Ever since A Life Less Ordinary, I’ve been intrigued by its director: Danny Boyle. Each movie he makes seems so different compared to the others, but I always feel he has an interesting story to tell. And I have to say this is one intriguing little movie.

Slumdog Millionaire opens with our main character Jamal being interrogated by the Mumbai police, who think he has cheated on India’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Jamal is only one step away from winning the main prize of 20 million rupees, and the police don’t believe he could have known all the answers. As the inspector says, if even doctors and lawyers can’t reach that final question, how could Jamal, a slumdog from the poorest parts of Mumbai, know them? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the tale of his life and how each answer to the questions in the games show is interwoven in a chapter of his life.

Some people will tell you this film is amazing and that it should win Best Picture at the Academy Awards next year. And they may very well be right; Slumdog Millionaire does feel like the type of fair Oscar voters will gladly bite into and from whatever other films that might be nominated (you know I’m not the Oscar loving type) I’d like to be rooting for this one.

I think the best way to describe the movie is this: Take City of God. Change the setting from Rio De Janeiro to Mumbai. Add more hope and positivity, and a touch of love. And you’ve got Slumdog Millionaire. Like City of God, this movie gives a realistic view of the slums in Mumbai and it can be grim and depressing at times. You really have a feeling as if you’re seeing a side of Mumbai which is normally not seen. Unlike City of God though, there remains a ray of cheeriness and optimism throughout the entire movie. 

I don’t want to say this movie is amazing. Cause to be honest, I didn’t find it a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The plot feels a bit too coincidental (the way every question ties in with part of his past), while it could have been done slightly more subtle. On the other side though it’s gotten really stuck in my head and I keep thinking about it. At it’s heart Slumdog Millionaire is like a fairy tale and you just can’t help liking it.

That being said, Slumdog Millionaire is definitely a film you should watch in the cinema. It’s got more heart and charm than other movies you’ll find currently there and I won’t be surprised if it indeed manages to grab that Best Picture Oscar!

UK Release Date: 9 January 2009
US Release Date: 12 November 2008
Runtime: 120 min

The Dark Knight Experience

August 1st, 2008

I’ve been excited for The Dark Knight for months. Ever since the first Joker cards appeared at Comic-Con last year, I’ve wanted to see this movie. I loved Batman Begins and I just knew Christopher Nolan had it in him to make an even better movie. With all the origin story out of the way, he could focus on some more interesting plot lines and villains, like of course the Joker.

I’m not going to write a full review of this movie. By now you’ve already decided if you want to see The Dark Knight or not, and there are tons of reviews floating around the internet already. Instead I want to share my thoughts on a couple of things, some spoilerish, some not, some not even about the movie itself, but the circumstances in which I saw it. Don’t worry I’ll announce spoiler territory in a big and obvious manner.

Booking Tickets

Here in the UK The Dark Knight came out last Thursday and I had tickets for the IMAX on Friday afternoon. If you tried to book tickets last week, you would have noticed the next four weeks at the Imax are practically sold out. So how did I get such early tickets? I wasn’t lucky or extra alert or anything. Remember my great adventure with The Dark Knight ARG? The plan was to meet-up with all the people participating and see the movie at the IMAX together. A Facebook group was formed and one of the guys called the IMAX to see when the tickets would be released and if it was possible to book for 40/50 people. At the time they said we could, but somehow a day before the ticket release date, they pulled out, claiming they couldn’t do such a large booking. Bullshit, if you ask me. But anyhow, I got a nice reminder on the day itself that the tickets were released. Even then I didn’t book straight away, only to discover two days later that a lot of the tickets for the first four days were already gone. Eek!

Imax Experience

I managed to get tickets for the Friday showing in row L, seats 24 and 25 (check the floor plan here). I had never been to the Imax before, so I thought those seats would be too high up and you would look down on the screen. But they were perfect! We were bang in the middle, staring exactly at the center of the screen. And that wasn’t the only good part of the Imax. Back in January I wrote a post about 10 problems with today’s cinemas: bad projection quality, bad sound, too small relative screen size, just to name a few of the big problems. The Imax actually solves them all. You pay slightly more for a ticket than your average cinema, but it’s completely worth it. The quality you get in return is just so much better. From now on I want to see all the big movies in an IMAX theatre!

Then there’s of course the extra bonus of seeing the IMAX version of The Dark Knight, cause in total 28 minutes of the movie were filmed with IMAX cameras. So… what does that mean? Without getting into too technical terms, parts of the movie were filmed on a larger film, which obviously means a higher resolution and a bigger aspect ratio, but more importantly it actually results in a much better image quality, giving a clearer, crisper image. Those scenes that were shot with IMAX cameras are just plain gorgeous. Because of the different aspect ratio, you did notice when it switched from one to the other. The normal standard film has a letterbox size (2.40:1), while the IMAX scenes used the full screen (1.33:1). At the start of the film, it was a bit obvious; every single aerial view of Gotham City was IMAX, the standard plot and dialogue was letterbox. Later on in the movie though you barely noticed it. Most action sequences were filmed completely in IMAX and you really had the feeling it made a great difference.

Oscar Worthy?

You may have heard a lot of speculation on whether or not The Dark Knight should be nominated for any Oscars. The main buzz is about Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker (for Best Supporting Actor), but there are also some that find the movie itself should be nominated for Best Movie. You know my thoughts on the Oscars; genre movies never do well there and the voters are highly unappreciative of outstanding performances in genre movies, dismissing them almost always (I think Lord of The Rings is the last one that was nominated). Is The Dark Knight worthy of an Oscar? In my humble opinion, yes. But I don’t think it’s likely that it will get a Best Movie nomination; it was good, but I don’t think it will make such an impact (I’d like to be proven wrong though). Nominations for Cinematography, Visual Effects, Score, Make-Up (definitely) are way more likely.

And then we’ve got Heath Ledger. His performance as the Joker is exactly what Oscar voters like; it’s a real role you can disappear into and show that you’re “acting”. Think of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man or Javier Bardem in last year’s No Country For Old Men; those are roles where you can show off your acting chops and become a completely different person. I think the Academy will love Ledger’s Joker and chances are high he’ll get a nomination. Did Ledger’s death have anything to do with it? I’m not sure, I think in part. I think a lot of people who would have previously dismissed this movie, now gave it a chance because it’s Heath Ledger’s last film, and they discovered it was actually good. Would The Dark Knight have been viewed so many times, if Ledger hadn’t died? It’s a ‘What if’ scenario, we’ll never know the answer to.

After the image: beware spoilers!

Argh, here be SPOILERS!

Random Thoughts

Okay, did anyone else think that the scenario with the two boats and two bombs would end differently? I seriously thought that the “normal people” boat would decide to blow up the convicts boat, only to discover pushing the big red button blows their own ship up. After the Joker’s Dent/Rachel mix-trick, it felt as if it would veer that way. It would have fitted with the dark tone of the whole movie, right?

Is Dent dead or not? Yes, there was a memorial service like speech, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is dead. Three possibilities: a) it was a memorial service and Dent is dead, b) that wasn’t a memorial service, but something else, only to make the viewer believe Dent is dead (while he isn’t), and c) that was a memorial service, but Gordon (and Batman) want the people of Gotham City to believe Dent is dead. I think it’s the last option with Dent in somewhere in a cell in Arkham Asylum.

Was the name of ‘Coleman Reese’ chosen for a specific “deeper” meaning? Someone on a message board pointed out that “Mr Reese” is pronounced “misterees” as in “mysteries”. Hmm, a prelude to the Riddler? Or just coincidence?

Next Movie?

As I said in the previous paragraph, I think Dent is alive and I think he’ll be the main villain for the next movie. But seeing how Christopher Nolan rolls (he likes twos), there’ll also be another villain, but who? Following the line of thought from above, my first guess would be The Riddler. The character of Reese seems to be set up here with the potential of a fuller story. Personally I’d love to see the Riddler, but preferably someone else (not Reese, and not that actor). And just imagine what Nolan’s Riddler would be like… 

So people: have you seen The Dark Knight already? And if so, any random thoughts or musings about future movies you want to share with us?

In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a huge bunch of older (as in not in cinemas) movies and I’ve been trying to figure out how to blog about them. I don’t really want to do my standard type of review, cause most people have seen those movies. I just want to let you all know what I thought about them. So I’m doing a long post with short pieces about each movie I’ve seen, thus Mini Movie Reviews.

Requiem For A Dream

This movie kind of stumped me at first; I wasn’t sure how to describe it. I tend to like movies I enjoy (don’t we all?), but Requiem For A Dream isn’t enjoyable at all. It’s a great movie, but it’s as if it chews you up and then spits you out, leaving you feeling like utter crap. And yet still you can appreciate the film, cause it’s beautiful in it’s own twisted way. I loved the music before I watched Requiem, but now I’m not sure I can even listen to it, without feeling a little bit disturbed. Don’t watch this movie if you’re feeling depressed, cause it’s only going to make you feel even worse. 

2001: A Space Odyssey

By saying this I might just be confirming I’m a product of my generation, but for me the pacing of 2001: A Space Odyssey feels way, way too slooow. Some scenes just drag on way too long with nothing substantial happening. And then that ending?! this doesn’t happen to me often and maybe I’ve got some more reading to do, but I didn’t get it. I do see why people think so highly of this movie, but (and please don’t kick me for saying this) for me it feels a bit outdated. Not the story, but the look and feel of it, and that just doesn’t help for me to get into the movie.


I now understand all the Oscar talk surrounding Atonement last February; it is a good movie, if you can keep your eyes open and watch the entire thing. I had to rewatch the first half an hour 4 times, because I kept getting distracted and lost track of the story. Especially at the beginning the movie jumps back and forth a couple of times to repeat events from multiple view points. I only don’t get all the excitement about Keira Knightley’s green dress. It’s a pretty dress, I’ll give you that, but I don’t see what’s so special and amazing about it.

Little Miss Sunshine

I was disappointed by Little Miss Sunshine, but then I was expecting quite a bit from this movie. I somehow thought it would be more funnier and less serious than it actually was. I thought it was a feel-good movie and instead you just get one bad event after another. I liked the ending, but still wasn’t completely what I expected. 

Southland Tales

What a mess of a movie! It’s from the same director/writer of Donnie Darko, but fails completely where Donnie Darko didn’t. Southland Tales has too many plot lines and too many characters for you to fully invest and care about them. You don’t give a shit about what happens to them, but that doesn’t really matter: at most times you don’t even know what or why things are happening to them. Too many things are going on in this movie and it doesn’t take time to explain itself properly (and that with a running time of 145 minutes). Apparently there’s a comic book prequel which in fact is half of the story and clears everything up, but that just sounds like too much homework for a simple movie like this.

Michael Clayton

You could sum up the events from this movie in a few short sentences (I won’t, cause I’m not in a spoilery mood), even though the film is 2 hours long. Again like Atonement, I understand why it’s an ‘Oscar‘ film, but it’s just not my type of movie. It’s all about the grey areas of life and the decisions people have to make. Expect a lot of talking, not a lot of action.


I had never heard of Unknown before, but it’s got Jim Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Joe Pantoliano and Bridget Moynahan. And it’s an interesting little movie. Five men wake up in a locked warehouse, all with no memory who they are and why they’re there. Some of them are tied up and it seems a fight just went down. The five are forced to figure out who among them are ‘bad guys’ and who are ‘good guys’. It’s a cute idea, and while not without it’s faults, it was a nice little surprise.

Typically I would never go to the cinema for the likes of a movie called Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. But (as my previous posts can tell you) my sister was in town and she read and adored the books this movie’s based on. I managed to get some free tickets exactly when she was here, so there I was in a cinema full of teenagers (my sister’s 19), wondering who Angus was, what he’s going to do with thongs and who he’s gonna snog. Turns out Angus is the cat. 

Georgia Nicolson is a 14 year old girl living in Eastborne. Just like every other 14 year old girl, she thinks she’s not pretty enough, thinks her parents don’t understand her and doesn’t understand boys. She’s not the most popular girl at school, but has a close group of three friends (they call themselves the Ace gang). When two new boys start at their school, Georgia and her best friend Jaz desperately want these two sex gods to like them (their words, not mine). What follows is a lot of scheming, blundering and snogging.

Release your inner 14 year old! I think anybody who ever was a 14 year old girl can somehow recognize themselves in this movie. I mean, even I, who never was that much of a girly girl and barely even dared to talk to boys (the ones I liked, that is) in high school, felt myself grinning and cringing at the situations Georgia got herself into. In the first quarter of an hour alone she shaves off half an eyebrow (which of course magically grows back) and that’s only the beginning of her (mis)adventures. It’s been resembled to Clueless and Mean Girls, which is a good comparison, but to me it looks most like a teenage Bridget Jones’ Diary. 

Georgia is an unlikely heroine, but I think she’s a perfect role model for young girls to look up to. She’s not some blonde superskinny supermodel teenager, but an actual normal girl; not drop dead gorgeous, but beautiful in her own way. The plot is a bit predictable and cheesy, but what did you expect from this type of movie. Just like the book (according to my sister) the movie is full of slang, like nunga-nungas (breasts), I had never heard before (not sure if this is slang specifically from the book, or just slang from the UK I haven’t come across yet). 

The best friend Jaz is great; at times infuriatingly oblivious to things going on around her, she messes up Georgia’s plans quite often. There’s a great scene where while talking to one of the “sex gods” for the first time, she puts on a Keira Knightley voice, trying to be mature and sophisticated. The “sex gods” are not what I would call sex gods, although if I was that age, chances are I would have been crushing on them.

And then there’s Angus. And Libby. Libby is Georgia’s 5 year old sister, who thinks she’s a cat and loves dressing Angus up. Angus alone is already as cute as can be, but dressed up?! Even more adorable. There’s one scene where Angus is dressed up in something ridiculous (like a pirate or princess) and Libby is decorating him with cooked pasta. This is all just going on in the background while Georgia and her mother are discussing something. It might sound weird, but it’s so sweet on screen.

Teenage girls are going to love this movie, grown-up girls could love this movie. Guys, avoid this at all costs; there’s a sliver of a chance you might enjoy this, but it’s more likely you’ll find it boring and annoying as hell. Girls, do your boyfriends (and yourself) a favour and don’t drag him to this movie. Instead, take a bunch of good girlfriends, who you know you can giggle and laugh with. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is a perfect girls night out or dvd sleepover movie; it’s cheesy and predictable as hell, but that’s not what it’s about, right?

Review: Wall•E

July 15th, 2008

I sometimes manage to get free tickets to pre-release screenings, but rarely get to share this with my friends. With Wall•E though I was able to get about 20 tickets and with a lot of coordination via email and Twitter, I got a great repsonse of all the people willing to go. So last Saturday morning a huge group of geeks gathered together at the Vue cinema in Shepherd’s Bush to watch the wonder that is Wall•E.

Wall•E is a small waste allocation robot, left behind on Earth to clean up the mess humans made. It’s been a couple of hundred years, since the humans left, and he’s the only one of his kind still working. Wall•E fills his lonely days with compressing trash, building large towers of processed waste, while collecting little treasures, like christmas lights and Rubik’s cubes. His whole life changes when Eve, a shiny white robot, arrives on Earth with a important classified mission.

I don’t want to give any more than that away of the plot, cause I think the less you know, the more you’ll enjoy it. I for one loved Wall•E! It’s definitely my favourite Pixar film now and I guess it may even be my favourite film of this year. So many things just work and it’s just this little perfect gem of a movie. As with most other Pixar movies, Wall•E is a true family movie, that everybody any age will enjoy. And it’s timeless. In 20 years time, people will still look back at this film and laugh at the same moments. While some may say that is true for previous Pixar animations, I truly think Wall•E will be the one to go down in history as a classic.

You may have heard there is no dialogue in Wall•E and that is only partly true. There is some dialogue, but none from our two main characters Wall•E and Eve. They largely communicate through beeps and body movements, with the occasional robotic “Wall•E” or “Evah” thrown into it. Any other studio might have messed this completely up, but in Pixar’s competent hands it works. The noises the robots make convey their meanings perfectly; every beep, rattle and ting feels like a sentence, as if they’re just talking some language you don’t understand, but do comprehend. It shouldn’t be a surprise though. Pixar didn’t just get any sound effects editor, they got the best in the business: Ben Burtt, who was also responsible for the sound effects in all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. Besides that, Wall•E and Eve are animated brilliantly, expressing their emotions through movement. Anger, shock, fright, happiness: it’s all conveyed through wonderfully choreographed motions. This and the sound effects together help describe a relationship that should be recognized across language barriers.

I think that relationship is one of the main reasons I like Wall•E more than other Pixar movies. Wall•E is first and foremost a love story, and the romantic in me just resonates better with this movie than the previous ones. There’s more to the movie than only the love plot though and to some that may be Wall•E‘s only pitfalls. I can’t go in to it, cause I don’t want to spoil it for you, but for me it fitted perfectly as part of the story (cut it away and the movie just wouldn’t have worked). 

I already said a bit about Wall•E’s and Eve’s animation, but I should also highlight their designs. Wall•E does look a bit like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, but it doesn’t feel as if they were ripping that off. It seems to me that if you want a robot that is similar to the human form (that doesn’t have legs), you’ll quickly come down to a comparable design. And Wall•E feels much more functional; all his parts are integral to do his work. Eve on the other hand does look as if she’s been designed by Apple; she slick, white, shiny, round and everything (like her arms) clicks away to form one smooth object.

If I haven’t made it clear already, Wall•E is visually stunning. Besides the design and animation of our two main characters, the rest of the world is also as amazing. Earth is just how you imagined it could be if trash was overflowing so much (although I hadn’t expected the towers of processed trash) and it serves as a great desolate backdrop to our lonely protagonist. Other scenes are jaw-droppingly beautiful and I can only imagine the amount of work that must have gone into creating them. Even if the story and characters hadn’t been this great, I still would have recommended this movie for the visuals alone.

Wall•E may be the most perfect movie of this year and I don’t think anybody could dislike this movie. If you could only see one movie in the cinemas this summer, go see Wall•E (although The Dark Knight might give it a good run for it’s money). I have a feeling this will remain one of Pixar’s greatest movies and it’ll go down in cinematic history.

About a week ago Sizemore twittered he was organizing another bloggers screening, this time for the Brazilian movie City of Men. I was interested, but I hadn’t actually seen the critically acclaimed sort-of-prequel to it, City of God. Although I had heard a lot of good things about it, I didn’t feel it was my type of movie and had avoided watching it. Now with this screening of it’s sequel coming up, I finally sat down and took some time to give it a go. And I am so glad I did.

City of God - Poster

City of God is a Brazilian drama directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund. It’s an adaption of the novel of the same name (by Paulo Lins), which in turn is based on a true story. The Cidade de Deus is a slummy lower class neighbourhood, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, teeming with drug dealers and gang members. Rocket is a teenager who lives in Cidade de Deus in the seventies and the movie opens with him caught in the middle between a gang and police shoot-out. It then jumps back to ten years earlier (the sixties) and Rocket tells us how he got into that situation, which includes tales about his family, friends and neighbours.

I hadn’t expected to like this movie; I thought it would be all dramatic and serious because it’s about the slums and drugdealing. I’m not saying it isn’t (cause it is), but Meirelles and Lund manage to embed an unexpected lightheartedness in how the movie is told. There’s a weird light black comedy vibe going on, making you laugh one moment and shiver in shock the next.

City of God - The Tender Trio

The movie is about the slums and drugdealing, but most of all it’s about kids growing up. Yes, they have to deal with guns and drugs and death, but they also have to deal with the standard stuff: figuring out what to do with their lives, overcoming their insecurities and how to get that first crush to finally kiss them. But they’re doing this all while trying to survive in this gang ruled world, full of both ruthlessness and humanity.

The look and feel of this movie is superb. Initially, the story flashes back in one big jump of ten years, but after that Rocket gives little glimpses of stories he will tell. For instance, at one point he introduces a character briefly, who’s not that relevant to that scene, only to say he’ll came back to that story later. It gives a great dynamic to the film, eluding to future events and giving the viewer something to wonder about. The cinematography is beautiful; it’s gritty and harsh, but that all contributes to the bleak realism of the movie. There are a couple of wonderful camera pans and freezes, highlighting key moments.

City of God - The City

City of God is a film you have to have seen. Not everybody may think this film will be for them, but even then I recommend giving it a try, you may be surprised. There’s a very good reason why this film is so high in a lot of “Best-Of” lists and I imagine it’s going to stay in those lists for a very long time.

Review: Wanted

July 2nd, 2008

Unlike in the US, where both Wall-E and Wanted opened last weekend, here in the UK we got stuck with only Wanted (we’ll have to wait a couple more weeks for the from-what-I’ve-heard-so-far “perfect” Wall-E). But, man, what a film did we get stuck with. It might not have the same finesse or perfection or timelessness that Wall-E undoubtly will have, but it takes you on one hell of a ride.

Wanted - Poster

Wanted stars James McAvoy as lifeless gutless office cublicle dweller Wesley Gibson. His life sucks and he knows it; his girlfriend is cheating on him with his slimy best friend, his boss yells at him every day, his whole life consists of everyday the same old boring routine. It all turns around though when one day the sexy and deadly Fox (Angelina Jolie) shows up to inform him that his long lost father is actually an assassin and was murdered yesterday. Wesley is recruited into his father’s old organisation (led by Morgan Freeman), The Fraternity, a secret society of super assassins, who will train him to avenge his father.

First off, this movie is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Mark Millar, but trust me, it is nothing alike. This movie isn’t an adaptation, the whole premise is even completely different (superassassins in the movie, superheroes/villains in the comic)! I’m mainly surprised of Millar’s claim that 70% is like the comic. No, it isn’t! More like 15%. They’ve lifted a couple minor scenes from the beginning of the comic, threw in a couple of characters with the same name, but rewrote the rest of the entire movie. Don’t get me wrong, I love the film as it is, but don’t expect an adaption of the book. Truth is I’m not even sure a true adaption would have worked; I don’t think a lot of movie goers would have appreciated that story.

Wanted - James McAvoy

There are people who are going to hate this movie, who will call it stupid, who will lament the loss of this generation’s moral code (I’m not making this up, just check out the message board on IMDB). While I’m not disagreeing with all of them (I mean nobody can claim Wanted is a smart film), it somehow seems to me that some people expect every movie to be Oscar-worthy and dramatic and serious, and thereby disregarding and belittling all other movies. Some movies are just meant to be brainless entertainment. And Wanted is one of them.

On the action front Wanted delivers and it lives up to it’s R-rating/18-certificate. As you might have seen in the trailer, there’s a great car  chase at the beginning of the movie and after that (not to give any spoilers away) it only gets better. It’s R-rating comes from a lot of bloody Wesley, bullets going through heads and part of the film being set in an abbatoir, but it wasn’t as disgusting and bloody as it could have been. I felt queasier at 300 and Sin City, then with Wanted, just to give you a slight idea what type of R-rating we’re talking about.

Wanted - James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman

James McAvoy is great as Wesley. If you had told me last year, this guy would be an action hero (not completely fitting, it sounds too goody two-shoes) I wouldn’t have believed you. But he manages to pull it off. His character starts off as a (to put it in the terms of the movie) pussy and turns into a bad-ass killer; and McAvoy makes you believe it. Wesley isn’t that likable, but you don’t care, he isn’t meant to be likable, he’s a killer. I didn’t get Angelina Jolie‘s casting as Fox when I first heard about it, but that’s because I was expecting the Fox from the comic. She’s perfect though as Fox in the movie, although her acting chops are thoroughly underused here; except for a couple key scenes, she’s just standing pretty for most of the movie. Any random actress/model/”actress/model” could have filled that position.

Wanted - Angelina Jolie

I was expecting a lot from director Timur Bekmambetov; I loved the visual style of two of his previous films, Nightwatch and Daywatch. Here he delivers… sometimes. Some scenes are beautifully shot, in a comi-book visceral like style, slightly over the top, but still stunning. Other times though he does the same “mistake”as a lot of current day action movie directors: he doesn’t focus and moves the camera way too quickly. Give us time to see what on the screen! Next to that there are a couple of screen transitions which were a bit confusing. Still I do look forward to see what he does next; he has the potential to be phenomenal.

Wanted is the perfect action summerflick; lots of action, a flimsy story, but a lot of fun. It’s not going to go down in cinematic history, but it’s a great way to spend an entertaining summer afternoon.

I’ve given some thought into how I want to review this movie. On the one side I want to give my normal spoiler-free review, but on the other hand I want to go a bit deeper into it, singing it’s praises and nitpicking it’s faults. So I’ve decided to actually do two reviews. One for the people who haven’t seen it yet, so without spoilers, but a quick “is it any good or not?”. And one where I don’t have to care about spoilers, where I can just speak my mind mind about certain scenes, characters, etc. The review you’re reading now is the spoiler-free one; you can expect the other one in the next couple of days.

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Indiana Jones

In Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (from now on I’m just calling it Indy 4) 20 years have past since the previous movie; the year is 1957 and the United States and the Soviet Union are approaching the height of the Cold War. The film opens at a military warehouse in the Nevada Desert, where Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is coerced into helping the Soviets find a mysterious artifact. Led by Colonel-Doctor Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), the Soviets believe the Crystal Skull could grant them the ultimate power and Indy does what he can to stop them.

The opinions on Indy 4 are so mixed and I can understand why: this is not a film everybody will love or hate. While some people may be on the extremes, I think most will be caught in the big wasteland between, not completely writing it off and hating it, but also not proclaiming it as the greatest movie ever made. It’s been 15 hours ago since I saw Indy 4 (including a good night’s sleep) and I’m still analyzing and going over the movie in my mind, trying to figure out how I precisely feel about it.

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Indy and Mac

The best part of the movie are the action seqeunces. Indy 4 has some fun, exciting scenes and nobody can deny the brilliance of those moments. The car chase (this is not a spoiler, it’s an Indiana Jones movie, you knew there would be a car chase) in particular is exhilarating, except for some minor monkeying around. The whole film is beautifully shot, in and outside those action scenes. Indy 4 cleverly makes use of reflections and shadows, creating a visually stunning movie.

Acting wise the film is solid. The cast are all comfortable in their roles and you can see the delight they must have had while filming this. Harrison Ford may look his age, but his Indy is still as charming and kicking ass as no other. Spielberg and Lucas weren’t lying when they said the character would stay true to its roots. Indiana Jones remains the same Indiana Jones, even though he’s now a little older and slightly slower. I was expecting the worst of Shia LaBeouf, but his character Mutt Williams fit into the movie. I’m warming up to his performances and I do think he could go on to do great things (as long as one of them isn’t an Indy spin-off). Karen Allen literally lit up the screen whenever she was on; mainly because of a big goofy grin I couldn’t fail to love (I can see though that some people might find it irritating). Cate Blanchett is lovely as the evil Soviet agent. Yeah, lovely, not really a compliment for an “evil” character. While there wasn’t anything wrong with her performance, her character missed the intensity of the “bad guy” you love to hate. But that’s got more to do with the script than anything else.

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Indy, Mutt and Marion

And that’s where the Indy 4 suffers: the script. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going to go into detail here, but the plot feels shaky at the best of times. Especially the last act is what withholds me from truly loving this movie. What I don’t understand is that the reason Spielberg and Lucas waited so long with making Indy 4 is that they were waiting for a “good” script. If this was a good script, how the hell did the bad ones look like?

I can’t say if you will enjoy Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. This is one movie everybody must see, just to determine their own opinion on it. It goes without saying you should see it in the cinema; visually the movie is outstanding and for that alone I would recommend it. It’s a great summer movie and a worthy Indiana Jones movie, but I can’t help but wonder how will we look back at Indy 4 in 20 years time?

Review: Iron Man

May 5th, 2008

Last Friday I went to see Iron Man on opening night at the Odeon on Leicester Square together with a big group of fellow geeks and bloggers, including Cristiano (of course), LJ, Sizemore, Whatleydude and a whole bunch of others. Suffice to say that it was a pretty great experience and this is one movie you must see in the cinema.

Iron Man - Poster

Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, a genius playboy millionaire and CEO of the weapon developing Stark Industries. While he is the brain behind his company inventing many of the high-tech items himself, Tony is the stereotype millionaire: a hard drinking, gambling ladies man without a care in the world. That is, until he gets captured by terrorists in Afghanistan and is forced to reproduce one of his own missiles. Stark instead secretly develops a way to free himself, which puts him on his path to become Iron Man.

As a lot of people have been saying, I do think Iron Man is one of the best comic book adaptations so far. Unlike most superhero movies it stayed true to the comic books, without trying to make it more grittier and real, yet also without making it look cheesy. That being said, the visual effects in this movie are stunning. Not once did I have the feeling I was looking at CGI; everything seemed fluent and realistic. There also weren’t any unnecessary CGI scenes in it; sometimes with other movies it seems to me as if certain battles go on forever or that certain scenes are in it, pure for the sake of doing “some cool CGI”.

Iron Man - Tony Stark

I don’t think this movie would have worked with anybody other than Robert Downey Jr. in the role of Tony Stark. This is one character he was born to play and, boy, does he play that character well. Downey brings a lot of his own personality to Stark, playing the millionaire-turned-superhero pitch perfectly. With Iron Man in the cinemas and Tropic Thunder coming up, I think we’ll remember 2008 as the year Robert Downey Jr. became a movie star.

While it is Downey’s movie, the performances of the other actors are also all top-notch. Gwyneth Paltrow is cute (although perhaps a bit smiley) as Stark’s assistant Pepper Pots and makes their relationship believable. One question: was it all makeup or does Paltrow really have freckles, but always covers it up? Jeff Bridges is almost unrecognizable as Stark’s mentor Obadiah Stone, even shaving his head for the role. Then there’s Terence Howard as Stark’s military friend Rhodey. While he isn’t featured that prominently in this movie, I know we’ll be seeing that character and his alter-ego War Machine in future sequels.

Iron Man - Tony Stark 2

My only small gripe with this movie is parts of the plot. At times it was a tad predictable and to me the science sometimes seemed a bit off (although I’m sure a true Iron Man fan will be able to explain it all to me). The largest problem I had though wasn’t with the movie at all, but with it’s trailer. Seriously, how much can you give away? Besides showing a lot of the action sequences, most of the funny moments were featured in the trailers. Then they also took a bit of a scene from the final scene in the movie! Why?!

On a personal note (please don’t hurt me now), I didn’t love this movie as much as almost everybody else I’ve heard talking about it. It’s not that I don’t like Iron Man or that I don’t find it a great movie, but for me something was missing and I can’t seem to pinpoint exactly what. Typically when I love a movie, I come out of the cinema with this childlike glee and giddiness. And with Iron Man I didn’t get that feeling. Not sure why, cause it ticked off all the right boxes (maybe I’m just more of a Batgirl).

Iron Man - Armor

All in all, though, Iron Man is a great blockbuster movie. It’s up there as one of the best superhero movies ever. Plans have already been announced for a sequel to be released in 2010, so Tony Stark is here to stay. Try to catch it in the cinema, cause this is one movie where you’ll want the big screen experience. One more tip: stay seated until after the end credits, there’s a brilliant little extra you can’t afford to miss.

Thanks to Sizemore, I got an invite for a bloggers screening of Forgetting Sarah Marshall last night. I had seen the trailers and read early reviews on it, so I went in with the feeling I would like this movie. I didn’t expect though that I’d be laughing so much! It’s by far one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Poster

Peter Bretter (Jason Segal) is devastated when he gets dumped by girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kirsten Bell), star of a hit TV show. In an attempt to get over her he takes a vacation to Hawaii, only to discover Sarah is there too… with her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). While trying to avoid and forget about Sarah, Peter enjoys the companionship of the laid-back resort employee Rachel (Mila Kunis) and a myriad of other characters.

Let me get one thing clear first: the movie seems as if it’s a romantic comedy, a chick flick, a boy-meets-girl story. It isn’t. While Forgetting Sarah Marshall does have a couple of these elements, it is first of all a solid good comedy. Initially I was surprised to see that more than half the attendees of the screening were woman (which for the geek crowd is still quite rare), but I’m guessing most guys are thinking this isn’t a film for them. Trust me when I say it is. There’s a sliver of an emotional message in it, but don’t let that put you off and miss the hilarity that takes up most of the film.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Jonah Hill and Jason Segal

That being said, the movie is funny. Very funny. As I said before, I don’t think I’ve laughed this much during a film in ages. At times the audience was so in stitches that I couldn’t hear some of the next lines. A lot of the jokes are sexually laden, but in a good way. The jokes are more mature than the standard bodily fluids, high schoolish, There’s Something About Mary type of jokes you normally get in comedies from recent years.

Almost all the main actors are fairly unknown in the realm of movies, but they all prove they have the caliber to belong on the big screen. I like Jason Segal in How I Met Your Mother, but I didn’t think he could carry the weight of a movie as a leading actor. This role though is tailor-made for him. Literally. Besides starring in the movie, Segal also wrote the screenplay, weaving his own experiences throughout the story. No big surprise then that he fits so right in the role. One of Segal’s next projects will be to revive the Muppet movies and after seeing this film, I’ve got confidence he’s the perfect person to take that on.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Kirsten Bell and Russell Brand

Kirsten Bell (Veronica Mars, Heroes) and Russell Brand are great as the ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Both characters avoid falling in the predictable stereotype roles and are more nuanced than you would expect. Sarah Marshall isn’t a complete spoiled, pampered Hollywood starlet and Bell manages to make her likable and hatable at the same time. Russell Brand really surprised me. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s an English comedian and I know quite some people who thoroughly dislike him. Here he plays a similar character to how we usually see him and yet, it works. I couldn’t imagine any other person playing Ardous Snow and he delivers some of the best lines of the movie.

Mila Kunis (That 70’s Show) is adorable as the easygoing Rachel and her chemistry with Segal works really well. The supporting characters are also brilliant with a wide range of familiar faces: Bill Hader (Superbad, SNL), Jonah Hill (Superbad, Knocked Up), Paul Rudd (Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin) and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock). Looking at the names you can clearly see it’s a Jude Apatow produced movie and in this case that’s not a bad thing.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Mila Kunis

I could tell you a lot more about Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the movie for everyone. There are certain scenes that are just unforgettable and outrageous, describing them would never do them justice. This is a movie you have to see and I recommend it to anyone who wants a couple of hours of pure fun. Again: don’t leave your seats when the credits start rolling. There’s a little scene during the credits you’ll also want to see.

[rating: 4.5/5]