Category Archives: Movie Reviews

“The Avengers” and Its Wide Appeal

Pardon the cliché, but this is indeed fun for the whole family. Even if you are not a fan of action adventure films, you can still appreciate the simple story line and the numerous gags throughout The Avengers.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

This is not the kind of movie where you tense up during the action sequences. Just when you are beginning to hold your breath, the tension is broken by humor.

While discussing Loki, Dr. Bruce Banner observed, “You could smell crazy on him.” Thor cautioned, “Have care how you speak. He is my brother.” Black Widow explained, “He killed eighty people in two days.” Thor admitted, “He is adopted.”

Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk.

Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk.

 The Avengers is the story of how the team got together. Though it was preceded by movies of three of the members–Iron Man, Captain America and Thor–you need not have seen any of these movies to understand The Avengers. Unless you just wanted more fun, action and adventure. Each of these movies stand alone, each with their own brand of action and humor. The individual movies, though, have more serious action than this one. This is more fun!

Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man

Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man

Attending this shindig is Tony Stark (Iron Man) played by Robert Downey, Jr. He brings his conceit and his dry wit to the party.

Clashing with his ego is the demi-god Thor, hunkily played by Chris Hemsworth. Both Thor and Iron Man have their own ego clashes with Captain America, a.k.a. Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans. Ego or not, team or not, none of the three are spared the crankiness of the Hulk, a.k.a. Dr. Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo.

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America

By crankiness, I mean that all three have had an exchange of fist-blows with the Hulk. And with each other. But don’t worry. Whether they smash into rocks or buildings, they are basically indestructible.

Phil Coulson

Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson

None of them die. Not even the pleasant and shyly-handsome Agent Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, who dies in the movie. He doesn’t actually die, as he emerges later in the TV series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where everybody greets him with, “I thought you were dead.”

Capt. America: We need a plan of attack.
Iron Man: I have a plan. Attack.

Two more members of the field team are Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner, and Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson.

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow

Scarlett is such a dish, even as she kicks a**. Her fighting style is uniquely balletic and beautiful to watch. And her sexiness is so effortless, as if she is unaware of it. She carries it so casually. As for acting, she can go from tough to vulnerable in a split second–very convincingly.

The Avengers get together to fight Thor’s brother, Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston. Tom does not look very villainous to me, what with his young, smooth face. But the movie-goers loved him, and he was immediately propelled into superstardom. The exposure earned him the title Sexiest Man Alive from People Magazine, MTV News, Empire Magazine, and so on.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki

Tom Hiddleston as Loki

All I can say about him is that he is a good actor who is very suave, elegant and British. But, I repeat, he does not look like a villain. It’s a good thing his costume has horns, giving him a bit of an evil touch.

And thus, I highly recommend The Avengers to anyone and everyone, though I am aware that superhero flicks are more popular with boys. Even if your friend is strictly into chick flicks, she will not un-friend you for making you watch it with her.

I give this five hearts out of five. ♥♥♥♥♥

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Taking A Trip with “The Tourist”

If the love of your life were to change their face, will you be fooled into thinking that they are someone else? The Tourist is counting on that.

Alexander Pierce, white collar thief, is being hunted both by Interpol, and the powerful gangster he stole money from. So he underwent extensive facial surgery to be unrecognizable. To find him, his hunters trail his beloved, Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie). Alexander contacts her, and instructs her to befriend a random tourist who has the same height and build as he does.

Angelina Jolie as Elise

Angelina Jolie as Elise

Enter Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), Math teacher from Wisconsin, and unsuspecting tourist. He fits the bill, and gets caught in the middle of this cat-and-mouse game that is being played in beautiful Venice.

Johnny Depp as Frank Tupelo

Johnny Depp as Frank Tupelo

Johnny Depp is very good at playing the fish out of water, as well as the willing victim. And who wouldn’t want to be a willing victim if Angelina Jolie is the one reeling you in?

Angelina Jolie is utter elegance and mystery. She is born to play the enigmatic woman with many secrets, while attempting to penetrate secrets herself.

Paul Bettany as Inspector John Acheson

Paul Bettany as Inspector John Acheson

On her tail are Scotland Yard inspectors played by Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton, while Rufus Sewell haunts the background with a role that will only be revealed in the end.

The Tourist is not a full-out action thriller, yet it has elements of action thrillers. It is not a full-out mystery, yet it has elements of mystery. It is not a romantic movie, but it has elements of romance. Neither is it a comedy, though the comedic elements are worth a good chuckle.

“Buon giorno,” said the Italian police officer. “Bon Jovi,” replied the American tourist, Frank Tupelo.

Timothy Dalton as Chief Inspector Jones

Timothy Dalton as Chief Inspector Jones

The movie was actually panned for being neither here nor there, and for not having chemistry between the two lead characters.

A handful of critics, though, praised the movie for its entertainment value. I identify with the minority, for I am not fond of tensing up too much for suspenseful sequences. And I like the humor that breaks the tension.

Also, I particularly like the breathtaking beauty provided by Angelina Jolie, and the city of Venice.

"You look ravenous," said Frank Tupelo. "You mean ravishing," corrected Eise Clifton-Ward.

“You look ravenous,” said Frank Tupelo. “You mean ravishing,” corrected Eise Clifton-Ward.

This is a good film to watch for light action and light comedy. Purchasing the DVD is worth it, because after you’ve seen it, you have to see it again. The second time around, pay attention to the clues that will lead up to the reveal in the end. At first, you would think that many of the scenes are contrived so that the audience could get a background of the situation. But when you see it a second time, the seemingly contrived scenes end up making sense.

One of the screen writers is Julian Fellowes, of Downton Abbey fame. Trust him to write scenes that tie up neatly in the end.

Forget the critics. This movie made almost $300 million because it is good entertainment.

My rating: Four hearts out of five ♥♥♥♥

 

 

 

 

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Saving Mr. Banks

Emma Thompson as the difficult-to-please P.L. Travers

Emma Thompson as the difficult-to-please P.L. Travers

(Spoiler Alert)

Ooh, Emma Thompson is so annoying in this movie. She is so stubborn and closed-minded, unable to see things in any way but her way. She keeps finding fault in the ideas being proposed to her by Tom Hanks and his staff, refusing this, refusing that. If she does not give script approval for the screenplay to the Mary Poppins books she wrote, the movie cannot be made. She does not like those now-lovable and memorable songs and scenes in the movie, such as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Dick van Dyke dancing with the animated penguins. She is derisive of animation.

Screenshot 2014-04-22 22.44.46

She is also very rude when she corrects those who call her by any name other than “Mrs. Travers.” Oh, that’s right. She is playing Mrs. Travers, not Emma Thompson. Well, it needed this scene to remind me that Emma Thompson is portraying a character, as is Tom Hanks. You see, she is just so famous, just as Tom Hanks is, that it takes some time for it to sink in that I am watching Mrs. Pamela Travers and Mr. Walt Disney.

By the time I realize that Emma Thompson is just acting, it hits me: boy, she is so good! She has me shivering with indignation over her inflexibility, and scowling at her on screen. Furthermore, she is also being deceptive. Deep down inside, she really is not interested in seeing her book made into a movie.  So she justifies her nitpicking as the need to be true to her book, and contrasts it  to the propensity of Disney to…well, “Disney-fy” stories.

Immediately, I was reminded of The Little Mermaid. I love it now, after having viewed it oh-so-many times. But the first time I saw it, I was very bothered that they changed the ending. “She dies and turns to foam!” I complained. The same goes for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where the ending saw me in a huff. “Phoebus was just using Esmeralda! He marries somebody else who is in his social class! Esmeralda and Quasimodo die in the end!” Thus, in a small way, I guess I could sympathize with Mrs. Travers. But not much, because I haven’t read the Mary Poppins books, and have no idea how much the Disney group tweaked it.

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

This Disney group of tweakers are the screenwriter, the composer, and the lyricist. I am impressed by the patience and the politeness they display in light of Mrs. Travers’s criticisms and bullishness. Even the ever-positive chauffeur, charmingly played by Paul Giamatti, was kind in spite of Mrs. Travers’s transgressions. And yet, after a while, I thought that it’s not a stretch for me to believe that they are that patient and polite. I associate Disney Studios with feel-good productions, and it can only come from a happy place–the heart of Walt Disney. For the attitude of the leader filters down to his employees, and from there, to their products and services. You can’t create happy if you don’t have happy to begin with. And you can’t fake it.

Paul Giamatti as the chauffer of Mrs. Travers

Paul Giamatti as the chauffer of Mrs. Travers

But the nastiness of Pamela Travers begins to grind on me. It reaches a point where I want to stop the movie. I feel like I couldn’t take any more of her negativity. At last, in the next few scenes, there is progress, and the tone lifts. Now it becomes a typical feel-good Disney story. I find my head swaying along to the beats, my lips smiling at the happiness on screen, and my mood lightening up significantly. Ah, that’s more like it.

And then–oh no! Unfortunately, Mrs. Travers, who did not want this movie deal in the first place, gets mightily offended by the animated penguin scene, calls off the deal, and goes back home to London. How will Mr. Disney save the day? We all know that he did. We saw the Mary Poppins movie.

Dick van Dyke with animated penguins

Dick van Dyke with animated penguins

He flies to London and talks to her in her home. He asks her to trust them with her story, “Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope…again…and again…and again.”

That little speech captures why storytellers can move their readers and their audience. How true, that they can restore hope. And the way Tom Hanks delivers that line, with soft-spoken sincerity, is utter perfection. If only for this scene, I love this movie. (Yes, I kept replaying that scene, and I kept getting choked up each time). But then, this scene would not have had any impact without the context of the struggle that preceded it. So I am guilty of exaggeration when I wrote that I love the movie if only for that scene. And yes, that is how Walt Disney won her over.

Colin Farrell is in it, too, and his performance was lavishly praised. He plays Pamela’s father in flashback sequences of her childhood.

Colin Farrel as Pamela's father, Travers Goff, and the young Pamela.

Colin Farrel as Pamela’s father, Travers Goff, and the young Pamela.

I am not surprised that this is a critically acclaimed film. I would classify it as light drama and light comedy. And I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a good story unfold, with flawless acting that engages the emotions.

Rating: Five out of five ♥♥♥♥♥

Post Script
This article is dedicated to all the bloggers on WordPress. You are all storytellers who use words, photographs, and music to tell your stories. Stories that inspire. That instill hope. That capture the imagination. And you do it again… and again… and again.

 

 

 

 

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The Movie That Made Me a Trekkie: Star Trek (2009)

Movie poster with Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto

Movie poster with Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto

Cards on the table: I am a Star Wars fan. Science fiction enthusiasts know what that means: followers of The Force do not get on the Starship Enterprise. There are always exceptions, but this is the general trend.

I was in the “general” category until this new Star Trek movie came along. Then I became one of the “exceptions”. I have seen it a few times already, and just recently viewed it for the fifth time, I believe.

There is something to be said about seeing a movie again after a few years. For one thing, actors who were not famous then, are recognizable now. Oh, look, there’s Thor, playing the brief role of Captain James Kirk’s father.

Chris_Hemsworth_004
Chris Hemsworth is just as good-looking clean shaven and short-haired as he is be-whiskered and long-maned. I remember thinking, the first time I saw this film, that this is a very handsome young man who should get more major roles in the future. 

If you are not a Star Trek fan, there is no need to have seen any of the previous TV series or movies to understand or enjoy this film. I haven’t. It is a stand-alone film. In fact, the film is all about how the crew got together.

Come to think of it, it might be better if you aren’t a fan of the old series and movies. My neighbor, who is a fan, is attached to the original cast. So he hasn’t warmed up to this new cast — a problem which I don’t have.

Speaking of casting, let’s start there. I already mentioned Chris Hemsworth anyway.

I think that Zachary Quinto did a very good job of portraying a young Mr. Spock. He has that unflinching, unemotional reaction to events around him, while at the same time, it looks like his mind is constantly processing data. Zoe Saldana as Uhura rocks the mini skirt and the dramatic eyeliner, while Simon Pegg as Scotty is as funny as he ever was. (I don’t know if the original Scotty is meant to be funny, but I am definitely a fan of this one).

Karl Urban

Karl Urban

Karl Urban, as Dr. Leonard McCoy, was a surprise for me.  I have only ever seen him as a formidable warrior in action films such as Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Bourne Supremacy and Doom. Here, he plays against type. He pulls no punches, and he is funny. Though I can still see the bulging muscles beneath his uniform, I am sold on his portrayal of this character.

Another actor playing against type is John Cho as Sulu. Perhaps, like me, many of you only know him from the silly film series of Harold and Kumar. Here, he has me sold on the fact that he is a serious martial artist.

Finally, we have Chris Pine as Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Of all the Star Trek characters made famous by pop culture, he is the one I find least like the original. Which is neither bad nor good. It is merely an observation without judgment. It took me a while, but I eventually warmed up to this Captain Kirk who flies by the seat of his pants. And because I have no attachments to the original cast, as far as I am concerned, Chris Pine is Captain Kirk.

The movie itself is a fun ride that delivers all the elements of wholesome entertainment. Action, adventure, humor, likable characters, human foibles, alien foibles, and the comeuppance of the villain in the end.

Eric Bana as Nero, the Romulan enemy

Eric Bana as Nero, the Romulan enemy

The villain, though, a vengeful Romulan named Nero, played by the handsome Eric Bana, is not a complicated character whom you will sympathize with. He is just all out hell-bent on death and destruction. Though I prefer that my villains have more rationale motivations than just blind fury, the flatness of his character does not diminish the amount of entertainment delivered by this movie.

So, if you want a fun ride and pure enjoyment, Star Trek is the movie to see.

Rating: five hearts out of five ♥♥♥♥♥

 

 

 

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The Puzzle That is Pan’s Labyrinth

I do not begrudge Guillermo del Toro the lauds and laurels of his much-extolled, award-winning fantasy movie, Pan’s Labyrinth. Especially not the raves received by the stunning special effects and imaginative fairy world that is his own creation.

By the time I watched the movie on DVD, all the awards had been handed out, and all the word-of-mouth recommendations had gone the rounds. And what stood out was, “Fantastic special effects!”

Pan's Labyrinth

Pan with Ofelia

(Spoilers ahead).

Fantastic, indeed, are the special effects. It starts with the stick insect-ish creature, which you know right away is fay. Its transformation into the more traditional fairy form, in front of the young Ofelia, is endearing, bordering on the Disney-like. But then, when she meets with Pan, the image he presents is disturbing. Although the version of this Pan is visually splendid and imposing, his overall aspect is dark, dangerous, and frightening. Malevolent, even. Certainly not child-friendly. He is no Mr. Tumnus of Narnia.

When the central character of a story is a young girl, and the genre is fairy tale fantasy, the general expectation is that the material is meant for a young audience. The movie trailer reinforces this perception. It speaks of “escape from dark times”, and a “journey that will make you believe”.

But the movie turns out to not be the kind of magical family entertainment that the signs were pointing to. The brutal torture scenes could make a viewer turn away from the screen. The cruelty that

The Pale Man

The Pale Man

Ofelia’s stepfather displayed towards her, her mother, the rebels, and even the innocents (the rabbit-hunters), are graphic and stomach-churning. The child-eating Pale Man looks disgusting and repulsive — the kind that will haunt children’s nightmares.

Even the ending was tragic. Ofelia may have finally reunited with her real father and mother, the King and Queen of the underworld, but she had to die in order for that to happen, and it broke the heart of Mercedes, the household staff who loved her, and who was ready to take over the role of mother to her.

This is not one of those feel-good movies. One could actually be depressed after watching it. That is not to say that one could not appreciate the many reasons that it is critically-acclaimed. As mentioned at the start, I do not begrudge Guillermo del Toro his awards and praises.  I understand the genius behind the imaginative world; the realities of war; the complications of relationships; the frailties of humans. I just do not think that these elements belong in a fantasy film for children.

The fault could have been mine. In my equation, princess + fairy tale + hope = wholesome family entertainment.

Sure, there is such a thing as “adult fairy tale.” Neil Gaiman got a lot of flack for Stardust when critics and audiences complained that it is not suitable for children. A lot of explaining had to go around about how it is an adult fairy tale. But this categorization makes sense, given that the central character is not a child, but a young man of marrying age. There is nothing misleading there. Note, though, that despite the adult audience that Stardust is intended for, it does not have the violence, cruelty, terror, sadism, and gruesome creatures that Pan’s Labyrinth has.

Thus, I concede that I am in the minority for finding Pan’s Labyrinth disturbing, and for misunderstanding the audience it was meant for. If you have not seen it yet, at least now you know what to expect.

I would classify this as adult horror fantasy.

Rating: One heart out of five ♥

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