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Archive for the ‘2010s’ Category

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

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I swear, if you say this one is boring – this conversation is going NO FURTHER.

Also, sorry for the big gap in my reviews. I know you’re at the edge of your seat wondering what’s going to happen to Harry.

If you thought shiz was going down in the last movie – just imagine the wizarding world without Dumbledore.  No more Hogwarts feasts.  No more Quidditch matches.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s life at the wizarding school is a thing of the past, a fond memory to keep them going through the wilderness.  They’re big kids now, in a big world.  One can only hope that they learned enough to survive.

There’s a full-on war, here.  Even the Ministry of Magic is taken over by Death Eaters early in the film.  It’s up to Harry (and his pals) to off Voldemort… but it’s a little more difficult than just marching up to his front door and Avada-Kedavraing him (not that that’s even easy).  Turns out Voldemort has taken every measure possible to ensure his immortality by splitting his soul seven times.  These bits of his soul are stored in Horcruxes, little dark-magic objects that can only be destroyed with toys like goblin swords, or basilisk fangs.  Annnd they have to destroy these before they can even THINK about killing the big V with no idea where they are or what they are.  Dumbledore’s left behind a few clues for the teens to start on their quest… but that’s hardly enough to get ’em rolling.  So they spend a lot of time wandering around in forests and on cliff-sides pondering their options.  Don’t worry, they only understand a little bit more than the audience does.  Meanwhile, Harry catches wind that Voldy is searching for the Deathly Hallows, objects of power that date back to an old legend turned kids story.  This is well explained in the film with an excellent, artistic animated scene.

I went and saw this at midnight when it was first released a year ago.  Due to some slight confusion about assigned seating, I abandoned my post in the very front row to watch it on the stairs towards the top.  Paying no heed to the parents’ disapproving looks to the fire hazard I had made myself, it was worth the stiff back.  I saw it with three other friends, two of whom were hardly fond of the slower-paced take on the epic series.  Like, I get it… but I don’t get it.  Maybe it’s just because it follows the book so well.  And, granted, the first half of the book isn’t as exciting as the second half either.  So maybe that’s the only reason I liked it so much (it’s true, you don’t even want to try and watch this if you don’t know your HP trivia).  But even with the “boring” bits, I feel like it’s hardly fair to say it’s a bad movie for that.  I know the book back to front, and this captured the, well, boredom and claustrophobia – and I think that’s awesome!  It’s moody, gritty, and emotional.  So no, I don’t want to have the “boring” argument with you.

Whether it was luck or pure intuition, how fortunate was the Harry Potter series to have three kid actors grow into competent and attractive adults?  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and especially Emma Watson could not be better as the fearsome threesome.  It’s too bad that Bonnie Wright as Ginny couldn’t amount to as much.  Their emotional maturity is especially noticeable during the restless, unsuccessful hunts in the wilderness.  With only one Horcrux found and no way to destroy it, their spirits are low and their tempers are high.  Ron Weasley, a character that is never as fully developed in the books as Harry and Hermione are, has his moments of frustration, but more moments of growth.  This, coupled with Half Blood Prince, is Grint’s best performance.

Watson got her character ages ago, and Radcliffe’s been there for a couple movies too.

The endless journey is important bonding time for the kid-heroes.  Harry and Hermione, obviously, grow closer (and I, for one, adored the dancing scene).  Their relationship is so tender, only tapping into romanticism.  Through the thick and thin of Ron’s jealousy issues, they grow to be so united.  With every other actor giving nothing more than cameo appearances, it was important to get that element right.

David Yates, who has had charge of the last two HP films, has the feel of these books down.  You can tell that he actually read them.  There stand Harry and Hermione at the foot of his parent’s graves on Christmas Day.  The snow is falling in time to the tears that trickle down Harry’s face.  The tender moment doesn’t last long though, before Hermione notices the creepy, cloaked woman spying on them.  The following scene at Godric’s Hollow is so eery, and so deliciously spooky.  Few words are spoken, the music speaks for itself.  Once things started getting down and dirty and snakes were jumping out of cloaks, I think I literally bit my tongue through.  Just like I did when I read that passage in the book.  That’s what I call a good adaptation.

Also, the scenery is consistently breathtaking.  Apparating is kinda like insta-hiking.  You get to the best part first.  It’s unfortunate that the kids can hardly appreciate the beauty surrounding them, their thoughts are with their loved ones who could, like, die.  Understandable.

When things pick up, they pick up.  The beginning chase and the concluding escape from Malfoy Manor are both exhilarating and visually stunning.  These wizard duels are getting faster paced and much more swordsman-like.  As for other characters… that Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter) is still a mean B, huh?  Dobby (Toby Jones – sadly absent from every other movie except Chamber of Secrets) gets to be hero one last time with some seriously hard-nosed toughness, as well as heart-wrenching loyalty and goodness.  Malfoy’s (Tom Felton) two seconds are forgettable.  Alan Rickman had regrettably little to do, but that will be amended in the last installment.  Ray Fiennes was excellent as always, he too with limited screen time.

I could have used a bit more Dumbledore-history, but that’s expendable information (though interesting).  What matters to me is the feel of the film, and that perfectly imitated JK Rowling’s creation. 7/10

Cars 2 (2011)

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In this next installment in the world of vehicles, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) ropes his best-buddy celebrity Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) into racing at the Grand Prix against the open-wheeled race-car Italian stud Francesco (John Turturro).  The Grand Prix, however, is full of surprises, especially when Mater gets a little too involved behind the scenes with some spicy spy cars (Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer, guys..).

Yeah kids, I totes saw a pre-screening for Cars 2.  It’s definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life.  Thanks to Derrick at The Pixar Podcast for the sweet hookup.  I never felt so official before… Listen to our initial responses and the discussion of the film here.

With a few clichés that bug, Pixar has still managed to keep that perfect track record through entertainment, and funny gags.  For someone who’s not a huge fan of Cars, I would definitely recommend this sequel that blows its predecessor away.  7/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

June 21, 2011 at 6:16 am

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

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The greatest disappointment was the gross lack of Chuck Norris jokes…

David Norris (see what I mean? oh, and Matt Damon), with the charming smile in one pocket and a sketchy past in the other, rises from his grungy upbringing to run for Senator of New York.  Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) is a professional ballet dancer, spunky and sassy.  After Norris is slaughtered in the election, he stumbles upon Elise in the men’s room (oh, it’s cool, she’s just hiding from security after crashing a wedding).  Their chemistry is fizzling instantly, and their spontaneous kiss is magical.  Her fire and spirit inspire David to give the best speech of his career – catapulting him to a lead in the next election.

The next day, after failing to spill his coffee according to some agenda that a fairly attractive, skinny black man in a hat (Anthony Mackle) is in charge of, he runs into Elise again.  But that wasn’t supposed to happen.  He was never supposed to see her again.  He was never supposed to arrive at work when he did.

More men in hats confront David.  They explain some religious hoo-dah about “men upstairs,” “the chairman,” life-plans that keep the universe in check, human-beings can’t make decisions… stuff like that.  They swear David to secrecy about their existence, otherwise he gets some serious “reset” lobotomy, oh, and he can never have Elise.

Even three years later when chance takes over and he bumps into her again.  It’s not according to plan.  But then this Thompson dude (Terence Stamp) ups the ante.  If they get together, David will never be president, and Elise will never have the dance career that she would have had.  And he decides to show his omnipotence by forcing a sprained ankle on Elise.  David is faced with following his heart vs. following destiny.

Superb premise.  Once things got cooking in the bathroom I was hooked.  Men with hats observing from above, stalking a potential presidential candidate.  The whole thing with the coffee spilling at 7:05 or the world keels over is pretty awesome.  My first question (of many): are we all observed?  The entire bureau seems to focus all efforts on these TWO people.  I mean, that’s cool, that’s a movie, but they barely put forth the effort to make it look like they observed anyone else at all.  The “big reveal” or whatever missed the opportunity to make this look like a universal organization, encompassing every human being who missteps.  Oh well.

Free agency vs. pre-determined destiny.  Being religious myself, these underlying themes are fascinating.  While many believe “the chairman” to be God as we know him, I think of this chairman dude as being a lot more like the devil.  Obviously this isn’t the real world, and in this real world I do choose to believe that God is watching over upstairs.  But he doesn’t intervene in our affairs like those in The Adjustment Bureau do, he gave us choice.  Satan, or whatever, wouldn’t give us that choice.  And that makes us slaves to him.  This is a dystopian society, and things AREN’T supposed to be like that.

Which is where my main problem comes from.  (Sorry for the religious rant in there, bee-tee-dubs.  I couldn’t help it).  Spoilers.  After all their cat and dog antics, David determines his decision.  He wants to be with Elise no matter the cost.  His decision is made and no “chairman” is going to tell him what to do.  So, in an escapade of brilliance, he and Elise depart hand in hand to confront the man who writes the plans, since no one else seems to know why they can’t be together.

Call me a realist, but I wanted there to be a face to the responsibility.  I’m so pleased that this dude came to his humane side and changed the plan just for them to be together.  He’s a real sweetheart.  But, as anticlimactic as it is, I wanted some kind of confrontation between the good guys and the messed-in-the-heads.  Some big speech about letting us choose our destiny, no one can force us to do anything blabbity blah.  But instead, we get some immediate resolution between Elise and David’s story… and nothing for the bigger picture.  What happens to the next person who unknowingly never meets the person of their dreams?  The future remains sadly unaffected and I guess I had a problem with that.

Anyways.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are a fantastic duo, and I knew that would be so two years ago when I first HEARD about this movie.  I’m not even going to attempt to deny my girl-crush on Emily Blunt, she’s a terribly versatile actress and I’ll bank on any film of hers nowadays.  And, well, who doesn’t love everybody’s man Matt Damon.

The theme and mood of the film is a perfect balance between drama and adventurous excitement.  The music is a wonderful accompaniment to the mood, Thomas Newman is a stud.  The pace too was captivating the entire way (though perhaps with one too many jumps to the future), and I was intrigued until the end with its outcome.  It’s a thinker, and everyone knows that I dig that kind thing.

And again, the plot itself was original and fantastically enthralling.  Walking through doors, super hats, men in suits nonchalantly controlling everything.  Though it perhaps didn’t achieve its potential, it is still worth the watch and an exciting ride.  7/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

June 11, 2011 at 9:55 am

Limitless (2011)

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Makes you wish you were smarter huh?

Bradley Cooper stars as  our hero, Eddie Morra, a snazzy, sharp looking man with a slick apartment.  And yet at the beginning of the movie, standing on the ledge of a forty-story building, it appears he’s about to give it all up and jump.  What could possibly push him to disregard his life, someone who appears to have it all?  Flash back six months, and we can see that Eddie’s climb to the top really started at the bottom. Unkempt, long-haired, broken-hearted, and baggy clothed he shuffles down the streets of New York only to run into his sketchy ex-brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth).  They chat about Eddie’s difficulty getting  his book off the ground (writer is, after all, the international homo-career in cinema), have a few laughs, and then Vernon offers Eddie a pill to help in his distress.  NZT, he called it, FDA approved and on the brink of tearing the market apart, just some paperwork to finish up.

Eddie reluctantly takes the clear tablet and they part ways.  Things get real when his landlord’s hot wife gets on his case for being late to pay rent… Eddie starts getting nervous and sweating, and in a fit of emotional instability pops the pill.  What ensues is arguably the best scene in the film.  Hottie keeps talking, but we hear no words.  The darkened hallway begins to glow, every single detail of the room is emphasized in this new light – as if Eddie were once blind and can now see… everything.  The world seemed to stop around him – all that mattered was this new vision.  He easily evades the situation (and gets some) and things are only just getting started.

Some drug, huh?  He wakes up the next day, as stupid (er, normal – just relatively stupid) as ever but still with a finished first draft of his novel.  He’s dying for another fix, so he sets out to find Vernon.  Vernon ends up dead by some third party, but Eddie ends up with a large bagful of NZT  – so no harm done, right?  Oddly evading the cops, Eddie become famous with this drug and his record-breaking climb to the top.

I think its intent was to be mind-blowing, but I’ll be honest I wasn’t googly eyed and drooling like I was for Inception.  The premise was still trippy though, and I enjoyed that for what it was.  Ever since I saw Bradley Cooper for the first time in Alias I’ve liked him, and Limitless was no exception.  I like to see smarts in action – and watching Eddie become quicker and smarter throughout the movie is sick stuff.  The other actors are good contributions as well (when is Robert De Niro NOT good), though I’m not a huge fan of Abbie Cornish.  Their relationship actually kinda blew. “Oh, you’re a bum so it’s time to break up.” “Oh, now you’re hott and powerful, so I want to sleep with you again.” “Oh you’re going crazy now?  Well, see ya!”  Yeah, I don’t dig that.

It’s engaging, and it does make you think a little bit.  Though the moral implications of such a drug are virtually left untouched, it does allow you to pick at your own brain a little, and if anything else makes you want to learn how to focus better.  Though we may never be super humans, we can develop our brain to serve us better, train our minds to do harder things.  I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but I went home feeling like I should read the dictionary or study economics rather than watch TV…

Also, the camera work ROCKS.  From mystery to thriller, the camera serves the story well.  Eye candy at its best.

Unfortunately, the movie’s greatest flaw is the story’s drive from plot, not character.  Eddie is cool stuff, but we don’t see him grow that much.  There are multiple plot holes (not that I was counting, that’s not how I roll), but there was a significant enough number for me to take note.  But, let’s face it, the plot holes don’t matter.  Focusing on the flaws just makes every movie horrible.    So whatever.  It’s just too bad that it couldn’t have gone deeper with the characters.

In regards to the end… I won’t say much except that I didn’t really like it.  It ended quickly and… well, just not how I would have ended it.  It needed more ambiguity.  There, ’nuff said.

Entertaining, great movie to see in the theater, and I’d watch it again.  I’m glad that Brad the man’s doing more things now.  7/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

June 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Thor (2011)

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The beginning of a fantastic superhero-filled summer.

My first association with Thor began when I was just a kid.  My comic-book loving brother had Marvel characters galore coating his walls and I used to stare at them, with zero comprehension of who they all really were.  Probably the best that I’ve really known Thor, though, was in Adventures in Babysitting.  Don’t judge, Thor has a pretty big impact on bad-A car dealers, too.

I’d watched the trailer for Thor over a dozen times at my job.  They play the. same. commercials all day long.  Excitement turned to boredom, boredom turned to mockery, and mockery turned to WTF Kenneth Branagh is directing this??? And then back to excitement.  Needless to say, I was anxious to see what the distinguished English actor/director of Henry V would bring to the table.

Thor.  The god of thunder.  The son of Odin, king of Asgard.  So basically once upon a time, like a billion years ago or whatever, Asgard and the Frost Giants were at war.  Those snowy dudes wanted all-ruling power over the nine realms, including our blessed Earth.  When Asgard blew them over,  the Asgardians took their little ice trophy, the Casket of Ancient Winters.

Flash forward to present, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is about to assume the throne – even over his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  Those same, frozen, frisky sonofaguns went and ruined his big day by trying to steal back their power…thing.  Thor is kinda pissed, thinks he’s king already, and decides to take matters into his own hands and kinda starts up some war again with those frosty idiots.  Odin (Anthony Hopkins) realizes that, oh wait THOR can’t be king right now.  He should probably go grow up a little bit.  On Earth.  Without powers.  And kinda without his hammer, too.  Things get worse upstairs when Odin has some kind of stressed-induced heart attack thing and falls into his get-better “Odinsleep.”  Loki takes over as king and he wants to run things a little differently…

First of all, does anyone else feel like laughing every time the name “Thor” is used in casual conversation?  Because I do.

I also have to give credit that it was exactly what I was expecting.  A good story, good action, some cheese, and a lot of great stranger in a strange land moments (which I applaud for being highly entertaining, but not overbearing and distracting).  As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t been too exposed to the Thor-verse, so I wasn’t sure how Marvel would mesh with Norse mythology.  After this movie, however, I’m definitely jumping on the bandwagon and I’d call myself a Thor-fan.  While I don’t consider it up to par with the Spiderman movie franchise nor Christopher Nolan’s Batman(s), it does have some surprisingly deep facets to the story – all thanks to Loki.  Loki’s character was the best developed out of anyone else in the ensemble (especially compared to Thor, who became a good boy remarkably quick).  His disturbed countenance and spark of evil are perfectly portrayed, as well as his deep confusion.  I was half rooting for him.  He sold the movie for me and I’d recommend it if only for him.

I think my main complaint was the lack of character development in Thor.  Maybe I’m just not buying the I-am-a-better-person-because-of-a-woman-even-though-I-just-met-her-yesterday plot device anymore.  (Speaking of which, Natalie Portman is in freaking EVERYTHING this year!)  I actually really enjoyed Portman’s performance as the storm-chasin’, researcher/scientist Jane Foster.  Even if I were a science nerd, though, I don’t think I’d be  head over heels for some larger than life specimen from nowhere just because I wanted answers.  I thought that Chris Hemsworth played the two extremes well, but there just wasn’t enough script in the middle to fully appreciate the leader that he turned into.

And how ’bout that Asgard?  The rainbow bridge was as beautiful as I could have imagined it.  Good on ya, folks.  The towers, waterfalls, castles, and landscapes were all breathtaking and god-like.  If I had their kind of power, that’s where I’d live.

We’ve also got things to get us more pumped for The Avengers – Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) played a bigger role than in previous Avenger-precursors.  SHIELD was all over the place trying to figure out that goshdarn hammer, stuck in the ground like Excalibur.  The intrigue builds for the mega-mashup coming in 2012.  But I don’t think of Thor as simply an extended trailer for The Avengers.  I think it’s a great stand-alone flick and I’d welcome a sequel.

The screenplay was fine, but somewhat cliché.  The CGI and action were fantastic and entertaining and the costumes made them gods look awesome.  The secondary characters were good too for the most part (Kat Dennings was getting on my nerves a little bit) with good performances by Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo and Colm Feore.

Branagh, you da man.  Thor is a popcorn flick well-worth the popcorn and the price of the movie ticket, too.  7/10

Jane Eyre (2011)

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A favorite book is not shamed.  Ever since I overcame my Harry Potter movie phobia, I don’t walk into those films with a constant fear of disappointment.  But just the same, it’s been a while since I watched a movie adaptation of a dearly loved book with that edge of fear that your treasure would be thrashed.  I’m pleased to report that Jane Eyre not only didn’t disappoint, but it brought a smile to my face.

In case you are sadly unfamiliar with this classic tale, here’s what’s going down.  This adaptation opens with a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) frantically traipsing some beautiful countryside.  She’s alone, she’s wet, her face looks sad and hurt.  Her hair looks like it was once beautiful before being torn apart by the downpour.   She is taken in my a man and his sisters, a man who’s got muffin chops like nobody’s business (Jamie Bell).  Everything’s spinning, it’s very disorienting.  Who are these people?  Who’s the girl?  As they begin to question her, we are jumped backwards to a memory that obviously belongs to the woman.  She’s now a young girl, eight-years-old probably.

Pause.  As previously mentioned, I love Jane Eyre.  I’ve seen basically every other movie/mini-series ever made.  I read the book twice, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.  I know the story back to front.  This was a bit of a different take.  I was trying to figure where in the story we were, where Rochester man was, and why it seemed like we completely skipped over the climax.  With this being only a two-hour version of a long and detailed book, this was a smart move and helped with us dive into the story without it seeming like a biography.  Which I guess it kind of is, but it doesn’t have that same feel starting in the middle.

Anyways, Jane Eyre had it rough growing up.  Hated by her aunt who took care of her, hated at her sadist boarding school where she lost her one and only childhood friend.  Then she lands a governess job at Thornfield Hall with the young French girl Adele.  Mrs. Danvers (Judi Dench) runs the coop but has a kind heart and accepts Jane.  Later, after Jane is nearly trampled by the mysterious, rude man on a horse, we find out that the mysterious man on the horse is Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender).  She is intrigued by the master of the house, and she becomes a pet of sorts.  Their relationship develops, and so do the mysteries surrounding him.

Jane Eyre is a combination of many genres.  It is definitely a romance.  It is also something of a spooky mystery – an element that is sometimes overshadowed by the romance, but the mystique is awesome.  It is also a drama, and even a tragedy (though not really).  What makes Jane Eyre special is, you know, Jane Eyre. The crossroads she reaches between integrity and happiness has always been moving, and it was not put to shame in this adaptation.  You can feel her pain.  Jane will always be one of the greatest literary heroines ever written and one of my greatest examples.  I can only hope that my own daughters can be as strong as she.

Mia Wasikowska was great.  I would have liked a little more fire in her personality, though she is still wonderful.  She had a great year and this is definitely her best performance to date. I love that she could emulate the intelligence, independence, and integrity that I admire so much in Jane.  Judi Dench, and Jamie Bell are also great secondary characters.  Who steals the show, however, is Michael Fassbender as that sexy SoB.  He so perfectly creates a character that you learn to love despite initial hatred.  Mysterious and dark I couldn’t keep my eyes off him.

The film is also GORGEOUS.  From the get-go I was swept back in time, transported to a new world.  There are a lot of castles, fields, gardens, and woods to capture the eye.  The landscape, combined with the music, help to create the perfect tone for this film.

I think my one complaint is that the two hours FEEL like two hours.  I mean, I’ve seen four hour mini-series of this, and this felt just as long.  I wasn’t complaining, I was loving every second of it.  But it did seem at least a half an hour longer than it actually was.  Which makes me think that they COULD have added more detail in that additional half hour that I ALREADY thought existed.  IMHO.  The constant back and forth in the first fifteen minutes was a little confusing as well.

I love that book, and I now love this movie.  Girls, get yourself a new role model.  Try Jane Eyre.  9/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

May 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm

July 15th, baby

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So. Freaking. Excited. #cannotwait. #iloveharrypotter.

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 27, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Posted in 2010s, adventure, fantasy, movies

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