jumper.jpgrating-2.5Jumper suffers from not knowing what to be. It so seems to want to be a big-boy sci-fi movie, but lacks the plot or script to get there. And it's too weakly-paced and inconsequential to just be action fun. I'm sorry to bring the pun up, but the movie is really all over the place.

Hayden Christensen goes over the Star Wars par as the bland hero of Jumper, the titular teleporter who is using his powers for his own gain until, fairly quickly into the very lightly-plotted movie, Samuel L. Jackson shows up at the white-haired cliche, paladin Roland. Yes, in difference to the novel the movie is based on, the film is about a society of people with a power vs. the Religious Right, apparently a far cry from the book. And, given that the collection of nonsensical dialogue and awful plot points was constructed by David Goyer, responsible for the worst parts of Batman Begins and the Blade movies, it's not a huge surprise.

What should be an no-brainer action/adventure movie is, instead, somewhat tedious, very thin on plot, badly dialogued, and looks vastly more interesting in the trailer than it turns out to be on screen, which is really the worst a movie can be.

Yes, Hayden is better than he was in Star Wars. That's impossible not to accomplish. Yes, most everyone else overacts. It's nice to see Billy Elliot's Jaime Bell not playing a pussy or idiot. Unfortunately, it's in this movie. Diane Lane tries to class up the film, but she can't really do it. And Rachel Bilson isn't a bad actress and not terrible to look at, but her part was kind of a retarded cipher and we don't give a shit about her. Or anyone else, really. In the end, we don't care about anyone and are underwhelmed by their conflicts, trials and resolutions.

From the sound of it, the novel was actually a hell of a lot better and this over-the-top effects extravaganza is hamstrung by the shit writing. The whole plot could have been written out on a cocktail napkin. Also, Director Doug Liman does nothing to live up to his Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity credentials with this slapped-together film. It looks good, but it's as hollow as a fucking chocolate easter bunny.

In the end, I won't regret watching the film, but I'll never have to again.

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The Covenant

covenant.jpgrating-2.0Impressively dim-witted, this supernatural superhero movie revolves around a clique of moronic warlocks, descended from original settlers of America, who possess incredible powers. But these powers come at a price, increasing immensely on their 18th birthday and every use draining the user's very life force. That's about as much plot as you'll really wring out of this disaster, which spends more time on its limited CG effects than it does on writing.

If you have the misfortune of seeing this movie, you'll have the joy of watching a bunch of douchey preening teens, drunk with power, starting bar fights and playing pranks on cops. It slowly turns into a mystery, as someone is stalking the campus of their uppity rural private school. You can see every movement coming from a mile away and the whole thing reeks of inferior moviemaking.

Some of the cast members shouldn't be stabbed in the face, but, looking back, I can't quite remember who those people are. Everyone we're supposed to like is a fucking idiot and the villain is one of the most moronic, cardboard characters I've seen in a movie, so bent on being EVIL that he doesn't make much sense.

I wish I could tell you more, but my brain refuses to remember anything else about this film. Not a favorite of mine or anyone else's.

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The Golden Compass

golden_compass.jpgrating-4.0A severely underrated affair, I found The Golden Compass to be an enjoyable movie. For what is ostensibly a children's movie, it's easily one of the most interesting and dark films I've seen. It's definitely something I'd be glad to show my children.

A darker take on typical fantasy tropes, the young heroine with a surprising and not-completely-known past discovers that she has a special ability and a destiny greater than she ever imagined and wished for. It's typical children's fare, playing into the cliched plots that apparently reflect the interests and desires of children. But on top of all this is a film filled with the undertones and symbolism of religious theocracy, intellectual tyranny, and the destruction of the human soul to maintain the power of the church, all notions that resound well in this day and age, though feel somewhat hollow in the toned-down version crafted by director Chris Weitz, best known for filming guys fucking pastries. Weitz's take cuts out the heart of the story in attempting to skirt controversy and, instead, leaves a hollow shell of minimal character detail and pretty effects. The whole movie feels, well, childish in comparison to what it could be.

Despite that lack of substantial plot, the movie looks beautiful, as should any movie of this budget in this particular genre. It glows with a visual life that the story lacks and makes it easy to imagine threads of plot where there are none just by the weight of the visuals. This is only complemented by the acting, which is great all-around, even from the CGI creatures, and our heroine, Dakota Blue Richards, delivers a sharp performance. Lyra is a better central character than one will likely see in another children's movie, bypassing the usual phase of making stupid decisions and learning valuable lessons and going directly on to the part where she's smart and does everything you'd hope she would, a real delight for an audience that grows tired of the neverending stream of characters creating their own problems through bad decisions.

The movie does go all the places that'd you hope and is surprisingly adventurous without being tedious. It has battle scenes that should shame larger movies like The Lord Of The Rings and is shockingly violent for a family product. The movie is clever in knocking off plenty of people without shedding a drop of blood and there were moments of pure shock as the audience was floored by events.

All in all, it is a beautiful and exciting product, but often feels like just a product and not enough like a story, no matter how many talking polar bears appear on screen. If Weitz had more balls, perhaps this movie would be as brilliant as it could have been.

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Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem

avpr.jpgrating-3.5It's easy to immediately try to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, as far as Aliens vs. Predator is concerned. That first film by the untalented douchebag Paul W.S. Anderson is an abomination, featuring an illogical and silly plot involving rubbery, short-armed Predators bodyslamming Aliens through stone columns like a bad episode of "WWE Raw". It was a buddy cop film, but, instead of hard-boiled detectives, the heroes were a lone Predator and a black girl, who he helped to learn the ways of Alien-fighting. It's the type of weird, bad idea that people joke about but no one has the bad sense to make.

Well, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem picks up where the last film left off, but, smartly, ditches every vestage of its plot contrivances after the first 3 to 4 minutes.

This film's hero, despite whatever you may gather, is a lone Predator, come from their homeworld to clean up the mess left behind by the first movie, bent on killing the Predalien and cleaning up the mess as quickly as possible. Caught in between the two sides are a Colorado town full of humans that discover that they're in the horror film segment of this movie. What commences is a purging of many characters as Aliens run wild.

Most of the Alien movies have been based around the premise of isolation, leaving the humans vulnerable and unable to escape from the creatures. This movie moves the idea forward, giving humans the freedom to escape but providing fodder for vast legions of Aliens to overrun the area in a short period of time. As such, it forgoes the forboding and dread of earlier films and focuses on the humans' vain attempts to escape and the Predator's hunt to destroy them, much better than the previous film's half-hearted attempt at hunting. This film's Predator is a murderous dynamo, destroying everything with aplomb.

Many of those I saw the movie with either didn't get it or didn't like what they saw. They thought the humans were somewhat wooden and two-dimensional, but they didn't seem to understand that the humans were not the main characters. Theirs was just a secondary plot, a red herring, that intersected with the Predator's main plot and made the viewer believe that this movie would fit in with the common tropes and plot turns of other films they'd seen. Wrong. This was a much more terminal affair, mistreating the humans at every turn, taking relish in turning them into victims, bathing them in gore.

The plot plays out well and gives nods back to its preceding films before explosively ending in a fashion that puts the weak climaxes of AvP to shame.

The low budget nature and the fact that most of the effects are practical, as opposed to computer-generated, may give it a somewhat cheaper look and feel to viewers, but the movie provides an excellent time and accomplishes everything that Alien and Predator films have both been missing since the early 90's.

AvP:R will not bring you the dark atmosphere, visuals, and silent dread that the early films might have given, but it completely captures the concepts in a way that is both logical and coherent. And what more do you really want out of a good monster movie?

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juno.jpgrating-4.5Already getting all the indie cred and the big marketing campaign, everyone's already heard enough about Juno. It's even become a talking point for both the pro-life and pro-choice activists, each laying claim on the story's support for their particular viewpoint. As is pointed out by the filmmakers, that stance doesn't really exist and the movie is just a reflection of young female scriptwriter Diablo Cody's experiences with having a friend who was pregnant in high school. It is a simple tale of strange people's lives colliding through relationships and the life of an unborn baby.

Juno, played by the excellent  and beautiful Ellen Page, is a teen who discovers she's pregnant at the hands of Michael Cera's Bleeker, the same uncomfortable character that Cera's been playing so well since "Arrested Development". Juno weighs her options and, after much thinking, defaults to giving up her child to a family that desires one of their own. What follows in the plot is a series of chances for excellent comedic scenes and name-dropping indie hand-jobbing, particularly in the music arena. Jennifer Garner and Jason Batemen play her spawn's prospective new parents and the difference in all the character archetypes grating against each other is fodder for plenty of strange moments and long, hard laughs.

Juno is the type of film that appeals to a certain subset of people who drone on endlessly about boring and irritating bullshit, such as Lost In Translation or Wes Anderson's wretched films, but also crosses over into the realm of more absurist and rude comedies, such as Superbad, giving the viewer a more balanced experience all around and allowing the strengths of both subsets to cancel out the other's faults.

The movie's script is sharp and witty and, despite the fact that the movie is tremendously overhyped, is a joy to watch. The characters develop nicely and the movie is not just carried by its excellent cast. And that's taking nothing away from the cast, who are all brilliant. Cera is up to his par of comedic brilliance, though the movie lacks the chance for him to have a scene with his former screen father, Jason Bateman. Bateman is somewhat restrained in his role, but also brings much of his deadpan charm over from the "Arrested Development" days. Jennifer Garner takes on the harder straight role in the film, playing an over-serious and stuffy wannabe mother, without any real whit of comedy to her role. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney turn in smaller but amazingly funny roles as Juno's parents, appeared occassionally to provide some strong comic relief with a bitter charm. All the real charisma, though, comes from Ellen Page, whose every move, expression, and word is pitch-perfect and makes you adore the character.

The one major annoyance of the film is its overheavy reliance on shitty indie pop as background music that drowns your mind and soul in excrement until you want to shoot yourself in the head to end the droning whine of some emofuck douchetard. Fortunately, I'm the type of person who can focus on the rest of the movie and forget about the bad parts, which were blessedly few in this particular film. The indie touches are a bit much, but it can hardly detract much from the excellent whole.

For both comedy and character drama, this is the most accurately overhyped film of the year and deserves most of the laurels being laid on it. Well worth the viewing for those who can appreciate a good movie that doesn't require gore, explosions, or jokes about bongs and farting.

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