Transsiberian

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Transsiberian  (C-).  I bought the DVD of this 2008 release from a discount rack a long time ago and finally got around to watching it.  Maybe I was influenced by the 3.5 star rating it got from Roger Ebert, but more likely I just got it because I like the star, Emily Mortimer (Match Point).  I did not care for it.  Mortimer and Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) star as Jessie and Roy, a married couple taking a long train ride–the Transsiberian Express–from Beijing to Moscow after a church trip to China.  They fall in with a slightly shifty couple, Carlos (Eduardo Noreiga, Sweetwater) and Abby (Kate Mara, sister of Rooney Mara, Side Effects).  Suspense builds for a variety of reasons.  Ben Kingsley (Ender’s Game) shows up, suitably reptilian, as a Russian narcotics cop.  I thought the set-up was kind of hokey, and the movie just never really recovered for me.  But it got a 72 on Metacritic, so maybe I’m being a little hard on it.  Note that the film is rated R for “some violence, including torture, and language.”

Iron Man 3

New from The Movie Snob.

Iron Man 3  (C).  I remember enjoying the first Iron Man and not caring much for the second one.  The latest installment also left me cold.  Once again, Robert Downey, Jr. (The Avengers) plays the swaggering genius-zillionaire Tony Stark.  Only now, Stark has lost a bit of his swagger–he even has an occasional panic attack, for crying out loud!  But this is no time for Stark to take a soul-searching sabbatical, for a new threat has emerged–a superterrorist called the Mandarin, played with some panache by Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog).  Unfortunately, the innumerable explosions, the endless digital effects, and even the remarkably steely abs of Gwyneth Paltrow (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) just weren’t that entertaining.  And I wasn’t the only one who was turned off; I saw a family in the theater with a couple of kids, one of whom was dressed up at Iron Man, and about halfway through the film, I realized that they had all left.  It is probably too violent for little ones, I guess, but it is rated PG-13 after all.  Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential), Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), and Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) costar.  Oh, be sure to stay through all the closing credits for an amusing final scene.

Hugo

Movie Man Mike gets with the program and sees an Oscar winner.

Hugo. (A-)  Very worthwhile film.  This film is a good one for the whole family.  Before the Academy Award nominations, I can’t say that I had really seen much about this film, and that’s a shame.  I am glad that I didn’t see it before the Academy Awards because it would have made my personal choice of “Best Picture” all the more difficult.  This is a well-made film with some great writing, editing, and special effects.  The story is set in Paris, France and focuses on a talented young boy named Hugo.  Hugo lives in a clock tower in the train station and he keeps the clocks running.  He’s got a penchant for fixing things—and apparently for fixing people.  He meets George Miliés (Ben Kingsley) who runs a little shop in the train station and who is himself in need of fixing.  I won’t spoil the story, but Hugo embarks on more than one or two wonderful adventures and discovers a thing or two about himself.  And if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter films, you’ll love watching this film to see how many Potter actors you can spot.

Fifty Dead Men Walking

Movie Man Mike favors us with a DVD review

Fifty Dead Men Walking. (B) This was a movie I heard about or read about somewhere and put on my “to see” list. I now recommend that you do so as well. I will warn you that you will probably want to watch with subtitles turned on (assuming you have that option in your viewing format). The sound quality was not ideal (and kept it from being a B+), but more importantly, it’s set in Ireland and—get this—the actors speak with those silly accents that you can hardly understand. The story is a good one. It takes place in the 1980’s during the conflicts between the Irish Republican Army and Great Britain. Main character Martin (Jim Sturgess) is an up-and-comer in the IRA. The British police (represented by Ben Kingsley) recruit Martin to provide intelligence on the bombing plans of the IRA. Things get very sticky for Martin as he advances up the ranks in the IRA while the Brits continue to press him for more information. The plot is exhilarating and well worth the time to watch. The story takes on a greater significance when it is revealed at the end that it is based upon truth and the main character is a real person.

Shutter Island

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Shutter Island (B-). I’m generally not one much for twisty psychological thrillers, but what the heck — it’s Easter! Martin Scorsese again directs Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator), who plays federal marshal Teddy Daniels. When the film opens (in 1954), Teddy and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count on Me) are on their way out to Shutter Island, a creepy asylum for the criminally insane run by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, Species). It seems a female prisoner (Emily Mortimer, Match Point) has disappeared into thin air, and everyone on the island seems to be covering up some big secret. Teddy has a lot of baggage himself (the murder of his wife and his participation in the liberation of Dachau have taken their toll), and the place starts to get under his skin in a big way. The movie is more suspenseful but less scary than I had expected from the previews, which was a relief. Worth a look.

The Last Legion

The Movie Snob fesses up:

The Last Legion (C). Can you imagine a swords-and-sandals epic starring Colin Firth, of Bridget Jones and Pride & Prejudice fame, as a Maximus-style Roman warrior? No, you can’t. Nobody’s imagination is that good. Instead, you have to go see this cheesy-in-a-good-way flick. In the waning days of the Roman Empire, 12-year-old Romulus (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, The Maze Runner) is crowned emperor only hours before the city is sacked by the barbaric Goths. The boy Caesar is taken prisoner and has to be rescued by a rag-tag band of survivors. These include doughty Aurelius (Firth), a hippie-looking philosopher played by Ben Kingsley (Transsiberian), and a beautiful warrior from the east named Mira (Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai, Bride and Prejudice). The group decides to head off to Britannia, I guess because they all have British accents already anyway, and on the way they discover Julius Caesar’s own sword, which bears an inscription something like “ES CALIBUR.” Hint! Hint! Firth looks embarrassed throughout, which is amusing during the fight scenes and inexplicable during the scenes when the exotic Mira is making goo-goo eyes at him.

Potpourri from The Movie Snob

New reviews from The Movie Snob:

Roving Mars (C+). This new IMAX production is a tribute to the NASA Mars mission that successfully put two robotic rovers on the surface of the Red Planet. Once there, Spirit and Opportunity met and exceeded their builder’s hopes and expectations, successfully carrying out their experiments and lasting much longer than they had been designed to. This movie successfully conveys the monumental feat NASA’s engineers accomplished by safely landing these amazingly complicated machines on Mars after a seven-month journey traveling 60,000 miles per hour. Unfortunately, though, the visuals just aren’t that striking, and I couldn’t help being conscious most of the time that the views of the rovers on Mars and the Martian surface were digital creations and not actually movie footage. (It didn’t help that the kid next to me kept asking his dad, “Is this real? Is this trick photography?”)

Beautiful babes kick butt: A Movie Snob double feature.

Aeon Flux (C-). No, “Aeon Flux” is not some sort of digestive ailment that afflicts time-travelers. It is the name of Charlize Theron’s character in this post-apocalypse sci-fi shoot-em-up. Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has reverted to uninhabitable wilderness except for humanity’s last enclave, the city of Regna. Most of the Regnites seem reasonably content despite being ruled by a fairly repressive government, but a band of rebels (led by an embarrassed-looking Frances McDormand) is out to topple the regime. Theron is a top rebel assassin, and she is assigned the mission of killing the Chairman himself. Naturally, nothing goes as planned. Despite the acrobatic fight scenes and thousands of rounds of ammo expended in the big finale, this is basically a yawner. Theron won’t be taking any Oscars home for this exercise in banality, although her futuristic pajamas definitely deserve some sort of special achievement award.

Bloodrayne (D). If you’re like me, you’ve been asking yourself one question ever since Terminator 3 came out: When is that babe who played the evil female Terminator going to make another movie? The wait is now over; Kristanna Loken is back! And this time she’s out for blood, as the damfir (that means half-human, half-vampire) character Rayne. She obviously chose this project with some care. First, it’s based on a video game, so she can take as much license with characterization as she likes (she goes with a flat, expressionless approach). Second, she has surrounded herself with talent: the Michael Madsen-Ben Kingsley team you loved in Species, Geraldine Chaplin (Doctor Zhivago) for the older crowd, Michelle Rodriguez for Lost fans, Meat Loaf for I don’t know who. There’s even a “special appearance” by Billy Zane, the fiancee you loved to hate in Titanic! Third, she found costumers who understand that midriff tops have been popular throughout history, even in the Middle Ages. Throw in a sex scene that’s as embarrassing as it is gratuitous, plus buckets—no, geysers—of fake blood, and you’ve got yourself a movie. Okay, this turkey has virtually nothing to recommend it. But it was kind of funny when pretty-boy vampire-hunter Sebastian introduces Rayne to the art of human love-making and has to explain that we generally start by kissing on the mouth, not by going straight for the jugular.