Tag Archive | 5.5

110- John Carter [5.5]

John Carter is based on a classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose highly imaginative adventures served as inspiration for many filmmakers, both past and present. The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter, who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of another planet.

John Carter is not nearly as bad a movie as the press would let you believe it is. I wish Taylor Kitsch had more charisma (he was very good on Friday Night Lights) to carry this adaptation of Burroughs story, and I’m fairly bummed that we’ll likely never get to see a sequel. By the end of John Carter, I was genuinely interested in what was going to happen next. Time will tell if the CGI that is rampant throughout the film will hold up, but I doubt the general’s audience will.

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101- Half Nelson [5.5]

An inner-city teacher struggling with a drug habit forms an unlikely bond with a young student who catches him in a compromising position.

Half Nelson lays it on pretty thick with its theme of change in history (or lack thereof) and how it can relate to addiction. Though it thankfully avoids a lot of trite plot points found in teacher/student movies (especially those set in urban neighborhoods), Half Nelson still feels like a dozen films you’ve seen before stitched together. Ryan Gosling and young Shareeka Epps are excellent, but there performances are much better than the material at hand. (Also, as much as I love Broken Social Scene, their music felt quite out of place throughout.)

95- Stir Crazy [5.5]

Down-on-their-luck friends are given 125-year prison sentences after being framed for a bank robbery.

The teaming of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor is a wonderful thing, but Stir Crazy is not. What starts off as a very funny comedy quickly becomes sillier and sillier as soon as the two enter prison. It’s interesting to watch Pryor be so subdued while Wilder is over the top, but I wish the whole rodeo subplot wasn’t a part of the movie.

77- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [5.5]

Follows a man’s mission to find out what has happened to a girl who has been missing for 36 years, and who may have been murdered.

(For full disclosure, I haven’t read any of the books nor seen the original Swedish film trilogy.)

If David Fincher is putting out a movie, I’m going to see it the day it comes out. With the exception of Panic Room and Alien 3 (which was a tremendously troubled production), Fincher has put out one stylistically and visually engaging film after another. He’s one of the top directors of his generation, and I believe him to be the most consistent user of CGI implementation into his films.

With all that in mind, color me incredibly disappointed with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’d like to believe that it has to do with the source material, as I didn’t care for any one character in the film. Sure, it’s a very cold movie with a harsh subject matter, but character exposition comes in awkward places (we get our biggest understanding of Lisbeth’s history deep into the third act) and besides the central mystery, there’s nothing to cling onto. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo stutters in its second act, as it becomes largely a procedural affair. The title sequence is worth the price of admission alone, so if nothing else, check out the first five minutes.

46- Ip Man [5.5]

A semi-biographical account of Yip Man, the first martial arts master to teach the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun.

Featuring dazzling fight sequences, the semi-biographical Ip Man becomes a bit too over the top to be taken seriously. With shades of Seven Samurai, the high energy martial arts battles are much more interesting to watch than all of the conventional genre and well-worn territory scenes that pad out the film’s runtime. Donnie Yen performs well as the titular character, the very man who would go on to mentor Bruce Lee.

34- Quarantine [5.5]

Television reporter Angela Vidal and her cameraman are assigned to spend the night shift with a Los Angeles Fire Station. After a routine 911 call takes them to a small apartment building, they find police officers already on the scene in response to blood curdling screams coming from one of the apartment units. They soon learn that a woman living in the building has been infected by something unknown.

Having not seen Rec, the movie on which Quarantine is based, I can’t compare the remake to the original. On its own, Quarantine is an entertaining horror film with a few good scares, especially in its excellent third act. The biggest flaw of the movie are the logical lapses that take the viewer out of the tone that the first act establishes. From the beginning, the movie goes for a documentary feel, such as when the television cameraman will test volumes off-screen and the reporter will fumble her lines. Though I won’t bother getting into a dissection on the shaky camera approach (it’s been covered a lot, and particularly well here), I found the cameraman to be pretty inept at filming, even before the horror kicks in.

The cameraman is filming virtually the entire time because we’re told (almost comically, a number of times) that they “have a right to show people what’s happening”. Yet, considering the situation at hand, it becomes fairly implausible for him to keep the camera rolling while the situation is unfolding. He exhibits hardly any fear as he’s shooting, yet he’s at more of a disadvantage than those without heavy equipment in hand. Jennifer Carpenter overacts frequently on Dexter, and occasionally falls into that trap in Quarantine as well. Her character is portrayed in the beginning as a slight goof-off, so it became hard to believe that her journalistic integrity would carry-on throughout the events in the movie.

Quarantine is saved by its last half hour, a very well choreographed bunch of scenes in which the intensity keeps rising. The lack of score is very effective, and the infected are pretty frightening. Confined spaces can make for great horror, and Quarantine capitalizes on that with its claustrophobic feel.