December 31, 2013.

This blog is now closed. After three years and 311 posts, I have decided to end this blog. I have enjoyed watching the films, reviewing them, and interacting with global readers.

If you are interested in contacting me, you can do so by commenting on any of the posts. The blog will remain live on the web.
Thank you to all the readers for your comments, ideas, and thoughts. They were helpful, stimulating, and enriching. This is Alene, signing off.

February 24, 2012

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 3D (2012)

When it’s over, this film was so much fun.  This sequel to Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2008) has Sean (Josh Hutcherson) and his stepfather, Hank (Johnson), venturing to an uncharted island in search of Sean’s missing grandfather (Michael Caine).  Yes, it's over the top and much of it is unbelievable, but with a good cast and a straightforward storyline, the fun comes natural and enjoyable.  It's a great family film, because there's plenty of eye candy for the kids and enough silly humour to keep the adults interested, especially between Johnson and Caine.  It’s overdosed with CGI and, of course, 3D effects which keeps the action exciting and fresh.  There are some interesting surprises throughout the film including a musical number sung by Dwayne Johnson with a ukulele.  That was sweet and unexpected.  Plus, Mother Nature offers a new twist to the animal kingdom on this mythical island.  Children will marvel at the animals and adults will appreciate how those animals are integrated into the storyline.  My favourite was definitely the miniature elephants.  They were absolutely adorable.  Can I have one?  Rounding out the supporting cast are Vanessa Hudgens as Sean's love interest, and Luis Guzman as the well casted comic relief.    

My rating:  4 out of 5

Tree of Life (2011)

When it’s over, if you're able to sit through the first act of the film (30 minutes in), then you may find the film does have some real substance.  I have to admit, I went into this film with a tainted mind.  Many of the people I spoke with who saw the film warned me against it and summarized it as being only a picturesque journey.  I almost didn’t sit through this film, but am glad I did.  The film was definitely different, unlike anything I would normally watch, but as the film progressed and passed the majority of what I call “the National Geographic documentary” look-a-like scenes, I started to really gage the symbolism and messages Director Terrence Malick was trying to convey through his very bold and creative interpretation of the origins of life and death.  Water plays a huge role in this film symbolizing birth, cleansing, and being reborn, while the earth represented growth and the natural cycle of life.  These two elements combined suggests that we are all interconnected in some way and tells the story about a fractured 1950’s suburban family whose eldest son, Jack, comes of age and must find a way to reconcile his broken relationship with his father.  The film takes place in two time periods – 1950’s and present day.  Actors Sean Penn plays the adult Jack, and Brad Pitt plays the inattentive father in the 1950’s.  Pitt does some great acting in this role, and newcomer Hunter McCracken was mesmerizing as the troubled young Jack.  With little dialogue and lots of visuals, this film serves to be an excellent film for students to dissect again and again, but for the general viewing audience, it’s either a journey of pure boredom or a renewed appreciation for filmmaking that’s artistically poetic as much as it is daring.

My rating:  3.5 out of 5

February 18, 2012

The Descendants (2011)

When it’s over, I think this is one of Actor George Clooney’s best roles, where he doesn’t resort to charm, sophistication, or sex appeal to sell his character.  I think I rather like this new Clooney, who plays Matt King, a man on the verge of physically losing his wife and who must find a way to re-connect with his two daughters while trying to come to terms with a family secret.  That’s a lot for one character to go through in a 2 hour film, but Clooney pulled it off with silent heroism.  I was surprised by his ability to embody this normal guy, who spent much of his married life clueless and detached.  I think this film will appeal to a wide audience in varying age groups, and it will touch each viewer differently, depending on the person’s life situation, experiences, and age.  For some people this film may be about death, acceptance, and self discovery.  To a younger audience, it may be about rebellion, acknowledgement and attention.  For me, the film was about: (1) Forgiveness - the importance of it even when our hearts don’t desire it, (2) Secrets - the lies and betrayals that bind them, and (3) Family - the important bond that keeps everything in perspective.

My rating:  4 out of 5

Underworld: Awakening (2012)

  When it’s over, having been an Underworld fan for years, I was truly disappointed with this fourth instalment.  The film finds Selene (Kate Beckinsale) being awaken from cryostasis 12 years after the events of Underworld: Evolution to find herself alone and without her lover, Michael.  She learns that humans are raging war on Vampires and Lycans and finds herself up against a new breed of Lycan hybrids made possible by her offspring.  I felt the story had potential, but was mishandled by the writers.  Also, I found some of the supporting cast interesting, but without solid backstories, they were easily forgettable.  It was unfortunate that Actor Scott Speedman skipped on reprising his role as Michael, the Lycan hybrid, since he had terrific chemistry with Beckinsale and the two made a solid pair.  However, his face was digitally imposed on a stand-in leaving way for a possible comeback in future instalments, which, if the production quality of future Underworlds mirror this one, then I foresee the death of this franchise.  With the film running at 88 minutes, it’s no wonder why the film felt so loosely packaged.  Children films may get away with an 88 minute storyline, but a good film usually runs at least 100 minutes and up.  The first three films in the Underworld series were well tied together, each complimenting and adding to the other, while the fourth felt alienated and undeveloped.  I think it's important for the audience to understand through visuals (after all, film is a visual medium) what happened during the years Selene was in cryostasis, and to show this, the writers could have written in flashbacks that would have described the war and the creation of Selene’s offspring.

My rating: 2 out of 5

The Three Musketeers (2011)

When it's over, I didn't like this adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic adventure tale of friendship, loyalty, and deception in France during the reign of King Louie XIII.  This film had it's share of pros and cons with the negative outweighing the positive. 

Here are the pros
- Having Paul W.S. Anderson as director guarantees great action.  His films have always had an element of cohesion and style.
- Notable European actors headlining the cast makes for fun viewing.
- The final sword battle between D'Artagnan and Rochefort was very well choreographed.

Here are the cons:
- I wasn't sold on Milla Jovovich's portrayal of Milady de Winter.  She could have worked harder on an accent.  The costume and the curls made her look "foo-foo-ish."
- I didn't like the Resident Evil slash pirate scenes.  Anderson probably wanted to bring a new look to the film, but I think he should have stayed true to Dumas' vision.
- Young Actor Logan Lerman was unbelievable as D'Artagnan.  Wish his acting was as good as his swordsmanship.  Again, where's the accent? 
- In the book, Cardinal Richelieu is evil and conniving, but the film failed to portray him as such. 

My rating: 2 out of 5


February 10, 2012

Water for Elephants (2011)

When it’s over, what I most remember about this film was the costumes, the sets, and the spectacle of a traveling circus during the 1930’s.  All these elements really set the mood and tone of this story about a young man who becomes homeless and penniless and by fate, ends up taking a job as a veterinarian in a traveling circus.  I was hesitant about Actor Robert Pattinson playing the lead role since everything synonymous to his name is associated with the Twilight franchise, but I was surprised and impressed by his portrayal of Jacob Jankowski, the narrator in Water for Elephants.  Actors Christoph Waltz (August) and Reese Witherspoon (Marlena) completed the romantic triangle.  However, I was slightly disappointed with Witherspoon, not that her acting wasn’t good, but more that she was miss-casted alongside Pattinson.  I think a younger actress would have fit the role better, since the book described Marlena to be relatively young.   I saw this film as a coming-of-age story about a young man who became a real man, and what sets this story apart from other films was really the backdrop.  Since coming-of-age stories are so common in films, having it take place on a train as the circus traveled from one city to another was rather interesting to watch.  I liked the way the film showed how animals were treated, how the performers and workers lived, and how the whole troupe was considered a “family.”  Lastly, I can’t forget to mention Rosie, the elephant.  She served to play an important role in the film, and without her character, the film wouldn't have come together.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

When it’s over, Tom Cruise looks in top form returning as secret agent, Ethan Hunt.  In this fourth installment, the tensions between the US and Russia are high, and when the Kremlin is bombed, the IMF is implicated leaving the US President no choice but to declare Ghost Protocol leaving Hunt and his team unaided.  The team goes rogue and must continue their mission to stop a terrorist from using nuclear weapons against the US.  Joining the team are Jeremy Renner as William Brandt and Paula Patton as Jane Carter, both delivering solid performances.  Simon Pegg returns as Benji, the computer wizard who has been promoted from desk job to field officer.  Benji adds just the right amount of humor and comic relief to make MI – GP from drowning itself in too much action.  This film was non-stop from beginning to end with just enough breathing space to get the story told as the plot hopped from one continent to another.   The stunts were impressive especially the chase scene in the sand storm in Dubai and the car factory extravaganza in Mumbai.  These lengthy scenes were very well choreographed and thought out.  I can’t recall the last time I saw stunts that expertly put together.  And of course, no spy film would be complete without the gadgets, and this film had a slew of cool stuff that sets the bar for future spy thrillers.   

My rating: 4 out of 5

War Horse (2011)

When it’s over, the horse is the true star of the show.  Director Steven Spielberg does a wonderful job at telling the story from the perspective of Joey, the horse that goes from the ploughing fields to the battlefields of WWI.  Sold into the army and separated from his owner, Joey sees and learns the hardships, devastation, and brutality of war on his fellow horses as well as on the humans that ride them.  I found this change in perspective captivating and refreshing, because it offered a different perspective of war, one I don't think as an audience we often see – through the eyes of animals.  In many ways, this film is a coming of age story for Joey - from pony, to work horse, to war horse.  I thought the cinematography was fabulous, thanks to Janusz Kaminski’s keen eye for lighting using a grey palette to emulate despair and the bleakness of war.  The film not only looked believable, but it also successfully pulls you in emotionally, like the scene where Joey becomes tangled in barbed wire in the battle at No Man’s Land.  My heart just went out to Joey, because he had come so far and endured so much, it was hard seeing him suddenly be taken down by barbed wire.  Working with animals on a set is never an easy task, and Spielberg skillfully made it look effortless.  I really enjoyed every minute of it.  Definitely one of Spielberg’s better films.

My rating: 4 out of 5

February 4, 2012

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

When it's over, this is truly a film about the 80's, the fashion, the music,and the mentality.  John Cusack,  Rob Corddry, and Craig Robertson play three high school friends (Adam, Lou, and Nick), who are all down on their luck and who travel back in time to 1986 to relive a fateful night that may or may not change the course of their future lives.  Along for the ride is Adam's nephew, Jacob, who will not exist if the three men fail to do exactly what they did that one night.  I didn't particularly like this film, but I didn't dislike it altogether.  I think the set and costume design were accurate to the decade, and having grown up in the 80's, I can relate to some of the jokes and find humor in some of the scenes, but overall, the film was  rather absurd, much like the title.  If you're looking for some brainless fun and don't mind the culture of the 80's, then you might just "Ohh my gawd!" squeeze some laughs out of this film.

My rating: 2 out of 5