Transcendence Review

25 04 2014

Johnny Depp bomb poster

I really wanted to like this movie. Transcendence boasts an interesting sci-fi premise, a dream cast (for me at least), and was directed by Wally Pfister, who was the cinematographer for The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception. Fool-proof formula, right? Well, for most of the movie, everything seemed to work together decently. However, an awkward shift in tone and theme during the latter half of the film, coupled with some other (smaller) issues, proves to be a virus that this movie just can’t handle (badum-tss). First, let’s get this out of the way- Johnny Depp is a phenomenal actor, but he’s grossly misused in this role. “Robotic” should never describe a Depp character, but here he’s intentionally monotone and unfeelingly hollow the entire film. I don’t remember one time he ever broke his distant demeanor, which ultimately made him unrelatable as a character. Instead, his performance goes from detached to creepy to boring to creepy boring. It simply wasn’t a good fit (I kept wanting  him to start yelling, “I’ve got a jar of dirt!” or “Where’s the RAM gone?!”)

 

Cillian Murphy Morgan Freeman Johnny Depp

Mr. Fox and Scarecrow investigate Wayne Industries.

 

The rest of the cast is comprised of very capable actors who needed more meat in their character’s screenplay. I’m not sure if Cillian Murphy was supposed to be a hero or villain (more on that later), but it was the blandest 2D role I’ve seen him in. The kicker is he usually delivers a super creepy bad guy (Scarecrow in Batman Begins, also RedEye)  or at least a good everyman (Inception). In this film, he plays a very low key Federal agent who tries to shut down Depp’s machine. Morgan Freeman must love doing sci-fi movies, because his only role here is to walk around scenes looking worried. Rebecca Hall stands out, not only because I heart her acting, but because the writers thought at least one character should have a range of emotions. We sympathize her in her loss, and want her to escape the dangers even though they’re ultimately of her own making. However, ultimately we aren’t really shown if her sacrifice at the end was a good choice or bad, and that sort of cheapened her development for me. But hey, it was fun to see all these actors/actresses in the same shot together.

 

Rebecca Hall

Unfortunately all the star power combined won’t draw in crowds if the writing falls flat. Why would the movie build up just how eerie and menacing a human/computer AI hybrid could be, only to change tones at the end with a line like “People fear what they don’t understand’? What, were we supposed to decide that maybe changing all of humanity into robots with a hive mind would be the greatest thing since Wi-Fi? Yeah, people can be so close-minded. I guess I was just confused as to what the movie was trying to say, or maybe it was just trying to be too smart by being ambiguous. Anyway I would have also preferred more a of climax as well. Instead, it got all hyped up, and then…just sort of ended on a note of melancholy. That sentence could also describe the movie’s gross income so far.

So is it worth a watch? Yes, especially if you enjoy some science fiction and the listed actors, but this is easily a better RedBox rental than a $10 theater outing. And make sure to unplug your local network first.

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp’s face after hearing the box office results.





The Lego Movie Review

14 02 2014
The Lego Movie Banner promo

I just wish they had spelled out the premise a little more.

Full disclosure- years ago I was the biggest Lego maniac around. I built for hours, learning valuable life skills like how to build a space base or a giant robot to storm the gates of the medieval castle. Lego was the junk! So, of course I drove my mature self into that theater, and I watched an animated movie about Lego people. Is it worth your time, or is this a shameless cash-in?

Lego Movie poster

Above: my childhood. (Minus Unikitty, of course.)

This is a shorter review, so here’s a shorter answer: this movie took me by surprise. It’s quirky, funny, and wonderfully random at times, bringing the all-around good feelings that Pixar films used to give. Basically, normal, everyman Emmet (Chris Pratt) is “chosen” by hippie-wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) to save the Lego universe from the clutches of the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and her boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett ) also help Emmet realize his role as the MasterBuilder. But first they have to escape the ever-looming henchman Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) and his army of robots. Typical Shakespearean drama, am I right? By the way, Shakespeare also makes an appearance with Lincoln, because of course he does.

Bad Cop and Lord Business. Subtle.

Bad Cop and Lord Business. (Subtle naming going on here .)

Obviously, The Lego Movie never takes itself seriously, yet still manages to stay on target and somehow pull the emotional strings towards the end. The animation is half of the charm. They filled the movie with tons of slick action sequences, yet the style is intentionally meant to resemble all those stop-motion Lego videos on Youtube. The humor ranges from clever to goofy and usually hits the mark, coming from the same directors who worked on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs  and (surprisingly) 21 Jump Street. All the actors seem to be having a blast, most notably Liam Neeson and Will Ferrell, who milk their villainous dialogue for all it’s worth. Alison Brie as Unikitty also had some laugh-out-loud psychotic moments. And, let’s just say Will Arnett as Jerk Batman is awesome.

All in all, this movie knows what it is and sticks with it. The screenwriters nailed what draws so many kids to Lego- imagination. Throw in a little nostalgia, a little emotion, and endless gags, and the end result is a movie that will entertain more than just kids.





“Oblivion”- Spoiler-less Review

23 04 2013
Oblivion Poster

At beautiful Scientology Falls

 

1. Like many of you, I went to see Morgan Freeman’s voice last weekend. He happened to be in Oblivion, whose writer of Oblivion either wanted to pay tribute to other sci-fi movies/video games or just couldn’t think of anything new. Maybe both. Anyway, I kept having flashbacks during the movie- flashbacks of other movies that had already explored whatever plot device was onscreen.

 

Wall-E Oblivion

I need to watch Wall-E again.

 

2. That’s not to say I disliked the movie. Think of it as a comedic Presidential impersonator- you know that’s not really the Commander in Chief, but he looks good, he’s entertaining, and everyone’s having such a good time, so how can you care?

 

And it has Morgan Freeman's voice.

And it has Morgan Freeman’s voice.

 

3. This came from Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, so of course there’s a lot of visual and aural pizazz and glowing things to go around. What can I say? Cruise’s space ship gave me chill bumps when it first started up and back-flipped off the pad. The drones were pretty sweet too, until I started imagining them as flying killer R2-D2s.

 

R2D2 drone

R2’s tired of your #$@&.

 

4. For me, the film lost a little bit of traction towards the end, mostly because at that point the sorta-generic science fiction plot twists went into hyper mode, and it was a little hard to have everything sink in as much as it should have. It felt like they drew titles out of a hat for ending ideas (“The Matrix? Is that still cool? Hmm, how about all the drones look like something from “Portal?”)

 

Are they an effective team?

Are they an effective team?

 

5. Surprisingly, Tom Cruise didn’t get on my nerves once this movie, so that’s something I guess. Also, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) was my personal favorite, not that Olga Kurylenko as Julia was bad (not in the least). Riseborough just nailed every little nuance of emotion, creating a rather intricate character. And Morgan Freeman? Well, he looked pretty BA in his costume, but he wasn’t really a standout in the grand scheme of the movie, but the writing didn’t give him much to chew on.

 

Morgan Freeman Oblivion

Not pictured: Morgan Freeman’s voice

In conclusion, Oblivion really wishes it was more original, and it’s so slick, stylish, and stirring, you’ll probably wish it were, too.

 





Olympus Has Fallen 5-Point Review

25 03 2013
Morgan Freeman Aaron Eckhart Gerard Butler

Three reasons to watch this movie.

 

1. Olympus Has Fallen has been called “the best Die Hard movie of the year” (they didn’t mean it, Bruce Willis), and it’s basically what would happen if Die Hard and  Air Force One had a baby. Is that a bad thing? No, no it’s not.

 

2. Gerard Butler,  Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart all play their parts perfectly, giving us not only tough-as-nails characters, but genuinely likable ones at that, with Butler and Eckhart selling their bro friendship effortlessly. Even if the trauma doesn’t push President Asher into becoming President Two-Face (though the White House at the end looked like his hideout).

 

President Two-Face

Bet more people would watch The State of the Union Address.

 

3. Is the action good? Well, YES. Let’s just say Gerard Butler takes out a guy using the most American way possible in the Oval Office (Abe Lincoln is involved).

Abraham Lincoln

Bringing justice from beyond!

 

4. My one point of frustration during the movie (besides seeing all this happen to the U.S. of A.) was (SPOILERS) how easily the President gave away freakin’ nuclear codes away, just so someone in his Cabinet wouldn’t die. I mean, yeah, of course you wouldn’t want that to happen, but literally (cue Jack Bauer voice) MILLIONS OF LIVES WERE IN DANGER. I dunno, it’s not like they would really have killed the people who knew the code anyway, unless it was after they told the code (which they did). (END SPOILERS)

 

5. Speaking of Jack Bauer, this seemed very 24-ish, didn’t it? Maybe because of that one season? Again, not a bad thing, but what made me cringe was when I read this article about the copycat movie coming out in three months. Would I rather see Jamie Foxx be the President, this next movie asks? I’d rather watch President Two-Face.

Or Acting President Freeman.

Or Acting President Freeman.