A few updates on some films I've seen in the theatres, most of which haven't inspired a full review:
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Much better than most of the reviews would have you believe. I haven't seen the original, but that doesn't really matter. It's a solid thriller with two good performances at its center. This is one of those John Travolta roles that pops up every once in a while and reminds you of why he's a star, and helps you to forget some of the drivel he's done in the past decade or so.
I will agree with the critics who were unhappy with Tony Scott's style. At times, the style works, like in Man on Fire. But this story has enough adrenaline that the frenetic editing and music becomes overkill. Still, as I said, it's mostly consistent and a good piece of entertainment. It is what it is, and if that's what you're looking for, you got it.
There's some good, clever ideas here. But in the effort to make it a more accessible Jack Black vehicle, it becomes an unqualified mess. And I mention Jack Black specifically because this is the film in which he has officially worn out his welcome. I don't want to see him and his usual schtick for a long, long time.
The tinkering results in scenes that go nowhere, gaping plotholes, and narrative lapses, such as two or three scenes in which a character is in mortal danger only to cut to the next scene in which they are perfectly fine, with no hint of how they escaped certain peril. It's not a good film by any means, but a few bright spots remain, particularly the show-stealer David Cross.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Much has been said, so I won't devote a lot of space to it. Any charm that the first one held has been squashed in the sequel by Michael Bay's doubling of everything. Since the first film had one dog, the second has to have two, and so on. It's silly and medicore at best. However, a phenomenon has to be pointed out: for the most part, audiences have really enjoyed it. In some sense, it gives people exactly what they want. And for whatever reason, that includes Robot Heaven.
A fascinating and entertaining look at one of America's last great outlaws. In a sense, it has feet firmly set in both the classic gangster genre and the 21st century, mostly owing to the high-definition digital cinematography. While it might be a tad bloated, Johnny Depp keeps our attention riveted on Dillinger. Christian Bale serves his purpose, but without much flair.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
One of the highlights of the series so far. There has been some rumbling among fans about the ending and other differences from the book. I'll say it again, you can't judge a film by its faithfulness to the source material. Period. End of story. Get over it. It's a lovingly painted portrait of a year at Hogwarts, and the last bit of innocence that these characters get to have. It's as enjoyable as the series has ever been, owing largely to the central characters, who have grown into fantastic actors. Jim Broadbent makes a wonderful addition to the cast. In a way, it's a transition piece, sort of in the vein of The Empire Strikes Back. There's no real beginning or ending, but it's a great ride nonetheless.