A Review of Juno

The first movie to be reviewed on the “reloaded” web site is Juno. Farrah and I watched Juno about a week ago at the AMC Cupertino Square 16. This theater is becoming our number one place to watch movies. I suppose because it is new, clean, and doesn’t smell like feet yet.

We had only heard good things about the movie, so expectations were slightly high. The only aspect I wasn’t looking forward to was Jennifer Garner’s acting. We bought our Milk Duds and headed into the theater. We were early enough to have our choice of seats. But the place quickly filled up with eager moviegoers. It had been some time since we watched a movie in a crowded theater.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0SKf0K3bxg&fs=1&hl=en_US%5D

Here is the brief synopsis provided by Netflix:

Facing an unplanned pregnancy, worldly teen Juno (Ellen Page) devises a plan to locate the proverbial perfect parents to adopt her baby. But the seemingly ideal couple Juno chooses appears to still have some growing up to do. Now, everyone in Juno’s world must do a little soul-searching. Michael Cera (Superbad) co-stars while Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner play the pair of affluent yuppies anxious for a child in this offbeat coming-of-age comedy.

What I Liked

The movie is a funny and smartly written. Sharing laughter with a large crowd sure makes the movie experience more enjoyable. Juno is one of those movies that has very quotable dialog. You can find yourself quoting lines often throughout the following weeks. The acting is sharp all around, especially from Ellen Page who plays the lead. Yes, I even liked Jennifer Garner.

The film moves at a brisk pace, clocking in at a fast 92 minutes. The seemingly predictable plot points turned out to be refreshingly unpredictable, at least from my standpoint.

A seen from the movie Juno

What I Did Not Enjoy

I can’t think of anything I didn’t enjoy about Juno. I could say it was short, but it didn’t feel too short. I was awaiting an unsatisfying ending; you know the endings where each viewer needs to determine for themselves if the characters found happiness or not? Luckily this did not come to pass.

Some may think the dialog is trying to hard to be memorable, trying hard to be cute and hip. But it works in this movie for both the characters in high school and the adults.

Final Thoughts

Strong movie. Smart script. Strong acting by likable actors. A good way to spend in few hours in a warm theater.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man is not one of my favorite comic book characters. I’m more of a Batman guy, but I have enjoyed the Spider-Man movies. I thought the second movie in the series was better than the first. So my expectation of this third installment was very high, even after hearing of the lousy reviews.

The Sandman versus Spidey

As I always start my reviews, here is the Netflix synopsis of Spider-Man 3:

After defeating eight-armed cyborg Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) faces off against a new crop of villains, including the shape-shifting Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), in the third adventure of the comic book series. While Spidey’s superpowers are altered by an alien organism, his alter ego, Peter Parker, deals with nemesis Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) and gets caught up in a love triangle. Kirsten Dunst and James Franco co-star.

What I Liked

The actors and the characters they inhabit are likable. The special effects involving the Sandman were cool. Also the “Gwen Stacy rescue scene” was done with just the right amount of intensity. The last battle scene at some moments, but in the end left me unfulfilled.

Kirsten and Toby in a Web

What I Didn’t Enjoy

But not all the special effects worked. The first battle slash chase scene looked particularly fake and uninspiring. Subsequent battles were too long and a bit repetitious.

The whiny nice Peter Parker started to get on my nerves. The angry Venom-infected Peter wasn’t menacing to be, but over the top hilarious caricature. My guess – Toby Maguire can’t pull off this duality bit convincingly. Also, the path the Harry Osborn character takes feels a bit forced.

The film also suffers from too many characters in a movie. Let’s see, there’s the old gang (Peter/Spidey, Mary Jane, Aunt May, etc.) and the new characters (Gwen Stacy, Ed Brock Jr., Venom, The Sandman, and a few others). To me this problem caused some of the old Batman franchise films to not reach their full potential.

Final Thoughts

This trilogy hasn’t ended on a strong note. Spider-Man 3 is a watchable film. I just don’t think I’ll care to watch it again.

* 1/2 (out of 5)

Transformers

How do you make a kids movie about talking transforming robots into a live action summer blockbuster? You get Steven Speilberg to produce and Michael Bay to direct the movie, that’s how you do it.

The Transformers Throw Down

Transformers is the second movie we watch at the AMC Theaters in Cupertino Square. Does it succeed in starting a new franchise of movies about robots from the planet Cybertron? Or does it sink like a hunk of junk?

Netfilx

Based on the popular toys that transform from machines into giant robots, this live-action movie from Pearl Harbor director Michael Bay finds the planet Cybertron inhabitants engaging in a secret war for control of Earth’s natural resources, which they desperately need for fuel. Able to disguise themselves as cars, airplanes, boats and more, the transformers prove a tough enemy in this film starring Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel and Jon Voight.

What I Liked

The movie starts off well. The early action and battle scenes provide plenty of bang for your movie buck. The opening scenes in the desert with American troops fighting a lone Decepticon shows just how tough these robots are. The movie moves at a nice pace through the first half of the film, providing a nice mix of action and information without getting too bogged down in either.

The introduction of our hero, the girl/woman he’s destined to be with, and other characters move along at a good clip. Shia LaBeouf isn’t your next action star, but you can see he has skills playing the reluctant hero. I’m sure we’ll see him in similar parts as his career grows. As the humans and the Autobots start interacting more on a personal level, the film starts to slow a bit. It almost comes to a complete halt when the Autobots go to Shia’s home to retrieve an artifact.

Decepticons

What I Didn’t Enjoy

The acting is passable, with the robot voices providing as much emotion as their human counterparts. I’m not a big Jon Voight fan, so his Donald Rumsfeld-type role could have been cut out as far as I’m concerned. Anthony Anderson’s computer geek character seems to be thrown into the mix out of left field. The relationship between Shai LaBeouf and Meagan Fox’s character wasn’t believable. Plus believing Megan Fox was a high school student is a big stretch.

There is almost one too many battles in this movie. When the Decepticon and Autobots finally clash, it is difficult to follow who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. And I still didn’t understand the deal with the Allspark, as explained in the film.

Autobots

Final Thoughts

This loud live action packed, cgi filled, nonsensical plotted movie proved to be slightly successful as a new action film. I guess I could see it become a franchise, though I’m not sure where it can go from here. The crowd we saw it with seemed to love it. And it did succeed in recapturing the feeling of the afternoon cartoon I enjoyed in my youth.

Transformers: ** (out of 5)

Knocked Up

I am playing catch up on my movie reviews. Knocked Up is the first film Farrah and I watched at the new AMC Theaters in Cupertino Square (formerly Vallco Shopping Center).

Vallco Mall had been dying a slow death. For every open and operating store there is almost twice as many empty spaces. The theater is meant to breath new life into the mall, bringing in people and hopefully other businesses. I suppose the name change is meant to remove the hold stigma of what was and to mark a new beginning.

The movie box office is on the second floor between Macy’s and Sears. Once you purchase the tickets, either from the ticket booth or using one of the six self-service kiosks, you head up the escalator to the third floor and sixteen new theaters.

The theaters are nice and clean (for now) with the normal big comfy stadium chairs and wide rows. It can get a bit dark in the theaters making walking into the show an adventure. Before the previews there is a twenty-minute feature / commercial / infomercial. This can be annoying when you are trying to talk to anyone else before the movie.

Well, onto the movie review.

Knocked Up

The Netflix summary on Knocked Up:

A one-night stand results in an unexpected pregnancy for entertainment reporter Alison (Katherine Heigl) in Judd Apatow’s romantic comedy. Determined to be a good mom and keep her career on track, Alison decides to try to make things work with the baby’s father, slacker Ben (Seth Rogen). It’s anything but smooth sailing as the odd couple gets acquainted, but Alison finds there’s more to Ben than she originally thought. Paul Rudd also stars.

What I liked:

Going into this movie I had no expectations. I didn’t hear whether it was good or bad, and this was several weeks after it had opened. I found the movie both smart and funny. The dialogue and situations ring true to life, with all the comedic and dramatic twists and turns. I was pleasantly surprised that Seth Rogen could pull off the leading man role. Paul Rudd is golden as ever, especially during the trip to Las Vegas scene.

Leslie Mann and Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up

Katherine Heigl and Leslie Mann put in strong performances as well. Mann’s acting chops don’t seem to be there for me, bordering on a bit amateurish, but it works for this role.

What I Didn’t Like:

The ending seemed a bit rushed to me. I wouldn’t have mind if the movie was longer just to provide a more satisfying resolution. The juvenile antics of some of the secondary characters wore thin after awhile.

Final Thoughts
This is a good comedy with likable characters. Katherine Heigl does well doing light comedy, and Paul Rudd is funny as heck. I wouldn’t mind seeing where these characters end up ten years from now.

Knocked Up: **** (out of 5)

Serenity

“She is startin’ to damage my calm.” — Jayne Cobb from the movie Serenity We are constantly threatened with television shows being re-conceived and passed off as movies.  Most threats are in the form of remakes, such as S.W.A.T., Bewitched, and Dukes of Hazzard, trying to get a few bucks in the name of nostalgia. Continue reading “Serenity”

“Saving Face” & “Rent”

The //Netflix summary for Saving Face: Dutiful daughter Wil (Michelle Krusiec) sidesteps her mother’s (Joan Chen) attempts to marry her off in Alice Wu’s romantic comedy set in New York. At 28, Wil’s the old maid of her traditional Chinese family, so there’s no way she can tell them about her budding romance with VivianContinue reading ““Saving Face” & “Rent””

“Just Like Heaven” & “Elizabethtown”

I don’t know if other people have the same problem I have, but I sometimes get Reese Witherspoon and Kirsten Dundst mixed up.  I don’t get confused when I see a photo of either of them.  The mixup happens when recalling movies they may have done.  I know the Reese Witherspoon has had memorable rolesContinue reading ““Just Like Heaven” & “Elizabethtown””

“Hitch” & “Must Love Dogs”

Just finished watching [Hitch] on DVD.  The movie stars the likeable Will Smith as a matchmaker for men.  Hitch puts his clients in the best possible situation to succeed in having the women of their dreams fall in love with them.  “The rest is up to you”, he says. The movie has some pretty goodContinue reading ““Hitch” & “Must Love Dogs””

Batman Begins

Rating: **** out of 5 Quick shot: The movie chronicles the Batman’s beginnings. What I liked about the move: It’s back to the serious Batman.  The storyline is very well structured, good acting all around, and Gotham City looks like an actual city.  Plus Batman’s toys are pretty cool as well. What I didn’t like: Continue reading “Batman Begins”