Friday, July 22, 2005

Movie Review: The Island

As the old saying goes, "if you've seen one Michael Bay movie you've seen them all". OK, maybe it's not really an old saying, but it should be. Bay, while enjoying a well earned reputation for being able to put together a good action sequence, has a very bad habit of trying to insert that same level of excitement into all of his scenes. His odd mix of quick edits, choral music, and slow motion may at first make a chase scene a little more exciting, but becomes very monotonous when he starts using the same style for the more mundane scenes like when someone is just sitting by the beach. Some scenes call for just letting them happen and do not require heavy handed directing. That's not to say that all the problems with 'The Island' stem from Bay's directing techniques, just the most obvious ones.

Story wise, this movie had a lot of promise. The idea of a society made up entirely of clones, totally unaware of that fact, could have made for a great movie, but Bay decided to just make this into a simple chase movie instead. Once the great escape begins, any semblance of character development ends. You are forced to sit through over an hour of explosions and crashes that kept me questioning just how bad do a team of specialists have to be to have this much trouble capturing two people, in the middle of a desert, who until an hour ago had no concept of an outside world. There are plot holes which defy explanation and the odd mix of the modern day (like cars and clothes) with the futuristic (mostly the transit systems and for some unknown reason one transport truck) make it a very uncomfortable movie to watch. There is also an issue with product placements that almost rise to the level of 'Revenge of the Killer Tomatoes', but hey, he needed the money so I can give him a little leeway on that one (let's just say that I hope you like the Chrysler Crossfire because apparently in the future that's all people in cities are allowed to drive) .

Despite all that, the acting is great. Even with the little they are given to work with, McGregor, Johansson, Hounsou, Bean and the rest of the cast all do terrific jobs. I'll have to hand this to Bay, Scarlett Johansson probably looks better in this movie than in any of her previous pics, and was probably my main reason for even staying in the theatre.

I would definitely advise skipping this Island vacation and spending your movie money elsewhere; at least wait for the DVD.

2 out of 5

Friday, July 15, 2005

Movie Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Well I guess it's obvious which movie we saw. Rat was able to get MacDaddy to change his mind and with a 2 to 1 vote, Charlie it was. Luckily, the large groups of kids at the theatre were off to see something else. So here it is, my review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

I wanted to like this movie, I really did, and while as a stand alone movie it's ok, compared to the original, all I can say is Johnny Depp's Wonka doesn't hold a candle (or in this case candy bar ) to Gene Wilder's version.

Where Wilder's Wonka was highly eccentric and whimsical, Depp's seem slightly psychotic, like he could break at any minute (and he comes close several times). Even if you can get over Depp's odd choice of voice, there are so may other aspects (like the extremely unnecessary flashbacks of his childhood, and his ever constant latex gloves) that just give this modern Wonka too much of a 'creepy' vibe for my liking. The rest of the cast, from Charlie's family to the remaining kids, were all very well cast and played their parts perfectly, however, I do have to question Tim Burton's choice to cast Deep Roy as every single Oompa Loompa. Although he did a good job it was getting a bit monotonous to say the least.

I also must say that the songs and their choreography, while apparently closer to the ones written in the book, just didn't seem to fit in as well as the ones from the original movie. Sometimes, such as in Squirrel room, the musical number does nothing to add to the film and I found myself just hoping each verse they sang would be their last (not that I could understand what they were singing anyway).

Another thing you'll probably notice quite quickly is Burton's reliance on CGI. There is so much in this movie that it's hard to tell where the real actors end and the CGI begins, and that is not necessarily a good thing. In scenes which would have looked quite ok using classical techniques (such as make-up or costumes), Burton instead goes to CGI, with very mixed results. I found that most major CGI shots were a bit too apparent to allow them to blend in as they should.

To me it basically came down to this, at the end of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory', you were left with the distinct impression that most of Wonka's crazy antics were for show, in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' you are left with little doubt that the odd behavior comes from deep rooted psychological trouble. While this retelling of the classic story makes for an ok movie, there is little doubt in my mind that the original is a much better picture.

3 out of 5

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Friday July 15th

Tomorrow's movie selection seems to be wide open. We have some members calling for Dark Water, some for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and some for Wedding Crashers (that's a lot of choices for a group that only has 4 standing members).

So the time to vote is now.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Movie Review: Fantastic Four

I went into the Fantastic Four expecting the worst but hoping for the best. As a result I came out mildly entertained. There is really not much in this movie to make it great but despite it's flaws it's also not really terrible.

The biggest problem I had was that too much of the 2 hour and 3 minute run time is spent developing the relationship between Reed Richards and Sue Storm (something even the kids behind me knew was going to end up like it did) while almost every other relationship in the movie is given only a passing glance. Ben Grimm, for example, manages to break up with his fiancée and fall in love with another women in a total of three scenes, all of which were poorly written, which use up about 4 minutes of screen time. Not that I'm necessarily calling for more romance in an super hero movie but come on, when 50% of the story is about Sue and Reed's painfully obvious attraction, you'd think they could have at least given poor Ben a couple extra minutes when his personal life is in actual turmoil.

They also do a generally mediocre job of developing the overall group relationship. While most of the focus is on Johnny's rebellious showboating (which is not actually too badly done), there is a part involving Ben and Reed getting into a fight, which is a perfect example of especially lazy writing (unless you really buy the idea that Ben would instantly believe the man he most despises in the world over his best friend).

As for action, the scenes are few and far between. While the sequences where they actually use their powers are done well enough, most of the film is spent discussing their new found powers, not using them. A definite negative in a super hero movie where people are expecting action.

Overall, while I generally recommend waiting to rent Fantastic Four, the franchise shows some promise. A sequel, that would be free of the need to develop the characters from scratch, may actually be quite good. Here's hoping.

2 out of 5 (but with some signs of promise)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Friday July 8th

Hope everyone had a great Canada day, but for now it's back to the grind stone.
So here are the front runners for this weeks Club pick:

On the horror/thriller side we have Dark Water
while on the action/sci-fi side we have the Fantastic Four

It could be close this week depending on the critics reviews.

After a heated debate we decided on Fantastic Four. The decision went right down to the wire as Rat and Mac each fought vigorously for the other to make the final choice.