Films viewed in 2011

Posts Tagged ‘sequel’

481. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

In Action on February 14, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Dir. Guy Ritchie

Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.

MY TAKE

The budding Sherlock Holmes franchise is more buddy cop movie formula than one might expect from a bona fide literary icon, but even the mindless action is pretty fun. Robert Downey Jr. still seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself with his signature dry wit and emerging prowess as a one-man-army, while Jude Law suffers slightly from either lost puppy or nagging wife syndrome. He’s upstaged by Jared Hess as the arch-nemesis of our hero, in a storyline that feels rushed considering the long-arc of their relationship. Worst off, however, is poor Rachel McAdams who gets what can only be described as a call-back roll before being unceremoniously ousted from the scene, much like her fumbling career.

 

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459. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

In Foreign Language on January 27, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Dir. José Padilha

After a prison riot, former-Captain Nascimento, is swept into a bloody political dispute that involves government officials and paramilitary groups.

MY TAKE

In the same way the brilliant TV series The Wire compounds the scope of society’s interwoven complications every season, so too does Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. Expanding from the first Elite Squad’s police barracks and favelas to the chambers of power, prisons and higher learning, José Padilha’s follow-up might have a broader reach, but still manages to narrow-in on the action with devastating effect. The film will raise your hopes and heartbeat, right before shooting them down and picking you back up again. This Brazilian emotional rollercoaster should not be missed.

420. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

In Action on December 21, 2011 at 9:34 AM

Dir. Brad Bird

After the Kremlin is bombed, Ethan Hunt and his new team go rogue to clear IMF’s name.

MY TAKE

Tom Cruise takes a lot of flak for his personal intensity, but that focus and passion never fails him on-screen. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol gives us some impossibly good action scenes that are beautifully enhanced by IMAX and never feel anything less than breathtaking. Pixar star director Brad Bird brings a refreshing touch to franchise (which is now unapologetically infringing on James Bond territory), by letting us follow every sequence with just enough adrenaline and clarity for the tension to take root. Ingenuity is also always a priority in every scene, from new central gadgets to touches so small you’ll miss them if you blink. The story itself is just a bit straighter than we’ve come to expect from a franchise built on big twists.

396. The Muppets

In Musical on November 24, 2011 at 1:07 PM

Dir. James Bobin

With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon.

MY TAKE

If you thought The Muppet’s were old hat, you’re a little right and a little wrong. Right because the new movie directed by James Bobin goes to painstaking efforts to glamorize the days gone by, and leans on the comeback theme for the entire film. You’re only wrong because Jason Segal, Amy Adams and their felty friends deliver enough laughs and irreverence to firmly justify their continued existence in pop culture. Great original songs are just the beginning of the fun, even if music supervisor Bret Mackenzie sometimes rips off his own Flight of the Conchords tunes.  The big bright colours, lavish designs and full chorus dance numbers make the musical side of the film work, while the occasional cameo and self-aware joke go a long way. The un-Muppetized version  of “We Built This City on Rock and Roll” felt out of place, but otherwise I was sending a lot more cheers from the balcony than jeers.

395. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

In Comedy on November 23, 2011 at 9:54 AM

Dir. Todd Strauss-Schulson

Stoner buds Harold and Kumar cause a holiday fracas by inadvertently burning down Harold’s father-in-law’s prize Christmas tree.

MY TAKE

Adult Christmas movies are a rare treat, where we get the munchies instead of munchkins and everybody ends up on the naughty list. So why does A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas often seem joyless? John Cho and Kal Penn waste a lot of energy healing a rift from an apparently bad trip to Guantanamo Bay (never saw that movie). The result means that instead of dealing with their delirious situations, there’s a odd tension between them that weighs down the laughs. The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink comedy does include some enjoyable self-aware 3D, old school claymation and a coked out baby, but each episode is strangely self-contained. I wouldn’t call this a holiday classic, but it does add a welcomed spice to the overly sweet family season.

366. Down the Road Again

In Canadian on November 3, 2011 at 9:19 AM

Dir. Donald Shebib

Pete travels cross-country to scatter his best friend Joey’s ashes and slowly uncovers mysteries about their collective past.

MY TAKE

Down the Road Again must set a world record for the longest gap between sequels – 41 years after the Canadian classic Goin’ Down the Road. And unlike the few arguable challengers (like Gone with the Wind’s 1991 mini-series follow-up Scarlett), Donald Shebib actually returns as writer/director with mostly the same cast.  The small, quiet and respectful homecoming is also far from a cash grab – it explores the painful repercussions of the selfish and immature decisions that ended the original film so controversially. Kathleen Robertson is the most important addition, with a strong performance that brings weight and relevance to the story. Doug MacGrath feels rusty and light by contrast, but at the film’s midpoint revelation he hits the necessary emotional notes. The result is worthy companion piece and a worthwhile stand alone drama.

362. Paranormal Activity 3

In Horror on October 31, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Dir. Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

In 1988, young sisters Katie and Kristi befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home.

MY TAKE

Laying criticism against Paranormal Activity 3 for being just like the other two misses the point. Like all brands of horror, the trilogy captures a signature style, pacing and substance that will certainly spin into an extended franchise. Catfish co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman expertly execute their shots, respecting the eerie silences and staging of the first two entries, while lifting other influences directly from Poltergeist. The resulting tension is earned, even if not all the “gotchya” moments got me. As a prequel taking place in the 80s, there’s also a missed opportunity for the characters to embrace the novelty of the technology and taped experience more.

361. Final Destination 5

In Horror on October 31, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Steven Quale

Survivors of a suspension-bridge collapse learn there’s no way you can cheat Death.

MY TAKE

I make no apologies for my love of the Final Destination franchise. Each subsequent film isn’t so much a sequel as a remake of the original formula, and each sequence shamelessly tries to out-shock, out-surprise and outdo the last.  The gymnastic scene in Final Destination 5 might be the best of the whole series, and the opening bridge disaster is inspired throughout. Director Steve Quale also gleefully disregards everything he learned working for James Cameron by unapologetically hurling 3D objects in our face throughout. That’s not a complaint – subtlety has no place here. In fact, the subdued character reactions are the film’s biggest flaw (I miss Devon Sawa’s paranoia from the first film). So despite the film’s attempt to bring everything full circle at the end, I’ll bet good money there are more destinations to come.

328. Scream 4

In Horror on October 13, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Dir. Wes Craven

Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer.

MY TAKE

Wes Craven’s return to the Scream franchise 10 years later is framed as a reboot, which really means cash-grab by the old guard. The idea of a “new decade, new rules” sounds nice on the poster, but doesn’t mean much in practice. The multiple false start openings get things rolling up front with dizzying layers of self-awareness, but the film quickly settles right back into formula. The story re-discovers some momentum near the end and the false third act, but just doesn’t end with nearly enough bravery from the filmmaker. I guess it’s hard to kill the thing you love, even when killing is the name of the game.

289. Crank: High Voltage

In Action on September 28, 2011 at 4:57 PM

Dir. Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Chelios tries to track down a mobster to replace his battery-powered heart that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep working.

MY TAKE

I won’t make any excuses for how cool I think the Crank movies are. Non-stop action doesn’t even begin to describe the mayhem and insanity that oozes out of every fish-eyed frame of this film. The filmmakers laugh in the face of logic, right from the opening scene where the ever-dependable Jason Statham is literally shoveled off the pavement after falling thousands of feet to his non-death. From there, it’s just a never-ending parade of killing bad guys and brain cells, where no heart or breast implant is safe from exploding. I’m ready and waiting for them to Crank out one more of these suckers.