20 March 2011

Banzai! 2010 Catch-Up, Part I

So I still have some 2010 titles to watch and review and hope to finish 'em all up by months end, so here's part one of (most likely) three. Cheers!


127 Hours

Starring James Franco, Kara Mara, Amber Tamblyn
Script by Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
Directed by Danny Boyle
Release: 5 November 2010
Fox Searchlight, 94 mins., Rated R

Plot: Aron Ralston has the misfortune of getting his hand wedged against a very tough rock.

A couple of weeks ago I nominated The King's Speech as one of my top ten favorite movies of last year; I feel, now, that may have been premature. Danny Boyle's 127 Hours is one hell of a unforgettable ride, boasting a performance from Franco that is nothing short of a revelation, and Boyle's trademark stunning and in-your-face direction. And dare I forget mentioning A.R. Rahman returning to compose the score. Whereas King's Speech was generally good, 127 Hours is mesmerizing, intense, full of boundless creativity, and highly dramatic and engaging.

First, James Franco is generally a very good actor. I liked him in the Spider-Man trilogy, I loved him in Pineapple Express, and he's interesting enough that my interest was peaked with his whole soap opera guest star stint. So, I liked the guy, and thought he was talented. Enter 127 Hours, and I'm friggin' blown away. For a movie where the central actor - the dude the camera is glued to through the entire film - is pinned into one location, unable to really move all that much, one would think, Hey, this movie is getting a bit dull. That doesn't happen here. Thanks to Boyle (and I'll get to that shortly) and Franco, not a single iota of dullness or watch-checking. Franco sells Aron Ralston. Aron doesn't come off as a prick who doesn't leave a note, Aron is a man who seeks adventure, and wants to have a bit of crazy, impulsive fun. We identify with him, we get to know him deeply - his feelings (presented to us by confessions to his video camera), his past - through conversations with himself or some super nifty hallucinations (SCOOBY-DOO!!!). Look, I can't praise Franco enough, and his nod from the Academy was perfectly justified. It's a performance that needs to be seen - and to some extent, experienced - to believe.

Next to actor Franco, the real gem - if not the hugest biggest reason for the movie's success - is director/co-writer Danny Boyle. A few years ago he came out with some flick called Slumdog Millionaire, and from then on, I've been surfing through his career of movies. Pretty impressive. Also has one hell of a impressive visual style. A story like this demands that type of style, and Boyle doesn't disappoint. Before Aron is pinned down, Boyle gives us sweeping shots of the National Park in Utah, absolutely gorgeous stuff. And then the event (#1) happens, and naturally, it would appear that camera angles would be a bit constricted. Not for Boyle. Every camera angle imaginable, and then some, is used to great effect. Zooms, hand held work, P.O.V.s, crane shots, etc. All magnificent, all absolutely drawing me into the situation. When The Event (#2) comes about - that thing everyone never fails to mention - it's depicted without shying away of the horror, out of the sheer strength of will in the situation; it's brutal and victorious all at the same time. And we owe all our feelings, all of our intense interest on what's happening on two people: James and Danny.

127 Hours is can't miss filmmaking. Compelling story, engaging tour de force performance, and unforgettable. You may not leave the movie feeling like you just learned something so giantly monumental, but frankly, not like you get anything out of King's Speech but a feel good atmosphere overcomin' ya momentarily. It's unfair to compare the two, but when it comes right down to it, I would exchange King's Speech with 127 Hours. Watch it. Experience it. Love it.


Best Worst Movie

Featuring George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, Darren Ewing, Jason Steadman, Jason Wright, Claudio Fragasso, Percy Gioia
Directed by Michael Stephenson
Release: 14 April 2010 (wide)
New Video Group, 93 mins., Not Rated

Plot: A look into the cult classic Troll 2 and its status as the "best worst movie ever made."

I love me some Troll 2. I can't picture anyone not finding themselves having a hugely enjoyable time when watching it, solo or in a group. Instead of examining how this cult classic came to be made and all that behind the scenes stuff, Best Worst Movie concentrates on the individuals who made the film and what has come of them today, their reactions to their film being considered the "best worst movie ever made", and the film's general status by film lovers around the world. The documentary isn't as revealing or engaging as I had hoped, but it does lend itself to some interesting tidbits: Italian director Claudio Fragasso (pictured above), who helmed Troll 2, is absolutely adamant he crafted a damn good movie and Americans just don't appreciate it's strong points and, furthermore, 'message'; actress Margo Prey and her odd "complicated" life; George Hardy's general anonymity back home and goodwill towards men attitude, etc. The lives of the folks who helped realize Troll 2 is rather fascinating, and, at times, a little depressing, but director Stephenson doesn't throw in sad music or poke fun at Margo's obvious...er, complications...it's very direct, just shows how things are without making judgments.

Well, can't really say that about George Hardy. That man attends a horror convention or two, and is quite judgmental about the current state of horror films and, furthermore, actors and actresses charging $30-50 for a photo and autograph for films they barely starred in.

And Claudio is very vocal about his displeasure concerning certain actors.

To sum up Best Worst Movie, it's that it is interesting. Not mandatory viewing by any means, but a nice little update about the actors involved in the films production, its status right now as the best worst movie, and most importantly - revealing plans for a Troll 2, Part 2. I know, I know, retain the excitement. Overall, can't highly recommend it, but for parties interested in more details about Troll 2 and how bizarre the lives of some of the actors currently are, definitely give it a look.


Catfish


Featuring Nev Schulman, Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Release: 17 September 2010
Rogue Pictures, 86 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Nev sparks a Facebook friendship with some eight-year old girl named Abbey, but slowly spots inconsistencies in the friendship that leads to a shocking revelation (!).

The trailers and posters indicate some sort of horror twisty vibe at the end as Nev Schulman's investigation of these mysterious "Abbey" and "Megan" lead him to a abandoned house (above). And I was frankly looking forward to that. But what we get instead is much more real, and, as commonly been stated, a perfect example of the dangers of Facebook and internet commingling. However, major kudos to the marketing department. The ads certainly peaked my interest.

The Social Network was about the creation of thefacebook, about the destruction of a tightly bound friendship over money and backstabbingness. Catfish uses facebook and shows that anyone can be anything they want. It's a useful lesson to know, and will definitely prevent the shenanigans that go down here.

I'm frankly at a loss as to what to say concerning Catfish. Yes, it does indeed show the dangers of social networking, the risks involved for people deciding to meet someone they haven't officially physically met, as well as the sad idea that some folks create alternate lives through the internet instead of coping with the one they have. Nev and his producing/directing partners are a delight, wise-cracking and intelligent. They know what they're doing, they know the risks involved, but their curiosity is far too high to let it go, and therefore we have this documentary, real or not. The one expected thing is that I ended up being a little choked up near the end when all is said and done, but it also became a little bit fascinating. Lie after lie made up to protect another lie. Relating instead of exploiting the lies.

It's a interesting (faux, if you wish) documentary and recommended to all.


Due Date

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx
Written by Todd Phillips, Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel
Directed by Todd Phillips
Release: 5 November 2010
Legendary Pics, 95 mins., Rated R

Plot: Peter (Downey) is late for meeting his wife, who is quite prego, and is forced to go on a car ride with the weird bearded man who got him into this situation in the first place, Ethan (Galifianakis).

I was hoping for a lot of laughs, like The Hangover provided, but instead I gave a chuckle here or there. Now, The Hangover isn't comedy gold like the common misconception seems to be, but it did have plenty of funny moments. Due Date, by comparison, doesn't work as well; which is odd, because the two film are quite similar in many respects, so it's a shame it doesn't succeed. As expected, Robert Downey, Jr. is funny, intense, and brings about most of the laughs whenever they happen. And, as expected, Zack's routine was tired and redundant. I'm getting to a point where I'd rather take another string of Michael Cera productions over seeing the Bearded One yet again. I apologize to any fans of Zack Galifianakis. The first hour I didn't find all that amusing, although I did enjoy bits with Peter and Ethan at the rest stop, and I'm embarrassed to say I did chuckle at the masturbating dog, but it wasn't until the whole Mexican border incident that I really got into the flick, and by then, it was almost over. The inevitable resolution doesn't ring all too true - the idea that these two dudes strike up a messed up friendship at the end seems not all that likely considering Ethan is obnoxious, instigated this whole mess, and put a bullet in Peter's leg. Not exactly someone I want to spend my free time with. Overall, I didn't enjoy Due Date as much as I expected to, and in all likelihood I won't be checking it out again anytime in the near future. The flick is one of those movies where it appeals to a certain sect of people, and to the other, they get my general feeling: which is, very "meh."


Faster

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Moon Bloodgood, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Maggie Grace, Mike Epps, Jennifer Carpenter
Written by Tony & Joe Gayton
Directed by George Tillman, Jr.
Release: 24 November 2010
TriStar, 98 mins., Rated R

Plot: Driver (Johnson) intends to execute everyone on his list of people who had a hand in his brother's death. Result: it ain't gonna be pretty.

FASTER has no misconception of what it is: a revenge action movie with Dwayne Johnson looking very, very pissed off and very, very much an unstoppable, relentless force that has only one function: kill the people involved in the murder of his brother (and drying really fast, too). Therefore, I’m not going to spend the time critiquing the movie as I normally would, but simply say that FASTER delivers on its premise one hundred percent. Dwayne’s stone cold eyes, full of anger and adrenaline is friggin’ intense, and the scenes where he does, indeed, take out his revenge is sweet, satisfying, and full of expected carnage. Billy Bob is Billy Bob, and everyone excels at their perspective roles. The bloodfest of revenge is even given a bit of dark humor as Billy deals with life issues and an assassin with a heart consumed with love decides to pop the question to Maggie Grace. FASTER is one hell of a joyride, and if you’re in the mood for a good action movie, look no further. Dwayne Johnson is back in the type of role he perfects, and as a result, an already good movie becomes great fun.

2 comments:

filmconqueror said...

Out of all of those films, I'd only seen 127 Hours (but you do make the rest sound interesting!)
Finally, someone puts "The King's Speech" in its place, and 127 Hours on its well-deserved pedastool! I was sadly underwhelmed with this year's winner and I definitely lost a little faith in The Academy when it let 127 Hours go home empty-handed.

Andy the Time Lord said...

The Academy had done a lot of dumb things; them honoring KING SPEECH majorly and putting the boot to 127 HOURS wasn't all too surprising, sadly enough.

Glad someone else out there feels the same way I do! I thought I may have spoken blasphemy...