I Am Legend
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about I Am Legend is “That is one weird freakin’ movie.” I Am Legend was one of the strangest movies I have ever seen. I had a difficult time trying to figure out if it was supposed to be an action, drama, or science fiction zombie movie. I came to the conclusion that it is a little bit of each. Before I went to see this movie, I was told by someone who had already seen it “not to go in with any expectations.” This was the best advice I could have received. Normally, I go into a movie with some sort of expectation but not this time. I new this film would be different I just didn’t know how.
The story is fairly simple. Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is a survivor of a virus that wiped out the entire population of the world. This virus was created, initially, to cure cancer. This virus literally created a worldwide plague that killed everyone in the world. Somehow, Robert Neville became the only living survive (as far as he knows). The only other people alive are the ones who turned into mutants after becoming infected with the virus. Now, living in a completely desolate and quiet New York City, Neville has a routine he sticks to every day. He spends the day with his loyal dog, Sam, as they go hunting for antelope and lions in Central Park. He uses the wing of a fighter jet as his personal golf driving range. He transmits messages across all AM radio stations everyday letting anyone still alive know where he is. Most noteworthy, he uses his knowledge as a doctor to try to find a cure for the virus. Neville has been doing this for three years. When night falls, he makes sure that he and Sam are home so that he can bolt and board up all doors and windows to be protected from the infected mutants.
I Am Legend has several distinct positive aspects and just as many downfalls. I’ll start with the upsides. This movie would not have been nearly as successful or as good if it weren’t for the perfect casting of Will Smith as the lead character. Honestly, this just may be Will Smith’s best performance. Smith is good in everything he is in but he rarely gets the opportunity to show off his true acting chops. Another cool aspect of this film was the way the set design was able to make New York City look like no one had lived there for several years. The barren and uninhabited look of one of the biggest and busiest cities must have been a difficult task considering how New York City really is in real life.
I Am Legend’s biggest downfall was the completely unrealistic look of the mutated humans. It was so obvious that the mutants were fake and that was a huge disappointment considering the technology that is available to creating believable CGI characters. The only other problem that I had with the film was the fact that the film begins three years after everyone has died. So the entire length of the film I was just sitting in my seat trying to answer my own questions such as, “Why was Will Smith immune to the virus?” or “Why did most people die from the virus and the rest just turned into mutants?” By the time the film had ended, almost none of my questions had been answered. Overall, I Am Legend was a film that is good to see once but not twice. I give I Am Legend a B-.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Ice Age 3D: Dawn of the Dinosaurs takes place, where else, but the Ice Age. The whole dysfunctional herd is back, including the mediocre characters introduced in the second film. We find out early in the third film that Elle, Manny’s “wife,” is pregnant. Unfortunately, this means Manny is more paranoid than ever and once again, Sid feels left out. Manny and Elle decide to break from the herd to raise their family, Diego leaves as well, and Sid is left all alone. Not long after breaking from the herd Sid stumbles upon a trio of seemingly abandoned dinosaur eggs. Because of his newfound loneliness, Sid decides to become their adoptive “mother.” Little does he know that the mother dinosaur will return to find Sid with her eggs. Understandably angered by this, the mama dino captures Sid. When Manny and the others get word of Sid’s capture, the head out on an adventure to save their friend. Along the way they make new friends and Manny finds out that he is not the largest living thing on Earth as he once thought.
Though not as good as the original Ice Age movie, this one is still true to the franchise. It has just the right amount of heart and humor. The great thing about the humor in this movie is that while it still keeps to its target audience, it also has many moments created solely for the enjoyment of the parents who take their kids.
There is really nothing different about this movie besides the obvious addition of the dinosaurs and further inclusion of the cuddle Scrat character. Scrat, the non-speaking squirrel, gets a much larger role in this film. Besides Sid, Scrat is everyone’s favorite Ice Age character. In Ice Age 3D Scrat does not just have his precious acorn to chase, but also the love of female squirrel named Scratte.
I must make one more note about the 3D aspect of the film. While the new RealD technology adds a slight bit of added amusement to viewing of the film, it takes away from the story. Personally, I would rather films not be made in 3D almost solely for the previously stated reason. It’s a fun and exciting technology for a 10-minute ride at Disney World but not for a 90-minute film where I am forced to shell out $4 extra for a film I would rather see in 2D anyway.
Ice Age 3D: Down of the Dinosaurs is a fun summer film for the whole family so I definitely suggest seeing it on some rainy summer day. I give it a B.
Inception is one of those films where, when you try to explain it, it makes your mind explode. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief, but he is no ordinary petty criminal. He can invade people’s dreams and extract them. He does this for high paying corporate businessmen who want to gain the secrets and inside knowledge of their competitors. It’s a game of high stakes. Many things can go wrong. Along comes Saito (The Last Samurai’s Ken Watanabe) who wants Cobb to try something that he has only done once before and has no desire to do again. Saito hires Cobb and his team to plant an idea into the minds of a rival rather than extract an idea.
Sounds like a simple enough plot right? Not even close. In order to plant Saito’s idea, Cobb has to create three layers of dreams (virtually impossible) just to get to the point when the idea can be planted. As an audience member you have to continually remind yourself which dream layer they are in. If you lose track for just one minute you will miss a lot of what is going on in the film.
Inception is an amazing film. Most people love it but others have had their justified complaints. For one thing, the movie is about 2 ½ hours long and a large portion of it is spent explaining the rules of planting and extracting dreams. To this I say, if it weren’t for the explanations, this movie would not have been nearly as great as it was. Inception truly has one of, if not the most, original and compelling stories of the last ten years. Because of that, the extensive rule clarifications can be overlooked. You have to go into this film understanding that if it weren’t for this the movie would have been nothing.
The story isn’t the only originality in the film. The effects are equally thrilling. Everyone I have talked to agrees that the best scene of the film is one that involves Joseph Gordon Levitt climbing the walls like Spiderman. I was clapping my hands and cheering during the final 45 minutes of Inception.
Although Marion Cotillard is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses and the overall acting was pretty good, it is not necessarily worthy of any Oscar noms. However, this movie will definitely get some Oscar noms in numerous other categories. That much is certain. I urge everyone to see this movie, if you have not already. The only thing I ask of you is that you do NOT see this movie if you are tired or if you have been drinking because you are definitely going to need your brain for this one. I give Inception an A all the way.
The Incredible Hulk
I didn’t even need to see this movie to know that it was going to be better than 2003’s Hulk directed by Ang Lee. There was no way The Incredible Hulk could possibly be any worse than Hulk. I saw The Incredible Hulk anyway and it was most definitely better than Hulk. To put it simply, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either.
Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner (aka Hulk). When we are first introduced to Banner he is hiding in South American from the U.S. government. Director Louis Leterrier, I guess, felt that it would be more efficient to just begin the film long after Bruce Banner had already been transformed by the Gamma Bomb. He was right. He knew that his target audiences are the ones who read comics or at least already know a little bit about the Hulk. Therefore, he could just skip passed all of the unnecessary introductions to the characters. Anyway, soon the U.S. government tracks down Banner in Brazil. Banner, of course, is then forced to go on the run.
The majority of the rest of the film is spent following Banner as runs from the government as he tries to find an antidote for his “anger issues.” Aiding him in his quest for normalcy is Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), Bruce’s on-again, off-again love interest. William Hurt plays Gen. Thaddeus Ross, Betty’s father as well as the man in charge of capturing Banner. Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs) is William Hurt’s second in command, Emil Blonsky. As the film progresses, Blonsky becomes drunk with power and obsessed with capturing Bruce Banner. Soon, he is consumed by them feelings and injects himself with the same serum that made Banner the Hulk. Ultimately, Banner and Blonsky end up battling it out on the streets of New York in an explosive, climactic clash of the titans.
Basically, The Incredible Hulk is better than 2003’s crappy version in every possible way. One of the major flaws with Ang Lee’s 2003 film was the Bruce Banner looked every time he transformed into the Incredible Hulk. He looked unbelievably fake and with today’s technology that is unacceptable. The look of The Incredible Hulk is exponentially better. The acting by the primary cast is fairly good when taking into account that this is just a superhero movie. Then again, when is Edward Norton anything short of totally awesome?
I will say that one of the downfalls of the film was the constant running Bruce Banner does from the government. It got pretty old pretty darn quickly. Also, Tim Roth’s character, Blonsky, is just plain annoying. I’m glad the Hulk defeats him in the end. Hopefully that will keep him out of any possible sequels Marvel is planning. I give The Incredible Hulk a C+.
Indiana Jones and the Kindom of the Crystal Skull
Indy has come back with a bang! That is what I would be saying if I hadn’t been so disappointed by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I was assuming this film was going to be the movie event because of everyone involved in the creation of the first Indiana Jones film in almost 20 years. Maybe the fact that this movie didn’t come out 20 years ago is the reason for my disappointment. Normally, one would assume a film that stars Harrison Ford, is directed by Steven Spielberg, and is produced by George Lucas would be a destined science-fiction classic. However, times have changed since the last Indiana Jones film. Harrison Ford is clearly no longer the action hero he once was and Steven Spielberg clearly played out the ‘alien attack’ genre long ago. 2005’s War of the Worlds was nothing short of disappointing. I don’t want to give too much away but after seeing this latest installment in the Indian Jones saga, it would seem as though Spielberg still has not quite let go of his E.T. roots.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brings Harrison Ford back as one of Hollywood’s greatest heroes, Dr. Indiana Jones. In this installment, Dr. Jones is thrown back into his old adventurous ways when Soviet agents plot to capture a crystal skull that holds secret powers (Basically it’s the plot of every Indy film). The lead Soviet in this film is played by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko. Up-and-coming Hollywood A-lister Shia LaBeouf plays the young man determined to aid Indy in his quest to stop the Soviets. Karen Allen, who many remember from Raiders of the Lost Ark, reprises her role as a Dr. Jones love interest, Marion Ravenwood.
Indiana Jones 4 is not all bad. The exotic locations are gorgeous and just the sight of Indiana Jones on the big screen again is enough to make red-blooded American giddy. However, the film lacks a strong plot. Harrison Ford may be back as Indiana Jones but he is clearly not the same fearless, adventurous hero women fell in love with and men aspired to be. Every Indiana Jones film has to be at least a little far-fetched but this was just ridiculous. Dr. Jones should have died at least thirty times in this movie. How he survives three consecutive waterfall drops and a nuclear blast is far beyond me.
I am reluctantly giving Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a B. I know that normally a ‘B’ rating from me is very good but when you take into consideration the fact that the first three Indy films are all ‘A’ material, a ‘B’ for Indy 4 is certainly not a great rating. On the other hand, just having the chance to see Ford back as Dr. Jones and to hear the world famous Indy theme again is enough to see it a second time, which I undoubtedly will.
Inglourious Basterds really has three separate stories that become intertwined by the end of the movie. The first story is about a Jewish girl who watches her family get murdered by Hans Landa (aka “The Jew Hunter”) and his Nazi henchmen. Years later she plots to get vengeance on Hans Landa and other Nazi leaders. The second story is about a gang of Americans who travel throughout Europe killing and scalping Nazis in the most brutal ways. The third and final story is about a German actress, Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), doubling as a secret agent for the Americans during a mission to eliminate Hitler called Operation Kino. Be sure to look for Mike Myers in a scene-stealing cameo during this story.
Unlike most war movies, this one is not without its moments of hilarity. Brad Pitt is at his comedic best in his role as the leader of the American soldiers who slaughter the Nazis. His Tennessee accent is funny all by itself. Even Hans Landa, the main Nazi in the movie, is hilarious. As a member of the audience, you are supposed to hate him but you enjoy his character so much you wish he were in every scene.
Inglourious Basterds has the best ensemble cast of the year, maybe the best of the past five years. The cast is far and above the greatest aspect of this movie. I honestly believe this is Diane Kruger’s best performance of her career. Brad Pitt gives an amazing performance. Eli Roth, who plays one of the American soldiers, portrays his role as the tough guy perfectly. However, the very besr performance comes from Christoph Waltz as the sadistically intimidating Hans Landa. The overall quality of Inglourious Basterds would not have been so great if it weren’t for him. If I were in charge of the Academy Awards I would just give him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor right now.
Inglourious Basterds is not realistic at all. You will notice so many inaccuracies but you will be too enthralled with the movie to even care. As long as you don’t mind this or very long scenes of intense, but suspenseful, dialogue you should have no problem enjoying this movie. I give Inglourious Basterds an A.
Invictus tells the true of how Nelson Mandela brought a nation together using the South African rugby team. Mandela was elected president of South Africa at a time when the nation was still torn apart by the apartheid. Against his staff’s pleads to reconsider, Mandela rallies together with the captain of the South African rugby team, Francois Pienaar, to help mend the wounded country. The rugby team goes from being terrible to winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The amazing thing about this story is that it really happened. When South Africa needed something to bring them together more than ever, the worst rugby team actually pulled themselves up from the ground and won the World Cup for a country that all understood the universal language of sport. It is a story that most young people in America have never heard about and that is why all young people should watch it.
The acting in this movie is spectacular. Everyone loves Morgan Freeman but this may be the greatest performance of his career. Every move Freeman makes is uncanny of the real Nelson Mandela. He walks with Mandela’s wearily hunched shoulders and his eyes rapidly shake back and forth as he speaks with someone as though he is trying to figure that person out. Matt Damon’s portrayal as Francois Pienaar is also impressive. With each movie he does, the less enthusiastic I am about Matt Damon as an actor but this performance made me forget about that. His South African accent is actually pretty spot on. Very rarely is it evident that Damon is, in reality, an American.
One of the down sides of the movie, however, is how long the rugby scenes drone on. Normally, I love a good sports movie but in this case, each game the rugby team played was way too long. There was more of the story that could have been told rather than showing more of the actual rugby games. All in all, Invictus is a very good film and is sure to win many awards this season but it’s not the best movie of the year. If for no other reason, see this movie for Morgan Freeman’s soon-to-be legendary performance. I give Invictus an A-.
Many of my avid readers will recall from my previous reviews that I have never thought very well of most comic book-based superhero movies. I have either thought they are boring or there was not enough character development. In some occasions, such as 2003’s Hulk, the CGI was an enormous drawback from the film. Iron Man, however, shows just how perfectly entertaining and well-done a superhero film can be.
Unlike Spiderman or Batman, I had no knowledge of the crime fighter’s background or the story of how Tony Stark became Iron Man. Hell, I didn’t even know Iron Man’s real name was Tony Stark. This made me believe that I was not going to enjoy the movie as much as I could have if I had known about the character before hand. Boy was I wrong, I loved this film! Every so often throughout the film, I would literally get a chill of excitement.
Iron Man is the first film produced by Marvel Comics’ newly created production company. Their second film, The Incredible Hulk, is to be released later this summer. Iron Man tells the story of a powerful and wealthy weapons manufacturer named Tony Stark. At one point, the smooth-talking billionaire takes a trip to Afghanistan to showoff his latest weapon, the Jericho. On the way back to the plane to head back to the States, Stark’s convoy is attacked and he is taken prisoner. While in captivity, he is told to make the terrorists a copy of the Jericho. Stark complies but instead creates a suit of iron to help his escape from his captors. When he gets back to the U.S., after months as a prisoner, Stark has a revelation and decides to no longer create mass killing weapons but instead make non-lethal war machines. Starks business partner, Obadiah Stane, believes this decision will destroy the company. Naturally, Starks first creation is a faster, stronger, and all around more advanced version of the suit he created in captivity. With this, he fights to defeat the terrorists who captured him and ultimately his mentor, Obadiah.
I think one of the things that made Iron Man so special was its attention to reality. Of course every superhero movie is going to unrealistic to a certain extent but there almost must be a sense of reality to it as well to make the audience believe, even just a little bit, that what they are seeing could really happen. Spiderman does this by setting his character in the real city of New York and Batman does it by not giving Batman any superhuman powers. Iron Man (the film version) incorporates a sense of realism by having the Tony Stark’s story told during the current time period. Iron Man’s enemies are ones who were are fighting today in the Middle East.
The very best aspect of Iron Man was the absolutely PERFECT casting of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. Originally, the producers were afraid of casting him in such a huge film because of hiss troubled past and struggle with substance abuse. In the end, they decided that his past and the rugged image accompanied it is exactly the tough exterior image they wanted from Tony Stark’s character. With Iron Man now in it’s third week of release and now being the highest grossing film of the year, I am certain that Marvel Comics is happy, to say the least, with their decision to cast Downey, Jr. as the lead character. The rest of the cast is rounded out by the always charismatic Jeff Bridges as Stark’s mentor turned foe, Obadiah Stane. Gwenyth Paltrow acts in his first big film in four years as Tony Stark’s beautiful assistant, Pepper Potts. The very talented Terrence Howard stars Stark’s friend and business acquaintance, Jim Rhodes.
I encourage everyone to go out and see IronMan. It really is not as much of a superhero film as you might think. That is not a criticism. In fact, it’s a compliment. The casting of this film was perfect. The storyline was modern and relevant to today’s world, and the computer graphics looked absolutely real. I give Iron Man a solid A.
I Love You, Man
Segel’s co-star is also worth mentioning. The already popular Paul Rudd (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) stars as Peter Klaven, a man about to get married. When Klaven’s fiancée (“The Office’s” Rashida Jones) notices he has not yet picked a best man, Peter confesses that he does not really have any close guy friends. To correct this problem, he goes to find the perfect guy to be his best man and his new best friend. I Love You, Man is perfectly cast. This was a great breakout role for Rashida Jones. Anyone outside of “The Office” fanbase probably has no idea who she is. However, in I Love You, Man she gets to act in what is sure to be a huge success (How can it not be with stars like Rudd, Segel, and even “The Incredible Hulk’s” Lou Ferrigno?).
Many of the jokes in I Love You, Man are recycled to the point where even I felt I could write more original lines. Some of the funniest parts of the movie, however, are between on-screen married couple Jamie Pressly (“My Name is Earl”) and Jon Favereau (Director of Iron Man). Their love/hate marriage is so laugh-out-loud hilarious, I fell like they should have their own spin-off movie or TV show.
The movie is funny and even heartwarming. However, the story was lacking some originality. Many of the film moments were way to predictable. I Love You, Man is a great film to see if you are simply looking for some good laughs. Just don’t expect it to be something you will want to watch over and over again. I give I Love You, Man a B+.