Archive for June, 2010

iPhone 4 Has The WiFi’s

L.O.L.  Yes, as ridiculous as this is, I find it highly plausible.

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June 27, 2010 at 6:45 pm Leave a comment

Review: “Knight and Day”

After bursting onto the movie industry radar with the acclaimed biopic Walk the Line, James Mangold follows up his gritty Western 3:10 to Yuma with the popcorn action/comedy Knight and Day.  It’s dumb, loud, sleek, and at times actually kind of boring.  However, it’s the solid chemistry between the leads that keep this flick from being a straight-to-video release.

The plot here is something out of a 90’s action flick: a government agent ‘goes rogue’ when he’s framed for attempting to steal a top secret renewable energy source.  In order to help clear his name, he actually does steal the energy source, kidnaps its fresh-out-of-high-school creator, and enlists the aide of a random woman he bumps into at the airport, who also happens to fall for him in the end.

What the movie has going for it are some nicely choreographed action scenes, a memorable one being a high-speed chase on the freeway with star Tom Cruise dangling from the roof of a van.  And speaking for Cruise, he and his co-star Cameron Diaz, have some decent on-screen chemistry.  While the script isn’t exactly very strong, the two make the most of it and I bought into the romantic aspects of the story, as forced as they were.  The comedy beats in the story help keep the goofy nature of the movie consistent throughout.  I wouldn’t consider Tom Cruise a great comedic talent, but he gives enough for Cameron Diaz to play off of, plus some of the “drugged” sequences are kind of funny.

As Michael Bay-esque as the movie wants to be, what it lacked was solid pacing.  Coming in at just under two hours, this movie could’ve used some trimming, and probably would’ve been a better flick if it was closer to 90 minutes.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a long movie, as long as I’m engaged throughout.  Here, the transitions between acts went on a little too long, and I admit, I fell asleep for a couple of minutes during the last act.  Michael Bay might be considered a ‘hack’, but at least he know’s how to cut out the boring parts of a story. Mangold and his editor Michael McCusker should’ve taken a play out of Bay’s book and done whatever they could to move the story along a little faster.

Still, despite the pacing complaints, Knight and Day is a solid action movie.  Yes, it’s dumb.  Yes, it’s at times really corny (there’s a shot of Tom Cruise carrying Cameron Diaz as he walks away, slowly, from an explosion).  But, yes, when you get right down to it, it’s still fun.

6.5/10

June 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

Review: “Toy Story 3”

15-or-some years ago, Pixar animation studios released the first-ever CG-animated feature-length film, Toy Story.  It was a milestone in cinema history: an animated film produced entirely on computer, and helped usher in what some consider the ‘Golden Age of CG Animation’.  15 years later, Pixar, still the cream-of-the-crop of CG animation studios with many Oscars and various other accolades under its belt, released the third, and perhaps final, Toy Story film.

And, boy, is it a doozy.

What has amazed me over the past two years is how well Pixar opens their movies.  Wall-E is almost entirely a silent film for the first twenty minutes or so, a gutsy move for a mainstream Hollywood summer tentpole release.  Up dealt with the issue of death and grieving in a mature way, handled well enough that I was almost moved to tears within the first 15 minutes.  However, the opening in Toy Story 3, is not as attention grabbing.

That’s no to say the movie is bad.  When I said ‘doozy’, I meant it in the best way possible.  The film’s first and second acts are entertaining enough, but nothing to write home about.  The toys’ owner, Andy, is going off to college and is planning on putting some of his toys in the attic.  After a mix-up, they end up getting sent to a local daycare, where they meet the stuffed bear Lotso, the ‘elder toy’ of the facility’s toys.  Lotso introduces Buzz, Woody, and the gang to the other toys, and to their future: being played with by children almost every day for the rest of the toys’ lives.  Seems like heaven, but something is afoot.

The Escape from Alcatraz-esque sequence that dominates the second act is great fun.  However, the film was missing that emotional heart-string-tugging moment that Pixar seems to have mastered over the past few years.  I’ll try not to give anything away, but I’ll just say that Act II closes with possibly the most adult, mature way Pixar could’ve pulled off in a kids’ movie.  Similar to how The Dark Knight treated the theme and atmosphere of a Batman movie in a mature tone, Pixar raised the stakes for our miniature heroes to such a degree, I was wide-eyed with shock until the third act’s denouement hit.

This is truly a film that adults and kids will enjoy.  Yes, it’s among Pixar’s best (though I would say it still doesn’t top the narrative artistry in Wall-E’s first half), and, yes, it’s the best of the Toy Story films.  The third act and the ‘message’ of the film are kind of pressed in front of the audience a little too hard, but it doesn’t detract from the overall package.  Toy Story 3 is one of the summer’s highlights for me and a helluva farewell to characters that many of us have spent the better part of two decades growing up with.

9/10

June 22, 2010 at 7:25 am 3 comments

Movie Review: “The Karate Kid”

Let’s get one thing straight: this movie got it all wrong.  It’s called The Karate Kid, and there’s not a single bit of ‘karate’ in it.  It’s all kung-fu!!!!  0/10

Just kidding.

Seriously, this movie is actually pretty good.  Really good, actually.

It follows similar plot points with the John Avildsen-directed original, starring the late great Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio.  In the update, Dre (Jaden Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness), moves to Beijing with his mom, played by the wonderful Taraji P. Henson (Hustle & Flow).  As per usual with coming-of-age stories, Smith is a fish out of water.  He’s an American in China, with no friends, and at the age when making friends actually gets rather hard.

He meets a Chinese girl (I think her name is Mei), whose parents are rather close to the family of the school’s bully (whose name escapes me).  And, of course, Mei shows an interest in Dre, which puts him at odds with the bully.

And that’s about all I want to cover with regards to the story.  Dre gets beat up, he meets Jackie Chan, and he learns kung-fu.

What surprised me about the movie is actually how much cinematic quality it has.  Director Harald Zwart and his cinematographer, Roger Pratt, do an excellent job of showing off the Beijing locales.  The sound design is also very good, with each punch and kick sounding incredibly painful.  As for the fight choreography, I thought it was well-done.  The fights don’t look like little kids playing pretend, they look like they’re trying to kill each other.

The filmmakers also knew when and how to hit upon the emotional points of the story.  From when Dre gets his first beat-down to when he dramatically rises to his feet with an almost broken leg in the finale, they play up all the crowd-pleasing moments.  And it works.

Jackie Chan also deserves credit here.  He has only one fight scene, and he doesn’t throw a single punch or kick throughout.  But, he’s good in the dramatic moments, and his character becomes the emotional rock of the movie, grounding everything in reality.  Chan isn’t better or worse than Morita’s immortal Mr. Miyagi; he is, however, an excellent compliment.

If I had to find a glaring fault in the film, it’s actually with Chan’s backstory.  While Jackie Chan does an upstanding job with the material, some of it seemed forced.

The Karate Kid is aimed toward younger audiences, but older watchers and fans of the original series will enjoy it.  The training montages are nice (there aren’t enough of those any more), and the ending is rather satisfying.  This won’t earn any awards, but it certainly makes me want to see more of Jaden Smith in the future, and definitely more of Jackie Chan in less ass-kicking roles.

8/10

June 18, 2010 at 10:09 am Leave a comment

Game Review: “Super Mario Galaxy2”

More of the same isn’t a bad thing.  If you loved Super Mario Galaxy, then you’ll love the sequel.  The game does away with many of the first’s narrative moments, instead focusing on a more streamlined experience that highlights the amazing level designs.  The major addition here is Yoshi, allowing you to eat enemies, grab onto objects, and perform other tasks that Mario just can’t do by himself.

Be forewarned, however, that this game can get hard.  Really hard.  The first couple of hours will be a breeze, especially for veteran Galaxy players.  With patience, though, the game isn’t hard enough to make you want to stop playing.

The co-op from the original is back, although more refined, allowing the second player to control a Luma (and not just a cursor as in Galaxy).  The second player can attack enemies by shooting star bits, collect loose star bits, and more importantly, grab coins for Mario.  This allows a more ‘hands-on’ experience for the second player, and not just a bland ‘girlfriend mode’.

The game is about as long as the first, taking anywhere from 12-20 hours to run through the game.  That doesn’t mean it’s over, as just like in any Mario game, there are tons more levels and hidden stars to find, easily adding up to a 50+ hour experience.


One of the best games on the Wii just got better with Super Mario Galaxy 2.  Ingenious level design, colorful graphics, tight control, and a musical score so whimsical it’ll put a smile on your face all come together for possibly the best platforming game to come out this year.

(images from 1UP.com)

June 7, 2010 at 9:55 am Leave a comment


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