Friday, June 26, 2009

Drag Me to Hell - Movie Review


Starring Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, David Paymer, Adriana Barazza, and Reggie Lee.
Directed by Sam Raimi.

I must admit, for all the movies I've seen, and many were forgettable, I've never seen any in the Evil Dead trilogy. If this movie is any indication, though, I need to check them out.

Raimi has fun like few horror movies do, knowing when to go for laughs, when to go for thrills. Is it perfect? Far from. Is it fun? Yes. Funny? Yes. "Here, kitty, kitty" brought the house down.

I guess my main complaint is that everyone and their dog will see the twist ending coming from the second it's set up.

Ellen Page dropped out and Alison Lohman jumped in to the lead, which is good for Lohman but bad for the movie's box-office, as Page's star-power might've aided in a bigger opening weekend. Lohman plays a bank teller who is cursed by a gypsy woman who's getting evicted. For the rest of the movie she must fight away demons trying to drag her to hell.

Monday, June 15, 2009

UP - Movie Review


Starring the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer and Jordan Nagai.
Directed by Pete Docter.

Pixar can do no wrong.

Saw this with my six oldest kids, and all enjoyed it. Had to take my two-year-old to the bathroom during a crucial scene, so I do want to see it again, probably not until DVD, to see what happened in those three minutes.

I wouldn't say it's the best in the Pixar library, but it's somewhere in the middle. And the middle of Pixar's library get three-and-a-half stars.

Ed Asner voices Carl, a 78-year-old widower who sits in his house alone, pretty much waiting for death. But when circumstances mean he may lose his house and be forced into a retirement community, he fills enough balloons with helium to fly his house away. On to South America!

Except a pudgy wilderness scout is along for the ride.

The story's message - "You're never too old to follow your dreams" - is a nice one, and the villain, revealed late, is one of the scarier ones to appear in a Pixar movie.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Hangover - Movie Review

THE HANGOVER (***1/2) - Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha, Mike Tyson, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Epps, Ken Jeong, Rachael Harris and Rob Riggle.
Directed by Todd Phillips.

There weren't any gutbusters, but this is probably the funniest movie I've seen since Pineapple Express. And I think I would've laughed more if the trailer hadn't given away so much.

One of the clever conceits of this movie is that it's all about the sidekicks. Whenever you see a rom-com starring, say, Matthew McConaughey or Patrick Dempsey, and he has three best friends, you could see them being played by these three. And these three are the stars rather than the sidekicks. Bradley Cooper plays Phil, the married-but-wishes-he-could-womanize type (think Vince Vaughn from Old School), Ed Helms plays the henpecked geek (think Daniel Stern from City Slickers), and Zach Galifianakis plays the "special" brother of the bride (can't think of a comparison; it's a uniquely brave and funny performance).

These best men are taking their buddy Doug (National Treasure's Justin Bartha) out for a wild night in Las Vegas, but they wake up the next morning with Doug missing and no idea what happened the night before. They then have to retrace their steps with what clues they can find.

Phil: Was I in the hospital last night?
Stu: Am I missing a tooth?
Alan: Guys. there's a tiger in the bathroom!

Coulda done without seeing the 90-year-old man's butt though.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Transporter 3 - DVD Review

TRANSPORTER 3 (*1/2) - Starring Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Natalya Rudakova, Francois Berleand and Jeroem Krabbe.
Directed by Olivier Megaton.

I've been having bad luck with DVD rentals lately. I enjoyed the first two Transporter movies for their escapist trashy action, but I just saw this yesterday and I can hardly remember anything about it. I remember a redhead Russian girl trying too hard to be sexy. I remember an invasive soundtrack. I remember a lot of camera angles where you couldn't actually see the face of the person talking, which lends itself easily to dubbing in other languages. In fact there were a few actors where I swear they were dubbed in English, and they were speaking in their native tongues. Easier for international distribution that way.

And I remember Prison Break's Robert Knepper playing the bad guy sans southern accent, prone to shooting his own men when they backtalk.

Jason Statham's a cool action hero, and I emphasize once again The Bank Job is one of 2008's best movies, but more often than not, I don't know what Statham's thinking with some of his choices. For this third installment nuking the fridge, I blame the director. I appreciate being able to watch a car drive off a bridge and crash into the river below in one take. Maybe even a little slowed down. In this movie it speeds off the bridge, then hovers in the air Matrix-style, then quickly plunges into the river speeded-up again. Why three different speeds on one five-second action shot?

Passengers - DVD Review

PASSENGERS (*1/2) - Starring Anne Hathaway, Patrick Wilson, David Morse, Dianne Wiest, Andre Braugher, Clea Duvall and William B. Davis.
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia.

Some movies have twist endings that add a layer to everything you've seen and it remakes you rethink everything. This movie had an ending that rendered the first 90 minutes meaningless, and since those minutes were slow and meandering, I felt like I lost on two levels.

Good cast, though.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian - Movie Review

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN (***) - Starring Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Christopher Guest, Jon Bernthal, and the Jonas Brothers.
Directed by Shawn Levy.

This felt like Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: The Movie. For kids. There are so many characters thrown at the screen, so many puns and asides and one-liners, that some of them have to be funny. And some are. And by the end, I'd felt like I'd had a sugar rush. Is it better than the first one? Maybe. It's not worse.

Ben Stiller returns as our everyman Larry, now a successful infomercial entrepreneur, but he's saddened when he learns that most of the exhibits from the natural history museum are going to be archived under the Smithsonian. Then he learns an evil pharaoh is going to come to life with the magic tablet, and he could bring about world domination.

In addition to the crowded cast listed above, there's cameos from two Office regulars, two Reno 911 regulars (who also wrote the script), two Apatow vets, Darth Vader, Oscar the Grouch, George Foreman, Abraham Lincoln, American Gothic, and a giant octopus.

Rising above the fray is Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart, who's ready to verbally joust as quickly as Kate Hepburn against Cary Grant, even if Larry isn't up on his jiminy-crickets rat-a-tatspeak.

Star Trek - Movie Review

STAR TREK (***1/2) - Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Winona Ryder, Eric Bana, Ben Cross, Chris Hemsworth, Tyler Perry and Leonard Nimoy.
Directed by J.J. Abrams.

The even numbered Star Trek movies tend to be the better ones, but when Star Trek 9 and 10 disappointed, and Enterprise got cancelled, the franchise seemed about dead. Enter J.J. Abrams, stage left.

This reboot, featuring a young Kirk and Spock, is about as good as anyone can hope. Chris Pine, who's been in some forgettable movies (Blind Dating, Just My Luck) and had one funky turn in Smokin' Aces, has the right amount of fortitude and swagger as James Tiberius Kirk, rebellious punk who is talked into joining Starfleet. There he butts heads with a Vulcan brainiac named Spock, befriends a gruff doctor named Bones, hits on a linguist named Uhura, etc.

The general plot, upon reflection, doesn't really matter that much, which is one reason why I can comfortably say this is NOT the best Star Trek movie ever (Khan and Voyage Home are better; this is about on par with Undiscovered Country or Final Conflict). It's about the revisitation of the characters, and how Abrams has set it up to let this crew boldly go whereever they feel like.

Karl Urban, who was one of the weaker actors in Lord of the Rings and who's had a string of crummy movies (Chronicles of Riddick, Doom, Pathfinder), is great as Dr. McCoy. It strikes me as a performance where he studied DeForest Kelley for a while, and then he made the role his own. Simon Pegg brings exactly the amount of humor I would hope for in Scotty. Zoe Saldana brings much needed futuristic feminism to Uhura. Each cast member gets their moment.

(It also a space-time continuum subplot that may reveal where Season 6 of Lost is going.)