Saturday, June 17, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - Brett Ratner

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Ellen Page

Can we say Batman Forever? Seriously, this movie really reminds me of Joel Schumacher’s attempt to make a Batman movie. Both X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and Batman Forever (1995) suffer from the same problem. They took everything that made the first two movies in their respective franchises good and threw it out the window and instead made a run-of-the-mill action movie full of poorly written dialogue and very little substance or character development.

X-Men (2003) and X-Men 2 (2003) were both fairly well written for comic book movies. The writers and the directors took the stories seriously and made two very good movies about intolerance and prejudice. X-Men 3 was not at all well written, it was just filled with cheesy one-liners and pointless dialogue. Now, I really have nothing against cheesy one-liners, both X-Men and X-Men 2 had their fair share. X-Men 3 has nothing but cheesy one-liners though. There is no good dialog in the film to balance out these one-liners as there is in the first two films.

For the most part the dialog in his film was pretty pointless. It did not take long for me to tire of people announcing that they were going to use their powers. Brett Ratner needs to take a lesson in showing the audience something instead of telling the audience. The worst example of this is when Wolverine and Storm go back to the lake where Jean had been killed in X-Men 2. It is extremely foggy and Wolverine and Storm walk around in the fog for a minute until Wolverine comments that he cannot see anything at which point Storm decides that clearing the fog would be a good idea. Why didn’t she just clear the fog as soon as they got off the Jet? Why did she have to wait for Wolverine to inform her that he couldn't see?

Because of all this bad and pointless dialogue it seriously felt as if some of the really good actors in the movie were not giving their best performances. I guess you can't really blame them since they were probably doing their best with what they had to work with. I'm hoping most of the actors in this film only did it out of contractual obligations and didn't actually think this was a good script.

While we are on the subject of pointless things in the movie (slight spoilers beyond); why did the two mutants take Warren Worthington all the way to the roof of the building to kill him by throwing him off? Why didn’t they just use their powers to kill him right away if they wanted him dead just like they had done with the other characters they had just killed? This was done for no other reason than to give Angel the chance to swoop in and save his father. This was just a totally poorly written and unbelievable scenario that could have been written a lot better.

The action sequences in this movie were particularly bad as well. For the most part they really had the feel of one of the Live, Action/Aventure shows you see at theme parks like Six Flags. I'm not sure if it was the obvious wire work on Storm's flying or maybe the cheesy entrances that each of the characters made or maybe something else all together but the action just seemed very lame. Something about most of these action sequences just gave me that whole cheesy vibe that you get while watching one of those shows. The only action sequence that was actually pretty cool was Magnetos attack on the convoy that is transporting the mutant prisoners. Watching him toss them trucks around was pretty cool.

This movie tried to have the same type of substance that the first two had but it failed miserably. Ratner just doesn’t seem to know how to include the substance and underlying messages in his film the way Singer did. The message was in there, but it was secondary to the action, and it wasn’t brought to the surface in any way, shape or form. It was mostly just lame dialogue proclaiming that the cure is evil and that they must destroy it. All of this had potential to be as good as the first two, but it just was not handled well at all by Ratner.

Rating: 3/10

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) - Robert Zemeckis

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Jeffrey Price (Screenplay), Peter S. Seaman (Screenplay), Gary K. Wolf (Novel)
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer (Voice), Kathleen Turner (Voice), Mel Blanc (Voice)

So I recently watched Robert Zemeckis' Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) on Turner Classic Movies after not seeing it for years. I remember enjoying the film as a kid but I never watched it as an adult. It never seemed like the kind of film that would appeal to my current film tastes. The only reason I even decided to watch it again is because I was baby sitting my nephew and I thought he would enjoy it. I am really glad I decided to give it another watch, this is actually a pretty amazing film.

For starters, the technical aspects of the film are awesome, especially for 1988. I have seen several big budget movies in the past years that didn’t do special effects as well as this one did. Even in some scenes of Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005) I could tell that Kong was actually composited into the shot and not actually there interacting with the actors. However in Who Framed Roger Rabbit the animation mixing with the live action is flawless, you can really tell that a lot of work was put into this film.

As for the story, I really didn’t expect there to be much. I figured this was just another movie that was all special effects and very little substance. I was wrong, there is an amazing story going on here with some amazing characters. Many of the plot elements and characters are very reminiscent of older Film Noir. You have the detective that has seen better days and has become a has-been. You have the classic film noir femme fatale in Jessica Rabbit. Even the plot is just filled with Film Noir like twists and turns.

I would also like to say that the scene where Judge Doom kills the animated shoe by dunking him in The Dip is by far one of the most disturbing scenes I have seen. I just cringe when I watch the shoe squirm and cry when he is being Dipped.

The film is also filled with extremely witty, fast moving, Film Noir like dialog filled with all kinds of innuendos and hidden meanings. The writers of this film must have really done some research into the genre; they really knew what they were doing. The acting in the film is also top notch. Bob Hoskins does a really marvelous job as Eddie Valiant, and Christopher Lloyd is amazing as the evil Judge Doom. These guys did an amazing job acting with characters that were drawn in later. Overall this is just one pretty awesome film. I am very glad I let myself rediscover it.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

The Omen (1976) - Richard Donner

The Omen (1976)
Director: Richard Donner
Writer: David Seltzer
Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Harvey Stephens

So, while everyone else was out catching the remake, I decided to sit home and watch the original The Omen (1976) for the first time. I wasn’t totally sure what you expect from it. I was totally blown away though. The movie was quite engaging and suspenseful and instantly became one of my favorite suspense/horror films.

(Slight spoilers within this review)

The story was told in a way in which the suspense just built and built and constantly left you guessing as to what was really going on. As soon as I thought I had everything figured out something would come up to throw me off balance. Is Damien the son of Satan or is it just a delusion of the adults around Damien brought out by a string of jarring coincidences. I think the ambiguity of what is going on is a lot of what makes the movie kind of creepy. Since the audience is unsure of exactly what is going on it makes it much easier for them to sympathize with Damien’s father, Robert Thorn (played amazingly by Gregory Peck). You are thrust into the same situation as Robert, part of you wants Damien dead but there is that part of you that still sees him as a 5 year old child. Watching this film definitely throws your moral compass for a loop.

While the entire film was amazing, the last half hour of the film was some of the most suspenseful cinema I have ever seen. I know it is cliche but I was literally on the edge of my seat during the climax on the film. I honestly had no idea what to expect next. I was constantly caught off guard by the twists this movie threw at me.

On top of how suspenseful the movie was there were a few awesome and memorable scenes. I think the most memorable and talked about scene is, of course, the decapitation scene. It was definitely an amazing scene, but the scene that really did it for me was the scene where Damien’s mother, Katherine (Lee Remick) falls down from the railing to the floor in one single, unbroken shot. I was left in amazement at this scene wondering how they did it. I ended up watching the documentary on the DVD and found out how they did it. I love it when they do such amazing looking things in such simple ways. I won’t ruin it for you, but check out the documentary on the DVD if you are interested in how they did the scene.

That is about it, this definitely ranks up there with The Exorcist (1973) on the list of movies that have seriously creeped me out. In fact writing this review has given me that uneasy feeling I had while watching the movie, all over again. So I think I am going to go watch something else and get my mind to settle down, after I go through and make sure there are no creepy kids hiding anywhere in my apartment.

Rating: 9/10