Archive for June, 2009

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The Fallen Shall Rise or How Many Times Can We Play the Same Green Day Song in One Film

June 26, 2009

transformersDon’t get me wrong, “21 Guns” is an amazing song, and I listen to it quite often, but I can count at least four times off the top of my head where it was used in this film.  But I digress.

Here’s the main two complaints that I am hearing regarding this film, from both fans and critics alike.

1) There were too many explosions and it was too loud.

And this is a complaint why?  You don’t go to a movie like this expecting something artsy.  You expect it to be loud and full of special effects.

2) Megan Fox wasn’t as hot in this one.

I’m not even going to comment on the veracity of this statement.  It makes me laugh. Even if it is true, I find it extremely difficult to take any critic or fan who makes this claim serious.

I went to this movie expecting to see the latest summer blockbuster action movie.  I wasn’t disappointed. Explosions, robots, great special effects, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving…those are the ingredients of a great recipe. 

The story was fairly decent.  The Decepticons return to Earth in order to locate energon and resurrect Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving).  Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has the map to what is believed to be the energon’s location stored in his brain which makes him a target of the Decepticons.  After traveling halfway around the world and across the deserts of Egypt and Jordan, the Autobots and the Decepticons meet in the final showdown.

The effects were great, the story was decent, and the acting was about what you would expect from a movie like this.  That being said, I had a few problems. 

Problem #1) The Twins

This was a lame idea.  They acted completely stupid and their humor was terrible. I’m all for comedy relief, but only when it’s believable and not over-the-top.  These robots were pretty much the Jar Jar Binks of the Tranformers movies.  I’ve also heard some criticism saying that the portrayal of these characters is racist.  I don’t buy that,  but they were just a bad idea. Period.

Problem #2) Identifying the Robots

I’m not a die-hard Transformers fan.  I never even watched the cartoon growing up except for a few episodes.  I knew a few of the characters and had friends that liked the show, however.  But for the average viewer, I found it somewhat difficult to tell the robots apart, especially the Decepticons.  But that’s just my opinion.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining movie that was worth paying admission for.  I would even say it’s worth seeing in IMAX, but I chose not to simply because I didn’t want to wait until late in the afternoon.  It’s what you would expect out of a summer blockbuster and there’s plenty of content in the movie that kids and adults will both enjoy, however the PG-13 rating comes mostly from the language and a suggestive scene or two.

If you’ve seen it, let me know your thoughts. If not, go see it and drop a comment or two.

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What Happens In Vegas…

June 25, 2009

hangover

So, I went and watched The Hangover a few days ago.  This movie was pretty much what I expected: not extraordinary, not thought-provoking, but good enough for a guilty-pleasure, make-you-laugh movie.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit leery when it comes to comedies because the trailers tend to show the funniest parts of the movie and when you actually go to watch it, you expect more comedy but really only get stuff that doesn’t quite measure up.  So, all things considered, this one was actually worth watching.

Basically, you’ve got four guys who go to Vegas for a bachelor party and have a crazy night.  They wake up the next day to quite the scene in their villa and have to backtrack to figure out exactly what happened to them…and that’s when they discover that it’s worse than they first thought: the groom is missing.  And so, the three remaining guys set off searching for clues in an attempt to figure out where they may have been the previous night in order to (hopefully) locate their missing friend while finding themselves in increasingly ridiculous shenanigans along the way.  It makes for an interesting story and it isn’t so ridiculous that it’s completely unbelievable as is the case with most comedies. 

The storytelling approach worked well in this film: they took a page from J.J. Abrams and used his signature “start in the middle of things and explain how the characters found themselves in this situation” approach (fitting since Bradley Cooper portrayed the character of Phil).  Eventually the story comes full circle and returns to the scene in which the audience views at the beginning of the movie although we see it from a different angle.  Then it proceeds from there as our protagonists continue to look for their friend and attempt to make it home before the wedding.

And a final note…the slideshow with the pictures from the trip to Vegas that plays during the credits is actually quite funny.  I found myself wondering if those were staged or taken while the cast was actually out partying.  Quite frankly, I don’t see how even a great actor can look that wasted without actually being wasted.

Overall, The Hangover is not a great comedy but the situation is believable.  It’s not overly stupid with ridiculously exaggerated situations as are most comedies and it’s worth watching.  I won’t say that it’s worth paying the price of theater admission because I’d imagine most of my readers would say that this movie is worth the price of a rental but not a trip to the theater.  Honestly, I’d have to agree, but I took one for the team.

I suggest giving it a watch, whether you pay for theater admission or wait for it to be released on DVD.  If you’ve seen it (or even if you haven’t), feel free to share your thoughts.

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When In Rome…

June 9, 2009

angels_and_demons_eng1Alright, after waiting a couple of weeks on a friend whom I had promised to watch this film with, I finally got a chance to see it.  It still took me another week to finally write this review, so I do apologize for the wait.  But as the saying goes…better late than never.

I want to start this review off by saying that I did heed my friend’s recommendation to read the book before seeing the movie.  I thought the book was absolutely amazing (thanks Meredith for the recommendation) and I couldn’t wait to see how it played out on film.  I honestly didn’t expect much though, seeing as how I’ve seen some lousy book-to-film adaptations in the past.  It was an entertaining film in its own right, but since I read the book, I do have some negative things to say about some of the changes and omissions.  I am going to give details, so if you have a desire to read the book or see the movie, I’d suggest not reading any further until you have done so.

A lot was changed when this story made the transition to film.  And in my humble opinion, a lot of these changes were completely unnecessary.  Let’s start with the beginning of the film, shall we?  The beginning of the film started out showing and explaining the rituals that follow a pope’s death.  I suppose that could be necessary on film for establishing the context of the events and giving a bit of explanation for those who don’t understand what goes on after a pope’s death.  But considering recent history has seen a new pope elected, I’d say most everyone who would be viewing this film is at least nominally aware of what goes on in such a situation.  From the introduction the movie proceeds to the creation of the antimatter at CERN and the murder of Silvano Bentivoglio (Carmen Argenziano), a character who never appeared in the book (in the book, he had a different name and a different relationship to one of our protagonists).  In contrast, the book begins with the death of Leonardo Vetra, Vittoria’s father and partner in the antimatter research.   This was research that only she and her father were involved in due to its secrecy and importance.  In the movie, however, we see that there is an entire team of scientists working on the project.  Unfortunately, this makes it more likely that word would get out regarding the research and that the wrong people would find out about it, completely negating some of the mystery and further diminishing the fact that Silvano had spoken to the Pope and Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor) in the first place.  And while we’re on the subject of CERN, Maximilian Kohler, the director of CERN and an important character in the book, wasn’t even present at any point in the movie.  Instead his role was assimilated into that of Commander Richter’s.

The next significant difference I noticed was the fact that instead of being called in the middle of the night by Kohler, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) was instead approached by a representative from the Vatican in person.  That change doesn’t really matter much, however, I didn’t agree with the fact that the movie takes the approach of having the Vatican contact Langdon rather than CERN.  In the movie, Langdon flies directly to the Vatican, whereas in the book he flies straight to CERN where Kohler explains the situation and then introduces him to Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer) and antimatter is explained.  They then discover that the largest sample of antimatter has been stolen and when it turns up in the Vatican, they proceed there in an attempt to locate it.

There is also some differences in the makeup of the Vatican authorities in the movie.  In the book, Olivetti is the commander of the Swiss Guard; in the movie, he is replaced with a new character named Maximilian Richter (Stellan Skarsgård) who seems to be a combination of Kohler and Rocher (whose character actually seems to have been replaced with Father Simeon).  Olivetti becomes the head of the Vatican police in the film.  Chartrand appears to be portrayed much the same as he was in the book.

There are a few more changes that I found significant.  The Assassin (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) was actually supposed to be Arabic, but in the film his character was changed so that he appeared to be of western origins.  I don’t know if this was some effort to be politically correct, but if that is in fact the case, I think this is one of those cases where being politically correct detracts from the story.  It takes away the entire motivation for the character.  In both the book and the film, the Assassin believes he is truly working for the Illuminati.  The real difference lies in the fact that the book’s Assassin is Arabic and his driving factor is revenge for the deaths of so many Muslims at the behest of the Catholic Church during the Crusades.  Politically correct or not, the Crusades were dark times for Christianity in general and such a motivation would certainly add depth to the character of the Assassin.  Instead, he was portrayed as simply another “gun for hire” as is evidenced when he explains to Langdon that those who hire him always find it important that he knows that his acts are for “Yahweh, Jehovah, or Allah.”  I’m paraphrasing there, since I cannot seem to locate the precise quote and it has been a couple of weeks. Regardless, even if it was a matter of political correctness, if we choose walk on eggshells and ignore the events of our past, then we are ultimately doomed to repeat them.

Yet another difference was the fact that Cardinal Baggia (Marc Fiorini) survived in the film.  Baggia was the fourth and final cardinal, and he was favored to become the next pope.  When Langdon failed to rescue him in the book, the situation felt hopeless.  I felt that was diminished when Langdon saved him in the film.  But don’t get me wrong, I did appreciate how the at first hesitant onlookers joined together to help free him in one of those rare occasions when everyone seems to come together.

The final change that I deemed significant was the fifth Illuminati brand.  In the book, it was the legendary Illuminati Diamond – an elaborate ambigram consisting of a combination of the four ancient scientific elements of earth, air, fire, and water.  In the film, it wasn’t even an ambigram.  It was two crossed keys crossed over one another and turned upside down, an obvious reference to St. Peter’s crucifixion.  The problem I have with this is that it really makes no sense as to why the Illuminati would have used this symbol as their final brand in the first place.  This did however, set the stage for one change I did appreciate.  In both the movie and the book, it was stated that Langdon had petitioned for years to get access to the Vatican Archives so that he could view Galileo’s Diagramma in order to finish a book he had been writing.  In the movie, he was rewarded with the final copy of Diagramma for his assistance; in the book, he was given the final brand (the Illuminati Diamond) on indefinite loan – a mere keepsake that served no real purpose other than being an interesting artifact.

I should also mention one insignificant change: the book was actually a prequel to Da Vinci Code, but the movie was actually a sequel.

I feel that I’ve probably spent a lot of time expressing my negative opinions about most of the changes and omissions (some of which I can agree with).  As a result, this review is probably a bit misleading.  I did enjoy the movie.  It is very entertaining and it is very well put together.  It does an adequate job of creating a sense of urgency and suspense, although I felt the pacing was slightly too fast.  The core of my issue with the movie is simply that I felt the transition from book to film could’ve been handled better.  I’d be interested to find out why some of the indicated changes were made.  If you’ve never read the book, you’ll probably have no problems with the movie.  You’ll be able to watch it and take it for what it is and be entertained and intrigued.  It’s definately worth watching in the theater.

But as I always say, don’t take my word for it, give it a chance and make up your own mind.