Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah (IMAX)

WARNING: There may be some slight spoilers in this review. I don't really consider them spoilers, but some people might. 

Being such a huge Russell Crowe fan, I'll watch just about any movie he's in. This is no exception. And while this isn't my favorite movie of his, I can honestly say that Noah is still pretty decent.

There's really no point in going into details about the plot since most of us are familiar with the story- Noah (Russell Crowe) is chosen by God, who is referred to in this movie as "The Creator", to build an arc, save the animals, etc. in order to survive the apocalypse so the world can start over new.

Make no mistake though, this is NOT the version of Noah's Arc that most of us heard when we were kids. Director Darren Aronofsky takes several liberties, which I was okay with for the most part. Although there were several acid trip like moments that I could have done without. I wasn't really surprised given Darren's previous work, included Black Swan which I liked.

Despite the odd moments I mentioned, the visuals were one of my favorite things about this. Everything looked stunning, especially in IMAX. If you're planning on seeing this in theaters and have one in your area, IMAX is definitely the way to go.

The acting was outstanding. Russell Crowe was brilliant it goes without saying. But someone who really stood out to me was Emma Watson. She is becoming a great young actress, which I already knew being a Harry Potter fan. I always had a feeling that of the three main actors from that franchise, she would be the most successful.

Jennifer Connelly is also in this and while she does a good job, there's really not much for her character to do.

Anthony Hopkins plays Noah's grandfather. Despite having only about 10 (maybe 15) minutes of screen time, he makes the most of it.

This movie is not for everyone. It starts off kind of slow and even has a few things that will make you go, "Umm, what?" For example, there's talking rock giants. I kid you not. They neglected to mention those in the trailer.

Also, without giving too much away, there's several moments toward the end that took me out of the movie for a moment and made me REALLY angry (and forced me to lower my rating). Luckily it redeems itself.

Despite it's nearly two and a half hour run time, I was never bored. Noah is one of those movies that may not be perfect, but I think you should give it a chance.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Divergent (IMAX)

With The Hunger Games coming to a close soon, people are looking for the next big YA franchise. They failed with Mortal Instruments. They failed with Beautiful Creatures. So now Lionsgate has bought the rights to Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy, the first one being released this weekend. So how was the movie? Well... it's better than both Mortal Instruments and Beautiful Creatures. Not that that's saying much.

I haven't read the books yet. However, I read a plot summary of the whole trilogy on Wikipedia so I have a basic idea of what happens.

Divergent takes place in a futuristic Chicago where society is divided into five factions- Abnegation (selfless), Erudite (intelligence), Dauntless (bravery), Candor (honesty), and Amity (peaceful). During their teen years, people take a test to determine what faction they should belong to. They can choose to remain in the faction they were born into or they can transfer to another. But if they choose to transfer, they can never go back.

Sixteen year old Beatrice 'Tris' Prior (Shailene Woodley) was born into Abnegation but never quite fit in. Much to the surprise of her family, Tris chooses to transfer to Dauntless. She's also hiding something from everyone- her test revealed that she's actually Divergent, which means she doesn't fit in to just one faction. Divergents are considered a threat to society because they can't be controlled. Tris tries to fit into Dauntless, undergoing rigorous training and tests. One of her instructors is the mysterious Four (Theo James). Yes, that's actually what his character is called. To be fair they do explain the meaning behind the name later on. During all this, there's also a rising conflict that threatens to tear this so called "peaceful" society apart.

The movie is directed by Neil Burger, who's previous work includes Limitless and The Illusionist. One of the things I liked about what he did was that he took the time to explain the whole factions idea. The whole reasoning behind why they want the society this way is a bit confusing, but at least he tried. It's not really his fault anyway. I think the author of the books is to blame.

What I didn't like about the movie was, with the exception of a few scenes, how cheap everything looked. Not just the visual effects but the costumes, sets, etc. They supposedly had an 80 million dollar budget. What the hell did they do with all that money?

I'm usually a big fan of music scores, but I just didn't like the one for this. It was really cheesy at times, especially during the so called romantic scenes.

The acting was decent enough. Shailene Woodley and Theo James were pretty good as Tris and Four ,although they wouldn't have been my first choice. Their dialog was terrible and predictable though. Kate Winslet is in this, for all of about fifteen minutes, as Jeanine- the leader of the society and the story's main villain. She's way too good of an actress to be in a movie like this.

Don't even bother seeing this in IMAX since it doesn't add anything to the experience. If you really want to see this in theaters (although I strongly suggest you just wait until it comes out on DVD/Blu Ray) save yourself some money and see it on a regular screen.

I have a feeling Divergent will do well at the box office. Certainly enough for them to officially green light the two sequels. Which I'll admit, I'll probably watch. But I'm sorry, there's no way this is going to be the next Hunger Games. With Hunger Games I remember walking out of the theater going "Wow that was amazing! I can't wait to watch it again." I just didn't get that with Divergent. It had some interesting ideas but it was not well executed.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, March 15, 2014


I know, I know. I'm super late seeing this. I figured now was as good a time as any since none of the new releases this week looked good. I'm so happy I went since Frozen is such a cute movie.

Frozen tells the story of two sisters- Else (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). Elsa is now Queen of the kingdom of Arendelle. She also has been keeping a secret- she has the power to create ice and snow. They never really explain why she has these powers other than to say she was born that way. You kinda just have to go with it. On the day of her coronation, a combination of all the emotions she's bottled up and an argument with Anna causes her to accidentally trap Arendelle in eternal winter (sort of the way it feels here in New York right now). Fearing she's become a monster, Elsa runs away. It's up to Anna to find her and try to figure out a way to save the kingdom. She's aided in her journey by  mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and a funny magical snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).

Major props to directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee as well as the animation department for bringing this story to life. The animation is gorgeous. The story is sweet and clever and can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

One of the many things I like about Frozen is while the whole romance aspect is there, it's not the main focus of the movie. It's really about the relationship between two sisters.

Of course, I can't write this review and not mention the amazing soundtrack. Every song is really catchy, especially Let it Go. There's no way you can hear it and not get it stuck in your head for days. Is it overplayed? Definitely. I mean, I'm a preschool teacher and I hear that song about a million times a day. It's still a great song though.

I normally don't hand out too many perfect ratings, but I can't honestly think of a single flaw in this movie. Frozen reminds me so much of the Disney movies I grew up with- The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, etc. It seems like Disney may finally be heading back in the right direction.

My Rating: 10/10

Saturday, March 8, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire (IMAX 3D)

It's been years since I've watched the original movie so forgive me if I mess up any information.

300: Rise of an Empire is one of those movies that I wasn't too sure about. From the trailers it looked decent enough. And I liked the original. But trailers as you know can be misleading. However, since it was the only decent movie coming out this week I decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did since it actually ended up being a decent movie.

The movie is interesting in the sense that it's not really a sequel . It's more of a prequel as well as a midquel (most of the events take place at the same time as 300). It's not until near the end that it becomes an actual sequel. It was interesting they went that route.

The story features some of the original cast as well as new characters. It's basic premise is a Greek general named Themistakles (played by Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton) leads forces against a Persian invasion, which is technically being lead by a man turned god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). However, the real mastermind behind the invasion is a woman named Artemisa (Eva Green) who has her own reason for seeking revenge against the Greeks. Queen Gorgo (played once again by the great Lena Headey) appears as well, although her role is fairly small (but still important).

The movie is directed by Noam Murro. Zack Snyder (who directed 300) was originally suppose to direct but he was too busy working on Man of Steel. He still served as a producer though. It certainly felt like one of his films with all the ridiculous slow mo and over the top CGI blood.But I came into this movie expecting that.

I thought the battle sequences were well done, even if they were silly for the most part. I enjoyed seeing them played out. I really liked how most of the fighting too place on the water too. It looked awesome considering the movie was pretty much shot using green screen.

Speaking of visuals, I highly recommend seeing this in IMAX 3D. The whole movie really benefits from an IMAX screen. You really feel like you're in some of those battles. The 3D was surprisingly good.

I almost forgot to mention the acting. Not that anyone is going to win any awards for these performances, but I thought they all did a good job considering the kind of movie this is. I especially loved Eva Green in this. She was a total bad ass. I'd love to see her do more of these kinds of roles.

The only thing that's keeping me from giving this movie a higher rating is the sex scene. It was just so awkward and dumb. Several people in the theater, myself included, were laughing as it played out. I don't understand what the point of it was. To show off Eva Green's boobs maybe? Who knows.

Despite this, Rise of an Empire was a decent movie. It's visually stunning. It's over the top. But damn if I didn't have a great time watching. Is it as "good" as 300? Probably not. But it comes close.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Sorry for the short review. I'm still trying to get over a bad cold and just didn't feel like writing too much. I promise next weeks review will be better.

I had totally forgotten that this movie was coming out until a few days ago. Liam Neeson kicking ass for two hours? Sign me up!

Yes, Non-Stop is pretty much the same movie Liam has been making over and over again these last few years. Only this time it takes place on a plane. He plays a US air marshal named Bill Marks. He's on a transatlantic flight when all of a sudden he receives a series of text messages that say if he doesn't wire $150 million into an account then someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes. Obviously someone on the plane sent the messages so it's a race against time as Bill tries to find out who is behind all this and save the day.

Liam Neeson is probably one of my favorite actors. He can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. And while this is far from his best role, it's still pretty good. You don't get a heck of a lot about his character's back story, but you get enough information so you're not completely confused.

The director Jaume Collet-Serra (who directed Liam a few years ago in Unknown, which was decent but nothing to rave about) does a lot of showing rather than telling. I love how he shot the movie, which made you feel like you were seeing things from Bill's perspective and how he observes the people around him. I thought it was pretty creative.

The only other character that they try to develop is Jen, played by the great Julianne Moore. She's a passenger who befriends Bill and helps him solve the mystery.

The fight sequences were the best part of the movie for me, even if they did get a little silly by the end. Still, I had a lot of fun and it kept me on the edge of my seat.

The movie gets major points taken off though for the ending. When you finally get to the big reveal, it makes you go "That's it??". Such a letdown on what was otherwise a decent movie.

If you're into movies like this, I'd say give it a try. Especially if you're a Liam Neeson fan. However, I wouldn't rush out to see it or anything.

My Rating: 6.5/10