Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I’m afraid I have an impossible task ahead of me: to write this review without gushing all over your screen.  But let’s get the basics out of the way.  Pilgrim tells (nearly) the same story as a series of six graphic novels centered around the eponymous main character.  The pertinent detail is this: I haven’t read the graphic novels.  Fans of the franchise have issued a cacophony of opinions about whether the movie accurately and adequately captured the story, character, and raw spunk of the books.  I won’t engage in any such speculation because I can’t…yet. Read the rest of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World »

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I purposefully waited a couple of days to review Inception; I needed time to separate the movie from both the hype and the idiosyncrasies of my theater experience.  Note: Don’t take your annoying, talkative uncle to this film.  It demands your complete attention, so when the guy next to you is making snide comments or texting his friends during key moments, the emotional and intellectual impact of your viewing will be compromised.  Bitterness aside, I can finally consider the merits of the film outside of my preconceived expectations for it, and the verdict is almost uncompromisingly positive. Read the rest of Inception »

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The Last Airbender

I feel sorry for M. Night Shyamalan.  The man who made Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense has, in recent years, seen his font of creativity shrivel to sub-par levels.  Movies like Lady in the Water and The Happening have transformed Shyamalan from golden child into whipping boy.  The Last Airbender sees Shyamalan wisely taking a break from directing his own material.  I’d love to know how Shyamalan landed the project; after his recent commercial failures, it’s hard to believe that the Hollywood powers-that-be would be eager to reward him with a new creative property (a wildly popular Nickelodeon cartoon) and a large budget.

Airbender sits on Rotten Tomatoes with an 8% rating.  Let’s put that in context.  Garfield garnered a 14%.  Garfield.  I’m going to reveal my cards; I thoroughly enjoyed Airbender, so let me hypothesize as to why other critics so enthusiastically savaged the movie:

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Macgruber knows what it wants to be. It aspires to the screwball comedy heights of Airplane and Hot Shots. These hallowed classics never focused on story, even in comparison to other comedies.  Similarly, Macgruber’s paper-thin plot exists only as an excuse to string together as many absurdities as possible. The movie lives and dies on the strength of the gags sardined into its lean runtime.

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Robin Hood

I mentioned in my Upcoming Reviews page that I feared Robin Hood might feel like Gladiator with bows and arrows. If only that had been the case; such an exercise might have kept my attention. Robin Hood, the second collaboration between director Ridley Scott and pugilistically infamous actor Russell Crowe, cannot even pass as a shadow of their triumphant first meeting. The main culprit, without question, is the bloated and generic script. Once upon a time, a script by the name of Nottingham surfaced from the talented team responsible for the surprisingly entertaining Kung Fu Panda.  The script, which chronicled the Robin Hood story as a mystery from the perspective of the evil sheriff, became a hot commodity.  When Ridley Scott was assigned to the project, however, he ordered a succession of rewrites which eventually mutated the project from its original form into the nearly incoherent rehash that opened in theaters last Friday.

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Iron Man 2

What score would you give the first Iron Man?  Prepare to give its successor the same exact score;  Iron Man 2 feels almost eerily similar to its forebear.  Of course, there’s something to be said for consistency, and if you liked the first installment, you’ll be pleased to discover that the sequel feels like a natural continuation of the storyline.  In fact, the cohesion of the two led me to wonder whether scribe Justin Theroux and director Jon Favreau (who brought us the already classic Elf) were drawing from a particular canon Iron Man storyline.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Writing reviews for fantastic movies is simple.  Terrible movies don’t put up much of a fight, either.  It’s the lukewarm movie that leaves me scratching my head and wondering where to start.  Tattoo is a character-driven whodunit that channels memories of Agatha Christie novels and Murder She Wrote episodes.  Tattoo, however, has attitude; the eponymous “girl with the dragon tattoo” sports more piercings than a pincushion.  Angela Lansbury this ain’t.  The attitude also comes across in the rating, or lack thereof.  If Tattoo had been rated, it would have garnered at least a hard R.  Some really violent and vile acts are depicted on-screen, so consider yourself warned (again).

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The Square

The Square puzzled me in a number of matters, and the first confronted me as I walked into the theater.  There on a tiny screen was a bouncing blu-ray logo.  A man walked in to start the movie from a dvd/blu-ray console at the front of the theater and informed us that he would stick around for a minute to see if we wanted the volume adjusted.  If it hadn’t been clear from the start, it was now: The Square was not a major release.  Further research revealed that the Aussie thriller was originally released in 2008.  Since then, it had wandered through a parade of film festivals and finally been granted a limited domestic release.  I don’t know what kind of back-door dealings decide the distribution fates of foreign films, but the movie I saw, though flawed, deserved better treatment than it received.

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Flashback Reviews: [REC]

Hollywood sure does love its remakes.  I suppose that means moviegoers do as well, but count me out.  Every time a fresh cinematic idea blooms in another country, American movie executives decide it needs to be plucked, re-packaged, and polished for domestic audiences.  Did you know that recent drama “Brothers” was originally a Danish film?  You would be surprised at just how often this process takes place.  [REC] is a taut, economical horror-thriller from Spain that weighs in at a sparse 78 minutes.  The powers-that-be remade the movie a couple of years back and redubbed it “Quarantine.”  Many remakes are made on the grounds that domestic audiences would miss culture-related jokes and details if they watched the original.  Enjoyment of [REC], however, isn’t hidden behind layers of cultural minutiae, and those who don’t mind watching subtitles will find an above average horror film with scares in high supply.

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Let’s get one thing straight: if you’re thinking of taking your girlfriend/kid/grandpa to see Kick-Ass, don’t.  Just DON’T.  That first might seem sexist, but if it is, the magnitude of the sexism is minimal.  See, Kick-Ass earns its R rating and revels in the violence while it does.  We’re talking Clockwork Orange levels, folks.  AND there’s an aspect to the violence (which I won’t mention, because it’s deep in spoiler territory) that many have found upsetting.  So if you aren’t desensitized to violence, male or female, you’re gonna want to skip this.

Still there?  Good, because Kick-Ass is also terrific.  The violence level caught me off guard at first, but then I remembered the pedigree of the movie.  Kick-Ass is based off a graphic novel from the same mind (Mark Millar) as Wanted.  So if you’ve seen the latter, you should know what you’re in for with the former.  And, to be fair, the movie’s concept warranted gritty violence, if not quite in the prodigious quantity delivered.

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