Category Archives for "Movie Review"

Aug 08

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

By Melinda VanLone | Movie Review

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy

First, I should point out that I’ve never read the comics that this movie is based on. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about the characters, their world, or the plots in general. I’m a complete newb, and my opinion is based on the preview and the movie itself. Based on the preview alone, I knew I was either going to love this movie, or hate it. It could be awesome campy goodness, or it could be completely stupid and a waste of two hours.

So which was it?

For me, it was everything I wanted it to be, with one minor exception. It was over the top spacey fun. It had heroes and villains and there was no mistaking the two. I loved the love affair with the 80s prominently displayed at every turn. I have a friend who would absolutely love the Walkman practically being a character and definitely being a symbol that travels with wanton abandon throughout the movie.

I don’t understand why they paid Vin Diesel to be Groot (if you don’t know, Groot is a walking, sorta talking, tree). He only says three words and anybody could have said them. It’s not like it even sounds like him.  And you never see his face. Same thing with Rocket the Raccoon. If you go expecting to swoon over Bradley Cooper or marvel at Vin action, you’ll be extremely disappointed. That said, I thought all the acting was great and the two who could have ended up ruining the movie, Rocket and Groot, end up being so very cool I forgot I was watching a raccoon and a tree.

The whole thing is a giddy romp through tropes, a playfully wicked pun, and a heroic carefree leap into the things we love to cheer for. The average guy saving humanity in a slightly cheesy but nevertheless exciting way. I loved the effects, the battle scenes, the gadgets. Oh, the gadgets! I want that helmet! I want to be Gamora – she can seriously kick ass!

It’s a Star Wars, Galaxy Quest, Independence Day, Footloose ice cream treat with a Raccoon Han Solo and talking tree sidekick who can kick butt sauce, and a Hulk/Spock hybrid for sprinkles. Yes I know that sentence is ridiculous. But it fits this movie.

 

My Take: If you love sci fi that can laugh at itself and at the same time deliver a pretty solid story full of the wonder of your youth, give this a shot.

Hubby’s Take: A bit disappointed. He expected the dialogue to deliver more one liners or memorable quotes, and more laugh out loud funny moments, and to him it didn’t deliver. I have to agree with him on that. It’s the minor exception to my instant adoration…I also expected some lines that would endure the test of time. You know, those pearls that people quote to each other at work or while they’re out with friends. I didn’t catch a lot of those, and neither did the hubby. Puns, yes. Timeless lines, no.

Jasper’s Take: He loved the action, the constant movement, and the effects. Most of all, he loved Groot. He saw that as one giant kitty toy. Two paws up.

 

Aug 01

Movie Review: Lucy

By Melinda VanLone | Movie Review

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2872732/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

Before I get to the review I have to say something about the Promise of the Premise. When a storyteller writes up a synopsis or log line, they’re making a promise to us. “This is what the story will be about. This is why you should watch it.” It’s a hook, meant to real us fishes  in to the theater.

So here’s the premise for Lucy, as posted on IMDB: A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Love that. An everyday woman in a horrible situation evolves into a warrior who kicks ass? Awesome. I’m on the hook. The log line nailed it for me: The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she can do with 100%.

Where’s my ticket! I wanna know; what CAN she do?

Before I delve into that, if you haven’t seen it, and you’re going to…if you don’t like spoilers…now would be a good time to step away. I’ll tell you I liked about 60% of the movie…and I’m about to tell you why. And to do that, I gotta talk about the end. So, you know, if that bugs you, head on over to Facebook or something. Come back after you’ve seen the movie. I’ll wait. Go ahead…

 

Last chance! Look away if you don’t wanna know!

 

OK, if you’re still here, I assume you don’t mind a bit of spoiling. Here we go then.

 

I loved the set up of this movie. Scarlett did a great job acting terrified. I seriously was biting my nails for her, certain she was about to die. Then they made the situation even worse. They kept flitting away to show me a bit of Morgan Freeman in a lecture hall, lecturing (because of course what else do you do in a lecture hall) but I found those sections irritating and ultimately boring as hell. And I love Morgan Freeman. It’s not his fault. I know why he was there, and I don’t agree with it. But I digress.

The basics of the story is Lucy ends up stuck in the middle of very bad people doing very bad drug things and ingests a designer drug that sets her on the path to using 100% of her brain. She passes out as just another average college student caught in a nightmare and wakes up Bad Ass Lucy. So far, so good.

When she hits about 30% of her brain capacity, she loses all ability to feel. No pain, no emotions, no connection to other people. And that’s where hubby lost interest in the movie. And I have to be honest, the new improved Cold Lucy didn’t appeal much to me either but I loved how her abilities grew. Like with the flick of a hand she could send someone flying through the air, steal their guns, knock them unconscious. That’s pretty cool, gotta be honest.

The whole story presumably is a race against time. Bad Guy wants his drugs back. Lucy wants them for herself. But she doesn’t really explain why. And in the end she’s just like the bad guy. Feeling nothing, wanting nothing but that end goal of getting the drugs. When she gets them, she uses them to get to 100% of her brain. And what does she do then?

Disappear. Yep.

I fully expected it. I expected that she’d turn into pure light or something, just because the whole story felt a bit cliche and I figured becoming pure energy would fit. The movie seemed to be saying that if we evolved to use more of our brain we’d lose that which makes us human. We would turn into complete self centered assholes who move so fast as to be invisible and, in theory, cease to exist at all because if you can’t be seen, do you truly exist?

Perhaps it’s some sort of play on religion at the end. Perhaps they’re saying we’d turn into a type of god. I don’t know. I stopped caring back at 60%. Because if I can’t relate to Lucy on a human level, then I don’t care about what happens to her, nor do I care about the story message (if it ever really had one). Lucy obviously didn’t care about what happened to those around her. Not the bad guy. Not the good guys. Not even Morgan Freeman.

She could have taken out the bad guy any number of times, with a thought. But didn’t. All she cared about was getting that drug.

At the beginning of the movie, I’m waiting to see what she’ll do with 100% of her brain. By the end, I realized that not only did they never really answer the question, but what I’m left to assume is that using 100% of your brain makes you…nothing.

I get the feeling the writer had NO IDEA what would happen if you did get to use 100% of your brain. And he gave up trying to answer it. That makes me sad, because exploring that was what grabbed my interest in the first place. I wanted to root for her, to watch her triumph over evil. In the end, I didn’t get to do any of that.

The sections with Morgan Freeman? Should have been deleted. They were one giant info dump, nothing more. Using Morgan Freeman to deliver backstory information so that you didn’t have to write it into the story? Lazy, just plain lazy. And since the movie is only 1 hour 28 minutes, I think there was plenty of time to spin a good story. Just sayin’

I guess I’m just irritated that they lured me in with the promise of a girl kicking ass and then delivered…nothing.

 

My take: Loved the beginning, the middle was interesting, the end sucked.

Hubby’s take: Up to 30% was interesting, by 60% it left him cold, by the end he was checking email and making fantasy trades.

Jasper’s take: He didn’t go, but he’d hate it. Not enough movement or action for him.

Aug 23

Movie Review: Elysium

By Melinda VanLone | Movie Review

Elysium

I saw this at the late showing last Saturday, so I was only half awake. It certainly lent a surreal quality to the story which I highly recommend. When it was over, my immediate thought was “I enjoyed that.” I loved the premise…the haves built their own private space station, a utopia, for which the poor need not apply. The poor stay down on dirty, rotten, abused Earth and stare longingly up at the pretty Elysium station. Up there, the air is clear. Up there, nobody gets sick or dies because they have med bays which heal your every ailment. Up there, heaven awaits. They can see it. They can almost taste it. They can try to sneak across the border into it. But they can never stay.

I never quite figured out exactly what the rich up there did to remain rich other than the one guy who owns the factory where they make all the robots. Sure, I can see how he survives but what about the others? However, I pushed that thought aside and followed the action. And yes, there’s lots of action, fights, explosions, very cool guns and futuristic toys, and Matt Damon. How can you go wrong, right?

The hubby, however, thought they did go wrong. Very, very wrong. As we left, he said there was one giant plot hole he couldn’t get past. After thinking about it over night and for the next several days, I realized what the issue was. The problem is, the world and society they tried to build for this story was never quite explained. The world building was incomplete. The viewer is left to fill in some huge blank spots, and also to take many others for granted. I even had to admit, the one stumbling block for him was one I noticed myself but decided at first not to care about.

Since it doesn’t affect the outcome or plot, I’ll tell you. Near the beginning, we are given the information that Elysium has those med bays and the poor people on Earth do not. They have regular hospitals. And apparently in this dystopian future, our hospitals and technology have gone backward on Earth even as it’s gone forward on Elysium. On Earth, they build the robots that are used for all kinds of tasks, including security, on Elysium.

On Earth, they build the med bays that are used on Elysium. I have to assume that’s true, because they never show how or where the med bays are actually built. But since everything else is built on Earth, I assume those are too. So think about that for a minute. The majority of the population lives on Earth. They are poor. They are sick (some of them). They are desperate.

Desperate people can do amazing things when they work together.

Desperate people who work at factories would, in time, figure out how to overthrow said factory or at the very least, replicate a robot or two (or med bay) in their own homes or secret hideouts.

I didn’t get why that many people would remain so downtrodden when they clearly had the ability to not be. They had technology of their own, running water, electricity…and they had the sheer number of warm bodies on their side. They also had the rich people’s disgust and unwillingness to ever visit them on shoddy Earth.

To me, the poor people had everything. And chose not to use it.

I don’t get that.

Hubby didn’t get the attitude of rich people who would have something as fantastic as a med bay to cure every ailment, and then not let them have it on Earth to keep the poor workers healed up. Why would you want sick workers, when you could have able-bodied well ones? He couldn’t wrap his mind around that concept.

After awhile I had to admit I said the same thing, during the movie. Why not just let them have the healing?

They never explained a good why behind the what of this movie. And that makes the whole story fall apart.

Technically this story hit every plot point, every single beat on the Save The Cat beat sheet for screenplays. Yet it felt…lifeless. I didn’t really much care if the protagonist lived or died, which made the final scenes more than a little anti-climactic. I also didn’t see any real change happen. The change he brings about could easily be undone the next day.

I guess, in the end, the world itself was simply too large for this story. Too much needed to be accepted without explanation. They cared more about the plot points than they did the why behind the plot points. They also cared more about hitting the viewer over the head with their social commentary (and it’s so very, very obvious the lesson they wanted to lecture us with) that they didn’t spin a good story. And I don’t appreciate being lectured when I’m paying a lot of money to be entertained. What can I say, I want it all. I want them to wrap up their lesson and lecture inside a fantastic story with great acting and amazing dialogue, world building and characters, and to trust that I the viewer will understand the message without them serving it to me accompanied by a baseball bat upside the head.

All that said, if you go in to this movie expecting an action/adventure with the awesome Matt Damon and some pretty cool other actors to support him, then you’ll have a good time. Just don’t think about it too hard.

 

Jun 21

Movie Review: Man of Steel

By Melinda VanLone | Movie Review , Thoughts

Superman 

I may be the only person on the planet who hasn’t seen one of the previous Superman movies. Nor have I read the comics. Nor have I seen any TV shows based on it. I know the basic story, just from picking up bits here and there: a distant planet is going to collapse, and mom and dad send their baby away to safety in a pod that lands on Earth, where he’s raised as a “normal” boy until it’s too obvious that he’s not ,in any way, normal. I know there’s love in the mix. I have, of course, heard the name Lois Lane. I know his secret name is Clark Kent. I know he saves people from bad guys and I have a vague recollection of him spinning the Earth backwards to reverse time. No idea where I saw that.

That’s it. I’ve avoided the whole Superman world for the most part. I don’t have a good reason for avoiding it, either. I guess it just never spoke to me. I liked Batman and his gadgets, and IronMan with his gadgets. Superman? He has a cape. In the words of the Incredibles: No Capes!

I guess I always thought he looked silly with that cape. But I digress. The point is, I saw the movie today. I went without any preconceived notions. I deliberately didn’t read any of the reviews or feedback from others. I went with an open mind, ready to be entertained or…something.

Was I?

Yes, and no.

Before you read further, beware…there be spoilers ahead.

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Don’t peek if you don’t want to know!

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Seriously….

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*taps fingers on the desk while she waits for you to decide*

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OK, if you’re still here then you are curious. I won’t spoil the whole thing. For all I know the story is the same one that’s been retold through the years and there’s no surprise left for those who’ve been following it since childhood. But in case there are a few like me…fair warning.

 

Things I liked:

I loved the graphics and the entire look of the film. It’s an immersive world. I love how Krypton looks, all dystopian and falling apart with shades of brown. I love the suit Superman wears (except for the cape). For a thing that’s always seemed to me to be cheesy and somewhat childish, this one manages to leap beyond that and into cool territory. After all, we see every ripple of his very fabulous muscles. Serious eye candy here, folks! I still say they should leave off the cape. For heaven’s sake, capes get caught in things and from what I can tell it serves no useful purpose. Let it go! (I’m sure some rabid Superman fans will cry “sacrilege” at that.)

I loved the sci-fi-ness of it all. The futuristic world, with it’s gadgets, gizmos, fun flying contraptions, and yes even the flying birds/horse/things. How I’d love to have one of those! We wouldn’t need cars if we could breed those. At any rate, the technology looked beyond cool. Kudos to the special effects team and whoever dreamed up some of the computer interfaces.

I loved Henry Cavill in this. He’s amazingly perfect for this role. I loved his expressions, the acting, the way he stood in that suit, and the way he looked out of it. *fans self* In the words of a Captain in the army: “he’s kind of hot.” Yes ma’am, he is. No “kind of” about it. I’d watch another dozen of these movies just to stare at him. And Amy Adams is perfect as Lois Lane. The two had chemistry, and I loved that she was every bit as heroic as he was, even if she doesn’t have super powers. Kudos to the writers for giving Lois Lane a life of her own. The entire movie is well acted and for the most part well directed. The dialogue gets a little cheesy on the part of the bad guy, but then again, the whole premise is a bit cheesy so I didn’t mind. Superman is the strong, silent type. I think every part in the movie spoke more than he did. His eyes smoldered, though, so I’ll let that slide.

Fourth, somewhere around the middle of the movie I started to really get into the plot. It took a long, long time for me to get there. I was hooked at the beginning, then bored for a good while, then hooked again. This movie suffers from mid-life crisis. I could see they tried to salvage it by editing, which didn’t work. It made some of the story jump all over the place. Bits of things were blatantly left out. I know the movie is long, but I saw plenty of stuff included that we could have lived without.

 

Things I didn’t like so much:

The noise. O. M. G. the noise! I’m not old, I swear. But this movie is beyond loud. It definitely jumps straight into bust-your-eardrums territory. I know there’s explosions going on but I really don’t need to feel them in my ear drums. This is not a ride at Disney. Even the kids around me were complaining about it. Several kept holding their ears. Hollywood, seriously. We don’t have to be shocked by sound to understand an explosion is happening. I do not need to hear it “live.”

While I realize there’s epic fighting going on, I got a bit tired of the explosions. Maybe it was the noise. Or maybe it was shades of Transformers…special effects and explosions simply for the sake of having them? I get tired of that. It’s probably just me. If you like to watch things go boom, this movie is for you. If you’d love to see New York City destroyed once again, this movie is for you.

I wonder if there will ever be a time when a really bad guy attacks a city other than New York. Why not hit Vegas, or Dallas, or heck Des Moines or Vancouver or maybe even Sydney? There’s people living there too! But I digress again.

The first half is very…very…sloooowwwwww. I agree with Chuck Wendig (click here for his review, unless bad language bothers you. He curses like a drunk sailor. That is, I assume he does, since I’ve never been around drunk sailors. His points are still quite valid.) that this is an origin story at the heart of it. We see how Superman came to exist…which actually isn’t really that interesting when you think about it. They did their best to make it entertaining, and parts of it are definitely that. But that’s also why it drags. Seriously…flashbacks to childhood are never interesting. I don’t even enjoy revisiting my own childhood, much less someone else’s. I’d much rather see the man he’s become than see how he got there. Unless he’s a serial killer…for some reason those origins are fascinating. But good guys? Eh, we assume good parenting. Let’s move on to the juicy bits, like a love scene with Lois Lane. Or heck, just let him take off his shirt again because…yum!

In other words, I was more entertained by his bare chest than I was by the flashbacks to childhood. My thoughts during those scenes were “wow, they got a lot of name actors to star in bit parts on this” and “I need to pee.”

I saw several people take a restroom break, by the way, which tells me they weren’t enthralled either. In a great movie I don’t notice the state of my bladder.

To sum up:

This is one of those stories that shows the angst of the hero, and the humanity of the villain. I really don’t like it when my superhero has doubts at the crucial moment, and frankly, I don’t want my villain to be human. I don’t want to feel sorry for him. I don’t want to get to the climactic scene of a superhero movie and think “gee, he’s only doing the best he can. He’s only doing his job. Maybe we should let him live.”

Which is exactly what Superman thinks during the final moments. Which to me, isn’t very superhero-like.

Aren’t super heroes supposed to be larger than life? Very clear on right vs wrong? Epic in every way? This one is, well, human. With big muscles. He’s having teen angst well into his apparent 20s. I get tired of teen angst.

That said, I go back to my earlier question. Did I enjoy it? Was I entertained?

Mostly. It’s not all bad. I just wish they’d have edited bits of it differently. And I wish they’d turn the volume down just a touch.

If you watch this one on DVD keep your remote handy. You’ll have to turn the sound up for the talking and down for the explosions or risk waking the neighborhood.

 

To those who’ve seen the other movies…is Superman always this way? If you saw all the various movies, which was your favorite?

 

Jun 07

Movie Review: Now You See Me

By Melinda VanLone | Movie Review , Thoughts

NowYouSeeMe 

“First rule of magic: always be the smartest person in the room.”

I’ve been looking forward to this movie ever since I saw the first trailer and heard those words.

The story was quite ambitious, especially given the time frame. Only a couple of hours to pull off a plot that, frankly, probably needed three hours to do it true justice. There isn’t one moment of dead space or down time. The editing is so tight you can hear it squeak.

What I liked: The acting, the dialogue, and the idea behind the story. It’s all so well done; even the bit players have fantastic talent and dialogue to work with.

Are they really bit players, though? Watch it, and let me know what you think.

Come in closer, because the more you think you see, the easier it’ll be to fool you.

I loved the effects and the stage shows. At one point the Four Horsemen leap off a building and turn into money. Now that is a magic trick!  The entire story had the feel of a good caper, sort of like Ocean’s 11.

I love that the story was one big misdirection, or one big magic trick. I find that kind of mind twist incredibly fulfilling for days afterward as I try to unravel what I thought I saw.

What I wish they’d done better:

I wish they’d spent a bit more time with the Four Horsemen and let us see even more of their relationships and how they change and grow. These people spent a year together cooking up these tricks and stage acts. I would love to have seen some of that. No, I don’t want to see behind the curtain, but I do want to get more of their personalities. The characters were quite fun and I just wished I could spend more time with them. I also wish they’d spent more time letting the cop and the interpol lady get to know each other. It’s a romantic element that is so subtle it might as well not exist. Either go all in, or leave it out.

I wish they’d either given more information about the mysterious club called The Eye, or taken it out altogether. As it was, I didn’t think it pushed the story forward at all and really served as more of a distraction than anything. The thing about this distraction, though, is it’s supposed to be the motivation behind the actions of the Four Horsemen. The problem is that we’re not given enough information about it to really understand or care or even count it as important. This is a real conundrum, because the end of the movie rests on it. And if you don’t get it or understand it, then you won’t get the ending and you’ll feel cheated, as I notice a lot of people expressed in their reviews.

For the record, I liked it a lot. It’s an intelligent plot, and incredibly twisty in a very subtle way. Like a great magic trick, you are taken for a ride. Willingly. At the end, you’ll wonder how you didn’t see it. You might feel cheated. You might think “they told me one thing and now this? No way!”

Yes, way.

I think this movie lives up to the tagline. The closer you watch, the easier it is to fool you. Try to watch the big picture, and realize that the entire story is one, big, magic, trick, complete with assistants, fancy lights and fluffy bunnies. Just try not to follow the white rabbit so much that you lose track of the real magician. Trust me, now that I’ve pointed it out you’ll be even more likely to get caught up in the details and miss the wave of the magic wand.

I saw this with the hubby, and his reaction was similar to mine except for one thing. He didn’t like was the ending. They do all these things, and give up millions of dollars, for what, exactly? Watch it and see if you agree that the motivation was not clearly explained nor shown.

My point was that’s how all magicians end their shows. They don’t explain, they just leave the stage. But it wasn’t enough for hubby. If it was going to get all mystical, he wanted a bit more payoff. He wanted at least a glimpse behind the curtain. Either that, or remove the mystical element entirely. To be honest, the movie would have been fine without it. I suspect this is another plot issue created in the editing room.

For me the end missed one thing every good story needs: a final showdown between the antagonist and the protagonist. It should be those two on stage in one epic moment that ends the story problem with an “ahhhhh”. This, sadly, didn’t do that. Why? Well….to explain I’d have to give a spoiler and this is such an important point that I don’t want to. So instead I’ll invite you to go see it, and form your own opinion about the twist and the ending. Did it satisfy you? For hubby, the answer is a resounding no. For me, it’s eh. I can fill in the bits they left off and be satisfied with that. I’d have been happier if they had done it and just made the movie a bit longer, but such is Hollywood. I guess budget cuts land even there.

I do recommend this movie if you like mysteries, capers, an intelligent mind twisty plot, or Morgan Freeman. Let’s face it, he’s awesome in anything he undertakes and this movie was no exception.

“Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.”

Go on, look close. Tell me, what did you see?

 

 

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