Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Alien Genre

I like alien movies. I was just about to make the bold statement that it is hard to go wrong when making a movie about aliens. Then I remembered how bad some recent movies featuring aliens were. I'm thinking about the recent The Day the Earth Stood Still and Escape to Witch Mountain remakes, and Transformers 2. I also didn't care for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull incorporating aliens into the last movie. Mixing Indian Jones and Aliens is like mixing chocolate and tuna fish.

There is something appealing about interacting with life forms from other planets. Their appearances often vary from little green creatures scary monsters, normal looking people, to even super heroes. Here are some of the better alien movies that come to mind in this genre.

The Arrival
Close Encounters
Invasion of The Body Snatchers
Alien (s)
The Fifth Element
Independence Day
Mars Attacks
District 9
Mission to Mars
Star Trek series
Galaxy Quest
Men in Black
Star Wars series

Friday, November 27, 2009

2012: The Prediction and Review

I have decided to feature a new way of reviewing a movie. I am going to see 2012 in half an hour. I don't know much about the movie, but I have seen the trailer and know it's about the end of the world. I thought it would be fun to make some predictions about the movie prior to seeing it and then see how close I was. Here are my 4 predictions.

1. The special effects will be good, but will go too far. I will say "yeah right" at least 10 times.
2. John Cusack will give his best performance since Better Off Dead.
3. I predict that I will somehow be blamed for the end of the world because of my environmental habits or I will come away with a guilt trip just for being an American.
4. I'm guessing I will give it 6.0 stars or less.

Later that night

1. The special effects were amazing! I have never seen so much large scale destruction before. If you love seeing famous world landmarks destroyed, then this movie is for you. However, as predicted they were taken too far. The main character had earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods on his heels the entire movie and each escape was made in the nick of time.

2. John Cusack, Oliver Platt, and Amanda Peet were okay. Woody Haroldsen was almost unrecognizable as the crazy dude, and I prefer Morgan Freeman to Danny Glover as the President in a disaster movie.

3. I was surprisingly pleased with the cause of the destruction. It was the result of solar flares that heated the earth's core, which in turn weakened the earth's crust. There were no man made global warming implications or guilt trips about using plastic bags at the grocery store checkout line. I appreciated that.

4. Although it was not Academy Award material, it was better than I thought it would be. I give it 6.4 stars. Mostly due to the special effects.

My wife decided not to go and she should be glad she didn't. It is non stop destruction for 2 and a half hours. This movie has to have the highest body count of any movie ever made. If my calculations are correct it was around the 6 Billion mark, which is slightly higher than Robocop.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Witness Protection Movies

I think one of the coolest themes for a movie is the witness protection program. The only thing better than that is when you take it a step further to the witness relocation where a change of identity is involved. I think it would be exciting to start life over with a new identity. It would also be stressful in case some day you came across someone in the mafia who you had testified against. Some of the movies dealing with this subject matter have not been very good but I will continue to think the witness relocation concept is cool and a great plus for a movie. It is a close cousin to the prison movie genre.

Here are some of the movies that use this theme:

Bird on a Wire
Mobsters and Mormons
The Incredibles
Sister Act
The Godfather 2
Charlies Angels: Full Throttle
The Client
The Whole 9 Yards

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Actor Chain Game

Years ago I came up with a fun association game that I call "The Actor Chain Game". This game is similar to 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon , but I have been playing my version longer than that game has been around. I guess that's just another case of me not taking advantage of my ideas in a timely manner. You play by taking two different actors and then trying to create a link of actors who have worked with each other until you can make a connection to the second one. Let me show you how it's done. Let's try to link Julie Andrews and Arnold Schwarzennegar. I don't believe they have been in any movies together despite working in such similar genres. (Yes that was sarcasm)

Julie Andrews is in The Sound of Music with Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer is in A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe is in Gladiator with Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix is in Signs with Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson is in What Women Want with Helen Hunt
Helen Hunt is in Twister with Bill Paxton
Bill Paxton is in True Lies with Arnold Schwarzennegar

This particular combination took 8 steps but there are a ton of different directions it can go. Doing this is kind of like my Rain Man talent. The other day someone asked me to do this and I ended up doing a chain of about 30 people to make the connection and was later embarrassed after when I realized I could have done it in 3 steps.

If you do this as a game with teams, the object is to do it as fast as you can and in as few steps as possible. If you ever get in a bind try to link someone to Michael Caine, James Earl Jones, or Christopher Lee since they are such prolific actors and have connections to almost every other actor. Try this game at your next party. It can be a blast if you are a movie buff and know a lot of actors, but if your guests don't, it can be awkward and difficult for them. Kind of like me at a physics convention at MIT.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nacho Libre

I watched Nacho Libre again this weekend and was surprised at how funny it was. It was kind of funny the first time I saw it and just keeps getting better with time. I experienced the same thing with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Mystery Men. Some movies just aren't that good on your first viewing and you have to give them another shot.

I was shocked when I learned that Nacho Libre only got 5.7 Stars on IMDB. Sure, it's a stupid movie, but there are at least 7-10 scenes in that movie where Jack Black makes me laugh so hard that he should get an Oscar. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the movie.

They might have the appearance of riches, but beneath the clothes, we find a man... and beneath the man we find... his... nucleus.

Get that stinkin corn outa my face!

For God has blessed us with a new teacher. She hails from the Oaxaca Parish Convent of the Immaculate Hearts Sisters Ladies Mountains of Guadalupe. Sister Encarnacion.

I know the wrestlers get all the fancy ladies, and the clothes, and the fancy creams and lotions. But my life is good! Really good!

Those eggs were a lie, Esqueleto. A LIE! They give me no eagle powers! The give me no nutrients!

Do you remember when everyone was shouting my name, and I used my strength to rip my blouse?

Then there are Jack Black's improvised Encarnacion and Ramses songs. I think it is an under appreciated classic. I know that I am committing movie critic credibility suicide, but I have to give it 7.3 stars.

Friday, November 6, 2009

GI Joe

I watched this movie late last night and was drifting in and out of consciousness for much of it, which as you know from a prior post is a death nail to getting a good review. I didn't grow up reading comic books, so I am not familiar with all the GI Joe characters. I thought GI Joe was a World War 2 doll. There may have been some cool special effects in this movie, but it didn't appeal to me at all. The best part was watching the Baroness make her dramatic entrances, but after a while I even grew tired of that.

When the movie ended, I woke up and rewound it in order to watch the middle parts I missed and I have to admit that learning that Duke's friend Rex was not dead, but had actually survived and was now the evil doctor was quite a surprise. Oops! I'm sorry. I could cut my tongue out. I can't believe I let that slip.

So if you have an attachment to the comic book series then you will either be entertained by this movie or hate it like many comic enthusiasts do when a movie based on their childhood entertainment doesn't meet their expectations. Speaking of comic book fans, I hate it when I hear that the actors in a movie were big fans of a particular character that they play when they were kids. Forgive my incredulity, but I'll bet maybe 10% really were and the rest are just saying that to brown nose and get the part. I give GI Joe 5.9 stars.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stupid Horror Movies

At the risk of sounding like your grandmother, I am going to gripe about the popularity of so many horror movies that are popular today. I enjoy suspense, mystery, and sometimes horror films, but I'm not a fan of the mindless murder/torture movies. I'm baffled how they can make so many sequels. Didn't they learn from Police Academy that sometimes it's best to stop after your first mistake rather than keep digging yourself in deeper. Apparently I must be wrong, since there is such a demand for these movies.

I like some scary movies like Psycho, The Ring, The 6th Sense, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but when a movie plot involves a crazy serial killer hacking up dozens of attractive yet stupid people who like to investigate strange noises they hear out in the woods in the middle of the night, then it's a huge turnoff. Movies like Saw, Hostel, etc. have no appeal to me. I'd really like to know what kind of person gets turned on by watching people get tortured and killed as the main plot of a movie. I'm also not drawn to movie posters that have disturbing images with lots of blood and gore all over them. Maybe I'm just a wimp. I know it is not fair for me to criticize so many movies in this genre that I have not seen, but life's not fair.

I also find it ironic that many people who shun movies because of sex or nudity have no problem enjoying a graphic, violent, horror movie. Which is worse, seeing a boob or watching someone get decapitated? It's nice to know you have such high morals Jeffrey Daumer! Sorry for the rant. I'll get off my soapbox now. I think I'm going to watch something really scary tonight like The Ghost and Mister Chicken. Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary- A Year of Reviews

Its been a year since I started this movie blog and I thought it would be a good idea to give a summary of the movies I have reviewed over the past year. Sometimes just assigning a number to a movie doesn't really tell you much, but when you see them ranked against each other in a side by side comparison, it is much more helpful. You may not agree with me on these, but this is the order I put them in.

The Dark Knight 8.5
Taken 8.2
Star Trek 8.1
Bigger Stronger Faster 8.0
Rescue Dawn 8.0
Valkyrie 7.7
Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince 7.4
Ghost Town 7.4
Terminator Salvation 7.4
Wolverine 7.3
Hellboy 2 7.3
Traitor 7.3
The Proposal 7.2
Knowing 7.2
Quantum of Solace 7.1
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 7.1
City of Ember 7.0
Flash of Genius 7.0
The Express 7.0
Angels & Demons 6.9
Eagle Eye 6.9
7 Pounds 6.9
Australlia 6.8
Expelled 6.7
Forever Strong 6.6
Paul Blart 6.5
Max Payne 6.2
The Golden Compass 5.9
The Transporter 3 5.8
Twighlight 5.7
Land of the Lost 5.6
Transformers 2 5.4
The Day the Earth Stood Still 5.1
Race to Witch Mountain 5.0
The Echelon Conspiracy-4.9

I use a 1-10 scale but all of my ratings have ranged from 8.5 to 4.9 Anything over 8 is usually excellent. Mid 6 to 7 is good and if it is below 6, then I would definitely not recommend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Cadfael is a TV series that aired in the mid 90's on the BBC. Cadfael is a Benedictine monk and herbalist played by Derek Jacobi. The series takes place in the middle ages in England and every episode involves Cadfael conducting a murder investigation while attempting to solve a mystery. It is kind of like Medieval Sherlock Holmes or CSI Dark Ages. Aside from life in a monastery, the series features, cathedrals, apothecaries, lepers, plague, civil war, religious pilgrimages, flagellation, superstition, and a bunch of unsolved murders.

What impresses me most about the series is the authentic feel it has. From the costumes, to the sets, one gets a feel of how miserable it would be do live in the 12th century. Some episodes are better than others, but I found most to be educational, insightful, and very entertaining. Especially if you enjoy the Middle Ages. Check them out on DVD from Netflix sometime. I give it a rating of 8.1 stars.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ideal Movie Viewing Conditions

I remember when I went to see The Water Boy in the theater. I had the day off and stopped by a nearly empty theater. Just as the previews started, two ladies came in with about 7 or 8 kids who were all the same age. It must have been a birthday party but I was surprised they'd take such young kids to an Adam Sandler movie. Anyway they came in and started talking loudly and didn't stop making noise until the movie was over.

Ideal movie viewing can be compromised by people who constantly talk during a movie. Some other common problems are people who make phone calls and text, people who go to the bathroom 3 times during a movie, broken chairs, sticky floors, noisy babys, people who criticize or heckle a movie, and sitting too close to the screen.

I once heard that when famous movie critics like Roger Ebert review a movie, that the movie producers would make conditions comfortable for them so they could have an ideal movie viewing experience and hopefully give the movie a better rating. If that was true and I were a movie producer I'd include a foot massage and a fine meal as part of the movie review experience.

The worst possible scenario for watching a movie is when you are tired and falling asleep. This doesn't happen often in the theater, but anyone who has stayed up late trying to watch a DVD can relate to this. I hate it when I can't stay awake and doze off and have to rewind scenes or spend several nights trying to get through the same movie. No matter how good a movie may be, watching it while tired and fatigued can ruin the experience. I'm sure I have been critical of many movies over the years due to the fact that I tried watching them while I was falling asleep and had a bad experience.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

State of Play

I've been watching a lot of comedies lately so I was looking forward to a suspense/mystery/thriller movie. A couple things jumped out at me while watching this movie. First of all, I know that some actors spend months getting into a certain kind of shape for a role in a movie. Castaway, The Machinist, and 300 come to mind, so it made me wonder if Russel Crowe spent the last 6 months eating Ding Dongs and growing his hair out to play a veteran journalist.

What really surprised me was the casting. This movie is a fruit salad of actors I never would have imagined being together. When I saw the cast I figured this would be Gladiator meets Good Will Hunting meets The Notebook meets Princess Bride meets Arrested Development, meets The Queen, meets Dumb and Dumber. Despite my prejudiced stereotypes, I really like this movie and all of the performances were good.

State of Play has a sense of realism to it that is often lacking in many movies today and I appreciated that. It may be the typical scenario of a journalist coming across clues and solving a mystery quicker than the police, but there were enough twists and turns in the movie that I didn't mind.

It's not a perfect movie, but it is one of the better ones I've seen this year. I give it 7.4 stars.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Movie Pet Peeves Part 2

Last year I had a post about movie pet peeves. I listed 8 things that drive me crazy that I frequently see while watching movies. I'm not advocating that all movies be documentaries and be 100 % accurate in every way, I'm just trying to weed out some of the repeat offenders. Since identifying the most common ones in my original post, I have picked up on several additional items to add to the list.

Fake Torches-I can't stand it when someone in a movie finds a stick near a cave entrance and then they rip some cloth and wrap it around it to create a perfectly glowing inextinguishable torch yet it doesn't produce smoke or burn down the entire time they are using it. A cousin of this one is when there are scenes with fire, yet there is no smoke, just clean Hollywood flames.

The Little Kid Get Away- I have seen little kids run away from big bad guys by running under their legs to get away. I don't care how dumb and big the villain may be, he should still be able to catch a kid. Not being able to catch Jackie Chan is one thing, but if you can't catch a little kid because he ran under a table or your legs, then you are pathetic!

Fake Computer Performance-I'm sure you have seen the fake scenes where a computer and a programmer talk back and forth in everyday English like instant messenger. I love 24 but I can't stand it when Chloe sends requested building schematics to Jack's PDA before he even finishes the sentence. I'm not asking to see an hourglass or watch people's computers stall or crash, but it would be nice if it happened to someone besides myself.

The Multiple Angle Slow Motion Stunt Montage- If a stunt is really that cool then we can always rewind it when we rent it on DVD. Occasionally a movie will show the same stunt several times from different angles as if they didn't film it properly or they want to get their money's worth for how much they spent on it. Maybe the stunt man's mom is also the movie editor.

Totally Fake Amounts of Police or Swat Team- I can understand if there is a bank robbery or some kind of standoff with the police then there would be a large number of law enforcement officials present, but when a car chase starts and immediately there are 15 cop cars following or if an alarm in a building goes off and and multiple swat teams descend on a location and repel in out of nowhere it drives me nuts!

Get with it Hollywood. Some of these fake details are detracting from some potentially good movies. I can't be the only one who notices these things.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Soloist

The Soloist is a true story about a reporter, Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) who comes across a homeless man, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx). The interesting twist is that Ayers was a cello student at Julliard at one point in his life. For those of you not familiar with Julliard, it is the Harvard of music schools. Downey is intrigued to find out how a talented person with that kind of back ground ended up living on the streets. The movie tells the story of Ayers and how he ended up homeless.

This was a good movie. It wasn't particularly enjoyable to watch. Some scenes were actually frustrating and even painful to watch. It kind of felt like doing community service. The message I came away with was more than a particular story. This film created a greater awareness for the issues of mental illness and homelessness.

The performances were good and I was relieved to see Jamie Foxx had his normal hair back while watching the special features afterwards. By the way, how has Downey transformed from a young punk with substance abuse problems who was always in trouble with the law, to a can't miss movie star? Talk about resurrecting your career. I really like him. I also liked the psychedelic Fantasia tribute during one of the concerts and can't believe it went on as long as it did.

If you are looking for a pick me up movie, this is not it, but it is a good movie with an informative message and the makers were successful in creating greater awareness for the plight of the mentally ill and homeless in America. I give it 7.1 stars.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Transformers 2

I wasn't a huge fan of the first Transformers movie, but I thought I'd give Revenge of the Fallen a shot. I was anticipating a mindless action movie with lots of cool special effects but I got so much more. I noticed a few people walked out of the movie towards the beginning. I wish I would have followed their example. Why? Where to begin? Here are 7 reasons.

1) I knew I was in trouble when all the little Decepticons came alive in his house towards the beginning of the movie. That dumb scene reminded me of a mechanical tribute to Gremlins, which is another movie that thought lots of mischievous and obnoxious creatures would be cool or funny. Wrong.

2) The multiple scenes featuring dogs humping each other, robots humping someones leg, testicle jokes, John Turturo pulling down his pants for no reason to expose a jock strap he was wearing, and farting robots. This film was classy from start to finish and I was the the idiot that took an 8 year old with me to see it!

3) According to this movie, all women who attend college, have perfect figures and are models. I'm just trying to stand up for all the ugly college students who were completely ignored in this movie. Speaking of stereotypes, if you are a guy in the military, then you are a buff dude with rugged features who is also a model. The only ugly people in society are nerds and villains.

4) Megan Fox is totally unbelievable as an auto mechanic and as Shia LeBeouf's girlfriend. She spends the last half of the movie running through the desert in Egypt (in slow motion) being shot at and nearly killed in multiple explosions, yet her white pants and makeup magically repair themselves in each scene.
5) The wanna be drama that is forced upon the viewer is insulting. Are the multiple slow motion montages with dramatic music and American flags waiving in the background really supposed to move me to tears or take this movie seriously despite it's total lack of substance? Did I mention excessive use of slow motion?

6) I'm a guy and I love special effects, cool sounds, and action, but 2 and a half hours of non stop CGI machines fighting each other gets old. It made me appreciate people like Alfred Hitchcock who could make an entertaining movie without having to resort to special effects and action as the only draw.

7) Every single transformer in the movie bugged me. The good ones, with their serious speeches, the evil ones with their cliches, and the annoying little ones. Speaking of stereotypes, they even had some ghetto Transformers who spoke with Ebonics. Another one had a Jersey accent. That makes sense for Robots from outer space.

This movie was obviously targeting 11 year old boys. I don't know what I was expecting from a movie based on toys. I just hope when Michael Bay directs a movie about Legos, Lincoln Logs, or Rockem Sockem Robots, it is not this bad. I am going rate this movie by how many times I checked my watch during it, which was 5. I give it 5.4 stars.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons was not a huge priority for me so I waited for it to come to the dollar theater before watching it. I saw it last night, and like many of the movies I have seen, I have mixed feelings about it. The novel was a prequel to the Da Vinci Code, but the movie was presented as a sequel. I really liked the set up to the movie and it got off to an exciting start.

I was intrigued with the details about the Vatican, the Swiss Guard, and the procedures for replacing a pope. The movie is fast paced, and I enjoyed the setting as they frantically ran back and forth across Rome to several historical sites while trying to solve several mysteries. This movie also seemed much less critical of the Catholic church than the Da Vinci Code did. I felt it could have been trying to reconcile things from the prior movie. Obviously the Vatican did not want anything to do with another movie, so the movie makers had to build a replica for the scenes in St. Peter's square.

One of the problems I had with this film was the ease with which Langdon was able to decipher codes and solve mysteries the moment he walks into a room. Robert Langdon is the James Bond of Academia and apparently there is nothing he does not know. It made National Treasure look like a documentary. If you are critical of unrealistic details, then I'm afraid the "Yeah, Right" factor is off the charts. There are more secret passages and conveniently placed manhole covers in this movie than in an episode of Scooby Doo. I thought it was an interesting plot with the Illuminati threatening the Church, but I just kept shaking my head in disbelief with the way the details played out. Towards the end of the movie a young kid behind me made a particular comment and I thought to myself, "Don't kids have funny imaginations?" I was shocked, minutes later, when his far-fetched prediction came true.

Despite my criticisms, I still thought the movie was entertaining, and I can't blame Ron Howard for anything because the cast, acting, special effects, and plot were all good, but he had to make a movie based on an unrealistic book. I recommend Angels and Demons as a video rental and I give it 6.9 stars.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Courtroom Movies

There is something exciting about a courtroom setting in a movie. The intensity of a courtroom movie always seems to be ratcheted up when you realize that a sentence is about to be passed and every little detail in one's presentation could make the difference between life and death. Here are some movies that are known for their courtroom drama.

Inherit the Wind
12 Angry Men
On the Waterfront
Erin Brockovich
The Rainmaker
To Kill A Mockingbird
Judgement at Nuremberg
A Few Good Men
Flash of Genius
A Man for All Seasons
Runaway Jury
Kramer vs. Kramer
A Time to Kill
The Hurricane
Paths of Glory
Adams Rib
A Civil Action

Feel free to add any others you have enjoyed that I may have missed.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Echelon Conspiracy

I had never even heard about the Echelon Conspiracy, but my Netflix account recommended it to me as a movie I might like. The Netflix computer got it right that I like conspiracy movies but it must have forgotten that I hate crappy movies.

There were several elements in this movie that reminded me of other films. It had some Mission Impossible overtones with Ving Rhames bossing everyone around and much of it taking place in the Czec republic. There were some James Bond wanna be scenes in the casino, but the biggest similarity was the nearly exact same plot as Eagle Eye featuring a young guy getting framed for something he didn't do by a rogue computer giving him orders over a cell phone while being chased the whole time by government agents. Everything bothered me in this movie, even the noise his cell phone made each time a new text message appeared.

The main character really bugged me. This was my first exposure to Shane West and I was not impressed. I've seen better acting Hamburger Helper commercials. My favorite scene was when the lead character and a female spy were together in an apartment. A sniper opened fire on them from the rooftops across the street while two other armed attackers broke in to kill them. The lead character took cover in a bathtub and cowered while the wounded lady fought off the bad guys. He finally got out and helped her but I have never seen such role reversal in a movie before.

I'll admit I was tired while watching this and that didn't help my review any. I wish I would have fallen asleep during the opening credits. I'm sorry for being so critical. I'm sure this will come around full circle someday when I make a movie and it gets bad reviews, but I can only give this 4.9 Stars.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Terminator Salvation

I had been trying to see this movie for about a month, but three weeks ago, Terminator Salvation completely disappeared from the theaters. I know that is a common occurrence right before a movie goes to the dollar theater or comes out on video, but 3 weeks? Anyway, it finally made it to the dollar theater so I am able to give you my review.

I liked the dark serious style to this movie. It kind of reminded me of the bleak feel that The Dark Knight had, but this movie was not nearly as good. I was impressed with the special effects and the battle scenes with the giant machines. I'll admit that a movie can be really crappy but if there are enough cool visual and sound effects I can sometimes still be entertained. At times I was distracted during the movie because I kept wondering "Was this the scene when Christian Bale flipped out during filming?"

I liked the movie overall and I liked Sam Wothington in his role, but towards the end, things just got too hard to take. Overriding a terminator bullet bike with a zip drive, the ease with which he infiltrated Skynet, John Connor being impaled through the chest with a metal pole and surviving, the bad cliches, etc.

Despite the fake parts (most of the movie), I still enjoyed the style, the action, the score, the tribute to Arnold and the special effects. I also give it points for giving me another movie to add to my futuristic time line. I was just looking to relax after a stressful week and didn't have very high expectations so that's probably why I'm not as critical of the movie as others have been. I give Terminator Salvation 7.3 Stars. Seeing all those mean machines ripping the crap out of everything made me want to check Transformers out next week.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Race To Witch Mountain

When I saw that Disney was coming out with a remake of Escape to Witch Mountain, I had no intention of seeing it in the theater, but I decided to rent it for my kids once it was released on video.

I'm such a cool Dad that I not only rented it for my kids, but I also rented the original 1975 Escape to Witch Mountain featuring Tony and Tia and Eddie Albert. We watched the original first and they thought it was kind of lame but they still enjoyed it. I told them we'd watch the new one with better special effects the next night.

The next night we watched Race to Witch Mountain. I knew it was a bad sign when 3 of my kids walked out after 15 minutes into it and said they'd rather go to bed. I fell asleep twenty minutes into the movie so I decided to give the remake a shot again the next day. After watching the movie I thought it was horrible. I really like The Rock, but he was totally wasted in this movie. I know this is a kids movie about aliens but that being said it was still so totally fake and stupid and it made the original look like Schindler's List.

I imagine Disney spent a lot of money on this movie and had plenty of resources at their disposal, but it still seemed like a low budget movie at times. Sorry for being so critical, but it was fake and dumb and I should have known not to rent it. I give it 5.0 stars.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I recently offered to take my daughter to a movie and I told her she could pick the movie as long as it was not an animated feature. That limited our choices to several rated R movies, Transformers, or Harry Potter, which ended up being the winner.

I have never really gotten into Harry Potter. I have not read any of the books and I still have a problem learning the character's names. It took me 4 movies to realize that Dumbledorf was not dwarf. I learned Professor Snapes name this movie and finally quit calling him Colonel Brandon/The Klingon from Galaxy Quest. I think I've seen all of the movies in the series now but I still don't have a clue what's going on.

So on with the review. All you really need to know is that the special effects are good. The kids are growing up. Ron is not as goofy as he used to be, but the kid that played Draco Malfoy went through puberty and looks kind of freaky now. I thought The Half Blood Prince was better than the prior Harry Potter movies. I give it 7.4 stars.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Proposal- In 100 Words

I'm not a huge romantic comedy fan, but I thought The Proposal was pretty funny. Sandra Bullock gave one of her better performance as a cruel and overbearing boss. The set up was funny and the chemistry between Bullock and Ryan Reynolds seemed to work. I will never be able to look at Oscar from The Office the same way again. Betty White was a little over the top and it was predictable in the end, but I still gave it 7.3 stars. Is it just me, or does Sandra Bullock's spine look like it's about to snap in the poster?

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I had been warned that Australia was a long movie. I should have known better than to start an epic romance late at night. I only made it to the half way mark before I fell asleep. The next night I watched the second half earlier in the evening and made it through just fine.

After watching the entire film, I felt like I has seen a double feature. The first half was an Australian Cowboy/cattle drive movie and the second was an Australian war movie both of them focusing on the plight of the Aboriginal inhabitants. If you are interested in that aspect of the movie I would recommend A Rabbit Proof Fence instead.

I was expecting a different feel from a Baz Luhrmann movie. More along the lines of Strictly Ballroom or Moulin Rouge. I am not into musicals, but there were a few times when I wished someone would break into song and dance to liven it up. I felt this was more of a chick flick than an epic drama. Despite good performances from Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, overall I thought it was only okay and give it 6.8 stars.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I will be the first to admit that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is actually a surprisingly curious movie. Since curiosity is the key word I will give you a very brief review that should peak your curiosity.

Here are some keywords to help you know what to expect when you see it.

Brad Pitt
Abandoned Baby
Make up
Reverse Aging
New Orleans
Forrest Gumpy

I thought it was well done and I actually got drawn in towards the end when Benjamin was getting younger yet dying of old age as a little kid. I give it 7.5 stars

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Valkyrie is a movie based on historical events of War War 2 when Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and other Nazi officers attempted to assassinate Adolph Hitler. They obviously didn't succeed with their plot but for a moment you feel that they did and you wonder how they could have changed history. Valkyrie was well done and was quite suspenseful. The cast was excellent and they gave the movie a very realistic and believable feel.

I like Tom Cruise despite all the negative Scientology PR that follows him. On a side note, this is one of the few Cruise movies that does not feature him sprinting in on of the scenes. I thought it was strange that I was rooting for the Nazis in this movie but at least they were the ones trying to get rid of Hitler.

Valkyrie is one of the better war movies that has come out in the last 10 years. I give it a 7.7 stars.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Land of The Lost

Despite my disdain for excessive movie remakes based on TV shows, when I heard that Land of the Lost was coming out I was willing to make an exception and give it a shot. How can you go wrong with Sleestacks, crystals, dinosaurs, pylons, and Chaka? When I found out this was a Will Ferrel movie and a comedy I lowered my expectations.

Let me save you some time and just tell you that Land of the Lost is best as a movie trailer. You've probably seen most of the funny parts on all the commercials over the last several months. I'm a Will Ferrell fan, but Danny McBride made me laugh more during this movie. There were some funny moments but overall it was a negative experience.

It's rated PG-13 and is extremely heavy in the crude humor department. I was surprised to see a notice posted by the movie management indicating that despite the rating they felt it was not appropriate for kids. I would have to agree that this is definitely not a kid or family movie.

I'll be the first to admit that the 70's TV show was not a masterpiece but it is better than this movie. Any fans of the original series will be disappointed. I'm glad I had free movie passes to it and didn't spend any money on it. I give it 5.6 stars and just hope for better when the inevitable Sigmund and the Sea Monsters movie comes out in the future.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Forever Strong

This movie certainly falls under the category of a motivational sports movie. I think is is appropriate to refer you to my prior comments on that genre when I reviewed The Express. I love sports and I love motivational movies, but do they always have to be so predictable and end with a last second slow motion play that wins the game?

While watching this movie I couldn't help but think that it seemed so familiar. I then realized it was because I had recently seen Sean Faris in a similar role in Never Back Down. A talented yet troubled teen moves to a new area and finds a way to overcome his weaknesses and develop discipline through sports while being mentored by a patient role model.... It's also similar to the premise for Stick It, but at least Stick It didn't take itself so seriously.

I understand that this film is based on a real team and I don't want to take anything away from the accomplishments of Highland Rugby, but I'm just tired of how Hollywood handles sports movies. There are some great values and lessons taught in this movie, the acting was good and there were many things I liked about it, but I'm still only giving it 6.6 stars.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

I don't have a lot to say about Paul Blart. I don't think anyone going to see this movie was expecting real action or drama, just some slapstick and humor provided by Kevin James. I'll admit that I laughed several times during the movie and I think James can be a pretty funny guy. He has assumed the John Candy/Chris Farley good hearted heavy set funny man role.

This movie turned out to be more of a kids movie than I expected. The villains were the worst part of the movie. They take over the mall and ride bikes, skateboards, and do ridiculous Parkour stunts as they chase Blart around. This was obviously geared to a very young audience who would think these guys were cool and tough. The lead bad guy reminded me of a young Christian Slater who needed a shave. I could go on with how lame they were, but I need to remind myself this was geared to a young audience.

I should not get off comparing the action scenes in this movie to Die Hard either since it is obviously a comedy spoofing that idea. Was it funny? Pretty much. Was it formulaic and totally predictable? Yes. Is it worth a rental on DVD? I'd say yes, especially if you are tired of trying to find a movie the whole family can watch together. It's rated PG and I was surprised how clean it was since it's a Happy Madison production. I give it 6.5 stars.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Time Travel Movies

Ever since I learned about the concept of time I have always wished I could go back in time or see into the future. Apparently I'm not the only one since there have been many movies that address this theme. I have listed some of the more popular time travel movies below.

Somewhere in Time
Back to the Future(s)
The Terminator(s)
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Time Bandits
Deja Vu
Groundhog Day
The Time Machine
13 Going on 30
Time Cop
12 Monkeys
Kate and Leopold
Napoleon Dynomite
Planet of the Apes
Star Trek(s)

Some of these movies are definitely better than others. Feel free to list any good time travel movies I may have missed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek

I was a little concerned when I saw that Star Trek was getting so many good reviews because I hate having really high expectations and being let down. Despite all the hype it was still great and is obviously the best of any Star Trek movie to date.

I really enjoyed how the movie gives the background for the Star Trek crew members from the original series. I like prequels if they are done well and this one is. While watching this movie I couldn't help feeling bad for many of the younger viewers. Most of the movie is like an inside joke if you are not familiar with the characters or original series. Even if someone does not have any prior Star Trek background they can still enjoy this movie due to all the action and drama.

Star Trek kind of reminded me of Muppet Babies after seeing cuter younger versions of each character. They did a great job with casting and I was glad they used fresh faces for most of the actors. I think each of the actors did a great job of capturing the personality and mannerisms of the original character. Lieutenant Uhura gets my vote for the best makeover. If there was a week point to this movie it would have to be the villains. The Romulans didn't do much for me but remind me of Mike Tyson.

Overall I really liked Star Trek. It had "beam me up", "set phasers for stun", "I'm a doctor not a physicist", and "I haven't got enough power". It is a well done prequel that neatly puts a lot of prior history together. I give it 8.1 stars. It's cool to be a Star Trek geek again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

X Men Origins: Wolverine

Can you believe it? The Movie Guy is actually reviewing a movie on the day it was released. I have been looking forward to seeing Wolverine since I am a simple minded guy who enjoys the superhero genre. I was also excited about its release since this movie represents the ushering in of the big movies of the Summer. I'm hoping some of the big name movies coming out in the next few months are good.

Wolverine is a prequel to the original X Men movie. I found it interesting how they pieced the story together and gave more information to help better understand Wolverines history. I also enjoyed all the new mutant characters and seeing what kind of powers they had. Many of them had insignificant roles in the story. My least favorite was Gambit. His super power is throwing cards? Whatever. I know better than to start picking apart what seems fake since we are talking about a comic book movie.

I thought Liev Schreiber was a great villain as Victor Creed. And Stryker is as weaselly as ever in this movie. Most guys will like this for the special effects and non stop action. The body count was already in double digits before the opening credits even ended. Women may like it just for the fact that Hugh Jackman has taken a page from the Matthew McConaughey school of shirt removal. He spends a good deal of the movie shirtless or even in the buff.

Wolverine certainly has plenty of holes in the plot and and is no Schlinders List, but I enjoyed it more than the last X Men installment. I'm sure the purist comic book geeks will rip on the inconsistencies with the actual comic book, but I enjoyed it enough to give it 7.2 stars.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Day The Earth Stood Still

I had never seen the original 1951 movie but I heard it was good so I was looking forward to seeing this. I know there are many people who have a hard time accepting this genre. I'm the advocate of alien movies so it pains me to have to criticize The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Right from the start it came across as being fake and I'm not talking about aliens landing in New York City. I'm referring to the immediate response of thousands of military, scientists, police, and government officials within minutes of the alien landing. It was just overkill.

The acting was very bad. If you want a monotone emotionless lead to play an alien then Keanu Reeves is your guy. He was cast well and had very little to do with this movie's problems. I know that Kathy Bates is an academy award winning actress but her role in this movie was horrible and unbelievable. I also found Jaden Smith to be annoying.

To add insult to injury the movie turned into environmental propaganda like The Day After Tomorrow. I can summarize the message the writers of the remake were trying to achieve in four words. People Bad, Earth Good. It was appropriate that I just happened to see this movie on Earth Day. I give it 5.1 stars. I guess Twilight wasn't so bad after all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I wasn't sure if this was going to be an action movie, spy thriller, pro-Muslim, anti-terrorism, anti-American or what. It had a dismal run in the theaters so I wasn't expecting much but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Beware-spoilers follow.

Don Cheadle plays a Muslim American named Samir Horn. He is an ex soldier and we catch up with him after he has spent several years abroad. He is in the Middle East trying to sell detonators to terrorists. They are attacked by the local authorities and he and a few other survivors are sent to a prison in Yemen. After proving his loyalty to the faith, he is befriended by Muslim extremists and when they break out of prison they take him with them.

Once on the outside he works with the terrorists and helps them make explosives for suicide bombers. After seeing him prove his loyalty and assist in several bombings the movie takes a twist and we learn that he is actually secretly working for the US government to help uncover terrorists who are on American soil just awaiting their orders. His mission is so top secret that the FBI does not even know about it and they end up pursuing him the entire movie. Samir is tormented because of the collateral damage that is caused in order to keep his cover. The point of view and the philosophy of the terrorists and the Americans are both depicted which makes it a little more insightful. It also leaves you questioning Samir's loyalties throughout the entire movie. The climax involves a plot to have suicide bombers blow up greyhound buses in every state across the nation on Thanksgiving.

The cast was great and Cheadle gives a great performance as usual. I appreciated the realistic feel to this movie unlike many others that lose their credibility during the first action scene. I enjoyed the movie just for the sake of the story and the suspense, but I'm still not sure what the intended message behind the movie was. Was it a Muslim propaganda film or just your typical spy movie? I imagine that some Muslims may be offended by some of the stereotypes, but if that's the case I invite them to join the crowds of Amish, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and Evangelicals who have experienced the same thing thanks to Hollywood. I give it 7.4 stars.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some of My Favorite Documentaries

I enjoy an occasional documentary. They don't usually have the budget, stunts, or special effects that most movies do, but it is refreshing to see something very realistic as opposed to so much fake stuff we see at the movies. I know not all documentaries are created equal and some are definitely more honest than others. Over the years I have seen many documentaries and some of my favorite have been:

Hoop Dreams
Bigger, Stronger, Faster
King of Kong
Supersize Me
Spell Bound
My Kid Could Paint Like That

If you haven't seen these I would recommend you give them a shot. I'm sure I'm missing many others. Feel free to recommend any documentaries you may have enjoyed in the comments section.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Most Extreme Villain Deaths

When It's A Wonderful Life came out the MPAA was in an uproar that Mr. Potter appeared to get away with his crime and was not punished at the end of the movie. It looks like Hollywood made a course correction because now most bad guys end up getting what they deserve and then some unless there is a sequel in the works. I have noticed a recent trend in movies that when the villain dies he can't just die from colon cancer. He has to experience an extreme death for us to get our money's worth.

I remember when I saw The Wizard of Oz as a little kid and was shocked to see the witch melt. When I saw Ben Hur I witnessed Messala stampeded multiple times until he was just a bloody pulp. I thought that was intense at the time, but melting and stampeding are old school. Today if you want to kill a villain you've got to do better than that. Raiders of the Lost Ark took killing villains to the next level. Their heads actually melted and exploded! This was a memorable moment in movie history, but these days it would no longer turn any heads.

In Speed, MI3, Attack of the Clones, and Lord of the Rings bad guys are decapitated. Several James Bond movies feature blowing up the villain. Some of these can be seen in Never Say Never Again and Live and Let Die, and Golden Eye. Lord of the Rings made a fine showing. The King of the Ring Wraiths implodes which is different twist. Lava was also used to melt Gollum and Sauron explodes ala nuclear explosion. We are making progress.

After careful analysis the most extreme way to kill a bad guy is to blow him up, but not with regular explosives. It is much cooler if super powers are used. In The Matrix, Agent Smith has surging energy bubbles running under his skin before he ends up exploding. The other day I rented The Mummy 3. In the final scene the villain died by having sand and oil come out of all of his facial orifices and then he started to vomit lava before he exploded. Now that's how a bad guy should die!

After talking about all these extreme and exaggerated ways to kill a villain I need a break from the violence. I think I'll go watch some cartoons. Maybe Itchy and Scratchy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Seven Pounds

The trailer to this movie looked intriguing and mysterious so I was looking forward to seeing it. I was surprised that it didn't do too well in the theaters. This is the sort of movie that you have to be careful about reviewing so you don't spoil the ending. If you haven't seen it yet you may want to wait before reading any further.

Seven Pounds had my attention from the start. Will Smith finishes up a swim in the ocean, goes into his ocean side home and makes a phone call to a blind telemarketer and proceeds to taunt and belittle him. He then hangs up and is obviously distraught from what he has done. It peaked my curiosity and I wanted to get an explanation for what had just happened. The movie strings you along the whole time with bits and pieces of information that help to explain the storyline.

I wanted to enjoy this movie more, but I felt it was confusing and hard to follow since it splices flashbacks into the movie without letting you know they are flashbacks. (At least Wayne's World had the decency to make that clear.) Will Smith begins working as an IRS agent, later he's working for an aerospace company, then he's an IRS agent again. He has a beautiful wife he loves, but then he starts dating another lady. It takes a while to explain that his wife had died in an accident. Aside from the confusing flashbacks, I was also trying to figure out if there was any relationship between the 7 victims of the crash and those he chose to serve.

The acting was great by the entire cast, but I felt it was slow moving and overly weepy. There were several times when I wanted to fast forward the scenes because the pace was so slow, but I didn't dare to since my wife would be angry with me. If you like long, slow, emotional movies then you will probably enjoy Seven Pounds. I am a Will Smith fan, but I had a hard time understanding or relating to his character. My favorite part of the movie was when his girlfriend gave him a new outfit since I couldn't stand seeing him in the same suit he wears for most of the movie. I admit I was tired while watching this and that didn't help any so to be fair I am giving it 6.9 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I have not read Twilight and I did not see it in the theaters. I am however secure enough with my masculinity to watch it once it was released on DVD. I tried to approach it with an open mind. I knew very little about this story except for the fact that it's about a vampire named Edward. That being said here is my review.

First of all I have never seen so many pasty pale complexions in the first 10 minutes of any movie in my life. When I saw Dr. Cullen, all I could see was Tom Cruise in Interview with a Vampire. I wondered it the makeup artist for this movie intentionally did that. The family baseball game with the sister vampire pitching was too much for me to take. If you are a vampire with superhuman powers you should at least be able to throw a baseball.

I'm sorry but Twilight just didn't work for me. I don't want to be mean or rip on it but it felt more like watching a television episode on the WB than a movie. I'm sure if I was a girl and in Jr. High I would have related to it better. I'm sorry this is so short but that is all I have to say. I give it 5.6 out of 10 stars. At least I was able to add an evil twin to my collection as a result of watching it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Occasionally I will see a movie and leave the theater not knowing if I liked it or not. Knowing is one such movie. From the previews I knew it was about the supernatural and predicting the future events, but I wasn't counting on everything else that was a part of this movie. Warning: Spoilers follow.

I'm usually unaffected by violence in movies, but I found all the graphic deaths and mass destruction disturbing. I was surprised that the movie was rated PG-13. Maybe it was because the special effects made it appear so realistic. I also found several events in the movie to be frightening, like when the boy was being visited in his room by a whisperer. It's been a long time since I found myself tensing up while watching a movie.

The movie started as a suspense/mystery movie, then progressed to the supernatural/horror genre. It then became a disaster movie before moving to science fiction and finally a religious movie. I was surprised by the ending and some of the religious overtones about families being together forever and the references to Armageddon, angels, Noah's Ark , Adam and Eve, and the tree of life. I'm sure it turned off many viewers and I certainly wasn't expecting this in a big budget Hollywood movie.

There were parts of the movie that had me on the edge of my seat and others when I couldn't believe how dumb it seemed. Despite the detractions the movie may have had it kept my attention the entire time and I'm actually going to credit the movie for playing musical chairs with the various genres. I struggled for a long time trying to come up with a rating but I have finally decided to Knowing 7.2 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flash of Genius

This movie is about the legal battle between the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper and the big auto makers. Sounds riveting. I can't say I was expecting any court room scenes with people yelling "you can't handle the truth!", but it was still better than expected.

The movie takes place in the mid 60's and continues into the early 70's. Greg Kinnear plays Bob Kearns who is a engineering professor who comes up with the prototype for the intermittent windshield wiper. He tries to market his invention to the big 3 auto makers. Ford sees his design and plans to work with him on production but before they can start the process they pull out and say they are no longer interested. Shortly after they unveil his invention on their newest models. As a result he becomes completely obsessed and paranoid and eventually has a nervous breakdown.

Shortly after Ford offers him a settlement but he rejects it and insists on suing them. The case is held up in court for years and his relentless obsession for justice causes his family to fall apart. He ends up representing himself in court as he attempts to prove that they stole his invention.

Kinnear gives a great performance and the movie has an authentic feel for the time period it takes place in. At times it is uncomfortable to watch the pain he brings on himself and his family as a result of his stubborn quest for justice. Flash of Genius may not feature the most exciting subject matter, but I give it 7.0 stars.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Art of Slap Stick

I enjoy most comedies, but I prefer the subtle comedy you see in Dr. Strangelove, Best in Show, or The Office. Despite my preference for dry humor I have to admit that I also have a small place in my heart for slapstick. By slapstick I mean blatant unabashed physical comedy. I've been guilty of laughing at Buster Keaton, the 3 Stooges, and the Marx Brothers, but I have to draw the line when it comes to pies in the face or slipping on banana peels. That's never funny.

I remember when I saw Airplane for the first time. That movie took gags and puns to a whole new level. Leslie Nielsen has since become the poster child of the spoof comedy and is now typecast in that role. I have learned that people are very subjective when it comes to comedy. What some people think is funny, others may just roll their eyes and shake their head at.

One such example is this clip from Hot Shots Part Deaux. I remember when I saw this scene in the theater I was laughing so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks and I couldn't breathe. I look at this scene with mixed emotions because I knew some of the gags are just plain stupid, but others are hilarious. I understand that people have different tastes and preferences, but if you can't laugh at something in that scene, then you have some issues.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


The following post takes place between 9:00 pm and 10:00pm...

I have been a fan of 24 since it first came out. After the first few seasons I decided I'd prefer to rent them all at once rather than watch them on TV. That way I'd avoid commercials and wouldn't have to be strung along from week to week. It has been nice, but there are some disadvantages. I don't usually start watching until 10:30 or 11:00 at night. I tell myself I'm only going to watch one episode. Yah right! That's impossible since each episode leaves you hanging at the most intense moment. So I watch the next and next. There are 4 episodes on a disk and I have never been able to stop myself from watching an entire disk. In that past I have been known to stay up as late as 3:00 a.m. shaking like a drug addict watching episodes.

Apparently I was not the only one with the bright idea of renting the entire season at once. Several years ago when I was returning disk 3 of 6 to Blockbuster, I noticed a couple stressed out guys loitering at the entrance waiting for the store to open. I noticed they were also holding 24 DVD jackets. Even though we were strangers, it was like we were a close group of friends or brotherhood since we had mutual respect and understanding for what we were going through. I just hoped they weren't there for the same disk that I needed because they were going to have to get through me first.

24 takes the concept of leaving you hanging to a new level. It is almost ridiculous how they have to keep outdoing themselves each episode and every season. I now realize that it is just a man's formulaic soap opera featuring action, terrorists, violence, and suspense. My other problem is that I feel like such a slacker when I compare what I accomplish in one day to what Jack Bauer does in 24 hours. He should teach time management seminars. Despite these negative aspects, some of my favorite things about 24 are:

1. The phone system at TCU. I could never get sick of sound their phone ring.
2. I love the countdown noise that comes on before and after commercials.
3. I always get a kick out of Jack when he is about to interrogate a stubborn bad guy who won't talk. I love the look on their face when he turns off all the surveillance monitors in the interrogation room because he is about to get down to business. (I'm no fan of torture, but I am a fan of efficiency and results).
4. He chooses not to participate in political correctness in his world. The show takes stereotyping and profiling to the extreme.

I have decided that if I am going to have an authentic 24 viewing experience then I need to do it over a 24 hour period. So next time I am going to get the entire season on DVD and burn straight through all 24 episodes with no breaks. That's only fair since that's how Jack has to do it.
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