As you may well be aware, I am not able to write a full review for every movie that I see simply because there are too many movies that I’ve seen and the way I usually write reviews takes up too much time to do each justice. To fix this inconsistency though, I have come up with the idea of writing mini-reviews of these movies that I usually don’t feel like writing full reviews of. What’s more, to make this worth your time, I will group them together. Right. Here goes…
1. Rated: The Book of Eli (2010)
I found this movie to be similar in a lot of ways to The Road. Unfortunately, unlike The Road, Book of Eli abandons an otherwise interesting premise and characters for cheap thrills and pointless side excursions. It tries to be both an epic thriller and a apocalyptic action movie, but because it spends so much time in the middle it ends up being neither. What’s more is the religious themes and messages seem to scare the type of people off who would have otherwise enjoyed the movie. I say people need to be more tolerant of religion, but that doesn’t change the fact that this movie had the potential to be a solid film but it ended up being horrible.
Synopsis: Eli has been given a mission to deliver a special book in a post-apocalypse world.
- Acting: Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman give performances that you’d expect from veteran actors, but the not-so-veteran actors in this movie don’t help very much. Okay (17/25)
- Script/Plot: Excellent story, poor script. It tries to be too many things and looses sight, except at the very end, of what type of movie it should have been. Bad (13/25)
- Direction: The movie feels cheap overall (cinematography I think), but most of the action sequences are done very well and the focus on shadows is pretty neat. Okay (17/25)
- Special Effects: Like The Road, the landscapes and scenery of post-apocalypse Earth are breathtaking. Some interesting music too. Good (21/25)
The Verdict: (68/100) = D+ (Not recommended)
- What’s Good: Some nifty action sequences, cool camera shots, and typically great acting from Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.
- What’s Bad: The movie is all over the map in terms of story, acting, and production values, plus it does not deliver on its interesting premise.
- Summary: Watch The Road instead if you want a post-apocalypse thriller.
2. Rated: Iron Man 2 (2010)
Continuing on the success of the surprise blockbuster hit from 2008, Iron Man 2 is further proof that when the stars align, Hollywood can actually make a summer movie that isn’t just about explosions. Sure, this one is not as cohesive and edge-of-your-seat fun as the last installment was, but it is a smart and witty action movie. Robert Downey Jr has grown even more into the role, and the all-star cast around him pulls their weight too. It falls under the category of “sequels aren’t as good as the originals”, but is definitely not a waste of your time.
Synopsis: Rich inventor Tony Stark now has some competition, as everyone is trying to build a machine that will be able to compete with his, either in keeping peace or waging war.
- Acting: Robert Downey Junior plays Tony Stark with more confidence, which means his ego grows, and as a result he is less likable than in the original. Sam Rockwell is brilliant as always and the same goes for Mickey Rourke and Don Cheadle who replaces Terrence Howard. Good (24/25)
- Script/Plot: The plot is not as straight forward and easy to follow as the original, with a lot more plot development happening through dialogue than through action. Okay (17/25)
- Direction: Jon Favreau does a great job making this movie look great, even if his style is a bit generic. The action sequences are all beautifully shot, and the use of lighting to contrast between Stark’s good and bad sides is fitting. Good (23/25)
- Special Effects: Outstanding. Everything you could want from a summer blockbuster. Good (24/25)
The Verdict: (88/100) = B+ (Highly Recommended)
- What’s Good: Lots of big stars to fill up a smart story that isn’t just about radical action sequences, although there are a few of those for good measure.
- What’s Bad: It is not as instantly enjoyable as the original, with lots of details and added characters requiring a lot of attention from the script.
- Summary: Another solid comic book movie.
3. Rated: Toy Story 3 (2010)
The (very) long awaited third installment of the Toy Story franchise demonstrates everything we’ve come to expect from Pixar. It has lovable characters, a compelling story, a perfect balance of humor and tragedy, and eye-catching visuals. Just the formula to keep both kids and adults entertained. This time though, the focus is more on keeping the adults entertained, as the movie’s plunge into nostalgia and its often sad plot involving the end of childhood may be a little beyond most children. It doesn’t really matter though, because kids will still be entertained by the newest adventures of Buzz, Woody, Jessie and friends.
Synopsis: When Andy is going to leave for college, his toys find themselves being donated to a daycare center, where life isn’t as good as they thought it would be.
- Acting: Even if the animation is great, it is the voices of the characters that gives them life. Everyone does a great job and you can really feel their emotions. Great (25/25)
- Script/Plot: The story is sadder overall than the previous installments, but there are some really funny moments too. There’s also a lot of action that the young ones will be able to follow. Good (21/25)
- Direction: The flow and movement of the “camera” is so smooth and unconstrained that you will forget that it is all done with computers. Good (24/25)
- Special Effects: While maybe not the most amazing Pixar movie as far as visuals, the animation is still really well done and makes you wonder why those other animation companies are still making movies. Great (25/25)
The Verdict: (95/100) = A (Must See)
- The Good: Emotional voice work, superior animation, and a thoughtful and lively plot that you will be entertained by no matter your age.
- The Bad: Children may not understand some of the adult themes or be able to relate to some of the references the film makes to current adult’s childhoods.
- Summary: The latest proof that Pixar is an unstoppable good-movie making machine.
4. Rated: The Losers (2010)
2010 is the year that buddy-cop movies became passe. Movies like The Losers are replacing buddy-cop movies, where instead of 2 quirky guys fighting crime, it is now the norm to have 4 or 5, a la The A-Team or The Expendibles. Maybe this makes for a more dynamic viewing experience between the explosions, but it still does not solve the problem of how to connect said explosions in a convincing matter. The Losers is even based on a comic book (where you’d assume there would be a plethora of story and themes to base a movie on), yet still manages to be an epic fail in the plot department. Sure, some of the characters are pretty funny, but that’s exactly the problem. How can the movie be taken seriously when it presents the audience with so many goofy personas and scenarios, only made more obvious by the plethora of action-movie cliches in just about every scene?
Synopsis:Betrayed and presumed dead, a special forces team must hunt down the powerful man known only as”Max”.
- Acting: The standout is Chris Evans, and the rest of the cast is decent but never that convincing. I thought Jason Patric was far too over-the-top as Max to be taken seriously or to even be considered funny. Okay (17/25)
- Script/Plot: There’s lots of scheming and bickering between entertaining action sequences that don’t really drive the plot, which is so unreasonable at times that the twists come as no surprise to anyone. Bad (12/25)
- Direction: Director Sylvian White tries to make it more exciting for the audience with some comic-book like transitions and overlays, which for the most part work well. Good (22/25)
- Special Effects: Even the action scenes are a little generic. Well done, but a bit generic. Okay (19/25)
The Verdict: (70/100) = C- (Not Recommended)
- What’s Good: A few characters are enjoyable to watch, the action sequences are surprisingly down-to-earth for the most part, and the director makes a nice attempt at combining live action with a comic book.
- What’s Bad: This rather predictable action movie uses its fair share of cliches, has a few annoying characters, and fails to adapt an entirely original story from the comic on which it is based.
- Summary: You’ll be confused by its predictability.
5. Rated: The Other Guys (2010)
Speaking of buddy cop movies, here is one! And no, it is not passe, but fresh and actually quite satisfying. The traditional formula is jumbled up a little bit by first making the central “cop buddies” hate each other, and then by making one of the guys desperate for action and the other one ambivalent towards it. The contrast works, especially since the guys cast in the roles are also polar opposites of each other, which I found to be the most profound and interesting thing about this movie. Will Farrell is all goofy, yet we laugh the most when he is acting tough, while Mark Wahlburg is all about being tough, but really funny when we get to see his goofy side. The humor is silly at times, and the movie lacks proper flow, but its all in the name of fun, especially since the humor is not as forced as has been the case in previous Farrell comedies.
Synopsis: Two perennial screwball cops unite in an attempt to prove that they can be heroes too.
- Acting: Will Farrell’s boyish charm hits the right mark here, and is perfectly complemented by Wahlburg’s performance. The supporting cast was surprisingly good too. Good (23/25)
- Script/Plot: The plot is hard to follow, as the comedy bits invade on the time needed for clear concise story telling. The movie is never boring and only once did I feel was a joke drawn on too long. Okay (18/25)
- Direction: Adam McKay plays this one by the book, making the movie rather generic in look. There are less distractions that way. Okay (19/20)
- Special Effects: Some of the sight gags are perfectly pulled off, and the action scenes don’t disappoint. Good (23/15)
The Verdict: (83/100) = B (Recommended)
- What’s Good: The film is perfectly cast, and you get a perfectly hilarious performance from that cast.
- What’s Bad: Leave out the characters and you have a generic but confusing movie.
- Summary: Good cop. Bad cop. Hilarious.
6. Rated: The A-Team (2010)
Speaking of the A-Team, here it is. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now, and although it is plenty entertaining at times, it fails to capture the essence of the TV show on which it is based. This would not have been a problem for me (TV-show-based movies rarely recreate what we would expect from the TV show) if not for the movie’s total lack of anything differentiating it from a typical action movie. Yes, some of the action sequences are fun and new, but the story, cardboard characters, and “we can have fun while killing people” attitude has been recycled perennially. What’s more is that the movie is so ridiculous at times that it threatens to insult your intelligence. But, if you turn your brain off (or function in that mode normally), you will be entertained by the shear thrill of the action, which is something that few action movies can achieve.
Synopsis: Four American soldiers break out of prison in order to clear their names and get retribution for being wrongfully accused of a crime they did not commit.
- Acting: Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel, and Sharlto Copley do a commendable job. Quinton Jackson and Bradley Cooper are never really believable, and the rest of the cast is only passable. Good (22/25)
- Script/Plot: There’s no time to introduce the characters properly, as we’re thrown into one ridiculous action sequence after another until the finale that is so over the top it threatens to ruin the rest of the movie. Bad (13/25)
- Direction: Joe Carnahan gives the movie a gritty feel, and the action is easy to follow, which is all you really need for this type of movie. Good (22/25)
- Special Effects: The stunts are so over-the-top that even CGI has difficulty making it look realistic, especially the finale. There is a lot to look at though. Good (20/25)
The Verdict: (77/100) = C (Watchable)
- What’s Good: There’s plenty of excitement from the crazy action scenes, skilled direction, and a few solid performances.
- What’s Bad: The crazy action scenes are a little too crazy, meaning that both the special effects and your brain will have trouble keeping up.
- Summary: The “A” is for Action, little else.
7. Rated: Shrek Forever After (2010)
Following the two strong first installment and an okay third, Dreamwork Animation’s big time money maker is back for what they claim is the last time. While the movie is sweet, funny at times, and filled with memorable characters, Forever After shows that Dreamworks still has some work to do in order to catch Pixar. Like the third installment, this one is less about humor and more about teaching everyone’s favorite ogre, Shrek, a life lesson. This time though, the story sort of loops back on itself, visiting an alternate reality where we meet all the same familiar characters, but they are all slightly different. While I give credit for the originality, the rehashed story never feels engaging. We’ve seen all of this before; its not as funny or endearing as it was the first time. Everything will be happily ever after for Shrek, but the series feels it is running out of gas rather than going out on a bang.
Synopsis: Shrek, feeling cornered by his family life and his new found popularity, is tricked into making a deal which threatens to strip it all away from him just as he learns to accept it.
- Acting: All the familiar voices are back here and do a good job, but it’s a little ironic as almost all of their careers have taken a downhill turn since the original Shrek movie debuted. Good (22/25)
- Script/Plot: Not as funny, original, or fun to watch as the first two movies. The characters are already established, so the time is spent on a little bit of action and creating a tone instead. Feels lifeless. Bad (12/25)
- Direction: Mike Mitchell does a good job attempting to add some excitement to the story with lots of sweeping shots and close-ups, even if the movie still ends up being rather boring. Good (20/25)
- Special Effects: The lighting and shadowing of the animation has improved immensely from the original movie. The action sequences are well done and fun to watch. Good (24/25)
The Verdict: (78/100) = C+ (Watchable)
- What’s Good: All the familiar characters are back, looking better than before, and giving the audience a lifeline to hang on to.
- What’s Bad: The story is basically a rehash of things you’ve seen before from previous Shrek movies, which makes this movie feel dull and bloated.
- Summary: Shrek says a weak goodbye.
8. Rated: Knight and Day (2010)
Tom Cruise didn’t want to do Salt because he thought the movie would be too similar to the Mission: Impossible movie series. Instead, he does this movie, playing a character whose name might as well be Ethan Hunt. And it is a good thing he did, because in a way this movie requires the audience to be familiar with all the typical action that goes on in a spy movie in order to work. It plays off of the cliches and character traits that we are used to seeing in a spy movie for humor. It differentiates itself by being a romantic comedy first, and spy/action movie second; usually the opposite of what we are used to seeing. Unfortunately, even though this is an interesting spin on the idea (combined with a little bit of Mr. and Mrs. Smith), Knight and Day runs out of originality half way through (maybe that is obvious from the ambiguous title). From that point on, the plot just repeats itself and makes an otherwise enjoyable movie dull and predictable. Its a shame too, because Tom Cruise is a really good fit for this movie.
Synopsis: June Havens meets a rogue secret agent. Now they’re on the run for their lives.
- Acting: Tom Cruise shows he is one of the best at action movies, and if you can get past his personal life, quite enjoyable here. Diaz is solid, if a little bland, as are the rest of the cast. Good (20/25)
- Script/Plot: The story revolves around things you’ve seen before, but the way the movie progresses is new. At times, the script tries too hard, and its repetition towards the end will make you roll your eyes. Okay (17/25)
- Direction: The director uses montages to show the passage of time and in a way make fun of some of the cliches we’re used to seeing in spy movies. Clever and reminds you that this is a rom com first. Good (21/25)
- Special Effects: There are a few moments where the CGI suffers because the action goes a little A-Team (the term I just coined for being unbelievable), but overall some good sequences and adds to the fun of the movie. Good (23/25)
The Verdict: (81/100) = B- (Recommended)
- What’s Good: Tom Cruise in a movie with action is always good, and finally here is a rom com that plays off of the cliches rather than embracing them.
- What’s Bad: First and foremost, this is a star vehicle, so both the acting and story are a little bland.
- Summary: Another romantic comedy/spy movie, but with a twist.
9. Rated: Clash of the Titans (2010)
An update of this cult-hit original B-movie, Clash of the Titans is pretty much what you’d expect. There’s lots of action, an attempt at an epic story, the forbidden love story, and some nifty special effects. The biggest difference from the original (besides the 30 year improvement in special effects) is the loss of the camp factor, so the tone is serious, rather than fun like the original. That’s also the biggest problem with it. The movie tries so hard to be taken seriously, but the acting, special effects, and story are not good enough to accomplish that. No doubt this is a fun movie to watch, but it lacks the emotion factor and doesn’t strike the right tone. Perhaps that is the definition of a modern B-movie.
Synopsis: The son of Zeus must go on an epic journey to stop Hades from taking over Earth.
- Acting: You expect more from Sam Worthington, but when the rest of the cast is equally marginal (with the exception of Liam Neeson’s foreboding Zeus) you don’t seem to care as much. Bad (14/25)
- Script/Plot: At times it doesn’t make sense, and tries a bit too hard. Otherwise, its a typical chain of action sequences leading to a somewhat acceptable finale. Bad (13/25)
- Direction:Director Louis Leterrier somehow makes the movie seem cheap, and some of the action sequences are filmed better than others. Okay (17/25)
- Special Effects: In true B-movie fashion, the special effects are cheap and at times not very convincing. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t fun though. Good (21/25)
The Verdict: (65/100) = D (Avoid)
- What’s Good: The movie is a deadpan imitation of B-movies of yore, with plenty of action, and some fun special effects.
- What’s Bad: The script, acting, and even some of the special effects are not convincing enough to make you care what happens in this movie.
- Summary: A lazy attempt at nostalgia that smells like a scheme for Hollywood to make easy money.
10. Rated: The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010)
With the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney thought that it would be a good idea to apply the same basic formula to a new franchise. Instead of an attraction at one of their amusement parks though, this movie is based on a video game. We’ve yet to see a good video game movie, and this one does not change that statement. Where Pirates was fresh and exciting when it came out, Prince of Persia is a recycled mess of bits and pieces of other movies with a disturbingly cheesy orange tint. Perhaps the only redeeming qualities of this movie are the sweet parkour stunts and Jake Gyllenhaal’s transformation into an action star. Otherwise, go watch The Mummy, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and Lord of the Rings because this Prince of Persia is just a cut-and-paste collage of all of the best parts of those movies combined.
Synopsis: One of the princes of Persia tries to stop an evil villain from destroying the world with a special dagger than can turn back time.
- Acting: Surprisingly, the acting isn’t the problem here. Everyone does a good, if anonymous, performance while sporting British accents for some reason. Good (21/25)
- Script/Plot: Lots of cliches, lots of things we’ve seen in other movies before. Although, I liked the very end, even if everything leading up to it was cheesy and predictable. Bad (12/25)
- Direction: The parkour-action scenes are well filmed and easy to follow. But the rest of the movie seems way too over produced and fake, especially the cinematography. Bad (14/25)
- Special Effects: Great stunt work, some pretty sweet visuals and a good score. Good (23/25)
Verdict: (70/100) = C- (Not recommended)
- The Good: Fun action stunts and cool visuals, plus an acceptable performance by all the actors.
- The Bad: The script does little to convince you that it is anything but a typical “swords & sandals” flick, and there are some questionable decisions by the production crew.
- Summary: Video game movies still don’t really work well.
My previous review: Rated: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
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