Movie Review: The Grey

I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

The Grey, starring Liam Neeson, is appropriately named. It is a dark, dreary slog of a movie. This is not a good time adventure story about a walk through the woods. This is a tale of survival, against all odds, in the most inhospitable terrain imaginable.

Liam Neeson plays a man who works in a remote oil plant somewhere deep in the cold back woods of Alaska. He’s an armed security guard, of sorts. His job is to protect the men who work at the plant from the locals – the locals, in this case, being wild wolves. He’s basically a hunter on guard.

That’s about as much background as we get on our hero before we are thrust into the thick of the story. He and a bunch of other men from the plant are on a charter jet together, leaving the plant to return to the big city where their families and their lives await them. Unfortunately they encounter heavy weather, and their flight never reaches it’s destination. Instead they crash land in the middle of ice world nowhere, Alaska. A handful of men survive the crash, including our hero. From there on it’s a survival tale, man against wolf and wilderness.

This is not an easy movie to enjoy on the surface. It’s basically an exercise in realistically exploring all of the terrible ways you could die in the frozen woods of Alaska. There prove to be many. There are some graphic scenes of people meeting terrible fates in this film. I’m not really into that, and I wasn’t expecting it to be as graphic as it was from the previews. It’s not always an easy movie to watch. People of fragile constitutions should probably skip this film.

It is an interesting movie though, artistically. The majority of the film is tints of black, white, and gray, and sprinkled bits of dark blue and green keep it barely above freezing. It’s dark dreary landscapes give way to occasional scenes of breathtaking beauty. I think this is a movie for people who have an interest in the outdoors, and in testing themselves against the odds. It certainly does a worthy job of showing us what a test it could be.

The Grey is most certainly a sad movie, and I have to admit I did not like the way it ends. However, the acting, directing, and cinematography were terrific. It’s worth watching if you can stomach the thrills, the chills, and all the blood that gets spilled. Just be sure everyone knows what they’re in for.

You can read more about The Grey at Yahoo! Movies, Rotten Tomatoes, or IMDb.

Movie Review: My Week With Marilyn

Disclaimer: I’m not a movie critic. I’m just a guy that loves movies, and my reviews are written from that perspective. I’ll try to give you my opinion of this film, and tell you enough to get a sense for it, without giving anything important away. If that works for you, read on.

I give “My Week With Marilyn” 4 out of 5 stars.

Let me open by saying that I don’t know anything about Marilyn Monroe, beyond what everyone knows; I know she was the starlet of her era, and one of the most famous women of any era. She was beautiful, glamorous, and might have fooled around with President Kennedy at some point. That’s about what I know.

Given that minimal background, I didn’t go to this film with any preconceptions about whether it would be good or bad. A huge Marilyn fan might enjoy any movie about her, simply because it’s about her. I went to see this because the previews looked pretty good and it got good reviews.

I’m pleased to report that it is indeed an excellent film. It’s well done, and I really enjoyed it.

This is a straight ahead drama. There are moments of levity and humor, but this is a film about people. It’s not too heavy, mind you, but it is all about the characters – their emotions, their challenges, and their relationships with each other. In particular, it’s about the relationship of the two lead characters (no surprise there given the title).

This is a period piece. It’s told from the perspective of Colin Clark, a young man living in England in 1956. At the age of 23, Colin decides he wants to get into the movie business. It’s a true story, based on the diary of the real Colin Clark, written during the filming of the movie, ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, which starred Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe.

Colin is a lowly assistant on the set of this film, but by some turn of fate, he and Marilyn strike up something of a friendship along the way. As you can guess, he is quite taken by her – and she finds him to be refreshingly sweet, innocent, and honest. Where this friendship takes them I will leave to the film to reveal. The journey they share is not too surprising – but nor is it entirely predictable.

This is a soft, sweet film, and also a fairly quiet film. Quiet enough, in fact, that throughout the movie I kept feeling guilty as I reached into my popcorn bag because I felt like the rustling might be distracting my neighbors in the theater. While no single scene is overly critical to the story, at the same time every scene feels like it matters, if you allow yourself to care about the characters, because every scene is rich with their emotions and details that help us understand who they are.

The supporting cast is excellent, including strong performances by Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier, and Judi Dench (who’s always terrific) as Sybil Thorndike. A variety of other cast members also do their part to offer solid support along the way.

As one would hope, and a film like this requires, the principles carry the day. I don’t recall seeing Eddie Redmayne in a film before, but he does a nice job as young Colin. He brings a bright eyed enthusiasm to the roll that just makes you root for the kid from the start.

Michelle Williams, as Marilyn, is fantastic. Taking on such a prominent real life figure has got to be intimidating for a young actress, but Williams hits it out of the park. I expect she’ll at least get a nomination for best actress at the Oscars. She may not win, but her Marilyn Monroe is in turns both glamorous, beautiful, and full of life, yet vulnerable, afraid, and maybe even lonely. I don’t know if the real Marilyn was this way, but I bought it completely. Williams is simply terrific.

I enjoy period pieces in general, and this one did a fine job to my casual eye. The costumes, sets, etc., were all well done, and the cinematography and directing were unremarkable but perfectly fine. I usually only notice those things when they’re incredible, or incredibly bad. Here they were neither. The script, while heavy with character emotion as I’ve said, was generally upbeat and fun. It’s not a comedy by any measure, but this movie is a good time.

My last though – while one might think this is a straight up chick flick, the fact that it’s told from young Colin’s perspective makes it approachable, I think, to the average guy. I mean, what guy can’t imagine the delights of getting carried away on an adventure with Marilyn Monroe, am I right fellas? 😉

The final word: A sweet story and a beautifully crafted film about a small town kid’s experience with a larger-than-life personality. A simple film, but simply delightful.

You can find out more about My Week With Marilyn at Yahoo Movies, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDb.

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

3 Days, 3 Movies. Let’s keep it goin’. Today’s movie: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

I give it 3 out of 5.

This marks the 4th installment of the Mission Impossible series. Once again mega star Tom Cruise returns as American Double Secret Super Spy Ethan Hunt. Going on missions, that are, impossible.

This was a fun movie. I go into a movie like this with low expectations. I want big explosions. I want cool stunts. I want bad guys that aren’t lame. I’d love to get a lot more than that, but that’s about what I expect.

This movie delivers everything I expect, and does so in style. In the tech department, they have their fair share of cool gadgets and weapons in this flick. In the special effects department, they blow up some pretty impressive things along the way. As far as stunts are concerned, our team certainly challenge death in new and spectacular ways in this film. Do they survive? You’ll have to watch and see.

Tom Cruise always manages to play a reliable hero. His team includes the spicy Paula Patton, the quirky Simon Pegg, and the rugged Jeremy Renner. All the actors were good enough, especially given the material. But again, it’s an action flick. Dialog and plot are pretty much gravy as long as you can keep me entertained along the way. This movie does it right, because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s got it’s share of comic relief thrown in to keep it light. If it were trying to be more serious, it would be more glaring how ridiculous the things they’re actually doing really are.

For the most part the acting and writing were pretty good throughout the movie – better than I expected (but don’t expect too much). …Unfortunately, at the very end the film kind of fizzled for me. It’s still a fun movie, and worth the price of admission. It could have ended so well. But after you think it’s over, it just kind of keeps going for another 5 or 10 minutes. I think they weren’t sure how to end it, so it just drags on a little long.

I know that doesn’t tell you much, but my goal is to let you know what to expect without giving anything away. Let me know if it’s working (Seriously, feel free to comment below.).

The final word: Great special effects and cinematography, decent acting and script, incredible on the IMAX – everything I look for in a big time mega action flick.

You can learn more about this movie at Yahoo or IMDb.


Movie Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Two nights, two movie reviews (I told you I watch a lot of movies). Here’s how my reviews will work: They’ll cover everything you need to know about a movie (well, some of the things), and nothing you don’t. Fair enough?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I give it a 3 out of 5.

I liked it. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I liked it. Let me say this right up front – it is very slow. There are films that are all action and quick cuts, and films that move at a more relaxed pace.  This is definitely the latter.

It’s a good film. It’s slow, but it does eventually unfold. Things do happen. At 2 hours and 8 minutes running time, though, just be ready for this movie to take it’s sweet time.

It’s a deep dark espionage suspense drama. It’s not a thriller because it never moves that fast or gets above luke-warm temperature. This movie is more of a chess game. There are many pieces in play, and each has a small but important role in the big picture. If you can handle the chess game pace, there’s lots to keep you thinking and wondering. Lots of spooks, lurking in the shadows, double crossing each other. Nobody seems to be able to put it all together, least of all we the audience.

I’m a big fan of Gary Oldman, in everything he does. He’s a great actor, and he is great in this movie. I won’t tell you about his character, but I will say that this role takes him to new levels of seriousness. He rises to the occasion (or should I say he sinks to it?). He’s great, and the rest of the very impressive ensemble cast are great as well.

In many ways this is a British equivalent of Robert DeNiro’s movie, The Good Shepherd (2006). That was another deep dark spook flick (about the early CIA) which was also very good. Both would have been great, I think, if they’d cut about 20+ minutes more before they’d released them. These films indulge in their own depths, and still waters do run deep … but at some point they lose our attention.

The final word: Great acting, filming, directing, everything – but just a little slow.

That’s my take. Enjoy the show!

You can learn more about this movie on Yahoo Movies or IMDb.

My First Movie Review: Tin Tin

I just saw Tin Tin.  This will be my first – ever – attempt at a movie review. I don’t know how movie reviews are technically supposed to be composed, so I’m just gonna’ wing it, cool? Let’s keep it short too…

I give it: 4 out of 5.

The bottom line – I really enjoyed this movie! I was loosely familiar with the Tin Tin series of comic books as a kid, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. Now, a good many years later, I didn’t really remember anything about the character or his adventures, so I didn’t know what to expect going in to this show. I’m a fan of movies in general, and as a designer and animator I enjoy all the animated films from Pixar, Dreamworks, etc. This film was released by Paramount and Sony, which don’t have as much of a name in computer graphic animated movies.

I have to say, the movie was really a lot of fun. The characters were all lively and expressive (caricatures of various sorts of folks of all nationalities from the 1910’s-20’s). The actors and voice work were solid, and the animation and graphics looked really good.

The story has the feel of an Indiana Jones tale in some ways – It starts off pretty quickly, and once it gets going it rarely lets off the gas as Tin Tin gets swept away on an adventure that takes him to lands and seas far and wide. Of course he has help along the way, but I won’t spoil any of the fun.

This is a terrific family flick. There’s enough mystery, action and adventure to keep any but the sourest of cartoon bashers entertained.  I saw it in 3-D, which I don’t think is required for any movie, but they did a nice job of it with Tin Tin; It’s not too in your face, and it’s used to good effect to enhance the film rather than just as a gimmick.

You can learn more about Tin Tin here, here, here, and here