Monthly Archives: January 2008

Carnival Appearances

As always, I’d like to thank the sites that have included us in their recent carnivals.

First up, thanks to The Pensieve for including our recent review of the second Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. They have a wonderful site for keeping up with all things in the Potter world.

I’d also like to take a moment to doubly thank Scott Nehring over at Good News Film Reviews. He included our review of Flyboys in this week’s carnival, and included our The Spy Who Loved Me review in last week’s carnival. With the time that he puts into crafting his carnivals, it’s easy to see why Scott’s Carnival of Cinema is the current flagship of film carnivals on the internet.

Review: Flyboys

flyboys_cov.jpgYear: 2006
Director: Tony Bill
Starring: James Franco, Jean Reno, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 82 (Solid action keeps it airborne)

Plot
American men volunteer to become pilots and fight for France’s Lafayette Escadrille in World War I.

Quick Review
Flyboys is a remarkable showcase of riveting action in the air. Watch this film for its thrilling dogfights, which more than make up for the generic, clunky, and unfinished drama on the ground.

Full Review
Flyboys takes us back to World War I, an era that Hollywood rarely touches. Indeed, Hollywood was so reluctant to fund this movie that the producers had to scrounge together flyboys_4.jpg$60 million of their own money just to make the film. But the risk paid off. Flyboys sparkles in recapturing the honor and brutality of World War I aerial combat. As an action film and as a war film, Flyboys is a gem.

In many ways Flyboys is a throwback to the old-fashioned, traditional war films of fifty years ago. John Wayne could have played the main role of Rawlings, an American rancher who volunteers to fight for France’s Lafayette Escadrille. The generic plot is straightforward and often predictable as it drives home the horror of the war in the air, and the courage and the cowardice of the men that flew as the world’s first fighter pilots. There are plenty of grimaces and steely glares, and the obligatory romantic interest.

Yet what the film lacks in originality of plot, it makes up for with its dynamic action sequences. The twisting, close-range dogfights of World War I are captured with a deft combination of digital and real aircraft. Using motion-captured acrobatic plane footage as flyboys_1.jpgthe basis for the movements of its digital aircraft, Flyboys is a collage of impeccably crafted battles in the air. There is nothing in film history that comes close to capturing the gripping violence in the skies of World War I like this film. The producers string these scenes together with a nice balance of chaos and flow. Although at times I got confused as to who was who in the air, for the most part the action is remarkably easy to follow.

The producers also did a wonderful job in mixing up the action. This film could have easily become a redundant series of identical dogfights, but instead we’ve got a wide range of scenes. There are duels, mass dogfights, zeppelin attacks, bomber runs, and even a thrilling rescue scene on the ground in no-man’s land.

While the action is clearly the strongpoint of Flyboys, it gets help from decent acting and a passable script. James Franco is adequate yet undistinguished in his lead role, but gets help from Jennifer Decker, as Rawlings’ French love interest. Decker positively shines in her role,
flyboys_5.jpgand lends a remarkable charm to her character. Tyler Labine and Abdul Salis also deserve praise in their roles as American pilots. All in all, they engage us just enough for us to care about what happens in the air. Elsewhere, the cast is average.

While Flyboys shines in the air, however, it struggles on the ground, and this keeps the film from rising to any level of greatness. The movie toggles between action in the air and drama on the ground, but the drama on the ground feels incomplete and unfinished. As a matter of fact, in some ways the film itself feels somewhat unfinished. A significant element of the story on the ground is the convincing and charming romance between Rawlings and Lucienne, a local French girl played by Decker. Yet, while the action in the air reaches a satisfying conclusion, this romance inexcusably gets concluded with one sentence flashed on screen as the movie ends. Huh? Many of the sub-plots as well ultimately go nowhere and end in dead-ends. You could argue that this is a nature of war—lives cut short and all—but even for a war film the drama on the flyboys_6.jpgground in Flyboys is more of an interlude to the action in the air than it is a strength of the film. While the weak sub-plots and two-dimensional characters don’t impact the action in the air, they do lessen the amount we end up caring for the pilots when they fly and die.

As for our babes and hunks rating, Jennifer Decker is in essence the only woman of note in the film, and she does give the babe rating a nice nudge up with her mellifluous French. The hunk rating is sky high, with Martin Henderson leading the way in a handsome cast.

In the end, Flyboys is a remarkable showcase of riveting action in the air. This film is worth watching for its thrilling dogfights alone, which more than make up for the generic and clunky drama on the ground.

Fun Facts

Remarkably, the film includes 850 digital scenes yet cost only $60 million to make.

Score
Pace: 80
Plot: 55
Action: 95
Consistent Premise: 90
Script/Quotes: 58
Characters: 66
Acting: 68
Villain: 73
Body Count: 65
Time to First Dead Body: 38 minutes, 39 seconds
Babes: 55
Hunks: 93
Explosions: 82
Special Effects: 95
Stunts: 61
Ending: 37

Overall: 82

[tags]Flyboys, World War I movie, action movie, movie review, Tony Bill, James Franco, Jean Reno, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker[/tags]

Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

chamber_of_secrets_cov.jpgYear: 2002
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 83

Plot
Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts only to find the school threatened by an evil force.

Quick Review
On the whole, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a strong step in the right direction for the series. The main actors are growing into their roles, the emphasis on story lifts the film to a higher plane, and the presentation of the world of Harry Potter is outstanding. However, some clunky acting moments, some sluggishness in pace, and several sub-standard action sequences hold this film back from greatness.

Full Review
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone did an admirable job of introducing the world of Harry Potter, but faltered in spinning an engaging tale. The second movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, does an equally chamber_of_secrets_4.jpgadmirable job of depicting the world of Harry Potter. The film also does a significantly better job of story telling. There are several weaknesses that keep the film from greatness, but on the whole this film makes for a solid evening of entertainment, and is much-improved over the first film.

Visually, this film is a treat. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets literally puts you in the world of Harry Potter, and does so with style and grace. The sets are spectacularly rich and vivid. Once again I was especially impressed with Hogwarts. This film captures the mood, weight, and history of the institution perfectly. But what really makes this world sparkle is the fantastic casting. From Hagrid to Dumbledore and from Harry Potter to Severus Snape, these actors fit their roles marvelously. It’s hard to overstate how much pure fun it is to watch J. K. Rowling’s characters come to life on the big screen.

Enhancing the effectiveness of this film is the much improved acting of the main three characters. In the first film, you could feel the rawness and lack of range of Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), in particular, missed the mark. Here, however, Radcliffe and Grint are more convincing, and Emma Watson has lost the bitchiness that marked her role in the first film. Watson brings out the gentler side of Hermione, and chamber_of_secrets_3.jpgthis alone markedly improves the film. There is still much room for improvement here, however. Grint, in particular, has a habit of overreaching on some of his expressions, and Radcliffe occasionally comes across flat.

In more minor roles, there are disappointments as well, and once again these center on the younger actors. Bonnie Wright, as Ginny Weasley, is robotic in her role. Tom Felton, as Draco Malfoy, looks the part perfectly and delivers solid one liners, but stumbles badly when asked to handle longer dialogue. Both of these actors will need to mature into their roles effectively as the series moves forward. Elsewhere, however, the acting shines. Jason Isaacs plays a remarkably sinister Lucius Malfoy. I was also particularly impressed with Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), and Alan Rickman (Severus Snape).

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone’s greatest weakness was an overemphasis on portraying the world of Harry Potter at the expense of crafting a solid story. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, however, the emphasis shifts to chamber_of_secrets_1.jpgstorytelling, and this lifts the film to a higher level. On the whole, the plot presents the main details logically, moves forward consistently, keeps the viewer engaged, and sticks to the premise established in the book. At two hours and 41 minutes, however, this is a long film, and at times the movie stutters and wander a bit. In particular, I felt the pacing a bit sluggish in the middle third of the film.

Supplementing the story are some effective yet inconsistent action sequences. In much the same way as Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, this second film does a wonderful job with the imagery of Harry’s world, but struggles when elements in this world are fighting with and slamming into each other. In particular, the great spider Aragog looked laughably cheap and artificial. The flying car scenes, as well, struck me as toy-like and clunky. Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, looked ridiculously mechanical in many scenes. In a film so rich with imagery, these elements stand out like a zit on Emma Watson’s nose, and they pull you sharply out of the world of Harry Potter. To the film’s credit, however, there are many well presented sequences. Spellcasting sparkles with life. Stunts and falls are sparse but effective. The monster chamber_of_secrets_5.jpgof the Chamber of Secrets—who seems to have drawn more of the budget—moves and strikes in a moderately convincing action sequence. Still, for a series as visually magnificent as Harry Potter, it’s a shame the action elements on the whole are not on the same level.

As for our babes and hunks rating, once again I’m close to pleading no comment. I’ll pass on commenting on the child actors, and elsewhere there just isn’t much to speak of. There are essentially no actors that fall into the babe category in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In the hunk category, we have a strikingly handsome Jason Isaacs, and a moderately good-looking Christian Coulson as Tom Riddle, but their roles are minor.

On the whole, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a strong step on the right direction for the series. The main actors are growing into their roles, the emphasis on story lifts the film to a higher plane, and the presentation of the world of Harry Potter is outstanding. However, some clunky acting moments, some sluggishness in pace, and several sub-standard action sequences hold this film back from greatness.

Fun Fact

Fourteen Ford Anglias were demolished during the making of the scene where the car crash lands into the Womping Willow.

Score
Pace: 69
Plot: 87
Action: 59
Consistent Premise: 96
Script/Quotes: 83
Characters: 97
Acting: 79
Villain: 78
Body Count: 0
Time to First Dead Body: None
Babes: 0
Hunks: 51
Explosions: 31
Special Effects: 79
Stunts: 31
Ending: 83

Overall: 83

Related Reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

[tags]Harry Potter, Chamber of Secrets, Chris Columbus, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, action movie, movie review[/tags]

Carnival Appearances

Our recent Stardust review was included in quite a few of last week’s film carnivals, and I wanted to point out some of the appearances…

First off, it’s good to see Scott Nehring back in action, and see the consistently excellent Carnival of Cinema up and running again. The carnival has a new home, as Scott has combined his two sites into one site, over at Good News Film Reviews’ Carnival of Cinema. This week’s carnival has a massive turnout, with a large number of links to some insightful film reviews and commentary. Welcome back, Scott!

We also made appearances at Observations from Missy’s Window’s Movie Monday and The Guru’s Movie and Tube Reviews’ Movie Review Carnival.

Thanks to everyone for having us aboard!