This will be the second of three posts covering the movies I have seen so far this summer. Each post will include 8 brief reviews. On Monday I'll finish up with Part Three.
Sherlock Holmes (2009) is first of four recent movies in this round-up. It has been awhile since I have read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but it feels that, like the recent James Bond and Star Trek "reboots," this is Sherlock Holmes for people who don't like Sherlock Holmes. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing as I am all for a different spin on an old, or in this case, public domain, character. As long as you don't go in expecting Doyle's version of Holmes, you should have a lot of fun. The stylish cuts and flashbacks with sepia toned newspapers do a good job of giving the film its own flavor. Robert Downey Jr. is entertaining as usual and he does a great job of playing off straight man Watson (Jude Law) and love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). I didn't really care for the villain, Lord Blackwood, who from my understanding was made up for the film. However, I did like how everything turned out, including how Moriarty was set-up for the sequel. The main characters were fleshed out well, although overall I felt the story could have been better. A pretty good start for this series, but hopefully the sequel will be an improvement. The follow-up, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is set for a December 2011 release date with Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes!
Sherlock Holmes deduces a 6/10!
Long before the video game Angry Birds there was Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963)! I haven't seen too many Hitchcock films yet but I really like what I have seen so far. The directing and cinematography was top notch and the acting was fantastic. Tippi Hedren puts in a fascinating performance as Melanie Daniels, a young heiress. Rod Taylor was great as Mitch, Melanie's love interest. I recognized Taylor from The Time Machine (1960) and an episode of the Twilight Zone. Maybe its just me but I always thought he looks like Robin Williams! Veronica Cartwright was excellent as Mitch's younger sister. This scream queen was also in Alien (1979) as the other female character! The special effects are outstanding, especially for its time. The Birds isn't exactly likeable, but that is the point since it is a horror/thriller film about birds attacking people and how it affects the human characters. I'll have to watch more Hitchcock movies, but so far Rear Window is still my favorite.
The Birds flies into a 8/10!
Somehow I hadn't gotten around to watching Independence Day (1996) until now. ID4, as it is also known, was the top grossing movie of 1996 and made over $300 million. Independence Day is an entertaining summer movie that helped revive interest in science fiction films at a time when they had gotten a bit stale. Independence Day also helped bring back disaster movies since many films such as Volcano (1997) and Armageddon (1998) came in its wake. This is the movie that transformed the "Fresh Prince" into movie star Will Smith, although it was the Men in Black series which would make him a superstar. As for the actual movie itself? The special effects still hold up pretty well and it is a crowd pleaser. However, there are a lot of characters to follow and therefore a lot of back and forth between different plot lines. Some of these are interesting (the President of the USA, played by Bill Pullman) and some not so interesting (a pilot who claimed he was once abducted by aliens, played by Randy Quaid). I loved Brent Spiner's (Data from Star Trek) cameo as an Area 51 scientist. Jeff Goldblum was great in the role of the computer geek, although the scene in which he hacks into the alien computer with a Macintosh laptop is even more ridiculous in 2011 than it was in 1996. And don't even get me started about how Will Smith's dog made a jump right out of Space Jam. Independence Day is a fun but flawed action movie that is also a bit of a throw back to 50s alien invasion movies like The War of the Worlds (1953). However, when it comes to 90s sci-fi epics directed by Roland Emmerich, I prefer the movie he made before this, Stargate (1994).
Independence Day attacks a 6/10!
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) is based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O'Malley. When I first heard about Scott Pilgrim I loved the concept of the main character having to defeat seven exes in order to go out with the girl of his dreams. That said, I went into this movie without having read the comic book so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Although I can't say whether or not Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a good adaptation, I did think it was a good movie with interesting characters. Of the seven exes my favorite was Chris Evans as the movie star! I enjoyed the stylish visuals, sound effects, and video game references. I also liked how the world is generally realistic, but goes straight in to fantasy at times. While in some cases this could be disastrous, it worked with the quirky feel of the movie and it was nice to see something different.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World scores a 7/10!
Prior to the Roger Corman blogathon I watched a couple of Corman directed movies, including The Haunted Palace (1963). Vincent Price, a Corman favorite, hams it up as warlock Joseph Curwen as well as his descendant, Charles Dexter Ward. Ward moves into the same town over 100 years later because he has inherited his great-grandfather's mansion. When it comes to Corman films I still prefer X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, but this one is a lot of fun. Even though Price dominates the movie (which isn't a bad thing!) Debra Paget and Lon Chaney Jr. both put in solid performances. It was also interesting to see Corman do a Lovecraft story instead of adapting Edgar Allan Poe which he was more known for. However, the movie does get its title from a Poe poem. The screenplay was written by Charles Beaumont who wrote over 20 episodes of the original Twilight Zone series.
The Haunted Palace scares up a 6/10!
Into the Night (1985) was directed by John Landis (Animal House) and stars Jeff Goldblum. I first heard about this movie as a fan of Jeff Goldblum (two Goldblum movies in this post!). The basic plot is that Ed Okin (Goldblum) is an insomniac who gets involved with a beautiful young jewel thief (Michelle Pfeiffer). There are over 20 cameos by directors and screenwriters! Everyone from Jim Henson to David Cronenberg to Lawrence Kasdan can be seen in this movie. While it was fun looking out for these faces, it was also distracting from the main story. The best cameo was David Bowie as a British hitman since not only is Bowie a surprisingly good actor, but also because this subplot fit in perfectly with the story and didn't feel like an inside joke as many of the other cameos did. Landis himself appears as one of the Iranian henchmen after the jewels. While the film is enjoyable and competently made, it certainly could have been better. John Landis made Into the Night two years after he directed the first segment of the Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). During filming of that movie, actor Vic Morrow (father of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh) and two child actors were killed in a helicopter accident. Landis went to trial and eventually settled out of court with the families of the victims. I'm not going to demonize or exonerate Landis, but clearly he had other things on mind while making this movie.
Into the Night gets into a 5/10!
Like the other recent movies in today's post, Repo Men (2010) was one that I thought about seeing in theaters before I heard it got mixed reviews. I don't always see films in theaters, but when I do I drink Jose Cuervo... I mean, I make sure its going to be pretty good beforehand! The idea of having artificial organs being sold by companies and then repossessed if the buyers could not make payments sounded like a fascinating concept. Even though Repo Men was based on a 2009 novel by Eric Garcia called The Repossession Mambo, I have heard that the plot is similar to that of Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008). While I liked Repo Men, it could have been a lot better. One of the main problems was the pacing. We know from that trailer that Jude Law's character is a repo man who will in turn get an artificial organ that will need to be repossessed. Unfortunately it took way longer than necessary to get to that point and I felt like I was just waiting for the movie to progress. The ending is interesting to say the least. Without giving too much away, I bet that a lot of people felt cheated as they walked out of the theaters. I kinda saw it coming but didn't think the movie would go in that direction since the idea had nothing to do with the themes of this film and simply felt out of place.
Also I just realized there are two Jude Law movies in this post. I didn't plan the double shots of Goldblum and Law so consider yourselves lucky!
Repo Men repossess a 5/10!
If a movie is not filmed in 3-D, don't see it in 3-D! I watched Clash of the Titans (2010) in glorious 2-D and had a lot of fun. However, I heard that the 3-D version, which was done as an afterthought to cash in on the recent 3-D trend, was horrendous. Sam Worthington of Avatar fame stars as Perseus in this remake of the 1981 Clash of the Titans, which is in turn based on Greek mythology. Although I haven't seen the 1981 version, which has special effects by Ray Harryhausen, I did enjoy this as a fun popcorn movie. The acting was fine given the material. Mads Mikkelsen and Gemma Arterton put in nice performances as Draco and Io respectively. Liam Neeson hammed it up as Zeus with his famous line "Release the Kraken!" Speaking of which, why was the sea monster even called the Kraken? The Kraken is from Norse mythology... are we setting this up for a crossover with Thor?! Despite its flaws I found this to be an enjoyable movie. Hopefully the sequel, due out in spring of 2012, will be even better.
Clash of the Titans releases a 6/10!
On Monday I will post Part Three, in which I review a film from 1932, a Bill Murray movie, and the first film made one of my favorite directors!