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MOVIE REVIEWS

Post  Guest on Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:34 pm

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR C-



Review in a Hurry: Mummy mia, here we go again! This unnecessary sequel finds floppy-haired explorer Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) battling the resurrected Emperor Han (Jet Li) of ancient China. Despite the new setting, new adventure and new castmembers—including the wife-swap of Maria Bello—it still feels like they're beating a dead mummy.

The Bigger Picture: What's that funky odor wafting off the screen? Musty tombs and rotting corpses? The "funk of 40,000 years"? Stink, er, think again. It's the stench of stale plotting, cheesy CGI, cadaver-stiff acting and a decaying franchise that the studio keeps digging up. Ah, the smell of desperation...

This time around, young archeologist Alex O'Connell (Luke Ford)—son of retired adventurers Rick (Fraser) and Evelyn (Bello)—accidentally rouses the ruthless Dragon Emperor (Li) from his undead slumber. Millennia earlier, sorceress Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh) placed a curse on the evil monarch and his warriors, entombing them in clay for all eternity—or until some schmuck breaks the spell. Now he's ba-a-ack and hell bent on world domination, 'natch.

Because the script says so, the emperor has otherworldly powers and can shape-shift into digitized monsters. None of this makes him an interesting villain. Imhotep in the previous Mummy movies was at least a tragic figure, yearning to reunite with his soul mate.

Alex's mummy and daddy are summoned from England to help out, and the O'Connell clan reunite to take down the bad guy. The fam's far-out Far East adventure leads them to the Himalayas, in search of Shangri-La, where immortal Zi stands guard and a few awful CGI yetis lend a helping paw. Really.

Sure, there's action throughout, and it's kinda fun watching armies of the undead fight to the undeath. But what's lacking life here are the human characters. Fraser is...Fraser; Bello (replacing Rachel Weisz) stumbles on her prim British accent; John Hannah (as Evelyn's brother) does little but make yak jokes; and in the soggy romance subplot, bland Ford scores zero chemistry with Isabella Leong, who gives some truly terrible line readings.

Perhaps it's time to let sleeping mummies lie.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Lovely, talented Yeoh is always a welcome addition, and in the last reel, she and Li engage in a too-brief swordfight. With these two in the cast, there should've been a lot more mano a mano martial arts.


Last edited by GIANNIMX=) on Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:39 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: MOVIE REVIEWS

Post  Guest on Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:38 pm

THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE C-



Review in a Hurry: Fans of the late and lamented show may want to believe that this X marks a glorious return, but this plodding supernatural thriller wouldn't even make a top-10-episodes list.

The Bigger Picture: Here's another letter you may want to investigate: Y. "Why?" is about the only question that lingers after trudging through the long-awaited return of (former) FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson). Why this muddled, dreary story with little resonance, no impact and almost none of the series' gallows humor to lighten things up? Why all the dour, imprecise philosophizing? Why the absolutely limp resolution?

In short: Why did we wait ten years and end up with this?

Director (and cowriter and series creator) Chris Carter starts things off ominously enough. Though it's overlong, the initial scare and the reintroduction of the characters sets a nice tone—but then that tone never varies, turning the rest of the film into one long moody drone.

And when the tediousness just might pay off, it turns out that the man behind the curtain isn't much of a wizard after all.

Carter tries to liven things up by touching on hot-button issues but never engages them in a sensible way. Scully works in a Catholic hospital and faces none of the obvious objections about a stem-cell treatment, the villains of the piece share interesting connections that are completely unexplored, and the film's recurring message about faith is made risible when you consider that the likely viewer is someone who's been waiting a decade, only to be rewarded with this.

The 180—a Second Opinion: People who are still obsessed with the status of the Mulder/Scully relationship (hello? anyone out there?) might get some closure. But don't expect any leftover mysteries from the series to even be mentioned, much less solved.

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Re: MOVIE REVIEWS

Post  Guest on Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:42 pm

MAMMA MIA! C



Review in a Hurry: Meryl Streep gives it her all, but even her moxie and the absurdly catchy music of ABBA can't smooth out this uneven musical.

The Bigger Picture: Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is about to get married on the Greek island where she grew up under the loving care of her mother, Donna (freewheeling Streep). Longing to learn the identity of her father, Sophie secretly invites three of Donna's old flames to the wedding celebration, and much slapstick, singing, dancing and Nordic music making ensues.

If only Mamma Mia! recognized that it actually was a musical. Though the broadly drawn characters bandy about wildly and shout proclamations at the top of their lungs, the musical numbers are directed like it's a serious family drama. This is ABBA, people, not Tennessee Williams. Director Phyllida Lloyd wants to inject a vérité-like naturalism to the songs but bring the outsized raucous energy of the stage show to the straight—i.e., spoken—scenes.

Well, you can't have it both ways. While the characters are over-the-top and uncontainable, the musical numbers are composed in suffocating medium shots and are cut together too quickly to form a jubilant whole. Mamma Mia! lacks even one big fantastic set piece; visually, each musical number is chopped up into tiny little bits.

It isn't until the final act, when the wedding ceremony finally overtakes the plot, that the movie relaxes and relishes in its own musicality, that giddy spirit that makes song-and-dance films so magical. But sorry, too late.

The 180—a Second Opinion: An intimate approach works during the quieter songs, duets that are moving as Streep's Donna reconnects with her loved ones. They serve as a nice break from the forced exuberance of the other numbers.

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Re: MOVIE REVIEWS

Post  Guest on Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:45 pm

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT A



Review in a Hurry: Holy transcendence of genre, Batman! This epic struggle between the caped crusader (Christian Bale) and his nemesis the Joker (Heath Ledger) has a lot more on its mind than biff, bam and pow—and delivers on every operatic promise it makes.

The Bigger Picture: It's almost unfair to call The Dark Knight a sequel. Director Christopher Nolan has crafted a Batman film of such devastating impact, it practically obliterates the memory of its predecessors—including Nolan's own Batman Begins.

When we last left Gotham City's dark protector, his life and home were in a shambles, but so was crime in the city. Now crusading DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is looking to finish the job Batman started—but there's still plenty of fight left in the mob, not to mention the matter of a certain psychopath in smeared clown makeup who wants to make life interesting for everyone.

And so begins a sprawling, thrilling story of revenge, redemption, and the definition of heroism. Everything about The Dark Knight is definitive, in fact. Bale is essentially playing three roles—dapper, vacant playboy Bruce Wayne, his more contemplative private self and the simmering superhero—and nails them all. And there's almost no way to praise Ledger's bravura take on The Joker except to say that you've got to see it to believe it—not since Hannibal Lecter has a villain been so terrifying, so engaging and so memorable.

Between them, Batman and The Joker are doing battle for the soul of a city—and it's never clear who's going to be the winner. It's a titanic battle between not just men but ideas, a grand thing indeed for a dynamite summer film about a masked vigilante, and so good, it's a pity you'll only be able to see it for the first time once.

The 180—a Second Opinion: This may be the year's most heartbreaking film. Ledger's performance is so incandescent, it hurts to know he won't ever have the chance at it again.

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Re: MOVIE REVIEWS

Post  Guest on Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:49 pm

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH B



Review in a Hurry: Brendan Fraser takes a break from battling mummies to journey to...well, you know...where he battles a T-Rex, Venus flytraps and fanged fish—oh my! Inspired by the Jules Verne classic, this fun-size popcorn movie packs enough adventure and humor into every bite to please the whole fam. Just be sure to catch it in 3-D.

The Bigger Picture: You gotta love 3-D movies. There's always something being jabbed at your face or hurled into your lap. And Journey doesn't skimp on the gimmicks—you'll be ducking rocks, a yo-yo, dinosaur drool, etc., even Fraser's backwash. Fortunately, some appealing actors and exciting action are also thrown your way.

Hunky charmer Fraser—again proving he has the perfect light touch for this kind of material—plays geology professor Trevor Anderson, whose brother Max mysteriously died during an Icelandic expedition. Max's 13-year-old son Sean (Josh Hutcherson) comes for a visit and brings along his late father's notes about accessing the Earth's core. Eager for answers, Trevor jets to Iceland—with moody, PSP-playing teen in tow—and hires a sassy Scandinavian mountain guide, Hannah (Anita Briem).

After this somewhat-lengthy setup, the action starts coming at you fast, as the three adventurers get trapped inside a dormant volcano and fall—and fall and fall—through a portal to the core. The "world within the world" they discover is gorgeous but also deadly, so they have to escape, stat.

Will they find a way out? Will nephew and uncle bond? Will things heat up between the cool Icelandic babe and the geeky-beefy prof? Duh...Sure, the functional plot and characters are less dimensional than the layers of CGI F/X, but who cares when everyone, including you, is having so much fun?

Journey mixes chuckles—and even a few poignant beats—into all the thrills (Mine-shaft rides! Carnivorous plants! Sea serpents!). And with a breezy pace that's perfect for a summertime diversion, this crowd-pleaser wisely avoids the excesses of other lost-world flicks (looking at you, King Kong).

I can't wait for the JTTCOTE theme-park ride. 'Cause you know there'll be one.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Among the exotic creatures are flocks of glowing bluebirds. Sure, they're pretty, but does one happy little tweeter have to befriend Sean and help lead him to safety? The cutesy birdie stuff is just too Mary Poppins.

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