Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Up, Up, and Away

It's official. Pixar can do no wrong. Of course, we all knew it after the success of the first three movies, but now the studio wunderkind has ten movies under its belt. I'm sorry, ten successful movies. I don't care if you didn't enjoy every movie with a Pixar stamp on it; you have to admit that Pixar's worst movie is better than any other studio's worst a long shot.

Up is definitely not Pixar's worst movie.

Ed Anser voices Carl, a retired balloon salesman, who lives alone in the middle of a construction site. Carl has always dreamed of grand adventures--especially to Paradise Falls, the place his childhood hero went to explore. When he faces internment in a nursing home after bopping a worker on the head with his cane, he decides to take that adventure by tying hundreds of balloons to his home and flying off to Paradise Falls.

Along for the trip, by no choice of his own, is Russell (voiced by newcomer Jordan Nagai), a very determined Wilderness Explorer who's looking to get his last badge by helping the elderly. Never did Russell think helping would mean being tethered to a floating house walking across plateaus in South America.

On top of being an extremely endearing story (I cried twice), Up is very funny as well. I mean, who wouldn't laugh at two old men fighting? Or a gigantic bird who likes chocolate? Or a dog with a talking collar who's overly interested in squirrels and tennis balls? I'm usually iffy when it comes to talking animal sidekicks in Disney pictures, but sometimes you get a real gem. Dug (that would be the talking dog) is so funny, he's a friggin' diamond.

I want to go on and on about Carl & Russell's adventures, but I feel that I would just end up telling the whole story and giving it away. So just go see it. If it's available to you, see it in 3-D. It looks absolutely spectacular in 3-D. The deep caverns, the color balloons, the huge waterfall--all worth the 3-D experience.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Terminator: After the Fall

Way back in March, I said that I was not 100% sold on Christian Bale as John Conner. And now that I've seen Terminator Salvation... I'm still not 100% sold on Christian Bale as John Conner. He is good, but not as good as he could have been. Does his performance make the movie any less enjoyable? Not in the slightest. Mostly because Sam Worthington--the newcomer who plays human/terminator Marcus Wright--outshines Bale. Worthington has the looks and the presence to steal basically every scene, and I cannot wait to see him in more movies!

The year is 2018. It's post-Judgement yet pre-time travel. The Resistance is still small, but there's an organized army fighting the machines. John Conner is just a soldier on the totem pole who's got a small yet very loyal following. He's married to Kate Brewster (Bryce Dallas Howard) and has a baby on the way. The army has discovered a weapon that will help them defeat the machines, and Conner volunteers to test it.

Meanwhile, Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last real memory is speaking with a dying Helena Bonham Carter on death row, wakes up in the post-apocalyptic world out of touch and completely lost. In attempt to find living people, he runs into his first terminator where he is quickly saved by John's father Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). After some big chases and monstrous encounters with more terminators, Marcus finds himself alone until he help rescue the beautiful Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), a resistance soldier in Connor's unit.

When Wright and Connor cross paths, Wright's appearance alters everything John knows about the future. The two men must learn to trust each other and fight to find the truth and bring down Skynet.

Beyond the great presence of Worthington, there's not really much to say as far as the acting goes. I mean, it's a Terminator movie. Are we really here to talk about the acting? No. This movie is about big action and bigger explosions, and there are plenty.

The special effects are great. I loved the motorcycle terminators agile creepiness as the sped along chasing Reese and Wright. The water-snake machines made my skin crawl, and the big T-100 made me smile (oh, the memories) and cringe (oh, the puncture wounds!) all at the same time.

There is a heart to the story, so don't think a plotline was completely ignored. But in comparison to the explosive decibal levels of the action, the plot is whispering. It's a popcorn summer movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen. Have fun and enjoy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Demons & Angels

In all honesty, I feel very neutral about Angels & Demons. I was hoping that waiting a few days after I saw it would bring about a real opinion of sorts, but I'm still stuck with simply being entertained. It's not a bad movie, but it wasn't a great movie. I didn't feel it to be a waste of money, but I would've been just as satisfied to watch it on DVD.

I will say this: for those who read the book and believed the soap opera ending with the pope and the Camerlengo was too much, you'll be happy to know that it's not in the movie! That made me happy, and I apologize for confusing any non-readers. Believe me, if you go and read the book now, you'll really wonder what the hell Dan Brown was thinking with that ending. Alas, this is not a review for Dan Brown's book, this is a review for Ron Howard's movie.

Soon after the pope’s death, an antimatter bomb is stolen and placed somewhere in Vatican City. The culprits? The Illuminati--a defunct ancient secret organization (Is there any other kind of ancient organization?) who seem to no longer be defunct. An organization that was about the promotion of science and the downfall of the Church since the Church was all about their downfall way back in the day.

To pass the time until the bomb detonates, the enemy threatens to torture and kill the four cardinals that are favored for the Papacy, leaving symbols of the Illuminati to send a message. The only way to stop them is to find hidden clues in Rome's architecture and find the path of enlightment...or something like that.

Who better to help decipher ancient symbols and architectural clues but symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks)! Langdon, of course, isn't too liked by the religious crowd because of his antics in The Da Vinci Code, which are alluded to a few times to remind the audience that, unlike the book, this movie is a sequel not a prequel. But antics and atheism aside, the Vatican City police bring Langdon in anyway. His "sidekick" is Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), a physicist who knows the ins and outs of the antimatter bomb. Langdon and Vetra are aided by the very understanding Carmerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor) and blocked on all fronts by the head of the Swiss Guard, Commander Richter (Stellan SkarsgÄrd).

With cardinals dying every hour on the hour and an antimatter bomb capable of destroying Vatican City and most of Rome, you would expect a high-octane action movie. And, for the most part, that's what you get. Tom Hanks and the beautiful sidekick race from place to place, uncovering clues, deciphering hidden texts, and trying to rescue cardinals. There's gun fire, daring rescues, and explosions. Even with all that, it just seemed rushed instead of fast-paced. I know in the book that they were only given four hours before the bomb goes off, but I think in the movie the time should have been extended a little bit.

It's very hard to believe that all this stuff--fires and drownings and stabbings and being locked in a room with no oxygen--could all happen in a matter of hours. Yes, it's a movie; I understand that, but I still didn't quite grab onto the suspension of disbelief that I want when watching a really good movie. Which means, I guess, that Angels & Demons just isn't a really good movie.

It has more action and less scientific talk than The Da Vinci Code, which will make lots of people very happy, but it was lacking a little of the mystery. Even if I hadn't read the book, I would've figured out who was behind the whole mess no more than 45 mintues into the movie (if that). And when you have a movie with a predictable ending, you really hope the ride is entertaining. Well, the ride was entertaining, but just not enough to make up for the predictable ending.

In the end, I think this is a video movie. See it at the matinee show if you really feel like hitting the theatres, but I'm sure there's a better way to spend $9.