Friday, July 11, 2008



This is one of those movies that I would normally have passed on, but I wanted to see if there is anything new in the 3D front of movie technology. I should have passed. Not to waste time on trying to point out the good points of this movie (I'm sure there must be some), I’ll get right to the point and give the best word I can think of to describe this film …. BORING!

When I say boring, I mean it was 92 minutes of me sitting in the theater evaluating CGI and 3D. The story line and plot are really so stupid ... and the acting ... well, it’s Brendon Fraser folks, you don’t get Richard III here ya know.

So we start out with our leading character (I refuse to call him a hero), looking like he’s playing the grown up ENCINO MAN character (if he can play anything else, I’d be surprised), losing his job (yawn) because his work at the university isn’t being fruitful. Mr. stereo typed absent minded professor Fraser now inherits his nephew, Sean, played adequately by Josh Hutcherson, for a 10 day stint while Sean’s mother goes who knows (cares) where. Sean’s father was our leading character’s brother who, oh my gosh!! … disappeared a few years back doing his scientific exploration which just so happens to be the same line of work our leading character is in!! Holy Script Writers, Batman! Who could of thought up such a plot line!!!

This is too painful to go into any great detail. Let’s just say events lead the duo to fly to Iceland (yeah, right and they make a point of telling us that Sean just happens to have his passport with him) and there they pick up the female interest and the trio find this hole in the earth and in a VERY short time, and a lot of 3D special effects, most of which aren’t even original, and end up deep inside the earth. The say they are at the center of the earth, but no way they could have made it that fast even if they were flying F-22s! Not to mention that they even say they only have a couple of energy bars for food.

They putz around down there, finding stuff including the remains of the missing brother/father (now what are the chances of that!), which I find strange since in the beginning of the film we see him falling into a pit of magma. Well, that’s show biz. Eventually they get out by implausible means and are now rich and famous. This story follows the 1959 version of the story, which starred James Mason and Pat Boone and and very loosely followed the Jules Verne original story. At least the 1959 version had a good plot, good characters, and the special effects were new to the viewers. This one had stolen material from everywhere including a mining car ride from Indiana Jones, and a T-Rex chase scene (T-Rex, why is it always a T-Rex?) from tons of other films. Why can't they use a triceratops or something? Of course there is the minor "love interest" between Fraser and the female character (Anita Briem) which makes zero sense especially since I could care less about either of these characters. The end.

That WAS painful. After looking at the credits I understand a lot of what is going on because Brendan Fraser is also the executive producer.

Now I can spend a few minutes on the 3D aspect of the film. Living in Orlando, I have had the opportunity to see the 3D shows that they have at the Disney and Universal theme parks to compare to this movie. My vote … there is nothing new here in this movie. There are some cute things they do that will give you a laugh, and a few startles, but nothing worth the extra $2 you have to pay for the 3D glasses you have to get to watch the film. I had some problems in the beginning that I attributed to my mega brain trying to adjust to the new environment. But, after a while, I noticed that one’s brain couldn’t keep up with the 3D effects when the subjects move quickly; it all tended to blur. This became annoying and distracting for me. I will say that the 3D stuff was fun … the only redeeming part of this movie, but still, nothing really new here. The other bad thing was I had trouble hearing the dialog because the sound effects and music were so loud that it overpowered the speech.

I remember when I saw HOUSE OF WAX (Vincent Price, 1953), the first 3D movie made by a major studio (Warner Bros.). That film had some great stuff in it. I remember, as will anyone else who ever saw the film in 3D, the man with the paddle ball hitting the ball so it came right out at the viewer; and there was the scene in the morgue when a corpse sits up in the foreground of a dark scene and scares the daylights out of everyone. Now those were new effects and this film reuses the same stuff, in some cases, to good affect. To me, in order to make 3D really work, you need some new material. It’s all been done before in dozens of other 3D films.

After all that, I’ll say if you can’t see this move in 3D, DON’T GO! It’s the kind of movie you would go to when you are trying to hide from someone and won’t care if you don’t really pay attention to the story. If you can see it in 3D take into account that it will cost you an extra $2 to see it and don’t expect anything but a cutesy little movie showing off some 3D. I warned you. On my ever so humble rating scale, I can’t give it more than a 4 out of 10. Why does it always have to be a T-Rex?

Friday, June 27, 2008


WALL-E is PIXARs latest (9th) feature film and takes place in the year 2700, long after the Earth has been vacated by the human race. Wall-E (which stands for ‘Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth-Class’) is one of the robots left on Earth to clean up the mess left by all the “un–green” people. (Don’t get me started on that topic!!) Whether all the other robots have totally broken down or someone just didn’t turn WALL-E off is not explained, but who cares, it’s not important. WALL-E is more human than robotic, he collects knick-knacks he finds as he continues his clean up and displays a child’s curiosity as to what it is all about. You find yourself relating to him instantly. He especially loves watching his VCR tape of HELLO DOLLY, which he seems totally enthralled with. WALL-E has a single friend on Earth, a small cockroach that is also his companion.

One day, a probe visits Earth from “out there” and WALL-E is introduced to EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), a probe robot and with that the story really begins. Our hero finds himself in love with this new entity and tries his best, in ways we can all relate to, to get her to notice him. I won’t go into any more details; I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Finally, here is a movie that I can unreservedly say is good for the whole family. The story line is a simple one and was actually conceived before TOY STORY. This is a sweet tale of love and adventure, one that anyone of any age can relate to and enjoy. The story is smooth and well thought out. There are no scary parts for the little ones and not even a hint of improper language (from what dialog there is, since our robot stars say very little). The story is full of excitement and humor aimed at everyone.

The CGI effects are by far the best I have seen yet. PIXAR has always held the top of that category, but they have exceeded themselves with this one. It is just amazing how you can have such rich character development with these animated characters without the need of dialog. It is wonderful and refreshing.

WALL-E is directed by Andrew Stanton who also directed FINDING NEMO and A BUGS LIFE. He also did the screenplay for W
ALL-E as well as FINDING NEMO, MONSTERS INC., A BUGS LIFE, TOY STORY and TOY STORY 2, so you know what to expect if you have seen those other films. On another subject, I see that he and PIXAR are also starting on Edgar Rice Burroughs, JOHN CARTER OF MARS. But, we’ll have to wait until 2012 for that one! I loved those stories when I was younger.

The bottom line here is that WALL-E is by far the best, most entertaining film I’ve seen in a long time. It is one of those rare gems that you can see over and over again and still enjoy it. With no hesitation, this one gets a 10 out of 10 on my humble rating scale. Go see it!

PS: The short animated feature, also done by PIXAR, before the WALL-E main feature is also very good and very clever.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008



I originally wasn’t going to waste my time or money on this film because it looked like just another boring CGI video game type film. But, I was gifted with free tickets to see a pre-release of the film, so, since the price was right I went.

There are two groups of people who will go to this film. The first and larger of the two is the Hulk/Superhero/comic book crowd. The second are those folks who are just going to see a movie who might like action/adventure/special effects and the like. So, this review will try to address both groups and I’ll use pluses and minuses so you can judge for yourself.

THE STORY: After the MARVEL Logo and during the opening credits in the background, the story is shown of how the Hulk became the Hulk. Those who know the story will be glad to know that it is not rehashed yet again since it is not really important to the story anyway. This is a plus for Hulk fans since they know this part in gory detail, I’m sure, and this is a plus for those who are not Hulk fans because is gives the story of what happened with just enough detail to establish the plot.

The actual story opens with our hero, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) living in secret in Brazil, searching for a cure to his affliction. He is in hiding because he knows the evil government of the good old U.S. of A. is after him to be able to develop new bio-weapons from his blood that carries his condition. At the same time he is taking anger management training in order to control his “episodes” of becoming the Hulk (he converts when he gets too angry or emotional). But alas, the evil General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), U.S. Army run amok, finds out our hero’s location and sends in a team to retrieve him under the command of Captain Emil Blonsky, a power hungry soldier who is the antithesis of our hero,. This is where the running begins … there is so much running in this movie I almost wanted to yell out “Run, Forest, Run!” The running is a definite minus for everyone.

Next our hero, now more desperate than ever to find his cure, returns home to try to retrieve necessary data on the experiment that caused his problem. There he is reunited with the love of his life Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), not to be confused with Betsy Ross of US flag fame, who just happens to be the daughter of head bad guy General Ross (surprise, surprise). There they rekindle their “whatever it was” relationship which is climaxed when “Daddy” finds Bruce again and sets Blonsky, who has been genetically altered, after him again … there is a lot more running here.

Now the scene switches to “New York, New York, that wonderful town”, where Bruce and Betty hook up with a scientist who has been anonymously working with Bruce on a cure. But, unbeknownst to our comic book heroes, but not to us, “Daddy” knows where they are and sends the more genetically altered Blonsky to get him yet again. You’d think they’d learn that the script is fixed! Blonsky gets to be transformed into an anti-Hulk and there is a long, too long fight scene between the two that contains way too much running. That’s the story without much in the way of spoilers.

The Pluses and Minuses: Now here is my take on what I saw. The first thing the stuck out in my mind was the movie soundtrack music, or title music, that was played during the opening credits and background story. It was TERRIBLE! Those of you who know me, know I love movie music. I have a large collection of movie soundtracks and themes and even have a Movie Music Game I developed. Let me tell you that this was the most uninspiring collection of non-representative music I’ve heard in ages. Enough said; big minus for me there.

On the same subject, about ½ ways through the movie, the music score playing in the background sounded like it was being played on an old vinyl record on a turntable being turned by hand. It was so awful that it was distracting. It wasn’t a problem with the film because the dialog seemed to be in syc. Where are the quality control people? I hope all the releases don’t have this problem. Another big minus here.

Character development; what character development? There was some development on the part of the Bruce Banner character and I don’t like William Hurt anyway, so he was a typical bad guy. But, I didn’t give a hoot what happened to any of them. There was no sincerity and no wanted to cheer other than that the film was finally over. Overall the acting was sub-par. Yet another minus here.

The CGI (computer graphics), I must admit, were better than I expected, but by no means more than adequate. The biggest problem with the CGI I had was in the direction. The scenes and movement of the characters was much too fast to follow, which left me asking “What is happening? What just happened?” to the point that the plot disappeared. This was more so in the final battle scenes … enough is enough, overkill (no pun intended), but I suppose they were playing toward the video game crowd so they can sell the new Hulk video game soon to be released. I hate it when everyone is motivated by money. So the CGI would be pluses for the video crowd, but minuses for the plot/story crowd.

The story line and plot had nothing at all new. It’s the same old story hashed out yet again with different effects and a few different plot threads. The whole story has 3 stories that are all the same … look for cure, get found out, transform into the Hulk, have fight, run away. The only difference with each being is that each fight is a little longer and more violent than the previous one. And for originality, there is a scene in the film where the Hulk and Betty are on a cliff in the Smokies … this scene immediately reminded me of scenes in the original KING KONG with Fay Wray even to the point that the scene looked like it was almost black and white. Like I said, there is nothing original here, just more minuses for me.

I must say there were a few good funny lines in the story that were really good, but just not enough to put it up there with IRON MAN, for instance. Also, there were several cameos in the movie which were great. To me, these were the only high points of the movie.

The Bottom Line: So my overall rating of this movie would be 6 out of 10, which is an average of the two groups, on my magic movie rating scale. This rating should be considered higher if you are a Hulk fan and lower if you are not, but for me, I stick with my opinion stated in the first paragraph. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for this one!

Yes, there will be another one!

Saturday, May 17, 2008



PRINCE CASPIAN is the latest of this summers big releases. This is the second movie in the Narnia series based on the C. S. Lewis stories in THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. I should point out to those of you who are not familiar with THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA that it consists of really seven separate stories. The first movie, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, was based on the second story in the series. It was released in 2005 and won 1 Oscar and was nominated for two others. PRINCE CASPIAN, based on the 4th story in the series stars the same four main characters from the first movie, Georgie Henley as Lucy Pevensie, Skandar Keynes as Edmund Pevensie, William Moseley as Peter Pevensie and Anna Popplewell as Susan Pevensie.

PRINCE CASPIAN wastes no time with recaps or character building. It assumes you are already familiar with the story line and characters from the first film. With that out of the way, the story wastes no time in getting started. The story is age old, a young prince is going to be overthrown by the evil pretender to the throne and flees for his life to find a way to get back his throne and overthrow the evil usurper. Our young heroes are summoned back to Narnia, which in Narnia years is 1300 years since they were last there, but only one year in their time scale. They are the Kings and Queens of Old.

That’s all I’ll mention of the plot and story line. I don’t want to spoil it for everyone.

The movie is well done, like the first; I’d even say it was done better. The makeup and special effects are wonderful. There are a ton of different characters both human and non-human, but I have to say that the mice have the best lines!

The movie is directed by Andrew Adamson, who also directed THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, SHERK and SHREK 2. Adamson was also a writer in both Narnia films and SHREK 2 and SHREK THE THIRD. After you have seen this film, you will notice that there is a slight resemblance between Reepicheep the mouse in PRINCE CASPIAN and Puss ‘n Boots in SHREK. That is no accident as Adamson has stated that he developed the character of Puss from the Reepicheep character in Narnia, except for a few subtle differences. Interesting trivia.

The movie runs 146 minutes, the first movie ran 145, and the time flies. There are just a few spots where the story drags a bit, but other than that it’s pretty non-stop.

The CGI characters are all wonderful. Computer animation has come a long way. I did have some problems with the centaurs though. The centaurs in the Harry Potter films are 100% CGI, if I remember correctly. The centaurs in Narnia are actors with CGI added for the hind sections. This is quite a feat to do and it is done very well for the most part, but still, there are a lot of scenes where the centaurs are always facing directly to the audience to hide their hind sides. I found that obvious and a bit annoying. But, I’m far too critical here, I’m sure. I also wish that the centaurs had a bigger role in the dialog. There are lots of centaurs, but very few lines for them. I see them as far too important characters to be left out.

The other thing that bothered me was the acting of the William Moseley (Peter Pevensie). He just didn’t do it for me. He came off as to strained and phony, but, hey, I’m a critic, right? But, that is made up for with the mice. I just love what they did to the cat!

But, despite it all, I found PRINCE CASPIAN a well done, exciting and entertaining film. For non-Narnia fans, I’d give it an 8 out of 10 since you don’t know what it’s all about. For Narnia fans, I’ll give it a 9 out of 10. If you’re a fan or not, read the books!!

Friday, May 2, 2008



Ok, the first of the summer “blockbusters” is out, IRON MAN, in the latest version of Marvel Comics takes over Hollywood. IRON MAN is based on the Marvel Comics super hero and I must say plays true to the true super-hero philosophy. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a wealthy brainchild industrialist/scientist/protégé like his father before him. He owns Stark Industries, which is a huge corporation that builds military weapons. The cast also includes Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) as the #2 in the corporation, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) as Stark’s assistant, and a host of well cast bad guys.

The movie starts right off with our hero being captured by insurgents in Afghanistan who insist that he build them a copy of a new weapon he has developed. Then the film goes back to what led to the present situation. With that done, we come back to the present situation, Stark’s escape from the insurgents by building the Iron Man prototype (not giving anything away here, it’s in the previews!) and return to the good old USA.

Once home, Stark has had a change of heart in what direction his corporation, and his life, has been going in and wants to make changes, but the board of directors (those always nasty unscrupulous people) want to lock him out. So, he spends his spare time building and perfecting his Iron Man suit, since he has nothing else to do.

There are great sequences during the building and testing of the suit where Stark’s only friends are his computer and all the robotic helpers with which Stark carries on constant conversations with a lot of great shtick. Stark’s first venture into the real world is a great sequence and makes you want more.

This movie is fun, with more than ample special effects that are very well done, a lot of sight gags, a lot of great dialog, and a lot of great cars. The cast, as mentioned before is well cast and Downey is a perfect fit for the part of Stark. Other good supporting cast include Shaun Toub as Yinsen (the assistant during his capture) and Faran Tahir as Raza (the bald bad guy). The only character I didn’t like was Col. Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard), who was supposed to be Stark’s friend, but his character was never developed or relationship really established. To me he just seemed to get in the way.

I have to mention that I do not recall a single profanity is this movie and the “romance” was limited to one brief scene only to develop part of Stark’s personality and playboy image at the time. That’s refreshing.

I certainly won’t say that this is the blockbuster of the summer … we still have the new Batman movie, Wall-E, Indiana Jones, Journey to The Center of the Earth, to mention just a few, yet to come. But, I will say this is a fun movie and great entertainment. I am torn between giving this a 9 or a 10, but my humble rating system says I’ll give it a 10. By the way, I just LOVED the ending!!! I’m sure there will be sequels.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM was described by one critic as “Kung Fu lite”. This is a martial arts, tongue in cheek, don’t expect anything surprising, old time formula flick that is just good entertainment, especially if you are a fan of Jackie Chan or Jet Li who both star in it.

The story centers around a kung fu obsessed teen (played by Michael Angarano) from Boston (of all places) who seems like any other teen nerd type that the movies portray as the stereo-type nowadays. He has a “friend” who is an old, old pawn shop owner who keeps him in stock with kung fu movies and articles of interest. In the back of the pawn shop, he finds an ancient staff. Well, not to tell too much, there are the “bad teens” who show up and threaten our hero who mystically gets transported through the “gate of no gate” (just a dumb plot device to get the kid where the action is) where he gets mentored by an always drunk Jackie Chan who can still best an army of bad guys while totally in the bag! What a guy! The plot is that our young hero must return the staff to the Monkey King who has been turned to stone for 500 years. Along the way they add the silent monk (Jet Li) and Sparrow (Yefei Liu) to the party.

There is nothing special about the plot of THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM and even the title doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story … so who cares. Just bring on Jackie and Jet and have some fun. And that’s what the movie does. There is plenty of screen time for both Chan and Li. The martial arts scenes are what the martial arts movie buffs want and I don’t think they will be disappointed. I especially liked the arch villain the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) who I thought made a great bad guy. All that mascara reminded me of Ming the Merciless.

I think the costumes and sets were wonderful and very well done as was the matt work for most of the scenes. The photography was good to the point of distracting, especially the scenes filmed in China. I found the whole film a pleasure for the eyes to behold. I did have some trouble understanding parts of the dialog from Li and Chan, which annoyed me a bit. But, if you’ve seen these guys before, you’re used to it.

Still, this is just another kung fu movie, nothing new here except it has both Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Despite the Karate Kid story line and the very predicable plot, I found this very entertaining. And that is what I go to the movies for, to be entertained. And it was a real pleasure to see Jet Li smile and even laugh in a film. Now that’s entertainment!!

I’ll give it an 8 out of 10 on my ever so humble Monkey King movie scale. You the man!

Saturday, April 19, 2008


EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED is a semi-documentary film by Ben Stein (see links at bottom) that takes us on a journey around the globe where he interviews scientists, educators and philosophers that are being persecuted in a modern day witch hunt because they believe in intelligent design and dare to speak out against Darwinism. These learned people of education are being fired, ridiculed and ostracized for merely challenging Darwin’s theory; proposing that life on this planet could be a part of some intelligent design and not random chance. And you though the Scopes trial was over!

The movie has many topics that are covered and interviews with people from both sides of the street. Sure, there is a controversy involved with these two theories and there has been for decades … even centuries. There are hundreds of web sites out there each screaming the “evidence” to prove their point. I mean, this battle is so intense that people’s careers and lives are ruined by their beliefs. To me this is the main travesty that is exposed by this film. The loss of freedom and suppression of thought.

This points out to me is what I have seen my whole life. Some call it “the old boys school”, some say it’s elitism, there are dozens of names, but is IS out there and I, for one, have seen it first hand my entire life. It is good to see someone speak out about it for a change.

I can remember in High School English class. We were studying poetry. The teacher gave a student a failing grade because that person dared to interpret a poem differently than the teacher’s interpretation. I was glad to see that it didn’t stop there. The student complained and escalated the problem and after a battle with the powers that be, the teacher was forced to back down and acknowledge that there can be more than one interpretation.

This is one of the stories this movie is telling, except the “powers that be” here are more powerful and the mountain is harder to climb. We have the group with the power telling everyone what to believe. There is no debate and anyone who opposes their view is ostracized, fired, blacklisted and on and on. In this particular battle, I have also seen first hand, as have we all, the deteriorating of the conservative point of view, not because of proof or the evidence tells us the conclusion, but because others say it’s the way it should be and the rest of us must tow the party line.

This brings me to another point. This movie points out that theses scientists pushing Darwinism shouldn’t even be called scientists since they do not follow the scientific method which all scientific research must adhere to. For those who forget what the Scientific Method is, here is the definition from Wikapedia:

“Scientific method refers to the body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. It is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.”

If you listen to what is said in the film, none of those against the theory of intelligent design have any proof. It is all based on conjecture and consensus. Science is not based on consensus, but on facts otherwise it is not science, but, in fact, conjecture. After all, Darwinism is a THEORY, not a fact. Even Darwin admitted that the fossil record did not support his theory and so don't its supporters. But yet, they teach and talk about it as if it were fact. Yes, those opposed to intelligent design have a theory, too. That is why both sides should be allowed to express their theories or we will be thrust back into scientific dark ages. I better get off the subject at this point, this is supposed to be a movie review!

I won’t go into the interviews with British biologist Richard Dawkins, or others. I won’t get into the some of the opinions on how life was brought here by aliens in UFO’s or tie-ins with the Holocaust and other atrocities. You will have to see it for yourself.

I found this movie well done and thought provoking. It shows that there are a lot of learned people out there that are just plain “stupid”... but, we already know that! Sure, my mind was made up on what I believed even before I saw this film and nothing could have changed what I know to be right. But, no matter which side you are on, I suggest you see it. There is so much information given and the discussions are so compelling that I will probably see it again. I feel this is a must see for everyone. I have to give this a 10 on my humble movie rating scale.

If you want to debate any of the content of this review or the topics of the film, feel free to add comments.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty" I COR 1:27

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