Mini-reviews: Prince Caspian, 88 Minutes, and more

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Starring: Ben Barnes, William Moseley; Directed by: Andrew Adamson
Rating: ** 1/2 (two and a half stars out of five)

Summary: The Pevensie children are sent back to Narnia a mere year after returning back to war-time London. But more than one year has passed in Narnia — 1,299 more to be exact. There they find an exiled Prince (Barnes) who is struggling with his blood-thirsty uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) who has long been scheming to steal the throne from the royal family. Caspian and the Pevensies join forces to fight the Telmarines and restore the land to the Narnians who have long been prosecuted.

Thoughts: Not nearly as good as the book, and, unfortunately, not nearly as good as it’s prequel (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)). The filmmakers relied on action and violence rather than politlcal intrigue and plot. The story felt extremely thin for how long the film was. The effects were astounding, as was to be expected, but fantasy epics with grand special effects are somewhat cliche these days. Prince Caspian failed to find something to unique to pull it apart from the rest of them. This is even more unfortunate because they are planning to continue turning the books into movies (see here); a brilliant director is attached, so hopefully that’ll help. In a word: Long, with weak storytelling, but amazing special effects and action mean you shouldn’t ignore it.

88 Minutes
Starring: Al Pacino, Leelee Sobieski; Directed by: Jon Avnet
Rating: * 1/2 (one and a half stars out of five)

Summary: Jack Gramm (Pacino) is a top dog forensic psychologist. A man he recently sent to death-row is finally coming up on the big day and he’s maintained his innocence since he was caught. On this day, the final day of the murderer’s life, Gramm receives an incredibly threatening phone call telling him he has a mere 88 minutes to live. At first he blows it off as yet another side effect of his job. It’s immediately clear that the threats are real, though, and he begins an 80 minute long chase to save his life and find who’s conspiring against him (who he automatically knows is related to the murderer). And (what a surprise) 88 minutes has personal meaning to Gramm …

Thoughts: Way too cliche, predictable, and ultimately boring to be that good. I love watching Pacino on screen, and even a cliche’d murder mystery can be entertaining. This movie took itself way too seriously to accomplish much entertainment at all. Your list of possible suspects is immediately limited to three, only two of which are at all probable considering how strongly the script tries to implicate one early on. When you finally reach the end, you wonder why you even cared in the first place; the end is both predictable and utterly ridiculous. The best part is that the from the moment Gramm finds he has 88 minutes to live, that’s the remaining runtime — usually movie don’t stick to their own timelines, so I enjoyed that part. In a word: Predictable and thorougly unoriginal mystery.

Shoot ‘Em Up
Starring: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti; Directed by: Michael Davis
Rating *** (three out of five stars)

Summary: Mr. Smith (Owen) is awaiting a bus when a pregnant lady runs by, followed by some thugs with guns who are obviously trying to kill her. Smith, ultimately a do-gooder, throws his food aside and saves her, the baby (which he delivers), and kills a bunch of guys. Then Hertz (Giamatti) shows up — the man in charge, who continually comes up with new ways to find (and kill) Smith. Smith in the meantime dodges these attempts and enlists the help of a lactating prostitute to help him care for the baby. To add to the plot, it does have a conspiracy going on … but that’s not really important.

Thoughts: A ton of fun. Fun, inventive violence that looks good; fun performances by Owen (who sort of relives his Sin City days) and Giamatti. The Subplot (ie, the reason why they want to kill the baby) is utter lunacy, but it is only there to further the violence. And I’m OK with that. Between this and Smokin’ Aces, I’d pick this. There’s not much to else to say, other than it worked wonderfully for what it was and what it wanted to be. In a word: It accomplished what it set out to do: great, strong violence with a great cast.

Smokin’ Aces
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds; Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Rating: ** (two out of five stars)

Summary: Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel (Piven) is a stage performer turned mafioso in Vegas. Then he turns FBI informant. And then he gets a $1 million bounty put on his head by his former Mafia boss. Several different people decide their going to try to get the bounty, including neo-Nazi’s, a nameless/faceless professional assassin, and other horrible, nasty people. Of course, the FBI is trying to prevent the assassination, and they have other interests for wanting to bring down this Mafia family.

Thoughts: Great action but not much else. I take that back; it has some good dialogue too. But after violence and some good dialogue, it doesn’t have much else. The ‘twist’ at the end is incredibly predictable if you accidentally think about the movie (as I did). The pace is quick and direct, and the violence just as it should be: way over the top. I couldn’t rightfully give it a top rating, as it’s just eye-candy, but it was definitely good eye-candy. In a word: Great, bloody, explosive violence; some good dialogue; nothing else.