Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Ice Age: Continental Drift Review

“How Predictable.”

These words, uttered by the main antagonist during the climax, effectively summarize the plot of Ice Age: Continental Drift. Truth in words, the film makes no attempt to hide the banality of conflicts encountered in every other kid’s movie, where a continental drift sends the trio of anthropomorphic-prehistoric creatures on a compact “there and back again adventure.” An unoriginal plotline suggests a formula for disaster, yet Ice Age: Continental Drift manages to stay afloat for every other cinematic reason.

The storyline for adventure number four kicks off when Scratch the squirrel’s latest acorn antics accidentally sends him into the center of the earth and starting the continental drift, sending the Pangaea into the continents of today. The resulting shifts in earth force the characters to relocate before an advancing wall of rock crushes them all. Well, all of the characters except for the main trio of Manny, Sid and Diego + Sid’s grandmother, who accidentally end up adrift and swept away due to all of the earthquakes.

The antagonists this time around, besides Mother Nature, are a band of pirates led by Captain Gutt, an ape who effectively defines the G-rated pirate, and his merry band of single-quirk crewmates. Gutt and his crew make it a point to try and thwart our heroes’ attempts to return home at every turn for no realistic reason besides the fact that pirates are supposed to be obtrusive and plunder anything that moves. The audience cannot help but feel sorry for poor Gutt after awhile, he’d really have been better off if he had just left the heroes alone, but he’s a pirate antagonist and the movie needs conflict.

Although some kids movies pride themselves in coming up with extremely clever, and sometimes bittersweet storylines (I.E. any Pixar film), recall that this is the fourth film in a kid’s movie series whose popularity in characters prevented it from succumbing to usual fate of direct-to-video titles. The storylines do not keep Ice Age endearing after the first adventure – the characters and their bid name voice actors once again carry the weight.

Manny, Sid, Diego, and Scratch all make triumphant returns providing antics galore. Unfortunately Manny and Diego’s role are sadly a step down from the rest, due to the unspoken cries of their voice actors grumbling “oh great, this whole love and family subplot again,” albeit for separate reasons. Sid also deals with a recycled self-worth issue, but his character is zany and unpredictable enough to make it work, especially with the help of his grandmother.

Make no mistake, Sid and Granny carry this movie (along with Scratch the squirrel of course, but that hardly needs to be said) and make it a worthwhile venture alone. If you need proof, note to yourself how many times the other characters made you laugh without an assist from Sid and Granny? Very few moments? Exactly.

Fortunately those moments allow you to ignore the shallow plot, and enjoy Continental Drift for the comedy of errors that it is. Not all movies need to be thought-provoking commentaries on life. Sometimes we just want to laugh and have fun. Continental Drift allows the audience, both kids and adults alike, to relax and engage in 90 minutes of lighthearted fun.

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Resident Evil: Afterlife Review

A wise man once said “Do not reinvent the wheel, for it is round and round is good.” Of course, he then proceeded to get eaten by a zombie, but hey them the breaks. Resident Evil: Afterlife follows this non-changing wheel philosophy and delivers a wonderful 100 minutes of horror/action goodness.

Afterlife picks up more or less where the previous movie left off. Alice has an army of elite-super clones and she’s not afraid to use them against that evil Umbrella Corporation. Incidentally, the go-to guy for Umbrella Corporation’s “I’m the big bad leader dude” in this incarnation of Resident Evil is apparently played by Agent Smith, but more on that in a sec.

After some pointless symbolism involving umbrellas and rain motifs we get right into the promise of super amazing clone action against the Tokyo branch of Umbrella Coporation for no other reason than the fact that it gives the movie an excuse to use subtitles. This leads into one awesome display of Alice clone carnage as the entire base of over-confident guards quickly learns that although one Milla Jovovich is bad enough, 30+ of them becomes the following:

  • See Alice run.
  • Run Alice run.
  • See Alice shoot.
  • Shoot Alice shoot.
  • See Alice slice up baddies with swords before switching to throwing stars and then shooting them with various guns and finally unleashing random psychic bursts of energy all over creation.
  • …you get the idea, but like I said, multiply it by 30. And this is all in the first 20 minutes.

Unfortunately clone fun doesn’t last long. Let’s just say the bag of spilling trope applies full force here.

The rest of the movie then proceeds to relapse into the plot of the previous movie, in which Alice looks around for her friends who well…quickly find out that messages of hope in Alaska can have multiple interpretations. At least there’s a lot more action this time, and significantly less downtime. It does dip a bit more into horror territory like the first one did and the third one abandoned, but not that much. The action/horror ratio is rather similar to the second one.

Speaking of action, I’ll just sum it up simply and say that Resident Evil pretty much shamelessly copies off of the Matrix, right down to a big bad who clearly read the book on looks and fighting from Agent Smith. Let me be clear though…this is not a bad thing. Like I said in the beginning, there is no need to reinvent a round wheel, and the Matrix-style action in this movie certainly delivers. It delivers so well that it decides to stop bothering with logic and just start doing things because its just plain cool. For example:

  • What was the point of the mechanical spiders latchers?
  • Why was there a super crazy zombie thing running around with a giant meat tenderizer/halberd?
  • Zombie dog things that show up out of nowhere?

Who cares? It was COOL. By the way, speaking of cool monsters, fans of the Resident Evil games will once again find much to enjoy with homages to some of the classic monsters. Especially if you’ve played #4.

I don’t want to say too much more in this review for risk of spoilers and the fact that I want to grab dinner before my evening class starts, but suffice to say that Resident Evil: Afterlife is an action packed good time with just the right does of horror jumpiness. 🙂

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Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) Review

Note: This movie review contains minor spoilers, though if you’ve already seen the original Nightmare on Elm Street I’m not spoiling much.

In this day and age of modern cinema there are two things we can always count on: Another (often increasingly obscure) comic book hero movie is always around the corner, and scriptwriters are clearly running out of original movie ideas. For an example of the former note that Jonah Hex is around the corner. In regards to the latter, remakes are IN. Sometimes this means we are treated to a remake of an obscure late 70’s piranha movie (now in 3D! Joy!) or something a little more recognizable…like say Nightmare on Elm Street.

…at least it was not in 3D.

I did not come into Nightmare with high expectations for two reasons. First, this is a modern day remake of a classic movie franchise. This tends to be a death sentence for me before I even start watching the movie. I really liked the original Nightmare, and I always go into a remake of a classic movie fearing that modern day theatrics will mess up the spirit of the original with fancy computers CGI and all that jazz. Do not get me wrong, there is a way to make a modern day remake work. At the same time, there are also many ways through which it can and will fail. This holds especially true for Horror movies that aren’t named “The Decent” (which really should have kept the original untrimmed ending in North America, but I’m rambling)

I had one hope for this movie, one aspect that I wanted to be perfect beyond everything else. I really wanted to see Jackie Haley pull off one astonishing Freddy Kruger. This may seem like an obvious point, but I must point out that I am a huge fan of Haley after seeing Watchmen, a movie I largely enjoyed for the sole reason of seeing Haley running around as Rorschach (everything else was hit or miss about that movie for me). Haley had the potential to pull off an amazing Freddy, he had the voice, the posture, a perfect man to put on the claw glove. I could have cared less if everything else about the movie sucked if Haley did a good job.

Sadly everything that made Haley awesome in Watchmen was not present in this movie. Instead, viewers are treated to a subpar performance by not only Haley, but pretty much everyone else in the movie. I’ll give Haley props for trying, he was close and looked menacing enough, but whenever he spoke the veil of a creepy evil dream stalker was removed from my vision. Instead of a Rorshach voice, we get something that sounds like Christopher Nolan’s Batman. Now when I think of Freddy, I half expect him to appear in one of the kid’s dreams, grab them by the neck, and shout WHERE IS HE?!?

Freddy to me is not a vigilante seeking justice; he is an evil vengeful bastard that takes pleasure in killing people and listening to their final screams of terror. Having only watched the original Nightmare and subsequent remake I won’t attempt to analyze the motives that drive Freddy, but Haley as Freddy to me felt too driven by revenge, killing the children as revenge against the parents that hunted him down. While this is good, the actual horror aspect, the pleasure that Freddy gets from playing his little cat and mouse game of hunting down the victim before pouncing on them brutally and killing them is completely lost here. Nightmare is a horror movie franchise; this remake was a supernatural revenge movie starring evil Batman. Freddy still shows up, states his trademark line before appearing and killing the victim after a witty one-liner, but it all felt soulless here, and not at all menacing. I dare say it: Haley mostly ended up sleepwalking through his acting role.

If Haley was sleepwalking through this movie, than clearly the teen protagonists never got out of bed. No one really seemed to have their heart in this movie. Truthfully, the direction is more to blame for this. The movie builds itself on the shock value to the point where it relies on the jump way too much. In order for a shock to work, you need both a startling audio cue and a visual reaction on screen. The audio was there, oh boy it was there, but the kids definitely did not have that “oh crap the killer is behind me” reaction that you would suspect. The momentum fades instantly leaving a bunch of teenage kids acting like their stoned…though to be fair it wouldn’t surprise me if Quentin really was. I’d pass on that date promise Nancy.

As for building suspense…well suffice to say this movie does not try to be clever in offering any true surprises. You will see every shocking moment coming a mile away. As my horror movie aficionado girlfriend sitting next to me constantly said throughout the movie “it’s coming…anytime now…” in regards to the not so subtle hints that Freddy was about to “shockingly” appear. I couldn’t help but agree.

Speaking of dreamland, the alternate realty did provide one of my favorite parts about the movie: the transition between real world and dream world. I’m a sucker for cool visual tricks, and there were some pretty cool surreal tricks as the teens crossed over, not to mention some of the things that occurred in the dreams themselves. While I liked it, the movie could have done a much better job at promoting suspense here. At one late point one of the teens says “It’s becoming difficult to determine what is real anymore, if we are awake or asleep.” I was thinking they would play with both this and the whole “awake while sleeping” thing (whatever the medical term for it was called) a lot more. Sadly it was a one surprise trick never to surface again. Pity.

On its own, Nightmare ranks as a completely average movie in my book. My dislike for the movie stems mostly from disappointment in what could have and should have been an excellent 90 minutes of Jackie Haley running around killing people with an uber claw glove. Nightmare purity aside, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the movie at the end of the day, but it really could have been so much more. This movie will not give me nightmares due to being a cinematic disaster, but I will lose sleep wondering what could have been.

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Avatar Movie Review

Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream…
-Jake Sully

Note: This being a recent release, this movie review does not contain spoilers. I’ll post an analytical detailed review later.

A new world with new dreams. A new exciting place to explore, filled with adventure, interesting sights, and a beautiful forest to rip apart and destroy in order to fill the needs of greedy human corporations. Yep, Avatar is another one of those films that seeks to delightfully expose man for the greedy ruthless bastards that they are and their internal struggle against hippie tree huggers and the few who sympathize with them.

I’ll just get straight to the point. In terms of story and characters, Avatar is nothing close to resembling anything unique or original. Grizzled military veteran who loves to shoot stuff? Check. Evil corporate executive who will destroy anything and everything to make money? Check. Hero who finds a way to overcome a (in this case literally) crippling flaw through high adventure? Check check check. It’s all been done before. Oh, and of course the obligatory war overtones are here as well. Earth wants to take over Pandora for rich mineral? America wants to wage war over oil? Uh huh. We see what you did there James Cameron.

Yet despite an overly formulaic plot and lack of originality, Avatar manages to be a super fantastic movie. After you enter the world of Pandora, the silly plot troubles melt like lemondrops and you are taken into a fantastic CGI world of wonder. Avatar is a technical masterpiece, with human actors and CGI blending in extraordinarily well. I hate to use the movie as an art form metaphor here, but really at the end of the day Avatar is quite simply a work of art. I’m not sure how much effort and time went into creating the CGI, but it is gorgeous.

And truth be told, the story isn’t all bad. Yes I said it was unoriginal and formulaic, but that isn’t always a bad thing. At the end of the day, Avatar doesn’t break any new ground, but it sure breaks the heck out of the old ground. Really, every you know that has seen it says the movie is awesome, and they are right. It is awesome. Go see it.

I have more to say, but that will have to wait for a more detailed spoiler post.

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Twilight Movie Review

Stephanie Meyer be darned I will not be denied my Edward vs. James duel to the death!
-Me

In November 2008 hordes of eager Twilight fans raced to movie theaters to see their Bella and Edward on the big screen. The result was a lot of disapproval and disappointment, with arguments abound over what the movie did right, but mostly did wrong. Now that I’ve finally read the book and seen the movie I can see where these people are coming from, though I don’t entirely agree that the movie was terrible. It was…adequate.

The major problem with Twilight lies in the story. It is not easy to take a 500 page book and turn it into a two-hour movie. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are proof of that. Such book to movie transitions result in a catch-22 in which you want to include all of the cool parts of the book, but are unable to fit them within the confines of a movie. In the end, the movie does a faithful adaptation of the book in that it does stray too far from the plot. Yes, there were some extra stuff involving James and his coven, but that was a good thing. In the book, James suddenly and unexpectedly burst onto the stage as if to say “Stephanie Meyer called, she needed a villain!” The movie does a much better job of capturing James’ antics and the subsequent effect on the area. So when he makes his actual appearance in the book, it works far better.

Unfortunately some of the key events were downplayed rather spectacularly. The car accident, the first major clue for Bella that Edward was a vampire, was horribly directed. Although I give props for the surprise lead-in, it quickly fell apart after that. A word to the director: if Bella ends up going to the hospital for hitting her head and risking a concussion, make sure she actually hits her head!

The rushed plot does more than hamper the overall story. It creates a major dilemma for people who watch the movie without having read the book first. While a devoted Twilight fan will have no problem keeping up with the action, Twilight-newcomers will likely get confused at speedy plot, trying to figure out who is who while chapters of the book fly by in minutes.

Plot aside, the characters were fairly hit-or-miss. While Kristen Stewart played a satisfactory Bella (good voice-over’s especially), Robert Patterson did a poor job with Edward, especially in the early parts of the movie. Having read the book and knowing what drives Edward during his initial encounters with Bella, and during subsequent meetings (especially as guys try and fail miserably in asking Bella to the danc-errr prom) Patterson just did not seem to get it. Edward was cold (pun intended) towards Bella, yes, but half of the frustration resulted in Edward trying not to rip Bella to pieces because she smelled like the vampire equivalent of an Omaha Steak. I was dying to see some of that frustration in Patterson, especially during the scene in which Bella walks in on him trying to switch out of Biology class. Remember, you find out later that Edward was *this* close to devouring Bella and disposing of the other woman, something he claimed he could have done easily. Patterson’s performance improved a little bit after the vampire revelation was revealed (the meadow scene between the two in particular) yet he was for the most part batting below par.

Speaking of baseball metaphors, most of the Cullen’s weren’t all that impressive. Although Peter Facinelli did a fantastic job as Carlisle, though everyone else just ended up blending into the scenery. In their defense, the movie downplayed most of their roles to the point of non-existence due to the rushed plot. Jasper in particular lost a lot of his edge, with non-book readers missing a lot of cool points about his character.

As for the other characters, they played their respective roles adequately. The high school kids acted like typical high school kids, and that’s exactly the point. Billy Burke played a pretty good Charlie, but my eye is on Jacob. He doesn’t get much screen time in the book or the movie, but from what I saw, I remain optimistic for his leading role in New Moon.

Rushed plot and shallow characters aside, the movie did have a few redeeming qualities. I’m glad they included the baseball scene (though to be fair it would have been hard not to) yet the ending of the movie pleased me greatly. One of my biggest gripes with the book involved the relative lack of suspense in the final moments of James plot to kill Bella. Stephanie Meyer might be incapable of writing an action sequence, but oh yes the movie is quite happy to oblige. I would have made a few changes to the scene (Bella shouldn’t have been conscious for example, at least not for the entire fight) but overall it redeemed the book in my eyes.

I’d say Taylor sums up the movie best of all. Is it fantastic? No. Is it terrible? No. Does it provide an adequate summary of the book wrapped into a tightly-knit 2 hour package? Yes. This movie will not win over newcomers to Twilight. Let the devout Twilight fans bicker over what worked and what didn’t. I’ve said my piece.

On a final note, I have to admit I am looking forward to New Moon. Although seeing trailers has me worrying that they downplay certain sections of the book in favor of later events, the uber-cool Volturi will be worth an extended glance. Thank you movies, for not being afraid to show a little action.

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Where the Wild Things Are – 10 Sentence Review

Let the wild rumpus start!
-Max

Note: The person I went to see this with suggested that I write the review in ten sentences in honor of the book. I am taking her challenge one step further and not only writing it in ten sentences but also writing it in 338 words, the word count of the book.

Turning a ten sentence book into a ninety-minute movie is no small feat, yet Where the Wild Things Are manages to effectively make the transition. The result is a film that not only builds upon the plot of the book, but delivers a powerful message of life, growing up, and learning to accept both the good and the bad along the way.

The basic premise of the movie follows that of the book: young Max gets frustrated with his mother, escapes to a surreal world of monsters, and quickly becomes their king. Most of the book’s plot is quickly glossed over in the first half an hour as Max befriends the scary monsters and engages in a brief wild rumpus party just like in the book. The film then proceeds to dive into more original, serious subject matter as Max and the monsters come to blows over Max’s leadership as it revolves around the construction of the ultimate house, and the wild things (and Max’s) conflicting ideals over who should take part in their happy little clubhouse.

While the early parts of the film were nothing to sneeze at (although there is one rather disturbing scene with the world’s most traumatizing elementary school teacher preaching the apocalypse to a bunch of kids) the true beauty comes when the original story takes over. Max’s attempt to create a perfect world and the subsequent consequences that result illustrate the complex duality of human life. Although we cannot create a perfect world where loneliness can be forever crushed and a sadness shield keeps out everything bad, we can learn to accept our troubles for what they are and grow to accept both the good and bad that will always be present in life. Truthfully, I consider it fortunate that Disney never got their hands on this book, for their desire to see a storybook ending would not due the book justice.

In short, Where the Wild Things Are provides a fantastic storytelling adventure that both kids and adults alike will appreciate.

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Return of the Living Dead Review

You made me hurt myself again! I broke my hand off completely at the wrist this time, Tina! But that’s okay, Darlin’, because I love you, and that’s why you have to let me EAT YOUR BRAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIINS!
-Freddy

Back in the day a classic film known as Night of the Living Dead was unveiled into the world. Night provides the foundation for pretty much every zombie movie in existence. Return of the Living Dead is a tongue-in-cheek parody that selflessly takes the ideas behind Night and twists them into a tangled mess of laughably bad acting, somewhat weak comedy, and plot confusion.

The premise is pretty simple being a zombie movie and all. Two medical warehouse employees end up accidentally opening some secret military canister that unleashes an evil mutant zombie. In the ensuing attempt to get rid of it through incineration, the chemicals the zombie carried result in an allergic reaction with the atmosphere, bringing forth a rainstorm that causes the dead to awaken from the conveniently located next-door cemetery.

There are two defining groups of characters operating in this movie. On one side, you have the employees of the medical building and the poor mortician that gets dragged into the mess. On the other side, you have a group of teenage hooligans that as one of my friends expertly pointed out represent all of the most disturbing trends of the 80’s in one convenient package. While I appreciate the film’s fine attempts to instill personality into the characters before the inevitable zombie apocalypse, alternating between idiot employees and 80’s drugges made for a mess that was so bad you couldn’t help but laugh, if not for all the wrong reasons.

In most zombie movies there are generally a few people you can sympathize with, a few people that you really don’t want to die because they are awesome in some way shape or form. This movie contains no such characters. Truth be told, you kind of want to root for the zombies after a point. While I give minor credit for the poor old mortician, you’ll probably find yourself applauding after awhile when one of the zombies scores a brain-eating victory.

Okay, so I’m being a little bit harsh here. To the character’s credit they do come up with some good ideas at various points throughout the movie. When the first zombie comes up the medical employees attempt to replicate the head bashing trick that they note worked in Night of the Living Dead, for example. Several characters are also quite good at reacting under pressure, especially when it comes to barricading doors after zombies unexpectedly clamber onto the scene.

Unfortunately these are not your average zombies. No sir Return of the Living Dead employs zombies that defy all zombie logic. They will still move with their heads cut off. They will run and perform amazing feats that you would not expect a slow mindless zombie to be capable of. Yet perhaps the most interesting feature of these zombies involves their intelligence. These are some of the smartest zombies I’ve ever seen. Not only are they capable of almost clear speech, they are adept at setting up ambushes. That last part provides some of the finest moments in the movie, as police reinforcements end up getting ambushed and eaten in increasingly amusing ways throughout the movie.

Taken for what it is, Return of the Living Dead isn’t a completely worthless movie. It has its moments, but they are few and far between compared to the build-up it takes to get to them. Yet at the same time I can’t honestly recommend it as highly as most do. If you want a good zombie movie, catch a Romero film. If you want something laughably awful, then you’ve come to the right place with this movie.

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