22 June 2009

Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th
starring Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Derek Mears, Travis Van Winkle
written by Damian Shannon & Mark Swift
directed by Marcus Nispel
release date: 13 February 2009
dvd release date: 16 June 2009
New Line Cinema, 97 mins., Rated R

Pretty Frakkin' Good

Slasher movies have three bad guy icons - Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger, and Jason Vorhees. [Sure, it could be argued that Letherface is such a icon, but I firmly believe these three are the most widely recognizable] These guys are the worst of the worst - the scary Boogeymen that come out at night, and when you see them, all bets are off and you better run for your freakin' life! And if you didn't have sex, smoke a joint, or drink a lot, or act like a douche, chances are you'd survive a face-to-face confrontation with these baddies. In the 70's and 80's, these Boogeymen were powerful instruments of evil, stalking babysitters, teenage campers, and murdering sleeping children. By the late 90's, the slasher men took back seat to more self-aware horror fare that was more accessible for the teen audiences, like Scream (1996) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) or Urban Legends (1999).

Myers gained momentary popularity with Halloween: H20 (1997), bringing back original cast member Jamie Lee Curtis to battle her unstoppable brother once again; Wes Craven sat behind the camera to bring Freddy into the real world with Wes Craven's New Nightmare, and Jason's evil knew no bounds when he was blown to bits in Jason Goes to Hell (1999). Sadly, this was only a fleeting comeback, as all the franchises dwindled away after another installment (with the exception of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, which didn't have another entry). Michael concluded fighting a rapper-turned-actor in the Myers house and Jason went to space in a mixed review tenth picture.

And then the idea of a "re-imagining" became big with movie studios when it came to horror. Remakes of Prom Night (2008), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Dawn of the Dead (2004), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes, When a Stranger Calls, and so on and so forth. For the companies, it's a logical thing to do because for some reason or another, no thought to how bad the product is, the product sells. So Dimension Films teamed up with Rob Zombie (The Devil's Rejects) to re-imagine Michael Myers and delve into the Boogeyman's backstory, thus resulting in the critically panned but financially successful Rob Zombie's Halloween in 2007. This movie and 2003's Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake pretty much convinced Platinum Dunes and New Line to get rollin' with a "re-imagining" of their own, a one Jason Vorhees. But c'mon, after a bizarre sci-fi Jason melee in space, it was probably best to get back to basics, yeah?

So here we are, with Friday the 13th, penned by the writers of Freddy vs. Jason (2003), and the general notion is that people either really hate it or really like it. For me, this eleventh self-contained installment (not counting FvsJ) is quite good, and perfectly captures the atmosphere of all the Fridays before it.

There's a bunch of pretty looking teenagers that are in the vicinity of Camp Crystal Lake, either as campers or vacationers; there's sex, drugs, and drinking; nudity; swearing; bad one-liners; and one, tall, pissed off freaky looking guy with a machete and hockey mask wanting to rip the kids a new one. When Friday the 13th came out in theaters in February, I saw it in the environment of a legion of teenagers, many of them loud, obnoxious, and clearly under the influence of some agent. And although they were annoying, it also did help the movie become an "experience" of sorts, and I couldn't help but notice a difference with the midnight showings of Halloween and Friday the 13th - with Halloween, barely anyone spoke, instead pretty much glued to the screen as young Mickey transformed from a messed up kid to murderous psychopath with a mask fetish; as for Friday, the entire experience was a party. Is that what these movies are? A celebration of stupid teenagers and a machete-wielding hockey-mask wearing slasher? Fun time?

This installment has its moments of darkness, but for the most part, it really does come across as just a fun, throwaway movie that doesn't really have anything to set itself apart from all the others; and that is sort of the rub: it can either be a good or a bad thing. There are many things this movie does right and that I like, but it feels very much like a homage movie moreso than trying to distinct itself from the pack. Which, again, can be an either/or thing.

On June 13, 1980, a young Jason Vorhees witnessed his mother massacred right before his eyes. Fast forward to present day, a now grown up and pissed off Jason Vorhees seeks to take out his pissed-offery on some local teenage campers. Clay (Padalecki), brother of one of those so-totally-screwed campers, is on the search for his sister. During his manhunt, he meets up with the newest group of fresh meat, and befriends Jenna (Panabaker), the only halfway decent person of the bunch. As bodies keep piling up, Clay gets closer and closer to finding out what happened to his sister, but Jason's hot on his tail...and, well, everyone else s...

Story-wise, it goes right back to the beginning. Not necessarily a origin story, as it touches on the events of the first Friday the 13th (1980) through a quick flashback in the first 3 minutes, the movie very much feels like just another installment that could fit into the overall mythology. Teenagers, victims, sex, blood. But the unique thing here is that the writers integrated several points from Fridays I-IV, including Jason's first use of a bag and the transition to the world renowned hockey mask. There's apparently also some kills from those films that are emulated here, but hell if I know what ones those are (if you're really interested, ask a horror fanatic, mate, I'm the wrong guy). One aspect of the movie I found myself really liking is the pre-title sequence, which is, in its own way, a mini Friday movie. Encompassing 23-minutes, it also accomplishes a set-up for the rest of the story and character motivation for Clay (Padalecki's character). Simply put, everything within those 23-minutes were awesome. Favorite part of the movie hands down.

Derek Mears is outstanding as Jason Vorhees. Extremely intimidating, buffed up, giant, this Jason is my favorite since Kane Hodder. One aspect of this Jason that I know has some people a little gruffy about is that Jason occasionally sprints towards his victims; I love that. I think it adds to his character and makes far more sense than a slow-neck pace and he's suddenly ahead of a person ready to strike 'em dead. This is a threatening Jason, one that I definitely sure as hell wouldn't want to be in the same state with. Similar to how Michael Myers has been portrayed in the Rob Zombie film, this Jason is a brute force that will crash through any wall to get to its target. Frighting and freaky, Jason Vorhees is back, baby!

The rest of the cast that is not Jason is actually really good. Although, sadly, none of these characters step outside their bound stereotypes, the actors make them bearable and half relatable. As Clay, Jared Padalecki (TV: Supernatural) is the reluctant hero who just wants to find his sister, played by Amanda Righetti (Role Models), who has the more fun role of running for her life and screaming at the top of her lungs; but I'm sure that whole being tied up in a underground mine wasn't all that fun. Danielle Panabaker (Mr. Brooks) is the beautiful almost Final Girl, playing the sweet but aware Jenna who has one hell of a dicky boyfriend, played to absolute perfection by Travis Van Winkle. Acting like a complete jackass, and even looking stupider with his dumb curly blond hairdo, Van Winkle is one annoying S.O.B, and I love him for it. Aaron Yoo (Disturbia) is lovable as the stereotype Asian guy, and Arlen Escarpeta as the necessary black guy. Rounding out the cast is Ryan Hanson (TV: Veronica Mars), who I'm just happy is still employed; and Julianna Guill with Willa Ford, who supply the boobage.

Steve Jablonsky (Transformers) was given the task to score Friday the 13th aft
er impressing Platinum Dunes with his Texas Chainsaw Massacre work. Although not making me rush to the nearest Best Buy to pick up his original score soundtrack, Jablonsky does an admirable job paying homage to classic Friday themes originated by Harry Manfredini while creating his own voice. It sets up the scary atmosphere, has a nice tempo as our meat - er, leads - are running for their inevitably short lives, and happily avoids the strange random loud noise bursts that the compositions from the 90's were so fond of. A very good score by Jablonsky, and I 'm sure his best work of the year is soon to come (i.e., Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen).

New Line released Friday the 13th in a "Killer Cut" edition with 10 minutes of added footage to the movie, although the added material does little to really change the movie, which is unfortunate, because rumor has it that there's more than 30 minutes of deleted material that could have been put back in. In addition to the "Killer Cut", the theatrical edition was released separately as was a Blu-Ray release with a few more bonus materials as well as the inclusion of the theatrical cut. Should be noted, the theatrical edition clocks in at 97 mins., the "Killer Cut" at 107 mins. Bonus material is sparse, considering that this is a New Line production after all. I mean, look at the extra material for Jason Goes to Hell and Freddy vs. Jason, which is far more thorough than the little we get here, comprising of a short behind-the-scenes marketing bit and a few additional scenes, including an alternate take on Jason becoming in possession of the hockey mask.

Friday the 13th is back on the mind of moviegoers, and despite the not stellar box office results, it will hopefully maintain momentum enough to bring about sequels with this same mindset. Keeping the franchise grounded in reality, with the simple story of Jason getting pissed off and running after teenagers, I dig that, and although I know a franchise needs to explore and evolve, I hope whatever future installments don't lose sight of what it really is.

The Proposal

The Proposal
starring Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock, Betty White, Malin Ackerman
written by Pete Chiarelli
directed by Anne Fletcher
release date: 19 June 2009
Touchstone, Rated PG-13, 108 mins.

Pretty Frakkin' Good

The ending predicted before the beginning of the first frame, that doesn't stop The Proposal from being a wholly enjoyable romantic comedy that although it abides by all the rules, feels somewhat fresh and far more interesting than it probably really is. Having eagerly anticipated this release since friggin' January, when the marketing department went on Proposal overdrive, my objective viewing of the movie may have been tampered by too high expectations after viewing the amusing and entertaining trailer a few times over.

Margaret Tate (Bullock) is a big-time book editor-in-chief of Colden Books, and poor Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) is her assistance, forced to do her sadistic bidding. Tate's cold-hearted demeanor falters as she's told that her Visa has experienced, and will be deported to Canada imminently. Just by chance, she comes up with this brilliant proposal - she can't be deported because she's engaged to her much-loved hubby Andrew! Now under the strict eye of a immigration officer, Margaret and Andrew visit Andrew's house in Sitka, Alaska to celebrate his grandmother's 90th birthday (White), but the heat is turned up as they reluctantly agree to marry by weekend's end.

Proposal excels in perhaps the most important department - both stars have outstanding chemistry and work tremendously well together. They make any fall backs from the script seem nearly unnoticeable (I'll touch on this later). Sandra Bullock is at the top of her game, perfectly epitomizing Ms. Bitch-a-lot. Sure, she may not exactly be Meryl Streep Devil Wears Prada level of 'whoa', but she's definitely channeling it. One fine example of Bullock and hilarity is when she's willing to trade a dog for her cell phone. And Ryan Reynolds (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) is completely awesome in this role, but I daresay he is sadly underused. Plenty of commentators remark that Betty White (Lake Placid) is the true star of this picture and generates all the laughs, but it is of my opinion that Reynolds fares far better with some hilarious one-liners. Not to diss White, but although she did a fantastic job as always, I think I preferred her Lake Placid performance over this...

But the sad part about this eagerly-anticipated-on-my-part movie is that the transition period when the characters begin to fall for each other isn't all that well established. There are, of course, customary sequences where the two find out they actually *gasp!* have something in common, or have a laugh about a common joke, etc., etc. You know the drill. But sadly, these few scenes and their constant bickering do little to sell that there is a actual, romantic angle with these two, and that it's found within the short period of three days. I have no doubt these two characters could fall in love with each other, but I would reckon it would take a little more time; and if the time constraint is unavoidable, I also reckon the writers could have done a better job selling the audience on their romance.

There was a point near the end of the movie where I thought the writers were going to be ballsy and completely obliterate my expectations of what will happen and go a different route. Sadly, that did not happen. (Spoilers follow) I thought that once Bullock ended the ceremony, that there was a chance for Malin Ackerman's character and Reynolds to get back together and rekindle their love. The majority of the movie intimated that it was a possibility, and as far as romantic chemistry goes, Ackerman and Reynolds sell it far better. (End Spoilers)

Overall, The Proposal is a fun time at the movies. It's a far superior romantic comedy than Ghosts of Girlfriend Pasts, and even if the script has some weak points, the strong performances from everyone involved more than makes up for it. There are some abrupt plot moments and dangling story threads including a difficult relationship with Reynold's father, but the real reason people are seeing this - Reynolds and Bullock, two polar opposites, falling in love in a comedic fashion - does not disappoint.

20 June 2009


starring Jim Cavizel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, Ron Pearlman, John Hurt
written by Howard McCain & Dirk Blackman
directed by Howard McCain
dvd release date: 19 May 2009
Weinstein Company, 2008,


Monster movies are a dying genre. I remember the good ol' days when I flipped on the Sci-Fi Channel and there was a Godzilla marathon from morning all the way into the late afternoon, and now-a-days you'll find either old Twilight Zone repeats or WWE crap. Sure, it could be argued that monster fans don't have any reason to complain with such awesome flicks like Cloverfield (2008) and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009) being released, but it's not the same. As a monster fan, I just want to watch mankind fight giant monsters with everything they got. It's a little unfortunate that monster flicks aren't all that mainstream, or at least get a bit more respectability than a new Saturday Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie, which are nearly always horrible (with the possible exception of Loch Ness Horror, aka Beyond Loch Ness, though I'm not entirely sure Sci-Fi's involvement with the project). Anyway, point is, it's disappointing there's so few monster movies being made these days, so when one comes floating my way, I might be a little biased and overcome with joy that I may not be thinking rationally.

Luckily, in the case of
Outlander, the movie's damn good enough that I don't feel bad for going all geeky giddy on it. It's like Beowulf, but with more emphasis on the monster of the story.

Spaceman Kainan (Cavizel) crash lands in 1705 A.D. Norway and is captured by a local Viking tribe, blamed for the decimation of a nearby town, which is actually the handiwork of a Morween, a sadistic little beastie Kanin brought with him on his battered up ship. His pleas to the townsfolk to let him fight this monster goes unheard, as King Rothgar (Hurt) is convinced this is a ploy to help his nemesis Gunnar (Pearlman). However, once the Moorwen attacks Rothgar's own village, he allows Kainan's guidance in attacking and destroying this beast that has claimed many lives.

Jesus himself, Jim Cavizel (Passion of the Christ), heads the cast as Kanin, the future warrior who barely speaks and does what must be done for the greater good. Despite a short backstory sequence featuring not only Kanin and how he turns out to be the rugged, lost individual he is now, but also exploring the home world of the Moorwen, I felt we didn't get a good enough grasp of who Kanin was or how he felt sometimes. I sort of made up stuff as it went along. Not like I'm complaining...much...but it's a good heroic performance, and I wouldn't mind a sequel even if it had a crappy plot because Kanin is a interesting character to explore. His 'Hero' competition is Wulfric, played by Jack Huston (Factory Girl), and he's quite likable. Going the course of initially enemies and ending up friends, Huston and Cavizel play off each other well, and Huston's character is surprisingly interesting enough to case the audience to not only root for Kanin, but also Wulfric, which makes it a little complicated when it comes to a particular girl they both fancy...

beautiful Sophia Myles (TV: Doctor Who) plays the strong female lead, Freya, who of course falls for the bad boys. Absolutely believable as a woman who kicks ass and takes name, Myles gives a great performance, it's just a pity her presence isn't more prominent. John Hurt, leader of the Viking clan as King Rothgar, is simply awesome. Aside from finding it difficult on my part to differentiate him from Chancellor Sutler in V for Vendetta, a movie that I have an unhealthy obsession with, Hurt's Rothgar is a man who is worn down but forced to keep fighting the good fight, unsure of who to trust or (sometimes) what to do; a stellar performance that echos the King of Rohan in The Two Towers and Return of the King. In an all-too-brief appearance, Ron Pearlman (Hellboy II: The Golden Army) shows his bald head and long grey beard as Rothgar's advisory Gunnar; a good but unspectacular cameo.

Concerning the evil beastie the Moorwen, its design is a cross between the monster in
The Host (2005) and GODZILLA (1998). So, in other words, it's really cool. Its body has the Host similarities, while its face has remarkable resemblance to the Patrick Tatopolus-designed Americanized Godzilla, which may not be too much of an coincidence as Tatopolus created the Moorwen for McCain for free. The Moorwen is vicious, quick, merciless, and revenge-driven: a perfect enemy to face with primitive weapons. The battle sequences between the warriors and the Moorwen are simply awesome; there's a real sense of jeopardy, surprisingly enough. Although the end of the movie should already have been guessed before the 5-minute mark, there still was the sense that anyone could go at any time.

The script keeps everything grounded, realistically-speaking, and does a fine job making the audience hold onto the characters and give a damn. For a monster movie, the monster is sorta kinda the main attraction, and whenever human scenes are on, our 'Boring' pedometer is reaching 100%. But here, the characters and their interactions with each other - even their damn
O.C. level drama - is enticing. There's one particular sequence which is sort of a bonding moment for Kanin and Wulfric as they basically compare dick sizes by playing a game called 'Shields' is extremely entertaining to watch, and actually kinda smart. It reminded me of the TV series' Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess for some reason...

Outlander is a good movie that has a stellar cast that makes these characters they inhabit interesting enough to hold ones attention until the monster shows up to cause some mayhem. It's a pity the Weinstein Company didn't think the movie was fit for wide distribution, which it more than qualifies for, and yet 'brilliant' and 'visionary' material like Babylon A.D. (2008) gets a big summer release; it's an unfair world. For those with Netflix and like monster, action, or period pieces, Outlander is a must-add. For anyone who blindly buys monster or action movies, this is a near-guaranteed hit.

19 June 2009

Crank: High Voltage

Crank: High Voltage
Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, David Carradine, Efren Ramirez
written & directed by
Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
release date: 17 April 2009

Lionsgate, Rated R, 96 mins.

What the Frak?

As the events of
Crank: High Voltage unfolded, I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped in utter awe at what I was watching. 'Did I really just see what I saw? Did they really do that? How the frak did they get away with it?' Simply put, if you're a fan of the original 2006 Crank, this sequel will push you over the freakin' edge; it'll be like a festival of fire-crackers attacking your adrenaline-infused brain. Though, I gotta warn you: don't watch the movie under the influence, because this flick will most likely put one in a coma.

For a guy like me, though, I neither liked or hated the movie; I find myself too stunned by the experience to fully formulate an either or about it. As an action movie, it passes 100% with flying colors: gun blazin', guts flyin', giant freakin' explosions. If you're looking for anything remotely interesting plot-wise, I direct you to the newly-released-as-of-this-writing Year One, which probably has a more sophisticated plot. Hell, as I was watching the flick I couldn't really figure out what the frak was going on other than that our nine-lives bud Chev Chelios needs to constantly juice up his electrical heart, and the Triads want his real heart because of some old folk story (?). Whatever the case, it's the background for the action, and there's plenty of that.

High Voltage defies social barriers and spits in the face of 'proper.' In fact, I would probably rank the absurdities and 'holy shits!' far outside the realm of craziness the 'torture porn' horror movies have. Although it might be too much for me, it's obvious that the filmmakers had a jolly good time with the production of this movie and conjuring up insane action scenarios. A crime lord's henchman having two slice off both of his nipples, a bar melee with a girls breast implants going explody, a Godzilla-like battle in an electrical field, a electrically charged frak in the middle of a horse-race being cheered on by the crowd, a floating head in a water tank, bullets and guns going in and through basically every part of the human body, and so much more that I can't think of at this precise moment.

Despite the absurdities, I think I might've enjoyed it more if it wasn't for the hectic camerawork (which I recognize is part of the
Crank-style of directing, but I find myself getting a headache by it more than getting involved in the fights). It's basically a much more hectic version of Tony Scott's Domino and Man on Fire acid-schemed visual flare. And even though for the most part my jaw was dropped in disbelief, I did thoroughly enjoy the Godzilla/War of the Gargantuas homage as Chelios and one of the Asian baddies, Johnny Vang, duel it out at the electric plant. It's great to see either A) those movies still inspire, or B) people still give enough of a damn to poke fun at 'em. I also chuckled at the Jerry Springer/Maurie-inspired TV interview with a young Chelios, basically the same way as he is now but amazingly a little more restrained (he kept back a few F-bombs it seemed, and kicked way less ass). So, yes, I may not appreciate the movie all that much or what it is, it did have some enjoyable, funny moments.

Jason Statham (War) maintains his potty-mouthed, no-bullshit demeanor, perhaps even beating out Vinnie Jones and Chef Ramsey in bad-assery-pissed-offness. Statham goes all out with this one, fully Mr. Intense Guy throughout the entire picture. His onscreen 'girlfriend' once again brought to life by Amy Smart (Road Trip) does little more than flash her tits, get frakked, and vanish from screen. The late David Carradine (TV: Kung Fu) has limited screentime, but damn if you can't tell he's enjoying himself immensely. Ling Bai (The Crow) is perhaps the most annoying character yet put onscreen in 2009, with her constant complaining and dumbassery accompanied by annoying seemingly redundant subtitles ('fuck this', 'fuck that!', 'that cocksucker!', on and on and on...) Efren Ramirez apparently plays a twin brother to a deceased character from the first movie (my memory of the first flick is fuzzy at best), and sorta reminds me of a sexuality confused mentally challenged indestructible zombie badass individual with a half-assed revenge plot. The character elicits a few laughs, but doesn't add anything overall.

There's gratuitous nudity, mass amounts of violence, swearin' up the frakkin' storm, more gratuitous nudity, dumb dialog, cool fight scenes, and 'OMG' moments galore. Crank: High Voltage is a masterpiece in the sense that it truly is absolutely insane with everything that's happening. The shit that Chev Chelios goes through, sorta makes me yearn for a Jack Bauer vs. Chev Chelios movie, and despite my love for 24, I think Chelios would have the upper hand.

Oh, and talking about 'OMG' moments, the very finale; that was just...crazy. Really, really crazy. (Spoiler) So Chelios is literally on fire, his body burning up a la a one Anakin Skywalker on a certain volcanic planet thanks to a certain ex-best buddie, and the final shot pre-post-credits is him sticking up his middle finger directly at the camera? The fire part is cool, I'll give you that, but the sticking up the finger and his victorious 'Yes!' moment? Nah, coulda done without that. But I coulda done without a bunch of other things from the movie, so I guess I can't complain.

You like the original Crank, you'll fall head-over-heels in love with High Voltage. If you found yourself having a giganto headache after watching it (like me), your brain will most likely explode attempting to sit through this. High Voltage is completely insane with some of the strangest, most bizarre and 'holy shit!' moments you'll ever see. With the critical panning and lukewarm box office results, I find it improbable a third outing for the indestructible Chev Chelios is underway, despite creator plans.

10 June 2009

In Short: Gargantuan and Super-Duper Awesome Short Movie Reviews!

I'm just now recovering (and I use that word mildly) from a 5-day ginormous headache-o that has driven me sorta in the park of crazy. But now with the weather in Minnesota turning towards the rainy side of things, I feel like I'm getting my mojo back. These are some flicks that I've been meaning to write about for a while, but haven't had the gusto; and now, I'm just so tired of seeing them labeled 'draft' that I've bundled all the semi-reviews together into this holy-crap-this-is-totally-rad-and-brilliantly-worded review machine of awesomeness. Prepare to be amazed by my articulate writing skills and entirely original opinion of these hard-to-fine, completely obscure masterpieces. Come back later for some actual meat, like a Drag Me to Hell review, or Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. I still have a bunch of other titles to catch up on, like Angels & Demons and Up. Okay, maybe not a "bunch", but I still feel guilty. Anywho, hope you're all having a good day. Cheeri-o.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Emma Stone, Breckin Meyer
written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
directed by Mark Waters

release date: 01 May 2009

New Line Cinema, Rated PG-13

There's Frakking Worse Things

So how did a movie fare with a bloke who doesn't like either of its two leads nor isn't a fan of romantic comedies? Well, alright-ish. There were plenty of laughs, many of them I think unintentional because I laughed more often than the half-packed theater. Basically, McConaughey's agent was able to snab him another role where he gets to kiss and caress many a hot woman (but this time a freakin' legion), but with a script that 'creatively' adds a Christmas Story-twist to it. McConaughey is Connor Mead, a guy who got his heart ripped once, and through tutelage of his deceased uncle (Douglas), learned the way of picking up women, having a jolly good shag, and dumpin' them later; a good existence, until three ghosts - past, present, future - show him his errors and hiccups, to try to point out that, 'hey, love is important, too, asshole!' As expected, his childhood sweetheart (Garner) is his destined companion, but can Connor change his bastardy ways to win her hand? I'll admit right now I was initially interested in the title, but there's nothing really here to appreciate; the performances are completely phoned in, worse than what I imagine people perceive Keanu Reeves in his 'performances', and the script is basically average. There's basically four reasons to see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: 1) hot women for the guys and a shirtless McConaughey (again) for the girls; 2) boyfriend wins points with girlfriend; the supporting cast outshines our principal leads; and 4) it's better than Made of Honor (I apologize, I'm never going to get over how bad that was). Overall, if one must experience all that is McConaughey, this ones best left for cable or DVD rental.

Lady Vengeance
starring Lee Young Ae, Choi Min-sik

written by
Jeong Seo-kyeong & Park Chan-wook
directed by Park Chan-wook
release date: 29 July 2005
CJ Entertainment, 112 mins.

Pretty Frakk
in' Good

Superior to
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, but not quite reaching the awesome levels of Oldboy, Lady Vengeance is nonetheless a very interesting revenge tale that keeps your eyes glued to the screen. Wrongly-convicted Lee Geum-ja (beautifully played by Lee Young Ae) for the death of a young child, Geum-ja is released from prison for her supposed 'spiritual transformation'. However, that pretense is pretty much a facade as she's hellbent on exacting revenge on the person who set her up and truthfully killed the boy. But the interesting thing about Lady Vengeance that separates it from other revenge tales is what happens the last forty minutes (Spoilers follow): she, with the help of a police officer who believes in her innocence, recruits the families of all the children this man has hurt and killed, and leaves the mans fate in their hands. As far as I know, it's the first time I've watched a group of people collude in taking out revenge on a common enemy, as far as the whole children situation is concerned.

Director Park Chan-wook's usual sense of stunning cinematography is once again at work here, as is his time/place jumping, although it's far more restrained than his first effort in the trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance). There are some pacing issues, but nothing that is too nagging; similar to Mr. Vengeance, there are plenty of abrupt flashbacks to Lee's days in prison, but at least these bits are interesting and actually add layers to the story. Score-wise, I can honestly say I can't remember a single note, even furthering the awesomeness that is Oldboy in that it really has everything a revenge story should have. Lady Vengeance has a lot going for it, from its stellar cast to its awesome script. If there's any areas to fault, the captivating performances and interesting story more than makes up for any lagging moments.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop
starring Kevin James, Keirr O'Donnell, Jayma Mays

written by Kevin James & Nick Bakay

directed by Ste
ve Carr
release date: 16 January 2009
Columbia Pictures, 91 mins., Rated PG

There's Frakking Worse Things

Paul Blart: Mall Cop
is one of those movies you don't have much to say about it. As a comedy, it works; there's moments of simple chuckles, and every once in a great while there's something that will really make you laugh. But sadly, for the most part, there's nothing significant about the movie to make it really worthwhile, let alone a DVD purchase (seriously, this title was a very good seller at work, nearly as good as Gran Torino's selling). If there's one thing that I would give kudos to this January comedy, it would be the casting. Kevin James (TV: King of Queens) is completely likable and relatable, and Kayma Mays (TV: Heroes) is simply adorable as Blart's love interest. Additionally, the Alan Rickman/Die Hard-like character Veck Sims, played by keirr O'Donnell (Wedding Crashers) is friggin' awesome, and the true highlight performance of the movie. Overall, it is an enjoyable comedy, but compared to this year's other mall cop flick, Observe & Report, it doesn't nearly carry as many laughs (and that's saying something, when I wasn't as in-love with that title as much as my friends seem to be). A decent if unspectacular family comedy that has its moments but for the most part is just...meh.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
starring Song
Kang-ho, Shin Ha-kyum, Bae Doona
written by Park Chan-wook, Lee Jae-sun, Lee Mu-yeong, Lee Yong-jong

directed by Park Chan-wook

release date: 29 March 2002
CJ Entertainment, 129 mins.

What the Frak?

Who knew revenge could be so bloody boring. Now I've seen plenty of revenge movies, and I understand that there needs to be a certain amount of charact
er development and creation of tension. However, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance simply basks in them, creating two distinct hours dedicated for each character, while the entire story could be accomplished (without losing any of the emotional impact, I guarantee) in a far tighter version.

Telling a story of cause & effect, we first meet Ryu, a deaf-mute who tries to buy a kidney for his desperately ill sister after finding that he's not a right match. So he channels the black market, paying a group $10,000 (10,000,000 Korean won) for a kidney, but they vacate leaving Ryu naked and stranded. And its at this juncture that the doctors tell him that they found a donor, but need $10,000, the money he doesn't have. With the help of his radical friend Yeong-mi, they devise a plan to kidnap the daughter of a friend's boss for ransom, but that goes to hell as his sister kills herself for not wanting to take part of the plan, and the little girl accidentally drowning as he's putting his sisters body to rest. While Ryu tries to handle the situation and find the people who stole his money, we now meet Dong-jin, the angry father who makes it his mission to find the man responsible for his daughter's death and punish him.

Sounds really cool, right? Well, it could have been a very good movie, if it didn't feel like it dragged on forever. Sure, the cinematography, as well documented by nearly every reviewer, is simply beautiful; it's pretty much award worthy. But being so in love with the shots and the performances (which I concede are great, but aren't captivating enough to warrant 4-minute long shots of a distraught father) should not impede a editor from doing their job.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance could highly benefit from editing, and then I think this movie truly would be perfect. Director Park Chan-wook's interest in time-jumping/scene-jumping is also at full display here, oftentimes becoming a little confusing or simply irritating. Although this sounds like a overly negative review, I did not hate the movie, I just didn't enjoy it as much as I should. There are some great things to love about this movie, and deservedly so as everything is done with such a high caliber of excellence, but its poor pacing really deters the enjoyment level. The performances are top-notch, the dialog witty, the music moody, and the direction stylish. Despite the pacing issue, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance still comes recommended, but I would rate this one the lesser awesomest of the Vengeance Trilogy.

09 June 2009

The '10' Meme

Caffeinated Joe has caught wind of two memes currently sweeping move blogs, both involving a 'Top 10' of sorts. And me, having nothing to do, have taken it upon myself to uphold the meme tradition and tackle it head-on. Plus, it's a nice distraction from me writing, trashing, and re-writing reviews for movies that I'm not all that sure what the hell to write about. So, happy me.

First up is a "Ten Movies in Your Netflix Que" meme, supplied by Gilligan over at Retrospace.

1. Outlander

2. Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

3. The Seventh Seal

4. Lars and the Real Girl

5. 12 Monkeys

6. Earthsea

7. Merlin: Special Edition

8. The Last Legion

9. Losin' It

10. Lady Snowblood

And secondly is a "Last Ten Movies" meme, basically chronicling the last ten flicks one has watched, by Calvin over at his blog. This was sorta difficult to remember the actual movies I've watched recently, since I've been on a TV binge watching Dexter (Seasons 1 & 2), Smallville Season 8, and 24 Season 7.

1. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past [Just got back from this; I had seen pretty much everything that interested me in theaters, so this was next on the list, and it wasn't all that bad. Actually pretty enjoyable, just not a fan of the two leads, funnily enough]

2. Drag Me To Hell [Never been a die-hard Raimi fan, but I definitely enjoyed this horror/comedy hybird, that more than once got me with some of its "jump" tactics; in fact, Raimi has accomplished the nearly impossible: he made wind and weird noises in a totally vacant house freaky again]

3. Transformers [In preparation for the sequel later this month, I just thought it fitting to re-watch the original 2007 movie, and to my surprise, I actually enjoy it a thousand times better with my 50th viewing than the first time]

4. Star Trek [Best. Movie. Yet. 3rd tiem seeing it, and it still holds up marvelously. I LOVE this movie, and by the time it concludes, I want to either A) re-watch it, or B) watch the sequel. It doesn't get better than this]

5. The Dark Knight [Still pretty much perfect. I've been re-watching it a lot lately in preparation for its 1-year anniversary review I'm going to try to chum out; God I love this movie. So, I bet you couldn't get the review will be mostly positive, right?]

6. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian [Average fun with Ben Stiller and an "hey, that guy!" cast, this sequel to a movie that wasn't all that-loved definitely loves that 'bigger is better' mantra as there's a bunch of things flying and miscellaneous dudes coming to life and then there's this subplot with an undead army of human/bird people - it's all great fun, but a little boring]

7. Terminator Salvation [A adrenaline-fueled fourth entry that disappointments only in regard with its lack of story and characterization; nearly all explosions and no actual substance, that is why Salvation fails]

8. Paul Blart: Mall Cop [A throw-away January movie that just happened to become popular enough to get a lot of mullah and publicity, there's some funny jokes spread far and in-between, and the story is far from original, but it's the cast that sells this mundane title]

9. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [With the new movie coming out, why not check it out again? And hey, I may be one of the 150 blokes in the world who actually really like this third installment; I'd take it over Salvation, and it's not just because of the beauty that is Claire Danes. I like the story, the whole inevitability of it all - nice]

10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine [The girlfriend wanted to see it, so I figured why not? At least I'll be able to see if I still hold my same opinion; and yep, I pretty much do. This was a missed opportunity, made for simple business]

Here's to a bucket of health!