Archive for February, 2010

Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Posted in Reviews on February 12, 2010 by C.F. Varnau

rating: Kudos

I’m wondering if there will be any controversy over Chris Columbus’ new fantasy film “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.”

With the exception of “Lord of the Rings,” every major cinematic family epic in the last decade has been met with religious protest of some kind. “Chronicles of Narnia,” “Harry Potter” and “The Golden Compass” have all suffered from religious groups trying to ban the movie. Heck, with “The Golden Compass” they almost succeeded! Now we have “Percy Jackson,” the new film from “Harry Potter” director Chris Columbus. It’s good to have Columbus at the helm. His experience with the “Potter” series pays off. But should the film be considered blasphemous or offensive? The idea of marketing Polytheism to children could aggravate some… I wonder then what their reactions would be to the upcoming “older people” film “Clash of the Titans.”

Let’s look at the plot… Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is just your average teenage boy… who can hold his breath underwater for up to seven minutes at a time. His best friend is a cripple named Grover (Brandon T. Jackson). One day at the museum, his substitute teacher turns into a flying fanged hell beast and attacks him (as substitute teachers tend to do). The FFHB asks him to return Zeus’ lightning bolt or something bad, probably involving death, will happen. Of course, Jackson has no idea what the creature is talking about.

Finally Grover saves him, but not before revealing that he’s not a cripple after all, but really a satyr, a half-man half-goat who has been assigned to protect the son of Greek god Poseidon. That would be Percy, who has been framed for stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt. Now Hades has taken Percy’s mother and is holding her in the Underworld. He will release his mother if Percy hands over the bolt… but he doesn’t have it.

Does “Percy Jackson” promote Polytheism? I really don’t think so. None of the “gods” in the movie are ever seen in a religious light. There is no worshipping of these gods at all in the film. Like “Potter,” “Narnia,” and “Golden Compass” before it, “Percy Jackson” doesn’t contain a single ounce of religious procelytizing. The fact that Zeus and Poseidon and Hades are all “god” figures bears little effect on anyone watching the movie. This is a kids film for crying out loud! The preachy stuff, like “Left Behind,” “The Omega Code” and even “Passion of the Christ” are all rated PG-13 or R. And note that “Percy Jackson” is made by Fox. You know, as in “Fox News,” the central hub for the religious right-wingers. This isn’t some kind of satanic devil-worshipping witchcraft brainwashing film. It’s a fun fantasy story, Rupert Murdoch approved.

That said, the film is pretty cool. It’s no “Potter,” but its visual effects and fun humor, along with the inventive story, should be great for any kid or even adult. There are battles with Hydra, tangles with Medusa, and finally hell itself! It makes for a good adventure. I was pleased!

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New This Week…

Posted in Coming Soon on February 11, 2010 by C.F. Varnau

HB explodes with SIX new reviews in the email newsletter (three which will be reviewed here and on Twitter) as well as a new editorial piece by Shaun O’Donnell, seen only on the email newsletter!

For an ABSOLUTELY FREE subscription, email our Yahoo Group at hollywoodblockbusters-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. You don’t need a Yahoo ID or Yahoo email. Just send the message and you’re set! And did we mention it’s FREE?

Update… HB returns to Email!

Posted in Film in General on February 10, 2010 by C.F. Varnau

Great news readers! Hollywood Blockbusters is returning to their email roots once again with the FREE online newsletter. And we’ve stepped it up a notch!

Articles now include new films playing in theaters as well as DVD reviews and editorials. You can still read articles from here, but the Email newsletter offers more engaging insight into the movie world. Plus, we’re sending it out weekly for the first time in four years!

How do you subscribe? Send an email to hollywoodblockbusters-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Subscriptions cost nothing, there is no spam and you don’t need a Yahoo email or membership to subscribe! Just send us an email and we’ll hook you up!

Check it out now. You won’t be disappointed.

Review: Dear John

Posted in Reviews on February 8, 2010 by C.F. Varnau

rating: Kudos

“Dear John” is very completely and definitely for the ladies. Full of tears, romance (a lot of it) and Channing Tatum’s bare chest, this film from a novel by tear magnet Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook”) is without a doubt a chick flick… and it’s a good one.

Channing Tatum (“Fighting,” “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”) plays John Tyree, a soldier in the Special Forces who, one day on the beach, meets Savannah (Amanda Seyfried, “Mama Mia!,” “Jennifer’s Body”) who is on spring break from her final year in college. The story takes place in the summer of 2001. The two have two weeks to get to know each other and naturally romance occurs at just the right times.

John has a tough relationship with his father, who might be autistic. His father (“Six Feet Under’s” Richard Jenkins) collects coins, and has quite a lot of them. Savannah takes interest in John’s father while John is mysteriously uninterested in the collection. John’s father takes a liking to Savannah, and even makes extra dinner for her when the three have dinner.

The two weeks end, and John and Savannah share a heartfelt goodbye, with a promise to write to each other. John’s tour of duty is almost over and soon he will be back in her arms. Until the events of 9/11 occur. John is forced to make a decision: follow his buddies into another tour, extending his long-distance romance with Savannah, or go back home to the woman he loves.

Someone will no doubt say that John’s decision to stay is a classic “bros before hos” sort of reaction; that he really wants to stay away from all that “touchy-feely” stuff. I disagree entirely. Right after 9/11 everyone wanted to do their part. Patriotism ran rampant across the country. Suddenly, the soldiers were superheroes. And they wanted more than ever to fight. John feels he is doing his duty. But he doesn’t know the strain he’s putting on Savannah.

The movie is fine. It’s a good love story. Not great, but entertaining. I have no doubt plenty of people will cry through the movie.

That said, I must mention Channing Tatum. Tatum has given the same performance in every film he’s ever been in. He’s like a poor man’s Keanu Reeves. He picks the same role every time! I’m not dissing on Tatum’s performance in this film. The part was perfect for him. But it’s the same character from “Fighting,” “G.I. Joe,” and his upcoming film “The Eagle of the Ninth.” I guess that’s wise on his part. Do the same thing every time. This works sometimes, but I want more out of him. I’ve got enough big tough guys who can’t act.

Amanda Seyfried does well as Savannah. She’s beautiful and lovely. The part could be played by anyone else her age, but “anyone else” doesn’t have those expressive, heart-melting eyes. Hmmm… Channing Tatum: hot bod who picks easy roles. Amanda Seyfried: hot bod who picks easy roles… it occurs to me this film’s biggest draw may be the hot bods, not the characters.

Even so, I still liked “Dear John.” It melted my romantic side and kept me entertained for two hours. If anything, it’s a great date movie.

Review: From Paris With Love

Posted in Reviews on February 5, 2010 by C.F. Varnau

Rating: Barely kudos.

John Travolta is action royalty in “From Paris With Love” while Jonathan Rhys-Meyers feels weak and at times… cheesy? Perhaps the film would be better if they called it, “Royale With Cheese.”

I know I’m stretching with that one, but it is true. Travolta gives a top-notch performance in this film. Appropriately over-the-top and always with a profane remark, Travolta plays his most exciting action character since he switched roles with Nicolas Cage in “Face/Off.”

He plays outrageous secret agent Charlie Wax, womanizer and fast-talker while at the same time possibly legally insane. And the United States government hire him to kill people. His new partner Reece is getting married soon, as long as he can stay alive long enough to finish the mission with Wax.

The mission… in all honesty I sat through all 92 minutes of that film and I’m not really sure what the mission was. Something to do with cocaine, bad-guy Pakistanis, terrorists and a plot to assassinate an American delegate. It all moves very fast, and I think writer Luc Besson (“Leon: The Professional,” “The Transporter”) didn’t really want the audience to have all the details. Travolta’s Wax character hurdles and charges through the film with such crazed determination that he never really stops to give us all the facts. So not only is Reece clueless the whole time, we are too. This may be a good thing, but I’m thinking it was a way to use Travolta to distract us from the poorly thought out plot.

Reece is played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers who was good in “Bend it Like Beckham” and decent in “Match Point.” In this film, he plays the boring straight man to Travolta’s loose cannon. In a buddy film, we have to like both “buddies” in order for the film to be good. Reece is quite dull with no personality, and Rhys-Meyers’ chemistry with Travolta can’t carry the film the whole way. There is a terribly-delivered monologue by Reece at the end that’s too emotional and trite. I think this due to bad writing, but any capable actor could’ve pulled it off. Rhys-Meyers does not.

The action sequences in the film are mostly well done. There are some that get a little preposterous, but hey, who doesn’t want to see a bald John Travolta storming into a room with two machine guns blazing? If that’s why you want to see the movie, then you shouldn’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for a half-way decent plot, good acting and a solid screenplay, look someplace else.