should check it out for the kitsch factor, with the hopes that the producers/directors/etc will take the next step and take Tron and its universe to the next level.

Last weekend, we also saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I remember when I read these books way back when that this one was my favorite of the series, although I can't remember why. I don't remember anything of the plot of these books for the most part. I should probably reread them. But based on the three movies so far, I'd say that the reason this was my favorite book was because there was MUCH more action in this one than the previous ones. Basically, the kids are taken to Narnia through a picture of the Dawn Treader on the sea and there discover that "evil" has entered Narnia in the form of a green mist. While the main lands of Narnia are more or less at peace with each other under King Caspian's rule, the islands in the eastern ocean are another matter, and this is where the Evil has taken hold. The ship and its crew hop from island to island, encounter strange new creatures, and are tested by the Evil in various ways. Overall, it was an OK movie. I felt they should have spent more time developing the temptations that Evil gives them, built them up so they were move significant. It felt like most of them were simply thrown in. This would have satisfied the adults in the audience more. They certainly catered to the kids enough with some rather good action and lots of great scenery and strangeness. The battle with evil at the end was particularly good, the monster gruesome enough that I'm certain some kids who watched it are having nightmares. So, much better than the second movie, I'd certainly like to see the fourth movie made, but they need to find a better balance between the action and the more serious aspects of the plot.

At some point before Narnia we also went to see Hereafter. This movie is in a completely different vein than the other two, being a more literary movie. And by literary I mean dull. The best part of the entire movie was the opening sequence with the tsunami, which sets up the main angst of the French woman character, who essentially dies, sees the hereafter (or a version thereof), before being brought back. Her life is now haunted by what she saw and the questions it raises for her. This plotline is woven into two others: the first is Matt Damon's character, who is psychic, can speak to the dead in the hereafter, but doesn't want his power any more because it alienates him from everyone; and a young boy who is having a hard time dealing with the death of his twin brother. Matt Damon's character lives in San Francisco, and the boy lives in London. This movie probably two and a half hours long, and in my opinion could have been covere in a half an hour instead. Far too much angst and woe before solutions are reached. As a writer, I spent most of my time trying to figure out how the hell these three characters were ever going to meet. How they DO end up meeting is interesting (and believable, although there's no way in hell that the book fair is that calm). But the most believable part of the entire movie is when the French woman, who's a writer, is at her computer, supposedly writing, and ends up getting on the internet to do "research." Both Patricia and I burst out laughing at this (probably to the other movie-goers consternation), because of course this never happens to us.

I'm fairly certain there's a movie in there somewhere that I've forgotten we went to, but neither one of us could remember what it was. So instead, I'll talk about the two trailers we saw before the Tron movie today: Transformers 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 4. For T3, I'm hoping someone slapped some sense and talent into Michael Bay. Please do not let this be the disaster T2 was. The trailer was good and gave me hope. As for P4, I was worried they were going to somehow try to work the Orlando Bloom character and the others into this fourth one. There's no way I'd buy this, since they basically ended their plotlines with P3. But based on the trailer, they didn't try for this at all. Aside from Jack Sparrow and a couple of the pirates, it appears everyone is new. And again, the trailer shows promise.

The rest of the trailers sucked. Both Patricia and I mostly said, "No!" or "My brain hurts."
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So, [ profile] pbray and I went off to the movies this past weekend to see RED with, well, a bunch of good actors. *grin* We haven't been to the movies in a while (because there wasn't much to choose from), but let me say that we THOROUGHLY enjoyed ourselves at the this movie. Patricia likes explosions, and there were plenty. I like . . . well, Bruce Willis, and there was plenty of him. And the best thing: action ALONG WITH humor. It wasn't a comedy movie. It wasn't an action movie. It was a good blend of both! I laughed at the absurdity of some of it, and was thrilled by the action and the *gasp* actual plot.

I'd say the best thing about the whole movie was the actors themselves and they way they played everything to perfection. The balance of comedy and action was perfect, and the characters and their plot arcs were great. I completely bought that these were ex-CIA operatives that had been retired . . . or as retired as such people can get. It wasn't over the top except when it was supposed to be.

Final assessment: Go see this movie. At the end, I turned to Patricia and said I hope they make a sequel. And I want to see if there's a graphic novel of this, since it was based on a comic.
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Just got back from seeing the movie Salt with [ profile] pbray, and it was a blast. Lots of action, intense chases, twists and turns in the plot that you aren't expecting. And by that, I mean that they actually played off of your expectations, making you think THIS is going to happen or is happening, when in fact it would be something else. This is hard to do. (I know, I try to do this with my writing all the time.) Especially in such a way that when they finally tell you what is actually happening, you believe it and it makes sense. Pretty much everything in this plot made sense and I didn't see any gaping plot holes. I think this happened mostly because the plot was simple, even though it was complex. *grin* And it doesn't end where you think it will end either.

What I heard about this movie before going to the theater was that it was written with Tom Cruise in mind as the lead and that when he opted out, they changed the movie so that Angelina Jolie could play the lead role of Salt. I think she did a great job. She's believable as the action star/spy in the movie, and the emotional turns that her character is required to take are believable as well. That said, the best part of the movie is taking some of the key scenes and imagining Tom Cruise doing/saying what she's saying instead. WHOLE new take on the scenes. And the thing is, they would still have worked, just with a gay slant, (which of course would never be allowed in Hollywood for a summer blockbuster for some reason *eyeroll*).

In any case, I thought it was a great movie. Not the best summer movie I've seen so far (Inception is going to be hard to top on my list), but definitely one of the top three. If you haven't seen it, add it to your list.
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I went to see Inception on Saturday night and I believe my general reaction coming out of the theater was:


And I still feel that way. The movie was spectacular! It was edgy, it was new, it had a convoluted plot that I still followed, it had nothing that wasn't needed, and the script impressed the living shit out of me. As a writer, I am in awe. It's the kind of book/movie that I would love to be able to write (and hope one day I will write). The actors were great, all of them, even DiCaprio, who I usually have reservations about. I will admit that at the beginning of the movie I thought DiCaprio didn't quite have a handle on his character, but that he sort of settled in as the movie progressed. I'm not sure if this was because they filmed those segments first and he and the director hadn't worked things out yet for this character, or if we as an audience just didn't know enough about the character to make me care (we learn a lot more about this character as the film progresses), but in the end DiCaprio's character became meaningful and his acting was good. Everyone else did a stellar job with their characters immediately.

This movie has the potential to confuse the audience, since it involves dreams within dreams within dreams, and I'm certain that a sizable chunk of the audience this past weekend came away from the theater going "WTH?" Take my group for instance. I went with two other people. I followed everything, almomst literally. But I realize that I'm a writer and convoluted plots are my thing, so I expected to follow everything. If I hadn't, this wouldn't be the great review that it is. One of the others said he followed everything, but had tons of questions about how come this and why that. So he followed the plot but didn't pick up on all of the mechanics of how everything worked. The third person said that he got lost about an hour into the movie. I'm expecting this to be the general breakup of the movie-going public that sees this. For those that got confused, let me just say that absolutely everything in this movie worked and fit together and is there for a reason. I found nothing that they didn't tell us that wasn't used somehow during the course of the movie, which impresses the shit out of me. There were moments in that first hour where I thought, Ok, ok, ok, let's move on, but after seeing the whole thing realized there wasn't anything that they could have cut really. That said, the movie doesn't really get going until they enter the first level of the main plot's dream. And after that, the movie doesn't stop.

A spectacular movie. I strongly suggest that everyone go see this one. And if you get confused, go see it again. Trust me, it all makes sense and fits together. And I sincerely hope that Hollywood realizes what the success of this movie really means: we don't want bad sequels to blockbuster movies, or restarts of old ideas. We'd really like to see some new shit, like this, up on the screen.
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So, [ profile] pbray and I went to see The Last Airbender this afternoon. This was not on our "must see" list for the summer (I'm dying to see Inception), but since it was like 100 degree out and neither of us have AC, we decided the movie price might be worth the cost of two hours of air conditioning.

It wasn't.

The movie sucked like you cannot even believe and I'm not even certain I can competently describe it. The acting was bad, starting with the first lines of the movie. The writing was bad, which was not a surprise since, as I discovered at the end of the movie, it was written by M. Night himself. I had gone into the movie thinking that someone ELSE had written this one and so there was hope that M. Night hadn't screwed it up. He did. The plot was horrible and had HUGE GAPING plot holes. And all of this came together in a convergence of sheer stupidity that I nearly walked out of. I only stayed for the AC and the many, many snide comments Patricia and I made to each other throughout the movie.

I think the major problem (besides having M. Night attached to it; why do they keep giving this guy money?) was that it didn't know what it wanted to be. Is it targeted toward the kids? Adults? Somewhere inbetween? I can see some of the horribleness coming from the desire to appeal to the kid market. But then they also seemed to want the adults to take the plot seriously, and in that there was epic fail. NONE of the kids could act. There were brief sparks or moments where I thought we saw the REAL character, the one that was supposed to be on the screen, but they were rare. The only actor who was actually good was the guy who played the uncle. HE was good. And his character should have gotten more screen time, since he became important to the plot AND was attached to the most interesting character out of the entire ensemble: the banished prince.

Aside from those two, everything else sucked, sucked, sucked, sucked, sucked. There are obviously supposed to be two sequels to this movie HOWEVER if there are, if the studio actually decides to fork over more money to this thing, they ABSOLUTELY MUST get someone different to write and direct them. If they don't, there is NO WAY I'll be dragged to the theater to see them.

Not even to escape 100 degree heat.
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I went to see Toy Story 3 yesterday in 3D. And I have to say, the movie was rather good. I haven't seen the first two movies, but this one was easy to get into and follow and didn't require knowledge of those movies. Sure, there was a joke or side comment that the rest of the theater reacted to that I didn't, so I assume it had something to do with the previous movies, but overall no real issues.

The plot of the movie was incredibly good, moving constantly, but switching easily from one set of characters to another. And it was a rather complicated plot as well. Pixar certainly doesn't hold back simply because it's supposed to be a kids movie. The basic premise is that Andy, the owner of the toys, is now 17 and ready to head off to college. So, does he take the toys with him, leave them behind in the attic, or should they be donated or trashed? They toys end up donated (on accident) to a local school/daycare. The rest of the movie is about them escaping the daycare and returning to Andy so they can discover their intended fates.

That's the premise. That's not what the movie is really about though. It's really about how the world changes, people change, and their needs change. It's about you deal with all of those changes, and how you take your fate into your own hands. It's about adjusting, and leaving people behind as they move on, and finding new friends after that. And it's about how changing and moving on isn't a bad thing necessarily.

There were some rather traumatic moments in the movie, especially for the younger set. Nothing I don't think the kids couldn't handle--I'm a firm believer in exposing kids to such things earlier on as it is; sheltering them isn't always a good thing (I have personal experience with this)--but it may bring up a few uneasy questions. Of course, nothing happens to the toys in the movie, but there is the threat. So be warned about that. And I'm not sure 3D was really necessary at all. I can't think of anything I saw in the movie that drew attention to the 3D at all or made me go WOW.

But in the end, I honestly can't think of a single thing in the movie that needed improvement. There were no weird plot moments, no odd character actions. Everything was smooth and . . . perfect. I'd strongly suggest everyone see this movie, whether you have kids or not.

And, yes, I cried at the end. I dare anyone not to cry.
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So, [ profile] pbray and I went off to see Robin Hood this afternoon. We'd heard some rumbling about the movie, mostly some negative reactions. I try not to listen or see anything ahead of time when I KNOW I'm going to go see the movie, so I mostly ignored these, and I didn't see any of the trailers (because in the past, the trailers have had a tendency to completely spoil the movie for me). But I admit that I'd heard enough to go into the movie with some trepidation.

And I have to say that the movie was good. It was better than good, verging on great. I loved the "historical" feel to it, even though I seriously doubt there was a whole lot of historically correct activity going on in the movie. I'm not an expert (or even mildly versed) in this time period, so if there were any inaccuracies they blew completely over my head. Once the movie started, and I realized that this was going to be as realistic as possible, without all of the frills of a "Disney" version of Robin Hood, I really got into the movie.

And that's what I think everyone nees to realize about this movie. This is not a "Disney" version. It's not a fairy tale. There isn't any glossing over of the way life was lived back then to make everyone feel good about life. No one in the movie was romanticized. Everyone had both good and bad sides to them. No one really did anything just for the sake of it being the "noble" thing to do. And you know what? I loved this. These were people, doing what they did to survive and to make their own lives better in the long run.

However, the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU NEED TO KNOW about the movie before you go see it, aside from the fact that this is not the "Disney" version of Robin Hood that we've been fed for ages, is that this movie is about HOW ROBIN HOOD BECAME AN OUTLAW. In most movies, including the Kevin Costner one, we get how Robin Hood became an outlaw in the first half of the movie, and then there is outlawry fun for the rest of the movie. THIS IS NOT THAT MOVIE. The entire movie is how Robin Hood became Robin Hood. It ENDS with Robin Hood being outlawed and ending up in the forest, with all of the old familiar friends. And I found this genesis of Robin Hood very interesting. This may be because it dealt with a lot of politics and manipulations by quite a few people, and I love this kind of thing in the books I read and the movies I watch.

In the end, how and why people acted the way they did, and how Robin ended up where he did, made sense. It wasn't because of any altruistic need to help the poor, although that was an outcome. This realistic approach to the legend appealed to me. Just as the adventurous side of me still loves the Kevin Costner version as well. (Let's not talk about Mel Brooks' version.) There was adventure in this version, lots of battles and fights and general, all-around fun, but it was realistic.

There was only one thing that made me wince and say WHY, WHY, WHY?!?! And that was toward the very end. All of the actors did splendid jobs depicting their characters, especially Cate Blanchett as Marion. However SOMEONE (the writer, the director, who knows) decided that Marion needed to be at the battle at the end, in a full suit of armor. There was absolutely no need for this regarding plot, or characterization, or anything. No reason at all. They should have just had Marion stay back in Nottingham. She'd already well established that she was a strong woman and someone everyone could respect, so showing up for the battle in armor--overkill.

But that aside, I thought it was a good movie. Definitely something I'd suggest people go see, as long as they don't go into the movie expecting the standard story. Go in with the idea that this will explain how Robin got into the Hood . . . I mean forest.
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So, [ profile] pbray and I headed off to see the movie The Book of Eli last Saturday. I went into the movie knowing nearly nothing about it, only what I'd seen in a movie trailer last fall. Basically, I knew it was supposed to be post-apocalyptic about a man carrying a book and that the book was deemed extremely important. The man was protecting the book from outlaws.

If you go into the movie with that in mind and nothing more, then you'll love the movie. However, the trailer also included a bunch of shots of things exploding and fights, etc, which kind of gives the impression that it's an action movie, and that would be wrong. If you go in with the idea it's an action movie, then you'll be disappointed.

I pretty much figured out what the book was before I ever entered the theater.

In any case, with those little warnings stated, I loved the movie. I didn't expect an action thriller, and got an interesting and gritty post apocalyptic movie about hope and belief and life after disaster and how people struggle to survive, both good and bad. The movie is realistic (for the most part) about how one man could stand up to hundreds and make a difference. It also expresses the idea that IDEAS can be as inspiring as anything solid that can be held in the hands, and handles this well. They don't try to explain what caused the apocalypse much (there's one scene where you get some details), but there's also a reason why no one seems to know exactly what happened: the only survivors where those who were underground when it happened. But the apocalypse itself isn't the point of the movie.

And then, there's the two surprises at the end of the movie. Both make you sit back and say, "Wow!" Or that's what I did anyway. You know something's going on, but I never even came close to predicting what it was, and yet it was so simple.

In any case, a good movie. Not a summer blockbuster, because it wasn't meant to be, but an interesting post apocalyptic story about survival and hope.
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So, I just got back from the movie Sherlock Holmes . . . and it was a GREAT movie! I knew going into the movie that it was not going to be "true to the books" in any sense, but I have to say that it certainly had the same spirit of the books.

And that's what was so great about the movie: spirit. Both Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law played their roles with great spirit and good humor and just the right touch of seriousness. So while they did have their little spats and their own personal stories throughout the movie, those stories didn't subsume the main plot. I'd say that everything was extremely well balanced: personal stories along with main plot, as well as the larger plot. There weren't so many twists and turns that you got completely lost. You could follow everything and they explained nearly everything that dealt with the explanation of how the "crime" was committed. I only say "nearly" because there were a few handwaving moments when they didn't explain exactly how things worked . . . but I wouldn't say that was a problem. They explained exactly what they needed to in the detail they needed to. Any deeper explanation would have amounted to a science lecture and that's not what you go to the movies for.

And here's the thing: there weren't any movie tropes here. Oh, sure, good guys win in the end and such, but unlike Avatar I couldn't guess where things were going in the plot sense. So I was riveted to the pillow screen and kept involved during the whole movie. There were no slow points.

And the best recommendation I can give the movie is that at the end, I REALLY REALLY wanted to go immediately to the next movie. And there will definitely be a next movie, simply because I WILL IT! But just in case, I highly suggest that EVERYONE go out to see this movie.

And bring your pillow.

PS--Thanks to Joshua B for the last minute gift of some spare tickets!


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Joshua Palmatier

March 2019

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