Welcome to my film critic's blog! A lifetime of loving movies has enabled me to do this. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lots of extra butter on my jumbo popcorn please!

How do you describe the popcorn film? Many call it a waste of time, others call it perfect entertainment.... I like to call it one of the most popular genres of cinema. Plotlines are usually disposable, any stand-out acting is a bonus and the action on screen is usually worth the price of your popcorn. An example of one of the best popcorn films ever made is 'Con Air' - it has everything - an outrageous storyline, an awesome cast and even some above-average acting. And the action is enough to get your blood pumping every time. It is an eternally watchable popcorn flick and very few make it to that top tier! This year there are some fun popcorn films on offer and no matter what people say, if you can learn to enjoy it, there is joy to be had from a fun popcorn movie. These four stand out from the pack for various reasons for me - sometimes negative buzz can be a very good thing!

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Before I saw Michael Bay's Transformers in 2007, I didn't know what to expect from seeing one of my favourite cartoons as a kid brought to life on the big screen. I was surprised but understood that the material lends itself quite easily to popcorn entertainment. And nobody does it better than Bay! This year's ultimate popcorn extravaganza is undoubtedly the sequel. Releasing on June 24, 2009, this second film in the franchise will feature even bigger Bay elements  - that means huge robots and huger explosions. Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are back - always a good thing (that's Fox to the left). Throw in Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and about 40 transforming cars into the mix - what have you got? To use the word of the moment - yea, that's right - 'Bayhem'!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: When this film was first announced, my childhood memories came flooding back - this was actually happening! I had owned so many of the toys, I had religiously watched the cartoon and I had always wondered what a live action G.I.Joe would be like. It became my most anticipated film for a long time.... but with a heavy heart I am forced to include it in this year's popcorn roster. It has a 7 August 2009 release, but I came across the script for this one and I couldn't resist - boy, was it a letdown! In recent years, G.I.Joe has been such a popular comic with a serious and violent tone that I, like other fans, thought that the characters would be best served if taken seriously. Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to have decided there's too much realism going around, so it's time for a freaky military fantasy. Imagine taking the themes of the (frankly awful) cartoon, mixing in some random comic history plus dollops of lopsided humour and you'll get a fair idea of what this film is about. But it's not all bad news - you at least get to finally see Duke (Channing Tatum), General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), The Baroness (Sienna Miller), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) on screen. The cons include Marlon Wayans as Ripcord and a horrendous plot I won't get into. Of the lot, Park is brilliant casting and in a different movie could have been special (especially since they have Christopher Eccleston as Destro, Arnold Vosloo as Zartan and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander)....G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra feels like such a missed chance - it's simply pure 80s nostalgia that will get me to the cinema. That and I generally love popcorn cinema, so if for right now this is the best they can do, let's see it.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li: After the abomination that was the 90s attempt to adapt the same video game, anything this film does will be infinitely better. Now, this film has had fanboys wringing their hands in fury since it was announced as they believe movies like this are a waste of time. And video game fans want the feeling they got while twiddling the controls without realising there wasn't much to begin with. The 1994 movie to be honest, does not deserve to be called a legitimate effort in filmmaking. For those who don't remember that atrocity starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kylie Minogue and a host of forgettable people, it had choice quotes like - "For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday." Ohhhh (***shivers at the memory***). What they've managed so far is to restart the franchise following the chronology of the characters and yes, taking it a tad more seriously this go-around. You've also got Smallville's Kristin Kreuk (pic), Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Michael Clarke Duncan, Robin Shou and Moon Bloodgood to name a few. And if this does even moderately well, you might get to see other franchise characters get their own films. Unfortunately, popcorn flicks like this are very hit or miss and this one might well be coming at the wrong time (27 February) in the middle of the economic crisis. It's pretty likely it will get a cold shoulder and the Street Fighter franchise will be back in cold storage for some more years. Only time will tell!

Dragonball Evolution: If there was another film (apart from Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) that was cursed by negative hype long before it completed filming, it's this one. These two films were declared the worst of the year before 2009 began. It's these extreme reactions that are silly - sure, we may not like how some films turn out but watch them before condemning them. And popcorn films, I generally believe, are critic-proof or they should be because they are not made for critical acclaim - it's mindless entertainment, nothing more. That being said, I can understand some of the anger - I never watched the anime series or read the manga on which this film is based, so I cannot judge how different this film looks. Obviously, if the source material meant a lot to me, seeing a mediocre adaptation would be insulting. But a little common sense goes a long way - stick with the source that you love and don't let the adaptation take away from your enjoyment of it. Sometimes the popcorn route works, sometimes it doesn't - these films need to cater to the masses, you can't recoup $100 million from fans alone. The trailer seems okay enough (some Mortal Kombat vibes - not a good thing) and it seems to be a get-what-you-expect kind of a deal. 8 April 2009 is the date for this one.

While on the subject of unusual popcorn films this year, I think I need to get started on an exhaustive list of Hollywood must-sees for 2009. Should be interesting - there are a wide variety of interesting films on offer. I'm still catching up on my must-sees of 2008, so the sooner the better with this list I think. Watch for that next!