Knocked Up (2007)

I actually like the other poster a lot better.

I actually like the other poster a lot better.

Directed by: Judd Apatow (his best movie is probably The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but I love a lot of his movies)

Written by: also Judd Apatow (again, 40-Year-Old Virgin was probably his greatest movie, but I also have a tonne of love for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story)

Starring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Alan Tudyk, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Iris and Maude Apatow, Joanna Kerns, Harold Ramis, Ken Jeong, Loudon Wainwright III, and so many other little cameo performances.  Probably my most tagged movie so far.

What it’s about: a schlubby loser guy gets a hot successful woman pregnant

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Fertilized Egg

Movie Mash Up: The 40-Year-Old VirginI Love You, Man + Juno

What I liked: I’m a huge fan of Apatow’s writing, directing, and friendly manner.  The last part is the most important because he tends to be able to use a lot of the same actors over and over in smaller parts because they just want to work with him again.  He is basically a much more talented Kevin Smith before I outgrew him and he became a kinda sad douchebag.  Apatow also gets so much funny stuff out of his actors because he seems to let them freely improvise.  It is a genuinely funny movie that feels real and has so much heart.  When I first watched it, I wanted to see a whole movie out of Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters, and now that This is 40 has been released, my wish has come true!  I love seeing Paul Rudd in anything, you know.  Also, loved Loudon Wainwright III’s score and soundtrack, some truly great songs on there.

What I disliked: The running time, and Judd’s somewhat self-indulgent filmmaking style.  I mean, his wife and two daughters are in the movie, and yeah, they fit their parts perfectly, but there are beats throughout that I think were kept in because of his love of them, not the love of making an excellent movie.  Also, despite it feeling “real” there were still aspects that didn’t seem too real, like the sex scenes between Rogen and Heigl.  I’m sorry, but if your boobs are that big and – presumably – tremendous, well you’ll most likely end up topless.  I realise that comment seems somewhat sexist, but it is the movies, and come on Katherine Heigl, if the movie really was sexist, your tits would have been out.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes, it is a delightful movie, and were it not for the prevalence of fuck words and adult activity, I would suggest that it could even be a family film.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

I just want to watch Paul Rudd riff on everything.

I just want to watch Paul Rudd riff on everything.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Die Hard: AMERICA EDITION

Directed by: Len Wiseman (haven’t watched his Total Recall version yet, but honestly the best thing he’s ever done was marry Kate Beckinsale)

Written by: Mark Bomback and David Marconi, based off a “Wired” article by John Carlin called “A Farewell to Arms”.  I am currently reading “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemmingway and I assure you, the two literary works are not related at all.  Christ, I think Hemmingway hated commas.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Maggie Q, Cliff Curtis, Zeljko Ivanek, Sung Kang, Kevin Smith, Jonathan Sadowski, Cyril Raffaelli and Andrew Friedman.

What it’s about: John McClane once again gets involved in saving the day, this time from a highly intelligent hacker hell-bent on bringing down the American Government

B-Movie Alternate Title: Die Hard: Car vs. Helicopter

Movie Mash Up: It’s like Die Hard, but 20 years later and with technology and hacking and stuff!

What I liked: Holy smokes, Justin Long isn’t a sassy black man!  McClane gets a white sidekick this time and he’s generally entertaining for most of the film.  I enjoyed seeing Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy McClane, John’s all grown-up daughter.  Timothy Olyphant makes for a compelling villain, and even Kevin Smith was fairly tolerable in this one.  Can we also put Maggie Q in everything forever?  The action was fairly jacked up, even compared to the first Die Hard.  While it certainly was an easy cash-in, the movie feels like it belongs in the Die Hard franchise.

What I disliked: While I felt that it belongs in the franchise, I still never saw any reason for them to go back to the well.  It is nice to see characters grow and catch up with them later on in life – especially since at the beginning of Die Hard with a Vengeance, McClane was an alcoholic – but it still is a bit depressing, and creates a more difficult belief to suspend.  Pretty much like all those seasons of “24” and all the bad shit happening to the same guy.  It was enjoyable, but felt just a bit too slick and polished.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, why not.  As previously mentioned, it was enjoyable enough.  Just make sure you watch the Unrated version.  I don’t ever want to watch a PG-13 Die Hard film.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

HAHAHHA oh so ridiculous

The Mist (2007)

Directed by: Frank Darabont (obviously, watch The Shawshank Redemption and he was mostly responsible for the tone of the first season of “The Walking Dead”)

Written by: Darabont adapted Stephen King’s novella for the screen

Starring: Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Marcia Gay Harden, William Sadler, Frances Sternhagen, Alexa Davalos, Chris Owen, Melissa McBride, and Sam Witwer.  If you’ve watched “The Walking Dead” at all, you’ll recognise a lot of their faces, but probably not their names.

What it’s about: a freak storm occurs and the next day, a township is enveloped with a strange mist containing Things, leaving many townspeople trapped inside a supermarket

B-Movie Alternate Title: it doesn’t get much more B-movieier than The Mist unless you added “The Things Inside” to the beginning of the title

Movie Mash Up: The Fog + some of the cast of The Shawshank Redemption + the creatures of Land of the Lost, I dunno, it’s kind of a pulp B-movie, so fans of the genre would probably be able to pick more appropriate films

What I liked: oh man, that ending.  Wow.  Even in 2007, I couldn’t believe a movie would be greenlit by a studio with THAT ending.  Great ensemble cast, decent enough special effects, totally embraces its B-movieness but with weight, this is no Troma film.  It is at least the equal of the novella it was adapted from.

What I disliked: well you’re supposed to absolutely hate Marcia Gay Harden’s character, and I did, so that’s a complimentary dislike.  Even though they were just regular citizens, some of the actions of theirs just seemed beyond belief stupid.  Yes, lights attract things… THINGS too.  The ending is awesome, but having watched it multiple times it borders on overload, like Darth Vader’s “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo” in Revenge of the Sith.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes, although it is a dark and – at some points – deeply troubling film, everyone should watch it to see that ending, just so maybe – just mmmmmmaybe – they could open themselves up to being shocked by the conclusion of a movie again.

Rating: 4 / 5

Hot Fuzz (2007)

I wrote this review awhile back and it completely still applies, didn’t even change the rating or anything.  Enjoy!

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of director Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead movie. In my opinion it was a brilliant speciman of the zombie genre, filmed in a highly comedic fashion that felt more real than any “scary” zombie movie ever did, mostly because it felt more realistic. I say this of course, without any zombie-fighting experience on my resume. Shaun just seemed to be an accurate depiction of how real people would handle a completely unreal and unbelievable situation in their lives. Hot Fuzz expands on many of those ideals, but instead of poking fun at the zombie movie genre, it pays tribute to big budget dumb Hollywood action movies in a much more believable fashion than say, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a highly skilled and determined London police officer, so effective as a cop that he makes the rest of the officers look bad in comparison. So it comes as a shock that after returning from a work-related injury, Angel is not rewarded with a promotion but a transfer to Sandford, a small countryside village with no real crime problems. Angel’s first night in town is a cultural shock not just to him but the people of Sandford. Many casual crimes that were in the past overlooked in the idea of just keeping everyone calm are immediately taken care of by Angel, much to the dismay of the township and Angel’s new co-workers. Soon after that, a rash of outrageous murders take place that the rest of the police force… sorry, police “service” attempt to turn a blind eye to, and it becomes patently obvious to Angel that something is amiss in Sandford.

Hot Fuzz reunites Shaun stars Pegg and Nick Frost with director Wright, based off of Pegg and Wright’s screenplay. For those people not fortunate enough to have seen the awesomeness that is Shaun of the Dead, this means the movie retains a very British-style of humour which may not appeal to some viewers. However it’s that very British-style which makes Hot Fuzz so obscenely awesome, mostly just because you don’t expect high levels of ultraviolence out of such a seemingly laid-back culture of people. The story combines the over-the-top action, the British culture and ridiculous twist endings into one of the most entertaining movies I’ve watched in awhile.

Sadly some of the jokes are a little off target, not to mention almost too smart for audiences nowadays. I was the only one in the theater laughing at the brilliant Chinatown reference, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s just because it was so subtle. Hot Fuzz is as close to perfection as you can expect in an action movie these days, combining entertaining characters with a funny story and amazing action sequences. I recommend seeing this movie over any of the pre-determined sequel blockbusters of this summer, simply because it’s far more original than any of those movies will be and there’s far less of a chance of you being let down after it’s all over.

4.5 / 5

Across the Universe (2007)

Wrote this awhile back, and it’s a passable enough musical, deducted half a point because my Beatles love has increased.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of The Beatles (I have become at the very least, super interested in The Beatles since), I certainly do recognise their influence on pop culture the entire world ’round since their debut over 40 years ago. To say that they changed things would be a very large understatement. I’m also not super-familiar with their entire song catalogue, which is why when I saw the trailers for Across the Universe a couple months back, I had no idea that the song “I’ve Just Seen a Face” was a Beatles tune. I thought it was a super-catchy ditty, and the visual spectacle that unfolded throughout the trailer definitely made me want to see the movie, whenever it finally came out. Just from that trailer, I could tell that it was Moulin Rouge!-esque, but minus the almost freakishly odd Baz Luhrmann.

Screenplay writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais take a less anachronistic approach to incorporating Beatles songs into a full-blown musical feature film, placing the time period and characters of the film in the exact place where The Beatles became world famous. Jude (Jim Sturgess) is a young dock worker from Liverpool, heading off to the bright lights of America to find his father (Robert Clohessy) and seek out a change from the drearyness of his everyday life. Soon after arriving, Jude befriends Max (Joe Anderson) and meets Max’s younger sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), and all three of them eventually make their way to New York. Once there, they meet other like-minded individuals in the Janis Joplin-esque singe Sadie (Dana Fuchs), the shy introverted Prudence (T.V. Carpio), and the talented guitarist JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy). The film then follows these core characters as they deal with love, rock ‘n roll, drugs and the Vietnam War, all the while expressing themselves through the songs of The Beatles.

Apparently these characters are living in a world that has never known The Beatles, since none of the non-singing characters ever comes right out and says “Hey, why are you singing that Beatles tune?” Musicals are a strange beast to adapt to the screen, since the entire genre pretty much requires the biggest suspension of disbelief imaginable in films. It’s one thing to see an explosive action film and point out all the ridiculous contrivancies that pop up, it’s another to just accept that people are bursting into song as a means of communicating their inner emotions to others. That being said, Taymor finds a way to make it successful at least half of the time. Sometimes it comes across as forced, sometimes painfully predictable/on the nose, sometimes happily predictable, but there’s no way the structure of the film is going to please everybody.

This is a film that will garner more than a few Oscar nominations (it received only one in Costume Design), though more than likely only in the technical and costuming categories, not in the high prestige acting categories. That isn’t to say that the acting isn’t top notch, because all around the cast does a passable job with their performances. It’s hard to really quantify them as “acting” per se, since most of their work is simply singing the works of The Beatles. Still, the emotions, inflections and reinterpretations the cast puts into their vocal stylings are quite stirring and could conceivably jog a few tears from people, particularly T.V. Carpio’s nearly-heart-wrenching performance as Prudence. Taymor doesn’t put much into the development of the characters, so you take what you can get from the singing bits.

There are some simply wonderful and beautiful scenes throughout Across the Universe, but as a full-length feature film, it works better as a wondrous trailer. It’s definitely worth giving a view if you have the chance, or if you’re a diehard Beatles fan I suppose. Keep an eye peeled for a couple of fun celebrity cameos from the likes of Eddie Izzard, Joe Cocker and Salma Hayek. And Bono too I guess. As a complete package, the film is a bit lacking in the emotional resonance department and there’s a bit of dragging throughout, but otherwise is a relatively enjoyable way to spend a couple hours.

2.5 / 5

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Totally wrote this review a few years back, feel the same way about it, the rating slipped down half a point.  Still an amazing movie.

Ever since the Jason Bourne franchise hit the big screens in 2002 with The Bourne Identity, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it. I enjoyed Identity and its 2004 follow-up The Bourne Supremacy well-enough, but I never allowed myself to truly love them because I had read the Robert Ludlum books upon which the movies are “based” before seeing the movies. Having just seen The Bourne Ultimatum, I have finally been able to completely divorce the books from the movies. Sure, there’s a few story elements and characters that they share with one another, but in the end the adventures the movie version of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) gets into are far more entertaining than the printed word is able to convey to me.

Paul Greengrass returns to helm his second straight Bourne movie, and it picks up almost directly after Supremacy ended. Bourne is beginning to regain more memories and is finally determined enough to take down the people who made him what he is. Of course there’s still the matter of putting all the pieces together, and much of the movie is of the fact-finding, spy intrigue variety. The CIA is still focused on eliminating Bourne, and continue to pull out all the stops in every effort to bring him in. Not to mention crossing a few legal and moral lines to achieve their goal.

I must caution you about watching Ultimatum. After it’s all over, you’ll never see another action movie the same way. You will be insulted (if you’re not already) by cheesy explosions, cartoonish villains, and meathead leads that make contextual quips about the demise of their enemies. Ultimatum shows us that there is absolutely no reason why action flicks have to be dumb blow-’em-ups, that you can have a thriller-esque feel to an action movie and make it work. Then again, perhaps that’s not entirely true and the only reason it works is because of Greengrass’ direction, or the stunning handheld camerawork. Maybe it’s John Powell’s amazing score combining with measured and realistic fight scenes and intense car chases. Personally, I think it’s all those things combined with an amazing character, a realistic and powerful performance by Matt Damon, and a well-developed story.

Rarely do I watch a movie and immediately want to sit down and watch it again, or start counting down the days until it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray. The Bourne Ultimatum is one of those rare movies for me, one that had me gripping my theatre seat as the action built up and the camera was right in there, feeling every shot. At the end of one helluva spectacular car chase, I noticed that I was actually catching my breath. Your enjoyment of the movie will be increased exponentially if you’ve seen the previous two Bourne movies, and you should do that anyways because now that I’ve freed them from my past snobby-book-adaptation opinion, I have to say that the Bourne Trilogy is truly one of the best movie franchises ever put together.

4.5 / 5

Surf’s Up (2007)

I wrote this review awhile back and it’s still how I feel, other than I downgraded it by half a ratings point.

There has been a rash of penguin-related movies made recently, in case no one’s noticed. Well, I don’t know if four movies can really be considered a rash, but for the past couple years it has seemed that there’s always been another penguin movie on the horizon. You can either praise or damn March of the Penguins for this trend, depending on how you feel about the penguin, nature’s robot. I know when I saw the previews for Happy Feet, I was damning March, and I really had no intention of seeing Surf’s Up either. That is until it was playing at work and I saw what it was really about, and then I couldn’t wait to check it out.

This is the second outing from the Sony Pictures Animation team (the first being the odious-looking Open Season), and the intriguing premise behind it is exactly why I wanted to watch the movie. Sure, there’s a bunch of talking animals in it, but it borrows from March of the Penguins by being a documentary about surfing penguins. Okay, yeah that surfing part is decidedly different and that’s pretty much what enticed me to want to see the movie. I’m going to say that Surf’s Up isn’t really aimed at kids, though I’m sure they’d enjoy the cute animals and such. Most of the dialogue appears to be aimed at … well my demographic, and it doesn’t really condescend to children at all.

Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf) is a penguin from the wintry town of Shiverpool, determined to become the World Penguin Surfing Champion ever since he was a youngster and met the legendary Big Z (Jeff Bridges reinventing The Dude as a surfing penguin). When a talent scout bird (Mario Cantone) comes into Shiverpool, Cody finally gets his chance to break out of his hometown and heads off to Pen Gu Island to compete at the Big Z Memorial Surf Off. Along the way he meets the stoner-esque Chicken Joe (Jon Heder), and the pair form a fast friendship. Soon after arriving at Pen Gu, Cody finds himself right in the thick of things, falling in love with Lani (Zooey Deschanel) and defending some youngster penguins from the defending champion, Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader).

There’s a lot more to come in the movie after that point, but I don’t really want to spoil it for you. What I would like to tell you about is how natural the dialogue feels throughout the movie, how even though they’re talking penguins, they’re not out and about doing too many non-penguin things like so many CGI-animated movies do with their subject matter lately. Sony Pictures Animation (they really need a cooler name for their sub-division) assembled the cast together for the voice-overs, which is not usually done in the animated business. The cast were encouraged to ad-lib a bit, and that playful bantering back and forth is one of the many highlights throughout the movie.

My only real problem with the movie is that the documentary conceit is so strong that in telling the tale of the film, there are instances where it’s painfully obvious that the documentary filmmakers are not the ones showing us the current scenes. I may re-watch it again with the commentary on, just to see what the directors of the movie (also co-screenwriters Ash Brannon and Chris Buck) say about scenes like that. All in all though, I highly recommend the movie for anyone to watch. There’s so much to enjoy about the movie, from the quirky humour to Shia LaBeouf continuing to prove that he is going to be a tremendous lead actor in any project he works on. Jeff Bridges is amazing as usual, and what’s even more amazing is that this is the first animated movie he’s worked on since The Last Unicorn, 25 years ago. One of the more entertaining movies that I’ve seen all year.

3.5 / 5