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Tuesday: The Island

The Island is an all-around fun film that isn't great on any level, but is worth a viewing for those interested in the genre.

The Island
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Michael Bay is the typical direction that continues to ask for bigger explosions. However, big explosions and long chase sequences don't make a good movie. Bay is known for creating entertaining movies that aren't very well-made. Audiences should be aware that The Island isn't unique and certainly doesn't try to be. It's entertaining, but does have its share of issues that is sure to vary between viewers whether or not they are tolerable.

Lincoln Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta are members of a strictly regulated indoor futuristic colony who hope to win the lottery. This is a contest in which the grand price is a trip to a utopian island. It's reportedly the last uncontaminated place on Earth. A startling discovery about the true nature of "the Island" and their very existence leads the two to stage a desperate escape to the outside world. The plot alone should take viewers back to films such as Logan's Run. The running time is quite long for an action film and the story line moves along a bit slow. Even by the time the film ends, the story doesn't feel completely fleshed out. The culprit is that instead of creating action sequences around the plot, dialogue and story developments are merely utilized to string chase sequences together. The twists and turns are predictable and it's obvious that the emphases wasn't placed upon the screenplay. Even so, the dialogues are still better than what moviegoers are used to seeing in more recent Michael Bay flicks. Despite the fact that The Island is primarily wrapped around the over-produced action scenes and is a bit long, it's still an entertaining film.

The Island features a cast filled with big names. Ewan McGregor performs as Lincoln Six Echo. He fits the character and is convincing enough. Scarlett Johansson plays alongside McGregor as Jordan Two Delta. She also carries the film along well. Both of these actors feel natural in the action and deliver the dialogue better than many other actors would have. Supporting roles are played by actors such as Sean Bean and Steve Buscemi. Bean has always been a marvelous villain and proves me right, once again. Buscemi is a phenomenal actor, although he doesn't appear in The Island for very long. The entire cast is filled with actors who make the movie even more fun to watch.

Michael Bay's speciality is the visuals department. He succeeds yet again with the special effects. The chase scenes are a bit longer than they should be, but Bay keeps it interesting. His camerawork and quick-to-cut edits are slick. Science fiction fans are sure to be glued to the screen with Michael Bay's interesting interpretation of this futuristic colony. The same can be said about the audio quality. The low end is a bit uncontrolled at times, but the surround channels and front speakers hold a large amount of information. This certainly made me feel placed directly in the middle of the action. All of Michael Bay's films have impressive audio tracks and The Island is no exception.

Similar to many other Michael Bay flicks, The Island received many mixed reviews. I personally think that this is one of Michael Bay's better movies, with the exception of the first Transformers. This is a highly entertaining science fiction action film that holds replay value. Even though there are quite a few flaws, including the fact that it's overlong, it's a fun movie that shouldn't be criticized too harshly. The Island is an all-around fun film that isn't great on any level, but is worth a viewing for those interested in the genre.

My Rating = Three Stars

Next movie: Hugo

Thursday: Hugo

Hugo isn't for everybody, but surely deserves appreciation as its one of the best films of the year.

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Martin Scorsese is a name that is very much respected in the film industry. A lot of buzz surrounds each of his movies, eve before there are any critic or user reviews. While his movies aren't for everybody, they sure offer something different than most moviegoers are used to in modern cinema. Most modern films appeal to being visually entertaining, but don't have very much of a story to back it up. Many moviegoers prefer to be spoon-fed all of the twists and turns so that they don't have to do much thinking. The filmmakers that encourage the audience to think get feedback from mainstream audiences that it's 'boring' simply because the film requires them to actually use the brain. Martin Scorsese has done it yet again with his film Hugo.

Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. Some viewers have been originally been a bit misled by the trailer. They were expecting simply a story about an orphan who is left with an automaton and goes on adventures in order to fix it and unlock the mystery. However, Hugo is so much more. The film has quite a few sub-plots that occur with characters such as the Station Inspector and a couple others in the train station. Behind the screenplay is a great amount of emotional depth. Writer John Logan and Director Martin Scorsese create a set of characters that the audience can't help but feel attached to and actually care what happens to them. The writing is top notch as the dialogue is exceptional. My only complaint is that the film could have been cut down a little bit within a couple scenes, otherwise this is marvelous filmmaking that actually makes its viewers utilize his or her mind.

Whether or not one enjoys a Martin Scorsese films, his talent is undeniable. He's one of the most brilliant filmmakers in the industry. He's able to masterfully use his cast to create a true piece of art. Hugo is absolutely no exception. Asa Butterfield performs as Hugo. Not only does he fit the character, but he truly draws sympathy towards his role and makes Hugo believable as a character. Chloë Grace Moretz plays Isabelle. From the moment I saw her in previous films, I had a strong feeling that she would make it big someday. Well, she has become an even better actress, especially under Scorsese's direction. She's just as believable as Hugo and has created an admirable amount of depth in Isabelle.Ben Kingsley is Georges Méliés. He delivers an outstanding performance, which isn't very much of a surprise coming from him. However, what is a surprise is the casting choice for the Station Inspector. Sacha Baron Cohen took on this role, yes he has performed as Borat and Brüno in the past. It's interesting to see him taken out of those type of roles and placed in a film such as Hugo. He certainly manages to take complete control of the character and shines. This is a very capable cast to begin with, although Martin Scorsese's great direction simply aided the actors to be even better.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has happened. Hugo is Martin Scorsese's first film to be shot in 3D. Fortunately, it was actually captured with a native 3D camera and wasn't post-converted. I was hesitant to see the movie in the 3D format as I have never been a fan. However, I'm very glad that I bit the bullet and paid the higher ticket price. I have yet to view a film that has utilized the new technology better than Scorsese. He has truly created a world that utterly immerses the audience. Those expecting a lot of objects flying out towards the screen are sure to be disappointed. That is a very gimmicky route of delivering 3D. Instead, Hugo contains an incredible amount of depth, so much in fact that it would make James Cameron jealous. The audio is just as impressive. My mind never wandered from the world that Martin Scorsese placed me in with Hugo.

As the film continues, it tells quite a bit about the beginning of film. While some may view this as a negative aspect, I thought it connected to the character, the story, and the ending of the film. There's a certain mystery that audiences will continue to think about, which is what the automaton will write as it's reanimated. Once this secret is revealed, the story goes in a bit of a different direction. The important thing to understand is that this isn't mindless entertainment. Martin Scorsese has created a film that has emotional depth, requiring its audiences to actually think. It's nice to have mainstream films actually be intellectual. Hugo isn't for everybody, but surely deserves appreciation as its one of the best films of the year.

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: Fright Night (2011)

Saturday: Fright Night (2011)

Fright Night (2011) isn't very good. It's worth a rental at best.

Fright Night (2011)
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From the early stages, I was very hesitant about anybody remaking Fright Night (1985). It worked for the time it was made and with the amount of charm that was utilized. To put it simply, I was correct that this remake doesn't contain nearly the same amount of wit or charm. The claim that Fright Night (2011) is quite similar to Disturbia is accurate. It plays out in a similar way. I can't help but feel that this is just a cash-in for the studio. It feels like an attempt to access a movie that could be filmed in 3D to rake in the cash. Since my gut told me to avoid it, I made the decision to wait to rent the Blu-Ray from Netflix once it was released.

Teen Charley Brewster suspects that his new neighbor, the sinister Jerry Dandrige, is a vampire. He turns to a self-styled vampire expert, Peter Vincent, for help. Las Vegas magician Vincent proves useless, and it's up to Charley to save his mom, Jane, and his girlfriend, Amy, from the seductive bloodsucker. One of the greatest things about the original Fright Night is that it never took itself seriously and broke out comic relief, making it a fun affair. This remake tries to go upon the same path. The screenplay feels as if it's trying way too hard. Each of the character arches are predictable and I didn't care much for any of them at any point of the film's running time. Fortunately, the screenwriters didn't take the easy way out and attempt to receive a PG-13 rating, but put in some language and violence in order to keep the same feeling of the original. The action sequences left me feeling surprisingly underwhelmed and wondered when they would kick it up a notch. That never happened. The dialogue is perhaps one of the most disappointing points of Fright Night (2011). Not only is most of the humor unfunny, but a large portion of it comes off as tacky and as if it's trying too hard, as I previously mentioned.

While the screenplay didn't pull many surprises, it was pleasant to see the cast belting out the small amount of development his or her character received. Anton Yelchin is Charley Brewster. He fits the role and does what he can with the material he was given. I have never been much of a Colin Farrell fan, but he's entertaining as Jerry. He pulls off this form of vampire well. Toni Collette is an Oscar nominee, what is she doing here? Not to mention in what's known as the character given the worst dialogue in all of Fright Night. Imogen Poots has given worthwhile performance in other films such as 28 Weeks Later, and continues to do her thing here, although the dialogue hinders her performance a bit. While I realize that many moviegoers like Christopher Mintz-Plasse, I don't feel he was right to be cast anywhere near this, or any horror film for that matter. Whether or not it's a horror/comedy, is all I think about when he's on screen is him as McLovin from Superbad. He fits the atmosphere in films such as Kick-Ass, but it simply didn't work here. It has nothing to do with his acting, he's fine here, but he just doesn't fit the horror atmosphere. Otherwise, this group of actors deliver despite the fact that they're representing a poor script.

No matter how great CGI gets, I continue to prefer practical effects. Those seen in older horror films may sometimes seem a bit cheesy, but I much prefer that over a video game-esque look. Fright Night (2011) has it share of blood, but it's digitalized blood. It was actually utilized quite well for the majority of the film. However, it becomes horrid in the final act. It sticks out like a sore thumb and left me hoping that a mainstream horror will use practical effects sometime soon. My biggest problem with the visuals here is that director Craig Gillespie put too much into making this 3D. A lot of objects fly out towards the screen and it comes off as very cheesy and poorly done. I'm glad I saw this in 2D. The audio that comes along with the movie is a completely different story. Fright Night (2011) is an immersive experience. Each speaker is used to its full potential. Every sound effect and scene of dialogue comes through highly detailed. This is a very high quality track that will impress audiences.

I suppose that my hunch was correct regarding the remake of Fright Night. I gave it a fair chance and went into it with an open mind. The screenplay is lackluster at every angle you look at it from. The special effects are hit-or-miss, especially bad in the final act of the film. The greatest element of this film is the decent acting, but this couldn't be used to its full potential due to the dialogue. Fortunately, the movie isn't boring and does a good job of being entertaining enough. However, I don't see myself going back and watching this as it's quite forgettable. Those who are fans of the vampire sub-genre should stick with the original Fright Night or 30 Days of Night. While they're both very different, they both still dominate this remake. Fright Night (2011) isn't very good. It's worth a rental at best.

My Rating = Two Stars

Next movie: Kung Fu Panda 2