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10-point review of Iron Man-2 (PG-13) 124min


May 7th, 2010 by Maxim · 8 Comments · 29,650 Views

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Was excited to see Iron Man-2 finally, on the opening day, after long wait – in IMAX. I liked it. It’s good, but don’t set your expectations too high if you want to really enjoy it. The movie feels like it’s composed of a lot of individual scenes and bits and pieces, but the whole picture is a bit chunky – a lot of characters were introduced, but they did not have a chance to fully open up or really do anything. Perhaps it’s a set up for a sequel, perhaps it was just cut badly. The latter is more likely, since there were quite a few continuity problems.

The plot: Six months after the end of the first movie, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a celebrity for using his Iron Man armored suit to help negotiate peace between major world superpowers, thus bringing the longest period of peace on the planet (no major wars for the whole 6 months?). But every hero has enemies. Senator Stern (Gary Shandling) demands that “dangerous” suit be transferred into control of US government. Meanwhile the arc reactor that keeps his heart running is slowly killing him. Believing his death is imminent, he appoints his assistant Pepper Potts  (Gwyneth Paltrow) the CEO of Stark Industries, replacing her with Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson). Meanwhile, the son of disgraced physicist Anton Vanko, who collaborated with Tony’s father on original arc-reactor design, creates his own arc-reactor, and becomes the anti-Iron Man, and brings full might of his vengeance on Tony Stark.

  1. For the most part, the plot was good.
  2. Mickey Rourke was cast as the main antagonist – a Russian physicist, whose father suffered in some way from Tony Stark’s father’s activities (I never understood how exactly he was wronged and how actions of the anti-hero were justified by that). Every time I see him I remember how handsome he used to be and how ugly he is now.
  3. Plenty of good jokes throughout the movie
  4. Good acting! The entire cast did a really great job.
  5. Scarlett Johansson kicks major ass – all the while in tight leather pants, and keeping her red hair fabulous.
  6. Gwyneth  Paltrow looks great, as always
  7. Nice special effects/CGIs, although the movie lacked definition to justify watching it in IMAX.
  8. Mickey Rourke had to learn three short phrases in Russian for this movie, and he was dreadful at it. Not that it’s important for a movie that’s based on a  comic book. Laws of physics also do not apply.
  9. There’s a scene where Tony Stark dressed up in Iron Man costume fights his friend inside his house. Why? Because he is a narcissist. Destroyed his own house just to make a point in a silly argument over nothing. Effing rich people! Of course, he is just being “eccentric”! He can afford it…
  10. The boss fight was too short

Cast: Tony Stark – Robert Downey Jr. | Lt. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes – Don Cheadle | Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff – Scarlett Johansson | Pepper Potts – Gwyneth Paltrow | Justin Hammer – Sam Rockwell | Ivan Vanko – Mickey Rourke | Nick Fury – Samuel L. Jackson | Agent Coulson – Clark Gregg | Jarvis – Paul Bettany | Christiane Amanpour

Crew: Director – Jon Favreau | Screenplay – Justin Theroux | Producers – Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito, Susan Downey, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Alan Fine, Eric Heffron, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, David Maisel, Denis L. Stewart | Music – John Debney | Cinematography – Matthew Libatique | Editing – Dan Lebental, Richard Pearson | Paramount Pictures

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10-point review of Disneynature’s “Oceans”


April 30th, 2010 by Maxim · 2 Comments · 23,677 Views

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Disneynature’s “Oceans” came out on the “Earth Day” Thursday, 2010, just like last year Disney’s “Earth” came out on the same date also. A small disclaimer: I have not seen Disney’s “Earth”.

  1. The visuals in the “Oceans” are simply amazing. Most Earthlings will never see all that was shown in the movie, even with special equipment. From microscopic animals to biggest animal on earth, the Blue Whale – this film has it all in great detail. Captivating and enchanting visuals that make you yearn for more.
  2. Many of the Earth’s oceans are covered – from Antarctica to equatorial Atlantic to South Pacific and Indian oceans.
  3. I hate when movies are narrated (unless it’s done by Morgan Freeman) – my philosophy is that if the director needs narration then he is a really bad story teller. The only exception to this rule are nature, science and history documentaries – where a movie is created for the purpose of educating viewers. This is not the case with “Oceans” – you will be captivated with quality high-definition under-water cinematography and variety of life in the ocean, but you will probably learn nothing new.
  4. Pierce Brosnan has a nice voice and style of narration, but there’s absolutely no information in the narrative. Brosnan basically reads poetry: “The fish are swimming, the shrimp are tiny, the slug called ‘Spanish dancer’ waves its red cape, the spider crabs gather for war”, and so on, but there’s no information as to why they do it. If you are expecting something similar to “March of the penguins”, you will be disappointed -without informative narrative the whole movie falls apart as an animated slide show. Why don’t we just “google” same images without paying the ticket price?
  5. Of course, to keep the movie short – just 1 hour 20 minutes – the movie jumps from images of one animal to another trying to cover as many animals as possible, which reaffirms my previous statement about this movie being a slide show without any real story behind it, unlike “March of the Penguins” or “Walking with Dinosaurs” or similar movies.
  6. I was going to say that you can watch this movie with sound muted because of dreadful, really disappointing narration, but here’s a great and unique thing about this movie: water is known to be a great conductor of sound, and the filmographers managed to record some of the most amazing sounds that ocean animals make – from the waling of whales (no pun) and clicking of dolphins, to the sound an oyster shell makes when it opens, or sound of a walking crab, or a sound of a fish being eaten by a predator, or sounds of crab and shrimp fighting under water.
  7. Beautiful musical score
  8. The boy in the beginning and end of the movie that was probably incorporated into the movie as a symbol, a call to preserve oceans for the future generations… the boy was ugly. He should be cast in “children of the corn” or some other creepy child-vampire movie.
  9. The movie is tri-lingual, with Brosnan narrating English version, but there’s also a French and Italian ones.
  10. If you ignore the retarded narrative, you will really enjoy and appreciate the beautiful diversity of life in our fragile oceans, which is what this movie, and the Earth day, are all about.

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Rated 3/5 on Apr 30 2010
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→ 2 Comments · 23,677 ViewsTags: Documentary · Drama · Movies

Avatar 3D (2009) PG-13 162min


December 21st, 2009 by Maxim · 6 Comments · 24,997 Views

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Just saw Avatar in I-MAX 3D. Here’s a quick 10-point review.

1. The plot: it’s a lot like “Dances with wolves”: a white man wins the trust of the tribesmen and is accepted into the tribe as equal (becomes “one of us”), but later has to chose a side.

2. Capitalism is awesome: shareholders’ interests are above all. Screw indigenous people (”savages”) – men come with heavy equipment (and guns), “humanely” displace indigenous people into reservations and plunder their natural resources. History of American continent. Well, history of the world, really. Luckily for natives, through some magic the mother nature itself joins the uprising – animals come out of the jungle to crash soldiers in a stampede – like in the “Jungle Book”?! Alas, “the balance of life is restored”. Huh?

3. Fantastic visuals! Especially in 3D. Amazing integration of people into 3D CGI environment (or vice verse), better then in “Transformers”. A lot of attention is paid to tiniest details, though some detail is not shown in order to obtain PG-13 rating. Also, I was glad that 3D things don’t come out of the screen – wouldn’t want any of the animals from that planet sneeze on me or touch me with their tails. Cameron’s 3D visuals does immerse you into imaginative, but fake world. It just does not feel real at any point. Shrimp-people in “District 9″ were much more real then monkey-people in Avatar. Avatar is an example of “style over substance” movement in Hollywood.

4. Other then “Daces with wolves”, two other movies come to mind in comparison: “Planet of Apes”, except most humans are bad guys and the “monkey people” need a rebel human to direct their uprising, and “The Last Samurai”, in that the human “needs to learn the ways” of the locals, become part of the tribe, and accept their way of life over his old way of life.

5. There are some nice action scenes, but first and foremost it’s a [sci-fi] fantasy movie.

6. Humans are plugged into their avatars – Matrix style.

7. Very enjoyable adventure filled with action, fantasy, humor and eye-candy. Not much drama though. Most suitable for young teenage audience, but adults will have fun too.

8. A lot of relationships, acting and action in the movie is rather schematic, but in a sweet way and often makes people laugh with it’s naivete.

9. Good acting, however it’s more over the top then not, and animated characters are, well… more animated then humans in the movie.

10. G-strings?

Director – James Cameron | Writer – James Cameron | Jake Sully – Sam Worthington | Neytiri – Zoe Saldana | Dr. Grace Augustine – Sigourney Weaver | Colonel Miles Quaritch – Stephen Lang | Trudy Chacon – Michelle Rodriguez | Parker Selfridge – Giovanni Ribisi

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I’m streaming Netflix on PS3!

November 6th, 2009 by Maxim · No Comments · 23,933 Views

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As I already told, Sony and Netflix recently became partners, and Netflix subscribers can now stream movies from their “Watch Instantly” queue on PlayStation 3.

While Sony is working on new firmware  update for PS3 that would allow full Netflix support, current Netflix subscribers with PS3 will have to use a specially-formatted Blu-Ray disc that they can order for free from Netflix.

And I just received this disc in mail.

Before today I was still able to watch Netflix on my PS3 by using PlayOn media server installed on my home PC computer, which was used to transcode Netflix movies and stream them from PC into PS3. But with new Netflix disc I can now watch movies on my big screen TV without necessity for having the PC turned on – the movies and TV shows from my instant queue are streamed directly from Netflix onto PS3!

So here it is, the red envelope! There’s a label on it that says, “Do not return to Netflix!”. I just put it into PS3, and it displayed a code that must enter on Netflix website to activate my Watch Instantly Blu-Ray disc. This operation was easy, even easier then I could expect. Right after I entered URL in the browser, the website automatically took me to the right page, and as soon as the code was entered on the website, the PlayStation 3 displayed my instant queue. That’s right, the website and my PS3 were “talking” to each other!

The interface displayed DVD covers of movies in my queue, and clicking on them opens a menu: “Resume playback”, “Watch from the beginning”, “Delete from the queue”, “Rate the movie”. Yes, I can manage the queue and rate movies from PlayStation 3 menu! Brilliant! This menu also displays synopsis of the movie/show.

Playback began within seconds, and the quality is as good as watching the movie on the computer – if you ever streamed movies through your web browser using Netflix’s ActiveX component. Actually, the quality depends mostly on the quality of the source and the resolution the movies was digitized into a stream with. For example, an old Alfred Hitchcock’s movie I saw was acceptable quality (although with noticeable pixel-blocking), and tonight I also watched an action/kung-fu movie and the quality was not worse then DVD.

There are now HD movies streaming from Netflix to XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. I can’t determine what resolution they actually are streamed at, but the bandwidth they use is between 1.3Mbps and 4.5Mbps, and they look great and never stutter – no buffering problems.

I’m a little happier now.

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