Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Movie review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe

I have been waiting a long time for this sequel and like many other, I was really looking forward to see The X-Files: I Want to Believe. There are two main subjects I can remember from the TV series and the first movie; Aliens & other strange creatures and religious & psychic themes. Unfortunately for me, this movie is about the second category. That's not what I want to believe in. Of course, this is fiction, so I don't have to believe it! So, I was a little disappointed by this movie, but I was still able to enjoy parts of it. Seeing Mulder & Scully together again is of course a major point of interest.

It is directed by Chris Carter and stars David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson in the main roles, as well as Amanda Peet as ASAC Dakota Whitney, Billy Connolly as Father Joseph Crissman (who happens to be psychic) and Xzibit as Agent Mosley Drummy in the main supporting roles. On IMDB, it is mentionned that the running time in Canada is 105 minutes and 100 minutes in the U.S.A. I wonder what we got to see that the Americans don't get to...

In the story, neither Mulder nor Scully are working for the FBI anymore. Mulder is somewhat of a hermit and Scully is a full-time doctor. But a special case, involving a psychic, pulls them back into action for the duration of this investigation. The characters have not changed too much, one a believer of paranormal events, the other not quite as much. It would seem they did get closer together, though... Of course, there are a few surprises here and there.

The story is OK and has it's moments. It felt more like a long episode, rather than a movie, but it is well produced. I hope they do another one, but I want aliens this time! During the end credits, the camera moves through what looks like water and ends with one last cute scene. It is rated PG-13 and is more for the hardcore fans, I believe...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Movie review: The Dark Knight

Wow. Just, wow. When I wrote my review for Iron Man, I said that it would become a standard against which other superheroes movies would be compared to. Well, The Dark Knight certainly compares favourably. I found it to be excellent! Despite being two hours and a half, I didn't want it to finish. I didn't know it was that long when I went to see it, but as I was watching it, I knew it was longer then usual, not because I was getting bored, but because I was getting so much! And I'm certainly not alone thinking so. It broke records, it's getting great reviews from both professional critics and regular movie goers and it currently holds IMDB #1 spot of their Top 250, with over 91K votes. It is that good.

I did go see it on it's official opening day, after work. I wanted to see the Imax version, so I went "early" to buy my ticket during my lunch time. When I got to the theatre, all Imax showings for the day were already sold-out. Darn. But I had to see it that evening, so I bought a regular ticket. The Montreal's Scotiabank movie theatre (formerly the Paramount) still has excellent and big screens as regular ones. I will go back to see this movie and this time, it will be Imax.

Great performance from all the main actors, including Heath Ledger as the Joker. Once again, the Joker steals the show, but this time it's even better. The Jack Nicholson version was good, but it was Nicholson in Joker makeup. This new version is just the Joker. The actor disappear and we are left with a pure evil Joker. That's a compliment, in case I'm not clear. It's really too bad Ledger can never take this, or any other role in the future. He even performs a magic trick like you have never seen before!

The other actors include Christian Bale as Batman, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, plus many more.

The story keeps you guessing and is very well written. This is more then your typical three acts script. It's very human and you care about the characters, who are faced with difficult problems and dilemmas. There's a bit of humour, some of it pretty dark, but it's pretty serious most of the time. Oh, also, there's action! Fights, chases and a whole lot of violence, although not as graphic as they could have make it (probably to keep it PG-13).

Don't bring young kids to see this movie, but do go see it yourself (unless you're a young kid...). Even if you're not a typical superheroes fan, this one might be able to get you to start liking this genre. If you are a fan, you probably saw it already, but if not, what are you waiting for? You have to see this on the big screen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Movie review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy II is a worthy sequence and I had a good time watching it. We get to see Hellboy as a kid for a short time at the beginning of the movie, as a background story setup. Then, it's back to present day with the same main characters we saw in the first movie, with the same actors playing them, so we're in familiar territory. But also, there are new characters that meet our heroes, some nice, some not so nice. The story is good and contains action, humour and some tender moments.

It is once again directed by Guillermo del Toro and stars Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Doug Jones (Abe Sapien) and the main new characters are played by Luke Goss (Prince Nuada) & Anna Walton (Princess Nuala). There are a few other familiar faces and new ones too, of course.

We discover a world hidden from us, but very much thriving and very close by. Also, the Prince & Princess Nuada are from an ancient world that once made a pact with humans, but which the Prince wants to break. Much of the story revolves around this and makes for a very interesting plot.

Unfortunately, I had figured out a key element of the end early on, but I was still able to enjoy the movie. The visuals are beautiful and support the story well. Great movie, great fun and what are you waiting for to go see it, if you have not already done so?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Movie review: Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

I wasn't expecting too much from Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D, beyond a fun ride and nice visuals. The movie was fun in that way, except that it was partly ruined by the 3D technology part. I don't know if I was sitting too close to the screen or if my eyes did not adapt properly to their technology, but it looked really bad. I barely got the 3D effect in a few shots, most of them being out of sync. The close up in particular did not work at all, as I saw two separated images and the colours did not match properly because of this as well. Just one or two images out of sync from the two projections would probably cause the same issue. I went to see it alone, so I couldn't compare my experience and I didn't check with the other people in the room either, as I am a bit shy. I hope this was an exceptional problem, because I can't imagine why they would use this technology if it's not working properly. I saw an Imax 3D movie not too long ago and it looked great, so I doubt it's me.

What's more, the movie theatre I saw it at, the Guzzo at Marché Central, in Montreal, charged $3 extra for the glasses rental, on top of asking for an ID card they kept as hostage to insure they get them back! And we had to sign a piece of paper too. There were 3D previews before the movie, and they looked better than the movie itself, while not perfect, so I'll take a chance and try again with another movie, most likely, but I can't say I'm that anxious to try again. Note to the studios: Use Imax 3D or make sure the theatres you let use this new technology are properly tested and trained.

Had it not been for the disappointment noted above, I would surely have enjoyed this movie much more. The story is interesting, the visuals are probably very nice without the bad 3D and the actors do a good job. As can be seen in the trailer and implied in the title, our "heroes" go to the centre of the Earth to discover an old lost world. Of course, one must completely let go of reality to accept how they enter and exit that world, let alone accept the complexity of a world such as this one, so deep under the surface. But it's fantasy and it's fun to relax your brain from time to time.

The movie stars Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson and Anita Briem, as well as shorter roles with Seth Meyers and a few others. There are many funny scenes, lots of action and a bit of romance. So, a nice summer pop-corn movie if you like adventure and nice endings. It is not only inspired by the Jules Verne's work of the same name, it is referred to in the movie.

If you do see the 3D version, I'd like to know how it went for you and where you saw it. I just can't accept it can be this bad everywhere...

Movie review: Astérix aux jeux olympiques

This is the third "live action" Astérix movie and so far, none of them have received good reviews on average. It seems this is a hard comic book to bring to the big screen with actors. While they were no blockbusters, the animated versions did fare better. Personally, I don't think they're that bad, including this latest one. There are very funny moments, but Astérix aux jeux olympiques could use more, I'll agree with that.

Gérard Depardieu is reprising his role as Obélix, but Clovis Cornillac is taking over the Astérix role from Christian Clavier. Actually, besides Depardieu, I think the only actor that came back for this third movie is Jamel Debbouze, with a shorter screen time as Numérobis... Two notable newcomers are a pair of stand up comics which are very popular at the Montreal's Just For Laugh festival. French Franck Dubosc and French Canadian Stéphane Rousseau, as Assurancetourix and Alafolix respectively. Oh yeah, Jules Cesar (Julius Caesar) is played by Alain Delon, which is somewhat of a big deal and we are reminded of this when his name come up on the screen at the beginning and at the end of the movie. Another character that left a good impression, in good part for her beauty, is Princess Irina, played by Vanessa Hessler.

It's pretty much at the same level as the previous ones, so you should like them about the same as well, whether it's a lot or not at all. Or somewhere in the middle, like myself. It has many cameos from the sport's world (actual athletes playing similar roles from their real lives) and the mandatory and intentional anachronisms we are used to with every versions of Astérix adventures, including a not so subtle reference to Star Wars. So, should you go see it? Only if you're a big fan and are easily entertained, just like me! ;-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Movie review: Hancock

Hancock is a very cool movie. I got more then I expected. From the trailer, we get that Hancock, played by Will Smith, has superhero powers, such as flight and great strength & speed, but he doesn't care much about it. He does help by stopping bad guys, but causes a lot of damage along the way, not caring about how much it will cost the city to repair it all, when he could easily perform the same tasks with minimal damage.

After a chance encounter with Ray Embrey, a PR person played by Jason Bateman, he is offered a new way of living with his powers. He talks to him, invites him home for dinner, introduce him to his young son Aaron, played by Jae Head and his wife Mary, played by the beautiful Charlize Theron. Embrey convince him, after much encouragements, that he would feel much better about himself if he was considerate to other people's properties and in return, they wouldn't consider him like such a jerk. He even convince him to surrender to the police as a sign of good faith, after he received yet another warrant for arrest. Of course, the police can't force him to do anything if he doesn't want to. The hope is also that once Hancock is in prison, the crime rate will rise and the authorities will realize that they need him back on their side. That's what happens, of course.

I pretty much much expected the above, but not much more. I was wrong. There is more to this story and I just didn't see it coming. I won't say any more on that subject, but it's makes the movie much more interesting. Hints of it can be seen in the trailer, however...

There is some violence and strong language, but apparently it was toned down because they were facing an R rating in the U.S., which would greatly diminish the audience, so they edited it to get a PG-13 instead. I wonder if they will make the original version available on DVD... Also, this being a superhero movie, physics takes a backseat to reality. Even if we accept that someone could fly and be super strong and fast, there are obvious impossibilities in this movie. For example, like we have seen in other similar movies, when he trows a kid in the air, the kid stays in the air for a very long time, which means he goes really high and fast. If that didn't kill him, then he certainly would when Hancock catches him just before he hits the ground. At the speed the kid was going at that point, it wouldn't make a difference if he lands on Hancock's arm or on solid ground. The sudden deceleration is what kills someone, not the fall itself. Anyway, if you can look past these details, it's a really well made movie and fun to watch.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Movie review: WALL-E

So far, I have not been disappointed by any Pixar movie, so I was not worried when I decided to go see WALL-E. The different trailers and teases I had seen seemed to support this view as well. I can now affirm that this is one of their best movie ever! Animation, Sci-Fi, comedy, social criticism, positive message, it has it all. It deals with the fact that we are transforming our planet in a giant garbage can and what leads to it.

As we can see in the trailer, WALL-E, which stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, is a mobile trash compactor. He goes around picking up all the garbage and piles it up in giant mountains, some of them taller then the tallest sky scrapers around. He is the last working unit and has been at it for about 700 years and still has a lot of work to do. All humans have evacuated Earth to live on a mostly automated ship, full of robot servants, the Axiom. The two elements that are mainly criticized are over-consumption and laziness. The first made our planet inhabitable and the second made everyone fat. But it's still a very funny movie, with hope in the end.

We are treated to high quality animation, as usual, with a bit of live-action sequences in the form of prerecorded messages by the BnL CEO, played by Fred Willard. It's a very funny comedy for the whole family and you really should go see it if you haven't done so already. I'll probably go see it a second time myself...

Movie review: Wanted

I knew two things when I went to see Wanted: It was an action movie, starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. First, the real star is James McAvoy, unknown to me until then, who plays Wesley Gibson, a man with talents he doesn't know he has, until he his contacted by a member of The Fraternity, an assassins group. That member is Fox, played by Jolie. The leader of the group is Sloan, played by Freeman. Second, while it is an action movie, I found it to be more then what the trailer let us know. That's a good thing. And I'm not just talking about a single surprise twist to the story at the end of the movie, but several plot development to the story. Of course, it does have it's lot of improbable or even impossible scenes, has can be witnessed in the trailer.

I do not want to spoil the story, so I'll keep it brief. Gibson works in a cubicle, in an office, as an accountant. He's been at it for a while and he'd love nothing more than leaving that job, but doesn't have the nerves to do it. He keeps taking the abuse from the boss and takes pills to deal with the stress. After his encounter with Fox and a wild ride running from another assassin who rebelled against The Fraternity, he gets to meet Sloan and the rest of the gang. He learns about his father's history with the group and about his own abilities. At first, he doesn't want to join, but after a few more work related events and other events in his personal life, he will of course join the guild.

What follows is training, missions and revenge. One of the thing that pushed him was the fact that his father was killed by a rogue member of The Fraternity. Everything leads to this final vengeance, or so he believes. Other things gets in the way. In particular, the obligatory assassination orders, which are summoned in a very unique way. I can't really say more, except that the visuals are very good, there are many great action scenes, as well as over the top sequences and a bit of humour here and there, for good measure. Good casting too, I didn't know many of the actors, but they did a good job.

Of course, there's a lot of violence, so don't bring young kids along. And one word of advice: Don't stand on that X on the floor... ;-)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Movie review: The Love Guru

I'm sure not everyone will agree with me, but I really liked The Love Guru. It's very funny, has a great cast, many cameos and the biggest joke of all: The Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup! Although it's more realistic then the Los Angeles Kings winning it... I'm not a hockey guy, but when it's in a comedy, I can appreciate it a little bit more. I understand the star of this movie, Mike Myers is a fan. And I'm pretty sure I understand is choice of teams. He works in LA, but is from Toronto...

But hockey is only one aspect of the movie and is mainly about this Love Guru, who is hired to re-unite the Maple Leafs' star player with his wife, because his game performance is suffering from this separation. Also, by accomplishing this task, he may get more notoriety and an appearance on Oprah Winfrey's TV show, which are his initial true goals. But could it be that more important things comes in the way? Of course, it's a comedy!

The beautiful and sweet owner of the Leafs, Jane Bullard, is played by Jessica Alba and is the one who hires Guru Pitka. She will have the same effect on him then she has on me... Other characters are Darren & Prudence Roanoke, the troubled couple, played by Romany Malco and Meagan Good, Coach Punch Cherkov, played by Verne Troyer and Jacques Grande, played by Justin Timberlake. Grande is the cause of Darren's troubles, being the one who stole Prudence from him. He his the Kings' goaler. He also happens to be a Québécois and one of the funniest character in the movie! It's probably even funnier to us real Québécois, because of the way Timberlake plays him. By the way, his recipe for a Québécois' Pizza, I had never heard of. Don't believe a word of it!

A must see for Mike Myers' fans, but it should be fun for other peoples as well. Be warned that the language is crude at times and the story has some violence, sexual references and other things not appropriate for young kids. Parents beware.

Movie review: Get Smart

While I can't remember seeing the original series on TV, I had heard of it and it seems interesting. Maybe I can catch reruns of it some day. But for now, I can say that I saw the brand new big screen version of Get Smart, starring the very funny Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart, a somewhat clumsy but also lucky and dedicated agent of CONTROL, a secret U.S. spy agency. The result is a very funny movie that I liked a lot. Many very funny scenes and situations.

It also stars Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, Dwayne Johnson as Agent 23, Alan Arkin as The Chief (of CONTROL), Terence Stamp as Siegfried, the head of CHAOS (the bad guys) and James Caan as the U.S. President. Two other very funny actors that only have one scene each are Bill Murray as agent 13 and Patrick Warburton as Hymie. If they make a sequel (I think it's likely), I hope these two get more time on screen, particularly Warburton who I think is hilarious in everything he does (he is currently on the TV series Rules of Engagement and Family Guy).

Max (aka Maxwell Smart) kind of reminds me of Inspector Jacques Clouseau, from the Pink Panther movies fame, because part of his success relies on dumb luck, basically. After failing the Agent test a few times, Max eventually is promoted from Analyst to full Agent status and is paired with Agent 99 for a very important mission, to battle CHAOS and their evil plan. The story is not the most original one, but works fine for this comedy. Recommended if you like to "LOL"... :-)