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will smith

There hasn’t been a movie like Hancock in a long while with the ability to polarize audiences to such a degree as this. From the very onset of the film, when a drunken, languishing superhero (Will Smith) awakens to perform the not-so-daunting task of stopping a SUV full of guys with guns, you know you are in for something different, or at least you think you are. Truth be told, Columbia Picture’s marketing department accurately marketed about 20% of this movie before its release, a few one-liners, some boozing super powers, and a guy saving the day for all mankind. All that stuff ends about 25 minutes into the film and after the true perspective of the film is revealed.

The big “twist,” that has been marketed more than Smith flying under the influence, isn’t that big at all as Peter Berg’s direction makes everything so blatantly obvious with close to two dozen shots of Charlize Theron’s face that you just know she’s mentally projecting into your brain, “Hi, I’m Academy Award winner Charlize Theron, and I know something more than I let on!” The obviousness of the “twist” when it finally happens has no punch to it, it simply happens and some hair-brained explanation is supposed to make everything better. Granted the premise is unique, the execution is severely lacking.

Smith is his usual charismatic self, borrowing elements from all the previous characters that he’s played and combining it into another great role. Hancock eventually saves Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) who puts him through the paces of changing his image in the public eye, even going to jail for a month to make the public miss him, but Ray’s connection to Hancock, through his wife, complicates things as the film goes on into its dramatic climax.

Theron as Mary Embrey seems to have lost all the muster that gave her the aforementioned Oscar, whether it be from a lack of material, or just a general lack of talent, but Mary comes off as flat and even more so when her secret is revealed.

Oh the hell with it, Mary is a superhero too, she has super powers, and when pairs of the ancient race of beings come close to each other they become mortal, something that plays out near the end of the film. Fate always brings them back together, and she’s always escaping away from Hancock to save both of them. See, hair-brained.

Realistically this is the main antagonist in the film, there isn’t a super villain created by a super-secret experiment, there isn’t a mole-man drilling up from the ground or anything like that, it’s a character piece, and while the character of Hancock is developed enough for us to care, the rest of the script, save for Bateman’s usually wonderful performance, really leaves a lot to be desired.

Again, Hancock is a polarizing film, you either like it, or you don’t, based on what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish there is a lot to like here, but where it all counts, the script, is where the film falls flat. In a world where we give accolades for participation and trying, Hancock wins a handful of awards, but where execution gets you results, this superhero film fails to live up to the expectations set up by its first 20 minutes of runtime.

I Am Legend is a movie that seemingly everyone and their mom wants to see. This is evident by the couple hundred people lined up outside the theater, in the cold and rain for the free screening I attended, hoping to get a precious seat inside. Typically, these types of come one, come all movie fests, based mostly on commercial hype, usually end up being enjoyable (i.e. Transformers). They typically don’t end up like the “I should know from the trailer this is going to be boring and artsy” films (i.e. No Country for Old Men).

This film is based on the Richard Matheson novel of the same name. For the curious, this is the same novel the Charlton “Cold Dead Hands/Moses” Heston movie Omega Man is based on. In this adaptation, the apocalyptic catalyst is still a super virus, with a twist. In the first few minutes of the film, we are treated to a news interview with scientist that uses a biologically engineered version of Measles to kill cancer cells in her patients. She’s awfully proud of killing cancer. Too bad that isn’t the only thing her research kills . . .
Will Smith plays the scientist Robert Neville, who is the last uninfected human in New York City. Most of the movie is following Robert through his daily life, which consists of various daytime activities. These include hunting in time square, with his dog (and last friend) Sam, and trying to find a cure for the virus that all but destroyed humanity. Once night starts to fall, he locks up every door and window in his house. When he sleeps, he has nightmares about what tragically happened to his wife and daughter.

The shots of a deserted NYC are incredible. There are weeds growing though the streets, thousands of abandoned vehicles, deer and lions (I’m guessing from the zoo) roam the area. These images are believable and must have been a challenge for the special effects crew. The creatures can best be described as a Zombie and Vampire mix. These “Night Walkers” can’t survive in UV light, but lack the intelligence and sophistication of the Bram Stoker or Anne Rice definition of Vampire. The only intelligence they do posses is in the hunter and gatherer area. There is a great scene that takes place in a dark warehouse with these guys, with our hero’s only light source being a flashlight.

The story of what exactly happened to humanity is told in flashbacks, and various paper and magazine articles in the background. This made for a fun exercise of trying to read everything (note: look for a billboard for a certain superhero movie in “development hell” in time square). Different people may get more or less of the back story this way, although some might find it frustrating, because everything isn’t explained up front. There is somewhat of a left turn at the end that shows up at Neville’s lowest point, that some might consider a cheesy plot turn that includes the line “I like Shrek.” That is up to the viewer though. The ending is very heroic, without saying too much, following the trend of horror movies lately.

Although there have been criticism of Will Smith’s acting ability, his performance here is stellar. The audience can place themselves in the situation; it would be extremely lonely seemingly being the last human. Our audience laughed during his comical initial interaction with mannequins in the video store. However, due to the circumstances of the story, the same interaction that made everyone laugh before became cry inducing. There are some sad moments in this movie.
Overall, this is a great movie, it’s touching when it needs to be, scary, funny, all number of things. The only really bad thing I can say about the film is this, and it’s just a technicality really: the run time is only an hour and a half. I wanted more. Maybe I’m just greedy.

I’m not usually the type of guy that waits in line for a “romantic comedy” in the hopes it will alleviate all of the darkness in anyone’s life. These movies are cookie-cutter at best, each boasting similar storylines and auxiliary characters to boot. If anything the romantic comedy can be used to gauge a certain stars mass appeal by how much money they are able to drive in. You see, when everything is pretty much the same, only the star-power can drive in the dollar signs.

Hitch succeeds on almost every level in giving the audience something new to enjoy. This film is made by the characters, which is very important since the story is the cliché plot line we have come to expect over the years. Guy meets girl, guy goes out with girl, girl discovers something about guy and blows it out of proportion, guy and girl reconcile, serious banging occurs (or we are left to presume). In Hitch, the two about to bang are Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) and Sara (Eva Mendes) who are the two unlikely folks that wind up together.

Alex is a date doctor, and as we learn in the film’s opening montage and voice over, he gives guys the confidence, and the means to get any girl they want. We know from the start this is a work of fiction, because nothing in life ever works out this well, except in New York, where, apparently, everything under the sun can happen, and you won’t get mugged. Hitch’s latest client is Albert (Kevin James) who is the standard, geeky guy that almost everyone seeing this movie alone can relate to, expect that kid already waiting for Episode III. Albert has his sights set on Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta) after her cheating boyfriend is exposed by a local tabloid. In circumstances that become apparent during the “girl discovers something about guy” stage, Sara realizes that Hitch is the mythical “date doctor” and may have given a guy bad advice, which lead to her friend being hurt. Reconciliation occurs, and we are left to wonder about that serious banging.

The film is strong through the first two acts. Will Smith is his usual charismatic self and it’s nice to see Eva Mendes get out of supporting roles in films like 2 Fast 2 Furious and Stuck on You. She holds up the film well in the lead role and can do comedy. The problems begin in the overtly long third act where the jokes stop (in standard comedy form) and a preachy series of dialog almost begins to grate on you in its sugary, sappy taste. Anything you can think of saying on Valentine’s Day is in the latter half of this movie, and for the better part of it I was just wishing someone would stop, or shoot some one else. Luckily it finally ends with a humorous dancing skit, but you can feel every second of the last 20 minutes.

Easily stealing the movie from everyone is Kevin James as the bumbling Albert. For the unenlightened, The King of Queens, James’ day job on CBS, is one of the funniest comedies on TV, and with Everybody Loves Raymond going off the air this year, only Queens, Two and a Half Men, and Arrested Development remain as the two funny live-action sitcoms on the air. But I digress. James creates the perfect character for every bumbling guy to relate to, and getting the girl manages to give us hope, if only till the credits role.

Not being a huge fan of the genre I can honestly say that Hitch is the best romantic comedy of the year (mainly because I don’t plan on seeing too many of them), still, there are some problems here and there which make it a great movie. While Will Smith plays Will Smith (which is fine) we do get to see some of the talents of James and Mendes who both excel at comedy and provide a more human face to the façade of Hollywood and what appearances should be. If you’re “hitched” up with someone, this is the perfect film to go and see, and even if you’re lacking that extra baggage, give Hitch a chance, and maybe she’ll give you one, if you know what I mean.

Will Smith seems to have the Owen Wilson syndrome when it comes to acting. No matter what part he plays, he’s always playing himself in the role. However, much like Owen Wilson, his character seems to work in most applications (except for Wild Wild West). However, it did work well in I, Robot, even though it was Will Smith playing Will Smith in another movie. Smith still managed to play a believable and somewhat humorous performance in one of the darker sci-fi movies in recent memory.

In I, Robot, Will Smith plays the role of detective Del Spooner, part of the Chicago police department in the not so distant 2035. Spooner has a serious problem with the growing robot population, and the introduction of the new series NS-5 robot has him completely techno-phobic. He is called to a crime scene by a holographic projection of the pioneer of robotics, Dr. Alfred Lanning. Dr. Lanning, who was a top scientist at US Robotics, seems to have committed suicide, and Detective Spooner finds an NS-5 robot as the prime suspect. However, he is alone in his quest as everyone else in the free world believes that robots are incapable of committing a crime as it violates the basic 3 law system that all robots are built to abide by. The robot suspect, Sonny, seems different, somehow, and not like the others. It is up to Spooner to get to the bottom of the situation without being labeled crazy.

The aspect of this movie that really shines is the effect department. The transition from real scenery to CG is nearly seamless, and the completely CG robots seem to interact with the actors with lifelike quality. The robots in this movie were purposely made with small abdomens and thinner limbs, to make them more realistic, but required that stand in actors not be used. Instead, they were able to green screen a pole with a tennis ball for a head, so the actors knew where to look and interact, and required less editing to fit. The parts where facial expressions of the robot Sonny were used, a true actor was employed, wearing a green leotard (voice and face acting done by Alan Tudyk). He was then edited out, except for the face, where motion capture was used to emulate the prosthetic face of Sonny. The technique seems more costly both in time and money, but provided quite a realistic and amazing robot onscreen.

The only thing that made me want to stay home from this movie was the pre-release buzz that this film was not originally based on the book of the same name, but was actually a completely different script called Hardwired. When Fox picked up the rights to Asimov’s stories, Hardwired was rewritten as I, Robot, and, apparently, only has a very loose affiliation to the actual book, but I can’t be the judge of that until I actually read the book.

A few substandard acting jobs and reused camera tricks were the movie’s only faults. A scene featuring a showdown between the people of Chicago and robots seemed to have the exact same camera pan set as a similar scene in Lord of the Rings, which took away from the uniqueness of the scene. At least it wasn’t a stolen technique, as WETA Digital, who did the effects for LoTR, had their hand in this movie as well. I’m somewhat surprised that Lucas and ILM had nothing to do with this movie.

Bridget Monynahan played a somewhat campy role as Susan Calvin, robotics expert and psychiatrist. Not quite a normal choice of majors in college, but who knows what those crazy kids will be learning in 2035. Her acting just didn’t click with me. She tried really hard to cry when she was supposed to be crying, and it showed. But she seemed to nail the bitchy attitude when that was necessary, maybe that’s what they were going for, bitchy-brainiac-who-tried-too-hard-to-cry. At least she had a PG-13 shower scene, but, so did Will Smith, if you are into that sort of thing.

All in all, the film wasn’t too bad. Definitely one of the top 5 films of the summer, but that’s not saying as much as I wish it was. As Tom put it, “I came to this movie expecting crap, but I got better than crap.” So we’ll leave it at, “better than crap.”

Not a lot can be said for sequels this summer. Getting thing started off with the above average X2 gave me hope, but everything after the disappointing Matrix Reloaded I have been wondering if it is really necessary to release 20+ sequel films during a four month period, the culmination of which holds American Wedding and the long anticipated Freddy vs. Jason. Still after the surprise hit of Pirates of the Caribbean two weeks ago I had new found faith in producer Jerry Bruckheimer. No more than 14 days later Bruckheimer’s biggest movie of the summer, a sequel, hits theaters but misses the mark.

Bad Boys II isn’t a bad movie in any sense and if I was expecting a laugh a minute comedy or a cerebral think-fest my head would have imploded several times over the course of the films somewhat bloated 2.5 hour running time. Bad Boys II is nothing more than huge explosions, awesome car chases, funny dialog, body parts flying, and slow motion head shots, and I like them all. Granted the plot is paper thin and the characters, aside from Martin Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett and Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey, are nothing more than 2D.

After September 11 the drug smugglers have found new ways of bringing illicit material into the United States on, or under, the water. Marcus and Mike have been assigned to the Tactical Narcotics Team (TNT) and begin gathering evidence against Johnny Tapia a brutal kingpin who has men hacked to pieces in his mother’s kitchen and runs drugs into the US using coffins and dead bodies as mules. Along with gathering this evidence Burnett and Lowrey participate in a high speed chase which cars crashing off of a semi, blast through a Cuban village in a Hummer, get in numerous gun fights, and kill more people than I can count. The story also opens up to envelop Marcus’ sister, Sydney (Gabrielle Union), who is later captured by Tapia and taken to Cuba. This is where the movie goes from iffy, but fun, to totally absurd. Granted we didn’t come to see an engrossing drama, but to think of a small group of men taking on a drug kingpin’s minions and the Cuban army makes your head hurt.

Other critics have called the movie a bit too excessive with the sheer amount of violence present. The ever popular slow motion head shot is a personal favorite, but just getting your skull blasted open enough, you then need to be disemboweled and disintegrated by mines. The movie doesn’t tip-toe around the effects of gunshots and bodies getting run over by cars and trains. The film is ten times more violent than it’s predecessor, which may turn a few people off.

The special effects and stunt work used in the film is top notch. The freeway chase towards the beginning of the film looks great, real cars or not, you won’t find a better chase sequence this side of Reloaded. Also of note is the Hummer barreling down a hill in Cuba where buildings are destroyed left and right and cleverly placed cameras give the whole chase a very cinematic feel. The cinematography in Bad Boys II is excellent with wide, panning shots, or the Bruckheimer norm, slow-motion tight shots of the main characters.

Smith and Lawrence play off each other’s characters very, very well. The movie provides a wealth of laughs at the expense of a certain white power group and a humorous trip to the boss’ house. I won’t spoil any of the jokes but the funny definitely doesn’t spare on the laughs, and then throws in a few more head shots for good measure.

Bad Boys II does try to be anything more than it is, which is good, but what it ends up being is a brain-cell killing event that gives us plenty of eye candy but very little substance to back it up. Then again the last time Michael Bay gave us substance I had to sit through Pearl Harbor. If you have two and a half hours to kill and don’t mind a bit of blood being spilled Bad Boys II offers a very cinematic, fun experience if you aren’t looking to be intrigued, only wowed.

So here we are five days after the release of Men in Black II and I’m just finally getting out of the house to see it. Why did it take me so long to get off my lazy ass an off to the theatre? Because I’m beginning to hate going to the movies on opening day and getting trampled by people who just got off of the “net” and read some “reviews” and can tell me every plot point before it finally happens. See I don’t need someone to tell me because those of us with brains bigger than a dog’s left-nut can figure out movies for ourselves. Anyway, I’m becoming skewed…

Men in Black II is the latest and supposedly greatest in the line of summer movies, I even predicted it would be the biggest movie of the summer, but who really expected Spider-Man to destroy records like it did, I sure didn’t. The movie stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as agents of the top secret organization that polices alien activity on the planet earth. When seeing the first movie five years ago you wondered how they would get Agent K back into the line-up and in the movie, and how they would get agent L to drop out (which was done very stupidly by the way).

Anyway when a mysterious light is hidden on earth and the universe’s biggest bad-ass-lingerie-model comes looking for it, things get heated and the only man who knows how to stop it had his memory erased five years earlier. After bringing K back, the movie really picks up because of the on-screen duo between Smith and Jones.

What directory Barry Sonnenfeld seemed like he was doing for the the sequel was take the best parts of the first movie and give them bigger parts in the second. The highlight of the movie is Frank the Pug, who is giving a much elongated part in this sequel compared to his two minutes of screen time in the first. But, unfortunately, along with some of the better characters that are broadened, some of the same old jokes are returned and reversed to either A) try them again or B) see if anyone remembers. For the most part they clicked, but some, most the regurgitated stuff from before, didn’t work out so well and seemed to fall flat.

I was a bit concerned when I saw the initial trailer for the movie because it lacked the outstanding humor of the first, but I’m safe in saying that, while not as funny as the first, Men in Black II is a very funny movie and is the perfect mix between action and comedy.

My only complaint? The movie is over way to quickly. We got through five trailers, the movie, and half of the credits in under two hours which is far too short for a movie competing this summer for attention with so many dynamic movies, and those who already downloaded them from net (but that is another story). While I may have been very presumptuous when I stated this would be the biggest movie of the summer, it did break some records for a July 4th opening, and just may very well stay around to make a whole lot of money, but in the end it still can’t compare to the original, and not many things do.