Movie Madness

My movie reviews and rants at your fingertips.

Monthly Archives: May 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

My improv teacher always told me that a dream as a twist in a story is always a cheat. I’ll take that one step further. If done incorrectly, time travel can be a cheap cover-up. Unfortunately, Prince of Persia didn’t do it right. Despite Jake Gyllenhaal doing some amazing Parkour stunts, the film falls a bit flat.

PoP:TSoT follows Gyllenhaal as Dastan, a beggar turned prince (not unlike another Disney movie). After conquering a holy city, his father is murdered during the celebration. Having obviously been framed, he and the princess of the conquered city escape. Shortly after, he first discovers a magical dagger that can rewind time. Since the dagger is being searched for, he must take the princess (Gemma Arterton of Quantom of Solace) to a temple to destroy it.

The two hours goes back quite simply. It has the feel of a golden age Hollywood movie, but everyone involved fails to elevate it beyond a sub par movie. With a budget of $150 million, I’m skeptical they will make a profit stateside. It isn’t a horrible movie, but isn’t good either. I doubt I’ll watch it again, everything felt forgettable and familiar throughout the film. Lawrence of Arabia as directed by Michael Bay. 2 out of 5 stars.

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MacGruber

SNL based films rarely make any splash at the box office. The ideas usually succeed in the short form but can’t translate to the long form. Wisely, the team behind MacGruber decided to approach the film from another perspective. Only a small sequence reminds me of the original sketch at all.

Will Forte and Kristen Wiig return as their small screen counterparts. Throw in Ryan Phillippe and Val Kilmer, sprinkle in some WWE cameos and you’re ready to go. The movie starts with MacGruber being offered a new assignment. After some hesitation, he accepts. What follows is 90 minutes is a parody and send up of the whole action vigilant genre.

The jokes are quite deserving of the film’s rating and vice versa. Some of the jokes don’t hit their mark, but the ones that do really do. The cast seems to know their strengths and does a good job of staying to close to them. Ryan Phillippe continues to surprise me. He does an excellent job of being the straight man in this comedy action film. If the trailer appealed to you, so will the film. 3 out of 5 stars.

Babies

It’s a simple concept really. Take four babies (Namibia, Mongolia, Japan and the USA) and film there first year on earth. What ensues is incredibly cute and fascinating. Technically a French film, there is no narration and no subtitles. The moments filmed easily speak for themselves.

It is amazing how intimate the scenes feel and how mature these babies seem to be. There are moments in the film in which they appear to be nothing more than tiny adults with a language all their own. The other layer is that this film can be viewed as simply a portrait of four babies, or one can analyze the different cultures and atmosphere they are raised in. I loved the movie, personally. It gives you a sense of what it feels like to be a new parent. The goods times may take the bulk of the film, but a baby in distress also pops up from time to time.

Having watched it, I want to own this movie. Behind the novelty of a baby documentary, it’s very well shot. Many of the moments captured on film feel almost too intimate to stand, as if we are almost voyeuristic. The director does an excellent showing these babies lives without getting involved. The detachment the director has allows us a sense of ease, reinforcing the fourth wall in this case. If you like babies, you’ll love this movie. 4 out of 5 stars.

Iron Man 2

Wow, the summer blockbuster time is here. And who better for the job than Iron Man, who kicked us off two years ago! I admit I went into Iron Man 2 a bit cautious. The first one is a masterpiece. It can be tough to follow a classic, but director Jon Favreau once again makes a great movie. I would say that if Iron Man was a 5 star movie, Iron Man 2 is very close behind it with 4.5 stars. In today’s slew of mediocre movie ideas, Favreau and the gang really step up and make the price of admission more than worth it.

Iron Man 2 takes place 6 months after the first film. We see the U.S. government desperately trying to take control of the Iron Man suit. In addition, we see that Tony’s father used to work with a Russian, who son ends up coming back to avenge his father’s tarnished legacy. As the movie unfolded, I fell in love with the characters over and over again. Having so many brilliant actors (I use this as a gender-neutral term) in these roles made each character a joy to watch. Considering I love watching these actors in their own films, having them come together was a real treat. Once again, Downey seems to be having the time of his life. However, unlike the great improv moments he had in the first one, the cast steps it up and each gets a chance at a zinger or two.

Having discussed this with some good friends at breakfast afterwards, I realized that this film feels classic already. It’s plot and how it flows reminds me of the action films of the 80s, where the idea of plot was as important as the spectacle. The film gives itself plenty of room to explore the relationships between the main characters and lets the action act as extra fun as opposed to the Michael Bay type of movie where the explosion is the plot (but I like Michael Bay movies the way they are….except Transformers 2).

To sweeten the pot for fanboys and insiders, sprinkled in are great jokes and nudges to those of us paying attention. Don Cheadle’s entrance is the best example. He walks in to have Tony Stark react as surprised to see him there. As you listen to the dialogue, it clearly is a nudge to the fact that Cheadle replaces Terrance Howard. There are many great moments, but I don’t want to give too much away. Just know that Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, and Scarlett Johansson are great additions to the already brilliant cast. Iron Man 2 brings the goods 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Jackie Earle Haley was the probably the only man who could step into Robert Englund’s shoes. Unfortunately, it isn’t the same. Though I admire Platinum Dunes’ attempt to once again update a classic, this is bland compared to the original. Wes Craven is a horror institution and us Freddy fans know that New Line Cinema is “The House that Freddy Built”.

Haley stars as Freddy Krueger, a dark memory on an otherwise quiet community. The mythology of the original has been tweaked though director Samuel Bayer tries to recreate iconic scenes from the source material. Unfortunately, almost everything falls flat. The Krueger makeup ruins any attempts Haley has of expressing emotion and the dialogue is mediocre at best. I usually enjoy horror movies, but Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production remove all substance from the original movies and deliver a  washed up re-imagining (The Hitcher and Amityville Horror are the only two I can stomach). Since they did this with Friday the 13th recently to a big opening weekend, they seem to be redoing any film they can get their hands on. They almost got Rosemary’s Baby but fortunately they left that alone.

I’d summarize the plot more, but to do so would give away the entire franchise. He haunts there dreams from beyond the grave. Sitting through this movie was a nightmare all its own. Watch the original instead, you can’t replace Robert Englund. 1 out of 5 stars.