24 March 2009
Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Chancellor Palpatine is actually Sith Lord Darth Sidious. Anakin Skywalker, legendary Jedi Knight throughout the galaxy, has just sworn his allegiance to the Sith, and massacred everyone in the Jedi Temple. Obi-Wan and Yoda find out the parties responsible, with Yoda going to fight Sidious, leaving Obi-Wan to strike down his metaphorical brother. He hides aboard Padme's starship as she lands on the volcanic planet Mustafar, where Anakin has just slaughtered the unsuspecting Separtist leaders, including Nute Gunray. Padme pleads for him to leave all this behind and just be with her, but the unexpected presence of Obi-Wan sends Anakin in a rage, and Force-chokes her to unconsciousness. Obi-Wan and Anakin circle each other in a verbal jest, Obi-Wan trying one last time to connect to the young boy he once knew, but as the conversation draws to a close, Obi-Wan comes to realize that man is gone, replaced by a lethal weapon of evil and darkness. They draw their sabers, ready to duel to the death. Brother against brother.
Why I Dig It:
Say what you want about George Lucas' "talent" as a writer, but the sheer awesomeness of this sequence is irrefutable. This lightsaber duel is more than just, well, yet another lightsaber duel like Darth Maul fighting Kenobi and Qui-Gon in Episode I (1999), where it was simply bad guy vs. good guys. This duel is more personal. You have these two friends, who know each other so intimately they can anticipate their next action, who are then forced to do combat, not by choice but because they must (well, Obi-Wan at least). It's amazing and heartbreaking all at the same time. Whereas Yoda and Sidious are having a battle in the Senate arena that decides the future of the Republic - light vs. dark, you could say - this fight is all about these two people and all the damage they've done to eachother. With every clash of their saber, every hurtful comment Anakin spats and Obi-Wan responds with a regretful, wavering tone - the emotion behind the swords is felt, and only amplified by John Williams' resolute masterpiece, "Battle of the Heroes." (which kicks in once Anakin and Kenobi are on that giant tower floating through the sea of lava) So why do I dig it? Because it's the best damn sequence - let alone sword fight - that sells emotion without saying a single damn word! [minus their off-and-on spats, mind you]
This sequence also represents something personal for me. On that night on May 19th, 2005, every single person in the auditorium knew what this moment was, and how special it was. Here wasn't just another lightsaber duel, this was THE lightsaber duel. This was the sword fight of the century, and for some, the culmination of twenty-so years of anticipation and wonder. As Obi-Wan ignites his lightsaber, reluctantly but ready to do battle with a brother, you could almost hear the tense atmosphere in the room and the accelerated beating of our hearts. And once Anakin ignites his and does a rather well calculated back-flip, it was almost like our hearts took a few second pause as we understood that this was the moment.
And while I'm at it, who's brilliant idea was it to keep that blasted "I have the high ground!" moment? Really, would it be too much to ask Lucas' to come up with some other, more creative direction to bring about Anakin's loss of limbs? I mean, c'mon! Anakin should have been smart enough to just go a few more feet to, say, the right and be out of Obi's blade reach! Ugh, that's perhaps one of the more cinematic goofs that annoy me.
Too geeky? I can deal, because it's worth describing because there's never going to be an event as grand, as epic, and as shared as this sequence.
Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan, the most important duel ever put to screen. The fight of champions, the fight of brothers, the fight of light and darkness clashing, of ideologies and emotions, of betrayal and love. Epic in every sense of the word.
Now, if only Lucas could release a un-edited cut of the ENTIRE duel, that would be a wet dream come true.
23 March 2009
Initially, I was planning this whole brilliant scheme of me watching said season three episodes and then writing analytical reviews similar to TV Squad. Frak, I even made a nifty episode guide that I ended up never updating. My damn procrastinating lazyness kicked in, and I never did it. I started a post several times, but never got around to actually finishing it. School work and all. Thus, I'm going to use this post as a sort of compilation of thoughts from all 10 episodes, and when the eventual DVD release comes out, I'll give a more thorough, thoughtful review [that I know you're all anxious for, right?].
I confess if someone wanted to start getting into the series, this season probably wouldn't be the best starting point. So if anyone reading that did exactly that, I strongly recommend renting out the first season at least; it has some strong storytelling and plenty of "wowage" twists and turns. Like I said in my review of season two, I was hooked.
Season Three Thoughts:
- The season jump-started brilliantly with "It Happened One Night" (301), a direct continuation of "I've Had the Time of My Life" (223), where Kyle is on the hunt for Amanda, who has been kidnapped by a unseen foe. His search brings him to Latnok, and with the help of Jessi, who has been "left behind" by her 'mother' Sarah, he breaks in and gets Amanda out. It's here that we first meet Cassidy (Hal Ozsan, The Fallen) and find out Mark (Jonathan Zucker, Sex Drive) work for Latnok. Oh, and Josh and Andy's relationship heats up to popcorn-level hotness. Overall, it was a brilliant, brilliant episode.
- Sadly, the following three weren't so much; and it's here that I think watching the show on DVD helps so much. See, on DVD, where you can watch them in consecutive order without hiatus, the episodes seem so much better and less infuriating, because you're a little bit more relaxed on wanting some Kyle action. On TV, the episode ends and you're thinking, another episode down without any answers or plot development. Yippie. Episodes 302-304 deal primarily with the Kyle, Amanda, and Jessi conflict. It's also in 303 where shit hits the fan when Kyle and Jessi kiss [but to save Amanda - which would be a funny explanation moment of this was a sitcom].
- I want to address the Andy and Josh relationship here, and I probably will again. I can honestly say I haven't seen a more adult relationship amongst two teens on television. This isn't a Ryan/Marrisa or Blair/Chuck shipper type thing, this is a completely mature relationship where the two communicate and approach things from a very adult level. They're not joshin' our chain, here. It's amazing to see these two lovers and how their relationship develops. One of the major crimes season three committed is a huge lack of Andy/Josh screentime. Not only does Jean-Luc give us his all as a actor during their scenes together, but they are nearly always the most interesting and enjoyable aspect of a episode. I genuinely look forward to their scenes, and I definitely wouldn't mind if there was a spin-off series based solely on these characters. They're that damn awesome.
-"Life Support" (305) was a great episode, if only because of the actress who played Gretchen. I love that girl, she was frakking hilarious. And (spoiler) they missed a golden opportunity to kill of Nicole. Granted, I know there needed to be a reason to get Kyle into Latnok, but really, this would have been a great exit for the character and emotionally maneuver Kyle in a different direction - or perhaps grow him up a little. But back to the main point - Gretchen was great! I actually thought she would be fantastic for a Joss Whedon show - she has that same eccentric but lovable quality of Emma Caulfield and Alyson Hannigan. And yes, that's a compliment.
- The following episode, "Chemistry 101", was lame. Total waste of a episode. Again, I think this would be far better received on DVD. At least it set-up things that get a payoff later.
- So, did Latnok kill Baylin, too? If that's the case, were they trying to isolate Kyle from everyone who could protect him so they can get to him and manipulate him for their needs?
- And by the way, I'm okay with Kyle and Jessi hooking up in a romantic sense, but I also wouldn't mind seeing Kyle and Amanda finally have a somewhat adult relationship, not something out of a half-way decent 7th Heaven episode with "I trust you" and "I believe you"'s all over the place.
- Finally, its the last three episodes and we're getting somewhere! Sure, things are still moving slow, but we're getting progress, and that's what counts! Alright, Jessi's now beginning to realize via her uber-cool superhuman powers that Sarah is, in fact, not amongst the living. The scene that this happens, though, is bloody heartbreaking. Phenomenal performance from Ms. Jaimie Alexander.
- "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (309) that had a twist at the end I totally didn't see coming until 10 seconds before it was revealed. Bravo, writers, bravo! Plus, this episode was pretty dark, and I love dark. Jessi was getting a little Anakin-y with her powers. Sweeeettt.
- Oh, and Stephen Traiger is a awesome dad. Watch the episode, you'll understand.
- The series finale, "Bringing Down the House" (310) was a pretty good capper - until the last 15 seconds, which concluded with a lame so-called "cliffhanger." Anyhow, there was Kyle using his powers some more, including that one shot of Kyle jumping 20 or so feet to hold onto a railing which was in the season three promos from December...so long ago...but it was awesome. My only grievance with that is - when did he learn to do that? The only times I recall him jumping and flying is when he's sprayed some water on the ground below him so he can manipulate it. Oh well, I'm not going to over-analyze the situation. It was cool. At this point, that's what matters.
- "Nicole was right about not knowing the person I'm becoming. The person I was...would never have done THIS." Then BAM! Cassidy goes flying! Now THAT is what I'm talking about, Kyle! That was a total PWNAGE moment [yes, I went there - I wrote Pwnage...hopefully correctly]. And plus, when you want to think about it thoroughly, it's a totaly correct evolution of the character: his adoptive parents are in danger by this man, and his instinct is to protect them, no matter the cost. It's well within his character, and I dug the hell out of it. Easily awarded Best Kyle Moment Ever.
The day after the finale, executive producer Julie Plec gave ABC Family some really vague answeres to some decent questions. Honestly, they weren't satisfactory responses, but hopefully this show is continued via comic series as so many seem to be these days (Pushing Daises, Buffy, Angel, Battlestar Galactica) or official novels.
I'm sad to see the show go. Perhaps in its fourth season, I'd be a little bit more OK with it [I dunno why, but fourth seasons seem to me a good point to conclude things], but not much I can do about that. For what we have, Kyle XY had its ups and downs like any show, but its intrigue and wonderful cast kept you coming back each week for more. I hope for the best for all the cast members (Magda Apanowicz, who plays Andy, already scored a job in Caprcia), as well as the writers. Thank you for giving us 43 episodes of Kyle XY, and good luck on your future endeavors!
starring Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson
written & directed by Tony Gilroy
Universal, 2009, 125 mins., Rated PG-13
** (out of ****)
It's within the last two minutes of this very, very long heist thriller that everything suddenly becomes worth it. Granted, the finale might make you feel like you wasted two hours of your life, but it's so fitting and tidy - not to mention quite humorous - that nearly everything is forgiven. Besides, we're treated with two awesome performances from Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson playing big-time corporate CEOs, who quite easily steal the entire film from our two leads. When the closing credits rolled, the only scene that I really thought about was during the opening credits, when Giamatti and Wilkinson walk toward eat other at a airfield, barking profanities (one assumes - dialog takes backstage to the music) and engaging in a knock-out dragfight until their respective goonies come in to stop them. You could stop the entire movie right there, and you'd be satisfied. But sadly, and I say this with a heavy heart because I want to throw accolades to everything Clive Owen does, the movie is rather boring, potentially losing your interest relatively quickly.
Or, of course, that could just be me and your eyes are glued to the screen every second of its running time.
Keep in mind, I'm not saying the flick's bad - not by a bloody longshot. In fact, it has a pretty fun script that occasionally thinks it's smarter than it actually is, and all the cast members give top-notch performances that are so giddy and fun that you sorta wish you were there when they were filming this movie, because it's obvious they had a jolly good time. And if those two factors don't work for you, and you're a soundtrack-phile, Duplicity works for you, too.
Getting ahead of myself - anyway, Duplicity is about a very intricate, complicated "Ha! Fooled you!" type movie where our two leads - Owen and Roberts - are two highly skilled ex-government agents (one ex-M16, one ex-CIA) infiltrate the perspective companies of the two head honchos: Giamatti and Wilkinson. Wilkinson announces that he is developing a product that will change the world of something to that degree - in essence, very important. Owen and Roberts are on a mission to get that product formula and collect some mullah from the highest bidder. There's so much more than that going on, but I felt I'd make it simple.
Let's get this part out of the way: the cast is excellent, as stated above. Owen and Roberts are a awesome pair that develop a sufficient enough spark to make their so-called 'relationship' interesting enough to suffer through (more on this later). But, as I also said above, the show-stealers are Giamatti and Wilkinson. I don't think these guys have a bad performance bone in their body. Of course, I haven't seen their whole body of work, so it's a premature statement, but from what I've seen of them, they're convicted to their roles wholeheartedly, and I always seem to walk away from one of their movies with even more respect to 'em.
As for the 'suffer through' comment, Duplicity is also needlessly long and has giant leaps of boringness. And the real kicker is that even during particular heist sequences and plans gone awry moments...I was bored. Perhaps something's wrong with me - I mean, I didn't exactly feel the tension of the Frost and Nixon interviews in Ron Howard's creatively titled Frost/Nixon whereas many others were glued to every second of screentime. Point is, the film coulda used a little longer in the cutting room.
For a "thrilling" heist movie, Duplicity bores one a little bit, but the last two minutes either make or break the film. Some will love it, some will not-so-much dig it. Me, being one of those who loved it, find that it salvaged the film. Let me reiterate: Duplicity is NOT bad, it's just boring.
I Love You, Man
starring Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, J.K. Simmons, Jon Favreau
written by John Hamburg & Larry Levin
directed by John Hamburg
Dreamworks, 2009, 104 mins., Rated R
**1/2 (out of ****)
I love Paul Rudd. I didn't care that I Love You, Man looked to be a rehash of comedies that have come before; the simple fact that Rudd was the leading man with Segel as co-star was enough for me. So with the awesomeness of Rudd already in play, all I really cared about was that it was funny. Thankfully, it is.
I Love You, Man may not break any new territory in the plot department, but admittedly, the film's premise isn't exactly something explored thoroughly in films. It's either that the guy does something stupid and must make amends to his fiance, and his wise-cracking sidekick bud is there to tell him what's up and how to save the day; or a guy whose stuck in his childhood state but needs to grow up now. Here, we're treated with a grown-up, well-respected man with a wonderful, beautiful, understanding and independent fiancée, but he has no "best man", let alone a close male friend. All his life, he's pretty much been friends with the female persuasion, finding conversations with guys more awkward than anything else (and by extension, his scenes are awkward for us, too - but I enjoyed the hell out of it). But with a wedding coming up, he's desperate to find a close guy friend. And that's basically the plot of the film padded out with a lot of improv jokes and gags (is there any other these days?) and a ridiculous obsession with music [which seems to becoming a trend for Rudd, after playing a KISS-nerd in Role Models].
In a nutshell, Rudd is at his best [though I think I loved him the most - despite his lack of actual screentime - in last year's Forgetting Sarah Marshall] and Segel brings his down-to-earth, real-life type of guy persona to the table again, making him instantly relatable and likable. Rashida Jones, who has evidently had a already stable body of work of which I've apparently never seen, is quite the ideal wife with impeccable comedic skills. It's truly an ensemble cast that works together to make potentially mundane jokes seem like the best thing since sliced bread! [oh, how I hate that expression] One thing that irks me is that the great J.K. Simmons is sadistically underused. This guy was arguably one of the best things about such critically acclaimed films like Juno and Burn After Reading! It's a real kicker in the knockers that he doesn't have more scenes. In fact, I would pay big bucks just to watch him and one other co-star (preferably Rudd) bicker for a hour and a half without advancing any sort of a thing resembling a plot; he's that damn awesome.
I think the best compliment I can give I Love You, Man is that it felt real. Projects like 40-Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Knocked Up, Drillbit Taylor, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall - nothing felt real; it all came across as a heightened reality of sorts. Within the first 10 minutes of ILYM, there's a proposal and oral sex discussions via a speaker-phoned conversation with girlfriends, and none of that felt forced or made deliberately for laughs. Obviously, the main draw of a comedy is to elicit some "heheheh's" and "hahaha's", but a little bit of grounded reality goes a long way...
I highly recommend I Love You, Man, because not only is it a riot with phenomenal performances that you can identify with and earn your respect, but because it's a step above a majority of those other widely known projects that have that "Apatow Stamp of Approval." This flick proves you don't need to be in his wonderful graces to have one helluva fantastic film. Oh, and to see Rashida Jones - marry me, girl! I really wish I had more to say about I Love You, Man, but for some reason, I can never seen to write enough about comedies other than "it made me laugh" or "holy potatoes, Batman, this blows major shark chunks." Luckily, this film rocks. So go see it. Like, now-ish.
22 March 2009
starring Eric McCormack, Rafer Weigel, William Shatner, Audie Englund
written by Mark A. Altman & Robert Meyer Burnett
directed by Robert Meyer Burnett
1998, 121 mins., Rated R
***(out of ****)
If you didn't bother looking at the credits, your everyday moviegoer would probably conclude Kevin Smith wrote and directed this comedy. And keep in mind, this is a huge compliment. I hold Smith at the utmost respect, and even if his films may occasionally not be up to snuff, his scripts are always spectacular. Unfortunately, Free Enterprise doesn't fully reach his caliber of awesomeness, but it's close enough and executed similar enough that it's a admirable and appreciated attempt. I first heard about this flick whilst leaving Faboys a few weeks ago - some fellow audience members were talking about the William Shatner cameo in the flick, and brought up his role here. This was a revelation, although it should have been a hardly surprising one: William Shatner was in another sci-fi comedy! I quickly keyboarded the title to my Netflix Que, and voilia! - it landed in my mailbox two days later. Do keep in mind, the version I'm reviewing is the extended edition pictured above.
Basically, this movie's about growing up, and the difficulties and burdens that come along with that. Life-long Star Trek geeks Mark (McCormack) and Robert (Weigel) are trying to pitch their serial killer movie "Bradykillers" to some studios, but that's going nowhere. Relationship-wise, they're getting nowhere. Life-wise, they're getting nowhere. They're stuck in this rut. But then, one day in a bookstore, they meet their idol, a one Mr. William Shatner, and instead of being this idealistic awesome man, he turns out to be a pathetic oldy who wants to be left alone. This acts as a wake-up call for our two leads. But despite their epiphany, they grow a relationship with Shatner anyway (who has this strange obsession of performing a 6-hour "Julius Caesar" musical on Broadway). Meanwhile, Robert meets the girl of his dreams at a comic store, and it's a difficult road to make sure everything works out well. This whole growing-up things tests Mark and Robert's friendship in a way they couldn't possible imagine! [how's that for a clincher, eh?]
As stated, the script is about as near perfect as you can get. To clarify, Smith is a brilliant writer with a unmatched knack at writing normal, non-screenwrite-y dialog, so to be even in the same league as that guy is a honor in my book. Alright, now that I got the accolades out of the way, the basic premise of Free Enterprise isn't anything new. Granted, Judd Apatow projects hadn't come out when this did, but even then, not new. However, it's the combination of the script and relatable actors that pull this entire project off without a hitch. There's sci-fi and comic references in nearly every scene, there's plenty of sex jokes, and there's your usual "been there, done that" storylines that somehow seem refreshingly new. Kudos to screenwriters Altman & Burnett, I look forward to their work in the future.
McCormack, or "that guy from Will & Grace!" displays his dramatic side, while Weigel and Shatner verge a little more in the pathetic territory as guys who don't know what to do with themselves. Shatner, at least, is very obviously enjoying himself - which is nice to see that a celebrity frequently indulges himself in a little self-referential jokes.
So if you like a coming-to-terms-with-adulthood story with sporadic Star Trek and Star Wars references that nearly shames you because you know where each quote and reference is from, then Free Enterprise is for you. Hell, I'd recommend the movie for Shatner's "Julius Caesar" alone, which I hope sees the light of day on Broadway. David E. Kelly shoulda worked that into a episode of Boston Legal; bollocks - missed opportunities.
starring Milo Ventimiglia, Michael Weston, Lauren Lee Smith, Johnny Whitworth, Keiro O'Donnell, Alyssa Milano
written by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
directed by Marc Schoelermann
2008, 93 mins., Rated R
*** (out of ****)
Good to know there's people out there as messed up in the head as I am. Once you see this movie, you'll understand my meaning. Pathology is bizarre, and definitely wouldn't survive a wide theatrical release, because I don't think the public would really know how to react to it. The film focuses on the darkness within ourselves, blatantly saying "Dude, it's our nature", and for the more Disney-fed folk, I doubt that's a concept they'd like to explore. But for me, I relish it, I dig it, and I gobble it up, and it's for that reason and plenty of others that I find Pathology to be a awesome movie and highly recommendable.
Inspired by Jason's glowing review of the movie and my interest in Milo Ventimiglia projects (I've been following his career since his Gilmore Girls days; and if you want to start riffing on me about Gilmore Girls, bring it on, dude!), Pathology was a must-see. I figured, at the very least, Milo can flex out his "brooding" abilities: a hardened glare their, a disapproving eye-twitch, etc. Plus, he had that whole wearing dark/badass look going on, so it was obvious he's trying to get himself recognized as a serious, deep actor. And for the most part it works, but Milo is, sadly, unimpressive. Perhaps it's because his work in Heroes has been so lame lately that I'm taking out my disappointment on him here.
Ted (Ventimiglia) just graduated from that oh-so-prestigious place called Yale (no biggie) and gets a internship in the pathology department at a big-time Philadelphia hospital. Being the smarty brains with all the answers doesn't make him a sensational favorite amongst his co-workers, but they decide to reveal to him a little game they've been hatching lately: what they do is that one of the team members goes out and commits a "perfect murder", a once it gets back to the pathology unit, the team have to decipher the cause of death and how that particular person did it. Things, of course, get out of hand, as Ted and Jake, the ringleader of the group, begin competing far outside any sort of civilized boundaries, and unlock their dark, primitive side...
On that note, Pathology very much is a exploration of our primitive nature. As Jake tells Ted, "Really, who needs a reason? We're animals. It's our nature to kill." Jake and the gang enjoy the hell out of what they're doing - the thrill of the murder, of the game. At first Ted is appalled at what's going on, but he gradually becomes intrigued, nearly seduced into what they're doing and decides to join in. He hides what he's been doing to his girlfriend, quite aware of the monster that he's become, trying to maintain what little level of humanity is decentcy he has left in him. Ted's progression from the goodie-two-shoes Yale student to homicidal, revenge-driven master manipulator is a doozy, but riveting to watch nonetheless. It's a waaayy toned down Anakin Skywalker, essentially.
Pathology isn't for everybody, but for those intrigued, I nearly guarantee a good time. Milo fans will eat this up with his mass amount of broodiness, but folks interested in deeper psychological stories with a bit of gore and nudity will revel in the flick's deliciousness. Egh, that's a strange closing paragraph. Pathology's frakked up my head!
starring Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Rose Bryne
written by Alex Garland
directed by Danny Boyle
Fox Searchlight, 2007, 107 mins., Rated R
*** (out of ****)
This movie was INTENSE! And I'm so sorry I dismissed this when it hit theaters as redundant sci-fi garbage; I feel really bad now, like I made a deliberate protest of something special. It wasn't until recently - with the constant parading of Danny Boyle's name at every bloody website you visit - that I finally caved in and sat down to watch Sunshine. Though, I gotta say, when we still had promo discs at my work which replayed the same trailers over and over in a loop, the Sunshine trailer nearly always grabbed our attention - the haunting music, the slam-dunk jaw-dropping visuals all caught our interest, but it wasn't exactly something we were all about to go out and see/rent immediately. And like I said above, I was wrong to have that opinion. Although this movie won't appeal to everyone [best example of this would be the work of Richard Kelly: I absolutely hate with a fiery passion his Donnie Darko and Southland Tales, finding both of them self-indulgent pieces of garbage of which he doesn't even know what we 'created'], the beautiful visuals and mesmerizing music alone make the attempt worth it.
In a nutshell, the film's plot is that the sun is dying, and a crew is launched into space to fire this "package", presumably a bomb, into it in order to ignite it for a while longer. At least, I'm pretty sure that's the plan. The crew is made up of self-centered, egotistical scientists seconding as astronauts. Once a transmission from a lost older model of their ship is picked up, the crew conclude that it would be smart to double their chances of success - so they decide to go to this old ship and pick up their "package." But of course, things go terribly awry, and everybody must make sacrifices in order to survive.
Alright, first off, let's speak about the film's most talked-about aspect: the visuals. Yes, indeed, they're everything you heard of, and more! I don't know what type of budget the film had, but just the sequences with the sun alone were awe-inspiring and about as realistic a depiction of the sun as I wager we're ever going to get. This giant ball of fire that is the sun has never before has it been so threatening on film as it is here. Isn't that sorta nifty? It's simultaneously beautiful and frightening! I could spend a good chunk of my day studying the visual effects frame by frame.
Oh, and let's speak about the film's climax, which I know is getting a lot of flake. It really is one of those "what the frak?" moments. Spoilers ahead, in case you didn't get the clue by me saying I'm gonna discuss the ending. Anyway, the ship gets fired up, and Capa (Murphy) is inside the "package", readying it up for it's big delivery [hehehe]. More complicated, bizarre stuff happens and one of the last visuals we see of Capa is him stuck in this giant room as this enormous wall of fire comes right up to him, and instead of burning him to a crisp, stops right before burning his bleeding nose off. We then cut to earth, as we hear a voice over from Capa's last video message sent to his family, saying if the sun is a little bit brighter, then they succeeded. That last minute was alright; I just don't know what the frak happened with Capa inside the "package." It's one giant mess. This ending is brought up in a lot of reviews, and anyone whose listened to a commentary or read some convoluted explanation, I don't care how frakked up it is, tell me!
Murphy and Evans give fantastic performances. I knew Murphy had it in him, but Evans was a surprise, knowing him basically for his action/thriller type flicks. Michelle Yeoh's addition was unexpected, but then again, she co-starred in bloody Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, so this is a giant step up for her. There's several other actors who you'll be pointing your fingers at onscreen, saying "it's that dude!", but the name escapes you.
Get away from all the dazzling special effects and cinematography, what we got here is a movie about people and the choices we make under severe, uncompromising pressure. Or, furthermore, how we bring about such nut-case choices to our doorstep by making choices made with good intention but ending up frakking everything else. There's even a element of fate in all of this, even though I'm quite sure that's not the direction screenwriter Garland was going for. By choosing to locate the earlier model of the spaceship Icarus - made with good intentions, mind you - they've essentially doomed themselves. It's also quite interesting to see characters stand up unselfishly when it's really important and say, "my life's not important - this is. Save earth." When the fate of a entire planet is at stake, ego suddenly takes a back door. How very human of us - we're all-important until some catastrophe happens, and it's then we understand what truly is meaningful and what isn't.
In fact, if you wanted to see a common theme throughout all three of these movies, they're all relatable in that they delve into people and their actions. So, that's kinda nifty how that all turned out, isn't it? Or perhaps I should just take credit for planning it all...
Sunshine is a great movie. Expertly crafted, brilliantly written and acted, and if you can get past the hair-pullingly nutty finale, you will have quite the enjoyable experience. Plus, it's Danny Boyle - you just gotta respect the guy. He may not be the level of Spielberg, but he might someday...
21 March 2009
Pathetic, I know.
Although I love the show and really enjoy the themes and ideas presented within the context of a science fiction space opera, BSG "re-imagining" developer Ron Moore commented many a time of how they - the creative team - sorta threw caution out the window and went in some random direction because they needed something dramatic or some giant twist. There wasn't some big, grand scheme. This finale wasn't four years in the making, it was a desperate man's attempt of tying together years of fantastic happenings and unexplainable phenomena in three hours of television time.
And for the most part, he succeeded. For now, I have a few little remarks that I'm not going to bother to compile in some cohesive form, so I'm just going to make a list. As I continue musing over the events from the finale, and the other questions it raises, I'll add to the list.
(Keep in mind, spoilers follow; but really, if you're reading this post, either you deliberately want the finale spoiled for you, or you already watched the episode, thus making this disclaimer superfluous)
- The entire space battle was AWESOME! Epic, even. It easily rivaled, and perhaps surpassed, space fights in motion pictures with thrice the budget. If there's one irrefutable thing about this finale, it's that the giant, jaw-dropping, holy-potatoes of space battles did not disappoint.
- Roslin expressing her gratitude to Doc Cottle and in order to stop a potentially heartful moment, begs him to revert back to his normal self by stuffing a cigarette, grunting, and running off. This finale had many things lacking in previous episodes, one such felt aspect is a sense of humor, which seemed to return with full force.
- Alright. Now, what was Starbuck's true purpose for coming back? If the Gods were manipulating anything, why have her die in the first place? So she can blow up at earth, and her new body with a new albeit exact replica of her viper can fly back to Galactica and months later with the help of four of the Final Five and D'Anna charge up the coordinates for Earth? Why couldn't "All Along the Watchtower" make more of a presence in the show before these last four episodes?
- So this whole "harbinger of death" business is related to the Cylons, not the humans, correct?
- Although I love the usage of Gods and The One True God in the show, I feel Moore really dropped the boat in two of his explanations by using angels. When Moore didn't seem to conjure up a adequate answer for a burning question - such as the Six that Baltar sees and the Baltar that Caprica sees - he equates them to divine intervention. Cloaked to seem ingenious, it comes across more as a series creator simply giving up, shrugging, and saying: "I got nothin'." Same thing goes with Starbuck - really lame 'explanation.'
- This may have been addressed before, but who exactly nuked the real Earth?
- I LOVED the sequence when the C.I.C. room "became" the opera house, when Caprcia Six and Baltar walked in with Hera, and the Final Five are standing/sitting above, exactly how it was in the vision. It was sweet.
- And concerning visions - that whole Laura, Athena, Six, and Hera sequence, the fruition of that vision, was intense, man.
- Another thing that bugs me about Kara's so-called purpose. Technically speaking, her whole life was meant to die and then show up in a new body to direct them to earth? Why? Why go through all that trouble? Why not have the coordinates for Earth already locked away in her head at a young age, and "All Along the Watchtower" clicks it on? And since, technically speaking, she should have remained dead if not for divine intervention, does this mean that there is absolutely no free will, and that the Gods were going to manipulate everything to their design regardless?
- The payoff from the seemingly dropped storyline of Tory killing Cally in "The Ties That Bind" (S04E03). Tyrol got himself some vengeance, big time! Say what you want about how awesome this finale was, but I think it'll be this sequence of pure rage and revenge that will be most talked about and revered for times to come.
- Gaius Baltar has always been a favorite character of mine in the series, and he's been horrendously underused this season (speaking of which, what is the purpose, now, of his companions needing guns to defend themselves? It seemed to be a major storyline that would show up later, but..nada). Luckily, he has a single moment of small redemption, of some sort of heroism by choosing to stay on Galactica and fight. I was even cheering at the tele.
- The flashbacks with Tigh and Adama at the strip club went on far too long, and added very little to the overall story. Also, what was up with the bird that Lee saw at Zack/Starbuck's apartment? Am I missing some sort of big-time symbolism?
- So, what exactly is God's whole giant grand schemy plan?
- Why exactly did Bill put himself in exile from everyone else? I wager he'd want to spend some much-needed time with Lee, but I guess he has better things to do...
- Let me get this straight - the explanation for all things unexplainable is that the force of the Gods [or in the Cylons case, the One God] are responsible for all of these freak happenings and strange visions that can't be possible? I can buy that, but I'm disappointed.
- And that damn space battle was AWESOME!
Overall, I'm satisfied with the finale of Battlestar Galactica. It tied up some loose ends, left others dangling, and also opened up other questions, but I guess you can't ever have a fully complete series finale [alright, I lied: The Shield finale was about as perfect as you can get]. Bloody hell, writing all this really makes me want to have a all-day BSG marathon. Well, maybe skip season two, the more lackluster of the seasons in my mighty opinion.
Anyway, how'd you guys like it?
19 March 2009
starring Sara Paxton, Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Martha Maclsaac, Spencer Treat Clark, Garret Dillahunt, Riki Lindhome, Aaron Paul
written by Carl Ellsworth & Adam Alleca
based on "The Last House on the Left" written & directed by Wes Craven
directed by Dennis Illiadis
Rogue Pictures, 2009, 100 mins., Rated R
*** (out of ****)
First thought exiting the theater: that was AWESOME! Second thought: I guess the main point of the movie is - join a damn swim team. (you'll understand better seeing the movie) Having never seen the original 1972 film by Wes Craven, this isn't going to turn into a comparison piece with me berating remakes and labeling them unnecessary, and how the "re-imagining" can never live up to the original; instead, I'm judging this film on its own merits. And this may surprise you, but The Last House on the Left is a damn good movie - it thrills you in all the right places and it pulls you emotionally into the scenes and characters. I don't think it would be a understatement that this is the best horror/thriller released in '09 yet.
Meet the Collingwoods - there's the father Jim, the mother Emma, and daughter Mary. They're going on vacation to their cabin in the woods in order to get back to some sort of normality, as they're still reeling from the death of Ben, Mary's brother. Mary, wanting to get away from her parents as soon as possible, get the heck out of Dodge and meets up with her buddy Paige, currently on duty at a convenience story. Once there, they talk about life, boys, getting wasted - the normal stuff. Well, their conversation gets overheard by a skulking teenage boy who offers them some of his dope, but it's at his motel. The girls go the motel, the boy expecting his guardians to be gone for a hour or so, but they unexpectedly arrive, thus putting a damper on the situation. See, these aren't your normal folks - these guys just sprung one of them, the boys' father, from custody, and these killers are on the run. And now that Paige and Mary have seen their faces, well - too much of a reliability. Later that evening, when all is said and done, a car crash forces the gang to take safe haven at a cabin...it just so turns out to be Emma and Jim's cabin. Eventually, they learn the truth of what happened, and those responsible, and the two plot out some down-and-dirty revenge.
First off, this movie is brutal. I heard the original had some very memorable scenes, and this one has its shares, as well. Rape seems to be getting more mainstream, as both this and Watchmen depict it in a uncompromisingly fashion, never sugar-coding it, which is probably for the best. The rape sequence here is harsh to watch, but Ms. Paxton captures our attention by the look she gives us in her eyes - one that could either be pain or complete nothingness. It's eerie and uncomfortable, but the acting makes it an amazing sequence. The death of her friend Paige (not really a spoiler) is equally as disturbing, as she's knifed to death in an all-too realistic fashion. Keep in mind, this isn't like a Friday the 13th film with fake blood tossed all over the place - this is about as honest-to-God real-ish as it gets in these type of flicks. While the parents exact their revenge, it's just as brutal, and just as merciless.
The movie also brings up the top of ethics and morality. Politically speaking, what this film depicts is wrong and these parents should be incarcerated. But emotionally, the audience is rooting for them all the way. We like to thing of ourselves as a just body of people, always displaying the goodness of human nature, but it's through movies like this and Watchmen that we should be getting the point - we're not all so good. Parents know that if their child was in danger, they would stop at nothing to get them out of harm's way. Throughout the entire movie, everyone wants these bad guys to get their asses hand to them, to pay for what they did; whereas look at Friday the 13th (if I may use that film as a example again), where we want Jason to slice and dice these idiotic teenagers to pieces. Those films are about having fun with the genre, and doesn't pull at the audiences' emotions like this one does. Politically speaking blokes would probably say this is wrong (as would a good handful of audience members), but the overwhelming majority would absolutely approve of what Jim and Emma do to these guys. [this sorta makes me think about the current season of "24", which is going through all of these ethical dilemmas throughout the season] It's just a going nowhere, interesting thought I wagered to bring up.
As our leading lady, Alexis Bledel-look-alike Sara Paxton is spectacular. We feel what she's feeling as she pulls us into her life so easily with how she acts, how she moves. Most interesting is her reactions and, furthermore, actions concerning the frakked up situation she's in. Cool-headed and calculating: if she wasn't a goodie two-shoes, she probably would be a fearsome Jigsaw-like bad guy. Martha Maclsaac, or better known as "that girl from Superbad!", seems to quite enjoy walking around in her bra, as most of her screen time in both films is spent hardly dressed. Here, she's stuck with the rebellious girl doing stupid things role, but at least she's given some occasionally humorous dialog here and there. The parents are awesome. Simply awesome. Played by Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter, they light up the screen, [though I confess there were times I mistook Goldwyn as Jake Weber, the dude from Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake in '04, and also on NBC's Medium; they sorta look alike] displaying a sense of warmth with their daughter, slight agony from the death of their son a year before and the depression that comes with it, and rage at the people responsible for their current predicament.
Garret Dillahunt (TV: The Sarah Connor Chornicles) plays the ring-leader Krung, and he's about as sadistic and scary as you can imagine. Suffice it to say, you're not exactly feeling sorry for him when shit hits the fall for him and his groupies. Riki Lindhorne freaked me out as Krung's girlfriend Sadie, and also delivered the "mandatory" on-screen nudity; I would not want to mess with this girl. All these actors - with a very fine, very tight screenplay - help propel this movie into "must-see" waters; everyone is on their A-game, and every single one of them is a treat to watch.
Ah, and I also want to address the last sixty seconds, as I heard people aren't all that enthusiastic about the epilogue. I'm not sure of the full extent of their grievances, and thus can't exactly give my version of their complaints, but I'll just give off my point-of-view of it. First off, I find that particular death to be corny, and definitely doesn't flow with what came before. That said, it was still entertaining. Everyone in the audience either laughed, cheered, or clapped when this big event happened. It was a powerful moment that was absolutely necessary - as it was a culmination of audience and character emotions hitting the breaking point. It's the final revenge, and unquestionably the most sadistic. Would I change how it came about? I probably would. But for what it's worth, it works.
The Last House on the Left was intense, gruesome, and bloody enjoyable. It comes highly recommended from yours truly. I don't think seeing the original is a prerequisite, as this stands up well enough on its own, but it might be worth checking out, if this remake is any indication of the awesomeness and creepiness of the original.
18 March 2009
starring Zach Cregger, Trevor Moore, Craig Robinson, Raquel Alessi
written & directed by Zach Cregger & Trevor Moore
2009, 89 mins., Rated R
*1/2 (out of ****)
Miss March is so, so, so, so, sooo bad: at several points throughout the movie, our main protagonist is put under stressful situations, and because he just woke up from a four-year coma, he’s not in full control of how bowel movement, so of course, he shits himself not once, not twice, or thrice, but four bloody times (perhaps more – I stopped counting after a while); it’s jokes and gags are so completely lame (here I’m thinking about the dickless Craig Robinson – and I mean that literally) that it borderlines insults our intelligence not unlike those [Beep] Movies from those two psychopaths who escaped a mental institution and decided to expose the world to their level of dumbassery; it casts 30-somethings as teenage leads, and they look every bit their age; and other crap that I’m not feeling particularly interested in writing down at this moment…
So why then did I find myself enjoying every minute of this damn movie that Lucifer himself would use to torture his victims in Hell? [Wow, that was way longer than I expected]. The first five minutes are great – we meet Eugene and Tucker as younglings as Tucker discovers a playboy for the first time: a world of bloody wonders. It’s a cute opening, but then we’re treated to the really obnoxious duo of Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore, who double as writers and directors [har, har, har – I get the joke!], who aren’t all that likable. However, I gotta give credit to Trevor, who has an amazing ability to pull off dumbfounded effortlessly – there’s one sequence [seen in the trailers] where a girl bounces off a bed and out a window, and Tucker just stands there, eyes wide, mouth ajar in shock – the camera lingers on him for a while without cutting, and it, at the very least, has gotta bring about a chuckle.
I chalk it up to being under pressure from mid-term exams, which is a reasonable assessment. Or perhaps my taste of humor has altered within the last year and I’m digressing to the concept of funniness that would make a 12-year old burst. Whatever the reason, I obviously acknowledge that this is a dumb movie and you probably shouldn’t waste your time [although the bit with the blood thirsty firefighters is actually sorta funny; and I love the abstinence bashing dialog], but I can’t help but add that I did enjoy it, and I did laugh, so perhaps someone else out there might like it. Of course, I don’t recommend you see it theatrically – God no, wait for the DVD release or watch it online if you must[this probably being one of the few times I don’t mind suggesting the not-so-legal route, but it applies].
Another hugely lacking aspect of Miss March is the concept of a “plot”; it’s more or less a loose concept that’s suggested just so sex jokes and gags can be implemented and our main leads can stare wide-eyed at the totally INSANE shit happening to them that they simply can’t believe it. Basically, Eugene and Tucker are two polar opposites – but they’re best friends:
As actors, Zach and Trevor are wooden, dull, uninspiring, uninteresting, and – as stated above – obnoxious, not to mention entirely too old for the parts. Writing – dull. Direction – nonexistent; which is pretty surprising considering both wrote and directed episodes of some strange series called “The Whitest Kids U Know”; anyone heard of this? You know the state of mind you’re supposed to be in to get maximum enjoyment from Pineapple Express? If you go that route and watch Miss March, it could actually be quite funny – or, if you’re like me and under tremendous pressure from school or work – but otherwise, it’s lame and crappy. The best thing to say about it is that it’s better than last summer’s College, but that’s not too hard to beat.
[Wow, that was way longer than I expected]. The first five minutes are great – we meet Eugene and Tucker as younglings as Tucker discovers a playboy for the first time: a world of bloody wonders. It’s a cute opening, but then we’re treated to the really obnoxious duo of Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore, who double as writers and directors [har, har, har – I get the joke!], who aren’t all that likable. However, I gotta give credit to Trevor, who has an amazing ability to pull off dumbfounded effortlessly – there’s one sequence [seen in the trailers] where a girl bounces off a bed and out a window, and Tucker just stands there, eyes wide, mouth ajar in shock – the camera lingers on him for a while without cutting, and it, at the very least, has gotta bring about a chuckle.
08 March 2009
The Boondock Saints (1999)
It's the film's closing minutes, and the McManus brothers with their recently reunited father storm into the court house where mob boss Yakavetta 'stands trial.' It's a sure thing this dude was gonna walk free, but the Saints will have none of that. Busting into his courtroom, they bring Yakavetta to his knees, guns poised, the brothers recite their creed for all to hear, and for all to tell - easy rules to follow, no matter ones religion or beliefs: do not steal, do not rape, do not kill. And if you ignore them, you will pay "the dearest cost."
Why I Dig It:
Aside from being a brilliant closing sequence, it's just damn powerful and, simply, awesome. The acting is fierce and intense, and when combined with its frightening message and screenplay, it successfully sends shivers up ones spine. Well, at least it does for mine. The freaky, operatic and sorta gothic music helps the shiver-inducingness. This sequence is probably director/writer Troy Duffy's favorite to create, as he most likely poured his own thoughts more prominently in this scene than any other, literally echoing his own voice and wishes. And then the execution of Yakavetta (offscreen) as the culmination of their introduction to society is the perfect frosting over the pie. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, and immensley powerful. If at any point I was in doubt that I'd buy the DVD, this sequence solidifies its inclusion in my collection so I could watch it over and over again.
05 March 2009
starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Rebbecca Hall, Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell
written by Peter Morgan
directed by Ron Howard
2008, 122 mins., Rated R
** (out of ****)
I can't think of why or how something so potentially thrilling ends up being rather dull. The very concept, and the intensity of the situation and the interview, it could all very well lead up to one of the most nerve-wracking verbal jests ever filmed on camera, but instead ends up being a game of "I wonder when they'll cut to a different close-up?" I mean, is it something inherent to director Ron Howard, who literally put me to sleep when I tried to watch The Da Vinci Code on my birthday? Or when he made me not interested in a giant fire-breathing monster in Willow? Now, I honestly have nothing but the utmost respect for the guy, but here's three movies where I'm supposed to be heavily engaged, nearly glued to the screen in anticipating for the next word, the next action, or the next clue - and I'm bored out of my wits. And keep in mind, this isn't a diss to the movie as a whole: I think there are some truly awesome moments and performances, but its either his directing that needs to step up or the script, and this time around, I think the script was solid.
On second thought, perhaps that's not the best way to open up a review. Oh well, sod it - it's what was on my mind exiting the theater and kept reoccurring as I walked home in this actually rather pleasant weather [there's some fog and a little rain, but overall, pretty relaxing]. Let me preface by saying that next to Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon was the one other Oscar-nominated movie I actually had a real interest in. I'm well aware there's a great majority who thinks Frost/Nixon excels in its most important department - namely, the conversation pieces between our title characters - and that's all fine and dandy; I understand where most everyone's able to get the vibe from the scenes, truly. I just happened to not.
It's 1977, three years after the whole Watergate debacle and resigning the Presidency, Richard Nixon (Langella) living life comfortably in a nice beach house in California - y'know, the tough life after being involved in a scandal. Meanwhile, British TV host David Frost (Sheen) is feelin' the need for his "big break", 'cuz his reality show and other programs aren't the juicy stuff he needs. Thus, he gets a brilliant concept - interview the disgraced ex-President himself, Richard Nixon! It's a genius and simultaneously proposterious idea as Frost approaches this from a stand-point of playfulness, not grasping the full weight of this interview despite the persistant pesterings of his colleagues. Nixon's camp is looking at this as a win-win situation: they grab a few thousand from this poor British bastard, and hopefully, in the course of this interview, not only set the record straight but sway America back in his favor. Once the camera rolls, Frosts' original idea of giving this man the "trial he never had" (a common phrase repeated throughout the movie) drifts further and further away as he witnesses first-hand this man's amazing ability to yabber on his way out of any question. But Frost, being the ever determined bloke he is, keeps un hammering Nixon, hoping for a crack of his iron-clad shield. And to raise enough money to pay everyone off; there's that, too.
Now, my experience of watching President Nixon probably accumulates of 76 seconds of my life, so I can't adequately judge Frank Langella's portrayal of the late US leader, but for what it's worth, by the film's end, Langella was, simply, President Nixon. (Side note: as a sort of extension of the previous statement, I just wish to comment that you actually don't need to have much knowledge about US history, and you'll be fine; in fact, you just need to see a particular 26-second scene from Forrest Gump, and you're set) He inhabits him whole-heartedly, never coming across as a actor, but the man himself! It's a truly awesome performance. From his bizarre comments about Frosts' shoe choice, to his offhand inquiry if any fornication was going on the night before with his girl (Hall), right down to him getting his stories straight in his head, it's all quite interesting and brilliantly played. Apparently both Langella and Sheen are reprising their stage roles, and I wager they took this translation to full effect - finally, a medium that enables them to portray their character's subtleties and nuances in the full, and it's obvious they had a field day with it. There's even moments where you begin to feel a bit of pity for the man.
Michael Sheen as Frost is, for lack of a better Yale-sounding word, perfect. Although his wide-eyes and eyebrows makes me recall the freaky eye-liner wearing governor from The Dark Knight - which can be a distraction - I find his performance to be outstanding, and as many other commentators noted, he not only reaches the awesome levels of Langella, but they also feed off each others' performance, only helping escalate their own to astounding heights. It's amazing watching this cocky character walk into a meeting with Nixon, not having a clue what he's in for, and suddenly feel like a fish out of a bowl - way over his head and drowning. Sheen's also gifted with that Bruce Wayne/Playboy ability, making it perfectly in the relam of probability that his suave and charm could sway women from anywhere, and perhaps even Nixon (although failing as swaying network heads, suckily enough). Once his ego is hit hard by Nixon's dodgy double speak, Frost tries to better himself and invest as much of himself into this project as much as possible. His "turning point" is actually quite interesting to watch. Perhaps the most engaging plotline with Frost is his continued search for TV broadcasting companies willing to finance the project. Amazing performance, watered down only by his freaky wide-eyes...they frightened me.
A nearly unrecognizable Kevin Bacon plays Nixon's chief of staff who has his best interest at heart, always looking out for the old man and ensuring there's no word slippage or anything of the sort. It's strange hearing the guy speak so normal when I'm used to the dude talk like a cowboy-wannabe from Tremors. Bacon's character is pretty much the guy who has been burdened with the task of carrying Nixon's burden, and whether he believes in Nixon isn't fully established, but it's obvious he cares about the disgraced ex-Prez. Overall, a very nice performance that sorta makes me want to see Death Sentence now. And the lovely Rebbecca Hall, who stunned me with her gorgeousness in Woody Allen's way over-praised Vicky Christina Barcelona, walks in-between scenes to show off a new outfit and care for our man Frost. It's unfortunate she's not given any heavy material to work with, because she's quite talented.
And here we come to perhaps the most important aspect of Frost/Nixon, and the deciding factor whether or not this movie succeeds or fails: director Ron Howard. At the very beginning of this review, I gave a brief two cents worth on the man, saying I respect the dude, but his flicks occasionally bore me, and this is no different. First I want to bring up his choice of style in this film: there's a heavy amount of hand-held camerawork, which, if you didn't pay attention to the credits, would probably lead you to believe Paul Greengrass (United 93) had his hands in the making of this picture. I love this style, but it's not entirely the best film to utilize such a technique - it's uncalled for when it's actually done, and the times where I thought the film would benefit from it, it sticks to the standard smooth, slick steady shot (woah: five 's' words in a row! coolz). Obviously, I'm not a filmmaker, so take my words with little interest, it's just that I'd do it differently. Howard also utilizes "interview footage" with the people involved in the interviews giving their retrospective takes on everything. Really, it's just there to build some excitment in an otherwise flat film. It's a dumb mechanism that I've never appreciated in a film before, and this one didn't sway me in the other direction, either. Again, I gotta reiterate: I didn't dislike Frost/Nixon, there's just a heavy need for directorial improvement, or, perhaps, choppier editing.
Music is nearly entirely absent from this motion picture, and whenever it is used, it's never to any great effect. Concerning the all-important Frost/Nixon conversation sequences which essentially make or break the movie, I think some form of dark, deep and lingering beat should have been used to create some form of drama or suspense - instead, we're left with nada. Since the gravity of the situation isn't felt adequately enough, the lack of a score doesn't help sustain our attention span.
Frost/Nixon is a all-around good movie, boasting some phenomenal performances that deserve some type of showcase, and a tight, provocative script. Maybe under the hands of someone else, the severe lack of tension and excitement would be handled better, but as it stands, it's serviceable. Out of all the nominated flicks that aren't Slumdog Millionaire or The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon is the next best thing. I highly recommend it, and any problems that I may have with it may not necessarily be shared by everyone else (as it so seems), so it's definitely a film that you should check out when it hits retail shelves. If nothing else, it will peak your interest enough to seek out the original interviews or find out a bit more on what happened, so that's a pretty nice thing, isn't it?
04 March 2009
starring Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Tom Atkins
written by Todd Farmer & Zane Smith
directed by Patrick Lussier
**1/2 (out of ****)
Now this is what I'm talking about! A nice, solid horror film that is 100% pure enjoyment. And there's also the part where I'd rather watch this than yet another by-the-book romantic comedy, and when the girlfriend complains "but it's not very Valentine's Day-ish", I can show her the title and say, "Sorry, luv, but it says the word 'Valentine' right on the title - it's applicable." But anyway, point is: My Bloody Valentine 3-D is friggin' sweet. And yes, I know I'm a little late to the party, since the flick was released over a month ago, but I just got around to seeing it recently, so I figured I'd put in my two cents, eh? I also want to say that this was my first time screening a film in 3-D, and to proclaim the experience awesome beyond all reason is not an understatement. The only thing I could possibly think of that could top it would be watching a 3-D movie on the IMAX screen! Now that would be something to behold! (which I think they did for the Robert Zemeckis Beowulf, though I could be wrong)
Alright, moving on. Now, I've never seen the original My Bloody Valentine, and I know it's been released on DVD in an uncut version, so maybe I'll give it a check-out. Although, I do confess I was stupid enough to believe this was the third installment in the series, and just added the "D" at the end of it to up the points in the coolness factor. Before you point your mouses and laugh with a dozen "Har, Har(s)", keep in mind both the third installments for the above-mentioned Jaws and Friday the 13th 3-D flicks had the "D" at the end of it, so there...Alright, so I guess you had enough of this yammering, so I'm done now...
Years ago, Harry Warden went nuts and killed a bunch of his co-workers and crazy drunk teens in a mine on Valentine's Day. So, overall, no big deal; business as usual. The cops, though, didn't favor that so well, so they shot him a bit just in the nick of time to save Tom Hannigan (Ackles), who promptly leaves town and his flame Sarah (King) behind. Ten years later, though, Tom's forced back to the small community of Harmony to sell off his father's assets - such as the mine. The towns folk aren't too happy about this idea, since the mine pretty much keeps business a smooth sailin', not to mention opens up the job market. Tom's presence also stirs up hidden feelings with the ex, Sarah, whose currently married to the town Sheriff, Axel (Smith), who has a few secrets of his own. Boy, I bet that's not gonna put a wrench in anyone's marriage. Anyhow, shit hits the proverbial fan when killings start popping up by a serial killer who not only looks but murders quite like the late Harry Warden - is he back from the dead to finish Tom? Is Warden a zombie? Will Tom live happily ever after with Sarah?
out at me! Like I could grab it! Coooooooooooll), the 3-D was spectacular. I'm quite grateful this was the flick I experienced it the first time with, and not, say...Jaws 3-D or Friday the 13th Part 3-D (both of which I heard were dreadful during their initial run). Hell, even the vehicles in Valentine were three-dimensional. Everything was three-dimensional! Concerning the kills in 3-D, the awesomenest - and I'm sure this has been discussed at length - was when our resident baddie stuck his mining tool up a guy's chin and out through the mouth; this type of 'ouch' isn't good enough, so what the miner does next is soooo cool: he kicks this dude backwards, which forces the guy's jaw to break off and FLY TOWARDS THE CAMERA!!! That was just about as awesome as the anticipation for Anakin VS. Obi-Wan in Episode III. I mean, I don't wish to underscore it's coolness, but - well, it's so worth the outrageous price of admission.
Hands down, the real reason I saw Valentine was actor Jensen Ackles. I love this dude; he's a terrific actor who deserves some kudos. As Tom, he unfortunately isn't given the chance to promote too much range, or really delve into anything juicy, but it's a horror gig, so I can't fault him for it. Point is, it's another opportunity to watch this awesome dude in action, so it's worth it. TV vets will recall this guy's amazing talent from the CW's hit show Supernatural, as well as a season-long arc four seasons ago on their Smallville program.
Jamie King doesn't have that many acting credits, but it feels like I see her name everywhere these days. Anyhow, she most notably made an appearance in Frank Miller's The Spirit to a performance that wasn't altogether all that fantastic, and cameo ed in Fanboys to the point that I didn't recall she was in it until I IMDB'd her. Point is, she's pretty good - I enjoyed her performance. Smith, as well, is above your average horror movie role. I'm currently watching this guy on the early seasons of Dawson's Creek (oi, now don't roll your eyes - I'm not watching it voluntarily), and already he's quite the exceptional actor (he's waaayyy better than this freaky James van deer Beak), easily holding his own against the might of The Ackles.
The script's not about to win any prestigious awards, and there's plenty of questions that arise (most importantly, why the frak did Mr. Warden start his killing spree in the first place?) but honestly, it's pretty easy to overlook 'em when you're just enjoying yourself. More specifically, I want to address the film's final 15 or so minutes, where the identity of the killer is in question, and it becomes a "Is it Tom? Is it Axel?" dilemma. Sure, there's some who thought the 'twist' was in-your-face obvious - perhaps I semi-saw it coming, but was denying it because I didn't want it to end up that way - but it was deliciously entertaining to watch Sarah make a heart-breaking decision. Pretty juicy stuff for a B-level horror film, yeah? I'm also a sucker for these types of strained romances, where there's some actual barriers to plow through, and although you're rooting for our main protagonist, the person she's actually shacked up with isn't all that bad of a bloke. Structurally, as well, the script is quite solid - start off with a bang: bunch of people get killed, fast forward ten years in the future, insert angst, drama, killing, angst, drama, killing, repeat. Simple, easy to remember, and quite effective formula. Only downside, really, is it's cliche dialogue which is becoming increasingly overused in horror films today (look at the latest Friday the 13th installment for reference).
Walking into the theater, I was expecting a cross between that atrocious When a Stranger Calls and that pile of dog poo-poo Prom Night (2008), so it was quite a relief to find My Bloody Valentine to be a solid horror/thriller movie that's dazzling with pretty effects. Fine actors, serviceable script, and a extra dose of awesomeness. What's not to love? So, in conclusion, see My Bloody Valentine 3-D!
03 March 2009
starring Hannah Bailey, Colin Clemens, Geoff Haase, Megan Krizmanich, Mitch Reinholt, Jake Tusing, Ali Wikalinska,
directed by Nanette Burstein
2008, 95 mins., Rated PG-13
***1/2 (out of ****)
American Teen was recieving quite the positive reviews when it was hitting film festivals, and that coupled with the subject matter peaked my interest. Unfortunately, the Powers That Be thought that the flick wasn't worth releasing theatrically (same thing happened with Bill Mahr's Religulous - had to wait for DVD), so the only way non gray-haired Academy members could get their hands on it would be for the eventual DVD release. And of course, the distributor had to complicate matters by making it a TARGET exclusive. I, however, using my brilliant intellect, devised a plan to use the ever-faithful Netflix to get a copy! And indeed, my search did not fail me - a copy of American Teen was readily avaliable to send! A quick add to my #1 spot, the DVD arrived two days later, and boy was it worth the wait - in fact, my only gripe with the entire movie is that I wish it ran a little longer, like Curious Case of Benjamin Button length.
The documentary follows five high school seniors in Indiana - and these kids follow high school stereotypes to the T (I think that's the correct expression; if not, you get the point...I hope). There's the socially awkward nerd Colin, who wants to connect with people and feel involved when he doesn't contradictorally want to be left alone; Hannah, the artistic girl who does "her own thing" regardless of what anyone else thinks, and has a difficult decision ahead of her; Geoff, the big-time basketball player who needs to do brilliantly to impress college scouts for a scholarship, 'cuz his family don't have any money to send him anywhere else; and finally, Megan, the Queen Bitch who says "like" to many times and is trying to follow her familys path by attending Notre Dame. From the beginning of the year to graduation, the documentary showcases the full, unedited truth of high school! Dun, dun, dun...
The sad thing is is that I, and I'm sure everyone else, knew or knows people exactly like them. As for me, I would probably be labeled the Geeky kid, but I have never been anywhere near as socially inept as Colin. Although he seems to have dropped the barrier a bit since the film's release (I'm getting this amazing insight from watching the special features - he seems more relaxed), I felt a little sorry for the kid here and there. But then suddenly, he does or says something around someone so not cool that I'm just smacking my own head in frustration. And the funny part is, the dude got to snog, like two girls in the movie! There's hope for me yet...
starring Eric Christian Olsen, Nicholas D'Agosto, Sarah Roemer
written by Freedom Jones
directed by Will Gluck
2009, 90 mins., Rated PG-13
*** (out of ****)
Nick (Olsen) and Shawn (D'Agosto) have pretty much had their way with the entire female student body at school, so they set their sights to cheerleading camp. Carly (Roemer), the resident cheerleading captain, isn't all that happy to have the two sausages on the team, but she's surprised to find that the two actually help improve morale and techniques. Of course, it's all for show - well, at least for Nick: he just wants to shag and get out, but Shawn's beginning to actually get into everything, and (spoiler) falls for Carly. And not in a "I must shag you" type of way, but in a "I have butterflies in my stomach" way. Problem: Carly has a powerful older boyfriend who wants to see these guys kicked out, and this could stand in the way of a Shawn and Carly pairing. Shit will hit the proverbial fan before this intense conflict is resolved.
Perhaps the reason I dug this film so much is the simple concept that - as the commentators at the IMDB boards suggest - I went into it not expecting anything resembling decency, so when I actually laugh here and there, I'm under the impression it was good. I'm not about to rule that out, but it's a week later [since I saw the flick], and I still think about moments in the film that elicited a laugh, so I can firmly say that I deny that assertion [well, at least on my end; maybe you think it's a big pile of dog poopey ain retrospect]. The fact is, it's funny, and one helluva good time.
There's plenty of jokes, and keep in mind, these are jokes that actually work. Semi-Pro this is not! [c'mon, that comedy didn't have one frakkin' funny bone in its spineless body!] To watch these guys transform from womanizers to actually getting into this whole cheerleading business - well, it's a blast. And Nick's constant attempts to nail the head coaches' wife is truly priceless, and all pays off in a big way towards it's inevitable but nonetheless enjoyable conclusion.
If Fired Up! is a sign of how 2009's comedy slate is going to be, then count me mildly excited. Sure, it's not fantastic, and it definitely adheres to the 'by-the-book' syndrome nearly all comedies in the galaxy are prone to following, but it acknowledges what it is and has as much fun with it as possible - and that's admirable.
02 March 2009
starring Sam Huntington, Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler, Chris Marquette, Kristen Bell, Seth Rogen
written by Ernest Cline, Adam F. Goldberg, Dan Pulick
directed by Kyle Newman
2007-2009, 90 mins., Rated PG-13
**1/2 (out of ****)
Ah, 1998 and '99 were great years, weren't they? Of course, can't remember most of it because of the whole being 8 and 9 years of age, but I do recall plenty of the anticipation and excitement surrounding a certain potential blockbuster flick called Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Being the youngin' I was, I obviously was oblivious to its greater impact to the masses - for me, it was about the cool action figures, lightsabers, and books (yes, I was one of those oddities who preferred the book version; in fact, I have a Toys 'R' Us "Ticket of Authentication" with my Episode I Official Movie Companion book - I shall never part with it). So, indeed, I collected every action figure I could get my hand on (which I hate to admit I probably don't own even half of 'em any longer, but I've since learned to keep 'em, if just for collector's sake). It wasn't until Episode II that I really got into Star Wars, and it wasn't until Episode III that I fully appreciated what a momentous, mega-event all of this was (pathetically, the midnight Episode III premiere will probably be one of the most awesomest days of my life - ever).
Why is all of this important, and why bring it up at all? Because I want to simply state that I am a Fanboy, I love the Prequel Star Wars trilogy (yep, go ahead and hate me, Lucas bashers; even Episode II is better than Star Trek - Generations), and this movie was made for me and blokes like me. And after about two or so years in 'will it get released or won't it?' hell (wasn't this shot in '07?), is all the hype and publicity surrounding the flick worth it? The short answer: sorta kinda.
Circa 1998. As kids, Eric (Huntington), Linus (Marquette), Windows (Baruchel), and Hutch (Fogler) were incomparable Star Wars fans. Actually, scratch that: they still are - with the exception of Eric. See, his father (the always hilarious Chris McDonald) is the owner of a major car company, and he wants to pass it down to him. Eric, trying that whole being a grown-up thing, weighs the decision. But once he finds out his long-time friend Linus has been diagnosed with an incurable disease and only has a few months left, he puts everything on hold to bring into fruition a lifelong plan - break into Skywalker Ranch and get a rough cut of the newest Star Wars movie! (in this case, Episode I) Thus, the ragtag team of SW geeks embark on a road trip to piss off Trekkies/Trekkers, defend Han Solo's honor, meet up with an internet chat "buddy", obtain the blue-prints for Skywalker Ranch, and break in! Of course, some members learn some things about themselves during the course of the Hero's Journey, but whatevs...
Going in, you automatically know it's going to be a Star Wars-referential parody with elements of teen comedy added in for good measure. What I didn't expect (much to my now happiness because I enjoyed it so damn much) was a Trek VS. Wars battle, a forced and not remotely convincing romance subplot, and laughing the hardest at something not even SW related (which I'll get to later). Immediately, the film opens with the familiar Opening Scroll, and it's finale is hilarious and absolutely appropriate. There's cameos abound, as well as many Trek slurs as one can think of ("Spocksucker" is a new personal favorite - low, I know). Oh, and there's a pretty funny "lightspeed" moment which uses the R2 sound effect perfectly, and also emulates a certain event from ESB to one's intense laughter.
Simply put, if you don't find anything else about this movie funny, you'll at least have a chuckle with all the Star Wars and Star Trek jokes. It's the perfect opportunity to put to test your geekdom knowledge. As for me, I don't mean to sound boastful and all that stuff, but I, your humble blogger, nearly always wins Star Wars Trivia Pursuit. I just sorta fail at the whole classifying certain starships and stuff - it's a complicated business!
- Alright, you pulled my leg, I might as just say the biggest thing that made me laugh is actually quite stupid. At one point, our Rebel Alliance stop to use the bathroom, and out of nowhere comes the one and only Kevin Smith in all of his awesomeness; and from the bathroom erupts Jason Mewes, blastin' off in a yaber-fest. And then - and for some reason this is the thing that made me erupt my vocal cords the most - the donkey show dude from Clerks II shows up next to Mewes! Oh, yes, indeed, that three-part cameo made my day. It wasn't Carrie Fisher, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Bille Dee Williams, or Seth Rogen that made me crack up the most (though he did elicit his share of laughs), but the duo of Kevin, Jason, and the Donkey Show guy. OK, obviously not nearly as funny written down - so go see the flick!
Although that's not saying there's not plenty of good jokes. On the contrary, there's plenty and that's what makes this a worthwhile comedy to watch. It may not match up to the two-year long hype wagon (but really, what could? Except, maybe, Dark Knight), but it's damn good fun. In fact, some other geeks from my screening said there was a satirical Star Trek movie similar to Fanboys called Free Enterprise which evidently also cameos Bill Shatner - I gotta track that down and add it to my Que. Anyhow, there's a brilliant war between a group of Star Trek fans in Idaho - led by a nearly unrecognizable Seth Rogen as nerdy and unkempt as you'll ever see him - and our gang as they diss Trek, and the others insult Han Solo, which doesn't go well for Hutch, who loves him in a very strange, I-need-therapy-kind-of-way.
As our lead character, Sam Huntington went from "Er, strange facial structure" to "Hey, that's that dude from Not Another Teen Movie!" to "thank God there's not a 'I can't believe no one wants to take a dump on you' joke". It wasn't until I IMDB'd Mr. Huntington that it finally clicked that he was also Jimmy Olsen in Bryan Singer's Superman Returns! Huh, small world. Anyway, he's decent, but lacks any sort of range.
In the cast, there's probably two other dude's you'll recognize almost immediately: Chris Marquette (whose face got a little thicker since last I saw him), who you'll remember from such classics like Freddy vs. Jason (which was pretty good) and The Girl Next Door (also surprisingly intelligent); his job here is to look mad, solemm, happy, and determined. Nothing huge, but still great to see him. The other bloke is making his rounds in nearly every teen comedy you can think of as either the nerd to end all nerds (even beating DJ Qualls!) or the so-called 'jock': Jay Baruchel, from Tropic Thunder and Knocked Up fame. The last dude from the gang is Dan Fogler, who did voices for Horton Hears a Who! and Kung Fu Panda; this is the first time I've ever seen him on film, and he's actually pretty funny. He's like a Jack Black but less annoying.
I also gotta confess right here, right now - I love Kristen Bell and I want to have her children. Er, I want her to have my children. Dang nabbit, I just wanna marry the girl. For even starring in a flick like this, for donning the world renown Princess Leia ROTJ slave outfit and honoring it, and being just so damn awesome and beautiful. It is an offense that she's not in the film a bit more, but as the forced romantic object who is "one of the guys", I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Oh well, she was still awesome, as per usual. If anyone digs her work, I highly recommend Veronica Mars, which I would take any random scene and show it to a casting director; once they saw a VM clip, I firmly believe they'd hire her on the spot. To say she's a talented actress is an understatement. Alright, moving on --
There's obviously room for improvement in the script department. Despite its constant delays, I figured there'd be plenty of time for finely-tuned editing or giving weight to certain aspects of the script which show up out of nowhere (read: romantic plot!). I mean, is it too hard to at least have a scene or two establishing a secret crush? As it stands, Windows hasn't a clue to Zoe's affections - and neither did we. There's also a lack of fluency - events comes across as sketches attached together to form one full motion picture.
If Fanboys is making its rounds at your nearby theater, it's definitely worth the price of admission. If not, I hear rumblings that a DVD release will come to light in May - just in time to co-incide with my birthday (I'm sure it was all strategically planned that way). It will definitely make you want to watch the films again (I went home and popped in the worst of the series - Episode II - just 'cuz I wanted to watch Anakin, Padme, Obi-Wan, Mace, and Yoda kick some serious Geonosian ass!), or at the very least get you in the mood. For me, it's a total DVD purchase, but as per Reading Rainbow's mantra: don't take my word for it!