I should be slugging away at my National Novel Writing Month novel, but instead I choose to regale hapless readers who wander by with yet more of my thoughts on recent movies. Recent in terms of when they became available for rent, not necessarily when shown in theaters. That’s right; I cater to people who shun the company of crowds (although crowds might have been hard to find at some of these movies), and who prefer instead to enjoy, or not, their movie-viewing at home.
Without further delay…
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
This would have been a good stand-alone movie, but as a prequel it suffers from having us know the inevitable result. As much as Lucian’s story served to advance the plot in the first movie, here it had the opposite effect. There is no hope for Sonja, as we know she is doomed from the start. That said, the acting is near-good, and the writing is passable. The good part of the plot is the timeless idea of an oppressed population rising up and taking control of their destiny by rebelling against them who would view them as little more than animals… even though in this case they are, in fact, little more than animals. It was worth a watch, but not multiple viewings.
I’m ambivalent regarding movies about people with “special” talents. Plots involving such people are predictable; they are super-villains… with a flaw, or they are superheroes… with a flaw, or they are in denial… and deeply flawed. Characters deviating from this generally die, sending the message one has to be flawed if imbued with such talents. However, I must say I enjoyed the movie. The acting, plot, writing, and effects combined to make it an entertaining ride; one I will likely revisit again.
I was prepared to let this one rest in the “thanks, but no thanks” pile, but then I heard a few positive comments about it (including on Slice of SciFi). A pleasant surprise; I liked the idea of the power of words affecting the physical world in drastic and unpredictable ways. It parallels what words can do in our own less-than-magical world. I liked the representation of the concept, and I was not the only one; it was copied on an episode of Warehouse 13, with words literally flowing out of the page and onto Myka’s dad. Fraser has a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to his choice in projects, but here he did a great job… unlike some of his recent work, in Inkheart Fraser came across as if he cared for the character. With a predictable plot, a good message, and minimal plotonium beyond what has become standard in Hollywood scripts, this movie will rate at least one other view.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (with spoilers)
Few things turn me off as much as musicals. I just don’t see the sense in people breaking into song as being a reasonable thing to do at crucial moments in a person’s life. Still, with overwhelming positive reviews, a likable cast, and obvious campiness going for it, I rented the DVD. Yes, rented the DVD… for all the noise about watching on-line, when I sit in front of the PC I’m not inclined to watch TV shows, movies, or anything past a few minutes of YouTube(TM) fare. My verdict… I am left with a positive view of it, but (and here comes the spoiler), Joss has nailed the last nail into my own version of his coffin. That will be the last time he tricks me into watching something of his. Perhaps others like to see sympathetic characters die, but I’m not fond of it. Dramatic impetus, shock value, call it what you want, I call it a cheap antic to wring an emotional response from the audience. Yeah, I know; Shakespeare does the same thing, but then I’m not too fond of his writings either. I’ll admit as musicals go it was well done and fun to watch… until the senseless killing of Penny. What’s the point? Yeah, some sort of message there for all would be evil villains, but nothing I was, or am, interested in. This one I will not be watch again, and with Wash and Penny resting in peace, Joss is dead to me now as well.
Dark City, Director’s Cut
You read right… I know it’s not a recent movie. In fact, it’s 10 years old. Now, here’s a funny thing… one of my many useless and non-income-generating talents is the ability to remember much about any movie I have watched; plots, characters, scenes, endings, etc. I had watched Dark City when it came out in 1999, and other than a few vague things (buildings moving, people asleep), I did not remember much about this movie. Where’s the funny part, you ask? The plot of the movie centers on memories, and the manipulations of them by aliens. I’m a skeptical person, and yet here I stand (or sit) admitting memories of this movie were missing from my mind as if… no, I must just be getting old. The movie is a little dated, but for those who missed it, or who have had their own memories cleansed, it is worth a watch. Perhaps I too will revisit it in 10 years or so… if I remember.
Race to Witch Mountain
Put the brain on “Park” and enjoy the humor strewn all about this predictable and fast-paced tale. Set aside Hollywood’s not-so-subtle-if-hypocritical environment message, and feast on the action and sometimes clever dialogue. I did feel bad for Siphon, as he was just doing his job, but he being a non-thinking, remorseless, killing machine went a long way toward easing any concern for his fate. My only worry with these kinds of movies is some of the less-than-critical thinkers out there will invariably feel vindicated in their delusion of alien visitations… then again, Vegas already lends credence to the idea aliens are among us. No rewatchability to speak of, but worth one viewing.
Coming on the heels of Eagle Eye, this was also a predictable plot. I would have enjoyed the movie more if it had landed into either the serious-with-a-message camp, or campy-with-a message camp. Instead, it straddled the fence, often with mixed results. This movie made substantial use of plotonium as it neared the end, ruining whatever chance it had (and it was slim) of me ever watching it again. In fact, I consider it my good deed for the day to advise a pass on this for all but the most desperate of “I-gots-to-see-something-new” viewers; watch some Firefly instead.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I liked the action, the passable plot, the special effects, and the pace. I did not like the fate of Kyla Silverfox (although one can guess from the beginning what happens to her), and especially the Wade Wilson’s storyline. I don’t have much of an X-Men history other than what I’ve seen in the movies, so I cannot comment on some of the grumblings from true fans. For me the movie offered an enjoyable two hours only minimally marred by a rushed and improbable ending. I mean, I’m a decent shot, but if I had Wolverine – talons out, snarling, and intent on dicing me – running toward me at full speed, I think I might be hard-pressed to place a bullet neatly centered on his forehead. Plus, the idea this would disrupt his memories… OK, it’s a movie. I might watch this again, but not anytime soon.
Stay away. Enough said.
Monsters vs. Aliens
Except for Hugh Laurie, this is not a cast I would normally watch in a movie. Given it’s only their voices, and given I am not very good at recognizing voices, I figured this was worth a watch. Speaking of voices, I never got the point of using a famous star as voice talent. What’s the attraction there to the audience? However, I don’t run the studios, and I’m not what one might identify as a typical moviegoer… actually, I seldom go to a movie. I did like the movie, even after finding out who voiced the characters. Like most movies, very predictable, but also very well executed… comparable to a Pixar effort, I’d say, and I welcome Dreamworks stepping up their efforts. One major flaw I spotted right away is the way the wedding dress tore… I’m thinking there should not have been anything left, but given this was a family film, I’ll accept the artistic license. Not a movie I’m likely to watch again, but I was happy with the one viewing.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
This was the “best movie” of the summer. Really? I’m asking because I was bored. My wife was bored. Others I spoke to were bored. A co-worker said he fell asleep during the movie. This was supposed to be great robot-on-robot action, but given that half the time you could not make out which robots were fighting, and given the total lack of interesting human characters, I am at a loss to understand why the movie did so well. Please tell me the box office success is not all from pre-pubescent teens ogling Megan Fox. Oh, that’s right; there’s probably a good number of “adults” contributing to the take. I liked the first movie, but this one I put with Mutant Chronicles… a waste of what little time I have left in this world.
G. I. Joe: Rise of Cobra
Given the dismissal this movie received, I was expecting very little from it. You know what? It was far above Transformers. I liked the action, the plot – transparent as it was – moved along, and the characters were at least likable. Except for the main character, who was an indecisive idiot (definitively not G.I. Joe material), and gave away the eventual fate of the evil female lead. Still, it was an enjoyable escape. The only sour note was the ending; apparently, it set something up for the sequel, but as one is not likely, it just pissed me off; I’m not big on loose ends. I can’t say I would rent it again, but I would definitively stop channel surfing if I came across it at home.
Bonus review: Zombieland (with spoiler)
I watched this at the theater. I had a choice between this and Vampire Assistant… needless to say, I chose poorly. This movie had potential, but all the best scenes were in the trailer. Everything else was pure garbage. I’m also not a fan of breaking the fourth wall. In this case, it was the use of Fringe-style titles, which do nothing but remind people “Hey, you’re paying for this crap!” Not saying Fringe is crap, especially since there are legions of rabid fans ready to pounce on me would I dare say so. I would advise people to avoid Zombieland except for one item… (spoiler) … Bill Murray dies in it. Not his character, and not for real, but Bill Murray plays himself, and does meet the serious end of a shotgun. You can see it coming a mile away, but it’s a welcome sight anyway.
And that’s that.