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.

June 28, 2012

Abduction (2011)

When it’s over, Abduction was an attempt to sell Taylor Lautner as a teen action hero and tried to be a spy thriller at the same time.  This was a plus for the young star, but a minus for the later, since the story wasn’t engaging nor was it suspenseful.  Lautner grew up a lot in this film as an actor, but still had awkward moments where his acting seemed forced. But, where he lacked in drama, he got bonus points for performing most of his own stunts.  Having studied martial arts at an early age, Lautner really put those skills to use as he swung, kicked, punched, and jumped to protect himself from the baddies.  Riding off the success of the Twilight series, he managed to shed the Jacob persona and put his best foot forward as Nathan Harper,  a teen who finds himself on the run when he discovers that his whole life has been a lie.  There was a talented cast put in place, such as Sigourney Weaver, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, Alfred Molina, and Michael Nyqvist to support Lautner on his post Jacob film, but even their talents couldn’t save the story from dwindling to oblivion.  In addition, casting Lily Collins as Nathan’s love interest was a big mistake.   No sparks.  No chemistry.  Nothing interesting about their relationship.  Lautner did try his best, though, and his efforts did come through in the energy he projected onscreen, but sadly, it wasn’t enough to make this film soar.  I put a lot of emphasis on Lautner, because I think he, as an actor, not his character, was the one carrying this film, since the target audience was meant to be young adults, mostly female.  That’s a lot of pressure for a young star, and I think if the story had been better developed with stronger character motives, the film would have appealed to greater audiences, giving the young actor the boost he needed to reach A-List status. 

My rating: 2 out of 5

June 23, 2012

Men in Black 3 (2012)

When it’s over, MIB 3 was so much better than the second, offering comedy, heart, and imagination, reminiscent of what made the first successful.  After a 10 year gap, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as Agent J and Agent K as the mind-erasing, alien fighting duo whose personalities are as different as their skin color.  In order to restore Earth’s timeline and prevent its imminent invasion, Agent J must travel back in time to 1969 to prevent the murder of his future partner, the young Agent K (Josh Brolin), from Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), an alien that wants revenge. The film stands alone, and I don’t think viewers need to have seen the previous two films to enjoy this third instalment, but it can be alot funnier if viewers are familiar with the characters.  And it’s definitely the characters that make this film work.  Brolin was brilliant as the young Agent K.  His voice, gestures, and facial expressions mimic Jones’ Agent K perfectly.  Brolin’s believability was impressive.  Emma Thompson as Agent O was refreshing, lending a bit of mystery surrounding her relationship with Agent K.  To be the third film in a relatively successful franchise, I thought the film would be produced on a grand scale, something resembling the massiveness of the Transformers films (2007, 2009, 2011) – bigger toys, bigger machines, bigger everything  – but to my surprise, it wasn’t, and that didn’t hurt the film in the slightest.  In fact, to be considered a summer blockbuster, the film was rather on the small scale in comparison to The Avengers (2012).  Maybe smaller is bigger after all. 

My rating: 4 out of 5

June 15, 2012

Midnight in Paris (2011)


When it’s over, Writer/Director Woody Allen has once again captured the essence of his characters through the most common and peculiar situations.  This was such a feel good film thanks to great storytelling and a talented cast.  In Midnight in Paris, a successful screenwriter, Gil (Owen Wilson), finds inspiration for his first novel by wandering the streets of Paris.  Gil soon discovers that his time traveling midnight strolls make him re-evaluate his life and his upcoming marriage to Inez (Rachel McAdams).  Told with nostalgic charm, the story paints a romantic portrait about desires and fantasies most people can relate to.  Getting the opportunity to go back in time to visit a person you admire or a place that holds special meaning can be an enticing adventure hardly anyone can refuse.  I think that's the appeal of this film.  It's time travel, but it doesn't feel like science fiction.  It's sweet, yet dramatic.  I think Wilson does a good balancing act playing the likable Gil, who is at a crossroads in the present, and Gil, who is tempted to live in the past with the woman (Marion Cotillard) he is falling in love with.  Gil's desire to live in the past is a metaphor for his denial to deal with the problems in the present, and Allen does such a wonderful job blending the seriousness and humor that comes out of his relationships and desires.  One fun thing I noticed in the film - there wasn't a cellphone in any of the scenes!  Wow, can that be possible for a film made in 2011?  If I'm wrong, let me know.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Man on a Ledge (2012)

When it's over, Man on a Ledge didn't keep me on edge.  The film falls victim to a weak story and even weaker characters.  When ex-cop Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is sentenced to 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he decides the only way to prove his innocence is to have a retrial on top of a Manhattan hotel building.  As the police and the public scrutinize whether Nick will jump, a diamond heist is under way across the street.  Interesting premise, but not solid enough to be in the league of heist films such as Ocean’s 11 (2001), Italian Job (2003), Bank Job (2008), or Takers (2010).  There are two stories going on in this film – one, about a man who wants to prove his innocence and two, to steal a $40 million diamond.  The two stories vie for equal control of the film, and because of this, it doesn’t work.  One story has to be stronger than the other, making the other a secondary storyline.  Either it’s a “search for the truth” story first or it’s a heist story first.  It could have gone either way, and would have worked if the film had established it early on and kept on track.  Personally, I would have preferred the “truth” story with the heist story at the sideline, and this was what I thought the film was leaning towards with the opening scene.  However, once the heist scenes were introduced, the character story sort of disappeared and was brought back intermittently.  Some of the better scenes were not of the heist, but the scenes between Nick and Detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), the negotiator who tries to talk Nick out of jumping and who aids Nick in proving his innocence.  Even though their scenes weren’t romantically linked, I thought they had good chemistry as each helped the other in finding the truth and dealing with past regrets.  Ed Harris and Jamie Bell round out the main cast as the corrupt businessman and Nick’s younger brother.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

June 8, 2012

Battleship (2012)

When it's over, what started out as a far-fetched idea of turning a popular board game into a summer blockbuster has in turn, become a fun enterprise of recycled ideas.  Battleship is predicable, cliche at times, and has hardly anything to do with the board game.  But then, the board game has no human characters, and the varying ships become the sole characters in the game.  So, how does that transcend over to the big screen?  Well enough for a film that's meant to entertain.  The film utilizes elements from sources such as Transformers, the Halo series (the popular video game for the XBOX console), and ET, with an added dusting of patriotism.  The story’s straightforward, nothing complex, nothing that provokes the viewer to assume anything other than what’s on the screen.  The drama’s not noteworthy, and the acting’s okay.  Taylor Kitsch plays military well in the leading role as Lt. Alex Hopper, an irresponsible officer who is suddenly thrown into the captain’s chair when an alien armada threatens mankind.  Hopper must put aside his prejudice and dislike for Japanese Captain, Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), when the two must join efforts to command the last destroyer trapped in the alien’s force field.  Despite the film’s bad reviews and criticism, I really enjoyed Battleship.  I liked how the film pays homage to war veterans and soldiers with disabilities by giving them a role(s) and a voice.  Having the story take place in Hawaii added an extra level of conflict in the script, as there were tensions between the American and Japanese naval officers, feelings derived from remnants of the tragedy at Pearl Harbour in 1941. The battle scenes at sea were the best features of the film.  They were exciting, and surprisingly, creative, especially the massive alien balls which served to be indestructible; and of course, the film wouldn't be complete without the inclusion of the battleship grid, taken from the board game when sonar was used to track the aliens underwater. There hasn't been many films released in the past few years involving sea battles, which was definitely the hook for me and works to the film’s advantage. Alexander Skarsgard, Liam Neeson, and Rihanna also star as crew mates.

My rating: 3 out of 5

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

When it’s over, Snow White and the Huntsman had all the elements of the fairy tale I've grown up with as a child - the apple, the kiss, the mirror, the dwarfs – with the added intensity that made it feel darker, creepier, and edgier. The new take on the classic story has Snow White (Kirsten Stewart) on the run from her evil stepmother, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who wishes to claim her heart in order to remain the fairest for all eternity.  However, Snow White isn’t so keen on handing her heart over, forcing Ravenna to enlist the services of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), who must track Snow White down and bring the princess back to the castle.  Hemsworth trades his hammer in for an axe as the heartbroken rogue who becomes Snow White’s protector.  He looks and fits the part, and even in his drunken state, he’s still likable.  Stewart was decent, an improvement from her role in the Twilight series, but I still feel she was miss-casted and doesn’t fit the bill as the “fairest of them all” who goes from beautiful princess to fighting warrior.  Theron was right on as the evil queen.  She did a fabulous job and her performance stands out amongst all the others.  Theron’s successful portrayal was aided by her amazing costumes created by Colleen Atwood, whose brilliant designs captured the sinister heart of the evil queen.  Costumes often help an actor encompass a character lending to stronger performances, and Theron uses the costumes to her full advantage.  The details in each gown tied in perfectly with the film’s references to birds, which were a constant symbol throughout the film depicting the main themes –  hope, despair, life, and death.  The visuals were wonderful and worked to set the mood and tone for such scenes as the Land of Fairies and the Forbidden Forest.  Also, I really liked the visuals done on the droplets of blood, always three drops, and always in contrast to the background.  One thing I was disappointed with in the film was the lack of a love story.  When I think of fairy tales, I generally associate them with some form of love story, especially more so in this case than other tales.  The love story has to be strong, and has to make sense.  The film had the hint of a love story, had the idea of a love triangle, but never really developed it fully.  I was left assuming it, perhaps even knowing it, but never fully engaging in it.  If the love story was really between Snow White and the Huntsman, I certainly didn’t feel it, and that was a let down. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5


June 1, 2012

The Change-Up (2011)

When it's over, this film covers just about every subject under the sex tent - from masturbation to soft porn. Many laughs were had, but it's the usual stuff, the usual raunchiness that only the writers of Hangover (2009) can produce. Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) are envious of each other's lives, and on one fateful night, while they're peeing into a fountain, their wish to switch places comes true sending both men into a panic and eventually, an understanding that the "grass isn't greener on the other side".  The laughs mostly come from the disgusting nature of the scenes, whether it's ingesting baby poop, or farting on the toilet, or some other crude behaviour.  My definite favourite scene would be when the baby throws a knife at Dave, missing him by inches.  Hilarious.  "Body-switch" stories have been made in the past usually consisting of one person considerably younger than the other, and some of these films have met with great success such as 17 Again (2009), Big (1988), and Freaky Friday (1976 & 2003). The Change-Up attempts to transplant this formula into the vulgar world of adult comedy, and does a decent job of it. Both Bateman and Reynolds are fun to watch, but the two men are just too similar.  Yes, they lead different lives in the film, but they're not proportionally or visually different. It would've been interesting to have a pair that was physically different, such as Bateman and Jack Black or Reynolds and Seth Rogan or even mixing the sexes such as Dwayne Johnson and Jennifer Lopez.  Imagine the possibilities of those change-ups. 

My rating: 3 out of 5

Back to the Future (1985)

When it’s over, I consider this first film in the trilogy as one of the best time-traveling films to date.  It definitely makes my top 10 list.  This film was flawless in every way and that had much to do with the unique story, and how the story was told.  With all the twists and turns and unexpected discoveries, the story could have easily strayed off course, but in the capable hands of writers, Robert Zemeckis (who also directed) and Bob Gale, the complex story delivered a smooth finish without any noticeable loose ends.  It had a solid script, an amazing cast, lots of slice of life humour, and comes full circle for story development.  It was not only entertaining and fun, but served to be a commentary on pop culture during its 1985 release – with the music of Huey Lewis and the News, the rise in popularity of skateboarding, Calvin Klein, and references to the current actor turned president, Ronald Reagan.  There’s nothing really bad I can say about this film, except that they don’t make films like that anymore.  BTTF is about getting Marty McFly (Micheal J. Fox) back to 1985 where he belongs after he’s accidentally sent back to 1955 in Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) time-traveling DeLorean.  However, getting back to the future isn’t as simple especially after Marty runs into his teenage parents, who he needs to ensure falls in love, or he will be non-existent.  Also starring, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover.

My rating: 5 out of 5

Chronicle (2012)

When it’s over, with great power comes great responsibility as this film clearly illustrates when three teenagers, Andrew, Matt, and Steve (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan,) stumble upon an unknown substance that gives them telekinetic powers.  The three friends are intrigued by their new gifts, and what starts out as harmless pranks evolves into serious harm to others, when their friendships are put to the test and their darker egos are unleashed.   I had mixed feelings about this film.  I really liked the story and the questions it addressed about responsibility, acceptance, and friendship.  It’s a superhero tragedy without the glory or greatness that superhero films are synonymous for.  But, on the flip side, I think this film would have been much better had it been better structured.  The film had a really good beginning and a powerful ending, but gets lost in the middle.  It spent a lot of time showing the characters learning to use their powers, but doesn’t develop a secondary story that puts the power into the role as a character.  For example, the filmmakers could have developed a side story where the friends decide to use their power to save lives, but without understanding the responsibilities and consequences, the power, instead, is used for selfish gains.  The power becomes a character that moves the story forward, building conflict and motivation.  As much as I liked the ending, I didn’t feel it to be justified, mainly in part, because of the huge lull, occurring in Act 2.  Chronicle reminds me a lot of Carrie (1976) as there are strong similarities in Andrew’s character and how that character succumbs to the “dark side” after being bullied and abused.  Carrie worked, because it had character development and story build-up, where Chronicle failed on both counts. 

My rating: 2.5 out of 5