Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Captain America: The First Avenger" [B+]

I definitely had a good time in this movie. Even as a comic book movie, involving completely preposterous science and revisionist history, it felt very grounded and down to earth. I think that's because it felt very character driven and character focused.

It also has plenty of action and plot. The whole thing chugs along at a nice pace, with decent writing, acting, and directing. There are good jokes and even a heartache or two. It's amazing how deftly it served up heaping helpings of patriotism and courage without ever quite wallowing in self-awareness or corniness.

I particularly loved all of the period details, especially the over-the-top retro-advanced gadgetry. It wasn't until afterward that I discovered the same director gave us The Rocketeer (another favorite). Recommended.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"The Time Traveler's Wife" [B]

This is a sad, mystifying, mesmerizing study of life, love, and loss. Henry is unstuck in time, a little like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five. While that story explores fate, free will, and war, this one leans more heavily on the themes of romance and relationships.

Languid is the best word for describing the pace of the writing, directing, and acting. It could only seem more lazy and hazy if it had all been filmed through a vaseline covered lens. Yet the plodding pace does meander somewhere and you do get caught up in the lives of the characters. But I think it misses the mark in not delving more deeply and sharply into why the characters are doing what they're doing. Why does Henry visit the little girl in the meadow? Why does she allow herself to get drawn to him so exclusively? Why do they make the choices they do? Yes, this film could have, and should have, gone more Vonnegut and explored more about fate and free will.

The Time Traveler's Wife (IMDb)

read: The Vault by Boyd Morrison (3 stars)

The VaultThe Vault by Boyd Morrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let's be clear. Three stars means I liked The Vault. It had an intriguing but ridiculous premise, a tight plot with non-stop action, realistic situations and settings, and solid writing. It was very enjoyable and not easy to put down. That should have gotten it four stars, but I had to knock off a few points. A pretty decent summer read. [More]

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader [B-]

Perhaps if I hadn't been only half-watching this film while doing something else I might have more to say about it. As it is, I can only say that it only occasionally captured my attention. But I think it went something like this: annoying cousin, magical painting, quest to restore something or other, travel, meet strange folks, get a map, annoying cousin turns into dragon, found the swords of whoever (the quest), but one is missing, cousin-as-dragon learns his lesson and heroically saves the day and the final sword, everyone hugs and goes back to England. The End. Nicely shot, but script needed a does of something. Lots of wooden posing and speech-making passing itself off as acting. I suppose I should go back and read the book. I did like the books... and the other films.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (IMDb)

"Cars 2" [B]

They had me at "Finn McMissile" and "Holley Shiftwell". I had a great time watching this movie, mostly spotting all of the spy movie tropes being trotted out and listening to the engaging spy movie soundtrack. But I also enjoyed the great animation and all of the visual gags involving the international locations and associated ethnic stereotypes.

I suppose there was a plot in there somewhere. I'm sure there are even a few school-age kids and a few more adults who could follow it. There was a lesson about being yourself and friendship in there, too. But mostly it was a couple of hours of chasing, shooting, and talking cars. It was a great way to spend a rainy summer afternoon.

Cars 2 (IMDb)

"Megamind" [B+]

Very fun and very funny superhero, excuse me, super-villain, story. Reminded me alot of The Incredibles, except it the soundtrack was 70s and 80s rock, instead of 60s jazz. Good writing, good voice acting, some amazing animation, good heart.

Megamind (IMDb)

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" [B]

Well, it's over. I mostly enjoyed most of the Harry Potter films and the couple of books I read. I came to care for several of the characters. I appreciated the amount of craftsmanship put into the films as well as the books.

Unlike a franchise series like James Bond or Pink Panther, an epic story has a beginning, middle, and end. And this one is no different. And this was a pretty good end. That's not to say that Harry Potter is quite as epic as something like the Lord of the Rings, nor was its ending. The problem with spreading the story out over eight films, instead of three, is that most of the audience has forgotten what the stakes are. I know I did. Voldemort was after Harry, and vice versa, but why?

Good pacing, though very choppy and episodic. Good action, though a bit confusing in spots. And that points out a problem that I kept having: In the action sequences, rooms, buildings, crowds, and armies all seemed to grow and shrink in illogical ways to meet the needs of the individual shot, not to fit with the shots that came before or follow. I know it's a magical land, but really. Continuity is not this film's strong suit. Fun story, though.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (IMDb)

Monday, July 11, 2011

"You Again" [C+]

Predictable, on-the-nose comedy about a homely girl who was mistreated in high school and comes home to discover her big brother is marrying her biggest nemesis. There are some funny bits, but I found the writing stiff and stilted. The acting and directing were no better.

You Again (IMDb)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

read: Neverwhere

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book kept me quite entertained over the course of a week and a couple of airplane rides. It is filled with interesting characters on a mad quest through a magical London that exists in parallel with the real London. The concept is not entirely original, but Neil's interpretation of Alice in Wonderland / Wizard of Oz is. The situations and motivations are darker and more sinister. The writing is, on the whole, rich, amusing, and inventive. I would not recommend this as a starting point for Mr. Gaiman's work. But it is a required stop on the journey. [More]

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