Race to Witch Mountain Review

Honest Race to Witch Mountain Review

The movie will obviously attract a lot of people to the cinemas, but you should know that numbers do not always mean that the movie was great. It seems the highly-anticipated movie will continue to taint initial viewing with expectations, but a second, more objective and analytical look into the movie will reveal the mediocrity of the movie – yes, I’ve said it, all things considered, the movie is rather mediocre, I’d give it a B-.

Andy Fickman did not do us justice and those who created the hype surrounding the movie are doing movie goers a great de-service. Race to Witch Mountain bears a passing resemblance to 1975’s Escape to Witch Mountain, but it falls short and it seems like Andy just wanted to finish the movie. Andy is not at his element here and it is always interesting to watch renowned filmmakers find new thing to be terrible at. The filmmaker has not given any real sense of scale or scope to the film and this has made what should be grand and epic sequences feel both small and constricted.

There is little fun in the movie, but it quickly gives way to tedium. Disney is out to remake every single one of its live-action movies, but this is not the way to do it. The screenplay by Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback leaks of studio interference and last minute changes. It is rather witless and formulaic – who still uses such statements as “I’ve got a bad feeling about this!” and “We’ve got company!” in movies?

For an action movie, the action sequence is generic and boisterous and seems uninspired. The relentless urgent musical score by Trevor Rabin is surprisingly fitting, but it should have found its way to a better action flick. Go watch the movie, but don’t hold your breath for a food film.

Overall B

Taken Review

Pierre Morel’s “Taken” is a giddy revenge fantasy with plenty of action to keep the average viewer entertained.  There’s nothing here that will blow you away, but there’s plenty to satisfy you if you’re already a fan of the genre.

Some movies are built to be standard fodder for a pre-existing viewer base.  In this case, half of humanity is in luck – the viewer base is “men.”

“Taken” is part revenge fantasy, part action romp.  Liam Neelson is a powerful choice as a leading man and his casting sets the role for the entire film.  I’ve seen a shift in this lately – action movies tend to shift between the gritty (the Bourne trilogy, the new 007 flicks) and the glam (Transporter, Wanted.)   This film attempts to strike a balance between the two, and while the plot falls short the tone goes the distance.

First off, let me say that if you don’t already like action movies in all of their half-acted, semi-plotted, jaw-dropped wonder then you won’t enjoy this film.  On the other hand, if you get that deliciously satisfying feeling in the pit of your stomach when a bad guy gets his comeuppance, then you’ll get a kick out of this.  Having a daughter stolen out from under you it every man’s terror – and even if you aren’t a father, you can appreciate it – and Liam Neelson does add an emotional, classy element to the action fodder.

Neelson’s acting is really the element that separates this film from the rest of the pack.  Without his presence, this film would have definitely been lowered a letter grade.  Casting an older man (mid-fifties) with considerable acting ability and a really kickass voice.  He performs the action in a relatively believable manner, at least for a movie primarily about kicking asses.  What he brings to the film also accentuates the film’s flaws – indeed, he’s much better than the script.  I wonder just how his agent pitched this to him, except that it’d be nice for his image to do an action flick.  He delivers each line excellently, which outlines the problems with the film’s script.  A word to the wise: don’t listen to the dialogue, just listen to the Neelson’s James-Bond-meets-Batman voice.

This film lands somewhere between the Bourne films and Transporter on the scale of believability; Liam Neelson is (par for the course) an unbelievable ass-kicking machine whose only purpose is to wreak unholy vengeance on those who have wronged him.  If you can get behind the morally ambiguous plot and not expect too much from standard action fodder, you will walk away satisfied.

Coraline Review

The Other Mother is the perfect villain.  She’s love gone berserk; a spider who loves her prey so much that she has to devour them.  “Coraline” is enchanting, beautiful, and a perfectly strange mix of warm and chilling.

Selick’s Coraline is an overwhelming success.  The film’s stop motion technology is a very welcome change from the silky-smooth but often-soulless polygons of Pixar and (more often guilty) its clones.

Young Coraline beings her story with a familiar plotline – at least to those of us who grew up familiar with Roald Dahl’s masterful storytelling.  She ends up on a dilapidated, seemingly-dull farm in the middle-of-nowhere, completely ignored by her pre-disposed parents and driven by a nagging sense of curiosity.  This is all standard fodder for a film apparently aimed at children (although it is nice to see a young female heroine) , but in a fashion typical for the author of the source material, American storyteller Neil Gaiman, the story soon spins off in a magically unpredictable manner.

Coraline quickly transforms from standard children’s fair into a dark and deeply disturbing/interesting film within the first act.  In fact, the biggest question for parents may be whether or not this movie is appropriate for children at all.  It’s fairly disturbing for an audience under ten – the Other Mother can be very scary; she’s an other-world witch  with arachnid tendencies who feels a need to be a perfect matriarch for her subjects; at least until she steals their souls (and, disturbingly, their eyes – which she replaces with buttons) and locks them into her mystical prison forever.

The fantastic and entertaining story is supported by beautifully creepy music that is remiscient of Corpse Bride, but forgoes the musical.  Personally, I’m pleased; I’ve never been a fan of musical numbers and probably never will be.  And don’t worry, this film meets its zaniness quota; you’ll leave feeling constantly amazed by the visuals the Neil Gaiman draws up – from grasshopper tractors to three-dimensional representations of spider-webs that employ depth as measurements of gravity and time.  Yeah, it’s as crazy as it sounds.

Overall, this is a movie for everyone.  Neil Gaiman is slowly proving himself to be this generation’s quintessential surreal storyteller, and anytime one of his scripts is ably brought to the big screen, I get excited.  This is the same guy who wrote “Stardust” and “Mirrormask,” and any flaws those films might have had are easily handled by Selick’s masterful directing.  Any moment when you aren’t completely in love with Coraline and the endearing story, you’ll be gawking at the constantly surprising visuals or mesmerized by the music.  There isn’t a single moment in this film when you won’t be entertained, and I can’t help but call this one of the strongest efforts I have seen in ’08 or ’09.

Overall Grade: A

Street Fighter Made me and Atheist – Honest Movie Review

This movie…this movie.  I blame director Andrzej Bartkowiak’s “Street Fighter: the Legend of Chun Li” for my loss of faith in God.  Seriously, Uwe Boll could have done this better.

I know what sinister energies brought this movie to bare, but as a critic it isn’t my job to talk about videogame tie-ins.  This movie doesn’t seem like it was terrible on purpose – it seems like it actually wants you to hate it.  It takes the premise of an action movie but strips out any good fighting.  There are sexy female characters, but they aren’t naked enough to justify this movie.  Nothing would be naked enough to justify this movie.

It’s already considered to be dead in the water, but the level of horror at the atrociousness of this picture has been theatrical.  It has scored an incredible 5% at Rotten Tomatoes and Kristin Kreuk’s wooden acting does nothing for this turd.  Neal McDonough, Chris Klein and Michael Clarke Duncan all man the Failboat as well, and even for the deep hell that is videogame adaptations, this one outdoes itself in delivering the bad.

Of course, this movie has to draw comparisons to the first (?!) Street Fighter title, which starred Van Damme.  It was also horrible, but at least it was entertaining for kids – it did what an awful videogame movie is supposed to do: bring the stilted two-dimensional characters of the videogame to life in gloriously bad costumes on the big screen.  Of course, videogame characters rarely need to be brought to life.

Bartkowiak’s film even takes liberties with the history and story of the Street Fighter universe, and it does it poorly.  In trying to explain itself we miss out on valuable time for action.  Unfortunately in this movie, that sucks too.  At least Van Damme could actually perform a martial-arts stunt or two; these actors suck at fighting and acting.  I can’t tell if the editing is bad on purpose, or if it’s just desperately trying to make up for the lack of ability in the film’s stars.

Avoid this film at all costs – this is the epitome of a bad movie, and it fails in every aspect of its delivery.  It has no plot, no action and no attractive imagery. When the actors can actually manage to portray any emotion at all, they are visibly embarrassed to be in this movie.

Final score: F-

Who Watches the Watchmen? a Dark Honest Review

Who Watches the Watchmen?  Hopefully, no one.

The Watchmen is an energetic, stylized movie that has its merits but ultimately misses the tone of Moore’s dark epic.

Between the huge studio battles, law suits and dozens of delays, fans had almost lost hope in seeing “Watchmen” become reality.  Personally, I wasn’t convinced that this movie should have ever happened.

Alan Moore’s graphic novel is a dark, cerebral, brooding experience.  The characters draw up a realistic portrayal of what caped crusaders might be like if they were real people – if the perfections that we take for granted in Superman and Spiderman were erased, and they were just like you and me.  We’re left with the deeply flawed, disturbed and perverted heroes you’ll come to know as the Watchmen.

Watchmen takes place on an alternate Earth where Nixon is president for life (one of the first signs the future is not going well,) America won the Vietnam War, and costumed heroes have been outlawed. “Watchmen” starts off with the explosive murder of Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Also known as the Comedian, Blake’s death is the event that sets the film’s most dynamically acted character, Rorschach (Jackie Earl Haley). A useful opening credits montage introduces us to the hefty cast of superheroes and their history together.  Pay attention, because if you’ve never read the graphic novel then there is a lot to miss here.

Ultimately director David Snyder bit off more than can be chewed.  The movie is infused with a Hollywood energy that isn’t befitting of the dark source material – the compromises made to the tone of the film are far more horrendous than those done to the plot.  Much adieu has been made about the changed ending, but I assure you that Snyder didn’t tack on a family-friendly ending.  The change that he made (I won’t spoil it) is one that actually improves on the graphic novel’s own final act.  Without being able to set up the proper Lovecraftian references of Moore’s seminal title, a giant squid monster might have been lost on your average moviegoer.

Instead we are left with a lot of action, a lot of characters, and not enough depth.  Further, the musical choices are often laughable – listening to “Hallelujah” while watching a costumed Owl (who owes Batman royalties) and a spandexed skank bump and grind elicited more than a few chuckles from my fellow moviegoers.  It’s been said that the perfect musical score is never noticed; it’s painful when one actually reverses the intended meaning of a scene.

Then again, maybe nothing could save that scene.

Ironically, the movie falls into many of the pits that the source material set out to satirize.  The action is a focal point of what was once a character-driven story, and while this is an “okay” entry into the superhero echelon of movies, those expecting the gravity and character-driven story of, say, The Dark Knight will be disappointed.

Overall Grade: B-