Category: Theatrical Reviews

Breaking Dawn Part 2 Review

poster from the Summit Entertainment film Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2

I’ve seen all the Twilight movies and read all the Twilight books, mostly so I can criticize them properly. I have to admit that the first and third movies were almost tolerable, which made them much better than the books. Breaking Dawn 2, which deals with the most interesting, most potentially exciting, biggest letdown half of the last book, also had the potential to be an almost decent movie.

Vampire Bella and her new family of wolves and vampires form an army to protect her half-vampire child against the murderous vampire ruling class.

The posters bill Breaking Dawn 2 as “the epic finale that will live forever,” but now that I’ve seen it I have to report that these taglines were misprinted (I blame autocorrect). They should have read “the insipid finale that will feel like it goes on forever.” As you might expect, this is a movie only fans will like.

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Skyfall Review

poster from the MGM film Skyfall

First of all, I should warn you that I am not a Bond fan. I like the movies in the sense that I always go to them, but the misogyny and clichés bother me and I always hate the psychedelic credit sequences set to wailing, on-the-nose, ballads. My favorite Bond movie is Goldeneye, precisely because it doesn’t take it self so seriously. They went for more grittiness with the Daniel Craig films, and while I liked Casino Royale, I thought Quantum of Solace was terrible, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bond 23.

After M loses a hard drive containing the names of all the NATO undercover agents, Bond must return to save the service that left him for dead.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you it’s pretty good. Better than Quantum of Solace, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Casino Royale, even though it tries to follow the Batman franchise’s example and tunnel further down into the land of darkness and grit.

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Wreck It Ralph Review

poster from the Walt Disney Animation Studios film Wreck it Ralph

I played my first video game on the Commodore 64 my grandparents bought for us when I was five. It took me a while to wear my parents down, but eventually I managed to get a Nintendo for our house, followed by a Sega Genesis, a Super Nintendo, and so on. What I’m getting at is that I was a child of the gaming 90s, so when I saw how many of my favorite games had cameos in Wreck It Ralph, I just had to go. Though to be fair, the Disney story would have hooked me anyway.

A destructive bad guy in an arcade game longs for friends and praise, so he leaves his game to earn a hero’s medal in another, throwing the whole arcade into disarray.

As I suspected, though Wreck It Ralph is billed as a kids’ movie, the setting and characters are obviously geared toward the children of the 80s and 90s, who are now twenty and thirtysomethings with kids of their own. This doesn’t mean today’s kids won’t enjoy it, it just means that you can take your kids and everyone will have a great time.

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Sinister Review

poster from the Summit Entertainment Film Sinister

I chose Sinister this week over Paranormal Activity 4 and Alex Cross because the “real” movie critics (the ones who get to see things before they’re out) have been using words like “scariest movie of the year” to describe it. It’s really hard to scare me these days – I’ve seen so many horror movies that I’ve gotten too good at figuring out what will happen. Plot-wise, Sinister seems like more of the same.

A true crime writer moves into a former crime scene and discovers that the family who were killed there may be part of a series of supernatural murders.

And I was right. It was predictable, at least in terms of the plot. There were no surprises there. But what did surprise me was how tense they managed to make it anyway – and how startling and horrifying the reveals were when they finally came. So as a horror movie, it’s definitely got the horror part right.

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Argo Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Argo

I think Ben Affleck is a great director (and a pretty good actor, too, though not a lot of people seem to agree with me on that one), so I was excited for Argo. Argo is based on the memoirs of a CIA officer who engineered the rescue of several American embassy workers from the Canadian ambassador’s house during 1979 Iranian hostage crisis – a story that was only recently declassified and is almost too crazy to be true:

A CIA agent creates a fake science fiction movie as a cover to extract six escaped embassy workers out of hostile Iran.

My excitement was dampened a bit when a Toronto Film Festival reporter wrote an article about how some Canadians were so upset by the portrayal of Canadians that Ben Affleck actually changed one of the closing title cards, but now, having seen it, I can say that those people were overly sensitive and that Argo is terrific.

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Frankenweenie Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Frankenweenie

I haven’t seen the live action short from 1984 that this movie is based on, but I have seen and liked a lot of other Tim Burton films (Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands, etc.) so I felt pretty confident picking Frankenweenie over Taken 2 and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The story seems like your typical Tim Burton fare:

Young Victor Frankenstein brings his dog back to life, inspiring the other students in his class to try and one-up him by creating monsters which want to destroy the town.

Frankenweenie has the same feel as Burton’s other movies, heartfelt and cute yet vaguely (and in some parts, not so vaguely) unsettling, which sets it apart from other children’s movies (except Paranorman). However, Frankenweenie falls down in the “message” department, because it doesn’t really seem to be sure what point it wants to get across, which makes it not as good as Paranorman.

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Looper Review

poster from the Endgame Entertainment film Looper

It was hard to decide what to see this week. I wasn’t keen on Looper, since it was a time travel movie and it would probably stop making sense at some point. But I was hearing great things about it and not so great things about my other two choices: Hotel Transylvania and Won’t Back Down. So in the end, I did see Looper. The trailer didn’t give me much of the story, which is actually quite a lot like The Terminator, with the part of Skynet played by mobsters.

To save his own life, an hit man must track down and kill his future self, who has come back in time to kill a child who will grow up to be a powerful mobster.

I wasn’t expecting much from Looper, and not just because it’s a time travel movie. It also stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis (two of my not favorites) and is set in a world where mobsters control time travel, yet use it only to dispose of bodies. But it actually turned out to be pretty cool. It even made a bit of sense.

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Dredd Review

poster from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

As I’ve probably mentioned before (ad nauseum), I’m not a fan of Sylvester Stallone’s. I do remember watching the old Judge Dredd, but I don’t remember caring enough find out that it was based on a comic book. Now that comic book movies are big moneymakers, they’ve dreddged (get it? Dreddged??) up the franchise and given it the modern FX treatment. The story is different:

Two judges, a veteran and a rookie, are trapped inside an apartment complex by a gang leader while trying to make a drug bust.

The 90s one was about Judge Dredd getting framed for murder, I think. Both make sense in terms of the world, which is a humungous lawless post apocalyptic city policed by judges who are actually more like executioners than anything else. It sounds like a token smashy smashy, but I really liked it.

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Resident Evil Retribution Review

poster from the Constantin Pictures film Resident Evil Retribution

It was a slow week for movies, so once again I find myself reviewing the latest Resident Evil Gong Show. For those of you who can’t keep track of their random vaguely threatening compound word naming scheme, it’s #5 in the series, which is based on a series of zombie video games. 5 picks up from where 4 left off, but if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry. They recap. A lot.

Alice must fight her way through various global outbreak scenarios in order to escape the Umbrella Corporation’s secret underwater testing facility.

The Resident Evil series is known for nonsensical plots that are somehow both overcomplicated and simplistic, stupid viruses that do things viruses don’t really do, and for prominently featuring a mindlessly evil corporation with a propensity for pasting little pictures of umbrellas all over everything. Number 5 is more of the same.

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The Words Review

poster from the CBS films movie The Words

It’s a pretty slow time for movies. The summer blockbuster season is over and the Oscar season hasn’t yet begun, so this is when studios sneak out films that even they know aren’t that great. This week I went to see The Words. I picked it because everyone was saying Bradley Cooper was actually good in it, and it’s about writing.
A struggling writer must face the consequences of his choice when he finds an old manuscript about a young soldier in Paris after the war and passes it off as his own.

With the war connections and the “writer at an event” framing device and the novel that documents a real life tragedy that happened in the past, The Words is trying really hard to be Atonement. Unfortunately, although The Words spends an awful lot of time talking about how moving everything is, it never quite gets around to actually being moving.

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