Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'Saving Private Ryan' Is As Real As It Gets

A movie about soldiers in World War II, “Saving Private Ryan” is so strikingly authentic that it made me tense. 

"Saving Private Ryan" advertiement

 Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, the movie is about a group of soldiers who must find a specific soldier, Private Ryan, because his brothers have been killed in action. The United States government will not allow every son in a family to die fighting over seas, so Ryan must go home.

Soldiers on the Search for Private Ryan

The soldiers that are sent to search for James Ryan are under intense pressure from the realities of war and are on the edge of sanity. Traumatized by the deaths and battles they have seen, they struggle to stay motivated. 
Captain Miller is the mysterious, persistent leader of the team, and the main character in the story. His enthusiasm is disintegrating from all of the chilling experiences he has been through while he has been away from home.

Tom Hanks as Captain Miller

The soldiers don’t agree with the mission from the start, but they follow orders. Throughout the story, they realize the importance of this assignment and hope that, “Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole…mess. Like you said, Captain, maybe we do that, we all earn the right to go home.”

Captain Miller, Private Ryan, and Private Reiben

Leading Sergeant Horvath, Private Reiben, Private Jackson, and others, Miller is successful in finding Ryan; however, Ryan isn’t ready to leave his fellow comrades in distress. The team is forced to stay with Private Ryan as he helps his team follow through with their mission of guarding a bridge. 

Private James Francis Ryan makes it home safely, but with great cost; many members of Captain Miller’s unit die along the way.

Barry Pepper as Private Jackson

The acting is unparalleled, with stars such as Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, and Vin Diesel. 

  “Saving Private Ryan” is undeniably difficult to watch because of the battle scenes, but I believe that this is what distinguishes this movie from many other war movies. The film does not sugar-coat the tragedies of war. Absolutely a 5 out of 5.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

'The Eye' Falls Short of Eye-Catching

"The Eye" advertisement

Made in 2008, “The Eye” is a remake of a 2002 Japanese film. Supposedly a horror film, the movie is full of mystery, suspense, and scary images. The story line starts off uniquely, drawing the audience in like a magnet, but the end of the movie spoils it.

The story is about a blind violinist, Sydney Wells, who receives a cornea transplant in hopes of regaining her ability to see.  Sydney’s vision is blurry at first, but as the eyes start functioning better, she begins seeing terrifying visions. She realizes what she is seeing is not reality, and tries to explain it to Paul Faulkner, her visual therapist. Sydney know that, "There have been cases of transplant recipients who've actually shown characteristics of the donor." 
Alessandro Nivola

Naturally, Dr. Faulkner struggles to believe Sydney, but eventually decides to help her decipher what is going on. As her visions of death and disaster continue, they realize that Sydney is seeing something that has already happened. 

They trace the story back to Mexico, and discover that the corneas which Sydney has received are from a donor who had lived there. The donor had predicted a disaster in her hometown, but because she was unable to prevent it from happening, resorted to suicide. Because Sydney and Dr. Faulkner had solved the mystery, the woman’s spirit no longer haunted Sydney.

Jessica Alba

Feeling accomplished, Sydney and her therapist begin their journey back home. The audience feels that the movie has ended, but there is more to come. 

While trying to cross the border, Sydney begins to see more visions and realizes that there is yet another disaster. A high speed chase ends in a car crashing into a vehicle that is carrying gasoline near them. Sydney is desperate to get people off the highway and away from danger. The gasoline truck explodes and, once again, blinds Sydney. 

Jessica Alba as Sydney Wells

Through this experience, Sydney has learned to be thankful for her disability. She returns to her life of being a violinist.

Jessica Alba is the star of “The Eye", playing Sydney Wells. Sydney’s therapist, Dr. Paul Faulkner, is played by actor Alessandro Nivola. Parker Posey plays the part of Sydney’s sister, Hellen Wells.

Parker Posey

I found “The Eye” to be a disappointment. I was intrigued by the plot at the start of the movie, but the longer the movie went on, the more I wanted it to end. There were really two stories in the film and they seemed mashed together. The acting was average, but I was not overly impressed. The film barely gets by with a 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, February 14, 2011

'13 Going on 30': A Chick Flick for Everyone

Yes, “13 Going on 30” is a romantic film, but it is also about being careful what you wish for. Jenna Rink, played by Jennifer Garner, is so desperate to be cool, that she is willing to change herself. Her best friend, Matt Flamhaff, played by Mark Ruffalo, loves Jenna for who she is and wants her to see that she doesn’t have to be fake.

"13 Going on 30" advertisement

For her thirteenth birthday, Jenna throws a party, hoping to gain popularity. Matt makes her a dream house, like the one she has always wanted, but she is embarrassed by him. The popular girls show up, only to get Jenna to do their homework, then they ditch her.

Jenna realizes her party was a disaster, and wishes to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving.” She gets her wish, and she wakes up in her thirty-year-old body. Jenna struggles to figure out what her life is like, because she is still in her 13-year-old mind, and learns that she “got everything she ever wanted.” Her dreams of being successful and popular came true, and she is an editor of her favorite magazine. 

Jennifer Garner as Jenna Rink

As Jenna learns more about herself through her relationships with others, she realizes that she has become a person she never wanted to be. She is selling out her magazine to the competitor for a better job, has no real friends, and she is no longer close with Matt.

Jenna working for the magazine

Jenna decides to fix everything, from her job to her relationship with Matt, but she can’t turn back time. The magazine goes under, and Matt marries another girl. She becomes desperate, seeing that she didn’t really want the things she wished for. 

After wishing herself back to her 13-year-old body, Jenna is comfortable with being herself. Seizing her second chance, she no longer cares about being popular. Jenna and Matt get married, and the movie ends with them moving into a house which looks just like the dream house he made for her thirteenth birthday.

Jenna and Matt

The movie is sprinkled with 80’s music, great humor, and tear-jerking moments. The actors in the film were fantastic, and Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo were perfect for their parts. The film deserves a 4.5 out of 5, because although the story was great, wishing dust isn’t very realistic.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

'Major Payne' is Anything but Painful to Watch

There are few movies as good as “Major Payne”,  the romantic comedy about a United States Marine.  The 1995 film stars Damon Wayans as Major Benson Winifred Payne, Karyn Parsons as Ms. Walburn, and Orlando Brown as Tiger. 
"Major Payne" advertisement

After years of serving in the military, Major Payne is discharged and does not know what to do with his life. He is given a job at a private school, to turn the failing ROTC program around, and help the team win a trophy. 

Payne has forgotten what life is like outside of the Marine Corps and does not understand that the children in the ROTC program are not “trained killing machines.” The students do not take the program seriously, and Major Payne has “Eight weeks to turn [the] gaggle of maggots into a well-disciplined cadet unit.”

Major Payne and ROTC

The students hate Major Payne when he first shows up, but they learn to love and respect him as he becomes their leader. A teacher at the school, who manipulates Payne into becoming “the loving male role model,” soon becomes Payne’s love interest.

Just before the ROTC competition that the team plans to win, Payne is called back to the Marine Corps. He must decide between his life-long goal of being a marine, or his new life with people who care about him. Major Payne leaves for the Corps, disappointing Ms. Walburn and the ROTC boys. The boys remember what Payne has taught them, though, and go on to the competition without him. 

Major Payne, realizing he loves Ms. Walburn and the students, has a change of heart. He returns just in time to see his ROTC program win the competition, and patch things up with Ms. Walburn.

Major Payne and Ms. Walburn

“Major Payne” is a movie about the importance of family, but it is not cliché and cheesy. The film will have you laughing the entire time, and smiling by the end. I rate “Major Payne” a 5 out of 5.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Double-Take for ‘Inception’

The Christopher Nolan film “Inception” is mind-blowing. Imagine someone entering your subconscious to steal your secrets and tell you what to think. Changing the human mind from the inside is the idea behind the 2010 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  

"Inception" DVD

DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, has been wrongly charged with murdering his wife and his only aspiration is to have the charge cleared so that he can be with his children. He is hired by a large corporation to take out the competition in hopes that the executive of the corporation will have Cobb's charges dropped.

The job sounds simple enough, but Cobb isn’t a typical thief. He sneaks into the competition’s mind to perform inception, all the while battling secrets in his own mind. 

Leonardo DiCaprio

Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, realizes that the whole team is at risk because of the dangers locked in Cobb’s mind, and attempts to help him deal with his past. In the end, Cobb must decide what is real and what is merely a dream.

Ellen Page

 If the plot sounds confusing, that’s because it is, but that’s to be expected from a film based on the workings of the mind. The first time I watched the movie, I must admit I was lost and confused, only catching the main idea; however, the second time I found the movie to be more comprehensible and much more enjoyable. 

The acting, special effects, and visuals were phenomenal, but I’ll have to give “Inception” a 3.5 out of 5 for lack of clarity.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

'Groundhog Day' is a Triple-Threat Success

“Groundhog Day” (1993) is romantic, full of comedy, and has a good moral. The story is about a conceited weather man, Phil Connors, who gets stuck reliving Groundhog Day over and over again. You would think the movie would be like a broken record, but it is entertaining all the way through.

"Groundhog Day" scenes

Connors asks, “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” Naturally, he lives recklessly, driving on railroad tracks and stealing money.  Who wouldn’t take some risks when there are no consequences?

As the movie goes on though, he gets fed up with experiencing the same thing every day. He attempts suicide several times, only to realize that he wakes up again to Groundhog Day.

"Groundhog Day" DVD case

The film answers the age old question, how would I live, if there were no tomorrow, and makes the viewer think about breaking their routine. Connor eventually learns to take advantage of his infinite amount of re-dos, to become a caring person, and to fall in love.

The movie stars Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliott, and is rated PG. The only downside is that you have to watch some of the scenes more than once. I give the film a rating of 4.5 out of 5 and consider “Groundhog Day” relentlessly funny, original, and timeless.