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Paper Towns movie review

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“Paper Towns” offers a lukewarm teen dramedy that romanticizes a type of a geeky schoolboy’s lost-and-found teenage daydream tale. Packaged to appeal primarily to pre-teens, it maintains a consistently wholesome voice that greatly downplays the darker side of growing up. Although the paper-thin presentation doesn’t turn out as deeply moving as it intends to be, it occasionally manages to remain grounded with charming supporting details that can still warrant a slight recommendation.

Adapted from the bestselling young adult novel by author John Green, also the man behind the book “The Fault in Our Stars,” this coming-of-age tale looks at young, unrequited love, friendship, independence, adventure, breaking rules, seizing the day, and letting go through the eyes of a regular teenager who is in love with the mystery girl next door. The funny, frisky teen narrative centers on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbor Margo. After taking Quentin in a series of risk-taking tasks around their Orlando hometown for the whole night, Margo suddenly ends up gone the next day, only leaving behind some cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. This leads Quentin and his closest friends in an exhilarating adventure to track down the missing Margo, the popular girl who loves mysteries too much that she eventually ends up being one herself.

This formulaic teen romance and melodrama directed by Jake Schreier may not be the most poignant nor groundbreaking in the way it handles its light and noble intentions, but it makes the clear choice of presenting the messiness of ordinary life to make its target audience identify more with the story. It focuses on the more literal than the more existential views about growing up, and along the way, make the simple pleasures of understanding true friendship as profound as finding genuine love in unexpected ways.

As this motion picture gets manicured to primarily appeal to the book’s teen fans, it makes the storytelling slightly too romanticized that the progression of the tale comes across as a little too polished and scripted. Despite a few resonant moments, the material gets weighed down by the meandering exercise in artifice and gloss in favor of the often too clean lines of fantasy and romance, rendering more contrivances in its make-believe world as the story moves on. With such issues, the gauzy plot’s series of behavioral puzzles find it difficult to provide authentic beats of awakening to really strike serious emotional chords, especially come resolution time. These make the picture a glazed down and a serenely bland adaptation piece that practically works better on paper than on screen.

It is worth noting that the characters didn’t opt for the unreasonably glamorous looks that many actors tend to prioritize in their on-screen performances for such a gloss-filled movie. Generally, each cast member possesses that everyday appearance that adds a more identifiable charm to the proceedings. However, this doesn’t make the actors free from the paper-thin characterizations from the script. Amidst the charming young cast’s attempt to help compensate on the shortcomings of the storytelling through a good number of likeable performances, their cardboard characters are still often too mundane to merit significant personal and social impact.

Nat Wolff as Quentin Jacobsen keeps up with the stereotype geek-and-goody high schooler character frequently featured in this type of coming-of-age spin. Overall, he delivers the needs of the story as a passionate young adult in search for his childhood sweetheart. His co-star Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman lives up to the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” archetype, but her monotone take on her role ultimately falls short in putting layers of depth to her character’s more mysterious demeanor. Interestingly, the supporting characters end up more charming than the two young leads in most scenes. The more compelling friendship between the three high school boys Quentin, Radar, the role played by Justice Smith, and Ben, the role played by Austin Abrams, offers more chemistry as screen buddies compared to the main characters Quentin and Margo.


‘Paper Towns’ Film Review: Paper-thin wholesome
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Magic Mike XXL movie review

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Average

For the most part, “Magic Mike XXL” keeps its commitment to entertain. As a sequel that capitalizes on beefy charm and well-oiled performances, the franchise delivers another movie that is all too eager to please its target market. This raunchy road flick dives into some quick thrills that are not quite as psychologically curious as the original stripper opus “Magic Mike.” Shapeless but generally enjoyable, it renders an easy-going experience throughout, courtesy of its goofily gleeful male comrades who are clearly oozing with sex appeal, especially whenever they are on the limelight. Viewers are supposed to come for the stripping galore, stay for the laughs and giggles, but leave the demanding storytelling expectations behind.

The narrative picks up three years after the legendary headliner Mike bowed out of the stripper life, while still at the top of his game. Something rekindles his passion for it that he joins the rest of what’s left of the Kings of Tampa on the road for one last blowout performance at the male-stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. While on their way, the guys learn some new moves, as well as shake off the past and build new relationships in between unlikely turn of events. They meet new acquaintances and old friends, specifically during their whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah, allowing the viewers to take a tour of the best stripping venues around the southern states.

This follow-up to the 2012 hit utilizes the road-trip template to promote an amusement park-ride sort of experience for its intended demographic. Although it delivers the fantasy goods of formidable male bodies moving in provocative ways, the mediocre, a bit too cautious script, which puts irony to the fact that the movie explores the idea of taking risks, really pulls down the story. The already contrived tale gets stretched even thinner that the narrative really lacks much storytelling weight. The barebones plot barely bothers to scratch beneath the skin that there is a dire need for improved narrative thrust, especially by the time the bland and ultimately lame resolution gets revealed. The all-tease, no release type of ending doesn’t really arrive anywhere that it makes the mindless worship of male bodies in motion eventually nose-dive towards tedium.

For its strengths, this Gregory Jacobs-helmed buddy road comedy, which is undeniably tossed out for public consumption, proves how carnal pleasures can be served hot so the audience can enjoy some quick thrills and squeals. With admirable testosterone frequently on display, the rowdy picture deviates from the conventional movie masculinity where male characters are expected to rip out the big screen with stereotypical machismo. It has its own gung-ho way of celebrating masculinity, as well as celebrating female sexual desire, in flashy ways. The fun dance moves of barely dressed men simulating sexual acts are filled with an energetic dose of movie lust. They rightfully blend giddy aesthetics with gratuitous man-candy sexuality. Through the years, Hollywood has clearly spent much time objectifying women. So perhaps, in this film, it’s about time to return the favor to the ladies in such dazzling fashion.

Mike and his posse consistently sizzle throughout the movie’s running time. As usual, Channing Tatum’s dancing charm seems second nature in his role as Magic Mike. The rest of the virile boys including Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie, Matt Bomer as Ken, Kevin Nash as Tarzan, and Adam Rodriguez as Tito successfully coast through their own outrageously fun dance moves, which are often highlighted by pelvic thrusts and sticky looks. They are able to carry the need for a light, playful, and fun-filled presentation meant to tickle and titillate without having to border towards the seriously offensive. However, taking the characterization a couple of steps deeper would have placed more value to their campy roles.

‘Magic Mike XXL’ Film Review: Beefy magic
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Entourage movie review

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Average

“Entourage” is a breezy romp clearly targeted for the fans of the bromantic HBO series of the same title. Lazily entertaining and good-looking with an amped up gloss, its lavish amount of flash celebrates excess and male privilege in Hollywood. Although it pays decent fan service with distinct traces of what made the TV series a hit in its own right, the material doesn’t provide enough cinematic storytelling values to sustain the expectations for the film medium.

Functioning like a frat party involving Hollywood personalities, this theatrical version brings back the series’ original cast as A-list star Vince Chase demands for his directorial debut as part of the new movie deal offered to him. In between the personal issues and relationship woes of Vince’s crew, the agent-turned-studio boss Ari Gold is back in business and very soon finds himself in a very risky situation when Vince and his wolfpack ask for more money to finish the project. The movie’s financier assigns his son to evaluate the production, which soon jeopardizes not only the financing, but also the upcoming theatrical release of the project.

This poorly plotted motion picture proves that what works on the small screen may turn out quite cheap, lacking, or even desperate on the big screen. While it is predominantly fine for such a material to not take itself too seriously, the story flow trips over a lot of half-baked issues. The deficient script skips over whole chunks of vital narrative elements just to keep up with the required testosterone-fueled fun. With its situational comedy unable to sustain its storyline or its characters within a reliable cinematic framework, the storytelling simply presents a two-hour episode of its TV counterpart, which evidently shows that what gets forgiven on TV becomes glaringly apparent and quite impossible to overlook in film format.

On the good side, the vicarious pleasure crafted by director Doug Ellin genuinely offers patrons with that same jaunty style found in the series. But despite sticking to the winning formula that mostly kept TV fans entertained for a good number of seasons, the ambition of this bro-mage of a movie still fails the franchise’s own conceptual ambition for a successful form of filmed entertainment meant for the big screen.

Highlighting celebrity worship, narcissism, and sexual objectification, this cash grab picture remains negligently fatuous for the most part. Often times, it turns out empty and self-centered and its problematic dramatic arc remains stuck in an inconsequential rut where a circle of guy friends try to have sex and ultimately party hard all the time. Its sexist ways make things feel very low-grade through the casually misogynistic treatment of its woman characters — even with scenes showcasing MMA fighter Ronda Rousy inside the ring.

The movie’s ritzy cinematography and production design simply map out an “oh-yeah celebration” of idealized consumption through the ostentatiously savvy sights of mansions, convertibles, Los Angeles landmarks, and women in bikinis. Even though these posh elements offer a decently watchable form of diversion, the movie’s shallow treatment and overarching moodiness fundamentally rely on familiar jokes and celebrity cameos — including those of Mark Wahlberg, Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba, Armie Hammer, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson — to provide brief amusement every now and then. The presentation generally satisfies its devoted fans by providing them brainless delight and comfort at the presence of the utterly familiar ragtag team. However, it makes no effort to seriously engage the uninitiated.

With its fan service gliding with confidence, this big-screen incarnation delivers plenty of inside jokes and mundane treats geared toward its followers. No matter how ridiculous and over-the-top things get on screen, its silly fun promotes escapist entertainment to keep that guiltily pleasurable relationship with its devotees. But beyond the fizz aimed at its built-in audience, this missed opportunity wastes the potential of a frat boy-bachelor party flick that can compellingly touch on the politics of Tinsel Town. It is very unlikely to make new fans and the more demanding viewers would probably remain unmoved by its aimless and vapid intentions.

The cast’s easy camaraderie aptly depicts the strong bond that made the series a commercial success. The actors led by Adrian Grenier as Vince and his company composed of Kevin Connolly as Eric, Kevin Dillon as Johnny, and Jerry Ferrara as Turtle seem pretty comfortable in the skin of their shallow characters as a pack of bratty wolves crying to the moon about their capricious place in Hollywood. But without any character change, without any arc and dependable conflict in its narrative, these guys offer nothing but mindless fun.

Jeremy Piven renders an energetic performance as the devil to be loved Ari Gold. The supporting roles turn out as a mixed bag. Haley Joel Osment is a hit-and-miss as Travis McCredle. Billy Bob Thornton as Larsen McCredle pleasingly owns the screen in almost every appearance. Rex Lee as Lloyd simply provides some comic relief as required by the lame script. A number of woman roles are merely left out as objectified characters.

This movie is packaged more like “a very special episode” of the series, offering too little for anyone who is not a die-hard fan. Its plain, unadulterated fun exploring the ego, money, power, and success involved in the movie business doesn’t cover any new ground. Its concept suggests mocking or even satirizing the industry, but what it turns out to be is practically the very material intended for such mockery. If this picture is geared towards promoting the industry’s superficiality, then it literally turns out to be its very own product.

‘Entourage’ Film Review: The narcissistic, sexist fun in Hollywood
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[Total: 1    Average: 5/5]

Spy movie review

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Average

“Spy” takes a deliriously funny girl-power angle to its espionage movie package. Exceeding expectations, it charms with its no-holds-barred spoofs that are finely crafted into its action and comic elements. Its physical comedy turns out robust and intense without resorting to typically overused farcical treats. Its greatest strength comes from its rightful dose of empowering action and embarrassing incidents rendered in equal measure. All these turn out quite likeable through its potently funny lead actress who finally lands a role very much worthy of her talent.

This spoof sub-genre offering tells the tale of the deskbound CIA analyst Susan Cooper. After a tragic loss, she finds herself working undercover to avenge her partner who falls off the grid while trying to prevent an impending global terrorist act by a deadly arms dealer. So from being the insecure unsung hero on a dead-end desk job, she suddenly undertakes one of the agency’s most dangerous missions and eventually transforms herself into the most reliable spies ever to grace the CIA. Putting herself more and more at risk in every appearance of an annoying top agent whose compromised status prevents him from taking the mission, Susan further proves she is more than just a desperate choice and an unlikely replacement. She shows how much of a top-notch agent she can be through her quick-witted decisions and natural fighting skills.

This entertaining parody tastefully dismantles the genre it belongs to. The smart script utilizes neat plot twists while doing some wonderfully seditious feminist undertakings in its own comic ways. There are enough twists to make its spy-spoof parts engaging.

Working as a clear takedown of Hollywood’s “007” franchise right from its opening credits, this action-comedy flick puts a feminist twist to the story and makes the details work on a ridiculously straightforward level. It instinctively promotes its spy thriller side by not skimping on the action. Lighting, camerawork, and set pieces complement the acting performances. What makes the tale more interesting is how it succeeds in presenting its kick-ass lead female character beyond the Hollywood female stereotype. Its off-the-wall humor also becomes a breather as it consistently shows the women in awesome action and comedy, while the presence of males in various mission-oriented scenes always makes things worse on screen.

Writer-director Paul Feig has a full grasp of a material that could have possibly ended up in the dumb-movie route in the wrong hands. He is able to draw the best out of his characters in a narrative that bathes in many ridiculous plot points. His storytelling remains committed to the flavor he wants for the film and ends up delivering scores of laughs throughout.

The cast members help elevate this motion picture above the average comedy level. They seem pretty game for anything that they commit themselves to the ridiculous material and they end up owning most scenes, if not all scenes, they are in.

Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper anchors the material with empowering charisma and talent that she may just have worked in her first starring franchise. This motion picture is likely to end up as a box office hit with the usually supporting or co-headlining actress McCarthy now getting the main role she deserves in this full-throttle star vehicle. Her versatile take on her character sustains the comic showcase the story needs. In this movie, the viewers are asked to laugh with her, not at her.

Rose Byrne consistently works as a hilariously scene-stealing villain. Jude Law offers a campy-style acting that fits the bill. Jason Statham delights with his tough-man persona, which is clearly utilized for comic effects. The rest of the supporting performances turns out as acting gems that make the story even more deliriously fun from beginning to end.

‘Spy’ Film Review: Delirious spy fun
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[Total: 2    Average: 3.5/5]

San Andreas movie review

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Average

“San Andreas” is predictable fun that hits the disaster territory. It is a heaving mess of a tale with senses-shattering effects to keep many eyes glued to the screen. Its fault is in its storytelling choices, which lack convincing depth and plotting.

This disaster movie presents the classic case of scale and spectacle over story. Its crumbling down California and Nevada sequences showcase pretty competent effects, but its narrative elements render nothing but cracks and crevices throughout. With no emotional weight for the most part, this predictable flick is best watched for its special effects showcase more than anything else.

The story revolves around a heroic public servant whose hang-ups with his dysfunctional family let him feel like it’s the end of the world — until a real worldwide disaster of epic proportions strikes. Every bit of the tale is based on the long overused disaster flick formula. There’s this heroic guy who can’t save his marriage as his ex-wife moves in with her flashy new beau; there’s that haunting past about the loving father failing to save his daughter’s life; there’s that romantic spark between two teens who eventually struggle to survive like the rest of the people around them; there are these scientist partners who stumble into a discovery of the worst type of earthquake to ever hit the world; and there are some heroic and not so heroic casualties that clearly add to the high body count from the seemingly never-ending shaking of the tectonic plates.

This earthquake flick directed by Brad Peyton opens up with great promise. The helicopter-saving-the hanging car sequence works well in its creative build to really kick-start things, as if all the energy in the movie’s need for mood and atmosphere gets focused in it. But as soon as the earthquake issues begin to dominate the tale, the ground opens up to a sadly familiar wasteland that swallows whole the potential for a good film. In no time, this plot-driven picture quickly degenerates from blissfully promising to fatally frustrating.

The cinematic offering’s template is so familiar that characters and plot points can be easily replaced by those from older disaster movies, with the latest possibly being the Roland Emmerich behemoth “2012.” The formula is so clear that this motion picture seems like “2012” reincarnated — only with a different family on the spotlight, but same everything: a family with relationship problems; a sidekick dying but still saving someone during the process; the smartest scientist in the world alongside media people warning everyone about the impending doom; the stepfather being a jerk as soon as the earthquake happens; and the hero of the story getting all the luck in the world by getting all-access rides via a helicopter, a plane, a truck, and a motorboat, inclusive of each split-second maneuvering to escape just about every falling building and other structural debris behind him.

While it is true that there are some engrossing moments in between the chaos of digitally produced action set pieces, it really doesn’t matter how impressively the buildings collapse if the suspension of disbelief is lacking. With the narrative’s loopholes and the endless list of forced details in the script, the viewers passively take the survival and non-survival scenarios as overdone and anything-but-realistic, which shall eventually lead to the material’s old-school commercial values largely slipping away from their memory.

In impressively blending practical shots and CG techniques for such a decently budgeted disaster blockbuster, the relentlessly over-the-top fun works more like disaster porn. Outstanding action with heart-stopping stunts abound. But amidst the fair amount of individually working destruction scenes, the picture ironically offers minimal tension because the story completely drives away from the sentimentality, emotionality, and/or profundity of the proceedings. The money’s worth is clearly geared towards watching the thrilling audio-visual flair, but a fair amount of storytelling wit could have saved the narrative. The special effects look sturdy; the relationships look weak.

What saves this movie from getting buried into the planet’s core is the charisma of its lead character Chief Ray Gaines played by the impossibly charismatic former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Even with the weak dialogue plaguing the screenplay, he is still able to swing in to the rescue while delivering plenty of muscular thrills for the not so demanding audience. With a wry smile, a squint, or a jaw-dropped expression, he often owns the screen to present a Rock-buster picture where the rock-solid hero is always ready to save everyone he could. Overall, the woody characterizations in this movie, which also stars Carla Gugino as Ray’s estranged wife Emma, Alexandra Daddario as Ray’s daughter Blake, Paul Giamatti as the scientist Lawrence, Ioan Gruffudd as Emma’s new lover Daniel, Hugo Johnstone-Burt as Blake’s love interest Ben, and Art Parkinson as Ben’s brother Ollie, are generally able to carry their roles into either the conventionally likeable or acceptable route until each character falls right through the script holes.

This movie’s epicenter is found in the middle of action and mayhem. Its magnitude reaches the top of the scale of mainstream formula. Its intensity boasts digital destruction with characters and plot being less than structurally sound. It is disappointing to know how it is being marketed as an earnest human drama that offers some informative details about what to do during an earthquake — a worthwhile and timely endeavor indeed. However, it merely allows the viewers to spend two hours admiring the work of visual and sound effects artists and technicians.

‘San Andreas’ Film Review: Epicenter disaster
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[Total: 1    Average: 5/5]

Mad Max: Fury Road movie review

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Average

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is supercharged with its own dose of resonant mythmaking. This action spectacle is not without flaws, but whatever narrative heft it lacks miraculously loses its ground in the storytelling — thanks to its adrenaline pill’s maximum overdrive of fun and pleasure. It proves a significant point that when done with the careful combination of heart, effort, and talent, a glorious symphony of violence, action, and manic flair can overcome the need for perfect story. The spectacle ends up so engrossing that it easily overshadows the questionable parts of the tale.

This “Mad Max” flick has more than just “What a lovely day” can offer.

This exhilarating piece of post-apocalyptic popcorn is loaded with fine madness in every nook and cranny of it. Early on, it readily gears up for a desert adventure full of mind-blowing action sequences to rival just about any other awesome action sequence ever to grace the big screen. Add up the subversive wit, propulsive momentum, feminist roar, and hilarious sexual politics and you get a full-throttle action flick that is inexplicably kick ass in every way.

Milking on the franchise for the fourth time after three decades, this “Mad Max” reboot, still helmed by the ultimate “Mad Max” hero George Miller, works as a road movie centering on the escape of an unlikely group from the greedy men in control of human’s basic resources. This leads to a feature film-long chase where a cult of manipulators and the manipulated do everything they can to catch the ragtag team led by Furiosa and Max.

This motion picture makes a stark statement about humanity’s violent tendencies. Imagine how these maniacs survived the world’s end and how they would probably blow it up again if they get the chance to take whatever’s left. Another interesting point in this film is how it becomes a testosterone and estrogen mash up. Max, Furiosa, and the rest of the escape group develop interactions and varying human relationships more than gender, culture, and beliefs and beyond what their wild society defines and dictates.

Plot, subtlety, logic, and character development get tossed out the window at the expense of staging a triumph of kinetic action in this motion picture. Interestingly, it succeeds in doing that as its hyper-accelerated rush of oil-fisted explosiveness spot-on hits that elusive nerve for insane entertainment to tickle the fanboys and the fangirls.

As an epitome of a badass thrill ride, this scrap-metal demolition derby makes it a point that the action never stops — unless a few good seconds of breathing time should be counted as such. The well-thought-of audio-visual frivolities are a lot of fun. They turn out as pure guilty pleasure from start to finish. The practical effects and stunts are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Knowing how much of the sets and props are real and completely functional, including the fire-wielding guitar and the speaker truck housing it, adds to that already bone-jarring, visceral impact of this limitlessly inventive masterpiece.

The spectacle promotes gloriously crackling entertainment envisioned by such a brilliant maestro. Full of relentless imagination aptly realized on screen, this two hours worth of rolling thunder is clearly targeted for action junkies. The presentation suggests that this picture is deliberately meant as an overdose of monumental thrills. An incredible array of physical objects moves through its cinematic space in unique ways that each frame can work as awesome wallpaper. Moreover, it lays out all the crazy on screen all at once without losing focus. Everything is an orgy of the loud, the louder, and the loudest.

From the cinematography to the production design, this towering, weird-ass heavy metal of a film suddenly redefines the action template. It sets a new gold standard for action cinema. Its action pieces make many other blockbusters, superhero flicks, and special effects-savvy offerings look like they were rough tests and B-movie projects.

Displaying a perfect balance of practical and CG effects, what primarily sets this movie apart from its contemporaries is how much it feels homegrown and handmade while still maximizing the benefit of digital wizardry. Its revved up vision showcases such a gloriously twisted design fitting its theme, story, and even its social context. It doesn’t try hard to incorporate its key messages and it just fits enough to make a hyper-accelerated rush of weirdness and insanity rightfully orchestrated to both entertain and tickle social values.

This gorgeously rendered warfare of a flick injects ferocious fuel into the franchise to fire up its sequel cylinders. If this is bait for another trilogy, looks like a good number of old and new patrons will be willing to line up for more adventures with George Miller and his team.

More than just its technical brilliance, the acting performances led by Ton Hardy as Max Rockatansky and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa deliver a significant contribution in achieving the film’s revolutionary effect. While subjective, the ironically toned down madness of Max in the story works well with how he shares the stage with the equally toned down yet equally kick-ass Furiosa. Together, they shine amidst all the crazy elements around. They complement the insanity of their surroundings.

The way the rest of the characters are made to behave on screen promotes a strange kind of flavor for the storytelling, regardless of their level of acting skills. Miller really makes the ensemble work — making perfection even out of the imperfections. Supporting roles including those of Nicholas Hoult as Nux, Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe, Josh Helman as Slit, Nathan Jones as Rictus Erectus, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, and Abbey Lee as The Wives keep up with the needs of the narrative accordingly.

“Fury Road” is beautifully strange, violent, and thrilling. It may be flawed in terms of character development and plot details, but it is undeniably a flawless piece of crazy entertainment. Its whirlwind of fire accelerates to breathtaking heights that nothing else matters.

So buckle up because this is one hell of a ride. It’s mad as hell, but it’s one wild ride worth taking.

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Film Review: Mad symphony + feminine fury
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Crossing Over movie review

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Average

Forced, heavy-handed, and overdone, “Crossing Over” gets so wrapped up in its quest for topical resonance that it forgets some of the basics of telling a good narrative. From its paint-by-the-number quality to the banality of presenting its subject matter, this misconceived immigration drama turns out as an incompetent way of mounting a multi-character piece.

Amidst the fact that this seemingly well-intentioned drama tackles realistic issues about U.S. immigration policies, the provocative points about the country’s attitude towards migrants, and the possible horrors of getting naturalized, it lacks the needed subtlety and eloquence for it to succeed. Too many of the hurdles in the story feel like a product of a writer’s imagination than being real-life experiences. Its message gets undermined by its cardboard characters and clunky script.

While the film certainly offers some viable stance for more people to relate to it, its crisscrossing stories, heavy ironies, and even heavier moralizing just don’t work. It turns out more like a muddle of good liberal intentions that get loosely anchored to a mass of pure Hollywood triteness.

“Crossing Over” is a blend of thriller and social drama utilized in a hokum kind of way. Being a politically-minded ensemble piece, its multi-character canvas about immigrants of varying nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in America really falters with the wobbly screenplay and loose direction. The storytelling gets unbalanced with its competing storylines. Its lapses into sentimentality are overkill.

The story is improperly fleshed out through stereotypical characters and overly structured sub-stories that keep crossing and bumping into each other, primarily dictating a general air of dull preachiness. It mainly strains with too many characters, too many story strands, and too much of an effort to cover all the bases. The characters are stretched thin with only the most overstuffed dialogue to express themselves. The focus on these immigrant dreamers runs into thematic banality because the film’s treatment is filled with much crass manipulation.

The camera work, editing, and the entire means of storytelling have that very amateurish feel to it. Scenes are very choppy. It’s like entire reels have been cut for whatever weird reason. Tied together with endless, flattening shots of American homes, highways, and establishments, it may be sporadically provocative given its theme and subject matter, but it is also often convoluted and dull with random undercooked messages and ideas showcased every now and then.

As a contrived saga with subplots showcasing immigration woes of all sorts, its markedly unimaginative sense of cinematic storytelling often offers boring moments with little new or insightful to add to the debate about the underlying politics and promise of the relatively unlimited opportunities in the U.S.A. — as mentioned by the judge during the oath-taking ceremony for the newly naturalized Americans.

Even with its unsuccessful mounting, director Wayne Kramer deserves credit for taking on the touchy subject. The presented issues don’t seem pretentious, just the didactic but ineffective way of telling the story. Somehow in some way, it is still an interesting failure as a movie that at least strives to be about something thematically relevant, even though it entangles itself too much that it fails to become a good cinematic offer.

The lack of subtlety in its multi-stranded storytelling makes the movie an overwrought harangue about the gates of illegal immigration. It spoils the supposed empathy for its subject and theme. The surfeit of coincidences weaving the characters together tries to keep the action unified as an anthropological melodrama. However, its intensity doesn’t live up to its very intentions as the sledgehammer approach becomes mostly off-putting and risible on screen.

The film has a few moments of poignancy and engaging acting, especially with the outstanding performance of Summer Bishil as Taslima Jahangir. Her acting moment is just bull’s-eye to the heart’s core — a very impressive scene that stands out from a movie filled with utter mediocrity.

This would have been a perfectly serviceable film. Yet, it merely provides hysterical little bits of what is already given. Viewers get what the filmmakers are trying to say about immigration and nationalism, but everything is laid down in an overly substantial form that seems mistreated to deliver more yawns than moral, political, and intellectual stimulation. And even with famed names as Harrison Ford as Max Brogan, Ashley Judd as Denise Frankel, Jim Sturgess as Gavin Kossef, Cliff Curtis as Hamid Baraheri, Ray Liotta as Cole Frankel, among other names, this issue-oriented movie remains a disappointment.

This illegal immigration drama is timely and well-intentioned; however, it is too contrived and schematic to generate good enough credibility for its subject matter. It is a serious film that offers some pretty good performances, but the sheer number of characters in the narrative dilutes their power. All these leave the movie in a bit of a mess in its own game of sex, violence, betrayal, and diminished nobility of the tradition of naturalized citizenship. From a purely cinematic point of view, “Crossing Over” is a bit too interlocking and hampered by its wayward and overreaching direction and overstuffed script.

‘Crossing Over’ Film Review: Interlocking stories, struggles, and immigration
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Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs movie review

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“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the first spin-off in the “X-Men” character flicks, is a considerably reliable, action-packed first attempt for an “X-Men” origin story. It largely succeeds on having Hugh Jackman back with his adamantium claws, with his charisma breathing the fire into  this superhero movie. For its scale and ambition, this motioni picture promotes heart and action through its own Shakespearean-style tragedy. However, amidst the strength of its regenerative charm as one of the “X-Men” pop culture favorites, the rather pedestrian and superficial parts of the script, the extravagantly loopy plotlines, and some by-the-number action spots weaken the film.

This film is not great. It is not bad neither. It still feels very much like every other mediocre comic-book adaptation. Some genuine archetypes and myths find their way into the mix, but the overflow of half-baked ideas adds to the clutter. It marries action and melodrama in a superficially cinematic way that half of it works while the other half becomes a major drawback for not having that much-needed deft for the material.

On the surface, director Gavin Hood mounts an action-packed adventure featuring Wolverine’s back story. Wolverine’s appeal proves strong with his mystery and origins uncovered for the thrills. The opening sequence looks promising. The emotional exploration on the relationship between Logan and his brother Victor is surrounded with superb action set pieces and a few complex character interactions.

With Hugh Jackman back with his adamantium claws as Wolverine, he uplifts the weaker parts of the film into a pretty watchable fare. He captures the essence of the lead character. This origins story would collapse under the weight of its unpolished parts if not for his considerable acting prowess, as well as his effective acting dynamics with Liev Schreiber. They know how to give good growls as Logan/Wolverine and Victor/Sabretooth. How Logan and Victor grew up as brothers provides the essence to the story. From there, things pick up toward the inner conflicts of Logan’s character.

Taylor Kitsch as Remy LeBeau/Gambit turns out as a pretty good addition to the movie. Amidst being a secondary character with very short screen time, he makes a lasting impression without upstaging the main characters. Overall, the ensemble cast uncompromisingly plays for keeps: Lynn Collins as Kayla Silverfox; Danny Huston as William Stryker; Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool; Kevin Durand as Frederick Dukes/The Blob; Will i Am as John Wraith; Dominic Monaghan as Chris Bradley/Bolt; Daniel Henney as David North/Agent Zero; Scott Adkins as Weapon XI; and Tim Pocock as Scott Summers. The script may be convoluted at times, but the characters generally deliver enough direction to the narrative’s entertainment and emotional requirements.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is interesting enough to keep Fox and Marvel’s planned series of “X-Men” origin stories. For this offering, it is by no means perfect, but it is still an entertaining enough effort to please many of the “X-Men” followers, It condenses such a complicated origin story into a watchable fast-paced action flick; thus, leaving the door open for another “X-Men” prequel in the future.

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ Film Review: Adamantium thrill and tragedy
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2012 movie review, film poster

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“2012” doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but it is still one hell of a fun ride. It is everything you could possibly expect from a blockbuster disaster movie: an irresistibly visual spectacle that is perversely entertaining. The people behind these films really seem to live up to the idea that: “You don’t get off a roller-coaster and complain about the lack of storytelling.”

This popcorn flick is totally not credible when it comes to its showcase of unequivocally cheesy, ridiculous story; yet, it is hugely engaging with its mind-boggling visual effects.

The story is your basic end-of-the-world chaos narrative. It’s your usual Hollywood cash cow with the doomsday premise offered for mere escapism. They sure do blow up things real good. In fact, its graceless mess may kind of insult the intelligence of the logic-demanding crowd, but for some reason, it still leaves most people thrilled.

It is everything you can expect from such an apocalyptic movie material. The special effects are topnotch in making the film an intensely gripping experience where the protagonists are expected to flee and escape the most horrific events happening around them every single time. The main premise offers the usual mix of a flawed relationship in a typical American family, a responsible and all-good scientist, and a devoted and principled U.S. president — all struggling to make it through the last days of Earth.

The narrative is a chock full of cliches. Everything is too predictable that it’s really just a matter of enjoying the movie’s audio-visual flair — and nothing more. Nevertheless, some philosophical and emotional elements of redemption and the concept of survival of the fittest at least become apparent in some scenes — for a bit of spark about people’s existentialist notions of the world.

Formulaic and frenzied, this flick is undoubtedly a spectacular but ultimately silly blast from Master of Disaster Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow”). In his tradition of catastrophic flicks, he offers another look at the end of the world in “2012.” This time around, it is the End of Days based on the idea that the Mayan calendar’s last day is said to be Dec 21, 2012. In the film, the earth’s crusts are shifting, causing earthquakes and volcano eruptions on a global scale, followed by inescapable tsunamis.

This motion picture follows the family’s journey towards their destination, en route to China, where the governments of the world have some sort of solution to the impending doom of the world through giant ships reminiscent of the bible’s Noah’s Ark, which convincingly shows the film as another Noah’s Ark story interpreted in a 21st Century setting.

“2012” heavily invests in cinematic time and popcorn. Its unrelenting pace, almighty effects, and sheer tongue-in-cheekiness make it consumingly enjoyable for its willing audience.

Emmerich provides rollickingly good visual thrills throughout. However, the movie lacks a strong script to support its massive scope and inflated length and turn it into a disaster classic in cinema history. It gets tad monotonous by the middle part and it further loses momentum by the last act. Things get too corny by the end that what keeps it really worth watching is indeed the fantastical, mind blowing visual feast it showcases from start to end.

This end-of-the-world story throws in bits and pieces from other disaster movies — with its familiar plot tapping into virtually every disaster flick ever produced.

Despite the consistently breathtaking sound and visual effects, the film’s acting performances are just a mixed bag. More often than not, actors including John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, and Woody Harrelson live up to the nonsensical script’s requirements, but there are instances that they really find themselves dwarfed by the demands for CGI flair. It gets clear that it is quite a job to act in front of chroma screens and other movie-making machines, while pretending to be already seeing the apocalyptic mess described in the script in detail. At least, most actors are still able to keep some humanistic touches in their scenes to deliver that incredible sense of urgency brought about by the world’s end and that emotional struggle of trying to survive annihilation. They strive to keep up with some inane and mostly cliched dialogue.

Watch this movie for its effects. Take them for what they are and leave logic behind.

‘2012’ Film Review: A spectacular disaster
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Alice in Wonderland movie review

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“Alice” falls down a deep hole and is unable to get out.

In this 2010 cinematic rendition of the Lewis Carroll classic, Tim Burton’s individual stamp of masterful storytelling doesn’t register. With its wavering tone that is as uncertain as Alice’s decision-making in the narrative, Burton and company should really dig a lot deeper if they eventually decide to make a sequel out of it.

Stylish but dispirited, style over substance, “Alice in Wonderland” is a pretty disappointment. It has great visuals but lacks storytelling value. Clearly a feast for the eyes but not for the heart, it is teeming with marvelous sights but hollow at its core. Overwhelming visuals but underwhelming storytelling. Great canvas but not a great film.

This Disney movie is not the masterpiece people hoped for. It looks more like a coffeetable book showcasing CGI grandeur. It is definitely not within the caliber of Burton opuses such as “Edward Scissorhands” and “Big Fish.”

A Burton interpretation of this tale is quite intriguing and exciting. But shockingly, things just don’t work. The movie lacks the energy and emotional power to breathe life beyond the vision inside the filmmaker’s head. This director who apparently takes the producer role as well loses his authentic knack for effective storytelling. His expressionist signature turns out to be the only aspect he keeps in this motion-picture project.

With its visual splendor, this movie is still a technical feat, mainly for its visual effects, production design, and art direction.

Ken Ralston’s visual effects are pleasantly surreal. Character designs showcase such creative wizardry. Robert Stromberg’s production design is fun and dazzling. The amazing offbeat aesthetics as individual pieces are whimsically great in their own dark and bizarre fashion. Danny Elfman’s musical score offers some magical parts, but the elements don’t transcend to wonderful heights. Chris Lebenzon’s cutting is considerably fine, but it doesn’t reflect the supposed marriage of a Burton vision and a Carroll story. Dariusz Wolski’s photography is wonderfully magical. However, all these still fail to cover up the screenplay’s loopholes. Although the script has its moments, things don’t fall into one coherent piece. Empty, atmospheric, and lacking soul, some individual pieces actually work at times, but things never really work as a whole. The dialogue can’t live up to the film’s superficial narrative flow.

The film falls short in driving the character arcs. The acting is sometimes spot on, but sometimes out of range. Overall, the characters don’t have that firm grip to let the audience relate to and sympathize with them. From frequent Burton collaborators Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, to first-time Burton collaborators Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, the acting performances provide characters that work more on solo flights.

For its 3D version, unlike in the 3D epic “Avatar,” this motion picture doesn’t offer an immersive 3D experience. Instead of rendering awe-inspiring 3D images, the movie’s shallow visual feast looks lame. The three-dimensional depth looks fake, perhaps because of the post-3D conversion process employed in the picture. Clearly, the technical requirements for filming in 3D are not entirely the same as the conventional filmmaking process done in 2D. The 3D here doesn’t look absorbing enough to recreate a new mythmaking factor for the film. Moreover, the movie lacks that captivating 3D spirit, perhaps because the envisioned film came out from ideas pegged in 2D format. 3D requires a specific sub-culture when it comes to utilizing the immersive qualities of the format, which means its own set of storytelling standards that may or may not entirely work with a 2D-envisioned film.

‘Alice in Wonderland’ (2010) Film Review: Overwhelming visuals, underwhelming storytelling
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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie review

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Catch colorful candies and marshmallows from the sky. Play around ice cream snowballs. Hop around nacho cheese fountains. Slide onto a giant gumball hill. Go gaga with a palace of Jell-O. Get endless supply of jellybeans. After which, there comes the massive pancakes, tornadoes of pasta, pools of nacho cheese, hailstorm of jellybeans, ice cream blizzard, pizza flurries, and deadly gummy bears… Then suddenly, it’s raining steak and gumballs! It’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

This eye-popping and mouth-watering piece of motion picture cooks up a veritable buffet of the bland and the bizarre, the sweet and the sour, and all other possible tastes that can be generously offered on screen. It serves up a riot of glee, color, and absurdity.

The story is engagingly ridiculous. It’s fun… and it works.

With a solid gag ratio and an entertainingly colorful animated visuals, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” serves as a commentary on the potential perils of genetically engineered food and the downside of “overabundance.” Using its light and fun approach, it makes a social point about how people today have too much of what they need. In its subtext it questions the contemporary world’s a culture of excess where wastefulness seems next to coolness.

This impressive cinematic offering from Sony Pictures is a downright odd family flick featuring exuberant animation, quirky humor, and plucky characters. It aptly utilizes slick and solid slapstick, while maintaining technical sophistication and engaging storytelling throughout. This animated venture from writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller gives justice to their source material, the popular children’s book of the same title by Judi and Ron Barrett. They amusingly expand the book for the big screen.

The filmmakers know how to play with their food. They capitalize well on the universal compulsion for stomach-filling delight. As a computer-animated 3D extravaganza, this film provides awesome food fights and pleasurable food trips. It also provides whimsical details through increasingly surreal weather activities that would suggest some call to action and a hunger for more even when everything is too much already — just like how capitalism and consumerism in the real world become an alarming concern for every nation.

From the gloriously surreal buffet of predatory giant chickens to the psychopathic gummy bears fighting to death, things turn out weirdly wonderful on screen. While contemplating, it seems like “mutated food” in the real world isn’t very far anymore from the already existing reality of junk food and fast food stuff.

This movie works fine in 3D. Technically, this 3D food adventure makes good use of the format. But in any case, a conventional 2D counterpart is of good value as well. In fact, for its veritable feast of audio-visual splendor and its relevant social messages, this picture turns out as a good DVD collectible for the family.

The sophisticated presentation doesn’t overwhelm the storytelling. Scenes don’t look pretentious and they don’t sweat the message. As a computer-animated flick, it is bright, cheery, and at times flat-out hilarious in providing winsome sight gags involving giant food, references to disaster film cliches (including “Independence Day” and “Twilight Zone”), and endearing characters that vividly come to life. The running gags are pretty neat cliches as well. The storytelling promotes a pretty charming kind of slapstick that works well for the tale’s intended commercial value.

As a family-friendly movie, it provides a frenetically tasty offer. Indeed, it is insanely funny and at times wonderfully weird. Things work well with the gastronomically hilarious pace and tone of the comedy. It is visually inventive and can be swallowed very easily while serving some serious food for the thought on the side.

Unlike most children’s flicks that are often insipid and lowbrow, this quick-witted film doesn’t insult its audiences intellect. It is light on its feet, silly, and surprisingly enjoyable — not to mention, a little trippy. It bursts with random sight gags that boast intricate design and goofy humor. It has some grown-up gags to keep the adults amused as well.

The characters are likable amidst the fact that in terms of character development, they don’t render something of the caliber of Pixar’s “Up.” But still, this movie really assures the audience of a tasty adventure treat.

As a hyperbolic expose of human greed, abusive behavior, and environmental destruction, this food revolting spin of the 30-page children’s book into a 90-minute bountiful big-screen buffet is something that the general viewer won’t regret sinking his or her teeth onto. Its delicious and imaginative concept takes flight as a family delight. While it rains big food, it also rains big laughs and sheer fun.

‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ Film Review: Slick and solid family slapstick
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The Hurt Locker list of Oscar wins

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The disclosing of the 2010 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture was without suspense as Tom Hanks opened the envelope and readily divulged “The Hurt Locker” as the film that garnered this year’s Oscar nod. Yet, it was full of surprises and intrigues as this relatively small film defeated the biggest contender for the award which was no less than the world’s highest-grossing film of all time to date — Avatar.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, writer Mark Boal, and producers Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro accepted the award.

This Iraq war drama walked away with five more awards including Best Original Screenplay for Mark Boal, Best Film Editing for Bob Murawski and Chris Innis, Best Sound Editing for Paul N.J. Ottosson, Best Sound Mixing for Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett, and for the record, the Best Director for the first woman filmmaker to ever receive the coveted Oscar for film direction — Kathryn Bigelow.

“The Hurt Locker” also received nominations for Best Actor for Jeremy Renner, Best Cinematography for Barry Ackroyd, and Best Original Score for Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.

The other nine nominees for the Best Picture Award were: “Avatar,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “The Blind Side,” “District 9,” “An Education, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” “A Serious Man,” “Up,” and “Up in the Air.”

Bigelow and the rest of her collaborators expressed how unreal and extremely humbling it was to receive the award and that they never imagined it in their wildest dreams. They also expressed their gratitude to their intrepid financier and fellow producer Nicolas Chartier who bet on the movie when no one else would. They also dedicated the award to the entire cast and crew. They reiterated their respect and honor to the people in uniform who dedicate their lives in service of the country. From the military to the firemen, they gave their utmost gratitude to them in their speeches.

As for the historical feat of Bigelow besting her award-winning compatriots including Quentin Tarantino for “Inglourious Basterds,” Jason Reitman for “Up in the Air,” Lee Daniels for “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” and her ex-husband James Cameron for “Avatar,” presenter Barbara Streisand made the historical announcement during the Oscar Night last March 7, 2010 with the words “Well, the time has come,” right before saying Bigelow’s name. Bigelow accepted the award with the words “There’s no other way to describe it. It’s the moment of a lifetime.”

Best Picture – The Hurt Locker,” Oscars.com

‘The Hurt Locker’ gets 2010 Oscar nods for Best Picture and Direction
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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus movie review

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“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” is primarily a visual spectacle. While the film is not entirely successful, it certainly qualifies as a glorious mess of exploring an imaginative world. It has a vaudevillian spirit. It flirts with acid-laced visuals and spins circles around the viewers’ heads. The dizzy spell of visual fantasy and the rickety plotting both impresses and bores.

This send-off film for the late Heath Ledger (technically speaking, though personally, I think it’s his Joker in “The Dark Knight” that is his real great send-off) is a highly imaginative mess shot with boldness and extravagance. It works more like a cobbled collection of ideas rather than being a precious stand-alone story.

Though the visual flair is there, things don’t really hold together well for the most part. This issue already gives consideration to the fact that Ledger only finished half of his work before his passing — and this is not to say that the other three guys who finished the work for him are of no good value. It is just that this motion picture, as a whole, clutters with a lot of artsy stuff more than than focusing on putting value to the characterizations. This cinematic offering is visually packed with grandeur, but the story mishmash makes it quite tiring to watch. There is that feeling of being overdone. At some point, it’s like eating too much of a well-garnished meal that’s out of nutritional value. The storytelling can’t keep up with the too many trippy elements that are packed together as a full-length piece. It fits more like a series of eye-popping music videos spliced together into a single movie.

When looking at the film separately as scenes of fantastical spins, things work generally fine. The anachronistic artistry of director Terry Gilliam makes visually splendid slices of brilliant madness in the presentation. Rife with hyperbolic displays, the movie grounds in a fantasy world rendered through an enigmatic odyssey of graphic invention. But amidst these separate scenes working together individually, the point of the matter is that a film should put its various elements as a whole body of work. So in this case, “Parnassus” meanders around confused rhythms that make the narrative  more like rambling chunks of effects-filled magic that are often self-indulgent and gambling. Though it promises something fanciful every now and then, this doesn’t really quite add up to one grand showcase of cinematic consistency. It teases with magnificently tantalizing moments, but the resulting offering looks more like an outlandish juggling act that both dazzles and bums.

As a big-budget pageantry of shifting CGI canvas and frenetic elements, the big-deal effects overpowers the story instead of just serving to spice up and back up the storytelling. It looks overburdened with ideas, visions, and concepts, while becoming disappointingly moody at times. Things are insisted with too brute force and sense of urgency that they are more off-putting than entrancing, more exhausting than exhilarating.

“Parnassus” is like a crammed artist’s mind traversing a shaky framework. Sometimes, the magic works and it is blissful in its own right. But most of the time, it piles on glitter, grunge, and some mumbo-jumbo puffs. It really needs a more coherent storytelling to pack every idea about art and imagination as insinuated in its theme. It seems to have passionate intentions about the contradictions of good and evil as played out in the hearts and minds of its characters. It is an ardent morality tale about the consequences of making deals with the devil. It provides a thematically potent sympathy moving freely around the people’s subconscious. It feels through the artist’s life journey of pleasure and pain.

Heath Ledger’s Tony boosts the film’s value in his fine performance. It is a chance to see him acting one last time before resting for good. On a lighter note, he will always be remembered with the great characters in his filmography. The film is appropriately labeled as coming from Heath Ledger and friends.

Talented as he is, evidently with the number of good films under his belt, Christopher Plummer as Doctor Parnassus unfortunately lacks the intensity to make his character work. His Imaginarium overpowers the film’s crucial element of characterization, although this issue is more a concern with the direction than what the actor can really deliver for what he is told to do. In fact, Lily Cole as Valentina, Andrew Garfield as Anton, and Verne Troyer as Percy have better characterizations than him. Despite the very tricky material, these three, along with Tom Waits who provides a fine enough performance as Mr. Nick, put some good values to the story to let the audience willingly ride along further the Imaginarium path.

The retrofitting of Ledger’s generally role works well on its own. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law as the Imaginarium Tony guys even make more sense than what the clunks of the story make for the film’s entirety.

Abandoning oneself to the occasionally uneven but visually stimulating images is the best way to enjoy this motion picture. For those willing, it is a hollow, shambling, lovable mess of a movie to watch with popcorn and soda.

‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ Film Review: Trippy imaginarium
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Adventureland movie review

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“Adventureland” is a sweet, insightful, and heartfelt coming-of-age tale with loads of sensitivity and a genuine heart. It is a smart and perceptive tale about college kids in their so-called crappy jobs and how they struggle to learn more about life and love.

This motion picture presents the hearts of teens and young adults with that fluttering up and down motion, which is kind of similar to riding a roller-coaster. This refreshing retro drama-comedy explores the joyride of the young adults’ present angst and their preparations for their future.

The film’s strength lies in the power of its well-delivered performances, beautifully written script, and carefully crafted characters — each of whom is sincerely flawed yet purely compelling. The characters are genuinely tarnished and appealing as they seize those uncertain feelings teens get as young adults. Full of humor and nostalgia as a period story resonating with a universal touch on sex talks, drugs, awkward situations, goofs, intrigues, and humor, it does a pretty good job in capturing the teens and their times. From the way kids generally behave in their 80’s American culture to the ups-and-downs of late ’80s rock, it provides a sort of noteworthy melancholy of a classic young adult novel made for the big screen. Its heart and soul are deeply invested in its shaky, awkward, sweet, funny, and tender drama with an indie-art touch. It manages a certain combination of the maturity, absurdity, and anguish of young adulthood; thus, crafting a refreshing take on “the teen turmoil issues” where the uncertainty and inherent fear of an idealist become intensely charged with personal feelings, doubts, and dreams.

“Adventureland” is the sort of film that seems like a derivative of countless teen-oriented coming-of-age offerings. But what makes it stand out is its thorough exploration of the familiar territory with an effectively loose and scruffy appeal. Director Greg Mottola puts plenty of heart to this tale. The narrative clearly puts that feeling of “already seen and heard before,” and makes it genuinely integral to the story. This movie prove that rehashed stories with predictable structure simply need authentic touches to be mounted well.

The heart of the film lies on the emotional microcosm of the local amusement park, a place happily rambling along with its share of laughs and lust. Set in 1987 Pittsburgh, the recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) takes a nowhere job at the nearby park Adventureland, where summer vacation leads to summer jobs, and possibly, summer love. Surprisingly, this very place becomes a perfect course to get the young adults prepared for the real world outside the realms of childhood and teenage life.

Filled with likable actors and 1980’s pop songs, this cinematic piece entertains without pretending to be more than a tribute to doing odd jobs, meeting unlikely friends, trying anything fun, wild and exciting, and hanging out without the concern for adult responsibilities. It becomes a sweet and irreverent tale about characters with real hearts under goofy shirts.

Credible performances from the ensemble cast make effective use of music and moments to enrich their eclectic roles. Eisenberg has the ability to endearingly convey gawkiness and mortification, along with his quirky, intellectual, twenty-something virgin character, to deliver what makes the story come full circle — his sincerity, his high virtue and worst defect. His life experiences with a bunch of his kind at the amusement park find prime solace in Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart). Stewart shines in a raw and tender performance that bursts with charisma. Here, innocent fun, true friendship, and an added spark of love work for the story in which he and Stewart put deft touches of realism to the heartbreakingly genuine couple.

Mottola does quite a good job in weaving his characters to be unaffected by their already marked celebrity personalities — especially with the recent hype for Stewart’s Bella Swan role in “Twilight” and Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson/Deadpool role in “Wolverine.” Reynolds here as Mike Connell turns out very low key. He fits the tricky part he has to play, just like the rest of the cast members that generally work well in their specific roles — in a similar way the various jobs and people inside Adventureland work.

‘Adventureland’ Film Review: Roller-coastering towards adulthood
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Sherlock Holmes movie review 2009

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“Sherlock Holmes” is a visually stylish rush of adrenaline. Irreverent yet true to the spirit of its source material, this movie is both fun and numb, enjoyable and exhausting.

With a modern slant, this Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character personified on the big screen by Robert Downey Jr. should find favor with audiences eager for mere action and effects above everything else. While flawed, it is at least, overall, an entertaining romp. Thanks to the arresting sound and visuals, this new take on the classic story of the world-famous detective is such a popcorn flick.

This cinematic adaptation retains a number of significant details from its source; though the purists may cringe with some altered elements that keep up with director Guy Ritchie’s modern-style of reimagining the legendary sleuth’s adventures. Viewers willing to accept the cliches and predictability in exchange for the stylish and moody treatment may have some good time.

“Sherlock Holmes” is more adrenaline than brainpower. The story is simply another one in a long line of interpretations of the Detective Holmes and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) tales. This time, it is utilized as a swashbuckling romp with the tried-and-tested pop culture flourishes meant for those looking for action and thrill. The obvious millions pumped into the film’s CG effects, set design, star salaries, among other investments for the sake of production value, are very much apparent throughout.

Ritchie’s version of old London is moody and atmospheric. He brings the iconic character to a new generation of movie audience through the modernized makeover filled with slow- and fast-motion visuals, choppy editing, and ramping explosion scenes. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. There are times that things just get way too much that there is no more breathing space on screen. There are moments of action, there are moments of frenzied and overlong smother.

Aside from its complete predictability, the mystery itself lacks intrigue and suspense that it merely relies on technical power and star wattage for a more palpable sense of excitement. So despite being overlong and losing much of its steam halfway through, the movie is still able to engage the audience between the cerebral character requirements and the spectacle of pop entertainment.

The acting performances of Downey and Law as the Holmes-and-Watson-duo help make up for the weak mystery. They seem to take much pleasure in portraying their roles. Downey’s inherent likeability is as quick-witted as the twists and opportunities that show off his character’s genius. His interpretation of the Holmes character does not completely deviate from the Doyle canon. With his uncanny skill at inventing his own spin to his role, he delivers a brainy and brawny detective with a slightly crazed superhero demeanor. He plays the brainiac detective like a steamed machine.

Law transforms Holmes’ stalwart partner Dr. Watson from the bumbling comic relief seen in most interpretations of the material into a cool, competent sidekick character for this adaptation. He is a rare Watson who manages to be as interesting and watchable as Holmes.

Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler manages to tweak Holmes’ classic adversary into a hot and feisty action heroine.

Cunning star power further uplifts this flick as supporting and minor characters including Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood, Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade, Geraldine James as Mrs. Hudson, Kelly Reilly as Mary Morstan, and William Houston as Constable Clark make this movie offer the rollicking adventure that it is. a diverting enough night-out stint or DVD showcase, “Sherlock Holmes is a watchable and playable fare that entertainingly explores the cunning world of its lead character; however, it’s still forgettable. It’s actually a case of more adding up to less. Hopefully, the inevitable sequel will be better.

“Sherlock Holmes” is a watchable fare that entertainingly showcases the cunning world of its lead character. However, its story is still forgettable, as the sequences often turn out as a case of more adding up to less.

‘Sherlock Holmes’ (2009) Film Review: Sherlock takes a modern slant
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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Average

Law Abiding Citizen is a phony social commentary that has an intriguing premise and a compromised execution. It is increasingly preposterous, but nonetheless mindlessly entertaining for its law-abiding, popcorn-consuming audience.

The narrative begins as a potboiler with a troubling character arc and some high-octane thriller moments, then it ends up as a goofy, lousy pulp with the action parts quickly tipping into lame campiness.

As a social statement, this film offers a flawed attempt in presenting high-minded brutality, while trying to hold the legal system accountable for its own shortcomings. As a slick cat and mouse picture, it seems too afraid to tackle the issues it brings up. There are plenty of loopholes in the script that further misleads its promising concept.

As a mainstream fare, it is pervasively absurd yet generally appealing for those who prefer high body count more than enduring its blatantly nonsensical plot. It abides by the rules of commercial filmmaking, and this becomes its major flaw.

This piece of crime drama and thriller has its action parts laced with shocks and twists that don’t aptly follow the laws of logic, making suspension of disbelief quite a chore. Its ludicrous plot has its moments; however, its fascinating undercurrents are much less than the off-putting parts in its reactionary revenge theme. As the logic tumbles more and more until the tale’s disappointing ending, it winds up feeling overwritten, yet underexplained.

In its exploration of the flaws of law, of right and wrong, this picture deflates the fun brought by its interesting tagline “How can you stop a man who’s already behind bars?” by making it a complicated, ragged movie lacking story credibility. It seems more of a pretentious cash cow material that tries to inject something meaningful about America’s justice system — unfortunately with an awkward turnout.

This is the kind of movie that thrills as long as it doesn’t make one think. With an implausible plot already given from the very beginning, provisions for compelling arguments as the story progresses simply lose their edge by the end of the movie.

From the script being backed up by the debate about the ethical challenges of practicing and upholding law to the poor plotting and pacing throughout, things get really trammeled by the endless bullets, deaths, explosions, and play safe ending. Things don’t live up to the expectations from Gerard Butler’s words “It’s gonna be biblical!”

This crime drama about outrage and vengeance has jerky narrative shifts with occasional splashes of gore and action courtesy of its brainiac turned psychopath character. From here, thrills just keep coming at a relentless pace that leaves little time to ponder on them. Nevertheless, it is still able to generate some considerable suspense and a sense of dread as an implausible thriller with a few horror elements in the guise as social criticism.

Director F. Gary Gray attempts to provide a visual look that creates the required cold, thrilling atmosphere. What keeps the story hanging on, aside from the movie’s basic atmosphere, are some strong performances, regardless of the need for more character depth.

Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton elevates the picture’s ridiculous thriller appeal into something watchable. His sharp and invigorating performance as a psycho on a killing spree while behind bars is generally entertaining. He is able to hold some interest for the story as he outwits the authorities — until he loses it by the contrived ending.

Jamie Foxx as the district attorney Nick Rice looks bored throughout. He delivers some effective moments that provide the needed emotional investment for his character. However, he still lacks that needed bravura to really elevate his character. Viola Davis as the frustrated Philadelphia mayor looks pretty sharp on screen. Annie Corley as Judge Laura Burch also works fine. Leslie Bibb as Nick’s staff Sarah Lowell provides enough intensity.

‘Law Abiding Citizen’ Film Review: Law-abiding popcorn flick
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[Total: 1    Average: 2/5]

Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs movie review

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Average

Looks like the “Ice Age” series is not yet too close to extinction. Since the trailers of this third franchise offer, there is no doubt that “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” still provides that appealing energy based on the material’s already established charm.

As an adventure-packed ride, this animation provides an astoundingly eye-catching animation built on the fun foundation given by the old characters. Some scenes may feel repetitive, but for the needed surface-level fluff, this kiddie flick generally works. For the most part, this movie utilizes well-paced comic moments.

The story revolves around the discovery of a crack in the ice which grants the characters access to a more primitive age that features tropical weather, green grass, extensive foliage, and dangerous giants. This takes the central characters away from their wintry, ice-packed habitat to the cavernous underground world of danger where carnivorous dinosaurs roam. On a mission to rescue Sid, the old gang travels into a mysterious underground realm where they encounter a whole new world of flora and fauna.

This third  “Ice Age” installment doesn’t overdo its stereoscopic 3D part. The DVD version may not have the same flair as its 3D counterpart, but judging from what the theatrical version shows, this motion picture really keeps up with the franchise’s signature fun and colorful visuals.

A lot of entertaining elements can induce laughter to the willing audience. The novelty in its extra dimension and eye-candy visuals, as well as the overall comic fun rendered by its characters enhance its storytelling spectacle.

Director Carlos Saldanha and co-director Mike Thurmeier envision nifty camera tricks, funny character antics, and charmingly mounted moments to keep up with the film’s box office requirements. Scenes like the laughing gas adventure and even the overly familiar trailers of Scrat’s initial meeting with Scratte, as well as Sid’s milking of a bull, all provide good laughs for the general audience. Scrat’s dialogue-free scenes are punctuated by music and all things heart-shaped work as usual. His pursuit of the elusive acorn is as fervent as his quest to win the eye-fluttering Scratte, which alters his nut hunting priority.

Amidst the sureshot enjoyment, it is still clearly not of top-caliber level when compared to the best Pixar animated classics. This animated feature merely relies on formulaic elements to make it a fun family ride. Moreover, the playful bantering between the characters could have been more creatively done. There are some forced dialogues and some phoned-in voice acting around. Nevertheless, this sequel from the popular animated movie is clearly targeted at the kiddie crowd. It still works as an entertainment pastime for the family.

As expected, “Ice Age 3” promotes a cutesy end to both the old and new characters’ sub-stories. Aside from the old gang, it features some snappy new characters including Buck and the loads of dinosaurs around.

Parenthood becomes the hot topic for Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) as they await the birth of their mini-mammoth. There is something lacking on their side of the story in terms of characterization; but when their baby comes out, things just become totally adorable with the cute little mammoth out.

The goofy sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) turns out as a pretty convincing friend who feels abandoned, then adopts three baby dinosaurs like a new surrogate mother.

The flurry and scurry squirrel Scrat (Chris Wedge) is still awesome with his wanderings, which are motivated by the iconic acorn as usual. But this time, he gets company in trying to nab that ever-elusive nut through his newfound hottie frenemy who is conveniently named Scratte (Karen Disher).

The saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) doesn’t quite render enough emotional attachment here. His issues of growing too soft when hanging with his tamed pals and his goal to leave the herd to prove himself don’t quite get that much message across.

The twin opossums Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck) generally work with their pratfalls and fart jokes amidst their stereotypical antics.

The relentless, vine-swinging, and dino-hunting weasel Buck (Simon Pegg) is a comical and lively one-eyed warrior who guides the “Ice Age” friends through the underground prehistoric habitat of the hungry dinosaurs — in order to save Sid. With his conventional but steadily working jokes, he puts fun in the adventure of the characters as they traverse the Chasm of Death, the Plates of Woe, and the treacherous Lava Falls.

Overall, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” brings visual cuteness, action, and frivolity for the audience to enjoy. It puts the usual requirements on moral elements for the typical family movie getaway, with the story centering around the importance of family and friends. The movie is a surefire hit with the kids. The 3D version in the theaters definitely has an additional appeal, but even a DVD version can still work as a great addition to your family-friendly movie collection.

‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ Film Review: Dino-ice adventure
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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Average

Pixar’s “Up” is a symphonic balance of touching silence, witty dialogue and cinematic flight of fancy.

This animated picture further strengthens its impressive track record of making noteworthy animated films. It provides a symphonic balance of touching silence and witty dialogue where the flight of fancy is carefully crafted through wildly creative fantasy, inner childhood, and rediscovery.

As an emotional and heartfelt story with various levels of relationships and sense of belongingness, this high-altitude exploration about love and loss and letting go makes a beautifully balanced effort, propelling the viewers up, up, and away with its colorful balloons of cinematic adventure.

This family film doesn’t pander. The audience’s suspension of disbelief, especially for some of its preposterous elements, never insists itself as a negative issue. In fact, the cleverness and originality the film exudes through it becomes considerably boundless. Highly supported by visual wonder and worthwhile story investment, the theme of this exquisitely cinematic work tweaks the common elements of a grownup tale and rejuvenates the storytelling with much spark and pop.

From belly-laugh humor to tear-in-the-eye despair, it never becomes anything less than incredibly touching and entertaining. Alternately funny and touching, and exciting often all at once, this tale about unfulfilled dreams and fulfilling promises is punctuated by gentle whimsy and tender human values. Through its intimate character study about rediscovering the soul, or surviving the worst and making the most of it, the film’s creative synergy of sharp, funny, and tear-jerking elements delivers both a thrillingly fantastic adventure and a devastatingly poignant piece of realism.

What makes “Up” more special is how its animation efforts are utilized for maximum value. It combines the basic filmmaking requirement of imaginative and sincere storytelling with dazzling and dreamlike visuals on a level that can work best on animated films. It creates an experience that is a special characteristic of animation: at once utterly convincing and completely impossible, but all in all, lovingly acceptable for its kind of medium.

This swashbuckling romp starts slow and classy. Then it picks up helium and soars into a continent-hopping adventure and an understated, nuanced psychodrama with an end as inspiring as its title. For children, it’s an adventure movie; for adults, it’s an adventure on a whole different level.

“Up” is a breezy kid’s fun yarn embedded in a sentimental grownup tale with serious consideration on love, death, and lives left behind. The “visual wow factor” can resonate more powerfully to the kids while the amusing brilliance as a sweet, gentle, and imaginative tale about grief and regret, purposes lost and rediscovered can resound more to the adults.

The opening sequence sits in silence, telling the story of young Carl and Ellie filled with emotions and alleviated by Michael Giacchino’s magnificent music transporting the viewers to a make-believe place. Tears fall at the end of this beginning to cast a spell over the willing audience. It hits the right notes as the musical score becomes practically a character in the film itself. The contemplative montage taking Carl from childhood to widowhood truly makes imaginations take flight. Director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson, along with all the talented people from Pixar, create such a palpable story while maintaining itself as a piece of expertly-rendered and artful type of entertainment.

Colors match the emotions seen on screen. Shapes and sizes in every frame promote such valuable storytelling subtexts like: the character design of Carl being very edgy while the designs of Ellie and Russel being full of curves.

The various characters balance the thrills and tenderness to make a truly beautiful and compelling work. The gruffy old widower Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner) ties thousands of balloons to his home and sets out to fulfill the lifelong dream initiated by his already departed wife Ellie (with the young Ellie heard in the film voiced by Elie Docter) to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn’t alone on his journey, since Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, becomes a stow away on the trip. As he finds himself reluctantly sharing his ride with the short-attention-spanned kid, he embraces the jungle adventure with more and more characters coming their way including the colorful, sweet-toothed bird Kevin, the talking dog Dug (voiced by Bob Peterson), and his childhood idol, the adventurer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer) with his pack of dogs led by Alpha (voiced by Bob Peterson).

“Up” has a genuine warmth of a true classic. It orchestrates itself into one truly unforgettable piece of animated film for all ages.

‘Up’ Film Review: Pixar goes up, up, and away
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Watchmen movie review

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Average

“Watchmen” is visually brilliant but flawed in certain ways. Nevertheless, this eye-poppingly faithful adaptation is a carefully crafted as a lavish cult movie. It spins a comic deemed unfilmable into a blockbuster epic for the specific admirers of the superhero genre and the fan base of the groundbreaking book from writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons. Grappling with the graphic novel’s multi-layered storyline, this dystopian film utilizes a deeply dark heart unmasking the world’s harsh realities.

“Watchmen” is no doubt a love letter to those who have been waiting for the film for the last two decades. The success of the acclaimed 1980’s graphic novel about moral relativity, the futility of life, the violent nature of man, and the deconstruction of the concepts of humanity and heroism have pushed this film into monumental anticipation. Director Zack Snyder brings the superhero-noir murder mystery to life through the aesthetic pleasure of reproducing the key scenes with storyboard-like fidelity. As a deconstructionist superhero flick, it generally works in making fans thrilled with its visual experimentation, radical mythology, psychologically rich idealism, and grand indulgence.

Overall, the mood and tone of the film is what most fans could hope for. As the cinematic version of one of the world’s most celebrated graphic novel, this sprawling motion picture stays faithful to the book. It trims and reshapes it to its prime essentials. It may not include every nuance in the graphic novel, but it gets to capture the basic requirements of the filmmaking medium. However, the overflowing technical energy leads to a power lost in terms of characterization and emotional engagement to the story. The technical brilliance upstages the other aspects of the film a bit too much.

The filmmakers lose sight of what could make a film effective more than just the faithful rendition and the audio-visual flair. The film lacks the emotional attachment for the audience to relate to the characters and the world they live in. While it is true that the fans who are clearly familiar with the characters and their alternate universe would find the film readily understood on screen, non-fans would find the non-superficial facets of the narrative a bit confusing. Indeed, this proves that a great source material, a respectful translation from graphic novel to film, a big budget, and an overflowing visual power are not enough to make a film live up to the greatest expectations for it.

Having such a complex narrative structure, it is quite understandable that this picture is weaved with less back stories and plotting compared to its book source. For cinematic purposes, significant changes are made in the script and what has actually worked out during the course of production. For some, especially to those who are not knowledgeable with the crucial details from the original material may find it a little difficult to get that same appeal the excited fans get. It could be a slightly different experience for anyone who does not know the book, especially since the interaction between the characters and their multi-layered sub-stories remain integral points to understanding the story. So, those who are not literally immersed in the 80’s era, the Cold War, and the book’s astonishing vision would find it a bit more difficult to get a full grasp of the story’s core.

Through impressive, computer-enhanced eye candy, the film’s pop-art fusion features its blood-stained smiley face well. Though it captures the look and feel of the novel, it still fails to totally engage its audience because its emotional center gets buried deep under its self-gratifying visual style. For all of the ferocious flashes of spectacular physicality, there are substantially-challenged parts that sometimes feel misapplied, overcranked, or too ramped up. Unable to measure up to the technical competence of the material, there is never enough time spent with moments of emotion and suspense to make the audience relate more with the characters’ undertakings.

“Watchmen” has moments of wonder. Not all of them work, but parts of them do. At some point, this cinematic piece feels artificially stylized — its soulless aspects hindering it from becoming great. It is bold and bloated, fascinating and flawed, stunning and scattered.

Amidst its flaws, the film is intense. It is backed up by the book’s fascinating and contemplative tale. Its philosophy and take on genre deconstruction keep up with its heavy, adult-themed plot. It has interesting social and political ideas in doing the ultimate sacrifice and making the world fall part, then putting things back together again with the Machiavellian ideology in mind. Indeed, it depicts itself as a self-styled parody of the world’s “true face” and the “big jokes” of the society.

Visually, this flick is a lavish and exciting screen translation reverential to Moore and Gibbons’ work. Filled with visceral action and powerful special effects, its dark world boasts of keen attention to physical details. The production design, art direction, and cinematography are gratifying. The rich and gorgeous palette and campy costumes are a sight to see. The original comics shines through Snyder’s approach to satisfy fans with a densely-packed motion picture experience. He puts a grimy and gritty, yet glossed pop culture feel to the picture. He tries to preserve other information by including a short “historical” opening title sequence, then he readily fills the screen with the visual treat he has become known for since he made the historical “300” in 2007. However, there is a disappointing part to it: he merely yields to his trademark shots in his Spartan opus without recreating his visionary style for an entirely new project — making them look like mere copies of his memorable “300” scenes. And so, the crucial scenes that merely feature copycat shots and elements never fully satisfy. But against considerable odds, the story’s dense and complex mythology remains.

Snyder’s direction clearly focuses on style and technique. The acting and thematic and emotional aspects of the storytelling suffer. The acting department is actually filled with talented performers. The billing for the “Watchmen” superheroes includes: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake/The Comedian; Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman; Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias; Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II; Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach; Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II; Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre; and Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason/Nite Owl. However, this talented bunch ends up rendering some wooden performances due to the story’s hollow and disjointed characterizations.

This visually striking “Watchmen” deserves credit for what a dozen of other directors have struggled to do — and never did — for the last 20 years.

‘Watchmen’ Film Review: Deconstructing the film in reference to the graphic novel
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[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

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Average

The swoony supernatural romance and the neo-horror motif of “Twilight” can both amuse and bemuse — depending on the type of viewer.

From the initial fans of the book to the newly-recruited fans of the Edward-Bella love team, the teen bite of the tale clearly gets into their veins. The formula for this movie’s charm is very much apparent. It offers that dose of ordinary girl-meets-extraordinary boy who turns out as the prince charming to the damsel in distress. It has key elements for romantic spree backed up by both physical and occult-ish appeals, providing enough escapism for its target audience. All these float to the surface of what is supposedly “just another overused teen love story,” which often times would not offer a record-breaking pursuit for blockbuster appeal.

This adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling teen novel focuses on a rehashed plot that merely shows what happens to the characters in every second of screen time, leaving no much room to grow their interactions beyond the emo-romance fare. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that this type of movie doesn’t work. In fact, it is pure fantasy for girls who want to be princesses — while having their bad boys by their side. Regardless of how questionnable its values are, this is really what makes this particular movie a successful new franchise. It is able to establish the needed teen moodscape where the chemistry between the main characters offers enough smoldering desire that the teen crowd would typically love.

This kind of romance flick is clearly geared towards those who enjoy straight-up unforbidden love, angst-filled behavior, and underage rebellion on screen. With a distinctly young sense of tragedy and sparkle, the pop material turns out effective in making its willing viewers crazy over a tale centering on two star-crossed lovers trying to bridge the gap between humans and vampires.

This movie promotes a defiant human-vampire dating fantasy with some girly swirl of obsession for the main audience’s delight. Interestingly so, it doesn’t try hard to be hip for its intended crowd. It is one vampire love affair where sharp teeth, cold hands, and supernatural powers require the viewer to sit back and enjoy the camp. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t work.

The weak CGI isn’t much of an obstruction for this picture to hit big at the box office. Not even the dodgy dialogue nor the lack of a more developed storyline can hinder its success. It may be quite a chore to endure for the unwilling victims; but for its hard-core fans, it sure carries everything well.

The cool references put accessible fangs to its lucrative teen hook-ups. Watch some vampires play baseball, drive the coolest cars, live in a classy glass mansion, climb trees taller than the penthouse of a city skyscraper, and glitter under sunlight. Indeed, it is the kind of vampire flick that can get its pop culture-stricken patrons excited and addicted. It turns out as a blatant attempt to cash in to the devotion of its die-hard followers with a door naturally left open for the next installment..

Director Catherine Hardwicke, along with screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, recreates a world where the heroine becomes obsessed with surrender and submission to a man who is constantly tempted to kill her. Now, that is one sucked-up subtext about culture and society that may be worth a psychological study.

This movie is like a vegetarian diet in the vampire movie canon. For those uninitiated and for those outsiders from the movie’s intended demographic, this kind of pop treat is plainly overused, dopey, and melodramatic. The jumble of cuts and pastes from the book, along with the music video bits, the often second-rate visual effects make the movie a hackneyed teenybopper show of synthetic affection.

As a vampire tale, the type of angst it plays around with remains too dull throughout its running tale that its own fangs turn out questionable, especially in the action side of things. There is a lot of build-ups but not much of resolution. The hokey dialogue may just be too much to bear. Unless one can get past the sloppiness and shallowness, there is no way to get really sucked in.

As a fantasy romance involving a self-loathing vampire and his sweet-blooded human beloved, its theme works well with the rising and falling teenage hormonal requirements. Focusing on the palpable chemistry of the main pair Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen to mesmerize the fans, they work well with playing around sidelong glances, twitchy rule-breaking escapades, and head-spinning rushes of the moment — which highlights their intangible yearning and romantic affection for each other. Amidst the overacting parts at times, their on-screen romantic charm really does it all for the movie.

The story best utilizes its principal tandem with such brooding romanticism. Stewart as the introvert Bella is somebody most teens could relate to as an average type with some fairly likeable attributes, a glum expression, and a risky attitude. Pattinson as the 100-ish pale guy with overly red lips and living on a deer blood diet is totally a hit for giggling fans who are completely fascinated with his furrowed eyebrows, crooked smiles, and cool hairstyles.

The members of the supporting cast, though at times looking too superficial for their pale vampire demeanor, generally deliver for the movie’s intentions: Bella’s father and mother Billy Burke as Charlie Swan and Sarah Clarke as Reneee Dwyer; the Cullen clan including Peter Facinelli as Dr. Carlisle Cullen, Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen, Elizabeth Reaser as Esme Cullen, Kellan Lutz as Emmet Cullen, Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Hale, and Nikki Reed as Rosalie Hale; the vampire antagonists including Cam Gigandet as James, Rachelle Lefevre as Victoria, and Edi Gathegi as Laurent; and Bella’s new school pals and family friends: Christian Serratos as Angela, Anna Kendrick as Jessica Stanley, Michael Welch as Mike Newton, Justin Chon as Eric Yorkie, Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, and Gil Birmingham as Billy Black.

This movie knows what it is meant for. Either one likes it or hates it. It has a sweetly idealistic charm on its own. It pleases its devoted fans, but does little for the uninitiated.

‘Twilight’ Film Review: That willing teen bite
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[Total: 1    Average: 1/5]

Deep Sea 3D movie review

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Average

If you have that fancy for scuba diving and underwater magic without getting wet, then the jaw-dropping experience of submerging into the coolest underground deserts and forests in “Deep Sea 3D” should be worth your while. Clocking in at around 40 minutes, this 3D offering showcases how the sights and sounds of the “real deep sea” becomes “cinematic magic.”

“Deep Sea 3D” is a real marvel in 3D filmmaking. The IMAX experience lets you sink way down for that amazing acquaintance with the grandeur of the deep seas and the spectacular IMAX 3D underwater cinematography. Indeed, with 3D images so crisp and engrossing, this movie takes you to another world that is filled with an array of both familiar and unfamiliar sea creatures. IMAX provides this privilege by transporting exotic sea creatures literally to your noses, ready to be touched by your own hands through the magic of cinema. Young and adults alike tend to share awe and delight in trying to feel those luminous moon jellyfish and shimmering glassy minnows upfront.

The fascinating tour of the oceans and the bizarre-looking life forms around the globe allows you to spend every moment “oohing” and “aahing” at the amazing life under the sea. You may find yourself gasping for air as the scenes keep enveloping you with that fascinating up-close-and-personal experience with some of the ocean’s irreplaceable treasures — both gently and wildly swaying down the deep blue seas.

This film may not provide the conventional thrills of a full-length narrative, but it is surprising how this documentary makes the ocean seem so intimately real that you really feel like swimming alongside the splendid coral reefs, friendly sharks, colorful school of fishes, deadly squids, thinking starfish, comic shrimps, character crabs, and monstrous octopus — all drifting to and from the currents of sheer underwater beauty.

“Deep Sea 3D” magically goes down the ocean floor with its gorgeous cinematography that in some ways, you can actually overlook the loose ends in the film’s structure. You start flowing in harmony with the underwater life forms. You start agreeing with the importance of symbiotic relationships among various species. You get more concerned about the violence humans do against nature. You become more conscious of the sad state in which humans leave the oceans and why humans should not upset nature’s delicate balance. This short film creates a vision of nature that many humans, at some point, would get to appreciate and would soon want to conserve and save the ocean’s natural resources.

More than its documentary thread, this motion picture’s beautiful underwater footage become its ultimate source of artistic leap. The visuals wrap themselves around a magical treat that entertains the eyes and touches the heart.

IMAX films like this may be expensive to produce, but this particular one is well worth it. With the charming and magical appeal of this short documentary in the company of the voices of Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, and most especially, the company of the many wonderful creatures of the sea world, this project shows the great potential of the relatively young IMAX 3D technology in the movie industry. The technology is clearly evolving and getting better. Although there are some minor annoyances and occasional drifts in the storytelling, this film is still one of the more solidly entertaining documentaries filmed in IMAX to date.

‘Deep Sea 3’ Film Review: Underwater magic at the movie theater
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This concert documentary offers an immersive experience simulating a front-row view and beyond of a U2 concert.

“U2 3D” is a spectacular, musically and visually superb experience simulating a front row view and beyond of a U2 concert, probably the closest you can get to the real thing at this point of time.

This concert film features cutting-edge technology that gives the viewers a better-than-front-row seat experiences as it establishes an uncommonly intimate and occasionally surreal bond between the legendary band and the audience.

Every development in the history of cinema has always been about making the experience more realistic, fun, and amazing. And for over a quarter-century, U2 has been recognized not only for their musical innovation, but for their incomparable gift on reaching to millions of fans through new technology; while keeping up with the band’s decades-spanning catalog of great music.

As the next best thing to attending a real concert with a ticket costing about ten or even a hundred times less, this 85 minutes of closely replicating the feeling of a live gig through 3D glory makes a solid rock experience that’s still quite new to the general film audience. Now, if you could just pipe in the smell of sweat, cigarette, pot, and beer, it would then be like going to a real concert with the bonus of meeting and seeing Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and The Edge performing upfront. Then, you go behind them or on top of them at the most impossible angles.

From the breathtaking close-ups and panoramas to the convincing nature of the latest 3D technology, you get to watch the band members playing from a vantage point 4 feet above their heads. You get to see them face to face while reaching out to the crowd. And you get to see a wave of rocking concert-goers moving in unison inside a massive stadium lit by thousands of cellphones. Add up the 3D shots of multiple band members at the same frame with the final cut with as many as five 3D layers: this dazzling concert film exudes the true spirit of a U2 show.

The 3D visuals and multi-layering effects envelop you with a drift that fuses with the band’s surround-sound rapture. With a sound quality that is no less than impeccable, it creates a full-scale sensory high with the pleasure of its showmanship.

The immersive marvel of the music and sound mix are electrifying. Truly, it transforms a great rock spectacle into something intimate as you become similarly immersed like the crowds filling the South American stadiums of U2’s 2007 Vertigo Tour as they go absolutely mad for U2 music. Their wildly infectious enthusiasm is very much apparent with their hands waving to the every beat. Indeed, marrying advanced 3D imagery and 5.1 Surround Sound with the unique excitement of a live U2 concert makes “U2 3D” such an incredible performance captured in a medium that attains unique aesthetics of immediacy and humanity from the powerful rock quartet. And all these make this 3D film the next best thing to actually being in a live concert as of today.

Directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, “U2 3D” makes the project more than just a nifty 3D experiment. It elevates itself into a rock solid redefinition of 3D live-action filmmaking. For now, it captures the premier band’s live shows in a way that no other medium could. And it boasts of a truly immersive experience that shows the undubbed and purely live recording performances of one of the greatest rock bands, together with several of the greatest rock audiences of the world.

Shot on a number of stage acts of U2 shows mainly in Latin America, the production employs the greatest number of 3D cameras ever used for a single project. It is the first digital 3D, multi-camera, and real-time production reflecting the band’s longstanding embrace to technology. Produced by 3ality Digital Entertainment, the film comprises footages from seven different concert performances. A massive undertaking, the filmmakers create live-motion collages emphasizing constant, overlapping, and evanescent dissolves as the curving runways allow Bono, Adam, Larry, and The Edge to move far out into the crowd and make more accessible angles for their various movements.

The 3D effects inclusive of the new trick of layering the visuals to simulate shifting your focus from foreground to background is successful in making you feel that Bono and the crew are within arm’s reach. While also offering plenty of footages of the rapturous crowd in a sight of a hundred thousand stoked fans, you get so close that you swoop towards Bono’s face and his outstretched hand surging through the screen and seizing your own. And to keep the 3D engagement for more than an hour of fun movie experience, the filmmakers also add animated versions of U2’s backdrop videos while capturing the ecstatic joy of a massive rock show (most notably a series of icons suggesting that the world’s major religions are one and presenting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

In some ways, this 3D concert film is considerably superior to a real concert. This may vary in many aspects and points of view of people. But what mainly makes this a better option is how the sound is perfected in post-production that what you hear from your seat is the best surround sound you can really get. Moreover, you get even closer to the band and even get on stage and beyond as the 3D images bring you to the most impossible angles and the best view of the performers that even the most pricey concert ticket wouldn’t be able to provide. Furthermore, you don’t have to put up with the rowdy drunks who may block your view or you can simply avoid hysterically sweaty and smoking crowds. For those safety points, there would also be less probability of mobs, stampedes, fights, and annoying crowd members in dope and alcohol. And amidst all these, “U2 3D” makes you feel like you’re there in the crowd. And at the same time, you’re as close as you can get to being on stage with U2.

Personally, the strangers on my left while watching the film at IMAX were really enjoying the concert experience with their waving hands holding on to their lit toys and cellphones. And they were standing and moving to every beat while the visuals allow every person watching to see the band floating above the fans and riding their energy. And I found myself singing and shouting like I would probably do in a concert as well!

“U2 3D” is a world-class live act in its finest as of its release. Taking viewers in an extraordinary cinematic journey beyond the traditional concert film experience, it has a top potential in revolutionizing digital 3D technology. The 3D format may go a long way just like how technology has developed the 2D film as of today. And with the living legend U2 pioneering on this new kind of film experience, the epic nature of the U2 songs and stage acts blend them perfectly to this larger-than-life treatment for a band composed of masterful rock performers in their top form.

‘U2 3D’ Film Review: A concert experience for the price of an IMAX ticket
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The Bucket List movie review

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A dramedy working on a very simple premise and favoring humor and poignant conversations over weepy developments, “The Bucket List” is a heartfelt, wickedly funny film about two dying men who travel the world to discover the joy in their lives.

Choosing to treat its serious theme on the lighter side may not inspire thorough philosophical introspection about mortality, but it can mildly make you re-examine your life priorities. And the film is undoubtedly elevated by the performances of two acting powerhouses: the angry and antic Jack Nicholson as Edward Cole and the laid back and serene Morgan Freeman as Carter Chambers.

This motion picture fills its bucket with enormous skill and presence through its two leads. It generates both humor and drama about two terminally ill men who heads off outdoors to go for a trip around the world and explore a wish list of to-do’s before they die. They go on a round-the-world junket towards their dream places including the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Mount Everest and the Great Wall of China. They indulge and splurge with an Abercrombie and Kent luxury travel with “Hemingway-style” tents complete with lush carpets, flush toilets and lavish beds. They go sky diving in Perris Valley in Los Angeles. And they experience the best cars to ever drive including a 600-horsepower NASCAR-style race car in the California Speedway in Fontana.

Director Rob Reiner is often successful in eliminating the too sweet taste of sentimentality by allowing the two acting heavyweights to coast through their characters without having to do much heavy hitting. Their companionable roles transcend the typical material into a reasonably entertaining venture. Their gracefully charismatic portrayals celebrate an enthralling character study about the universal things that really matter in life. Their poignant exchanges elevate the film to the point that you would probably ignore the contrivances of the film and just go with the flow as the two actors squeeze the right emotions for the film. Indeed, their excellent chemistry, along with the dialogue that is hilarious even while it borders on the heartbreaking, goes a long way towards a decent and reasonable entertainment.

The film is treated very lightly, which is effectively carried out by the inimitable techniques of Nicholson and Freeman. Nicholson’s Edward Cole proudly wears a billionaire hospital owner character who is filled with sarcasm and cynicism. Freeman’s Carter Chambers accentuates his knack for worldly, wise, and good-natured characters offering homespun bits of wisdom at every turn. Sean Hayes as Thomas adds a dose of fun to the interactions of Edward and Carter. From the comedy parts to the strikingly dramatic moments (mainly the scenes of Edward and Carter, Carter and his wife Virginia played by Beverly Todd, and Edward and his estranged daughter and granddaughter), the film becomes meaningful and affecting.

“The Bucket List” flows naturally. It becomes a sort of an escapist movie minus the ultimate happy ending. Amidst the deaths, it does not exude itself as a tragic film. There are the expected mortality issues, and yet, what really fills the story is the human companionship that makes life worth living. Despite some emotional dips and loads of schmaltz especially by its end, this is an enthralling actor’s movie.

‘The Bucket List’ Film Review: Filling the Bucket
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A romantic drama set in the gambling world of Las Vegas, “Lucky You” tells the story of Huck Cheever (Eric Bana), a happy-go-lucky bachelor whose life revolves around the green felt poker tables. In between his games, he also confronts his personal conflicts including his problematic relationship with his father.

The film gives a gist of how poker works. It makes the game look generally interesting and less “sinful.” However, for somebody who is not knowledgeable in playing poker at all, it’s hard to catch up with the basic mechanics of the game while watching the film. It straightforwardly shows the grueling world of gambling and betting as the various characters inside this realm create a whole new world of their own. While within the high-stakes back-drop of Las Vegas, they bring us a gist of stories about human relationships, inhabiting a number of snapshots of personal dramas that unfold in every laying out of the cards.

The front story is clear — Huck is a hotshot poker player whose emotions at the table often gets the better of him, amidst his really exceptional skills, especially when he goes heads up with his estranged father, a living legend in the poker world and a two-time world champion L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall). While living a life without clear direction, he meets the struggling singer Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore). From then on, he finds himself keeping up with something more than just poker.

The boy-meets-girl premise clearly features a romantic story in the making. Within the film’s physicality lies a character-driven story based on the usual formula for a Hollywood narrative.

Huck deals with life through his instincts. This enables him to take advantage of his opponents at the poker table. Meanwhile, Billie uses intuition to see the truth and sympathize with what she sees around. As they fall in love, the turn of events shows how their instincts play big parts in their lives. However, their biggest difference becomes more apparent: Huck is a very talented man who uses his instincts to win the games while expertly avoiding emotional connections and long-term commitments at the same time; while Billie lacks talent but she uses her instincts to open her heart while becoming emotionally connected for the sake of what is right and what is good. These two people who are clearly looking for better lives try to gamble for love in a narrative filled with drama, humor, and metaphors.

The characters inhabit certain personalities while following the tried and tested mainstream formula of the main character overcoming adversity and succeeding in the end for that feel good effect. At some point, the film tries to cut the predictable formula by turning a bit away from its predictable twists; however, the mere breaking of it turns out quite syrupy and formulaic still.

With “L.A. Confidential,” “Wonder Boys,” “8 Mile,” and “In Her Shoes” under his belt, director Curtis Hanson tries to keep the story character-driven. Working with scriptwriter Eric Roth (the man behind the Academy Award winning script of “Forrest Gump”), he tends to make the general interior scenes within the poker tables and well-lit hotels and casinos interesting enough for both the big-time and real-life gamblers and those curious ones who are not that familiar with the gamblers’ domain.

‘Lucky You’ Film Review: A poker life
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Provocative and absorbing but without any pronouncement, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is a thinking person’s demon possession film. This hybrid of horror and courtroom drama approaches its compelling subject matter with metaphysical horror within a courtroom procedure format. It presents both the scientific and religious sides of the controversial exorcism case of a 19-year old German girl battling a terribly neurotic or psychotic disorder or a dreadful possession of six demons. It discusses the intersection of faith and science and makes both a person’s mundane and spiritual foundations shake.

This relatively gore-free film is an intelligent inquiry about the limitations of belief and faith in defense to a more scientific interpretation of things. Though the marketing of the film obviously tried to ride on with the prominence of Linda Blaire’s “Exorcist” films, it is not exactly a rip-off. Its flashback style gives justification to the courtroom set, which paves way to a more solid ground of putting arguments in their own places. This validates the aim to make the audience think and really use their heads in coming up with their own judgments concerning faith and spirituality vs. objective truth and secularism.

This psychological thriller presents both the scientific and supernatural insights in the case of Emily Rose, which is based on the true-story of the life of Anneliese Michel. Overall, it is more psychological than the horror an audience expects for an exorcism movie. Unlike the usual demonic-possession movies wallowing in the gore of green vomit, 360 degrees head turn, and levitations, this film stays in the natural world with its own kind of realistic sense of gore and trauma. But still, the subtle but striking supernatural and horror elements presented here tend to give goosebumps of another level.

The story evolves around a negligent homicide case involving Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) who has performed an exorcism to the late Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Ironically, the church chooses hotshot criminal attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), an agnostic and ambitious lawyer, to take on as the defense attorney. On the other side of the courtroom is the prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a devout Protestant.

Jennifer Carpenter’s incredible performance is the film’s major asset. Seeing Emily possessed as she shouts latin words in demonic voices, scratches walls with her nails, twitches robotically and falls to the ground so realistically, is absolutely terrifying. From her physical features to her acting chops, she turns out perfect for the role. Her twitching and snappy moves when possessed or when having unusual epileptic attacks, the way the doctor and the prosecutor see it, require great physical skills and are considerably stunts of great proportion — and they all turn out so creepy.

The subtle parallelism of Emily’s experiences to the physical manifestations of the dark forces on defense lawyer Linney as Bruner makes an effective ground on inquisitive prodding of objectivity, insanity, and spirituality. It adds cinematic dimension to the film without going too much. Her ending speech is commendable. Its content could have been a melodramatic monologue without Linney’s acting prowess. Wilkinson gives a dignified performance as the embattled priest. He plays the character well as he exudes his faith in God in battling the dark, powerful forces surrounding Emily Rose even until the court trial. However, Scott’s interpretation of his role as the prosecutor makes him more like an antagonist. He could have performed the role more objectively and not in a too antagonistic way. Emily’s family and close friend Jason effectively stays on the background, yielding to the story’s focus on the trial and the real reason for Emily’s death. The internal struggle of each character shakes the viewers’ own physical and supernatural struggles as human beings.

“The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is not for those who want gore “Linda Blaire-style.” The type of scare it brings doesn’t rely on horror stingers and music and physical gore. Its utilization of silence speaks much more. The devil’s presence is simply a shadowy figure in a robe. The scare factor includes simple movements of door, flickering lights, breaking glass, and animals going crazy over fear of the devilish presence. The most scenes that rely on some visual effects just include the slight morphing of images and human faces.

Playing around basic lighting and camerawork, the juxtaposition of shots of Emily during the build-up of the possession and exorcism scenes where the demons manifest themselves in Emily’s physical body and mention their names turn out very engaging both cinematically and spiritually — minimalist, yet striking.

As a cinematic presentation, it could have added some dramatic license to the storytelling, but the good thing about the film is that it presents the two opposing sides quite well. It makes the audience think about the possibility of a demon possession but leaves room for one’s own judgment, whether it’s really a spiritual or a physical battle. And yet, it doesn’t end there. This motion picture imparts an engaging issue about life and spirituality for the audience to think about.

‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ Film Review: Courtroom psychological horror
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Behind its eerie theme, Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” presents a morbid and romantic trip between the cold dwelling place of the living and the colorful nderground world of the dead. Fun, genial, expressive, and charming, this semi-musical stop-motion piece is set at death’s door, saluting the liberating power of true love and sacrifice.

The story revolves around a young groom-to-be who mistakenly weds a girl from the grave and complicates his upcoming marriate to the womaan he loves.

The directors paint death as a more colorful plane of existence compared to life, as literally shown on the visuals — a bitterly cold presentation of the world of the living as compared to the colorful and musically vivid world of the rotting flesh. It turns out there is more life at the dead’s company.

The engaging story, the expressionistic visuals, and the heart for the very statement it wants to insinuate make an overall witty animated tale. It is whimsical yet eerie, funny but melancholic. On a light, side-splitting note, it promotes a necrophiliac entertainment which can find a good place at the hearts of people who like watching a pile of bones set in an ironic and animated space, whether or not it is the Halloween season.

Tim Burton, along with co-director Mike Johnson, ventures into the world of stop-motion animation for this motion picture, rendering that tedious job of hand-manipulating characters that move incrementally to be shot frame by frame.

So how tedious can this work be? A film is a moving picture. Each frame is shot. Each shot becomes 1 frame. From 1 frame to another, the movements are incrementally shown over a certain period of time. For a TV show, there are generally 30 fps (frames per second). In film, the standard is 24fps. Taking it from here, one can just imagine the challenge of shooting each frame of “Corpse Bride” with 24 shots to be done for a 1-second clip of the film, 48 shots for a 2-second clip, and so on. Each frame is carefully shot with human hands, rightfully moving the different parts of the body of each character for 1 frame, then move all the body parts very incrementally to shoot the next frame and make sure everything complements the previous movement of one particular character. Each frame requires very dexterous hands moving the subject creatively and effectively. According to IMDB.com, instead of film cameras, tthe filmmakers used 31 commercial digital still photography cameras, particularly the Canon EOS-1D MARK 2 SLR, interestingly with Nikon lenses.

The musical score by Danny Elfman, just like Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter who are Burton’s frequent collaborators, makes a delightful mix of flight of fancy for the film. A stylistic and touching moment to create a more human tone on the love story is shown in many ways as the accurately presented piano scene of Victor and the Corpse Bride. Overall, the musical parts are very flourishing. As usual, Burton’s team makes up a new world out of the dark and expressionistic style Burton is known for.

The story is not as refined as the usual art-house works. But this film makes a poetic form out of what it has. Its minor flaws are easily overlooked as the eyes roll over its Burtonesque-style of storytelling. Its imaginatively done puppetry promotes a dark and grand fairy tale brimming with quirky characters and gothic sets.

“Corpse Bride” is a darkly enchanting tale about the celebration of love that is told in a quirky, gothic, and ironic style. It has the courage to address issues about love and sacrifice and life and death in a shadowy, poetic, and creatively bizarre way.

‘Corpse Bride’ Film Review: A charming grave fairy tale
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If you think Hogwarts is the only secret school for extraordinary kids, well there’s also the heroic children’s world of “Sky High.” This film is a hybrid superhero flick: “The Incredibles” meets the “X-Men” via “Harry Potter.” It may be a Disney flick with a big celebration of superhero cliches; but it is entertaining enough for its target market. As a derivative, it never claims to be genuinely superior to its more successful blockbuster sources. Despite having a mediocre and formulaic script, it still turns out as an engaging family movie.

Exploring the lives of emerging superheroes during the time called “coming of age,” it is a lightweight adventure that dwells into the themes of puberty, popularity and family acceptance (living up to the issues of celebrity parents or parents who excel at their chosen professions and expect their children to excel in the same field as well).

The story builds up at a secret school up in the clouds named Sky High, an elite school for kids with superhero parents and superpowers themselves. The freshmen group rides a bus towards the campus and gets a sight of cool gadgetry and awe-inspiring superskills amidst some parental battles, peer pressure,and teenage love moments.

Living their high-school life in a cloud-floating campus, the teens are at the peak of discovering their superpowers. These include a rock monster, an acid spitter, a glow in the dark boy, a vegetation commander, a beautiful and popular senior technopath, two bullying boys with superspeed and superelasticity, a snooty cheerleader, a dangerous rebel with flammable arms, animal-morphing, beach ball-morphing, and puddle-morphing kids, and lots of other teens with superpowers. Further exaggerations are seen with their professors such as the forgotten-sidekick and formerly known All-American Boy who is now the dorky mad science teacher with a gigantic brain.

Living up to the people’s expectations, Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is pressured by the fact that his father, the Commander (Kurt Russell), and his mother, Jetstream (Kelly Preston), are the world`s most legendary superheroes. At Sky High, the freshies are divided into two classes by a cruel gym teacher (reminds us of Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat): the Heroes and the Sidekicks/Hero Support. Initially, the mundane Will joins the ranks of the Sidekicks as a late bloomer who apparently shows no signs of special powers inherited from his parents. Upon hitting the peak of his superhero puberty, he finally inherits his dad’s colossal strength and even his mom’s ability to fly. His outcast days are over as part of the Sidekick class whose gifts aren’t adequately impressive, as far as the school standards are concerned. As the inevitable villain plot endangers Will’s parents and the whole Sky High, he and his teenage superfriends (a group of freshmen sidekicks plus his former arch-rival Warren Peace (Steven Strait), take the hero’s path to save Sky High.

The movie kicks off with bright, comic-strip panels and tries to wrap up in the same way. It is a combination of mild teen melodrama, quirky characters, and superhero fantasy revolving around the tragedies of high-school life. The discrimination within the superhero hierarchy (heroes and sidekicks) involves both emotional and practical concerns. It manages to put some undertones in putting catchphrases such as “hero support.”

Scene transitions feature the classic use of tilted camera shots and contemporary B-movie style CGIs to heighten the movie in a not so distracting fashion. Effects are seemingly spent within a limited budget — having no big-time intro and finish to boast of. Ironically, this works for the movie’s advantage as there is no much distraction from the plot mechanics. The superhero costumes are deliberately “action-figurey.” The script is completely dependent on formula, superhero conventions, and standard teen movie cliches. Yet, its undemanding tone gets a certain charisma for the enjoyment of its targeted young viewers.

“Sky High” is classic Disney filmmaking. It crosses the superhero saga with a kiddie-flick charisma designed to bring delight to the young. This is a bright, fanciful, and warm-hearted flick fitting a family day.

‘Sky High’ Film Review: Soaring high school heroes and sidekicks
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Let the Love Begin movie review

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“Let the Love Begin” is GMA Films’ comeback movie after a four-year hiatus. The film outfit’s last movie before it was the 2000 film “Death Row.” Prior to this, they produced a few other projects including “Jose Rizal,” “Sa Pusod ng Dagat,” and “Muro Ami” — all of which were given due credit by a number of award-giving bodies. But this time, GMA Films comes back with a light love story that is quite different from its usual roster of cinematic offerings.

“Let the Love Begin” hangs on such a simple premise that is pretty much scripted into contrivance throughout. The story spans a very long time frame and the way the scenes unfold on screen doesn’t employ much credibility. Except for the fresh faces, everything looks recycled. It’s the same old story, same elements, same formula. The movie presents generic dialogue with highlights including a dramatic scene with rain effect. The conflict involves parents who are against their children’s romantic engagements. Not to say that these would automatically render any movie worthless, but the fact that it doesn’t add any new flavor or statement to at least put a bit more flair to the storytelling, this overused love story really looks worn out — it is as if it merely relies on its bankable stars to get an audience. Perhaps…

The narrative traces the main characters’ lives from their high school years to their careers in the corporate world. Its straightforward love story features the usual poor boy meets rich girl tale. Eric (Richard Gutierrez), a brainy orphan raised by his grandmother (Gloria Romero), works as a janitor in a school where he attends night classes. Meanwhile, Pia (Angel Locsin) radiates an Elle-type of character in “Legally Blonde” less Elle’s intellect. Rich, spoiled, and more interested in gimmicks than studying, this “socialized kikay” is raised by her father (Tonton Gutierrez) and no information about her mother gets revealed in the narrative. Their romance turns out as predictable as it can get. Then, from nowhere comes the text shown on screen saying “after five years.” Time suddenly passes. No creative or thematic transitions whatsoever. This time, Eric, still nursing a wounded heart when Pia studied in the United States, is still a janitor and he is working in Pia’s company.

The movie’s second love story concerns Luigi (Mark Herras), a high-school playboy who ignores his tomboyish best friend Alex (Jennylyn Mercado). Again, time suddenly passes. No creative or thematic transition whatsoever. This time, after college, Alex blooms into an attractive young photographer and she wins the heart of the former womanizer Luigi.

This formulaic piece primarily shows a predictable series of events where slow-motion effects add that “pa-cute and pakilig factor” for the consumption of the main cast’s fans. In fact, the storytelling focuses too much on this that the script lapses and production flaws get worse as the story moves on.

The Tagaytay breather gives a light relief to the tiring and annoying elements in the movie. The “kilig factor” for the savior Eric and his beloved Pia fuel such a saccharine moment, particularly on the latter part of the narrative. To be fair to its being a clearly fan-made piece more than anything else, its mainstream ingredients are aptly engineered to make the fans swoon and scream, rooting for the love teams on screen as expected.

This fan movie is reminisent of the romantic offerings of the 1980s. It breathes life to its tired story by adding a heavy dose of crowd-pleasing commercial elements for the masses to consume.

Eveything in this picture from the story and dialogue to the camera shots and blocking work like a teenybopper TV show — only that, it’s expensively shot on 35mm film. Bit players move back and forth at the background in unrealistic ways. Blocking problems abound. There’s a man walking to his house, then he goes out, goes from one side of the frame to the opposite frame at every cue, and so on. A number of backgrounders including one inside the church look very conscious in every screen appearance. This goes to show that the production only prioritizes the main cast and those bit players serve as mere props on screen — which isn’t an ideal thing to do in a filmmaking endeavor. In terms of putting value to film language, all elements big or small in a scene should work hand in hand in setting up the frame — or at least avoid the annoyance of seeing backgrounders uselessly walking back and forth on the same shot.

Actors just provide lip service with their speaking lines. Tension-filled and dramatic scenes don’t even make the most sensitive viewer get a faster heartbeat.

This movie has nothing much to offer for the evolving taste of moviegoers. Nevertheless, in keeping with the tried-and-tested formula, this mainstream flick uses the chemistry between Gutierrez and Locsin in order to reach their targeted fans for a generic romantic ride.

‘Let the Love Begin’ Film Review: Taking the generic ride
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Dreamboy movie review, Star Cinema

Direction
Story & Screenplay
Cinematography
Production Design
Sound & Music
Editing
VFX/Animation (if any)
Acting/Voice Acting
Average

“Dreamboy” is a commercial treat targeting those who want to get a pinch of love from a feel-good romantic tale. It talks about a game of chances in love. So much risks at stake. Yet, as the cliche goes, “Love conquers all.” It turns out that the story springs up from the fact that TV networks are going gaga over reality shows’ newfound potential for better TV ratings.

The film reveals a usual girl-meets-boy premise backed up with a slightly fresh flow of storytelling. The major plotpoints kick off with the romantic meet-ups between the clueless spectator Cyd (Bea Alonzo) and the ideal guys Phillip, Eboy, and Jaime (Piolo Pascual). The movie’s massive publicity and promotions make it a point not to dwell much with this romantic comedy flick’s narrative structure so as not to break the suspense for people watching it on the big screen.

“Dreamboy” plunges into the domain of the salesgirl Cyd, an ultimate fanatic of romance novels. She is in constant search for her “dreamboy,” her soulmate, as how her pocketbooks suggest. Soon, she meets Phillip, the son of the owner of the supermart where she works. In the next few days, their encounter leads to a whirlwind romance. But it turns out their fairytale readily needs to end as complications between their economic differences confront them.

While still mending a broken heart, Cyd meets the adventurous, athletic, and “kanto boy-type” Eboy. Cyd sees uncanny resemblance between Phillip and Eboy. Eboy’s rugged personality as a guy who says and acts what he wants without much thinking takes over a new space in Cyd’s heart. As they go through several thrilling adventures together, Cyd falls for the rough guy. But just when she is ready to submit to her feelings for him, she feels betrayed upon learning about her new man’s past escapades with other women.

While trying to get over both Phillip and Eboy, Jaime pops into Cyd’s birthday bash. Though she sees some similarities and a few doubts among the three guys, she keeps her thoughts to herself. As Cyd and Jaime spend more time with each other in Jaime’s rural hometown, their love starts blossoming in par with nature’s wonders. From here, the story gets clearer as it continues to unveil the reality TV show behind the poor victim Cyd. It turns out that Cyd’s search for her dreamboy is actually a molded scenario for a TV station’s reality search.

The script dwells in the emotions presented in life’s harsh realities. The story talks about the dream of finding true love and the sincerity that pushes it forward. It starts with a rather ordinary romantic storyline, dialogue, and treatment, but it ends in a not entirely predictable way. It shows the interesting facets of Cyd’s dreamy, romantic character coming to life as his dreamboy of the moment creates a colorful world for the two of them — each time.

This rom-com offering’s production design compliments its glossy cinematography, which is, as expected, in line with the traditionally glossy Star Cinema look. Pinks and yellows work as highlights in the many scenes’ bright and pastel combinations. Targeting the hopeless romantic audience, the dreamy, fairytale-esque moments set in picturesque locations promote a feel-good effect crafted for mass consumption.

However, the production design lacks consistency. The screen is always filled with saturated elements and fillers including paintings, “kikay things,” frames, cloths, and furniture. There is no much room for vacant spaces. Overtly done to make the set a seemingly designed structure in favor of the camera, the scenes exude a contrived and somewhat fake-looking sense of space. Worse, some shocking props shown inside the room of the girly and romance-stricken Cyd are just horrible. An establishing shot of Cyd’s room before showing her on frame reveals a cloth or a sort of painting of “Che Guevarra,” plus another clearly similar shot showing a print with the appalling combination of words like “I am a Hippie.” Generally, there is nothing wrong with such elements — except if they clearly don’t coincide with the character’s established personality. In the case of Cyd’s characterization, there is no sign of a hippie Cyd. In fact, there is no single suggestion of her being a punk or a non-conformist type of lady. It’s as if these elements are simply utilized as props either because the production people personally like them or they think the colors or shapes of these props can simply fill up the vacant spaces seen on frame — without any concern on reponsible storytelling.

Throughout, the movie remains mostly cut to cut from one scene to the next. Many shots promote mass appeal. Camerawork is typical for a motion picture meant to push the button for the audience’s love story-escapism mode. The tight shots typically utilize slow-motion effects to add that generic romantic flair.

With the wide demography and mass appeal of the current “teleserye” princess Bea Alonzo and the quintesseShe exudes the modern and “non-pakipot” type of female character.ntial heartthrob Piolo Pascual, they deliver a considerably fine charisma and rapport as a screen pair.

Though Cyd is a hopeless romantic, she is a smart girl and a fighter who knows how to play the game even while in the midst of emotional conflict. She exudes the modern and “non-pakipot” type of female character. She is not a shallow character capsulized with that traditional Maria Clara stance or passive Cinderella persona. She doesn’t yield to the fall upon learning that she is a victim of a reality TV show.

The characters Phillip, Eboy, and Jaime become effective stimuli to unveil the hibernating colors in Cyd’s character. The depth of these two major characters further develops as the story pushes forward.

The voiceovers are not very catchy at first. But as the tale progresses, they become justifiable. However, some plot mechanics raise questions left unanswered in a satisfying manner by the film’s end.

Sponsors, tie-ups, and x-deals are very much apparent in the movie. More often than not, the product shots of hair and grocery products, brands of clothes, among others get too much attention on screen. Not bad if subtly, strategically, and creatively done, but the production usually goes way overboard that the said elements already feel like serious storytelling distractions.

This motion-picture project can work like an experiment for its producer — whether such premise for a reality show could actually be done and how the masses would probably take it.

‘Dreamboy’ Film Review: Magic word — reality romance
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