Review: Proof

So, traditionally, I hate math. Always have. I still don’t know all my multiplication tables and I’m getting a Ph.D. in a physical science… I do, however, like to hear about the crazy math stuff that can be applied. For example, I liked “A Beautiful Mind” and I regularly watch “Numb3rs” on Fridays…but I hated “Pi” (mainly because it was as boring as almost every Stanley Kubrick movie ever made…yes, I fell asleep in “The Shining”…deal with it…).

Therefore, “Proof” looked good, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it since it centers around mathematicians. Basically, Gweneth Paltrow plays Anthony Hopkins daughter and Jake Gyllenhaal plays Hopkins’ student… Hopkins is a brilliant mathematician and Paltrow follows in his shoes…but Hopkins has slipped into insanity. The primary question of the movie is whether Paltrow is or is not affected like her father. It is frequently mentioned that mathematicians do their best work before the age of 23 (i.e. really young), so if you’re older than that, is it worth trying anymore? If you’re affected by a mental illness like your father, do you still try to make a life for yourself? Or do you just give up?

I’m doing my best not to mention much about the plot, since it’s better not knowing much about it when you see it. Similarly to “A Beautiful Mind,” there are occasions when you think you know what’s going on, but you definitely don’t…the flashbacks work to the story’s advantage such that they switch back and forth and you don’t necessarily know if it’s really happening, or if it’s in Paltrow’s imagination…

Two things that really struck me:

1). The movie is based on a play by David Auburn. Auburn also wrote the screenplay for the movie, so his “vision” for the play largely got translated over to the movie. There were a lot of flashbacks interwoven, so I’m rather curious how the heck he would have made that work in an on-stage situation…in movies, it’s pretty easy, but on a stage? Not so much…

2). Because it is based on a play, it only has 4 main characters: Hopkins, Paltrow, Gyllenhaal, and Hope Davis (Paltrow’s sister in the movie). If I remember right, there were only one or two other speaking parts throughout, so almost all the lines were between those four characters…and they all did excellent jobs. You could tell that a lot of work went in to pushing the emotion from the characters to the audience, much as you would do in a theatrical (i.e. a play) situation.

So, overall, it’s a good movie. You don’t have to see it in theaters (since it’s not exactly on “wide-release”), but it’s well worth renting sometime when it comes out. Paltrow may get another Oscar nomination for this one…

Review: Serenity

So I saw “Serenity” yesterday. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good movie. I was bored only a few stray times through the movie, usually at the sappy romantic (few and far between) or moral (more frequent…) moments where discussion ensues…

The movie takes up where the show, “Firefly,” left off. One important thing to note: I’ve seen only a few episodes of the series and yet you really didn’t need any of the series to watch the movie…it helps, for sure, but you can definitely see the movie without seeing the show…and it may make you want to rent the DVDs so you can see where it all got started… The show, written and directed by Joss Whedon, of “Buffy” and “Angel” fame, took place 500 years in the future after Earth became over-populated, forcing the inhabitants to search for a new home. They found it in a solar system lightyears away and settled, terraforming many of the planets for their use. Well, some of the planets formed the “Alliance,” which sought to “civilize” the inhabitants on the other planets…those people obviously didn’t want to have their lives messed with and fought back…and lost… The Serenity is a ship that carries some of the people who fought in that war against the Alliance, now working for hire as transporters of legal or illegal goods, sometimes stealing to get what they need, sometimes helping others who need help more than they do.

Whedon also added a few more creative bits, making the “uncivilized” planets look very much like something out of a western film…and they don’t use laser guns or anything, but instead use revolvers…wear leather trench coats, etc…they even speak with the more western-style accent. The show was designed as a “western in space”…and it shows…

Anyway, it was a good story idea…pity the show didn’t last long (11 episodes, I think…now shown on Sci-Fi…). Regardless, Whedon said “screw you, FOX” and made a movie instead…and it worked wonders. The actors, having worked together, were very cohesive. The action scenes were awesome (think of some high-powered “Buffy” fight scenes…but better…) and the space fight sequences had better graphics than “Episode III”… Again, I only got bored a few times as they ranted about hating the Alliance and all they stand for…but it was worth it to see a bad-ass chick fight a bunch of guys, where after the battle, we get a great shot of her standing there with a sword in one hand and a battle axe in the other…with the men’s bodies strewn about her… 😉

So yeah, go see it. Then they’ll make sequels. This would be a good thing. 😛

Review: Must Love Dogs

So yeah, took in a “chick flick” with the wife last night…largely due to a). free tickets and b). John Cusack, who is likely one of my favorite actors. The premise of Must Love Dogs” is rather simple: a woman and a man both went through recent divorces and their family/friends make them sign up at an online dating site, where they both meet each other. She and he both go through the motions of “men/women are all evil, why can’t I find someone perfect, why is the world so messed up,” etc.

Overall, the story is pretty derivative and not thoroughly inventive…as most romantic comedies are, anymore… On the other hand, I did find myself laughing at a few points throughout and I didn’t find myself guessing all of the twists (although, I did guess quite a few of them…). Also, again, John Cusack is the man. One of my favorite movies (and one of the few I identify with on a personal level…) is “High Fidelity,” in which he starred. Both “High Fidelity” and “Must Love Dogs” include his singular wit and humor, which is always fun for me to watch. If you remember, Cusack was in “Serendipity” a few years back with Kate Beckensale and I didn’t think they matched that well (that, and the story was quite unbelievable and didn’t have as much of Cusack’s wit, if I remember correctly)…but Diane Lane and Cusack seem to “mesh” quite a bit better. At the very least, the supporting cast in “Must Love Dogs” is stronger (Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing, Dermot Mulroney, etc.) than in “Serendipity” (…which consisted of Jeremy Piven…and that’s about it…)

Therefore, if you liked “High Fidelity” and the style of humor that Cusack portrays so well, you’ll likely be able to sit through “Must Love Dogs” and almost enjoy it. If you like chick flicks, you’ll love it. If you don’t like chick flicks and hated “High Fidelity,” I think you ought to avoid it…’cause you won’t find anything of value.

Review: Transporter 2

So yeah, saw “Transporter 2” yesterday, not looking to be terribly impressed… I saw the first iteration in theaters when it came out and was quite dissappointed in it. For the most part, the first movie had some cool action scenes, but everything else was just boring. The movie only barely held my attention, only to be revitalized whenever a badass fight scene would pop up.

The second movie improves on the first one in that there is some form of plot that is somewhat entertaining to follow. The action scenes are even more badass than the first movie was and the storyline held my interest for the vast majority of the film.

Overall, I guess I liked it, but there have certainly been better movies… The acting was marginal at best; most of the effects were excellent, but some were a little cheap; and Jason Statham still could have been better used (it seemed to me that he spent more time fighting than he spent talking…perhaps if there was more intelligent dialogue to listen to, a good plot may have developed more clearly…oh well).

On the other hand, maybe “The Cave” would have been a better choice… 😛

(for those who don’t talk to me much, that was sarcasm…)

Review: Wedding Crashers

For the record, I’m very much enjoying Brooke having the job at the movie theater…since that means we get free movies every week… 😛

Anyway, we saw “Wedding Crashers” last night and I think I’ll have to agree with Andy S.’s review on this one. For the most part, it’s a very funny and entertaining flick…but, at the same time, it’s just about the same thing as every other movie that these actors (Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, etc.) have ever been in…

Yet, again, it’s a funny movie and worth seeing. While most of the movie was completely predictable, there were definitely a few parts that I didn’t see coming… Brooke even pointed out that the movie had more of a plot to it than she expected… The whole “crashing weddings” gig really only lasted for a 5 minute music video of sorts toward the beginning until the two main characters, Vaughn and Wilson, made it to Christopher Walken’s daughter’s wedding. There were many “laugh out loud” moments throughout the movie, which was the reason we went to see it in the first place (well…why I went…Brooke wanted to see what the heck John McCain was doing in the movie…).

But at the same time, I already bought “Old School,” so I’m not sure I’m going to have to buy this one when it comes out…since it’s practically the same movie…

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

So Brooke and I got to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” last night, finally… Overall, I thought it was a pretty damned good movie.

First of all, I don’t remember ever reading the book… Secondly, I think I’ve only seen “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” once or twice…so I don’t remember it, either. Therefore, my opinion of this movie is almost solely based on whether it’s a good one or a bad one…not its comparison to the book or anything else…

So, in light of this fact, I liked the movie. It was definitely “odd” at many parts and Johnny Depp did a great Michael Jackson impersonation throughout, but it was a very entertaining, humorous, and touching story throughout. Tim Burton was very successful in depicting the plight of Charlie’s family, as compared to the well-off and misguided other families who won a trip through the infamous chocolate factory. I particularly like Burton’s films because they’re so visually attractive. You can’t help but get immersed in the scenes and environments being depicted, taking advantage of the differences in color (i.e. dreary and bland outside the factory, yet very colorful and vibrant inside).

So yeah, I liked it. I thought it was funny, entertaining, visually stimulating, and honest about the human condition…helping to convey Roald Dahl’s initial vision for the book (as I understand it)…and also that spoiled children are evil, yet innocent, poor children are really cool… 😛

Review: March of the Penguins

So Brooke and I saw “March of the Penguins” on Saturday night and I think we both agree that it was a good movie. What can I say? Penguins are cute. It’s hard not to like watching them. And seriously, it’s incredible what these guys/girls do every year.

The movie begins with the trek from the edge of Antarctica and follows penguins travelling (i.e. “waddling”) toward a more centralized, safer location where they will breed. The males and females will mate and the male will sit there for months without eating…just standing there…with an egg on its feet under a flap of skin to keep it warm. The females will go back to the ocean and then return again with food for the young after they’ve hatched. This is a 70 mi trip each way, keep in mind. This is all happening during a winter in Antarctica which, needless to say, is only slightly worse than a winter in Kirksville.

Anyway, it’s 1.5 hours long and very easy and entertaining to watch. Morgan Freeman does an excellent job narrating, of course, and the penguins are interesting to learn about. If you can see it, I’d recommend doing it. If anything, rent it sometime and watch it, if anything, just to learn more about these incredible creatures. No wonder the penguin is the mascot of Linux… 😛

Review: War of the Worlds

Finally got to see War of the Worlds today…for the most part, it was worth the wait. First of all, I’ve read the book (many years ago…) and seen the original movie (also awhile back…), so I was looking forward to this re-telling of a good story. The main difference is that this movie is told from a different point of view than the original movie and the H.G. Wells classic. This one is about a dock worker and his family, while the original (1953) involved quite a few diverse characters…and worse special effects. Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning do a good job making the audience feel like they’re going through the frightening times of an alien invasion…and Fanning really makes me glad I don’t have a 10-year-old… 😛

Regardless, the acting and story itself are good, and the special effects are what one would expect from a Spielberg movie. I was kinda disappointed in the amount of action in the movie, however. The obvious comparison between this movie and another would be Independence Day, which is a favorite of mine. ID4 had much more action and more points of view for the story to be seen from, which I have always appreciated. On the other hand, War of the Worlds tells us a very similar story from a different point of view, which is also refreshing.

I also didn’t really like how they brought the aliens into the picture this time around. In the original, the alien ships came to Earth encapsulated in meteors and then started attacking…but this one does it differently and makes less sense… They do at least end the movie the same way as the original and the book, which is the most important, I guess.

Overall, the movie is certainly worth seeing, but I don’t think I’ll end up buying it…seeing it once is probably enough for me, honestly. ID4 is still the favorite in alien invasion movies in my book, but this film definitely brought an interesting story to the table for a new generation.

Review: Fantastic Four

First of all, lemme preface this by saying that I owned lots of comic books and comic book collector cards back in elementary school, so I tried to learn lots of stuff about Marvel Comics’ heroes and villains… Spider-Man was my favorite (of course), and the X-Men were popular and cool…but the Fantastic Four had been around for a long time and weren’t quite as popular anymore… Sure, they were a staple of comic book heroes, but they just weren’t that interesting for a kid in the 1990s.

Flash forward to today, 2005. Comic book stories are a hot property for the motion picture business, so Fantastic Four gets picked up for a movie deal. How’d it turn out, you ask? Pretty well, overall. As far as the story goes, I’d classify it between Spider-Man and X-Men: it has the “what the hell happened to us and how do we deal with it?” of Spider-Man, as well as the variety of powers and characters of X-Men, which makes it a bit more interesting. The acting was relatively good, but perhaps could have been a little better…just seemed awkward at parts toward the beginning, I guess, but it got lots better later on… The dialogue was on par with other movies in the genre with few dumb lines (“It’s clobberin’ time” just had to be said, folks…it’s classic!). The special effects were good and the action was fun to watch, although, sadly, the bulk of the action was at the very end of the movie and it would have been nice to see more throughout…but again…when you have four people fighting against one adversary, there’s only so much you can do…

I only had a few real complaints with the movie:

1). The Thing was focussed on a lot compared to the others. This is, of course, because his power was more obvious and had him affected by the outside world more than the others. He steps outside, you see him, you stare at him, he gets affected… It was easiest for the audience to identify with his character more than the others since the others could still live out “normal lives” if they wanted, while the Thing couldn’t… I just would have liked to see more of the others, I think…and certainly more Jessica Alba (heh…)

2). Dr. Doom’s entire character was overhauled for the movie. In the comics, he wasn’t on the ship, wasn’t changed like the others, and couldn’t shoot lightening out of his hands. Now, granted, it made the story easier to deal with and more fun to watch on TV…but still…it was all a bit too convenient, I think. That can be overlooked, however.

So in short, the movie overall was good. Not as good as Spider-Man or X-Men…but it was good… It was good mainly because it was a “super hero” movie that was different enough to be interesting yet similar enough to be entertaining… Frankly, it’s a 2 hour long movie and I didn’t look at my watch once, which is more than I can say about many other movies I’ve seen this year. Does it make sense that “cosmic rays” can “fundamentally change” their DNA to give them super powers? No, not really…but it can still be fun to watch…

Review: Batman Begins

Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this movie ever since I heard they were making it. As you know, I’m a fan of comic movies, but those last two Batman atrocities were too much to bear…and thankfully, this one was about as far from those as is possible…

Batman Begins, quite simply, is probably the best movie I’ve seen in recent memory (eat your heart out Episode III…). This movie marks the return of the Dark Knight to where he belongs: as a brooding, vengeful hero who’s willing to bust some heads for what he thinks is right. Christian Bale even takes it to the point where we believe Batman, as a character, actually has a reason to do what he does…something besides just avenging his parents…something more than that…something beyond himself, which is what the previous Batman movies really centered upon. Previous portrayals of Batman, even including the Michael Keaton version (widely considered the best…), simply pitted Batman against some evil villain, someone who threatened the people of Gotham City. This movie, on the other hand, goes much deeper into Bruce Wayne’s reasons for doing what he does: not only revenge, but also in an effort to live up to what his parents believed and the lives they led, and also realizing that setting an example for the people of Gotham is more important than just beating up the bad guys and bringing justice to the masses.

So yeah, I’m not going to spoil the movie or anything…just gonna say the following: Batman Begins restores any and all lost faith in the Batman franchise, delving so much deeper into the character of Bruce Wayne and his background, as well as offering a few twists and turns throughout the movie to entertain just about everyone. The one complaint I have is, much like Episode III, many of the action sequences are a little too close up and don’t show you a full view of what’s going on…but that is minor compared to how well this movie blows you away…

Go see it. It’s awesome. You’ll love it. And if you don’t, I probably hate you anyway. 😉