Gravity Movie Review

A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
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Looking for an intense and brilliant movie? Look no further than Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Introduced during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Gravity is a story of survival in one of the most perilous situations possible — lost in space. As you might imagine, Gravity is a very intense movie and Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity’s director, does a phenomenal job recreating the atmosphere of space in the theatre (pun intended!).

One of Alfonso’s tactics for creating tension and a feeling of isolation was stripping the movie of music. It was surprisingly quiet throughout — so much so, that I could hear every word spoken by the child that wouldn’t keep quiet in the row in front of me. Inconsiderate parents! But I digress.

Super condensed review, go!

  • The visuals were the best part of the movie, with animation so realistic you quickly find yourself drifting out in space. For full effect, see Gravity in 3D AVX.
  •  The acting was superb. I would expect nothing less from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, elite veteran actors. What was interesting was that, other than a few disembodied voices, they were the only actors in the movie. It’s not everyday that the leading actors are the only actors.
  • The music was primarily a heartbeat throughout the film that added a lot of underlying anxiety. If you were to record the heartbeat of someone watching Gravity, the resulting graph would be very jagged.
  • The plot was very basic, which is why Alfonso made the right choice in restricting the movie’s length to 1.5 hours. Any longer and it would have felt drawn-out. My only complaint is with the overdone religious elements included which seem out of place for what is otherwise a sci-fi / science movie.

Overall, this is a movie you definitely want to see, and it is certainly worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. As I mentioned earlier in the post, be sure to catch the movie in AVX 3D and make sure you aren’t sitting next to any children.

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Kick-Ass 2 Movie Review

The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.
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Going into Kick-Ass 2, I didn’t know what to expect. The movie has attracted a mixture of movie reviews, with critics primarily disappointed and general audiences primarily entertained. Surely, with these mixed reviews, the movie could never compare with the original Kick-Ass, that was universally liked, right?

Wrong.

Kick-Ass 2 blew my expectations out of the water. It was on pretty much the same level as the original Kick-Ass, maintaining everything that made the first one great such as:

  • Ironic comedy
  • Witty and hilarious dialogue
  • Gruesome action
  • A smart script that pokes fun at itself
  • Hilariously unique characters (the names are so good I don’t want to ruin them by listing them here)
  • Chloë Grace Moretz (you can’t not like her in the Kick-Ass series)

If you enjoyed the original, you will thoroughly enjoy this one as well. Whether it is quite as good as the first one is certainly up for debate but I would say they are certainly of comparable quality.

Kick-Ass 2 is jam-packed with references to modern culture, which makes it seem real despite its absurd elements. The movie’s biggest strength, aside from the performances by Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is the breadth of characters introduced. Each of the new heroes brought into the story are unique, interesting and out-right hilarious. Jim Carrey‘s character is particularly good. It is great to see him back on-screen.

In summary, Kick-Ass 2 kicks ass. Set your expectations slightly lower than the first and you will be sure not to be disappointed.

After the credits: Stick around after the credits for an interesting scene . . .

Even the music during the credits was amazing. The song Hero by Jessie J, recorded for the Kick-Ass 2 soundtrack is particular awesome:

Pacific Rim Movie Review — Feels Like Traditional Hollywood

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
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Pacific Rim was, surprisingly, a pretty good movie. When I first saw a trailer I thought, “pfft, cool action but probably nothing else”. However, I was happy to hear good things about Pacific Rim beyond the action and thought I would give it a shot.

In some ways Pacific Rim feels like Jurassic Park, just a lot worse, of course. It has the eccentric and over-the-top characters (primarily the scientists), a powerful score, and plenty of predictable Hollywood glory. If you forgive the movie for its unoriginal Hollywood elements, you will find it enjoyable.

Pacific Rim was clearly created to appeal to the Japanese and appeal to Kaiju fans. The name for the monsters — Kaiju — is the name used to refer to the Japanese “monster vs. robot” movies. As a result, the movie is full of Japanese elements; some of which are a little too obvious, perhaps. Including Japanese dialogue throughout and the casting of a Japanese lead actress are the most obvious. Interestingly, they decided to set most of the movie off the coast of Hong Kong instead of Japan which would have been the obvious choice.

It should be obvious what Pacific Rim’s primary strenght is: computer animation. The CGI was truly incredible and I cannot begin to understand how long it must have taken to put the movie together. The battles in the ocean are particularly impressive because of the particle effects required for the water, but I digress.

The secondary strength is the story, believe it or not. The concept is quite simple but surprisingly strong. Pacific Rim introduced an interesting means of piloting the robots (with dual-pilot mind control), though it is probably less unique to Japanese fans of Kaiju movies. Emotional elements were woven in relatively well and made you feel for the characters more than the average action movie.

A small thing, but the physics seemed realistic. The massive robots moved somewhat slowly and really felt like the heft they would have in real life. As it turns out, the physics are still ridiculously unrealistic — as made clear in the (magazine-only) Wired article “Fighting Physics: The Megamath in Pacific Rim”. Essentially, a single robot punch in the movie should take 20 seconds instead of the 1.5 seconds portrayed. Still, they certainly feel hefty on-screen!

One of the movie’s weak-points was Charlie Hunnam. He is easy to sell as the “badass” but his acting was never fully convincing. I would consider him B or C-list at best. Rinko Kikuchi was not much stronger, unfortunately. Her acting seemed to get much better as the movie went on but she still had many awkward scenes (some intentionally so, I will admit). Overall though, the acting could have been much worse so I won’t hold a grudge.

Pacific Rim is definitely worth a watch. If you go see it, make sure you watch it on the biggest and most intense screen possible. Ultra AVX or IMAX is a necessity.

Spoilers

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Am I the only one that is mad that they survived at the end? Obviously it is hard to sell a sad ending to Hollywood but I felt it would be poetic if they sacrificed themselves for humankind. Instead their personal feelings for each other almost cost mankind everything. At the very least they could have allowed Raleigh to be the sacrifice for humanity and for Mako.

Man of Steel Movie Review: 1 Spoiler — It Sucks

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.
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I found it completely shocking that some people actually liked this movie, although I attribute it to the hype and the action that overshadowed the actual meat of the movie (or lack thereof). Of course, many people also share my sentiment that Man of Steel sucks.

Man of Steel falls down on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. The biggest hole in the movie was the cast: failing to create any believable characters. The “Man of Steel” (Henry Cavill) was very dull, delivered lines robotically, and was just absolutely unlovable. He certainly lived up to his name in the movie though, with no more personality than a steel girder. The same went for Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams that failed to create any spark on-screen between herself and Superman. She was hot, yes, but a great movie that does not make.

By far the worst scenes were between Superman and his parents as they try to explain who he is and what is happening to him. It is always interesting to see how a movie will approach these difficult aspects but they did not handle it well. “Son, you are an alien. No big deal” was essentially their approach. It was awkward. It was bad. It felt like the directors just wanted to deal with it quickly like ripping off a band-aid.

What was good about the movie? The action — kinda. There was a lot of it, but it was senseless. The movie was too long and yet it was full of action scenes that stretched on forever. Superman is basically invincible and so are his enemies. So why are they punching each other around for 10 mins? Don’t they realize they are not accomplishing anything? Neither Superman nor his enemies seemed to take any damage throughout their “epic” battles but they kept punching each other anyway. The graphics were really good though, that’s about it.

The way they explained Superman’s powers was also bad. See the spoilers for details.

To spare myself an essay, I’m going to stop here. If you liked the movie, I don’t blame you but you might want to get your eyes and ears checked 🙂 Give the movie another watch and pay attention to the things I have mentioned and I am sure you will understand my pain. Of course you can always just look at the pretty explosions.

Spoilers below

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I actually laughed out loud when Superman let his dad die in the tornado. It was a huge stretch for him to let his dad die just to conceal his identity but on top of that, they felt the need to spell it out for us by him specifically saying that he let his dad die for that purpose. Laugh out loud ridiculous.

His powers were explained by atmospheric differences between Krypton and Earth which was great. Except that no amount of atmospheric differences gives you the ability to fly. Jump high? Sure! Fly? No. Laser vision? Where did that come from? Near invincibility? You’re going to have to try harder than “atmospheric differences”. I actually love it when super hero movies use plausible explanations to bridge reality but when it’s not plausible, it is painful.

Better Than the Books: The Sherlock Holmes (BBC) Series

I, like many others, am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. My experience in getting to know the numerous stories, however, is different than most. Instead of starting with the books, my first experience of Sherlock Holmes was from the movie titled . . . Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey and Jude Law.

The Hollywood movies were good and stimulated my appetite for the stories but were by far the worst depiction of Sherlock Holmes I have yet to experience.

I then moved on to the books — undeniably classic stories. Certainly a must-read series for people of all ages and walks of life. However, the books are not the best! Gasp! Instead, the best version of the Sherlock Holmes stories I have yet to discover is Sherlock, the BBC series.

Feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree. You must have actually seen the BBC series to be able to judge it, of course.

The following are the many reasons why Sherlock (the BBC series) is by far the best version of Sherlock Holmes:

  1. The already virtually perfect characters, Sherlock and Watson, are further perfected (if that makes sense). Every piece of dialogue is carefully delivered and well thought-out and helps to develop other dimensions of Sherlock and Watson beyond the books. Although the dialogue in the books is incredible, it does have its flaws. For example, the way in which Sherlock Holmes comes to deliver his genius deductions sometimes seems a bit forced, in the interest of the reader. These explanations are done with somewhat more grace in the TV series.
  2. The series is modernized in a genius way. The way in which the series incorporates modern technology and circumstances into a story as old as Sherlock Holmes is nothing short of brilliant. Letters become texts, journals become blogs, and deductive processes include modern forensics. Much of the original charm is maintained while the show manages to rocket the series forward by more than a century.
  3. The show is funnier! At least somewhat so. The Sherlock Holmes series is not known for being particularly comedic but it is one of the only imperfections of the book series. After reading Catch 22, I have developed a taste for comedy, even in a serious story. Comedy helps round out a masterpiece, in my opinion.
  4. What was perfection before, remains perfection now. Almost everything that made the original Sherlock Holmes stories great has been maintained, with the points mentioned above added to polish what was already a perfect series.

Don’t take my word for it! Take a look at the Sherlock Holmes BBC series. You will be glad you did.

P.s. if you haven’t read the books, there is a great complete Sherlock Holmes Collection available in hardcopy and digital format that I can vouch for.

Spring Breakers Movie Review

Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.
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The super short review: Spring Breakers was bizarre, sexy, funny and unique. If you are not a fan of the naked female form, perhaps you should opt to watch Safe Haven instead.

Spring Breakers is not the movie you think it is. It is far more “artsy” and “deep” than you could possibly expect from its title and premise. In this case, it was mostly a good thing.

It helps to know what to expect going in to the movie, so pay attention. If you are looking for a lighthearted comedy or mainstream flick, look elsewhere. Spring Breakers has its funny parts and some mainstream good times, but it is far more than that. You will frequently find your brain melting, for example. Not from stupidity but rather from trying to comprehend the insanity you are watching.

Overall though, the movie works. It depicts a life that few of us ever live — the true “wild side” of life — so it is impossible to watch expecting the plot points to be normal. The direction helped add to the bizarre feel of the movie which seems to cause eye-glazing among the general public. A hit with the critics; less so with the general public. If nothing else, Spring Breakers is a very unique movie and should be appreciated for that.

Prudes beware: nudity abounds. Spring Breakers earns its 18A rating within the first 2 minutes with more breasts in the movie than there are aliens in Alien. Although there is no doubt that the nudity helps appease the male audience, it is used in such a way that it actually adds to the validity of the setting. Some nudity, of course, has been thrown in to increase word of mouth.

James Franco does a surprisingly good job playing a drug dealer/rapper/straight-up gansta. His performance was very refreshing after The Great and Miserable Oz. The ladies (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) were great performance-wise as well, though they were largely eye-candy.

In summary: if you go in expecting a weird but unique movie with a lot of boobs, you will not be disappointed.

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Oz the Great and Powerful Movie Review (Only one spoiler: It was bad)

A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.
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The super short version: Oz the Great and Powerful was quite bad. Skip it.

My expectations were not very high for Oz, but I was greatly disappointed nonetheless. Despite being bankrolled and produced by Disney, with quite the record of success, Oz failed on so many levels.

The most notable failure was the acting. James Franco’s performance was predictable good for much of the movie but terrible off-base for others. He just never seemed to really find his place in the movie except for a few scenes. All of the actors, including each of the witches were painful to watch during most scenes. I felt like I was watching a highschool play at times, forgetting for many segments that the movie cost many millions.

Mila Kunis was most disappointing of all. Her first appearance onscreen was very painful and unnatural to watch. She didn’t improve throughout the movie either. She may not be Anne Hathaway but I expected much more from her acting skills.

Despite not being the primary target audience for Oz, I was unimpressed by the lack of universal appeal. Pixar, for example, is very successful at making movies that can entertain both kids and adults alike. Unfortunately, Disney has a long way to go in this respect, Oz being a great example. Many scenes were rather childish and played out too far as a very cheesy fairytale.

The one saving grace was the visual appeal, although it still fell far short of comparable visual masterpieces like Alice in Wonderland. Despite the fantasy landscapes being well put-together, other visual effects were not. The witches moved unnaturally in several scenes – so much so that you could easily picture the ropes and pulleys pulling them into the air.

I found myself laughing awkwardly, sighing, and rolling my eyes throughout at least half a dozen scenes. Oz was easily one of the worst movies I have seen in a long time. Viewer beware!