25 July 2009

The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth
starring Katherine Heigel, Gerard Butler, Cheryl Hines, John Michael Higgins
written by Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith, Nicole Eastman
directed by Robert Luketic
release: 24 July 2009
Lakeshore Entertainment, 96 mins., Rated R

Pretty Frakkin' Good

I'm pretty freakin' surprised I liked The Ugly Truth. Not gonna lie - not exactly top of my list, but in a weekend where G-Force was the only other option aside from seeing Half-Blood Prince for the fourth time, I opted with inevitably bad romantic comedy with a snobby lead actress and King Leonidas himself. Of course it's not the most brilliant bucket in the romantico comedy arena, but it sure beats the hell out of 2008's Maid of Honor (sorry, but the sting of that movie's suckiness will haunt my romance moving watching for years to come), and is a tad better than this summer's The Proposal, at least in the laugh department and one other extremely important factor. Oh, and it's fun, which is rather a tad important.

Show producer Abby (Heigel) is getting her ass handed to her by declining ratings for a morning talk show, and in an attempt to get a rise and the station back in the heat of the ratings battle, the company hires tell-it-like-it-is relationship correspondent Mike Chadway (Butler). Basically going off on tangents about what's wrong in relationships, why the frak men and women do what they do, etc., etc., and being rather coarse about it, Mike gets the ratings the channel company so desires, and becomes their prime pin-up man. Abby doesn't like the git too much, finding him rude and repulsive, but the two agree to work together and Mike even helps Abby try to overcome her control freak tendencies and get a guy, but little would they expect there's a spark between the two of them...

Somehow, someway, there's chemistry between Heigel and Butler, and again, somehow, someway, I believed this story and I believed how these feelings developed and eventually became what it did, something The Proposal didn't so much succeed at (sorry, it's a bad habbit referencing prior romantic comedy releases; can't help it, must contain, apologies). These are two people who are polar opposites, and why should they really like each other is sorta the central question for any type of movie like this. To my absolute delight - so much so I even had a smile at me face, Mike's response to Abby's why-do-you-love-me? inquisitorial: "Beats the shit out of me." (maybe not the exact words, but forgive me - my memory is currently housing orgasmic fits about Torchwood and Battlestar Galactica) Sorry for potentially ruining it for the folks who were actually gonna give this old beauty a try - which I do recommend.

Much like the repeatedly compared to When Harry Met Sally, these two characters don't much like each other at film's beginning, but by the middle they gain some sort of respect for their respective jobs and form some sort of bond. It works. Although Butler's Mike sometimes comes off as too much of a jerk to actually like the guy, let alone understand why a television company would keep a foul mouthed, rude, sexist semi-prick employed and actually revel in the negative comments (mixed in with the positive ones, of course) from watchers beats me, there's moments where I can't help but absolutely dig the guy. Finding out about his sister and her kid, and the occasional cracks of his cold, hard demeanor by late night host Craig Ferguson, it's actually quite interesting and DOES add a little extra layer to the guy. Bottom line is that Butler is entirely charismatic, and his high-horse tendencies as the Mike character can be overlooked because he simply draws you in.

Abby is a workaholic, an absolute neat freak, and needs to be in control of everything and everyone. She just has a lot of ticks. Suffice it to say, sex and relationships haven't exactly been on the schedule, and if they have been, they didn't so much work out. Begrudgingly, she looks to Mike for help, and he does so, as long as they agree to put their differences aside and work together. I gotta hand it to Katherine Heigel, who I don't especially like, she plays strong female roles extremely well, and I quite like that. Heigel is surprisingly likable as a lead, as she was nothing but obnoxious for me in Knocked Up and 27 Dresses, but here she kinda just seems to want to have fun, and makes her character a bit more interesting to watch. It's great watching Abby trying to hide her little ticks and be something of a normal girlfriend (if there be such a thing), and the crazy shennanigans that result from it.

And of course, the absolute top priority of any romantic story is that the gradual development of the relationship and the eventual hook-up comes off as realistic or at least potentially logical. Surprisingly, this movie did that, too. It's one of those stories where they start off as frenemies, then morph into friends, but then there's those damn little moments that hint at underlying feelings. So when the moment actually happens (I'm sorry, was that a spoiler?), I was happy with it, satisfied even. It works. Although I don't exactly appreciate the contrived crux that's absolutely mandatory in Romantic Comedy Screening 101 school, the resolution's quite amusing and fun to watch unfold.

As far as jokes go, I gotta say that I laughed a lot, maybe even more than the much-raved about The Hangover earlier this summer. Yeah, I know: blasphemy. Anywhoot, I actually loved the restaurant scene, also strongly compared to When Harry Met Sally (must everything relate back to that?), which I found funnier in this one than that. Heigel's expressions are dead on perfect, Butler's enjoyment from it brilliant - it's all just good fun. But getting most of the laughs are off-the-air couple Larry (Higgins) and Georgia (Hines), who on-air discuss their non-existant sex life and get advice from Mike on how to spice things up and for Larry to "be a man!"

The jokes are funny, the chemistry is present, and I enjoyed my time, and that's basically why The Ugly Truth might actually be worth a person's time. And, with the use of multiple sex jokes and dissing of female tendencies, it's actually quite accessible to guys, so they might find themselves enjoying the flick they've been forced to see by the girlfriend/wife/significant other.

24 July 2009


starring Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey (voice)
written by Duncan Jones & Nathan Parker
directed by Duncan Jones
release: 10 July 2009 (wide)
Sony Pictures Classics, 97 mins., Rated R

Pretty Frakkin' Good

There's little little indie production called Moon that has been making its rounds at theaters the last month, and has got quite a lot of attention and praise from critics and audiences alike. It being a science fiction tale, which automatically interests me, and it receiving plenty of thumbs up, I decided to check out the trailer. Looks awesome. Looks confusing. So very excitedly, went to my local Carmike Stadium 20 (the only theater outside Minneapolis that has the film), bought my ticket, and enjoyed a hour and a half intimate human sci-fi story that left me craving more. Exiting out a viewing of Moon at your local multiplex, I would imagine ones thoughts would be similar to mind (at least hopefully):

1) Sam Rockwell gave frakkin' fantastic performances, all two characters
2) That was pretty neat
3) Pretty cool story, and holy cow wasn't Clint Mansell's score AWESOME?

Nearing the end of his three-year contract with Lunar Industries, Sam Bell (Rockwell) is as giddy as a Star Wars geek meeting Princess Leia to get back home. Stationed on the moon to collect helium-3, a fuel source for the earth, Sam's home sick, and time can't go fast enough. His sole company is GERTY, a intelligent computer whose function is to service Sam and his everyday needs. On yet another particularly uneventful day, Sam suffers an accident on one of his harvesters, and wakes up the next day in the infirmary healed, clean, and rested. Despite GERTY's wishes, Sam makes an trip to the broken down harvester, and finds himself still laying there. Understandably shocked and completely flabbergasted, Sam brings the other Sam back with him. Who is he? Is he real? Is Sam losing his mind? What the frak is going on? Now more than ever, Sam's desperate to leave, but the arrival of a rescue crew with ulterior motives in mind may sorta impede that plan...

The trailer looked complicated, making it seem like this was one of those sci-fi pieces that you had to pay attention to every little tiny detail because it's signifcant to understanding the story and perhaps figuring out the 'twists' a little early. Turns out Moon isn't all that complicated, not reaching convoluted heights of incomprehensible complexity. Not saying that's a bad thing, just a nice surprise. In fact, the script is very well written, with very real, very intense emotional and psychological drama with the character(s) of Sam Bell and his dilemma.

As nearly the only actor in the films entirety, Sam Rockwell gives his career performance as Sam Bell and Sam Bell, respectively. Rockwell, for me, has always been 'that one guy', the dude you point out to your friend and say, 'It's that one guy from [insert movie title]'. I associate him with Charlie's Angels, which I'm so very sure he would appreciate, where he just played an damn awesome villain. Last year, though, he seemed bored out of his mind in Choke, though I can't imagine why since he gets to snog plenty of very attractive women. As a guy who hasn't seen all his movies, I'm just saying right now that this is his best performance that I've seen.

Disoriented from an accident, maybe perhaps losing his mind from three years of isolation on the moon and the arrival of a second Sam Bell, Rockwell is on fire! I honestly can't give this performance enough kudos. (Spoiler follows) Towards the last forty minutes of the movie, one of the Sam Bells is deteriorating, and watching this happen is absolutely heartbreaking, truly the Rockwell's bright shiny moment in the picture. (End spoiler) The difference in demeanor and personality of both Sam Bell's is perfectly defined, leaving no 'what one's which?' dilemmas or complications. Again, Rockwell kicks ass.

It's a fantastic story about Sam asking himself, who and what am I? Not only is it an intersting story, but the amazing performance of Rockwell's keeps ones eyes glued to the screen, unwavering because he is just so damn impactful and the screen is so tight and perfectly crafted. As both Sams do everything they can think of to find out the answers to their questions, I half didn't want them to find out because I cared and I didn't want their worlds to be turned upside down (well, worse than they already were by this point).

And what review of Moon would be complete without talking about GERTY, voiced by the always great Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns)? GERTY the robot is Sam's only companion for the duration of his three year contract, and I personally would love this computers company. Speaking in a cool, human voice instead of robot soundy, GERTY also has a small viewscreen that consists of multiple emoticons that signal his 'mood', from sadness to happy! I'm extremely glad that writer/director Jones didn't do a 2001 and make GERTY a evil robot hellbent on keeping the truth of Lunar Industries from Sam, but instead actually helped him. One can't help but love that little robot.

Oh, and as mentioned above, Clint Mansell (The Fountain) composes a FANTASTIC score, and I easily recommend anyone to purchase or download the soundtrack immediately. Of particular note, if you wish to download only one track, I recommend the last 10-minute suite 'Welcome to Lunar Industries.' Brilliant, brilliant work, and easily one of my favorite compositions of 2009 yet.

Mainly probably due to the small $5 million budget - well, small in Hollywood terms - Moon utilizes minatures and painted backgrounds, etc., etc. Basically, old school techniques pretty much abandoned in this day of age where CGI is as abundant as real actors. It was very refreshing seeing this old-school technique brought back to the big screen, and to such staggeringly spectacular results.

Taking a look over Wikipedia's page on the movie, there's apparently talk about a "Moon Trilogy", with Rockwell possibly giving a cameo in the second installment. Well, Mr. Jones, you have my complete unasked for blessings to proceed, because I super duper really want to find out what's next in this story. It's interesting, absolutely engaging, and quite clever. Give us more! Give us more! So, yes, I know I'm quite subtle about it, but I liked Moon, and I can't recommend it enough. It's something different from the usual summer fare (yes, I know it wasn't designed as a summer release), deep and thoughtful, beautiful to look at and the time runs by, don't miss Moon.

15 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman
written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
directed by David Yates
Warner Bros., 153 mins., Rated PG

Pretty Frakkin' Good

"Why is it that whenever someone's in trouble, it is always you three?"

Wow. $22.2 million just for a midnight (and 3 AM) release. That's just mind-boggling. Guess abstinence does make the heart grow fonder, eh? (nudge, nudge) Oh, I crack myself up. On one hand, as a Potter fan, I'm glad, but on the other hand, I'm a little sad that The Dark Knight's midnight screening record got demolished. But anywho, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has finally made its way to cinemas, after being bumped from its 20 November 2008 release date in favor for a summer release to get some more mullah. Since that bump, I admit the anticipation for this installment has been a tad shaky - sometimes it's 'eh' and other times it's 'O.M.G. I can't wait any longer!' And plus, there's the fact that Yates & Co. would have to top themselves after their outstandingly awesome Order of the Phoenix. Could they accomplish this with this PG rating and emphasis on the snogging woes of teenage life?

Well, I'm still a little shaky on whether or not I really, really, really like it, or am just 'eh, it was alright.' So, I've thus devised a BRILLIANT pro and con list, because that's all I could really find myself doing: writing points. Hopefully, with each successive viewing I'll be able to suss out my feelings on it better. But, any who, here's the list:

Happy Harry

- The first five minutes are the best scenes in the entire motion picture in my mind. Brilliant; simply brilliant. Opening at (presumably) the Ministry, with Harry and Dumbeldore being bombarded with photographs from wizard journals minutes after their fight against Voldemort outside the Department of Mysteries, the beauty of these sixty seconds is the gut-wrenching emotional heartache one feels as you’re stuck on Harry’s bloodied face. Having just lost the only person he could call ‘family’, Harry is completely and utterly torn up inside, having not the foggiest reason why to keep on going other than to kill Bellatrix Lestrange, Sirius’ murderer, in the most horrific fashion (a plot that is lovingly brought up in an extra scene that I will discuss later). Sorrow, emotional and physical pain, and carelessness of everyone else in the world, the death of Sirus replaying in his mind over and over; a gripping sixty seconds that captivates you and doesn’t let up.

Another nifty part is when the Death Eaters invade the Muggle world of London, breaking down and sinking bridges, and making their way into Diagon Alley and causing havoc, which is actually a distraction from them stealing the wand seller Olivander, a plot that is crucial to the final book. However, I was surprised this plot point was presented in Half-Blood Prince, because memory tells me that that didn’t occur in the book, but I could be wrong.

- Qudditch has never looked better. Beautifully filmed and completely realistic, this was truly the first time I ever found myself feeling like I was watching a camera crew capture the game live. The visual effects and composition was seamless and all around perfect. Ginormous kudos to the folks over at Industrial Lights & Magic who accomplished quite a task; it sort of reminds me of the promotional materials for Superman, when they claimed you could believe a man could fly – well, here, you can believe people can play games on broomsticks in the air! That was fun; and Rupert Grint’s hilarious facial expressions of sheer terror and then giddiness sells the scenes entirely.

- The big scene that was added the movie but never written in the book is the attack on the Burrow, the Weasely House. It’s just terrific, honestly. Moody, powerful, and romantic. Romantic in the sense that they’re furthering the tension between Harry and Ginny, moody in the sheer freakyness of the field, being out there all alone with Bellatrix and Greyback out there, and powerful with Harry’s sprint to confront Bellatrix, running solely on pure rage. My only concern is the fact they blew up the Weasely house, which is sorta important for Deathly Hallows, but not enough that Kloves can’t write out some brilliant alternate place to hold the wedding at. But any toot – this is an amazing scene that really is a true character moment, and not only that, but it builds tension. As Hermione states when they get back to school, they can get to Harry anywhere.

- Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd) was terrifically out-of-her-mind s Bellatrix Lestrange. Her facial expressions and absolute joy as she’s causes havoc is exciting and rather humorous to watch. I would be one freaked out wizard to have to confront her in battle. Absolutely, totally nutters, Bellatrix Lestrange is a force to be reckoned with.

- As Dumbeldore roasts the Inferi, I leaned over to my girlfriend, who is a major Lord of the Rings fanatic, and said: “Watch Gandalf do that!” That scene was simply awesome. Awesome, awesome, and even more awesome. And I don’t even care about the comparisons with Gollum, I think the Inferi and their subsequent fire is absolutely stunning. I wish I could do that…Dumbeldore was finally badass, ladies and gentlemen.

- The Potter franchise hasn't looked this beautiful and stylistic in a while, not since 2004's Prisoner of Azkaban. Working with cinematographer Bruno Belbonnel (Across the Universe), Half-Blood Prince looks marvelous. Within the first five minutes, we're treated to a really awesome descent through London and then into Diagon Alley, all from the perspective of the Death Eaters. Order of the Phoenix merely hinted at David Yates' fantastic ability as director, but this installment really solidifies the deal. Another thing that I really liked was the color scheme, which I read through the recent Entertainment Weekly issue that is went through multiple schemes to please the Warner execs. This scheme looks fairly faded out, relying on dark colors to seap in even into bright sequences; dark brown, blue, and green are prevelent throughout. And the wide shot of Harry and Dumbeldore inside the cave, lights out - it's so very pretty. Half-Blood Prince may be one of the most visually pleasing Potter films to date.

- Basically a side character who made snide remarks to Harry but never having the balls to actually engage him, Malfoy has never been given his proper go in the franchise, save perhaps Chamber of Secrets. But now all that has changed, and finally actor Tom Felton has been given the opportunity to explore Malfoy in a way he never was able to before. Assigned a mission of great importance to Voldemort and his Death Eaters, it weighs on him throughout the entire year, bringing him down mentally and physically in concealed areas, but maintains his manly, 'I don't give a shit' demeanor out in public. Watching Malfoy crumble throughout the picture is heartbreaking and absolutely captivating. I loved, loved, LOVED the moments when you see Harry as happy and optimistic as can be, and the camera moves a little to the left or right and you see Malfoy sitting down with the look of absolute dread on his face. Fan-flippin'-tastic. Even Felton's confrontation with Dumbeldore near the movie's conclusion is terrifically played, as Felton is able to hold his own against a far more seasoned actor. This is truly Felton's movie.

- While I'm talking about performances, I might as well bring up the actor I feared most would frak up this movie: Michael Gambon. As Dumbeldore, Gambon has never embodied the character to a satisfactory degree for me; hell, in Goblet of Fire, he was downright unpleasant and just came across as a nutty, mean headmaster. Since Richard Harris passed away, I never felt a bond between Gambon or Radcliffe, something that would indicate that these two were something more than student and pupil, that there was a father/son vibe - but there was nadda. But anyway, Gambon really had to sell that relationship with this installment, as basically everything that happens in this movie and the next rests on it. And kudos to Gambon, he actually pulls it off quite well - he's as close to Dumbeldore as he'll ever get. Funny, verbose, gentle, intelligent, and powerful, Gambon kicks major ass as Dumbeldore.

- Additionally, Daniel Radcliffe gives yet another very fine performance, especially under the influence of Felix Felicious (his hand and mouth movement when showcasing Aragog's pinters left me laughing out loud a good sixty seconds after the joke), but I feel he was far more outstanding in Order of the Phoenix. Good performance, nonetheless. Sadly, Emma Watson is rather wasted, though it's great to see her get back to her classroom nerdy vibe. And Rupert Grint fully embraces his role as a comedy device, supplying many of Half-Blood's many laughs.

- And let's not forget Professor Slughorn, brought to life by Jim Broadbent. I'm not too familiar with Slughorn in the novel, as he never much interested me, but Broadbent is absolutely marvelous in the role. His constant raising of his eyebrows is hilarious to behold, and can turn from funny to downright dark. A man filled with regret, but lives his life in association with individuals of greatness, Slughorn is an interesting character that is justly presented to the screen.

- Alan Rickman has suffered the same fate as Tom Felton through the previous movies, and luckily, he gets more screentime, but sadly, not enough, I fear. Although I do wish there was a bit more emphasis on Snape, and his dealings on both sides, Rickman's fantastic performance is undeniable. I love Alan Rickman!

- One last thing: the sequence with Katie Bell being cursed by the necklace: FREAKY! I can honestly say those few seconds of her up in the air, silently screaming, was far more scary than any of those American remakes of Japanese horror movies ever achieved. Just...damn, frakkin' freaky, dude.

Voldey Naughty

- Logic: aside from being quite pretty to look at and a damn good trailer introduction, I can’t really see the logic in Apparating on a rock surrounded by the ocean, miles away from your destination, when it would be so much simpler if they just Apparated inside the cave.

- Half-Blood Prince concludes on the least energetic ending of the series. In fact, I much prefer the freeze frame at the end of Azkaban over this film’s final scene, which has Harry, Ron, and Hermione on Astronomy Tower, looking solemn, and pretty much saying their big plan in barely whispers. Now I’m sure actually showing Dumbeldore’s funeral would even add to the movie’s budget, but there is something very powerful with Harry getting up and choosing to leave everything behind. Given what we have with the movie, I appreciate that the final scene takes place at the last sight of Dumbeldore’s life, but at least make this a strong moment when Harry says definitively, ‘I’m going to find these Horcruxes, and I’m going to destroy Voldemort.’ As it stands, the ending concludes without the drive and anticipation to see the next chapter.

- Explanations. As the movie unfolded, there were several things that came across as just ‘because’, without any form of explanation. The one example currently stuck in my head relates to Severus Snape and his reveal that he is, in fact, the Half-Blood Prince. Well, congratulations, Snape. You only have the movie’s title named after you and you’re prominently featured throughout the movie, but no need to actually reveal why you wrote your name that way instead of saying ‘Property of Severus.’ I believe in the book, Hermione tells Harry about Snape’s mother (?), something about a mud-blood, and thus Snape christening himself that name. I would have appreciated an explanation.

- Having yet to purchase the soundtrack and give it its own isolated listen, I am yet unimpressed with this movie’s score once again provided by Nicholas Hooper. Near the final 30 minutes is when the score becomes actually audible, whereas I felt everything preceding that was nearly nonexistent. Hooper also reused music from his previous outing, which made me disappointed, but I did like the combination of scores from the Williams era. At least John Williams spiced things up with his three contributions to the franchise. Based solely on the movie experience and without listening to it as a soundtrack, I’m saddened to say this may be the least satisfying score for Harry Potter yet.

- Moments after Voldemort’s return in Goblet of Fire, Dumbeldore reestablishes the Order of the Phoenix, a group of individuals who have banded together to permanently destroy Voldemort. A proactive front by anyone’s calculations, but this movement is seemingly entirely forgotten in Half-Blood Prince. In fact, the very point that Voldemort is alive and kicking, gathering all sorts of magical creatures to his cause and preparing an all-out war is far away from anyone’s mind, even Dumbeldore himself, let alone Harry Potter. I do understand the need for a lighter tone, a “light before the dark” kind of thing, but I would have appreciated a hint of Voldemort’s continued presence and the war that is raging outside Hogwarts borders.

- I would have liked a little bit more chemistry between Ginny and Harry. Now I'm a huge Ginny/Harry shipper, always thought they would be great together, and I was hoping that it would be the best part of the movie, or at least make me really giddy. It's a tad sad to say that I didn't really feel the affection between the two of them, and Harry's attitude throughout the movie with being attracted to other women sorta makes going out with Ginny just a 'well, she's the only one who'll have me' feel. Oh well, the moments between them were still cute, and I still wish I was Daniel Radcliffe in their few scenes together.

- And post-Astronomy Tower, I would have appreciated a small scene that had Harry with McGonagell or some of the other teachers finding out what truly happened with Dumbeldore and Snape and Malfoy up their, to be completely surprised at the news and taken aback. I guess it's just another emotional beat that I would have liked, and I feel the movie would have benefitted from...

Considering I have no problem with the other installments [er, okay, that's not true. After reading Nick's piece about Azkaban, I now have some issues with the story, and Goblet of Fire feels off no matter how I think about it], I find it strange that I have so may little nitpicks about Half-Blood. Though, I wager it could be, perhaps, that I am particularly fond of the last three Potter books moreso than any others. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no denying I enjoyed every second of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and with the growth of Yates as director and the expansion of Deathly Hallows as two films, I have very little doubt these last two pictures will be the defining achievements of the Potter franchise.

Obviously, I got my little nitpicks, but as you can plainly see, the positives far outweigh anything negative I have to say about the movie.

Half-Blood Prince is a very, very, very, very good movie, and is extremely faithful to Rowling's original novel. Of course, there are some things cut for one reason or another, but there's not too much missed nor omitted without a relatively understandable reason. The actors are at their top game, 100%, the script is tight, the music relatively decent, the cinematography breathtaking, and Qudditch finally looked cool - overall, I'd say it's a successful outing, eh?

12 July 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper

I Love You, Beth Cooper
Paul Rust, Hayden Panettiere, Jack. T. Carpenter, Lauren London, Lauren Storm, Alan Ruck, Cynthia Stevenson
written by Larry Doyle based off his book "I Love You, Beth Cooper"
directed by

Fox Atomic, 104 mins., Rated

Pretty Frakkin' Good

Hayden Panettiere is hot, thus Andy buys ticket to see her movie. Hayden Panettiere is hot.

For that reason, and because the premise sounded too good to pass up, I saw
I Love You, Beth Cooper, yet another one of those "teenager grows up and lives in one night" type pictures, most recently seen in last year's Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist. Although lacking in originality (aside from the opening speech, which I found absolutely delicious), it's the characters and their strong interactions that make this movie recommendable and worthwhile.

Socially awkward but Valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Rust) professes his love to Beth Cooper (Panettiere) during his high school graduation speech. Amused by his confession, Beth and her friends Teresa (Storm) and Cameron (London) bring him and his bud Rich (Carpenter) along for a night of fun in their life of just hanging out and being crazy. Aside from that, they also need to escape Beth's jealous hunky cheating boyfriend Kevin who wants nothing more than to beat the snot out of Denis; but hey, everyone's having a merry, jolly good time, and along the way, they get to know each other better and through one night, they also confront the reality of life after high school.

A pretty solid story that doesn't really hold much in the way of surprises, what really anchors a flick like this is the journey the characters take from Point A) where they are in the beginning, to Point Z) where they end up. Have they changed as people? Have they come to terms with a problem that has been bugging them? Y'know, actual bloody character development. Well, the nice thing about
Beth Cooper is that the movie successfully fills in the running time without feeling too long with many funny gags and moments of absolute craziness (not to mention kudos to the geek universe, with such geek-inspired moments like Denis taking out his Master Replicas Luke Skywalker Return of the Jedi lightsaber), but lacks development for its central character, Denis himself.

Sure, Denis is a
little more open to people by the film's conclusion, and experienced a life he never knew in high school, and actually got to converse with the girl he's been daydreaming about for ages, but I don't feel that his character actually grew substantially. A rebuttal to this could be the opening scene, in which Denis pretty much tells people off, saying everything face value; it's a moment of taking a stand that's extremely admirable, and I kinda wanted to clap for the guy and give him a standing ovation. But after this moment of power, he resorts back to his introverted self. Baby steps...I guess I can deal. Beth, on the other hand, begins the night as her normal self, and through Denis' dorkiness, 'cuteness', and, well, kindness I guess, she opens up to him and reveals herself. And as the cheerleader captain who lived the life in high school, she needs to confront what life will be outside the school walls. The what's next. Beth's friends are, more or less, background characters. Rich simply needs to find out if he's gay or not, but he does have an awesome moment in which he deals with being picked on as a kid with a fiery vengeance that's completely entertaining to watch.

As far as honesty goes, I actually think
Sex Drive depicted teenagers more accurately (although this is far, far, far superior to ABC Family's Secret Life of the American Teenager, who basically promote the series as as close to teenagery as you can get without, y'know, being a teenager). Denis and Rich act very much like teenage stereotypes, never forming their own identity. This could quite very well be intentional, or the writer felt that he wanted to have the main character hit all the nerd stereotypes and work from there. But honestly, I just found Denis annoying. One scene in particular, when he's getting pounded on by Beth's boyfriend at a party, he does nothing. Zilch. The kids in Drillbit Taylor took more initative than this kid! Perhaps I'm expecting too much. Its like the kid doesn't want to change, despite his comments to the contrary. It's frustrating because the movie's supposed to be about him opening up, so I would at least hope Denis would think, 'why the frak not?', and try to defend himself!

Alright, momentary agitation is soo over...

The only other thing aside from the ginormous age difference between the cast and the characters (they may be in their twenties, but there's plenty of them, including Rust, who look like they're nearing freakin' forty) is the improbability of many of the situations the characters find themselves in, and their resolutions. At one point, a character drives a giant truck into a super expensive house, and leaves without any incident or legal problamo. Perhaps this all occurs in offscreenville?

I Love You, Beth Cooper had all the ingredients to be a rather heart-warming, spectacular coming-of-age teen comedy/drama, but aside from a few sprinkled moments here and there that don't really come off too convincing, the movie relies more on the hilarious jokes and situations than the heart of the story. And c'mon - they could totally have hired an actor that looked remotely close to a teenager, not someone lookin' in their forties, mate. But hell - I still enjoyed my time at the theater, despite the back of my head telling me I coulda wrote and directed this movie better...uh, and on that note, see I Love You, Beth Cooper!

Geek Bits 002

Hello! And welcome to the monthly Geek Bits column here at Ramblings of a Minnesota Geek! Please pardon the month that must not be named (okay, June), where I didn't really do much in the way of postings. Major amount of distractions and writer's leg: lack of enthusiasm. But hereith in July, I'm feelin' the urge to write! And not only am I writing here on my blog, but I'm also mapping out some stories that I've had stuck in my head for a while, so it's quite refreshing to have them finally jotted down on paper.

Well, Geek Bits serves to have little tidbits of news that may be relatively new or completely old; I'm not a news website, really, but there's a few things that I like putting up here. Makes me feel giddy. So here's a few items that I've found this month:

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- Apparently, principal photography for the Platinum Dunes re-take of Nightmare on Elm Street has finished, as revealed per Brad Fuller's
twitter page.

- New trailer up for Jennifer's Body, the follow-up for Juno scribe Diablo Cody, and the deliciously hot Megan Fox's (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, for those three blokes who didn't know) next flick-a-roo. Well, looks nice, all I can say. Amanda Seyfriend (Mamma Mia!) has already bought my ticket, there's a hint of Cody's trademark dialog, and from what I can tell - it'll simply be a bloody fun horror/comedy movie. Jennifer's Body hits theaters 18 September.[Beyond Hollywood/Slashfilm (Red Band)]

- Similarly, a new trailer for the 14 August District 9 release has hit the web, and although I still haven't the foggiest what the actual plot is, the cinematography and visual effects are simply breathtaking. Perhaps when I see this flick in action, the effects won't look as beautiful, but as it is watching that trailer on a semi-well-sized monitor at the local library, the effects are fantastically integrated with on-set cinematography. And the shots of destruction and the helicopters around the giant ship - awesome. All I can say is, I'm extremely excited. This movie looks intense and intelligent, a cross between Alien and Children of Men (at least, visual-wise, it appears). [Beyond Hollywood]

- For those intending on picking up the 21 July release of Watchmen on DVD, either in its single disc state or 2-Disc Director's Cut edition, you may want to first know that Warner Brothers is already in the process of manufacturing a 5-Disc Edition due out in Christmas time. Apparently, this 5-Disc set will only be avaliable up till June 2010. As expected, the Takes of the Black Freighter will be woven back into the movie; and for blokes like me who simply eat up commentaries, original Watchmen artist David Gibbons and director Zack Snyder provide a commentary track! That alone is making me uber-excited. With this pre-announcement, I'm already re-thinking my 'pick-up-Watchmen' idea, and save that extra dough for the following week's release of Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica 4.5, and Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead. But then again, do I like Watchmen that much to wait until Christmas? Argh! In semi-related news, the Watchmen: Director's Cut will be screened theatrically in only about four (?) theaters across the US, and one of 'em is in Minnesota! The only downside - I hardly ever go to Minneapolis. Bloody lack of transportation, and MN buses are lousy. [Blu-Ray Blog]

- A settlement thingy with the Siegels and Warner Bros./DC over the Superman property has concluded. Well, Warner has until 2013 to make a Superman movie. Since I'm not too well versed on this whole dealio, I reckon you should check out Slashfilm for the actual page. Honestly, I really don't care about Superman unless they decided a go-ahead with a World's Finest Superman & Batman team-up, which I would pay mucho amounts of dinero to see. If another Superman movie becomes in-development immediately, all I hope is that Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) reprises his Superman role, despite his apparently being let go from his contract. Routh and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor were the best things about the entire movie. I could live without director Bryan Singer, although I recognize many fans consider such a statement blasphemy.

- Oh, and Ryan Reynolds has been cast as the Green Lantern, a character I'm sure not many folks know about. My knowledge of the character is close to null, and it probably won't be expanded until his direct-to-DVD animated feature Green Lantern: First Flight on 28 July [FYI: voice cast includes Tricia Helfer of BSG fame!]. I'm interested enough to check out the regular updates for this flick, but not exciting tingling with the excitment a officialy-in-principal-photography Deadpool movie starring Reynolds would elicit. But it's Reynolds and director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), so I'm game.

- Although there's no date yet, I've heard rumblings that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (now nearing the $600 million worldwide mark) will be hitting DVD shelves on 20 October. That's relatively close, but adheres to the unofficial 'five-month rule'. It's just a little sucky that inferior movies like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Terminator Salvation, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen hit the market before Star Trek, which I'm super duper uber anxious for (for a hint of how much I dug the flick, click the link to get to my orgasmic review). Anywho, all these titles are getting 2-Disc Editions, and that makes me happy enough. Wolverine and Terminator I might wait to pick up if someone sells in a used copy, or I find it cheap at Half Price Books.

- Warner Bros. is prepping to release even more titles as part of their successful 4 Film Favorites line. Past releases saw releases that include all the Nightmare on Elm Street films, all four Christopher Reeves Superman movies, the three Matrix titles plus the Animatrix, and misc. Dracula and Elvis Presely titles. Now they're coming out with: the Batman Collection (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin), the Blade Collection (Blade, Blade II, Blade: Trinity, Blade: House of
Chthon), the Ocean's Collection (Oceans Eleven, Oceans Twelve, Oceans Thirteen, Oceans Eleven [original]), and many more! So, if you need any House Party, Rush Hour, or Austin Powers, check out the listings at DVDEmpire, and thanks to the DVDTalk forums for the heads up!

Well, until next time...

08 July 2009

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
starring Kristen Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Moon Bloodgood, Michael Clarke Duncan
written by Justin Marks
directed by Andrzej Bartowiak
release date: 27 February 2009
dvd release date: 30 June 2009
Fox, 96 mins., Rated PG-13

There's Frakking Worse Things

I'm guessing that eagerly anticipating a DVD release of a movie to see exactly how bad it is isn't exactly the best way to watch a movie for the first time. And yet, with nearly unanimous negative reviews for Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, how much of a open mind can one have, eh? So I basically rushed to my nearest Redbox, added a promo code (see, I get to watch Street Fighter for free! Win/win), raced home and popped this beauty in. And y'know, it's actually not that bad. I was preppin' for the worst of the worst, and it's pretty much just average, about what I was initially expecting.

As a child, Chun-Li watched as her father was abducted by a giant muscular dude (Duncan) and some other martial arts thugs. Now as a grown adult, Chun-Li (Kreuk) has went on to have a successful life as a pianist, making a mullah amount of money, but has yet to make peace with her father's disappearance or the recent death of her mother. After a performance, a mysterious scroll appears written in ancient Chinese, and her quest to find the meaning of the scroll's contents brings her to the streets of Bangkok, and eventually to martial arts and chi master Gen. Teaching her to control her anger and to be a even more deadly opponent, Gen paves the way and points Chun-Li in the direction of Bison (McDonough), the man behind everything not good in her life.

2009 has not been a good year for beloved franchises receiving good adaptations. Specifically, it seems any franchise is doomed once Fox gets their hands on it. At the moment, the only other franchise I'm thinking of is the Dragonball series, but only because that's fresh in my head. And not to cause heart-attacks, but I actually enjoyed Dragonball: Evolution, fully knowing that it wasn't going to be anywhere near spectacular. I guess that's the key - expect absolutely nothing out of products like these, and you just might find some enjoyment out of the experience. But I wager that's a tad difficult for rabid fans of Street Fighter and Dragonball, who probably find The Legend of Chun-Li and Evolution as motion picture abominations, and not worthy of the franchise title. I get that, really I do (Roland Emmerich's GODZILLA, anyone?). As it stands, evaluating Chun-Li as a move living up to its own merits, it's basically average without anything you're going to remember a few hours after you finished it.

If you notice in my lame plot description, nowhere do I bring up the the involvement of the Bangkok Police Department/Interpol/whatever, because their presence is basically null and entirely unnecessary. Aside from the "climatic" battle scene at the end, they don't really do anything, let alone affect the story in some manner. For those that care, spoilers follow: Chun-Li enlists the help of Nash and Maya to bring along a squadron of Interpol agents to kick some Bison & Co. ass, which could possibly warrant their inclusion in the movie, but I think it would be more dramatic and interesting having Chun-Li and Gen try to pull it off on their own. Plus, we would be saved a quite bad performance by Chris Klein, but on the negative side, we'd be losing the hotness that is Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation).

And on that note, I guess it's as good as time as any to bring up the performances. While not reaching the levels of atrocity and brain cell-depleting numbness that's been uttered around the campfire, this isn't exactly the best display of talent in the marketplace. First and foremost, the best performance comes from Bloodgood, who radiates a sexiness than Chun-Li doesn't even come close to exhibiting. In fact, about 40 minutes into the movie, Chun-Li attempts to seduce Cantana, a member of Bison's crew, by dancing all sexy around her. This 30 seconds of supposed "hotness" becomes more or less a distraction because I couldn't help but think, "what brilliant git thought that outfit looked remotely good on anyone?' Granted, not the thought that everyone's going to have, but this sequence has zero sexiness to it, and that dress didn't show Kreuk's off well at all.

Moving on, yes: Chris Klein (American Pie) is as bad as they say. Deepening his voice attempting to create a sense of...mystery? badassery? drug addicti? or what have you...Klein tries to come off as a bad boy detective who knows everything and has some freakin' BRILLIANT one-liners. Apparently, someone on YouTube had a video that was just Klein's scenes in this flick, but was taken down by Fox and their lawyers. Hopefully in the future another video arises, because Klein's bad performance (I won't bother calling it acting) is fun! And as our main actress, Kruek is passable, and it's fantastic to finally see her break out of her Lana Lang shell, but it's strange that after all the shit her character went through in Smallville, Kruek's isn't able to convincingly portray Chun-Li's pissed offed-ness when it comes to her father and Bison. But as an action hero, pretty convincing. And Michael Clarke Duncan (The Scorpion King) is totally fun as the Balrog, Bison's enforcer. Although, I wish he had a different name, 'cuz all that springs to mind is the giant fiery creature Gandalf faced in Fellowship.

The basic problem with The Legend of Chun-Li (for non-Street Fighter devotees who simply find this entire picture a jumbled mess) is that the entire picture comes across as an unloved project with a script made by a first-time screenwriter filling in all the steps on how to write a script. There's no emotion from either the script or the director, no hint of actual giving a damn from any of the actors, it's simply a bland movie that doesn't offer the viewer any reason to watch it. If the action was awesome enough, I'd recommend this title just on that account, but for the most part, it's quite unspectacular. Funnily enough, basically the only 'real' homage to the game it's based on is the martial arts throughout the movie, which is far from reality driven, but fun to watch. Although, sadly, there's only about three real cool action scenes.

Legend of Chun-Li may or may not deserve the lashing it's recieving, being as how that's all dependent on the viewer's opinion, but there's been far worse offerings this year. May I present Miss March, a horrible, horrible, horrible movie that I enjoyed because it was bad and (somehow) made me chuckle? Or how about Crank: High Voltage, a movie more frakked up than anything in recent memory. Chun-Li doesn't have anything noteworthy to make it a good movie, but it's not 100% total and utter bad. Although I wouldn't recommend it (Dragonball Evolution!!!), it's worth watching if you're curious. Or you want to watch Kristen Kreuk. Or what not do to when writing a screenplay. Er, yeah...Rifftrax, anyone?

07 July 2009

Year One

Year One
starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Olivia Wilde, Xander Berkly, Hank Azaria, Christopher-Mintz Plasse
written by Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
directed by Harold Raims
release date: 19 June 2009
Colombia, 97 mins., Rated PG-13

There's Frakking Worse Things

In the wake of romantic comedies and movies with mega explosions and giant robots, I sorta needed a decent comedy to tide me over. Here enterith Year One, a relatively funny comedy hanging on the shoulders of Jack Black (School of Rock) and Michael Cera (Juno), and for the most part, it's pretty good. There are some disturbing skits, abrupt editing, fair performances, and a plethora of 'hit-and-miss' jokes, but Year One is a nice hour and a half distraction that elicits some laughs, and that's what matters, right?

Zed (Black) is a bumbling buffoon of a hunter, ostracized by his peers with his only friend Oh (Cera) barely sticking up for him. An accidental fire to the village results in Zed's exile, and devoted friend he is, Oh follows. Together, they embark on a journey in which they encounter major biblical figures like Cain and Abel, and Abraham and Isaac. To their dismay, they find out their fellow tribesman have been sold into slavery after the fire, and have been located to Sodom. Vowing to rescue them - well, at least the girls they fancy: Maya and Eema - Zed and Oh do whatever they have to do to save the day, no matter the price.

Year One initially came off as a hunter/gatherer comedy, but is actually more of a biblical comedy. You got Cain and Abel and their sibling rivalry, with Cain getting the upper hand in a initially funny sequence where Cain goes ape-shit on Abel (Rudd), knocking him to death with a rock. Oh, and their Abraham and Isaac, a scene more noteworthy because of the inclusion of McLovin himself, Christopher-Mintz Plasse (sorry Christopher, no matter what, you will always retain the throne of McLovin). These scenes are actually pretty fun, as it Abraham's declaration that everyone must circumsize themselves. Oh, and Abraham is played by the bloody brilliant Hank Azaria (Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian), who is quickly outranking Ben Stiller as my favorite comedic actor. And since I'm on the topic of actors at the moment, I just want to give a shout-out to David Cross, or as I first saw him: "That guy from Arrested Development!" Although at first Cain is downright annoying and rather bastardy, by the end, his bastardy is kinda funny, and despite his being a bastard, you sorta like the man.

I am amazed to say...I actually laughed throughout. The first 20 minutes, I was worried - didn't really find anything funny, let alone amusing. Cera's monotone, awkward "skills" were really getting the best of me, and has led me to conclude this guy really can't do anything that doesn't have a hint of socially awkwardness to it, and Black just came across as some annoying dumbass with limited brain cells - if any. But once the fire happens and they meet up with Cain, things actually became a little funny, and by the last third of the flick, it was a fun fest of 'ha-ha-ness.' The only cruddy part is that there's lingering moments, and by that I mean that scenes that aren't mean to invoke a laugh just go on and on with what I'm guessing to be the Apatow School of Improv (Rudd's single scene as Abel comes to mind). But they weren't bad enough to ruin the movie.

What did suck, however, and basically made me turn my head away, were sequences in which in Sodom, Oh becomes a sort of man servant to some freaky uber hairy uper class dude, who demands a wax massage. Talk about gross. I'd rather take a Saw-like entrapment device with a slim possibility of servival over that torture. So, basically, everything with this much-hairy guy was quite gross and revolting. Luckily, this crass shit is interpsread with some rather funny moments with Jack Black and Olivia Wilde (TV: House), who is the Sodom's king's daughter.

So, basically, there are plenty of strong and plenty of weak points spread throughout Year One; Michael Cera's "performance" initially annoyed me with its redundancy, while Black prevailed as a force of funniness; and there's a good amount of laughter, which a comedy sorta sets out to do, so in that regard, Year One is a success. But there's just one thing that's still nagging me: how the hell did Oh get out of that snake problem in the first 10 minutes?

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifa, Sean William Scott, Josh Peck

written by Michael Berg, Peter Ackerman & Yoni Brenner

directed by Carlos Saldanha & Mike Thurmeier

release: 01 July 2009
20th Century Fox, 94 mins, Rated PG

There's Frakking Worse Things

The marketing department at Fox are brilliant - or at least, whoever compiles the trailers. I honestly couldn't give a tinker's damn about what happens to the main characters - Sid, Manny and Diego (and for the matter, Ellie) - but I love that damn unfortunate squirrel, Scrat, and the trailers take full vantage of that affection by basically devoting its entirety to him. For those who pretty much feel the same way, there's plenty of Scrat, although his shenanigans aren't as hilarious as Ice Age: The Meltdown; and concerning our three leads, they have their own little adventure, although not nearly as fleshed out as before.

Manny (Romano) and Ellie (Latifah) are expecting their first child, much to Manny's delight. Sid (Leguizamo) is becoming jealous, wishing to start his own family, and Diego (Leary) wants to go on some more adventures. Diego decides to leave the herd, and Sid discovers three eggs in an undercover ice cave, and brings them back to the surface to nurse and become their "mother." Well, they hatch, and they turn out to be long thought extinct dinosaurs. Their real mother shows up, and whisks them and Sid away back to prehistoric land. Manny, Diego, Ellie and her little friend's Crash and Eddie venture to a land dominated by dinosaurs to find their friend and bring him back, but they need some help. In comes Buck (Pegg), an Jack Sparrow-y weasel who has long survived in this land, and agrees to help them find Sid. But there's one other problem - a dinosaur more powerful than even the T-Rex is on the prowl for meat, and it's heading right towards the gang.

Very much a movie made up of a gags and jokes,
Dawn of the Dinosaurs has a very thin plot that relies on the crazy situations the characters are in to pass the time. I'm OK with that. I was initially none-too-pleased with the addition of even more characters (The Meltdown introduced three other characters that accompany our gang), but luckily their stay is a one-time appearance. Plus, how could I find myself not loving something Simon Pegg's involved with? Speaking of Pegg, his character of Buck is terrific, and I'm a little sad that he won't continue his adventures with the gang, but his storyline is wrapped up so neatly I can't help but smile when I think of his last scene. Like I said above, he has a bit of a Jack Sparrow-vibe: brilliant, but yet not all there in the head; body movement a little wibbly wobbly, etc., etc. I liked Buck enough that I think he deserves his own direct-to-DVD spin-off title when Dawn of the Dinosaurs hits retail shelves. Yah, nah?

Might as well talk about the characters: Manny goes through the fearful state of whether or not he's going to be a good father, and always worries about Ellie's and the baby's safety and protection. As far as a character, there's not much development from the person he was in the first movie. Ellie is very much the same as she was in
The Meltdown, as are her two friends Crash and Eddie. Diego undergoes perhaps the most character-related arc, as he finds himself isolated from this new life Manny and Ellie are forming, and yearns for adventure like the years before. Additionally, through a plot that's never explored or explained, Diego's suffering through heart problems that cause his vision to frak up. Old age sneaking up on him? Sid is his same crazy self, but I really wouldn't want it any other way. And of course, there's Scrat, my entire reason for watching this movie.

Oh, Scrat - how I love yer adventures. Well, as seen in the trailers, Scrat has competition in Scratte, a beautiful female squirrel that steals his heart every time he sees her. Problem is - she wants his damn acorn! Scrat falls deeply in love, but no matter the affection, he senses the acorn. A pretty humorous storyline with a funny adult-ish gag near the end of the movie, Scrat's real moment of glory, laugh out loud comedy comes at the very end, with Scrat having, once again, some really, really, really bad luck. Poor fella. Again - Scrat is awesome!

The animation is about the same level of quality as the first two. It's really nothing spectacular and as detailed like 2008's
WALL*E, but it's far better than junk like Hoodwinked and Happily Ever After. I gotta comment though - the dinosaurs are really well rendered, and "Rudy", the uber ginormous dinosaur that reminded me of Roger Corman's Dinocroc (2004), being simply awesome. Although I wasn't too impressed with characters renditions, I am rather flabbergasted at how beautiful scenery and an aerial battle scene looked. I love and respect old Disney animation, but stuff like this - wonderful and jaw-dropping to look at.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a lot of fun when you're looking for nothing more than to sit back, turn yer brain off, and enjoy the show. There were plenty of funny moments throughout the movie to warrant an recommendation, but there's really not much in the way of substance. At this point, all I really want is a feature-length movie dedicated to Scrat. That's all. Scrat: The Movie, or Scrat and the Missing Acorn of Fate, having Scrat embark on a journey to find an Acorn that possesses all of Earth's knowledge. Could be fun. As for a fourth outing for Ice Age 4, my interest...eh...But as it is, Dawn of the Dinosaurs has freakin' dinosaurs, and they get very little screen time these days, so that alone is making me say - check this baby out!

Oh, and no - I didn't see this gem in 3-D, though I wager (based on how the film was animated), it would look pretty spectacular. I heard
Up and Monsters vs. Aliens weren't all that wonderful in 3-D, and maybe this may remedy the whole lame 3-D scourge since My Bloody Valentine in January.

06 July 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
starring Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro
written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
directed by Michael Bay
release date: 24 June 2009
Universal, Rated PG-13, 150 mins.

There's Frakking Worse Things

With each successive viewing, I've fallen in love with Michael Bay's 2007 action/adventure masterpiece (yes, I said masterpiece) Transformers. The fantastic script by Orci and Kurtzman, the wonderful cast, the jaw-dropping complexity of the Autobots and Decepticons designs and rendering, the fast and furious action with massive property damage, and a rockin' score by Steve Jablonsky rounded off this pretty stellar movie. So it's sort of a duh that I was walking into its sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with an enormous amount of anticipation for it to be, at the very least, as equally great if not better than the first.

The sad part is, it's nowhere near the perfection of the first installment (I'm sure many will disagree with the word "perfection" in reference to Transformers), and is actually not all that great. Though, granted, Revenge of the Fallen was going against its own awesome first installment and the summer's inevitable best flick, Star Trek. Basically, it was going to be a tough battle to win, anyhow, but Fallen tried valiantly.

Two years after the thrilling Los Angeles melee for the All Spark, Sam (LeBeouf) is heading to college, working on maintaining a long distance relationship with his special someone, Mekelia (Fox). But any chance of a normal life flies out the window when Sam connects with a broken fragment of the All Spark, and Cybertonian information is impressed upon him, causing major mental meltdowns in school. Meanwhile, the United States military has joined forces with the Autobots to track down and eliminate remaining Decepticons on Earth, led by the mighty Optimus Prime. A close encounter with the Decepticon kind reveals that the Fallen plans to exact some mighty hefty revenge on Earth. Joined by a resurrected Megatron (Weaving), the Decepticons exploit any option to bring about Earth's Apocalypse, and there's only one Autobot with the ability of stopping basically the end of the world. But it's a bit more complicated than that...like, a lot.

So, since my thoughts are still a jumbled mess two weeks after seeing it, I've decided just to get my ass in gear and write about the movie, one way or another. Thus, I've just put it in this format.

- Fallen is looong. Now, I'm not exactly the guy who complains about the running time of a movie, but with this one I'll make an exception (this is particularly noteworthy as I am one of those firm believers who think Dead Man's Chest has zero pacing issues). And for a revenge tale, it's strange for me to find myself thinking, 'is it over yet? What now?' With a bit of editing in the first 40 minutes and deleting of unnecessary subplots (such as the Pretender, the hot chick at Sam's college that tries to seduce him and ends up being a cyborg), not to mention the massive amount of military and establishing shots, I think Revenge of the Fallen has a nice chance of regaining a good sense of pace. As it stands, thinking about a movie's running time first viewing doesn't exactly inspire one to say, 'hey, this was edited really well!'

- The sense of humor just doesn't cross my brand of comedy. Most notably, the thing that freaked me out the most was the completely unnecessary ass-shot of John Turturro in a thong, a sight far more horrifying than any slasher movie. Secondly, the two Autobot twins that have been getting a lot of heat lately for their "racist" attitude (I disagree with those assertions, but I don't really want to indulge in that conversation), and my annoyance with them more or less stems from the simple fact that, hey, they're freakin' ANNOYING. Never once did I find them funny, and with the small exception of showing Sam the way to find a mystical Autobot object, they add nothing to the story, and that would be another good million or so buckaroos saved. Revenge of the Fallen has a very childish, 9-13 year-old sense of humor that I'm not particularly a fan of, but because I don't want to believe that the uber-talented Roberto Orci or Alex Kurtzman had anything to do with these abominations, I'm chalking it up to Michael Bay making these additions during the Writer's Strike so Kurtzman or Orci couldn't do anything about it...it could happen, no? Oh, and one last thing: the robot humping Megan's leg, as well as the two shots of Sam's two dogs getting it on - that was just plain frakkin' stupid.

- Visual effects-wise, Revenge of the Fallen ups the ante, and is an impressive feat by any margin of the imagination. But I can't help but think that the original Transformers is superior as far as making the Autobots and Decepticons as realistic looking as possible, and seamlessly integrated into the "real" world. And then, I gotta remind myself that with Revenge we're dealing with about 10 Autobots and 10 Decepticons, so there's far more characters in this than the last.

- My favorite thing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? The re-casting off Gleen Morshower (TV: 24), who died in the opening minutes of the first Transformers, but has been reincarnated as General Morshower! This guy's a great actor, and I'm extremely pleased that his role was expanded. Here's hoping he get's offered more expansive roles, and will no longer be known only under the guise of 'Agent Pearce.'

- Devastator was AWESOME! Simply, purely, completely AWESOME!

- Whether one likes Revenge of the Fallen or not, whether one was bored out of their mind, numb from all the action, or confused with the story, I find it very hard to disagree that Michael Bay definitely knows how to direct action movies. Within the past five months, I've re-watched Transformers (2007) far too many times, and over and over again Bay's directing style impresses me. Although, as far as I can tell, not as up to par as the previous movie, Bay still has quite an array of interesting and technically jaw-dropping shots. He does more than just make explosions "pretty", Bay drops you into the heat of the action and just doesn't let go. I enjoy how he moves the camera, although admittedly he may be a little on a circular high.

- The score by Steve Jablonsky (Friday the 13th, and many a time Bay collaborator) is stellar, and an awesome listen, but sadly, like the movie, doesn't compare to the original. There's no defining track (based off the CD soundtrack released simultaneously with the Various Artists compilation), although it could be argued "Prime" and 'Einstein's Wrong" contains the main themes that pop up throughout the entire movie. Still a good score, and worth picking up, and might be the best aspect of the entire motion picture. But...Transformers was better.

- What was the point of Robo-Girl at college? I would have much preferred a giant Decepticon coming out of nowhere, smashing Sam's college to bits, Bumblebee saving the day and getting Sam out of danger. It would basically accomplish the exact same thing, and be way cooler than what we're given, and spare us the annoying "faithfulness" subplot between Sam and Mekalia.

Revenge of the Fallen was...disappointing. After repeated viewings, I have no problem calling Transformers (2007) a darn near masterpiece, but this sequel is pretty much anything but. A poor script that has some interesting ideas but fails to explore these ideas intelligently, mind-numbingly awful prepubescent jokes, annoying robotic twins with annoying robotic voices, and more robots, buildings, and pyramids getting destroyed than any other motion picture I can think of...yes - Fallen was a disappointment.

I can't outright hate the movie nor do I find myself in love with it. By the time I've written this review, basically everyone who wants to see it has seen it, already taking in $600 million worldwide (second only to The Dark Knight). It's just unfortunate Revenge of the Fallen didn't live up to the epic and captivating trailer. Love it or hate it, there's action, hot girls, and lots of giganto-normous explosions. It's Michael Bay, and it's Transformers.