Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Sherlock Holmes brings the fabled detective to the American big screen for the first time since Michael Caine played him in the 1988 film, “Without A Clue.” The movie takes place in 19th century London where Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson, have finally caught the malevolent Lord Blackwood. He is hanged and all seems well until it is revealed that Blackwood has apparently risen from the dead. He begins killing again and Holmes and Watson have to stop him for a second time. Along the way, the sleuthing duo encounters black magic, fists fights, and enough nonsensical clues to confuse and frustrate any successful detective.
Most of the movie just sort of seemed rushed. Even the actors delivered their lines faster than one’s ears could keep up. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be disappointed by how little effort was put into creating an interestingly and clever enough story for Det. Holmes. Very few of the clues or details make any sense. Consequently, the movie continues to confuse the audience to no end until the film’s finale when all is revealed in a way that relieves you of your confusion but replaces it with anger. The story, which is always a key aspect of any film, is the weakest part of this movie. If more effort and planning had gone into the script, this would have actually been very good.
Sherlock Holmes had a number of positive qualities. The acting is decent enough. Everyone these days loves Robert Downey, Jr. and many people (including yours truly) have a fondness for Rachel McAdams as well. One thing done particularly well was the lighting. The movie is full of shadows that continue the image of 19th century London as a dark and uninviting world. Although it is presented bleakly, old London does have appealing locations. Most alluring of all is the Tower Bridge, which at the time, was still under construction.
So, to recap, the story was nowhere near as good as is should have been but everything else was fairly respectable. However, because the story is so important, the film doesn’t get very far off the ground. I give Sherlock Holmes a C+.
Slumdog Millionaire tells the life story of young Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an Indian boy growing up in the slums of Mumbai, India. The movie takes place in the present where Jamal is a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” As Jamal begins to answer more and more questions correctly, the authorities become suspicious of how an 18 year old from the streets could have so much knowledge. Jamal then begins to explain his troubled past and how he came to be a contestant on the popular game show.
The genius part of the film is how the director, Danny Boyle, was able to seamlessly connect the storyline and the editing of the film. After Jamal answers each question on the game show, a flashback begins showing how a specific moment in his past helped him to answer the question on the show. The who idea of the film is “destiny.” We, the audience, are led to believe that it was not simply knowledge that allowed Jamal to do so well on the show. Instead, it was his destiny to be on the show and to win 20 million rupees. For example, one of the questions he is asked on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” is “What famous American is shown on the $100 bill?” A flashback shows the full story of how a boy from the streets of India was able to come in contact with an American $100 bill. Early in the film, 5-year-old Jamal becomes infatuated with a young Indian girl named Latika. Throughtout the rest of the film, Jamal makes it his life’s ambitious to make Latika his girlfriend.
The majority of Slumdog Millionaire consists of the numerous flashbacks of Jamal’s tough 18 years of life. By the end of the film, the audience has become so emotionally drained by all the hardships that Jamal had to endure that you just want to stand up in the theater and root Jamal on to winning 20 million rupees.
I am really not one for Indian music but the soundtrack to this film was exceptional. It had me near tears at some moments and tapping my feet to the beat at other moments. Make sure you stay during the credits to watch the awesomely choreographed dance number (a common moment in Bollywood films). The acting in the movie, however, was not overly impressive. Surprisingly enough, the actor who plays the 5-year-old version of Jamal gave the best performance.
I truly loved this film. I expected to be at least slightly entertained but I ended up feeling genuine emotions for each character; a rarity in most movies these days. I give Slumdog Millionaire an A-
Sorority Row (2009)
Sorority Row is basically the same exact movie as 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer. Just replace a group of high school friends who accidentally kill a man with a group of sorority sisters who accidentally kill a fellow sister. After the sister is killed they try to cover it up by getting rid of the body. However, eventually someone reveals they know what they did and begins killing the sorority sisters one by one…just like I Know What You Did Last Summer. When the sisters are deciding what to do with their friend’s body, each sister takes on a role from I Know What You Did Last Summer. One character says they should call the cops (like Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character); another says they should dump the body and never speak of it again (like Ryan Philippe’s character); and so forth.
Sorority Row is definitely entertaining but for all the wrong reasons. First, and most obviously, it is not scary at all. In fact, it is so not scary that one might mistake this movie for a dark comedy. There is no suspense whatsoever and the killer even dresses exactly like the hooked psycho from I Know. The only redeeming factor of this movie is that the kills are relatively inventive, especially one involving a liquor bottle.
One of the stupidest, but unintentionally funny, aspects is the dialogue. The character interaction in Sorority Row could not have been written more poorly. For example, one of the sorority sisters tells another sister, “You should Facebook me, I’ll totally confirm!”
Bottomline, if you just want to be entertained and not scared at all, you could see this movie but there are so many better movies to waste your time on. I give Sorority Row a C-.
Star Trek really is more of a prequel than anything else. When we first meet the franchise’s icons, Spock and James Kirk, they are about eight years old. The story follows these two as they grow up and have to endure their first intergalactic battle. All the while, Spock must wrestle with the fact that he had a human mother and a Vulcan father. At the same time Kirk is tasked with proving he is captain material.
In a summer filled with countless prequels, sequels, and remakes you cannot help but feel a bit cheated. They all seem to have mindless, nonsensical action and explosions. Two perfect examples would be this year’s Terminator: Salvation and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. They are both fun summer blockbusters but the audience felt disconnected from the characters. There was no emotional attachment to be found. Star Trek, on the other hand, made you feel like you had known the characters for years.
Aside from the character development, the film had mind-blowing special effects. Anybody can rig a car to explode on screen but it takes extraordinary attention to detail and dedication to the craft to accomplish the feats portrayed in Star Trek.
This movie easily makes it into my top three favorites of 2009 so far. The cast and each of their performances were top notch. The story was basic enough for a newbie to follow and yet fresh enough for a seasoned Trekkie to stay interested. The special effects and CGI were just plain awesome. All in all, I give Star Trek an A.
The fact that there wasn’t much publicity or press done for The Strangers initially led me to believe that the film flew so far below the radar that critics didn’t even want to bother with the film or that the movie was so bad that it didn’t even deserve a review. Personally, I thought from watching the trailers that The Strangers looked like a pretty good movie. And it was—until the last ten minutes of the film.
Avid readers of my reviews will know that I have never put a “spoiler alert” at the beginning of any of my reviews. However, I had to make an exception for The Strangers because I felt that it would be impossible to discuss this film without telling how I felt about the terrible ending. Clearly, by having read this far into my review you have either already seen the movie or you just don’t care if the film is spoiled for you. I will come back to the finale of the film in a bit but ill move on for now.
The Strangers is a horror/thriller starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a couple with their relationship on the rocks. After attending a wedding together, the couple drives to a family summer home in the woods. Not long after arriving at their summer home, they start getting unnerving visits from a creepy young woman. After turning the woman away, unknown assailants begin banging on the doors and windows of the house. It isn’t long before Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are being taunted and chased all around their home.
The Strangers is supposedly based on true events about a young couple who was taunted and then brutally murdered at their home. Overall, the movie was very scary. This is not because of any unnecessary gore or over-the-top violence. Rather, it was what the audience was not shown that made the film’s scariest moments so effective. Many scenes, in fact, reminded me of John Carpenter’s horror classic, Halloween. In Halloween, the killer Michael Myers would slowly step out of the shadows revealing himself to the audience but to his unfortunate onscreen victim. This is how most of The Strangers is filmed. If the entire film had stayed this way, I would have been more than happy to give this movie a ‘B+.’ However, the ending completely killed it. The Strangers is based on a true story and the real-life couple was murdered so I knew going into the film that Tyler and Speedman were not going to get out of this movie alive. In the end they are, indeed, filleted. I enjoy horror movies just as much as the next guy but the one word that can sum up the ending of The Strangers is “tasteless.” As an audience member, we are presented with no gore or unnecessary violence throughout the entire movie only to have it DUMPED on us in the end. As the movie progresses, the audience grows somewhat attached to the lead couple. In the end, we actually see the knives being thrust into the helpless victims. Normally, I wouldn’t see a problem with this if it had been consistent with the rest of the film. The Strangers, however, was done in a very tasteful manner up until the end when the audience is blindsided by a barrage of unnecessary brutality.
Because of the ending of this otherwise very frightening movie, I give The Strangers a C+.
FUNNIEST MOVIE EVER. Honestly, that is all I really need to tell you about this film and that should be enough to make you run and see this film immediately. But seeing as this is a review I guess I have to go into a bit more detail. I may be 22 years old but I’ve always been a fan of the stupid teen comedies. In my lifetime, there have not been “teen” films that are all that funny. They rarely even portray the way teenagers act in real life anyway. Of my generation, American Pie seems to be the most accurate and that’s not saying much at all. Superbad was only as effectively funny as it was because it correctly portrayed the way young, teenage nerds think and act. I’ve probably done all the things the main characters did in this movie.
Superbad stars three up and coming young comedians (well, maybe just two). Jonah Hill (Accepted, Evan Almighty) and Michael Cera (T.V.’s Arrested Development) play lifelong best buddies who are preparing to go to separate colleges. The third wheel of the group (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is the best character of the film. He plays ubergeek, Fogell taken under the wing of two idiot cops (Seth Rogen and Bill Hader). The funniest moments of the film come from the different hilarious hijinks that originate from this amusing duo.
Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) decide that before graduating the must get past their high school label as geeks and hook up with the girls they have had crushes on. In order to do so, they employ their “friend,” Fogell, to buy them booze with a fake I.D. under the name “McLovin” to impress their lady friends. When things go wrong, the two pals must find an alternate source of beer and liquor. All the while, Fogell is paling it up with the two immature police officers.
From the moment I walked out of the theater, I turned to my friend and told him that the film we had just seen was going to become this decades “American Pie” and that it would most likely spawn at least one sequel. I have never in my life seen a film that made me laugh as hard as Superbad did. Superbad grabs your funny bone right from the get go and never let’s go; not even after the film has ended. Usually, when a film makes you laugh, your laughter only lasts as long as the funny moment does. Superbad, however, had me laughing at each joke long after the scene had ended. For the first time in 2007, I am giving a film the best possible grade. Superbad more than deserves the A+ I give it.
I am going to be completely blunt. I had absolutely no interest in seeing this movie. I looked incredibly pointless and seemed as though was a cheap knock off of the amazing Happy Feet. I am surprised there were even two reasons I saw this movie. One reason was because my friend wanted to see it and the other reason was because it was late and there was nothing else playing. If you think about it, it’s kind of strange that a kid’s movie would be playing later than any other movie. I digress away from what really mattered: the infinite reasons not to see this movie and the one small reason to actually see this movie. Of course, I always have to give my usual synopsis of the film.
Surf’s Up is about a penguin named Cody Maverick who loves to surf but nobody takes his passion seriously. If being a penguin from Antarctica who loves surfing isn’t enough, Cody idolizes, on the verge of obsession, a famous surfing penguin named Big Z who ‘died’ many years ago. When a popular surfing competition begins recruiting contestants, Cody sees this as his big opportunity to show off his talent. He travels to the tropical island where the competition is taking place. On his first day there he tries to show up the penguin who has won the competition several years in a row, Tank. In the end, because it’s a kid’s movie, Cody achieves his goal.
Surf’s Up provided the voice talents of many big name actors including Shia LaBeouf (Cody Maverick), Jeff Bridges (Big Z), Jon Heder as the chicken Cody befriends named Chicken Joe, and James Woods as the head of the competition, Reggie Belafonte. There was nothing special about the voice talent. For example, Jon Heder, as always, sounded like a sleep-deprived coke addict.
The visual effects of this movie were typical for a CGI movie these days. The background effects were more spectacular than the character effects. The computer generated characters were nothing out of the ordinary. With the CGI technology Hollywood has these days, you would think the filmmakers would be able to make the look of the film at least a bit better. The background of the film was good but only because it was always set against an ocean with a sun setting in the background. Twilight in the tropics is always spectacular.
The story was so straight forward that I figured what was supposed to be a surprise ending within the first 30 minutes of the film. I was never happier to find out that a movie was only 85 minutes long. If that movie was boring and pointless for a 22 year old, a kid must have been going crazy with boredom. Actually, I take that back. As long as a movie has taking animals a kid is bound to have a good time. I give Surf’s Up a D-.
I’m going to be honest. I have never been a big fan of movie musicals. I thought that 2004’s The Phantom of the Opera was boring and was not adapted from the stage very well. I thought that 2002’s Chicago was a complete mess. However, Sweeney Todd was different. Actually, I LOVED it! Honestly, I could not find one single thing wrong with 2007’s film adaptation of the famous stage musical.
Sweeney Todd takes place in 19th century London and tells the dark, morbid story of Benjamin Barker’s downward spiral into murderous madness. When Judge Turpin (played by Die Hard’s Alan Rickman) takes Barker’s loving wife and newborn child away from him, he leaves London altogether. Years later, after clearly having never gotten over his wife and daughter’s capture, Barker returns to London using the name Sweeney Todd. Todd vows to exact revenge on Judge Turpin for having destroyed his once perfect life. When his initial plan fails, he turns to complete madness and decides that everyone must die because, as he believes, everyone is inherently bad and deserves to die.
Before Todd’s life went down the crapper, he was an expert barber. Now, with his once perfect life gone, he turns to the only thing he knows how to do---cut. Only this time he cuts throats instead of hair. Using his deadly barber’s tools, Todd goes on a murderous killing spree. After striking up an unlikely friendship with struggling local pie shop owner, Mrs. Lovett, the deadly duo concocts a sinister plan. Sweeney Todd would kill the unsuspecting victims and Mrs. Lovett would chop them up and use them as the meat in her pies.
In any other film, this storyline would be just so disgustingly unbearable, however, this was not nearly the case with Sweeney Todd. The art direction and the music made all the difference. In fact, these two factors make the duo’s killing spree rather comical. (FYI, Sweeny Todd won the Oscar this year for Best Art Direction).
For those of you who don’t know, 2007’s screen adaptation is a recreation of the famous stage production written by British playwright Christopher Bond in 1973. Taking this into account, the gore and morbidity was not nearly as gruesome as it would have been if Sweeney Todd had not been a musical first. Songs such as “A Little Priest” and “The Worst Pies in London” practically changed the mood of the film entirely. It made light of the fact that people were being slaughtered and mashed into pies.
The other factor that made this film unlike most other gory films was the color used in the film. Just about 112 of the 116 minute film was drained of all color. The only bright color seen in the entire film was when Sweeny Todd would kill someone and the bright red blood would squirt all over the place. The color of the blood and the pattern of the blood squirts was so meticulously planned that, honestly, it seemed more like art than anything else. Therefore, it was practically impossible to think that the gruesomeness that was occurring on screen was anything but fake. The genius part of this was that this was exactly what director Tim Burton was trying to accomplish.
Bravo, Mr. Burton, Bravo. I give Sweeney Todd an A+.