Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pirates of The Caribbean 3: At World's End

Did you hear about the new Pirate movie? It's rated....AAARGGGH
Bloated doesn't begin to describe this almost 3 hour soulless spectacle. The few action sequences scattered throughout the convoluted plot are overdone and seemingly go on forever. I wish the film editor had walked the plank. Most of this mess is just confusing dialog with double and triple crosses that ultimately go nowhere.

Johnny Depp's "Jack Sparrow" is little more than a cameo in this story and all his charm from the other films has been reduced to ham in this one. The last few minutes of the film belong to Depp as if someone remembered he was the central character. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly have lost all their chemistry and Knightly has become outright annoying.Chow Yun-Fat is wasted as a Chinese pirate with very little to do and little time to do it.The best acting in the film belongs to Bill Nighy as "Davy Jones" and Geoffrey Rush as "Captain Barbossa". Nighy manages to convey a great deal of emotion under many layers of octopus makeup and Rush looks like he's actually having fun.

More is not necessarily better and there was probably an excellent 90 minute movie buried in this mess. On a positive note, the visuals are excellent and look great on a big screen but if you can wait for the DVD, do yourself a favor so you can watch it with your finger on the fast forward button.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Shrek The Third

Inevitably by the time you get to the 3rd film in a series, much of the magic and originality wears off. The return of Shrek and all the other familiar characters though, is like visiting old friends and there is certainly still a large amount of enjoyment to be found in their company.

Donkey and Puss make a terrific comic duo and the banter between Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas is priceless. Fiona and the other fairy tale women steal the movie as they give new meaning to girl power. Justin Timberlake joins the cast as "Artie", a young pre- King Arthur but his character doesn't really make the impact he should considering the storyline.

There is plenty of mushy sentiment this time around, much of which has to do with babies and becoming a good father and/or king. The sight gags are plenty and the animation continues to astound but like other "Part 3" films out now, the studios should give the characters a rest for a while and we'll appreciate them more for it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

28 Weeks Later

If you enjoyed the first film, "28 Days Later", you will probably want to see this sequel. Cillian Murphy decided not to participate in this one but Robert Carlyle kick starts the action as a surviving father of "the virus", reunited with his teenage daughter and 12 year old son.

From the opening moments, there are unexpected twists in the story and no one is safe which keeps the suspense level high. The camera work is frenetic and the various scenes of a deserted England are very convincing. There is plenty of violence and bloodshed as you would expect when fighting off blood thirsty zombies but there is also an underlying social commentary on the government's actions to contain the virus.

The ending leaves the door open for a third installment, probably to be known as "28 Months Later". And in this day and age of endless sequels, we'll probably have "28 Years Later" to look forward to at some point. There's always an audience for a good "zombie" movie.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Year of The Dog

From the mind of Mike White, who has given us "Chuck & Buck" and "The Good Girl" comes this very quirky comedy/drama about how just far our love for animals can take us.

Molly Shannon stars as Peggy, a woman crazy about her beagle "Pencil". When Pencil accidentally dies, Peggy's world crumbles until she meets Newt (a very good Peter Sarsgaard), a animal shelter worker and dog trainer. Newt introduces her to "Valentine", a German Shepherd with some behavior issues. Peggy adopts him and begins to spend more and more time with Newt as well. Animals take center stage in their relationship and Peggy's passion begins to overwhelm all aspects of her life.

The film also stars John C. Reilly as Peggy's neighbor, Laura Dern as her sister-in-law, and Regina King as her boy crazy girlfriend. Peggy's obsession with dogs leads to various odd scenes with all these characters as well as her boss, played by Josh Pais.

The dogs in the film are terrific and adorable. The story starts out light and fun but takes a more dramatic turn as the film goes on. Ultimately, it tells us that our happiness in life can sometimes be found in very unlikely places but we go where our heart takes us.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spiderman 3

Well, the bloom is off the rose. If you have invested the time in the first 2 films, of course you will want to see how it all turns out but...the magic is gone. The film deserves an A for action but it also gets a B for bloated.

The seduction of Spiderman to the dark side takes too long to get going and Venom's appearance is too little and too late, showing up for the climatic battle (where Mary Jane is menaced by...a taxi cab and a dump truck...Yikes!! The dialog is sappy and many of the secondary characters have lost their zip (Jonah Jameson, for one). Toby Macguire's attempts to be dark and evil are just silly and a scene where he tries to make Mary Jane jealous with Gwen Stacy is just ridiculous.

The action sequences, however, are terrific and Thomas Hayden Church steals the film as The Sandman. His CGI is fantastic and in his human form, his acting is fresh and believable. Too bad, the screenplay messes with the original facts about the character's backstory and motivation to suit the plot. Devotees of the comic will be annoyed with that as well as the introduction of Gwen Stacy as a rival for Peter Parker's affection. Gwen's backstory is also tweaked to suit the plot and Bryce Howard is wasted in a poorly written character. Credit though, must also be given to Topher Grace who adds a breath of life to the role of Eddie Brock.

We are being teased with the prospect of Spiderman 4 (after all, Doc Connors has appeared in all 3 films so far and fans know what happens to him) but this film should make enough money to put the franchise to rest. Let's see what Robert Downy Jr. can do with next year's "Iron Man" movie.

The Air I Breathe

Another screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, "The Air I Breathe" features a great cast entwined in 4 overlapping stories. Forest Whitaker is a quiet businessman who bets his life on a horse race, a gangster's enforcer (an excellent Brendan Fraiser) sees the future, a pop star (a better than expected Sarah Michelle Gellar) gets involved with a crime boss ( a typical Andy Garcia), and a doctor ( always reliable, Kevin Bacon) must try to save the love of his life.

The director, Jieho Lee, uses the overlapping technique we've seen before in films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Amores Perros" and for the most part makes it work (although just a little too neatly).

The stories are based on a Chinese proverb focusing on the four cornerstones of life: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. It is a strong drama with some harrowing scenes but it does reward in little ways throughout the film.

A Dirty Carnival

Screening at The Tribeca Film Festival, "A Dirty Carnival" is about the rise and fall of a Korean gangster. The title is a metaphor for the life gangster, Byung-doo, leads on the mean streets of Seoul.

The film is an exciting crime drama filled with all the elements you would expect including greed, betrayal, violence, and tragedy. Interestingly, there is very little on screen blood for such a violent film. The weapon of choice for these Korean gangsters is a metal bat and while it inflicts much pain, it leaves the film without the usual bloodshed. In fact, there are practically no guns at all in the film, which for that fact alone, makes it very interesting to watch.

The action scenes are choreographed beautifully and are very exciting. The story has been told before but the acting and charisma of the lead characters keep the viewer involved throughout the 141 minute running time.

The film is in Korean with English subtitles. No American release date is set.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Hot Fuzz

From the folks that brought you "Shaun of The Dead", "Hot Fuzz" is a loving satire of almost every action cop movie from the 80's and 90's. Played for laughs and yet deadly serious, this British comedy works on many levels.

What makes the serious nature of the film so funny is the presence of so many distinguished English actors. Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Edward Woodward, Jim Broadbent, and Timothy Dalton are the most recognizable faces for an American audience and they are all terrific in both minor and major roles. The lead character, Sgt. Nicholas Angel, is played by Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote the film. His dim witted side kick, P.C. Danny Butterman, is played by Nick Frost.

Sgt. Angel is a super cop making the rest of the London police force look bad so he is promptly promoted and sent off to work in a sleepy little village in the English countryside. Of course, nothing is what it seems and total mayhem ensues. There are liberal amounts of blood and gore in the more violent moments which are so over the top, the filmmakers could only think "more gore equals more laughs" and you'll swear Michael Bay directed the last 20 minutes. If you're a fan of British humor in a "Monty Python" vein, grab a pint and don't miss "Hot Fuzz".