Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Iron Man 2

I waited three weeks to finally see this because the prevailing opinion I got from professional reviewers and amateur ones was that this was OK, but not as good as the first one. On the whole I'd agree with that assessment. "Iron Man 2" doesn't embarrass itself like, say, "Batman and Robin" but it isn't in the same league as "The Dark Knight" or even "Spider-Man 2." Basically it's just a mediocre sequel that's enjoyable but doesn't add a whole lot.

When last we saw billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. who has bucked traditional wisdom and thanks to CGI become an action star in his mid-40s) he was revealing to the world that he is Iron Man, pretty much so the director could cue the "I Am Iron Man" song. Anyway, now that he's made this admission, he finds out why the other superheroes keep their identities secret. First off, the government (led by a chubby Gary Shandling) wants the Iron Man technology. Second, a bitter ex-physicist in Russia named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) starts work on his own arc reactor so he can take revenge on Stark, whose father stole the arc reactor technology from Vanko's father--supposedly.

On top of all of this, Tony is dying because the mini-arc reactor keeping shrapnel from piercing his heart is poisoning his blood. He decides to foist the daily running of his company to his loyal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and takes to drinking and acting erratically to while out the end of his days.

This includes taking over for the driver of his Indy car in a race in Monaco. There as you've probably seen from the commercials, he runs into Vanko, who uses some kind of crazy electrical whips to blow up Tony's car. After Tony stops him and they have their little "Dark Knight"-style jail confrontation, Vanko is sprung by a competitor from Tony's so that he can use his skills for evil.

After that, it's on.

The movie's about two hours long and it feels like it at parts. Besides Vanko there are some other new characters. Some like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) might show up in future Marvel superheroes movies like the "Avengers" movie in the works for 2012 or so. As a result, some characters like Pepper Potts seem to get less time than in the first one.

Anyway, I already said at the beginning of my review this was OK but not great. On the whole it's enjoyable enough, with the same blend of humor and action as in the first one. Still, it doesn't really add much depth to the characters to make it a really good sequel. You'll get your money's worth, but it's not anything you'll really remember much after you leave the theater.

That is all.

My score: 62/100 (2.5 stars)

Metacritic score: 57/100 (2 stars)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

I watched this in my hotel room in Toronto while on vacation, so obviously I didn't see it with all the 3D bells and whistles. Which if you think about it is how most people will see it when it comes out soon on DVD, unless you have one of those new 3D TVs.

Anyway, after watching this I realized why this movie seemed so familiar--because it was pretty similar to Disney's Narnia franchise. Really you could have called this "Alice, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." It follows roughly the same plot, only Alice goes down a rabbit hole instead of through a wardrobe. She ends up in a magic world where animals talk that's ruled by a wicked queen--the Red Queen. And of course before you can say "Keanu Reeves" Alice becomes The One who has to save Wonderland from the Red Queen and her main monster the Jabberwocky. Replace Wonderland with Narnia, the Red Queen with the White Witch, and Alice with the four kids and you have "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." Though there isn't so much obvious Christian symbolism in "Alice" which is good or bad depending on your point of view.

If you saw Disney's animated "Alice in Wonderland" back in the day, this is supposed to be a kind of sequel. Basically it takes place 13 years after Alice originally went to Wonderland, which she thought was just a dream. This comes when her boring boyfriend proposes to her in front of a snobby audience. Alice with her father's whimsical spirit decides instead to light out after the white rabbit and ends up going down the hole.

Because I didn't have the 3D and because the plot seemed so familiar, I didn't really love this movie. It wasn't terrible and at least not as trippy as the original Disney version, but it wasn't great either. I read the Alice books way back in grade school, but I don't remember them well enough to compare them to this movie. There are probably some similarities. One probable change is that since they spent millions to get Johnny Depp for the Mad Hatter, they had to give him a more significant and sympathetic role. What was really missing was some kind of love interest for Alice, though maybe in the sequels she could hook up with the Mad Hatter.

Anyway, as I said this isn't a bad movie. (The worst part is Avril Lavigne caterwauling the theme song at the end.) It should be an enjoyable family rental even without the 3D. Or you could watch it in a hotel room like I did.

That is all.

My score: 62/100 (2.5 stars)

Metacritic score: 53 (2 stars)