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

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Quick Movie Review: Barbershop 2 (2004)

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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: Barbershop (2002)

barbershop

There are a lot of experiences that young men should have growing up. Being exposed to the barbershop culture is one of them. I loved going to get my haircut when I was a teenager. Not just because I felt rejuvenated with my fresh cut, but because I enjoyed the banter, the stories, and even the superfluous arguments. It’s something I still look forward to when I go get a trim. And it’s captured perfectly in this 2002 Ice Cube comedy.

The story isn’t anything too intricate. It surrounds Cube’s character, Calvin, trying to decide whether or not he should sell the barbershop passed on to him by his late father. But most of the film is spent filling us in on the happenings of the employees and patrons of the shop, and their own stories. By far the most interesting part, we get a great sense of who these people are and what makes them tick. We feel like we’re right there in the shop with them.

It has its fair share of broad comedy, but there aren’t a lot of moments of subtle humor. Which is okay, since it does the former so well. While it’s rarely hysterical, you can definitely appreciate the repartee. In fact, most of the highlights don’t come from the barbershop at all, but from Anthony Anderson and Lahmard Tate’s characters stealing and attempting to open an ATM machine. This subplot goes on throughout the entire film.

With an impressive cast and an even more impressive Ice Cube, the beauty of this film is in its characters. They’re not all likable, but you get to know them well enough to understand them. It’s deceptively deep.

Ultimately, Barbershop turns a very simple premise into something much bigger and more meaningful. And it does it without ever feeling like it’s being stretched too thin.

Although it’s not perfect, it’s perhaps one of the most accurate portrayals of a culture so beloved by American males.

Twizard Rating: 84

Quick Movie Review: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015)

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Although I was a bit older than the target demographic when SpongeBob SquarePants was in its heyday on TV, I did tend to watch it a lot, as it was on my favorite channel at the time–Nickelodeon. I never swore by the show, but I have to admit that it really was funny. And I’ve watched most of the episodes in the first several seasons. But when you take a show that you’re pretty familiar with and used to seeing as 11 or 22 minute story arcs, there’s something in your brain that wants to keep it that way. About 30 minutes into this film you start feeling antsy–even by the slightest languor in the narrative.

This is the same issue that The Simpsons Movie had. At a certain point we’re ready for the next story, but an hour in, it’s still the same unresolved issues. Not to mention, television writers are also used to the 11-22 page script–not the 90 page one. They’re filling spaces. Sometimes with dragged out scenes, and sometimes with non sequitur filler jokes (the latter luckily being SpongeBob’s cup of tea anyway). But despite this adversity, the screenwriters do a decent job of mixing in a lot of subplots to keep the audience awake. A lot happens–almost as though there are several 11 minute episodes happening all at once. The only problem lies with the trailer (which I try to avoid watching too many times, but when you go to the movies a lot it’s inevitable). The trailer had us thinking that the whole film was set “out of water”. So the entire time I was anxiously awaiting to see our characters on land in our world.

Nonetheless it keeps you laughing if you’re a fan of SpongeBob. A couple of jokes miss, but there’s always one that hits immediately after. It stays true to its original style of irreverence. If you aren’t familiar with SpongeBob, you probably won’t like this movie all too much. Fortunately for the people at Nickelodeon, many people (especially 20-30 year olds) like SpongeBob and will want to see this movie. And the younger kids will probably end up dragging their parents to see it anyway–if they don’t already fall into the previous demographic.

While they could have done a couple of things slightly better in this movie, it’s a big step forward in the “TV Cartoon on Film” genre and keeps you pretty well entertained.

Twizard Rating: 82