Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mini-Movie Review Roundup - Adjustment Bureau, Cowboys and Aliens, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, Limitless, Rango

In addition to the many adventures we had over this past summer, the family and I saw a number of movies both in the theater and on DVD. I diligently posted a review on one of them (Cars 2), but never found time to add thoughts on the others. To try and catch up, here are some mini-reviews on the various movies we saw over the summer (listed in Alphabetical order).

The Adjustment Bureau is one of those conspiracy style films I was interested in from the time I saw the first trailer. Even in the trailer, I could see potential plot holes and other problems but it looked like a lot of fun. I'm interested in going back and reading the short story by Philip Dick on which this movie was based.

The story was pretty fun with some strange chase sequences and other action elements. It posed some thoughtful questions about the nature of free will versus destiny and on the nature of personal agency. Some of the themes were a bit heavy handed but the acting was pretty solid and the concept was intriguing enough that I had fun with this movie.

3.5 out of 5 stars

When I first heard about the premise forCowboys & Aliens, I just had to laugh. It sounded absolutely ridiculous and I had no idea how it was going to work. When I first saw the preview, it still seemed crazy, but giving a piece of alien technology to one of the cowboys seemed like a reasonable step to making this seem plausible….or at least as plausible as this scenario could be.

The movie started out very promising and reminded me of what I've loved from Westerns in the past….great, gritty character and plot development with the rebel cowboy standing up for the oppressed citizen, but only so far as he sees fit. Sadly, I felt like some of that strong plot and character development fell by the wayside once the aliens appeared. Instead we were filled with a lot of flash in the pan action sequences which were fun but not as compelling as I would've liked.

I really enjoyed both Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in their roles. I especially loved the "slow" sequences with Harrison Ford as he interacted with some of his hired help or other cowboys searching for the aliens…one of my favorite scenes was when Harrison was talking with the young boy.

Overall, this movie didn't set me up to expect too much out of it…and sadly, that's all it delivered. It was fun, but not outstanding.

3 out of 5 stars

I didn't ever see the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, but when my kids pickedRodrick Rules from the Redbox, they insisted that I watch with them. I must admit that I found this to be more entertaining than I expected.

While it was filled with plenty of juvenile humor (which is alright…and I can enjoy it…hey, don't judge me), it also had some pretty witty writing and good acting to carry off both the verbal and physical jokes. As might be expected, the general plot was somewhat thin but still put forth an alright message to kids who were watching. While the family situation shown was somewhat dysfunctional, we have to acknowledge that every family is dysfunctional in some way. Thus, even through the slapstick and over-the-top story we can learn things about family values and loyalty and have a lot of fun laughing at the ridiculous situations.

Definitely not for everybody, but if you're willing to put up with middle-school humor and attitudes, you don't need to run away if your kids ask you to watch this with them.

3 out of 5 stars

I've enjoyed the Harry Potter series of books and movies but haven't been a rabid fan. I still haven't finished the books and hadn't been overly impressed with Half-Blood Prince, so when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 came out last year, I didn't really care to go see it. Instead, over this past summer, we rented Part 1 and watched it and then went to the theater to see Part 2 a few days later.

I can say I preferred Deathly Hallows to Half-Blood Prince but I still don't buy the need to stretch it into a two part movie. As a movie production, there were a lot of elements that were spectacular…a lot of great effects, good acting, solid writing. I really liked following the wrap-up of the intrigue between Harry and Voldemort and I loved the idea of the Deathly Hallows (when I first heard the title, I thought the word was "Hollows" and was referring to a valley or a glade or something…these "Hallows" were much cooler).

I felt like this was a decent wrap up to the series and was a pretty fun movie. The various intriguing elements of this movie were way fun and probably my favorite part of the series as a whole, but this movie (or rather these 2 movies) are still probably behind Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix as my favorite movies in the series. Still, I have to agree that these films were well made and are enjoyable (though I'd still recommend together rather than separate…maybe fast-forwarding through the lame bits).

4 out of 5 stars

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that my search on Amazon only returns the Unrated Extended Cut of Limitless. I watched the "rated" version, so I'm not sure what was different.

Anyway, this is another movie that drew me in with its intriguing premise…a pill which facilitates/compels you to use 100% of your brain rather than just the small fraction that we normally use. It's intriguing to this about what to do with that unlocked potential ability.

I felt like Bradley Cooper's character was well developed in such a way as to give us a good juxtaposition of just how far this pill could take you. I was glad it didn't take on a "superhero" aspect a la 'Matrix' or something like that, but it was cool to see his interactions and reactions to difficult situations. I also loved that the movie drilled down on the consequences. As the adage goes: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. It was cool to see everything fall apart due to his lack of respect/planning for the power he held.

I felt like the movie really expanded on the idea of how much each of us could truly be capable of if we would just stretch ourselves to try and use our full potential (even without a magic pill). Taken back down to us "normal brain users", there are good messages there…we should stretch ourselves, we should live up to our own potential, we should set high expectations and try to achieve them, we should set goals, we should plan, we should get off our butts and do something worthwhile. This was a fun and thoughtful movie with a subtle underlying message.

3.5 out of 5 stars

When I first saw the trailer for Rango, it seemed like a whimsically funny kids movie that I'd enjoy with my kids. I was partly right.

This movie had some whimsy. It had some funny. And to an extent, my kids enjoyed it. In many senses, I felt like this movie was straddling the fence between "adult" and "child" and had a hard time planting itself adequately for either audience.

Johnny Depp's caricature gecko character of Rango is rather humorous. But a lot of his humor is drawn from Depp's personality or from jokes and allusions that would go over the heads of younger kids.

While I definitely applaud kid's movies for having "inside jokes" geared to make the adults laugh, I feel like they should be subtle enough to not bother or bore the kids. Portions of this movie included sort of existential moments where Rango is searching for the purpose of life or some definition of who he truly is. In some of these moments, the writing and plot are definitely over the head of younger kids.

We watched this with a dozen kids ranging from 2 to 12 and each of them wandered in and out of the room bored with the movie. There were some stretches where no kids were interested anymore and we had to call them back in when some cartoony action reappeared. Some of the kids were also taken back by the swearing in the film. There wasn't a ton, but there was enough that it was noticeable and off-putting for a kids cartoon.

I laughed at a number of segments in this movie and I found it generally pretty fun, but as an overall package, it didn't seem to deliver. I blame most of that on the fact that it was unable to find its true audience because it didn't know who its audience was.

2.5 out of 5 stars

And that, as they say, is that.

What about you? Have you seen any movies in the past few months that you can recommend? Did you see any of these movies…do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?

Let me know. :-)

Today's Quote from Quoting Quotes:


1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

rango was a waste of a dollar at the dollar theartre....ha...really want to see cowboys and aliens, waiting on redbox....