Quick Movie Review: I, Robot (2004)

i robot

2004 was an interesting time for special effects. Sci-fi films had just really started to use CGI for mostly everything. And while the effects stopped looking as cheap, they still didn’t look completely realistic yet. To the point where, in some instances, you could make the case that practical effects would have been a better option (e.g. Yoda in the Star Wars prequels).

But in 2004, the effects in I, Robot were cool and probably necessary. It’s a film about robots turning against humans. And in this scenario, the antiquated (by today’s standards) technology works in its favor. The robots look more creepy because of it. Watching it now, you never question how real the robots are. Instead you just think about how eerie they appear on screen.

The film is set in Chicago in 2035. Will Smith plays a cop who hates new technology, and loves the “old” way of living. He’s hired to investigate the apparent suicide of the founder of the leading robotics company in the world. But Smith doesn’t think it’s a suicide. He suspects that one of the company’s robots killed him.

Pretty much no one has charisma like Will Smith. Even when he doesn’t try to be funny and affable. You just can’t look away. You’re on the edge of your seat waiting for him to say something cool–which is almost always. He’s the perfect actor for this role. He’s completely convincing and his humor never undermines the weight of the story.

I, Robot has a quasi-noir vibe. It could have easily been just a mindless action flick charged by Smith’s charisma, but it’s cleverly written and deceptively deep. Director Alex Proyas really makes sure that the audience feels a certain way about this movie. That it’s not just another blockbuster that the studio has thrown millions of dollars at.

After nearly 15 years, I, Robot holds up incredibly well. It still feels futuristic and fresh. Especially for relying so much on its special effects. In the post-practical effects world, that’s almost unheard of.

Twizard Rating: 100


Quick Movie Review: Barbershop 2 (2004)


2002’s Barbershop didn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel of comedy, but it’s something quite unique. Hearkening back to Ice Cube’s 1995 hit, Friday, the film tries to make use of the non-story. Instead, thriving on its characters and slow plot exposition.

In Barbershop 2, they try to duplicate the first one, but it doesn’t quite work as fluidly–albeit almost. Whereas the writers in the first film seem to be on their own level, making their own rules, Barbershop 2 seems to channel a bit too much Tyler Perry and a little less Friday. It’s slightly more predictable and silly and transparent, and tries to please the audience too much.

An exception is the return of Cedric the Entertainer as the old barber, Eddie, who never cuts hair, but will tell you every last thing that’s on his mind. He’s still got the edgy dialogue that would make today’s PC crowd shiver in their organic Uggs, but the rest of the film plays it safe.

In Barbershop 2, Calvin (Ice Cube) learns of a Supercuts-esque barbershop opening up across the street. The word around town is buzzing because this place is supposed to be like the country club of barbershops. Eventually, he finds out that the whole community is getting a facelift, which forces out all of the businesses that have worked hard establishing themselves as mainstays in the neighborhood.

The pacing is about the same, but feels much slower–mostly due to the reduction of sub-stories. There are so many different characters, but each one’s significance is lessened in order to better focus on the premise as a whole.

It’s funny, because as the film tries to be deeper, the characters become less so. They’re all just as likable, but the dynamics aren’t as strong.

As a stand alone film, Barbershop 2 isn’t bad at all. In fact, it’s quite enjoyable. The jokes won’t really leave you rolling in the aisles, but there is plenty of smile-worthy dialogue. While both films focus on integrity and doing the right thing, this one says it a bit differently. The content means well and provides us with a similar warmth that the first one gives us. A little less cool, Barbershop 2 can pride itself on at least giving us another taste of what made the first one so special without tarnishing anything in the process.

Twizard Rating: 74

Quick Movie Review: Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Ocean’s Twelve is less direct than its predecessor and has you questioning if it’s ever going to get pieced together. In the end it does, but it makes one feel as though they could have come up with a better story.

I understand that they weren’t trying to have the same storyline as the first film, but this one couldn’t figure out where it was going. The dialogue made it fun, but good dialogue doesn’t always equal a good script. Although the first understandably lacked character depth (as do most big group caper films) this movie barely had any. This one focused more on Rusty’s backstory, as the last focused more on Danny.

While the first film demonstrates exactly what a final act should be, this one shows you how to make the first two almost obsolete. But somehow it fits into the entire irony of the film. The heist happened in the second act, and the movie could have just ended after an hour. I mean, they could have just picked any moment for when they so easily snatched the egg. They weren’t constricted to the limitations within their created world. Instead, they created a world that could or could not have had any relevance to how they accomplished their feat. When it’s explained there is no feeling of amazement, but you just end up with a ton of questions. 

There weren’t as many memorable moments as the first, however, the dialogue and characters were still entertaining enough to keep me interested. Although the Julia Roberts/Bruce Willis scene was a highlight of the film.

It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven, nor the sting-like final act, but it’s entertaining all the way through. You just can’t daydream for a second or you’ll miss a detail. It’s extremely confusing at times and I’m still not sure why some of the things happened or even WHAT happened. It calls for way more explaining than it should. It makes you feel dumb for not understanding things, whereas the first film made you feel like you were helping out with the heist yourself. 

Throw in a couple of cool twists and the film really isn’t all that bad as a standalone. It’s just really really hard to compete with the one that came before it.

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: The Girl Next Door (2004)

The reason why I enjoyed this film actually wasn’t because of its humor, but because it was really intriguing. I was so curious the entire time as to how it would unfold. Although it’s not laugh-out-loud funny throughout, it really keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. For a sub-genre that is known for inexpensively shot films, this one was actually really nice to look at and it never made you feel like you were watching a high school comedy about pornography. The acting was pretty impressive–especially Timothy Olyphant. Yeah, the sudden and semi-random change of character for Matthew (Hirsch) seemed a little too convenient and somewhat unbelievable, but if you put that aside, this film was consistent from beginning to end with some cool callbacks. 

Twizard Rating: 86