Tag Archives: movie review

Dark Shadows

I have never seen the original Dark Shadows, so I am coming in to this with only the trailers giving me pre-conceived notions. Being a Johnny Depp and Tim Burton vehicle, I expected more. All I could mange was a few giggles and stifle even more yawns.

Barnabus’ (Johnny Depp) family came to America in 1750 to expand their fishing business. The expansion was a success and the town was named Collinsport. Barnabas becomes a man, and Angelique  falls in love with him. She expresses her love to Barnabus, but it is unrequited. He instead falls in love with Josette. Angelique kills Barnabas’ parents, causes Josette to kill herself and curses him to be a vampire. (From what I have learned about vampire lore from books and other movies, a vampire is not created by casting a spell.) At some point after the curse, Angelique gets a mob to attack and bury the monster. He is set free in 1972 to find the family business and estate in ruins. Angie and her “ancestors”, have been running the company that has dominated Collinsport since Barnabas had “gone away.” (They neglected to say who exactly took over the business as the principal players were out of commission.)

The story seems to be based on 3 shaky topics- showing how comically out of place Barnabas is, needless sex references (specifically with Angelique [Eva Green] &  Doctor Hoffman), and depicting how obsessed Angelique is. More on this later…

The other players had potential to add to the story that was never explored, or was left on the virtual cutting room floor. It felt like everyone was just a backdrop to support Depp’s greatness. Here’s who we could have learned more about:

David Collins (Gulliver McGrath) – Descendant of Barnabas who is considered troubled because he can see and speak to ghosts, specifically his dead mother.

Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) – She is the consistently hung over, onsite psychiatrist who has been treating David for his “condition.” (There doesn’t seem to be much of a condition, except in the conversations about it.)

Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) – David’s never present dad. We do learn one more important thing about his character later…

Carolyn Stoddard (Chloë Grace Moretz) – David’s older sister. A 15 yr old growing up in an unquestionably crazy situation, with nowhere to turn.

Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) – David’s nanny, as if having your own live in doctor is not enough.

Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) – The drunken, underutilized caretaker.

David’s mother (Josephine Butler) – Or should I say the ghost of. She was introduced to us as a child masquerading as a ghost. A ghost in a sheet. Really? I think they wrote her in so she could be recalled to help add absolutely nothing to the haphazard, confusing ending.

What I took away from this is that no matter how powerful, successful, pretty or smart a woman is, she can still be monumentally crazy. 200 years after Barnabus’ imprisonment, Angie has built an empire, is (still) a witch, and haves whatever she wants. Except the love of a single man. When she learns that Barnabas has risen, she attempts to get him back.

I don’t know where Tim was headed with this one, but he missed the exit.

NSA

No Strings Attached is supposed to be “every” guy’s, and some women’s best fantasy… This concept is repeatedly verbalized by the supporting characters of Eli (Jake M. Johnson)and Wallace (Ludacris). In case you are unaware, NSA means having sex with no commitment or expectations.

The first 10 minutes begin with a mix of caring, boldness, and comedic subtlety that I have not seen in a while. Unfortunately, it was not maintained… As this was directed by Ivan Reitman, I was expecting a bit more. While I didn’t not enjoy this movie, (yes, that was a double negative), let’s just say I am waiting for the unrated DVD.

The story actually begins 15 years ago, when Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are teenagers at summer camp. Frome there, they have a few random (non sexual) encounters until “current day.” Emma is in residency, and anybody who has seen Scrubs knows that doctors-to-be do not have a lot of free time. The morning AFTER a hard night of drinking on Adam’s part, and an early morning hookup with Emma, the NSA plan is formed. From here we descend into romantic comedy territory with mostly familiar scenes and the required montage.

Back to supporting characters… I really wanted to see more of them. More Eli, Wallace, Shira (Mindy Kaling), and Patrice (Greta Gerwig). The friends surrounding the relationship had quite a bit of potential in themselves that was never utilized. Most notably, Wallace. I don’t remember if we even found out his name on screen. Why use a character like Ludacris, and have his most memorable line be, “Look at my face.” I’m not saying he is the most talented person in Hwood, but I doubt he is cheap, and I know he has more range than what we saw here.

Maybe I had too many expectations… The teeth I was hoping this film would have just didn’t sustain. How edgy can this topic be anymore? Craigslist has a whole section dedicated to it. Natalie Portman continues her determined walk away from the perceived girl next door image, (If she ever had one. Especially after The Professional and Black Swan), with some stimulating scenes. I will give kudos to the period playlist… (I don’t consider this a spoiler as it is listed on the official website). Overall, NSA was sufficiently entertaining, even if my sides were not in pain from laughing the whole way through.

Avatar

Avatar

Avatar is finally here.
The short of it is, for the most part, this movie is definitely worth the hype! The long of it is, Avatar is by no means an original story. It is an amalgamation of familiar stories, transported to an whole different arena, and executed VERY well. Avatar is a combination of every love story you have ever seen, meets The Matrix, meets Platoon, meets Aliens, meets human ignorance and arrogance.
The year is 2154, and humans are still obsessed with greed and, well, that’s pretty much it. Except now they have expanded that greed across the galaxy to Pandora. A rich deposit of ore that is key to solving the earth’s energy crisis  lies beneath “Hometree,” a giant tree one of clans of the indigenous population called the “Na’vi,” inhabit.
Jake (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic Marine who is recruited to drive an Avatar after his twin brother dies on earth. An Avatar is a genetic Na’vi and human hybrid that allows its human driver to survive the toxic air of Pandora (they are DNA specific, hence the twin brother). His mission is to infiltrate the Na’vi, get them to trust him and do what he can to facilitate the relocation peacefully. On his first night out, Jake is separated from his science teammates, saved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and is allowed to meet the tribe and learn their ways.
At this point, the familiarity ensues. Jake, the “baby,” learns their native language, to hunt, survive in the harsh yet lovely environment, literally bond with the creatures of the planet, and that it is wrong to wipe out another species for profit. The social references are not veiled as earth’s history replays in my head…
Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) scientifically proves that everything on Pandora is intertwined and EVERYTHING lives in harmony. Of course the business and military contingents of the mission do not want to hear any of it. For all they care, the Na’vi could be second cousins asking for a loan. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is the corporate representative that is almost as eager as Colonel Miles Quatrich (Stephen Lang) to destroy the Na’vi. (Think Carter Burke from Aliens on steroids). When the clash takes place, it is what the battle for Endor should have been. No cute and furry Teddy Bears, but real Warriors defending their home and fighting for the right to exist.
The visual eye candy, “real” and animated, is redonkulous! You’re in space, you’re in the dirt, you’re in the trees! (literally) If Avatar does not win any awards other than the most expensive movie made to date, then we know the fix is in. The epic value may be a bit grandiose at times, but it is worth it to see the imagination and creativity that went into creating Pandora. Floating mountains, lush landscapes, towering waterfalls, and creatures I wish really do exist, are brought to life with millions of zeros and ones.
The performances from everyone are believable, even Marine Grunt #12 was giving it his all. Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez-a hottie in any movie!) is the Marine with a heart who “didn’t sign on for this shit.” Some of the other actors don’t have it as easy as she… I think it speaks volumes when the emotion transcends the boundary of being a digitally animated 9′ blue warrior on a fictional planet, and I actually “care.”
I actually found the 3D a little distracting at times. Yes, they shoot the arrows at the camera. Yes, leaves fall toward the lens. Yes, they fly headlong through huge CG trees at breakneck speeds and every other 3D trick we remember from the 80′s. If you can’t see it in 3D, don’t worry, it will not take away from the core experience.
Avatar is to animation, is what The Matrix was to special effects in 1999. It is undeniably ground breaking, definitely inspiring, and has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what the next step will be. And at a running time of 150, I am curious to see what could possibly be in the director’s cut…

James Cameron’s Avatar is finally here.

The short of it is, for the most part, this movie is definitely worth the hype! The long of it is, Avatar is by no means an original story. It is an amalgamation of familiar stories, transported to an whole different arena, and executed VERY well. Avatar is a combination of every love story you have ever seen, meets The Matrix, meets Platoon, meets Aliens, meets human ignorance and arrogance.

The year is 2154, surprisingly, humans are still obsessed with greed and, well, that’s pretty much it. Except now they have expanded that greed across the galaxy to Pandora. A rich deposit of ore that is key to solving the earth’s energy crisis  lies beneath “Hometree,” a giant tree one of clans of the indigenous population called the “Na’vi,” inhabit.

Jake (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic Marine who is recruited to drive an Avatar after his twin brother dies on earth. An Avatar is a genetic Na’vi and human hybrid that allows its human driver to survive the toxic air of Pandora (they are DNA specific, hence the twin brother). His mission is to infiltrate the Na’vi, get them to trust him and do what he can to facilitate the relocation peacefully. On his first night out, Jake is separated from his science teammates, saved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and is allowed to meet the tribe and learn their ways.

At this point, the familiarity ensues. Jake, the “baby,” learns their native language, to hunt, survive in the harsh yet lovely environment, literally bond with the creatures of the planet, and that it is wrong to wipe out another species for profit. The social references are not veiled as earth’s history replays in my head…

Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) scientifically proves that everything on Pandora is intertwined and EVERYTHING lives in harmony. Of course the business and military contingents of the mission do not want to hear any of it. For all they care, the Na’vi could be second cousins asking for a loan. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is the corporate representative that is almost as eager as Colonel Miles Quatrich (Stephen Lang) to destroy the Na’vi. (Think a much more agressive Carter Burke from Aliens). When the inevitable clash takes place, it is what the battle for Endor should have been. No cute, furry Teddy Bears, but real Warriors defending their home and fighting for the right to exist.

The visual eye candy, “real” and animated, is redonkulous! You’re in space, you’re in the dirt, you’re in the trees! (literally) If Avatar does not win any awards other than the most expensive movie made to date, then we know the fix is in. The epic value may be a bit grandiose at times, but it is worth it to see the imagination and creativity that went into creating Pandora. Floating mountains, lush landscapes, towering waterfalls, and creatures I wish really do exist, are brought to life with millions of zeros and ones.

The performances from everyone are believable, even Marine Grunt #12 was giving it his all. Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez-a hottie in any movie!) is the Marine with a heart who “didn’t sign on for this shit.” Some of the other actors don’t have it as easy as she… I think it speaks volumes when the emotion transcends the boundary of being a digitally animated 9′ blue warrior on a fictional planet, and I actually “care.”

I actually found the 3D a little distracting at times. Yes, they shoot the arrows at the camera. Yes, leaves fall toward the lens. Yes, they fly headlong through huge CG trees at breakneck speeds and every other 3D trick we remember from the 80′s. If you can’t see it in 3D, don’t worry, it will not take away from the core experience.

Avatar is to animation, is what The Matrix was to special effects in 1999. It is undeniably ground breaking, definitely inspiring, and has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what the next step will be. And at a running time of 150, I am curious to see what could possibly be in the director’s cut…