V for Vendetta (****)

Viewing vendetta vindicated various vast views.  The only thing that I had heard about this movie was that the Wachowski brothers wrote it and that their first assistant director on the Matrix movies directed it. I had stayed away from reviews on purpose even though most headlines I did read were positive.

Vendetta is a movie that made me wonder, “How the heck did this get released in our country?” It is an unapologetic attack at how we live right now. A film that not only has us rooting for a terrorist but makes us look at government satire and then say “wait a minute, this is not too far from what we see right now.”

While V is not an action packed film, the action that you do see in the movie is executed beautifully. The sword fighting, knifes, and guns all play like instruments in a big opera. The interesting part about the action is that even in the scenes that you do see action, it is all about enhancing the story and not driving it. The music in the film also fits the theme perfectly.

I have never seen the Professional, and the films that I have seen Natalie Portman on have shown me a mediocre actress at best. No, I am not an angry Star Wars geek by any stretch of the imagination, but until this movie I did not see Portman as a great performer. She did an excellent job with the Eve character. Showing vulnerability and strength in a very natural way was necessary for making this character really work and she truly delivered. Hugo Weaving as V was not only an excellent casting choice, but it made for some excellent inside jokes… not going to spoil anything here, lets just say the Matrix is quoted here and there. Weaving also was excellent acting behind a mask, I am amazed at how expressive a mask can be when used the right way.

While V’s political plot that mirrors what could happen (or has already happened) to our world is hard to miss making it an excellent movie, I look at it more as a true piece of art. It has been a while since a movie can be called art and this one really deserves the title.  You have to love a movie that in today’s age of fear makes a terrorist the hero, but it also makes you root for him. If you have not seen this movie, go catch it at the theater.

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V for Vendetta.

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Ultraviolet (*)

It is a good thing that I was not a fan of the comic before I went to watch this movie or this review would have been a lot more bitter. Ultraviolet makes you wonder why there is not someone reviewing projects so that the money is saved for the future instead of making a mediocre movie about the future. Director Kurt Wimmer is not to blame for the whole movie, even though I did expect a lot more from the guy that directed Equilibrium, one of my favorite movies in the genre.

Mike Smith was the stunt coordinator for both movies and I was very disappointed by his work here. There was nothing innovative about the martial arts at all. The sword fighting was mediocre at best. My biggest complaint in this department was the implied fighting. When they used this technique the first time, I went “ok, that’s cool.” after that I was almost ready to yell at the screen, “where is the action? How did the killing happen?” While I get that maybe it was supposed to give you a comic book sense, it kind of failed.

The special effects were another mess. I think they ran out of budget during the movie, some of the effects looked very well done and blended with the movie, others gave me a sense of Saturday morning cartoon, Power Ranger kind of feel. Don’t get me wrong, some of it was done very well, the guns and other technology looked good, but then having the last scene being picked apart by my 9 year old as crappy tells you how bad it was. I hate comparing it to Equilibrium, but since both of them have a similar futuristic theme I have to. Equilibrium did not have the best effect either, but they help they story along instead of making you stop and think how crappy they are.

The story was the only thing that you can save here. However they had a comic book to borrow it from. I would love to hear from a fan of the series to see how true to the comic they were. I loved the fact that they did not let you know from the very beginning that this was a movie that had vampires. I felt that was done well.

I would not even recommend you rent this movie. I think that after paying Jovovich to star in the movie they did not have enough money to finish the film effects. If you want to be entertained rent Equilibrium.

*Update*

From The WikiPedia

Screen Gems edited the film from its original length of 120 minutes to 88 minutes, against the wishes of director Kurt Wimmer. He was quite angry with this, and many fans agree that this decision lowered the quality of the film significantly.

It might be worth the wait to see the director’s cut, because to me the film just seemed like a mess.

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Ultraviolet.

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Rhapsody in Red (****)

A Twisted Love Story… is the tagline for this great 30 minute independent film. I went to see it without any expectation and walked out with a grin on my face after being truly entertained. The film was actually completely done in the Mid Michigan area, by Mid Michigan people and the director thanked everyone for their support after the second screening. The first screening was actually sold out, but thankfully they did a second one right after. I would have been very disappointed if I had not been able to see this film.

Without giving away too much, one of my favorite scenes has one of the characters trying to sneak in somewhere. One of the people trying to stop her is eating a huge burger and as she clogs her arteries you see a huge salt container in the shot. I thought that was a very clever joke.

The acting was unbelievable. Even though the film is a tongue in cheek love story of a very confused woman and a maximum security homicidal criminal the characters were very likeable. The story was hilarious and smartly written. The film included some excellent camera angles that really helped show the story. I love the opening and closing sequences, but you would have to go see the film to get what I am talking about. My only complaint was one shot where there is an upside down camera view that I really did not get. Besides that the movie went by way too fast because I wanted to keep on laughing.

Now the important thing, how do you get to see this film? Thankfully it will be traveling the independent circuit so it will most likely be shown in a place close to you, so go visit the website for the film, sign up for the newsletter and let me know what you think once you watch it. Since the writer/director David Patton is from the area I am going to try to get an interview.

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Zathura (****)

Based on the best-selling book by the acclaimed children’s writer Chris Van Allsburg (“The Polar Express,” “Jumanji”), Zathura is a heart-racing sci-fi adventure about two squabbling brothers who are propelled into deepest, darkest space while playing a mysterious game they discovered in the basement of their old house. (Sony Pictures)

Most of the children’s movies that I have seen in recent years seem to want to cater to the adults with a lot of humor that either relates to pop culture, other movies or sexual innuendos. I understand the business mentality behind it, but I think we are giving our children an inferior product when we go to a movie that entertains us more than them. At times I feel like children’s movies have forgotten about the kids all together. Movies like The Sandlot, The Bad News Bears (I cannot wait to see the what they did with the remake), or even E.T. seem to be a thing of the past. I was very excited when I first saw a preview of Zathura and really wanted it to be a good movie, but I was cautious not to see it with over inflated expectations.

Zathura is unrealistic and unapologetic about it. It is predictable and far-fetched… and, I loved every second of it. I have not seen a children’s movie this good in years. The movie uses imagination as a central theme and all the characters really help deliver a great story. The kids that were cast fit the roles perfectly.

The special effects were believable and fit the movie while not making graphics a centerpiece of the movie. The overall message of being nice to your siblings came shinning through as well as parents not having enough time for their kids. Tim Robbins was excellent as the father even though he was only in the movie for the introduction of the characters but he really help set the kids on the roles they would play throughout the movie. The humor was great, the laughs kept on coming and it felt like a true story.

I love movies that stimulate the imagination of kids in today’s era where videogames and movies at times seem to corral the imagination of kids to confined spaces. I also think that a lot of producers can learn from this movie that adults still have children inside of them and they can reach that adult or teen audience if they have a great product like this movie. I did not have the pleasure of reading the original book but I can only hope that the movie captured the magic. I not only recommend you watch this movie but I urge you to buy the DVD. If you don’t have kids it still makes a great gift.

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Zathura.

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Two for the Money (****)

As the movie started and the words “based on a true story” displayed across the screen I knew I was in for more than what I had originally bargained for. A scene in the previews for the movie had really interested me from the moment I first saw it. Al Pacino grabs McConaughey by the back of the neck and whispers into his ear something like “If you want something from me you are going to have to earn it, and then rip it from my cold dead hands.”

I love Al Pacino; while he is not one of my all time favorite actors I have enjoyed all the movies that I have seen him in. He personifies a strong character better than other people that might have a more commanding presence. One of the interesting aspects of his character in this movie is that it also had a vulnerable side to it, something I don’t remember as clearly from his other portrayals. While there was the physical weakness that his character had, his emotional one was a lot deeper and damaging.

The movie started delivering from its first scene. The emotional set up of a kid trying to please his father at all cost really paved the way for the movie and made it believable. It was something that was very necessary not only because of what the based on a true story means but also because the perseverance that the character showed was outstanding, if not foolish at times. Brandon really wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a professional athlete at all cost, and until faith stepped it he seemed to want to be stuck in a dead end where a single track mind was keeping him back from greatness at maybe other careers.

Rene Russo played Al Pacino’s wife flawlessly. A complex character from difficult beginning that was everything that Al Pacino’s character needed to balance him. Several scenes in the movie really show how behind every great man, there is always a great woman. Her delivery was not only believable but showed commitment to the character. Her character built the bridge that the very polar characters portrayed by Pacino and McConaughey needed. Also worthy of mention is Jeremy Piven who’s fast talking character really helps build some great scenes in the movie.
The movie was already earning four stars, but then Al Pacino delivered a speech in an AA style addiction meeting for gamblers that truly put the whole movie into a different perspective for me. Pacino told the other addicts that their addiction to gambling had nothing to do with winning, but with losing. They were al lemons, damaged human beings that needed the reassurance of losing to feel like they were still alive. From that moment forward I watched as his character continually gambled with his own life. That cemented the four stars and a full recommendation to go rent or buy the DVD today. You will love this movie.

As if this movie needed any other reason to be cooler, the person the movie was based on is actually from Midland, Michigan. I had to rewind the special features like 5 times before I convinced myself that he was saying, Midland, Michigan. His name is Brandon Lang and he actually has his own website. He also has some cool words to say about McConaughey

One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received in my life came from Matthew, who said “Thank you for bringing me a character where I had to dig down and draw on the emotions that every actor dreams about. This was by far my most enjoyable role.” You can’t beat that. A kid from Midland, Michigan getting complimented by a major Hollywood actor. Talk about dreams coming true!

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Two For The Money.

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