Transformers (2007)

Transformers came out on DVD a few weeks ago, and I was reminded that this past summer, this movie fell through the cracks, and the review was never posted. Here’s the movie review, a little brief, but better late than never. Given all the marketing and ego-power that went into this project (Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg) this could easily have been a really big disappointed. Instead, Transformers turned out to be a better movie than our depressed expectations, and a good blockbuster to fill a summer weekend. Of course, now that we’re nearing the holiday season, and the film is out of theaters, perhaps it will make a good gift.
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Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

I’ve been waiting for this movie for eight years. Subconsciously, that is. Let’s face it – ‘Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen’ was not begging for a sequel. Sure, it was left open-ended, but it was a solid, finished story all by itself. The reason I was anticipating this sequel is simple. Back in 1998, director Shekar Kapur managed to reinvent a period piece genre – with more intrigue, politics, religion, medieval marriage, all kinds of hot issues thrown in. The film was great, but chronologically it only covered Elizabeth becoming the queen. The credits rolled after her coronation. I wanted to go back to that world, there was so much to mine there. So many conflicts, factual and ‘added for dramatic effects’. I fell in love with Kapur’s visual palette, his use of camera. And yes, I fell in love with Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Elizabeth and Geoffrey Rush as her advisor. And now they’re back. Right off the bat, you can tell the movie’s budget is bigger this time. Is it a good thing for a period piece?
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3:10 to Yuma (2007)

How do you re-invent a tired genre? Quite simple, really: treat the film as if this particular plot was never done before; create three-dimensional characters, put them into realistic situations, and give them just enough screen time to shine without taking away from the story. And finally, if your characters start going through familiar motions (i.e. cliches), treat them with a straight face, giving each of these actions solid motive and reason. Then an old tale will be fresh again. Such is the case with 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of a typical Western movie, which at first glance has nothing new to offer. OK, maybe two things – Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. But only at a first glance. A few minutes into the movie, you know that this is something different, something intelligent, something engaging.
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Stardust (2007) – a fairytale for grown-ups

This is such a wonderful misfire of a movie, that despite all its flaws and weaknesses, it must be seen. Absolutely must be seen – both on the big and small screen. A fairy-tale for grown-ups, but nothing like Shrek or Ratatouille. Released in the peak of Summer, even though it’s got so much romance, it’s a better fir during the holidays or on Valentine’s. This film is actually aimed at grown-ups, but is comes from such a rickety universe, you have to leave a lot of hang-ups at the door, otherwise the movie will fall apart in ten minutes. And you really, really want to sit through the whole thing.
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The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

In his review, Roger Ebert mentioned ‘seemingly long takes’, and talked about how the movie kept the viewer on top of the action, following the chase sequences seamlessly, and easily. In reality, Bourne Ultimatum uses the same visual technique as its predecessor, Bourne Supremacy. For any given sequence, the action is broken down into series of very short takes, that are edited together to create an illusion of uninterrupted action. This is a powerful trick, but it’s not for everyone. Some people reacted badly to quick cuts – sometimes by vomiting and losing balance on their seats – but that wouldn’t be a good way to advertise a movie, would it? It’s so good it will make you puke. Why did the filmmakers choose this tactic?
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Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

“Yippee-kai-yey, motherf…” That was the big promo that popped up on the side of buses, above highway ramps, along the roads. Yes, that familiar, comforting, even melancholy phrase from the blockbuster 1988 film was used to promote the 4th movie in the series. It was a cool promo, an interesting way to appeal to seasoned fans of Jonh McClane, as well as new audience. As soon as I first saw that poster, I had to go see John kick some ass. Little did I know at the time that the famous phrase really does get cut off, much like in the poster. You see, in order to get more people into seats the movie was cut – after being filmed – to get a PG 13 rating. Along with the cuts, as you excepted, went excessive violence, mature language and whatever else that kids are not allowed to see these days. The worst part is that decision was made after the film was done, leaving plenty of good ol’ action footage somewhere on the editing room floor. Bad move. Really bad move.
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Ratatouille (2007)

A computer-animated cartoon about a cooking rat who’s trying to make it big in a swanky Paris culinary industry? Wow, how high were the people who came up with this ridiculous idea? And how brave were the producers who green-lighted this project, and put up resources for this film? And then, when time came to promote and market the movie, just how much fighting went on behind the scenes over the title of the movie – Ratatouille? These things I need to know. An unusual concept, an expensive project, and an awkward title – so many things that can easily sink a film, and yet nobody budged. Nobody dumbed down the idea or changed the main characters from rats to … maybe dogs. I assume there are dogs in Paris, some maybe are aspiring chefs, but a rat… It took a lot of balls to see a project like that through, and I admire the person who stuck to it.
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300 (2007) – still looks homoerotic, or just over-the-top?

Oh, the silent beauty of a strong, muscular body. Whether it’s male or female, it’s always a beautiful sight, especially if presented well, with confidence and taste. After all, just like the character in that old Mel Brooks film (later to be remade into a musical, and back into film) – “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”. The sports industry and the fashion industry are all built on that single premise – good, appealing looks. So what’s wrong with a movie celebrating good, healthy bodies? Especially if it’s disguised as a historical drama. Apparently, there’s plenty wrong with it. You’ve read all the previews and reviews of Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel (a fancy new-age title for “comic book”), 300. Almost every one of these reviews reeks of homophobia – calling the movie “macho”, “homoerotic”, “exploitative”, and so on. What’s wrong with scantily-clad men, fighting side by side, dripping sweat and blood all over corpses? Visually stunning – yes, but homoerotic – no. This is Sparta. Or, in the words of Leonidas, the main character – THIS IS SPARTA!!!
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Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

This wonderful film is only now getting well-deserved attention, and I’m partly to blame. When I attended its premiere in Toronto Film Fest in 2006, I was blown away. Having seen Guillermo Del Toro’s other recent movies – Hellboy, Blade 2 and Mimic, I was expecting something that was lacking, unfinished. Del Toro’s work has always struck me as impressive, well-produced tales that always fell short on something. With Mimic, it was unusual casting (although thanks for F Murray Abraham – haven’t seen him in anything decent lately), and slow pace. In Hellboy, it was too many special effects – personally I would have loved to get more story and fewer chases. In Blade 2 … actually that still rates as the best Blade film, can’t find any fault in that. In everything I’ve seen there was this insane attention to detail and decorations. Whether it was computer-generated or real, these rooms/costumes/castles/vistas were mindnumbing and beautiful, sometime taking me out of the picture altogether. I never saw The Devil’s Backbone (some say it’s a prelude to Pan’s Labyrinth), and decided to watch the former before reviewing the latter. Well, five months later, the movie is finally getting its audience, and I’m trying to play catch-up.
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