Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The One Where He Reviews Movies That Everyone's Already Seen

So far this summer, I've caught four movies, which is actually quite the feat for me. Usually, I'm content with just waiting for the movie to come out on DVD. This year, though, there were a few that I really wanted to see on the big screen.

First up, X3. Now, due to my purist leanings, I wasn't a big fan of the first X-Men movie. It wasn't a bad movie, per se, but, why go & mess with an already established franchise? Why change everything around? There's more than enough material to make movies for the next several hundred years. When X2 came around, I tried to watch it without my purist bent &, much to my surprise, it was a pretty good movie (my favorite of the series thus far). So, I walked into X3 with the same attitude that I had for the previous movie, which served me well yet again.

A big complaint that I read about in the reviews for the movie was that it was heavy on the action & light on the story. Well, duh! It's a movie about friggin' super-powered humans! If I want plot & substance, I'll go watch PBS. The movie delivers on the action & fighting, perfect for killing a couple hours in the Palm Springs heat.

If you haven't seen it yet & get the chance to (it still might be playing in a few theatres), be sure to stay after the credits.

Next up, Superman Returns. Oh. My. Word. An awesome, awesome, awesome movie! I don't know why all of the entertainment rags are saying it was a disappointment. So it didn't rack up stellar numbers at the box office. Big deal! It was a perfect return to the silver screen for the Man of Steel. This was what Superman III should've been.

The characters were spot on, not really trying to mimic the original cast, but rather continuing one where Reeve & Co. left off in Superman II. Brandon Routh looked & sounded very eerily like Christoper Reeve, but I don't think it was intentional. I think both actors played Clark Kent/Superman the way he was supposed to be played: mild mannered; humble; an all-around good guy. The fact that they look & sound a lot like each other is just a bonus (& let me tell you, I'm so glad Nicholas Cage didn't get the part). Kevin Spacey played Lex Luthor with just enough of the humor from Gene Hackman's portrayal without a) copying Hackman & b) making Luthor a complete buffoon. Plus, he made him scary evil. Not 'scary evil' in a Freddie/Jason way. 'Scary evil' in almost a Hannibal Lechter way (without the liver & fava beans tilt): calm (mostly), calculating & willing to drown most of the planet for a little prime real estate.

The story was excellent. I found myself really feeling bad for Supes, coming back to a planet (& one person in particular) that had largely moved on without him. I was never a big fan of Superman in my comic collecting days, but this flick had me gobbling up all things Superman for a few days after. The special effects (with one exception - watch the boats on the river near the end of the movie) were great, with my favorite being the detail of the physics of trying to stop a plane from crashing.

I'm pretty sure that there will be a sequel. I hope that it's every bit as fun (if not moreso) as this one was.

A couple of weeks after Superman, we saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Yet another one where I don't understand why there's been so many disparaging reviews of the movie (Entertainment Weekly blasted it with a D+ - in the same issue that prominently displayed the cast & featured a story about the movie inside). I'd heard people gripe that the movie was just a set-up for the final movie.

Well, duh! I've got four words for you, Scooter - The Empire Strikes Back. I mean, the first movie (much like Star Wars, I believe) was meant to be a stand alone movie. Disney didn't know if it'd be any good (after the fiascos that were Country Bears & Haunted Mansion, I could understand their apprehension). Then, it took off & the sequels were given the greenlight & then written. So, of course the second movie's going to be a build-up to the third.

Another complaint (& a valid one) is that this installment was much darker. Again, I point to Empire. That's the way a story arcing over three movies is supposed to work. When the trilogy, or series period, is just a series of stories (like the Raiders trilogy or, more recently, the Spider-Man & X-Men movies), they're all separate, individual entries in the canon, connected by history, references to the previous flick & returning characters. Sometimes, like in the Raiders series, they don't even go in sequential order (Temple of Doom, the second in the series, is actually a prequel to the first movie & Last Crusade is the actual sequel, chronologically - kind of a more condensed Star Wars history).

Anyway, back to the movie at hand. Yes, Pirates was darker & yes, it builds up to the third movie. It still was very entertaining. Johnny Depp continues to impress me with the range of the characters he plays. From the wide-eyed innocence of Edward Scissorhands to the legend-in-his-own-mind cocky swagger of Captain Jack Sparrow, it's never felt like I'm watching 'Johnny Depp' playing a person; it's always felt like every person is different, unlike watching Tom Cruise or Jack Nicholson. Orlando Bloom, on the other hand, while not bad, just kind of seems to play the same note as in other films I've seen him in. Perhaps it's because most of the things I've seen him in involve swords & action scenes. I dunno. T liked him though, so, mission accomplished, I guess. Then there's Kiera Knightly - *sigh*.

Uh, sorry. I was daydreaming a bit there. Where was I? Um, yes, well, my only complaint was that the sound was kind of muddy (which may be due to the sound system in the theatre) & I kept finding myself reaching for the remote to turn on the subtitles. All in all, though, the movie was great & I'm looking forward to the next movie.

So take that, naysayers.

And finally, there's Monster House. (Hey, when you have a kid, you make these kind of sacrifices for them) When I first saw the previews for this, I wasn't really too impressed. Visually, it was quite appealing, but, then, so was Robots. And we all know what I thought about that one. (What? You don't know what I thought of it? Click here then.) The trailers showed a few amusing bits, but I didn't think it'd do much beyond that.

Boy, was I wrong!

Not only are the visuals stunning, the story (for those of you living under a rock, it's basically about a people-eating house) was very engaging (even though I did figure out part of the story early on) & it's just plain fun. There were a few parts that didn't make sense, but I won't go into those for fear of spoiling the movie. The kids sound like kids, in their speech & cadence, not like adults trying to sound like kids.

In some ways, the movie reminded me of The Nightmare Before Christmas, & I really think that it could've benefited from a pre-Halloween release, personally. I think, much like Nightmare, it could become a great addition to the movies that I love to watch around that time of year. I eagerly await its release on DVD.

So, there you have it. My two cents about a few of the flicks to grace the silver screen this past long, hot summer.