Reviewed by Lubina Kim, 17,Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)
I rolled my eyes the first time I saw the trailer for Inception. It wasn’t interesting because I have an extremely short attention span for anything to do with shootings, explosions and car chases. I assumed it was just another action movie but the trailer was no comparison to the film.
For starters, Inception isn’t an action movie. Well, not most of it anyway. It’s more science-fiction with its complex plot that gives its viewers the responsibility of figuring out some of the plot’s chaos on their own.
Director Christopher Nolan, who also directed The Dark Knight, focuses the story on Dom Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio), who is hired by a businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe) to destroy the company of his rival, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). As an “extractor,” Cobb steals information and secrets by exploring his victims’ dreams. Cobb can connect his dreams with his victims’ and alter their subconscious. But this can be risky because Cobb’s own thoughts may get in the way during his missions.
For his job for Saito, Cobb must sneak into Fischer’s mind and implant an idea, also known as inception, which will convince Fischer to split his company. However, inception is a much bigger risk than extracting. During extraction, Cobb searches through the victim’s dream, but inception goes deeper. Cobb must get into Fischer’s subconscious dream and convince him to have a dream within a dream, then another dream within that dream. Yes it can be confusing but that’s why it’s so important to pay attention.
Joined by his right-hand man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), dream architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) and others, Cobb is determined to take on the mission because there’s something in it for him. Cobb isn’t happy with his job and he would rather be at home with his children. Saito offers him the chance to go home in exchange for inception.
The movie gave my brain the biggest workout since school ended. There were so many flashbacks, mysteries and puzzles that left me guessing what would happen next. And in all its complexity, the movie unfolded beautifully. Whether you like sci-fi movies or not, Inception is undeniably mind-blowing. Each scene was vivid with amazing special effects. There were slow-motion scenes and anti-gravity fights. Inception is one of those movies like Avatar that you can’t miss on the big screen. If I could, I would incept your mind right now and implant how amazing this movie is, but I can’t. So you’ll just have to take my word for it. Don’t miss out or you will regret it.
Reviewed by Zoe Lemelson, 14, Crossroads HS (Santa Moncia)
Despicable Me was not in any way despicable. It may not have the deep, emotional core as Toy Story 3, but the movie had many cute aspects that would appeal to kids, teens and adults who are young at heart.
The story starts off with an evil villain, Gru (Steve Carell), being outdone by another villain, Vector (Jason Segel), who steals the Pyramid of Giza. Gru wants to regain his power by stealing the moon. As part of his plan, he adopts three adorable orphan girls to help him steal the shrink ray from Vector so that he can shrink the moon and take it for himself.
The joke of the movie is that Gru aspires to be “the greatest villain of all time” but he really is the most endearing and lovable of villains. Even though in the beginning he was selfish and mean, he revealed his soft side by his newfound relationship with the girls. It is a role perfect for Steve Carell. The contradiction in the character Gru is akin to Steve Carell’s awkward but lovable character Michael Scott in The Office.
The humor in the movie came from the subtle jokes and expressions of the villain’s minions, small yellow creatures that talk jibberish. But the jokes that were obviously supposed to be funny were not, like when Gru asks for a dart gun and his accomplice Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) hands him a fart gun. Despicable Me does not carry the sophistication of a Pixar movie but it does succeed in giving the audience a chuckle. I saw this in 3-D, but it wasn’t necessary because the only part I noticed that was in 3-D was in the credits when the minions were walking out on tightropes toward the audience. If you want to see a cute, light-hearted movie, then go see this, but if you want something well written and serious, go see Toy Story 3 again.
Toy Story 3
Reviewed by Justine Goode, 16, Harvard-Westlake School (North Hollywood)
Packed with equal parts comedy, adventure and drama, Toy Story 3 is a Pixar classic. It has the same mix of humor and heart that the first Toy Story film had 15 years ago. Alternately hilarious, suspenseful, cute and heartbreaking, the movie succeeds because it doesn’t shy away from this range of emotion.
Toy Story 3 opens with a fantastic action sequence which serves to reintroduce toys from the first and second movies—Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jesse, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex, Hamm, and even the Pizza Planet aliens. As I watched Buzz help Woody save a train full of little troll babies from the villainous Dr. Porkchop (aka Hamm the piggy bank), I remembered how much I love these characters. A wave of nostalgia came flooding back and I sat back to enjoy the ride.
The old cast of characters is joined by several new ones—most of them at Sunnyside Daycare, where Woody and the gang are donated by accident. There’s Lotso, a strawberry-scented bear with a Southern accent and a checkered past; his accomplice, a creepy baby doll; a fabulous Ken doll, a squishy purple octopus and even a scary, screeching monkey who mans the daycare’s security cameras at night. Woody also meets Mr. Pricklepants, a British hedgehog wearing lederhosen, Buttercup the unicorn, and Trixie, a triceratops with an adorable lisp. This blend of old and new keeps the movie fresh while retaining the classic elements of the original movies. The humor in Toy Story 3 is smart and original. Pixar never resorts to fart jokes for the kids or innuendo for the parents for cheap laughs. The plot is fast-paced and surprisingly action-packed throughout, each scene subtly popping with 3-D (though the extra dimension wasn’t necessary, and rarely taken advantage of).
But what really hit home for me was when the opening fantasy action faded away to reveal a reality confined to Andy’s imagination—a past playtime recorded on a home video tape. Andy, the toys’ owner, is now 17 and headed off to college; the toys, stuffed in a trunk and downsized (Wheezy the penguin, Etch-a-Sketch and even Bo Peep are long gone), haven’t been played with for years, and their fate is uncertain as Andy decides whether to stuff them away or take them along.
I immediately connected with Andy’s dilemma. I had the same inseparable bond with my toys when I was little, and even though I eventually piled them up in the dustiest corners of my room, there’s something in me that would never let me throw one of them away. There’s something about being a teenager—hanging in that limbo between being a kid and an adult, remembering a carefree past and stressing over an unknown future (college apps, anyone?)—that makes you want to cling to whatever pieces of your childhood that you can. In a couple of years, I’ll be going away to college like Andy. Even though I’ve long outgrown my Build-A-Bears and American Girl dolls, it’ll be so hard to leave behind that part of my life for good. Pixar illustrates and deals with this early-life crisis beautifully. Don’t be surprised if some tears well up behind your 3-D glasses while watching the final scene of this funny and heartfelt film.
Reviewed by Serli Polatoglu
17, AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School (Canoga Park)
I must admit that I wasn’t a Twi-hard from the get-go, but once I watched the first installment of the franchise in theaters I was blown away. The film told of a love story so strong and powerful, yet majestic and impossible, that I couldn’t help but be hooked.
However, The Twilight Saga’s second installment, New Moon, left me disappointed. Aside from the fact that eye-candy Robert Pattinson was noticeably absent throughout the film, the movie failed to leave a lasting impression on me. The book, however, was one of the most powerful in the series.
Yet, as a true fan, I had hope that the third movie would prove more enchanting than the second. I had high expectations because Eclipse is my favorite book in the series. When I went to the midnight premiere, I was ready to be dazzled. But I found the first half of the movie to be lackluster.
Though I understood the plot perfectly, I felt like someone who hadn’t read the books wouldn’t be able to follow the fast pace of the movie. Things were happening too quickly—one major twist occurred after another, and the effects were dizzying. It’s understandable that some things will get lost in translation; a 300+ page book can’t possibly fit into a two-hour movie, but some vital things were changed.
Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s script botched Bella’s character. In the books, she is quiet, thoughtful and responsible. In the movie, she was ordinary and boring. She’s also supposed to be sarcastic and biting, but in the movie she comes off as cookie-cutter with a sense of humor that’s too obvious. She doesn’t seem like an old soul, but rather, a young girl that happened to be caught up in a mystical situation.
The entire first half of the film was cheesy line after cheesy line. For example, Jacob Black’s (Taylor Lautner) “I am hotter than you,” retort to Edward (Robert Pattinson) in the film was oh-so-predictable. And really, was Jacob’s faux Greek god-like entrance necessary? The cheesy music, close-up that emphasized his overly beefed up physique, and brooding stare made me roll my eyes. There was so much focus on the physical aspect of his character that no one could get past that and get some insight into Jacob the person.
Pattinson, however, proved his acting chops in this film. Though at times, his “tortured” face looked more like constipation, he made me feel that his character was more than the vampire heartthrob the media made him out to be.
The movie got better after the first hour – the pace slowed down and filmmakers focused in on key plot points. However, all in all, it seemed to be a typical franchise film. Those who read the books may have been able to read between the lines and find the tortured love story brewing beneath the surface, but the vast majority of movie goers can expect a few laughs, some action, and a lot of eye candy.
Reviewed by Patricia Chavarria
18, Cesar Chavez Continuation HS (Compton)
With Eclipse, the third installment of the The Twilight Saga, director David Slade has created a work of art. Like New Moon this movie had comedy and even more action. The fighting sequence, the wolves, the limbs being ripped apart from the body all seemed so real making this a movie a masterpiece.
The movie begins with a boy named Riley Biers coming out of a shop at night in Seattle, Washington. He becomes frightened by a mysterious person. After a few minutes of being chased outside in the rain, he feels pain in his hand and notices that he has two puncture wounds that seem like a bite mark.
Then the movie shifts its focus to the starring couple, vampire Edward Cullen and his on-again, off-again human girlfriend, Bella. They’re back on again following Edward’s marriage proposal to Bella. If she decides to marry him then Edward has to keep his promise and turn Bella into a vampire. However, Bella’s best friend Jacob Black is not too happy with her thinking about becoming a vampire. He tries to convince Bella that he is her true love, not Edward.
Meanwhile Bella is still being hunted by Victoria (an evil vampire), and Seattle is being terrorized by mysterious killings. Edward’s family realizes that someone is making an army of newborn vampires. As the Cullens prepare to fight the newborn vampires they realize that they will be outnumbered. And the only help they can get is from their enemies, the werewolves, which includes Jacob’s family and friends.
Kristen Stewart was amazing as Bella. She was much more believable and pulled off every kiss without making them look awkward like in the previous movies. Robert Pattinson’s performance as Edward improved as well. In the previous Twilight movies he looked stiff and spoke in so low a voice that I could hardly understand a word he said. Now, he moved and talked like the Edward from the books.
And Taylor Lautner’s performance as the arrogant teenage werewolf Jacob was also a success. In one scene when Bella was freezing to death he said he was going to snuggle with her in order to keep her warm. Edward at first said no, but he knew he had no choice since his body temperature is cold and Jacob’s is warm. Jacob looked at Edward with a grin and said, “I am hotter than you.”
I hope now that when the fourth movie, Breaking Dawn, hits theaters in 2011, it can end the movie saga with a triumphant finale.
Reviewed by Destiny Jackson, 17
Mayfair HS (Lakewood)
Eclipse was fangtastic! (Pun completely intended.)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse continues where New Moon left off. Bella Swan is still thinking about vampire Edward Cullen’s marriage proposal. Meanwhile, the vengeful Victoria (whose previous actress was replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard) and her henchman Riley (Xavier Samuel), have formed a Newborn Vampire Army, who are out to kill Bella and the Cullens.
In Twilight, the Cullens protected Bella from the villains, and in New Moon the werewolves saved the day. But in Eclipse, because of the large army of newborn blood fiends, the Cullens and the werewolves have to put aside their differences and work together to protect our damsel in distress.
In Eclipse, the love triangle between human, vampire and werewolf takes a back seat to the action. Kudos to screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg for pumping up the action, pouring love syrup in just the right heartwarming places and squeezing in plenty of funny lines to keep the movie balanced … and more interesting for the boyfriends dragged by their girlfriends to see the film.
As a Twi-hard, Eclipse was my favorite book in the series. All the tension between Edward and Jacob because they like the same girl was fun to read, but Bella got on my nerves in the book. She was whiny and a little bit selfish since she wanted both Jacob and Edward to stay by her side while the wolves and vampires were fighting for her safety against the Newborn Vampire Army. Thankfully Bella’s on-screen counterpart, played by Kristen Stewart, was not so needy.
Unlike the two previous movies, which skipped key scenes, this movie kept all the important parts of the novel.
The battle scene was action packed and a little scary, as werewolves bit and tore vampires apart. It seems that with each movie the special effects team adds something new. Instead of blood spurting out like some bad 70s horror movie when vampires were torn to shreds, they shatter like glass when hit. It was pretty and gruesome to see them being destroyed like chandeliers.
The tent scene was my favorite part in the book. I dare say, the movie version was even better. While the Cullens train the werewolves to kill the newborns, Edward and Jacob set up a tent for Bella not too far from the battle site, which sparks a heated yet witty debate between Edward and Jacob. Bella is freezing cold in her sleeping bag, and Edward can’t warm her up because his body temperature is cold too. Jacob (whose body temperature is 108.9 degrees), offers to warm Bella up. This sets Edward on edge, while Bella accepts Jacob’s invitation to sleep with her in the sleeping bag. One of the funny lines here is from Jacob when he says to Edward, “We both know that I’m the hot one,” which has a double meaning and eases the tension between the two.
Taylor Lautner’s acting was so convincing that I almost switched over to Team Jacob, but Edward (Robert Pattinson) is appealing because he is like his book counterpart, a little jealous yet chivalrous. There is a scene where Edward is proposing to Bella a second time that made my heart melt, and Stewart has finally gotten her Bella act together and made it her own.
I recommend this movie to everyone. Seriously, there is even a scene for the boyfriends in the audience (especially if their girlfriends are Team Jacob), when Edward asks Bella if Jacob owns a t-shirt because he appears half-naked ALL THE TIME. I’m telling everyone to see this movie. It was definitely worth the wait.
The Karate Kid
Reviewed by Patricia Chavarria, 18, Cesar Chavez Continuation HS (Compton)
Kick off your summer by watching The Karate Kid. It’s the best action movie I’ve seen this year. With a lot of action and humor, you’ll want to see it over and over again.
Twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mom, Sherry Parker (Taraji P. Henson), have just begun their new life in China after being transferred for her job. While in the neighborhood park, Dre meets a girl named Meiying and falls for her. Dre’s friendship with Meiying quickly angers a local boy named Cheng, who beats Dre up using kung-fu. Dre hides his bruised eye from his mom and starts school where Cheng also attends. Cheng and his friends bully Dre and demand that he stay away from Meiying and them as well.
Wanting revenge, Dre throws a bucket of water at Cheng and his friends. They chase him home and beat him up again. Then the maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) shows up and uses his kung-fu to save Dre and to fight off the boys. In shock that Mr. Han defeated six boys alone, Dre asks him to teach him how to fight. Mr. Han refuses and instead goes to talk to Cheng’s karate teacher about how it’s wrong that his students use kung-fu to hurt people. Cheng’s teacher makes a deal with Mr. Han. If Dre can defeat Cheng in a karate tournament, he will ask Cheng to leave Dre alone. He accepts the deal and Mr. Han becomes Dre’s karate teacher.
This remake of the 1984 movie had so many amazing fighting sequences. The punches that Dre took from Cheng and Mr. Han (when he was being trained) seemed so real that I found myself jumping and flinching every time he got hit. Jaden Smith definitely has his father’s (Will Smith) humor. Every line he said had you laughing. Like when Meiying showed her dancing skills to Dre, he looked in shock and all he could say was “whoooa.”
I like many of Jackie Chan’s action movies. His performance as a quiet karate teacher was fantastic. In all of his movies you just see him fighting, but in this movie he was passing on the torch. He was teaching other people. You can see his soft side. I recommend this movie to anyone in need of an action movie this summer.
Reviewed by Chanmi Joo, 15, Van Nuys HS
When I saw the trailer for Robin Hood, I thought “Oh gosh! Another gory, pointless and boring movie.” So I was reluctant to watch it. But I was wrong. This film was enjoyable and was filled with suspense, action, comedy and romance.
In the movie, Robin Longstride (yes, his name isn’t Robin Hood) is a soldier in King Richard’s crusade against the French. But when the king is killed in battle, Robin and a few of his fellow soldiers retreat home to England. He eventually arrives in a small village called Nottingham, and falls in love with the daughter-in-law of a farmer, named Marian. Meanwhile, King John (the new king of England) raises taxes to ridiculous amounts, for his own selfish gain, causing all the villages of his kingdom to become furious. The people of Nottingham, who had been suffering from a shortage of seeds (to plant crops) before the taxes were raised, now have even less money and food. Robin and his soldier friends, including Will Scarlett, Alan-a-Dale, and Little John, take matters into their own hands. They call themselves the “Hood,” and ambush carts going to the king with the taxes they have collected from Nottingham. They then take back all the money and crops and return them to the citizens.
The actors were cast well. Crowe made Robin strong and noble, like a fighter. Cate Blanchett was great as Marian. She played her role like a leader, with a sense of humor and poise. I also loved Oscar Isaac, as King John, not only because he acted conceited and had no sense of right and wrong, but also because he reminded me (in a good way) of the King John from the cartoon version of Robin Hood that I watched as a girl, with his messy beard, evil grins and bossiness.
This film was good, but it wasn’t perfect. In this version, there wasn’t as much helping the poor as I’d hoped there’d be. There were only a few scenes actually showing the good the Hoods did. Instead, I thought there were too many battle scenes, which made the name of the film seem kind of pointless. Another thing that I didn’t really like about the movie was that it was too long.
Overall though, Robin Hood is a fun movie, with suspense, action and British accents!
Iron Man 2
Reviewed by Jessica Kwon, 15, Bravo Medical Magnet HS
I’d been hearing about Iron Man 2 ever since the trailers came out. I didn’t watch the first Iron Man, so I didn’t know why people were making such a big deal out of this movie. At first, I really wanted to watch a documentary called Babies, but at the last minute, my family bought tickets for Iron Man 2. I am glad we did. This movie was so awesome that I sometimes forgot to breathe because of all the excitement.
After revealing his identity as Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a weapons manufacturer, becomes more of a glamorous celebrity than a super hero. But behind the fame and glory, Tony secretly suffers from blood poisoning because his artificial heart, which also powers his suit, is leaking. On top of this, he’s got other problems. The U.S. Senate pressures Tony to hand over the Iron Man suits for military use. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a rival to Stark Industries, looks for dirty ways to construct better robots than the Iron Man suits. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian physicist, blames Tony’s father for destroying his family and seeks revenge by trying to kill Tony.
Iron Man 2 has amazing special effects that make some scenes look realistic. For example, the first time Ivan attacks Tony is at the Monaco Grand Prix. While the racecars speed past him, Ivan easily slices the cars in half with two powerful electric whips. Ivan menacingly walks toward Tony with his whips thrashing around. I could hear the crisp sounds of the whips hitting the asphalt track and see them flashing like lightning. I wanted to jump out of my seat and run away. I felt like Ivan was coming after me!
My favorite scene is when Iron Man and Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) battle against the drones at a Japanese garden. I felt threatened as the massive drones surround Tony and Rhodes. I imagined myself in their position and knew I’d be terrified, but they dealt with the drones better than I’d expected.
My favorite character is Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson). She works as a hot undercover agent. In one scene, Natalie effortlessly beats up numerous buff guys, while Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) takes a long time to wrestle one guy down. She totally rocked in this movie.
Although Iron Man 2 was entertaining, there were some confusing parts because I hadn’t seen the previous movie. Many characters and their relationships with each other tripped me up. Why does Colonel Rhodes get special access to Iron Man’s headquarters? I thought Tony was opposed to the military. Tony likes his personal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)? I thought he liked Natalie Rushman! Who is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and why does he keep talking about the “Avenger Initiative?”
Despite brief moments of confusion, I was captivated by the movie. Unlike recent movies such as Green Zone, Iron Man 2 had fresh ideas that impressed me. I liked how some scenes were shot at a cool angle. The gadgets and special effects were unbelievable. Some of the humor was witty and creative. Actors like Downey, Rourke, Paltrow and Rockwell seemed really devoted to their roles.
My mom even called up my aunt in Korea to recommend the movie. But my aunt had already seen it the day before and said, “Transformers was better.” (because it was the first movie to show robots transforming using special effects) But whatever movie the Iron Man sequel is compared to, I think you’ll enjoy this movie. So this weekend, release your stress from AP tests by watching Iron Man 2 with your friends!
Iron Man 2
Reviewed by Patricia Chavarria, 18, Cesar Chavez Continuation HS (Compton)
Compared to the first movie, which I really liked, Iron Man 2 had more action, better special effects and it was funnier. It’s the best super hero movie I’ve ever seen.
In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark (in another great performance by Robert Downey Jr.) faces off against two villains—a rival weapons manufacturer named Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) a creepy-looking Russian who wants revenge for something involving Tony’s father. Adding to the drama, Tony is also facing his own death. His artificial heart, which gives his Iron Man suit its powers, is also poisoning his body.
My favorite action sequence was when Iron Man uses his laser against an army of Hammer’s Iron Man robots. Everyone in the theater was clapping. My favorite special effects scene was the fight scene at a car race. Ivan ripped Tony’s car apart piece-by-piece using his long electric tentacles.
A funny part in the movie is when Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) is inside a boxing ring with Happy Hogan (played by director Jon Favreau) and he tries to hit her because he says to never take your eye off your opponent. However, he is the one who ends up on the floor.
The only problem I had with the movie was that I didn’t understand why Ivan had so much hate toward Tony.
Still, knowing how much I loved the first Iron Man, my expectations for Iron Man 2 were high. And after watching the movie, my expectations were indeed surpassed. Make sure you stick around for the credits, because the movie isn’t quite over.