Archive for movie reviews

Review of Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman

Posted in comic books, movies, pop culture, reviews, Superman, Superman Returns with tags , , , , on June 26, 2006 by Paxton

Superman Week

It’s Superman Week here on the blog. I’m celebrating the release of Superman Returns on Wednesday, June 28. I won’t get to see it until Thursday night, so my review will cap off Superman Week on Friday, but every day this week I’ll try to have a Superman-related article up for your enjoyment.

Day 1 – Review of Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman

This documentary is exactly what the title implies, it’s a history of Superman as he has appeared in almost every type of media. It begins with his comic origins and covers the myriad of TV shows and movies that “the big blue boy scout” has appeared in. The documentary appeared on A&E, albeit shortened by 30min, and the DVD was released last Tuesday. As soon as I heard about it I put it in my Netflix queue. I got lucky, and the disc was shipped the Monday before it was released and I got it on the Tuesday it was released in stores. My wife and I finally watched it on Sunday morning.

Overall, the documentary was very good. It literally covered every aspect of Superman’s appearance in pop culture. The doc started with Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel & Joe Schuster. It discussed how the idea of Superman evolved, and how every comic book company turned the idea down saying that no one wanted to read about a guy in tights jumping around on buildings (Superman couldn’t fly in his initial incarnation).

Siegel & Schuster finally got National Publications (DC Comics) to bite on the idea and Superman premiered in Action Comics #1 in 1938. The documentary didn’t just look at Superman’s impact on comics. The movie soon started covering the early serials in the ’50s and the George Reeves TV show. The doc even discussed tv shows like the once broadcast Superman Musical (based on the broadway show) in the ’70s staring Leslie Ann Warren as Lois Lane and David Wilson as Superman and the not broadcast pilot of a show called SuperPup staring midgets in dog costumes. Yes, you read that right (see pic).

The documentary is a fascinating look at the emergence of Superman in popular culture. It continues to delve into the people that played Superman, putting particular emphasis on George and Christopher Reeves and the fates that have befallen both men. That was a particularly poignant section for me. Very sweet men who didn’t deserve what fate handed them.

The doc, of course, had a nice section on the new movie with some scenes I hadn’t seen before. It definately made me ready to see the movie. I was pumped after watching it. I will be honest though, it felt a little long to me. The doc was 2 hours long and, to me, it felt it. I know they didn’t touch on a lot of stuff they could have, or delve even deeper into other Superman aspects, but even this protracted history felt long. I started losing enthusiasm towards the end, but the doc picks up for the last 20 minutes or so and I was left with an overall good feeling. I would be interested in seeing the A&E version as, like I said earlier, it’s 30 minutes shorter.

Also, a lot of the interviewees were nicely picked. Artists, writers, actors, a good mix. They even had Stan “The Man” Lee talking about Superman’s impact. That is cool. Then, Gene mutha-f’n Simmons pops up. Why is Gene Simmons on here? What does he bring to the table? It just said Comic Book Fan in his title card, but if that’s it, they could have asked Shaq or Seinfeld to participate as they are known Superman fans also. That was just a little jarring and wierd for me. Just a little sidenote.

Other than those two gripes, I really enjoyed the documentary and recommend it to any Superman fans, and non-fans, out there. It’s a great way to ramp up for the release of Superman Returns on Wednesday.

I’ll be back with another Superman related article tomorrow.

Check out the other days in Superman Week here:

Day 2 – Scary Superman Merchandise
Day 3 – Review of Christopher Reeve Superman Movies
Day 4 – Stupid Superman Powers
Day 5 – Review of Superman Returns

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Movie Reviews: Da Vinci Code & Mission: Impossible 3

Posted in movies, reviews with tags , , on May 22, 2006 by Paxton

I saw this a few weeks ago, but I’m just now getting around to the review. I wrote reviews of the first two Missions in an earlier article, so I want to continue with the newest installment in the franchise.

To recap the earlier reviews, I very much enjoyed the first movie. It was a little confusing, but very suspenseful and had some good action. I did not like the second movie. I don’t know what John Woo is smoking these days, but it must really be some good stuff because he’s focusing on getting more of that stuff than he is on his movies. When I saw MI:2 for the second time, it was marginally better, but still not a very good movie. Once again, the action was good, but the rest of the movie was a mess. It was almost a spoof on a Mission Impossible movie. Click here to see the full reviews of Mission: Impossible 1 and 2. So I was glad they waited 6 years to try to get the third one right.

In those intervening six years, though, Tom decided to make one movie I hated (Vanilla Sky), one movie I only somewhat hated (War of the Worlds) and two movies I kinda liked (Last Samurai and Minority Report). Tom also decided to lose his mind on Oprah, belittle the medicinal use of drugs, infiltrate Dawson’s Creek cutie Katie Holmes with his alien seed and buy a sonogram machine to perform illegal physical examinations on his closely guarded wife and aforementioned alien seed. So, with the announcement of another Mission Impossible, I was a little worried. Would I be able to enjoy this movie even though I think Tom’s a complete looney? We’ll see.

The first good news occured when they announced JJ Abrams as the writer/director. I had recently watched the first three seasons of Alias on DVD and thought he was the perfect choice. Next, the cast was coming together nicely. Ving Rhames was returning, Keri Russell was going to be a fellow agent and Phillip Seymore Hoffman was going to be the bad guy. His recent Oscar win for Capote aside because I didn’t see it, I had loved him in State & Main and Twister. The cast was pretty strong, hopefully the story will be too.

Well, the script is tight. The movie was fantastic. The style and action reminded me very much of The Bourne Identity. Gritty, realistic, personal. Many of the action scenes are intense, too. Literally, in the first ten minutes, several people have died. Not as many as in, say, Lucky Number Slevin or Saving Private Ryan, but several people bite it that you weren’t expecting. The cool gadgets make a nice return, too. You see how the cool masks get created and more neat little toys. There is a phenomenal action piece where Cruise breaks into a building to retrieve the “Rabbit’s Foot”. Left me on the edge of my seat.

I will confess, there may be some parts where the going gets pretty confusing. The action is fast, and you pretty much just have to hold on and enjoy the ride. For me, though, this was easily as good, if not better, than the first one. See it with confidence.

While consulting in the early 2000s, I was surrounded by people reading The Da Vinci Code on the plane. I knew I had to read it, but I wanted to wait until it came out in paperback. Little did I know, at that time, that it would take YEARS. While in New York I stumbled across a discarded copy of Angels & Demons, the prelude to Da Vinci. Knowing it came first, I read it (and Da Vinci still hadn’t hit paperback). I loved it. The reading was fast paced and the subject matter was fascinating. This made me even more excited to start The Da
Vinci Code
. Since, at this time, it still wasn’t out in paperback I borrowed a well-worn copy of it from my mother. I read it and loved it. The story pace was very similar and the subject matter, again, was fascinating. I still prefer Angels & Demons, though, to its more famous brother. I enjoyed these two so much I read Dan Brown’s other two books, Deception Point and Digital Fortress, which have nothing to do with Robert Langdon or the previous two books. They are also very fascinating, fast-paced and remarkable reads. As a matter of fact, of Brown’s four books, my favorite is Digital Fortress, followed closely by Angels & Demons.

I heard there was to be a movie of The Da Vinci Code after reading the book. I was excited until they announced Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. I had trouble seeing him as the titular symbologist. I would have preferred seeing Mark Harmon or George Clooney (who was actually on the list of potential actors). I did celebrate the casting of Ian McKellen as Sir Lee Teabing and Paul Bettany as Silas. All that was left was to sit and wait.

My wife and I finally got to see the movie on the Sunday afternoon after it was released. The theater was still packed. The movie was very enjoyable. I think people who have read the book might be more inclined to enjoy it than those who haven’t. Even though they gloss over a lot of the historical details, it can still be pretty daunting to comprehend all that the characters are talking about if you haven’t read the book and been exposed to it. As for my wife and I, we really enjoyed it and, by the end, Tom Hanks had persuaded me that he was a good pick for Robert Langdon. I also enjoyed the very pretty French lady they cast as Sophie Noveau.

The movie practically flies through scenes and takes you on a breakneck, information laden chase through Europe for the truth behind the “Holy Grail”. There has been much controversy of the theories presented in the book and movie. Apparently people are taking what they read in this book as historical fact and thinking that the Catholic Church performed a worldwide coverup of the marriage between Jesus and Mary. If you go to Dan Brown’s website, there is a FAQ on The Da Vinci Code which explains that a lot of the ideas put forth by the book are just theories that have never been proven. The groups/sects of people and their rituals were true, but the way he uses them and their significance were all created by him for the novel. The ideas are interesting as just that, ideas in a historical fiction novel. Nothing more. The “controversy” has been good for the movie’s publicity though, no?

I know the movie will do well, so I hope they decide to move ahead with Angels & Demons next. That will be a sight to see.

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Movie Reviews: Lucky Number Slevin & Dog Day Afternoon

Posted in movies, reviews with tags , on April 13, 2006 by Paxton

FINALLY, after several weeks of a movie theater-less existence, Steph and I went to our local AMC last night. Still not much out that excites me, but Lucky Number Slevin looked pretty good. It looked like a clever, funny crime movie and it had plenty of good actors in it, so we took a chance.

First of all, lots of people die in this movie. In the first 15 minutes we were up to like 10 individual deaths you actually witness. Took me by surprise. But then you settle in for the quick and clever dialogue and the movie becomes fun. The movie is written well, and the dialogue is funny, but for a while it gets confusing. I was struggling to keep up with the fast pace halfway through, but then I caught up and it flowed perfectly right through to the end. All the characters are fun and interesting, and there are a lot of them.

Let me say first, that I am NOT a fan of Josh Hartnett. I can’t even think of a movie I liked him in. I liked the movie Sin City, but he was dead in the first 5 minutes of that movie. I hated him in The Faculty, Halloween H20, 40 Days 40 Nights, Pearl Harbor, Virgin Suicides……you get the idea. In all of these movies he acts like a wooden chair. He doesn’t show any emotion like his face is full of novacaine. He changed my mind in this movie. He showed emotion and was a generally likeable character throughout the movie. If he continues performing like this from here on out, I’ll start liking him.

As for the other actors, they were a joy. I used to not like Morgan Freeman. I know, I know, I’m in the minority, but it seemed to me he played the same riff on the same character forever. I have since changed my mind. His latest string of movies including Sum of all Fears, Bruce Almighty, Unleashed, Batman Begins and Million Dollar Baby have absolutely brought me into the “loving Morgan Freeman” crowd. Freeman delivers in this as well. He plays “The Boss”, the arch-rival of Ben Kingsley’s character. He plays it menacing and cool, but you still like him. Bruce Willis continues being a pretty cool customer. He plays cold-as-ice assassin Mr. Goodkat, which, truthfully, is a variation on his characters Jimmy “The Tulip” from Whole Nine Yards and Jackal from The Jackal. Despite the character being a slight retread for Willis, I still very much enjoyed him in this. Another very good actor and a surprise in this movie was Lucy Liu. I really like her. She’s had only a few roles but they’ve been good. I forget just how gorgeous she is. I look forward to her future roles.

This brings me to Sir Ben Kingsley. What the hell has happened to this guy? He used to be a phenomenal actor; Ghandi, Schindler’s List and Searching for Bobby Fisher. His latest run of movies is mind-boggingly bad; Thunderbirds, Suspect Zero and A Sound of Thunder?! Is he slumming? I don’t get it. Well, in Slevin, for me, he’s the weak link. Going for the Kevin Spacey/Lex Luthor look of shaved head and goatee, he portrays The Rabbi. A little cheesy and over the top, he really doesn’t have that much to do and seems to try to over-compensate. In his scenes he looks like a dying fish. His eyes are wide open and his mouth is moving. I don’t think he ever blinked. Weird.

Sir Ben’s fishy acting aside, it’s a small issue I have, the movie is, top to bottom, really very good. All the characters are fun and the dialogue is crisp. You get a lot of Tarantino-like camera pans and dissolves; things jump back and forth in time, but it’s fairly easy to keep up and the ending took me by surprise. I would recommend it. If you enjoyed Pulp Fiction or Usual Suspects, you’ll probably enjoy this movie.

I saw another crime based movie recently. Knowing my predilection for heist movies, you’d be surprised to know that I never saw Dog Day Afternoon with Al Pacino. I rectified that situation last week. The movie is based on a true story about two guys who try to rob a bank in Brooklyn. The two robbers are portrayed by Michael and Fredo Corleone; Al Pacino and John Cazale. Dog Day was filmed a year after Godfather Part II, which surprised me because I thought it was filmed before. The two try to rob the bank and everything goes wrong. Pretty soon they are holed up in the bank with a dozen or so hostages surrounded by the police. It’s a gritty and intense drama with really good acting by Al Pacino, Charles Durning and Chris Sarandon as Al Pacino’s male lover (yes, you read that right). It was a good movie, and I see why it’s a classic, but I don’t think I’ll be revisiting it anytime soon as it’s somewhat of a downer. Check it out if you enjoy watching classic cinema, but be prepared for it’s dark and gritty storyline.

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Movie Review: Inside Man; Heist TV Show & Ocean’s 13

Posted in movies, reviews, TV, TV shows with tags , , , on March 28, 2006 by Paxton

For the wife’s birthday, went to see Inside Man with Clive Owen, Denzel Washington and Jodi Foster. As you can tell from my earlier post about heist movies, I LOVE this sub-genre. Heist movies, for the most part are so much fun. I love seeing new entries. I was underwhelmed recently by the movie Firewall with Harrison Ford. A limp, home/invasion, bank heist movie that really went nowhere for me. Paul Bettany as the robber was the only thing to save the movie. Harrison Ford continues on his rapid decent into mediocrity. But I digress. Inside Man is everything I ever wanted. Cool, smart mastermind, clever plan and interesting backstory. There is a lot going on, but it’s unbelievable how Clive Owen’s character is one step ahead of the police. The backstory and the ending are very cool and interesting also.

The performances also add to the wonderful script. Clive Owen is perfect as Dalton, the mastermind behind the bank robbery. He continues to impress me with his roles. Jodie Foster is great as usual with the hauty, smugness of her character Madeline, someone used to getting things done…discreetly. Denzel disappoints a little bit, but I fully confess to not really being a fan of him anyway. His character complements Owens’ Dalton nicely.

I was very suprised this is a Spke Lee movie. There’s lots of smart humor and really good action in this script. The ads and trailers I’ve seen do not play up the fact that he directed it, nor does it seem like his usual fair (of which I am also not really a fan). If this is how Spike can perform when not preaching about the ghetto, then consider me interested from now on. This movie had me entertained and out-guessed from the beginning and I applaud Spike and the other actors for finally putting a good movie out in a so far slow movie season.

Speaking of the heist sub-genre of movies, Steph and I watched the TV show Heist on NBC Sunday night (I had TiVo’d it. It actually aired last Wednesday).

It wasn’t bad. It had elements of Ocean’s 11 mixed with Out of Sight. Some of the dialogue I thought was trying too hard. The two main characters, Mickey and James, are having a discussion and they talk about topics no one on Earth would have regular conversations about like Mother Teresa and famous historical dates. For me, it was trying a tad too hard to be smart. You can have witty banter without having the characters off-handedly discuss the content of Mother Teresa’s letters and the date of the last Mongol invasion. Unnecessary.

Other than that, the show was very slick and executed itself very well. The heist in this episode was just the initial job to raise some money for the big heist to be executed later. After this first heist, I am definately interested in how they pull off the next heist.

Reading reviews of this show, I saw some online criticism that the heist depicted in the episode would have had to have too many things go right to realistically pull off. I say, if you watch and enjoy heist movies, you have to realize going in that timing and execution is everything. Of course everything has to happen with an insane, supernatural sense of execution and timing, otherwise it would be boring. But that’s just me.

I was not a fan of the lead, Dougray Scott, going into this (he was originally cast to play Wolverine in X-men but had to decline when filming on Mission Impossible II ran long), but he performs admirably here. As does the rest of his team. Check out pics from this series here.
The female member of the heist team, Lola, is HOOOOOOOOOT. I’ll definately tune in (with my TiVo at least) next Wednesday to see where this goes.

I’m in a heist state of mind, so, here is some news about Ocean’s 13. Filming starts by the end of the year and all the boys are back. The girls, however, will not be returning. I say yeah! for no Julia Roberts, but NO! for Catherine Zeta-Jones. Oh well. This is one of my favorite franchises so I’ll be there regardless.

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Movie Reviews: Mission: Impossible franchise

Posted in movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , on March 23, 2006 by Paxton

Our mission, and we chose to accept it, was to watch the Mission Impossible movie.

The wife and I had watched our Blockbuster movies the night before and nothing was on TV, so Steph was tasked with picking a movie. She perused the Holley DVD Vaults, felt like an action movie, and came up with Mission: Impossible starring Tom Cruise. Now, as of late, Tom Cruise has been acting like a first rate asshat. He used to be the cool, aloof Mr. Cruise. Now he’s the outspoken, cradle-robbing asshat. And I emphasize the words ASSHAT. I’ve been able to separate the off screen Cruise psychopath and still enjoy him onscreen, that is, until he made War of the Worlds. But I loved Mission Impossible and was eager to see it again to rekindle my fondness for a good Cruise action movie.

Mission Impossible is how a good action movie should be done. It’s fast, action packed and has very cool gadgets and characters. This was a big, action movie, but the director kept the atmosphere close and tight. You could tell this movie’s tone and atmosphere was used later for Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremecy. When I first saw it I remember being completely shocked when Cruise’s entire IMF team is killed in the beginning. Emilio Estevez as the hacker, Jack, was a surprise to me when he was introduced in the beginning. Needless to say, I was sad to see him go so soon. Cruise played Ethan Hunt perfectly and the effects were awesome. Jon Voight played a convincing character, but the chick who played his wife was AWFUL. I don’t know who she is, but I’m glad I don’t see her in any other movies. AWFUL. This movie was definately a must see. Needless to say, I was excited to see the sequel but dismayed when it took 4 years to come out.

After watching Mission Impossible (MI), Steph and I felt like watching the second one. We both saw it theatrically, apparently together (I had forgotten) and memories of it had faded. I remember not really liking it, but I was willing to give it another chance. So off to Blockbuster we went the next night and rented it. I’d have to say, on this second viewing, I was much more entertained, but the movie was WAY overproduced. Seriously. I don’t know what John Woo was thinking, but it bordered on the ridiculous. I applaud the addition of Sir Anthony Hopkins as Ethan Hunt’s boss, but I jeer the leading lady, Thandie Newton, and the main villain, Dougray Scott. Thandie Newton couldn’t hold her own against the toddlers in Daddy Day Care much less Tom Cruise or Anthony Hopkins. I was glad they brought back Ving Rhames for a small appearance. The action set pieces were cool, if bordering on complete foolishness. I enjoyed the pretty lights and colors, but would not really want to see it again. The script may have been complete ass, but John Woo can really photograph some violence. I mean, it’s like he’s in love with graphic violence. The slow motion, the close ups, the doves. It’s almost violence pornography. You don’t believe me? See this movie or the movie Face/Off. Unbelievable. More faceless characters are killed in John Woo movies than in WWII and Vietnam combined.

I really love the concept of these movies, and the character of Ethan Hunt, particularly.

The next day we went to see Failure to Launch and the Mission Impossible 3 trailer came up. This was the second time I’ve seen it and I was much more excited to see it now that we had watched the first two. JJ Abrams, the writer/creator of Alias and Lost, is writing/directing this installment. He is bringing back Ving Rhames (hopefully in a bigger part) and they have Phillip Seymore Hoffman as the main villain. If you ask me, this is shaping up to be a really good action movie. I will definately choose to accept this Mission……. 🙂

Update 1/31/2007 – Click here to see the full review of Mission: Impossible 3

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