Thursday, July 16, 2009

Movie Review:Ice Age, Dawn of the Dinosaurs

The Ice Age franchise is now in its 3rd installment and, as with most franchises, there have been certain changes. Remember in the first Ice Age how Diego (Denis Leary) was a fierce, dangerous foe for Manny (Ray Romano)?

Remember how Manny himself was a capable fighter when the need arose?

Remember how Sid (John Leguizmo) was really annoying yet somehow endearing?

Remember in the second one how fun the Possum twins were?

Meet the new Ice Age where Manny and Diego are cowards, Sid has lost his annoying ways and is now lacking that sweetness edge, and the new "cool factor" is supplied by Buck (Simon Pegg), the death-defying super-hero/klutz who battles Rudy the Dinosaur...a character so fierce that Manny and Diego have gone from characters who did what was necessary to fear-driven, unfunny guys.

Fortunately, there is still a lot of humor in this new edition. While not quite as original or fun as the first two, it is still a fast-paced, warm-hearted romp through the world of pre-history.

The jokes are, if not as plentiful as in the first two, still funny and the characters still have that little something that makes you want to see how their story turns out. The story arc is entertaining and the resolution everything you are looking for.

I was slightly disappointed with this movie because I loved the first two so much and that indicated to me that this was a franchise dedicated to putting out quality stories instead of trading on franchise recognizability.

I think part of it might be because they have added too much. In the first movie, there were really only three characters they followed; Manny, Sid and Diego. It was their story.

In the second movie, they added Ellie (Queen Latifah), Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck).  

There was still time to explore their characters and relationships, each character was central for a while.

Now, they added Buck, the Dinosaur babies, and left out a lot of the stuff we wanted to see. No Crash and Eddie antics, no Diego-as-force-of-nature, Manny mostly as a bumbling, fearful father, no Ellie as a possum type humor...

Yet it was still fun and entertaining. The Scrat (Chris Wedge) and Scratte (Karen Disher) storyline was a bigger part of the movie and had its own arc which was very, very well done. Buck picked up a lot of the Crash/Eddie type moments. They cribbed a bit from Shrek with the Sid/dinosaur mom story, but that was okay.

Overall, if you like cartoons and good stories, you cannot go wrong going to see Ice Age. Despite the shortcomings mentioned above, it was worth the trip.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Movie Review: Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen

Many people hate the directing of Michael Bay. He uses a lot of explosions, high-energy set-pieces, sensuous camera angles, and so forth to cover for some shaky scripts. He has developed a style that falls enough into the realm of the auteur that he is even being mocked for it on You-tube.

On the other hand, with Bay you know what you are going to get and he seldom fails to deliver. In Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen he has the source material that fits his style. The original cartoon was never overly long on story line and plot but made up for it with a lot of high-octane action. Enter Michael Bay.

Revenge of the Fallen is everything you would expect. Action-packed, full of one-liners, full of plot holes and thoroughly enjoyable. It starts slowly, but once it gets going it doesn't slow down.

The plot is simple; Ancient Decepticon  "The Fallen" wants to return to power. To do that, the last Optimus must be slain. Once that happens, he will be freed to go to earth, find a machine that will kill the sun, and get that power for himself. Meanwhile, the knowledge of The Cube has been internalized by Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf).

So the Decepticons are chasing Sam who is being protected by Bumblebee and accompanied by Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox). Along the way, the specialized military task force has several battles with the Decepticons and the epic conclusion is a long-running battle that delivers everything you would expect from a Michael Bay flick: hot women, big guns, rapid cuts, numerous explosions, and a happy conclusion.

Along the way we encounter a lot of new Transformers that call back the glory days of the cartoon. We see Constructobots, Dinobots, and several others including a wise-cracking duo that get the best lines in the movie.

If you are looking for an intellectual, thought-provoking movie with something to say about today's society, skip this movie. But if you want an action-packed, fun filled action-adventure with a lot of combat, laughs, and fun, go see it. Twice.