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Closing Thoughts for November

November 28, 2009 2 comments

November was tough. My trip to Canada made things very difficult for me to keep my eye on the ball. I got a little behind with my reviews, so I had to play catch up for the next two weeks after the trip, but it is over and December is right around the corner. I have a feeling that I am going to be right back in the same situation as November with all of the parties and family functions that normally happen during the holiday season. However, the thought of eating all the wonderful foods of the seasons, does make things a little easier.  

Speaking of November, I cannot believe how fast the month came and went. It seems like the older I get the quicker time goes. I am not sure how crazy I am about the idea, if things keep up like this, before I know it, I’ll be an 80 year old man trying to deliver my curling rocks with a stick.

My movie goal is running smoothly. I haven’t missed a beat with the viewing, I did slack a little bit with the reviews, but I am now back on track and looking forward for more. Although, recently I looked at a long term schedule and I wasn’t crazy about the idea of me still working on this around this time next year. I don’t want to do this for that long. One year is just fine. So I decided that I am going to try to sneak in a couple of movies here and there when I can. This month, I snuck in Precious and I am glad I did. Precious is a wonderful story. I was expecting a cry fest, but amazingly it was very lighthearted. Although the topic was very disturbing and very deep, they managed to turn things around and make it into an entertaining movie. The movie did not feel like they were purposely trying to manipulate your emotions. I was so impressed by it that it is going to go right into my top 10 movies of the Naughties.

I have to be honest, I am not looking forward to next month. I don’t see many movies in my schedule that I am excited to watch. Netflix swears that I am going to like many of them, but to be honest all I really see when I look at the schedule is that Fast and Furious movie. Why didn’t I put that in my Do Not Watch list? Hopefully, Netflix is right and this month won’t be as bad as I am dreading.

I hope that everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.

Categories: Random Thoughts

Mosters VS Aliens Review

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment
Monsters VS Aliens

Monsters VS Alien is a ridiculously fun movie to watch from start to finish. It features hysterical pop culture jokes, shots at Spielberg, and great funny characters. Oh, and the animation is awesome!

My rating 4.5 Stars

Between the years 1952 and 1956, US cinema experienced what they called a Golden Era of 3D films. Among these films were a collection of horror films that were very popular at the time. Thus, the American cinema was introduced to the 3D monster B-movies. But what the hell do I know, I wasn’t even born yet! In fact, it sounds awful to me. Monster, B-movies have never really done much for me, I don’t find them funny, I don’t find them scary and I am definitely not impressed with their use of visuals. Thankfully for me, I missed all that and I will never have to experience such bad filmmaking ever.

All right, I am being a little unfair. I know there are some of you who really enjoyed those movies. I am sure that there must be some sort of allure to the genre. To be fair, I have never seen them, so I have no right to judge them. Who knows, I may someday be so bored that I might borrow my mother-in-law’s collection of monster movies just to check out what the big deal is. I may even like them, just don’t hold your breath!

Back to 3D movies,  I have never been a real fan of 3D. I always thought it was a gimmick and that it didn’t add much to the movie’s real experience. I did not see Monsters VS Alien in 3D, but I did see Up in 3D and I must admit I was quite impressed by it. The technology for 3D movies has improved dramatically these past few years and because of that I must say that the golden era of 3D is just about to start. If they start using 3D to enhance the story of a movie as they did with Up instead of just being a some sort of gimmick, then I think we are all for a nice treat, because I hear rumors that Hollywood is pushing hard for more 3D movies. Why? Well, it seems less and less people are going to movie theaters. People are waiting for movies to come out on video. Especially with Netflix, people can watch movies in the comfort of their own homes without ever having to leave their house, without having to step on sticky theater floors, without having to endure some jerk on his cell phone, or without some smelly idiot next to them and with the advent of HDTV’s more and more people are watching movies in their own home theaters.

Currently there are no TV’s that show a good 3D effect. The best 3D technology we have on regular home TV’s is the red and blue glasses that even though you get a 3D effect, it ruins the rest of the picture by turning them into red and blue colors. Nobody wants to see that! Movie producers are taking advantage of this so they are releasing movies in 3D to get you going back to the theaters.

So what does this have to do with Monsters VS Aliens? I think it has a lot to do with it because this is the first animated movie that was developed in 3D from the very beginning, instead of shooting it in the regular 2D and then turning it into 3D as they have done in the past. The 3D is supposed to be part of the movie, not just some useless feature. I really wish I had seen it in 3D, unfortunately I will never know because like everyone else, I waited for it to come out on video so I missed out. I’ll just have to pick up the pieces of my shattered life and move on.

So what about the movie Monsters VS Aliens? As movies go, MVA was a lot of fun to watch. It was funny, no, it was hysterical. There were many references to past and present pop culture and it was so intelligently written and so funny that I laughed so hard, I was crying. I really loved all of the shots they took at Spielberg’s expense. I wonder if he found them as funny as I did.

The plot of MVA is a simple one. Girl becomes a monster; monsters are captured and sent to a maximum security holding facility. It not really a prison, but it is a place that you can never ever leave. Aliens then attack the earth and some genius decides to use the monsters to protect us from the aliens. Like I said, the plot is very simple. What really makes this movie great are the jokes which are just perfect and excellent with their timing. The animation is also quite impressive. They have really come a long way with CGI to impress someone like me who is very picky when it comes to computer generated imagery. Although Up was still a much better movie all around, MVA was really, really funny and well worth checking out, even if you don’t get to see it in 3D.

12 Rounds Review

November 27, 2009 2 comments
12 Rounds

Should have been called, "12 Idiotic Rounds: Written by 12 Monkeys on Crack Randomly Typing on a Malfunctioning Non-QWERTY Typewriter"

My rating 1.5 Stars

After foiling the escape of an internationally-known terrorist, Miles Jackson, Detective Danny Fisher makes a successful arrest and sends Jackson to prison for along time. However, after one year, Jackson somehow manages to escape from prison, find Fisher, and plot an elaborate revenge game involving 12 rounds to get back at the Detective for arresting him in the first place. After blowing up Fisher’s house and kidnapping his wife, Jackson lays out the 12 Round game. In order for Fisher to save his wife, he must successfully negotiate each round and not get himself or others killed.

If you are thinking that this sounds suspiciously close to Die Hard with a Vengeance, you’re not alone. Not only was the action practically taken from Die Hard, I could have sworn that some of the dialog was similar too. Die Hard is not the only movie this film stole from. There were plenty of scenes that I thought were picked right out of Speed, but instead of a bus, it was a rail car. Instead of blowing up his partner at the assailant’s house, they blew him up at the assailant’s hide out along with the Jackson’s partner-in-crime. There was not one idea in this movie that was fresh, not one! It was like an Easter egg hunt for stolen material.

God, I hated this movie. There really wasn’t much about this movie that I liked. Part of me wants to say that the action sequences were fun to watch, but then you realize that they were lifted from another film and it loses all of its luster. In fact it makes me angry because there were a few scenes that were pretty well done. If you could get past the “WTF”, “How did he do that?”, “There’s no freaking way he could do that!”, “How is that even possible?” moments, some of the chase scenes were well choreographed and did look great on film. It’s too bad that it had all been done before.

Let’s talk about the “WTF” moments for a minute. I am willing to suspend reality when watching a movie. I have no reservations about that. I am willing to believe any ridiculous plot lines, any outrageous themes no matter how elaborate.  However, when a movie is based on real world situations, I need to see some realism, or at least the illusion of realism. In Die Hard they exaggerated some things, I’ll admit that, but I still believe that they kept the exaggerations to believable levels. In my heart I know that those situations aren’t really possible, but we have seen stranger things happen.

What I want to know is, how do you kidnap someone in a crowded ferry ship without any witnesses whatsoever? How do you sneak into a police officer’s house and plant tons of explosives without being noticed? How do you have conversations about blowing up a bus inside the same crowded bus and no one screams, “BOMB!”? How do you escape from cops through a sea of pedestrians while dragging a kicking and screaming hostage and no one, not one person takes the son of a bitch down or at least tries to? It wasn’t the plot in this movie that was ridiculous, it was the situations they got into trying to solve the 12 rounds. It was the most unrealistic movie I have ever seen, and I’ve seen all of the Lethal Weapon movies.

One more example of how utterly absurd this movie was:  there is a scene where the Detective, Jackson and the Detective’s wife are all in a helicopter. (I never caught what his wife actually does for a living, but apparently flying helicopters is one of her skills.) As she flies the helicopter, the detective and Jackson are busy in the back having a little skirmish. After the inevitable victory by the detective, Jackson has one last trick up his sleeve. He still has a bomb with him, with a special detonator that he used earlier in the film. Jackson activates the bomb. They have 10 seconds to do something, anything. Any smart person would take the bomb and throw it out of the helicopter, no, our heroes decide that it was safer to jump out of the helicopter instead. The helicopter is about 800 feet off the ground. They jump and they land safely in someone’s swimming pool as the helicopter above them explodes and I am quite sure that it must have vaporized, because after it exploded nothing came crashing down on them.

This movie should had been called 12 Idiotic Rounds: Based on a Retard’s Delusions of Reality. I apologize for offending any people with mental retardation, that was very insensitive of me to imply that they could come up with the script for this movie. Mentally retarded people deserve better than that. They are much too smart to come up with this drool wipe of a story. How is this instead, 12 Idiotic Rounds: Written by12 Monkeys on Crack Randomly Typing on a Malfunctioning Non-QWERTY Typewriter?

If realism doesn’t mean squat to you, if you like to see lots of cars crashes and mind numbingly simple puzzles, this is your film. Otherwise, rent Speed 2, you might enjoy it better.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews

Knowing Review

November 27, 2009 2 comments
Knowing

Knowing is entertaining at times, with cool effects, and an interesting story. However, the bad acting and the bad script prevented this movie from being better.

My rating 2.5 Stars

In the 1983 movie Annie, there was a scene where “Daddy” Warbucks was doing a radio announcement in order to find the real parents of little Annie. Not being familiar with reading a script Warbucks read everything on it, including the stage instructions, like “Drop page.” At the end of the script there was a commercial. Unaware of the ad, Warbucks continued reading all of the content on the page until it was done. When suddenly it dawned on him that he had just done an advertisement, he exclaimed assertively, “Did I just do a commercial?”

I felt something similar after watching Knowing. I was enjoying myself watching this rather entertaining movie when two thirds in I start having some disturbing thoughts. “Am I watching a religious propaganda film?” I’ve said it before, I don’t have a problem with religion, I’ll watch a movie that has a religious message and I have no qualms about it. I enjoyed Not Easily Broken, and  I enjoyed Saved!  Both of these movies were good some parts were even funny, but Knowing wasn’t.

Knowing is about an astrophysics professor at MIT that comes across a piece of paper with a series of seemingly random numbers. After analyzing the series of numbers, he realized that they were in fact a collection of sets of numbers which included: dates, a number count, and a set of coordinates. Using the Internet he did a search for most of the dates and realized that the dates corresponded to major catastrophes where lots of people had died. In fact the number between the coordinates and the date was that number of dead.

The series of numbers was a prediction of every disaster in the past 50 years and some still to come, every single one had come true, but there were three more left, including the last one on the page, but instead of having coordinates it read EE. Puzzling!

This was a good idea. I still like the premise a lot. I think it is very fresh and very creative. However, as you watch the movie, you notice certain “bugs” right away. The first thing that I didn’t like right off the bat was the acting. Not only was it cheesy, but a lot of times it was kind of stupid. Then there was the dialog and the interaction between the characters. They felt so unrealistic that the movie failed to sell its final message. I’ll talk about that final message in a minute.

I’ll give them credit for making such a film. I’ll even give them credit for trying to make this into a serious movie. In the past when movies like this were made, the movie wasn’t treated very seriously, so they spun it with soft comedy to lighten things up. They didn’t do that in this film and that earned points with me. The movie is about the end of life on earth, it is a serious matter, so kudos for not making fun of it. However, it would have been so much better if they had produced a better screenplay. For Pete’s sake they had five writers and this is the best they could do?

Screenplay and acting aside, the movie wasn’t all that bad. My biggest beef was with its religious message. It was very clear to me that this movie is trying to tell me that science can’t save me, but religion can. I didn’t like this message, it was too much like a one sided argument where the other side couldn’t be there to defend itself. I don’t like how they snuck that in at the last minute, I felt cheated and taken advantage of. If the entire movie had focused on that from the beginning, that would’ve been acceptable, but this ambush thing was a low blow and very childish.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire Review

November 24, 2009 3 comments
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Precious is an amazing film. If there ever was a movie that was close to perfection Precious blew it right out of the water.

My rating 5.0 Stars

I remember having a rough childhood, but my childhood was nothing compared to what my sister went through. I attribute the differences to the way that Hispanics seem to appreciate their first born child more than the rest, especially when that first born is a male. Granted, my mother wasn’t as bad as others that I remember, however, there were still instances where my mother obviously favored me instead of my sister. So as a result, my sister’s interests were second when it came to mine or even my stepfather’s. So when my sister actually accused my stepfather of inappropriate behavior towards her, my mother actually sided with her husband and my sister ended up in foster care. Even as a young teen and to this day, I still think that she was cheated out of a good childhood.

However, my sister’s life was a dream life compared to the horrible existence that Clareese “Precious” Jones endured in the film Precious. In this film Precious is an overweight teen who is pregnant for the second time by her own father. Precious’ father has been sexually assaulting her since the age of three while her own mother just sat there and let it happen. Not only did she let it happen, but she was actually jealous of her own daughter because her man would rather sleep with Precious than with her.

Precious, lives with her “mother” in a terrible, run down apartment in the Bronx. She is basically a slave to her mother: she has to cook, clean, and always answer all her mother’s vagaries. The mother, Mary, is a horrible person. She is always physically, verbally, and emotionally abusing her own daughter for no reason at all. She accuses her of stealing her man, she makes her eat just to keep her fat, calls her stupid, tells her that nobody loves her, and that she would never amount to anything. Why does she do these things? Why do abusive parents do the things they do anyways?

Mary is the most despicable person I have ever seen on screen or even in real life for that matter. She was portrayed convincingly by Mo’Nique, a comedian and TV talk show host. Mo’Nique’s performance has to be hands down the best performance I have ever seen. She made me hate her character so much, I often forgot that she is actually a comedian instead of the monster she was playing. Mo’Nique is a mother herself, I cannot imagine how she handled this character so well then went home to be a loving mother to her children.

Precious has to be one of the best movies I have ever seen. The entire cast went above and beyond to give incredible performances. There wasn’t one actor in this film who was less than spectacular, including new comer Gabourey Sidibe who played Precious flawlessly.

This is a terrible topic and why would anyone ever choose to see a movie like this? It sounds like it is very difficult to watch. I’ll admit sometimes it is very difficult to watch the interactions between the people that are supposed to love Precious and her. Surprisingly the movie does a great job at being entertaining as well. The producer of this movie did an awesome job at balancing the right amount of serious drama and lightheartedness. I was expecting that I was going to need a pound of tissues to watch this film, amazingly I did not. If anything I was more angry than sad.

Precious is a powerful film. It’s one that everyone should watch. I believe that it has something for everyone. For me, it was the first 30 minutes of the movie as I was taken back to school in the middle of 1987 back to a time when I first came to the States and I spoke no English. My sister and I were in for a rude awakening. I now wonder if this is what she went through.  I wonder if I just saw my sisters’ life through the eye of a camera lens. I really hope not.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews

Duplicity Review

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment
Duplicity

Duplicity wants to be a good movie, there’s a good story there, there’s great acting, good drama, good comedy, but it is its deliberate attempt at confusing their viewers that ultimately drives this movie to it’s own demise.

My rating 3.0 Stars

Once in a while you run across a movie that you hated while others really enjoyed it and you wonder, how is that even possible? If a movie is good then everyone should like it, right? Okay, it isn’t that simple. Everyone has different tastes and there is a collection of different types of movies for everyone. So it’s alright that you hate this movie and others like it. Believe it or not, you are not alone in this scenario. Even within movie critics, professionals or not, you see disagreements like these. However, what does that mean for the movie? I often wonder if and when such disagreements between critics occur, is the movie really that good?

If a movie gets 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is obvious that it is a bad movie. Even if I like it, it is still a bad movie. By the way, it is no big deal to like bad movies, no one will judge you, but I digress. The opposite is also true, if a movie gets over 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is obvious that it’s a good movie. Again, just because I didn’t like it, doesn’t make that movie a bad one. However, when something is down the middle, it is more difficult to judge.

Duplicity is one of those movies that got around 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, why? Because there are some redeeming qualities to the film, however it was not enough for everyone to like it. The acting is great; the interactions between Clive and Julia are very entertaining and sometimes comical. You really get the sense that these people love and hate each other. Since they are spies and it is in the nature of spies not to trust people, they just can’t trust each other. They are constantly trying to guess what the other is thinking and they are constantly accusing each other of trying to sabotage one another. In that sense, the movie was pretty funny and enjoyable. What I didn’t like, what most people didn’t like about this film is that they purposely keep things so complicated that you need to be a spy yourself in order to understand what the hell was going on. I was lost throughout the film, and I was not alone.

Duplicity is like no other film I have ever seen. It is about two spies (Clive Owen and Julia Roberts) who meet by chance in Dubai. They hook up and they do the “nasty.” Except that Julia’s character decides to drug him up, steal the documents he worked so hard to get, and left the poor guy in bed empty handed with only a fond memory of her. Two years later or five years later, who the hell knows, Clive’s character, by pure dumb luck finds her again and this time he confronts her about it, but he still likes her—what an idiot! They hook up again, can you believe it? I guess men really are idiots! However, this time, they hatch up a plan to scam some serious money so that they could retire early and be with each other.

It sounds interesting and it would have been if they had kept the audience in the loop about what the hell was going on. They chose not to and they lost my interest. I am sorry, but confusing your audience is not a nice thing to do. Irony is one thing, a twist is one thing, switching gears with no real purpose every 15 minutes is just plain stupid.

With all that said, the movie is not a total waste. There are some really good, solid performances not only from Clive and Julia, but also from Paul Giomatti and Tom Wilkinson, the CEO’s that both Clive and Julia are trying to scam. The secondary story line in this movie was a lot more interesting than the main. I enjoyed watching the two rival companies at each other’s throats as they competed and spied over one another. The film is worth watching just for that.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews

The Last House on the Left Review

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment
The Last House on the Left

The Last House on the Left is a great film if you like the genre. If you’re not a fan of the genre you should not watch this movie.

My rating 3.5 Stars

Let me start with this. This film is not for everyone, if you get queasy at the sight of blood, if you tremble at the thought of violence, if you are offended by revenge, this movie isn’t for you. However, if you enjoy a good blood bath, or stabbing people with a hot poker, or sticking someone hand into a garbage disposal, or someone’s head in a microwave and setting it on full blast, then you’re going to love this film.

The Last House on the Left is a remake of a 1972 movie with the same name. People who have seen the original say that this movie wasn’t as good as that version. If that is true, then the original must be awesome! I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the original. To be honest, I never even heard of it until this movie came out, but rest assured, it is going in my queue.

I was a little nervous about watching this film. Most of the critics hated it, plus I thought since it was written by Wes Craven that it was going to be one of those horror movies with some creepy creature that you just can’t kill because it’s already dead. Well, I was wrong and that is a good thing. There are monsters in this movie for sure, but it’s the type of monster that can exist in real life. It could be your next-door neighbor. It could be your friend or a member of your family. That is what makes this horror movie an interesting and really scary one.  Nobody really believes in dead creatures that come to life and go on a killing spree, but the thought of a real person, raping and killing people for money or for kicks is all too real for us and that is scary.

The movie is about a gang of thugs that included a real human monster named Krug, along with Francis, Krug’s brother, his son Justin and some chick named Sadie, Krug’s girlfriend. They are an armed gang that goes around from place to place robbing, raping and killing people. They are real monsters! Justin is just a young teen, about the only person in this gang with a conscience. He is not happy with what his family is doing, however, he doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it, even though he really wants to.

Justin meets two young girls one day and takes them back to his hotel room where they were staying. Thinking they were safe because his family wasn’t supposed to come back until much later, he didn’t think the girls were in any danger. However, when his family comes back early things start to get ugly.

The film is intense and there are a lot of really good fights, stabbings, nose breaking, and all kinds of good stuff. It is very gory, but very well done. The acting is not too bad for the type of film either. The monsters in this film were very believable and it made you really hate them. The story is about revenge and it’s also about interesting new ways of killing people. Any movie that uses a microwave to cook someone’s head until it explodes will get my vote all the time. By the way, it also shows you the real reason why you shouldn’t stick your hand in a garbage disposal.

While I consider the violence in this movie as a big plus, I recognize that some will find it to be its biggest weakness. I understand and I respect that opinion. However, if that’s how you feel about that, then you shouldn’t watch this movie. This movie is for the horror fan, the ones that want to see blood on screen and maybe a little torture too. I should point out that I was a little uneasy about the rape scene. While some think the rape scene was toned down(!) I am afraid it wasn’t toned down enough for my taste. It was extremely graphic and very difficult to watch. I get it, she’s being raped and it’s terrible. They are monsters, I get it! They didn’t really need a 3 minute rape scene. That was a bit over the top and it could have been toned down a lot more.

The Last House on the Left is one of the best stories that Wes Craven ha s ever created. Only those people who are not fan of this genre will not like it. Understandably so, as it takes a certain, sick individual to enjoy the type of violence in this film. If you are that individual, enjoy it my friend, if not then please don’t watch this movie, instead go rent Dances with Wolves or something.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews
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