Here's a rundown of the last three movies we've seen in the theater:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Chances are you already know a lot about this one, so I'll keep this short. Things grow more intense and serious as we learn about Voldemort's past and we start moving toward the conclusion of the whole thing. This is the first of the Harry Potter films that cannot stand on its own, for good or ill. If that bothers you, then this movie will bother you.
The good: Visually, the movie is fantastic. The effect of going into the memories is particularly sweet. Also, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe continue to demonstrate that they were the right choice for these roles. There are some great moments of humor, particularly those scenes with Harry and Ron dealing with maturity and romantic feelings.
The bad: There are some major changes to and omissions from the story. Of course, throughout the series they have dropped side plots (like S.P.E.W., for instance), but this one is particularly spare. One glaring omission is the battle at Hogwarts during the climax.
Overall, it's good, but not as good as Prisoner of Azkaban or Order of the Phoenix.
4 stars out of 5.
Okay, confession time. There was a long period of my life when my younger brother and I were very much into G.I. Joe. I remember the time very fondly, in fact. Had I seen this movie at that time, I probably would have thought it was the coolest thing ever made. There are cool gadgets, lots of action, and some memorable characters. The acting is passable, given the script they were working with, and there's an air of fun to the whole thing.
The Good: Like I said, fun. There's some globe-trotting, some winking references to the cartoon from the '80s, some destruction, and some old-fashioned good vs. evil melodrama.
The Bad: It's cheesy, very cheesy. The special effects aren't all that special. Rather mundane, actually. Some of them looked almost unfinished. The story is goofy in the extreme. Heather and I laughed at it throughout. It is filled with "A-ha!" moments (where a character figures something out, not because we've seen them look at the evidence or we are shown a logical progression to lead them to that conclusion, but simply because the plot needs to advance at this point – as Heather is fond of saying, it's in the script!) and implausible occurrences.
Go see it if you want to see something fun and brainless. Don't go if you are expecting something that makes sense or can be taken seriously even a little teeny bit.
3 stars out of 5
Wow! This movie is cool! It's smart, well-executed, and pretty darned original as aliens-coming-to-Earth movies go. These are not the hostile aliens of Independence Day or War of the Worlds or a thousand other alien movies. These are also not the friendly, peace-loving aliens of E.T. or Close Encounters. Arriving malnourished and sick in a derelict spaceship that appeared 20 years ago over Johannesburg, South Africa, they were sorely in need of some relief efforts. In the two decades since their arrival they've become somewhat unwanted by the locals.
The location is the first hint we have that this is not your typical alien flick. It's also no accident, and it's not just because first-time director Blomkamp is South African. No, there are plenty of things here that are intended to make one think of South Africa's apartheid past. The aliens, referred to in a derogatory manner as "prawns," are kind of gross and a bit dangerous. Ultimately, because there are pretty legitimate reasons for not wanting to integrate them into the populace (a really nasty sickness, for instance), the movie loses quite a bit of its sting as a commentary on racism and immigration.
The good: The effects here are terrific! Not only are they believable (within the world constructed by the film, at any rate), but they are never an entity unto themselves. They exist because the story needs them to. The lead actor is tremendous in his part. I was utterly sucked in by his character and found him to be credible throughout, even as some pretty wild things happen to him. The character is a moron, but never cartoonish in his idiocy. You probably know some people like this guy (if you don't, it may be you).
The bad: Cardboard villains, whose only motives are nefarious. They might as well have been twirling big mustaches.
4.5 stars out of 5