I’ve been really slack the past couple of months with writing up reviews of all the movies I’ve seen. One of my New Years resolutions is to blog more regularly about the movies I have seen, but I thought I should catch up with writing up some of the stuff from last year. I was shocked to realize my last proper review was back in August (seriously?!? How did that happen?), that’s too many movies I’ve seen that I didn’t end up writing about!

There are at least 20 movies I hadn’t written about yet, so I’ve split it up into two posts. Ten reviews today, and 10 more in a couple of days.

Tron: Legacy

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I enjoyed Tron Legacy. There’s a lot about the movie that’s not good (especially the plot), but it’s still a lot of fun. Seeing it at the IMAX was really worth it; the visual effects and the 3D are gorgeous. And the score by Daft Punk? AWESOME. The story though was very disappointing and I wish they’d have come up with something better. There are just too many plot holes and inconsistencies for me to really love this film.

Inception

I know, I know, it’s really bad of me that I haven’t even written about Inception here! I love Christopher Nolan’s movies, so I was really expecting a lot from Inception. I know so many people who adore this movie, but I didn’t like it as much as I was hoping to. It is a good movie, but I was hoping for something a bit… smarter. Yes, Inception is a confusing and complex movie, but I wish it was less straightforward, and made use of the dream element much much more. Nolan introduces rules to the world of dreaming, while in reality anything is possible in dreams…

The Social Network

I wanted to like The Social Network and I sort of did. It’s one of those movies of which I wonder if I’m maybe to close to the “real” world (like how CSI would be for actual crime scene analysts). Some stuff in The Social Network just feels over the top (the hiring-interns scene… yeah, it’s exactly like that in real life… “take a shot for every 10 lines of code you write”). Maybe I should rewatch it again, but first time around I didn’t find it amazing.

Megamind

I wasn’t expecting much of this movie, but it turned out to be quite funny. It “stars” Will Ferrell as Megamind, an evil villain who tries everything to bring down his arch enemy Metroman (Brad Pitt). Once he does though, he realizes that without his arch enemy his life is empty. The story is a bit predictable, but it’s still sweet to see the transformation Megamind goes through.

RED

This movie was a lot of fun. Take a bunch of old actors, throw in some action and a touch of romance, and you’ve got yourself a cheesy yet romantic over-the-top action flick.

Scott Pilgrim

Again another movie I liked, but didn’t find as fantastic/awesome/phenomenal as most people seemed to think it was. Yeah, it did look sort of cool, but I just didn’t like most of the characters. Neither Scott or Ramona were particularly likable (although Knives was awesome!). I did like the video game references, but the movie came nowhere near my favourites list of this year.

The Next 3 Days

This movie starred Russell Crowe as a teacher whose wife (Elizabeth Banks) gets convicted for a crime she says she didn’t commit. Crowe becomes obsessed with figuring out how to help her escape from prison. It was an okay movie, nothing spectacular, but great for a quiet night in. Crowe is great as the husband afraid of losing his wife forever, and will do anything to get her back.

Easy A

I loved this movie! It stars Emma Stone as Olive, a teenager who lies about losing her virginity. Before she can admit it’s a lie, it spreads through the rumour mill at her high school and Olive is branded a slut. Instead of denying it though, Olive decides to embrace her new identity and tries to take advantage of it. The dialogue in this movie was awesome with some of the snappiest oneliners of the year. Plus even though it’s about sex and losing your virginity, the movie is really sweet.

Salt

Angelina Jolie as a spy? That should be awesome, right? It sort of was. On one hand I really liked that they attempted to make a smart movie: barely anything was explained with unnecessary over-expository dialogue, allowing the viewers to make their conclusions. On the other side… it was predictable.

Despicable Me

“It’s so FLUFFY!” Not sure I can add more than that. The movie is okay, but that one line is just brilliant.

Yet another remake based on a beloved childhood movie. Will Hollywood ever get enough of remaking stuff? Anyhow, when I first heard there’d be a Karate Kid remake, I thought there was no way in hell it could ever be as good as the original. Turns out I was wrong.

The Karate Kid stars Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith) as Dre Parker, a 12 year old boy who moves to Beijing with his mother (Taraji P. Henson). Dre falls for his classmate Mei Ying, but in the process makes an enemy out of Cheng, a kung fu prodigy. After getting beat up by them, Dre turns to the maintenance man Mr Han, who agrees to teach him kung fu.

The thing with remakes always is “why remake it?”. In the case of Karate Kid, I have to admit the original is pretty outdated, and if you ask anybody under the age of 16, chances are most haven’t seen it or at least aren’t as attached to it as my generation. The remake does a great job of modernizing the story, and recreating what we loved in the original for new audiences.

The story is pretty much the same: kid gets bullied, kid meets crazy old guy, kid learns martial arts, etc. But there are a couple of changes which work out right. For starters, the main character is younger; I saw the original when I was 11/12ish and would have loved it if the main character was the same age as me. Next to that the movie takes place in China; besides the gorgeous scenery, it gives the story a nice added backdrop.

Jaden Smith is great as Dre, and I do see quite a bit of his father in him. His character starts out as a tad annoying, but you slowly start liking him. I was scared that Jackie Chan’s portrayal as the martial arts teacher would be silly, but he plays the character straight without any goofyness.

I still find it weird that they just didn’t rename the movie to The Kung Fu Kid (I’m guessing the studio liked the name recognition of the original), cause there’s no karate in this movie at all. This does mean that the lessons (Wax on, wax off, etc) are given a new kung fu spin and it’s fun to watch Dre learn kung fu.

The Karate Kid is a fun movie and if you have kids a must see for this summer. It’s the good type of remake, taking what worked in the original and recreating it for modern audiences.

I loved The A-Team as a kid (who didn’t?) and once I heard there would be a remake I’ve been dreading this movie. I mean, on one side I thought it was awesome that they were bringing it back, on the other side it wouldn’t be MY A-Team, it just couldn’t be the same, right? So now that I finally got to see it, what did I think?

For those of you that have been hiding under a rock the past 25 years or have recently developed amnesia, The A-Team is a remake of the TV series of the same name about a group of ex-Special Forces imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit. Liam Neeson stars as the leader and brains behind the team, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith; Bradley Cooper as Templeton “Faceman” Peck, a smooth talking ladies man; Sharlto Copley as H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, an insane pilot; and Quinton Jackson as Bosco B.A. Baracus.

The original TV show was set 10 years after the A-Team’s allegedly committed crime, with the team being on the run from the military and hiring out their services to people in need. This movie acts much more as an origin story. It opens with how the team got together 10 years ago, providing some nice background history (like why BA is scared of flying). Then it jumps to the present day setting up the whole “crime they didn’t commit” story.

And it’s because of that origin story that I think this movie works. It’s a great way to give these characters a new slate and create them from scratch. Kind of. I mean, each character has still the same traits from the TV show, but by giving them an alternative background story they’ve managed to bring it into the current day. And we get to see the reason why the A-Team eventually goes on the run and turn into mercenaries.

I enjoyed The A-Team much more than I expected to. It’s a summer action flick with loud explosions and unbelievable stunts, but it’s fun. This isn’t MY A-Team, but it’s not a complete disgrace to the old show as I was dreading. It captures the spirit of the original show and multiplies the over-the-topness somewhat.

Liam Neeson as Hannibal still doesn’t really work for me. He’s believable as the team’s leader and master planner behind their mission, but somehow I still think they could have found a better Hannibal (for the life of me I couldn’t imagine who though, and this is one tricky bit of casting).

After finally having seen District 9 (AWESOME movie btw), I was looking forward to see how Sharlto Copley would be as Murdock. Murdock has always been my favourite character and up until the casting was announced I didn’t believe anybody could succeed Dwight Schultz. Copley though is perfect as Murdock, bringing a convincing craziness and levity to the character, and my favourite moments in the movie all come from him.

Bradley Cooper is great as Face, although in my mind he’ll always be Will from Alias. I never thought he’d ever be an action hero type, but he pulls it off great. He doesn’t get to show his con man skills as much as I liked and if we get a sequel I hope we get to see more of that. Quinton Jackson as BA is a as-good-as-you-can-find fit. It’s hard to step into the footprints of Mr T, but he does an okay job.

As I said above the action is a bit over the top. There’s one scene with a tank which is completely ridiculous and shouldn’t work at all, but still a lot of fun (even though a bit too blue screeny for my liking). I liked the heist like sequences where the action scenes were intertwined with flashbacks explaining “the plan”.

All in all, The A-Team is a great summer action flick, capturing the essence of the old TV show. If you go, make sure you stay seated till after the credits. I didn’t (grumble, grumble, I usually always stay until the end), but I’ve heard you might see some familiar faces…

Video game movies… the bane of every video game geek. So many turn out to be terrible movies and they fail to capture what people loved about the games in the first place. The latest gamble is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time based on the 2003 game of the same name.

Prince-of-Persia-Poster

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan, the titular prince. Dastan was originally an orphan, growing up on the streets and rooftops of the empire’s capital city, until one day after standing up for a friend on the marketplace, the king notices him and takes him in. Years later Dastan and his brothers are sent to the holy city of Alamut, ruled by the stubborn princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). After being blamed for a crime he didn’t commit, Dastan is forced to flee the city with Tamina and prove his innocence.

I really enjoyed Prince of Persia, although it’s not without its faults. From the trailers, I was expecting a fun entertaining action movie, similar in vein to Pirates of the Caribbean or The Mummy (if you haven’t seen the trailer, check it out here). And it pretty much lived up to those expectations. If you didn’t like either of those movies, chances are you’re going to hate Prince of Persia too. If you loved those movies (which I did), I think you’ll be in for a treat.

Jake Gyllenhaal is great as prince Dastan. I had my doubts about him when his casting was announced, but he was exactly what I had imagined the prince to be. Charming, but at the same time rough and mischievous. Gemma Arterton is much better here than in Clash of the Titans, showing that with a decent script she can actually deliver. I loved the banter between her and Dastan!

Prince-of-Persia

The story is similar to the Sands of Time video game with Dastan finding a dagger with which he can travel a few seconds back into time. While not used frequently within the movie, it gives us a couple of gorgeous scenes where Dastan falls apart into sand while ‘traveling’ back. The rest of the plot is pretty okay, although a little bit on the predictable side and at times not as polished as it could have been (like bad guys suddenly appearing without any explanation). I like that they added the orphan backstory, giving a reason to why a prince would be jumping from ledges and rooftops.

And those action scenes where Dastan is jumping all over the place are fantastic. Both Gyllenhaal and the kid that played the younger Dastan did most of their stunts themselves, having trained closely with Parkours legend David Belle. I didn’t like the way most of these were filmed though: an overuse of slow-mo and angles that didn’t really work for me. Still the stunts were amazing to watch!

Is it a good video game to movie adaption? Yeah, I think it is. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a fun summer action movie with great action sequences that harken back to the video game. The plot is a bit simple, but it’s a good 2 hours of fun entertainment. And want to bet we’ll get a sequel soon?

I don’t write about it that often here on this blog, but I’m a bit of a Greek mythology geek (and also other mythologies, like Egyptian, Roman and Norse, but mainly Greek). I love reading all the different tales about the Greek gods and heroes, and it’s the main reason why I went to ‘gymnasium‘ (Dutch high school type), so that I could have learn Latin and Ancient Greek. So I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for mythology movies, but am also waaay more quicker annoyed when they don’t get their mythology right. As in Clash of the Titans.

Clash of the Titans is the remake of the 1981 movie with the same name. It features Sam Worthington as the halfgod Perseus, who wants revenge on Hades (Ralph Fiennes) for killing his family. When the city of Argos is threatened by Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades to sacrifice their beloved princess Andromeda or risk the wrath of the Kraken, Perseus swears to defeat the Kraken. Together with a small group of soldiers and the immortal Io (Gemma Arterton), Perseus embarks on a quest to save Argos.

Clash-of-the-Titans-Poster

I know most people won’t care about the accuracy of the mythology while seeing this movie, but for me it was a serious annoyance. It’s like changing the basics of a fairy tale (hey, let’s add one of the seven dwarfs to the Rapunzel story!). Some of the mistakes I can forgive, cause they were remaking an older movie. For instance, the fact that there aren’t any Titans in either of the movies, yet the movie is called ‘Clash of the Titans’ can be blamed on the 1981 one (Titans were the gods before the Olympians and not one of them appears in this movie). Same with the ‘Kraken'; this newer movie took it from the older one, but the Kraken never was in the Perseus myth. Hell, the Kraken never appeared in any Greek myth… he’s from Norse mythology.

Besides those mistakes though, this Clash of the Titans messed up the story even more. For starters, Io. I understand why they added her to the story: to add a female heroine to the epic journey, because Andromeda is stuck in the city the entire time. But why Io? Haven’t they done any research at all? She’s Perseus’s ancestor. Turning her into a love interest just felt wrong. Then there’s Danae (Perseus’s mother) and her husband King Acrisius. Eh yeah, no. In the myth they’re father and daughter. Finally, most of the main story was just complete nonsense. The 1981 movie was a loose interpretation of the myth already, and now this movie was loosely based on the 1981 movie. Somewhere in the process it turned out not bearing any resemblance to the myth at all. It could have worked, if the story actually was interesting. But to me, it felt like huge action sequences with bits of dialogue and ‘plot’ to string it all together.

Clash-of-the-Titans-1

There’s no character development in this movie whatsoever. Perseus is basically whining the entire movie that ‘gods killed his family’ and that although he is a demigod, he’ll slay the Kraken as ‘a man’. Okay, Hades killed his family, so he’s got a reason to be pissed off with that god. But with all the gods? And not to use his demigod-ness while they have such a short period to save Argos? It also doesn’t help that Sam Worthington fails to give Perseus any charisma or likability; I still don’t see what people see in that guy. Liam Neeson as Zeus get some of the worst dialogue and some shiny CGI armor (it’s Twilight sparkly armor). I had hoped more from him here, but Zeus wasn’t impressive at all. And also goes through some wishy-washy-ness; releasing the Kraken on the humans, yet giving Perseus the tools to defeat the Kraken. It all just doesn’t make sense.

The action scenes and the CGI is one of the things I actually did like in this movie. I admit I’ve seen better (we all have), but it was still enjoyable. The big-ass scorpions were cool, even though I first didn’t realize there were more than 1 (was that just bad editing, or wasn’t I paying close enough attention?).

And then there’s the 3D. In one word: DON’T. The 3D here wasn’t necessary at all, and doesn’t give anything extra to the movie. I didn’t find it as annoying as some people were saying (it didn’t feel like paper cutouts, which I did have with the last Harry Potter movie), but it’s still not worth paying the extra money for.

Clash-of-the-Titans-2

I also wonder how much ended up on the cutting table. We got one or two glimpses from the other Olympians, like Artemis and Aphrodite, and it seemed like they put quite a lot of effort into creating their characters. But besides Zeus and Hades, they barely say anything (Poseidon and Ares get like one line each). I wish we could have seen more of the other gods.

Clash of the Titans isn’t a movie I’d recommend seeing in the cinema. If you’re going for only the action scenes, then enjoy. But if you’re hoping for a good story, full of heroes and gods, then give this a miss.

Do you know what the short nickname for Melinda is? Mindy. I’ve always hated that; it’s such a cutesy I-like-ponies-rainbows-and-cupcakes type of name and I’ve always refused to let people call me that. After watching Kick-Ass though, from all the random thoughts I had during that movie, the one that will always stick with me is: “I’ve never been more proud that I can call myself Mindy”.

I’ve been excited for Kick-Ass ever since I first heard about it. Stardust was one of my favourite movies of the past 3 years, so naturally I was curious to see what director Matthew Vaughn and co-screenplay writer Jane Goldman would do next. After seeing the first two trailers, it became one of my Must See movies of 2010, especially after the trailer dedicated to Hit Girl. To my delight I was lucky enough to see Kick-Ass a month before its release… and on my birthday. So was Kick-Ass everything I hoped it could be? YES.

KickAss-Poster

Based on the comic from Mark Millar, Kick-Ass is about Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a teenage boy, who decides to become a real-life superhero after being inspired by the heroes of comic books. He soon encounters a mysterious vigilante called Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), and his daughter Hit-Girl (Chloë Moretz), who are working to bring down the local drug baron Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).

Kick-Ass is one of the funnest movies I’ve seen in the cinema. It’s not the greatest movie ever made, it’s not even the greatest comic book movie ever made, but it’s been a long time since I had so much fun at the movies. I came out of the cinema grinning like crazy and just wanted to jump right back in to watch again. Everything in this movie just comes together: the story, the cast, the action sequences, the music, everything just works.

The main story isn’t exactly one we haven’t seen before: ordinary boy becomes a superhero. But unlike some of the more familiar superheroes tales, this one is slightly more grounded in reality. There is no radioactive spider that gives him powers overnight. He isn’t a multimillionaire with the coolest gadgets and gizmos. Dave Lizewski is just a normal teenager who has read too many comic books and thinks that if he puts on a costume made out of a wetsuit, he’ll be a superhero. He’s one of us, a fellow geek with a crazy idea, and that’s what makes this story so compelling. Nothing special happened to this guy, he just decided he’d become a superhero.

Kick-Ass-1

Aaron Johnson is great as the titular character, delivering a believable performance as the geeky and gangly Dave. As expected though Big Daddy and Hit Girl completely steal the show, and they should. They are the real superheroes in this movie and it’s through them that Dave realizes that he’s only doing it for pretends. I was a bit nervous about Nicholas Cage as Big Daddy, and was scared that it would go too over the top. But he’s cast perfectly in this role, and his Big Daddy “voice” is spot on (just wait until you hear it).

Chloë Moretz is amazing as Hit Girl aka Mindy Macready. This character is a weird blend of a cursing leg-severing assassin and sweet little girl, and in another actress’s hands it could have gone terribly gone. Moretz manages to balance both sides perfectly, bringing us some awesome action and bad-assness in one scene and yet making us care about her as a small girl in the next. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do in the future; at only 13 I think she could have an amazing career in front of her.

There are a couple of beautifully choreographed fight sequences in Kick-Ass, all accentuated by the great soundtrack. One in particular stands out for me where Hit Girl makes her way down a corridor with the song Bad Reputation from Joan Jett playing in the background. And there are more moments where it almost feels like Hit Girl and Big Daddy are in a dance with their opponents, gliding smoothly from one enemy to the next.

Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass is an awesome movie and one I’d recommend to anyone who likes the big action-y superhero movies. I was hoping I’d like it, but wasn’t expecting to have this much fun. Everything from story to music works in this movie and I guarantee you’ll have a great time. I so want to see it again once it’s released!

Kick-Ass is released in the UK on the 26th of March and in the US on the 16th of April.

When I was 7 my mum made this beautiful cake for my dad’s birthday. It was stunning, with intricate swirls of pink and green icing. You could see the amount of effort my mum had put into the cake and I so wanted to love it. But then I had a bite. It wasn’t really bad, just bland, and with a cake as stunning looking as that, you expect something amazing. And that’s exactly how I feel about Alice In Wonderland.

Alice-In-Wonderland-Poster

In this Alice in Wonderland, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is 19 years old who falls down the rabbit hole after running away during her own marriage proposal. She lands in Underland, a place she previously visited 13 years ago, but doesn’t remember. Alice encounters the weird inhabitants of Underland, including the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) and the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and gets caught up in the battle between the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway).

Visually this movie is gorgeous. I saw it at the IMAX in 3D and it’s definitely worth the little bit extra to see it there. I wasn’t that convinced by 3D last year, but now movies like Alice in Wonderland and Avatar are proving how beautiful this technique can be used. There are so many pretty things in this movie: the landscapes and buildings, the costumes, the characters, everything just looks great.

Wonderland (or Underland as it’s called here) is a weird place with some wonderfully Burtonesque characteristics, like twisty curly trees and a moat full of heads. I loved both the Red Queen’s and White Queen’s castles; each have little details in them, emphasizing those character’s personalities. The animated characters also look great, with only the white rabbit in the “real” world at the very start of the movie appearing a bit jarring. My favourite has got to be the Cheshire cat though, acting just like a cat is supposed to (I so want a cuddly toy like that!). I also have to mention the brilliant costume design here. Alice has at least 7 different dresses in this movie and they all looked amazing.

Alice-In-Wonderland

Despite how stunning everything in Alice In Wonderland looks like, there’s something missing in this movie. I still can’t pinpoint exactly what it is. Charm? Warmth? The thing is… I didn’t care for Alice or any of the characters at all, there was no emotional connection to make me feel invested in the movie. Besides that, Alice just jumps from one event to the other and you never feel as if she’s in any real danger. The Red Queen screams “Off with her/his head!” a number of times, but you never really feel as if there’s an actual threat.

Alice In Wonderland is a visually stunning movie that deserves to be seen in as large a cinema you can get. Everything looks amazing and it’s worth seeing it for that alone. Story-wise it isn’t the epic movie I was hoping for, but it’s still a good addition to the Alice In Wonderland interpretations.

Slowly working my way through reviewing the rest of the movies I watched last year. I also still need to do some proper reviews of the movies I’ve watched this year. I can’t believe it’s February already!

9

Great concept, bad execution. 9 takes place in the future, where mankind has been wiped out by machines. When a small burlap doll, called 9, comes to life, he has no idea what has happened to this world. Together with a group of other dolls, he tries to figure why they were created and were meant to do.

Visually 9 looks gorgeous; the doll designs, the apocalyptic world, the monster robots, it all looks superb. But the story behind it was just too weak. There’s no real answer to any of the questions raised and the plot just jumps from one encounter to the other. It kind of feels like a bad video game, with the plot taking a back seat to the visuals. Such a shame because this could have been amazing.

9 Poster

High School Musical

Yeah, I finally went ahead and watched this. I always find it a bit hypocritical to completely trash a movie if you haven’t seen it. Was it as bad as I expected? Yep. Did I enjoy it? Ehm, honestly? Yes. It’s so cheesy and predictable, but it’s a fun movie that never takes itself seriously. And some of the songs are pretty catchy.

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Staying in the realm of musicals for a bit, I had wanted to watch Repo for ages.  The movie is set in the year 2056, where GeneCo rents out organs to people. If they can’t pay though, the Repo man is sent to collect their organs…

A horror opera in a futuristic world. Awesome idea! In reality though, I didn’t like the movie as much as I had expected. I didn’t like any of the songs and the story just wasn’t that interesting. I loved the comic book snapshots throughout the film though and adored all the actors singing (Anthony Stewart Head!!). I just wished they had better songs to sing.

Trailerrific - Repo! The Genetic Opera

Next

I should have expected how bad this was, seeing as Nicholas Cage is in it. It’s loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story, but plotwise it really isn’t that impressive. Cage stars as a man who can see a couple of seconds into the future and is wanted by the FBI because of this skill. A waste of time: avoid.

Eragon

I love a good dragon story, but Eragon was just aweful. The acting was bad, the story was boring (and completely ripped off from Star Wars of course) and just didn’t make sense. The dragon was pretty though.

Eagle Eye

I watched this straight after Next and Eragon, thinking I’d do a bad movie afternoon. Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) and Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) are two strangers thrown together by a mysterious phone call from a woman they have never met. Threatening their lives and family, she pushes Jerry and Rachel into a series of dangerous situations, using the technology of everyday life to track and control their every move. Surprisingly it was more enjoyable than I had expected. It’s not the greatest action or thriller ever made (no by far), but it’s a good fun movie for a rainy afternoon.

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The Escapist

Frank is a convict fourteen years into a life sentence without parole. But when his estranged daughter falls ill, he is determined to escape and be with her before it’s too late. He develops an ingenious escape plan, recruiting a bunch of other inmates escapists, each with specific skills to make their escape work.

I really liked this movie. It was a bit slow going, but the way the story unfolds was pretty cool. Instead of just a normal narrative, we get to see two stories simultaneously: the preparation of the escape and the escape itself. I was expecting some weird scifi twist (mainly because I had seen glimpses of a London underground station during the escape in the trailer and was trying to figure out why they were underground, but that’s actually never explained), but even without that it’s an interesting movie.

City of Ember

Another underground movie. For generations, the people of the City of Ember have lived underground. But Ember’s once powerful generator is failing… and the great lamps that illuminate the city are starting to flicker. Two teenagers must search Ember for clues that will unlock the ancient mystery of the city’s existence, and help the citizens escape before the lights go out forever.

I wish I had read the book first, but it’s still a great movie. Yes, it’s a kids movie, but the way the fantasy world has been built up is charming. Bill Murray is good as the unlikable Mayor and Saoirse Ronan is sweet as the young heroine.

City of Ember

Vantage Point

I always love slightly different narratives in movies. In Vantage Point we see an attempted assassination on the American President from several vantage points. Instead of just repeating the same exact period of time from different points of view though, we slowly get more and more parts of the story. I had expected it to become a bit tiring after a while, but the movie manages to keep you interested and intrigued without repeating too much of what you seen already. Some of the ‘twists’ were a bit predictable, but even I hadn’t figured it all out.

Oscar

I wonder how many of you have even heard of this movie? Oscar stars Sylvester Stallone as Snaps Provolone, mafia boss who promises his dying father that he’ll turn into a honest businessman. On the day that he’s supposed to ‘go straight’ all things go wrong, starting with his accountant announcing he wants to marry Snaps’ daughter.

This is one of those movies I remember loving as a kid/teen, but it had been ages since I had last seen it. Was it as good as I remember? No, but that never is the case with movies you worshipped as a kid. It’s still a funny movie and has some hilarious mixups in it.

Every year I say the same thing: I must try to review more of the movies and books I’ve seen, preferably right after I’ve actually seen them. And for the past two years I’ve ended up with a long list of all the stuff I hadn’t had the time to review. So for the next couple of days I’ll be doing a couple of posts with all the “left overs” I’ve got: short mini reviews about the movies and books I’ve seen/read in 2009.

I’m not even going to try to promise that 2010 will be any different. Instead, I think I’ll make these mini reviews a more regular thing and try to do one once every two months or so. I’ll still be doing reviews for the main movies and books I’ve read, but the smaller stuff (like things I watched on TV a full 2 years after the movie originally came out) will be just done in these mini reviews.

So here’s part 1 of the things I’ve watched in 2009:

Up

I don’t think I can say much about this movie that hasn’t been said yet. It’s a brilliant tale and if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour and watch it. It isn’t my personal favourite Pixar movie (that still remains Wall-E), but it’s got some great moments in it and everyone I know who’s seen it loves this movie!

Rachel Getting Married

I saw this movie around Oscar season trying to watch most of the movies that were nominated (in some way or another). This has to be one of most boring movies I saw this year. Yes, Anne Hathaway is good in it, and there’s tons of drama and tension, but really not the type of movie I enjoy watching.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Loved this movie, but I have to admit it has it’s problems. Visually it’s stunning (think the old drawings of Monty Python in CGI), but the plot doesn’t make much sense and I completely lost track of what happened in the last quarter of an hour. I know it could have been so much greater if Heath Ledger was still alive, but as it is, the story kind of falls apart.

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FAQ About Time Travel

Brilliant little movie about 3 guys who get stuck in a time loop in a pub. It’s been described as a Shaun of the Dead type movie but about time travel, and it does kind of fit into that description. I had never heard about it before watching it and it pleasantly surprised. Plus it’s one of those movies that does require a 2nd viewing to completely appreciate it.

Law Abiding Citizen

The difficulty with this movie was that you weren’t really sure who you were supposed to be rooting for. Gerard Butler is kind of billed as the main character, but to call him the protagonist… no, not really. After a plea bargain sets one of his family’s killers free, Butler decides to take justice into his own hands. It edges on the border of being a smart, intelligent movie, but in the end fails to deliver.

Madagascar 2: Escape To Africa

Cute, easy sequel to the first animation. Nothing really special, but still an enjoyable movie.

Trick ‘r Treat

I first heard about this movie in 2007, but because of some trouble with the studio it didn’t get released properly until this year. It’s an anthology of 4 Halloween stories, all happening on the same Halloween night. I didn’t like all of the stories, but it works well together. I think my favourite was the one about Anna Paquin, who together with her friends has dressed up as sexy fairy tale princesses to pick up boys.

Trick r Treat

The Reader

The second Oscar-y movie in this list and one that I hadn’t expected to like. The movie is about Michael Berg, a German lawyer who as a teenager in the late 1950s had an affair with an older woman, Hanna Schmitz, who then disappeared only to resurface years later as one of the defendants in a war crimes trial stemming from her actions as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp in the later years of World War II. Kate Winslet is great as Hanna Schmitz and her Oscar win is completely deserved.

The Oxford Murders

Another movie of which I had seen the trailer ages ago and then just never heard anything about. I loved the movie for its mathematic references and discussions and I really think I should read the book. Better than most movies in this genre without the assumption that the viewer is a complete idiot (which annoys me with a lot of movies).

Stranger Than Fiction

From all the films on this list, Stranger Than Fiction is a typical “me” movie; it’s a bit quirky, bordering the line of comedy and drama with an unusual. Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a slightly OCD tax auditor, who one day suddenly hears a voice narrating his life. It’s an unusual movie with that touch of fantasy and whimsicality while still remaining quite serious.

I know, I know, this movie has already been for ages in the cinema (well, 4/5 weeks), but I loved it so much, I thought I have to blog about it (and convince all you people who still haven’t see it yet to go see it). As I’ve said in some of my previous posts I’m extremely busy, mainly with organizing BarCampLondon7. I haven’t been to that many movies lately, cause I frankly can’t find the time! I’ve still got District 9 and Coco Before Chanel on my list of movies-to-watch-in-the-cinema, and this month there are loads of cool things coming out (Pandorum, Up, Fantastic Mr Fox, 9, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus).

All that aside, Inglourious Basterds is the latest film by Quentin Tarantino. Set in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, it’s about a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds” who are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers.

Movie-Review---Inglourious-Basterds

What I found surprising of Inglourious Basterds is that while the movie is named after ‘The Basterds’ it actually isn’t really about them. Yes, they feature quite heavily in the movie, but I don’t think I’d call them the main characters. There are a slew of interesting characters that are focused on as much as The Basterds, some maybe even more.

As most people who have seen the movie will tell you, one of the highlights is Christoph Waltz’s performance as Colonel Hans Lauda. His character walks that fine line between being genius and unbelievably creepy; some of his monologues are just brilliant and one of the main things that make this movie worthwhile. Like most Tarantino movies the dialogue in general is pretty topnotch, and the way Brad Pitt pronounces ‘Arrivederci’ will be imprinted in my brain forever.

I liked Tarantino’s previous movies, but I must admit I always found them a bit too… bloody. Gruesome. Over the top unnecessarily violent. (Feel free to disagree with me, but I seriously got a bit squeamish with his previous films) Here in Inglourious Basterds he’s toned it down somewhat. There are still one or two ‘icky’ scenes (always with The Basterds), but most of the real gruesome stuff happens off screen.

Movie-Review---Inglourious-Basters-2

The movie has a couple of plot problems (like how does Shoshanna suddenly own a theatre?), but I’m guessing this is because of the cuts made after the criticisms at Cannes. The problems that were reported there though, like the slow pacing, are nowhere in sight. Inglourious Basterds runs for almost 2.5 hours, but it doesn’t feel that long. Still I’d like to see a longer version to straighten out those missing story lines gaps.

If you haven’t seen Inglourious Basterds, you should definitely try to catch if before is disappears from the cinemas. I loved this movie, more than Tarantino’s previous ones. And if you’re hesitant, because you’re scared it will be gory, don’t be; this is one of the mildest Tarantino movies. Inglourious Basterds provides a couple of hours of great dialogue, absurd plot and lots of killin’ Nazis.

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