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After Earth (2013)

After Earth (2013)

I've read a lot of critique about this movie, about Jayden Smith in particular, and how he can't act.

I disagree, I don't see any flaws in his acting (excluding his attempts at acting like his dad). What I do see a flaw in is his speech. Unlike his dad, his voice doesn't have the clarity really needed for narration, or the same strength. I don't catch all the words he says, and that's a pretty big downside to a movie. I wonder if this is what bugs people when they criticize the act, or if they find his persona a bit too apathetic? Isn't that what he's supposed to be, isn't he supposed to have his emotions intentionally restrained?

As for the father and son relationship, as real in the movie as it is for real, it builds for some real tension; some really uncomfortable moments. The father is a legend, a hero, completely without fear, whereas the son has almost impossible expectations to live up to.

I'm not fond of the tension, the uncomfortable moments where the father gives orders to his son, where emotions aren't allowed free reign, yet where it's easy to see that none of them are emotionally unaffected. Just five minutes in the tension begins, and then... it pans out... a bit. Probably because there's a greater distance between them, and ironically they are at the same time growing closer; bonding. I wonder how much of the tension between father and son is real, and how much is acted out, and seeing as I can't really differentiate between what is and what isn't they must be acting pretty good the both of them. If it is real, what better way to manage trauma or relationship trouble than by making a movie out of it? Might be the first time it's done, too!

The movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, when humans have moved away from the world, where Earth is forbidden space, a planet where 'everything has evolved to kill humans'... as they say. It turns out this isn't really the case, as they crash land on the planet, and our very young hero ventures off on a mission to light an emergency beacon and signal their rescue.

It's a venture through awesome sceneries, through nature, through a world where humankind no longer dominates, and animals reign free. At the end, that's how it's left, and it's definitely for the better. You'd have thought humans would take over once again when they realize it wasn't so bad after all... but I'm glad that wasn't the case! It feels like there's a moral in here, in that we are wasting our natural resources, killing off anyone who's not human, really taking over the planet. Maybe that won't be the devastation of humankind as we know it, but it's definitely not progress, it's not progress that I'd like to live with. Maybe people get used to the cities, and in a few generations nobody will still actually long for real wilderness, just enjoy the trees that be... but for now, I still love the wild, that's where my soul is.

And that's where this movie takes place, in a distant future, and yet in a scenery as strange to the main characters as it's like a glimpse of hope for us, of how it could and should be.

At the end I am admittedly a bit bugged over Jayden's acting, but it's not because he's not a good actor, it's because I feel he's watched too many of his dad's movies. He's acting just like Will Smith, and it's not working for him. Maybe he's just not old enough yet: he's skinny, he doesn't have the same (natural?) charm and charisma, he doesn't have the same vocal resources... hope he figures out his own style. Maybe it was this movie in particular that made the clash so apparent, with both of them in the same movie, or maybe it's a constant dilemma.

Gotta be tough growing up with expectations, like the movie; like in real life. I like the symbolism there. In the movie it's becoming a ranger, in real life it's becoming an actor, paradoxically... maybe through this movie. :)

Also, considering the movie stars almost only Jayden and Will (apart from wild animals/aliens), it's a surprisingly captivating flick. I'm always awed when I watch something with so few characters, that still manages to grab your attention. Not the best movie of the year, but definitely a good watch! Looks like sci-fi is on the rise.

 rated 3/5: not bad

Up! (2009)

Up! (2009)

This movie is amazing. I watched it for the second or third time yesterday, and yet the introductory sequence still digs deep into my soul.

One of many things that make this movie unique is how they fit in an entire life story in just the introductory sequence, a young adventurer watches a great idol get accused of fraud, walks home, meets a girl, gets married, they get a house, they save money, they have dreams, they spend money, they get old, and in the end all that's left is him, the main character, memories and a life quite unlike how it used to be. A construction site surrounds his house, and when he one day bashed a worker in the head with a broken mailbox (accident) things head for the worse. His house is about to be taken, a retirement home seems like the only remaining option, and that's when...

He steers his house with a cloud of balloons to Paradise Falls, to finally live the adventure he and Elly always dreamed of.

Up until this point it's been a somewhat realistic movie, sad, bitter, and yet not very long. This is where the adventure starts, and as the house drifts over the cityscapes, the balloon cloud casting colorful shadows on the faces of all ages, it's clear this is going to be one amazing movie.

And it is. It's both familiar and foreign, safe and exotic, adventurous and calm, and the fact that the main character is an old man who moves slow and doesn't have any real teeth... well that doesn't matter one bit. There's drama, there's comedy, there's action, there's everything! The plot is both consistent and surprising, and it's particularly nice how even the most insignificant details play a role. Everything that we are shown at the start of movie isn't just shown to fire up the story, it's all tied together. That might be my favorite aspect of this movie, there is nothing superfluous, there is so much symbolism; it's a venture as much through your own mind as through the characters great escapade. For both young and old, human and animal.

When it's all over my spirits are as the title, Up! And the entire journey's been one great adventure... even the credits. Great movie.

Fantastic movie.

 rated 5/5: friggin awesome

The Family (2013)

The Family (2013)

Robert De Niro plays a snitch, a 'family' member who ratted out, now moves around with his family searching for safe haven, part of a witness protection program for which his contact is Tommy Lee Jones... and with those two in the mix you know it's going to be good.

I only found out afterwards that the movie was directed by Luc Besson (un-subtly mentioned as the credits started to roll), so that's another surefire way of knowing before-hand that it's a great movie!

But of course, watching the movie first and finding out later is much better: it bodes for the pleasant surprise that things turn out better than you expect them to.

It's a comedy with plenty of drama, on the verge of being that form of comedy which you nowadays almost don't define as comedy but rather 'drama'... but there is plenty of satire, comedy through brutality, savage sort of family-friendly fun... and in the end, one nice dose of action to wrap it all up.

The filmography is great, artistic and clean. Luc Besson's experience really shines through here, and I have no complaints about the actors either. They all do a good job, they all have strong personalities and conflicts of their own, and though the story is mainly about the father of the house, the real villain, everyone has a role to play. In the end, they bond as a family, and the journey continues. Might be the right place for a sequel, but I like it for what it was, a story of relationships and life, featuring a rather odd collection of people. It's like just a little slice out of their life, without beginning or end, that tells all you need to know about them: their vices, their bonds; the continual struggle - as a family.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

Cockneys VS Zombies (2012)

Cockneys VS Zombies (2012)

This must be one of the happiest zombie movies I've seen in a while! Actually, come to think about it... this might be just about the only happy zombie movie I've actually seen! Not even Shaun of the Dead was an especially happy title, though there are clearly some similarities between the two.

The first similarity is the comedy. They're both British, they're both about a rather unusual set of characters intent on surviving the apocalypse, and to top it off... it looks like this movie might've been inspired by Shaun of the Dead as well. They must compare it to the predecessor for a reason, maybe primarily for purpose of profit, but though these movies do differ in terms of plot and what-not, there are similarities.

There's also one big difference: guns. Shaun of the Dead barely had any guns, whereas this one has a ton of them, and I guess that's why there's more potential for success in this one than in the latter. The hordes of zombies are larger, the chaotic cityscapes do seem a bit more apocalyptic than the suburban idyll in Shaun of the Dead (except for that one part where you can clearly see an active freeway in the background, that cuts down on the atmosphere a bit), but at the same time it's not as fast-paced and flawless as the other... somehow.

A bit amateur in comparison, but definitely a movie worth watching if you're still into this zombie thing and don't expect everything to be perfect, as long as it is entertaining. Good watch!

 rated 3/5: not bad

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

I wasn't really expecting good things from this movie, but it surprised me.

It surprised me in the same way the first one did, in how it manages to be both corny and inspiring. The superheroes just seem so silly, but when they all get together they actually do kick ass. The villains are equally corny, but people really do get killed, and there are some pretty amazing fight scenes amidst all the corniness. Though I shouldn't want to, I keep watching, and at the end the movie leaves me with a sense of purpose.

Out of all the characters, Hit Girl and Mother Russia are by far the most prominent ones. The main character is more of a sidekick, but everybody has a role and a strong personality. Compared to many superhero movies, it's not just about who they are with the mask, it's about who they are without it.

Also great seeing that black guy from Scrubs star as one of the heroes. :)

Overall it's an entertaining mesh of genres, an action movie refreshing in its lack of predictability, similar to Hunter X Hunter in how people just... suddenly die. That's rare in Hollywood, and though it might get tiring in the long run, with this, it seems fitting. Good movie.

 rated 3/5: not bad

American Shaolin (1992)

American Shaolin (1992)

American Shaolin is the story of an American (duh) martial artist. It starts off with him fighting in a tournament, getting publicly humiliated; utterly defeated, almost giving up on his dreams... but thanks to some words of wisdom from his 'master', he goes to China and starts training in a Shaolin temple.

It's not easy at first, but through many trials and tribulations he realizes truths of life and finds another side in himself, a better side, an inner strength, and then... well you can probably predict how it'll turn out, but I'll leave that spoiled sentence unsaid for potential future watchers. :)

Compared to American Ninja, and similar movies, this one actually has a lot of authentic martial arts mixed in, and since it takes place in Asia it feels like much more of an authentic experience, despite the obvious Americanization to appeal to a more national audience. Oriental wisdom? Authentic martial arts? A rather generic and yet inspiring plot? It's got it. Great watch.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

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