Thursday, September 27, 2007

Summer movie reviews

While I haven't seen much in theaters this year, I haven't been idle when it's come to watching movies at home. Between children's films with Gunnar, the odd spare moment with Jenica, the Manly Monday Movies at Mike's (my church small group), and my thesis, I've been taking in a fair number of films. Here are the ones I watched (or viewed again!) this summer. I've rated them all on a 10 scale.

Casino Royale: A much needed restart for a franchise that had sunk to relying on the cheap gadgets, one liners and Bond girls to keep it going. Casino Royale reminds us what the Bond films were originally about. True to the heart of the books, not the letter. Daniel Craig has me saying "Sean who?" 10/10

Children of Men: A powerful story told with a grimly beautiful aesthetic; one of the best movies of 2006, and another reason to be paying attention to what Alfonso Cuaron is up to. 9.5/10

Click: Less dog humping, more serious Sandler. This film had the potential to be Sandler's "Stranger Than Fiction" which was funny without being puerile, and touching without resorting to overwrought soundtrack swells for emotional impact the picture lacked. The scenes with Walken were great, the movie had good potential, but too much dick and fart humor ultimately makes it standard fare instead of a cut above what Sandler is usually capable of. I loved the premise, and some of the ideas were good, but the delivery was too locker-room for me to highly recommend it. Worth a watch, but just barely. 4.5/10

Dragonslayer: A classic piece of pre-Jackson LOTR fantasy film. The special effects were cutting edge for the time it was released, and the dark tone of the film was a bold move on Disney's part, as the film company was still predominantly known for it's bright and chipper children's films. A wonderful film, even after all these years. 8/10

Glory Road:
Remember the Titans does Basketball. A decent feel-good film for when you're feeling like you need something idealistic to pick you up. 6/10

Jet Li's Fearless: A beautifully filmed and choreographed martial arts swan song from Jet Li. While the story is based on the actual life of Huo Yuanjia, the movie is less about history than Li's Tibetan Buddhist beliefs surrounding the way of combat being about peace, and the avoidance of violence rather then the perpetuation thereof. Recommended for those who enjoy this genre. 7/10

First Blood:
The initial installment of the Rambo franchise stands alone as the only part really worth seeing. It sparked a flash fire of trashy carbon copies and boosted sales of Soldier of Fortune, which mar the film's legacy. However, as a standalone work, the film endures the test of time with a pre-action hero Stallone turning in a very capable dramatic performance. 8/10

The Host:
A daring resurrection of the Giant Monster Movie which is more complex than meets the initial viewing. What is likely to be dismissed as simply another giant monster flick from the East is actually a complex commentary on current issues, just as the genre's seminal work, Godzilla was. Instead of atomic metaphors, the subject matter is a stew of ecological, political and familial. Broken homes, a mutated fish and fragmented rhetoric all combine to make this a film that, unlike some less informed viewers have stated, a film that ought to be taken seriously. That said, "The Host" is enjoyable for all the reasons a good giant monster movie should be. However, like the poster, which would lead one to believe the monster is a giant squid, there's much more in this film than what's on the surface. Highly recommended. 10/10

The Illusionist: A sepia toned tale of magic and perception in the tradition of films such as "The Prestige" or "Memento". However, where "The Prestige" ends on a downbeat, the Illusionist closes on a hopeful, optimistic note. A very satisfying film with a competent cast. 8/10

Mad Max:
Thank God for the special edition DVD with the original Australian dialogue. This is a great, high-octane take on the classic Spaghetti western plot, set in a dystopic future some time just around the corner. Has lots of great hip late 70's Aussie slang and a cast that looks like they just rolled in from being on tour. 7/10

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest:
Watched it again with my wife, who missed out when it was in theaters. I was pretty hard on this film when it came out, but the second viewing was better than the first. It's a light hearted romp that places action set piece after action set piece; in this way it pays homage to the serials of the 30's. Watching it in hour long chunks didn't hurt either, as it gets tedious in one sitting. Definitely not as good as the first, but worth a see nonetheless. 6/10

The Pursuit of Happiness:
Wonderful father-son story of overcoming all obstacles. Will Smith demonstrates why he's one of the most celebrated entertainers in North America. Make sure and bring something for when the tears start to flow. 8/10

Silent Hill: Phantasmagoric ambience is the real star of this video game adaptation. Brilliant visuals, disturbing imagery and soundscapes make the first hour an immersion into nightmare. The last hour loses steam however, and the 'twist' ending is typical horror fare. Worth seeing just for the visuals. 7/10

Stranger Than Fiction: Brilliant. Poignant, insightful, and for someone who uses video as a teaching tool, utterly quotable. More of this Will, less Talladega. 10/10

The Sword and the Sorcerer: This film is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. A low budget is really the only thing this film suffers from; the campy lines, the musical fanfares and the over-the-top acting and storyline are all perfect! You can't go wrong with a triple bladed sword! 6/10

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders:
Czech new wave pastiche of horror, gothic fairy tale and softcore erotica. The non-linear narrative explores feminine sexuality through a young girl's journey into adolescence. A beautifully filmed, artfully disturbing, surreal adult fairy tale. 7/10

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