National Treasure: Book of Secrets
National Treasure required a lot of suspension of disbelief. It was a fun movie, but you really had to let your brain go a bit to buy that the founding fathers went to that much trouble to hide the secret, Masonic treasure. All the clues leading to clues leading to more clues was fun, but a bit hard to believe.
Book of Secrets stretches credibility even further, starting with why Nick Cage gets involved in the first place. It's supposedly to clear the name of an ancestor who's recently been implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but I don't think you're supposed to think that hard about how finding a lost City of Gold is going to do that. Just like you're not supposed to think too hard about the even more ludicrous string of clues.
But if you're willing to ignore all that, it is a movie about a bunch of treasure hunters looking for a lost City of Gold. And, like National Treasure, it's got a great cast. All the original folks are back except Sean Bean, but he's replaced by Ed Harris, which is a fairly even trade. And it's got Helen Mirren as Nick's mom. I could've sworn the first movie said she was dead, but going back and rewatching that scene just now, it's really left open to interpretation, so no need to call the continuity cops.
Three out of five conspiratory presidents. (I give the original four out of five.)
I Am Legend
I let my hopes get raised by some friends who saw this before I did and loved it. Yes, Will Smith does a wonderful acting joy and it's worth seeing just for that.
Unfortunately, the ending is completely changed from the novella and not for the better. The novella actually makes you ask some interesting questions about what it means to be human. This is just a Hollywood, feel-good ending.
It's an okay Will Smith flick, but it's not I Am Legend. Also, the mutants are boring.
Two out of five boring mutants.
Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo
Charlie Chan movies are fairly formulaic, but I like the formula. They're usually about a bunch of rich people, at least one of whom has gotten him or herself into trouble with a murder and it's up to Charlie Chan to figure out what really happened and save the day. I can see why the average moviegoer in the '30s would've liked them. You get a glimpse at the glamorous, rich life, but you also see that rich folks have a lot of problems of their own. And it's nice to see a friendly, man of the people like Charlie be the one to fix everything.
Monte Carlo isn't any better or worse than the rest of Warner Oland's Chan films, but all that means is that it's a clever mystery and utterly charming.
Four out of five shifty-looking bartenders.