Category: Movie Review


Godzilla (2014) Review

Rating: PG-13

Godzilla was released in May 2014 and was directed by Gareth Edwards. It’s a science fiction monster movie for obvious reasons. The movie stars Ken Watanabe, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Juliette Binoche, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, and Bryan Cranston. I have to say that I was incredibly excited to watch this movie, and even though my only experience with Godzilla leading up to this was the 1998 version, I was still optimistic about this new installment.

Two scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) discover unusual objects within a strip mine. Meanwhile, a nuclear plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) are at work when a disastrous event occurs, destroying the plant and rendering the surrounding area under quarantine. Years after these events, Joe Brody believes the disaster was not natural and that the government is covering it up. When Joe finds evidence, his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) becomes involved as well. Ishiro Serizawa is still researching the objects that were found years before. All of their stories intertwine when disaster strikes yet again.

I went into this expecting to see giant monsters fight, and I got that and much more. There’s a great plot with intriguing characters, and there’s plenty of action to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The tone of this movie is much more realistic and serious than previous versions. Godzilla is set up in a way that makes it seem plausible. Instead of a mindless beast destroying the city, it’s much deeper and far more complex. The creatures in this movie are more animal like than monster. They are driven by instinct, and they’re trying to live in a world populated by humans. It’s interesting to see them with animal instincts rather than just destroying everything around them just because they can.

There are many engaging characters in Godzilla. Joe Brody’s character is by far the most interesting and well-rounded. He’s believable as a person and reacts in ways that are expected, and as a result, he is my favorite character. The only complaint I have is that I wish he had more screen time. Ishiro Serizawa is also well-developed. He’s the voice of caution, and he wants nature to take it’s course without human intervention. Even the secondary characters are enjoyable to watch, and they contribute to the plot in interesting ways. Ford, on the other hand, is the weakest character and comes off a bit flat. He’s likable and it’s easy to root for him, but he lacks charisma.

Godzilla is a great summer movie. If you were worried about seeing this because of previous versions, don’t be because Godzilla has been redeemed in this movie. It’s the perfect blend of action and suspense and contains great acting and special effects. Of course, I wanted to see more Godzilla, but it makes it more enjoyable when he is onscreen. I’ve read that there’s a possibility of this becoming a trilogy. I’m excited for future installments and hope to see Godzilla in all his glory.

My Rating: ★★★★½

Chad and I recently watched Planet of the Dinosaurs. I’ve never seen it before, but Chad used to watch it as a child. He agreed to review it with me, and believe me, it’s an “interesting” movie.

*Contains Spoilers

Plot:

 A space-ship gets lost and is forced to make an emergency landing on an unknown planet. The planet looks much like Earth, only with no trace of civilization. Soon the crew discovers that there are dinosaurs on the planet, and blood-thirsty buggers at that. The crew hopes to be found and rescued, but they have to struggle to survive until then.

Chad’s Thoughts:

Planet of the Dinosaurs was one of my favorite movies as a child. I remember watching it pretty often. It was a movie about dinosaurs and the VHS case was green (my favorite color), so it had all the things my 8 year old mind wanted. I obviously wasn’t concerned with quality, plot, or characters as a child because this movie lacks all three. Planet of the Dinosaurs had a very low budget so some of the issues are understandable, but it looks like something a high school film class would’ve made.

We start out with our characters in a damaged spaceship on a crash course with an uncharted planet. The science officer confirms that the atmosphere is breatheable as they begin their descent. The ship crashes into a lake and the team swims to shore with what little equipment they can carry. After the first character falls victim to a crocodile-like monster in the lake, they decide to head inland and find somewhere safe to hide out until they’re rescued. Along their journey they encounter dinosaurs, giant spiders, and lots of desert.

The characters are all very under-developed. Each one seems to exibit just one trait. You have the well educated leader who thinks every idea he has is the best option, the experienced “soldier” who thinks every decision the leader makes is wrong, the demanding employer, his dimwitted assistant, the buff guy who goes around shirtless the entire movie and one or two others who are just there for filler. The only growing the characters do throughout the film is simply learning to live with one another, and we only see that in a flash-forward conclusion scene that shows the surviving members attempting to build a settlement and begin a new life.

If there’s a silver lining to this movie it has to be the stop-motion dinosaurs. This movie was released the same year the first Star Wars movie came out, and the special effects are absolutely terrible in comparison. The use of stop-motion, however, definitely gives the movie a unique feeling. Several scenes where the dinosaurs are fighting one another are actually quite detailed and I imagine they were pretty difficult. In several cases the dinosaurs appear to behave more realistically than the humans.

Contrary to everything I mentioned above, we really enjoyed ourselvse while we watched it. We went in knowing it was a pretty lame movie so we laughed and made jokes the whole time. The unintended sexual tension and horrendous acting alone made for quite an enjoyable movie. That said, if you go in expecting a decent plot and well developed characters, you’re going to have a bad time. This simply isnt that movie. With a bigger budget and better writing/acting, it had the potential to put dinosaurs on everyone’s mind. Instead it faded into the past without even a second glance.

My Thoughts:

I feel like a silly review is required for this film. As Chad has described, the movie is lacking in a lot of features. After the first few minutes of dialogue, I knew this would be a movie to joke around with. There are plenty of moments to laugh at, and the acting is just terrible. In some of the scenes, it even felt like the actors/actresses were about to burst out laughing themselves.

Once we gave up taking the film seriously, we ended up giving the dinosaurs dialogue to make it even funnier. The dinosaurs were just enjoying their day when humans had to ruin everything. To demonstrate this, Chad made a Gif:

See! These poor dinosaurs were just chatting about the weather, when Boom! humans are there to wreck the day.

Here is another one we titled “How I Act When Killing Spiders:”

I’m not entirely sure what the guy is waiting for. I guess he is trying to psych the dinosaur out before he decides to finish it. I do tend to do this when trying to kill a spider though, or I run away screaming for Chad to kill it.

Planet of the Dinosaurs is far from a well-made movie, and it’s quite terrible at some moments. If you do plan to watch it, just be aware that you will most likely laugh. A lot. It’s one of those films where it’s so bad, it’s funny. Of course, it’s unintentional, but we enjoyed ourselves while watching.  I would love to know if anyone has seen this. I’m not sure if anyone will want to watch it after this review, but if anyone is going to I would love to know.

Our Rating: ★★

Rating: PG-13

The Wind Rises was released in July 2013, in Japan and February 2014, in North America. It’s an animated historical fantasy directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It has been said that this was Miyazaki’s last film; however, there has been speculation that he’s not retired anymore. I’m not sure how accurate this information is, but if it’s true, I’m glad this wasn’t his last project.

The movie is about the life of Jiro Horikoshi and his accomplishments designing airplanes during World War II. He has dreamed of being involved with airplanes since he was a child, and even though he’s nearsighted and unable to become a pilot, he still joins a major Japanese engineering company to become an airplane designer. The Wind Rises covers a large portion of Jiro’s life while also showing historical events such as the Great Kanto Earthquake, the Great Depression, and Japan’s involvement in the war.

As the title hints at, I ended up watching the subbed version (Japanese with English subtitles) of The Wind Rises. This was not by choice but due to the theater’s poor advertising. Once I knew the movie would be subbed, I accepted and prepared myself for a Miyazaki film. However, there were a few problems. I’ve watched plenty of subbed animes, and I have quite a few favorites that I would not want to watch dubbed because I feel it would ruin the anime. With this film, however, I felt that the subbed dialogue was shortened so the audience was able to keep up. Since there is no option to pause the movie, there were only a few small lines of dialogue to read at a time. There were a lot of quiet moments, and at times, there were people mouthing words, but no sound came out and the audience received no subtitles. There were also no translations for the German dialogue, so I missed out on even more of the story. It sort of took me out of the movie because I had no idea what was being said, and I missed out on some of the sound that I normally get with a dubbed version. This will likely not be a problem for most viewers that saw the dubbed version, and I am planning on watching with English dialogue to see if my opinion changes at all.

Aside from the movie being subbed, I felt the story covered a bit too much in the time it was given. I know that it was about Jiro’s life from childhood to adulthood, but the viewers only saw small portions of each stage of his life. There was not a lot of time allotted to getting to know certain characters at different points. I wish it would have focused more on one time period of his life with hints at other stages. While I appreciated the representation of historical events in Japan, the movie seemed to only show the tragic events to a change in time periods because it was sometimes hard to know how much time had passed. Some of the events had little to no effect on the main character except to show what was happening around him.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the overall theme of the movie, to never give up and keep pushing forward no matter what happens. It was rather encouraging, and watching Jiro succeed at his dream was refreshing. The Wind Rises was beautifully crafted like always, and the visuals live up to Miyazaki’s other films. I always love watching his films because of this aspect. The dream sequences were a nice addition to show how passionate Jiro was about designing airplanes. While the animation was great, there were plenty of humorous moments and jokes about the Japanese airplanes that were funny. I liked how the creators were able to poke fun at the Japanese military and how far behind they were compared to other nations.

There was a romance between Jiro and Nahoko that was sweet, and I would have loved to see the movie focus on when he got involved with her and show his struggle trying to deal with work while being there for her. That brought up another issue I noticed while watching. There was no conflict. I never really knew when the movie was going to end because there was no build up or climax. While there were plenty of small issues, there was never anything to drive the story or the character besides Jiro’s passion for airplanes. There was nothing that was presented to the audience that hindered Jiro from following his dream besides his nearsightedness but that was only discussed during the beginning. 

I’m sad to say that The Wind Rises will not be added to my Favorite Hayao Miyazaki Films. I’m hoping that Miyazaki is back from retirement, so he can continue to make wonderful movies. Although, I was not a huge fan of this movie, I can’t wait to watch Miyazaki’s next film.

Feel free to let me know what you thought about the film or if you’re going to see it.

My Rating: ★★★

Ender’s Game Review (film)

Rating: PG-13

Ender’s Game was released in 2013 and was directed by Gavin Hood. It’s a science fiction action movie based on the novel written by Orson Scott Card. The movie stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, and Ben Kingsley. Once I heard one of my favorite books was being turned into a movie, I was a bit skeptical as a lot of fans were. How could the studios do justice to such a masterful story? Well, let’s just say they didn’t.

(Description from IMDb) Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion.

While this is quite a basic description of Ender’s Game, it pretty much sums up what the movie was focused on. There was little character development within the movie. The book covers a span of 7 years of Ender’s life, whereas the movie has no sense of passing time. It felt as though all the different events that happened to Ender spanned only a year or two. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t want to cover that much time since that would likely require more than one actor to portray some characters. Unfortunately that takes away from one of the biggest aspects of the book which was that Ender spent half his childhood in the military.

One of the things I enjoyed a lot within the book was the relationship between Ender and his siblings. Valentine kept Ender sane throughout the novel, and Peter was a constant reminder of what Ender could become. One of reasons Ender was so compassionate was because Peter was always there reminding Ender of the monster he could otherwise be. On the other hand, Peter was a complex character that had a hard time expressing his love to Ender. In the movie, Valentine and Peter had hardly any screen time, they were almost completely overlooked. It seemed as though Petra was used to replace Valentine, which I didn’t like since there was no real connection besides being a love interest.

Many key points were missing in the movie. There is not enough emphasis put on how important the “mind game” is that Ender is playing in Battle School. Of course, it’s talked about and the visuals were decent, but the game is there to demonstrate just how intellectual Ender is and how different he is compared to other students. The ending was another area that was completely changed for the film. I won’t spoil anything major, but Petra was not supposed to be there and Ender was supposed to be older. This basically told me that the studios were not interested in continuing with the Ender’s Game timeline properly, and we would most likely not be getting a sequel (not that I want one at this point).

The acting was not terrible, but it wasn’t great either. Several of the actors stood out while most of the cast was average. Some of my favorites were Bonzo (Moises Arias) and Bean (Aramis Knight), even though Bean didn’t get as many lines as I was hoping for. Everyone else, to me, was alright. None of the actors/actresses stand out above anyone else.

I feel like Ender’s Game was only used to gain the studios money for their next projects; it did not seem as if there was a lot of care put into making this film. The only reason I didn’t give this movie a rating of 1/5 is because the battle room was done quite well, and it was nice to see that come to life. Other than that, I didn’t enjoy this film at all. I mostly slouched down in my chair and kept shaking my head throughout the movie. I’m sure the movie would have been a fun and entertaining film for me had I not read the book, but alas, I did read the book, and this movie was a huge disappointment to me. If you want to delve into the world of Ender’s Game, please just read the book and skip the movie. As a lot of book lovers say, “Do not judge the book based on the movie.”

Feel free to tell me what you thought of the movie. I would really like to know others’ opinions on this subject, whether you read the book or not.

My Rating: ★★

Rampage Review

Rating: R

Rampage was released in 2009. It’s a mass murder thriller and lives up to the name. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I first began watching the film, but I’m glad I stayed to finish it. Rampage stars Brendan Fletcher, Michael Paré, Shaun Sipos, Lynda Boyd, and Robert Clarke. The plot is pretty easy to follow and understand.

It takes place in a fictional town in Oregon called Tenderville and follows Bill Williamson (Brendan Fletcher) who is a 23 year old man that still lives with his parents (Lynda Boyd and Robert Clarke). He works as a mechanic where he is victimized by his boss. His parents want him to move out of their house and start his own life while he has other ideas in mind. Added onto the issues with his job and his parents, Bill is constantly being exposed to the problems of the world through television, radio, and his friend Evan Drince (Shaun Sipos) who is highly critical of the human species. After talking with Evan, Bill goes home to assemble a suit of body armor and arms himself with two submachine guns. He drives to the center of town and all hell breaks loose.

The characters in Rampage are slightly underdeveloped and most are just there to move the plot along. Bill’s character seems to be the only character that has more development than the others. When he goes “crazy,” he does have a reason for doing so. The movie points out that the news reports are a main reason he goes on a rampage killing innocent people. Of course, he could have had a better reason but this is what makes the movie so interesting. It’s ambiguous in the sense that it makes the viewer decide why Bill decided to kill people in his town. Was it truly because he was disgusted at what the people in the world are capable of or was it due to the fact that he finally snapped? The interpretation is left up to the viewer to figure out for himself/herself.

At times, the fast paced movements of the camera makes it difficult to fully see what’s going on, but it adds to the hostility and panic that the film is trying to show the audience. In a situation as this film demonstrates, the environment wouldn’t be calm and steady but full of terror and chaos.

I was surprised by the ending of the film. While watching, I was coming up with ways that it could end, but I never came up with what actually happened. It was clever, and I wasn’t expecting it at all. It even added more depth to Bill’s character.

This movie does live up to its genre by showing a devastating mass murder of innocent lives. As a disclaimer, this movie is not for the faint of heart and could really upset some people. It’s a disturbing film, and the ending will not satisfy some viewers. Even though it’s quite a dark movie, I think that it’s worth watching.

My Rating: ★★★★

Tower Heist Review

Rating: PG-13

Tower Heist was released in theaters on November 4, 2011. As previews for this movie showed up on television, I knew that I wanted to see what it was all about, and I liked the main actors and actresses that were starring in it, as well. A few of the stars in this movie are Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, Alan Alda, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, and Téa Leoni. It’s a crime, comedy film, and even though it might not display the logic within crime movies, it does live up to its genre of comedy. Tower Heist takes place in November close to Thanksgiving Day. The plot is set up so that it’s easy to follow and understand.

The film starts out following Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) who is the building manager of The Tower. The Tower is a luxury apartment complex that houses wealthy individuals such as Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) who is a financer. Kovacs continues his normal daily duties unaware of the impending arrest of Shaw. Special Agent Claire Denham (Téa Leoni) puts Shaw under house arrest until more evidence can be found to put him in prison. At first, Kovacs does not believe Shaw committed fraud, but Kovacs later finds out that an employee attempted suicide because he invested all his money with Shaw and lost it all. Infuriated, Kovacs confronts Shaw about the issue, and after an incident he loses his job along with Charlie Gibbs (Casey Affleck) and Enrique Dev’Reaux (Michael Peña) who were at the scene and allowed the incident to happen. Denham tells Kovacs that Shaw probably has money hidden somewhere inside his apartment in case he needed to escape quickly. Kovacs, Gibbs, and Dev’Reaux decide that they want to steal their money back, and they coerce Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), who used to live in The Tower, to join their gang. The group realizes that they need to include an actual thief and that’s when Leo “Slide” Dalphael (Eddie Murphy), a sketchy character from Kovacs past, joins them. After running into a problem with their plan, they understand that they need a specialist and ask Odessa Montero (Gabourey Sidibe), a maid that works at The Tower, to help them get the money back. Once the gang is finally all together, the robbery and danger really begins.

The characters in this movie are realistic and tend to be quite comical. They’re not necessarily seeking revenge, but merely want the money that was taken from them. Each actor and actress brings their own qualities to the characters he/she is playing. When Kovacs finds out about the employee and Shaw, the viewer can relate to how Kovacs feels and might even act the way that he did. Viewers will most likely be rooting for the gang to succeed throughout the movie.

At a few points near the end of the movie, it becomes clear to the viewer that he/she is watching a movie because the physics within these scenes were impossible. I found myself giggling at these unintentional funny moments. However, the scenes were small and did not take away from the movie as a whole. Also, I felt that the ending was appropriate for the way the movie was set up. In a sense, it made it feel more realistic because it would most likely happen in that way rather than the typical cliché movie ending. I would recommend this movie for anyone wanting a light movie with good laughs. Tower Heist is definitely worth watching.

My Rating: ★★★★

In Time Review

Rating: PG-13

In Time arrived in theaters on October 28, 2011. Once I saw previews for this movie, I knew that I had to see it. It’s a science fiction, thriller film, and even though it may not be the best in its genre, it still gives the viewers an enjoyable ride. A few of the stars in this film are Justin Timberlake, Olivia Wilde, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer, Cillian Murphy, Amanda Seyfried, and Vincent Kartheiser. In Time is set in the future where time is life; each person has a clock on their left arms that reveals the amount of time they have left to live. After 25 years of life, a person’s clock starts, and he/she gets one year to either gain more time or “time out.” Time can be obtained by working, stealing, or being given it. Since time is currency, there is a huge gap between classes; those who have more time on their clocks are richer and live “better” lives, and those who do not have much time struggle to get through each day.

The viewer is introduced to the main character Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) who lives with his 50 year old mother, Rachel Salas (Olivia Wilde), in the ghettos. The most time he has ever had on his clock is about a day, so he lives his life day by day. He meets Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) who is being harassed by Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) in a bar. Fortis is the boss of a gang named the Minutemen, who are known for taking time from people by force; Will and Henry escape with their time. After a bit of talking, Henry explains the way the system works for the rich and poor, and eventually, Will is able to gain extra time from Henry. Once an unfortunate event occurs in Will’s life, he seeks revenge on the system that keeps the classes separated. Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) begins to track Will after believing he committed a murder in order to get the additional time. Will travels to a better district in order to stop the unfair treatment of classes; Will encounters Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) who is the daughter of a very rich and powerful man named Phillipe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser). Shortly after Will and Vincent meet, the fight between the classes officially begins.

The characters in this film seem to be well developed, and each actor brings their character to life. In a way, Will and Sylvia are relatable because who hasn’t wanted to change the way the system works or been a bit rebellious. Fortis is the man most people love to hate; he is a perfect bad guy. Raymond is the typical cop trying to make sure everyone obeys the laws and the way of life; he sticks to the rules no matter what and expects the same from the citizens, as well. Phillipe is the man opposing the protagonist, so the viewer, of course, wants to see him defeated. The characters’ motives are able to maintain the attention of the viewer and keep a person from looking at their own watch during the movie.

Even though, In Time might not be the very best in its genre, it sure does an excellent job keeping the audience entertained. Not only is there action, but a deep plot that makes a person think of their own life. This movie is definitely worth watching.

My Rating: ★★★★

Step Up 3 Review

Rating: PG-13

This film was released on August 6, 2010. Even though I was thrilled about Step Up and Step Up 2: The Streets, I wasn’t impressed with this new addition. The story-line,  basically, was the same as the previous movie; it felt like the same plot but with different people. Yes, of course, the House of Pirates’ place was going to be repossessed, and the crew had to win a dance battle in order to keep their “home.” The Pirates have an opposing crew called House of Samurai against them that will do anything to defeat the gang. This sounds exactly like the last plot but with the Pirates needing money and not about honor and reputation as in Step Up 2: The Streets.

It was difficult to make any connection with the characters in this movie as I did in the other movies. Most of the characters were underdeveloped, and the viewer didn’t get a chance to see the personalities besides generalized traits. Of course, I love Adam Sevani who plays Moose in Step Up 2: The Streets, but I have had two movies to enjoy him and watch him grow as a character. Moose and Luke Katcher, played by Rick Malambri, are the only characters that I felt had any personality. Luke, at times, did feel flat as a character, but he was more developed than most in the movie. Natalie, who is played by Sharni Vinson, didn’t have time to grow within the movie. It seems as though they rushed her development. I enjoyed her at the beginning and was cheering for her to be with Luke, but she was never able to redeem herself after the plot twist. I will not give too much away about the movie, even though, the plot is predictable, and most viewers will be able to figure out what happens next way before the middle of the movie.

The movie does stick to its dancing genre and does not slack on the dancing. In fact, there seems to be quite a lot more dance scenes than in the previous two movies; the dance moves were incredible, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the different styles. The dancing was full of energy, making me wish that I could pull off the moves shown. The final dance battle where the Pirates and the Samurai dance against each other for the prize money was quite amazing to say the least, however, Natalie and Luke’s dance was not needed and felt as though it was only kept to help advance the plot. When they stopped the dance sequences, I found myself wishing it would just focus on the dancing, so I wouldn’t have to watch anymore of the regurgitated plot.

There were a few scenes that were just not needed or actually took away from the main plot. In the final scene, I found myself watching the man and woman talk with the police officer behind Luke and Natalie. I don’t believe that is something a director wants his audience to focus on, but I was more interested in what unimportant characters were talking about than the main characters. If a person is looking for a dance movie with a decent plot, I would recommend Step Up or Step Up 2: The Streets. Step Up 3 is definitely worth skipping.

My Rating: ★★