Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Mon 24 May 2010 10:40 pm   //   Posted in: Review, TV

“Lost” and the dawn of the criticism-proof TV show

“Lost” was the only TV series I’ve ever watched start-to-finish as it aired. The finale yesterday was superb television—keeping the mystery alive, adding a few life lessons to chew on, and remaining a textbook study in how to craft a powerful narrative from pictures, words, sound effects and (especially) music.

Sat 23 May 2009 7:21 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

Review of “Star Trek”: Half of Four Stars

Last night we went to see “Star Trek” at the Regal Battery Park Stadium 11. We like this cinema because it’s in a bad location and nobody goes there. As always, we got great seats.

I’m not a Trekkie, but I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek films, and I was excited about this revitalization of the franchise. The previews started rolling at 7:20, and the movie started soon after. At about 8:30, the whole screen went dark. A few minutes passed and the movie sputtered to life again, only to cut out again after a few seconds. A woman from the theater, presumably the manager, entered and apologized. She said they were working on the problem in the projector booth. She gave us an update every few minutes until finally it emerged that the projector was totally broken—no power—and we would all get free passes to a future movie. (Credit to this manager for handling this disappointing situation exactly right.)

Since we only saw about half the movie, here’s half a review of it.

I really like what director J.J. Abrams has done with “Star Trek.” Expecially the beginning—five minutes of breathless action in which a man dies and a boy is born and two gigantic spacecraft are destroyed. THIS is how to start a movie! THIS is what we’re paying to see! The movie stays strong from then on, following the life of James T. Kirk on his way to Starfleet Academy and, ultimately, as a crew member aboard the Starship Enterprise. When the Enterprise is sent to answer a mysterious distress call from Vulcan,

– End –

Tue 14 Apr 2009 8:15 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review, Technology

Spoiler alert

Last night I watched the leaked workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a movie that doesn’t open until May 1. The print appeared online around April 1, much to the dismay of 20th Century Fox, which has vowed to find the person responsible for leaking the file. I used a Web site called The Pirate Bay and a program called Limewire to find and download a Quicktime file; it took about four mouse clicks. Apparently it’s so easy to find a streaming version of the bootleg that one movie critic stumbled upon it by accident.


Thu 12 Mar 2009 7:56 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

How to fix Watchmen

Saw Watchmen last night. The audience I watched it with (in a 2/3-empty theater) lasted about 90 minutes before it started laughing at the film, rather than taking it seriously. A little comic relief would have helped diffuse all the splattering blood.

Actually, I’m not sure how to have fixed this movie. Rewrite the Columbo-esque dialogue at the ending? Come up with a soundtrack that doesn’t sound like it was sourced from the MP3 collection on the LAN in my college dorm? Make Dr. Manhattan wear pants?

Here’s one person’s hilarious idea: Make it a Saturday Morning cartoon! (Video below.)

Sun 8 Feb 2009 5:18 pm   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

Seeing “Coraline” in 3D

We saw the animated film “Coraline” yesterday at one of the theaters in Times Square that was showing it in 3D. Special glasses required. I can take or leave 3D movies – the gee-whiz factor is offset by the fact that the movie appears darker, and blurrier around the edges, compared to seeing it in 2D.

“Coraline” is similar in style to “Corpse Bride” (co-directed by “Coraline” director Henry Selick and Tim Burton) and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (directed by Burton). These films are beautifully crafted, each one a work of art. I really want to love these movies. But for some reason I find them to be a bit of a let-down. I’ve never been able to pinpoint why.

Do you ever work on a project that involves solving a really hard, interesting problem? And eventually you solve it! But in doing so, you’ve sucked up all the time, energy or budget you need to solve the easier, conventional problems. And so the final product may have been a great expense of creative energy, but it also isn’t as good as you want it to be. I’ve written investigative stories and done online projects that ended up this way. So much good work, so little to show for it.

I think it must be easy for animated movies to fall into this trap. The hard, interesting problem is bringing to life the lifeless. The very act of making “Coraline” is a miracle of patience and hard work. But there are other problems that have to be solved for a movie to be excellent – like story, dialogue and voice acting. In the case of “Coraline,” I should have positively loved a film that includes the vocal talents of John Hodgman and They Might Be Giants (both of Brooklyn, by the way). The children’s book on which the movie is based is supposed to be good. So why do the characters and the story seem so humdrum on the big screen? I think it must have been the script, which somehow doesn’t match the ambition of the animators. But hey, I got a free pair of 3D glasses out of the experience.

Wed 19 Nov 2008 9:41 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

Quantum of Something

Last night we saw the new 007 flick “Quantum of Solace.” My favorite part was the part about the quantum of solace. [Pause for laughter.]

James Bond feels like he’s in a kind of transitional phase, but the movie is still a safe choice: You’re paying for 007, you’re getting 007. Two films ago, the ever-wise custodians of the Bond brand brought in actor Daniel Craig to bring the series up to contemporary standards. So far, this has meant copying the look of the Jason Bourne movies (which have come dangerously close to out-Bonding Bond). The new Bond involves less sex, gadgets, drinking and sleaze – and more noise, quick-cut fight scenes, backstabbing and pain. Judy Dench is the ideal M, and Craig is the best Bond ever. The problem is the villains. The bad guy in this film is the head of a utility company who’s evil scheme involves— [spoiler alert!] (more…)

Sat 30 Aug 2008 11:48 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

Walking the high wire

Saw the new documentary Man On Wire yesterday. It’s about the French tightrope-walker and his friends who sneaked onto the roofs of the World Trade Center in 1974, strung a cable between the towers, and performed a high-wire act for the surprised and delighted crowd below.

Lately I’ve been paying closer attention to the different ways of telling a story in a documentary. This movie has no narrator, just the voices of the participants retelling the events. The filmmakers interject their own comment and sense of humor using music and editing. This film uses actors to recreate scenes that were never filmed originally, which sounds sneaky but serves the story well.

Any work of nonfiction succeeds or fails based on how good the material is. In this case, it’s a brilliant and simple story with some universal themes. It’s about taking a reckless risk for art, about chasing an obsession, and about craving some intense experience in a world engineered to be safe and comfortable. It’s also about success: He did it!

Unmentioned in the film is what happened to those towers. That seems like a missing piece of the story, but on the other hand, what are they going to say about it that the audience doesn’t already know?

Sat 2 Aug 2008 2:46 pm   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

You call *this* the biggest movie ever?

Saw the Batman movie yesterday. Fine. Too violent. Didn’t live up to the hype. Also, Gotham City is Manhattan, not Chicago. You can’t have it both ways.

(Update: “It’s a film that is just rewriting the record books every day and redefining our notions of what a blockbuster can be.“)

Mon 26 May 2008 10:23 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Movies, Review

Worse than Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones quicksand

The most tragic thing about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is that for millions of kids, this will be their introduction to Indiana Jones. Not the swashbuckling hero movies from the 80s, but an incoherent, over-CGI’d space alien picture. (Spoilers follow.)


Sun 30 Mar 2008 11:44 pm   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

Iraq war still waiting for its movie

Sooner or later, somebody’s going to make a great movie about the Iraq war. Stop-Loss, which I saw this afternoon, isn’t quite it. (Spoilers to follow.)