- To hell with the pig... I'm going to Switzerland.

Movie Review: The Internship (Tuesday, June 25, 2013)

Title: The Internship
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: June 7, 2013
When seen: June 25, 2013
Venue: Century Boulder
Boulder, CO
Review: 2 Geeks / 4

This is not a movie I would typically go see. I don't really like comedy, particularly of the stupid juvenile sort that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are known for. But, this is a movie about Google, and I figure as a Noogler, I should see the movie, so when people I know ask me about it, I can answer intelligently. Also, Google bought us all tickets for this morning's showing.

The movie has some really great moments, and honestly, it's not a bad story. But it's also got some of those typical Vaughn and Wilson moments that just make me want to exit the theater - like overuse of Alanis Morissette's song Ironic (irony: writing a song called Ironic where none of the situations mentioned are examples of irony).

I liked most of the "hero" characters in the film, and the antagonists, are of course, detestable. The geeks are sufficiently geeky, and there are some truly spectacular moments of nerdiness. The film is decidedly non-technical, but there are plenty of references to Google products. There was one great moment where Owen Wilson interrupts a seminar to ask why they don't change the default editor in Ubuntu from vi to Emacs. Of course, if it had really been a roomful of geeks, that would have resulted in violence as the vi geeks battled it out with the Emacs geeks. And then there was a wonderful scene involving a game of Muggle Quidditch. I want to know why there was no Muggle Quidditch and my Noogler orientation??

Large portions of the film take place at recognizable locations on Google's Mountain View campus, though there were a few significant departures from reality. For example, a character couldn't name any nearby restaurants because she doesn't get out much, but in reality, there's actually no place to eat near Google's campus, and anyway, they serve three meals a day on campus, so no one really bothers to go out anyway. It looks like most of the "going out" in the film ended up in San Francisco - more than an hour away from campus, even in light traffic. Still those are minor nits. The major departure is that this film is some weird combination of Google's internship program, Noogler orientation, and interview candidate's worst nightmare. It just doesn't work that way.

But who cares? That's not the point. They're telling a story. The film has the typical cliché moments of rejection and redemption, and the formula is nothing new. But if you think Google would be your dream job, or you like absurd comedy, then you might get a kick out of it.

—Brian (6/25/2013 5:57 PM)

Movie Review: Kick-Ass (Saturday, April 24, 2010)

Title: Kick-Ass
Rating: R
Release Date: April 16, 2010
When seen: April 24, 2010
Venue: Regal Cinemas
Manassas, VA
Review: 4 Kicked Asses / 4

Wow. First and foremost, Chloƫ Grace Moretz steals the show as Hit-Girl, an 11 year old with some of the baddest Kung Fu and heaviest fire power around. Oh yeah, and the plot is pretty good, too. Dave, a stereotypical high school nerd, is musing with his friends about why no one goes out and becomes a superhero, and eventually decides that he should do just that. He ends up getting in way over his head, and gets his ass kicked, repeatedly. But then the real superheros show up, and a war ensues. The plot is fairly intricate, and for an action movie, the characters offer a lot of depth. Nick Cage is as bizarre as usual, but fortunately he doesn't overpower the rest of the cast. The film is every comic book nerd's dream, in full color, and at full speed. Did I mention? Wow.

—Brian (4/24/2010 10:32 PM)

Movie Review: Inkheart (Monday, February 9, 2009)

Title: Inkheart
Rating: PG
Release Date: January 23, 2008
When seen: February 7, 2008
Venue: Reston Multiplex
Reston, VA
Review: 3.5 Books / 4

Inkheart, based on the German novel by Cornelia Funke, represents my favorite sort of literary fairy tale. The film tells the story of a "Silvertongue", played by Brendan Fraser, who can bring the written word to life, just by reading it aloud. Before the movie begins, he unwittingly brings to life the villain Capricorn, played by Andy Serkis, who brought us Gollum and King Kong. Serkis's performance is delightfully evil. The film is well acted, the settings are beautiful, and the special effects are seamless and magical throughout the film. The film alternates between scary and funny, in true Brendan Fraser fashion, and moves along very well, never leaving you bored, and without moving at such a fast pace it feels like you're being dragged along behind a bus. Despite being highly abbreviated from the book (so I'm told), the movie still makes sense, and does a very good job of rapidly and clearly explaining the back story, and everything else that's happening, as the story moves along. The only downside for me, is the wanton destruction of so many books throughout the film. How could they?! It is a delightful film, and highly recommended.

—Brian (2/9/2009 3:47 PM)

Movie Review: The Tale of Despereaux (Saturday, December 27, 2008)

Title: The Tale of Despereaux
Rating: G
Release Date: December 19, 2008
When seen: December 26, 2008
Venue: Regal Cinemas
Manassas, VA
Review: 4 Stars / 4

One might question my maturity, but I just get a kick out of fairy tale movies. This story, "of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread" (as the book, by Kate DiCamillo, on which the movie is based, is subtitled), was terrific. The animation in this swashbuckling romance adventure was very solid, and the characters were excellently voiced by an all-star cast, including Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Dustin Hoffman, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Lloyd. The musical score was very dramatic... you could almost forget that the hero is a mouse, except that they keep reminding you that he's very abnormal for a mouse. On several occasions, Despereaux is accused of being more man than mouse. When asks what he is, he replies that he is a gentleman. He's definitely my kind of mouse — a noble gentlemen, with a quest, who knows no fear, and has an unhealthy obsession with storybooks. Now all I need to do, is find myself a copy of the book, so I can enjoy it all over again.

—Brian (12/27/2008 12:54 AM)

Movie Review: The City of Ember (Monday, October 20, 2008)

Title: The City of Ember
Rating: PG
Release Date: October 10, 2008
When seen: October 18, 2008
Venue: Regal Cinemas
Manassas, VA
Review: 1.5 Lightbulbs / 4

When I first saw the previews for this film, it looked both dark and original, so of course, I immediately went to the library, and read Jeanne DuPrau's novel on which the film is based. The book was terrific, but aimed at a younger audience than I'd expected. The film loosely follows the book, with only a few major changes. The book starred two rather clever twelve-year-olds, while the characters in the movie seemed a few years older. But considering that the story occurs right at their "coming of age", moving that up a few years makes it easier for the audience to relate (we don't generally see a twelve-year-old as an adult, and that would be difficult to act). Despite being a few years older, I think that the personalities of the characters were captured fairly well, particularly Lena, who loves to run! I was disappointed by the addition of a parent conspiracy plot. The book, while simple, was complex enough without that. I think the main duo appear much stronger when they do everything on their own, rather than having to follow in the footsteps of some adults. Again, I imagine the producers just couldn't bear to give adult responsibilities and ideas to these young heroes. Bill Murray is great as the mayor, and by and large the acting throughout is very good. As usual, the places where the movie has trouble are the places where they deviated from the book. Some of the changes defy comprehension, like the mutant mole, and an ending that stretches plausibility. I imagine that the changes were made in an effort to appeal to an older audience than in the book, but I think that could have been done through strong directing and strong acting, both of which were apparent, without the need for "creative" writing. It's that creative writing that is causing a great storybook to fizzle at the box office, when it should be thriving from audiences young an old who have some imagination, and just a bit of curiosity. Skip the movie. Read the book.

—Brian (10/20/2008 1:15 PM)

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Saturday, August 23, 2008)

Title: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Rating: PG
Release Date: August 15, 2008
When seen: August 22, 2008
Venue: Regal Cinemas
Manassas VA
Review: 1.5 Yodas / 4

George Lucas's latest exploitation of our beloved franchise has received reviews that are somewhat unfavorable. Actually, it seems that most reviewers hated it. Roger Ebert closes his review with the question, "how do Hutts copulate?" We don't want to know. And we wish we didn't have to think about it. Yet, we are forced to, as the plot, even weaker than usual, focuses on Jabba the Hutt's infant son.

I was pretty sure we were in for trouble, when the movie began as expected, but then, instead of John Williams' famous score, we were greeted by similar, but obviously different music, and then instead of the venerable introductory crawl, we get a voice over... as though the audience is either too dumb, or more likely, too young, to read a few short paragraphs of text.

But perhaps I judged too hastily. The movie jumps immediately into animated action. Ebert did not appreciate the animation of the movie. I found it spectacular. While George Lucas's computer generated imagery ranges from jarring in the prequels to horrifying in the "Special Editions", the same techniques are used here to stunning effect. As a fan of Japanese Animation, I was pleased to see all of the action fully animated, and the action was, at times, breathtaking.

Unfortunately, the movie suffers from a weak overall plot, and while the scenes were, in general, good, the writers could not resist adding a number of Jar-Jar-esque elements that would make even the most liberal of fans want to cry. The battle droids were endowed with even more obnoxiousness and less battle ability than in the prequels, and Jabba the Hutt's uncle reminded me continuously of South Park's Eric Cartman. And it's not a subtle reminder either. It's painful.

On the bright side, Jabba's infant son has no dialog, and despite his central role in the plot, he doesn't ruin the film. The film also introduces a 14 year old Togruta female, Ahsoka Tano, who is assigned as Padawan to a less than enthusiastic Anakin Skywalker. Shockingly, the character is witty, talented, and quite endearing.

With the exception of Anakin, Obiwan, Ahsoka, and a handful of senior clone troopers, nearly all of the dialog in the movie could be removed, and the movie would be much improved. The female villain Ventress is also very slick, but some of the characters we've met before, such as Amidala and Yoda, are poorly executed and add little to the film.

Once again, George Lucas has focused on creating a visual masterpiece, but has totally messed up on the plot and script. The visuals make the film worth seeing — on DVD or possibly a matinee, if you can catch it before it's yanked from theaters. Just be prepared to ignore most of the dialog. This will be another great opportunity for the Phantom Editor, if he can prune it down to about an hour and replace the score with John Williams' classic composition, and create a tolerable short film.

—Brian (8/23/2008 12:40 AM)

Movie Review: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Monday, July 4, 2005)

Title: Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: June 10, 2005
When seen: July 3, 2005
Venue: Fairfax Corner 14
Fairfax, VA
Review: Action Fun!

Mr. and Mrs. Smith is an unlikely story about a couple who are each professional killers who each think the other is just a regular person. It has all the usual shoot 'em up, car chasing, body count action sequences you would expect from a film with that premise, but at the same time it manages to poke a little fun at itself and stay witty and upbeat through most of the film. As outlandish as the story is, it is easy to suspend disbelief for most of it. An interesting aspect is that John and Jane both seem to be heavy drinkers — she drinks Johnny Walker Red Label Whiskey among other things, and John (a man after my own heart) seems to be exclusively attached to Bombay Sapphire martinis. One of the few issues I had with the film is that Jane Smith's agency smacks just a bit too much of Charlie's Angels, which is silly in the context of the rest of the movie. I heard a review on the radio the other week criticizing the film for having a violent physical exchange between Jane and John turn into a passionate love scene, as though that somehow shows some tacit approval of domestic violence. That's nonsense. The scene makes perfect sense within the context of the film, and is perfectly understandable to anyone who is at least aware of the existence of sadomasochism as a reasonable form of pleasure (even if it isn't perhaps for everyone). The only other criticism that I have is the final gun battle: first, it went on way too long (though that might have been the 32 ounce soda); and second, why is it that only John and Jane have decent bulletproof vests, but everyone else may as well be dressed in pink lace? Nevertheless, the movie is a lot of fun, and a worthy escape to two hours of killer fantasy.

—Brian (7/4/2005 03:08 AM)

Movie Review: Howl's Moving Castle (Saturday, June 11, 2005)

Title: Howl's Moving Castle
Rating: PG
Release Date: June 10, 2005
When seen: Opening Night
Venue: Cineplex Odeon Shirlington 7
Arlington, VA
Review: Another Miyazaki Masterpiece

Hayao Miyazaki has produced yet another masterpiece. In Howl's Moving Castle, a young lady, Sophie, is magically transformed into an elderly woman and falls in with a dashing (okay, he's freakin' gorgeous) wizard named Howl, who has a bizarre relationship with a fire demon and lives in a house... on legs. The setting looks like an early 20th century Europe in places that hadn't quite caught up to the new time period yet. The scenery is very pretty, the characters are very cool. Surprisingly, the movie was in Japanese with English subtitles, but I'm hoping for an English language dub before it is released on DVD. There is a lot going on in the movie and characters are trying to accomplish certain goals and do certain things... but I had some trouble following it... still, it was cool, even if you aren't quite sure what's going on. Like most Miyazaki films, Joe Hisaishi did the score and the music during the closing credits is wonderful. I was somewhat disappointed that his music didn't come out more during the rest of the film, however, and there were a couple of scenes that might have reduced me to tears if Hisaishi's work had been brought out a little bit more. So while it doesn't beat out Spirited Away or Laputa, it is still wonderful and highly recommended!

—Brian (6/11/2005 10:32 PM)

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