Entertainment News and Views
Judge Eric Profancik's Blog
• Location: Cincinnati, OH
Hello Verdict readers. Some of you may recognize my name from various reviews or the random and occasional post in the Jury Room. I was an active Judge from 2002 to 2007 but then needed to take a break and attend to other matters. After feeling that itch bubble up recently (most likely in conjunction with the upgrades to my home theater system), Chief Justice Stailey was kind enough to accept my request to return back to the Verdict after my prolonged sabbatical. I wanted to take a quick minute and say hello to everyone, it's a pleasure to be back, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you for another five years. I hope my style will have improved and that my reviews - the few that I do (never been all that prolific) - will tickle your fancy. As we all do, I welcome your feedback and look forward to some lively discussions.
My thoughts to the twelve million already out there....
Transformers is your typical Bay film: full of intense action but not a ton of plot. It's one of his good ones, one that works, is a bunch of fun to watch, and is amazingly impressive with its CGI.
Surprisingly, I didn't think it was big enough. I thought it could have been a bigger film, with a bigger finale. A good chunk of said climax is confined to one street, and that's just too small for the characters involved. Transformers needed a more grandiose going on. A big more bang.
I did find that I lost track of which Transformer was which during the battles - no surprise there.
But I thought the one-on-one robot vs robot action wasn't all that good. It was too brief, too many snippets, and not enough long sequences. Then there was a lot of "hiding" of the robots by sun flares, shadows, and the like. Even worse, the robots were often off-center in frame and then flailing completely outside the picture.
So, all in all, it's a pretty good, summer flick. Perhaps the best recommendation I can give is from my girlfriend. I dragged her, kicking and screaming, into a theater dominated by male geekdom. She doesn't do action films, doesn't do mindless stuff, and considers the latest depressing piece of nonfiction to be the best form of entertainment. Her thoughts, she liked it, saying "it's wasn't all that bad."
Live Free or Die Hard
I'm not going to say a lot about this movie except that I'm happy to have discovered that I enjoyed it. I went in expecting the worst, but it's nowhere near as bad as we all feared. Coming from the man who brought us Underworld, this one truly could have sucked, but it doesn't. We've still got the cranky McClane, tough as ever, going through wild chases and gunfights to save the day. The only flaw is that John is getting too good, too smart, too much like Superman in that he can do everything now. He's losing his everyman persona. Aside from that, the only thing that pissed me off was the blatant and inexcusable absence of the complete "yippe-ki-yay motherf***er."
Today, I had to go see Ocean's 13 on opening weekend. I am a huge, huge fan of Ocean's 11, and while Ocean's 12 was a letdown (it's MUCH better on DVD), I had to see this one. And I had a great time. While this sequel is not as good as the first, it's a great return to form - and it's clearly much better than the middle child. Back in Vegas, back to a complicated scheme, and back to that witty repartee between Danny and Rusty, this one was a lot of fun. It was a brisk two hours, lots of laughs, a great heist, and I'm looking forward to the next one.
I LOVED the look at the new casino. Wow, if that thing could be built....it's beautiful. It would actually be too pretty for the Vegas strip.
The one weak point is that the supporting cast - outside of Damon - is pretty much underutilized. It feels like they were just given little things to do just to be in the picture. They didn't feel integral to the plot like in the other two. They have their little moments, which are key to getting the heist done, yet it feels like they could be jettisoned leaving only Danny and Rusty. And that would not be a horrible idea.
This one is my favorite summer movie thus far. Go see this one.
Saturday morning, 10:30 am, and I'm sitting in the movie theater, surrounded, as I knew I would be, by children. Even at PG-13, Spidey draws the brats; and at 2 hours and 20 minutes, I know they won't last.
And they don't. They stomp their feet, talk, sing into the soda cups, get up out of their chairs, and make all other manner of ruckus.
And I don't. Oh, I stay until the end, but I found my attention drifting on several occasions in this latest installment in the franchise.Spider-Man 3 has its moments, quite a few of them, but it also drags at parts.
Whatever I say here is irrelevant as you've already made up your mind on this one. And, honestly, I can't garner enough emotion either way. I'm not screaming that this was either a great or a bad movie. It simply is, fairly average, fairly unexceptional, fairly acceptable for a $5.00 matinee.
You'd think a movie that contains Spidey, MJ, Gwen Stacy, dark Spidey, Venom, Goblin Jr, and Sandman wouldn't be average. It couldn't and shouldn't be average with that much going on. Yet it is. My biggest surprise comes in the fact that all of them get their time in this movie. They all add some little thing to the plot, but not all of them are all fleshed out. Did we really need this much lore in one movie? Not really. Sandman could have been totally excised, Venom wasn't totally fleshed out, and so forth; but somehow it's all meshed together to make a cogent narrative about redemption and acceptance.
So we get development with Peter and MJ, Peter and Harry, Peter and Aunt May, and Peter and himself.
But do we go to see Spidey for these things? A little bit, yes. The first two films brought great character drama to the screen, helping to make this overall trilogy more than a simple summer spectacle. But we really go for the action, and there's some interesting and fun action moments in this one. You'll go away happy with those moments, but I think I wanted more. With so many nemesis, you'd expect more fights - at least I did - but there aren't that many. Then again, being 3 hours since I left the theater, maybe I've forgotten some already.
That, I believe, will be the legacy of Spider-Man 3: You feel like you get your money's worth while watching it, but you'll simply forget it as soon as you leave the theater. It won't leave as lasting as impression as the first two.
Spider-Man 3, you've already made up your mind. I don't think this is going to be the one we're talking about at the end of summer.
And one thing that I want to mention but couldn't find a place above is the poorly placed gag with J. Jonah during the big climax fight. Jonah's camera joke could be funny if it didn't take about a full minute during this pivotal battle. It's so stunningly jarring that it stalls the battle. Very, very bad placement.
Movie Review: Next
Today is my first trip to the theater in 2007. I actually don't even remember the last film I saw in a theater in 2006, but I'm thinking it's been close to 9 months since I plunked down $7.25 (for a matinée!) for a movie. What finally pulled me out of my doldrum? If you didn't skip the title, then you know it's Nicolas Cage's latest entry into the action genre, Next. Of course, bibliophiles, don't confuse this with Michael Crichton's latest piece of fiction. Then again, I doubt bibliophiles read such banal fare.
So, what do we have here? We have exactly what the trailer shows us. Nic plays Cris something-or-other, a man with a bad haircut who can see two minutes into his future. Julianne Moore plays some overacting, tough-as-nails FBI agent who has figured out what Nic can do. She decides she must recruit him in the hunt for a nuclear device that has been smuggled into the country by some odd cabal of Russians, French, and other assorted Euro-trash.
The only reason I decided to see this film is because I was in an action rut. I don't know the last mindless action flick I've seen, so that's what prompted me to see Nic do his future thing. Supposedly based on yet another Philip K. Dick story, "The Goldman Man," Next is, sadly, generic action fare. In actuality, it's barely action fare in my book, with just a few chases and the climax. I came looking for action and left wanting more.
Next is trite and light. Nothing much impressed me, leaving this one to be completely disposable and forgettable. Was it worth going to the theater? Nope. You're much better off waiting for a cheaper rental at home, for the acting is iffy, the action is lacking, much of the CGI is horribly obvious, and the ending is a bit cheap.
At least we have Jessica Biel in some nice panties, but even her hotness - which prompts Nic's character to unexplained weirdness, which too is never resolved - doesn't make it any better.
I guess I should say something slightly more positive. Well, I liked when we got to the point where Cris walked around with no cares, with full impunity. That cockiness was fun to watch. And when Cris did his future thing, more often then not, it brought forth a little chuckle (from pretty much the entire audience) seeing him manipulate events to his betterment.
Tonight, I've rented Deja Vu and I hope that'll give me all the mindless temporal action I'm wanting. Definitely a rental.
* Spoiler FREE *
I have just returned from Superman Returns, and it was a blast! There's no other word to aptly describe how wonderful it was to see the Man of Steel on the big screen again. ALL of those naysayers, ALL of those with negative reviews, ALL of those trying to tell you that this movie isn't a good movie, they are ALL WRONG!
Bryan Singer has once again worked his magic and crafted a wonderful, fun, engaging, and accessible superhero film. This is perfectly relatable to his two X-Men films. While Superman Returns is a fun ride, it isn't perfect; but it so whets our appetite for a sequel, that we know if he is given the reigns again it will be almost perfect.
I decided to spend almost double the normal admission price to go to an IMAX 3D viewing. While the whole of the movie isn't in 3D, the few segments that are were amazing. I have never seen better 3D in my life. It truly was three-dimensional, and you thought you were in the middle of the action. If you have the chance, pay the extra for the 3D version.
Without going into details, I have to say the plane scene (from the trailers) is the biggest thrill I've ever had going to the movies. Maybe it was the 3D, but I felt my heart pounding hard in my chest. It was intoxicating how thrilling it was. And it wasn't just thrilling but fun and exciting. While my heart is pounding away, I had the biggest grin on my face. When the scene ends and takes a moment to breathe, I swear I heard a sniffle in the audience. What a gloriuos way to have Superman return!
If you go to this movie - and you should - you'll find a plot that is a big shaky (as I said, not perfect) but the characters are rock solid. Everyone is wonderful in his or her role. Routh makes an excellent new Superman, though you can see Reeve's influence. Spacey is a naughty Luthor, and his henchpeople are a vast improvement over Ned Beatty. Bosworth as the new Lane took the longest to get used to. She has an interesting arc, and you don't always like her because of it. If we have to find a weakness here it's in Marsden's Richard White. What does Singer have against him, always the second fiddle.
If you love Superman, love superhero movies, or just love a fun movie, then Superman Returns fits the bill. Go and soak in over two hours of wall-to-wall fun. You won't be disappointed.
X-Men: The Last Stand
I am not going to debate the accuracy of the film and its characters to the history of the comics. No. I don't read comics so I couldn't begin to tell you the difference in Wolverine's comics over the past decades nor even the twelve different comics that have X-Men in the name.
I liked X-Men, I liked X-Men 2 a bit more, but X-Men 3 doesn't continue the trend. Not as good as its predecessors, this "final" installment in the franchise is a likeable summer flick, but it doesn't build on the "mythology" "created" or enhanced by the first two films. This time around we get more mutants, more action, more CGI, and less character development. Even worse, we like some of these characters a bit less this time around.
Without Singer at the helm, Ratner did a bit of a rush job in putting this one together, and it does show at times. Ideas aren't fully fleshed out, shortcuts pop up in the narrative, and the never-satisfying less-is-more matra comes to try and save the day.
But it doesn't.
We have so many more mutants, so much more story (well, ideas at least), and so much less time to tell it, X-Men 3 is not a wholly satisfying experience. It's no spoiler to tell you Jean Grey isn't dead, but she almost could be for how she's used in the film. Here's Kitty but who is she? Here's Leech, but who is he? And here's The Beast, who at least does get some time to flesh out his character. I really did like this new mutant, played wonderfully by Kelsey Grammer, surprised by his duality.
If you enjoyed the first two films, there is something to like in this one. It's not in the same vein as the others, but it can't be with a different director working under much different conditions, but it does work well enough as simple summer entertainment. I was a bit underwhelmed, yet I enjoyed seeing these characters onscreen again. It didn't hurt to meet some new mutants. And, I'm always a sucker for some quality action scenes and the movie ends with a good one.
Just make sure you catch the matinee.
The DaVinci Code
I like Dan Brown's novels. I've read all four, and I'll grant you that he is not Shakespeare or Capote or even Stephen King, but he does have a way of telling an interesting story that is readily accessible to a mass market. Some may snub their noses at such easily digestible fare, but I embrace it. If I want to read something I don't understand, I'll go back to school. If I want to read something that entertains me and compels me to read page after page after page after page, I just might pick up a Dan Brown novel. Besides, I really like his short chapters. I can't stand long chapters, and I can't put down a book until I'm at the end of a chapter.
So what does Dan Brown's seminal tome look like on the big screen? If you've read just about any other review, you'll have read something that is undoubtedly negative, tearing the film to shreds. They might blame Dan for his slipshod narration, Akiva for his slapshot approach to the script, Tom Hanks for a lackluster performance, or Ron Howard for his dutiful faith to the original novel. In a word, most reviews call The DaVinci Code "bad."
I walked into The DaVinci Code believing all these other critics, expecting a movie that was simply horrible. How could I not when barely no one stepped forward to say anything positive about the film? (Maybe you're asking why I decided to see it? Was it because I'm a Brown fan? Yes, that's part of it. The other reason is that it's the first 90 degree day of the summer, and I just wanted free air conditioning.) Allow me to give you a positive review of the film.
Yes, I enjoyed this movie. I didn't find fault in Brown's ideas. I didn't find anything horrible with Akiva's script. I thought Tom, while not necessarily at his best, did a servicable job as Robert Langdon. And Ron Howard's direction certainly did not hurt the film either. By all counts, there are no serious flaws with the film. The movie follows the book quite closely, just changing a few things along the way.
If you enjoy Dan Brown, or if you enjoy a "treasure hunt" type movie, or if you enjoy a historical mystery, then you will enjoy The DaVinci Code.
By now, everyone knows what the DaVinci code is. We all know the church's stance on it, and we all know there isn't much mystery left to unfold in the film. Since reading "The DaVinci Code," I've found myself reading several other religious-themed books, some even taking a different spin on the lineage of Christ. Let me tell you that if you think Brown doesn't write well, you haven't read many authors. Brown may have to tell you a lot of history to tell his story, but he's one of the few who can actually make it interesting. And that seeps into the film. It is interesting to see Langdom thrown into this mystery, following the subtle clues from place to place, not fully believing what is happening, but eventually realizing a remarkable truth.
The DaVinci Code is not the colossal mistake others make it out to be. It is not the best movie ever done, but it clearly is not deserving of the near universal drubbing it has received. Go ahead of give this one a chance. Besides, how can 40 million readers be wrong?
Mission: Impossilbe: III
Or M:I:III for those who like it quick and dirty.
Right now, it's terribly difficult for most of us to separate Tom Cruise the actor from Tom Cruise the person. The image of him jumping up and down like an idiot on Oprah's couch has left an indelible mark on our consciousness, and it is not a good one. It's obvious in the things we read, we see, and in the simple fact that this latest entry into the franchise did not live up to expectations.
What makes it all the more difficult is the hook of the movie: Tom, er, Ethan Hunt's girlfriend has been kidnapped and he's off to save her.
Granted, Ethan's girl's name is not Katie, but we can't help but once again merge fact and fiction. That was a mistake. It's not Tom's fault, for it was J.J. Abrams who decided to bring humanity to the franchise; and what better way to accomplish that than to bring in the idea of love. For the first two movies, we see Ethan and his cohorts interact and build a friendship. It may be a strong friendship, but for the viewer, there's not much there outside the idea of a professional relationship. Now we've upped the ante with love, and deep down we can understand what love can do.
Take that idea and throw it into the world of the superagent, and you have Mission: Impossible: III. This movie is perhaps the best of the three. Tossing aside the confusing circles of the first and the mindless action of the second, this third entry is smart, scintillating, and exciting. But if we just didn't have the crux of the film being love, reminding us of freaky Tom, then the movie would be better.
If you're able to set that aside, this movie is fun and worth the price of admission. With a great, albeit underutilized, cast, interesting and accessible story, and stunning action sequences, M:I:III will leave you with a smile. You'll marvel at what they dreamt of next, but you'll also be craving more. More action? More Tom? More explosions? No. More Philip Seymour Hoffman.
He may have won an Oscar for his performance as Capote, this role may last longer on people's radars. Simply, Hoffman is perfectly evil as bad guy Owen Damian. It just goes to prove that intellect, determination, and the resources to do bad things means more than someone with muscles out the wazoo.
If you've been debating this one, then put aside the trepidation Tom fostered in your soul. M:I:III is the perfect summer popcorn flick, filled with everything you need to look forward to a thrilling summer.
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