March 5, 2006

Ultraviolet - Review

Ultraviolet is not going to win any Oscars; however it is no where near as bad as many critics want to make it out to be. I think many of the critics are upset they actually had to wait until the rest of us saw the movie before they could post their criticism. Just survive the first ten minutes and it is okay movie, for a Video Game on the screen, much better than say Resident Evil or Doom.

In my opinion there are three main criticisms of the Ultraviolet.
The movie starts out with a series of Comic Book Covers displaying the opening covers, someone once told me it was a British thing to skip the opening sequence and do the credits. In Ultraviolet I think they could have really used an open sequence to setup the movie. After the credits the Milla Jovoich begins a monologue about being born in a Future World; which chould have been the open sequence.

For a martial arts movie the fight scenes were extremely boring.

For a modern Sci-Fi film on the Big Screen the many of the special effects left a lot to be desired. I would compare them to video game, but video games have better looking effects. However there are a few scenes (not really the Special Effect Kind) where you are amazed by how good those scenes look.

After a very dull 10 the movie gets going and you get a pretty good (all-right an Okay) story, there are no wild twists and turns even though you keep waiting for them. I would say everything is by the numbers.

The acting is wooden and other than an okay performance by Nick Chinlund as Daxus you wonder what the director was asking them to do.

I was very impressed with the Score of the Film.

Now, if you enjoy these types of film you could do worse, however if you are not a 20 something video game junkie this is not the movie for you.

On the Jeff’s Scale - 5 out 10.

Posted by jjohnson at 10:57 PM

February 17, 2006

Freedomland - Review

I went into this movie with neutral expectations at best, and I came out with neutral review. I am not going to be asking for my money back, but unless you are a big Samuel L. Jackson fan, don’t go wait for the video.

One of my biggest complaints about modern thriller movies is their really is no reason to see the film in the theater. With even a bad Sci-Fi or awful epic film they director uses the whole screen and awes you with they put on the screen. A movie like Freedomland is better suited to the small screen, there are no scenes that you have to see on the big screen. The sound, the cinematography, excreta, excreta excreta, all leave me wishing I waited for the DVD.

But the Film isn’t all bad, Jackson, Julianne Moore, and Edie Falco give very good performances, hey they even border on great, the rest of the cast is sleep walking through til their next pay check.

The Dialog is at best uneven, you could tell which sections probably were filmed first and which ones the actors finally got the feel for as they filmed more of the movie. It’s too bad they can’t reshoot the first parts.

In the end I was left with a very unhappy situation, the movie ends without wrapping up all the story arcs. There are four or five things your left wondering about, and that’s bad for a movie which will never have a sequel.

Posted by jjohnson at 11:17 PM

January 29, 2006

Annapolis - Review

Many years ago the Navy had a huge recruiting bonaza because of two movies "Top Gun" and an "Officer and a Gentlemen". Those movies propelled Tom Cruise and Richard Gere into thier megastar leading roles they currently posses, no one in this film has to worry about becoming the next superstar, and James Franco best be glad that Spiderman III is filming as he isn't currently leading man stuff.

The film is a formuliac version of the stand story, Boy goys to the Naval Academy, boy meets Girl, Boy over comes obsticals, boy gets girl. And yes it been dumbed down to that simple of the story.

The film is boring and lack luster and missing the great cineomtography that at least makes other is the mold intersting.

Jeff Score - 3.75 out of 10 stars.

Posted by jjohnson at 12:00 AM

December 12, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - Review

Okay, for those that didn’t read my expectations I feel I must point out that I read the book about 25 years ago and it is one of the few books that I have never felt I had to reread.

For the most part the actors are well played, Tilda Swinton makes a great White Witch, and the brief appearance of James Cosmo and Jim Broadbent were very well done, the same can’t be said about CGI characters. The Bickering Bickersons, I mean the Beavers were a little monotonous after a while, watching the not as majestic as it should have been Aslan and not quite believable giants, dwarves, ogres, and Cyclops also made it a long movie. I will give the minotaurs strong marks however, you can tell who Disney spent the CGI budget on.
There is a huge acting problem in this movie and it is so small most people wouldn’t even notice the problem. There is no awe in the four actos when ever they run into some new and magical. In talking about the problem I think it is like the inability to see the forest for all the trees.
Okay so I am not sure of my opinion of the child actors, so I will skip mentioning them.

The cinematography was sometime very good and other times very bland (and occasionally unbelievable). When Lucy first enters the wardrobe the cinematography is very well done however the second and third times it unacceptably bad. I am not sure if it the cinematographers fault or the directors, but I really want to blame the cinematographer since he should have known better.

A director once told me that directing children is the hardest thing to direct as they don’t necessarily understand the gamut of emotions they are supposed to demonstrate. This movie clearly shows that problem. Unlike a number of CGI filled movies where actors stare into nothing the actors in this movie seem to missing awe. Which is hard to understand as a viewer.

Most of the special effects were very good the exception Aslan mouth which is always bad, I think human mouth movements didn’t look right. A number of the special effects are not up to par with the rest of the movie. The scene on the river is one of those that is just bad. It’s like they ran out of money for that scene and just used a first run copy of the effect.

I am not sure if it is because of the Theater I saw the movie in or if the sound track is just off but there were a lot of echoes in the movie which I did not if they belonged there or not.

I liked the background music during the movie only once or twice did it distract from the movie.

In the end the movie has a lot of things going for it, however it could have been sooo much better. My Boss of years past always told me to do things 100%, because 80% of the work could be done with 20% of the work, but it is the other 20% that people remember. In this case I agree with the Movie critic from the Pioneer Press Chris Hewitt, “Watching The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is like being told a terrific story by a so-so storyteller."

Jeff rating 7.5 (out of 10)

Posted by jjohnson at 8:16 PM

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Review

I need to start out that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (GoF in Harry speak) is my least favorite book out of the six that have been released so far; So my views should be taken with a few grains of salt and it should also be noted that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA) was my favorite book in the cycle so far and my least favorite movie.

My first compliant is that GoF is the longest book being turned into a movie thus far; originally Warner Brothers wanted to create two movies releasing a month (or six) apart, however Alfonso Cuarón, director of PoA, convinced Mike Newell, Director, against it; its too bad, they would have been two great movies rather than one so-so movie.
I described it like watching two movies interwoven together with a number of the interesting sub-plots removed thus removing the interest in the stories.

My next compliant is one that may be hard for some individuals to comprehend. With most of the original cast members from the first three movies back (Micheal Gambon has replaced Richard Harris) rather than attempting to introduce us to the characters the movie seems to assume that everyone know who everyone is. The first three movies could almost be stand-alone movies, this movie is not. While that alone isn’t a problem until they don’t seem to be introducing us to the new characters either.

I’ll skip the comments on the returning actors/actresses and make a few on the new characters. Brendan Gleeson makes a great Mad-Eye Moody. I have for years like him in the rolls he has played and hope he continues in the HP movies. I am however unsure if I like Ralph Fiennes as Tom Riddle, I am not sure he can be “cold? enough. Clémence Poésy is supposed to be an 18 year-old goddess, however her beauty was diminished by the Teen-ager coming of age shots in the movie, and watching her tush did nothing for me.
I will however make a comment about the three main characters, both Rupert and Emma continue to grow as actors, but Daniel seems too fallen further behind the others in his acting ability. He seems too childish..

The movie doesn’t flow as well as the other movies did, this one surges forward pauses to let things catch up and than surges again. The scene about the dance was way to slow and really bogged down the center portion of the movie.

I was disappointed about what was cut of the movie, JK Rowling has on many cases indicated the “most? important sections of the stories has appeared in the movies, if that is the case with GoF than I must reread the book several times and that will be hard since it is the only book I dislike. (Don’t ask me why cause I just don’t like it)

There are things that most people think about when they see a movie and others that no one ever mentions. Background Music is normally one of those things, what would Star Wars be without it wonderful themes, what would Titanic be without the music. In GoF I am not sure about the music, John Williams decided to do “Memoirs of a Geisha? rather than GoF, so Patrick Doyle stepped in. The background music at times is too overpowering at times and missing in others, I am glad John Williams will be back for the next movie.

Cinematically the movie is an improvement over the first three, experience improved CGI and other details make the backgrounds less foreground and more background (no giraffes walking through the paintings.) and the detail in the Castle is outstanding.

A number of people of who have seen the movie ahead of time remarked how much more dark the movie and more “adult? oriented than the previous three movies. Many of the sub-plots revolve on Harry, Ron and Hermione became young adults rather than teenagers, this helps make the movie less kid like. It was nice to see Ron become less of a comic sidekick and more of an independent character in the movie and Hermione. However there seemed too little of Harry sub-plots and the movie is called “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? not “Ron and Hermione Grow Up.?

I have tended to ignore the fans and reviews in advance and while I don’t expect GoF to win many Oscars I had hoped to be entertained enough to want to go see it again in the theater. I may go see it again, but nothing compels me to do so.

On the Jeffrey scale, the movie hits a 6.75 (out of 10). It is visually appealing, however the sound is a bit muddled and the story surges to much.

Posted by jjohnson at 6:27 PM

October 12, 2005

Serenity - Review

Like I did in the Serenity Expectations blog entry I need to start out and warn people that I am not a Josh Wheldon/Firefly Fanboy by any means. I cant say that other than Toy Story I have been very impressed by anything Josh Wheldon has worked on and he barely makes the credits for co-writing the screen play for Toy Story.

Many of my friends have seen Serenity three four five ten times before I saw during the third week of release. I probably could have waited until movie was on DVD and gotten from Netflicks and it wouldnt have bothered me.

The movie is a continuation/supposed conclusion of the Firefly TV show which aired on the Fox network in 2002. Which is it biggest downfall. No where during the movie does the story/director/writer attempt to introduce new viewers (or those of us who havent watched the show in three years) to the story line of the movie. You jump right in movie and everyone expects that you saw last weeks adventure and no who what and why everything is going on. I would say as a stand-alone it not very viewer friendly.

It is hard to judge acting when you are confused about what is going on, I cant really tell you if anyone played their part exceptional or poorly or what not since I was like who are you again and why do I care who you are.

The special effects were adequate for the most part, none of the scenes jumped out at me nor did they overwhelm me or make me oh and ah. With a high budget sci-fi film I think that is a good thing.

On the Jeff Scale the movie rates 6 out of ten stars, not because it is a good movie but because the way I worked out the system; if you dont like Firefly than dont go see this movie you wont like it.

Posted by jjohnson at 2:46 PM

Kingdom of Heaven - Review

I went into the movie Kingdom in Heaven with a great desire to really want to like, but just couldnt do it when I came out. I dont think it is a bad movie, rather an uncomplete movie.

The movie has a stellar cast, Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Edward Norton, Urich Thomsen, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Ghassan Massoud and the list goes on and on.
With Orlando Bloom in the lead role, it been suggested by other critics that them movie could have been better with a more seasoned actor in the lead. I however am not sure that is really the case with this script. While most people think of Orlando as a surfer dude, he showed a wide range in this character.
In a world of political correctness this movie gave us no reason to like or hate any of the characters. It is funny how the one character people connect with is Brendan Gleesons portrayal of Reynald, the character most of us should loathe. I enjoyed David Thewlis portrayal of a Hospitaler Knight in the end I wish he was in more of the film.

I have some issues with the soundtrack of this movie, at first I though it was just the theater but later when I bough the DVD and watched it at home I had the same problem; it is like the actors are all speaking into a muted microphone.

I think the set designer and costume designer should be commended for their work on this film. While we will never know if they are 100% accurate it was sure a lot closer than most historical movies I have seen. Correct Armor, Correct Coat of Arms, Correct Banners, and it just felt right watching the movie.

I didnt like the battle sequences in Kingdom in Heaven. We were never connected to any of the action, it like watching several boxing matches at the same time with out knowing which bout to be concentrating on. In Gladiator Ridley Scott took us into the battle, into the coliseum, in Kingdom it is jus the opposite he took us out of the battle scenes.

To me the biggest issue with the movie was the script. It either needed to be 20 to 30 minutes shorter OR 20 to 30 minutes longer. It is like th Director/Writer/Exec Producer attempted to compromise with American view habits and picked a no-mans land for movie length. Now I need to quantify this that I have no problem sitting in a sit for four hours to watch a movie like many Americans do, so I am okay with long movies as long as they move the story along. In my opinion you had two incomplete movies meshed together and the director called it a single movie. On the one hand you have the action adventure story of Balian following his father Godfrey into action between the second and third crusades. On the other hand you have the love story of Balain of Ibelin and the Sybilla the sister of King Baldwin IV. The problem is neither story line is actually complete in this movie.

Historically speaking I have another problem, you have an incredible interesting period of history, with love stories, warfare, and other great storylines, so why did the author need to create a new one for this movie. I am reminded of Amistad or Gladiator where the real story is probably better than the one put on film.

On the Jeff scale the movie gets a very marginally passing grade of 5.4 out of 10.

Posted by jjohnson at 2:03 PM

May 1, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Review

I went into the movie with very mixed expectations and I came out with a very mixed review, while I liked the movie in general I dislike a number of pieces vehemently.
As an adaptation, while the writing credits do include Douglas Adams, I dont expect it to get an Oscar Nomination. I understand the need to change the storyline to fit, the time allowed, the masses, and changes because Douglas always saw the Guide as an evolving story. In this version there are a number of changes I just dont seem to understand.
I understand the changes to Trillians character, love interests are a requirement for the masses, but a love triangle, come on. It is not to say I thought all the changes were bad, I enjoyed Humma Kavula and the point of view gun, nice and interesting change. Additionally I also enjoyed the changes to Zaphod Character. As a stand alone movie the story was more a series of skits slammed together without much interconnection or good transition between the parts. It was sort of like ridding a roller coaster in the dark, you never were sure what the pacing was going to be and than it would jump all over the place. To me it screams directors cut. The movie would have been greatly served to have an additional 20 minutes in length. I know the discussions about how long the average American will sit in a theatre this is one where a more static pace and some added length would make the movie more palatable for the American Masses.
While the previous incarnations of the story were of the adventures or more appropriately the misadventures of Arthur Dent as he hitchhiked his way across the galaxy the movie was more of Boy Meets Girl, Girl Runs of President of the Galaxy, Boy meets Girl again, Girl Decides Boy is better than President of the Galaxy. While the love story was hinted at in the book/mini/radio/record it is the central theme of the movie. A change for the Masses?
There were four or five scenes which seemed incredible out of place, for example the opening scene (so long and thanks for all the fish) took about four minutes and did little to move the film along. While the die-hard Adams fan could appreciate I am sure they all would have been more satisfied with better transistions between the scenes than this particular scene. First thing I said when I got out of the theatre was I wish I could recut the movie.
Martin Freeman was a good choice as Arthur Dent, while other actors might have played the part just as well as Martin I dont think anyone else could have played it better. Sam Rockwell as Zaphod was another good choice, I do think that Jim Carrey would have been another good choice and Sam will probably be compared to him by anoumber of diehards. Zooey Daschanel as Trillian was an odd choice; she didnt fit the mold of the previous incarnations of Trillian to which a number of people will voice some concern. Alan Rickman was a perfect voice for Marvin, his depressing paranoia stole the show while Marvin was in the movie. It was hard for me to judge Mos Def adaptation of Ford Prefect. As such an integral character in the other adaptations he was quickly shoved aside in this version.
In the big scope of the movie I think your opinion of Mos Def as Ford Prefect will in the end decide your opinion of the movie. It is hard to do Arthur, Zaphod, or Marvin wrong but Ford is the character that makes or breaks the movie. If you can accept Mos as Ford than youll probably give the movie a more favorable review than if you dislike his performance. Which is a funny thing since his part is minimized in this adaptation.
While I will go see the movie again I give it an overall rating of 6.3 out of 10.

Posted by jjohnson at 6:56 PM