The Last Airbender (2010)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Too many expectations!

Among M. Night Shyamalan’s list of most-hated films, you’ll most definitely run into two specific ones – The Happening and The Last Airbender. It’s just a fact, people absolutely hate these movies. The Happening is a film that I sort of understand why…but not so much for the latter. The Last Airbender is not the best movie in the world, no, but it is far, far from the worst. The only thing I can think of is that people didn’t like it because of the way the story is presented in the original animated series versus the film. We’ll get to that, but here’s a spoiler – I never watched the series – and apparently that works out for the better in my case.

Okay, so Aang is a special little kid. In a fictitious world of people that have the ability to bend the four basic elements, Aang is the last one alive that can bend the element of air. He’s also the legendary Avatar, who is basically Neo in the Matrix. Supposedly, he has the potential of commanding all four elements, but at his young age, can only control air. So the evil Fire Nation are trying to imprison him in order to stop his learning.

Alrighty, so why do people hate this movie? It’s clear to me, even by Rotten Tomatoes basic overview consensus, that people didn’t like the film because it botched up the original source material. As I’ve said before, I didn’t see the original source material, however…I also believe in creative freedom if it is done in a good light. If their interpretation of the story makes sense and is fun to watch all on its own, then that’s all that matters. Screw the cartoon, watch THAT if you want to see that interpretation. This film is absolutely fine. It makes sense, there is a clear goal, and there is some really fancy visual effects going on throughout the film – as well as interesting fight choreography.

I liked the film just fine, but it does have one huge flaw, and that is unfortunately the acting. Critics got it spot on here, because the acting is mediocre at best, and the Avatar himself is the absolute worst actor of the bunch. I love what he’s about and the actions his character does on screen, he’s got the look, but the acting is pretty bad I have to admit – which does take the movie down a notch. That’s the thing though, people make this movie out to be absolutely atrocious when the only bad thing about it is the acting. The rest of it is fine.

It’s not confusing, it doesn’t have “incomprehensible plotting” (RT). It’s about a kid on a quest to reach his potential – and you as the audience knows the obstacles he must go through in order to reach that potential. It’s an action adventure kid’s movie…I really don’t get what everyone’s deal is. For what it’s worth, it did what it intended to do for it’s specific target audience. In the end, what more can you ask for?

The Good:

People really gave this film crap when it didn’t deserve crap. No, it doesn’t stay true to it’s source material (or so I’ve heard), but who gives a crap? As a movie on its own, it’s an action adventure kid’s movie about a boy on a quest to reach his potential, and the people in the world that are willing to risk their lives in order to stop that from happening because they feel threatened. How exactly is that bad?

The Bad:

I’m not even going to mention the source material here, because that makes no difference as to a movie being good independently. If you require the movie to stay true to the original source, you are a closed-minded audience member. Instead, the one and only bad thing about this movie was the acting. The acting dropped it down a few notches because it was pretty bad here and there. But again…kid’s movie.


Black Swan (2010)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Left me confused.

This film was selected from ‘The 250’

I’m a fan of Natalie Portman, and I always had a plan to watch Black Swan, but I never got around to actually doing it for whatever reason. It seemed like a strange movie that ultimately wouldn’t hold my attention for long, but I can easily say that’s incorrect. This is one of the most confusing, interesting, mind-altering psychological thrillers I think I’ve seen in a long time, it actually temporarily had me interested in something ballet-related. I just hope I can put my thoughts about the film down in a review.

Her name is Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), and she is a ballerina. She’s about to put on the biggest performance of her career, let alone life, and that has her all messed up in the head. The performance is in Swan Lake, and she is playing the role of both the white and black swan. Problem is, she is great as the white swan in all of her innocence, but in order to fulfill the role as Black Swan, she must look inside herself and retrieve her inner seductive nature. The stresses of the job have been making her see and hear things to the point where…she can’t trust anything she experiences.

How do I explain what I felt while watching Black Swan? That’s a good question. At first, I was repulsed by pretty much all of the shots of these women’s feet. You never think about the negative aftermath of spending so much time on your tip toes until you see this. Then she starts…ripping parts of her body apart…and I don’t care if it’s all in her head or in real life, the way those scenes are presented somehow makes Saw look like child’s play.

The acting in this movie was something else. Natalie Portman can surely act, but we’re not used to seeing her like this. Not only for her ability to perform a transforming personality, but also just her existence in a psychological thriller – it’s really impressive. I don’t know if I really, truly cared about Mila Kunis’s role, but she did a fine job as well. I think apart from the acting and repulsive scenes, I was probably most intrigued by how confusing the movie made me feel. Even though I  more or less could accurately guess what was going on, the way it was shot and put together was quite a spectacle, if you don’t mind me saying. The use of music, sound, costume design, and the art of creating a suspenseful pace was all fine-tuned to near perfection.

I’m afraid, however, that the overbearing tone and basic feel of the film may be a bit too much for some viewers. It is pretty dark and supremely weird, and that really throws a number of people off…and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people didn’t like the movie. I personally did, and I would personally buy it, but the strange quality this film brings may be a turn-off to others.

The Good:

Black Swan is one of those movies that’s more or less a happy surprise. It looks weird and it deals with a variation of dance that guys don’t care about at all…well…usually, anyways. It takes that and somehow turned into something a guy (or gal) wouldn’t mind seeing. It has a very effective use of suspense, mystery, and random confusing elements that’ll keep you guessing.

The Bad:

At it’s heart, it may simply be too much for some viewers.

Life as We Know It (2010)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Practically ‘Knocked Up’

We now live in an age of film where we just have to sit back and accept the fact that some movies are just going to follow an overused structure and there’s nothing we can do about it. We have to accept that originality is turning into a thing of the past. Apparently, we also have to accept that actresses like Katherine Heigl are just going to do the same thing…pretty much…just because she can. I’m not saying this is Knocked Up, but Life as We Know It follows the same basic idea and no, there really isn’t anything you can do about that. Once you know that going in, go ahead and enjoy it for what it is if you can.

Unexpected kids can mean more than one thing, as this film proves. Apparently if you have a couple of awesome friends, you can leave them your kid in the unlikely event of your death…which is exactly what happens to Holly and Messer. Their best friends up and die all of a sudden, leaving them with their cute young daughter, Sophie. There’s only one problem…they absolutely hate each other and were never expecting to be legally connected for 18 years. Through raising a child together, they learn their best and worst attributes and begin to transform for Sophie.

I’m not entirely sure how many comedies there are out there about people having to raise a young child out of the blue…because they are all over the place. This one strikes a chord with Knocked Up mostly because of Heigl’s involvement. There are clear differences, but the problem is that…the heart and soul of the movie is remarkably the same exact thing. I won’t ruin it for those of you that are retarded, just know that as soon as the movie starts…and even before that…it is 100% predictable and cliché. Take that as you will.

The one weird element that the film apparently holds is the strange, unnatural flow between the comedy and the drama. Compared to other comedies, this had some really strong moments that will really connect with an audience and make them laugh out loud…and then it gets really dramatic. A lot of comedies are usually ‘dramedies’, but there was something about the writing in this movie that just felt abrupt when they shifted gears…almost bi-polar. Both sides of the spectrum I think were technically executed well on their own…it’s just the transitions that I had a problem with.

On the other hand, I actually really liked the chemistry between the characters. The transforming chemistry between hatred, respect, and love between Heigl and Duhamel is done a lot better than what they’re given credit for. Not only that, but the kooky neighbors are also very funny and they make the movie so much better than it could have been. As far as characters go here, this movie did things right. They also had a lot of success portraying the random pains of childcare beyond the cliché problems like diaper changing and whatnot. There is some originality here that will connect with other parents. That originality saves this film from going underwater.

The Good:

This is a very funny movie for those parents that had their ‘surprise’ kid moments. The ability to execute different ideas about childcare is done very well here.

The Bad:

Transitions between comedy and drama are way too abrupt and really distract the viewer, taking them out of the moment. Also, Heigl’s involvement is a little too reminiscent of Knocked Up, which may also distract the viewer further. Finally…it’s just really predictable and cliché throughout.

The Random:

For some reason, they decided to complain about the difficulties in taking off a babies diaper…everyone knows that’s the easy part. It’s not easy putting one of those things on. I’m just saying.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)


 Dave’s 3-Word Review:
No, Jake Gyllenhaal.

This film was selected from ‘The 250’

For some reason or another, it always surprises me when I haven’t actually seen a Disney movie. I know that I’ve seen several, but somewhere out there lurks plenty I have yet to see. That’s probably because when they were released, I was less than ecstatic to see what they were all about. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was interestingly enough on the list of movies I couldn’t have cared less about. I don’t know what it was about the promotion that didn’t hit my interest, but I never did end up seeing it until now. What did I think? When it comes right down to it, it was exactly what I thought it would be.

You have this guy named Dastan. As a boy, he showed the true characteristics of loyalty, and I guess a king adopted him, ultimately making him a “Prince of Persia”. However, when the king is murdered, Prince Dastan is framed for the crime, and it is up to him and Princess Tamina to clear their names and maybe change the past while they’re at it. In their possession is a magical artifact – a dagger that holds the ability to go back in time one full minute. In order to go back further, they must find the source of the dagger’s power.

First off, let me state that this movie, while visually appealing, had some flaws in the writing. Especially in terms of character and story development. They clearly wanted to focus everything on a lot of action, violence, and artsy visual effects, but as for practically everything else? I was less than impressed. The entire introduction to Dastan’s character is over in something like… three minutes, and suddenly he’s a Prince with a ton of skills, and you just…have to accept that. The story itself also goes by super fast to get to the “dagger” storyline, and it just seems so rushed and cluttered – as if it were written by completely mindless imbeciles that only care about action. Either that, or the script was really short and lazy, and said something like – “really cool fight scene here,” or “CGI vomit there”.

I don’t mean to completely bash the thing – because all things considered, those fight scenes were really well done. As were the visual effects. It’s not a movie that you would consider boring by any means, but if you actually like story, you may feel super cheated like me. Yeah, yeah, it’s one of those video game-based movies, so who cares about story in the end, right? I do. Me. It’s a movie, and you still require a good story in the end for it to be successful. Okay, so let’s ignore the story and visuals for a minute and focus on the performances.

I don’t think any of the performances were bad per se, but none were really memorable. I think Jake Gyllenhaal did his best in the role of Prince of Persia, but I’m sorry guys…that accent just sounded horrible on him. Maybe it’s just me, but it was like nails on a chalk board. We all know his voice, I mean…you could pick it out in a cartoon its well-known enough. Changing it for this movie hurt my head every time he spoke on screen. Again, maybe it was just me, but I’m glad the movie is over and I don’t have to hear him struggle with a fake accent anymore.

The Good:

At the heart of the thing, the film is still Disney, and as such, is an acceptable movie to be seen by an entire family – which is always a positive. Beyond that, the action, violence, and use of visual effects used in the flick were top notch and a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

The Bad:

The character and story development was as useless as the points on Whose Line is it Anyway? Seriously, I haven’t seen so much blatant disregard to real substance in order to pave way for more action in a while. Not a smart movie, fellas.

The Random:

This film marks the second PG-13 rated movie under the Walt Disney Pictures label in the United States. The first was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 

The Experiment (2010)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:

There’s barely anything to ever watch in the first few months of the year. Sometimes you’re lucky, but most of the time…there’s just nothing to see. That’s when you start to think…oh wait…there’s a whole line of Netflix Instant Queue waiting for me on the television. Most of the time, Netflix movies aren’t all that great, I believe that’s why, in part, they are on Netflix. I will say, though, that however good or bad the movie ends up being, there’s usually a lot more originality than what you’d expect from the mainstream box office hits. I have respect for a film if it can at least pull off originality. So The Experiment was the next movie on my list, and the main thing that lured me to this film, I will admit, is the participation of Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker, tow very well-versed actors in the film industry. Seeing them together just feels right. But how does the film fair? Weird, man, weird.

The ‘experiment’ in question is a psychological research program in which volunteers agree to take part in for two weeks in order to win $14,000 each. The idea is simple – it’s a simulation in which one group of volunteers play the prisoners while the other take part as the prison guards, and all they have to do for the entire 14 days is play it through and follow the rules. The rules were pretty straight forward – no violence, no poor behavior, eat three times a day – yatta yatta. Though, when it becomes clear that the method of choosing roles was reversed, the reasonable volunteers (prisoners) have to find a way to deal with their violent, ruthless, and cold captors. Sometimes rules were meant to be broken.

What in the world did I just watch? I can’t even decide if I think the movie is good, bad, or somewhere in-between. What it certainly isn’t, is logical. I get what they were trying to do: psychologically expose our inner animalistic instincts in an impossible situation of the disharmony of ethics and honor …or something like that. Basically – the lengths you would go in order to do the right thing – I get that, what I don’t understand was how in the world these guards lost their minds so fast. I mean, this was like great friendly guys turning into Carrie after blood was dumped on her prom dress loco. The transformation was simply put, unrealistic. I liked the confrontations, I liked the acting, but the situation felt way too fake and controlled – which ultimately lessens the overall experience.

Like I said though, the acting isn’t bad, thanks to tremendous performances by Brody and Whitaker. Not only them, but almost the entire cast did a great job at presenting an individually important character with loads of background development and diversity. You like all of the characters, including our evil guards. The writing, however, was super tacky. It feels like a Netflix Instant film just because. There’s nothing substantial enough here for anyone to really want to actually buy the thing. It’s an interesting film with an interesting concept that’s kinda cool to watch when you’re bored, but beyond that, you’ll forget it in the following week.

The Good:

What you have here is an interesting film with an interesting concept with a ton of great characters and acting.

The Bad:

Unfortunately, The Experiment fails on almost every other level – the writing, the idea is a bit over-the-top when considering the timeframe, I mean even the editing, lighting, sound editing, and direction wasn’t super special. They did their job and moved on…unfortunately – this is one of those “watch when you’re bored” films.

Memorable Quote:

Nix: Still think we’re higher on the evolutionary chain than monkeys?

Travis: Yeah, ’cause we can still do something about it.