Deathly Hallows: Part Two PosterWith the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two, legions of Harry Potter fans will now no doubt be drifting aimlessly through a sea of bittersweet closure. The culmination of the highest grossing movie franchise of all time, it isn’t just a movie. It is an event. Part Two has already broken the record for (among other things) highest grossing opening weekend of all time, and it raked in almost $45 million in midnight showings alone (also a record).

This final installment (directed by David Yates, director of the last four installments) is the second half of the two-part movie based on the final book in a set of books you may have heard of, called the Harry Potter series; and is the continuation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One. Part Two picks up at the very same scene where Part One ends, and barely stops to catch its breath until the epilogue. In this installment, Harry meets his nemesis for one final battle and the fate of the world (and all the characters we’ve grown to love or hate) will be decided. (I won’t really bother with any more of a synopsis than that, because if you’ve seen the other movies, you know what is going to happen, and if you haven’t, it probably just won’t make any sense.)

Compared to Part One, Part Two is an improvement. It doesn’t feel quite as much like watching half of a movie, and there is significantly more action, significantly more plot, and is significantly more interesting. (And the characters don’t spend half the movie camping in the woods aimlessly, which helps.) There is a sequence of dense flashback exposition, but it is necessary for explaining the nuances of a plot twist. (And, to be honest, it may have just seemed talky, because the rest of the movie is so relentlessly climactic.)

Despite the fact that the movie is just over two hours long, and is a continuation of another two-and-a-half-hour movie, the pace is almost feverish. The pace is understandable because it is the climax of a 7 movie storyline, and have you seen the size of the book?! Nevertheless, I felt like it would have been nice if they had added some of the content that felt rushed or overlooked in Part Two to Part One, and truncated the pointless second act camping reenactment that was so long and drawn out. Or heck, why not make it two and a half hours or even three hours instead of two hours? Nevertheless it was a satisfying culmination to the eight movie saga. If you’ve seen the other movies, no doubt you’ll be itching to see this one as well. And if you enjoyed the other movies, this should prove to be a suitably exciting and emotional conclusion.

While many of the previous Potter movies have been fairly capable stand-alone movies, the final two movies really do need to be seen as the bookend to the series as a whole, and viewers who haven’t read the books, or at least seen the other movies, will probably either be very lost, or emotionally uninvested in the proceedings.

The Harry Potter films have been consistently above average in quality, and while certain installments were better than the others and vice-versa, the Deathly Hallows: Part Two, and the rest of the Potter pictures are well worth the time. If you’ve seen the other movies, you owe it to yourself to see Part Two and finish off the series. But then you probably already knew that, didn’t you?

4 out of 5 zipped lips.

Have you seen Deathly Hallows: Part Two? Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Robin Hood (2010)If you remember the list of my Top Ten Most Anticipated of 2010, then you remember that Robin Hood was sitting pretty, atop the pile in the #1 spot.

So what did I have to say about it almost three months ago?

“Robin Hood is one of my favorite literary figures, so I’m understandably excited that there’s a new Robin Hood movie being made.  Gladiator was one of the greatest historical epics of all time, so the reunion of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe is promising.  It’s also promising that they abandoned some of the weird ideas that they were toying with back when they were calling it Nottingham.  The trailer doesn’t show much, except for lots of epic looking battles, but the tone seems darker and grittier than most other Robin Hood movies (the awful Prince of Thieves being the one possible exception), which could go either way.  Just please, God, don’t let them try to make it nuanced.”

So, how did it turn out?  Glad you asked! Read the rest of this entry »

I hope the movie turns out to be as awesome as this trailer is.

Edit: 14 right, 9 wrong.  That’s 60%, could have been worse.

These are my Oscar predictions, and picks (who I think should win).

I have to admit, there are a few categories where I haven’t seen any of the nominees, (like Best Supporting Actress) so I’ll refrain from making picks for those categories, but I’ll still be a sport and make a prediction.

So without further ado, I’ll start off with the big ones:

Best Actor:

Prediction: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

Pick: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

Best Supporting Actor:

Prediction: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds).  If they don’t, they’re morons.

Pick: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Best Actress:

Prediction: Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

Pick: Streep kind of overacted in my opinion, so I’m going with Sandra Bullock, because she basically carried The Blind Side.

Best Supporting Actress:

Prediction: Mo’Nique (Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire) – And the Oscar for Worst Movie Title of the Year goes to…!

Achievement in Directing:

Prediction: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker).  Or they might give it to Cameron as a consolation prize for not giving him Best Picture.

Pick: I’m gonna go with Tarantino, because Inglourious Basterds was amazing.  Kathryn Bigelow can have runner up, because the directing was the best part about The Hurt Locker.

Best Picture:

Prediction: The Hurt Locker

Pick: Inglourious Basterds

Best Animated Feature Film:

Prediction: Up

Pick: Up

Achievement in Cinematography:

Prediction: Avatar

Pick: Inglourious Basterds… or maybe Avatar… or Inglourious Basterds

Best Original Screenplay:

Prediction: Up

Pick: Up or Inglourious Basterds

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Prediction: Up in the Air

Pick: District 9

…And now for the stuff most people don’t care about:

Best Original Score:

Prediction: Up

Pick: Sherlock Holmes

Best Original Song:

Prediction: The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart)

Pick: The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart)

Achievement in Film Editing:

Prediction: Avatar

Pick: District 9

Achievement in Sound Editing:

Prediction: The Hurt Locker

Pick: Star Trek

Achievement in Sound Mixing:

Prediction: Star Trek or Avatar

Pick: Star Trek

Achievement in Visual Effects:

Prediction: Avatar

Pick: Probably Avatar.

…And now the stuff abso-friggin-lutely nobody cares about:

Achievement in Makeup:

Prediction: The Young Victoria

Pick: Star Trek I guess…

Achievement in Art Direction:

Prediction: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (although they do kind of have a thing for movies about British queens, so who knows.)

Pick: Probably The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Achievement in Costume Design:

Prediction: The Young Victoria

Pick: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Best Documentary Feature:

Prediction: Food, Inc

Best Documentary, Short:

Prediction: The Last Truck, Closing of a GM Plant

Best Foreign Language Film:

Prediction: I’m gonna go with El Secreto de Sus Ojos, because it’s from Argentina.

Best Animated Short:

Prediction: A Matter of Loaf and Death, duh, it’s Nick Park!

Best Live Action Short:

Prediction: I have no freakin’ clue, but Instead of Abracadabra has a nice ring to it.

We’ll see how I did tomorrow night.

10. Hot Tub Time Machine


Honestly, with a name like Hot Tub Time Machine, I’d probably go see it regardless of who was in it, behind it, or what it was about.  Fortunately, it’s got the likes of John Cusack, Chevy Chase, Craig Robinson, and Lizzy Caplan starring, and it’s directed by Steve Pink, who wrote High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank, and directed Accepted (which kinda sucked, but not because of poor directing.)  We’ll see how it turns out.

9. Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

So Prince Caspian kinda sucked, but the book wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of the series.  Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the other hand, is one of the better books (even though personally I never cared that much for it.)  But this one needs to do some awesome business so that they freaking make The Silver Chair already!

8. Red Dawn

No one knows anything about this one yet, but the original Red Dawn was cheesy 80′s awesomeness.  Therefore, even though I know they’re going to royally screw the remake up, it’s a shoo-in.

7. Alice in Wonderland

This may be the perfect adaptation for Tim Burton.  He does, after all, seem to be cut from the same cloth as Lewis Carroll (which, if I had to venture a guess, must be some sort of seersucker/hemp combination).  The trailer looks good, and the cast is fantastic.  Here’s hoping it’s better than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was.

6. The Expendables

2008′s Rambo was astonishingly good, so Stallone writing and directing another action flick is probably good news.  This particular action flick, however, also happens to star (in addition to Stallone himself) Jet Li, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Dolph Lundgren (aka Ivan Drago from Rocky IV), as well as UFC champion Randy Couture, and WWF wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and Danny Trejo.  Which basically makes this a LOT more interesting.

5. Paul

Paul

What’s that you say? Simon Pegg and Nick Frost? I’m in! Oh? It’s got Sigourney Weaver in it? Even better! And Jason Bateman too!? Oh, trust me, I’m seeing it! And it’s about Comic Con and Area 51? That’s it, where do I get in line?!

4. Iron Man 2


With all due respect to The Dark Knight (and all due respect in this case happens to be about thirty boatloads), Iron Man was just more fun.  Hopefully Iron Man 2 manages to avoid descending into Transformers 2 territory.  Cross your fingers.

3. Kick-Ass

This wasn’t even on my radar until I saw the first (brilliant) trailer for it, whereupon it instantly shot to #10 on my list.  Having seen the second trailer, and having discovered that Matthew Vaughn (who directed the woefully under-appreciated Stardust) is directing, it’s gone even higher.

2. Inception


Everything Christopher Nolan touches turns to gold.  Hopefully Inception is no exception.  The trailers are all kinds of trippy, and give next to nothing away, although it does seem to be in a similar vein as The Prestige and Memento, which is a good thing.  This is one to put on your calendar.

1. Robin Hood

Robin Hood is one of my favorite literary figures, so I’m understandably excited that there’s a new Robin Hood movie being made.  Gladiator was one of the greatest historical epics of all time, so the reunion of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe is promising.  It’s also promising that they abandoned some of the weird ideas that they were toying with back when they were calling it Nottingham.  The trailer doesn’t show much, except for lots of epic looking battles, but the tone seems darker and grittier than most other Robin Hood movies (the awful Prince of Thieves being the one possible exception), which could go either way.  Just please, God, don’t let them try to make it nuanced.

Good News for Superman?

February 11, 2010

Deadline Hollywood is reporting that in addition to getting started on Batman the 3rd, Christopher Nolan is going to be taking some sort of supervisory role on the Superman reboot.

If this is true, this could be the best thing to happen to Superman since Christopher Reeve.

Read the rest at Deadline.

Review: Daybreakers (2010)

January 25, 2010

DaybreakersDaybreakers begins with a most intriguing premise.  Vampires have taken over the entire world.  They have successfully turned nearly every human on earth into vampires, and the few that remain are farmed for their blood.  Vampires have become the new uncontested king species, and the world is now tailored to their unique needs: blood is served in coffee at the corner Starbucks, everyone is nocturnal, and all windows (even car windows) have sheet metal curtains to keep out the sun.

Unfortunately, it is exactly this total victory that has become the greatest threat to the vampires’ existence.  You see, if the vampires don’t drink human blood often enough, they start to become hideous, mindless, bat-creatures that roam the sewers of the cities attacking anything or anyone who crosses their path.  Until now, finding human blood wasn’t a problem, because the blood farming corporations produced an adequate supply, but after twenty years, the humans in the blood farms are starting to die off, and there aren’t enough left in the wild to replace them.  Cue Dr. Edward Dalton (played by Ethan Hawke), chief hematologist for the largest of the blood corporations.  He’s working on a synthetic blood substitute (and failing spectacularly.)

It’s hard not to feel a little bit like Daybreakers is the anti-Twilight.  (Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.) It’s gory, and the vampires don’t sparkle in the sunlight, they burst into flames, and they explode when shot with crossbows, etc.  That said, it does all feel very B-movie: the gore is over the top, but done well, the CGI is fairly middling, and there seem to be an overabundance of loud bats flying suddenly into the screen.  The performances are fine: Ethan Hawke seemed a little stiff, but Sam Neill makes a fantastic blood-sipping CEO, and Willem Dafoe is as colorful as we have all come to expect as the rogue human named Elvis.  The Spierig brothers (who both wrote and directed) show real talent as directors, and the pacing and editing are both excellent.

If you’re itching for a schlocky, sci-fi gore-fest, Daybreakers might just hit the spot.  Don’t expect anything too brainy though, unless those brains are splattering all over the screen.

Zipped LipZipped LipZipped Lip

3 out of 5 zipped lips.

Review: Avatar (2009)

January 23, 2010

Avatar PosterJames Cameron is a legend among directors. Having made his mark with Aliens, and The Terminator, and made history with Titanic, Cameron returns, over a decade later, with Avatar, which has proved to be an almost unparalleled box office phenomenon, having already made more money than any other film in history, save Cameron’s own Titanic.

Avatar is the tale of an ex-marine paraplegic named Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) who is offered a chance to take his recently deceased brother’s place on an expedition to the alien planet of Pandora at the behest of ‘The Corporation.’ Pandora is a tropical planet with a toxic atmosphere, and is home to an exotic menagerie of dangerous fauna and fantastic plant life that puts the Amazon Rainforest to shame (including mountain-sized trees that practically drip awesomeness), and an native alien race called the Na’vi, who are humanlike but are ten feet tall, blue, and have tails and glow-in-the-dark freckles.

The flora and fauna, and the natives, are naturally all peripheral to what The Corporation is really after on Pandora, which is a wildly valuable ore, that unfortunately lies in massive deposits beneath the ancestral home of the Na’vi. Jake Sully and a team of human scientists, led by the gruff Dr. Grace Augustine (played by Sigourney Weaver) are tasked with “winning the hearts and minds” of the natives through the avatar program. The Corporation synthesized human and Na’vi DNA and grew avatars, which are Na’vi bodies that the scientists can synchronize brains with, using their Na’vi bodies to explore Pandora and interact with the natives, while their human bodies lie safe back at the base. Jake’s task is to integrate into Na’vi society, and convince them to relocate, so that The Corporation can strip-mine the area for ore. However, the more time Jake spends with the warrior princess Neytiri, and becoming one of the Na’vi, the more he begins to questions his loyalties.

First things first: Avatar is a spell-bindingly beautiful movie. It really is an astonishing visual achievement. Cameron and company have lovingly crafted the best-looking alien world of all time. The forests and inhabitants of Pandora are a visual treat, and the two thousand foot trees and floating mountains (oh! the floating mountains!) are some of the coolest environs I have ever seen. While the CGI is impressive (and it is), the cinematography is equally pretty, no doubt influenced by some of the impressive technology that allowed Cameron to have essentially limitless control over camera placement and movement. Avatar is indeed one of the best-looking movies of all time.

Sadly, it is not one of the brightest. This movie really is primarily about the spectacle, and it is plain to see that the script took a backseat to the visuals.  Which seems all the more odd because of all the work that otherwise went into creating the world.  (Like creating the entire Na’vi language!)  Anyone who has ever seen a movie will know exactly what’s going to transpire after the first 10 minutes. Character-wise, everyone is pretty boilerplate. You have the money-grubbing, power-hungry corporate bureaucrat. The scorched-earth commander with a chip on his shoulder. The awkward science geek. The quiet, elderly chief. The hot-headed brave. The beautiful native warrior-princess. Sigourney Weaver‘s Dr. Augustine is an oddly uneven character. Evidently, a significant amount of the film was cut to achieve the 160+ minute runtime, and perhaps some of the scenes that were cut would have helped Dr. Augustine’s scene-to-scene progression seem smoother. Jake Sully on the other hand is likeable enough, with motivations that are generally both compelling and realistic, and watching him get his legs back through his avatar is one of the film’s highlights.   Michelle Rodriguez‘s pilot character steals every scene she is in, (not enough!) and may have been my favorite character.

The script isn’t bad, for the most part, just unremarkable, but it gets the job done. Every so often something will surface that seems almost lazy: like naming the precious ore “unobtainium.” Really? That’s the best you could do? And some lines are just plain inept: “why me?” “because you have a strong heart.” Come on. That’s pretty hokey, even for the Na’vi; who are, incidentally, a little bit creepy. What with all the hissing, “interfacing” with their mounts, their odd loincloth/thong/tail-bridle clothing, and mild-but-ever-present blue indigenous nudity. But I didn’t care at all, because the visual scope was otherwise so magnificent, and watching it all unfold was just so pretty.  The story is a pretty clear-cut good vs. evil affair, and the evil corporate mercenaries are evil enough that it’s easy to cheer for the Na’vi.

Technologically and visually, Avatar is a masterpiece, and that’s what really matters in this case, because it really is all about the spectacle.  If you have a chance to see it while it is still in theaters, go, because if there were ever a movie made to be seen in theaters, this is it.

Zipped LipZipped LipZipped LipZipped Lip

4 out of 5 zipped lips.

These are my 25 favorite movies of the decade.  They may not be the ‘best’ films of the decade, as there are many artistically and/or technically exceptional movies that I just didn’t enjoy watching, (like Requiem for a Dream, or City of God) which, while they may indeed be some of the ‘best’ of the decade, they are not among my favorites.  That said, these are all excellent films in their own right.  Obviously, while these movies all come highly recommended, a word of warning, a few of them are very decidedly R-rated.

Sweet Home Alabama25. Sweet Home Alabama (2002):

Yes, it’s a chick flick.  But it’s a good chick flick.  It’s pretty original…for a chick flick.  For one thing, it’s not set in New York.  Also, “The Guy” isn’t some sexual Ghengis Khan who magically realizes the error of his philandering ways because he decides he wants the one girl he hasn’t managed to conquer.  Nor is “The Girl” some neurotic, uptight overachiever who meets a fun-loving but slovenly guy who she initially hates, but then they learn from each other and discover that opposites attract.  Is it predictable?  Yeah.  Is it fluff? Yes, but it’s extremely likable fluff that is lots of fun.  Lets face it, if you’re going to watch a chick flick, you might as well watch the best.

Read the rest of this entry »

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