Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Road (book)

I actually read this book before I started blogging, but it was a good book and I wanted to put my short review out there.

This was an Oprah book of the month, which made me really hesitant to read it. But the premise behind the book (post apocolyptic world) made it interesting enough for me to pick it up.

It was very strange how the whole book was written without any quotation marks. But after a few pages I got used to it.

It's just a father and a son, trying to survive in a world where it rains ash and people would kill you if you had two beans in a can. It was very real and I really got to know the characters. There was one really touching scene in which the two find an old storm cellar full of food. I never thought I would cry when I read that a 10 year old ate a canned peach, but I did.

I would say that the style of this book is more for the literary fiction crowd and not so much the sci-fi crowd. But I do think both parties would enjoy the book.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (minus half a point for some drag, and seemingly repeated scenes)
My Rating: Get it. Read it.

Empire (book)

I have now read thirteen books by Orson Scott Card. Next to Dean Koontz, he is my most read author. I think I've decided that will change after reading Empire.

First, let me give you my rating. When it comes to fiction, I think you should know what I thought of a book before reading why.

My Rating: 2.5/5
My Recommendation: Skip It

Okay, now that you're going to skip this book (because you hang on my every word and recommendation), you won't mind a few spoilers.

This book started off great. Terrorists, presidential assassinations, guns, explosions, etc. And to top it off there was some great insight into how our democracy in America is devided between blue-staters and red-staters. Actually very interesting stuff.

And then the mechs came in. There is NOTHING in this book to suggest that it is in the future. As far as you, the reader, are concerned, this is modern day. There is no mention of anyone having any kind of superior technology, but suddenly men in ROBOT COSTUMES start destroying New York City. Are you KIDDING ME? It was like Robot Jox suddenly jumped into an up-until-then great book.

Okay, so the rest of the book had been good so far, maybe I can overlook the absurdity of mech warriors. So the main character drives away and looks in his rear-view mirror, only to see that he is being chased by HOVER BIKES. WhAt?!?! Where did those come from? Since when do we have the technology for hover bikes? There was no mention of this sort of technology existing in the world Card created. Not to mention that the fact that they hovered played NO part in the plot.

These two outrageous things made the book cheesy and absurd and I found it difficult to digest the rest of the book. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that after half the book was done, he killed off the MAIN CHARACTER (sorry, I told you there'd be spoilers)! You don't just get a reader invested in someone and then kill him off. After that it was difficult to keep reading because you just didn't care about the rest of the side-characters who were now taking over the remainder of the plot.

On the lighter side, Card had some great political isight. His whole idea about how America just might end up in a civil war seemed fairly plausible and intreguing. Along with that, I really enjoyed his layers and layers of stories. This was not a one-dimensional story (this happened, then that happened), but it was deep and intricate, even if often predictable.

It took me 6 months to read this book. I think I read 2 or 3 complete other books while reading this one because I couldn't seem to get through it. I blame Christmas for making me finish it finally--I got some new books and I wanted to tie up loose ends before starting on the new stuff.

Another thing that I have noticed with Card lately is this (warning, blatant bragging and pride about to come forth): I feel that I can write as good as or better than OSC. He's not a terrible author by any means--I wouldn't have read 13 of his books if he was--but I do feel that his writing is inferior to other authors I've read, Dean Koontz, Stephen Gould, Stephen King, to name a few. There are so many times that I read a passage and find myself jarred out of the story thinking "I could write that so much better." When that happens, I've stopped reading, I've stopped believing the book is temporarily real. I don't profess to be the best author on earth, I mean, hey, look how many novels I've published. But this is a recocurring thing with OSC: when I read his books, all I can think about is that I can do better.

So why 2.5 stars? Like I said, it wasn't ALL bad. There were quite a few redeeming values and parts of it were somewhat entertaining on some levels. I've read MUCH worse books. But remember, 2.5 is still 50%. That's an "F" in my line of work.

My recommendaiton: Skip this book. If you like (or want to like) OSC, go read the Ender's series. While I'm unhappy with OSC at this moment I still claim that the Speaker for the Dead series are some of my most favorite books I've ever read.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Flight Before Christmas

Worst. Kids. Christmas. Movie. Ever.

This isn't so much of a movie per se, but a one-hour kids "movie." It's cgi animated and is the story of a little raindeer whose dream it is to fly someday and join Santa's team.

But here's the thing: the reindeer asks who his daddy is and his mother tells him, in more words or less, that she had a one night stand with someone on Santa's team, and BAM he was born.

Great, so now we've glamorized adultry to kids.

The little reindeer finally makes it to the north pole and finds Santa's reindeer where he is quickly shunned and belittled because he can't fly. He's a nobody and the other reindeer leave him, sad, all alone in the snow. But then he jumps off a cliff after a friend, only to find that he CAN fly, and BAM suddenly all the other reindeer are his best friends!

So aside from adultry, this movie has now taught my daughter (who LOVED this "Bambi" movie) that you should shun people and reject people if they're not as "cool" as you and only accept them if they're as "good" as you.


In reality this was a cute movie on some levels. In spite of these HORRID lessons taught in a KIDS movie, it was cute. That said, however, there are many better holiday movies you can show your kids this year.

My Rating: 1/5
My Recommendation: Skip it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

James Bond: Quantum of Solace (movie)

I love Bond flicks. Who doesn't? No matter how many they make, they are always entertaining and somehow, suprisingly, they manage to drum up newer and newer ways for action scenes to be at least somewhat original.

This was the "chase" movie in my opinion. They had some pretty good chases on foot, in cars, on boats, and even one in airplanes. These writers didn't let any idea pass over thier desks without snatching it up.

Daniel Craig did a great job, of course. But I do miss the nonchelant, nothing worries me, suave smile of Pierce Brosnan. I didn't start watching Bond movies until Pierce's first movie so for me, he is my Bond in the same way that Christopher Reeve is my Superman. I love Daniel Craig, but he just seems so emotionally distraught by everything around him. It's like a new side of Bond: inner termoil.

Now for the negative stuff. The movie took place in La Paz Bolivia, where I lived for 2 years. The problem is that none of the movie was actually filmed in Bolivia, and it was very apparant to someone like me who spent so much time there. Thankfully these things would not be noticed by others. The hats the "Bolivian" women wore were so obviously peruvian. The streets in the movie were all paved (95% of Bolivian streets are stone or dirt, rarely do you find a paved road).

And one more thing: What the heck is "Quantum of Solace" and what does it have to do with this movie? It was never explained (or if it was, it was brief and not obvious). I would have rather this movie been called: "Bond Blows Up Bolivia." That would fit nicely.

My Rating: 4/5
My Recommendation: Rent it. Buy it if you're a Bond fan, Rent it if you want a good popcorn flick for a night.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Incredible Hulk - 2008 (movie)

Well let me start out by saying that this film far surpassed its 2003 predecessor--but I expected no less from Edward Norton.

The Incredible Hulk did something AMAZING in the first 5 minutes of the movie. It did something that Superman Returns sorely lacked. This was, in fact, a sequel to the 2003 film, which I was not expecting (I thought it was going to be a reboot). But instead of just assuming that everyone knew the back story and going on (like Superman Returns did), they spent about 5 minutes flashing newspaper headlines and flashbacks to remind (or even tell) audiences what the upcoming move was based on. After seeing this superbly played out, I sincerely believe that if Superman Returns had used this same tactic, it would have been twice as successful as it actually was.

The Incredible Hulk was super entertaining, had pretty good (though not perfect) cgi, and some awesome action and fight scenes, but it was not without its flaws.

Edward Norton is pretty much great in every movie he's in, and while this was no oscar-worthy performance, he did a fine job. The movie was complete with a great King Kong scene on the cliff in the rain, a cameo by Lou Ferrigno (original Hulk from the 1978 TV series), and of course a cameo by Stan Lee, and even paraded Liv Tyler's pouty-face, slow-walking, teary-eyed poor excuse for acting.

If I had to find flaws in the movie (other than Liv Tyler), it would be, one, why on earth can't the Hulk talk when he becomes the Hulk? He suddenly becomes Frankenstein or something. Weird. And two, the plot. While a pretty awesome movie, the plot was basically: "Me am green monster, Army chase me. The End." Aside from VERY small side stories here and there, that was basically the premise of the movie. Oh well, guess you can't win them all.

My Rating: 4/5 (for poor plot and some bad cgi -- though most of it was good)
My Recommendation: See it! Great movie. Maybe rent it. I'm on the border between rent and buy. I guess it depends if you're a super hero fan or not. If you're not huge into super hero movies, then just rent it, you'll still like it. If your a hero-nerd like me, buy it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Eagle Eye (movie)

If you know anything about me, you know I love conspiracies and shadow governments. Eagle Eye was about a computer that has access to EVERY form of media and can basically control the country by itself by hacking into cell phones, survelaince cameras, etc.

Shia LsBeouf (Transformers, Disturbia) did a good job. I like him as an actor, though I'm starting to think he plays the same character in every movie.

The plot was only somewhat original. I felt like I had seen most of it in other movies. The computer was basically a straight copy of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, right down to the scene in which the computer has to read lips in order to "hear" what they're saying.

The action scenes were very well done but I felt that they were too few. I expected more in a movie like this.

My Rating: 3.3/5
My Recommendation: See it. 3.3 may sound low but hear me out: this was not a top-notch movie and doesn't belong on anyone's top 10 list of all-time greats, but it was very entertaining and well worth your time. I say Red Box it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cocoon: The Return (movie)

I finally got around to watching this movie. This is the sequel to Cocoon, which I reviewed before. As it turns out, I had seen this movie before. I remembered things as they happened.

As was the first, this was a cute movie--though this one was a bit more cheesy than the first and the story line was not nearly as deep. Keep in mind, however, that this was in the era in which sequels were never as good as the originals. Only in our modern day do we find sequels that live up to, or even surpass, thier predecessors.

The best part about Cocoon: The Return, was that the original cast was completely in tact. I would have liked a more involved, deeper plot, and it would have been nice to see the alien planet or some more of thier powers and abilities, etc.

But it is what it is. And what it is, is cute, but perhpas not worth your time unless you're incredibly bored as I was today. Plus I'm a sucker for a sci-fi so I kind of felt obligated to see it. :P

My Rating: 1.5/5 (somewhat entertaining, only based on the fact that I sort of liked the first one)
My Recommendation: Skip it. Not skip it like it was bad or terrible, but there are so many other great movies you could fill your time with instead. Otherwise, catch it on TV... if you're really bored. :)

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Recruit (movie)

When this movie came out I really wanted to see it but never got around to it. Some friends told me it wasn't as good as it looked in the previews. I, however, like to make my own judgments as I have hated many movies that most people liked (a la Phantom of the Opera) and I've liked many movies that most people hated (a la Starship Troopers).

The Recruit was a good movie. It kept me guessing throughout. The setup of the movie is that Colin Ferrel goes through CIA training camp where he's given lots of tests. Then he's put on a real assignment but, no, it's a test. Then he's put on a REAL real assignment, but is it really a test?

The premise itself seemed to be predictable. About halfway through the movie felt I was being really clever in determining what was fake and what was real. I thought I had it all figured out. But, thankfully, the direction and writing did in fact keep me guessing. I won't venture to say that it was the most unpredictable movie ever, but it held its own.

It's tough to say too much about the movie without giving things away. But I will say that the ending was quite anti-climactic. The buildup was intense and deep. Twists and turns seemed to be the norm right up to the end. When you find out who the bad guy is and who is really behind everything it just leaves a sour taste in your mouth. It didn't live up to the expectation that they promoted, in my opinion.

Colin Ferrel and Al Pacino both gave great performances, but if you want a REALLY GOOD movie that keeps you guessing as to what is fake and what is real, I recommend: The Game. Now THAT was a fantastic movie.

My Rating: 3.9/5 (I was all ready to give this a 4/5 for it's entertainment, acting, direction, execution, etc, but that ending was anticlimactic enough to send it into the "3" realm for me)

My Recommendation: Rent it. It's worth a viewing. It's a fun movie for a night at home.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Breach (movie)

This is the true story of FBI agent and tratior-spy, Robert Hansen. The plot: internal affairs hires a secretary/clerk for Hansen who spys on him, looks through his stuff and tries to find incriminating evidence against him... umm.. what else... oh, nope, that was everything.

Here's the problem: it was based on a true story. Now, that fact alone was enough to peak my interest enough to watch the movie all the way through. As you know, something that is real or plausible tweaks my reality nerve. But it wasn't enough.

The fact that it was based on a true story, I believe, was in itself its own demise. The reason is because in real life (apparently), NOTHING HAPPENED! While interesting to some extent... it was in fact BORING.

I hate to say this, but, other than the very end (which you can probably guess easily), I've already told you the WHOLE MOVIE.

My Rating: 1/5 (I didn't hate the movie, but then again I don't hate many movies at all)
My Recommendation: Skip it. It's slow, depressing and not worth your time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Live Free or Die Hard (Movie)

John McClane is my hero. No I didn't say John McCain. But I digress...

I just saw Live Free or Die Hard (finally) and all I have to say is WOW! This honestly has to be the best shoot 'em up blow 'em up action movie I've ever seen. I think it was better than Eraser in that category if only for the modern aspect of the visual effects.

John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, is the best action hero ever. He tops James Bond, Ethan Hunt, and Rambo, and here's why: the guy just walks around and does some seriously AWESOME stuff all in the name of nonchalant luck. Rambo and the Governator had attitude and seriously big guns and you could tell they weightlifted 23 hours a day. James Bond, Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne are highly trained special ops spies. But John McClane is a city cop. He has no skills but always seems to come out the winner. And let me tell you: it ain't boring to watch how he does it.

This is by far (in my opinion) the best of the Die Hard films. It had funny moments in which I laughed out loud (which hardly every happens with me). There was a great scene in which the Keanu Reeves character convinced the OnStar person to start the car for him. If you've seen the film, you know what I mean. You know, the kid was a bit cliche but I have to admit that I found him funny and entertaining. Good job, kid.

There were also some amazing moments of action, too many to name, but one that comes to mind is when McClane drives an SUV into an elevator shaft and proceeds to make it out alive. And of course there's this one here (pictured) in which he drives a police car into a helecopter. Awesome.

And of course, as in every action movie, there were a few unrealistic, yeah-right moments, like when McClane drives up a crumbling freeway bridge, gets demolished by a jet and then just jumps out unharmed.

The movie was about computer hackers and in my opinion it was all done very well. It was not without flaws--even I found a few things that were inconsistant. For example they took all the power down on the whole east coast but I saw a stop-light working in the background. My brother would be able to more accurately tell you how plausible and accurate the computer hacking stuff was portrayed.

If you like action movies, if you like explosions or Bourne Identiy/James Bond style action, sweet moves and amazing feats of incredible and highly unlikely strength and skill... you will LOVE this movie.

My Rating: 5/5 (No question)
My Recommendation: SEE IT. BUY IT.

Monday, August 18, 2008

24 - Season 1 (TV Show)

This show came out one school semester before I went off to BYU. I watched the first 6 episodes or so and loved it. My brother and I would talk about the show throughout the week, speculating and waiting for the next episode. I then went off to college and never saw an episode of 24 again. I've always wanted to see the show.

So now I've finally done it. I just finished watching season 1. It was an amazing show from start to finish. It wasn't perfect but it was well worth my time and I can't wait to start season 2.

What was good:
  • The acting. Everything was believable. No one seemed amateur. Sutherland was awesome, and so was the Allstate Insurance guy that played Senator Palmer.
  • The story. There's actually a "con" with "the story" as well (see below) but it was a "pro" as well. The story was VERY in depth and naturally as a writer I thought about the writing process as I watched. It was very hard for me to conceive of how the writers of the show could put together such an intricate and twisting plot line. Well done guys.
  • Intensity. I love Lost and Heroes because they keep you on the edge of your seat and the story continues from episode to episode as if it were one long movie. 24 fit that same bill. I knew the good guys would win but there was no telling how right up to the last few minutes.
What was bad:
  • The filming. I loved the split screen affect they did, showing a number of things going on at one time, but I kid you not, twice I saw a camerman in plain view off to the side of the screen. One time I had to pause and just stare at it because it was so perposterous. Unbelievable. Fire the guy in the editing room!
  • WARNING. THIS "CON" HAS A SPOILER: Moles. There were a couple of people in the CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) that were moles (working for the bad guys). But the one they revealed at the very end was SO STUPID. There was NO WAY this person was a mole. I can point out a dozen things she did earlier in the show that are perfectly against her end goal if she were a bad guy. There were many times that she went out of her way, on her own, by herself, to help Jack. But if she really wanted him dead, then why did she do those things? It was more than silly. It was perposterous!
  • The Story. It was interesting to see everything happen in real time because you couldn't argue with the fact that a lot of stuff could really happen in 24 hours; you were watching it happen. Still... there was just TOO much stuff that happened in 24 hours. When you sit back and look at everything that happened, it's... just... insane and highly inprobable. On the otherhand, it made for awesome entertainment value.
  • The commercials. This was a mistake right up there with the cameramen off screen. The show takes place in real time. This means that when you go to a commercial your TV will tell you that the time is 8:43:23 and when you come back from commercial it's 8:47:11. Okay so 4 minutes have passed while we were away at commercial. Then why is Jack still closing the same car door he was closing before we went to commercial? Why is the bad guy still loading the cartridge into the same gun? Why is Nina still hanging up the phone after a disturbing phone call? You get my point. While they tried to make a realtime show, including commercial time, they didn't do it correctly. I'm hoping this is a problem they fixed in future years of the show.
So there it is. 24 Season 1 has finally made my list. If you like Lost or Heroes, I HIGHLY recommend this show. Netflix it. Buy it. Rent it. There are even websites online where you can watch it for free.

My Rating: 5/5 (even though I pointed out a bunch of flaws, that was only for the sake of the review. The show was amazing and easily deserving of a 5).
My Recommendation: See above: Netflix it. Buy it. Rent it. SEE IT!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Next (movie)

Anybody that knows my taste in fiction knows that I love science fiction, and that, more specifically, I like the element of time travel.

Next is the story of a man (Nicolas Cage) that can see 2 minutes into his own future. This means he knows exactly where each punch will be thrown in a fight, he knows exactly where bullets will hit him if he walks toward someone firing at him, and he knows if he's going to win at black jack.

It's a very interesting premise and it was portrayed satisfactorily.

The direction and vision were executed well. I had a great time watching Nick Cage view all the possible outcomes of the near future. Especially toward the end they did a great job showing how this all worked.

The acting? Fairly good. The only complaint I would have about this is that Nicolas Cage is a great actor but he only plays one part. Have you ever seen him in a movie? Then you've seen him in this one too. He makes great movies but his performance gets old after the first 124 movies you've seen him in.

The only complaint I have is that the cgi needed a bit of work in the major avalanche scene. There was a lot of apparent green/blue screen work and some sub-par visual FX added in the mix. See the movie and you'll see what I mean. The avalanche looked more like a video game rendition. But if you can look past that, the rest was well done.

It was an action flick but I wouldn't say it was action packed. It was somewhat intense but not edge-of-your-chair intense. The plot was good, but not all that thick.

On another note, the major dilema in the movie was that a bunch of terrorists were going to nuke Los Angeles, but there was never a mention of their motive. WHY did they want to blow up the city? It was all just kind of overlooked.

My Rating: 3.8/5 (even though it's a 3, it's a high 3, almost a 4)
My Recommendation: Rent it (definitely see it but not worth the buy unless you're a fanatic about buying every DVD you watch)

The Andromeda Strain (Movie - 1971)

This is a classic sci-fi movie that takes itself very seriously. Based on the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, this movie was very popular in its day and has also been more recently remade (review coming soon on the remake).

I found the plot interesting even if unoriginal. Then again, it very well may have been original in its day. Have you ever seen Outbreak? This is like an old 70s version of that movie.

It was interesting to see "super advanced" computers whose graphics looked like the Atari.

The acting was nothing to applaud. Every single character (and I mean every character) seemed to be angry and yelling the entire movie. Not very good direction--I'm sure the actors themselves were capable of much more.

The believability was high. Everything, even if a very serious, angry, and non-smiling, was portrayed in a very real-world way.

As I mentioned before, the plot left a bit to be desired. It was paper thin: an alien bacteria enters the atmosphere via a down satellite. It mutates, travels by air, and kills you in seconds. The main characters must figure out how to stop it. That's pretty much the whole movie. That said, I did actually find the movie quite unpredictable. It was shot in a way that you weren't sure if the good guys would actually win. It felt like an long episode of the old Outer Limits in which anything is possible.

Thin plot, not-so-great acting, poor direction, but unpredictable and believable.

My Rating: 2/5
My Recommendation: Skip it (unless you are totally into the classic sci-fi thing, in which case you might as well see it for its nostalgic factor)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TMNT (movie)

As a kid I loved the Ninja Turtles. Who didn't? I had the action figures and I would spend time in class drawing them instead of doing my English or Math assignments. I even loved the three feature movies that were made. Especially part 2. I can't remember what it was about, but I remember really liking part 2.

Naturally I was excited to see this movie when I heard about it. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed.

My biggest complaint was the graphics. They were terrible. It was cgi instead of cartoon, which, in my opinion, brings with it a certain level of expectation. Instead of Final Fantasy cgi, or even Toy Story cgi, the result was more like the opening cinamatics to a video game. You know what I mean, you pop Halo into your xBox or install Age of Empires III on your computer and when you run the program, they play a bit of the story line in cgi movie format (click here for the Age of Empires III opening cinematic example). Well TMNT was like watching a HUGE LONG opening video game cinematic sequence.

It was tough to get past that. The entire movie it was hard to concentrate on the story when all i could see was sloppy cgi work.

The story was shallow. Let me put it this way: Here's the premise: The turtles are older, and no longer a team. They've all gone off to do their own things. Bad monsters start terrorizing NYC.

There, now YOU tell me how the rest of the movie will play out. See what I mean? You can probably accurately tell me exactly what happens for the next hour and a half.

It was, however, slightly entertaining only because I loved the turtles so much as a kid. I really didn't like Raphael's new bad attidude and I felt that his sudden change of heart at the end (oops, did I give that away? Oh, no, you would have predicted it easily in the first 10 minutes of the movie) was too quick, simple, and without premise. It was unrealistic to say the least.

I didn't hate the movie. It was fun to watch in spite of it being basically terrible in every way. If I give a movie a 1/5, to me that says I hate it. So for that reason alone:

My Rating: 2/5
My Recommendation: Skip it

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Across the Universe (Movie)

I grew up loving the Beatles. I practically worshiped them through high school. I not only had all their albums and memorized all of their songs, but I would go to the library, check out books on the Beatles, read them, and memorize them.

When Across the Universe came out, I had to see it.

It is one of my favorite movies of all time. You'll find it in my sidebar on the list of my favorite movies. You'll also find some of the songs from the movie soundtrack in my playlist in the sidebar (the music was so amazing I just had to get the soundtrack to this movie after I saw it -- more on this later)

The story is of the 60s. The war, drugs, the lifestyle, love, music. Coupled with this is a unique way of doing a quasi-musical movie. All the Beatles songs are sung by the main characters rather than just played as background music as in all other movies.

The voices of these actors are amazing. Megan and I watch American Idol religiously but the talent in this movie surpasses American Idol 10-fold.

Aside from the imense talent and extreme entertainment value, the movie is visually amazing. The director has an eye for original scenes and creative exposition. It starts off normal like you'd expect in any movie, but as the plot thickens, so does the visual aspect of the film. You'll just have to see it to see what I mean.

My brother claims that he didn't like it because it felt like they were cramming Beatles songs into the movie just for the sake of cramming them in and that they didn't add to the movie or even belong. While perfectly entitled to that opinion (and I'm sure there are others that will agree with him), I have now seen the movie three times and I am going to have to mostly disagree. You'll notice I said "mostly." I do admit that there is occasionally a scene in which a song is sung and it is a bit overboard and doesn't add to the movie. Still, the vocals and visual aspect is enough to make me overlook that.

This is an amazing movie all around. The acting is perfect. Very believable perforamces by every actor. If I had one complaint it's that the middle portion of the movie (the drug phase) lasts a bit too long. At first, it was very cool to watch how the director would choose to show a drugged-out world using music, colors, singing, etc. It was cool for the first song, okay for the second, over-done for the fouth, and downright annoying for the fourth. Still, a minor setback for an amazing film.

My Rating: 5/5
My Recommendation: Buy it. It's amazing.

Fool's Gold (Movie)

I got talked into watching this movie by Megan and her family on the promise that it was not a chick flick. They were right. In spite of the movie posters and the trailers that advertise this movie it was not, after all, a chick flick.

It was, however, incredibly cheesy and over the top.

The story itself was well thought out, even if a quite generic treasure hunting movie. Have you ever seen Romancing the Stone? I watched that move about 100 times as a kid. This movie was less chick-flicky but had a similar feel to Romancing the Stone... with a lot more modern cheese involved.

For example, the daughter of the billionaire yacht owner was over-the-top ditsy and while they made fun of her dumbness in the movie, I still could not believe that someone in real life would be that stupid.

There was also the bad guy: BigBunny--a gangsta rapper that owned an island in the tropics where this movie takes place. It was absurd. He and his henchmen seemed to be right out of a Home Alone movie and it was painful to watch.

And (must I keep going?) there was a Russian sidekick diver guy that kept showing up in the movie. He too was over-the-top dumb, but even more than that, he had NO ROLE in this movie. I am NOT exaggerating when I say that every single one of his lines and scenes could have been cut from the movie and NOTHING would have felt missing or out of place.

The only redemming quality of this film was the beauty with which it was shot. The surrounding scenery was supurb and the colors used throughout were breathtaking. I'm sure a lot of post-production color correction was involved, but the result was visualy pleasing.

This movie could have been much better done. Make the bad guys more realistic, take the cheese completely out of the movie, get the main characters to take things a bit more seriously, and you've got yourself a quality movie (even if the plot was generic and predictable).

Oh, and p.s., the title of the movie has NOTHING to do with the movie. I'm serious. Nothing.

My Rating: 2/5 (1 point for a visually pleasing film and 1 point for somewhat of an entertainment value)
My Recommendation: Skip it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Hancock (movie)

This movie was full of poor special FX, little to no character development, a lack of motives for anything, cheesy sequences, and too much information packed into a short movie, not to mention it wasn't the deepest plot in the whole world.

I loved every minute of it.

From my comments above you can see that I won't pretend that it was a perfect movie. It had a great deal of flaws but I have two things to say: Will Smith, and Superhero. I love both of these things and this movie brought them together.

The special FX were poor only in thy flying sequences. Apparantly it is difficult to make it look like a man can actually fly. the other FX were actually quite good--especially the downtown fight scene with lighting and tornadoes happening. It was great.

There was a lack of character development and character motive and this was my biggest complaint. Characters just seemed to appear out of nowhere and we were supposed to care about them but there was no time given to developing these characters enough to accomplish that. Here's an example: Hancock bad. He mean. "hey Hancock, you should be good instead." Okay, I try that too now." There you go, I just gave away the first 15 minutes of the movie.

Last but not least, I felt the movie went too fast. Things were just happening left and right. Scenes changed and characters moved on to different ideas and events before you could digest the event that just occurred. The filming and direction seemed too clipped and edited and I would have liked a bit more time spent on each event.

Now that that's out of the way: the movie was great. While it was not Smith's best performance, i would say that it is a nice addition to his portfolio. When compared his other movies such as Legend of Baggar Vance, I am Legend, the Pursuit of Happiness, i Robot, etc etc.... it rounds out his amazing acting ability. Just take a look at his movie list and you'll realize what a stud the Fresh Prince really is.

I loved seeing Hancock do all the things that we all wished Superman could do on the big screen. You know, things like mess with the bad guys, or stop a train by simply smashing into it. That was pretty cool. Not to mention that Hancock seemed immensely more powerful than Superman.

The story line wasn't terribly deep, but it wasn't the kiddie pool either. The guy's got amnesia and you slowly learn about his past. It was a good enough story to keep the interest going.

I must also admit that I found the movie unpredictable. Every turn of events was something that I could not have seen coming.

Over all I'd say great stuff. If you like Will Smith, see it. If you like superheroes, it's a must-see. If you're a movie critic with acute criticism and no taste for rubbish or sub-par literary works... then skip it.

My Rating: 4/5 (maybe 3.7/5 but the extra 0.3 points are for superheroes being cool)
My Recommendation: See it. Rent it. If you're a superhero fan or a Will Smith fan, buy it.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still (Movie - 1951)

I've always wanted to see this movie because it's a classic sci-fi. When I went to see The Dark Knight I saw a preview for a remake of this movie so I thought it was time I finally see the original.

It was entertaining, but if I am to be honest, it was mostly only entertaining because it was a classic. Given what technology they had back in 51, the "special FX" were pretty good (if you call it that). But the story itself was quite thin. Basically a guy comes from another planet to warn Earth and.... oh wait, THAT'S THE WHOLE MOVIE!

The novelty factor was high; the nostalgic factor was high; the story? It left a bit to be desired. I am definitely more excited about the new upcoming version. Click here to see the preview of the new movie.

My Rating: 2/5
My Recommendation: If you're into the nostalgic, black and white movie, classic sci-fi thing, it's a must see. Otherwise, while it was entertaining, I'd say skip it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

21 (movie)

Years back I watched the documentary: Breaking Vegas (which is on my list now to re-watch). It was the true story of a team of MIT students who devised a way to count cards as a team and beat the Vegas system. It was an interesting show.

When 21 came out in the theaters, I was interested in it because I knew the original story.

The movie starred Keven Spacy, Kate Bosworth, and Jim Sturgess--three great actors. I knew going in that the movie would take liberties with the actual story (I had been warned by others) so it didn't bother me that the movie was probably 60% fiction.

It was entertaining and exciting. I love watching people win lots of money. I wish they had gone into more depth on the card counting strategy and showed a bit more of their game play, money earned, and money spent. But as it was, they spend most of the time showing the relationships between the team and what not to do (screw over the team leader).

My Rating: 3.8
My Recommendation: It's worth a rental. Get some popcorn, enjoy the movie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Bourne Ultimatum (Movie)

This movie got my heart beating from the first scene. Intense doesn’t begin to describe it. These guys really know how to write and produce a movie. Not only are the action scenes well-choreographed, but the writing is intricate and exciting.

I’ve always loved movies about conspiracies and near-omnipotent shadow-like governments and The Bourne Ultimatum does not disappoint. This is my kind of movie: full of suspense and action, unpredictable, fantastic cinematography, and a great performance by Matt Daemon—better than (and very different than) his performance in Ocean’s 13.

There was also a fantastic battle between Bourne and another assassin (as there are in all the Bourne movies) in which Bourne almost goes Jackie Chan on the guy, using everything from a phone book to a razor blade to aide him in the fight.

Mostly I just love how awesome and flawless Jason Bourne is. He’s perfect at everything he does and it’s fun to watch that.

If I had to find one flaw, it would only be that this movie, though far better than the second movie and even possibly better than the first, was still basically the same story we’ve seen before: Jason Bourne stays 10 steps ahead of Treadstone (or Blackbriar or whatever current name they have) while they struggle endlessly to keep up, all the while slamming telephones down and grunting in frustration.

In the end, however, it was more than a good movie.

My Rating: 5/5
My Recommendation: Buy it. You NEED this movie. And then watch it again and again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ocean's 13

The Ocean movies are very fun. I just finished watching this one. First, I would have to say that it was very entertaining and better than the second movie. Honestly I thought it paralleled the first movie.

In this one they go back to Vegas and rip off another big casino billionaire. But this time they're not really in it for the money themselves; they just want the casino manager to get screwed.

The way they set the whole thing up is, as expected, very detailed and meticulous. It was far from predictable (except for the fact that you know from the start that Danny Ocean and his crew are going to come out victorious), but if you know the format of these movies, you know that things aren't what they seem. When someone is caught by the gaming commission and exposed, you know that it's a setup. When a plan fails, you know they have a backup plan, etc.

Still, the pace was fast and steady. Drawbacks? Julia Roberts wasn't in this one. I thought she was very good in the first two movies. I also didn't like that they don't really explain how they seem to have access to EVERYTHING. They can get into every room in the casino, they can get ahold of any uniform they need, etc. Also, Danny Ocean and his crew are basically known for having ripped off Terry Benedict in the first movie; there's no way they'd be allowed to just walk around in a new casino and not questioned. It was weird how they just seemed to brush over all of that.

Still, a very good movie and worth your time. A great popcorn flick.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (almost a 5, but hey, I can't give every movie a 5)
My Recommendation: Get some friends together, pop some popcorn and rent it or buy it.

It Could Happen to You (Movie)

This 1994 movie was on tv the other day and I DVR'd it. I'd seen it before but I remember it was kind of an interesting movie and I had nothing better to do. I like Nicolas Cage and he did well in this movie, though it wasn't his best performance.

Mostly I just really like seeing some shmoe win the lottery and it was interesting to watch him give half of it as a tip to a waitress.

Beyond that the movie was quite predictable. You knew he'd end up with the waitress and dump his more-than-annoying, over-the-top wife. The second half of the movie was actually quite boring and seemed to drag on and on as you waited for these things to happen.

Overall, the first half was okay and the last half a bit boring. Plus, it's a bit of a chick flick and that can't help its rating in my department. :P

My Rating: 2.5
My Recommendation: If you've got NOTHING better to do, catch it on TV (but I'm sure you could break out a DVD in your collection that'd be more entertaining.

The Simpsons Movie

I love the Simpsons. I remember watching them as a small child and I'm so glad that the show has stuck around this long.

The Simpsons Movie was incredibly funny though I can't say it was MORE creative than the regular TV show. Still, it was like watching a really good 1.5 hour episode of the Simpons and you can't beat that. I am glad, however, that I didn't pay $10 to see it in the theaters. It was funny, entertaining, well-planned, etc... but it was still just a long episode of the Simpsons.

The only drawback was that I felt there were a few times that they did things or said things merely because they knew they could get away with it in a PG-13 rating. You know, things they couldn't do on TV and now all of a sudden they're like "hey it's PG-13 and we can get away with saying one really bad swear word so let's shimmy one in right here!" It felt contrived to have occasional bad language, an inappropriate innuendo or a quick shot of Bart's... uh... nevermind. They could have done without it; it wasn't necessary. Don't get me wrong, the movie isn't riddled with these things, but when it had them, it stood out because it was out of place.

My Rating: 3.5/5
My Recommendation: Rent it, Red Box it, Netflix it. I wouldn't say buy it... I really liked it but I'm not sure I'd ever watch it again. Then again, if you're a collector like I am, then go ahead, it'll make a nice addition to your collection.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hairspray (Movie)

I heard this movie was good but it was never on the top of my priority list as the title seemed to scream "chick flick." (You'll notice I rarely if ever review a chick flick, because I'm not the biggest fan and therefore don't watch them that often).

In Henderson, at the District, they show free outdoor movies every Friday and Saturday night. With a big grass area for picnic blankets and misters to dampen the dry Las Vegas air, they set up a large projection screen and give out free popcorn. It's awesome.

Last night we went and saw Hairspray at this outdoor theater: It. Was. Fantastic! Aside from the AMAZING music the movie was HIGHLY entertaining. I found my self smiling from ear to ear and laughing throughout the whole movie. Some moments almost brought me to tears and others had me rolling with laughter, but the whole movie gave me goosebumps.

The choreography was excellent, the vocal tallent was awesome and the acting was top notch. I knew John Travolta played a woman because everyone talked about it. But what I didn't know was the Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, James Marsden, and Zac Efron were also in this movie. WOW! There was some AWESOME talent in this film.

Michelle Pfeiffer:
Such a good performance playing (in my opinion) a very different type of character for her that I didn't ever know it was her until I started writing this blog and looked up the cast.

Christopher Walken:
Awesome. I love this guy in every movie he's in but he really cracked me up in this movie. He actually had my favorite line in the movie: "This heart only beats for size 60" (in the context of the film it was really funny).

James Marsden: WOW! Who knew Cyclops could sing??? Honestly I give this guy serious props for his performance. I truly think he found his calling in this movie. I honestly felt that he was better suited for the quirky, silly, up-beat character in Hairspray than he was for Richard White in Superman or Cyclops in X-Men.

Zac Efron: What can you say about this guy? He exudes talent. His role in this movie wasn't all that different from Troy in High School Musical but they dressed him up different and gave him a great 60s haircut and I honestly forgot about his Troy Bolton character. He did an awesome job and I think he's got a future ahead of him.

My Rating:
My Recommendation: SEE IT. Go rent it. It's a GREAT family movie and totally worth your time.

Iron Man (Movie)

I finally got around to seeing this movie. I had heard great things and everyone seemed to say great things about it. I am no exception to the norm.

Iron Man was a well thought out movie and very believable (for the most part). Those of you who know me, know that I am all about a movie that is believable and at least somewhat possible (superhero movies are sometimes the exception to this rule).

Originally, I thought to myself: "Come on, a guy builds a robot suit that is nearly indestructible, can fly, and shoots missiles from his wrists??? That's a bit far-fetched..." But surprisingly I was wrong. The story they wrote and the world they created made these things quite accessible by my imagination.

Iron Man had a great script, great story, and an outstanding performance by Robert Downy Jr. and a GREAT performance by Jeff Bridges. There was never a dull moment and there were plenty of "YEAH!" or "AWESOME" moments that we all wish were in EVERY superhero movie.

Cons: --Spoiler Alert--

If there were any cons at all, I'd say that it was predictable for one. I mean, the plot was fairly generic. I didn't feel that this got in the way of the movie, however. You knew he'd end up with the chick and you knew he'd defeat the bad guy, etc. Also, the one thing that really got me up in a bunch (here comes my realism vein) is that he was able to fly from the US to the middle east and back using only what little fuel he could store in his boots. Come on. I don't care what kind of super powered fuel you created, Tony Stark, it wouldn't be THAT powerful.

My Rating:
My Recommendation: SEE IT NOW!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight (Movie)

I just came from seeing the Dark Knight and I wanted to write while the movie is fresh on my mind. There is a VERY MILD spoiler in the last "con" listed in this review, but everything else is spoiler-free so read with confidence.

First of all. AMAZING. This flick was more than a regular popcorn flick. It lived up to the expectations and overly entertained. It was action packed, full of story, full of twists and turns, and most of all, Heath Leger's performance was PHENOMENAL! It's sad that he's not with us anymore, but he's not getting a sympathy vote from me. He sincerely deserves every acting award in the book for his performance in TDK. See the move for yourself and you'll know what I mean.

  • Awesome action scenes
  • Great story line
  • Excellent acting for everyone
  • Heath Leger's fantastic performance
  • I found it quite predictable. While entertaining, I seemed to know what was going to happen or what was happening before the director wanted us to know. I kept turning to Megan and explaining my theories, only to find them true. There were so many twists and turns in the plot and yet I seemed to see them all coming. This, however, seems to often be the case with me as I know story-telling and I know how movies often work. So I think this is more of a con for me and that most people wouldn't have this issue.
  • The first 20-30 mintues of the movie felt quite slow to me. At first I was thinking "what's all the hype about?" But then it did pick up and the rest was amazing.
  • I didn't feel that Two-face had any motive for what he did. I don't want to say much more than that, but it just felt weird for him to suddenly go two-face on us. It felt contrived and out of place for Harvey Dent's character in this telling of the mythos.
All in all, a FANTASTIC movie and HIGHLY worth the price in the movie theater.

My Rating: 5 out of 5
My Recommendation: Do NOT wait to Red Box or Buy this movie. Go see it in the theater and get the full experience.

Here is a silly/funny NON-SPOILER video clip of how I felt about Heath Leger's performance (be sure to pause the jukebox in the sidebar first):

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Total Money Makeover (Book)

Have you ever picked up a book that really changes your life? I've read a few of them. Aside from the scriptures, books like The Success Principles or The Secret can be very inspiring. But this week both my wife and I read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Dave is a nationally-syndicated talk show host that talks about personal finance and about getting out of debt.

I've got three words to say about this book: IT WAS AMAZING. This book is for everyone. Please take my word on this, I don't care what your situation is, you NEED to read this book. Get it used on Amazon for like $8.

Dave Ramsey outlines in this book how someone that makes as little as $40K, even $30K, even $25K a year (in other words, ANY income) can pay off ALL debt (EVEN YOUR HOME MORTGAGE) and be a multi-million dollar CASH millionaire by the time your retire.

It's not about getting rich. It's about being FREE of debt and the amazing lifestyle that you will live when you have no debt.

Here's a taste of what you will be inspired to do if you read this book:
  1. In 8 months we will have paid off all our debt (other than our house), things like car payment and student loans
  2. In 2 years we will have $10,000 in CASH saved up as an emergency fund
  3. In 10 years or less we will have our house paid off
  4. In 20 years (I'll only be 50 years old), I will retire with millions in the bank
I'm not kidding. Get the book. Read it.

P.s. For those in the Las Vegas Area, starting THIS MONDAY (July 21, 2008) at 7pm the Dave Ramsey Show will start being aired on KXNT, AM 840. Be sure to tune in.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 (or 10 out of 5)
My Recommendation: Stop what you're doing this instant and GO BUY THE BOOK!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cocoon (Movie)

Last night Megan went to a Pampered Chef party so I had a few hours to kill. I haven't seen Cacoon for probably 15 years or so, so I popped it in. It was like watching a completely new movie. I literally remembered nothing about it.

It was very cute. A bunch of old people in a retirement community discover the fountain of youth (alien cocoons in a swimming pool). It's funny and entertaining to see these old folks become rejuvenated. It's also a touching movie about the sanctity of life and the heartbreak of death.

I'd say this is a great family flick, but there is some vulgar humor and even a random (completely unnecessary) butt scene. So save it for the adults, but it's worth a view.

By the way, I just learned that there is a sequel to this movie. Guess I'll have to go check that one out now.

My Rating: 3.8 (maybe 4) out of 5 for it's entertainment value and great soundtrack.
My Recommendation: See it, but I don't know I'd spend $5 to rent it. Get someone else to rent it, or find it in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Darkest Evening of the Year (Book)

Many of you know that Dean Koontz is my favorite author. I've read nearly everything he's written (see list of all books I've read here). So when this book came out, I had to have it... in hardcover. Let me just say: I want my money back. I have read over 37 of Dean Koontz' novels and I must say, this was right up there with his worst.

The Darkest Evening of the Year was Dean's attempt at immortalizing his recently deceased and cherished dog, Trixie. This book was nothing if not a very long epitaph.

80% of the book talks about how wonderful Golder Retriever's are and how they think. Look, I like dogs as much as the next guy, but.... BOOOOORING!

There was little if any plot in this book. No exaggeration, I was about 3/4 the way through the book and still wondering what it was going to be about and when the plot would emerge.

My rating: 1 out of 5 (the "1" is merely because he is STILL an amazing author. Even though the book itself was terrible, the individual paragraphs are still written by the hands of a literary master)

My Recommendation: Avoid at all costs

Ratatouille (Movie)

I recently saw this movie for the first time. I've always loved Pixar movies but this one eluded me, I must admit, because of it's title. I just thought it was a terrible title and difficult to read. And the whole premise (what I could tell from the previews) didn't attract me like Toy Story or Monster's Inc.

I was wrong. This film was excellent. I loved it from start to finish. It is witty, fun, fast paced, and even emotional. I won't say that it had the deepest plot in the world but there's hardly a drawback to this film.

My Rating: 5 out of 5
My Recommendation: SEE IT