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Summer Viewing ’07 September 4, 2007

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews.
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For the sake of posterity and in keeping with the prior post on movies, these are the films I caught in theaters over the summer:

Meet the Robinsons. It’s a good thing this was still showing when I arrived in Manila because it’s surprisingly very good. Where CGI animated films are concerned, I’m generally of the opinion that no one does it better than Pixar; yet this Disney offering comes very close primarily because the story is implemented so well. It’s quite funny, ultimately touching (really!), and for the kids there’s a very good moral lesson at the very end. In fact, it’s one I have to admit that I very much needed to hear.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End. Alas, the one movie I absolutely wanted to watch this summer was inevitably the biggest disappointment of the lot. The bottom line is that this was an utter and complete mess. I can almost forgive everyone involved for cashing in on what ought to have been the sequel to end all sequels were it not for the fact that this one departed from and perhaps even betrayed all the elements that made the first one exceptional.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The first Fantastic Four movie was nothing to write home about, so by that yardstick alone this one was an improvement — and that’s not a compliment. At most, it’s straightforward escapist entertainment, though the Marvel fanboy in me rebels at the “Johnny Storm: Super-Skrull!” twist at the end (I also can’t stand the idea of Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, though that’s one battle I think I’ll never win). I did, however, get a kick out of seeing the Silver Surfer on the big screen since his was the first comic book title I ever collected.

The Invisible. Honestly, this film had potential but ultimately fell flat. The problem, really, is that the story just doesn’t have anywhere to go. More’s the pity, as the cast generally deliver pretty impressive performances.

Ratatouille. Pixar have done it again! It’s certainly the studio’s most impressive offering to date. The gags that find their way into the movie, particularly in the hilarious final act, are topnotch and thoroughly entertaining. Well, perhaps not as entertaining as The Incredibles, but we’re all entitled to have favorites now, aren’t we?

Transformers. I didn’t expect much from this movie, so by definition I wasn’t disappointed. It’s an interesting take on the cartoon, though the story leaves a lot to be desired. I understand that Michael Bay wanted to make this a family film of sorts, which perhaps explains the painfully pathetic attempts at humor (“Autobots…hide!”) that were neither here nor there. Shia LaBeouf does play his part very well, which more than makes up for the complete miss that was John Turturro (disappointing, that) and the rather unnecessary casting of a token “hottie” in Megan Fox. My main complaint remains that the robots were over-rendered: while the intention was to make them look very modern, the net effect was just to make the battle scenes almost completely indecipherable (and I’m glad ‘Lil Formers’ Matt Moylan makes the same observation.)

The Bourne Ultimatum. Perhaps the best movie I saw all summer. It’s a fantastic chase film that’s by far the best in the series. In retrospect, I particularly appreciate two things about the film. First, it has an uncanny ability to keep the action unrelenting while at the same time being uncompromising with the tale that has to be told. Second, it ties in to the prior movies quite well, complete with homages to past scenes that really brings the trilogy around full circle. I think it’s great that there’s a resurgence of these secret agent-type movies in a manner that makes sense in a post-Cold War context.

The Simpsons Movie. I was never a fan per se, so I thought this was so-so. Personally, however, I think it’s sad that people brought their kids to see this one in droves just because it’s an animated film: it’s really more of an adult cartoon, and while the satire is ridiculously funny, the values espoused in the film (as in the series) are too often off-kilter.

Surf’s Up. Not bad for what it is, really. The effort put into animating the surfing is truly remarkable and there should’ve been more of it. It’s presented as a faux documentary, though, which despite its novelty takes some getting used to. Oh, and John Heder as stoned surfer-chicken? Right on!

Hairspray. Surprisingly entertaining, especially since I only vaguely remember the 1988 original. As presented, the story feels somewhat dated, so it’s a good thing that most of the song and dance numbers are chock full of energy. Casting-wise it’s a star-studded affair with some standouts (Zac Ephron and Elijah Kelley were in my opinion the best performers of the lot) and some complete misses (John Travolta as a woman is just plain wrong). Newcomer Nicole Blonsky does quite well filling in for Ricki Lake, who herself makes a cameo towards the end of the film.

Rush Hour 3. File this one under “I saw the first two (and can’t explain why), so I had to see this one as well.” It’s very much like its predecessors, though perhaps the least coherent of the bunch. By this installment the dynamic between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan has gotten very old, and the culture-clash antics more and more irritating. It’s cool that the story manages to tie into the first movie quite nicely, but it’s a stretch to build the plot on yet another secret in Detective Lee’s life. “Convoluted” doesn’t even begin to describe a story revolving around a Japanese “foster brother” who happens to be running a Chinese triad cell in France. Heck, it looks even more ridiculous in print.

Evan Almighty. Coming from Bruce Almighty, which turned out none too bad for a Jim Carey movie, it was difficult to know what to expect from this sequel. In truth it’s quite different: less “funny” but amusing nonetheless, more straightforward and with a completely different “moral lesson” at the end. For what it is, however, it works. Indeed, it’s almost as if the creative minds behind this one just set out to make a film about Noah’s ark come hell or high water (pardon the pun); if so, they’ve succeeded admirably. In short, it’s decent enough entertainment in spite of itself.

Disturbia. A very well made thriller. The film manages to keep audiences on the edge of their seats mainly because it keeps mostly to the story it tries to tell with few distractions along the way. Personally, I enjoyed it because the modus operandi of the serial killer in the film reminds me somewhat of the one featured in the book The Devil in the White City. More than anything, this movie demonstrates that Shia LaBeouf has some serious acting chops.

Whoa, that was a lot. Does it show that I really enjoyed my vacation this summer?

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1. His Dark Materials (Part 1 of 2) « BRAIN DRAIN - September 29, 2007

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