The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

An Unexpected Journey Poster

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Let me get things straight first. I enjoyed “An Expected Journey” as I was viewing it. From the film’s first half hour, I could tell that it wasn’t going to be an event as grand and glorious as any of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, which was just fine by me. Though weighed down by several substantial flaws, I felt a mild satisfaction when the credits started to roll. The verdict of a movie reviewer should always be based on the immediate experience, and on that notion I should label “An Unexpected Journey” a success. But my later convictions overruled the other, and I realize that I cannot award a positive rating to a movie that could have easily been great but chose not to.

The three volumes that comprised Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” were made into three different films. That’s over 1,300 pages translated into nine hours of film. And while “An Unexpected Journey”, 2013’s “The Desolation of the Smaug”, and 2014’s “There and Back Again” are the components of another planned trilogy, there are all based on a single Tolkien novel, 1937’s “The Hobbit”, which is only around 300 pages long. Does Peter Jackson really have enough material for a trilogy? We don’t know yet, but judging on this first installment, it seems that he will stretch his way to his second billion-dollar franchise. Every single sequence in this introductory film is prolonged, and several other scenes feel unnecessary. The story itself is compelling, but the deadweight pacing prevents us from being compelled.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins

Time winds back as dear Bilbo Baggins recalls the period of his life when he joined a group of homesick Dwarves, accompanied by the wise and helpful Gandalf (Ian McKellen), in an adventure too dangerous for a hobbit. Opening Narrations always do a good job in setting up the background for a plot, and old Bilbo tells us of Erebor, the realm of the Dwarves that is filled with precious gold. The citizens of Erebor are left with no choice but to abandon their kingdom the moment Smaug flies in and takes control of it. Smaug is of course the greedy dragon with a fetish for gold, of all things. If dragons like Smaug roam in today’s world, and if they pillage great cities blessed with endless treasures, then the Philippines would be one of the safest places on Earth Just sayin’.

Anyway, the Dwarves are steadfast in their mission to reclaim their homeland, and Gandalf convinces their leader, Thorin (Richard Armitage), to take young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) with them, right after they invade his privacy, trash his house, and eat his food. (You would not want to have Dwarves for neighbors. Elves would be more fun.) Other than our main protagonists, the rest of the members of the pack are interchangeable, carrying no distinct characteristics. This is a disappointment. The heroes in the LOTR were memorable in the way that they were diverse and well-developed. Each character came from different races, was introduced with different back stories, and was driven by different motivations. By the time you finished watching “Fellowship of the Ring”, you already knew each character by name. There was Aragorn, Frodo, Sam, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir. I’m trying to make a mental list of the fellowship in “An Unexpected Journey”, and this is what I’ve got so far: Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, Bald Dwarf, Fat Dwarf, Skinny Dwarf, Old Dwarf, and Other Dwarf.

Andy Serkis as Gollum

The progression of their adventure takes us through some memorable sequences and some not so amusing ones. Divided by extended periods of tedious walking and plot setting, the most enjoyable parts of the film involve hungry, towering trolls, battling stone giants, and a high-stakes riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum. (Spoiler!) It’s disappointing how all of this comes down to a climax located at the edge of a cliff, on top of a tree. At this point of the film, we see our heroes climb a tree, clump together, and throw pine fireballs to fend off those blasted orcs. A weak way to end such a movie, but there you go. (End Spoiler) This non-climax will feel all the more disappointing when you remind yourself that you spent a massive 150 minutes to get there.

All of my complaints would not have been so if they simply decided to make one darn movie. There are discussions in “An Unexpected Journey” regarding the return of a devilish Necromancer, and we are only treated to small, quick peeks to Smaug the dragon. How much better things would have been if these elements were maximized in this film instead of reserving them for Parts 2 and 3? Did Peter Jackson pushed for this idea, or did “The Hobbit” fall into the hands of greedy Hollywood Producers/Smaugs who want to make more money for the sake of more money? Hollywood’s obsession with franchising everything it touches is getting out of hand. Will the world ever be ready for a Three Little Pigs Trilogy?

Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans Poster Rating: ★½☆☆☆

You don’t have to observe real hard to notice that there’s actually just one titan in “Wrath of the Titans”. That would be the fearsome Kronos, a monstrous being who can be best summarized as a walking volcano with arms, legs, and a face. In the film’s latest moments, smoke, ash and lava violently erupt from his crevices, which is exactly the sight you’d expect from someone who had just risen out from the hellish underworld.

Before we get into anything else, let’s do a quick background check. Kronos is the father of Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Zeus (Liam Neeson) has a son named Ares, who like his father is also a god. Everything seems rather normal until Zeus decides to get in bed with a human. The woman then gives birth to Perseus, a half-god half-human fisherman. So this would make Kronos the grandfather of Perseus? But what about Helius, the son of Perseus? Can he be considered as one-forth god? You know what would have been a lot more interesting than this movie? A documentary about these characters having a family reunion.

Wrath of the TitansAnyway, the underworld prison of Tartacus can no longer contain its captives. Zeus calls for a meeting with his brothers to address this issue. Where do they agree to hold their meeting? The Underworld, the home of Hades (Ralph Fiennes). So Poseidon gets killed and Zeus becomes a prisoner of Hades. Unfortunate, but things like that tend to happen when you decide to hold your meeting in the Underworld. Perseus goes on a mission to rescue his father. He must be quick though, because Hades plans to drain the power of Zeus to awaken Kronos.

And that’s the last plot point you will read from this review. To further discuss the plot would be pointless. The movie, even within the context of fantasy, features ludicrous situations of zero substance. And because the film’s director is the clueless Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles), even the action sequences offer no consolation. Somewhere inside an elaborate labyrinth, Perseus battles a Minotaur, or something like that. I’m not sure. We never get a clear shot of the darn beast. It’s just brief shots of a huge, ugly head covered with a lot of froth and… and rage. Perseus uses his right fist, followed by his left one, and the next thing we know, the monster is dead on the ground. I have seen fights at The Jerry Springer Show that have more cohesion and impact.

Kronos in Wrath of the TitansWhat else can I recall? Remember Ares, the other son of Zeus? He gets into a brawl with Perseus. Ares, who is a god, is winning the battle against the lesser strength of Perseus. Ares is about to attain victory until… until Perseus is able to put the Sleeper Hold on him. You know, like in wrestling. Ares passes out. Perseus kills him. But wait. How effective can the Sleeper Hold be? Did the screenwriter forget that Ares is a god?

Now back to where we started. Awakened Kronos has escaped Tartacus. Not only is he sweating lava all over place, but he’s also punching the ground to create mini-earthquakes. According to one of the characters, Kronos intends to destroy the world. My dilemma with giant villains is there lack of efficiency. They all look so slow and sluggish and easy to hit. If Kronos had no one to stop him, it would take him around 8-10 years to fully destroy the world. Approximately.

John Carter

John Carter Poster Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Once upon a time, the folks at Disney wanted to make a movie that combines the qualities of Westerns, War Epics, and Science Fiction. 250 million dollars later, and we are introduced to the vast and zealous vision of “John Carter”. Here is a concept that’s big enough to spawn its own franchise. Heck, I’m already saving up for the Happy Meal collectibles it will inspire at McDonalds. The movie’s franchise-sized idea holds good potential, but too much set-up is dedicated into this one movie that there is isn’t anything in it except for those darn set-ups.

The film follows the journey of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a Civil War Veteran from Virginia who isn’t in good terms with the local authorities. His attempts to elude imprisonment lead him to a cave with a well-dressed alien loitering within it. He knocks the bastard down. It instinctively pulls out a glowing medallion and starts reciting something in its native language. Carter grabs the medallion, and before he could sell it to the nearest pawnshop, he is transported to Mars. It is there where he comes across with the green-skinned, four-eyed Tharks. Fascinating creatures these Tharks are. If a giant caterpillar and a tall NBA player ever had a love child, it would look something close to a Thark.

Tas Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and John Carter (Taylor Kitsch)Like all beauty pageant contestants, what the Tharks really want is world peace, but their influence is limited by their meager population and inferior technology. A great war between the mighty cities of Helium and Zodanga is at its peak. This issue is expanded with heavy exposition: The people from Helium are the good guys, and it’s Zodanga that’s causing all the trouble. They want to seize Helium so they could win the ultimate prize: Mars, a wasteland the size of a planet. Of all the citizens of Helium, it is its princess, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), that is most fearful of defeat. If their army is unable to fight off the soldiers of Zodanga, she will be forced to marry its leader, Kantos Kan. One thing I like about Dejah Thoris is the fact that she is one helluva scientist. We finally meet an intelligent woman in a Summer Blockbuster Movie, and she’s from another planet.

Besides John Carter’s encounters with the Tharks, and besides the dispute between Helium and Zodanga, and besides the efforts of the princess to prevent her forced marriage, is a subplot involving the shape-shifting Therns. Equipped with great powers that can vaporize any structure and being, they hide. Of course. Anyway, there’s also this story about a plan to conquer… but why continue? “John Carter” is all introductions and explanations and discussions separated by brief and generic action sequences. John Carter himself is a dull and bland character; he is one of those heroes who is defined by their special ability. But even that part is underwhelming. The lower Martian gravity allows him to leap at great lengths, but so what? I like Roger Ebert’s observation: “When it is possible to teleport yourself from Earth to Mars, why are you considered extraordinary because you can jump really high?”

Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch in John CarterThere is a 30-second span in the film where John Carter slashes his way through dozens and dozens of towering aliens. In a later scene, we see him use a chain to hurl a large boulder against a monster. How is this possible for a Civil War veteran from Virginia? Did the change in gravity also grant him super strength? Some more observations: Where do the Martians get all the materials to build their complex space ships and gadgets? Since there is no vegetation in sight to supply oxygen, what keeps John Carter alive? Why won’t the Therns use their vaporizing weapons when needed? Why do the citizens of Helium and Zodanga look like… Americans? If they are Earthlings who arrived before John Carter, then why is their blood blue?

I’m sure everything in the movie is better explained in “A Princess of Mars”, the book from which “John Carter” is based upon. Maybe it’s one of those novels that doesn’t translate well in film. Books contain more space for plotting and characterization. 132 minutes is quite long for a film, yet it wasn’t enough for the broad story of “John Carter”. I mean, if Mr. Carter and Ms. Thoris got married, and they had children, and they scratched their arm, will purple blood come out?

Midnight in Paris (Quick Review)

Midnight in Paris PosterRating: ★★★★☆

“Midnight in Paris” is a charming little movie that takes us through the most substantial days in the life of Gil (Owen Wilson), an American in Paris. If you are suddenly reminded of the 1951 Gene Kelly musical, then I commend you. The heroes of both movies are struggling artists who hunger for an inspiration the size of a city. That the capital of France is universally regarded as a stimulant of our mind’s creativity offers no mystery. Elegant by day and dashing by night, Paris is a city of history and architecture, of fashion and romance, of music and dancing, of wine and art. Gracefully photographed by director Woody Allen and cinematographer Darius Khondji, the movie might just prevent arguments between newlyweds who can’t agree on their honeymoon destination.

Gil is an established screenwriter who dreams of writing a novel. He believes that his stay in Paris will provide the atmosphere he needs. Joy and excitement is seen in Gil as he wanders through the city streets. But he is alone in his admiration. His fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), is unsupportive and unfaithful; her eyes drawn by the intellect of another man. Her parents, who are skeptical and obnoxious, are not helping. Straying away from the discouragement, he finds a place of stillness and insight. Every midnight, in the same, empty street, Gil is picked up by the same, classy car, which transports him to 1920’s France. This change in era makes it possible for Gil to become acquainted with some great men of literature, like Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot. That is one awesome car ride. In my country, all unusual cars that pick you up around midnight will probably keep you there until your family comes up with the ransom money.

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson in Midnight in ParisFor obvious reasons, Gil gets hooked in this midnight routine, and he slowly convinces himself that he is a man in the right place at the wrong time. Or maybe he’s just simply with the wrong people. The movie understands the dissatisfaction that some people feel and the alternate lives they create as a distraction. The theme is similar to Allen’s previous film, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stanger”, but “Midnight in Paris” is written more thoughtfully. It has a more endearing hero, and it has a more interesting premise. And it has a nicer view, too.

Green Lantern

Green Lantern PosterRating: ★½☆☆☆

Of all the second-rate comic book movies that has occupied most of 2011’s summer, “Green Lantern” is the only one of its crowd without a saving grace. “Captain America: The First Avenger” saw a true hero in Steve Rogers, giving as much attention to his human character as with his superhuman attributes. It was the goofy playfulness of “Thor” that made its overall silliness acceptable. “X-Men: First Class” was a prequel that founded itself on prior knowledge, instead of avoiding it. “Green Lantern” doesn’t have a singular thing that could make it more than what we already expect. It fulfills the requisites of the superhero genre, then immediately stops trying.

Millions of years ago, long before the nuisance of 3-D, an assembly of aliens called the Guardians formed an intergalactic peace-keeping organization. Each member, called a Green Lantern, was assigned to protect one of the 3,600 sectors of the universe. We’re not sure how many planets or galaxies each sector covers, but we trust the judgment of the Guardians. With the whole universe accounted for, the blue, big headed Guardians have decided to spend the rest of their immortal lives in a planet called Oa. This peace is interrupted when a colossal, evil force named Parallax figured that it would be real evil if he started to eat planets; Earth and Oa are on his menu.

Parallax

Meanwhile, on Earth, our central human characters who coincidentally all have daddy issues, are introduced. Hal Jordan is a reckless test pilot whose actions on the job are always questioned by his authorities. When a severely injured Green Lantern crash lands on our planet, Hal is the one chosen by the Lantern’s ring as his replacement. His duty later lands him in Oa, where he meets the Guardians. Plot details are discussed, obvious questions are asked, and shallow dilemmas are regarded with undeserved seriousness as a delay for the obligatory climactic confrontation, like taking 90 minutes to get to a destination 60 minutes away.

“Green Lantern” never earns involvement with its audience by detaching itself from all senses of reality. In a scene before Hal received the ring, he is kidnapped by a green ball of energy which flies him several miles. When the power of the ring is bestowed upon him, Hal hovers through the open atmosphere to, uhm, impress a girl. The world is entirely oblivious of his superhero activities. Either that or the ring also grants him invisibility.

Ryan Reynold and Blake LivelyThe remaining characters are just about as naive as Hal. The Guardians, whose planet is also facing literal consumption, are unmoved by the gravity of the situation. They sit in their pillars, filled with wisdom… pondering. I assume the state of Parallax for most of the movie isn’t so different. He, or it, is a giant, sloppy, shapeless blob of goop, gunk, and scum. There’s not much for him to do before the obligatory climactic confrontation on Earth. I imagine Parallax floating in space, filled with hatred… scheming.

I may have neglected to mention Hal’s love interest, Carol, who is played by Blake Lively. Ms. Lively was given a small part in “The Town”, but that was a real role. Here, she is downgraded as the object of intimacy that, when secrets are found out, will also become a cheap target of villainy. Behind every superhero is a woman waiting to be captured.

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch PosterRating: ½☆☆☆☆

“Sucker Punch” ain’t no movie. “Sucker Punch” is an excess of testosterone vomited into a reel of celluloid until it is violently splashed into the faces of its audience. The movie’s advertisements are diligent in declaring its promise: “You will be unprepared.” They were right. I was not prepared for the overwhelming atrocity that I had to bear during the course of its running time. By the movie’s end, I felt that my senses had been pummeled to dust.

The plot, if that’s what you call it, is this: A grieving girl who has just lost her mother has been framed by her stepfather for murder, and is now imprisoned in a mental institution. A lobotomy awaits her. So, in the meantime, she creates a fantasy world of her own. Within that fantasy world, she creates another fantasy world. That’s twice the fantasy. It’s kinda like “Inception”, only stupid.

Fantasy World (The First One)

The girl’s fantasy actually belongs to Zack Snyder, writer and director. One of his most popular films is “300”, a movie where its heroes wage war wearing nothing but a cape and their underwear, so the enemy could marvel at the sight of their abs, and get distracted. In “Sucker Punch”, five young women charge into battles with their short skirts and high heels. In the fantasy world, the second one, the girls are against kamikaze robot bombers, blazing angry dragons, giant samurais, and, of course, a few hundred steam-powered Nazi zombies. Movies by Zack Snyder aren’t about what’s rational or comprehensible. Reaching its truest form in “Sucker Punch”, Snyder makes movies to share with the world, his imagination, which was the vomit I was talking about earlier.

Fantasy World (The Second One)

“Sucker Punch” makes no attempt at anything that resembles the structure and content of a motion picture. Narrative and exposition are not minimized, but totally abandoned. To compare its construction to a video game would offend gamers. Heck, even board games have a higher artistic value. What’s disguised as a story is really a collection of Zack Snyder’s childhood daydreams thoughtlessly and shapelessly plastered on the screen. Movies start out as ideas, and it takes great talent to successfully make that transition. Snyder has a lot of ambition, but lacks the mindset and maturity to back it up.

The characters are no characters either. The five girls are but a set of body parts; some are directly used while others are for display purposes only. When the audience needs to be informed of something, one of the girls, any of them, use their mouth: “We can’t do that! He’ll kill us!” Or when a scene is slowed down just because it looks better that way, Snyder makes sure that someone within the frame is wearing something “nice”, because he thinks we’re like him, who can’t stand a minute without a robot or lingerie.

It’s difficult to imagine Snyder having any more testosterone left after “Sucker Punch”. But, if he does, may he keep the rest of it to himself.

Thor

Rating: ★★★½☆

“Thor” is a movie adaptation of a popular comic book that stars good-looking people in the midst of wide spectacles of special effects. We get to see some fighting, flying, shouting, kissing, hammering, and also, a bit of shirtlessness. 150 million dollars was spent to make all of this happen. The season of summer movies has begun.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, “Thor” has very little depth and complexity that we saw in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, or even in “Spiderman 2”. But so what? It is made with skill, with humor, and it exhibits mighty action sequences that can make Superman jealous. That Thor guy and his heavenly hammer can do some serious damage. This is very fun.

The Norse gods are enjoying peace and power in the land of Asgard, which is currently under the rule of its king, Odin, played by the famous Anthony Hopkins. But Odin’s son, played by the soon-to-be famous Chris Hemsworth, desires to eliminate the Frost Giants, a race that Odin has a truce with. You see, Thor is arrogant and egotistic, and disobeys his father’s orders to stay home. So he travels to Jotunheim, an ice ball the size of a planet, home of the Frost Giants.

Odin is not pleased to discover that his son has broken the truce by smashing lots of Frost Giants. As a punishment, he then takes away the godly powers of Thor and banishes him straight to Earth. (New Mexico, to be precise.) Poor Thor is lowered to the point that his strength is only equivalent to that of a professional wrestler. He can’t seem to fully comprehend what has become of him, and his pride remains intact. What Thor needs is the sweet, caring, lovable Natalie Portman.

Thor’s stay on Earth will cause laughs. This is the first time where we see Hemsworth shine as an actor. From a vain, loud, and ignorant God of Thunder, he turns into a confused, vulnerable, and charming Mortal. Most of the movie rightfully focuses on Thor’s character. That includes his hair, eyes, abs, and beard. By the time the movie reached midpoint, I wasn’t so sure anymore on who’s more beautiful, Natalie Portman or Chris Hemsworth.

Meanwhile, things up above are not doing so well. Loki, son of Odin and brother of Thor, has lost it. He aims to annihilate Jotunheim and its inhabitants. Also, He wants Thor permanently banished, and sends a scary metallic fella called The Destroyer to Earth with the command, “Destroy everything.” Not very specific, so it blows up some cars along the way. When Thor finally comes across with The Destroyer, he gets the chance to regain his honor, and his hammer.

I can’t reveal how Thor can redeem himself, but I can say that with a great hammer, comes with an awesome costume.  I can also say that “Thor” will be enjoyed by many. There are innovative fight scenes on Arsgard, Jotunheim, and New Mexico. There are many close-up shots of the faces of Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth. There are snippets of dialogue and cameos that remind us that “The Avengers” is very near. May 4, 2012, to be precise.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is an action-adventure produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, which means that there will be loads of stunts and special effects. When used appropriately, I have nothing against special effects, but its application here is entirely for the sake of business.

This is not a good movie, but its degree of badness doesn’t deserve hate. A movie can be considered successful if it generates a profit and, at the same, satisfies its audience. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was created with a goal to make money. It features enough magical flames and lightning bolts to make a trailer that will attract many young boys, but that’s about it. The story, as shallow as it already is, doesn’t cause any level of excitement. What the movie is really about is the display of the characters’ magical abilities, which is unfortunate because the magic isn’t even that, cool. “Tron: Legacy” got away with its impenetrable plot because, well, The Grid looks awesome.

We begin our story somewhere around a thousand years ago. An evil sorcerer, Morgana, supported by another evil sorcerer, Horvath (Alfred Molina), is battling against good sorcerers Balthazar and Veronica. Balthazar, played by Nicolas Cage, is soon able to trap the two evil ones inside a Grimhold, which is “an inescapable prison.” To ad drama, Veronica gets stuck with them. Now, Balthazar is in search of The Prime Merlinian, the sole sorcerer who can “destroy Morgana once and for all.”

You see, Morgana is a lot like many other villains. She wants to destroy the world. What she plans after that we will never know. Maybe she’ll destroy the next planet, and the next, and the next. A villain’s work is never done. Yeah, so she needs to be destroyed even though she’s trapped in “an inescapable prison.” Would destroying her mean releasing her first, putting our planet’s health in danger? How should I know? I am not a sorcerer.

Anyway, centuries have passed, and only a few things in the world remain unchanged. That includes Nic Cage’s haircut. It is at this time where Balthazar finally meets ten-year-old Dave, the prophesized Prime Merlinian, in New York. Dave is also the one who accidentally releases Horvath, who later releases Morgana, but anyway.

Fast forward another ten years, and Dave is now a science geek who specializes in Tesla coils. He encounters his childhood crush Becky, but they are interrupted by Balthazar and Horvath, and the search for the missing Grimhold is on. The search causes action sequences where fire balls, plasma balls, and standard dialogue are exchanged from one sorcerer to another. Also, a steel eagle, a dragon, and all sorts of sorcery are displayed all throughout New York, which is immediately noticeable for every functioning human eye, except those of New Yorkers.

The story of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is without thought, and the effects are without imagination. Why so many plasma balls? Where were the citizens of New York during this fight to save the world? The movie, I’m sad to say, doesn’t care.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Rating: ★★★★½

The world that Scott Pilgrim dwells in seems like a paradise for all who cherish the activities and cultures of the teenage life. Here is a world centered on teenage relationships, video games, comic books, and rock n’ roll. It allows a freedom that the youth could celebrate on a daily basis. The influence and sightings of adults in this movie are almost, if not entirely, absent.

Not only are the young characters here privileged with such an exciting reality, but they are also presented with powers of many possibilities. I am thinking of a scene that could be used as an example. Oh, yeah. After an evil ex-boyfriend has been stripped of his supremacy by the vegan police, our hero head butts him, and the weakened villain explodes, leaving a pile of coins just waiting to be the fed to greedy slot machines. In a world where sudden death turns into instant riches, one would suspect that murders would be much more rampant, but not here. Given the limitless possibilities, the characters actually behave quite well.

But before any exploding takes place, we are introduced to our hero, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera). He enjoys his time with his rock band. He often gets along with his gay roommate, Wallace. He is happily dating a girl named Knives whom he really likes. Scott Pilgrim is satisfied with where he is and who he’s with, until of course he literally meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Now Scott wants to be with Ramona, but she warns him that that couldn’t happen. You see, Ramona has seven evil ex-boyfriends who all want to kill Scott. Not good.

If Scott really wants Ramona, he must not only fight the bastards, but defeat them. Yes, I know. The plot for “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is one that is shallow, but what it lacks in plot it makes up for just about everything else. The script is vigorously funny and when the dialogue pauses for some ass-kicking, there is a display of imaginative visuals accompanied by some invigorating soundtracks.

The director is Edgar Wright, who I am a giant fan of. Wright is a comic genius, a master of satire, and probably the only director in Hollywood today who can use the nuisance of quick cuts and make them enjoyable and hilarious. Those who have seen “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” cannot argue with this truth. And like “Scott Pilgrim”, his two previous films are also without a complex plot, but it is his passion for filmmaking that elevates every film that he involves himself with.

If “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” feels and functions like a video game, then Edgar Wright is its programmer. But Wright is also a gamer, and he enjoys his creation, and allows himself to have as much fun as he can while making them. His passion is contagious, and we can only hope that he never runs out of coins to keep playing.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Just halfway through their journey and the Pevensie kids are already accepting gifts from Santa Clause. Because they have been good kids all year, they are rewarded with daggers, arrows, swords, and healing potions. Normal is this kind of happening in Narnia, a magical place where being attacked by wolves and chased by the police are the exact same thing.

A war is at its peak, and Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are evacuated to a safe home outside the country for safety. The youngest of the bunch, Lucy, hides inside a large wardrobe during a game of hide and seek. Before Peter could count to a hundred, Lucy has already made a faun friend named Mr. Tumnus at the snowy forests of Narnia.

None of Lucy’s siblings believe her testimony of an entire world behind the wardrobe at the spare room. All of this change, of course, when all four of them stumble upon the land of Narnia. Their initial reactions to what they encounter show what kind of people they are. Peter, the eldest, does not want to let his siblings down as the leader of their pack. Susan, the oldest girl, always wants to take the smart step, and dislikes any risk. Edmund, the youngest boy, is somewhat of a selfish jerk while Lucy is the complete opposite of him.

Like all action-adventure movies, their traits are tested near the end with situations that only they can control. Negative characteristics are conquered while positive traits are enforced. “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” is the first of The Chronicles of Narnia book series by famous author, C.S. Lewis. Kids will enjoy this, and adults who have read the books when they were children may just have an equally good time.

Here you’ve got your talking animals, fights between good and evil, and the moral lessons that come along the way. Narnia may be an unusual world for the Pevensies, but it is all familiar in Hollywood. The story may be weary, but its construction is full of skill and diligence.

A great (and righteous) display of special effects enhances the world of Narnia. Take into account the character of Aslan. He is an animated lion, and he very much looks like the real thing. You can see his hair move with grace as it follows the direction of the wind. But let us remember that special effects are not affected by the wind, which means, the makers of Aslan had to imagine their own wind. A windy day in Narnia is a busy day for Aslan’s animators.