Best Visual Effects

[8.0] After finishing The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson tackled a remake of his favorite film, King Kong. Jackson’s remake is largely faithful to the 1933 original, while generously expanding the storyline and embellishing some of the characters. Jackson protracts the opening act more than necessary, but his interpretation of Skull Island is amazing. It’s this middle portion of the movie that delivers the …

[7.0] Ron Howard (Splash, A Beautiful Mind) directs this sweet story about a group of nursing home residents who discover a ‘fountain of youth’ in a nearby pool. Turns out, though, that the pool’s power is extra-terrestrial. Soon the old folks become friends with aliens and an interesting proposition is made: Would you like to leave Earth and live forever on an alien planet? Wilford …

[7.0] A gaggle of Oscar-winners go topsy-turvy and fight to survive when a luxury liner capsizes at sea in the trend-setting disaster flick, The Poseidon Adventure. The film delivers on producer Irwin Allen’s desire to blow shit up (think of him as the proto-Michael Bay), but also manages to give its venerable cast plenty to chew on. The characters are engaging and no one is …

[5.0] On one hand, I like that Total Recall reminds me of an old-fashioned sci-fi yarn from the ’50s. On the other hand, it’s not quite cheesy enough for me to fully embrace that way. I don’t like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. He does the film no favors, and I can imagine dozens of other actors who might have helped the movie find …

[6.0] Just as Robert Zemeckis had to make Forrest Gump and Tim Burton had to make Big Fish, so did David Fincher have to make The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. All three directors are known for their visual and/or technical prowess, and all three felt the need to wring a tear-jerker out of their filmographies, maybe just to prove they could? Benjamin Button is …

[6.5] The Irwin Allen disaster epic is alive and well in this 1996 summer blockbuster in which evil aliens threaten to destroy Earth, leaving it up to a rag-tag team of politicians, soldiers, and scientists (plus a drunken crop-duster and a pole dancer!), to save humanity. The writing and directing team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (Stargate, Godzilla) almost strike the perfect tone for …

[8.5] Dreams are a notoriously difficult thing on which to base a movie. In dreams there are no rules, no parameters — and in movies about dreams, writers and filmmakers are often all too eager to take advantage of our suspension of disbelief — because in dreams, hey? Who the hell’s to say what could or could not happen, especially if the contrivance pushes the …

[10] Peter Jackson (Dead Alive, The Frighteners) embraces the Herculean task of bringing Tolkien’s supreme fantasy to the silver screen, and hits a home run. The Fellowship of the Ring gets the trilogy off to a strong start, as Frodo Baggins and his companions set off to destroy the One Ring.  Jackson is faithful to the source material while masterfully balancing action, horror, heart, and …

[9.0] A man slowly discovers that reality is not what it seems and that we are all actually slaves to more advanced technological organisms in this uber-cool, groundbreaking sci-fi flick with an incredible screenplay and visionary aesthetics. There is a place in cinema for Keanu Reeves, and it is The Matrix. (Who knew?) Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne steal the show, both playing walking talking …

[9.0] By anchoring his screenplay in one of the most inherently compelling tragedies of the twentieth century and placing the the weight of the story on Kate Winslet’s able shoulders, James Cameron concocts a recipe for the biggest money-making movie of all time (still true as of this writing, though his own Avatar threatens to dethrone the ill-fated vessel). The movie is split in two, …

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