Sunday, July 18, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

I'm just going to bluntly state this as my opening sentence: best movie of the summer. Now that it's been said, it's time to break it down. Take everything positive I said in my last review of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and amplify it. Graphics-amazing, cast-superb, storyline- profound, staggering, mind-blowing. This is by far the best movie of the summer, even beating out (dare I say it) Iron Man 2. Don't get me wrong I'm all for Tony Stark beating on some bad guys, but the original was better and the final battle was short compared to the rest of the movie. But who am I to judge what movie reins supreme? Right now I've got on my reviewer pants, not my comparison pants, so let's get to it.

Mr. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extractor. He has mastered the art of entering the subconscious and uncovering secrets within the victim's mind. However, a powerful acquaintance asks Cobb to attempt something that most extractors deem impossible: inception. I don't want to spoil anything (and trust me it's difficult not to) but the idea of inception involves planting an idea in an individual's mind so that he or she believes it to be true. In order to accomplish the task set before him, Mr. Cobb assembles a team of specialists including such actors as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, and Tom Hardy. I myself thought that DiCaprio and Page's acting specifically was astounding. Their characters are believable individuals with actual personalities, Cobb with his troubled past and Ariadne (Page) with her curiosity to uncover the truth behind Cobb's actions.

The storyline is in itself a masterpiece. The thought provoking style of this film reminded me somewhat of The Matrix. Both films leave the viewer questioning their own reality, or in fact, what is reality. Although I realize some people may leave the theater confused about the plot or not understanding some aspects (trust me if you leave to go to the bathroom during this movie you're pretty much screwed) however, if you pay attention throughout the film, you'll be able to comprehend the major components.

The special effects within Inception are definitely not to be forgotten. Although I myself am majoring in physics, the shear disregard to the fundamental laws of physics was a sight to behold. Because most of the movie takes place within the subconscious, physics can easily be manipulated within one's dreams. None of these effects were overused while the action and story flowed perfectly when CGI was implemented.

I found myself on the edge of my seat from beginning to end of this film. The last scene of the film, I must add, is perfectly scripted and amazingly produced, leaving the moviegoer with a yearning question in which it is very likely to second-guess the answer. (That's my way of saying the ending was epic, for lack of a better word). While most of the time, within my group of friends that I go with to the theater, I am usually the only one to save his ticket, this time around, I found my friends holding onto their ticket stubs and making sure they hadn't thrown them away. This movie is definitely one of the best films I have seen in a very long while. It redefines, as least in my opinion, movie-making at its roots. Of all the movies that have come out this summer, this is definitely the one to go see.

A definite 5 out of 5.

"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." --Cobb

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Nicolas Cage returns to the movie industry this time not as a treasure hunter extraordinarie, but as one of the three Sorcerer's trusted by Merlin himself. Loosely based off of the Disney short "Fantasia," the movie follows a twenty year old boy named David (Jay Baruchel). Unaware of his magical ability, Dave initially rejects his calling to become a Sorcerer. Only after accidentally unleashing one of the most feared enemies into the world does he agree to help Balthazar (Cage).

At first, his magical ability is extremely weak. He cannot even conjure a plasma ball, the most basic of spells. However, with an instructor who learned from the famous Merlin, Dave eventually begins to control his ability. As with most movies with a "average guy who becomes the chosen one and must save the world" plot, The Sorcerer's Apprentice involves romance. Dave falls for a girl he met when he was ten however after an unfortunate turn of events, does not see her again until his collegiate years. His dream girl Becky (Teresa Palmer) is skeptical of seeing Dave after so many years, however soon becomes intrigued as Dave's physics and ingenuity helps her get her radio station back on the air. However, the great evil foil to Balthazar, Horvath (another apprentice to Merlin), plans to disrupt Dave's apprenticeship and unleash a horror the world has yet to see since the Medieval Era.

Similar to another movie I recently reviewed that shall go unnamed, The Sorcerer's Apprentice had amazing CGI. Magical spells worked well and made the film somewhat believable. Characters didn't have to dance around for five seconds before any magic actually took place *cough cough The Last Airbender*. I also found it rather fitting that *spoiler alert skip to the next paragraph* the scene from Fantasia where Mickey uses his spells to control mops to do his chores for him is expertly recreated and even includes the original music to go along with the amazing visuals.

Along with homages to the original "Fantasia" and excellent CGI, the acting skills were above par. It might just be that the last acting skills I saw in a theater involved a cast of children who had no personality, however, I still felt that Cage and the rest of the characters in this film did their part superbly. Also, to continue my previous rant on that Avatar movie, The Sorcerer's Apprentice actually had comedy. And it was actually funny. I don't want to give it away, but a certain Star Wars reference had my friends and I laughing for a while.

Overall, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is an excellent movie, one that I am certainly not unhappy paying for. The cast is exceptional, the CGI is amazing, and the comedic timing is perfect. Even though there are a few awkward moments and occasional plot holes the movie as a whole is amazing. I went into this movie lazily trying to find time to spend my Friday night, however, when I exited, I asked myself why I didn't see this opening night.

A solid 4.5/5.

Edit: Here's a couple tidbits of trivia I thought paid excellent homage to "Fantasia."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Upcoming Reviews

Here's a list of movies I'm most likely going to see in theaters/games I've been playing recently that I'm planning on reviewing. Not in any particular order.


The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Expendables
The Adjustment Bureau
Dinner for Schmucks

Console Games:

Killzone 2
Crackdown 2
Battlefield Bad Company 2
Modnation Racers

PC Games:

Continuity (flash game)
Zelda II: FPS
Robot Unicorn Attack (iPod touch)

TV Shows:

Avatar: The Last Airbender (to make up for the movie)
Mind Games
Covert Affairs
The Misadventures of Flapjack

Some of those I just threw in there for fun. Also, I'm working out a method to redo this blog and turn it into something other than just my opinion on certain media. Maybe branch out into opinions on technology, or post links to interesting stuff, or maybe even a weekly top ten list of something, or perhaps even a guide to living at college. I'll think some more about it. But this is the list of things I'd like to review in the near future.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Movie Review: Despicable Me

Minions! Steve Carell returns to the animated film industry this time as a gentle yet still evil protagonist. After voicing a few characters from movies such as Over the Hedge and Horton Hears a Who, this time around he is cast as Gru, a super-villian who formulates a plan to utilize three small cookie-scout selling girls in order to infiltrate his nemesis's fortress. His plan? To use a shrink ray in order to steal the moon! However, after adopting the three children and living with them for a while, Gru must make a major decision: villainy or parenthood.

Although the only comedic scenes/laughable jokes in most of the comedies I have seen recently are bunched together in the preview so that if you actually buy a ticket you get to sit through the boring parts in-between gags, Despicable Me doesn't have that problem. There are still a few emotional non-comedic scenes and the occasional "they're trying way to hard" joke, however, one word makes up for it all: minions! The oblong yellow one/two-eyed little guys made this movie. Without them and their comedic timing, I wouldn't have been in such a good mood after walking out of the theater. The nonsensicalness of such a creature and the weird yet humorous noises it could make with its mouth kept me and my friends laughing throughout the movie.

I realize that this movie is directed toward a younger audience, however after sitting through it, I felt that people of all ages could appreciate the humor found within this film. All of the middle-aged adults sitting in front of and around me were able to laugh and have a good time with this movie. In fact, if I remember correctly there were only a handful of younger-aged children in the audience (and of course with its wacky style they were very amused).

Even with the filming of Dinner for Schmucks and the ongoing hilarity of The Office, Carell was able to voice a main character in a family comedy while still giving it his all. (The Russian accent of Gru was, as it seemed to me, spot on). So far, Steve Carell has yet to disappoint me whether he appears in person or as a voice-over. Despicable Me is a fun-filled movie that everyone will enjoy, even the older audiences. And trust was far better than the last movie I reviewed. I still want to get that hour and a half out of my mind.

Despicable Me gets a 3.5/5.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Movie Review: The Last Airbender

I don't even wanna talk about it.

Edit: Fine I'll review it....though no one reads this anyway.

I've been posting lately about how I am still unaware of what direction I want to take my blog. Whether it be a compilation of serious posts, a variety of comedic anecdotes, or continue along the video game/movie reviews. However, I feel that if I review this movie that most of you readers would feel I've gone off into a "rant blog" verbally exclaiming my distaste for the world and the society for which I live in. Even though that is not the case, I warn you now it's going to sound as if this movie made me jaded/depressed/hate society. Which, as it turns out, it moderately did. Though my hatred isn't directed toward society as much as it is toward M. Night Shamalamadingdong. (I'll have a few choice words later for him in the post)

This "movie" is the live-action adaptation of a highly acclaimed television series that aired on Nickelodeon a few years back. I'll be honest here, I was a fan of the show. It had developing characters, comedy, a divulging storyline (even though it went off on random tangents at times), and an intriguing yet nostalgic art style. The Last Airbender only focuses on the first book of the series since if they tried to cram all three seasons into one movie it would turn out even worse (if that's possible). Aang (apparently Shyamalan wants to pronounce it Ah-ng), an airbending nomad, befriends two water-tribe villagers and the adventure begins. In a world where the elements are "bendable" or manipulated by humans, only Aang as the Avatar is capable of utilizing all four. In the first installment of the series, Aang realizes that he must learn the remaining three elements if he is to end a war 100 years in the making. And thus the story begins.....

So where did Shyamalan go wrong? First off, he screwed up when he took the job. Seriously when's the last time Shamalamadingdong's produced a half-decent movie? I thought The Village was adequate and the "twist" at the end was different but that came out six years ago and I was only 13 so of course I would think it was interesting. Lady in the Water and The Happening were complete flops as well, so why hand over a series with an enormous fan base to a vividly failing director? His kids. He recently discussed that while his children were watching the show as it aired on TV, he also became hooked on its individuality and style. As a fan of the series, he was able to coax Paramount studios to allow him to direct the adaptation. I myself would just like to know one thing: what did his kids say after seeing this atrocity of a movie? The twist of this movie? It sucked....big time. Though it seems as if he used that twist in his previous movies as well....maybe he's running out of twists.

So here's what I felt he did wrong throughout the movie:

1. Pronunciation. Seriously that part ticked me off. If you're going to make a live adaptation of a cartoon, at least get the character names right. Especially the main character. Who the freak is Ah-ng? And Ee-row? Don't even get me started on Soh-kah. That's just a slap in the face to fans of the show.

2. Plot holes. I know that the ten hours of season 1 had to be condensed down to fit into a movie timeslot, but the lack of important scenes facilitated Shyamalan's failure. Throughout the movie, the trio of Sohkah, Ahng, and Katara only met a minor character by the name of Haru (who is supposed to be a man but rather appeared to be a small asian woman). They didn't even run into Suki or Jet, both of whom play major.....and I mean major roles in the following two seasons. I can understand why they didn't meet Bumi, Ahng's ancient earthbending friend since he was in the show for comedic relief, however, skipping over two main characters in order to include a sub-character like Haru is just plain stupid.

3. Lack of humor. That's what the show was all about! Comedy! Iroh and Sokka were hilarious and sarcastic, and Aang was a happy, spirited avatar. In the movie, everything was serious. Comedic relief was scarce and bland, and all the characters felt as though they were just reciting a middle school play of the show. The deep, emotional personalities from the characters in the cartoon were nowhere to be found in the film adaptation.

4. Acting. Like I said, it seemed as though I was watching a horrible middle school version of the show. Most all of the actors were terrible at their jobs with their poor acting skills. I know that the main cast was supposed to be pre-teen to teen aged children, but other movies have been successful with such a cast. i.e. Harry potter, the Goonies, etc. As far as the issue of race goes, sure the characters in the cartoon appeared Chinese while the characters in the movie were Indian/Caucasian, but I was at least able to get past that.....moderately.

5. Bending. I will give them this, the CGI was extremely well done in some scenes. The flow of water and the ferociousness of fire appeared almost realistic. However, if Shyamalan actually watched the show instead of reading a Cliffnotes for it, he would have noticed that the characters don't dance around for five seconds before any bending actually occurs. If it happened once or twice I wouldn't call him out on this, but every time a character manipulated an element, they had to do a fancy dance as if they were forced to please the Water God before being able to move anything. In that time I just imagined someone staring at the character while they perform yoga or tai chi or whatever, pausing to laugh inside their head, then throw a throwing knife ending the movie. Seriously, I know that the ancient art of Chinese fighting is sacred and all, but I don't think that leaving yourself vulnerable for that long is a good idea. Besides, it just looked silly. Just saying. On another note, when did firebenders require a source of fire for their attacks? I'm pretty sure they could just create it at will......way to stick with the show Shyamalan.

Now comes the only positive statements that I can possibly make about this movie. Near the beginning while Katara and Sohka were talking to their grandmother about Ahng, she mentioned her friend Hama who was taken away by the fire nation. Any fan of the show should know that the group actually meets the character of Hama in the final season of the series. She turns out to be a blood-bender which is creepy, but awesome since she can make a person her human puppet by manipulating the blood in their veins. And I've already stated that the CGI was pretty good in some parts.

Other than those two adequate positive outlooks, the movie was just plain bad. I knew it was going to be horrible before I watched it, however I just wanted to see how much Shyamalan butchered an excellent series. To me, it was worse than I had initially thought. And that's saying something since I had read that it had gotten an 8/100 on rotten tomatoes the day before I saw it.

Overall, if you haven't seen this movie yet, don't. Please don't encourage Shamalamadingdong to direct the next two (if they even make another movie). If anything, and I don't condone this, it's probably on the internet somewhere. Just watch the first five minutes, see how bad it is, then never mention it again. This is the first time in recent memory I literally almost went to the ticketbox and asked to get my money back it was that bad. This is a horrible rendition of the TV cartoon and I'm now almost offended to consider myself a fan of the show. Just stay away from this one at all costs. Now that I've finished ranting, I'm going to go apologize to my friends for having them come with me to see this "movie."

Nice job Shyamalan. A 0.5/5. And those are just pity points.