The Expendables 2

The Expendables 2 is everything you’d expect it to be: fun, a bit brutal and definitely action-packed. The sequel to 2009’s ensemble action film, The Expendables, The Expendables 2 most definitely satisfied the appetite of action movie fans around the world for its over-the-top action shown by topnotch action stars of yesteryears: Sylverster Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenneger, Chuck Norris, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren with the action stars of today: Jason Statham, Randy Couture, among others. Do not expect much about the film’s story, though. Similar to the first movie’s premise, this film centers on the group of mercenaries called the Expendables as they continue to perform certain job assignments to save the world. However, unlike the first film, its story evolved from fulfilling an apparently simple mission to seeking vengeance over a murder of one of their own.

It is certainly nice seeing again the action stars of the past generation mingling together. And even though their jokes and banters to each other are either a hit or a miss, a number pleased the audience hard enough to make them really laugh.

The non-stop action scenes look good because of the great editing done on the film. Utterly violent most of the time, these action scenes serve as a reminder to everyone how the senior action stars became who they are. Who knew that at their age (Stallone is 66, Van Damme is 51, Schwarzenegger is 65, Willis is 57 and Norris is 72), they could still pull off awesome stunts all throughout the movie? Their dedication could be definitely seen on the movie.

However, as I have said earlier, this movie lacks in the too important part of the movie called story. Call me serious but it just really lacks that certain pull to the heart for me to consider it deep in every sense of the word. It seems like no serious moments or outwardly deep dialogues can save the film from its relative hollowness. I just wish the writers of this movie had an objective in mind other than make millions of money. I mean, they can write a decent storyline that would make the characters develop more, can’t they?

Nevertheless, I would recommend this movie to those who want to have fun watching the action movie superstars of the 1980s and 1990s do both action and comedy. You can’t argue with that combination even though there’s not much story to back it up.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2.5 out 5

The Avengers

The Avengers was without doubt the best Marvel movie to date! Joss Whedon, its director and writer, was a real genius! The great story of the world’s mightiest heroes was excellently presented with a smart and witty screenplay, awesome visual and aural effects, credible acting, flawless editing and brilliant directing. Watching the film from start to finish was definitely an awesome experience!

Combining stand-alone characters is a pretty hard task to do. But because of Joss Whedon, the characters consisting of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Nick Fury were pitted into one incredible story that is devoid of any major loopholes created by other superhero movies. Whedon has seamlessly created a world where these characters existed much like what’s seen in the comics. And if you think you know what’s going to happen next after every scene, think again. The movie is full of surprises that may make you feel positively overwhelmed.

I loved the visual effects sci-fi/ fantasy/ action/ adventure films of the past decade had shown the movie audiences. But what’s seen in The Avengers is a whole lot better than most of those movies (best example: The Transformers) because they were not made just to tell the world how good their visual artists or animators were with their creations. Simply put, the amazing visuals seen in the movie were not just for showing off.

I liked how the actors played their characters. Robert Downey, Jr. was brilliant as the humorous self-described genius/ playboy/ philanthropist Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Chris Evans was consistent in his role as the good-natured and serious leader of the Avengers. Chris Hemsworth was believable as the powerful demi-god of thunder Thor. Scarlett Johansson was good as the alluring and fierce spy called Black Widow. Samuel L. Jackson proved that he deserved to be casted as Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tom Fiddleton was still irritating as the main villain, Loki, because he’s that effective in that antagonistic role. Jeremy Renner, meanwhile, was okay as Hawkeye. I had doubts with the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner aka the Incredible Hulk because I was really hoping for Edward Norton to reprise the role. But my doubts were dispelled as Ruffalo has uncannily embodied the brilliant doctor slash green monster.

As what I have always believed, the story and the screenplay are the two main keys of making a great movie. Without good writing, a movie could hardly be considered worth-watching. Acting or visual effects alone cannot save a badly written movie. Thanks to The Avengers’ foster of exceptional writers (led by its writer/ director Whedon), the movie came out with a great story that is not forced whatsoever just to be linked to the previous movies featuring some of the characters in The Avengers. Moreover, the screenplay was not just fine, it was seriously fun!

The most brilliant aspect of the movie for me, though, is the excellent directing done by Whedon. He was able to re-create a world known only before to a few comic readers or some Marvel fans in a better fashion. Who would have thought juggernaut characters such as Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and Incredible Hulk could be joined together in one live action film? It was done before with the original X-Men movie (with its completely different set of amazing characters), yes, but what sets this apart from that Bryan Singer-directed movie was its faithful character adaptation, complete with correct costumes and superpowers. Whedon was able to stitch in different aspects of the Marvel characters without compromising the movie’s quality. I guess would-be directors of superhero films have a lot to learn from this guy.

If you want a movie that is really worth the time for fun, action and adventure, The Avengers is the movie for you. I bet you’ll surely not regret watching this movie.

***

THE AVENGERS movie score by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

The Cabin in the Woods

If you think you know what The Cabin in the Woods is all about just by basing on its title, you’re in for a frightful surprise. This movie was one of the most original horror movies that I have ever seen. Not to worry, though, because it still has all sorts of the traditional horror elements… with a whole lot more!

The premise was this: five friends went for a weekend vacation on a cabin in the woods. Little did they know that a bunch of people with sinister ideas in mind were watching them closely ala-Big Brother. They were swayed to do certain things by exposing them with gas, pheromones and the like. And once they had unleashed the horror lurking down the cabin, there was no turning back.

Kudos to the movie’s screenwriters, Drew Goddard (also the movie’s director) and Joss Whedon (director of the well-received The Avengers), for coming up with such a brilliant idea for a horror story. The story seemed to be like the typical horror movie about friends in a mysterious place who got to be attacked by unworldly forces. But, you have to combine that with a sort-of reality show set-up; inglorious and pretentious savers of the world and a whole lot of frightening creatures before you get Cabin in the Woods. I don’t really want to watch a movie twice even though it’s considered a good one. But because I want to make another glimpse at the surprising elements seen on it, I seriously plan to watch it again.

The movie’s got shock, fright, gore and terror. I’d like to believe that the director (the aforementioned Goddard) was able to perfectly balance these with a little humor and fun. What movie has able to do that in a span of roughly 1 and ½ hour? Nothing comes to mind. And the suspense: it went way up high and never went down again. With all the movie’s shocks and surprises, there’d be no time and place for wasted moments.

The cast was surprisingly effective. The actors who portrayed the seemingly caricature characters of the five friends in the story were able to show their characters’ different aspects, preventing the movie from playing the types that are typically seen in a teen horror movie. The notorious characters of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as two of the corporate people showed the audience how to have a wicked time for fun albeit horrific. Sigourney Weaver, in a surprising role at the last part of the movie, was remarkable.

If there’s one recent horror movie that I’d remember for a very long time, it would be “The Cabin in the Woods.” The smart idea, the brilliant script, the polished effects, the convincing acting and the endless shocks and thrills more than make up for the reason to that.

***

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS movie score by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Men in Black III

I remember Men in Black and Men in Black II as science-fiction films that delivered well in special effects and humored the audience with the unlikely duo of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Unsurprisingly, Men in Black’s third installment still delivered in those aspects. What I didn’t expect was its touching revelation by the movie’s ending.

The basic premise of the movie is this: Agent J (Will Smith) travels back in time to save Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) because he has been killed by an avenging alien criminal who has just escaped imprisonment in the moon. Can he pull this time-travelling mission to save the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner in real time from death? But of course, you already know the answer to that question.

Even though the film was considered good in basic sci-fi film standards, it came out just okay for me. Considering it has been fifteen years since the original film premiered, you’d expect a lot more from this movie. The visual effects were nice, though I expected a lot more because many films in the past decade have shown a lot of really astounding special effects. In a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate the movie’s special effects as a 6.

The lack of spectacular effects was compensated by the good performances of the movie’s lead actors, most especially Josh Brolin. His method of bringing to life a younger version of a very serious character worked well. The audience saw what really could have transpired in the younger years of an old man that is liked not because he is likeable, but because of his odd ways and wry humor.

Anything could happen in a sci-fi movie, but the people behind the movie’s script didn’t abuse that sort-of free license just to do anything they want. In more ways than one, MIB III was coherent from start to finish. Most of its storylines were solid, and if you’re one of those people who were not able to watch the first or second MIB installment, you’d still get to enjoy the film.

***

MEN IN BLACK III movie score by the pondering movie fan: 3.5 out of 5

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman is another movie that worked on the tale about the famous princess whose skin was as white as snow and lived to be the fairest of them all. When her mother died, little that she knew she was going to be tormented by her stepmother who was an evil queen. Apart from the other Snow White adaptations, SWATH made the famous character sort of a warrior princess who fought along the soldiers against the queen and her minions. The huntsman, who I have always perceived as a minor character in the fairy tale, was forced to take on a lead role in the movie because of a certain twist. The evil queen, on the other hand, was made more evil as her character focused more on being an avenging sorceress.

I did not think I would like this film as much as I do now. It is mostly dark yet exquisitely beautiful. The scenes never get old as the movie forwards. Each setting (the Kingdom, the Dark Forest, the small village, the Sanctuary, and the Duke’s castle) has its own charm and beauty. What I thought as a so-so adaptation of a classic tale turned out to be a good one.

Many things have been changed in the tale that maybe everybody knows. But the re-imagining the director and the writers created made the movie worth the look and much more interesting than the other Snow White film, “Mirror Mirror.”

I like Charlize Theron as the evil queen. She puts on a soul, that is, an old and weary one, to a character that can easily be passed on as one-dimensional. Kristen Stewart is more popularly known as Bella of the Twilight saga, but she’s able to channel the purity and goodness of the Snow White that we know. Chris Hemsworth is good as the huntsman, and he, along with the actors that portrayed the seven dwarves, provided the comic relieve this dark movie needs.

Warring armies in movies like this always bring in battle scenes, and the action SWATH has shown may not be the best but they prove to be sufficient. The sound used in the movie was good; it complemented the scenes just right.

Even though the movie has its strong points in excellent visuals and good portrayals of its actors, the movie is not without its weak ones. The story may have been a good re-imagination of the classic Snow White story, but it has many plot holes that others may find disconcerting. Think of the following: How was Snow White able to lead an entire army with her on the frontlines? How did the evil queen’s brother know the death of the huntsman’s wife? The list of questions may be a lot longer than you think. Nevertheless, the movie did not fail to amuse and entertain. In fact, it satisfied my curiosity about how it is different from the seemingly endless fairy tale adaptations.

***

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN movie score by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

Prometheus

Image

Epic visuals, thought-provoking plot, and interesting characterization: these were three of the descriptions that I came up with after watching Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. This movie’s definitely a must-see for science-fiction movie fans as they would be enthralled with advanced technologies, unfamiliar settings and extraterrestrial beings while maintaining the characters of the humans we know.

To the uninitiated, Prometheus was the name of the spaceship humans in the distant future used to travel towards a certain planetary body believed to unveil the human’s beginnings. The main action set in when the spaceship and its entire crew landed on the said planetary body. There they discovered what they wanted to discover, with consequences everyone could foresee.

The movie’s cinematography was really fascinating. You would want to know where the whole crew shot their scenes, which include mountaintops, caverns and waterfalls. Moreover, the movie’s use of visual effects was superb. I have watched a lot of movies that use visual effects but I must say this was one of the few movies that leveled with Avatar’s. Watching it in 3D certainly made it more awesome, but one could guess that it would still look great in 2D. No matter which type of theater you’d watch it, you’d surely be awed, mesmerized and captivated by the movie’s visuals.

I liked all the actors in the movie as they have played their characters well. However, I liked Michael Fassbender the most as he once again lost himself to be the character that he was in the movie- an amazingly intelligent humanlike robot. I didn’t see him as the young mutant Magneto (his role in X-Men: Origins) or the sex addict Brandon (his role in Shame). What I saw was a soulless android that followed orders from his creator without considering his action’s consequences. Rooney Mara was also good, though that was not surprising at all. What surprised me was that she was able to carry the movie as its lead character that you will root for. She’s really good in her action scenes and yet she’s also effective in the more quiet ones. I was tad disappointed with Charlize Theron’s character, though I believe she did the best that she could to make her character more interesting.

The movie brought out a lot of interesting insights about human’s quest for life’s questions. It is rare for a movie to make people really think, and this was one of those rare ones. Why were humans created? “Was it just because someone could?”, one character asked. Who created us? Even though the film (an all-out alien film, mind you) suggested alien beings could have been our creators, one character asked, “Who created them?” Ultimately, the movie was begging to ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?” That is certainly one of those questions that you’d want to reflect on.

***

PROMETHEUS movie score by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

The Amazing Spider-Man

I grew up reading comic strips, watching cartoons and playing computer games of Marvel and DC characters. Of all the comic titles, X-Men is what I love the most. And probably, Spider-Man comes in second. That’s why watching the latest movie adaptation of one of these beloved make-believe characters is truly a must for me.

The story in the movie was a bit different from what I know. Spider-Man was shown to have real personal issues. He was made to look for a missing piece within him. And on top of that, he was given another love interest. I should say, though, that the movie’s writers were able to bring up the spirit that made the Spider-Man adaptation good a decade ago. Even though it was like watching a very familiar movie again with tweaks here and there, everything’s just fine. It’s because the director, March Webb (director of 300 Days of Summer), was able to mold a great movie by really focusing on Peter Parker’s family history, his superhero beginning and his romance with a character that is not Mary Jane.

I wasn’t wrong when I thought Andrew Garfield would make a credible Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man). The smart, geeky, socially awkward student turned superhero character of Peter was a good fit for him as he had that vibe of being an underdog. Moreover, Garfield was more than capable of pulling off touching scenes. He once again showed he was a very good actor in the movie.

Emma Stone was a delight as Gwen Stacy, Peter’s love interest. The actress, who really seems to lighten up my mood whenever I see her onscreen, had ably shown how a police captain’s daughter could fall in love with a superhero-in-disguise. Even though her character was not that defined for a specific stereotype for movies like this, she was able to work it out right.

The supporting cast of the movie was superb. Martin Sheen was funny and relatable as Peter’s Uncle Ben while Sally Field was both loving and lovable as Peter’s Aunt May. Denis Leary was good as Gwen Stacy’s police captain father. Rhys Ifans was notorious yet emphatic as the movie’s main villain, Lizard.

Watching the masked superhero in IMAX was a blast. Really, the movie’s visuals were awesomely amazing and amazingly awesome if you know what I mean. All of the scenes were pretty spectacular. In line with this, I couldn’t help but smile as I watch the action scenes in the movie. What I imagined as a child turned out alive on my very own eyes! All scenes in this department were fantastic. The fight scenes in the sewers, the exchange of tail swerves and web slings at school and the epic battle on top of the building of Spider-Man and Lizard were all brilliantly played out.

Watching the movie is one of the things you won’t regret doing, whether you’re a comic fan or not. Believe me when I say it’s got the complete package. It would make you laugh and smile. It would make you wonder. It would make you thrilled. It would make you feel in love. It would make you feel alive. And it would seriously make you cry. “The Amazing Spider-Man” would be able to make you do all these and more in its more than 2 hours of very amazing scenes. I couldn’t help but long for the next Spider-Man installment.

***

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN movie score by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5