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World War Z (2013)
Zombie blockbuster for a generic audience
I haven't read the book so I'm not coming from viewing this as an adaptation but rather a stand-alone film. (From what I've heard it's pretty far from the original source anyway.) First off, a zombie film watered-down and free from blood and gore? That idea alone would lose a big slice (pun-intended) of hardcore fans in the audience. How does it hold your attention then? By stringing you along on the edge with tension and suspense from beginning to end. It does a pretty good job of maintaining this grip even without the standard horror elements of slasher flicks.
Brad Pitt easily slips into the role of a family man desperate to keep his family safe. It's not difficult to root for him and share in his urgency. His charm certainly makes up for and saves the movie from its flaws (and there are many!) not the least of which are its gaping plot holes and loose direction.
The audience in the theater seemed to have fun screaming along and allowing themselves to be entertained and toyed with. There are a handful of funny scenes (whether intentional or not). If you're willing to quit analyzing the movie like a critic, you'll probably start enjoying it.
After all, when did a zombie movie ever have to be "BELIEVABLE"?
Man of Steel (2013)
I was ecstatic at the choice of Henry Cavill, following his work ever since I saw him on "The Count of Monte Cristo". His chiseled made-for-GQ-cover looks and what-guns-are-you-packing body won't make it difficult for anyone to believe he is worthy of being tagged the Man of Steel.
I love Christopher Nolan's work since I first saw "Memento" at an indie theater and the fantastic job he did rebooting the Batman franchise. But he's donned the producer's hat for this one and passed the directorial reins to Zack Snyder who I thought did okay on "300" but not much else (was NOT fond of "Watchmen" and "Sucker Punch").
The rest of the all-star supporting cast is enough for the price of admission.
The anticipation from seeing the first official trailer a year before the movie was set to come out snowballed all the way to the minute I handed my ticket stub.
The opening scenes were great, fantastic. Packed with enough action and drama that I started whispering to my teenage nephew how many times did he think we'd go back to watch this again.
The non-linear story-telling worked well and it transitioned effectively from current time to flashbacks as the character is slowly revealed.
I really wanted to love this movie. Really. But something about it just kept holding me back.
Henry Cavill was convincing as the brooding, conflicted man from another planet coming to terms with his alien status. Unfortunately the script didn't give him much substance in terms of dialogue. He seemed more of a "listener" and "observer" and the bulk of the emotional character background was built through the dialogue of his parents. This made it tough to access the core of his psyche - which is one of the crucial things, I think, that made Christian Bale's "Batman Begins" so effective as you follow his journey from man to superhero.
The second downer was Lois Lane (Amy Adams) having about as much chemistry with our main guy as marshmallow and ketchup. Their story line felt rushed and could have used a bit more flirting to build up some semblance of anticipation. (Smallville was quite more effective with this but that was helped a lot by the spunkier, self-assured, naughty, carefree Lois version than the plain-jane-trying-to-talk-tough-but-not-really-believable version on this one) Lastly, the fight scenes in the mid to latter stages between hero and villain - while as grand and explosive as you can imagine combat between two clashing megapowers could possibly be - starts to get tedious and overextended that at some point (after dozing into quick microsleep) I muttered "just finish him already".
It's not as fun (or funny) as the Marvel stuff. It's not as deep or engrossing as the "Batman" reboot. It's just stuck in the middle - a victim of its own great expectations.
Seeing it once was enough.
In Bruges (2008)
Excellent movie for the right audience
Synopsis: Hit men Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are banished to Bruges, Belgium by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to await further instruction after their latest job goes awry. The "timeout" pushes both to reflect on their lives and their work.
Quick Take: Director Martin McDonagh does a remarkable job squeezing the most out of the location and the characters and manages to successfully craft a movie about assassins that focuses not on the action but on the people. All the actors, from the three male leads down to the supporting cast give spot-on performances that are just the right amount of dour, the right amount of sarcastic, and dark, and funny. This isn't an action movie, really. There is no twist, no whodunnit, no car chase sequence, no massive explosions. As such, it could come out dry to certain types of audiences. But it certainly shouldn't be missed by those with an open mind looking for a quality treat.
Watch: If you like characters, one liners, sarcastic remarks, dark humor, off-beat, un-politically correct references. If you can live with it being stripped of adrenaline action scenes, you'll be rewarded with the fine performances of the actors and the director.
Don't Watch: If the above-stated type of humor does not suit you and you are easily offended by certain kinds of remarks. I wouldn't recommend this to people like my mom who have short attention spans and have no appreciation for dialogue. If you're not going to mind what's being said and are relying on action and effects, then this isn't for you.
The Three Musketeers (2011)
It's not a faithful adaptation but still entertaining
PLOT: Three friends, all members of the king's Musketeers (personal guards) are joined by a young man who himself is seeking to become a Musketeer like his father once was. Together they try to foil a conspiracy hatched by the Cardinal to seize power from the young French king.
MOVIE OBJECTIVE: To take a rather well-known tale and target the massive demographic of young audiences for a commercial (rather than critical) success using tried and tested "Hollywood" ingredients worth $90 million. MANY compromises were made to meet this so if you're hoping the people behind this were going for overall QUALITY, leave now.
FOR: - People who don't mind that movies sell-out for commercial rather than critical success; - People who can part with $12 to get away for a couple of hours and just be "entertained" by sights and sounds; - Those who like the adventure genre or steampunk (Jules Verne/H.G. Wells-ish crazy imaginings and contraptions); - Those who can accept that it didn't take the novel seriously, therefore shouldn't be taken seriously itself
NOT FOR: - People wanting a "classy" movie or a "classic" adaptation of the book. This rendition is about as faithful as a prostitute. It will role-play for a while but from the beginning you will smell that it's nowhere near the real thing. And it won't give your money back!; - Literature purists. Yes, Alexandre Dumas is spinning right round like a record, baby; - People who will attempt to intellectualize the movie, its characters and their motives. STOP! This isn't a movie to get you to think, reflect or analyze anything. It just wants you to sit and watch; - People who won't be able to get past what it could have BEEN rather than just accepting what it IS and ISN'T
HITS: (or MISSES, Depending on your taste) - Casting a balance of recognizable and bankable names (Milla Jovovich as Milady, Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham) with skilled (Christoph Waltz as Richelieu) and convincing (Ray Stevenson as Porthos) actors; - Visual effects and scenery showing glimpses of castles, skies, Europe, places most folks don't get to see; - An element of Da Vinci; - A precarious duel scene; - Characters pumped up with superhero-like skills and abilities, if you're into that
MISSES: - Fails as an adaptation or period/historic piece (remember, ACCURACY is not among its objectives); - Reeking of anachronisms (too many to list!) and illogical elements. Yes, you MUST suspend your disbelief; - Some tepid action sequences tamed further by slow-motion shots that make you feel like doing away with the weaponry and just slapping each other to death would have been more brutal and satisfying (Seriously, a swordfight with hardly a drop of blood shed?); - Writing is weak and characters poorly developed. They give an overview to stamp the personalities and skills of each character in the opening scenes and that's it; - Acting is bland. Even Waltz couldn't squeeze out enough from his material to make Richelieu darker, devious, cunning, or evil. He should strike fear into your heart that will leave no doubt that crossing him would bring you severe pain and torture. Rather here, Jovovich's Milady probably just rolls her eyes at him with the expression we now universally recognize as, "Whatever!". As for the rest, Bah! - Neither the script, acting, nor direction would elicit your sympathy for any of the characters or their situations.
This is ultimately the saddest compromise. It is void of love or chemistry between two "lovers", you can't relate to anyone, you won't feel sorry for anyone betrayed, there is no sense of urgency nor anything to cheer for or clap for once "good" triumphs over "evil", and there is no camaraderie and bonding between the main protagonists that evokes "All for one, and one for all!" You got friends who would die or kill for you? Well, these guys don't seem like they'd leave a bar at happy hour to help the other in need. Three Musketeers only in tarnished name. More appropriately: Three and a Half Man- fighters, or Four Men and a (Mi)Lady.
BOTTOMLINE: This will work only if you're a casual movie-goer. It is flawed, unoriginal, lacking, and nowhere near the standard of the classic novel it was named after or even the standards for a "good" movie. If you can temper your expectations, you can salvage some entertainment value and maybe even like it enough to see it again on HBO. It is okay to watch on a big screen (cinema or home theater) for its visuals but not to shell out extra for 3D.
The Princess Bride (1987)
A personal favorite, but mediocre. The whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Despite the glaring flaws you will find in this movie. It remains one of my favorite ones to watch for a number of reasons.
1) It has EVERYTHING! Action, comedy, drama, suspense, revenge, fairy- tales, heroes, villains, pirates, giants, miracle men, even rodents of unusual size. There is a reason it is always among the list of Best Movies, Funniest Movies, and Best Love Stories of All Time.
2) The CAST. Hard to name a more fitting princess than the beautiful Robin Wright, Cary Elwes can sweep you off your feet as a farmboy or a masked man, Mandy Patinkin delivers the most memorable quote of his career, and the rest of the ensemble transport you into their magical world.
3) It has ROBIN WRIGHT in it! Did I say that already?
4) It brings out the KID in me and the nostalgia of those days. If only for two hours you can go to a distant land and be on an adventure and feel positive and young again.
5) It has plenty of MEMORABLE LINES and scenes.
SOME MISSES: - SPECIAL EFFECTS are pretty lame, even by 80's standards (the rodents could not have been more fake and some of the props are sub-standard) - STORY: Predictable and full of clichés - SCRIPT/DIALOGUE: While there are numerous memorable lines, they are repeated too frequently throughout the course of the movie. The script was simplistic. And to be objective, not too funny for most adults. - ACTING: There isn't much depth to any of the characters but the script didn't give the actors much to work with, for starters. Younger audiences may not notice it, but older ones may cringe in some scenes - CHEESE FACTOR: oh boy, it has plenty. It openly deals with "True Love" in a fantasy environment so it's pretty much set-up for sappy-ness.
FOR: - People who still have their inner child intact somewhere - Family movie night - Slumber Party with the girls - Reminiscing with others who have seen this movie as a kid
NOT FOR: - Kids who are too young (who might get scared by giant rats, some fighting, torture, talk of killing, and kissing scenes) - People who take themselves too seriously or are jaded cynics - Grown-ups who will be seeing this for the first time and have been misled by the high ratings
BOTTOM LINE: Cheesy Mac & Cheese with bacon bits. My favorite food ever since I was a kid. It was yummy then and still yummy now and I don't have to explain why I love it, I just do. If only for the fact that I've carried my love for this movie since childhood, my sentimental attachment to it would give it a 10/10.
But then my Mac & Cheese, no matter how yummy, is never gonna get 3 Michelin stars next to a dish with fancy truffles. As a MOVIE, stripped of my nostalgia, this one is mediocre at best. There are more imaginative fantasy movies, funnier comedies, more romantic love stories, and more exciting adventures.