Friday, July 30, 2010

Cats & Dogs 2 Review

I am shocked anyone bothered to make a sequel to the original Cats & Dogs, which was made almost ten years ago. However I actually liked the first film, and have to say that I enjoyed this one as well. The story mostly repeats itself from the original, just the players have changed.

Beneath it's furry coat is a James Bond inspired spy film. If the film's subtitle "The Revenge of Kitty Galore" did not already make that clear. This Kitty Galore has a plot that will rid the world of dogs and allow her to take over the world, but not every cat agrees with her methods. So now both cats and dogs must work together to put a stop to her evil plan. Has it been done before? Of course, but they manage to make it fun and still tell a decent story.

Most of the characters are new, but a few from the original pop up here and there. However the main dog from the first film has had his voice switched from Tobey Maguire to Neil Patrick Harris. The change is barely noticeable, and it's always good to see NPH is anything even if its just a voice. Other than Nick Nolte being slightly hard to understand (what else is new?) the cast all perform well in their parts.

The only fault I have against the film are the visuals. They aren't terrible, but by today's standards they feel dated like the film was made only a year or so after the original instead of the actual ten years it has spent in limbo. With a bigger budget to polish the effects this would have been an A-List film, but it falls just shy of that high mark.

Final Score: B+

Dinner for Schmucks Review

This is a hard one to review, because it is a bit of mixed bag for me. There is a lot you could really hate here, but also some really good laughs. I've said it before the best way to judge a comedy is the jokes themselves, but while Schmuck's jokes aren't bad they can become a bit annoying.

The general plot here is that Paul Rudd's character is trying to get a promotion at his work, but to impress his bosses he has to bring an idiot to a dinner they put on to amuse themselves. Steve Carell's character is literally thrust into his life and proves to be the right amount of bizarre and clueless that Rudd needs. Hilarity ensues, yada yada yada go see the movie if you really want to know what else happens.

This is where things can get a bit annoying, Carell's character while awkward and funny at first can become slightly grating as his idiocy keeps piling up more and more. I liked the character mostly, but I could see how it might become to much for others. His character reminds me of Jim Carrey from The Cable Guy, a strange guy who becomes attached to someone and seemingly destroys that person's life around them.

There is some fun to be found here, but it drags on a bit longer than it probably should and it dips into a realm of supremely stupid a few times. One thing I did love though was the score and soundtrack of the film, which includes a great Beatles song that fit the movie perfectly.

Final Score: B-

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Salt Review

Add another uninteresting movie onto the already crowded list of cliche and boring releases this summer. Salt does absolutely nothing new, and doesn't even do this old routine very well. It tries to fool you with twists and turns, but the problem is most of the audience should already be aware of what's going on.

Who is Salt? I don't know and frankly I don't care, but in the context of the movie Salt is Angelina Jolie. She does a decent job in the role of a quadruple agent, but the problem falls upon what little material she has to work with. You have seen Jolie do this all before, and to much better effect. The action is mediocre no matter how hard the music attempts to build suspense.

I honestly have nothing else to say on the matter of Salt, because there is nothing to talk about. I didn't hate it, but there was nothing to really like either. It is the definition of a "meh" movie in every way shape and form. Don't really waste your time with this dull film, and instead go check out Inception which dares to do something new.

Final Score: C-

Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception Review

What are dreams? In the world of Inception they become a gateway to all of our secrets. Through a process called Extraction mind thieves are able to enter the world of your mind, and pilfer those secrets. They are also capable of planting an idea into the person's subconscious, this method is known as Inception. That is the basic set up for the movie of the same title. Sound a bit confusing? Trust me it is, and you may find yourself lost more than once. It doesn't take much time to catch back up though.

Inception is the newest film by director Christopher Nolan after the successes of the Dark Knight two years ago. Nolan gives us a mind bending action thriller as it dives into dreams within dreams within dreams. Inception may not be his best movie, but it certainly is the best looking. After Dark Knight it seems Warner Brothers did not hesitate to throw buckets of cash Nolan's way, giving him one of the biggest budgets he has ever had. The 200 million dollar budget shows with a number of truly breathtaking scenes which you will question just how they were done.

The cast is packed with stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe. They all perform well within their given roles, but none really stole the show for me. DiCaprio is main character, but I was never interested in any of his problems or history. In a few ways this is almost identical to his character from Shutter Island. I wish the minor characters were given more development, because I honestly could not even tell you their names.

It may have a few flaws, but it is still one of the best films of this mostly dismal summer. I won't spoil anything, but I will go ahead and warn you that it has a very polarizing ending. You might find yourself hating it simply because of how it ends. I understood it, but was slightly annoyed at the same time. It wasn't enough to turn me off completely though, but does lower it's score a tad.

Final Score: A-

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Remember that iconic scene from Disney's Fantasia titled "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" which stars Mikey Mouse wearing a wizard's hat and robe. In the short Mikey is the Apprentice of the Wizard Yen Sid (Disney spelled backwards, get it?) and while his teacher is away Mikey abuses magic in order to finish his chores with disastrous results. It is a true classic moment in cinema, and is also the inspiration for this film ... sorta.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice certainly has sorcerers and apprentices, hell it even uses that famous mop scene. However the rest of the film steals more from Arthurian lore than it does Fantasia. There is enough back story crammed into the first five minutes of the film to make an entire other movie. So here is the gist of it all, Merlin had three apprentices but one of them turned evil and joined forces with Morgan Le Fay. Merlin dies, but not before sealing Le Fay and passing on his ring claiming one day someone would inherit his power and end Le Fay for good.

Jump a thousand years into the future where his apprentice Balthazar discovers the boy who has inherited Merlin's power. Horvath the evil apprentice returns and seeks to free Le Fay, and so Balthazar must train the young boy to stop her return from happening. That sounds like a lot to digest I know, and the movie doesn't do a very good job of telling it either.

I have mixed feelings about the movie. Part of me enjoyed the Arthurian influence and the way it portrays magic, but another part of me was annoyed by the number of cliches that feel forced. It screams studio meddling in attempt to try and appeal to every possible demographic, and causes the plot to lose focus. There was enough entertainment to be found that it falls into a tolerable mediocrity.

All I can tell you is there is nothing here to miss, but if you have time to kill it won't piss you off. There might be some joy to be found here, but nothing you couldn't get from any other film out right now.

Final Score: C

Friday, July 9, 2010

Despicable Me Review

There have been a lot of great animated films released this year, which puts a lot of pressure on Despicable Me to live up to expectations. Does it manage to do that? Well ... sort of. There isn't anything particularly terrible about the movie, but nothing really stands out to help it stand above the rest either.

Despicable Me's catch is what if a classic Bond style villain was the main character of a movie? Gru is a pointy nosed villain with grand ideas that never seem to work out, and The Bank of Evil is tired of his failures and refuse to grant him any further loans to fund his dastardly deeds. His plan requires a shrink ray that is currently in possession of another villain named Vector. He adopts three orphan girls as part of his plan to steal the ray gun from Vector.

It is a unique concept, but fails a bit in the execution. The two best things the film has going for it are the three girls, and Gru's minions who provide a bulk of the movie's best laughs. I couldn't do this review without mentioning those little yellow minions, who are still a mystery to me. Their origin is never explained, but all we need to know is they act as Gru's henchmen and do all the heavy lifting.

Margo, Edith, and Agnes are the little girls that Gru adopts for his plan, who slowly begin to soften up villain's heart. These three are adorable, and the young actresses playing them do a great job bringing them to life. After the awful child actor performances from Airbender last week it's nice to see some young talent really shine.

Animation is Despicable Me's biggest flaw, with rather dull character designs and flat textures keeping it from reaching Pixar or Dreamwork's level of computer animation. I did not see this in 3D, but a number of scenes were clearly meant to use a 3D effect to hurl objects toward the audience.

A decent family film that will provide a few good laughs. If you have already seen Toy Story and looking for something the whole family can enjoy, then give Despicable Me a shot.

Final Score: B

Predators Review

It has been twenty years since a Predator has appeared on screen outside of an Aliens VS Predator movie, but now the series finally continues with Predators. The plural title used in the same manner of the Aliens sequel because there are multiple predators this time.

Right away the movie opens with a soldier played by Adrian Brody as he finds himself falling through the sky when a parachute is suddenly deployed saving him from the deadly fall. The movie moves at break neck speed as more characters begin to plummet from the sky, and our cast has been assembled within the first five minutes. This group of strangers realize they are all soldiers, killers, and gangsters from around the globe and they have been brought to this planet to be hunted. Who is hunting them? A pack of Predators of course. Now they must fight to survive on this alien world.

From the get go it is clear that Predators is an attempted throw back to the original film. The jungle setting, the group of soldiers, and of course the stealthy predators. It doesn't hold a candle to the original of course, but it wasn't expected to. Predators still holds it's own as an entertaining film, and we don't get great action sci-fi movies like this very often. Adrian Brody and entire cast all perform their roles well, each with their own unique persona's that help round the group out.

My biggest complaint about the film would be the pacing that starts rapidly, then slows almost to a dead stop, before kicking right back into overdrive. It also suffers from an overuse of reaction shots from the cast. Every time the team discovers something new on the alien planet we have to see everyone of their faces reacting, and this happens multiple times over the course of the movie.

Aside from those flaws it was great to see the Predators in action, and was generally an entertaining experience. If you are a fan of the original Predator then you should enjoy this new installment, so check it out.

Final Score: B+