Family Movie Night #1



Recently, I picked up several movies from loved ones that had been suggested to me for quite some time. Films that other loved ones enjoyed, one that I should watch or just movies that are a good time. 
In this new segment, I will reviewing each of these films with my brief thoughts on each of them. Similar to my “The Hooper” style reviews, minus the sticky theater floor.
Let’s get started with the first movie suggested to me,


“Easy A” (2010)
This film got under my skin, but not in a good way.
I had heard from many different people about how funny and creative “Easy A” was, but there were many things in this film that left me upset and angered.
The premise has plenty of comedic potential: Olive (Emma Stone) is an awkward high school girl without many friends. One day though, a rumor accidently gets spread that she lost her virginity to a guy she made up and she suddenly becomes the school slut. Other high school boys hear about this and learn that she made it all up, deciding to extend the lie by pretending they had sex with her to increase their own popularity. As time goes on and Olive begins to embrace her new lifestyle as the slut, the rumor gets out of control and some things are taken way too far.
There are certainly jokes to be had here, and some of them are effective, mostly revolving around some of the pathetic lives of the boys who want Olive’s services.
There are multiple things that drag me out of the experience and make me angry at film. 
For one, we have to believe that Emma Stone is this unattractive high school who can’t seem to get a boyfriend or doesn’t want to date. I don’t buy that for a second. Emma Stone is gorgeous. If she wanted to, she could have any guy in the school. This premise doesn’t work if the girl is drop dead beautiful.
Another reason is that this film takes so many disrespectful shots at the Christian lifestyle. Now, I’m not a Christian, but I do respect the lifestyle choices of those who wish to pursue it. The characters who are hardcore Christians in “Easy A,” such as Amanda Bynes’ character, have no depth and has one setting: Stereotypical Christian.
It seems like the filmmakers only see Bynes and others as a means to talk about how messed up the Christian lifestyle is. Yet the film only seems to focus on the bad side of that style, never the good. It doesn’t give an accurate portrayal. 
The thing that pisses me off the most about “Easy A” are Olive’s parents, played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. These two are terrible parents, especially the mother. There only purpose in this film is spout out one-liners, rather than what parents are supposed to do: Teach their kids how to be responsible people and to help them through difficult times. To show them the light when their kids only see darkness.
Olive goes through some emotional moments over the course of the film and not once do the parents do anything other than crack jokes at Olive’s expense. To be fair, Tucci does get off some good one-liners, which is why I give him more credit than Clarkson, but that still doesn’t excuse his behavior.
So while “Easy A” had some good jokes and an interesting premise, there were many characters that were poorly written and many jabs that felt unnecessary and disrespectful. Parts of it worked, others did not.
Final Grade: D+


“Tangled” (2010)
When you think great animated Disney movies, what comes to mind? Some might say “Beauty And The Beast”, “Aladdin”, “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” or even “Fantasia.” Now, I can honestly say “Tangled” joins that list.
Some might immediately dismiss it since the film is a 3-D animated movie and not a traditional Disney film, but to be honest, “Tangled” is a 2-D movie in a 3-D film’s body. It follows all of the classic tropes and stories of the wonderful past Disney movies and does them just as well as films like “The Lion King,” if not even better.
Once upon a time, in a magical kingdom, a princess was born with magical hair that could heal the sick and elderly, due to her mother eating a magical flower when she was sick and pregnant with her. One night, the princess, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), is kidnapped by an old woman (Donna Murphy) who plans to use her mystical locks to stay forever young.
18 years later, Rapunzel has grown up and wants to leave the tower that the old woman has locked her in. But the old woman, pretending to be her mother, forbids Rapunzel from ever leaving, saying that the world is too scary and dangerous for her. It isn’t until a theft, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) finds his way to the tower and sets a series of wacky events in motion.
I’ll admit, as a kid, I wasn’t into many of the Disney princess movies. It was more aimed towards girls, with female protagonists, an abundance of musical numbers and very touchy feely stories. As a young boy, that’s usually the last thing you want to see.
Nowadays though, I find that most of the Disney princess movies are excellent films, especially during the early days of the Disney Renaissance in the 1980s and 1990s. “Tangled” is an excellent film in much the same way as those films. 
Not only is the film beautifully animated, the story is competent, interesting and adds a whole new spin onto the story of Rapunzel. The characters are understandable in their struggles, while still have a fun sense of adventure and comedy, yet with our two lead characters having great backstories.
But what really shines through this film is the age old filmic tradition of being able to tell so much of your film without every saying a single word. To let the images speak for themselves, rather than telling the audience what is going on, something that goes back to the silent era of filmmaking. 
There are at least four different characters in “Tangled” that play a prominent part yet never say a single word. For example, the king and queen of the land, who only have a few scenes, don’t speak but convey so much with so little. You can tell the emotional torment they are going through with just one look on their faces. 
Then there are the comedic side characters, such as a horse who is out to find the theft, and Rapunzel’s little chameleon buddy. The horse in particular has so many great comedic moments with his quick movements or just a simple jutting of an eye brow. The horse is probably the funniest character in the film and yet doesn’t say a word of jive or rap. 
“Tangled” is just one of those great examples of the power of animation. To create this in-depth and detailed world and give it so much life and energy is always interesting to watch, and nobody does that better than Disney. This film has everything you would ever want out of an entertaining animated film: Clever characters, intriguing story, a bright and colorful world, interesting and fun musical numbers and a film that is accessible to adults as much as it is to children.
Final Grade: A-


“The Big Chill” (1983)
Whether someone is willing to admit it, there are always certain types of movies that people are not comfortable with. Movies that rub them the wrong way or just don’t do anything for them. 
“The Big Chill” is one of those movies for me.
I can understand why this film is so highly received and acclaimed, but at the same time the film doesn’t accomplish anything for me. This comes to the type of movie that “The Big Chill” falls under: Plotless films.
There is no over arcing plot in this film. No rising action, climax or resolution. Just a series of events that are very loosely tied together and all happen to take place over the course of one weekend at a house in the woods, where a group of old college friends reconvene after one of their friends commits suicide. 
The cast discuss why their friend did that, develop love triangles, talk about why they’ve grown apart after so many years and their own individual problems. Each of these characters has something that gives them their own unique personality and you really do grow to enjoy most of these characters because of their flaws and weaknesses.
The problem is that the film gives you nothing to grab unto. Because of all of these events are just coming one after another and don’t have anything to do with the previous scenes, there is no flow or consistency to the film. Moments will just come and go and by the end I forget about half of the events that occurred.
Some might argue that the film is being accurate to life itself: That existence is just a series of events that aren’t necessarily connected or have nothing to do with one another. My problem with that has always been, that’s one of the key differences that sets life apart from movies. 
Typically, movies are about telling a story, much like a work of literature, except where books and novels deal in written words and paperback, films deal in images and celluloid. Life, on the other hand, isn’t always trying to tell a story. It usually is just random occurrences, but that doesn’t always make for an interesting premise for a film.
This is a problem that I have with all plotless films: Instead of giving the audience something they’ll remember through plot and character, the film decides to reinterpret the randomness of life and make for a disorienting work that is often hard to picture.
Alfred Hitchcock once said that film is “life with the boring parts cut out.” Well if Hitchcock were making a film like this, he would probably cut it down to about ten minutes… and add in a murder plot.
Still, “The Big Chill” does this style of film effectively and is filled with top-notch performances from Glenn Close, Kevin Kline and Jeff Goldblum, just to name a few. The characters are all relatable and there are some genuine good moments of both comedy and drama.
The film isn’t my cup of tea, but if you enjoy films that are meant to resemble life, “The Big Chill” will not disappoint.
Final Grade: C
Final Thoughts:


All three of these films demonstrate the differences between how film can used as a visual medium. While films like “Easy A” don’t always effectively use it, others like “Tangled” let the images speak for themselves. It’s not just about “show, don’t tell” but also realizing that actions speak louder than words.
Not to mention the power of having likable or interesting characters. While “The Big Chill” lacked a plot that lasted the whole film, it still had characters that had multiple sides to themselves that kept the film going. “Easy A” on the other hand was filled with unlikable or terrible people, and the film suffered because of that. 
So unless the film wants to filled with bad people who either get their come-upings or because the whole world is like that, similar to “Now You See Me,” having relatable characters is always the way to go.

Movie Reviews: "The Wolverine" (2013)

The hero’s journey is the most traditional depiction on the silver screen. In these types of films, the protagonist will often start out at a bad point in life or have extreme character flaws that make him/her look like a bad person. But as the film progresses, our hero goes on a quest of some large goal, while also learning how to be a better person.
That last part is one of the most important pieces. The hero must change something about himself/herself, or at least learn a valuable lesson that can be passed on to the audience. It’s known as a character arc.
Our hero in “The Wolverine,” Logan (Hugh Jackmon), has no resolution or change to his character at the end of the film. He is the same person when it began as he was when it finished. After going through countless hordes of ninjas and assassins, fighting for his life and honor, he doesn’t go through any sort of life-altering decision.
Building off of the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), Logan has gone into hiding and every night has nightmares of his lost love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) haunting him about joining her in death. Until a Japanese assassin, Yukio (Rila Fukushima) visits Logan, saying that an old friend of his is dying and that he must return to Japan.
Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanda), a WWII-soldier that Logan saved from the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, wants to return the favor and give him what he’s always wanted: the removal of his immortality, allowing him to live a normal life. When Yashida unexpectedly dies one night, the Yazuka begin to target his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). It is now up to the famed Wolverine to protect Mariko as his powers begin to wane. 


I’ll give the film this much: When it comes to performances and cinematography, they nailed it. Hugh Jackmon continues to capture both the intimidating “badass” side to Wolverine, while also showing a sensitive underbelly as Logan. In a film like this, it would be easy to get all the sword-wielding ninjas confused, but they manage to give enough of them distinct personalities, such as Yukio with her ability to predict deaths while also having a strange sense in fashion. 
The film is also very beautiful to look at, especially during the many action sequences. There is one fight scene that takes place on the outside of a speeding bullet train, yet it never becomes disjointing or confusing to look at. One reason the film might look good to me is because I just find the Tokyo landscape so unique and captivating to see at any point in the day. Japan has some of the most eye-catching landscapes in the world and this film uses that to its advantage.
The film starts to fall apart when it comes to the writing. Actually, to be more precise, it seems like a double-edged sword. At times, the writing is wonderful and consistent, but other times it really drags the film down.
For example, many of the early scenes with Logan trying to survive don’t have much dialogue, but manage to get the point across as to what they’re trying to say. The film speaks only when it absolutely has to and lets the images tell the story.


Another would be the story of Yashida and his reasons for doing everything he does. Without going into too much detail about it, Yashida witnessed first hand the devastation of watching his homeland burn and promised never to make that happen again. This would lead him to become the biggest technological innovator after the war. Yet, in the face of mutants, like Wolverine, he still felt inferior. 
That’s a story I can get behind and understand every action that he takes. Not only is it relatable but it’s heartfelt.
As I mentioned, the story I cannot get behind is the story of Logan. Specifically, that there is no resolution to his character arc. He of course does the tasks that dealt to him, all the while he is suffering from the emotional trauma of losing the woman he loves, and even the possibility of becoming mortal. Yet by the end, both of these plot points are just dropped rather than resolving them.
When the protagonist of the film goes on this great journey of coming to grips with lose, regret and sadness, but ultimately brushes it all off like it was nothing, then I don’t see any reason to care the character. Thus, the film suffers.
Overall though, I enjoyed “The Wolverine,” even with a lack of conclusion to Logan’s character arc. The action sequences, other interesting characters and beautiful cinematography was enough to keep my attention throughout the film. The writing and story was hit-and-miss throughout. But when it wanted to be good, it was very good.
If you enjoy super hero films or liked any of the previous X-Men movies, then you’ll certainly enjoy this film as well. If you’ve had enough of the constant super hero films out there right now, then this film will not change your mind.


Final Grade: B-

Movie Reviews: "The Heat" (2013)


Not that kind of heat.


Closer, but not quite.


Oh, come on!


Did you ever have that one movie that you wish had turned out just a bit differently?
The kind of movie that you swear you’ve watched somewhere else and can almost tell what’s going to happen? Then you think that the film is doing this deliberately to pull something wild but unique at the end to surprise you? Only for it to not go the way you wanted it?
“The Heat” was that one movie for me.
FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is great at her job of catching drug dealers and murderers, but isn’t good at much else. In an attempt to get a promotion, Ashburn takes a case in Boston to pin down a drug lord that has never been seen. While there, she comes across a local cop, Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), who is street smart and knows her way around town, but also has a bad life outside of the badge.
Initially, the two despise one another, but are forced to partner up. With the combination of Ashburn’s FBI training and intelligence and Mullins way around the city, the two get into wacky antics while trying to stop the drug dealers and just maybe learn to be better people and cops.


Here’s the thing about “The Heat,” it is just one more script rewrite away from being a great film. There are so many missed opportunities for jokes that could have been easily filled, while also fleshing out the characters more to give the film the ultimate laugh at the end. Just one more supervisor to look the script over and suggest what was missing or needed to be changed, and this would have been an outstanding comedy.
One of the running jokes during the film is how both Ashburn and Mullins’ lives outside of their uniform is terrible. Ashburn is personified as the woman version of “The 40-Year Old Virgin” who is a crazy cat lady…whose only cat is owned by her neighbors.
Mullins family hates her guts, because she arrested her own brother on drug possession. Now she spends every night in some smokey bar hooking up with the closest clingy guy who wants more than just a good night.
What I thought was going to happen in this film was that the filmmakers were going to go with a different approach to the resolution of these two and their pathetic lives. That they were going to avoid the cliche of everything working out better in the end and their lives becoming great and smiles all around.
That instead of this, even after everything they went through and going through so many hoops, their lives would still be just as terrible, if not worse.
And you know what? That would have been hysterical and clever.
Part of comedy is laughing at other people’s misfortunes. The ultimate misfortune is nothing more than one’s life being reduced to nothing, or less than nothing. To go from low on the ladder, to so low that they are literally burning a hole in the ground.
Unfortunately, this never comes to pass, leaving me a bit disappointed at the missed opportunities that this film was given. Especially since both Bullock and McCarthy have the charm and comedic talent to pull something like that off.


Still, this plenty of good comedy to go around in this film, and even a good range of comedy as well. There’s slapstick, verbal comedy, insult comedy, references-a-plenty and a fun-spirited nature to keep the jokes coming. If you came into the film expecting to laugh, you’ll get your share of that here.
Not to mention the acting all around is solid. Not just Bullock and McCarthy do a good job, but also great comedy from the likes of Dan Bakkedhal, Michael McDonald and Tom Wilson (Biff from the “Back To The Future” trilogy). Every minor character in the film gets at least a chance at comedy. It doesn’t always work from people like Marlon Wayans, but you take what you can get.
Overall, “The Heat” had many laughs and some enjoyable banter between the two leads. Though the film had chances to become a unique piece of comedy, it was still enjoyable for what it was.
Final Grade: C


Is it me, or would “The Heat” have been infinitely better if it had Eddie Murphy in it? Or if they played this song? Just saying.

Movie Review: "Birdman Of Alcatraz" (1962)


There is a certain charm to movies that rely on the charisma and talent of just one actor or actress. 
Movies were the actor is in every scene, even scenes where it is simply that actor talking to himself, and being fully invested in that character’s story and journey. To spend over two hours with this one person and hear about their life story. You need just the right actor to pull this off, as one wrong move or motion could ruin the whole performance. When it’s pulled off just right, the result is a stunning piece of acting and directing.
A more recent example of this would be the “Iron Man” movies, which rely entirely upon the charisma of Robert Downey Jr. Remove him from the films where he is essentially playing himself, and they fall apart. Many Johnny Depp movies from the 1990s are the same way, especially “Edward Scissorhands” and “Ed Wood.” Let’s not forget about “Forrest Gump” revolving entirely around Tom Hanks’ performance.


“Birdman Of Alcatraz” is another one of those movies, as it banks upon the acting and talent of Burt Lancaster and his ability to tell the story of one man over the course of decades. Not to mention, his character is confined to mostly a prison cell full of birds. To pull something off, you need a cracker jack performance, and Lancaster pulls it off.
The film follows Robert Stroud (Lancaster) as he is sent to prison in Kansas for killing a man back in Alaska. Originally serving a nine year sentence, things take a turn for the worst when he kills a prison guard in self defense. As he is about to be sent to sentenced to death, his mother (Thelma Ritter) saves him from the hangman’s noose, only to be locked up in confinement for the rest of his life.
Just as all seems lost, Stroud finds a downed baby bird caught in the middle of a rainstorm. He takes the poor creature to his cell, nurses it back to health and even teaches it how to fly. As time goes on, Stroud grows a collection of birds and becomes the foremost expert on ornithology, much to the dismay of the many prison wardens he comes across.
As I said, the crux of this film is Lancaster’s performance. To be able to start out as a young 20-some-odd year old going to prison for murder, and to tell a story of his life in prison that lasts well over 40 years. Not to mention there are several scenes where he is the only actor and he’s just talking to the walls of bird cages. 


Yet Lancaster is able to pull this off with his stone faced character learning to appreciate the small things in life, in this case birds. When little achievements happen, like the hatching of the first baby bird, its Lancaster’s facial expressions that sell these moments. 
Burt also retains that tremendous passion in the way that he delivers his lines. There is always power and strength behind everything that he says, but just enough heart in what his character is doing to care about every word he says. 
It is for these reasons that this is the best performance that I’ve seen from Burt Lancaster. There are plenty of roles where he has intensity and ferocity in his eyes, such as “The Sweet Smell Of Success” and “From Here To Eternity,” but his ability to pull of scenes of him talking to birds makes not only his performance a joy to watch, but also the film.
Something noteworthy is that, even though this film takes place in a prison, it is not a prison escape movie. Most movies that revolve around that idea are ultimately about the protagonist breaking out of his barred existence and running free again. That’s not the case with “Birdman Of Alcatraz.”


Not once does Stroud try to break out of prison. He seems content with spending the rest of his natural life in a cage. Some characters even question this, such as the warden Harvey Shoemaker (Karl Malden). Stroud continues to have a rebellious attitude, even in his old age. He seems to get enjoyment out of breaking the system and that it has now become his mission in life. 
“Birdman Of Alcatraz” breaks the system of prison movies for its portrayal of a man’s life after going to jail, but is content with being there forever. This is made possible by the fierce acting of Burt Lancaster and his talent for making the banal seem exciting. In the hands of any other actor, this film would not have worked. 
Lancaster makes his caged life seem like a world full of limitless freedom.
Final Grade: B

Movie Review: "Equestria Girls" (2013)



A while back I wrote a piece entitled “What’s the big deal about Ponies?” In that piece, I talked about a television show that I had recently gotten into, entitled “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” and how I felt that it was a near perfect children’s show that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. 
That even though it’s show clearly aimed for little girls and features brightly colored ponies as its main cast, there is enough witty and clever humor, writing and morals for it to be enjoyed by anyone.


Well, like any other successful children’s show, like Power Rangers and Transformers, the program has now garnered it’s own movie, “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.” The key difference with this product though is that the same people who created the television show were also the ones to create this film.
From the beginning, the creative team made it clear that this would not only be a continuation of the show’s story, but also have enough substance to create a spin-off show, which would have the same cast but they would be humans instead of ponies. Granted, this was all the Hasbro toy-line’s idea to create new ways to sell toys and dolls, but let’s look past that since the creative team had nothing to do with that.
As a fan of the show, it’s strange watching the film since it retells the story of the first two episodes, except with the main cast now being oddly colored humans going to high school. It’s done in much of the same style as the show, with the writing style still being crisp and clever, but the animation style is jarring to watch.
For those unaware, “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” uses a flash animation-like style, with many distinct colors and quick movements. In a show about ponies, some of whom can fly or use magic, this kind of animation style suits the off-the-wall comedy and sets the tone for the colorful and quirky world. 


However, when it becomes humans instead, the animation doesn’t quite fit. Characters attempt to move like humans, but they try to keep the same energy and style of their pony counterparts. Thus watching them even walk feels awkward and clunky. 
Normally I’d give a short description of the plot, but to do so I’d also need to explain three seasons worth of plot points. To describe it rather briefly, the main character in the show, Twilight Sparkle, has be chosen to go on a quest into an alternate world to retrieve a magical crown. In this world, she is transformed from a pony into a human and must learn how to act in this brave new world before another corrupted pony uses the crown for her own selfish needs.


The question I’m left pondering is, if you’re not a fan of the show, would you like the film? 
There are many jokes that only people who have watched the show will get, like the first time Fluttershy introduces herself to Twilight or a reference to Pinkie Pie’s “Party Cannon.”
Fans of the show will love little in-jokes like that, but non-fans will just scratch their heads. Still, there is plenty of humor for all sorts of people, like Twilight trying to act like a human, so those who have never watched an episode won’t be left out in the rain.
What I enjoyed the most about the film was something new to the series: the villain, Sunset Shimmer. The creative team could have easily made her the stereotypical snobby popular girl, but instead chose to give her an interesting parallel to our protagonist. 
She was raised on the same principals as Twilight and tutored by the same god-like pony. The key difference is that Sunset never made any friends, because she was so absorbed with the power she wielded. Twilight eventually became one of the most powerful and well-respected ponies in the land, and Sunset was shunned.


Sunset represents what Twilight could have been if she didn’t accept elements of kindness, generosity, honesty and others into her life, choosing to use her powers to inspire instead of conquer. Sunset not only strengths Twilight’s character, but makes for a cool but unique villain.
As such, I feel there is enough substance here for non-fans to enjoy the film. The writing is still crisp as the show, even if a little clunky at times, the humor is typically solid and the morals still ring true. However, the animation style doesn’t fit with most of the character actions and there are quite a few moments that come off as hooky.


Honestly, “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls” just feels like a watered-down version of the show. Instead of watching this film, I’d recommend just watching a couple really good episodes.
For fans of the show, watch it for all the little neat and cute references. For non-fans, watch it if you’re not too sure about show. Maybe this film will give you the incentive to watch a 20% cooler program…
…Now you know why I don’t like putting in references in my reviews.


Final Grade: C

Seeing Is Believing Movie Reviews: "Pacific Rim" (2013)


Let’s talk for a minute about monster movies. As my “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” review made clear, I’m a huge fan of giant monster movies. But, that doesn’t mean I love all giant monster movies, also made clear by my last review. Like any other film, I have my standards when it comes to monster movies and if a film fails to live up to those standards, then I’m going to look down on that film.
What is it about monster movies that makes me so interested in them? What draws me into these types of films more than most others? Why do I love them so much?
I have no clue.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved watching giant monster movies, especially the Godzilla movies. Yet whenever anybody asked me why I enjoyed these particular movies so much, I could never give a satisfactory answer. I’ve always hoped that, as I gained more knowledge of film and developed my tastes in cinema that the answer to this question would become clear.
It still eludes me to this day.


Maybe it’s because of the idea of monsters: These creatures that defy all the realms of logic and reality, but exist anyway. That they shouldn’t be able to walk around and destroy us, but they’re able to just the same. Maybe it’s because humans are in part to blame for these abominations of life through nuclear testing, pollution or exploring where we weren’t ready to go yet.
Maybe it’s because of nostalgic effect. That these films bring me back to an earlier age of happiness in my life and provide a distraction from reality.
In any case, I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that the newest giant monster film, “Pacific Rim” does remind me of my childhood years and does a great job at providing solid entertainment. 
As a giant monster movie fan, I wholeheartedly approve of “Pacific Rim.”
The film begins with a hole in the Pacific Ocean opening up, creating a portal between our world and a world full of kaiju (Japanese for “beast” or “monster”). Somehow, only kaiju are able to go through this portal and wreak havoc on several costal cities. 
After several kaiju attacks, the world leaders decide they’ve had enough of this and band together to create the ultimate defense against the monster attacks: the Jeagers (German for “hunter”), giant robots built to combat the beasts.
As more kaiju begin to pile through the rift, and Jeagers are slowly taken out, Colonel Stacker (Idris Elba) enlists the help of a former Jeager pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and a young recruit, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to command one of the last remaining Jeagers and take down the kaiju threat once and for all.


But let’s face it, the story is rather arbitrary in getting to the good parts: the monster/robot battle scenes. While I’m okay with a story being secondary to the action, I do prefer to see a well crafted story that blends a good human element with some excellent monster bits in a seamless fashion. Unfortunately, “Pacific Rim” doesn’t really do this, but that’s fine.
However the battle scenes themselves are spectacular. Every shot of the Jeagers and kaiju battling is beautiful to look at. The Jeagers are brightly colorful and stick out from the contrasting colors of the kaiju. When most of the fight scenes are taking place in cities like Hong Kong, it really feels like they’re in Hong Kong and not some computer generated city. 
You can feel the weight of a punch from one of the robots and it’s so interesting to see the different kind of variety in attacks and motion that the monsters have. To me, that’s the sign of a good action scene.
Not how many explosions or CGI moments you can pack in, but the weight and the strength behind the attackers. How varied and unique the attacks and powers can get. That’s the power of “Pacific Rim.”
If there’s one other non-action bit worth mentioning about this film, it’s how they’re able to build up this world of monsters and robots so fast and effectively. 
Early on, during the opening montage that explains everything the audience needs to know, we see images of the Jeager pilots being treated like celebrities and television shows ridiculing the kaiju because, at that point, the Jeagers make them look like jokes.
I have always enjoyed these scenes way more than I should. They help to establish how different this particular world is from our own. What makes them unique and why we should pay attention to what’s happening to them. There’s always something to learn and observe from watching a world that slightly differs from ours.
Because if giant monsters started to invade our world and were practically immune to modern weaponry, would we really act any differently?


Overall, I would describe “Pacific Rim” much in the same vein that I describe a film like “The Avengers.” It’s a perfect summer blockbuster. Everything that you would hope for out in a summer movie can be found here: Well made action, many colorful and quirky characters, comedy that usually hits the proper notes and a good mix of drama and suspense to make a complete film (even if the story is simple).
As a giant monster movie fan, I have the utmost respect for Guillermo del Toro and his entire cast and crew for doing such a great job on this film. I can tell that del Toro cares deeply for monster movies, and it really comes through in “Pacific Rim.” The love and detail that he puts into his monsters and world reminds me of Ishiro Honda’s daikaiju films, and I always appreciate that.
Final Grade: B+

Seeing Is Believing Movie Reviews: "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" (1953)

 


Dear god, I did not like this movie. And the weird thing is, I should like it.
Many film historians and critics say that “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” is the biggest inspirations for one of my favorite movies of all time: “Godzilla” (not to be confused with the 1956 American version with Raymond Burr). 
While I certainly see the similarities for plot elements and the (slight) theme of the horrors of atomic bombs, both films go about their presentation and characters in an entirely different manner. Any similarities between the two can be written off as a coincidence as far as I can see.
Not to mention, “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” in particular manages to screw up so many things on the side of plot, characters, pacing and even the theme of nuclear weapons. There were several points in the movie where I found myself rolling my eyes and saying how much better “Godzilla” was able to do it.
The movie begins in the arctic, where a group of scientists are setting up the area to test an atomic bomb, while the narrator explains every little detail in jargon that most audiences won’t understand. After the successful test, two researchers go out to look the area over, only to find that the bomb woke up a giant prehistoric dinosaur from its icy slumber.
Only one of these scientists survives the encounter with the monster, Thomas Nesbitt (Paul Christian). He wakes up in New York, convinced that he saw a dinosaur that has been extinct for over 100 million years. Of course, no one believes him. 
Nesbitt is determined to find out the truth. Thus, he spends what feels like the entire remaining run time of the movie, trying to tell everyone that the monster is real, with limited success. 


Here’s the problem with this kind of plot in a movie: When the main character spends what feels like an eternity trying to tell people who won’t believe him about a creature that the audiences knows is real, it really comes off like a waste of time. We already know that this dinosaur exists, so all this is doing is delaying the inevitable reveal. Call it a pet peeve if you want, but this kind of story has never worked for me.
It would be interesting if we didn’t see the monster in the first few minutes of the film, then it could be a mystery. Is this once trusted scientist telling the truth? Or did he suffer a blow to the head and all of this is in his imagination? 
But no, we had to have the monster in the beginning to ruin all the suspense and mystery of that plot point.
Also, something that also distracted me was Paul Christian’s accent and how it reminded me so much of Jean Claude Van Damme. I know that’s really not a fair comparison, but the whole movie I expected Christian to roundhouse kick all the doctors in the face.

Speaking of doctors, let’s talk about the biggest problem with this film: It falls into the same rut as films like “The Killer Shrews” or “Bride Of The Monster,” of too many scenes with scientists making long boring speeches about sciencey stuff. 
I swear, there are no fewer than three scenes in this 80 minute movie with nothing but science lingo. They go no where, they disrupt the pacing and tension of the monster scenes and they just keep going on way longer than they need to. There is more focus on these scenes than there is on monster scenes, and that just frustrates me. 
When you have someone like Ray Harryhausen working on the special effects in your movie, that’s where you should spend the majority of the movie on. Not some scientists with no personality or apparent lives outside of their jobs. 
If there is one great thing about “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” though, it is Harryhausen’s fantastic stop-motion special effects on the monster and ensuing destruction. Harryhausen never disappoints. It always felt seamless during big action scenes and the sound helped to compliment the impact of many cars or buildings getting destroyed.
It’s a pity though that there’s so little of these well-done moments in the movie. Apart from the monster’s big rampage on New York City, there are about four scenes that involve the dinosaur and only last long enough to get in one thing getting blown up. 
Rather disappointing, actually.


In all, “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” mostly helped to remind me how “Godzilla” (1954) is such a fantastic movie. I know that I said earlier that the two had next to nothing in common, but now I see that this movie serves as the framework for “Godzilla.” They might have some elements in common, but both films go about those elements in entirely different ways. 
Final Grade: D